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Archive for the ‘Home Management’ Category

The Apartment Jack Lemmon

Among such articles as “How to Clean Like a Man” and “Heading out on Your Own: Establish a Simple Cleaning Routine,” you’ll find an article at The Art of Manliness blog site, entitled “How to Make a Great First Impression with Your Place.”  It’s all about preparing your place for a date to first meet your place.  I like it because it’s practical and applies to anyone wishing to make a good impression with their home or apartment, but I especially like that the article does not lead to the unmarried couple in bed.  It’s just a straight article on preparing one’s place for a special guest.  Although its first tip is to “get rid of the man-funk,” the advice is sound for anyone looking to have guests and wanting to make a good first impression.  Here’s a summary of the game plan:

A.  Get Rid of the Man-Funk (odors) – said to be the “most cited infraction for men’s bachelor pads.”

1.  Start a couple days early – even ask an outside party to help identify the worst.

2.  Eliminate the most obvious smell offenders – dirty laundry (include bed sheets), bathrooms, dirty dishes (don’t forget to run the disposal).

3.  Go easy on the Axe (or any other masking scent) – the mixed odors are a “recipe for disaster.”

B.  Be Clean, Not Sterile – deal with general cleanliness issues, it doesn’t have to be a furniture showroom.

1.  Vacuum – while attesting to the clean feel vacuuming leaves, the author says, “No bachelor in the world vacuums his place enough.”

2.  Mop or dust all wood or tile floors and baseboards.

3.  Dust flat surfaces – this means a cloth and spray.

4.  Have all the dishes put away.

5.  Make the bed – personally I’ve always thought that when one’s bed is made, the tone for the rest of the housekeeping is set.

6.  Pick up and organize – a small stack of books here or work still out on the desk can make a home look lived in, but find a place for everything and have most things in their places.

7.  Making a habit of these practices makes lighter the preparation for the occasional guest.

C.  Display Your Personality

1.  “Manly” art – lose the babe posters and the never-ending sports memorabilia.

2.  Display some photos that say something about your life – family, travels, interests, etc.

3.  Don’t hide things – if there’s something you enjoy, don’t hide those things that best reflect you.  Just don’t overdo it.  “If your’e questioning whether it’s too much, it probably is.”

4.  Be prepared for some snooping – don’t have anything in “eyeshot” that you’d find embarrassing.

D.  Pets – corralling the pet for a first visit may be best.  Be aware of pet sensitivities or allergies and be sure to vacuum the furniture on which your pet lounges.

E.  Bathroom – the room for greatest offense in which basic hygiene and simple considerations are often neglected.

1.  Clean it… thoroughly (note: no hair anywhere).  Use multi-purpose cleaner on all surfaces, make that toilet bowl sparkle (note: clean under the seat well too), and tidy the vanity.

2.  Keep an air freshener at the ready – subtly scented not overpowering

3.  Have toilet paper.

4.  Have a fresh soap and a well laundered, dry towel out.

5.  Have a bag-lined trash can.

6.  Advertise your good hygiene, by washing your hands after using the bathroom no matter what did or did not happen in there.  (Exiting seconds after the flush, can take away your guest’s enthusiasm for dinner.)

F.  Kitchen

1.  Have, at the very least, the essentials in your cupboards and pantry – if you’re uncertain what the essentials are… there’s a post for that too!

2.  Have at least one set of matching dishes… that aren’t plastic.

3.  Have more than just junk food – examples: fresh fruit and veggies, pita chips and hummus, etc.

4.  Offer a variety of beverages – at least a few – soda, coffee, tea, ice water with lemon, iced tea, juice, wine (if you drink)

5.  Keep it clean – spic and span and smelling nice.

G.  Bedroom – unkempt bed and strewn clothes are a common sight in men’s bedrooms, but “if your most personal space is messy, it’s a good bet that’s closer to the real you than the rest of your place.”

1.  Make the bed – build the habit by making your bed every morning.  When giving a tour of the place, a made bed shows you care about the details.

2.  Pick up your clothes and don’t have an overflowing hamper – clothes folded and put away (a good practice at any time).

3.  A bed frame and headboard help – at least no mattresses on the floor if you want to convey stability and “put-togetherness.”

H.  From the comments –

1.  About the bathroom:  trash can – emptied; toilet seat – down

2.  As an extension to the inside of the home…

            a.  Keep your car reasonably clean – quick vacuums, car washes, dash/surfaces wiped down.  As another put it: old food wrappers and cups do not impress.

            b.  Yard and deck – Lawn cut, deck furniture and grill clean, cover is not torn, etc.

3.  Have movie-time snacks: popcorn, pretzels, etc.

4.  Have 2 sets of sheets so one is always clean and ready for change.

5.  A couple houseplants if you can keep them alive (this was mentioned by several readers).  As a bonus:  English Ivy, Spider Plants, and Peace Lilies are all good air cleaners too.

6.  To freshen the air, open the window – the longer the better.

7.  Bake some cookies to make the place smell “homey.”  Other ideas: bread baking, fresh brewed coffee.

8.  If you can afford it, get a cleaner – job done.  Another added:  This does not mean that your house is dirty or un-hygienic until the cleaner comes, but I am big believer in paying ‘experts’ to do things in life, or things that you don’t enjoy doing, especially if you can afford to.

9.  “A room without books is like a body without soul.”  ~Cicero
(Several mentioned putting good book collections on display.)

10. Have at least one comfortable place to sit.

11. Your apartment or home shouldn’t look like a random collection of crap you’ve collected from the street. It should look like it was put together with some thought.

12. Health and cleanliness show responsibility and long term thinking, women dig that!

13. Wash the shower curtain if you have one. Otherwise clean the cubicle.

14. A box of Kleenex in the bathroom, not just t.p.

15. Bad impressions: Piles of dirty laundry on the floor, with more piles of clean stuff on the couch. A big brown waterline in the toilet and no soap or clean towels in the bathroom. Dirty dishes in the sink.

16. Light a lightly-scented candle in the bathroom.

17. Get a set of matching dishes and glassware.  “No one, including your date, wants to drink wine from a coffee mug.”

18. “Any man older then 28, with stable professional employment, should have real furniture and not just a collection of mismatched furniture acquired in college.”

19. Make your home feel warm and inviting to her. It’s a big deal for most women to feel at ease in their man’s home. Offer basic hospitality like taking her coat, providing a glass of water and snack if dinner is far off, etc.

20. It is alright to ask your guest to bring something if she offers, like a bottle of wine or a side dish. For whatever reason, when you do this a woman then has a mental stake in the dinner date at your place.
21. Learn how to make five or so basic recipes and make them well.

22. Make sure you clean under and behind the toilet bowl. Even if you’re being accurate when peeing, inevitably some will end up on the floor and this builds up over time. A toilet with streaks down the pedestal or a honky smell down the back is a major turn-off!

23. Finally this from Carol:

Just remember, if you do these things to impress, but they aren’t actually your regular habits, then:
a. eventually the truth will come out;
b. I’ll be disappointed you aren’t actually clean/neat/a reader, and the fine opinion you tried to cultivate will dissipate;
c. I’ll wonder what else you’re presenting to me as you is also a sham, or in what other ways are you not being very honest.
So, as the article suggests multiple times, make these regular habits of your own, not just something you do the first few times a lady comes over.

[Photo: Jack Lemmon in The Apartment]

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Crisis Cleaning

Housecleaning

I can testify that this really works.

I have used this FlyLady method many times.  It helps me maximize my time and the rolling schedule keeps me motivated.  I needed to crisis clean more often when my kids were younger (and at home), but I still use the frame when a holiday is approaching and I need to get my cleaning done and out of the way to focus on the rest of the holiday preparations.  If you haven’t visited FlyLady’s site, treat yourself to her Flying Lessons here.  I offer her crisis cleaning method in her own words.

  1. Get dressed to shoes, have your hair fixed and face washed and makeup on (if you use it). Don’t question this — just do it. Put on some good working music. Not too fast, just slow and steady. Peppy, but not aerobic. Light a candle that has a good scent or put some spices on to boil on a very low heat.
  2. Set a timer and spend 15 minutes in the kitchen.  We are going to start in our kitchens, because as the kitchen goes, so does the rest of the house. If your sink is not clean and shiny, then shine it first, then you can fill the sink up with hot soapy water and start to clear off the left and right counters. Empty the dishwasher. When the timer goes off, stop what you are doing and go to the living room.
  3. Set the timer again and do 15 minutes of cleaning off the coffee tables or picking up toys or newpapers. Concentrate on one thing, not all of it. Get a laundry basket and put the things that don’t belong in the living room in the basket. Take a garbage bag with you, too. Start throwing away the trash. Don’t get caught up in the guilt we have about recycling this stuff. Just bag it up for now. As you get your home in order, there will be plenty of time to recycle. For now, we are focusing on getting the home presentable. You can’t do this if you are hyperfocusing on sorting and recycling, so get over this perfectionism attitude. When the timer goes off, head back to the kitchen.
  4. In the kitchen, set the timer for 15 more minutes and continue to work on clearing the counters. Don’t get sidetracked and attempt to clean out a cabinet. We’re only doing surface cleaning here. We’re making your home presentable, not perfect.
  5. Now, take a break and walk around and look at what you have accomplished in just 45 minutes. Set the timer for 15 minutes and drink a cup of tea or coffee or whatever you love and just relax. When the timer goes off, you are back in work mode for 15 more minutes.
  6. This 15 minute session is in the bathroom. Clean the bathroom sink first, swish the toilet, then pick up towels and dirty clothes and put them in the hamper.  Once again, don’t get sidetracked and start a load of laundry. You need a clean bathroom before you need clean clothes! The laundry will come later.
  7. When the timer goes off, you are back in the kitchen for 15 more minutes. After the counters are cleared, sweep the floor and wipe down the countertops and appliances. We can do anything in 15 minutes! Keep working until the timer goes off. Then you go to the living room once again.
  8. In the living room, continue to pick up and put away. Once everything is in its place, vacuum and dust.
  9. Every 45 minutes, take a 15 minute break. Rotate around the house every 15 minutes. Do you understand this?

FlyLady concludes, “Adapt this schedule to fit your physical limitations and children’s needs. But, you get the picture: stay focused on one job for 15 minutes, then move onto another. You are going to be so surprised at how much you get done in a day’s time!

“The timer is your best friend. You can do this. Now turn off the computer and get to work!”

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I  r-e-a-l-l-y  like this idea!  My niece, Melissande, just posted this on Facebook; I think it was found on Pinterest.  I like this a lot because it makes the child responsible for the consequences of his actions and the child does a job to benefit the household (as opposed to paying a fine or something like that).  It also offers choices.  The child decides for himself whether the item is worth “buying” back.  If so, he is given the choice of which chore to do to get the item back.  If not, mom and dad then know which things can “go the way of the world.”

The only thing I might add is an expiration date, such as “items will be gone after 3 weeks” or “…gone at the end of the month,” etc. so items don’t accumulate for months on end.

Next to the pick-a-chore envelope, the sign on the bucket reads:

UH OH!

You left it out.
Mom picked it up.
She’s got your stuff;
You’re out of luck.

To get it back
Must do a chore;
Again it is yours
Just like before.

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As I cleaned my tubs today, I thought it might be time to humble myself and share my three-day process for cleaning my bathrooms.  I’ll leave it to my sisters to decide who I am talking about when I speak of my cleanie-sister.  I’m sure it will boggle her mind to know that it takes me three days to clean my bathroom.  What can I say?  It works for me.

I actually won a bridal shower prize once by describing the horribleness of cleaning the bathroom—all the different jobs and cleaners and tools that are needed to do one small, distasteful room.  Maybe my revolutionary system came by Fly Lady’s trick of pecking away at our tasks by setting a timer for 15 minutes and putting heart and soul into the job for that short time; maybe it came by an interruption that caused me to stop my odious chore mid-way.  Whatever it was, cleaning bathrooms has not been nearly as daunting as it was in my earlier housekeeping days.

My three-day system does two things for me.  It helps me begin and it helps me end.  When I know that I only have to do my tubs today, I am much more willing to get started.  After that, having already begun, and having gotten the very physical job of scrubbing the tubs behind me, I know that I am nearer to a clean bathroom than I was yesterday, and with a little more effort the next couple of days, I’ll have a pretty clean, sparkly bathroom soon.

I have found it works for me to keep all of my bathroom cleaning supplies in a caddie under the sink of my main bathroom.  If we had bathrooms on several floors, I’d keep a set of supplies for each floor in a bathroom there.  In this way, supplies are near the task for day-to-day maintenance (see below).  I do all the bathroom tubs in the house on Day 1, all vanities/toilets Day 2, etc. carrying only the necessary cleaning items for that day from room to room.

Below, are my routines for thoroughly covering the bathroom.  This is just one way that bathrooms can be done, it is not a law.  Really, whatever works for you…works.

So without further adieu, here is the main frame:

Day 1: Tubs
Day 2: Vanities and Toilets
Day 3: Floors

_____     _____     _____

DAY 1:  TUBS

Supplies:

Mildly abrasive cleaner (ex: Softscrub);
Clean sponge with a scratch-free abrasive side;
Soapscum Remover and/or Mold & Mildew Remover (ex: Tilex)

You need to get in there with bare feet.  Wet the walls down.  Put Softscrub onto sponge and work all surfaces except the two-foot, front of the tub.  Work top to bottom, doing a panel-at-a-time, working around the surround.  Rinse all surfaces, making sure the Softscrub gets rinsed off.  Step out of the tub and on hands and knees, scrub that two-foot tub-front and the floor of the tub.  Rinse.

I don’t do my chrome yet as I’m not using that product today, but I will take my sponge and wipe the tops of picture frames and quickly wipe down my door panels.  I also check to see if the shower curtain or doors need a spray down with either of the Tilex sprays.

Change out bath towels and shower wash cloths.

DAY 2: VANITIES AND TOILETS

Supplies:
Mildly abrasive cleanser (ex:Softscrub);
Sponge (same as above);
Old toothbrush;
Windex and drying cloth;
Anti-bacterial wipes (ex: Clorox wipes);
Gloves;
Toilet bowl brush

NOTE:
Anti-bacterial spray (ex: Lysol Bathroom) with baby wipes can replace Clorox wipes;
My favorite cleaning cloths are simply white washcloths that come in a package of, maybe, 12/$2.50 at WalMart or the like.  I wash them in hot water with Biz bleach and our socks.

Vanities—Softscrub the porcelain and put a bit on the toothbrush to clean around fixtures and the caulking; rinse and wipe clean.  Quickly run sponge around baseboard tops to remove dust; rinse out sponge.  Wipe down vanity top and doors (NOTE: Softscrub will leave a film that is hard to clean off the flat surface, so use sparingly; a counter spritz of Lysol Bathroom cleaner first may be desired).  Windex the mirror, light fixtures, and chrome fixtures on sink and in tub. (NOTE: Sometimes I’ll run out into the adjoining master bedroom to do the mirrors there or wipe the picture frames in the hall outside the main bathroom, etc., since I already have a damp cloth ready to be used.)

Toilets—Use Clorox wipes on tank cover items, then, put on gloves and wipe all porcelain surfaces (tank, lids/lips, and body).  I use about 4/toilet.  These wipes must be thrown, not flushed.  Even though the floor will be cleaned tomorrow, use wipes on the floor around the toilet, because as Jeff Campbell says in his book Speed Cleaning, it is preferable to be “on our hands and knees, eyeball to eyeball with the toilet, only once.”  Wet toilet bowl brush and drizzle Softscrub around it; scrub inside of bowl.  Flush to rinse out brush.  (NOTE: I leave brush lid cocked and I drain the holder several times to aid drying before storing for good.)

Change out hand towels and wash cloths near sink.

DAY 3:  FLOORS

Supplies:
Vacuum cleaner with attachments;
Floor cleaner (ex: Mr. Clean);
Small bucket;
Floor cleaning sponge (NOT the sponge used Days 1 and 2);
Gloves

Put rugs outside to be shaken; clear floor of all items.  Vacuum floor, using attachments to get into corners and small spaces.  Put some Mr. Clean in bottom of bucket and fill with hottest water possible.  With gloves and floor sponge, get down on hands and knees and starting at the farthest point away work towards the door.  While floor is drying, empty garbage and replace with clean bag; shake rugs outside if possible, and/or vacuum rugs inside (then vacuum floor underneath when rugs are lifted).  Replace all floor items.

IN-BETWEEN MAINTENANCE:

Fly Lady suggests a Swish and Swipe each day in our bathrooms.  When using a bathroom, take inventory of its state.  If needed, do a quick wipe of the sink or the mirrors; empty the garbage; sponge flat surfaces in the tub; brush the toilet bowl; do a quick vacuum (perhaps when vacuuming adjacent rooms in the house); etc—whatever needs attention.  Mostly, just be aware of your space and deal with small jobs before they get larger.

I know my three-day system forfeits that one glorious day of an all-clean bathroom, but I gain a cleaner bathroom in the long haul as I am more willing to get started and do so more often.  Also, instead of just that one day, I get three days of clean smells in there.  I have found that my work really doesn’t devolve very much during the three days, so I get a pretty good looking bathroom in the end and am left with time and energy to accomplish other things in and around this otherwise tedious chore.

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I thought this was good.  I think it had its genesis at Fly Lady.

The question?  Does this bless my home?

I’m really trying to clean out as many cupboards and closets as I can this summer.  I’m using Fly Lady’s suggestion of 15 minutes/day (and it’s surprising how often I am encouraged to go a bit longer, just because I made myself start with that shorter commitment.)

My husband is good at encouraging me to “get rid of it” (at least if it’s my item in question), but sometimes two heads are not better than one.  I’ve been pecking away at my laundry room.  This is the room in our house, when in question, you’ll hear…”Just put it in the laundry room for now.”  [Unless it’s for a college student’s apartment or brought home during the summer from college, then it goes into the “college room”…which is a post for another day.]

Well, I had amassed a small corner of items that we’d stored for years and years and had not used in years and years.  I was so proud that I had overcome all the practical reasons for keeping the items.  I wanted advice though from my husband on how best to get rid of them.  However as I went through each item, telling him what my first intentions for the piece had been, somewhere in the middle of my descriptions of how it would have made our lives better, I convinced my husband.  Then it was Dana telling me I’d better not get rid of that, and it doesn’t take too much space, and “let’s see if we can get x-part for it or have it repaired…”  As you’ve probably guessed, nothing has been thrown or given away yet.

The solution may be to just go on my instincts and not discuss it with Dana until it’s too late to go back, but I have a seed of uncertainty that was planted a few years ago.  It is really one of the few dark Fly Lady moments I have had.  It may have been during a “27 Fling Boogie” which is really just a call to get a big garbage bag and quickly go through your home and throw away 27 items (don’t ask me why 27 is the magic number).  I think we all have 27 items in our homes at any given time that could be thrown–old magazines and shoes, mugs, flyers, mail, gifted resin figurines from the dollar store…

However, that unfortunate, dark day I got caught up in my zeal.  I threw away my silk flower wedding bouquet which I had used to decorate a cabinet.  It had gained a dust layer and so in my fervor, I tossed it in my bag and let it go to the dumpster.  A couple days later the garbage men came and took it away and a few days after that I heard of a product to clean silk flowers.  I am still sorry when I think of it and it has been probably ten years since.

I wish I had had this list of questions before me that day.  Not only is this a great list for helping to discern those items that really are not dear to us and should probably be discarded, but on that fateful day, it probably would have helped me realize my wedding flowers were not in the same place in my heart as the resin figurine.  Here’s the list of questions for responsible “flinging.”

Do I love it?

Do I use it?

Does it make me smile?

Does it have a home?

Do I have another one like it?

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Here’s an item I just read this morning from the Sonlight curriculum forum.  In light of these recent housekeeping posts, I thought it was timely and practical.

Q:  I sense that the atmosphere in our home and between the children is being adversely affected by mild chaos. How can we achieve a smooth running, peaceful contented home school life? Anyone?

A: One thing that revolutionized our house was to stop worrying about who had what chores and when and how often and rotating. Each child was assigned one room and their own room (even if they shared). They were as completely responsible for that room as they can be for their age.

For example, my second child has the living room, including all picking up/cleaning, vacuuming, etc. And his room.

Any time it is messy, they need to be cleaning it up. Us adults help them from time to time, but the majority of it is the child’s responsibility.

 

[Illustration: Beatrix Potter]

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I promised yesterday to share the website that helped me overcome my C.H.A.O.S. (Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome).  It was at this site that I first learned my “condition” even had a name and that, as you know, is the first step to recovery.

FlyLady.net (FLY–Finally Loving Yourself) was the site that afforded me my first real housekeeping break-through.

Fly Lady (Marla Cilley) has a similar story to mine…to many of yours, I’m guessing.  Her break-through came with the simple commitment she made to end her day with a clean and cleaned-out sink.  Her book, Sink Reflections, is her personal story and contains some of those first lessons that are the bedrock of her wonderful approach to housekeeping, de-cluttering, and self-keeping.  Her website includes links to her Fly Shop as well as links to other on-line life coaches (i.e. style, diet and meal planning, etc.), but her site stays pretty true to its tagline:  Your personal on-line coach to help you gain control of your house and home.

Marla offers gentle guidance in developing housekeeping routines which she calls FLYing Lessons.  “Shine your sink” is her first lesson, but also foundational are directives to get dressed down to your lace up shoes, swish & swipe your bathroom daily, declutter 15 minutes a day and take regular breaks.  She guides the newbie in what she calls Baby Steps, 31 lessons (a month’s worth) to begin FLYing.

Fly Lady has divided the home into zones and her followers are given daily email to-do lists, called Flight Plans.   Each zone is given a week’s attention, getting through all the zones in a month.  This week’s focus is Zone 3—The Bathroom and an Extra Room.

There is so much more to this site, though, than just zone cleaning—

* Detail Cleaning check-off lists for the zones;

* Weekly Home Blessing Hour;

* FLYing lessons for Payroll SHEs (working Side-tracked Home Executives) ;

* Control Journals;

* Habit of the Month (this month, drink your water);

* Anti-Procrastination Days – days to tackle those put off projects;

* Crisis Cleaning schedule;

* Fly Kids Challenge—a daily task for children to manage their own spaces [See my “Teaching Work” shortcomings (see June 13 post)]

I rarely go to the site these days, though, and my daily Fly Lady e-mails often end up in my computer’s trash.  This is only because so many of her teachings have been internalized and have already done good service in giving structure to how I approach my own home now.  Unless it’s an infrequent Crisis Cleaning for company, I rarely clean my whole house or floor in one day.  I break down the house into manageable areas and progress throughout my home.  I even break down my bathroom chores into a three-day process which helps me not d-r-e-a-d those duties like I used to.

“You can do anything for 15 minutes” is one of Fly Lady’s most famous quotes and the one that most affected me.  Marla taught me the trick of literally setting a timer for 15 minutes and pouring myself heart and soul into a targeted area (whether zone work or a “Hot Spot”).  It is really a marvel how much can be done in those quick 15 minute bursts.

Some other encouraging Fly Lady quotes include:

* Not housework, but home blessing (“This is my home and I deserve to have a wonderful place to live, this blesses my home, and my family and me!”)

* Housework done imperfectly still blesses my family.

* You can’t organize clutter; you can only get rid of it!

* I don’t have to be perfect to be loved and my home does not have to be perfect to be lived in.

* What doesn’t matter just doesn’t matter!

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