Author Archives: Sarah Busch

Cleaning on the Road Doesn’t Need to be a Chore with the Vroom RV – Retract Vac

rv slideshow 2Chet and I recently invested in an RV for family road trips. We take a lot of trips to visit friends and relatives all over the country, and there’s just something about a road trip that brings the family closer together.  The family SUV is great for shorter trips, but isn’t always accommodating for cross-country or multi-stop adventures. Plus, we did the math and figured we would save money on hotels, airfare etc in the long run.

We took a few small trips to New England and the Outer Banks over the summer with the kids and Barkley (our puggle) in tow, and of course there were plenty of messes along the way. Initially I brought a small stand up vacuum we had stored away to handle some of the messes on the RV, and right away I realized that it just wasn’t going to work. I absolutely love our central vacuum system at the house and thought, “Why don’t we just get one of these for the RV?”

Thank goodness our good friends over at H-P Products and Dirt Devil have the perfect solution for any RV enthusiasts who need a quick, convenient solution for messes on the road. We had the Dirt Devil CV1500 installed in our RV along with the brand new Vroom Retract Vac attachment with a 35’ hose. I’m telling you right now, this is the best decision we made for our RV and our family. I can get around and clean the entire living space with ease. No lugging around a heavy stand up vacuum that can’t reach into the unique nooks and crannies we have on the RV, and the mess is gone right away, the first time I vacuum over it.

Vroom RV Retract Vac cleans up an RV in a snap!

Vroom RV Retract Vac cleans up an RV in a snap!

Of course, the kids tend to make a decent amount of mess in that small space and sometimes the crumbs from their on-the-go snacks get pushed into awkward corners of the RV that a traditional or handheld vac could never handle. I just open the cabinet under our kitchen sink in the RV, where the Retract Vac is installed, pull out the hose, and defeat the mess wherever it lies. No dragging several feet of hose or cords behind me, and when the mess is whisked away to the remote canister under our living space, the hose retracts right back into the base and is out of sight until the next mess.

Since Chet suffers from pretty bad allergies (as I’ve mentioned in previous posts) I have to do my best to get rid of dirt and dander from the dog pretty quickly. In our home, there’s enough space for both the dog and Chet to live in peace, but on the RV, they are crammed pretty close together, causing Chet’s allergies to fire up. Having a RV central vac on board made it easy for me to clean up after the dog every day and get rid of his hair before it aggravated Chet. Also, like our system at home, no particles are exhausted back into the air during use, keeping everyone happy and healthy.

I am so glad we have the same vacuuming system on board our RV that we have at home. It really does help our family feel more comfortable and like we never really left the house! For more information, check out www.dirtdevilrv.com.

Make Your Living Room Livable

84470092I can’t tell you how many times I have had to scramble and do a mediocre speed clean of my living room before company arrives. My kids tend to just leave their backpacks, shoes, socks, toys, etc. in a trail through the living room as soon as they walk in the door. When does it get cleaned? When I realize my book club ladies are five minutes away and I have a near panic attack and the room barely looks organized. Here are some tips I figured out along the way that have helped cut back on the whirlwind cleans and kept our living room looking put together…most of the time!

  1. Trash in the Trashcan
    While wastebaskets are common necessities in the kitchen, bathroom and office, they are rarely seen in living rooms. I never even thought to buy one for the living room because I was worried it would smell and make the room look unpleasant. But after a trip to my neighborhood bargain home-goods store, there were plenty of aesthetically pleasing wastebaskets are now readily available in a variety of styles, materials and colors. Find a small trash bin that blends with your living room style and tuck it away under an end table. This easy, low-cost solution makes it easier for kids and grownups alike to put their snack wrappers and miscellaneous small discards where they belong instead of on your coffee table or all over the floor like my kids love to do.
  1. Don’t let it pile up
    Living rooms are home to a host of flat surfaces. Coffee tables, end tables, curio cabinets and entertainment centers are tempting places for piling up stuff. Stop clutter before it starts by creating designated places for common items. I bought several cheap baskets and organizers for mail, magazines, newspapers and homework assignments to keep everything looking tidy. This also helps your kids remember where they put that “missing” homework assignment!
  1. End Cord Confusion
    Stray cords can cause chaos in your living room. Few things are more aggravating (and unsafe!) than continually tripping over the cords running from your TV, computer, and gaming systems. It’s super quick and easy to group related cords together with zip ties to prevent tangling and easily find which cord matches what. For those pesky devices with multiple cords, try colored electrical tape for easily distinguishing one group of cords from another and keep your husband from yelling out in frustration over the TV going out after a kid trips over the cord and rips it from the TV!
  1. Home Zoning
    Have you ever stepped on a lego in your bare feet? Well I have, and I am telling you right now, that there are few things as painful as that! Keep your kids toys and miscellaneous items off the floor of the living room by creating a play zone. Here is where they should store their favorite toys in one area of your living room– as well as a “toy-free” zone for grownups. No more legos, phew! Choose a child-friendly trunk or bin that can hold their current favorites, store the rest and rotate the contents every few weeks or so as their preferences change. Engage children in a simple pick-up game before bedtime, timed to the length of a short, familiar tune like singing their ABC’s. This works while they are still young, and once they’re older they understand how to try and stay organized.
  1. Photos, Photos Everywhere
    Framed photos personalize a room and give you a chance to show off your lovely family, but they can overtake your valuable tabletop space and your guests won’t have any room to put their wine glass down. Save surface space and dusting time by putting several photos together in one larger, wall mounted frame to create a stylish wall display. If you want to add a modern touch to your living room, look into a digital picture frame. I personally love mine! It was super easy to set up, you can scan paper photos into your computer or upload images to a single, digital picture frame that can store and rotate thousands of photos in a personalized slideshow that is sure to captivate guests.
  1. DVD Dilemma
    A living room that feels like your local Best Buy store is hard to relax in. My family loves watching movies and we have created quite the collection of DVDs that started to take over my entire TV stand. Invest in a stylish entertainment center or, at least some CD/DVD towers to keep favorite videos and your husband’s old Rolling Stones CD’s off the floor and coffee table.

Healthy Hotel Stay Tips

466503537 hotel roomFall has arrived and soon enough the holidays will be here! In our family, we have a rotating Thanksgiving, meaning that we only host it at our house every 2 years, thank goodness. However, on our off years, we have to pack up and make the long trip to my parents’ town or Chet’s hometown, and because there are four of us, there isn’t room for us to all cram into their small houses. I like to book the same hotel year after year to give us some consistency, and even though we’ve gotten pretty comfortable with our favorite hotels, I still worry about the germs hiding all over the room. You might find it stressful to check into an environment that you have no control over cleaning and sanitizing, and don’t worry you’re not alone!

Here are some important warning signs and tips I’ve picked up over the years during our holiday stays on how to keep your home away from home spic and span:

  1. Before booking a room, read reviews from previous visitors. Customer reviews are known to be brutally honest, so if there is a red flag raised, avoid that reservation. There are so many different places to read and post reviews which made it super simple for me to find the perfect place for my family.
  2. Upon entering the room, inspect it for bed bugs. Even though we come to the same place year after year, I have no idea who’s slept there in the meantime. Place your luggage in the bathroom. Although it sounds a bit like overkill, bring a small flashlight with you; this will make it easier to complete your inspection. Start with the mattress, as this is the most common area for bed bugs. Gently lift the sheet and mattress pad inspecting along edging, seams and other small areas a bed bug might hide. Continue your inspection with the headboard. Use your flashlight to look in the crack between the wall and the headboard. Believe me, a few minutes of investigation for these nasty creatures will put your mind at ease throughout your stay and prevent you from bringing potential bugs home with you.
  3. Remove bed comforters and put them in the closet. It is standard to change linens between guests but as gross as it is, hotels don’t always change bed comforters. Set the temperature of the room so your family will be comfortable sleeping or bring your own blanket. The kids always bring their own to make themselves feel more comfortable as if they were right at home in their own beds.
  4. Pack antibacterial wipes and quickly go over all touchable surfaces and objects in the room. This can be done quickly to disinfect the living space for the duration of your stay in case hotel staff missed anything. Be certain to wipe down doorknobs, phone receiver, toilet handles, faucets, light switches, TV remote controls and ice bucket.
  5. Wash the water glasses thoroughly with hot water. Most hotels do not wash glasses between guests; they only wipe them down with cloths, ew!

These are all easy steps you can take as soon as you check in to make your entire stay much more comfortable and healthy. Believe me, coming back to a clean hotel room after a long day of family holiday festivities is worth the few minutes of cleaning.

STOP FALL ALLERGY FALLOUT

187419911fall allergiesThe air is crisp, the days are shorter. All around you people are enjoying harvest festivals, cheering at football games, and picking out pumpkins to carve. What’s not to love about fall?

Well if you suffer from fall allergies, you’ll be stuck inside while everyone else heads out for all the festivities. While I’m lucky enough to be a non-allergy sufferer, my poor husband Chet dreads this time of year. Before I knew more about his allergies, I always assumed that springtime was the worst time of the year for him, but boy was I wrong! Late summer and autumn are actually more problematic, as far as symptoms go, especially for those allergic to ragweed and mold. Ragweed pollen and mold are often heavily accumulated in damp leaf cover, and when those leaves are disturbed, sinus headaches, nasal congestion, asthma and itchy eyes are the result. All those symptoms may not seem like much, but every year, Chet and others like him are stuck at home, afraid to go out and have fun with their friends and family during this season. Last year, I thought I’d put a stop to this yearly cycle and find some ways for my allergy ridden husband to join in on the fall fun.

After searching around and talking with a good friend who happens to be an allergist, these are some of the things that worked best for Chet and had him ready for fall this year:

  • Avoid fall lawn work if at all possible, especially during the early morning hours when pollen counts are high. This wasn’t especially hard for Chet…But if you do spend any length of time outdoors, remove and wash your clothes as soon as you get in the house, and shower before going to bed. This will prevent pollens and irritants from spreading throughout your home.
  • Keep windows closed and use central air conditioning if you have it.
  • Don’t hang laundry on an outdoor clothesline.
  • Try over-the-counter medications first, and if they offer no relief, consult your doctor for next steps. The over the counter medications sometimes work for my hubby, but on days where we are going to be out for a long time, he usually takes something a bit stronger. Your general practitioner or allergist will be able to help you find what’s right for your specific allergies
  • Consider investing in a central vacuum system to more effectively remove the allergic particles that do enter your home. Allergy sufferers often complain about the fact that traditional vacuum cleaners, even those equipped with good filters, tend to suck up only a portion of allergens and dust, then disburse the remaining particles into your indoor air, which just makes everything worse. We have a central vacuum system in our home and I can tell you right now, that Chet’s allergies were improved year round after we started using it! A central vacuum system operates by attaching a lightweight hose to special outlets in your walls, and a series of interconnected tubes carries dirt, particles, and even fine grains of pollen that you track in from outside, away from your living quarters and into a sealed container located in the garage, basement or storage closet. Our installation only took one day, so the benefits can be appreciated almost immediately.

Cleaning Dishwashers

DishwasherI can tell you right now, that I have no idea what I would do without a dishwasher. I have refused to live without one ever since that fateful year in college when I had to hand wash every utensil in our crowded dirty apartment. Although the dishwasher works miracles for us, we tend to forget it needs some TLC every now and then. Like I thought with the washing machine, “Its primary function is to clean, so it will always be clean.” Again, I was wrong. All that food Chet and the kids refuse to rinse off before throwing their dishes in gets stuck and can build up around the washer. Now that’s something you don’t want to see. Eventually it can make your dishwasher look and smell bad, and even worse, make it less effective. A broken or weak dishwasher would be a tragedy! Thank goodness it’s not so hard to clean your favorite machine.

Place a dishwasher-safe cup filled with plain white vinegar on the top rack of the dishwasher. Run a cycle through using the hottest water available with the dishwasher completely empty except for the cup of vinegar. The vinegar will sanitize the interior of the dishwasher. When that cycle is complete, sprinkle a cupful of baking soda around the bottom of the tub and run a complete short cycle through again using the hottest water available. The baking soda will create a fresh smell as well as help to remove any stains. Easy as pie!

Clean the rubber gasket in the door and around the soap door as well. You can just give them a once over with a damp towel to keep the grime away. Also, don’t forget the trap found under the lower sprayer. Usually it is removable so it can be cleaned in the sink, if not use a damp towel to remove any build up.

Your last step before rewarding yourself with a good book is cleaning the accessories. Go ahead and take out the racks and utensil holders. Wipe off any stuck-on food particles or other debris, I know this sounds yucky but it really wasn’t so bad! Scrub the spray arm with a soft brush or toothbrush to remove clogs.

No worries, you don’t have to make this part of your weekly cleaning routine! Cleaning it out about once a month works just fine. Never take your dishwasher for granted again!

Cooking up Kitchen Organization

476631451 cutlery drawerYou may not believe it, but I actually love spending time working in my kitchen. Recently, I’ve found that making a delicious meal for my usually grateful family has become a huge stress reliever for me! Now, that may be partially due to the several glasses of wine that I end up having during the process… However, not many people feel this way about cooking, and that’s probably because your kitchen turns into a disorganized mess where you can’t find any of the tools or ingredients you have hidden in an unidentified cabinet. Meal time can be one of the easiest parts of your day when you settle into an organized routine and have everything you need prepared around you. Sound impossible? Well let’s just say, if I can get my crazy kitchen organized, anyone can! Here are some problems I ran into before I overhauled my cooking space:

Trash Bag Troubles
Although it’s great to recycle those plastic grocery bags from the store, they usually end up scattered under your sink or shoved into drawers never to be used again. Purchase an inexpensive cabinet-mounted or free standing bag holder to create space for more important kitchen items. When the holder gets filled up, recycle them or donate extra bags to a food bank. Better yet, invest in inexpensive fabric bags for grocery shopping. Many markets offer small cash discounts for using them and the environment will love you!

Creating Cabinet Space
Before I got organized, there was no rhyme or reason to the items in each cabinet, making it nearly impossible to get a meal on the table in a reasonable amount of time. Move special occasion dishes and other infrequently used pieces to a cabinet in the dining room or the highest shelf in your kitchen cabinets. If you have a lot of wine glasses like I do, optimize stemware space by placing every other glass upside down. Bowls, Tupperware, and casserole dishes can nest one inside the other. Finally, keep cups, plates and bowls you use most often toward the front of the cabinet, while that precious bone china passed down from your great aunt can be moved to the back or displayed behind glass.

Utensils, Utensils, Utensils
Knives and forks and pizza slicers–oh my! Those stray steak knives are a safety hazard—and searching for the right tool slows down meal prep time more than you know. If your utensil drawer is a disaster, one trip to your favorite home store will reveal a plethora of drawer organizers that can keep all of your utensils compartmentalized and clean–and speed up the stir fry and salad fixing.  

Refresh Your Refrigerator
Two-week old pot roast has no place in your refrigerator. But in this house, leftovers get buried in the back of the fridge and are soon forgotten. First, start fresh. I pulled everything out, checked all the expiration dates and get rid of foods that have gone bad, you’d be surprised how many old jars and expired condiments you have sitting around. Also a great time to give the shelves a quick facelift! Place items back inside, grouped together based on type and frequency of use, with more perishable items toward the front. When it comes time to put leftovers in the fridge, ask your family if they plan on eating any more in the next day or so. I try to keep Chet and the kids honest on this one…If they say yes, keep it. If they say no, throw it away right then and there. A quick inventory check every evening will keep your refrigerator clutter-free and fresh.

There are so many quick fixes for the kitchen that I never even thought about before. But now that everything is in its right place and I can actually find the previously elusive whisk in my drawers, I would never let my kitchen go back to its cluttered state! Short on time? It’s easy to find a few minutes here and there to de-clutter one drawer or cabinet at a time. Soon enough, your kitchen will be ready for an appearance in Better Homes and Gardens.

Cleaning Shower Door Water Spots

480742343 shower doorWhen we got our bathroom remodeled, I knew we wanted to have a shower with an elegant glass door. Glass shower doors are practical for many reasons – the modern look and feel matches most décor and it also gives the illusion of a larger bathroom. They also don’t need to be replaced like a disposable shower curtain. Of course Chet was more concerned that it would be a pain to clean and lose its elegance to unsightly streaking. However, you can keep the original shine you fell in love with and enjoy the convenience by following a few useful tips.

Many people prefer to use a squeegee on a daily basis to wipe down doors after each use. This method provides a quick clean approach but at some point you really have to buckle down and get your hands dirty.

Here are some tried and true products that have proven to offer consistent results for a gleaming shower door:

  1. Bar Keeper’s Friend sprinkled on a sponge and scrubbed in a circular pattern and wiped off with a clean cloth
  2. Mr. Clean Magic Erasers
  3. Spot-X
  4. Lime-Away or CLR
  5. A wet dryer sheet scrubbed in a circular pattern and rinsed thoroughly

For those looking for more environmentally friendly solutions you can probably find around your home, the following have also produced good results:

  1. White vinegar sprayed directly on spots, left to soak in and wiped clean with a microfiber cloth
  2. Equal amounts of baking soda and water to form a thick paste and applied with a non-abrasive sponge and rinsed with vinegar
  3. Equal amounts of Dawn dish soap and heated white vinegar poured into a spray bottle and heavily sprayed directly on spots

Once you’ve put in all that hard work, and your doors are clean, keep that shiny look by using a homemade solution of Dawn dish soap and white vinegar. Keep it in a spray bottle and give your doors a quick spray daily, followed by a squeegee to minimize spotting and buildup.

Never Untangle Necklace Chains Again

477878711 jewelryNow that the kids have gone back to school, I have really gone on an organizing kick. Shocking, I know! But sometimes, disorganization sneaks up on you when you least expect it.  For instance, last week the kids were all at sleepovers, so Chet and I had the rare dinner date opportunity, so I wanted to wear one of my favorite necklaces. I open up my jewelry box, and the thing is a complete tangled mess! So after borrowing one of  Ashley’s necklaces and enjoying a few glasses of wine at dinner, I came up with a few ideas to tame your overflowing jewelry collection:

Necklaces, chains and bracelets
A necklace rack is a great way to keep your favorites tangle free. You can find inexpensive ones or make your own and use all those craft supplies you just organized! A small corkboard and a set of T-pins works very well as does an old wooden coat hanger and loop screws. You can even repurpose a mug tree. For traveling, use a common plastic straw. Unclasp the necklace chain, take your straw and thread the chain through it then clasp it closed. You can use this trick for bracelets as well by cutting the straw down to size.

Rings and earrings
If I had a dollar for every earring I’ve lost because of how disorganized I was, I could buy myself some fancy new earrings! Keeping these smaller items together is easy when you think in compartments. One of the cheapest ways to store these items is in small organizer boxes found at the hardware store for nails and screws. You can find ones a bit more elegant at the craft store or purchase acrylic ones and line with velvet material. When traveling, a daily pill box works great. Buttons can be used too. Simply put post through button opening and push earring back on the other side.

An elegant solution to storing and organizing for home or travel is to purchase an organizer bag. They are designed to keep your jewelry neat and have special compartments to hold your items separately. Many of them roll up or can hang in your closet from a swivel hook. A cheaper alternative but effective solution for traveling is to use Glad Press and Seal wrap. Simply pull out a large sheet of wrap and lay your items on one side of it. Fold over the other side and press all the edges and in between the items to seal. It can then be rolled up and put in your suitcase or travel bag. This works well for headphones and other accessories, too.

Sometimes disorganization is the mother of invention and the solution is easier than you think.

Even Washing Machines Need a Cleaning

177821116Cleaning a washing machine seems a bit redundant, right? I mean, there’s like 100 other places in my home that deserve more cleaning attention that the washing machine, but alas, I recently learned that the soap residue and minerals found in popular detergents are likely to build up in the washing machine. And all that build-up can give your clothes a nasty, moldy smell, even after washing! Yuck!

After searching around for a quick fix to this cleaning conundrum, I discovered that bleach and white vinegar are all you really need to keep your washing machine fresh year round. How great is it that these two things are probably sitting in your cabinet at home! I was also happy to find out that you only have to clean the washer twice a year, which is a relief considering my kids seem to go through three outfits a day.

Here’s the deal on cleaning your washing machine.

Top-Loader Machines
Fill washer with HOT water. Add 1 quart of chlorine bleach (no detergent). Let machine agitate for 1 minute, then let sit for 1 hour. // After 1 hour, run the washer on the longest wash and spin cycle. // Immediately fill washer with HOT water again and add 1 quart distilled white vinegar. Let agitate for 1 minute, then let sit for 1 hour. /(Read a few chapters of your favorite book while waiting) / While soaking, dip scrubber sponge in vinegar water and scrub the exterior, including knobs and lid. Don’t forget any built in dispensers. // After an hour, run the longest wash and spin cycle again.

Front-Loader Machines
Fill washer with HOT water on largest load setting. Add 2 cups of vinegar to water. Allow washer to run through a complete wash and rinse cycle. // Fill washer again with HOT water on largest load setting. Add 2 cups of bleach and let run through a complete cycle. // If all stains are removed, run an additional cycle with water only to rinse any remaining residue. // Remove any dispensers, soak in warm water and clean with an all-purpose cleaner. // Inspect rubber door seal for mold and mildew. Pull back seal to examine hidden crevices. // Mix 1 cup liquid chlorine bleach with 1 gallon of warm water. Moisten a clean cloth with solution and wipe seal thoroughly. // Allow solution to remain on the seal for 5 minutes, then wipe dry with a clean, dry cloth.

Here are some easy tips to follow so you can avoid getting that mildew smell year round:

  •         Leave the door open after washing and remove clothes promptly
  •         Wipe down rubber seal and drum after each use with an old, clean soft cloth
  •         Open the soap/softener drawer to dry thoroughly

Since I can relax and let the vinegar and bleach do the heavy lifting for me, I will definitely be cleaning my washer twice a year so my kids and husband have nice clean clothes, for at least a little awhile…

Have your own cleaning tips? Leave them in the comments. For additional options when cleaning the laundry room, check out these Central Vac accessories designed to clean all the tough-to-reach places.

 

Turn Household Objects into Useful Craft Storage

boxesWhether you’re a seasoned DIYer or just a beginner, exploring your creative side through seasonal or regular crafting can be pretty therapeutic. More than once, I’ve volunteered to make favors or created hand-made Christmas ornaments based on ideas I discovered on Pinterest. With countless sources of inspiration available, the whole family can get involved (and it’s a great excuse for some ME time)! Ashley and Noah have even invaded our craft drawer a number of times.

However, all those supplies can get cluttered and disorganized fairly easily and leave you with a messy craft drawer and a fierce headache even a glass of pinot noir can’t fix. If you find your craft area overflowing with supplies, like I did, it’s time to buckle down and get organized.

Below are a few of my favorite ways to use common household items to keep your supplies ready when you are:

  • Hanging sweater shelf – scrapbook paper / card stock
  • Recycled soup can– craft brushes and pencils
  • Hanging file folder or slacks hanger – fabric storage
  • Over-the-door shoe organizer – sewing notions, paints
  • Tension rods or small dowel rods – ribbon and/or string
  • Little drawer storage units, cupcake or muffin tin – beads, smaller items,
  • Clear caddies – tape (of all kinds)
  • Recycled coffee containers – kids craft supplies
  • Funnels (mounted) – twine and/or yarn
  • Spice racks – glitter, gems, sewing notions
  • Magnetic strip – scissors
  • CD/DVD rack – ink pad storage
  • Café curtain rods – craft/paper punches
  • Magazine holder/sleeve – cardstock and paper books
  • 3-ring binder with page protectors – clear cling stamps (slide sets into pages)
  • Mason Jars – pens, pencils, markers or lid can be mounted under a shelf so jar can be unscrewed open
  • Clear storage container with clear lid – rubber stamps (place bottom layer with rubber facing up, top layer with rubber facing down)

Once you’ve finished crafting, you can clean up bits of scrap paper, pencil shavings, googly eyes, and any other messes with a central vacuum system that’s more powerful than a traditional push model. With a variety of quick clean accessories, workshops and craft rooms can stay cleaner than ever with very little effort.