Category Archives: Organized Living

GET SAVVY WITH CLEANING SUPPLIES

The little things will do the trick. 111779891

Walk down the cleaning supplies aisle in any grocery store and it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the dizzying array of products available for purchase. There are concoctions that disinfect, scrub, polish, cut grease, de-rust, un-streak, and promise gleam and shine.

How to choose the right products without spending a fortune and cramming the cupboards with stuff you don’t need?

I thought I would share a primer for getting savvy with cleaning supplies.

  • Buy a small plastic bin with a handle for each floor of your home. You will fill it with all the supplies you need for cleaning your house, with the exception of your vacuum, and carry it from room to room as you clean. No more wasted steps back and forth as you retrieve the cleaning supplies you need for each room and each chore. Keep the bin in a linen closet or under the master bathroom sink.
  • Search out the circulars for sales and coupons. When you see a product you need, buy two. You can have one for each floor of the house or save one for later.
  • Each of your plastic bins should contain:
    • A plastic spray bottle of all-purpose cleaner for general surface cleaning. This need not be anti-bacterial. In fact, ample evidence points to overuse of antibacterial cleaners as one contributing factor to increasing the strength and number of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. A solution of vinegar and water in a clean spray bottle is inexpensive and when applied with a lint-free cloth will leave mirrors and glass streak-free. Unless a family member is ill with a contagious disease, save antibacterial products for food prep areas and cleaning the toilet.
    • Anti-bacterial wipes or spray cleaner for toilets and food preparation areas only.
    • Gentle non-abrasive cleaner for scrubbing showers and sinks
    • Anti-static dusting cloth and furniture polish. Furniture polish need not be applied with every cleaning. And if you have a central vacuum system, you can use the long hose and variety of attachments to save time with dusting chores, such as baseboards, window sills, blinds, and draperies. Dust suctioned away with a central vacuuming system doesn’t re-circulate back into the air and resettle, as it does with traditional vacuum cleaners, but is pulled into a central collection unit which can then be emptied periodically.
    • Sponge
    • Nylon scrubbing pad for scrubbing jobs
    • Lint-free rags for wiping and dusting. Old cloth diapers are ideal, as are worn cotton tee shirts. A roll of paper towels comes in handy, but go easy on the environment by using paper towels sparingly, and only for the dirtiest jobs.
    • Handful of small plastic garbage bags (small grocery bags are perfect) for collecting small bits of trash and used wipes or paper towels as you go along.

Replenish supplies as needed, and store the bins in the same place all the time when not in use. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how much time, energy and frustration you’ll save on routine cleaning with this simple “Cleaning Carry-All” strategy.

WHITTLE DOWN YOUR HOUSEWORK

78400835

Everybody likes a clean home, but who wants to spend their weekends scouring, sweeping and scrubbing? Not me!  Make the most of your cleaning time by staying ahead of the game with small, focused efforts, and break daunting chores into shorter, more manageable tasks that won’t gobble up your leisure hours. Saving housecleaning effort is much like saving money: small actions are an investment. They add up over time and pay off big in the long term.

Here are some tips to get you started:

Bathroom

Keep toiletries tucked away in drawers or closets to eliminate unnecessary dusting.

Consider a vacuum solution like Vroom to clean makeup, hairs, and powders from vanity counters after your bathroom routine.

Scum-fighting shower spray in the shower every day will go to work on its own to prevent buildup.

Spot clean the toilet and surrounding floor with a disinfectant wipe each day.

Straighten towels after use or use hooks for a no-fuss look.

Kitchen

Clean as you go when you cook to keep surfaces and pans easy to wipe up before food hardens. Wipe counters and stove surface after each meal you prepare to prevent tough, built-up grime.

Take a few minutes to vacuum the kitchen every night. Consider a built-in product like the Vroom.

Every few days while you’re talking on the phone or waiting for the soup to heat, clear the fridge of leftovers that won’t get eaten, then spot-wipe the glass shelves with a damp cloth.

Every few weeks while the pasta is boiling or the chicken is on the grill, use a microfiber duster to dust cupboards and walls.

Living Room/Family Room

Walk around most-used living spaces each night with a laundry basket and pick up items that don’t belong there. Take a few minutes to put those items in the places they belong, or delegate that chore to a family member.

During television commercials, grab a microfiber duster and do a quick once-around the room on surfaces, window sills and baseboards.

Put each day’s newspapers in a designated spot before going to bed.

If you have small children and lots of toys that get used in common living areas, don’t bother picking them up all day long. They’re just going to get pulled out again, so stop wasting time and energy. Shoot for two or three five-minute sessions of cleanup each day, and engage your child in the process as much as possible. A tidied family room gives some peace of mind at the end of day for grownup hours when children are in bed, and offers children a sense of accomplishment.

Bedrooms

A made bed contributes more to the overall impression of a clean bedroom than any other effort you make there. Try to make your bed each morning and you’ll retire with a more serene feeling each night.

Use handsome jewelry boxes or valet boxes to avoid clutter—and unnecessary dusting—on the dresser.

If clothes on the floor are a problem, get a coat stand with hooks, or fasten pretty hooks on the walls. At least clothes will be off the floor until you get the chance to launder them or hang them up.

Changing sheets and bed linens can be done in less than half the time with two people. Enlist a house mate’s help.

Close closet doors after use for a sleeker appearance in the room.

If you live in a house of avid readers, choose nightstands that have cabinet bottoms with doors, so the bedside book stack can be stowed away instead of adding to clutter and trapping dust.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

Bring Back Happy Hour with Outdoor Cleaning Plan

Patio FurnitureWhat’s better than sitting out on the porch on a beautiful summer evening with good eats and a happy hour libation (especially if the kids are out)? If you’re fortunate enough to have an outdoor living area, keeping it clean can be a significant challenge because you’re much more susceptible to the full wrath of mother nature. Prepping our outside living areas for summer-ready entertaining doesn’t need to be a big chore. With just a few simple items and a game plan, you’ll be relaxing with your feet up and a nice cold beverage in no time.

First, gather your supplies. This may include rags, a bucket, mild soap and water, glass cleaner, a broom and a vacuum. Every porch/deck/patio is different so you may need additional supplies, but this list is a great start.

Using a broom, clean beginning with the highest point first. Brush down the siding making certain to grab any dirt and cobwebs. Sweep all the debris and remove. Then, using soapy water, wipe down the siding as well as window sills and thresholds. Use glass cleaner to clean the door and any windows. Vacuum any carpet areas and thoroughly shake out any light rugs and toss into the washer. That’s the easy stuff. Next up, the furniture.

Depending on which type of outdoor furniture you have, clean furniture and decorations as described below and allow them to completely air dry before placing any guests in them.

Wood and Wicker – Brush or vacuum trapped dirt and dust. Using a cloth dampened with water and a mild soap, wipe down thoroughly.

Vinyl and Resin – Brush or vacuum any dirt and dust. Clean with a sponge or soft cloth dampened with water and a mild soap. Rinse by hosing down. Using oxygen bleach or vinegar mixed with water (2 TBSP per 1 gallon water) will help to remove any mildew stains. To prevent future stains, repel dirt and make the furniture easier to clean, rub car wax on the surface once it is cleaned.

Wrought Iron – Remove any algae with a brush and disinfectant. Clean thoroughly with a cloth dampened with water and a mild soap.

Outdoor cushions – Clean with a sponge, water and mild soap. Prop them in the sun to dry.

Umbrellas – Use warm water and a safe cleaner to rinse away mildew and then leave open to dry.

Going toe-to-toe with mother nature is never easy, but with a plan and the right tools, there’s no reason your outdoor living space can’t gleam like the inside of your house. Plus, with many newquick clean vacuuming products available for tackling outdoor messes, the great outdoors just got a little greater.