Where to Start: Deep Cleaning Your Bedroom

Welcome back to my series on deep cleaning! This week: bedrooms!

Photo by Monica Silvestre on Pexels.com

Bedrooms are likely the most important room on your deep cleaning list. Why? Because a bedroom is the cleanest dirty room in everyone’s house. It’s easy to change the sheets, pick up the floor, run the vacuum around and call it good. But it’s also where you probably spend quite a bit of your day (asleep or awake), so it’s truly worth spending the time to clean deeply every once in awhile.

The biggest issue most people face while cleaning a bedroom is getting sidetracked by decluttering as they clean. Bedrooms hold a lot of personal items, so it’s super easy to focus on sorting clothes in your closet or looking through your jewelry collection. That’s why I suggest setting an objective before you start cleaning a bedroom and giving yourself one day to reach your goal. If you want to spend that full day decluttering your closet or the couple hours you have free one day turning and vacuuming your mattress, go for it. Or if you want more of a full-room effect, focus on an all-surface clean (that means clearing, dusting, and cleaning fans, lights, walls, windows, table tops, etc. and not worrying about the insides of drawers or closets). Taking too much on can get really overwhelming, so make a realistic goal and keep in mind how much time you have and what will have the biggest impact so that you can make solid steps toward improving your living space.

Listen to TSwift and get it doooone! / via Giphy

My favorite approach to deep cleaning a bedroom is the bed/surfaces combo, and I think it’s a great place to start deep cleaning a bedroom. Here’s what I do if I have a full day:

  1. I start by removing my sheets and laundering my synthetic down pillows, the covers of my foam pillows, and my comforter. The goal here is to wash anything detachable from your bed (non-foam mattress toppers go in the machine too!). If there’s anything that can’t go in the washing machine, put it outside to air out. If you don’t have an outdoor space to air things out, fluffing and vacuuming are usually the best alternative.
  2. Once the washing machine is going, I start from the top down and give the ceiling a once over with a duster (as I said in my post about deep cleaning living rooms, this is always a good approach!). Clean off light fixtures, fans, and get into the corners (where you will be amazed by the cobwebs you didn’t notice!). Cleaning from the top down is super important in bedrooms because they can get very dusty and air quality is important, so you want to eliminate as much dust as possible and get it to move towards the floor.
  3. Next, dust and vacuum shades (brush attachments work best for me) on floor and table lamps and any picture frames/wall hangings. If you’re feeling very clean-y, hit the glass on those frames with some glass cleaner (use my homemade recipe!). For some reason in my mind there is no more extra cleaning task than cleaning the glass of picture frames that don’t really need it. It’s like washing walls — it makes me so unnecessarily smug.
  4. Dust and polish (I use Ecos Furniture Polish + Cleaner, which I like because the smell isn’t super overwhelming) nightstands, bureaus, and any other horizontal surfaces. Again, don’t worry about closets and try not to get sidetracked by items in drawers. If you have a lot of clutter on surfaces (like makeup or perfume bottles or jewelry), just move it aside to clean the surface underneath and move on. It’s great to reorganize your jewelry collection or clean out your shoe shelf, but trust me — it will prevent you from finishing the cleaning at hand and ultimately you will get less done.
  5. If you have a plush headboard, vacuum it and the mattress. The mini carpet heads (which are actually for furniture) are perfect for this. My headboard is a dust magnet, and every time I clean it I’m surprised by how dirty it’s gotten without me noticing (maybe I’m just very unaware of my surroundings since I don’t notice this or the cobwebs on the ceiling?). I don’t particularly like using baking soda to clean the surface of my mattress (I find it messy and honestly pretty ineffective), but I do spray a solution of a few drops of tea tree mixed water or even some white vinegar to disinfect the mattress and headboard material.
  6. Finally, the floor! If you have carpet, thoroughly vacuum it, but focus on getting under the bed and any other furniture you can move. Actually moving the furniture is almost always better than just using an extension to get under it, but beds and full bureaus can be tough to move without help. Do what you can! If you have hardwood or laminate floors, take the time to vacuum and mop the floors, again focusing on getting under furniture. It’s tough to worry about getting under furniture during a normal day of cleaning, so a deep clean is the time to get into these more involved tasks.
  7. Last, but certainly not least, put everything back! Set aside time and energy at the end of cleaning to remake the bed, put on fresh sheets, and bring everything in from airing out. I have often gotten so invested in cleaning the bedroom that the comforter was still in the dryer at 8 p.m. It’s awful when you’re exhausted from cleaning all day but can’t get into bed because you stripped all the bedding and got overly ambitious with your cleaning. It’s a good idea to set a timer for the end of the washing machine cycle (so nothing sits in there too long) and a reminder for an hour or so before you need to stop cleaning (if you have to eat dinner at 6, for instance, remind yourself to start putting things back around 5). That way, the room where you relax can become the room where you relax again!
Now dance around your clean bedroom! Dance! / via Giphy

Now all that’s left to do is enjoy your squeaky-clean bedroom! Bedrooms can be tough rooms to tackle, but it’s so worth it. A bedroom really should be a kind of sanctuary, so it feels really good to take time to clean that space and make it nicer for yourself and those you share it with.

Thanks for reading!

Cleaning When It’s Too Hot to Clean

It’s gross hot today. According to my weather app, it “feels like” 104 degrees. At 5 PM.

via Giphy

It is with this in mind that I’m taking a break from my series on deep cleaning, because a) it’s been pretty hot all around the country this month and I feel like this is more relevant this week, and b) there is no way that I am doing any deep cleaning this week and writing about it will make my blood boil (jk, it’s already happening because it’s 104° outside). Also it’s summer or whatever, so I guess this won’t be the last time this stuff might apply.

Though I now live in western Washington where it’s almost never this hot, I grew up in sunny southern California. And not beachy southern California. Angry suburban desert southern California. 95° on Halloween, Santa Anas making everyone in town lose their minds, the whole deal. I lived in an old house with poor air conditioning and always drove cars that were old and too unreliable to run the AC without overheating. In short, the desert was not fun for me and my mental health now takes a nosedive whenever it gets above 90°. So you can imagine what happened early last week when I saw the forecast for an historic, record-breaking heat wave:

I didn’t handle it well… / via Giphy

I may have panic bought six boxes of popsicles. We may now be out of all those popsicles. I have no regrets.

Heat waves basically mean you can’t do anything but the essentials, especially if you don’t have AC. No yard work besides watering (limited during drought conditions), no big projects that mean moving around too much… the goal is basically to stay as cool as possible, and the best way to do that is by staying still. So before I get into the rest of this post: if you don’t have AC or if you are just getting through the heat any way you can, STOP right now and take care of yourself, your family, and your pets. Heat stroke and exhaustion are no joke, and extreme heat takes a big toll on our mental health. Just do the bare essentials like washing whatever dishes you need, because though it helps to have a clean house, it should never be prioritized over your physical or mental health.

All of that said, if you have AC and/or live in a place where it’s not over 100° for just a few days, I have a few methods for making my house feel a bit better and cleaner without generating a ton of heat. Extreme heat often makes it difficult to do much of anything, and though some parts of the desert cool down quite a bit at night making it possible to get stuff done in the early morning or evenings, most places stay hot well into the evening (it will still be in the 90s at 9 PM here). That rules out running a vacuum (instant room heater), vigorous movement, opening windows, etc. Even running the dishwasher during the day generates a ton of extra heat (can you tell that I’m a blast to live with during a heat wave and not intense at all?). So instead of fighting against this or just running the machines anyway, here’s what I do:

  1. Clean in small bursts. Because moving around a lot during a hot day isn’t too fun, I clean in small bursts, usually less than 5 minutes. I avoid getting too vigorous and focus more on straightening up. Making the room feel cleaner can help your house feel a little less stuffy when you’re stuck inside with the shades drawn.
  2. Surface sweeps are your friend. Awhile ago I realized that have cluttered countertops makes a huge difference in how I perceive a room. It feels much airier and cleaner when counters, coffee tables, and tables are cleared. Since I don’t do a ton of cleaning period in the heat, I make an extra effort when it’s super hot and I’m stuck inside to keep my kitchen counters clear and clean, and it makes a big difference for me.
  3. Worry about sheets, but not much else. Having clean sheets makes a bedroom feel a lot cleaner, and it doesn’t create a ton of heat or require too much movement to change them. Sleeping in a hot room is already the worst, but clean sheets (especially if, pro tip: you get them a little wet and stick them in the fridge) will make a big difference. Don’t worry too much about everything else in the bedroom. Just keep things basically hygienic and the floors clear and let the rest wait until it doesn’t feel like anger as a weather pattern outside.
  4. Consider appliance swaps. When it’s super hot and I need to vacuum, I either sweep or use my stick vac instead. A stick vac generates a lot less heat, so if you live in a hot place and can afford it, I highly recommend thinking about buying one! Similarly, if running the dryer makes your house hot, use nature’s dryer outside. After all, if the heat’s going to be here it may as well be of some use.
  5. Find “hot weather” work. Do you know what my aunt and I did on the hottest day of last summer? We pressure washed the patio. It was like an adult splash pad with a purpose. If you’re champing at the bit to get something done but it’s prohibitively hot, choose something like washing your car at one of those do-it-yourself car washes or pairing your socks in front of a fan. Focus on things that are easy to do while stationary or involve water and shade. If you’re outside, though, remember to hydrate!
  6. Take it easy on yourself. I said it above, but I’ll say it again: cut yourself some slack. Being in extreme heat is a major weather event like a snow storm. Your first priority is to stay safe. If you’re in a place where it’s hot for most of the year, that still holds true. Look at it this way: when it’s -20° and there’s a foot of snow on the ground, you probably won’t find people outside trimming trees. Most people shovel the walk, look after their animals, and do anything else that needs taking care of. Then they go back inside and leave the rest until spring! It’s ok to do that with a heat wave or a hot summer. It can wait until cool weather, even if that means it waits a few months.

Stay cool and safe out there, friends.

Thanks for reading!

Where To Start: Deep Clean Your Living Room

Welcome back to my series on deep cleaning! This week: living rooms!

Everyone on the internet has a nicer house than me. / Photo by Spacejoy on Unsplash

Living rooms are a bit tough to pin down when it comes to deep cleaning. First, it’s tough to get your spouse/kids/pets to stay out of the living room long enough for you to really get into a cleaning groove. I have no good advice there: I use threats and distraction but neither really works. Second, it’s tough to find (or give!) good guidance because living rooms tend to look a little different for each home. After all, as the name suggests this is where we do a lot of our “living” and that looks a bit different for everyone based on individual circumstances, needs, and priorities. Some folks have a glorified play area for their kids, some have merged the space with their dining room, some have a full on workstation in these wild WFH times. Unlike a bathroom or a kitchen, living rooms have a more fluid place in our homes — they can be whatever we want (or need) them to be.

Every time you try to clean your living room and someone wants to “watch their show.” / via Giphy

Though the specifics vary widely, living areas of all kinds can really benefit from a deep clean. We do so much “living” in these spaces that they often get pretty run-down pretty quickly, and it’s tough to find the time or space to go further than clearing off the coffee table and vacuuming the rug. So if you only have time for a partial deep clean, don’t worry! Go in stages, take breaks, and cut yourself some slack. It’s up to you how much you want to do and when you want to do it, but it’s always worth taking care of yourself by taking care of your space.

  • Start from the top down. When you really don’t know where to start, this is the best place for any and all rooms. Start with the stuff on the ceiling and work your way toward the floor. I like to use a vacuum to get rid of cobwebs (you can also use a rag tied around a broom head or a long-armed duster) and then clean off light fixtures and ceiling fans with a clean rag and some all-purpose cleaner (patch test if using on paint!). Nothing says “I’m deep cleaning” better than getting out a step ladder, and I’m always amazed at how much there is to clean once I get up there.
Does Miyazaki like cleaning as much as I do? The cleaning animation is so satisfying! / via Giphy
  • Clean your walls. Is this very extra? You bet. But there’s a real case for doing this every once in awhile. First, you will feel a smug sense of cleaning superiority when you casually mention you spent the day cleaning your walls (just kidding, people will think you’re over the top and scary, but it’s still worth it). It can also extend the life of your paint and make your home smell cleaner. You only need to do this every year or two, so I highly recommend taking some time for it because it makes such a difference in how your room looks and feels! Here’s a couple of approaches:
    • The easier: Get yourself a magic eraser, a rag, and some very watered down cleaner that you have patch tested on your paint. DO NOT skip patch testing for the cleaner or the magic eraser! Seriously, depending on your paint you could stain/damage the wall and end up with more of a mess than you started with. I’ve had the best luck with a spray bottle filled with 1 part Simple Green to 3 parts water, but you could also spot clean with Zep’s Foaming Wall Cleaner (use with an open window — this stuff is powerful but works wonders!). Once you’ve got everything assembled and tested, use a brush attachment to lightly vacuum the wall surface or dust with a clean dry rag. Then go on a dirt hunt (this is what I call walking around with cleaner and a rag and cleaning anything I see that needs it). Use the magic eraser on the really stained areas and the cleaner/rag over any other visibly dirty areas.
    • The advanced: Start with the brush attachment and thoroughly vacuum the wall (use a light touch so you don’t scratch anything). Work in roughly 4’x4′ squares. Remove any art/wall hangings as you go. Now get a clean mop (preferably the large, flat rectangular kind) and a bucket filled with warm water and, you guessed it, a patch-tested all purpose cleaner of your choice! The idea here is to basically mop your wall the way you would your floor. Use light pressure and again, work in squares to make sure you get everything. Once you’ve mopped the whole wall, go back with a magic eraser or rag to remove any spots the mopping didn’t completely remove. When the wall is dry, go back over it with the vacuum to pick up any dust or hair still stuck to the wall (trust me, this is an important step). Re-hang anything you took down and voila! Super clean walls.
  • Detail your seating area. Whether you have a couch, lounge chair, or a few cushions on the floor, all living rooms have somewhere to sit. Most of us give these a once over with a vacuum and call it a day, but it’s worth paying this area extra attention every so often. To deep clean a chair or couch:
    • First remove anything that can be laundered and do so. Cushion covers, slip covers, blankets–wash all of it. Next, anything that can be removed but can’t go in the washing machine should either be put outside to air out or thoroughly vacuumed.
    • Now, to the furniture itself: start by vacuuming thoroughly. Get every nook and cranny you can reach with an attachment. This step should take you awhile — at least 10 minutes per piece. Set a timer if you need to. The idea is to be thorough and really get as much dirt and dust out as possible. If you can, get underneath and vacuum the underside. Don’t be afraid to go over the whole piece a few times!
    • If you have a carpet cleaner and your furniture is cloth-covered, get in there and clean the whole piece. Take extra time for the spots that see a lot of traffic: the head and arm rests. If you have leather furniture, go over everything with a leather cleaner (I’ve even used some saddle soap on occasion to pretty good results).
  • Clean your art. Now that you have super clean walls, spend some time on the stuff you put on the walls. I usually dust things off during regular cleans, but occasionally I like to go through with glass cleaner and clean off all my frames really thoroughly.
    • If you have anything not in a frame or covered with glass like a wall hanging or sculpture, you can either go over it with the brush attachment on your vacuum or, if it’s in really dusty condition, use a toothbrush to clean out the nooks and crannies, hit it with the vacuum, and then use a clean rag pulled over your finger tip and some gentle all-purpose cleaner to get at any stuck-on gunk.
    • If you have delicate hand-painted items like an oil painting, you can either stick to dusting or take a page out of art restoration experts’ playbook: use a cotton swab and your saliva. Normally I don’t recommend spit-shine as a cleaning method, but saliva contains amylase (an enzyme that breaks down food) and is actually really effective for cleaning delicate paintings. It’s safer than water, believe it or not. I will say that using a cotton bud and spit is a long, arduous process, so maybe don’t do this unless there’s a spot you need to get out or you have a couple hours to spare. Simply stick the clean cotton bud in your mouth to wet with spit and then roll delicately back and forth over the painted surface. Be very gentle and don’t scrub — the friction could damage the paint.
See? The spit thing is real, no prank. / via Giphy

There are always plenty of things to clean, but these are a good place to start. Though cleaning your walls and art can apply to other parts of your home, I recommend taking deep cleaning room by room so you don’t get burned out. Deep cleaning can be really satisfying, but it’s also really taxing, especially when you realize you have to put the room back together after taking it all apart to clean it. I like to leave a little time and energy at the end of a big clean to re-stage the room. Put the cushions back, rehang the wall decorations, put away the cleaning supplies. Then, you can relax and enjoy your space!

Thanks for reading!

Where To Start: Deep Cleaning A Bathroom

Welcome! This post is part of a series I’m starting this week on deep cleaning. Often deep cleaning can be intimidating because it’s difficult to know where to start, so each week I’ll give you a short (but by no means exhaustive!) list of what you can clean (and how to clean it) to start making your house feel cleaner and fresher, one room at a time. Follow for more each week!

This week, my house has felt particularly dirty without really being cluttered or messy. I’ve been keeping up on my regular chores, but nothing feels really clean or even smells very fresh after I clean it. This is always a good sign that it’s time for me to set aside some deep cleaning time to refresh my space and get me motivated. Tackling one room at a time instead of a whole house isn’t as overwhelming, so I downloaded an audiobook I knew I’d get invested in (Book 3 of The Witcher series — so good!) and got to it, starting with the bathroom.

Spirited Away has the best animated cleaning and the best animated food. I will die on this incredibly trivial hill. / vie Giphy

My basic bathroom clean each week includes scrubbing the sink; cleaning the mirror; scrubbing the toilet bowl and wiping down the lid, seat, and rim; and scrubbing the shower (my least favorite chore by far, but a grimy shower is like dirty sheets: it makes the whole room feel worse). I usually vacuum throughout the week, but when I do this weekly clean I vacuum and then go through with a spray mop.

Since I wanted to deep clean this week, I set aside a bit more time for the two bathrooms in my house. There are two ways to approach a deep clean: clean what you normally would plus extra, or just let go of the regular clean (or elements of it) in favor of deep cleaning tasks. Bathrooms, however, really need to be cleaned at least once a week (if not more — I don’t have kids and very rarely have guests, so I can get away with once a week more easily), so the best bet is to complete a regular clean plus extra. Here’s what I did today to deep clean:

  1. Clean the drains. If you only have time to do one thing on this list, do this to your sink and shower/tub!
    • If you’re able, unscrew the drain stopper and pull out as much hair/dirt/misc. as possible using your fingers. You can also use an orange stick or a paper towel to grab/wipe, but do not use something metal or sharp! Many drains are literally just plastic (not ABS or copper like the surrounding pipe) and it’s easier to punch a hole than you’d think. I won’t lie to you, this step will be straight gross, and you’ll definitely want to use some gloves.
    • Once the drain is clean(ish), scrub the inside of the drain and the stopper with your shower cleaner of choice and a toothbrush. Get as deep into the nooks and crannies as you can! Rinse.
    • Now, while the stopper is still off, sprinkle some baking soda into the drain (2-3 tablespoons should do it). Pour about 1/2 cup white vinegar in, and let sit while you head to the kitchen to boil water. I usually just fill up my kettle or a medium saucepan — no need to measure. Once the water is boiling, carefully carry it into the bathroom and pour it all straight down the drain. Now turn the tap on (hot if you can) and let it run for a minute or so to remove any leftover baking soda (if you’re in a drought zone and/or concerned about water use, just hop in to take a shower at this point and kill two birds with one stone).
    • Finally, replace the stopper. It should thread in fairly easily. Cleaning drains is a bit involved, but just remember: cleaning your drains regularly helps prevent larger clogs (and if you really hate it, buy something like a TubShroom to help keep gross stuff out and make cleaning easier).
  2. Give your cosmetics some TLC. This is a fairly small step, but it makes me so much happier on a regular basis. When’s the last time you wiped off your face cream? Never? If the lid is dusty or dirty, wipe it off. Clean your toothbrush holder (put it in the dishwasher!). Clean your hairbrush and wash it with a bit of shampoo. Throw out anything expired or that no longer sparks joy. Cosmetics are really all about self care (either the really necessary kind like toothpaste or the less necessary like my Pixi Steam Shower Mask), so it makes sense to spend some time making them more of a pleasure to use. Set face serums and creams out on a nice tray. Organize your nail polishes by color. Whatever makes you feel good!
  3. Get under the seat. Another gross job. But again, worth it! Most folks regularly wipe down the toilet seat, rim, and toilet surrounds. To go a step further, remove the toilet seat/lid and clean underneath the plastic hardware. To remove the seat, reach underneath and unscrew this nut:

    Depending on the type of seat you have, you may be able to “unlock” the top hardware, but I still prefer removing the whole bolt as it’s a lot easier to clean the porcelain. Once you remove the nut, you should be able to lift the whole seat off. Spray the area down, wipe clean, and replace the seat and nut.
  4. Wash your shower curtain. This really freshens the room! If you have a plastic liner, you can still wash it in a washing machine. Just pop it in with a couple of towels and wash on “normal” (sanitizing cycles can be a bit too rough on plastic). If you have a fabric liner, bleach it if possible. You can put fabric shower curtains in the dryer, but never put a plastic liner in, and avoid putting the fabric ones as well (they come out of the wash fairly dry anyway). Just hang the liner straight back on the rings and let it air dry.
  5. Clean your baseboards. If you prefer to do all your baseboards at once, feel free to skip this step, but I always find my bathroom baseboards need a little extra elbow grease and need to be cleaned a little more often, and it’s a small room so it doesn’t add too much extra work. Run a clean, dry cloth over the board to start, follow with a wet cloth (add your all purpose cleaner of choice), then dry with another clean cloth. I know this is a bit involved even for baseboards, but you’d be amazed how much dirtier these get in your bathroom with all the hair, cosmetics, humidity, and dust.
  6. Detail your switch plates. I spray my light switches down with a disinfectant spray a couple times a week, but I like to use some all purpose spray applied to a clean dry cloth to give switch plates (including plugs) a solid clean every so often (be careful and don’t ever spray cleaner straight onto a plug. Work around them and stick to cleaning just the surrounding plate). This task is a great trigger task (a chore that makes you automatically do other chores), as it can often go past the switch plates to spot cleaning the walls or wiping down the door.
Now go have the world’s best cup of coffee! / via Giphy

Phew, that’s it! Doing any one or all of these things is a huge win, so treat yourself! Taking time to take care of your space is a form of self care, and even though it’s not always how we want to spend our time, deep cleaning can be really satisfying. If you can get to everything I’ve listed here or even want to do more like cleaning your cupboards or washing the walls or scrubbing the grout, go for it! If you can only get to one thing, that’s awesome, too! Every little bit helps 🙂

Thanks for reading!

I Tested Emergency Stain Fighting Methods So You Don’t Have To

We’ve all been there. We’re trucking along, on our way to work or eating lunch out in the world, and BAM! Coffee down our fronts. Ketchup on our new pants. Stains happen, but like running into exes or your printer running out of ink, they often happen at the worst time. That’s why I don’t understand a lot of laundry guides’ stain removal sections. Yes, sure, ideally we have a Tide pen on our person at all times or can mix complicated concoctions to apply before a stain sets, but those options kind of demand that you’re in the right place at the right time. Most times I’ve stained something I mind being stained (home clothes are home clothes for a reason), I’m going somewhere important or nice and I don’t necessarily have access to more than a public bathroom or some napkins.

We’ve all been there, buddy. / via Giphy

Because of my perpetual under-preparedness, I decided to test the stain fighting options most folks usually have access to when they’re untethered from their laundry rooms on the stains most people get pretty frequently: ketchup, mustard, oil, and coffee. Yes, there are definitely many other things you can stain your clothes with, but I figured this covered the stain “worlds” pretty well (for instance, when you get a spaghetti sauce stain, it’s mostly the tomatoes and oil that’s staining the fabric, so you can still get a good idea from these samples of what would work best).

Before I talk about the method and results, a couple of notes regarding other frequent stains: ALWAYS use cold water to get blood out (run it under a faucet as cold as you can and gently rub with your fingers, and hand sanitizer is the best option for tree sap. Trust me, I’ve bled on a lot of stuff and sat in a lot of tree sap, and those are the best ways, hands down.

The method. I tested strips of fabric (I used 100% cotton) stained with each substance. I dabbed the excess off with a paper napkin, applied the treatment, rubbed with my fingers, then rinsed with warm water. None of the stains sat on the fabric untreated for more than a minute (I assumed most people would notice a treatable stain within a pretty short window — a dry stain noticed much later is a different ball game). I did use an Oxi stain stick on one strip as a sort of control so I could see what would happen if I were in an ideal situation where I had access to a stain stick and a sink. I also let everything dry completely before photographing.

The results. As you can see, not a ton of big surprises here, but some interesting findings nonetheless. Dabbing at a stain doesn’t really do much (this was the only strip that you could still see coffee on). Rinsing got the coffee out, but otherwise it doesn’t really seem to be worth getting your shirt wet if you don’t have anything else to treat with — the other stains weren’t really any different with water added. Hand sanitizer was better than water. This method is actually my go to when I stain my clothes and can’t use a bathroom, and it does seem to help the stain come out later in the wash. Plus I usually have hand sanitizer on me or in the car (especially these days), so it’s better than just dabbing or even rinsing.

Unsurprisingly, soap-based treatments won the day with all these food stains. What was a bit surprising, though, was how well dish soap did. I originally tested it because it’s what I would go for if I stained my clothing at a friend’s house or someplace where I didn’t feel okay about poking around the laundry room. And amazingly, dish soap outperformed the actual stain stick! I’ve written before about my love of dish soap (read more here), but I never really thought of it for stains besides oil. The dish soap left only the faintest trace of ketchup and mustard and completely removed the oil and coffee, but with the stain stick there was a discernible (if faint) stain. I honestly may just start treating at home stains with dish soap as well — an easy solution that works!

Finally, hand soap did okay (better than just dabbing, just water, or hand sanitizer), but it couldn’t seem to remove anything completely, even the oil. Still, probably the best option in a pinch, as most folks don’t carry dish soap everywhere (but maybe we should?).

My overall findings? Go for the soapiest thing you can find, but sub in hand sanitizer if you don’t have access to water. Rinsing isn’t worth it unless you spilled something very liquidy like coffee or soda. And remember: time is always important with stains. The longer something sits, the more likely the stain will fix. If you can’t do anything about the stain in the moment, no worries, just brush it off and deal with it when you get home. Ideally with dish soap.

Thanks for reading!

10 Cleaning Tips to Keep Your House Livable

Funnily enough, people who hate cleaning often make the best cleaners. When you hate something that’s a necessity, you’ll do anything you can to improve it or make it easier. I HATED cleaning growing up, but like most adults, I eventually figured out clean rooms are nice to live in (go figure).

In the name of livable rooms with minimal infringement on my Masterpiece Theater and blank staring time, I’ve done my best over the years to figure out the easiest and most efficient ways to keep my space clean. Cleaning is an art and a skill, and as is the case with so many things in life, knowledge is power. So, in the name of scientific endeavor, here are my 10 tips for keeping your house livable and clean(ish).

I’ve thought a lot about this and if I could train woodland creatures to help me clean I’d do it. Even if it ended up like Enchanted with rats and pigeons … I’d still do it. / via Giphy
  1. Never go with empty hands. This is a rule in restaurants for a reason. Think about how often you walk from one room to another in a day. If you’re passing through the kitchen, grab a dish. Headed out to the car? Take out the garbage on your way. It won’t eliminate clutter, but it will definitely help. (It’s also fun to say this phrase to family members in a sing-song voice whenever they leave a room. Seriously, people love it.)
  2. Make it fun! I love a good cleaning playlist, but sometimes I need more than good music. I switch it up by listening to an audiobook (I often keep cleaning because I’m invested in the plot) or a podcast. Try the Overdrive or Libby apps from your local library to get an amazing selection of free books. I also like to turn on a movie or a show, especially if I’m folding laundry or straightening up the living room. Keeping myself entertained makes it easier to take on big tasks.
  3. Toothbrushes are gold. Never throw away a used toothbrush! Toss it in the dishwasher and keep it for cleaning around faucets, scrubbing window tracks, cleaning gunk out of drains, and basically any task where you need to get into small cracks or details. I strongly believe that there’s not much a toothbrush and Simple Green can’t clean — words to live by.
  4. Start by clearing the floor. I hear a lot about cleaning from top to bottom (which is important), but if I’m tackling a specific room, I actually start by clearing the clutter off the floor. Pick up clothes, put away toys, and clear as much off the floor as you can before you start cleaning. It will make the actual dusting, vacuuming, etc. much easier.
  5. Wear gloves! Most cleaners, natural or not, are rough on hands. Also, humans are gross. Cleaning a toilet is a lot easier to tackle when your hands are protected. Just make sure you buy a pair for each room (mark them with a permanent marker).
  6. Clean your tools. Give some cleaning love to the things that help you clean! Empty the vacuum canister when you’re done cleaning. Wipe down attachments. Wash out the mop head. Wash your broom (and store it bristles up!). Clean your washer. We often forget to clean these things, and they really do need cleaning and maintenance. A full vacuum cleaner that hasn’t ever had its filter changed isn’t going to work very well, and you can extend the life of your tools by keeping them in good condition.
  7. Toss or keep, don’t shuffle. You know the stuff that lives on your dining room table? The old mail, notebooks, hand cream, etc.? It’s a better use of your cleaning time to either find a proper place for it or toss it. Shuffling it and cleaning around it ends up taking a lot more time, and your space will look so much cleaner without the clutter!
  8. Treat yourself! Some days incentives are pretty much the only way I get anything done. Save a cookie for after chores. Rent a movie. Take a bath in your sparkling clean tub. Go to Starbucks. Sometimes a clean house or a job well done is motivation enough, but don’t forget the carrot part of carrot and stick.
  9. Sometimes good enough is good enough. Give yourself credit for making an effort. If you’ve had a tough week and you can muster the effort to load the dishwasher but not scrub the sink or do a load of laundry but not vacuum the house, that’s ok. Nobody is Pinterest-perfect all the time, and I’ll bet good money that a lot of those pictures have the dirty laundry pile cropped out.
  10. Break the rules. Yesterday my husband told me one of the reasons he doesn’t really like mopping is because he feels like he has to vacuum super thoroughly beforehand. I told him I often vacuum, mop, and then sweep particularly dirty floors. His response? “Wait, you can do that?” Just because that’s how it’s always been done doesn’t mean that’s how you have to do it. If you try something and it works for you (and makes basic chemical sense), go for it.
If he can do it, you can too! / via Giphy

What are your best cleaning tips? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

Homemade Window Cleaner (That Works!)

Weird confession: I love cleaning windows. We all have the chores we love (for me: windows, vacuuming, and scrubbing sinks) and the ones we hate (for me: scrubbing showers/tubs, emptying the dishwasher, and putting away folded laundry). Windows are the ultimate detail work for me, and a clean window (or mirror, for that matter) has an instant impact on a room.

Because I like cleaning windows, I’ve developed a lot of opinions about how I like to clean them and what I like to clean them with. I love Windex, but sometimes I prefer to make my own to switch it up or save money or just because. I always make my own window solution when I’m doing a deep clean, because I like to make a big bucket with hot water and a spritz from spray bottle of cleaner just doesn’t feel as satisfying and hot water and suds.

Simply the best. / via Giphy

My window cleaner recipe, like many out there, includes rubbing alcohol and vinegar. However, I also include dish soap, (which some folks don’t do) because I feel the soap helps break down grime and grease marks better and more quickly (also I use dish soap for everything — read more here). It also helps the solution cover the glass — vinegar and alcohol without the soap doesn’t cling to the glass very well. So don’t skip the dish soap!

Here’s how I make glass cleaner in a (standard 23 oz. size) spray bottle:

Yes, I reuse a bottle from a certain famous glass cleaner company.
  • Add the following straight to the bottle: about 2 tablespoons rubbing alcohol (any percentage will do); about 1 teaspoon dish soap (again, any type will do, but blue Dawn gives the blueish tinge that means “window cleaner” to everyone’s brain); about 2 tablespoons white distilled vinegar.
  • Fill the bottle about 1/2 to 3/4 full with water. Make sure to tilt the bottle so the stream of water hits the side and doesn’t create too many bubbles.
  • Replace cap and use! You can give the bottle a quick shake to reincorporate the ingredients before each use (a bit of separation is natural, like Snapple says).
See what I mean about the suds?!

You can add the same ingredients in similar proportions (but overall larger amounts) to a bucket and add hot water to make a great window cleaning solution for bigger jobs. Use a rag (don’t wring it out too much, you want it to be like a wet mop) to scrub the window and remove the excess with a squeegee. Trust me, your windows will literally be squeaky clean.

All clean!

Thanks for reading!

Pandemic Habits I’ll Keep

If it’s been written once it’s been written a thousand times: the pandemic has and continues to change how we live our lives, in both big and small ways (I know — super original statement). Some folks have been talking about getting “back to normal” and some maintain that life will never be the same (honestly, they’re probably both right — life has a way of being achingly normal and shockingly bizarre at the same time), but most everyone has drastically altered their everyday behavior from pre-pandemic standards. I’ve been thinking a lot about the world after the pandemic and the habits I adopted as a result, and there’s a lot I like and will probably keep doing. Let me be clear at the outset, though: 1) the pandemic is ongoing and probably will be for awhile, and 2) it isn’t my intention to make light of a serious time — I get that many of these are trivialities.

Photo by Leohoho on Unsplash
  • Wearing a mask. I like that masks have been a little more normalized. I used to feel weird about wearing one in public, but they’re great for allergies, for keeping your germs away from others if you’re sick, and even for helping me breath a bit easier during the Northwest’s awful fire season. I’ll keep my collection in regular rotation and while I may not wear them in public constantly forever, I’ll keep wearing them when they’ll help keep myself and others safe or stop my head from feeling like a bowling ball each spring.
  • Washing my produce and taking food out of boxes. This may sound a bit odd and probably isn’t for everyone, but at the beginning of the pandemic I was in full panic mode and started disinfecting my groceries. I began washing all my produce and taking items in paperboard (cereal boxes, snacks, etc.) out of the box before putting everything away. And even though it’s a bit extra, I will probably keep doing this for the foreseeable future for two reasons: produce washed immediately stays fresh waaaaay longer, and getting rid of the boxes early saves a ton of space.
  • Paying attention to my mental health. This one’s a bit more on the serious side, but the past year has been TOUGH. I’ve kept up my talk therapy via telehealth, and it’s been really helpful. This year I really learned the importance of putting my health — mental and physical — first, and I’ll continue to make extra room for self care.
  • Saying ‘no’ to events I don’t want to go to. I’m a super private introvert, so I’ll be honest: the pandemic didn’t hit my social life all that hard. If anything I see friends more now that folks are more open to Zoom happy hours and the like. But yeah, I’ve definitely been glad for the built-in excuse of the pandemic meaning I didn’t have to go to some event I wouldn’t have wanted to attend in the first place. It’s not strictly a habit of saying ‘no’ that I’m after: it’s recognizing that I can just admit I don’t really want to go somewhere and that I am allowed to value my time.

Again, I know we’re not out of the woods yet and the pandemic will probably continue to change how we live, but I think it’s interesting to think of the unexpected benefits of this brave new world. I guess I’m bright-siding it, but it’s nice to think I’ve learned something good from all of this.

Thanks for reading!

Feeling Overwhelmed? Pick 6!

This time of year has a way of getting on top of people. The school year is winding down, spring/summer activities are picking up, and life just gets chaotic quickly. More often than not, I feel a little extra-overwhelmed in April and May because I have what feels like a million little things to take care of. Work stuff, home stuff, you name it. I’ve got graduation gifts to send, work to send out, Mother’s Day coming up, birthdays — just typing it all stresses me out!

I’ve got a few ways of working my way out of the overwhelmed feeling, but one of my all-time favorites (and very frequently utilized) is to pick 6. It’s a method adapted from Ivy Lee’s own pick 6 method. Now, Ivy Lee’s version differs a bit from my approach, and some of you may find her way more effective (after all, Charles Schwab liked his results so much he paid Lee $25,000 for the method back in 1918, so clearly she was doing something right).

Naturally, all my to-do lists are also in soft focus.
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

So how does it work? Simple: at the start of my day, I write down every to-do item I can think of. Every passing “Oh, I need to…” that enters my head. Then, I pick 6 things that I absolutely will get done that day and put a star next to them. I allow myself a couple of softballs (stuff like logging information on a spreadsheet or sending a quick email), and I usually try to add at least one or two big things or things I’ve been putting off (see also my post about picking just one tough thing here). The point is, I just have to deal with those 6 things that day. After that, I’ve showed up for the day and been at least somewhat productive, and it’s okay if I only get to those 6 things (I can always pick 6 more tomorrow!).

This method works for me for a few reasons: first, writing everything down works a bit like a data dump (where you write down every thought for a timed period to help empty a crowded mind). Ivy Lee’s original method encourages you to only list 6 items and avoid writing the rest down, but my brain tends to circle back on tasks that need to get done at the least helpful moments (remembering that I need to wash the car while I’m trying to write an email isn’t super helpful), and writing down all the tasks I’m thinking of helps get them out of my head, even if it’s just for the day.

Second, picking 6 items lets me prioritize. By doing a task data dump and then picking 6 things that really should get done, I’m goal-setting and helping my brain home in on the few must-dos for that day. Prioritizing is an important part of productivity (Dwight Eisenhower’s productivity matrix is actually based on prioritization and assessing urgency, post on that coming soon!), and it’s another way to help your mind put down the little things that don’t really need to get done today and focus on actually getting stuff done. Basically, it helps you keep calm.

See what I did there?
Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Finally, this method helps you feel accomplished and make slow and steady progress. When I’m overwhelmed, it’s easy to enter a cycle of anxiety that (surprise, surprise) stops me from getting anything done! Making a list and setting some goals for the day helps me work through busy periods, even if it’s just 6 items at a time. 6 is also a bit of a magic number — it’s enough to fill a day and feel like you’ve been productive but not enough to overburden. You can always do more if you feel like it, but by picking 6 you can basically guarantee some level of productivity.

Thanks for reading!

UGH, No.

I’ve had a week, y’all. Lots of ups and downs, personally and professionally. So when it came to writing my weekly post, a big part of me thought … “No. I don’t want to.”

Indeed, Christopher Walken, indeed.

Obviously, I wrote the post because you’re reading the post (thank you!), but I’ll be honest and say it’s not coming easily. I haven’t done much in the way of cleaning or cooking or organizing in the past few days, so I’ll have to write about my feelings instead. And friends, I have many of them.

This is not the first time I have used this gif. It will not be the last. See gif for details on why.

Thinking about a thing I didn’t really have the energy to do got me thinking about the many other things that, as I’ve gotten older and very marginally wiser, I’ve actually stopped doing because I just didn’t want to. The things, people, and obligations that I finally said no to.

For the liberated amongst you, saying no has become pretty easy (or maybe has always been easy, if you’re in the like top 5%?). And that’s amazing! But for me, it was and continues to be really hard to say no. There are probably two big reasons for this: I care too much about what other people think of me, and I reeeaaaallly want to make people happy.

Now maybe you are one of the lucky few who don’t really care about what people think about you. If so, an honest and hearty congratulations to you (with a smidgeon of side-eye and jealousy tbh). I am not one of those people. And that makes it really hard for me to, as my DARE officer told me, just say no.

Still, in recent years, I’ve gotten a bit better at saying no and, shall we say, going my own way. A lot of it is down to getting older, a bunch of talk therapy, and playing Brené Brown audiobooks on repeat. But it’s still tough. I have to work at it and decide whether I really want to do something, and then once I’ve made my decision, I have to effectively and politely communicate it. Then, toughest of all, I have to stick to it. I’ve got a few methods/concepts/thoughts for doing these things, which I will naturally now bullet-point:

  • “No thank you, not today!” My nephew started saying this, and it’s kind of become a family motto. If you don’t want to, just firmly and politely say “No thank you, not today!”
  • Time and energy are finite. There was recently a TikTok discussion about “revenge bedtime procrastination,” a phenomenon where people stay up super late doing not much of anything to get back at others and themselves for being constantly busy. We need time to respect our need for downtime, which means we sometimes have to say no. Respect your own boundaries!
  • “Good for her! Not for me.” Again and again, I come back to this quote from Amy Poehler’s amazing book Yes, Please. We don’t have to tear down others’ choices to validate our own, and we don’t have to follow someone else’s lead just because.
  • You deserve to take up space in the world too! I have to tell myself this a lot. I get stuck thinking about how my life affects others, but that’s not really fair to myself. Don’t I (and you!) deserve the same consideration we give our friends and family?

To be fair, I said yes to writing this post, mainly because it matters to me and I ultimately decided I wanted to. But I like to think that, if I really needed to, I could say no.

Thanks for reading!