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!

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!

my Spring Cleaning Superstar? Dish Soap.

I really like spring cleaning. I like the detail of it, the feeling of accomplishment after really cleaning a room top to bottom, and it always feels like I’m getting to know my house a bit better—like learning something brand new about an old friend. I feel more connected to my home when I learn how a lighting fixture is put together or how a cabinet shelf can be moved because I had to take something apart to clean it. Deep cleaning is also kind of like therapy: you can focus on something you can control and accomplish, and it’s a really good feeling to lose yourself—even for an hour or two—in cleaning your space, preparing for the new season, and blasting pop punk jamz (though if you really want deep cleaning to be like therapy you can do what I did cleaning out my last apartment and marathon Brené Brown audiobooks—you will be sooo mentally healthy).

My vibe after a weekend of deep cleaning my kitchen cabinets.

My overly philosophical approach to washing window screens and cleaning under your couch aside, spring cleaning can also lead to cleaning product overload. You either end up buying a bunch of new products you don’t need in an effort to boost motivation, or you end up carting around like 10 different bottles of all-purpose cleaner, wood cleaner, glass cleaner, etc. So when I’m spring cleaning, I bring an old friend into rotation that I know will cover most of my work and is also already in my house: dish soap. Dish soap is to me what Windex is to the dad in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. There’s literally nothing it can’t fix. NOTHING.

Now, fair disclaimer: if you are concerned about a surface or fabric, test an inconspicuous area first. But also, like, use common sense and don’t try to clean an antique oil painting and wonder why it got destroyed. That said, here are things I have cleaned with a bit of dish soap, warm water, and a rag/toothbrush/scrub brush: my stovetop, my microwave/hood, my window tracks and sills, my baseboards, my ceiling fans, the tops of my kitchen cabinets, cabinet fronts, my heater grates, a grease spot on the ceiling above my stove I didn’t notice until I collapsed on the floor in despair after a failed batch of cookies, my front door kickplate, my refrigerator (inside and outside), my bathroom counters, every thrifted piece of furniture I’ve ever bought, and most of my appliances (unplugged, of course).

Anywhere there is oil, dirt, or unidentified gunk, dish soap is a good catch-all. It’s fairly gentle, extremely cheap, and you don’t have to bother with specialty cleansers taking up space. When you’re deep cleaning, adaptability is key because you don’t want to have to keep finding different bottles of cleaner or worry about mixing products. Dish soap is also usually much more effective than a standard all-purpose cleaner (even my ride-or-die Simple Green).

It’s not a super complicated thing to use: you can either use a drop or two directly on a wet rag or a brush, or you can mix a tablespoon or so into a bucket of warm water. Either way, once you’ve given whatever you’re cleaning a good once-over with the suds, use a clean rag (wet or dry) to remove the excess soap. I usually finish off with a dry towel, and voila! Clean, easy, unfussy.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

This is definitely not a revolutionary tip. Yes, soap makes things clean. This is more a reminder that sometimes the simplest way is the best way. There’s no illegal diet pill way around deep cleaning. There are a few products that let you simply apply and rinse off, but the truth is we all will have to clean our house at some point, and we’ll have to use some elbow grease. Using dish soap doesn’t mean not scrubbing or magic results, but I’ve found it to be more of a reliable standby. So as you get stuck into spring cleaning (or any kind of deep cleaning), just keep it simple and enjoy the aforementioned jamz.

What’s your ride or die cleaning product? Do you have a few standbys or do you like to switch it up?

Thanks for reading!

If It Fits in the Dishwasher, It Goes in the Dishwasher

Awhile ago, I read an article on The Kitchn about how Ina Garten puts everything in the dishwasher. Knives, wooden utensils, pots and pans—it’s all fair game. It was meant to be a casual, lighthearted cleaning tip, but like the lazy cleaning-obsessed nut I am, I went wide with it. If Ina does it, then why can’t I?

Ina gets it (p.s. she also has a husband named Jeffrey and so obviously I could be friends with her.

For a long time, I’ve slowly run out of wooden utensils as they await handwashing and avoided using the ice cream scoop because it too must be handwashed. Like the moment I started washing clothes that said “Dry Clean Only,” I decided to go for it, and damn the consequences! (I know I’m too invested in this, but I honestly just don’t have a lot going on in my life right now.) So I followed Ina’s word and started putting everything but cast iron (I mean, I’m not a monster) in the dishwasher. If it was in my kitchen, fit in the dishwasher, and did not have a plug, it went in. I was freeeeeee!

BUT THEN. Then I decided to start spring cleaning yesterday, and I thought again about how Ina said everything could go in the dishwasher. And then I washed my trash can lids (the buckets wouldn’t fit), my stove knobs, my dish rack, my silverware containers (I keep mine in cups on my counter), my toothbrush holder, my fan filter, and SO MUCH MORE! Basically, if it’s made of plastic, metal, or glass, it’s fair game.

All this said, I will say there is a reason all my stuff isn’t melted, discolored, or warped. So, here are some suggestions if you too want to stop scrubbing and start pressing buttons:

This is my dream…
  • Do NOT use anything resembling the “Heated Dry” feature. Heated Dry is actually pretty bad for your dishwasher and most dishes. I keep it off all the time, but if you use it for dishes, you should turn it off if you’re putting other stuff in, especially plastic on the bottom rack.
  • Make sure the fins can spin. A lot of dishwashers have little rotating fins above each rack. Always make sure these can move freely, especially if you’re putting tall lids or other odd items.
  • Use your dishwasher like a washing machine. Putting delicate items in the dishwasher? Adjust the settings to run cooler for less time. Washing gross stuff? Don’t put it in with dishes you’re going to eat off of. Just like you don’t put your cleaning rags in with your fancy going-out shirt on extra hot, think about what you’re putting in the dishwasher and where it came from in your house.
  • Think about detergent. Speaking of washing machines, many of you probably have a detergent for more delicate items (if you don’t, consider it—it’s great!). Do the same for your dishwasher! I usually use Cascade pods for a regular load of dishes, but if I’m putting a bunch of delicate stuff in that might get discolored, like metal that might react with a citrus-based soap or something painted, I use a mild soap like Seventh Generation in a bottle so I can control how much goes in (just a bit!) and keep it as gentle as possible.

These rules may seem like a bit of a hassle, but remember that once you load the machine and press the button, you get to walk away! It’s really satisfying, and every little bit helps. Even if it only saves five minutes, that’s five minutes, and when I have zero energy, sticking something in the dishwasher is a much more attainable goal.

Thanks for reading!

How I use Google Tasks to keep my house habitable

I will preface this post by telling you that, honestly, I am not the most organized person I know. If you’re looking for a binder print-out or a bullet journal concept, this is not that post. I envy those people, but I know myself well enough to know that mine will always be a slightly dirty floor, a too-full trash, a cluttered entryway. I know it, my husband knows it, even my five-year-old nephew knows it (to quote him: “Auntie Heli’s house is so messy!” Nothing like a child razzing you to have you shame-cleaning your house at 10 PM on a Monday). This is for the folks who are having trouble keeping up. I see you, friend!

At least he looks happy…

That said, just because I’m not the most organized/clean person in the world does not give me an excuse to Pigpen out.

You have to be a person, and that means that daily/weekly/monthly, you have stuff that simply needs to be done, and regularly. If you only do these when you’ve reached the “Auntie Heli’s house is so messy!” point, you are setting yourself up for so much more work than you need to (and again, late night shame-cleaning). 

So I propose an alternative: use a tasks app. The key here is not just making a to-do list, but scheduling recurring tasks. Here’s what to do: 

  • My phone screen yesterday (it’s time to spruce my background up for spring!)
    Start slow. Choose one or two tasks you know you need to do each week (or day or month). Maybe clean all your sinks on Saturday, or vacuum your bedroom on Tuesday. Don’t worry about making a list of everything that you want to get done each week or each day, just start with a couple and get used to doing them week-in, week-out. 
  • Keep it manageable. Limit yourself to tasks/chores that can be done within 30 minutes or so. Don’t get ambitious and just put “clean the house” on your list each Saturday. I doubt you’ll be able to get everything done, and if you do, knock it off because you’re making the rest of us look bad. 
  • Schedule the tasks on your task app. If you don’t have one, get one. Make sure it can schedule recurring tasks and remind you to do them. I use Google Tasks, but you could also use Microsoft To Do or Remember the Milk
  • Space it out. This is why you keep it to 30 minutes! If you remind yourself to clean out your fridge each Wednesday and that’s all you have to do, you might actually do it! Then on Saturday, you’ll only have a few things to worry about instead of the whole house. 

Why I have a hamper in my kitchen

Also hello and welcome to my blog.

Though this is my first blog post, I decided that rather than a more straightforward post introducing myself (hi, I’m Heloise and my blog is called Happy Heloise) and telling you what I want to blog about (cleaning, cooking, and organizing as easily and painlessly as possible), I’d just jump right in and get started. Essentially, I’ve decided to run my blog the same way I go through Target: spending 45 minutes in the organizing section “assessing” the storage bin selection and butting into people’s conversations to tell them why they absolutely should buy a Squatty Potty.

My mother has always been outspoken about having our washer and dryer in the kitchen, citing practicality and the fact that “it’s the European way” (normal reason to do anything). We always had a basket on top of the washer for “house laundry,” and I never really thought much about it. Then I moved out, lived in several apartments, and for some reason, never adopted a similar practice. Each night, I walked my dish towels into my bedroom or bathroom LIKE AN ANIMAL. But for some reason, at the ripe age of 31, something clicked and I realized that kitchens make laundry, so there should be a kitchen hamper! I brazenly stole one of my mom’s extra baskets, bought some over-the-door hooks on Amazon, and now, I have a kitchen hamper. And folks, there’s a reason I’m starting my blog off writing about a basket on a hook on a cabinet: it is a game-changer.

The tiny basket from Ikea that changed it all…

Gone are the days of moldy dish towels in with my fancy lady silk top! More importantly, I no longer have to walk 25 feet to throw something in a basket and I’ve never been happier. But before you run out and plonk a basket in your kitchen because some random lady on the internet said so, here’s some friendly advice:

  • Use something easy to clean that can be either thrown in the washing machine or washed in hot water. You will thank me when you get behind on laundry and the damp cloths get straight gross.
  • Avoid a container that will sit on the floor. As a rule, kitchens shouldn’t have a ton of stuff lying around on the floor. Dirt gets under it and you have to move too much to clean the floor often.
  • Opt for something with a rim and holes. I strongly recommend you embrace kitchen laundry being visible and don’t try to hide it under a lid or behind a sign that says “bless this mess.” Dish towels and other cleaning rags get damp, sometimes plain wet. You want air to be able to get in there so you don’t have a mold farm on your hands! Also, if there’s a rim, you can get dirty towels out of the way by putting them on the rim to dry.
A close-up of my revolutionary
hook-basket system

So, that’s it. I know some people may have read this and thought, “Duh lady this is common practice.” But if I didn’t find a ton of entries on Pinterest and there are people out there living without kitchen hampers, don’t you want them to know? If you do have a kitchen hamper, what type of container do you use? What do you think about a washer and dryer in the kitchen?

You can find the Ikea Variera I use here (technically it’s a trash can, but it works!), and you can find the hooks I use here.

Thanks for reading!