Category Archives: Cleaning

Conquered: Cleaning!

On Monday, I talked about how I’ve conquered doing the dishes. Today, I want to talk about cleaning.

Here’s my lessons I’ve learned so far:

1. Getting the clutter off of surfaces as quickly as possible (but not in an OCD way) is the big secret to not being embarrassed when friends stop by or you have to give a maintenance worker access to your house. I start near the door and make my way back through the open areas. It’s my thing. You’ll have your own. But stick with it!

2. Don’t take on the whole house when you tidy. Stick to a room or two, and purposefully move throughout the house each day. Combine tasks so you don’t have to get the same supplies out. Mop all the moppables the same day. Spritz and wipe all the mirrors another. By the end of the week, all the major areas will have been tidied or cleaned, and you’ll have more free time for the weekend! (I don’t know where the idea that Saturday should be for deep cleaning came from, but it’s a miserable way to spend your time off. Take 15-30 minutes each day during the week, and only have a handful of chores before playtime on the weekend!)

3. Don’t be rigid about scheduling. Here’s the thing about that “schedule” for dishes or tidying/cleaning: almost everyone I’ve read has specific days for specific things and a schedule to get through the house on a regular basis. That’s great if it gets you going, but for me? Meh. I like variety. The idea of every Tuesday from here on out being “dust and vacuum day” makes me yawn. Outside of mopping (which, lets face it, is just a hassle), I like to choose a room or two to focus on each day and then just get it done, whatever “it” needs to be to make the room presentable. This isn’t the time for perfection, but the accumulated effort over time will result in low-key cleaning and the occasional deep clean, instead of daily chaos.

4. Life sometimes gets in the way. That’s okay. You’re not a failure. From personal experience, I can say that the past two months have been unusual for me and my family, so some weeks were better than others. In fact, in addition to helping a family member move, I decided to focus on my fiction writing last week, and yes, the chores suffered. But not so badly that I can’t pick up and keep on moving forward with them now that things are settling down again. Just keep up that forward motion!

5. Do it for you. Not for your mother whose voice you hear chiding you in your head. Not for the fear of friends seeing the truth. Not for your nosy neighbors. For you. And your family who lives with you, if any. Do it because when you do, you feel free. Do it because you’re giving yourself the gift of time to do other, more pleasant things, without guilt!

There. That’s what I’ve been learning the past two months of silence here on the blog. I hope some of it will be useful!

photo credit: Pragmagraphr via photo pin cc

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Conquered: Dishes!

Oh my goodness. I can barely believe it myself, but I think I’ve finally got it. I conquered dishes.

And I’m winning the battle of cleaning on a schedule, as well (more on that Wednesday).


If you’re like me and you have a household nemesis or two or three (*cough* laundry.dishes.mopping *cough*) and you want to conquer it/them, you’ve probably hopped on Pinterest, searched Google, talked to friends, listened to familial advice, and come up with a lot of how-to’s and do’s and don’ts and probably a lot of well-meaning but completely off-track advice for you. You may have tried some of it. You may have failed miserably. You know what? That’s what works for them. What works for you?

Well, that’s what I was trying to find out.

Here’s what I discovered. First the dishes:

1. Finish the dishes. Completely. Every day. (I know; that’s kind of a “duh” statement, but man it has not been easy for me). I let hand-washed dishes dry in the rack, but what I need is a clean counter top after every meal, or before bed, whichever fits with my daily schedule better. That counter top is my clutter barometer. If it has stacks of dishes and mail and leftover Starbucks coffee cups on it, the rest of the house goes to pot (if it hasn’t already). I’ve heard this called the broken window theory. As I type this right now, I do have dishes on my counter, but I’m about to attack them. While watching TV. Which reminds me …

2. If you can, watch some guilty-pleasure TV while you wash dishes. Or, you know, jam to those pop tunes you’re embarrassed to admit are on your iPod. It takes the edge off the misery of a thankless, daily, unending, bottomless, disgusting, boring, necessary task.

3. If you must fudge on the dishes, at least put the clean ones in the dishwasher up into the cupboard and then pile the dirty ones inside.

4. Use a nice multi-purpose spray to clean your counter and sink when the dishes are all done for the day. You don’t have to scrub, but oh it is so nice to have sparkling counters and a sink without leftover dish scum. Plus, my mom always told me this was part of the job of dishwashing.

5. If you’re in a relationship, form an agreement with your spouse/significant other: one cooks, the other washes dishes for each meal. You can share the tasks, or if you find you love dishes AND cooking you can always do both, but since dishes is one of those never-ending chores, I say make it clear that the responsibility is shared. And then, always cook. I’m just kidding! Actually, I’m more the dish-washer and Daniel is more the chef in this family. (Works for me, as my man can cook. He’s definitely a keeper.)

6. Whenever possible, only buy cookware and dishes that are machine washable. I mostly say this in jest, but I can guarantee that our copper, cookie sheets, cast iron, and stoneware have the tendency to stay on the counter, unwashed, the longest. They’re needy. And I’m a throw-it-in-the-dishwasher-and-forget-it kind of gal. That being said, nothing cooks like copper, cast iron makes the BEST biscuits, a pizza stone is a girl’s best friend, and cookies are best without rust. Just sayin’.

7. To quote Winston Churchill, “Never, never, never, never give up.” Not when you miss a meal or a day. Not when there’s a strange funk coming from the garbage disposal. Not when you break a glass. Not when you leave a pot soaking too long. Never.

You can do it! I did.
photo credit: E R I via photo pin cc

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Athletic Gear Storage in the Coat Closet

When I began cleaning and organizing our third bedroom/storage room, I ran into the problem of where to put all of our athletic gear. Since I keep my Creative Salvage stock in the closet of that bedroom, the gear couldn’t go there. Since I store boxes to ship my Creative Salvage items in our attic, the gear couldn’t go there. Since our garage can’t hold much more storage without becoming unusable for its main purpose (riding mower parking), the gear couldn’t go there. Since we are protecting our master bedroom closet to keep it for clothing and shoes and extra comforter storage only, the gear couldn’t go there.

So I put it in the only remaining closet I had available: our coat closet. At first I balked at this idea. After all, I liked being able to keep board games there, along with our coats. It seemed like a good idea, because it is close to our living room and therefore accessible at a moment’s notice. However, the athletic gear won out, and the few board games were designated to another storage area.

In the future, I plan to dress this closet up a bit and put matching organizers in it, including a storage shelf to go on the closet floor to add more storage and keep things off the floor itself. Until then, this is what I came up with:

… and ta-da! …

There was only one blooper I came across while in the middle of the process; our medicine ball wouldn’t fit, no matter how hard I tried to squeeze it in. *sigh* I’ll have to figure out where else to put it. Right now, it’s keeping Grandpa Mo (our ancient riding lawn mower) company.

(Hello, Grandpa Mo)

Where do you keep all your athletic gear? I’d love to hear other ideas!

Sorry I’ve been posting later than usual, lately. It’s been a crazy week! I hope you come back tomorrow, when I’m making an announcement about a new guest blog series that will begin soon!


Filed under Cleaning, Closet, Containers, Organizing, Sorting, Storage

Celebrating Small Victories

{Image: Camdiluv}

After taking my shower this morning, I was getting ready for the day and I looked at the floor next to my shower and I couldn’t take it any longer. I’ve noticed it for a couple of days now and had ignored it to get on with my day, but this morning I felt a compulsion to wipe the floor and side of the tub down to get rid of the dust that had accumulated and gotten damp.

I had a compulsion. To clean.

I’m not sure how to explain how huge this is for me. I’ve been working for most of my adult life to get myself to have those compulsions. My childhood little messy girl had stayed with me for far too long.

I’ve said before that this journey to home organization is a lot like weight loss. It is tough, requires accountability and self-discipline, and there is some shame in admitting you have a problem. Well, in this case it is definitely like weight loss in a positive way, because while it takes awhile, eventually you start getting used to eating healthier. You start reaching for the whole grain pasta or the wheat bread over the white bread. Walking or working out becomes a habit instead of a chore. It does happen, and when it happens you wake up one day and realize you’re actually looking forward to your trip to the gym. Then you step on the scale, and you discover you’ve lost two pounds.

That’s what this is like.

Slowly, over the past year, I’ve been reaching for that sponge to wipe down the tub, or the broom to sweep the floor. I’ve tackled dishes before they became a mountain. I’ve purged the refrigerator before adding the new groceries to it. I’ve made regular trips to our local thrift shops to donate items I realize I don’t use. I’ve even kept the laundry to a dull roar recently. The funny thing is, I didn’t even notice it happening. It just happened. I’m not perfect–far, far from it–but I’m on my way, and that is a great place to be!

New to this blog? Here’s a quick overview of my organizational journey so far. If you like what you read, why not subscribe via RSS?

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Filed under Cleaning, Life, Ponderings

5 Ways to Get Motivated to Clean or Organize

{Image: Rubbermaid}

If you’re naturally clean, you don’t need to read this. If your motivation to clean leaves the building on a regular basis (like mine did, the other day), here’s a few things that might get you moving:

  1. File your taxes. Nothing like the fear of the wrath of good ol’ Uncle Sam to make you find all those important documents. Bonus points if you pretend you’re getting audited. You never know … it could happen. Doesn’t hurt to be prepared.
  2. Have a yard sale. This is the perfect time to sort the laundry, clean out the garage, and declutter the attic. You’ll get PAID to do it.
  3. Buy (or make) new cleaning supplies. I’m drawn to pretty packaging and things that smell good. It’s probably a disease, but hey, what can I say? I love me some well-designed labels or bottles or boxes and fragrances. So much so that I tend to make excuses to use them so I can admire their gorgeousness and feel all fancy-like for using them.
  4. Bribe yourself. Set a doable goal and assign a much-anticipated reward for attaining that goal. Watch that tv show episode, buy a new pair of shoes, or just give yourself a gold star. Never underestimate the power of a shiny gold star.
  5. And finally, if all else fails … Have company over. No, seriously. It works like a charm. I just did this yesterday! It got clean, fast(er). Go for broke and throw a big bash to celebrate your success.

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Take a Breath. Life Happens.

It’s hard to believe that January is already coming to a close. I never believed it as a kid, but time really does fly.

Today I wanted to take a moment to stop and reflect and see how far this organizational/decluttering journey of mine has come. Last night, a dear friend of mine wanted to come over and talk, on a whim. It was so nice to just say “come on over!” and not be running all around to clean up for once.

My house is not perfect. In fact, at this point there is clutter in the living room, little muddy dog prints on the tile floor (I just mopped it a short time ago and already it needs it again. Thanks for nothing, rain), and dishes I haven’t done are sitting on the kitchen counter. I can see them from my couch.

But it isn’t terrible, either.

I find it easy to get caught up in the fact that I haven’t cleaned my living areas enough and it wasn’t ready for a home decorating magazine beauty shot. But the reality is I don’t live on a set, and neither do you. Life happens.

Let it.

And then go wash the dishes. Kinda like I’m going to do now …

If you’re new to this site, welcome! I hope you’ll look around. Start here to learn more about my organizing journey, or subscribe by RSS. See you soon!


{Image: Emergency Brake/Evil Erin, via Flickr}


Filed under Balance, Cleaning, Ponderings

10 Quick Ways to Spruce Up Your Home Today in 10 Minutes or Less

Everybody loves a quick fix. I know I do. So today’s post is quick and easy. Here is a list of things you can do in ten minutes or less that will improve your home. These things frequently get forgotten or put off, but they all make a big impact from little effort.

What can you do in ten minutes or less?

1. Dust your lamps with a lint roller.

2. Vacuum your mattress. (Not kidding!)

3. Throw out any food in the refrigerator that is old or out of date.

4. Shine your sink.

5. Change your air filter.

6. Wash the doorknobs (betcha didn’t know they’re the dirtiest place in your house!)

7. Freshen up the trash disposal in your sink. (I drop in some coffee grounds or a lemon peel and turn on the mechanism for a few seconds. Works like a charm!)

8. Weed your DVD or Blu-ray collection.

9. Organize your spices.

10. Throw out junk mail. (Hint: I trash it as soon as I bring it in the house!)

Happy organizing!

If you’re new to this site, welcome! I hope you’ll look around. Start here to learn more about my organizing journey, or subscribe by RSS. See you soon!

{Image: Polina Ivanova}


Filed under Cleaning, Home, Home Improvement, Organizing, Sorting

I Beg You: Clean Out Your Closets

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A Happy Home, One Habit Adjustment at a Time

happy home

{Image: Krystian Olszanski, Flickr}

I don’t know if this ever happens to you, but I go to bed and just at that point where I think I might drift off to sleep, an idea hits me and I have to mull it over before I can fall asleep. Thirty minutes … an hour … TWO hours later … I finally collapse from exhaustion. It’s a problem; I know!

But some nights those ideas are really worth it. Last night was one of those nights. I was so excited about posting the book giveaway, but I recognized I needed to allow my mind to rest a bit, so about thirty minutes before I went to bed, I put down the laptop (hard to do when both you and your husband work at home and depend on your laptops to pay the bills), and I did something as my evening ritual that is still relatively new to me: I tidied up the main living areas, fluffed the throw pillows on the couch, wiped down the countertops, swept the floor, and did some dishes. I let myself unplug and wind down and got a few things done in the process. I hoped this would help me calm my mind so I could fall asleep sooner.

It would have worked, if I hadn’t realized that I had accidentally hit on something that I’ve begun doing. I had found at least one cleaning-type activity in most rooms of my house that I either already liked doing or wouldn’t mind attempting to do on a regular basis. What’s more, that one thing made a huge difference in the appearance of the room, and that one thing inspired me to do more in the room!

So, what ongoing habits have I either already established or am working on establishing that have made the difference for me? Here they are:

  • Bathroom – pick the towels and clothing up off the floor.
  • Kitchen – wipe down the countertops regularly with my homemade all-purpose cleaner, so I know they are clean and ready to use.
  • Living Room – banish paperwork from multiplying on surfaces. The coffee table isn’t always paper-free, but only the most essential pieces area allowed to stay, like bills that must be paid.
  • Dining Room – whisk items out. Once it becomes seen as a dumping ground, items multiply and we can’t use the dining room table for its intended purpose.
  • Bedroom – make the bed in the morning. I will admit … this one is very new to me. I’ve never been much of a bed-maker, to my deep abiding shame. But oh, what a difference it makes! And really, now that I work from home, I can’t use the “I go to work earlier than Daniel gets up” excuse.
  • Entry Hallway – create a make-shift “landing strip” with a basket for keys and a wire pot-lid holder for outgoing mail sorting. Now I know exactly where to look for that bill that needs to be mailed or that new insurance card I need to put in my car!
  • Office – only allow actual office stuff! This one is harder to enforce, since I currently photograph my vintage home decor for Creative Salvage there, but I try not to let the photo shoot take over for Daniel’s sake.
  • Coat Closet – hang up our winter coats at the end of the day. This sounds so small, but it’s really huge, since we prefer to use one of our living room side chairs as our “closet” and it is a daily battle to get those suckers back on hangers after each use!

I’m far from perfect. It is hard for me to focus on cleaning more than my other pursuits sometimes. Even though I work from home, the hours still fly by and the dishes go untouched while I work on editing item images, packing orders to ship, designing a brochure or writing copy for Daniel’s and my primary business, or drafting a blog post.

But these seemingly small habits I’m forming have begun to help our home be a happier home, one little adjustment at a time. And that’s really my goal for this whole process: I want our house to be a sanctuary where we can rejuvenate and relax and friends and family can stop by and feel welcome.

What habits are you forming?

Psst! Have you entered my giveaway drawing to win the book Organize Now! and a dayplanner yet? The deadline is Thursday, January 19th.


Filed under Balance, Cleaning, Home, Organizing

The Things That Clutter

You know what I’m talking about. Those things that find their way to surfaces in your home and just don’t want to leave. Sometimes clutter happens to the best of us.

Really, clutter awareness is the best way to keep things under control, so your cleaning day is more of just tidying up and doing household chores than, say, digging through the piles to China … err … your bedroom floor.

Watch out for these culprits I’ve identified:


You unwrap a present, open the cardboard surrounding your new tube of toothpaste, grab a piece of chewing gum, etc. What happens to the package? Does it immediately go in the trash or the recycle bin? EVERY time? Yeah, didn’t think so. I’m the worst at this. Seriously. The worst. I open things and leave their wrappers and packages behind as I go. Somehow I have yet to train myself to deal with wrappers and packaging on the spot. I’m working on this big time right now.

Junk mail

If it comes through that front door, you’d better have a plan for how to deal with it, pronto, or else it sits on the kitchen table. You have to excavate just to find that coupon you wanted from last week. For us, Daniel tends to confiscate the bills and important documents and I’m left to deal with the sad junk mail. So here’s what I’ve learned to do. I walk into the house with my new batch of junk mail and I DON’T PUT IT DOWN. I literally sort through it immediately and tear up all those credit card offers, toss the mailers (I mean, really, do you read them? I don’t), and filter the items I do want to read. Then I read them RIGHT NEXT TO THE TRASH CAN. And toss them. Junk mail is no longer the master of me! I’m even thinking of adding a surreptitious shredder next to our entry hallway landing strip. Convenience is your friend.


Oh, this is my worst enemy. I can’t tell you how many times I have washed the same load of laundry multiple times simply because I couldn’t remember if that particular hamper on my bedroom floor was clean or dirty. I actually kinda like DOING the laundry now that I have my lovely little homemade detergent. But it’s not just the laundry; clothing also piles up in the living room, where we have apparently decided that the side chairs are perfect clothes horses. We toss our jackets there when we come home, and then they don’t leave until I get frustrated enough to put them in the coat closet. I read recently that the best way to deal with this is to just not lay things down “for now.” Just go ahead and store them where they belong. You know, like … the closet. One of these days I’ll get the hang of this.


Do you have them? Surely I’m not the only one. I’m scared I’ll lose track of where I’m at in the process so I leave it on the table. Or the coffee table. Or the couch. Or the end table. Or the floor. Or the dresser. These are craft projects, art projects, writing projects, research projects (books and books and books!), and work projects. Lately, this has been Etsy listing projects. I’ve got to have the items close by to write the listing and edit the photos for closest color accuracy, right? Um. Wrong. I should have an area set up specifically for this activity. It’s in the works as I type this.


Yes, this deserved all-caps. I am screaming this in my head! I’m sure you’ve had this conversation. “Honey, what is this?” (Waving random tiny piece of oddly shaped black plastic around. It is vaguely reminiscent of one of those furniture-in-a-box IKEA pegs. Or maybe it’s a connector for something electronic. Or maybe it’s …. heck, you have no clue what it is.) Honey doesn’t know, either, but suspects it goes to something. Like that old VCR in the garage. Maybe. So, random bit of who-knows-what gets either put in a pile of other random bits or thrown in a drawer or handed to Honey, who promptly forgets to do anything about it and so it stays put in his/her pocket. Which you discover on wash day. Oh, boy. Aren’t those little unidentifiable bits fun? To quote my junior high self: NOT. So, get your good self a simple Ziploc bag and start storing those bits and pieces in one spot. Choose a place to put said Ziploc bag. AND KEEP PUTTING BITS THERE. Eventually you’ll find the bit you need. Until then, at least you know where to put it.

Mementos & Photos

That ticket stub from the movie you went to on your first date. The letter from your mom that got you through a tough time at college. The really cute bow from the gift your best friend gave you. The tickets from your flight to Paris. The key to your first car. The fortune cookie fortune promising you will get the wish your heart most desires. This one is important: get a box. A nice sturdy, attractive box you will put on a shelf in a closet or your office, so you will use it.  If you find a memento in a drawer or some random nook or cranny, put that sucker in the memories box. One day, it would be even better to put frame the ticket or put the key in a shadow box. Make a scrapbook for the stubs from museums and shows. Tie the letters up with some baker’s twine and store them in the box, to read at a later date when you need some encouragement again.

Old Electronics

This is closely associated with those nasty bits and pieces, but with old electronic equipment that is outdated, you probably have the whole item. Things that qualify: your old cellphone, that printer from the late 90s that is gathering dust in your garage since you’ve replaced it … six times. (Better get rid of the others, too.) Old headphones and earbuds that you’re not sure if they work or not. Broken CD cases. Now, I’m not saying get rid of your CD collection (I guess I’m old school. I still buy CDS.) I’m also not saying throw out that record player or cassette tape deck, if you actually use them. Key word: USE. But items you replace on a regular basis need to be thrown out, recycled, given away, or taken to a collection point that can distribute them to people in need. For instance, you can donate cellphones here to help troops call home. Oh, and a special item of note? If you can’t find the charger anywhere, please just get rid of it. Please. I’m begging you. You’ve been eying that new smart phone or iPod, anyway.


This is not the good kind. This is change of the coin variety that falls in your couch cushions, behind your dresser, in the laundry room, under the loveseat, on top of the bathroom counter top. For change I suggest two things: first, find an attractive little bowl to deposit loose change in when you find it in your pockets or around the home; second, invest in some paper coin rolls. You will be amazed how quickly the change adds up when you take it to the bank. Or, just treat yourself to a movie.

Which of these is causing problems at your house?

Image: Amy Burton


Filed under Cleaning, Organizing, Storage