Friday, January 31, 2014

31 Days to a Cleaner Home-Day 25: Cleaning with Baking Soda

Baking Soda.
No pantry is complete without this item.
Cookies, pancakes (you don't think we love pancakes do you?), bread, cakes, and other delicious items. oh man now I'm hungry!

But baking soda has a lot of other wonderful uses too!
Mixed with water it can be used as an antacid for heartburn or acid indigestion.
Did you know it is the medicinal ingredient in Gripe Water used for infants?!
It's in some toothpastes and can be used as deodorant
It's what you want to grab if you have a grease fire in your home as it smothers the fire.
Fire needs oxygen. Fire problem solved. 

Which brings me to how it works.
When you heat sodium bicarbonate it releases carbon dioxide.
It also reacts with acidic components found in batters which releases carbon dioxide which is why buttermilk and baking soda make fabulously fluffy pancakes. The heat and the acidic buttermilk makes tiny bubbles form in the batter and the fluff. 
[Must Stop Talking About Pancakes.]

It's a great deodorizer.
Soak freshly washed socks in 1 gallon of warm water and 1/4 cup baking soda for 30 minutes. Spin out (don't wash) in the washer, dry, and you have odor-eater socks.

Help brighten and deodorize your clothes by adding a cup of baking soda when you do your next load of laundry.

Sprinkle baking soda over your carpets and let it sit.
Vacuum it up 30 minutes later and your room will be deodorized. Plus it'll help deep clean your carpets and your vacuum. You could even add a few drops of essential oils to it before applying it to the carpet to make it scented. But for people with allergies to commercial powdered carpet "fresheners" this is PERFECT as there is no scent and it's all natural!

Put in the bottom of litter boxes with litter over top to help with the odor left behind by your furry friends.

Clean grout of any color.
Mix 3 cups of baking soda and 1 cup warm water. 

You can get streaks and greasy films off car windshields with a thin paste of baking soda and water then rinse well.

Screen stains and mineral deposits can be taken off windows with a wet cloth and baking soda and rubbing gently.

Get rid of sweat stains. Make a paste of baking soda and water. Let it soak for 30 minutes then washing like normal.

 A mild abrasive.
You can use this in place of commercial cleansers for tubs and sinks.

On any hard surface to remove stains.

Baking soda on a damp cloth removes crayon off hard surfaces or clean smudges from wall paper the same way.

You can also remove shoe scuffs from hardwood floors.

Clean up vomit.
This really truly works. I wish I didn't know this one quite so well first hand but when my youngest got a GI bug recently...well lets just say there were bodily fluids that ended up on the floor I was left unsure how to clean it up. While it wasn't vomit it still worked wonderfully. Just put a heavy coating of baking soda on the vomit let it dry. I know it's pretty nasty to think about but just let it sit and soak up the fluids. You'll be able to scoop or vacuum up the mess. The other benefit is the baking soda neutralizes the acids to help with the stink and helps prevent stains. Seriously this rocked my world the week we had the sickies here.

There are countless uses for baking soda.
Later this week you'll find lots of ways to use this mixed with other items in my 6 list to make it work even harder for you. Now I know what you're probably thinking "baking soda comes in such a small box." But little tip look in the laundry isle! I can find it at my local Walmart right next to the super washing soda a huge box of baking soda or get it through amazon shipped right to your door.

Today go through and use some of the tips above to freshen, whiten, and clear up marks and scuffs around the house. Instead of spending money on products that promise to be "magic" and erase marks and scuffs now you have one in your home to use as needed plus it does so much more. [Starting to sound like an infomercial here. Sorry all.] 
Maybe your stairs are marred up from shoes, or some little loves got a hold of some crayons, or maybe its that the grout in your tile floor is looking dingy and dirty. 
Go on. You've got the product. Take some time to day to give a little extra love to your home.
Also see if there is one area you could declutter or minimize the stuff hiding in a closet.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

31 Days to a Cleaner Home-Day 24: Cleaning with Vinegar

White Vinegar.
I'm guessing you have it in your house.
It's great for making homemade buttermilk for fluffy pancakes, dipping fries into, pairs wonderfully with olive oil to make a tasty salad dressing, or adding a little zing to potato or tuna salad.

You might even know it has some other uses. 
Keep your eggs from cracking when you boil them by adding 1-2 tablespoons of vinegar.  
Remove stinky onion or garlic (really any kitchen smell) with vinegar.
Freshen wilted vegetables by soaking them in cold water with 1-2 spoonfuls of vinegar.
Tenderize meats, make a moister cake, or making your own pickles vinegar does a lot.

But did you know it can do a lot around your house too?!

The short version of what white vinegar is and how it works would be that it is mainly an acid that is made from grains, typically corn. It comes in two main strengths 5% and 10%. 
The 5% is what you and I would cook with or make a salad dressing with but also works great for cleaning. 10% is a higher acid count and is usually called full strength, undiluted, or cleaning vinegar. Commonly you'll use the 5% vinegar for cleaning. If you have a really tough job that is when the full strength is nice but for the most part the regular vinegar you already have in your cupboard will work just fine.

Here are some great ways you can use vinegar to help you around the house.

Sticky or grimy scissors? Wipe them down with cloth dipped in vinegar. It won't dull or ruin the blades or rust the metal.

Remove Stickers without chemicals. Just rub vinegar on the stickers or residue left from a sticker you tried to peel up. Let it sit for 5 minutes and it'll wipe/rub off quickly and easily.

Easy Microwave cleanup. Microwaves are a pain to clean. Just pop a bowl of water and vinegar at a 50/50 ratio, heat on high for 4 minutes. *Be careful not to burn yourself!* Then just wipe the insides clean. 

Skip the Febreeze freshen fabrics with vinegar. Use a 50/50 ratio in a spray bottle and lightly spray your couch, chair, any fabrics to neutralize the odors. Don't worry the vinegar smell disappears in minutes.

Clean your home safely and effectively. 5% vinegar is 90% effective against mold and 99.9% effective against bacteria! Just think you can easily and safely clean your home, all of those high traffic, high points of contact areas in your house effectively and you don't have to worry about little ones getting into chemicals! (Source)

Freshen your laundry. oops! Life happened and you forgot a load of laundry was in the washer? Now it smells musty and you're going to have to rewash it... STOP! Just put one cup of vinegar in and run the rinse and spin cycle. Now it's refreshed without running a whole wash cycle again.

Hard water spots on your faucet or a clogged shower head? Use a cleaning cloth dipped in vinegar to wash them clean. Soak a shower head by putting a plastic bag of vinegar over the shower head tied on with a hair tie over night. It'll remove the hard water deposits wonderfully!  Or for tougher lime build up spots make a past of 2 tablespoons salt and 1 teaspoon vinegar for a great shine to all of your chrome.

Deodorize and clean the garbage disposal. Make vinegar cubes but be sure to mark them so no one tries to put them in their drink. Put several down the disposal while running cold water.

 Clean the inside of your fridge. 50/50 water and vinegar works great on the inside and outside of your fridge to clean it and remove odors. 

Cut Dust and Grease. Keep your grill, ceiling fan blades, and exhaust fans grease and dust free by wiping them down with vinegar.

There are tons of wonderful uses for vinegar. And if you don't like the smell of it you can always add in 10 drops of your favorite essential oils to help mask it that you can buy HERE. But really the vinegar smell does not last long at all. 

I started with vinegar because a lot of the other cleaning recipes I'm going to share with you this week are things combined with vinegar so I wanted to get this base down first.

What is your favorite way to use vinegar? Feel free to include food, cleaning, and any other ways you use vinegar. I love learning new ways to use it. It's so simple but so wonderful. 
And again I don't have to worry about my kid's lungs or getting into the chemicals when I'm cleaning. My favorite thing about vinegar is the peace of mind it gives me.

Today try cleaning with vinegar. Shine your sink with some vinegar.
Wipe down your counter tops, freshen your living room furniture, or wash out your coffee pot and dish washer. 

Just a couple of things though...
NEVER mix vinegar with ammonia. You'll end up in the ER and it won't be good. So just don't do it. If you do...I'm not liable k? k.
NEVER use vinegar on stone surfaces. This includes limestone, travertine, granite, and marble. It can damage the surface. If you do...don't throw stones at me k? k. It is however safe to use on chrome, wood, porcelain, copper, and pretty much everything else. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

31 Days to a Cleaner Home-Day 23: The Cleaning Six List

The biggest time saving, effective cleaning tip I could ever give to you would be
Use the right cleaning supplies.
I have been doing a ton of research on cleaning supplies, solutions, tools, and the like.
I'm going to spend the next few days going a little more in depth on different items but today is going to be more of an overview.

Cleaning products, specifically cleaning solutions was never really something I thought much of until I had my own home.
Just before I got married I was given a laundry basket full of all sorts of things 
needed for a new house including several different brands of cleaning solutions.
It gave me the chance to realize I really don't like harsh chemicals.

I used one cleaner in particular that was suppose to be a great multi-surface cleaner.
The bottle stated "Cuts tough grease, soap scum, rust, limescale, and so much more!"
Farther down on the bottle it said "Do not breath fumes. Use in a well ventilated area. Avoid prolonged contact with the product."
Let me tell you now that is a huge warning sign.
When I first walked in there the fumes from this cleaner were so strong I could not breathe in the bathroom.
I had the bathroom window open and the bathroom door closed for three days with a fan running before I finally got the majority of the fumes out and it was breathable in there again.
I used this in my bathroom one time and said never again.

This was before I had kids. Now that I have children, a husband with asthma, and am personally now sensitive to harsh cleaners, I refuse to use just anything.
One of the things that has bothered me the most about the aforementioned cleaner is there is no list of ingredients used. 

I am sharing with you the knowledge I've gained.
Now I am not saying that I don't use anything store bought anymore. 
I would be lying to you if I said that. But as time goes on I have switched more and more of my cleaning products to simple, home-made, non-toxic cleaning solutions. And I bet most of you have the exact items needed already in your home. Ready for my list of favorite cleaning products?

Over the course of the next few days we're going to talk more in depth about each item, how to use them, and I'm going to have several recipes for effective cleaning products using this items.

Today go through your cleaning supply cabinet.
Get rid of any old cleaning solutions or solutions you don't use.
Declutter and organize where you keep your cleaning solutions .
Declutter and orgaize any shelves you have in the laundry room.
Is your home clean enough? If not do the things needed to get it to that place.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

31 Days to a Cleaner Home-Day 22: Clean Smart

Back before I was married and had kiddos I was an 
assistant manager in a women's clothing store.
I loved my job. Really honestly loved it.
I worked with a great group of girls and I enjoyed helping customers.
We really had a lot of fun. We even pulled a few pranks on our store manager.
Every time I worked with one girl in particular we would talk about ways to work smarter.
Work smarter, not harder became our mantra, and it should become yours too.

Plan Ahead.
You know what areas or things you plan to clean 
on today so think through what needs to happen in each one.

Let your cleaning products do the hard work for you.
Allowing crusted on dishes to sit in hot soapy water for a few minutes will make it so you simply have to wipe the dishes instead of scrub them.

Have several things going at once.
Run a load of laundry while you wash the dishes and 
the cleaning solution sits in the toilet.

Lets talk about each one a little more in depth.
If I know that today I need to clean the bathroom, do some laundry, clean the kitchen, and get the dishes all done, it would be wise for me to think through how I can make my time to be most effective and my cleaners to do the most work for me.

First thing I do is start putting hot soapy water in the sink and fill it with dirty dishes.
Once I know that is pretty full and my dishes are fully submerged in the water, I go in and start a load of laundry. While I normally like to try to fold them straight out of the dryer I have found something else to be more efficient. I toss them into a clean hamper, move the wet load into the dryer, and start a new load. Then I go to the bathroom and put cleaner into the toilet.

Going back to the kitchen I put some of that hot soapy water onto the stove top and let it sit while I do the dishes. Once the first load of dishes is done and they're drying in the rack, I refill the sink with dirty dishes if there are more and then I go in and fold that load of laundry that is in the hamper. I typically have three hampers on hand. One for the just out of the dryer load, and one for every bedroom. Fold and place folded clothes into the coordinating bedroom hampers. Both of my son's clothes go into one hamper and my husbands and mine into the other. This makes putting things away faster and easier later.
Bathroom towels get stacked in the laundry room and immediately put away. Whenever the dryer is done drying the clothes I repeat the dry clothes into the hamper and move the laundry over routine.

Now back to the kitchen.
By now my dishes should be dry. I quickly put them away and wash the next sink full.
If there are still more dishes to wash well then into the hot soapy water they go to soak while I do something else. Next I put a bowl filled half way with water and either lemon juice or vinegar in the microwave on high for 5 minutes. While the microwave is getting a steam bath, I wash the top of the stove. Because of the hot soapy water sitting for some time most everything should wipe up pretty quickly with little to no scrubbing. Once the microwave is done and cooled enough that I don't burn myself I wipe out the sides, back, top, and bottom of the microwave. Don't forget to do the glass plate that spins as well as under it. A quick wipe down of the counters and sweep the floor. 
The kitchen is clean enough.

On to a quick wipe down of the bathroom.
Spray cleaning solution on the mirror, counter tops, sink, all over the outside as well as the lid, seat, and rim of the toilet. Empty the bathroom garbage and replace the liner.
Spray the shower with the cleaning solution. Now back to where I started spraying.
I begin wiping everything down starting with the least dirty to the most dirty.
Mirror, counter top, faucet and handles, edge of the sink and inside the sink.
Now usually I use paper towels or at least a specific cleaning cloth for the toilet so I don't risk using that same cloth somewhere else and cross contaminate. Again I start at the least dirty to the dirtiest part of the toilet. Top, water reservoir, handle, lid top and bottom, whole outside of the toilet, the seat top and bottom, and the rim.
Now I scrub the toilet with the toilet brush, flush, rinse the brush in the clean water, and allow the brush to drip dry by closing the seat and lid on a portion of the brush handle.
Quickly wipe down the inside of the shower and tub. Put the toilet brush back in the caddy. A quick dust and wipe down any pictures that are in the bathroom, then sweep the floor.
The bathroom is clean enough.

Finish up whatever laundry is left to do and put it all away when either the hampers are full or the laundry is done for the day.

On the days I need to do all of these things I can usually get them all done in the time my kids are down for their nap or less. Now what I do might not work for you exactly but figure out what does work for you. Clean smarter, not harder.

Monday, January 27, 2014

31 Days to a Cleaner Home-Day 21: Clean Enough

What makes your home feel clean to you?
Is it fresh carpet lines from vacuuming?
Is it crumb free counters and floors?
Is it a freshly scrubbed toilet, a shining sink, 
or is it something else entirely?

When you walk through your house what bothers you the most?
What is it that makes you look at the room and smile that it's clean?

I'm not talking about having a house that is ready to be photographed 
for Better Homes and Gardens but simply 
a house that makes you feel good and ready to welcome other into.

Clean enough for me is having my dishes done.
I could care less if they are put away as long as they are clean.
It's having the table free of clutter and washed.
Having my desk/office space free of clutter and ready for me to write or create.
It's having the floors swept and toys put away at the end of the night.
The blankets folded neatly on the couch.

For me an unrealistic goal would be to have perfectly clean streak free windows.
I have two little boys who love to look out the windows. 
This means hands and faces end up pressed up against the screen. 
And honestly I really don't care that they have little hand prints all over them.

Clean enough means having realistic expectations.
Clean enough means I can relax and enjoy the people around me.

Clean enough is NOT outrageous ideals.
Clean enough is NOT scrubbing every nook and cranny.
Clean enough is NOT judging my home by someone else's home.

So what does clean enough look like for you?
Keep this completely realistic.
Write it out.
Take some time to walk through your house and decide what needs 
to be done on a daily basis to keep you from feeling defeated.
Also ask the members of your family, namely your spouse, 
what feels clean enough for them.

Do your clean enough tasks first today.
Anything else you can accomplish is a bonus.
If all you are able to get to today are your clean enough tasks 
then call that good enough for today.
Also try to do or have most of them completed before bed 
so when you get up tomorrow you already feel ahead of the game.
Try to spend a little time decluttering one area of your home.
Again it doesn't have to be perfect and don't take on more that what is realistic.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

31 Days to a Cleaner Home-Day 20: Life Happens...Even on Sundays.

Sunday is one of my favorite days of the week.
It's a day spent as a family. 
We go to Church as a family.
We eat all of our meals as a family.
I take some time to look ahead to the up coming week.
My husband is home to help get the kids to bed and spend time just the two of us.

While I believe Sunday's should be a day of rest for everyone, 
sometimes this just isn't possible.

Today my husband has commitments at church and we have two sick loves.
While Sunday is usually hopefully a day of rest I also know that isn't always the case.
Things happen. Life happens.
People get sick and other unforeseen things come up.

If today is remotely like the last few days I will have to do at least one load of laundry.
Probably give at least one child a bath from the sickies.
Disinfect the bathroom.
And most importantly, snuggle, hold, and sooth my sick babes.

So on days like today.
A Sunday that still requires more work than usual.
Less rest than we'd like.
And who know's if I'll even get to look at what this weeks demands are.
I know God will give me strength to do what needs to be done today.

While we're chatting about having sickies in the home, 
let me share with you some of my favorite tips to help keep your home from feeling sick without having to put in tons and tons of work.

Baking Soda is your friend.

If bodily fluids end up on the floor and you need to tend to the sick child first, put baking soda all over it. Cover it with a pretty thick layer of it and let it sit.Let it absorb the moisture and let it dry. This also works for those times when our furry friends get sick on the floor.
This will help with a couple of things. 
1) The smell.
     You know what I'm talking about. It literally stinks when someone gets sick.
     Baking soda neutralizes the acids and it helps prevent stains.
     I always feel like my home is sick if it smells like sick.
2) It makes it easier to clean up.
     Believe me it totally grossed me out to have icky stuff on the floor. However, I was able        to easily take a paper towel and my dust pan and simply scoop everything up in one                shot. It was completely worth letting it sit and take care of my child while the baking              soda did the hard work for me. Or if it ended up on the carpet you can simply vacuum it        up.

Always keep disinfecting wipes in the house.
I can not tell you how many times in the last few days I told my husband that we will ALWAYS have disinfecting wipes in our hose.
With a sick little one it's so nice to just quick grab a wipe and wipe down any contaminated surfaces.Changing mats, sinks, sink knobs, points of contact in the home like light switches and door knobs. Places where we're likely to pick up something if hands haven't gotten a really good wash.

A good all purpose cleaner.

After the sick today our bathroom smelled horrible.
I felt like the whole house was starting to stink.
Plus now my bathroom felt really dirty to me.
I grabbed my favorite all purpose cleaner by Clean Couture and sprayed three areas of the bathroom.
The toilet (handle, lid, and bowl), the sink, and the tub and I walked away.
No wiping. No scrubbing. I just sprayed it on and walked away.
It left my bathroom smelling wonderful and I felt like the room was much cleaner.
So while today might not be quite as restful as I'd like and may require a bit more work than I usually do, It's ok. I'm beyond blessed to be married to the sweet man that I am and that I get to be the mommy to these two awesome boys. I'm happy to take care of them and find easy ways to keep our home feeling and smelling clean even when we have the sickies.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

31 Days to a Cleaner Home-Day 19: Help!

Help! I'm sinking and I can't find my way out!

Ever feel like that?
I think we all have times when we wish we had a maid or could hire help.
I recently read something in a book I think is really great so I'm going to share it with you.

“I remember when it hit me that the Proverbs 31 woman had maids working for her. I thought, ‘How unfair it is that she had maids and I have to do all this work on my own (pout, pout).’ 
Then the Lord opened my eyes. He helped me realize how many maids I actually had! There was the washing machine and dryer, the vacuum cleaner, the dish washer, the microwave, the slow cooker, the oven, the toaster, the coffee pot and my favorite — the bread machine. When I stopped to think about it, all my appliances were performing services just like the maids of the Proverbs 31 woman. How convicting. No more pouting for me!” –Blair Massey, Christian Homemaking

I don't know about you but I am so thankful the appliances I have 
that do the work for me so I am able to tend to other things at the same time.
But sometimes that doesn't feel like quite enough.

Sometimes we need help.
As a teenager I babysat for a family who became like family to me.
In fact, anytime the mom tries to explain who I am to someone she simply calls me
"Jessica THE Babysitter." I adore her and the kids.
On several occasions she would call me saying
"Jessica! I need you to come help me get my life in order!"

This always meant she had several big projects she knew needed to be done in a short amount of time and more hands meant less work.
Filing anything and everything, Scrubbing cabinets, Hulling out the garage, Painting bedrooms, and any other odd jobs she could come up with. 
You name it I helped her do it.

But this taught me a huge lesson...
We can't always do everything ourselves.
Sometimes we need to ask for help.
And you know what? It's ok.
It's ok to ask for help.

Maybe you can't hire a maid to come in but maybe you could hire a "mother's helper."
Is a young girl in your church you could exchange something with?
I love to crochet. 
I would gladly sit and teach someone to crochet, 
giving them yarn and a hook to keep in exchange for a few hours of her time with help.

What about a friend? 
I've told you a bit about the time my friend Melissa helped me get my life in order. 
Maybe you can exchange help of some kind with a friend.
If you need help be willing to admit it and find a way to get the help you need.
I can honestly say a true friend will love you through the mess and gladly help you find your way out of it.

Get creative.

Today clean out under all of the beds in your home.
For some of you this is going to be a daunting task but I know you can do it!
Change all of the bed linens. 
There is just something about a freshly made bed that makes you sleep better.
Wash all mirrors in the house.
And wipe out the sinks. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

31 Days to a Cleaner Home-Day 18: Cleaning Binge

Do you do what I like to call cleaning binges?
You know, you don't really worry about stuff or tidy up on a regular basis, 
then try to clean EVERYTHING all in one day?
Simply don't worry about it until things are really bad or company is coming over?

I use to do binge cleaning all the time.
Once I had children I realized I couldn't continue to do it that way.
I became too frustrated as they interrupted.
Other needs meant I couldn't spend the whole day on a cleaning project. 
I would end up just putting the piles of stuff back where they came from.

It left me feeling defeated and like I could never catch up.

All Day Clean-A-Thons vs Daily Maintenance. 

I don't know about you but I don't really like to clean.
The idea of spending a whole day cleaning does not sound like my kind of fun.
Plus it's really not healthy for you or your family.

Think about it.
If you only go through and tidy/clean the whole house once its really 
dirty you only really have time go hit the surface stuff.
Letting things get really dirty before dealing with them can actually cost you more.
More time. More energy. More money.

It takes more time binge cleaning than it does doing little daily maintenance.
Think of it this way.
The toilet has a small leak.
You think "eh no big deal it's only a small leak." 
But here is where you would be mistaken.
That little leak does cost you a little more water.
The water might be seeping down into the floor.
If it's seeping into the floor it could be causing mold, mildew, and rot.
The mold and mildew can cost you your health.
The rot will cost you a new floor when you do get around to fixing that small leak.
More time. More energy. More money.

While yes the leak would have taken you time to fix, it would have taken less time, less money on supplies, and a whole lot less energy and frustration to just fix then instead of waiting till it became a big issue.

The same can be said about every area of our homes.
You all know how much I hate doing laundry but really doing laundry on a regular basis saves time, money, and energy when I do it all every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
By doing it frequently damp or wet items don't have the chance to mildew.
Mildew ruins clothes which would cost more money to replace. 
Plus the time to go shopping for new clothes which honestly I hate clothes shopping.

Another one would be cleaning out the inside of the refrigerator.
By cleaning it out once a week you avoid things getting forgotten in the far back corner.
Which then get nasty.
Then you feel like avoiding them longer because you're afraid of how bad its going to be.
It can start to affect other items in your fridge.
More time. More energy. More money.

I know it takes discipline to maintain and do a little tidy every day 
but in the end it makes a huge difference.
One of the things I try to do now is to always clean out the fridge 
before I go shopping for groceries. 
This saves me time and money at the store as I know what we need restocked.
Plus if I do it before I go shopping I can quickly wipe off the shelves without having to empty everything out. Quick, easy, and pretty painless.

So what about you?
Do you go on cleaning binges or do you daily maintain with little tidies?

Today's challenge is to go through the fridge.
Clean out anything that needs to get out of there.
My mom always said "If you wouldn't eat it yourself you wouldn't serve it to someone else." So if its even questionable think "Would I eat this?" 
No? Well then there's your answer.
Wipe down the shelves and drawers with hot soapy water.
Also go through the freezer.
If it is so freezer burned that you can't tell what it is, pitch it.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

31 Days to a Cleaner Home-Day 17: Distractions


They quickly and easily steal our time.
They distract us and it take time to refocus.
We're less productive when we're distracted.

What is it about the sounds coming from our phones and computers 
that makes us drop most everything we're doing and check them?
I have a secret for you...those notifications and whatever other things
will still be there two hours from now.

Here's a few things that I have found work really well for me:

Don't turn on the computer.
Really, If I just don't turn it on I'm more like to be productive and focused.
I do not turn on my computer before the kids go down for rest time.
It causes me to be more engaged with my kids and my husband.

Turn off the ringer.
But what if I miss a phone call?!
Here's a couple of options for you.
1) That's what voice mails are for. Let them leave a message and you can call them back.
2) Try an app like SmartActions or SmartAssistant to set certain numbers to ring through.
I have it set so my husband's phone and work phone always ring through but really everyone else can leave me a message.

Turn off notification sounds.
Facebook is one of the ones that really distracts me personally.
I hear that little notification sound and I just have to check it.
I finally turned the sound off.
Now I don't hear it and guess what my notifications will still be there
when I have time later.

Put your phone out of sight.
Out of sight, out of mind.
Even if I put my phone somewhere to not be looking at it all the time,
it still calls me to it. Our culture and society have become obsessed with technology.
And while I don't think technology is bad it can consume us if we let it.
My husband bought me one of these for in the kitchen.
It has a little stand and the port to plug in my phone into it.
I put my favorite Pandora station on and am able to leave my phone alone.

Only check your email once a day.
My inbox is overwhelming right now.
Between spam, old subscriptions, and attempting to actually read the things I do want I could spend a ton of time on email alone.
So check it once a day and only spend a certain amount of time doing so.
I plan to use this to help me weed out stuff I no longer want to come into my inbox and thus spend less time weeding through item by item.

Now obviously if I'm going to manage a blog, run an etsy shop, and network I'm going to have to use the computer, the internet, email, and social media.
Like I said I don't think they're bad things.
In fact we have a lot of technology in our home.
I might even be slightly embarrassed as to just how much technology we have in our home so I just won't admit how many computers,phones, and other devices we have.
But we have to remember to be wise with our time.
There are lots of great apps, browser plugins, and other tools we can use to manage our online life.

StayFocused is a google chrome add on that you can
control the amount of time spent on websites.
Know that twitter or facebook suck you in for hours?
Set a reasonable time limit.

I also heard of a fellow blogger (I wish I could remember who right now)
who only uses her laptop off of the battery. She charges it over night and during the day whatever battery life she has is the time she gets to be on the computer.
Once it's dead it's dead.

There are also tons of other apps and what nots you can use to help your productivity.

I loved this post on the internet and holiness.

Today I want to challenge to you shut the technology off.
Put on some good music and see what you can get done.
I bet you'll surprise yourself.
And guess'll all still be there waiting for you when you're done.

Spend some serious time decluttering an area of your home.
Figure out what items you might need to get to organize it better and make a plan.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

31 Days to a Cleaner Home-Day 16: Habits and routines.

Motivation is what gets you started.
Habit is what keeps you going.

You know what you want your house to look like.
You have a dream, a vision, a goal for your space.
But do you have a plan?

"Our routines get things done so we can have more 
fun and enjoy our home and our families" -FlyLady

We've talked about our time and how we use it.
We've also talked about having self-discipline and motivation.
But if you don't change some of your behaviors you'll be right back to square one.

I am not naturally a tidy person.
I have had to retrain myself to maintain a tidy home.
And I've come to realize routine is really important to make this happen
Having a flexible, workable schedule that fits your life will make a huge difference.

Initially I made this "great" routine and schedule for our family.
Here's the thing though.
It was too rigid.
Too structured.
I have small kids.
They like to change things and interrupt. 
I got discouraged and stopped even trying.
I decided to try again and figure out what will realistically work for me.

Do you do certain things at a particular time every day?
Do you eat your meals at a certain time?
It's all about finding a rhythm to your day.
I started to talk about this a little bit back on day 7.
But I really just showed you my break down of my focus items 
each day and what I do on a monthly basis.

So today we're going a little more in depth with our routines.
First I went through what we already do daily.
If you have been doing something and it is working for you DO NOT CHANGE IT!
Work out the rest of your routine by your preexisting one.

I have time associated tasks.
Most of which revolve around eating, hubby's work schedule, and kid's nap/bed times.
I chose to break my routine into four slots.
Morning. Afternoon. Evening. Before Bed.
Our schedule won't work for everyone.
You'll need to figure out what does work for you.
I should also note my husband works second shift so our days differ from most people's.

Get dressed and tidy upstairs before going downstairs for the day.
All of the dishes done or put in the dishwasher before lunch time.
Start on that day's focus item.

Tidy toys before lunch. (Meaning the majority of them put away.)
Clean up kitchen and dining room from lunch.
One of Monkey's chores is to wash off the table.
Dirty dishes to the sink or the dish washer.
Spot sweep under the table.

Now something simple I have found that makes a huge difference
is when I'm cleaning Bug up from lunch, after washing his hands and face
I quickly wipe down the highchair with the same washcloth. 
It doesn't take me long but it makes the room look cleaner and 
is easier to do then instead of after things have crusted on.

Just before rest time all of the toys get put away.
When my kids go down for a nap/rest I try to do whatever 
major project I'm doing that day. 
This is typically something that is just easier to do without the kids being up.
I know this is the time of day I have the most energy and I also have a time limit.

Tidy toys before dinner.
Quick dinner clean up. (Meaning food put away and table cleaned off.)
This is the time of day when I hit a wall. I start to have a difficult time functioning.
So I try to just spend good quality time with the kids before bed.
We read books, play with toys, or watch a movie and snuggle.
After the kids are in bed I do a quick tidy of the main rooms.
After they go to bed I get a second wind (hopefully).
I spend the time between when they go to bed and when my husband gets home 
to focus on my hobbies or get any computer work I need to do finished up so when he is home I can spend that time alone with him.

After hubby is home we spend some time together usually 
either playing games or watching tv.
Sometimes he has projects to work on or just needs some time to play a game or two.
If that's the case I'll go to bed early or read a book.

Before bed:
Evaluate what needs to happen the next day.
Double check if we have any appointments, commitments, or deadlines.

I've had to also figure out exactly how much sleep I need or don't need.
If I get too much sleep then I just sleep more.
I'm tired, groggy, and have a difficult time functioning.
If I don't get enough I'm tired, snippy, and have a difficult time focusing.

Today's challenge:
It's all about balance.
Work up a schedule that works for you.
Do you have a family command center? 
Consider creating one to keep your calendar, routine list, 
daily focus, monthly cleaning, and family chore chart all in one place.

Also clear off flat surfaces.
They're magnates for piles.
If there are things that need to have a home there then designate it.
If this needs to remain an open area then you'll have to designate it as such 
and work at it to keep it cleared off.
If you have things that need to be filed sort them into groups 
then file everything all at once.
Take care of any piled up mail.
Open Everything.
Then either trash it or file it.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

31 Days to a Cleaner Home-Day 15: Time Vortex

I wish I had more time!
Time goes by so fast!
Time flies when you're having fun.
If only I had the time to do all of the things I want to.
If only we could freeze time.
There are just not enough hours in the day.

We are all given the exact same number of hours in a day.
Yet it seems like some people have more time than others.
It's not really that they have more hours in a day it's just that 
they use that time more wisely.

I saw a thing on pinterest about how 
"Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time."
I don't agree with that statement.
Time spent reading a book and engaging your mind is not wasted time.
Time spent practicing the piano is not wasted time.
Time spent with family and friends is not wasted time.
Time spent caring for our homes and our families is not wasted time.
Those are all things I enjoy and they are investments I have chosen to make.

But we do waste a lot of our time.
Watching TV.
On social media sites.
Playing video games.

Am I saying that all use of those things are wrong?
Definitely not!
My husband and I love to watch a movie or show on TV together.
I use social media to keep in touch with family and friends all over the world.
I encourage my husband to take time to play video games with some of his guy friends.
But again this is time invested in others.

The trouble is we waste so much time on things that have no real value.

You make time for the things that are most important to you.

So what things are important to you?
I heard a quote the other day that really struck me.

"God has given you...Sufficient time in each day 
for you to fulfill His perfect plan-
Including the interruptions."
-Chuck Swindoll

Some days I really feel like I'm on a roll.
I'm doing great.
Three loads of laundry completely done, two more are going, 
dishes are done, floors are swept, I've got four other things going and then

Our children are not burdens or inconveniences.
They are beautiful little people that God has entrusted us with.
But man do they like to interrupt.
Did you read that quote up there?
Read it again, go ahead, I can wait....
"Including the interruptions."
God has given us time for the little people in our lives.
Make the most of it.
Because...the days are long but the years are short.

I don't want for my children to one day look back and say 
"My mom was a great house keeper. She was always cleaning. I just wish
she'd had more time to play with me. That would have been nice."
I would much rather them say 
"While our house wasn't spotless, mom always had time for us."

So how do you use your time?
Make the most out of the amazing modern machines like 
dishwashers and washing machines.
Get your kids involved.
And some days just let it go till the kids are in bed and make the day all about them.

Go through the drawers in the kitchen and see if there is 
anything that can make it's way to the donation station.
Are there utensils that you avoid using because you don't like them?
Stop avoiding them. Put them in their place. Someone else may love them.
Go through the cupboards as well and see if there is anything expired.
Pitch old candy.
If you store stuff up on the fridge go through the stuff up there too 
then wash it down when you're done.
Do a quick wipe down of the cupboards, drawers and counter tops.
Wet a wash cloth and put it in the microwave for 30-60 seconds.
After the wash cloth has cooled down enough to handle, wipe out the microwave.
Don't forget to wipe the outside too.

Make the most use of your time today.
And tonight maybe sit down, watch a movie, and snuggle with your babes.
Be sure to stay totally unplugged and engaged with them for this time.
Social media and the rest of the world can wait.