Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Changing your house-cleaning routine one task at a time...

I once read a comment from a blog reader that said,  “I’ve just been frustrated (once again) by the fact that my house doesn’t stay clean longer than five minutes. I don’t have a system set up, and I also have bad habits such as putting my clothes in a pile by the side of my bed at night instead of hanging them up or putting them in the laundry hamper. I’m tired of it. The clutter gets to me and I feel unsettled. And I feel like I can’t start a new project or do anything fun until I get the house in order. But my house is never fully in order, so I never really get any projects done.”  Mrs. X

I totally understand where she’s coming from. A messy house can be overwhelming, and the habits required not only to get it cleaned but to keep it that way can seem like too much to tackle.

But here’s the secret: I’ve found that it’s best to use small steps in getting where you want to go.  Just as you can’t run a marathon without training, you can’t keep a clean house without starting with the first step.  No matter what the big picture or goal you’re trying to achieve, you must start at the same place: the beginning.

Try these new habits for at least two weeks each before going onto the next and in a short period of time you will have changed your routine and be on your way to maintaining a cleaner home:

1.  Hang up your clothes or put them in hamper immediately. If this task seems overwhelming to you, time yourself and see how long it takes.  Odds are it’s a 5 minute task.  Why put it off?  Do this daily for two weeks before you move on to the next task. 

2.  Put all papers (including school papers, post-in notes, return envelopes, etc) in one in basket, and process at the end of each day.  We keep a small 8 ½ x 11 basket I purchased at the dollar store on top of the fridge.  It’s not an eye sore, but everything can go into it.  The only exclusion is our mail:  All mail goes into the mail pocket on the back door.  Do this and the previous habit daily for two weeks before you move on to the next task. 

3.  Wash dishes immediately! Clean your sink and counters after. Try to keep your kitchen area neat and tidy.  It's so much easier to keep up with it than to have to tackle it later. 
    Do this and the previous habits daily for two weeks before you move on to the next task. 

4. Pick up before you go to bed and before you leave the house.  I know this can be the hardest habit to adapt to, but it’s worth it.  10 minutes before bed and 5 minutes before you leave can mean all the difference when you wake up or arrive home.
    Do this and the previous habits daily for two weeks before you move on to the next task. 

5.  Empty your trash daily.  If you’ve ever walked in the door at the end of the day and smelled that funky smell, you’ll know why this one is so easy to adopt.  Don't forget to reduce, reuse and recycle!  Do this and the previous habits daily for two weeks before you move on to the next task. 

6.  Spend 15 minutes decluttering each day.  I used to spend hours of time putting things away.  I’ve since realized that 4 people working for 20 minutes is the same as one person working for an hour.  15 minutes by each person in your family can keep your home neat and tidy.  Make it a habit for each person.  Do this and the previous habits daily for two weeks before you move on to the next task. 

7.  Have a place for everything, and put everything in its place   
     immediately.  What's the good of having a place for everything if you're not using it?  Do this and the previous habits daily for two weeks before you move on to the next task. 

8.  Make your bed each morning.  Come on, folks, it's a two- minute task!  Do this and the previous habits daily for two weeks before you move on to the next task. 

9.   Keep flat surfaces (counters, tables, desks) clear of clutter.  Do this and the previous habits daily for two weeks before you move on to the next task. 

10.  Put away your stuff as soon as you get home.  For me, this is my shoes.  Dear heavens, it’s a miracle if I don’t have 4 pair of shoes lying around the first floor alone.  One pair by the back door, one by the front door, a pair of house shoes by the fire place, etc, etc.  I'm a slob... I just fight it! Do this and the previous habits daily for two weeks before you move on to the next task. 

Now, these are a lot of habits, and it might seem overwhelming, but if you tackle one at a time (in whatever order you like), it won’t be that hard. Give yourself several weeks to get there – don’t expect overnight change!

Here’s how to tackle each habit:
  1. Write down your goal.
  2. Post it up somewhere visible.
  3. Keep a log and make sure you write in it each day, noting whether you were successful or not for that day. This may seem over the top, but it helps!
  4. Reward yourself for each day of success.  A few extra minutes reading by the fire is enough incentive for me…
  5. If you fall of the wagon, take a minute to see what went wrong, and how to correct it. Now forgive yourself for flopping, and tell yourself that you will do better starting now!
  6. Find a way to keep yourself focused on this goal for at least 2-weeks.
  7. Celebrate when you’re done.
If you can conquer one habit at a time (and it may take a month or more), then move on to the next. Do not try to do them all at once! Take baby steps, and you’ll get there.

Only By His Grace,


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

10 daily tasks...

I recently talked to a friend who told me she felt buried in her own home.  No, she's not a hoarder, but like so many of us, her time is extremely limited and her life is hectic. She cannot afford to hire someone to clean and she doesn't have hours on end to devote to housework.  She feels overwhelmed and, well, buried.

Can you relate?  I know I can.  I would absolutely die of embarrassment if suddenly we had to show my house.  

No matter how busy I am, it seems like every day I clean my house -- a little. I tidy up or clean the bathrooms. Every day I clean the kitchen, and generally try to make everything look nice.

I do not deal well with chaos, and yet it seems it’s all my brain sees.  When my house is a mess, I’m generally unsettled. Yet, there is a tremendous pleasure I get in being able to relax in a clean house. 

Of course, with two kids and a husband, it never lasts long.  Of course, why would I want it to?  We live here.  I want our home to be fun and relaxing for them, too. However, there are things I can do to keep it generally clean and tidy.

Here are the habits I try to maintain to keep a clean-ish house:

1. Never leave dishes in the sink. Or counter. Clean up any messes in the kitchen after we're done. Wipe the counters, keep the sink clean. Although, there are weeknights that are busier than normal, and weekends that are funner (no, it’s not a word, but I’m going to use it anyway) than normal – where dishes settle on the counter overnight, for the most part, we try to keep up with this area.

2. Tidy the bathroom as I go. I have made it a goal of mine to adopt this philosophy.  I’m not much of one to clean as I go.  Cleaning is a hobby, not a chore…I try to not make it another chore because it's therapeutic for me.  One thing I do do is clean my shower each week while I’m already in there… I keep a kitchen dish wand of Basic h2 in the shower and clean my shower as I go. It only takes a couple of minutes, and the joy of a clean bathroom is unmatched.

3. Pick up as I go. There are always little things the kids leave around the house. Last year I went on strike. I am happy to do the cleaning, but I'm NOT picking up every body's mess before I clean. I stopped picking up after my kids. Guess what?  I found out my kids are old enough to do it themselves.

My kids are 12 and 8, and I have created a chore list for them to complete every week day.  One of the tasks on their list is “pick up all my items on the first floor.”  Their bedrooms are another story, and the basement family room is a once-a-week family-tackle.  But for the every day, it’s the first or main floor we focus our attention on.

4. Never leave clothes out. I have a tendency not to hang my once-used but still clean clothes in my bedroom, leaving them out to clutter the place up. No more. They either go in the dirty clothes, or they get hung in the closet.  I posted a few weeks back about how I organize my closet.  You can read that post here, if you're interested. This makes putting away my clean and barely worn items a much simpler task.

5. Take the trash out every day. It’s cleaner, and even if the trash isn’t quite full, this is a good habit.  Our trash dumpster (I call it) is  outside our garage entry.  It's a quick 1-2 to pick up the trash and haul it to the back door, open it up and toss it in.  Easy, peasy.

6. Tidy up before I leave the house. It’s wonderful to come home to a clean house. Just pick up a little before I leave.  Since we enter and leave through the garage door, I try to keep this to the areas I see upon entering the house.  For me it’s the kitchen, breakfast area and great room.  I wouldn't allow a visitor to see a mess as they walked in, why should I allow myself to see one?

7. Make my bed in the morning.  I love a made bed.  I posted about how long it takes me to make my bed every day.  The time it takes will surprise you!  I posted about it here.

8. Tidy up before I go to bed. Waking up to a dirty house is stressful. Waking up to a clean house is an incredible way to start the day.  I try to either keep up as the day progresses, or I will take 10 minutes before bed and pick up the last remaining items. If I can't get to the whole house, I focus on the kitchen.  You can read about it here.

9. Don’t let clutter pile up. There’s a place right inside the kitchen entry where we pile backpacks, items to return and laptop bags. As long as I keep up with everything else (counters, tabletops, etc.) I can manage the one drop-zone we have.  Besides, I’m convinced that every family needs a drop-zone, you just have to control it before it controls you.

10. Get rid of the papers on the fridge. I can pretty much put all of that info on our calendar. We keep an info board on our back door. I'll post about that soon. It’s an external metal door, so we adhered a dry-erase calendar, two dry-erase boards for our kiddos’ lists, a pocket for incoming mail, and a magnetic pencil cup for dry erase markers.  We also have a half-dozen smiley face magnetic clips to clip any school papers, permission slips, receipts, etc to the door.  Everything we need to know for the day is right there on our door for a quick – at-a-glance look before we leave.

These are my 10 go-to tips.  Do I always keep things perfect?  Nope.  In fact, if you saw my house right now you’d think we’d been ransacked… But that’s okay.  Tomorrow is another day!
Only By His Grace,


Monday, February 25, 2013

We all need a little help from time to time...

Last post I showed you Austin's room update.  He loves it!  He feels like such a grown up guy...

His room went from this:

To this:

And then there's this....

His closet...that's another story!  Whoa!  What a mess... Do you see those piles of stuff on the top shelf?  My oh my...

So we emptied the closet... Oh yes... we did... And then this mom stood and wondered what in the world ever possessed me to empty the ENTIRE closet?

So Austin and I worked and sorted - and sorted and worked.  I gave him a bin of papers and he decided what to keep and what to toss.  I gave him a bin of old Halloween costumes and he chose what to keep, what still fit, and what he wanted to "share" with others.

Then we added the hanging organizers.

We swapped out baby hangers for regular adult hangers.  And the stuffed animals we just couldn't part with are all stored in pop-up hampers.

This whole organizing project took us about an hour from start to finish... and today, I asked Austin to put a few things away, and he knew exactly where they went :)

My hope is that as my kiddos grow up I will instill in them good habits... but I have to start now... I'm just lucky enough that right now, my 8 year old son, still wants to spend time with me... even if we're just organizing his closet!

Only By His Grace,


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Bit by Bit...

Do you remember a couple days ago I showed you Austin's room re-do?  I posted the before and after photos here.  We painted the walls.  We updated the bed spread.  But there was still a lot left to do.

The bed was a $5.00 yard sale bed frame.  The dresser was a hand-me-down.  Every time Austin rolled over in the night his bed would squeak.  Then one morning, the little guy was getting his socks out of his drawer when it fell out - On. His. Foot.  

So this past weekend, we took a trip to IKEA.  Bought the kiddo a bed, a chest, a nightstand and a display shelf.

Wanna see the before shots?  Or do you want to see the after?
How about both?


After the paint and the first bedding...

After, After: new bed, new bedding, new nightstand.

Before: new paint, new name, old dresser.

 After: same chair, new rug...
 ...and the new chest.  Believe it or not, but the new chest has WAY more room than the old dresser.

What 8 year old boy's room wouldn't be complete without a Lego Ninjago Fire Temple?  

Or the Lego Ninjago Bounty Ship?

And here is the display shelf.  Everything fits.

He is sure one happy kiddo.  He loves his room, and he feels so grown up!

This post is to encourage you in your updates... Sometimes you just need a change; paint, new rug, a pair of curtains.  You can take it a step at a time, or do it all at once.  It's all up to you!

Only By His Grace,


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Poe-tae-toe, Pah-tah-toe...

What do you do when you're in need of some good old-fashioned, desperately-needed, heavy-duty comfort?  Do you reach for the ice cream?  Do you go for chocolate chunk cookies?  Do you exercise?

I don't remember a lot from my childhood, but there is one thing I do remember... chicken and rice... and potato soup.

I know, I know...potato soup is a lot like meatloaf.  "If you say you don't like meatloaf [insert potato soup] then you haven't tasted mine."  I have the easiest, yummiest, not for the faint at heart recipe you'll ever see.

I'm sharing it with you today...just because I like you...and because I guess I'm in the need of a little comfort.  This recipe is best served with crusty warm buttered bread on a cool, rainy, long, hectic, busy day.  

You'll need:
2 tbs butter
2 stalks celery, cubed
2 cups carrots, cubed
1 small onion, chopped
5-6 potatoes
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
salt and pepper to taste
poultry seasoning
rosemary sprigs
and a secret ingredient (read to the end)

Melt butter in a large stock pot.
Add chopped celery, chopped carrots, and chopped onion.
Saute for approximately 3 - 5 minutes until veggies soften.

Add in washed, chopped potatoes.  I cube mine into bite-sized pieces. 

Add in 4 cups of chicken broth and finish up with cold water, just enough to cover veggies.  I like Trader Joe's Organic, Low Sodium Chicken Broth.

Next is the seasonings.  I add salt and pepper to taste, approximately 1/4 tsp poultry seasoning, and 1/2 tsp of rosemary sprigs.

Giver her a stir, bring it to a boil, and let it simmer for approximately 15 - 20 minutes until potatoes and veggies are tender and yummy.

When all the veggies are cooked thoroughly, next you need the secret ingredient.  Are you ready?

You will need one package of instant mashed potatoes:  I like these.

Open the packet and begin adding in 1/4 cup at a time.  Add the flakes into the soup, stir and wait about 2 minutes.  Stir again.  Continue this method until your soup reaches the thickness and consistency you like.  

Once soup is thickened, serve in warm bowls with crusty warm butter bread and enjoy.

Now that's a comfort food!

Only By His Grace,


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What's a desperate mom to do?

Do you ever find yourself in a situation where you know you need an item, don't have an item, don't want to spend $50 on an item... but you still need the item?  What's a desperate mom to do?  (By the way, I'm using purple font color today...drinking coffee and dreaming of some scrambled eggs and toast...)

If I've intrigued you - or confused you - then let me shed some light.

Last week was 100th day at school.  Our elementary kids can either dress like they're from 100 years ago - or like they're 100 years old.  My son decided he wanted to dress like he was 100 years old.  And like the award winning mom that I am, I forgot to take his picture!  

However, he was determined he needed a cane.  A cane for Pete's sake!  What 2nd grade boy NEEDS a cane?  I was NOT going to buy one.  I didn't know anyone from whom I could borrow one... And then inspiration struck!

It was 10:00 p.m.  I was rummaging around the storage room.  Then I saw it!  A table leg!

Do you have any of these little guys in your basement?   If so, you can make a cane...

Here's what I used:

  • Scissors
  • Duck tape
  • 3 wine corks (vase filler from Target)
  • a toilet tissue roll
  • and a table leg
Here's how it went:  Warning! Lots of photos!

I attached a large cork to the bottom of the table leg.  This was actually the top of the table leg, where it would screw into the table top.  The screw was already there, and the cork screwed right on. 

 I used duct tape to make sure it stayed secure.

Next we needed a handle:  A toilet tissue roll and two small corks.

 Split the toilet tissue roll in half.

Measure to see how much you need to cover the corks.

Trim off the excess.

Fold tissue roll in half.

Cut a notch for the top of the handle.

Cut a notch for the bottom of the handle.

Roll the handle back into a circle and insert corks.

Slide over the table let to be sure it will fit.

  Begin taping with duct tape the corks into the tissue roll, making sure to wrap tightly so corks don't fall out :)

Wrap both sides tightly.

Slide over the top of the table let and secure with more duct tape:

Keep wrapping until the handle is good and secured to the table leg.

Top handle should look like this:

Bottom should look like this:

Whole thing should look like this:

Now what 2nd grade, 100 year old man-child wouldn't be proud to carry a cane like that?

Hope you enjoyed the tutorial.  You know... just in case you suddenly find yourself in desperate need of a cane.

Only By His Grace,


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