I think this was meant to be a shoe holder, but the pockets are just perfect for our winter gear instead.
The funny thing is, I didn't even realize that I had left the thing on there until I was posting these photos and saw it for myself. This is yet another reason I suggest using a camera as a part of your mess-fighting arsenal, because sometimes it takes a picture to show us the oversights that are right in front of our own eyes.
So am I the only one in the world who doesn't think to cut tags off after I buy something? Once I posted these photos, I went around the house with a pair of scissors and found three more tags, one of them on a rug I bought about five years ago. I'm not sure why I forget to snip tags, but I do know they can give an area a messy feel--and they don't belong in a House That Cleans Itself.
See how neat it looks when the door is closed? On the top is a small tray for my keys and sunglasses.
Inside the cabinet, however, you'll find all sorts of things like tote bags, library books, items waiting to be taken to the car, coupons, our home's "lost & found" department, and more:
My family makes fun of my labelmaking-gone-wild, but if I don't label things I can't remember what they're for.
Perhaps my solution to the entryway blues could work in your home too.
Nothing that a little can of paint can't fix! See how nicked the chair is? Even when the room is clean, that banged-up chair makes it feel dirty.
In a House That Cleans Itself, sometimes just a little time and a fresh coat of paint can work miracles!
So what could use a little painting touch-up in your house?
And here it is after:
Obviously, she's got "have a new kitchen floor installed" on her future upgrades list, (and the fridge could use some help as well) but for now some simple wiping with the right tool has made all the difference on the floor, as you can see.
I hate to sound like a commercial, but there are few products that I recommend as wholeheartedly as I do the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.
Put simply, it rocks.
This was her kitchen floor before:
Though the black and white tile pattern is a real nightmare to keep clean, she's not in a position to replace it with a more HTCI-friendly pattern. Thus, I suggested we try sparkling things up with a Magic Eraserand some elbow grease instead.
This her kitchen floor after:
And that's why they call it a "magic" eraser!
Send photo(s) and description to Mindy@mindystarnsclark.com. (Or, if you don't have a digital camera, you can use snail mail instead. Send your entry to Mindy Starns Clark, PO BOX 38, Drescher, PA 19025.)
If your submission gets used in a future blog entry, you'll get a $10 coupon to use on my website.
So start snapping today! And if you need more info to understand what I'm looking for, take a look back at the last few entries, starting with the one titled Know Thyself. I've shown how I deal with extension cords and batteries. What would you like to show, both before and after?
Here's what that gadget looks like when I try to use it in my house:
Here's my battery drawer now:
Here's my dead battery box:
If this looks like it would work for you too, ditch that silly battery rack and go and do likewise.
Socks and underwear?
Then use a drawer or container big enough that you can simply cram your undies and socks in anyway, unfolded and unmatched. Who cares?
The garden hose?
Then get a big outdoor pot and toss it in there in a wad. (Or do what I do and buy one on a spool that you can retract by turning the handle.)
Then get them off that messy, visible spice rack and toss them into a bin instead, one that hides inside a nearby kitchen cabinet.
Again, get a bin that's big enough to scoop them into a give that bin a place in a nearby closet or cabinet. ( I still wish I could get back the hours I spent when my kids were little separating crayons from markers-like it mattered!)
What else has a messy PAS in your world? Think about it, then create a system that accomodates it rather than one which is incompatible with it. You'll soon find that things are staying cleaner simply because you anticpated your messy PAS and created a system that accomodated it.
I have tried so many lovely little battery racks over the years, but those who are housekeeping-impaired simply cannot have them in our homes. Why? Because our PAS when it comes to batteries is to toss them into something, not painstakingly place them on a rack one by one. Simply ain’t gonna happen!
Here’s what we use in our house, and maybe it’ll work for you too. In our mop closet is a box that has been taped shut with just a hole cut in it near the top and the words “Dead Batteries” written on the front. When we have a dead battery, it gets dropped into the hole. Once a year or so, our township has a recycle day and it’s easy just to give them the whole box (and then go home and make a new one).
Near the closet is a drawer that holds packages of new batteries, loose batteries, and a battery tester. When we need a fresh battery, we go through the drawer, use the tester if necessary, and take what we need. If we run across any dead batteries while doing so, we toss them in the dead battery box. If we buy a new pack of batteries we just toss them into the drawer.
Our neater friends probably have a much prettier system. But by analyzing our way of dealing with batteries and creating a space for it, we’ve eliminated a source of mess in our home.
And that’s what a House That Cleans Itself is all about!
Here are my extension cords as they used to get put away:
For example, what’s your PAS when it comes to extension cords? When you finish using one, do you neatly wrap the cord up before you put it away? Or do you cram it somewhere in a big messy wad, thinking you’ll get to it and straighten it out later?
If you’re housekeeping impaired like me, chances are it’s the latter. So if your PAS means that nine times out of ten you cram it away in a wad, then instead of beating yourself up about that why not just anticipate it and create a space for it? That way, your usual behavior becomes the correct method and you’ve just taken another step toward engineering cleaning convenience in your home!
Years ago, I kept my cords on little hooks inside the mop closet. The problem was that the cords wouldn’t hang from the hooks unless I neatly wrapped them first. Since that wasn’t happening, the cords were getting thrust blindly into the closet to “fix later”, falling onto the floor and creating a jumbled mess in and among the mops and brooms.
Once I turned my house into a House That Cleans Itself, however, I acknowledged this problem and planned for it. Nowadays, if you need an extension cord, just look inside my mop closet—not for the hooks but for a bucket that sits on the floor for just that purpose. We cram the cords into the bucket when we are done with them and pull them out from the bucket when we need them again.
This method would give a neater person a heart attack. But for me and my family, it’s our PAS when it comes to extension cords, so it’s okay.
My choice is the Cordless Swivel Sweeper, available from TV and some retail outlets. (I got mine at a drug store.) It's not perfect, but I do like it. Here's my list of its pros and cons.
Swivel Sweeper pros:
• very lightweight
• head is larger than some other brands, which means it takes less time overall to cover an area
• swivel makes it easy to get up under almost everything
• battery easy to take off/charge/put back on
• not as noisy as some I've tried
• picks up extremely well, especially considering that it uses a roller rather than suction
• picks up well along edges too.
Swivel Sweeper cons:
• the tray that catches the dirt is too small and gets full fast, which means repeated dumpings
• you get your fingers dirty emptying the tray (though at least it is easy to snap on and off)
• dog hair gets wrapped around the rollers and you have to pick it out
• I have two, and the older one has a better battery life than the newer one, which leads me to believe that either I got a dud the second time around or they switched to a different battery manufacturer. Anyway, the older one's charge lasts long enough to do the whole house, while the newer one lasts about as long as the first floor and then it dies. That's enough for my needs, but I still find it irritating.
I hope this is helpful you! It's not a wholehearted endorsement, but I have tried about 6 different brands and this one is my favorite of all I've tried.
As usual, her words are full of wisdom, encouragement, and practical advice.
Have fun looking around there! Even if you don't have ADD, they have tons of articles about getting organized, simplifying your life, and all of those things that can help contribute toward having a House That Cleans Itself.
You won't need to time this set of actions since hopefully you'll only do them once or at least once in a great while. But think how much more easily those "someday" projects can get done if you've got a list of them posted in a handy place to remind you when you have a spare moment or two to tackle them.
For example, you might write "Do the fridge/papers/magnet thing", which means, essentially, take everything off of the fridge, throw away the papers that are out of date, throw away any ugly or unnecessary magnets, clean the whole outside of the fridge, and put the remaining, current stuff back on.
Of course, only put those magnets and papers back on if you really really want to. An uncluttered fridge goes a long way in making the entire kitchen seem cleaner! In the interest of having a House That Cleans Itself, you might want to consider getting a bulletin board instead, preferably one that's mounted on the INSIDE of a cabinet door so that you can easily tuck it away when you want your house to feel cleaner.
But I digress. If you are an all or nothing cleaner, it's time to get started on your lists today!
When timing yourself, be sure to include the time it takes to gather any needed cleaning materials and to put those materials away when you are done. I challenge you to get started on that today—and if it's too overwhelming to do the whole house, start with the smallest room and just get that list done and posted for now.
In fact, I'd love to know about at least one of your tasks and how long it took you to do it. (If you don't have the book The House That Cleans Itself and you need a lengthier explanation of how to create an accurate Task/Time List, please email me at MindyStarnsClark@ aol.com and I'll be happy to send you a more complete description excerpted from the book.)
How long does it take you to unload the dishwasher? Clean up the dog's eating area? Wipe smudges from a door and doorframe, both sides? Sweep the front walk? Wipe the gunk off of the tubes and bottles on your bathroom counter? Swish the toilet bowl with cleaner—not clean the whole tank or the entire bathroom, just swish the toilet bowl? Remember, this isn't a race. As you time yourself, perform these tasks at the same speed you would normally perform them. You want realistic times for the Task/Time List to be most effective.
Come back next week for a helpful tip on augmenting your list.
Anyway, there is a section in Chapter 20 of The House That Cleans Itself called Learning to Quick Clean, where I present a solution to this problem. In that chapter, I suggest that you literally time yourself as you perform various minor cleaning actions that must be done repeatedly (such as unloading the dishwasher or watering the plants). The goal is to record a list of such tasks and the time it takes to do them, then post this list in each room of your home in an inconspicuous place. Because this list shows how long it takes to do an action, having it handy will encourage you to make the best of quick moments around the house by cleaning even when it's not cleaning time. In other words, this list helps you perform quick cleaning tasks in stolen moments, even though that probably goes against your personality and your cleaning style.
For example, if you're in the kitchen and have four and a half minutes until the microwave beeps, you can open the cabinet door to read your list, check the list of actions and times for kitchen chores, and see that it takes you exactly four minutes to unload the dishwasher. You get right to work and thus by the time your TV dinner is done your dishwasher is empty!
Come back next week for more about using Task/Time Lists to your advantage.
Simple: This was a do-it-yourself symptom checklist to see if you might have ADD. Yes, I'm talking about Attention Deficit Disorder. The reason I didn't want to put that "diagnosis" in last week's post is because I didn't want anyone to spot the term, pre-judge, move on, etc. The more yeses you gave, the more likely it is that you have Attention Deficit Disorder. This is a common disorder but often misunderstood, and so I wanted to keep the name separate from the symptom list.
Are you surprised at the thought that you might have ADD? I was years ago when I came across a list kind of like this one and first figured out that I might have it. Disconcerted, I went to my doctor, who used a more clinical approach to help me figure this out. Her diagnosis was, indeed, ADD, and after some trial and error we were able to find a wonderful combination of medications, behavioral techniques, and alternative therapies to help me cope with this overwhelming disorder. In a future post, I'll share the road I've been down with this situation, including my own happy ending.
In the meantime, if you were nodding your head over and over as you were reading the questions, please go to this link:
which also has a symptom checklist along with a bunch of other resources. Do some reading and think about talking to your doctor. You might even take a few online ADD/ADHD assessment tests that help narrow down the types of ADD you may have. (Just google "ADD test" to find some. I took several of these and got the same results every time, that it was "likely" I had "ADD/Inattentive Type." Sure enough, I did.)
Because I have no medical credentials, I was reluctant to discuss ADD at length in the book The House That Cleans Itself. On this blog, however, I'm a little more comfortable throwing the thought out there, just in passing, as one domestically-impaired person to another. I'm no expert here, other than an expert on my own experience.
But the more I read, the more I know that problems with clutter and organization and money and time management often have their roots in an actual, medical disorder, one that can be successfully treated.
If you had a lot of yeses to last week's list, please follow the above link. And if you suspect you have ADD, gather up your test scores and lists and schedule an appointment with your doctor ASAP!
Read this checklist and see how many of the following questions are a "yes" for you.
Yes or no:
- Does clutter prevent you from living the life you want to live?
- Do you struggle to stay on top of the papers that come into your home, such as the mail, papers from your kids, papers from work, etc.?
- Do you have trouble being prompt or managing time?
- Do you have trouble managing money?
- If you are in charge of food preparation for your family, does the planning/shopping/preparing of all that food often feel like an overwhelming or monumental task, one that makes you weary just to think about it?
- Are problems with paper, money, time, or clutter preventing you from achieving your other goals in life?
- Do you spend a lot of time trying to find things that have been misplaced?
- Do you avoid having people over because of the mess in your home?
- Do you frequently miss important events or deadlines, whether because of something you lost or forgot, because of procrastination, because you underestimated how long it would take, or because you didn't properly break the task down into doable pieces?
- Do you have trouble calculating time, for example estimating how long it will take to perform a certain task or to get out of the house to an appointment?
- Do you have great ideas—but often have trouble seeing them through?
- Do you get "lost" for hours at a time in tasks you love doing, such as reading or writing or cooking or painting?
- Are you better at starting things than finishing them?
- Do people praise your "potential" more than your accomplishments?
- Do you feel overwhelmed by sounds/smells/busyness/conversation/etc. that are around you? For example, do you have trouble shopping in a store where the music is too loud?
- Do you begin each day determined that this is the day you'll finally get a handle on things?
- Do you jump into certain things too fully with too much enthusiasm and then burn out before they are done?
- Do you find yourself frequently apologizing for not returning calls/sending thank-you notes/giving gifts/etc. in a timely manner?
- Do you seem to spend more time than the average person "in your head", i.e., daydreaming, being creative, imagining things, self-talking, etc.? Similarly, have you often been called an "airhead" or a "space cadet", either now or when you were younger?
- Do you frequently realize that you can't remember what you were just in the middle of doing, for example, when you walk into a room you can't remember why you went in there, or in the middle of a shower you can't remember where you are in the shampoo/conditioner/soap process?
- Do the people in your life, especially a spouse or children, frequently indicate frustration with how poorly you manage life tasks such as organization, cleaning, or time management?
- Do friends or family members frequently tell you that you need more "self discipline"?
- At the end of the day, do you consistently lament all the things you didn't get done that day, things you really intended to do but didn't have time to get to?
- Do you look at other people who cope better/live better/are more organized/are more punctual and wonder how they do it?
- Is your life out of control?
Now that you've read these questions, you may already know where I'm going with this. If not, you may be in for a big surprise. In my next post, I'll tell you what all of these yeses might mean for you. In fact, what I have to tell you could change your life!
I'm not trying to be overly-dramatic—nor being mean by making you wait. My intention is to stir your interest and maybe even give you time to run this list of questions by other people you know before you find out what I'm up to. Come back next week to find out what this is all about.
Wrong. The problem comes in when fun time is over and no one thinks to put away their throw before leaving the room--not surprising in a house filled with housekeeping-challenged people. Often, those throws are left in heaps and piles in chairs and on couches, which looks awful considering that they are an ugly mismatch of nice ones and cheap, clashing colors and prints.
Anyway, this morning my husband looked at the messy family room and innocently commented "You know, if we had eight matching throws that coordinated with the room instead of these things, it wouldn't look nearly as bad when they're all left out like this."
"Honey!" I cried. "You just thought like a House That Cleans Itselfer!"
So there you have it, our solution to throw clutter: Keep that basket handy for putting them away, but buy matching throws that work with the decor for when they're left out. Of course I'll wait for a good sale before I actually put this idea into action, but fortunately our church has an ongoing blanket donation program, so the mismatched ones won't go to waste when we replace them.
On a walking tour of charming Rabat,I noticed a real House That Cleans Itself technique in action. For some reason that probably had nothing whatsoever to do with housekeeping, there were grates along the sidewalks, as you can see here:
Some of these grates were located directly in front of doors, as shown here:
What can I say? I wish everyone who came into my home had to do so by first walking over an open grate, because there would be far less dirt tracked inside—not to mention that I wouldn't have to shake out the floor mats nearly as often. Maybe someday, I'll talk my husband into constructing similar grates right outside my front and back doors!
On a side note, if you ever get to Malta, don't miss the catacombs in Rabat. Malta is full of sites of historical Christian interest—read Acts 28:1-10 to see how Paul spent his time there—but the highlight is definitely "St. Paul's Catacombs".
I'm usually claustrophobic and was afraid I wouldn't be able to handle the tight spaces, but it wasn't difficult at all. In fact, the entire site was fascinating and solemn and filled with a lovely sense of peace. All in all, our visit to Malta was a highlight of our vacation.
Do you or your husband do any woodworking? If sawdust is a problem in your home, consider moving the woodworking to a less-intrusive location, such as to the shed rather than the garage. Or maybe you can figure out how clean yourself up after woodworking in such a way that the sawdust isn't brought into the house, for example by keeping a change of clothes in the workshop.
Is your home near the beach? Do some problem-solving about how to keep the sand from getting tracked inside. Perhaps you need to put a faucet or a bench near the door, for easier cleanup of those sandy feet. Maybe the beach toys should go into outdoor storage rather than coming into your home. Whatever solutions you come up with, keep a bottle of baby powder near the door, as sprinkling baby powder on sandy feet should help the sand to fall off.
Is there some other substance that repeatedly dirties your floors? Stop fighting it—and start problem-solving instead. Remember, take the emotion out of cleaning, think like a detective, gather clues, and become the expert on your family's biggest dirt-creators. Once you know what's causing the mess, you're well on your way to preventing it!
Finally, as one more aid in keeping those floors and other surfaces clean, don't forget to change the filters on your heating and air systems regularly.
14. Make sure there's a trash can in every single room of your house. If it's easy to throw things away, you'll reduce messes that often make their way to the floor.
15. Invest in what I call a "picker-upper", which is simply a long-handled grabbing tool. Once seen only in medical-adaptive-device catalogs, these handy things are now available to the general market. Aluminum Reacher.I have one in the kitchen and another upstairs. (Because I have back problems, I also keep a third one next to the dryer so I can remove the dry clothes without back strain.)
Even if you don't have back problems, you'll find yourself using this tool quite often to pick up little messes. Have you ever spotted a piece of fuzz or scrap of paper on the floor but didn't pick it up because it wasn't worth the trouble of bending over? With a picker-upper, you can clean much more easily, no bending necessary.
Best of all, kids love playing with it! Hand a child your picker-upper and tell him to see how many bits of trash he can pick up from the floor. You might be amazed at how quickly and easily—not to mention thoroughly—he does the job!
And that's it, my 15 Steps to Vacuuming Once a Month. As long as you don't skip #7, which is the most important step and was featured in Part 2 of this series, you should find that your fullsize vacuum cleaner really can sit quietly in the closet most of the time. By making these 15 changes/additions/adaptations to your home, your House That Cleans Itself should have floors that tend to stay clean rather than tend to get dirty. And that's the whole goal of a House That Cleans Itself, to create a space that tends toward cleanliness rather than mess.
13. For really sloppy play, send the kids outside whenever weather permits.
Though not an architect, my talented mother designed the house I grew up in, and she took this idea one step further by cleverly including an outdoor "playsink" in the layout. The actual working sink sat alongside our outdoor play area and was built low, at just the perfect height for kids. We spent hours out there making mud pies and secret recipes and doll beauty salons and all sorts of similarly messy things. But because it was outside, the mess didn't matter. If you have small children and are doing any sort of outdoor renovation, you might consider installing a playsink for them too. Even if you don't have a playsink, however, outside is often the best place to be for all sorts of mess-making fun.
If there's mud in the yard, be sure to make "re-entry" as painless as possible by doing the following:
- Tape a reminder sign to the door that says to "Leave muddy shoes outside".
- If they're barefoot, tape a reminder sign to the door that says to "Rinse feet before entering", then place a washbin of water on the ground outside the door.
- Either way, lay down a few raggedy towels on the floor just inside, which they will walk on as they come in. When the day is done, throw the towels in the wash.
Check back soon for the final chapter on how to vacuum just once a month.
11. Restrict eating to certain areas. We messy types need the freedom to chow down occasionally in the family room. But we should limit food that gets carried upstairs, into the bedrooms, etc. Make a house rule about where family members can and cannot eat—one that's realistic—and stick with it. I'm big on letting kids and teens manage the cleanliness or not of their own bedrooms (if you don't like their mess, close the door), but on this issue, the house rule should prevail. If they balk, tell them to do a google image search on rats and roaches. That should help them see the light.
12. Restrict messy projects to areas that can handle it. Are the kids getting glue on the rug? Glitter in the furniture crevices? Permanent marker stains on the butcher block counter? Put a stop to all of that by providing a project area that has good lighting, a sturdy-and-easily-cleaned tabletop with no grooves (or at least one that can be covered with a plastic tablecloth), and a non-carpeted floor that is easily swept clean. Insist that any project that involves glue, markers, or scissors be done there. The kids will adapt soon enough, and if you keep a rechargeable sweeper nearby, they'll be more likely to clean up after themselves. Whenever they sit down to work on any project, remind them of this motto: The project's not done till the mess is gone.
Just as a side note, you may want to allow less messy projects, such as simple coloring or drawing, to be done in a wider variety of locations. If so, think about getting Color Wonder markers and paper. The ink in these markers will show up on the special paper—but not on other surfaces.
Check out the Color Wonder markers and paper by clicking here. Color Wonder link to Amazon
8. Not to be mean, but it really helps to limit your pets to certain areas of the house. Our shih tzu, Belle, happily lives in one half of the downstairs, with toddler gates to prevent her from going any further. This prevents an accumulation of dog hair in every room of the house, and it also limits her movements when she tracks in dirt or leaves from out back. This might be harder with an older dog, but because we started Belle this way as a puppy, she's never known any better and is perfectly content in "her" part of our home.
9. When choosing new floors and floor coverings, think camouflage! Why install dark carpeting if you have a light-colored dog? Why have a beige mat at your back door if the dirt in your yard is primarily red clay? Think about the nature of the messes that accumulate on your floors—and then make your flooring choices accordingly, with the art of camouflage as your first priority.
10. Taking the above step to the next level, if you are doing any sort of renovation, remember that you should never choose flooring that you haven't first tested for its ability to hide dirt. In fact, the next time you replace a floor with linoleum or tile or even hardwood, try this handy test:
- Choose six patterns that you really like and that coordinate well with your decor
- Ask for (or purchase) 1' x 1' samples of all six patterns
- Put the samples on the most mess-prone areas of your house, such as the kitchen floor in front of the sink and stove.
- Forget about them for a week or two and DON'T clean them.
- At the end of the test period, take a close look at each sample to see which one hid its splotches and splatters best. Upon close inspection, you may be amazed to find that the one you thought was the cleanest is actually the dirtiest.
- Choose the dirt-hiding winner for your new flooring pattern.
A handy hint: In my experience, the best floors for hiding dirt feature a speckled mix of browns and beiges and grays. The single worst kitchen floor I have ever had to deal with was a "checkerboard" of alternating black and white 6" squares. Whatever hid on the black was clearly evident on the white and vice versa. What a nightmare!
Come back next week for more steps.
Now, back to our topic. If you want to vacuum just once a month, you should follow the steps in my previous post along with the following:
5. Place a large basket or low rack just inside every exterior door of your home and encourage family and visitors alike to take off their shoes and leave them there as they are coming in, if they want. (Don't make a hard and fast rule of this, however, lest you embarrass someone who has holes in their socks!)
6. Keep "tread depth" in mind whenever you buy new shoes for you or your family, and remember that the deeper the tread the more dirt that will get lodged in there and probably end up on your floors. Obviously, athletic shoes are going to have some necessary tread depth, but all other things being equal, choose the shoes with the shallower grooves.
7. The most important step of all: Get a rechargeable battery-operated sweeper and place it in or near the most consistently-dirty floor in the house. Unless you don't cook, that will probably be the kitchen. Get another one for every other level of your home. (Which means if you have a two story house with a finished basement, you need three!) Store each one in a very convenient place and get in the habit of using this sweeper often to clean up the crumbs and other day-to-day messes that accumulate on your floors. I have tried several brands but most prefer the one you've probably seen advertised on TV, the Swivel Sweeper.
(This isn't a paid endorsement, in case you were wondering. There are a few small drawbacks to the Swivel Sweeper, but of the different brands I've tried, I still liked it best. In a future post, I'll elaborate on the pros and cons—and if you prefer a different brand, I'd love to hear the same back from you.)
Come back next week for more steps!