Monday

Throw Clutter

My husband just came up with a wonderful solution to the problem I call "throw clutter." Where we live in Pennsylvania, winters are cold, and if our family settles down to watch a movie or play a game, we all grab a throw (blanket) from the basket that sits behind the couch. It's a big basket and holds about 8 throws (enough for the four of us plus family and friends), which is supposed to keep the mess to a minimum in a House That Cleans Itself kind of way. Easy to take out, easy to put back, right?

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.

Tuesday

Walking Clean

In my recent series on vacuuming, I talked about choosing shoes based on tread depth. This reminded me of a handy tip I heard once, one that made a lot of sense. If you use a treadmill in your house, buy a pair of shoes that are specifically for the treadmill and only for the treadmill. Never wear them outside. The shoes will stay cleaner, which in turn will keep the treadmill cleaner. In fact, without sending loose dirt particles along the belt as it passes by, you may even extend the life of the machine!

Monday

You Gotta Love Malta

Our family went on a Mediterranean cruise this past summer, and one of the first stops was the fascinating Republic of Malta.

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.


One More Thought about Vacuuming

As always, be sure to consider your family's unique habits when problem-solving the issue of dirty floors. For example:

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.

Wednesday

15 Steps to Vacuuming Once a Month – Part 6

If you want to vacuum just once a month, you should follow the steps in my last five posts, plus the following:

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.