Sunday

Simplify with a Labelmaker

Do you have a labelmaker? I couldn't live without mine! It's a Brother PT-80 P-touch Electronic Labeling System, which is easy to use, handheld, and costs less than $30.

Besides using it to label shelves, boxes, bins, etc., I also use it for cords and wires. In fact, in the past two years I have made a point of labeling every single new wire or cord that has come into my home.

For example, at this moment I am looking at the power strip on my left, where I can see the following labels:

• "charger for John's Canon"
• "Mac desktop"
• "pencil sharpener"
• "DYMO LABELWRITER"
• "HP Printer"
• "Desk Lamp "
• "Kindle charger"


Looking at the wires that hang neatly on the right, I can see:

• "Kindle-to-computer connection"
• "Large camcorder upload wire"
• "Small camcorder upload wire"
• "iPhone connection wire"
• "Alphasmart upload wire"
• "Connection laptop to projector"

and more.

Given the amount of technology that surrounds me (and how many cords look alike) I'd say the 30-second investment I make to label a new wire or cord is time amply saved in the future. It also saves frustration and mess.

Every House That Cleans Itself should have a labelmaker of some kind in its arsenal, even if the "labelmaker" is simply you with a Sharpie and some good penmanship!

Check back next week to see some photos of how I handle all of these wires and cords in my office.

Monday

Cleaning a House That Cleans Itself, Part 3

Why do I talk about deep cleaning in a blog that's primarily written to help your home stay clean with less work, not more? Here's my third and final reason.

Reason #3: Remember that an important key to having a House That Cleans Itself is arranging/improving/organizing your home in such a way that it gives out that elusive feeling of "clean" to all who enter there, regardless of whether you've actually done any cleaning lately or not. In your house, that can mean paying attention to "Sight Zones", designing better systems for concealing your "Expected Messy Areas", or tackling those "Inevitable Invisibles" (things such as stains or nicks or frays that contribute to an overall feeling of "unclean" but that you don't ever notice because you've been living with them so long that they've become invisible to you.)

Short bursts of intense cleaning can be a big help with the latter category. If a formerly HTCI room has started feeling "off" to you, step back and really look at it (or maybe get some perspective by whipping out the camera for some photo investigation like you did in your original conversion). Chances are that when you do you'll spot something that needs attention--not to mention some elbow grease. Tackle it head on, however, and you won't just wipe out an Inevitable Invisible, you'll also feel that room transitioning back from a sense of unclean to clean. If you live in a House That Cleans Itself, that one effort will make all the difference in helping it stay that way.

And that's my third and final reason that from time to time I talk about how to deep clean on a blog that's all about cleaning less, not more: Because sometimes a single burst of deep cleaning on your part right now can make a world of difference in maintaining a House That Cleans Itself for a long, long time to come.

Cleaning a House That Cleans Itself, Part 2

Why do I talk about deep cleaning in a blog that's primarily written to help your home stay clean with less work, not more? Last week, I gave you one reason. Now, here's another.

Reason #2: Never forget that there are newer, better housecleaning products coming out all the time, and that those of us who are domestically impaired would do well to keep our eyes and ears open for anything that might make our job easier. When something new does come down the pike, we also need an open mind and a willingness to consider new ways of tackling old housecleaning problems.

Remember, there are companies out there spending millions of dollars on research and development, their primary goal being to help you keep your home cleaner in less time with less work. When I spot some new product that I think might do just that, I'm going to test it out. If it works, I'm going to be telling you about it right here.

Sometimes, of course, what looks new and different can end up being just one big (and possibly expensive) disappointment. But when a product ends up being equal to even exceeding its hype, I'm always eager to shout it from the mountaintops.

And that's why I can't shut up about exciting cleaning products (like the Magic Eraser) on a blog that's about not cleaning. Check back next time for my third and final reason.

Sunday

Cleaning a House That Cleans Itself, Part 1

At a party recently, I was chatting with a friend who happens to follow this blog. She had some great feedback for me, all positive except for a question that has been nagging at her since she read it. Why, she asked, would I talk about using elbow grease and a Magic Eraser (as I have in recent posts) if the point of a House That Cleans Itself is to clean less, not more? Valid question. My response satisfied her, but I thought it might also be a good idea to post it here too, just in case you've been wondering the same thing.

If you've read The House That Cleans Itself, you know that the overriding goal of the plan is to stop trying to change yourself and instead change your home so that it just naturally tends to stay clean (rather than regularly falling apart). Once you have successfully done that, your workload is so greatly decreased that it's almost as if the house has begun to clean itself, hence the title of the book.

So how does this low-maintenance concept of a House That Cleans Itself (HTCI) mesh with my suggestion to apply elbow grease and a Magic Eraser--which sounds suspiciously like a lot of work? I've got three answers to that, starting with this one:

Reason #1: If your house has been disastrous for a while, elbow grease plus various cleaning tools are probably going to be necessary elements of your conversion to an HTCI. The way I see it, an HTCI is one where a quick, occasional pass with a Swiffer WetJet or similar is all that's needed to keep the floors looking clean day in and day out. But where there is ground in, nasty dirt/stains/etc. that mere swiffering or mopping can't eliminate, those need special attention right up front so that they can be dealt with aggressively and eliminated forever.

To see what I mean, take a look at the before and after photos in the posts called True Magic and True Magic, Part 2. Before we got down and scrubbed those floor tiles with the Magic Eraser, my friend was wasting an enormous amount of time "trying" to get the kitchen floor clean the conventional way. Because she is domestically challenged, I think she figured that somehow if she just mopped hard enough or found the right mix of cleaner-vs-water or wanted it really, really badly enough, that that grimy-looking floor would suddenly, magically get clean. Sorry, but that wasn't going to happen! The stains were too strong, too old, too ground-in, and she was working herself to death EVERY TIME SHE MOPPED THE KITCHEN, trying to make them go away. Once we put the mop aside and dealt with the problem head on, we found that we were able to eliminate that ground-in dirt by scrubbing the tiles with the Magic Eraser. After that, her whole cleaning routine was drastically shortened.

Now, all she has to do to make the kitchen floor look good is, yes, make a quick, occasional pass with a Swiffer WetJet or similar. That's it. Because we dealt with the nastiness and got rid of it once and for all, our efforts at hard cleaning resulted in a floor that now needs only light cleaning.

Does that make sense? Put it this way: Converting a house to an HTCI is a lot of work and usually will require elbow grease and special tools. But once that work has been done, the payoff is enormous. Between the relaxing feel of a clean-looking kitchen and the time saved keeping it that way, I'd say the effort is more than worth it.

Check back next time to learn the second reason why I talk about deep cleaning in a blog that's supposed to be about the exact opposite.