Big Book Sale

 Just a heads up, I've got a big book sale on my website right now, offering The House That Cleans Itself--and most of my other books--for half price. Grab them while you can!


Sometimes It Pays to Be a Pessimist

I heard a great quote today that I thought I'd share, one similar to the advice I give in The House That Cleans Itself. This was from professional organizer Star Hansen, who says:

"Make your maintenance systems for your laziest day."

In other words, don't set up your household organization so that it only works on those days when you're feeling energetic and organized and efficient. Instead, think forward to your most difficult days, when you're feeling tired or overwhelmed or just lazy. Set up all of your systems with that person in mind, and you'll be far more likely to use the systems you set up!

I couldn't agree more. We all prefer to see ourselves in the best light, but when it comes to household systems for organization, it pays to be pessimistic about our future behaviors. As I always say, make the easy choice the clean choice, and you'll do it far more often than not. 


Basket Winner

And The Winner Is...

Congrats to Susan Peters, winner of the house basket giveaway. Enjoy!


Free Basket Giveaway

I just found the cutest basket at Home Goods and thought it would make a perfect giveaway for readers of my The House That Cleans Itself blog! It's about 10" high and 9" wide and would make an adorable addition to any House That Cleans Itself.

Simply click on the "ENTER To Win" button, below, to enter. But be sure to do it by June 30th. After that, I'll use a random number generator to pick a winner, whom I will announce on this blog on July 3rd. 

Good luck, and don't forget to check back!

Use This For That #2


Have you ever been at home, found a small, sticky, mess, and wished you could just squirt some water on it? Maybe a stubborn glob of food on the floor? A dirty threshold of a doorway? Bird droppings on an upstairs window screen?

That last one was the mess that inspired the idea for this "Using This For That" post, where we talk about alternative uses for various items around the home. 

In a house where we used to live, I opened the curtains in the upstairs bedroom one morning and discovered a big glob of nasty white bird droppings had spilled down the window screen. A while later, I went outside to get the hose and spray the poop off--only to find that the window was up too high and the water pressure wasn't good enough to reach the mess.

So what's a girl to do? Frustrated, I put the hose away and marched back upstairs, all the while wishing I had some portable method for spraying water from inside the house. Not like the gentle, "spritz" kind of spraying, but more like a strong, hose-like spraying.

And then it hit me.

A few weeks before, I'd bought my kids a little pump for filling water balloons. The way it worked was this: You filled the bottle with water, screwed on the top, gave it 5 or 6 pumps of air to build up the pressure inside, slipped the balloon on the nozzle, and pulled the trigger. The water came out so hard that it managed to fill the balloon. 

If I didn't put a balloon on the nozzle, I realized, it would still spray out water, really hard, and I could direct it to where I wanted it to go. So I decided to give it a try. 

I grabbed the bottle, filled it up, gave it a few pumps, went to the open window, and pulled the trigger. Voila, the bird poop washed away in seconds. Better yet, I had discovered a handy new tool to use all around the house and anywhere outside that my hose wouldn't reach.

Here's a clip to show you how it works. (Though don't gross out, this is a reenactment, using mayonnaise, haha, not actual bird poop!)

I'm sure the makers of that little water balloon pump never imagined it would be used as a cleaning tool, but there you go. A big part of turning your home into a House That Cleans Itself involves creative problem solving—and sometimes the best solutions may be right under your nose. 

Happy squirting!


How to Never Lose A Ring or Necklace Again, Part 2

On Monday, I talked about the problem of misplacing jewelry and how this can be a common issue for the housekeeping impaired. If this has ever happened to you, you may want to consider implementing the solution I came up with for my home. I used to lose jewelry all the time—mostly just cheap costume items, but also the occasional really nice piece as well. Then 30 years ago I figured out a solution and put a system into place, and I haven't lost a single piece of jewelry since. Clearly, for me at least, it works!

Beside the couch

The key to solving this problem is simple:

1. Figure out where you usually are in your home (or car or office, etc.) when you remove your jewelry. Are you at the kitchen sink, about to wash some dishes? In the living room, watching TV? Driving home from work? Heading outside to do some gardening? In bed about to go to sleep? All of the above? Identify every single place where this happens.

On the desk

2. For however many places you have identified in step one, obtain that many small containers that will serve as safe but temporary holding zones for any jewelry you remove from your body. 

3. Place those containers near the spots you identified in step one, within arm's reach of the position you'll be in at that time. For you, that could mean putting one container beside the kitchen sink, another on the coffee table in front of the couch, another in your purse, another next to the back door, and another on your bedside table. Don't berate yourself if you need a whole bunch of these temporary holding zone containers. You're solving this problem by changing your house, not your behavior, and that's the key to the whole House That Cleans Itself system.

4. Force yourself to maintain this rule: My jewelry will always ONLY be either on my body, in my jewelry box (or whatever you use for your permanent jewelry storage), or in one of my temporary holding zone containers. Nowhere else! Never compromise on this, and never stop tweaking the system until you've got a temporary holding zone container in every single place where you're tempted to take off jewelry and set it aside to put away "later." There is no later. It's either on your body or in a temporary holding zone container or in its permanent location. 

By the kitchen sink
5. Once in a while, collect the various pieces from the temporary storage containers and return them to your jewelry box (or other permanent jewelry storage area.)

That's it!

A Few Caveats

• Make sure the containers are extremely convenient to the places identified in step 1 but that they're not sitting in harm's way. 

On the bedside table

For example, if you have small children, don't put a tempting little box on your bedside table, which would have it within easy reach of tiny hands. Instead put it in the bedside table's top drawer. When kids are a part of the equation, find the location that's within arm's reach (otherwise, you won't use it), but that's not going to be bothered with by others.

• If some of your temporary holding zone containers are in high-traffic areas, considering "camouflaging" them a bit, perhaps by using a hollowed-out book or other clever "fakes" like these: (click on any of the images below for more info)

Just don't make the mistake of using anything that's too hard to open and close. There are tons of clever devices made for hiding your valuables, but if they have a lock and key or are too time-consuming to implement, they won't work as temporary holding zone containers.

• Make sure the container is appropriate to the space. For example, if you regularly remove jewelry when you're in the car or otherwise away from home, get a temporary holding zone container for your purse that isn't bulky (otherwise, you'll leave it at home half the time) and that will zip or snap tightly shut (otherwise pieces might fall out in transit.) 

Unlimited Options

I must have a thing for pretty little boxes, because over the years I have collected quite a few. Many came from loved ones or were picked up as souvenirs during trips. Regardless of how they were obtained, I now have far more than I could ever need as temporary storage zone containers. 
These days, I use the non-fragile ones with my grandsons, hiding tiny toys inside for them to find. They love it! 

Boxes for You

If you have a problem keeping track of your jewelry, I hope you'll consider trying out this system in your home. Just for fun, here are some pretty containers I spotted on amazon that you might consider...

Let Me Know

Have you ever lost a piece of jewelry because you took it off and set it aside to put away later? I'd love to hear about it!

Please note that this post contains affiliate links. That means when you make a purchase I earn a small commission, which helps offset the costs of this blog. 


How to Never Lose a Ring or Necklace Again, Part 1

This post isn't exactly about how to have a House That Cleans Itself, but I hope you'll find it helpful regardless. That's because the type of person who is housekeeping-impaired is often the same type of person who tends to lose things. On the other hand, a lot of the principles of a House That Cleans Itself can be used to solve this tendency for good.

One of the worst (and most common) things to lose is jewelry. In my lifetime, I have misplaced some truly special pieces just by being careless. Rings. Necklaces. Earrings. Bracelets. I always tried to be careful, but somehow I would still misplace these jewelry items that I loved. Then one day, about thirty years ago, I decided this was a problem I needed to solve.

An Ultimatum

Early in our marriage, when I lost yet another lovely pair of earrings my husband had given me, he declared, "That's it. No more new jewelry for you." Considering that my hubby has always had great taste in jewelry, I was devastated. But I didn't blame him for feeling that way. 

Instead, I set about fixing this problem once and for all. Just as I would later learn how to do with a messy house, my problem solving began by analyzing the what, where, when, and why of what was happening.

What: I was repeatedly losing my jewelry.

Where: Usually somewhere around the house.

When: Whenever I got home from somewhere with jewelry on but didn't take it off right away.

Why: Because after I was home for a while, I would realize I still had jewelry on and that it was irritating me, so I would take it off, but I was too distracted or busy or lazy to carry it all the way to my jewelry box in the bedroom and put it away. Instead, I would set on the coffee table or beside the kitchen sink or somewhere similar, and then proceed to forget all about it. By the time I remembered I had done that, it often wasn't there anymore, and I couldn't find it anywhere.

In a messy house, it's easy to misplace things. We housekeeping impaired people are always pushing things aside, piling things up on top of other things, shoving stuff into bins or bags, and basically losing track of tiny stuff along the way. Given that, it was easy to see that this problem was never going to stop unless I changed my behavior.

Thus, I decided that from that day forward, whenever I came home, the first thing I would do was go to my bedroom and take off all of my jewelry.

Change the House, Not the Behavior

Of course, this brilliant idea worked for less than a week. How does a woman who's exhausted from doing the grocery shopping with an infant and a toddler remember to go to the bedroom and take off her jewelry as soon as they get home? Or, how does a mother come into the house and breeze past her excited children in order to put her jewelry away? Answer: She doesn't!

At least I recognized fairly soon that determination and good intentions weren't going to solve this problem. I needed to come up with another solution.

The funny thing is, I wouldn't figure out how to create a House That Cleans Itself until many years later, but back then I was already figuring out some of the fundamentals. Bottom line, I knew my behavior wasn't going to change, nor was my lifestyle, at least not any time soon. Thus, I reasoned, if I couldn't change myself or my life situation, then I needed to make a change to my environment.

My first idea was to relocate my jewelry box from the bedroom to a closet near the front door. Maybe I could remember to take my jewelry off and put it away as soon as I got home if I didn't have to walk through the entire house first to do so.

Tweak the Solution Until It Actually Works

Of course, once again, I found that my solution was quite flawed. While I was able to put my jewelry away much more easily, keeping that jewelry in the front hall created an entirely new problem: It was far too inconvenient to get dressed back in the bedroom without any of my jewelry handy. Worse, I would run out to the front hall, grab a few pieces that I thought might work with my outfit, run back to the bedroom and try things on till I figured it out--and then leave the extra pieces on my dresser to put away "later." It doesn't take a genius to know that much of those extra pieces never made it back to the jewelry box and in some cases ended up disappearing forever. Ugh!

A Lightbulb Goes Off

The good news is, my next solution ending up being the one that worked. Better yet, it has continued to work for more than 30 years. Since the day I came up with this final solution, I have never lost a single piece of jewelry again.

Best of all, over time, once my husband saw that I had straightened out the problem and was no longer losing jewelry, he felt safe in dropping his edict and gifting me now and then with some more. 

Want to know what that final solution was? Come back Thursday and I'll show you in Part Two of How To Never Lose a Ring or Necklace Again.

You "Kneed" This Quick Tip

If you have trouble with your knees, as I do, here's a quick tip that you might find helpful around the house: Invest in some industrial-strength kneepads. I don't mean the regular, wimpy kind, like this:

I'm talking about the big, heavy duty, industrial kind, like this:

I've had osteoarthritis in my knees for years, which has prevented me from being able to kneel down at all. In an ordinary day, that's not necessarily a big problem, but a while back it struck me that I was avoiding certain cleaning tasks because they required me to get on the floor. I tried using regular knee pads and a "gardening cushion" and even a big pillow, but nothing ever worked.

Then I observed something interesting. We were having some new flooring installed, and the guys who were doing the job wore kneepadsbut not like any kneepads I'd ever seen. These things were huge and tough and industrial-looking, and it struck me that maybe I needed a set of them myself.

A quick trip to Home Depot allowed me to inspect a pair up close, only to find that while the outside shell was hard as a rock, the inside was padded with something dense and soft, like memory foam. That very day, I brought home one of my favorite cleaning tools of all time, my professional-grade knee pads. To see just how amazing these things can be, check out this video.

Anyway, as I suspected, the kneepads were game-changers. For the first time in years, I was able to get on my knees without pain and stay down there for a while. I could even crawl across the room if I wanted to! 

What's the Point?

You may be wondering why you'd ever need to be on your knees cleaning if you have a House That Cleans Itself. Well, there are plenty of times when things might come up...

For example with this poor mother, whose toddler put aside the drawing paper and colored on the floor instead. (We've all been there, right?)

Or maybe something down low needs a quick repair or touch-up. You may need them when picking up kids' toys or arranging things on a low bookshelf or crawling under your desk to neaten up all of those computer wires. 

However you use them, you'll probably find them coming in handy in all sorts of ways and far more often than you think.

And, as added bonus, they're great when playing with little ones. With my knee pads on, I can get down on the ground with my grandkids, pain free, and that's the best reason to have them of all. 

Use This for That

A big part of turning your home into a House That Cleans Itself involves creative problem solving—and sometimes the best solutions may be right under your nose. That's why I'll occasionally be featuring "Use This For That" posts where we talk about alternative uses for various items around the home. 

Today, let's discuss those clear, pocketed hanging jewelry holders, like this one:

I have two of these in my house, and they each serve an important purpose, but neither one is used for jewelry. Instead, I have turned them into mini "stations" for specific necessities.

Fastener Station

You may have a place where you store all the screws, nuts, bolts, picture hangers, washers, anchors, rivets, etc., that you might ever need, but how much trouble is it to access them when you're in a hurry and only want one or two items? I keep my fasteners in divided containers in my tools and hardware closet, but I used to make such a mess going through the entire collection, wasting time and energy, just to acquire two screws and a nail. 

Then one day it struck me that I should assemble a little sampling of every fastener I have and keep it in a handier place. At the time, I had an extra one of these clear pocket hanging jewelry organizers on hand, and it struck me that it just might work for this very purpose.

Voila, I "used this for that" and ended up creating the perfect fastener station, as shown.

This organizer is two-sided, and each pocket is filled with anywhere from one to twenty similar items such as ten little picture hangers or four large cup hooks. There are so many pockets in this thing, I haven't even used them all.

The organizer hangs in my most convenient closet, one that sits right off the kitchen at the very center of our home. If I decide to hang a picture, add a screw to something wobbly, or tighten something with an Allen wrench, all I have to do is open this closet door, look at the little pockets to find what I need, and take it out. As long as I replenish the items periodically (usually about every six months or so), this thing continues to serve me well, saving time, effort, and trouble all over the house.

Isn't it too heavy? I will admit that when the pockets are all full, it is fairly heavy, but I've been using this thing for about 10-12 years now, and it's still hanging strong.

"Junk Drawer" Station

Almost everyone has a junk drawer somewhere in their house, into which they toss all sorts of miscellaneous household items that need to be kept handy. Unfortunately, my house is a bit short on drawer space, especially in the kitchen, so I've never really had room enough for everything I wanted to put in there.

My solution? A second one of these clear pocket hanging jewelry organizers, this time filled with everything from tape and post-it notes to glue sticks and white-out. I hang it in front of my ironing board inside a convenient closet, this one in the living room, and it's my handy go-to for all sorts of household necessities.

I keep a larger supply of most of these items in other places, for example office supplies are in cabinet in my home office, lens wipes are in my "landing zone" near the main door, and safety pins are in a container in my bedroom closet. But I save a lot of time and trouble by keeping these small samplings here, and it works great as long as I replenish them as needed (again, usually once every six months or so.)

I hope this post inspires you to think outside of the box and "Use This For That" throughout your home.

Please note that this post contains affiliate links. That means when you make a purchase I earn a small commission, which helps offset the costs of this blog. 


Clarity Throughout Your Home

On Monday, I talked about the "out of sight, out of mind" issue and how some people do a lot better when they use clear storage containers rather than the kind you can't see into. Today, I've got some links to all sorts of clear items you can use throughout your home. Enjoy!


In the Kitchen

Fun for the fridge

Perfect for the Pantry

Tea Time!

In the Bathroom

Great for toiletries or cosmetics

In the Closet

Perfect for your costume jewelry:
I use this type of container instead of a jewelry box so I can see and choose
what I want before I ever even open the boxes up and take the jewelry out.

In the Home Office

In the Crafting Area

I use this type of stackable container for all of my different colors of felting wool. Very handy!

All Over the House

Just be sure to measure before you go shopping so you don't end up with containers that are too big or too small!

Love this locking box, it's perfect for everything from candy bars to cell phones.

Hope this was helpful. I'd love to hear how you use clear storage in your home!

Please note that this post contains affiliate links. That means when you make a purchase I earn a small commission, which helps offset the costs of this blog.