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.