Posts Tagged ‘housekeeping’

The feathered nest


Just think about the word.  It’s two words:  house and work.  For many of us it calls to mind negative words like “routines” and “tasks” and “chores” and “drudgery.”

But then I think of the phrase “feathering the nest.”

It alludes to how birds (and it’s probably the girl birds) who line their nest/home with feathers to create a comfortable and safe environment for their family.

Most of us have been blessed with a home that is warm, safe, dry and comfortable.  We have added furniture for seating, sleeping and eating; appliances to keep and prepare our food, wash and dry our clothes, and generally make our lives easier.  Even the most humble American home or apartment is palatial when compared to how most of the world lives.

If birds are happy just to methodically gather up feathers to cushion their nests, why do we view taking care of our homes as menial work to be avoided as long as possible, and then done under duress?

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve often viewed it that way too.  And some tasks are not particularly pleasant, but if they’re done regularly, they really aren’t that gross or off-putting.

These thoughts went through my mind as I did a fairly deep cleaning of our bedroom and bathroom this week. (I have no idea if I’m in sync with FlyLady or not; I follow her general philosophy and do general surface cleaning regularly, and focus my efforts on various areas of the house in a somewhat regular rotation.)

On this particular day, I stripped the bed down to the mattress, tossed the mattress pad and blanket in the wash, rotated the mattress.  While the laundry was going, I let some bleach work its wonders on the shower grout, cleaned the bathroom and then hopped in the shower to finish wiping it down and wash my hair.  When the bedding was dry, I remade the bed and hung fresh towels.

All-told my efforts took about an hour.  When I was done, the bathroom sinks were shined and the toilet scrubbed (as they are each week); the baseboards were wiped down and all the shower crevices were bright and clean again, and the linens were all changed.  Vacuuming and mopping had been done just a few days prior, so I skipped it.

An hour to “feather my nest.”  How can I view that as drudge work?

Happy cleaning,

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“A woman’s place is in the home.”

Growing up in the ’60s and ’70s, even in a conservative, traditional family, I was surrounded by enough feminism to reject that statement (and the verse in Titus 2 that is its basis) as sexist and demeaning. And let’s face it – those words were usually uttered to “put women in their place” by men who didn’t truly understand their role or the role of women.

So I grew up, got married, and a few years later we had baby #1. And then I went back to school. A few years later, we had baby #2 and I had two B.S. degrees (finance and accounting) and a handful of plum job offers to choose from. I eagerly joined the workforce and charged into 70-hour workweeks and jetting off to exotic locales like…Kansas. And Iowa. And western Texas. And eastern Kentucky. (Apologies to those living in rural areas: your states are lovely in a pastoral sort of way, but visiting pipelines and coal mines isn’t exactly glamorous.) But I found my niche in the HR field, and I enjoyed the challenges of my job, at least most days.

At long last, baby #3 came along, along with yet another rung on the career ladder. The juggling act became more precarious as I tried to have it all, be it all, do it all. A nanny helped a lot: she cleaned and laundered and chauffeured my munchkins around during the day, and I took the reins at night, trying to make sure we had wholesome meals and family time squeezed in between ball games, church and school functions.

Finally, eleven years ago, I stood at a crossroads: career? Or home? I took the road that is less-traveled these days: to stay at home.

It was counter-intuitive: oldest son was entering high school, middle son was in middle school and the baby was off to kindergarten. At a time when most women would be plunging back into the workforce, I quietly exited it.

For over a decade, my days have been filled with chauffeuring kids to and from school, ball, church and friends. I have been blessed by a chance to work from home, in a field I have no formal training in but an abiding love and passion for (gardening), and have been able to weave work and family together to form my days (and nights) for many years.

Even still, for many years I didn’t consider myself a “keeper of the home” and our house showed it. Yes, I cleaned and organized and (haphazardly) decorated it, but my heart wasn’t in it. I didn’t see this as “my place” in life.

Finally, this move has opened my eyes. We have a lovely new house to call home. And for the first time in my life, I find myself embracing the idea of being a keeper of my home. Throwing myself into managing my home and everything that goes on inside it, and enjoying the simple pleasures of folding freshly laundered clothes or mopping the floor.

Yes, it is possible to get pleasure from blessing your family with a well-tended home. I don’t know why it took me this long to figure that out.

And lest my working friends think this is a condemnation of your choice to pursue a career outside your home, it definitely is not. I think it’s possible to tend your home and have a career.  Been there, done that, got the frequent flyer miles to prove it. I admire and love each of you for proving it is possible every day.

My only wish and prayer for all of us is that when we find ourselves at the crossroads, and we are faced with that choice, that we can choose the one we really want to pursue at that stage of our lives. And that our choices bring peace and contentment to us, and blessings to our families.

Happy Monday,

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I love when I can re-use and re-purpose things I already have. It tickles my frugal bone (which I’m pretty sure is located next to the funny bone.)  Here are a few of the items I’m reusing so far – most of them are in my dining room. (Just wait until you see what ELSE I’m doing in the rest of the house!) .

1.  The Rug. I had the perfect rug right under my nose, literally. The rug in this room was picked up on an Old Time Pottery sale, but rejected for the dining room in our last house (the colors were wrong – several people told me so.)

But I got it so cheap and I really liked it, so I hung onto it and put it in the bonus room/office even though it didn’t really fit in there either (but what DOES go with orange walls anyway?) When I started pulling together the blues and browns for the dining room, it was right there, beaming at me. And it fits in that color scheme like that glass slipper fit Cinderella. AND it’s a trellis pattern, which will echo the chair cushions…once I get the fabric ordered. (One of those loose ends, ya know?)

2.  You say credenza, I say buffet. We bought this lovely piece of furniture a few years ago for the den. The new den has built-in bookcases and entertainment center, so it was redundant in there. But now it has new life as a buffet and holds my china, crystal, silver and linens.

Best of all, I can now GET to my “good” dishes without hauling out a stepladder and delicately balancing plates, cups and saucers from a deep cabinet over the refrigerator and then back again after each use. (That would explain part of why we didn’t use them often. The other half of the explanation is that they are blue, and I didn’t have anything blue in my dining room. Now that problem is resolved, too. The china should definitely be getting a better workout from here on out.)

3.  Curtain stuff The curtains flanking the French doors were in constant and imminent danger of getting caught in the door, but I had two brushed nickel tiebacks I had leftover from an old decorating scheme in Swimmer Girl’s room.  When I found them, I felt positively lucky!  They work perfectly!

I went a-searching for center brackets for the curtain rods (note:  if in doubt, always buy a size bigger curtain rod – you won’t be sorry.)  And then right under my nose I found exactly what I was looking for – some brackets from an unused rod are right here.  As soon as I can spare a minute, I’ll screw in those brackets will make the curtain rods nice and straight, instead of saggy in the middle (yes, another loose end.)

Some other re-uses I found during this move are less visible, but still incredibly useful.

In our old house, I used a bamboo display rack to hold my Fiesta lunch-size plates. In the new house, those plates now sit proudly on a cabinet shelf. But the holder is perfect for holding my pan lids, which were always falling and jangling around in the cabinet.  Now they’re always within reach and there’s no clattering of lids every time I need a pan or a lid.

A wall cabinet we removed from our former master bathroom a few years ago is now holding cleaning supplies in our laundry room, thanks to middle son’s help. He and I hung the cabinet and he used a trusty hacksaw to cut the wire shelving to fit .  (Note to self:  get a new hacksaw blade.  A dull blade can really make you hacked off.)

The powder room came without a mirror.  Call it karma: I removed the mirror from the powder room move-before-last one.  Fortunately, I still had that mirror and it has been used here and there and everywhere for a while, until it found its new home where it fits perfectly.  The picture reflected in it was one I had hung in my office years ago, and found while I was cleaning out the linen closet a few weeks ago.  

Last but not least, I found a use for some of our old VHS cartridges. My Fiestaware bowls above the cabinets needed a little boost (kind of like the way a short girl needs serious heels) to be seen above the crown molding. I thought about using my old hardback and paperback books until I came across a box of old VHS tapes.  Mr. Official is having some serious separation anxiety about his VHS tapes of old UT football games, even though we do not have a working VCR – and haven’t had one for several years. Nor has he watched any VHS tapes for years before that.  Problem solved. The books were better served by being donated to Friends of the Library, to be read by another avid reader.

And I can reassure him I didn’t just toss his tapes.  They are getting a second life “elevating” my bowls and he can console himself with the knowledge they are at-the-ready if he wants to round up a VCR and watch one. (Mmm hmmm.  Like that’s gonna happen.)

I’ll share some other re-purposed items soon.  We live in an age of planned obsolescence and disposable items but there’s a satisfaction and contentment that comes from knowing at least some of our possessions can be used and reused, instead of just used up and thrown away. 

Happy re-using,

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When we moved a couple weeks ago, the washer came with us. The gas dryer did not because the house doesn’t have gas.

It’s no big deal – we have been back-and-forth enough to carry a load over to dry and/or carry a dried load home every other day or so. And the Laundry Fairy has done remarkably well at keeping the laundry caught up, and folding the clothes as soon as they came home.  I’ve been pretty proud of her, actually.

On Friday, Mr. Official decided it was time to quit dallying and get a new dryer, so we ordered one and it was delivered yesterday.  Good call – now we can wash and dry clothes much easier.

Yesterday – for the first time since we moved in – I realized the iron did not make the trip.  Some linen napkins came through that absolutely positively must be pressed before they can be put away.

Now that I think about it, the Downy Wrinkle Release (magical stuff) is still at the old place, too.  So for 16 days, not a single blessed piece of clothing we’ve worn has been touched with an iron.  And thinking back, I’m not sure anything got ironed during the two week paint-and-move-a-thon.

I’m still trying to figure out how the Laundry Fairy has managed to totally avoid ironing for the better part of a month.  If you have seen us with wrinkled clothes and were simply too kind to say anything, thanks.

Happy Monday!

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Shark attack!

Don’t panic – I’m not in Florida, I’m not swimming with sharks, nor am I under attack. But the dirt on my floors is at risk.

Yes, I’m mopping.

With a shark.

A purple shark, to be precise.

I am beginning to grasp just how much contiguous hard flooring I now have – the whole downstairs except for our bedroom is either hardwood or tile. The two full baths are huge, especially if you’re looking at them from hands and knees, trying to hand mop them. As soon as I got the hall and upstairs bathrooms clean and ready to move, including an old-fashioned hands-and-knees mopping and baseboard cleaning, I went shark hunting. I love using steam to sanitize, so this concept was right up my alley.

So far, so good.  The true test will come when I get busy cooking in this new kitchen.  Spills happen, at least when I cook.  And when the dog drinks from her bowl.

Speaking of kitchens, today is move-the-kitchen day.  The car is loaded with pots and pans and bakeware and my trusty Kitchen Aid.  Of course, you might find me taking a break from moving and attacking the floors again. Or stopping to admire my shiny clean floors. (The novelty has not worn off yet, obviously.)

Happy cleaning,

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Is housecleaning like algebra?  One right answer, and only one way to get there?

Setting aside Flylady’s methodology (do a little every day, focus on one room each week to gradually get it clean through and through), I am curious:  how do we decide the “best” way to clean a house? And why do we think that’s the best way?

I am not convinced there’s only one “right” way to clean a house or a room.  But I agree with the principle that some ways are more effective and/or efficient.

Personally, I am a room-by-room cleaner.  I guess I could dust the entire house, then vacuum the entire house, then mop the kitchen and bathroom floors, then deliver lightbulbs and extra toilet paper where needed, but why make all those passes over the same terrain?  Is it efficient?  Probably.  Is it effective? That depends on how you define effective.

I confess I am a transformation junkie:  I like seeing a room (or closet or drawer or cabinet or refrigerator) totally cleaned and organized before I move to the next target zone.  Getting one area clean motivates me to tackle the next one. So my method has effectiveness going for it, but I’m not sure how it ranks on the efficiency scale: I find myself carrying an arsenal of supplies with me as I make my way through the house.  My typical entourage includes:

  • the vacuum and the microfiber duster with the telescoping handle to get under the beds and couches;
  • a plastic tote full of bathroom cleansers and scrub brushes, disinfecting air sanitizers, furniture polish (allergen-reducing and multisurface) and LOTS of clean rags and microfiber cloths (yes, it’s a big tote);
  • paper towels and Windex and a magic eraser for smudges;
  • extra trashcan liners, lightbulbs and spare rolls of toilet paper

That’s a lot of stuff to haul around, but I do because I’d rather not scurry back-and-forth to the laundry room every time I need one of these items.  Efficient?  Or effective?  All I know is it works for me.

In our single-story house, I start at one end – usually our bathroom and work my way to the other.  If i get sidetracked, a same-day re-start is highly unlikely, so I block out enough time to knock it all out in one fell swoop. I’ve also learned from FlyLady some tips on not getting sidetracked.  Major closet cleanouts or desk organizing are tactical missions and I don’t attempt them on a whole-house cleaning campaign. I don’t want to get bogged down in one room and not have the time or energy to finish the rest of the house.

In each room, I start to the left or right of the door and work my way around the room.  I know I probably should clean top-to-bottom:  dust first, vacuum last – but I don’t always do that.  Sometimes I vacuum, dust, then vacuum a final time.  With two long-haired pets and a family with allergies, my Dyson, microfiber cloths and dusters, and allergen-reducing furniture polish are my cleaning day BFFs.

The wet areas (kitchen and baths) are handled differently.  I spray the toilet to start it soaking, then start with the least-dirty area and move to the most-dirty areas:  sinks, shower, then toilet, buff them down and clean the mirrors, change lightbulbs, replenish the toilet paper, remove trash, sanitize the trashcan, add a liner, then finish with a hand-mopping of the floor.

The kitchen starts with a sink full of hot, soapy, bleachy water in which I soak the sink mats, strainers, and dog bowls.  When they’re clean, I run a fresh sink of hot soapy water and wipe down everything, clean the oven, straighten drawers, remove smudge prints, and otherwise clean.  Mopping sometimes coincides with the rest of the cleaning, other times it is an independent operation that occurs randomly on quiet afternoons.

All the while I’m cleaning, I’m also running the washer and dryer.  It’s nice to have a break every hour or so to stop and fold a load, and start another one going.  By the time the house is done, the laundry is usually close to being finished.  Final step is to clean the Dyson so it can air dry until the next use.

When we had our first few apartments, cleaning and laundry took a couple hours.  With each larger home, more time has been required.  Now it takes pretty much my entire Saturday to thoroughly clean this house from one end to the other (not counting the kids’ rooms since they are old enough to clean – or not – their own space.)  And we’re buying a larger house?  Hmmmm.  Do they come in self-cleaning models these days?

So how do you clean your house? Tips? Advice? Ideas?  Share, please!  ‘Cuz I’m going to need them soon!

Happy cleaning,

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…we will be firmly ensconced in our condo at Murrells Inlet, South Carolina.  Hopefully we will be basking in the first warm rays of the season, enjoying the beaches and salt marsh and rediscovering the fun activities of the area, and planning our day trip into Charleston.  And eating our weight in seafood.

For once, I overcame my natural procrastinator tendencies, and got a good head start this past weekend: the house has been cleaned from one end to the other, and will only need a bit of touching up as the week wears on.  And like our fall trip, my week is now a countdown of to-do’s, worked in and squeezed in around my workday priorities:

Monday:  Menu planning, shopping list, check the weather, double-check worship time and address for next Sunday.
Tuesday: Getting my hair did.  And getting the dog her puppy Prozac.  (No kidding.)
Wednesday: Car oil change, wheel rotation and wash/vacuum
Thursday: Laundry and packing, grocery store run
Friday:  Final pass through the house with clean linens, pack everything in the car and plan to depart as soon as everyone is ready to go.

If all goes according to plan, we should hit Atlanta in time to grab a late dinner and settle in for the night, then arrive in Murrells Inlet by noon on Saturday.

Happy (and safe) travels!

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