Showing posts with label Cleaning. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cleaning. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

39 Our Favorite Daily Organizing Solutions

Over the past four and a half years of blogging, we have had our share of project successes and downfalls.  And although I love sharing the little things that keep us excited and motivated and bring a smile to our faces each day, what we all really love are those projects that are truly life changing.  The ones that make our lives easier and streamlined on a daily basis.

I am a believer that there needs to be a mixture of fun and crafty projects and super practical sanity saving projects.  I always try to integrate the two of course, but as we all know, some of the things I do around here are just as much for aesthetics as they are for function.  A storage box would function just the same if it were regular ol' cardboard as it would if it were painted and embellished.  So although I have a slew of favorite "pretty projects", today I am going to talk about the ones that truly make our lives easier each and every day.  The ones that we celebrate and love and that I would recommend to anyone in a heartbeat, no glue gun required.

An Organized Kitchen

I am starting off in the kitchen because it is really where we spend a crazy amount of time.  Breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner are prepared here and it is also where everyone naturally gathers.  A few of our favorite organizational systems reside in the kitchen area, and the first tip I have is be smart about kitchen storage accessibility.

A few years ago I went on a kitchen overhaul and removed everything from our cabinets and started with a blank slate.  I thought about how we use our kitchen each day and where it made the most sense for things to be stored.  I also really questioned how we were using our existing storage solutions.  We placed everything back where it would be quick and easy to access in frequent scenarios.  Silverware near the dishwasher, pots and pans near the stove, utensils near the stove, leftover storage containers near the fridge, less used items up high, etc... We had been previously stacking all of our pots and pans in a deep cabinet, and moving them to a lazy susan near the stove was earth shattering for us.  Sometimes it is the little things that make the biggest impact in our days, and keeping things as easy to access during busy meal times and clean ups is a huge plus.

{see our entire kitchen cabinet tour here}

Fridge Bins

Speaking of little things, a couple of dollars spent on a few basics bins has rocked my fridge storage world.  I LOVE these things!

I am convinced we are better about eating our entire grocery shopping supply because we have an organized fridge.  And these tall, narrow, clear bins are amazing.  They pull out like drawers and allow you to combine like items.  Lunches?  Check, pull out the bin with the lunch meat, sliced cheese and dressings.  Obsessed doesn't begin to describe my feelings and how easy they make meal time prep and how space saving they are.  Oh, and of course we use them in the freezer as well!

{see more of our fridge/freezer here and here}

Meal Planning

This process has continued to get easier and evolve over the years, but the concept stays the same.  I know I have touched on it quite a bit in the past, and everyone and their mom in blogland has as well, but that is because it works!

By taking time each week to plan our our meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner, we prevent ourselves from going out to eat, we have stocked groceries, we plan our meals based on our current grocery inventory, we waste less food, we spend less money, we watch for savings and plan around ingredients on sale.  We even try new recipes, which is my favorite part.  Although it may seem time consuming in the moment, just think of how much time is spent gazing into a cabinet wondering what to prepare for dinner.  And think about those busy nights with after school sports, certainly a huge family dinner won't happen, but with some prior planning you can be stocked with supplies to make quick grilled chicken wraps.  The art of slowing down and coming together as a family for dinner doesn't have to be lost just yet.

{more about our meal planning process here}

Calendar Management

I am a paper planner girl, but I know many of you love the digital calendars and planners as well.  The type of calendar isn't the key, it is how you use it!

In all honesty, I have time management issues.  I can easily get overwhelmed when I look at my work to do list as well as my home to do list compared to our busy schedules with school events and activities and even squeezing in social activities from time to time.  If I don't have a plan, nothing gets done and the lists just grow and grow, right along with the sinking feeling in my stomach.  I haven't mastered the problem by any means, however, I would be lost without my planner and my Sunday afternoon planning session.  Each Sunday I sit down and look at my week at a glance {I do this while meal planning so that our meals follow our schedules}.  I write in days I am going to blog, I write in time to work on projects with my husband, I write in time to check emails and which days I am going to allocate to working on my Etsy shop or contributing work outside of my daily blog duties, I write in birthday parties and sleepovers and volunteer time.  I determine who is taking which boy to which sport and how we can divide and conquer tasks throughout the week.  I don't always stick to the schedule, but having some sort of guidance going into the week vs. trying to tackle it blindly is HUGE for me.

{more about my daily planner here}

Paper Management

I can't stand filing but I also can't stand paper piles and clutter.  So a good compromise for us has been to hang mail bins in our kitchen.

By keeping these wall pockets in a central location, each family member has a one stop spot for current paperwork, bills, catalogs, correspondence and information.  When we bring in the mail or empty back-packs, everything is either recycled or quickly sorted down to these bins.  And everyone knows right where to look when for their specific documents, and I love that everyone can easily access them without help.  The key is to take time once or twice a month to empty the bins and file away anything that is worth saving.

{read more about our filing system here}

Budget Binder

As well as managing a calendar, we also have to be organized about managing a budget.

We set up a binder awhile back, and we really consider it to be our budget bible.  Everything lives in the binder throughout the year, from current statements, planned expenses and a checklist of bills paid each month.  It also allows my husband and I to stay on the same page, and is a great reminder of which bills are paid at which time of the month {as well as a check box to be sure each bill has been paid}.  We also use this to manage our checkbook register and our cash budget, and so far both of us continue to give this little book a thumbs up.

{read more about our budget binder here}

School Cubbies

Our home didn't come with a dedicated entryway or coat closet, so we were required to get creative with the space we have.  Our entryway solution was a combination of some coat hooks for guests, a shoe cabinet for all of our footwear and a credenza cabinet for our boy's school/personal belongings.

Each boy received a cabinet, and it is equipped with a shelf for their school study boxes and a place to charge their electronic devices, as well as a spot to tuck away their boots/winter gear, backpacks and lunch boxes.  It is amazing how much can fit into one of these little cabinets, and I love that there is no visual clutter all over the floor or taking up valuable space on the small wall behind the door.

After a few days of consistent use, the process of putting things away was a simple addition to their after school routine because the cabinets are right at their level.

{read more about our school cubbies here}

Playroom Benches/Baskets

Speaking of right at their level, that is my next time saving tip.  When we organized our boy's playroom, the majority of our storage solutions were down at floor level.

Our playroom doesn't always look like this, in fact, most often there are train tracks and Lego cities sprawling from one end of the room to the other.  However, when it is time to pick up, our boys have no trouble {other than distractions}, putting their belongings away.  Having everything easily labeled with picture labels and color identification as well as keeping the storage low and easy for them to quickly access, has really changed how we organize for our kids in many other situations as well.  The easier it is for them, the more likely they are to be helpful.

{read more about our playroom here}

Laundry Helpers

Laundry is a curse word around here from time to time.  Anyone who knows us also knows we have been known to have an out of control laundry system, with no ability to even open our laundry room door.  It was EMBARRASSING!   I finally decided to spend an entire weekend dedicated to catching up on laundry, and put a system into place immediately.

Now, we sort less {only delicates, linens and whites} and toss most of our clothing directly into the washing machine each day.  Once the washer is full, we run it.  The kids agree that putting away a few pieces from one load is far better than putting away a few weeks worth at a time.  Heck, I agree as well!  And to help them with their process, I put their items directly onto hangers straight out of the washer, and sort their pieces into individual bins.  The bins get placed in their room and they are responsible for putting away the contents.  Win win!

{read more about our laundry sorting process here}

Clean Happy!

OK, I know that seems like an oxymoron, but there are ways to make the process much easier.

For me, my biggest cleaning wins are:
  • Creating a portable cleaning caddy.  By having caddy that I can tote around my home, I can cut my cleaning time in half.  I keep it stocked with my favorite rags, scrubbers and homemade cleaning products.
  • Storing daily cleaners under each sink.  Again, quick access is the key to success.  By keeping cleaners under the sink in the rooms that need daily disinfecting {bathrooms and kitchen}, I can clean up right after using the space.  By not having to leave each area to go find cleaners, these key spaces are much more likely to cleaned frequently.
  • Focusing on four cleaning tasks per day and doing the rest on the weekend.  I love a clean house, but there is no way I am going to scrub it top to bottom in between working and heading off to the next baseball game.  To keep our home presentable during the week, we keep our focus on four main things: cleaning the kitchen after each meal, wiping down the bathrooms each evening, picking up any piles before they turn into monsters and doing/putting away any laundry.  The rest can wait.
  • Using less products.  Vinegar cleans just about everything and simplifying our cleaners has been a convenient and money saving option that we have learned to love.
{read more about our cleaning process here}

Now I would love to hear from you!  What organizing systems and solutions have you put in place that are your daily sanity savers?  Any other time and money saving tips to share?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

80 Monthly Clean Home Challenge Recap!

An entire month has come and gone and thanks to the monthly clean home challenge, our house is sparkling more than ever.

I planned, scrubbed, organized, discovered and learned!  I would say it was a very productive month indeed!

So let's take a moment to chat!  Did anyone participate along?  Learn anything new?  Here are a few of the challenge highlights for me:

  • Taking time the first day to make my cleaners, stock all of my supplies in each room and come up with a mental plan was the key to my personal success this month!
  • About a year ago I had shared cleaning recipes and a plan that was working for us at the time.  Over the last year, the busier our lives become and as I discovered simpler cleaning recipes, I let go a bit and allowed my schedule and habits to change.  I evaluated how often I was taking on certain tasks and really weighed out how important each one was to us.  Flexibility is extremely important.
  • There is no need to compare.  OK, we can compare cleaning products and recipes and select what works for us, but it should stop there!  What works for me may not work for you and that is 100% good.  We all have different levels of how clean is good enough and that shouldn't change based on what others do or think.  We all also have different schedules, families and lifestyles; all which play a role in the clean home equation. 
  • The more often I do a chore, the easier it is each month and ultimately the less time it will take to get it done right.  If I take time to frequently and quickly wipe out the inside of our stove {and now apparently under the lid of our stove as well}, then it won't take me two hours the next time the stove needs a really good cleaning.  Ditto to tile and windows. 
  • That said, it is necessary to pick my battles.  Some things just don't need to be done every day, or even every week.  Things I used to do weekly now get done monthly and from what I can tell, our health and happiness have not been impacted negatively because of that. 
  • I love to clean and that is OK.  Not everyone has the cleaning gene, and sometimes I feel bad that I do, but I shouldn't.  I find pleasure in cleaning.  I love to turn on the tunes and it is always rewarding in some way.  When I clean, my home feels happier and I feel more productive.
  • Although I love to clean, I love spending time with my family even more.  We do some of our cleaning together, but this challenge really helped me balance it all.  Although I did a few more tasks than I maybe normally would do, by breaking it into a single daily quick hits and building it into my schedule around other cleaning times, I was still able to find a good balance between the time I spend organizing and cleaning and the time I spend with the ones I heart most.

Now, knowing what I learned, here is a quick summary of how the plan works:

  • Each day we try and do four simple cleaning tasks.  "We" is the key word.  I call these my Daily Four and they consist of wiping down the bathroom, cleaning the kitchen, picking up main living areas and doing a single load of laundry.
  • Each week we add in four more quick tasks which include cleaning the toilets/showers, vacuuming and mopping, cleaning the glass and dusting surfaces and washing our linens.
  • Each day of the week, Monday - Friday, I add in one more 5-20 minute cleaning/organizing task.  At the beginning of the month, I select 20 tasks that I know I want to accomplish.  While many of the tasks will remain the same each month, a few may change based on the season or if there are other maintenance items we need to address.  Keeping the list accessible, each day, based on my time and available time, I pick one of those 20 tasks to accomplish.  I then follow each one up with a celebratory glass of wine.  What?  I earned it!

{click HERE to download your free Monthly Cleaning Planning sheet}

You can find each of the tasks I took on last month below, including recipes to my favorite homemade cleaning supplies!

So, let's chat about cleaning products for a minute!  As I mentioned, when it comes to supplies, be flexible!  I started out zesting lemon and mixing 6 different items for one recipe and finally decided that if I didn't find an alternative solution, I was going to go back to the store bought stuff.

This month I used everything from lemon juice to castile soap to a simple combo of vinegar and water.  They all worked great in different ways and the most frequently asked question I received was what I used and when.  So here is a quick recap for you:

Homemade Laundry Detergent - 1 cup soap flakes, 1 cup washing soda, 1 cup borax.  I use two tablespoons per load and place the powder right into the drum with the clothing vs. through the designated washer dispenser.  I use a hand grater to shred my soap {just pop on an DVR'd show and grate away}, but some readers have mentioned that a food processor also works.  I use Fels Naptha soap, but I have also read that alternatives are Zote and Ivory.

Homemade Fabric Softener - 2 cups of vinegar, 10 drops of essential lavender oil.  I mix them together in an old fabric softener bottle and use in the fabric softener dispenser of my wash with each load {making sure to give the bottle a good shake prior to each load as well}. 

Kitchen and Bathroom Cleaner - Half distilled water, half vinegar.  I typically keep a bottle of this under each sink in our home and this is my "go to" cleaner for a few reasons.  Mainly, because vinegar is a natural disinfectant, but also because it is cheap and I clean my main surfaces a few times per day.  If you can't tolerate the smell of vinegar, you can add essential oils to the equation.  This is not something I personally do because I don't mind the smell {I have just gotten use to it and I find it goes away fairly quickly}.  Also, essential oils are expensive and for as often as I clean and for as much that is need to mask the smell, I just don't take the time and money to add it into every batch of cleaner.  I love that this cleaner leaves stainless steel, mirrors and fixtures all shiny and streak free!

Alternative All-Purpose Cleaner: 1 cup distilled water, 1 tbsp lemon castile soap, 10 drops lemon essential oil.  This stuff smells AMAZING and I always keep a bottle made for my weekly/monthly tasks {wiping down trim and doors and surfaces}.  Castile soap and essential oils both have disinfecting qualities, and it really just smells and cleans well!

Toilet CleanerSprinkle baking soda and spray vinegar.  I have gone back and forth on this one because I love how store purchased toilet bowl cleaner has a nice nozzle that gets up under the lip and it is super quick and easy.  Not to mention my previous recipe didn't seem efficient enough considering storage and making it with essential oils and baking soda.  However, I converted back this month.  To make things easier, I made more shakers out of mason jars for my baking soda and I stashed one under each sink.  Now I just sprinkle the baking soda into the bowl, spray in my bathroom water/vinegar combo and scrub with a toilet brush.  Works well and allows me to use what I already have on hand, which I prefer in the long run.

Wood Polisher - 1/2 cup lemon juice, 1 tsp castile soap, 4 drops essential oil.  Love the smell, love that it lasts a long time {I make a double batch}, love everything about this wood polisher.  I have not personally experienced it going bad and mine lasts awhile before it is gone, however, if you are concerned, just pop it in the fridge in-between uses.

Floor Cleaner - 1 cup vinegar, 1 gallon hot water.  You can also use a combo of castile soap and essential oils as well.  Totally up to you!  I also use a microfiber mop head, which I can toss into the wash and reuse.

Oven Cleaner - 1 cup distilled water, 1 tbsp lemon castile soap, 10 drops lemon essential oil.   I spray the entire surface and allow it to sit for 5-10 minutes.  I then mist again, adding a thin layer of baking soda to the mix.  This creates a bit of a scouring powder, which I use to scrub the oven with an abrasive sponge.  I follow up with vinegar and a microfiber rag to reduce any white film.

Grout Cleaner - 1 cup distilled water, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 3/4 cup hydrogen peroxide.  In a separate bowl, create a paste by mixing baking soda and water.  Start with a clean floor or tiled surface.  Spread the paste into the grout lines with a brush {toothbrush or grout brush} and follow up with a misting of the spray solution over the paste.  Allow it to sit for 45-60 minutes.  Go back and spray a second time, this time scrubbing in the lines of the grout.  Follow up with a quick mop or wipe down and it should be gleaming clean!
Cleaning rags -  I typically use general, inexpensive microfiber rags and keep them stored in our bathrooms and kitchen.  Each space has a designated color and overall, I couldn't be happier with how well they clean and polish.  Each room also has a designated spot to toss the dirty rags until cleaning day.  For as much as I love to clean, this method has definitely reduced the number of paper towels and disinfecting wipes I have purchased over the last year.  As far as washing the rags, call me naive but I always assumed the washing soda/borax soap paired with the vinegar in my wash was a good enough cleaning combo, that I would toss all of the rags into the wash together.  However, washers ultimately do not kill all germs so I have begun washing my dish/kitchen rags separately from everything else to prevent contaminating the areas in which food is prepared and eaten.  Otherwise, the rest of the rags are tossed in and laundered together.  The microfiber rags are not recommended to be washed or dried with heat to prolong their cleaning span.

Distilled water - I typically only clean with distilled water as tap water contains minerals which can inhibit the cleaning solution and impact the effectiveness.  We also have hard water, so by using distilled I am preventing additional build-up within my cleaning bottles.

And for those looking for an updated recipe printable, here you go my friends!

{click here to download your FREE homemade cleaning recipe printable}

Last but not least, just as I had done in each individual post, here are the links to all of my favorite products.  Everything from bins for my freezer and organizers for my mail to spray bottles and cleaning tools.

Looking for something?  Check out my favorite cleaning products below:
A huge THANK YOU again to everyone who showed interest, participated, asked questions, left encouraging comments and sent over emails of gratitude.  You all made this past month so much fun for me and it was such a delight to take on this series with you all!

Many asked if I will continue the series and although I still plan to do the extra task each day, I won't be duplicating the content here {many of my tasks will repeat each month}.  However, if something new happens to get organized or cleaned, I will be sure to share those details as they come.

These are all cleaners/products that work for us and our current home finishes.  It is important to research the cleaners prior to using them on your specific counter and flooring selections.
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