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November, 2011

  1. Out! Out, Damn Spot!

    November 16, 2011 by 25hoursadaymom

    Spots have caused trouble since before Macbeth failed to banish them from his mind. With the birth of  light-colored carpeting, our troubles have only multiplied. (Which, by the way, is why my family room carpet looks like this:)

    Do you know how much coffee has blended into that pattern over the past eight years? Camouflage is a lovely concept.  But, assuming that you do have light-colored carpeting somewhere in your home and assuming that people and/or animals regularly assault your carpeting with coffee, mud, hot chocolate, pee and vomit, you need a strategy for removing stains. A lot of folks use expensive carpet cleaning solutions or frequently have their carpets professionally steamed (which I think is the worst possible solution), but the truth is, most organically-based stains are not hard to remove at all and you don’t need a stick of dynamite to accomplish it. I’ll demonstrate how easy this is with a stain one of my dear crumb-crunchers laid down in the hallway. I’m not sure exactly what made the stain, but I’m pretty sure it was a beverage that went AWOL.

    In order to clean this stain, I use a dilute solution of plain neutral cleaner in a spray bottle. The particular cleaner I use is the incredibly odd Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds, complete with the weird, All-One-God-Love proselytizing all over the label.  Whatever. The soap works anyway.

    I spray a little cleaner over the stained area, enough for it to be wet, but not sopping. Then I use a clean terry cloth, soaked in warm water and wrung out, in a blotting, pressing fashion over the stain. (Do not rub furiously!)

    At this point, you probably have not eliminated the stain, but it may be a bit lighter. Now comes the magical part. Lay the warm, damp terry cloth over the stain, cover with a dry cloth and weight it with one or two large, heavy books.  Walk away for several hours.  I’m not much of  a scientist, but it’s something like “capillary attraction” or some such thing that draws the rest of the juice, mud or pee out of the carpet.  After five hours of capillary attraction, I removed the books and cloths and my stain was gone. Witness:

    I will grant you, this method will probably not work for a serious and non-organic stain, such as marker pen or automotive oil. But it has worked for me even with stains I never imagined would come out, such as the time my daughter, who was a toddler then, threw up a sippy-cup-worth of Prune Juice onto my light grey carpet. (That was my old family room, see? Live and learn.) Prune Juice vomit? The size of Manhattan? I never imagined the humble Dr. Bronners-and-capillary-attraction method would work.  But it did. The sins of an upset stomach – vanished.

    Incidentally, this is also a good method for removing furniture indentations from carpeting if you have rearranged a room or are moving out. Just put warm cloths, covered with dry cloths and weighted down onto the indentations overnight.

    In the morning, remove the books and cloths and…

    Hmmm. Okay, I see what you mean. They are not completely gone in my example. I think it is because this was a Berber carpet, which has very tight fibers. I have used this method with complete success on typical pile carpeting, though. It’s still an improvement however.

    So, there you go. You don’t need to buy a steam cleaner or spray chemicals all over the house because families are messy things. Arm yourself with the strange-yet-effective Dr. Bronners, a spray bottle, some terry cloths and a dictionary or two and your carpet can be stain-free.

    Let me know if this helps you.

    -Danielle


  2. Become a Happy Hooker

    November 12, 2011 by 25hoursadaymom

    Thought that would get your attention. Get your mind out of the gutter, I’m not talking about earning a little extra pizza money downtown, I’m talking about keeping order with items that like to find their way to the floor. Things like wet towels, sweatshirts and jackets.

    Let’s face it: everyone hates hangers. Little kids don’t know how to hang a jacket on a hanger and husbands/teenagers merely act like they don’t know how. Or consider towel racks.  Doesn’t it seem like they are never located where you actually need them to be?

    Enter the wonderful hook. They will make your life immensely easier. Several of my interior doors have hooks installed; Blue Collar Guy put them up one day when I promised him chocolate chip cookies or some equally well-enjoyed favor.  When they are not busy being practical, I use the door hooks to be quaint and whimsical:

    Isn’t that cute? I made that basket, by the way.

    If you don’t have permanent door hooks installed and there isn’t anyone nearby with a drill who could be bribed, you can discover the amazing Command non-permanent hooks by 3M.   The hooks can be mounted by a removable sticky pad, making them ideal when you don’t want to put holes in the door or wall just now. They are especially good for giving kids a hook that hangs at their level.  I did this for my boys so they would hang up their wet towels:

    You can see in this photo that there is a robe hook permanently installed on the door, but I used the Command hook down low, so the boys have no excuse.  This is also a great solution for kids’ jackets. It’s much easier for them to be neat with their things if they can reach a hook to hang things up.  Once they have the possibility of hanging things up, the only thing that remains to do is train them to do so. Yeah. I know. There’s the flaw in the plan. After all, Blue Collar Guy has his very own hook, but he still does this:

    Drives me straight out of my brain.

    Happy hooking!

    -Danielle


  3. Overstuffed

    November 6, 2011 by 25hoursadaymom

    I remember once a conversation I was having with my friend, Marybeth. She said, “My mother-in-law says that it doesn’t really matter whether or not your home is ‘neat’, just so long as it’s not dirty.”  Then, she paused thoughtfully and added, “…but I don’t really agree.”

    I don’t either.

    Granted, I’m not a fan of dirty, either, but if the Queen or J.K. Rowling were dropping by my house any minute and I had a choice of sanitizing the bathroom or getting three-days-worth of Pottery Barn catalogs, lunchboxes, backpacks, shoes and Legos out of the way, I’m picking hide the junk. Nothing makes your house appear dirty more quickly than too much stuff. Besides that, I contend that having too much junk inevitably leads to things also being dirty.  “Messy, but sanitary” is a non-sensical concept. Here’s why: if you have to move a lot of stuff around to get to the sanitizing, it’s discouraging and time-consuming. If you have only a small amount of time to clean a counter, you probably can clean it if it doesn’t have 40 tons of mess on it, but you will put it off if you have to move Grandma’s vase, 2 furry coffee-cups, a pile of mail, an art project your kid did 2 years ago and a lone sock, wanting its mate.  Allow me to demonstrate.

    Do you want to clean (sanitize) this counter? I bet you don’t. When a counter looks like this, it makes you feel unhappy. Discouraged. Even if it were somehow sanitary underneath all that junk, you won’t feel good about how clean it is underneath if it looks this way.

    Do you want to clean (sanitize) this  counter? Even if you don’t love cleaning, I bet you wouldn’t mind cleaning this counter. It will only take a minute. (If I could convince Blue Collar Guy to clean out his mail drawer, it would be even better because the mail holder on the right would not be there, but that’s a different post.)

    In the interest of full disclosure, the “before” picture was not staged all that much when I decided to write this post. It really did have the brochures from church, the sunglass junk and the cell phone charger tentacles-of-death all over kingdom come. The notes to the left on the wall in the “after” picture do contribute to mess also; I don’t really recommend having it this way, but that is the best way to keep it straight whose soccer game is when and what’s on the school lunch menu this month. If all family members are more comfortable keeping this info on the iPhone, so much the better; we’re just a little stuck in the Age of Paper notes around here.

    If you have a lot of clutter to sort through, you’re in good company. I’m sure you’ve seen the show Hoarders or are at least familiar with the concept. I don’t consider myself a great keeper of things, but I still battle the endless deluge of STUFF as much as other mothers living in the civilized world. I could wax philosophical about how “abundantly blessed” we are in the USA, but at the end of the day, I just want to be able to walk to my bed without stepping on some god-forsaken Lego the size of a pin and just as sharp.

    Where do you begin if you’re trying to dig out? Here is my suggestion: make your bed. If you are struggling to get control of a messy house, you must establish habits. Habits are engrained behaviors that you do over and over again until you have worn a highway in your brain. Neat freaks have a lot of these highways; OCD folks have too many of them and can’t find the scenic drive anymore. Be that as it may, habit is the route to order. Start with this one habit: make your bed every morning. Get out of bed and make it, or at least make it a bit later when you get dressed and brush your teeth (and God, I hope those are habits already).

    If your bed is hard to make because you have a tangle of weird blankets and sheets that don’t fit, rectify this as soon as humanly possible. Give the nasty sheets to the dog and outfit your bed with a nice, warm comforter. You can make a bed with a comforter in about 28 seconds.

    I know some rationalize that making the bed is a pointless activity, as you will only mess it back up later. (My son, The Negotiator, attempts this testimony on a regular basis.) I disagree and here’s why: the bed takes up a lot of visual space (and often, actual space) in the bedroom. If it is messy, some 87% of the room seems messy and, as I said above, messy feels dirty  and usually is. If 87% of the room looks messy, there is no motivation to also pull the underwear down off the TV and take 9 coffee cups down to the kitchen. Make the bed and feel like a diva in your bedroom.  You can face the rest of the house once you’re the actual master of the Master Bedroom.

    Let me know if you decide to give it a whirl on my say-so.

    -Danielle