Thursday, August 27, 2009

Current State of Things

Alright, so here's a rundown of the current state of things:

1. Husband has hijacked the camera. I saw it sitting on our little table at some point this weekend, but when I looked for it on Tuesday I couldn't find it anywhere. Husband is in Boston this week wrapping up his year-long service job which means I can't upload the pictures I promised from my last entry, nor can I take pictures of what I plan to do tonight. (big sigh)

2. I am a terrible person - well, not terrible...more like hypocritical - because I make these lists and promote them because lists ' hold you accountable,' and then I just don't do anything on my list. This needs to change.

3. We cleaned, cleaned, cleaned about two weeks ago and got our home in lovely shape! It wasn't perfect by any means, and it wasn't 'done,' but it was the best it's looked since we moved in. Let's just say we've reverted back to the pre-clean, clean, clean state. 

4. I have not necessarily done much, but I DID manage to fix the drain in our tub so that when we shower we are no longer standing in four or five inches of water. :)

So, first and foremost I apologize for the lack of pictures again. It's truly unacceptable. Don't try and tell me otherwise. I have been told by a very smart and savvy lady who is something of a blog connoisseur, that pictures are a must. I must confess, I hope Mr. S does actually have our camera somewhere and know where it is because if he doesn't I'm kinda SOL!

To combat my apparent aversion to following the lists I make...well, I'm not entirely sure what I'll do about it. Mostly, I think it's a mind over matter issue. As a start (and because our apartment looks horrendous at the moment, and we have company coming Sunday and Monday), I have a list I plan on accomplishing tonight. Tonight, I need to:
  1. clean the bathroom
  2. bleach the tub
  3. sweep and mop bathroom and kitchen
  4. do dishes
  5. bleach kitchen sink
  6. put away the cooking/baking supplies that are currently on our table
  7. tidy up the bedroom - put clothes away
The other thing that will help me with my lists is a schedule. I have actually been giving a lot of thought to the schedule, and am glad there has been one deep cleaning with very little maintenance done afterward so I have a better sense of how often some things need to be done. Here's what I've determined so far...

Sweeping should be done a weekly basis - really more frequently, but at a minimum, once a week. We have hardwood or tile throughout our home, so dust and dirt accumulate easily. In the kitchen, whenever either of us works with onions or garlic, we always seem to end up with paper peel bits all over the floor (even though we're pretty clean cooks). And it's surprising how much and how quickly hair accumulates in the bathroom!! Sorry if that totally grosses you out, but let's face it - hair in the bathroom is a fact and whether you like it or not, are grossed out by it or not, at some point you have to deal with it. And dealing with it more frequently means you'll have to confront less of it all at once. Which is, I think, less gross than mass quantities. Ok, I'm done with hair! Stop freaking out.

Scrubbing the kitchen and bathroom sinks and tub with baking soda should be done on a weekly basis - it's amazing to me how quickly grime builds up. Baking soda really does a great job of fighting the grime and keeping things sparkling. As an added bonus, our sinks and tub are white which tend to show scuffs and marks really well. The baking soda works miracles in erasing those marks without being too abrasive - or leaving a different colored mark, which has happened to me when I've used a blue 'non-abrasive' sponge. Don't create more work for yourself, folks. Just use the baking soda right away.

Oooo! As a complete aside, I was at Rainbow earlier this week (a grocery store, for those who aren't familiar with the name) and found GIANT boxes of baking soda!!! I can't wait to run out of my current stash so I can buy the ginormous container. It's seriously the biggest thing of baking soda I've ever seen. I had no idea they sold it in such quantities, but it's such a wonderful idea since I use a lot of it when I clean, but still need it for baking, too! Moving on...

Dishes should be done daily - ideally, multiple times a day (once after breakfast, once after dinner), but if we're being realistic - and I am - maximizing morning sleep is more important than waking up with enough time to do the dishes before dashing out the door to work. Admitting dishes should be done daily is actually a huge step for me. Husband will be so thrilled when he reads this. I've never been one to let dishes go too long, but certainly a day or two. The thing is, dishes are the first thing to clutter counter space in a kitchen, and any of us who enjoy spending time in the kitchen know that counter space is precious. Especially when you don't have much of it! Dishes are also one of the easiest things you can do to eliminate clutter. It never takes nearly as long as you think it might to get them done; the work is painless; you can listen to music while you do it; and it's something you can do as a team (though I prefer doing them myself). Also, think of the other benefits - doing dishes the same day the are dirtied means A) they don't smell as bad, B) they're not as gross because nothing has dried on the dish, C) they're a heck of a lot easier to clean (see point B)! Why wouldn't you do dishes daily? 

As a side note, I'm totally jealous of those of you who have dishwashers. Also, I feel this is a good time to remind you that this is a judgement-free zone!!

Sinks and tubs should be bleached bi-weekly - the bleaching process described in Real Simple's Solutions really adds the extra polish to your weekly baking soda scrub. It helps in combating the grime, is simple to do, and makes your water-holders look fabulous! And I found a chlorine-free bleach by Ecover the other day at Kowalski's (another grocery store), which means I don't feel nearly as bad making this part of my regular cleaning routine.

Kitchens and bathrooms should be cleaned weekly - we're talking your normal maintenance routine - sponging down counters, the stove top, and the table, cleaning toilets, mirrors, etc. It's not a 'deep clean,' per say. You do the deep clean every other week, but use this to maintain your work so that your 'deep clean' is simply adding the bleaching and mopping (which we haven't gotten to yet). Just keeps things simpler and easier.

Hard floors should be mopped bi-weekly - unless it's been a particularly rainy week, our floors don't need to be mopped on a weekly basis IF they are being swept on a weekly basis. On rainy weeks, I'd probably choose to sweep and mop even if my schedule didn't call for the mopping. I do find, though, that if I don't sweep regularly, mopping is always necessary because there is much more on the floor that ends up sticking, staining, and making a mess.

So those are the things I'm noticing thus far. Has anyone noted a trend in my observations and posts? Remember my intent is to clean and organize our home. 'And organize' being the key words there. Everything I've really 'accomplished' so far has revolved around cleaning. I don't really love cleaning or organizing, but I sure as heck like cleaning more. The tasks are very straight-forward, there is a huge sense of accomplishment at the end, and the results are immediately visible. 

Organizing is just something I find to be insanely daunting which is a little weird because I'm super organized at work. I cannot function if my desk is a mess and I can't find things. I am an expert filer - both online and actual folders, everything has a place on or in my desk, there are systems developed for papers and projects, etc, etc. Somehow, this doesn't really transfer to home. Maybe because it's such a large space comparatively, requiring many more systems in order to form some semblance of order. This is where my husband shines. Mr. S loves systems - creating them, developing them (as in, changing them when they don't work quite right), using them, maintaining them. I think it gives him a sense of peace. If only I were like that.

Well, that's probably enough babbling for one post. Especially one that does not include pictures! Now it's on to conquering my list. Have a good evening, dear readers (if there are any of you out there)...

~Ms. S

Sunday, August 16, 2009


I will post photos tomorrow, but enormous progress was made on cleaning this weekend! All because the husband stepped in to help. With the pressure of his Godmother, her kids, and his parents coming up with the explicit purpose of seeing our place (and us, too), he decided we needed to get our rears in gear!

Here is the list of what got done:
  • dishes
  • swept kitchen, bathroom, and living room floors
  • cleaned dining room table
  • cleaned counters
  • cleaned bathroom
  • tidied living room (including placing some boxes in storage!)
  • organized and cleaned bedroom
Let me tell you...our place looks amazing at the moment! Minus the pile of crap on my desk, but for now, we'll overlook that detail. The biggest changes happened in the living room and bedroom. Husband's sister has been staying with us while finishing up her job before her move to WI. Well, she left Saturday after our get together, but packed up all her stuff long before which meant we could fold up the sleeper sofa. We got our living room and couch back nearly with the snap of our fingers! It was pretty incredible. (But, dear Sister, you are welcome back any time. We really enjoyed having you.)

The other change, that is sure to drop jaws once pictures are posted - the bedroom. Let's just get one thing out there right now. Thou shall not judge. I know our bedroom was ridiculously messy. I realize, as Husband regularly points out, that it is not, in fact, that hard to put clothes away - I just really dislike doing it. :) So, my friends, we come back to the real point of the blog: Ms. S desperately needed a project, and knew this would be a healthy thing for her to take on. She would never in a million years claim to be a cleaning/organizing expert. Hence, the blog.

Ok, now that that's out of the way...our bedroom is now very neat and tidy. All the clothes are put away in dressers or the closet, the bed has the lighter summer quilt on it, *you can see the floor*, and even though we don't quite have a spot for everything yet (we do still have boxes in the room), our stacks are well contained within a small area of the room. 

It's fair to say I would not have made this much progress on my own. The checklist I had made for earlier in the week? Yeah, it totally didn't get done completely. So the fact that so much was accomplished means I must give credit to Husband and Sister (in-law) for their help. Thankfully, our hard work payed off. Our guests were impressed and pleased with our place. So are we! And it truly feels wonderful to come home to a clean house.

My goals for this week (main focus: Desk):
  • tackle the mess that is my desk
  • begin the new filing system (pictures and explanation will be provided!)
  • maintain this level of cleanliness throughout apartment
  • begin to develop long-range cleaning/organizing schedule
  • implement one or two new ideas from Real Simple Solutions
~Ms. S

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A small dose of reality

Today, my friends, marked the first day since finishing summer classes that I have really had anything of importance to do during the day. I began training for the job I'll be doing for the upcoming academic year. So upon completing my shift at the child development center (my summer job), I came home, got cleaned up, had a quick bite to eat, and it was off to a windowless room for 4.5 hours. Needless to say, it was good to have this experience now. Why? Because I did not get any cleaning done today. In fact, all I did was contribute to the mess of dishes.

Though today was busy, it was nothing like life will be come the second week of September. Not only will I be working 40 hours/week, I will have 6.5 hours of class/week, plus church choir and a church committee. Therefore, today was an excellent learning experience.

Lists are important, like I said in a previous post, because they hold you accountable. If I am going to be successful in this endeavor, I must create lists. And I must make the lists at least the night before I want to do them - a key point. My biggest problem with organization/cleaning lists tends to be that I'm over-ambitious. And let's be honest, it feel so much better to cross everything off of your list and feel like you really accomplished something, than to have even one item remaining. Knowing that I'll have about an hour - an hour and a half of time to devote to cleaning and organizing each day, my goals should be realistic.

So, for practice, my day tomorrow is even more full than today. Here is my list:

1. Do dishes
2. Unpack remaining boxes in living room and/or put them in storage (get them out of living room)
3. Sweep & mop kitchen and bathroom (because this is a very doable task that makes me feel good)
4. If time, clean and organize top of desk in living room

We'll see how tomorrow goes!

~Ms. S

Monday, August 10, 2009

Lack of Motivation

Fine, I'll admit it. I did everything possible to get out of cleaning today. This does not bode well for actually completing the project at hand. I speculate that part of the problem was that today, I had to finish my list from Friday. Everything on the list involved reorganizing and sorting. 'Reorganizing' and 'sorting' are words that make a lightbulb go off in my head, and that, in turn, elicits my flight response. Yikes. Hopefully I'll get over it?

On the plus side, I did complete the rest of my list minus the 'determine cleaning schedule for kitchen and bathroom to maintain cleanliness.' The aforementioned schedule is something that needs to wait a few more days anyway so I can see how long the cleaning I did on Friday wears over one week's time. Back on topic, though.

Today, I began with the shelf in our dining room.
The counter space our kitchen has is excellent, but there just isn't that much of it. So when my husband found this set of shelves sitting out by our dumpster, he brought them in thinking we could use them to store some of the things that would otherwise end up on the counter or in the cupboards. However, not knowing exactly how we were going to use it right away meant it was the designated 'toss-me-here' holder - a mishmash of unsorted/unfiled mail, empty dry-goods containers, old cookie decorations, uneaten cupcakes my sister brought up for a going away party this past week (in my mother's cake container), etc. Sounds like a fun shelf to tackle, huh?

Well, I'm pleased to say it wasn't as bad as initially anticipated once I actually got going. And here is the end result:

Then I did the bathroom shelves. You won't notice much of a difference because I mostly cleaned out one of my bins. It had some junk in it that would never be used, so that stuff got tossed. That was about a 5 minute project. Not even. But I will take this time to say that I wasn't sure about having these shelves in our bathroom initially. It's an awfully tall unit, and as you can see by the 'before' photo from the shelves in the kitchen, shelves like this tend to be a 'catch-all' for moi. Unlike the shelves in the kitchen, though, we organized this set from the get-go and knew precisely how we wanted it to function from the beginning. Since we were so intentional about those shelves, neither of us has had any trouble keeping them organized. It also helps that we purchased the colored bins - my husband's idea, because he hates looking at all my hair tools and products. The bins mean we can toss stuff around in there and no else has to know! Brilliant, if you ask me. You can find these colored bins at Target.

Finally, I tackled the top of the refrigerator and the spices. The fridge was not a big task, but the spices were. For our wedding, my mother in-law got us a really nice set of Tupperware spice containers. We haven't had the chance to use them until now since we've been traveling for the past year. Anyway...I have many, many more spices than there were containers for, which meant deciding which spices were worthy of containers. And then making labels and transferring the spices to their permanent storage bins. I'm very glad that task is done, however, it made me realize we need some miniature shelves for organizing the interior of that cupboard. One thing at a time, though, right?

On Saturday, I went to the Farmer's Market with my sister in-law where I picked up these lilies for our dining room table and bookshelf in the living room. They're absolutely gorgeous and smell amazing! Fresh flowers always spruce up a room.

Oh, I should mention that I told Husband about this blog and its purpose on Saturday. Do you know how excited he was? There truly are no words to describe the look of utter disbelief combined with sheer delight that transformed his face with the words 'clean and organize our home to be magazine snapshot worthy.' Do I know my husband or what? He thinks this project is absolutely amazing, so he of course wanted to check out the site immediately. The first thing he commented on? My 'About Me' section. Why? Because it's so darn true! He nearly went so far as to say had he known my true identity (aka: not an organized neat-freak), we probably wouldn't be married today, but thankfully those words never actually came out of his mouth. We simply have a mutual understanding they're there. So here's to rediscovering the neat-freak buried somewhere deep inside of me.

~Ms. S

Friday, August 7, 2009

Lists & Lessons

Day one. The cleaning process began around 11 this morning and continued until 4:30 this afternoon. It should be noted, this is the longest stretch of time I have ever spent cleaning. Normally, I get distracted after about 1.5 hours with something much more interesting and appealing - like catching up on missed episodes of tv shows online, writing in my diary, reading a great book (or a bad one). Basically anything that is not cleaning. But today was different. I woke up this morning knowing today would be a day spent cleaning and wanting very much to accomplish as much as possible. I did not get as much done as I had hoped, but it was not because I got distracted - there simply was not enough time.

Today, after arriving home from work, I began by choosing a focus, a target area, if you will. Trying to clean and organize your home to the point it's magazine ready is no easy feat. In fact, it's insanely overwhelming! Why am I doing this, again? Right, to see if it's possible. Thinking about our entire apartment and everything that needs to be done to all of our 4 rooms makes me want to fly in the opposite direction. You would, too, wouldn't you? And some of you probably have houses with more than 4 rooms! (Maybe you shouldn't attempt this until I've determined whether it's even worth it with my meager amount of space.) 

Ok, back to the subject at hand. My focus area for today was: Bathroom and Kitchen. Bathroom because it's small and always needs cleaning; kitchen because that's where my husband and I spend most of our time (we thoroughly enjoy cooking and baking). I already knew what my very first task would be: bleaching the kitchen sink and the bathroom tub. Following instructions from Real Simple's Solutions, I filled both as full as possible with hot water and added 1 cup of bleach to the sink, and 2 cups of bleach to the tub. Then I waited for 1 hour before doing anything more with them. 

In the meantime, I had a quick lunch and decided it would be smart to write out a list of things I wanted to accomplish for the day. Here's my list:

It doesn't look that big, but I learned today that cleaning and organizing are processes that take more time than I think they will. I was able to check off the following:
  • Bleach tub
  • Bleach sink
  • sweep and mop both rooms
  • clean dining room/kitchen table
  • clean counters
  • clean toilet and bathroom sink
To be fair to myself, that was half of my list. Not bad on my first day.

Once I was done writing the list, I swept and mopped the kitchen floor, and was about to begin on the bathroom floor when I encountered a problem. A major one. My tub with the bleach solution had completely drained!! It was dry, dry, dry and the hour soaking time was not up. Oh dear! Well, I only had 1/4 cup of bleach left, so I didn't fill the tub full again, but only filled it half-way and let it soak for another 40 minutes or so. Note to self: in the future, when doing something that requires soaking, make sure to check said space early and frequently to ensure there are no problems.

It was time to complete the kitchen sink, which had not encountered any problems in its soak. After draining the water and rinsing the basin, I sprinkled Baking Soda in the bottom to use as a non-abrasive cleaning agent (recommended by Real Simple).
I have to tell you, I've used baking soda when cleaning cookie sheets, drains, and other household items before, but never the sink or the tub. You need to add it to your cleaning supplies! The stains in my sink scrubbed out so easily with the baking soda. It was truly a glorious and exciting moment! (Who am I?) After a final rinse to remove any lingering baking soda, my kitchen sink is beautiful, white, and sparkling. I also had equally wonderful results with the tub.

By this time, I needed a little break from the cleaning. Not to worry! I found myself a little decorating project to occupy my time. Before my husband and I moved into our place, we lived with his sister for about 2 months. She had a little set of hooks hanging on her wall which she used to hang her keys. It was brilliant! (Ok, I know other people have these - I'm not intending to imply the key hooks are unique. Simply that we appreciated them immensely.) So one of our first purchases for our apartment was a set of hooks for ourselves. Well, we've been here nearly two months now and neither of us has even mentioned hanging them up. You see where this is going.

I placed the hooks on the wall and marked the places where holes needed to be drilled for screws. Luckily I found an electric drill in our closet - I have no idea who lent it to us because it's not ours! And then I panicked slightly when I realized I haven't had a shop class since 6th grade - about 13 years ago. 'How do I get the bit to stay?' 'Is there a little attachment for the different sizes?' My husband, dad, and grandfather would be so proud to know I figured it out on my own, and managed to use it successfully! Our key hooks are now hanging on the wall with the door harp my grandfather made resting gracefully right above them.

To complete my day of cleaning, I washed the table, the remaining dishes, the kitchen counters, and the bathroom. It was an exciting day and I feel good about what I managed to get done...but there is still so much to do! I guess there's always tomorrow. Until then here are some lessons I learned from today:

1. Wear shoes with good support. Your feet won't hate you if you do! (Mine hate me right now. Flip flops = no support.)
2. Determine a focus or target area and only worry about that room/task/area.
3. Make a list. It holds you accountable.
4. Play music loudly!
5. Take before and after pictures - you'll be impressed with yourself.
6. Tell someone what you've done so they can be really impressed, too! (Admittedly, I have yet to tell the husband, but my sister in-law was uber excited for me.)
7. There's always tomorrow.

~Ms. S

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A purpose has been found

Alright, so I've traveled to this place a number of times since its creation, only to realize I had no idea where to begin and what to write. I wanted and needed a purpose to make a reason for coming here to update this blog. After weeks of my brain pretending it was dead - always at its worst when on the topic of 'potential purpose for blog' - it finally perked up.

A goal of mine has long been to be more organized, neat, and tidy in my living space. I firmly believe I would be a calmer, more relaxed person this way. An added benefit is it would shock the pants off my husband, who is far more organized than myself. I must confess I managed to do this my senior year of college (when I met my husband, actually). I lived in the tiniest room you can imagine and maintained its spotlessness for a full 9 months, as anything out of place - even a rubberband - made the room feel cluttered and messy. It felt great to keep my living space that clean! And my husband (mistakenly) thought I was the neat, tidy, organized person I happened to be for nine months, all the time. Ha! Joke's on him. :) But I feel if I did it once, I can do it again.

Now, I also feel the need to point out here that I am a neat freak when it comes to my work space. I absolutely cannot function if my desk is not organized and de-cluttered. Which makes me wonder why this doesn't drive me bonkers in my living space...but it doesn't. At least, not until it gets really, really bad.

All of this, plus reading Real Simple's Solutions tonight, led me to my proposed 'purpose' for this blog. I think the living spaces seen in magazines like Real Simple are, amazing, clean, perfect. Every time I see pictures of them, I think to myself, 'I'd l.o.v.e. to live in a house that clean, tidy, organized, etc, etc, etc.' So, I intend to see if it is possible to get a house to that point of organized, neat, and tidy, and then if it's feasible to maintain said standards over an extended period of time. Will it be easy to get our home that standard? How will it make me feel once I get there? Will sustaining that level of organization and tidiness increase happiness and decrease stress, or will it drive myself and Husband bonkers? At the moment, I have no idea, but I intend to find out and document the process. My hope is, at the very least, this will get me off my pathetically lazy summer bum (as of late) and help keep me accountable.

Pictures and stories will start tomorrow. Uff-dah!

~Ms. S