Time and use can erode coating on dishwasher racks, causing scratches and stains on your dishes. An inexpensive dishwasher repair kit includes replacement rubber tips and an enamel coating for corroded spots. A variety of colors makes it easy--and pretty!
Who doesn't love commercial cleaning wipes?
They're wickedly convenient--but also wickedly expensive and often contain harsh chemicals.
The alternative: make your own refillable cleaning wipes!
Homemade cleaning wipes are easy to make, economical, and contain only those cleaning agents you select. Use them in the kitchen, the bathroom, or for cleaning windows.
Put homemade cleaning wipes to work for you in your organized home with our easy instructions and cleaning recipes.Homemade Cleaning Wipes Materials and Equipment Needed:
- cylindrical or tall square plastic food storage container, 10-cup capacity
- extra-large roll of paper towels
- cleaning agents of your choice (recipes follow)
- electric drill with 1/2-inch drill bit
- electric knife
- liquid measuring cups
In the garage or workshop area, place a small block of wood beneath the plastic food storage container lid. Use electric drill to drill a 1/2-inch diameter hole in the center of the container lid.
For best results, select an extra-large roll of good quality paper towels for this project. Less-expensive towels fray or shred when pulled through the holder; thicker quilted towels have greater cleaning strength and withstand more scrubbing. Even at $1.39 per roll, cost for homemade wipes will be less than 75 cents, not including the storage container.
Without removing the paper towel wrapper, use the electric knife to cut the paper towel roll into two shorter rolls. Be patient! It may take up to two minutes to cut through the towel roll and cardboard tube inside.
Remove the wrapper, and place one short paper towel roll inside plastic food storage container. Save the second roll for a refill later.
Using a liquid measuring cup, gently pour one of the following cleaning solution recipes over the top of the paper towel roll.
Place the lid on the plastic food storage container, and allow paper towels to absorb cleaning solution for 4 hours to overnight.
Open the food storage container. Gently pull the wet cardboard tube from the center of the paper towel roll and discard.
Carefully pull the end of the paper towels from the inside, where the cardboard roll had been. Thread the end of the towels through the hole in the lid, and replace the lid.
Pull gently on the exposed end to separate the cleaning wipe.Homemade Cleaning Wipes Recipes
You will need between 2 and 4 cups of cleaning solution to fill your homemade cleaning wipes container, depending on the size and absorbency of the paper towel product selected. These cleaning recipes make about three cups of solution; increase or decrease amounts if needed.General Surface Cleaning Recipe:
- 1 1/2 cups white vinegar
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup pine cleaning solution such as Pine-Sol brand
- 2 1/2 to 2 3/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
As you use the wipes, they will begin to dry out, so add more water and/or cleaning solution as necessary. Allow wipes to stand overnight before continuing to use them after adding more solution.
You may vary the strength of the cleaning solutions as necessary for your household, using more cleaning agents for a stronger wipe, less solution and more water for a milder product.
With food prices soaring and energy costs at record highs, it's time for an energy-saving tune up for your refrigerator and freezer.
Keeping food fresh--while conserving energy--can bring a helpful boost to the strained food budget.
Try these tips to minimize energy use and save money on groceries:Fill the freezer, but give the fridge some air
The freezer works most efficiently when packed as full as possible. Need to fill in some space? Tuck extra ice for cold drinks or cold-packs for summer picnics into any empty space in the freezer.
A black-out bonus: full freezers keep food frozen longer if a power outage occurs.
The refrigerator is a different animal; it needs air circulation to keep food at an even temperature.
Packing a refrigerator too tightly means some foods become too cold--and may even freeze--while others aren't kept cold enough for proper storage. Let the refrigerator breathe to keep food fresh longer.Match foods to the right microclimate
Since hot air rises and cold air sinks--and because every refrigerator has its own unique weather pattern of chilly breezes--be sure to assign foods to the right neighborhood inside the refrigerator.
A cold spot near the cold-air inlet makes a good home for meat or poultry, but will freeze and spoil a head of lettuce.
Keep produce cool, condiments cold and proteins downright chilly for longest food life.Track temperatures
A thermometer can be a key to saving money in refrigerator or freezer. Too-cold temperatures waste energy, while too-warm temps lead to premature food spoilage.
Use a thermometer to monitor refrigerator temperatures; they should be set to between 36 and 38 degrees Fahrenheit. In the freezer, shoot for a temperature range between zero and 5 degrees Fahrenheit.
Be sure to pay attention when the seasons change; a temperature setting that works well for the winter months may need to be adjusted during hotter weather.Take the "dollar bill" test
Leaky door seals are a main culprit for energy loss in both refrigerator and freezer. Improperly-sealed doors let cold air escape, making the unit work harder and cutting food quality.
Check door seals with the "dollar bill" test. Close the refrigerator or freezer door on a dollar bill. A well-sealed door will hold tight to the money; if the bill falls out, or can be slid around easily, it's time to clean or replace the door gasket.Clean condenser coils
Condenser coils do the heavy lifting of creating cold air, but they can't radiate heat properly if their surface is coated with dust or grime.
Use a coil brush or the vacuum cleaner's extension wand to clean the condenser coils behind or beneath the refrigerator.
Clean coils cost less to operate, and because they work more quickly to chill the air, keeping them clean will extend the useful life of your appliance.Find it fast with a freezer inventory //-->
Rummaging through a packed freezer in search of a pound of ground beef can waste a lot of power.
Keep visits to the freezer short, sweet and energy-efficient with a printable freezer inventory form.
It'll track what you have and let you find your frozen assets in record time--and let the freezer keep its cool for best energy savings.Printables:
This week's Cleaning Grand Plan Challenge assignment focuses on the entryway or foyer, but for the next 13 weeks, there'll be a whole lot of cleaning going on.
How to make cleaning chores fly? Learn to clean like a pro!
Brushing up on cleaning skills, fine-tuning your cleaning tote, and learning the ropes of efficient cleaning will make Challenge assignments easier.Today's Assignment:
Take Tips from Professional Cleaners
This week sees us settle into the meat of the Cleaning Grand Plan Challenge. Moving furniture, washing walls and windows, and busting dust in the entryway can be a big job.
To stay the course, you'll want to make cleaning as easy as possible.
To do so, take a tip from the pros. Professional cleaners are masters of easy, efficient cleaning methods. They don't waste time hunting for supplies, re-doing work, or cleaning areas that aren't dirty.
Get our best round-up of tips from professional cleaners to speed your way on the Cleaning Grand Plan Challenge:
The weekend's here! Time to take stock of the week's progress at the Cleaning Grand Plan Challenge.
Preview Week saw us store holiday decorations, and tidy up after last year's holiday season.
How have you fared on the Cleaning Grand Plan Challenge so far? Be sure to celebrate your progress today, as we wrap up Preview Week!Today's Assignment:
Celebrate Your Progress
Writing to you from back here behind the monitor, I can hear what you may be thinking: "Oh no! Only one week, and I'm already behind!"
Sound familiar? Signing on to a get-organized plan like the Cleaning Grand Plan Challenge is a great way to springboard personal change ... if you can avoid some common pitfalls.
Chief among these: viewing the Challenge as a competition or a race. One with winners, losers, and a ticking stopwatch.
For many of us, the week's end brings a sinking feeling. Rather than focusing on the progress we've made, we zero in on our perceived shortfalls.
We tell ourselves that we didn't "finish". We didn't achieve as much as others. We're already "behind".
Hogwash! Repeat after me: "There is No Such Thing as 'Behind'!"
The Cleaning Grand Plan Challenge is meant to be a guideline, not a board game. Every step forward is, well, a step forward!
To keep motivation flowing, refocus your vision.
Taking stock of what you've achieved this week, not on what you've "failed" to do, is the key to making steady, forward progress.
Keep that viewpoint in mind, as we work together toward a clean and organized home, each one at his or her own pace!
For many of us, it's the last evidence of Christmas Past: a piled-up heap of Christmas cards, letters and photos. Time to tuck away those holiday greetings.
Whether you'll read and recycle, or file cards and letters away, stop!
Before you consign Christmas cards and letters to their forever home, take advantage of this treasure trove of information about loved ones, friends, and neighbors.Today's Assignment
Update Address Books
To stay in touch with loved ones throughout the year, schedule a post-holiday address book update.
Sit down with planner, smartphone or computer and that big box of holiday greetings.
You may read to your heart's content, but you must make note of new addresses.
Reassess the way you keep this important information. Still scribbling and scrawling in a battered old address book? Perhaps this is the year to move contacts to the smartphone or computer.
Already there on the tech side? Take this time to prune and correct your contacts, adding home addresses to phone numbers and e-mail addresses for a more robust contacts manager.
Note any names whose holiday cards that were returned because of an incorrect address.
During the year to come, be on the lookout for a new address. Friends are too important to lose for want of correct contact information
Double-check telephone numbers. E-mail addresses make it easy to keep in touch with far-flung friends --- so check and correct them where necessary.
Finally, make note of any changes in the lives of family and friends. A new baby? Add the full name to your address book, and you won't fumble when you ask for family updates next time you chat.
Cleaning products are your closest ally in the war against grime--but they can be expensive, and their effectiveness can fall all over the map.
What's in your cleaning cupboard? Are your cleaning partners up to the job ahead?
You'll want to choose cleaning products carefully to cut time spent on chores as we work our way through the Cleaning Grand Plan.Today's Assignment
Inventory Cleaning Supplies
Deep-cleaning is nobody's idea of a great time, but we've got a lot of it ahead on the Cleaning Grand Plan Challenge.
To make your hard work count, it's time to consider cleaning supplies. Are those bottles and sprayers and cans doing their best for you?
Deep-cleaning chores are different from their everyday clean-up cousins.
Spray-and-wipe solutions work well for surface soil, but won't do the job when it comes to washing walls, cleaning and polishing furniture, or cleaning floors.
Enter our hard-working friends: specialty cleaning products for big jobs. Concentrated products, diluted and applied with cleaning cloth or sponge, make quick work of big jobs.
Even if you never stray from pop-up cleaning wipes for daily cleaning, you'll want to bring on the big guns for the Challenge cleaning assignments ahead.
Surprise! Hard-working cleaning products don't have to be expensive, and many of them are as close as your pantry.
Better, it's not necessary to buy out the cleaning aisle at the local supermarket. A short list of versatile cleaners will mop up most any assignment in the coming weeks.
Today, take inventory of cleaning products in your home.
While all of us will have slightly different challenges, most of us will want to have stocks of these cleaners on hand as we prepare for the Cleaning Grand Plan Challenge:
- light-duty evaporating cleaner (glass cleaner or multi-surface cleaner)
- heavy-duty degreasing cleaner
- tile cleaner
- powdered abrasive cleanser
- furniture cleaner (oil soap)
- furniture polish or wax
If your home includes specialty surfaces, such as stainless steel or marble, add appropriate specialized cleaners to your list.
Interested in making your own green cleaners? Try these recipes for homemade cleaning products:
For most of us, the holiday season brings a bumper crop ... of boxes!
Stacked and scattered through house, garage and storage areas, they've shipped gifts, contained new toys or encased electronics.
Now they're empty and taking up space; it's only a matter of time before they attract more clutter to join their ranks.
It's time to banish them to clear space in your organized home.Today's Assignment:
March Mailing Boxes Out The Door
They're Ghosts of Christmas Past, but camouflaged and in disguise: the boxes and containers that came into your home over the holiday season.
Are they loitering in the corners or hanging out in the garage? Time to turf them to reclaim your space!Recycle Mailing Boxes
Today, recycle mailing boxes left over from Christmas. Remove and salvage packing materials to empty the boxes.
Extra bubble wrap, packing peanuts and foam wrapping will come in handy throughout the year, so bag these items and store them in the wrap and mail center.
Once boxes are empty, use scissors or a box cutter to flatten empty boxes and add to the recycle bin, or drive them to a collection point.Declutter with a Holiday Mailing Box Challenge
Recycling is a great option, but to supercharge the war on clutter? Take the Holiday Mailing Box Challenge!
Grab one, two or all of the empty mailing boxes floating around your home. Moving room to room, fill each one with items for donation, then deliver the lot to the nearest charity collection area.
Each item you declutter today means one less thing to deal with during the rest of the Challenge. You'll kill two clutter birds with one box!
Check out more ideas for cutting clutter after Christmas:
Do you have an organized location to wrap gifts and prepare boxes for mailing? Try this tip from sister site, Organized Christmas:
A week into January, it's easy to spot our New Year's resolutions going adrift. No matter how earnestly we make them, it's hard for resolutions to survive the rapids of daily life.
Time, money and energy seem in short supply in early January, so how to keep the progress going toward that new and more organized life?
Today, take 20 minutes to recharge most New Year's Resolutions: clean out the refrigerator.
Yes, I said, "Clean out the refrigerator!" Whether you've resolved to lose weight, adopt a more healthy lifestyle, or get organized at home, a refrigerator clean-out can help.
It's the perfect way to put resolutions on the road to reality. A New Year's refrigerator clean-out will escort the last remnants of holiday treats to the garbage can and clean away the grime left behind by all that seasonal cooking. Completing the exercise, you'll reorganize food storage areas to support a new, healthy lifestyle, learn from your past shopping mistakes, and get motivated to make better buying decisions in the future.
Ready? Kick off a great New Year with a new you ... in the kitchen!
All good things must come to an end, and so it is with the holiday season.
Is the Ghost of Christmas Past still haunting your house?
Even if decorations have been boxed and banished until next year, holiday stragglers can still circle the house for weeks to come. We've got a tip to tame these last few holiday hold-outs!
It's time to haul off the holidays, and prepare for the new year on Day 2 of the Cleaning Grand Plan Challenge!Today's Assignment:
Plan to Pack Away Christmas
If you haven't done so already, this week is the time to take down the tree, store holiday decorations, and tuck away the season for another year.
Today, find time during the week for a holiday tear-down. You'll want to kick off the Cleaning Grand Plan without the extra burden of seasonal decorations!
But even if you've already stored holiday decor, Ghosts of Christmas Past can still roam the house.
Whether it's linens in the laundry room, overlooked decorations, or clearance-aisle purchases for next year, do you have a plan for holiday stragglers?
Here's a simple solution to ensure that these last few items find a good home, fast--so they'll be easy to find next year:
Ready to clean house for the New Year? It's Preview Week at the 2014 Cleaning Grand Plan Challenge!
Our 14-week Challenge kicks off with a transitional week, designed to put the holidays to bed and prepare for the organizing and cleaning projects ahead.
During Preview Week, we'll get the Challenge rolling, banish the Ghost of Christmas Past, and review the basic elements of an organized life.
Be it resolved: in 2014, it's time to live clean and serene ... in an organized home!Today's Assignment:
Calendars and Reminders Review the Challenge calendar
On this kick-off day, make a good start on your whole-house cleaning plan by reviewing the Challenge calendar. The Cleaning Grand Plan sets out a road map to a Spring-clean house, but is it the best path for you? Apartment dwellers scratch their heads when told to clean out storage in attic or basement. Multi-child families need two weeks, not one, to tackle children's bedrooms. Travel, vacations or holidays pop up to derail the week's assignments.
Here's the word from on high: that's fine! Be ready to alter the Challenge to suit your own individual circumstances. Crafting a custom plan that works for you and your household is the secret to success.
Today, review the Challenge calendar with an eye to your own needs. Be ready to alter, delete, combine or stretch the Cleaning Grand Plan to fit your preferences, your house, and your energy level.
Print the Challenge Calendars:
In the glow of the New Year, it's easy to sign on for self-improvement programs like the Challenge. The hard part? Translating that commitment to day-to-day action.
That's where reminders come in. Each day, I'll publish a reminder message to help you stay on track.
In these daily messages, we'll talk about the basic components of an organized life, share tips on cutting clutter, and remind you of the week's goals. I'll share ideas from my newest book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting Organized Fast-Track and clue you in on ways to speed cleaning chores and routines.
Today, decide how you'll receive daily reminder messages. Whether you bookmark the Cleaning Challenge home page, subscribe to e-mail reminders from Google's Feedburner service or follow us on the Cleaning Challenge Facebook page or Twitter, you'll keep up with the Challenge day-by-day.
Follow the 2014 Cleaning Grand Plan Challenge:
Imagine a genie, a butler, a secret servant at your fingertips.
Someone who remembers everything: when your kindergartner got his last round of immunizations, the name and number of that other Mom in the soccer carpool, what your second cousin named her latest baby.
Every home manager needs this informational paragon, but no one has to scour deserted beaches for a jeweled bottle.
This secret servant is called a planner--and every home manager worth her gym socks needs to have one.
What is a planner? It's a collection of information, portable and accessible.
There are only two rules for planner use: use a single planner, and take it with you everywhere. No sticky notes, no stacks or scraps of paper, no notes on the back of the phone book. One planner, surgically attached to your body. Into it goes everything, every name, address, phone number, idea and list.
Form is not important. Some home managers use simple 3-ring notebooks with our printables, while others lay out big money for creamy leather binders and pretty pre-printed pages.
Tech-minded home managers tote a smart phone in a shirt pocket or rely on cloud-synced computers to keep them on track. All of these are planners--and all will serve as a stabilizing rudder in the maelstrom of a home manager's life.
What's in a planner? Every home manager has different needs, but these are the basic components of a planner:Calendars
Calendars are the backbone of a planner. Most crucial is the date book or appointment calendar. Whether a month, a week, or a day at a time, the date book component gets you where you're going, and on time, too.
Note work schedules, children's activities, doctor appointments, class meetings, social events and the arrival of the dreaded workmen in the appointment calendar. One glance will tell you whether you can chaperone a field trip, or whether you'll be home waiting for the cable installer that day.
Annual calendars record recurring information. Birthdays, anniversaries and holidays can be recorded once and remembered forever.
Annual calendars prevent scheduling disasters. Church deacons won't schedule the annual meeting for Superbowl Sunday and Cub Scout den leaders won't hold the Blue-and-Gold Banquet during Ski Week if they create and carry an annual calendar.
Finally, planning calendars track projects and guide goals. An ambitious home redecorating plan becomes possible when broken down into weekly goals and noted on the planning calendar.
Planning calendars prepare for vacation, carry out fall cleaning, and get ready for the holidays. It's a tool to track emphasis and direction at any one time.To-Do Lists
If the calendars are the bones of a planner, to-do lists form the muscles: they get the work done. There are two kinds of to-do lists: a daily/weekly list, and a master to-do list.
Start with the master to-do list. This is a section in the planner devoted to slaying mind flies. Does your head ring with mind flies, those pesky little gotta-do thoughts? Kill them by writing them down on the master to-do list.
Order and priority aren't the issue; the function of the master to-do list is to get those buzzing thoughts pinned down where they can be dealt with.
A nifty side effect: once fixed in the master to-do list, mind flies no longer infest the brain. Peace and quiet rule the mental domain.
A sample master to-do list might look like this:
- Get a new drivers' license
- Make appointment for eye exam
- Redecorate home office
- Order new mattress
- Wash car
- Sign up for landscape design class
- Learn French
- Deliver computer donations to computer recyclers
- Return serving trays to Jackie and Betty
A good master to-do list is a mix of goals and aspirations, errands and minutia. It's Mind Fly Central, a place to put those buzzing reminders into concrete form--the first step toward reaching those goals!
Don't worry if your list stretches for pages and pages. You're killing flies! As time passes, you'll have a record of the good work you've accomplished. Looking back at all the crossed-off items boosts motivation like nothing else can.
From the master to-do list comes daily or weekly to-do lists. Frequency depends on the complexity of your life. Mothers of young children may find frequent interruptions and the demands of child care mandate a flexible weekly list. A working mom with teen children may need the more intense tracking of a daily list.
Either way, the method is the same. Use the planner's list section to record each daily or weekly list. Each list should contain the day's recurring chores--cleaning, shopping, errands--and one or more items from the Master To-Do List.
Check the master to-do list regularly, and try to slay one or more mind flies each day--and because homemaking can drown aspirations and goals, be sure to add one "next step to a goal" item to the day's list. Achieving progress toward goals can reassure that there is more to life than carpools and clean-ups!Address Book
Next-most-useful tool of a planner is the address book component. Don't stop with mere names, addresses and phone numbers! Add personal information like babies' names, birthdays, and e-mail addresses.
Computerized planner users can print Christmas card lists and mailing labels, too--but all planner users have the sweet relief of being able to remember what Susan named her new baby. Think of the brownie points for asking an old friend, "And how is little Sarah? She must be close to 18 months old by now!"
Create a special section in the planner for personal Yellow Pages forms. Unless your family name is Young, the XYZ page is a natural for these entries. Make it a rule: each time you look up a number for pizza, plumbers or party supplies, write it down in the planner's yellow pages. Next time the Senior Girl Scout sleepover is at your house, you'll be glad to know exactly which pizza parlor delivers to your neighborhood.Journal
Whether you journal for fun, for self-development or as a spiritual tool, the planner's journal section is for you. Tracking the days of your life can be fun--and most commercial planners incorporate a journal feature.Information Pages
A home manager's planner can be a Mother Lode of information, pun intended. If you need to know it, "it" needs a planner page. Some sample pages might include:
- Master shopping list
- Menu planner
- Family health record
- Phone roster of volunteer organization
- Babysitters' names and numbers
- Home dec planner, with measurements and sketches
- Travel packing checklist
- Checkbook register
- Party planning pages
- Homeschool records
- List of sewing patterns or floss numbers
- Christmas card and gift lists
- Online account usernames and passwords
- Book lists
- Videos to rent
Information pages can--and should--be highly individualistic. A mother of young children will have party ideas, play date planners, library book lists and sports informations in her planner. An empty-nest working grandmother could include book club schedules, industry contacts, or decor ideas.
Make your planner reflect you in all your individual glory!The goal is to have that magic genie at your fingertips. What information should travel with you wherever you go?
It's all grist for the planner--and the planner is the secret weapon of every organized home manager.
Whatever the form, savvy home managers harness the power of planners. After all, we have better things to do, like rear our children, love our husbands, and do our life's work.
A planner is the closest thing on earth to a magic genie. It does the dirty work, so we can focus on the important things: our families and our lives.
Don't leave home without one!
It's the magic night: a new decade dawns at midnight!
Along with the balloons and streamers come the New Years' Resolutions--it's as much a part of the celebration as the noisemakers! Will you resolve to get organized, lose weight, bring order to your home?
This year, resolve to keep those resolutions, not just make them! Try these tips from sister site Organized Christmas to make New Years' Resolutions a vehicle for real personal change:
Don't miss the free printable New Years' Resolutions tracker:Seasonal Spin
Shhh! Don't look now, but the holidays are right around the corner. Will you be ready to offer hospitality in your home?
Busy home managers have many reasons to dread entertaining, whether it's drop-in visitors or a large party. Entertaining can be costly, in time and in money. Our homes may not measure up to the standard touted in glossy furniture store ads. Often, we're unsure of ourselves in the role of hostess. Many of us didn't learn the knack at Mother's knee-yet we still measure ourselves against her yardstick.
Take heart! Changing times have brought changing ideas and standards. Entertaining doesn't need to be stressful. With an attitude adjustment and some advance planning, even the busiest home manager can entertain with ease.
Step One: Change Your Mind
The biggest obstacle to easy entertaining? Us! Too often, we have strict notions about what constitutes hospitality. We think "dinner party" and fret about whether the towels match the shower curtain-and we miss the whole point of the effort.
What does "entertaining" mean to you? Take a moment, and think of what springs to mind. Do you worry about your lack of fine china and polished silver? Do you fret about the furniture? Do you thumb frantically through cookbooks and food magazines, looking for just the right recipes? Do you vow to bar the door to guests until you've cleaned the house from attic to cellar? Time for an attitude adjustment! All these concerns are irrelevant to true hospitality.
The first step to easy entertaining is to put the focus where it belongs: on the guests. It's helpful to redefine your terms. Do you "entertain" or do you offer hospitality?
Those who entertain take aim on material things: house, food, dishes, decorations. They view each dinner party as a production that must be scheduled, coordinated and directed to perfection. The event takes place in a stage set of polished furniture, cleaned carpet and precisely-set tables. Too often, the "entertainer" is so stressed and exhausted by all the preparation that she doesn't enjoy her own party! With this mindset, entertaining is a chore, to be done as infrequently as possible.
One who offers hospitality has a different focus: her guests. To her, hospitality is about sharing. Her hospitable home welcomes visitors and draws them into the warm family circle as treasured guests. Her values put people before floral centerpieces and ironed napkins. She may engage in as much preparation as the "entertainer," but she knows that when a guest feels truly welcome, the state of the floors is unimportant.
Start by changing your mind. Will you offer hospitality this holiday season? Or will you stage an entertainment? Resolve to put first things--your guests--first on your list. Armed with this mindset, you'll avoid the perfectionist traps that stand ready to snare the entertainer.
Step Two: Prepare For The Unexpected
Do-ahead preparations will take the stress out of drop-in visitors, and free you to enjoy visits from unexpected guests. Purchase or prepare hospitality supplies: crackers, some good cheese (the smellier the better to deter grazing children) frozen cookies or slices of cake. Child-proof the latter by wrapping aluminum foil and labeling as "liver and onions" before you freeze!
Keep a stock of good tea bags and coffee on hand, and assemble a teapot, sugar bowl and creamer, and several good teacups in one spot. Invite your guests to join you in the kitchen as you swish about efficiently, assembling a welcoming snack!
Step Three: Be A Smart Party Planner
When it comes to parties, nothing beats the power of planning. For holiday parties, that principle is twice true.
If you're going to throw a holiday party, begin early. The busy holiday season is the very last time you want to experience pre-party chaos.
Try this 10-point holiday party game plan:
- Set the date. Be creative! Holiday parties don't necessarily have to take place on the two Saturdays before Christmas, or even during the busy pre-holiday period. Our familoy celebrates Twelfth Night, holding our annual holiday bash the first weekend after January 1. Our friend Marianne has carved out the Tuesday evening between Christmas and New Years Day for her special dinner party. CEO's Mom throws an annual Texas New Year's party on New Year's Day. All three functions have become institutions, parties that guests look forward to attending year after year. Schedule your party around a less-traditional date, and guests are much more likely to be able to attend.
- Make a Master Guest List. The single most important piece of paper for party planning is the guest list. List guests, and record acceptances and regrets. A party planner must know who and how many will be attending. Print Party Planning Forms from the Organized Christmas Forms Library, including a party budget, guest list and. party planner form.
- Get the word out early. The holiday season is a busy time. Make sure your guests know about your party in time to attend. Send invitations at least 4 weeks early for holiday parties.
- Plan food and drink. What refreshments will be offered at your party? Start a party menu list. One important bit of information is to plan serving sizes. How many of each appetizer should you include for each guest? In CEO's experience, this quantity will vary depending on where you live. Folks on the West Coast tend to take only a nibble of everything, but in the South, food is much more important. As a general rule? Plan for ten total appetizers per guest, but be prepared to ratchet that number up or down depending on where you live. Same principle applies to beverages.
- Rehearse your recipes! Would-be hostesses can be seduced by the power of print. Don't be caught trying new recipes from holiday cooking magazines on party day! If you're going to serve a recipe you've never made before, be sure you test it before the party. Better, keep things simple, using tried-and-true favorites. A holiday party is no time to debut fancy recipes. What's hum-drum to you will be new and interesting to your guests.
- Map the party. Decide where you'll set up beverages, food, and decorations. Try to space food and drink so that guests don't knot up around one table or in one room. Spread things out, and everyone will be more comfortable. If you need to rearrange or remove furniture, make a note now so you can delegate the job on Party Day.
- Make your house party-friendly. Too many times, party-givers succumb to a frenzy of cleaning and home improvements. Instead, clean only the public areas of the house, and forget about overkill like cleaning carpets and drapes. Only exception? Bathrooms. Make sure bathrooms are sparkling, as this is the area where guests will get a close look at your home. Have a coat closet or hanging rack available for outerwear and handbags. Store delicate bric-a-brac that could be broken if bumped or jostled. Provide lots of napkins and coasters. Make it easy for guests to have fun!
- Smooth the path to Party Night with a countdown plan. Counting back from the time of the party, plan how you'll get the work done. Think through everything you'll need to do to prepare for the party and schedule each chore. Set aside time for shopping, to prepare appetizers, do any final cleaning, and set up beverage centers. Look hard at your list, and DOUBLE the time allotted to each chore. On Party Day, you'll be glad you built in extra time for yourself.
- Enjoy your party! Once the doorbell rings, resolve to let go of logistics and enjoy your guests. Wherever you are in the preparation process, stop right there and let the party happen. Don't fuss around doing the last bits of this and that. Your guests would rather visit with you than eat that one last tray of baked hors d'oeuvres.
- Handle mishaps with grace. Every hostess in the world has had disasters, large or small, mar a party. How you respond to problems determines whether your guests are made comfortable or are embarrassed. Someone spills red wine on a white carpet? A hospitable hostess smiles as she quickly dumps salt on the stain, reassures her guest and moves on. Somebody who grabs towels and carpet cleaner and fusses and moans makes everyone uncomfortable.
Step Four: Practice Holiday Hospitality
This year, resolve to add the joys of hospitality to your holiday celebration. Practiced properly, hospitality is an art and a ministry-and it gives more to the giver than the recipient.
During the holidays, stretch a little. Reach out to the people around you, and move outside your comfort zone. Invite the new neighbors to a pick-up dinner with your family. After church, introduce yourself to the older couple you don't know well. Encourage your teens to bring their friends home for a cookie bake, and enjoy a noisy evening getting to know your children's friends.
Hospitality isn't about house, food or furniture. It's about heart. This holiday season, open the door to your heart, just a crack. You will be blessed, indeed!
Are you ready to cook once, eat for a month? Time to try freezer cooking!
The concept of freezer cooking goes by many names. Once-a-month cooking. Frozen assets. OAMC. Meal assembly. Each describes the practice of assembling partially-prepared entrees in bulk for freezer storage.
Made in multiple and needing only reheating or final preparations, freezer meals are an easy way to feed the family fast ... and cheap.
Because you make several meals at once, economies of scale speed cooking chores. Buying in bulk saves money. Home preparation fosters better nutrition.
Better still, options like "meal assembly franchises" help home cooks build frozen assets quickly.
While pricier than home-prepared freezer meals, a cooking session at a franchise like Dream Dinners® or Super Suppers® can stock the freezer and teach freezer cooking methods to be used at home.
Whether you cook once and eat for a month, sneak up on freezer cooking, or fill the freezer from the meal assembly franchise, get ready to feed the family--fast!---with our complete guide to freezer cooking.
Ready or not, here it comes: the 2013 Organized Christmas Countdown begins on Sunday, October 27.
This six-week holiday planning countdown from sister site OrganizedChristmas.com is fun, it's free--and is designed to help you get ready for Christmas in good time for the celebration.
Led by author and organizing expert Cynthia Ewer, we'll work together to create a calm, stress-free holiday season for ourselves and our families. By breaking down Christmas preparations into small, easy-to-finish tasks, the Countdown will see us to the first weekend in December, prepared and ready for Christmas.
Beginning Sunday, we'll start the six-week Countdown. Week by week, we'll break down holiday prep into easy-to-complete checklists, build a printable Christmas planner, and read inspiring daily messages to keep us motivated and in tune with the holiday spirit.
Want to get Countdown updates in e-mail? Subscribe to Christmas Countdown by e-mail.
Ready to get organized for a great holiday season? Here we go! The 2013 Christmas Countdown starts on Sunday, October 27 ... see you there!
Imagine the television pitch:
"Special offer! Not sold in stores! The amazing Household Wonder Worker will take your house from chaos to castle in only 21 days. It'll speed your cleaning, calm your chaos and cut your clutter. Don't wait! Get it today--and put our 21-day Household Wonder Worker to work for you!"
You say you have the phone in one hand and a credit card in the other? Sounds that good, does it?
Sorry, television viewers. Yes, the Amazing Household Wonder Worker is the most powerful secret weapon in the war against disorganization and clutter--but you can't buy it, not in stores, or anywhere.
You have to build your own, but it's free for the making.
Put it to work for you, and it'll lead you, step-by-step, out of the darkness of disorganization and into the light.
The Amazing Household Wonder Worker? Habit.Let the Force Be With You
Such a small word for such a powerful force. "Habit" seems mild, benign--fussy, even. Yet a habit works like a snowball, perched at the top of a snow-covered mountain. It takes a tiny little effort to push the snowball over the edge, but look out! By the time it reaches the bottom, that little habit has the momentum and effect of an avalanche.
So, too, with the habits we build into our lives. Tiny little changes, unnoticed in themselves, have a momentous effect on our house, our family, our lives.
What's the secret? Momentum. It takes energy and thought to form a good habit, much like it takes energy and intention to push that little snowball over the edge. Once in place, however, a habit gains in strength and effect with each repetition, building all the power of an avalanche behind it. Put a platoon of good habits to work for you, and you'll triumph in the war against chaos and disorganization.Anatomy of a Habit
Not that habits are mysterious things. We all have a brace of them, for good or bad. Does each day begin with two cups of coffee and the newspaper? Habit! Are you accustomed to fueling weekly grocery shopping trips with a maple bar from the supermarket bakery? Habit! Do you always place your handbag on the floor of the car, behind the driver's seat? There's that habit again!
If habits are familiar creatures, why are they so very difficult to start--or to change? Go back to that snowball. Yes, it's a bit of a nuisance to make it, isn't it? You have to get your hands wet and cold and numb, and pack the snow tightly. You must perch the snowball on it's ledge just so, and then give the silly thing a push. Once you do, though, look out!
The analogy explains why good habits can be so difficult to start, and bad habits so difficult to end. Setting up good habits means creating conscious, intentional change. Ending bad ones means countering the tremendous, built-up force of a thousand repetitions.Make a Habit to Stop a Habit
How do you form a good habit? The concept is simple: decide what you want to do, and do it each day for 21 days.
[To this writer's knowledge, the 21-day time period first appeared in pop psychology via Dr. Maxwell Maltz, author of The Power of Psychocybernetics. A plastic surgeon, Dr. Maltz noticed that it took 21 days for amputees to cease feeling phantom sensations in the amputated limb. From that somewhat obscure beginning, the 21-day phenomenon has evolved into a staple of self-change literature. Something of a habit, you might say.]
If the idea is simple, the devil is in the details. Making a new habit is hard work! Each new habit--so simple, so sanguine--must turn aside the formidable energy of an entrenched old habit to survive.
Old habits are not so easily dislodged! In practical terms, fresh new habits must be tended carefully and guarded from intruders. During their infancy and youth, good habits can be extinguished by a single episode of "Mañana, mañana--I don't wanna!" You have to cherish the new, good habit and fight the old bad one at the same time.On the Trail of Good Habits
If you're ready to put the power of habit to work for you, try these strategies for organized success:
- Go slow! Remembering the power of a mature habit will help keep you from the first and biggest mistake: biting off more than you can chew, habit-wise. Remind yourself that you're building a powerful friend. It's better to build a single helpful habit than try for a total overhaul of life--and fail.
- One thing at a time! Changing a habit takes undivided energy and commitment, so tackle habits one at a time. Only after you've established a new habit should you move on to another. Take heart, though. With 52 weeks in each year, you can build 17 new habits and still take two weeks vacation before the year's end!
- Hitch your habit to a star! A new habit stands a better chance of survival if it has a friend. Think of a current habit as a locomotive engine, and add the new one to the train. Do you put your toddler down for a nap at 2 p.m. each day? That's a perfect "prompt" to build your new habit--30 minutes of daily inspirational reading--into your schedule at 2:05 p.m. When it comes to habits, remember the lesson of the Little Engine That Could and hitch your habit to a star. "I think I can, I think I can" will soon become "I knew I could!"
- Seek out support! When it comes to building habits, a support network is worth a thousand words. Trade "nags" with a friend: you hold her accountable, she holds you accountable as you work on new habits together. Look for online "habit buddies" to conquer tough habits side-by-side. Include support people in the new habit itself, where possible. Have you decided to walk for 45 minutes each day? Walking with a neighbor or a spouse will double the motivation (and the fun!).
Habit is the one organizational tool that you don't need to buy--and it's the most powerful in any home manager's arsenal. Pump up your habits ... to get organized!
Here at OrganizedHome.Com, we hear the cry every week: "Help! I'm drowning in clutter and don't know where to begin!"
Whether it's due to poor habits, a packrat spouse, or an advanced case of affluenza, too many home managers struggle under the burden of household clutter.
Clutter can clog the smooth workings of any home, imposing heavy costs on the household.
Each day, time is lost searching for missing keys, phones or permission slips. A cluttered desk plays Hide The Credit Card Statement, yielding up the bill only after late fees are invoked. Belongings lost to clutter must be replaced, with the original surfacing just as soon as the replacement enters the house. Gotcha!
Time to declutter! But when you're peering over piles, mounds and stacks of stuff, it's hard to know where to begin and what to do.
Our complete guide to cutting clutter at home is here to show you where to start, share basic methods to cut clutter, and outline tips to keep clutter from coming back.
Ready? Let's cut the clutter in your organized home!
It's silent. It's sneaky. It creeps about in corners: clutter! When the state of the house aggravates you to your last nerve, it's tempting to launch an all-out battle in the war against clutter.
First, though, know your enemy!
There are as many reasons for household clutter as there are clutterers. As Pogo says, "We have seen the enemy, and he is us!"
Take aim on your household's clutter problem by going to the root of the problem: your own thinking.
What's your clutter personality ... and which of these internal voices strikes a chord?The Hoarder: "This might come in handy someday!"
Hoarding is rooted in insecurity, financial or otherwise. Deep down, Hoarders fear that they'll never have the resources they need if they let go of any possession, no matter how worn, useless or superfluous.
If cabinets and closets are crammed with egg cartons, cracked margarine containers, and old magazines, there's likely Hoarding behavior underlying the clutter.
Hoarders need to be remind themselves that resources will always be available. Where can a Hoarder look outside the home for a substitute Hoard?
Reassure yourself! Stuff will be with us always. Look around, you'll find that magazines are indexed at the library, kitchenware is marked down at yard sales, and every small appliance known to man can be found (cheap!) at the thrift store.
Think of these off-site treasure troves as attenuated household storage areas ... and dare to dump it!The Deferrer: "I'll think about that tomorrow!"
Those of the deferral mindset are guilty of the great set-aside. Bills, notices, old newspapers, items that need cleaning or repair, and household projects are all set aside to be dealt with another day.
The Deferrer will leave dinner dishes in the sink, wet laundry in the washer, and dropped fruit underneath the backyard apple tree.
Deferrers need to be reminded that tomorrow has no more time or energy than today--and that putting off decisions drags down each new day with yesterday's unfinished business.
Since this behavior is grounded in procrastination, apply the best remedy: action. For Deferrers, simply making a start creates the momentum needed to finish the job.
Remember, it's easier to keep a rolling stone in motion, than it is to pick it up and start it rolling the first time!The Rebel: "I don't wanna and you can't make me!"
Somehow, it's all Mom's fault. Rebels were forced to pick up after themselves as children; as adults, they're still expressing the mute and stubborn determination of a four-year-old who refuses to pick up his toys.
Rebel clutter can be anything, but often centers on household activities. No, the Rebel won't put his or her clothes in the hamper, cereal bowl in the dishwasher, or car in the garage--even when the clothing gets wrinkled, the cereal bowl hardens into yellow goop, and the car gets damaged by roadside traffic.
Rebels need to remind themselves that the war is over. They don't live with Mom anymore--and their own family deserves an adult on the job, not a sulky child.
Tell that inner Rebel, "It's okay--I'm the parent now, and I want a house that's nice to live in. By switching places with the old authority figure, the Rebel can find a way out of "I don't wanna!"The Perfectionist: "Next week, I'll organize everything--perfectly!"
Perfectionists are wonderful people, but they live in an all-or-nothing world. They do wonderful things--when they do them!
Perfectionism forms an inner barrier to cutting clutter because the Perfectionist can't abide doing a less-than-perfect job.
Without the time to give 110% to the project, the Perfectionist Clutterer prefers to let matters--and the piles of stuff--slide.
For example, plastic food containers may be overflowing their cabinet, but the Perfectionist Clutterer won't scrabble them to rights until he or she can purchase the perfect shelf paper, lid holder organizer, and color-coded labels. As a result, the massed and crowded containers stay put, falling down onto the feet of anyone hapless enough to open the cupboard door.
Perfectionist Clutterers need to remind themselves of the 20-80 rule: 20% of every job takes care of 80% of the problem, while fixing the remaining 20% will gobble 80% of the job.
By giving themselves permission to do only 20%, Perfectionist Clutterers get off the dime and get going. Read more about What's Your Clutter Personality Type?
Once again, I mark the coming of autumn with a clothing closet declutter.
I wade into the closet and find the boxes of out-of-season clothing. Try everything on, skin itching at the touch of wool when the temperature's 80 degrees.
Sort the summer's keepers from items to donate. Look for "holes" and orphans in my autumn wardrobe. Count the upcoming dinners and holiday events, and divide them by the number of my party dresses. Try, for the 900th time, to locate some good transitional outfits: cool enough for warm autumn days, but not too summery or too bare.
A closet declutter is more a ritual celebration of the change of seasons. It's a time for reflection, a time to face up to changing identities. Who's living in your clothes closet?Multiple personalities
Why is it that the clothing closet declutter hits harder than neutral zones like the linen closet?
Perhaps it's because we store more than clothing in our closets. We store other selves, other lives, other dreams.
We store the romantic Laura Ashley dress (with flowing gathers) that we hoped to wear early in a pregnancy that never came to be.
We store the business suit, purchased to launch a new career. It supported us staunchly as we made our first few client calls--but then we grew confident, and no longer needed the magic of a power suit.
Look in any clothes closet. Behind the hangers and shelves and boxes lies a second reality.
To declutter a clothing closet, you can't stop with the clothes. You have to move on to the clutter of the psyche that lies behind the possessions.Of two minds
To clean and declutter a clothing closet, you need two mind-sets: one decisive, one sentimental.
Yes, you must do the conventional, and bring clutter-cutting decision-making to the job. Empty the closet, sort the out-of-season clothes and box them up for storage.
Try on everything that's left, and donate or sell anything that doesn't fit, that's out of style, that hasn't been worn in a year. Hang the survivors according to weight and color, and look out for good combinations for outfits.
The second mind-set, though, is more personal. It's sentimental and wistful and nostalgic. A seasonal closet declutter brings you face-to-face with some of the old selves that must now be dispensed with, like the worn-out clothes in the "donate" bag.
These flowered summer shorts? They belong to another person, one who lived in the South (and had to compete with the azaleas to get noticed). The '90s-era blazers with suited skirts? Another century, another career, another personality.
Decluttering the clothes closet means saying good-bye. It means relinquishing hold of the cast-off shells of who we used to be. It means confronting the changes of age.
But it also means greeting the new and developing person we are now, today, this moment.
To come to terms with the conundrum, balance the memories of the past with an encouraging glimpse of the future.
Will the new hand-loomed jacket come to stand for a new career, an exciting new venture? Will this party dress eventually remind the wearer of many happy evenings with husband and friends?
Reassure yourself! The new wardrobe, like the old, will acquire its own patina of memory and experience.
Autumn closet declutter. Look back for a moment . . . but set your sights ahead. There's a whole new season dawning! Read more about Seasonal Clothing Declutter: Who's Living In Your Closet?
Is it time to clean? Not for today's busy families!
Between work, children's activities, and vacation plans, even the most leisurely days don't seem long enough to get everything done at home.
There's a solution for busy times! Just as your body needs a "minimum daily allowance" of vitamins and minerals, an organized home needs a minimum of maintenance and attention to keep running smoothly.
Think of this as a Magic Minimum: a short list of essential household tasks. It's a bottom-line list of chores and activities necessary to keep things running at a basic level.
With a working Magic Minimum plan, the household stays afloat, even when time is short.
What's on the list? Every family has slightly different needs, but most Magic Minimum checklists provide for these functions:
- basic accounting chores: bank deposits and bill-paying
- meals and menus: clean dishes, grocery shopping
- laundry: necessary clean clothing
- home management: once-a-day pick-up, weekly cleaning of bathrooms and kitchen
To make your own Magic Minimum plan, list the rock-bottom essential maintenance chores necessary to keep the household clean, fed and on time.
A sample checklist might look like this:
- Load and run dishwasher
- Tidy kitchen
- Run one load of laundry, fold and put away
- Family pick-up time
- Review checkbook and pay bills
- Shop for groceries
- Vacuum living areas
- Clean bathrooms
Next step: delegate! Assign one or more minimum chores to each family member. Every family member has a stake in keeping the household functioning, so everyone should be expected to help with the chores. Working together, everyone will be free for family fun in record time.
Finally, post your Magic Minimum list in a public place.
Families using a household notebook will include their list under the "home management" divider.
Other families will post their list to the family command center, while another time-honored choice is the refrigerator door, but use whatever area is central to your family.
The written list aids accountability, because everyone knows what must be done before anyone can leave for a trip to the water park.
Give your household a Magic Minimum to maximize your family's opportunities for good times! Read more about Magic Minimum: Cleaning Secret of Organized Families