How hard can it be to be tidy and on time? A lazy girl's quest to organise her life…

Un-decorating after Christmas

With “Twelfth Night” fast approaching, I’m starting to un-Christmas and de-tinsel the house for another year. Sob. Sob.

Fear not, here are a few ways to make the job easier and next December’s unpacking task simpler. Win! Win!

  1. Store it all in one place. Sounds simple, but it’s easy to squirrel things away in different places and then forget where you put it 11 months later. Obviously it’s depends on how much storage space you have available, but we’ve been able to set aside a corner of the loft for all things Christmas. I don’t just put all the decorations up there, but also Christmas plates, tableware and linens, leftover cards and wrapping paper, candles that I only ever seem to use at Christmas anyway, Christmas books we read to the children, novelty soap bottles and even a pair of my son’s Christmas pyjamas I’m saving for the year my daughter is big enough to wear them…Reading the list, it is clear I love a bit of festive tat!
  2. Only store the things you use. We seem to have collected three wreaths but only have one front door and I’ve been unpacking the two redundant ones every December and repacking them every January for the last few years. Madness. I’ve had a bit of a blitz this year and finally getting rid of those broken and unwanted decorations we’ve amassed.
  3. Store them safely. By using a couple of big stackable plastic boxes, you can hopefully avoid any potential damage through the year. I’ve repurposed a handbag protective bag, an old Christmas gift box and a liquitabs box to add extra protection to my decorations.20130104-230856.jpg
    If you’ve got any breakable baubles, use some old egg boxes as seen here on Babble.

    store those breakbles using egg boxes

    store those breakables using egg boxes

  4. Use roadside collection for your real Christmas tree. Some councils offer free collection of real Christmas trees with your recycling, which can save on the hassle of humping it down to the tip and getting all the needles in your car. Mine doesn’t unfortunately, but always worth checking.
  5. Make a note of who sent you Christmas cards before getting rid. Save any embarrasment next year and make a quick note of all those who sent you cards in the back of your address book, that way you’ve got a ready-made Christmas Card list. My 88 year old Nan does this, but she also almost seems to relish crossing the names out if the recipient has died that year – well stamps are so pricey nowadays!

Happy packing – watch out for those pine needles!

Sunny-day jobs – can you make the most of the sun and still clean the house?!

With my optimistic hat on, I can smell more sunshine just around the corner…!

Obviously when the sun is out, the best thing to do is get as far away from the housework and boring jobs as possible and make the most of the fleeting summer.  But there are days when the kids are happiest in their own back garden in the paddling pool, and there are ways to combine sunshine time with ticking a few things off the “to do” list.

  • Air the house – I do this on every dry morning I can anyway. As soon as everyone is awake, I fling open as many windows and doors as is safe for as long as possible. I hate a stuffy house and it is much better than any synthetic air freshener.
  • Dry washing outside – I don’t own a tumble drier, which means I dry clothes outside on any day it isn’t raining.  On really warm days it’s great to do a white wash and see what a difference the sun makes to the “white-ness” of your clothes. I’ve salvaged a fair few stained white t-shirts, babygrows and tea towels thanks to the sun’s magic bleaching rays. Sunny days are also good for washing (and drying) big bulky items that would be hard to dry otherwise, those things that we know we should wash more often – pillows, duvets, sofa covers etc.

(Image used under Creative Commons by Keith Williamson)

  • Freshen up dry-clean items – Dry days are perfect for hanging out a suit or coat that’s been lingering in the back of the wardrobe for too long. And don’t forget about any rugs, bedspreads or blankets that may not need to be washed but would benefit from an afternoon hanging in the breeze.
  • Gardening –Obvious suggestion! I hate gardening and am totally useless when it comes to anything requiring green-fingers (in fact, we pay a lovely man who is worth his weight in gold to mow the lawn and keep everything tidy). But there are still jobs like sweeping paths and a spot of weeding, which mean I’m not going to kill anything pretty, improves the look of the garden and importantly I’m outside catching those rays.
  • Clean outside things – Last weekend I spent half an hour with a bucket of warm soapy water and a couple of rags and washed down my window ledges, front and back door, garden gate, garden table and chairs and outdoor lights. It’s a quick and easy job to do in the sun and it’s amazing what a difference it makes to clean all those neglected, cob-webby outside things.
  • Clean big things – I had a bit of a spurt on last weekend, and I also took advantage of the sun by taking the high-chair and buggy to bits, had a good old scrub, hosed it all down and left it all out to dry. Cleaning big items outside means you can do it quicker and with much less mess than trying to do it inside.
  • Ironing?! – I haven’t tried this yet, but I have a friend who, with the help of an extension cable, regularly does her ironing outside on her patio. Probably not a good job to do in a bikini though!
  • Write lists – If all else fails, pull up a deckchair, sunbathe and write lists. Sitting on your behind, troffing on an ice cream feels a lot better if you multi-task and start thinking about all the rainy-day jobs you’re going to do tomorrow!

If you’ve got any more suggestions, I’d love to hear them!!!

Fridges, floors and showers….vinegar and bicarbonate of soda clean them all!!!

After discovering how amazing vinegar and bicarbonate of soda are to help clean stubborn stains in a toilet, I have been trying out the dynamite duo (quite literally – watch them fizz when they get mixed together!) on other cleaning jobs. Anything that speeds up cleaning is a winner in my books. Here are three ideas that really work…..

Fridge deodoriser – I’ve got a little pot of bicarbonate of soda sitting in my fridge, and am pretty sure it’s working well. Can’t smell anything whiffy anyway! Apparently one small pot works well for about three months, just shake it up every now and again. One blog reader commented on the toilet cleaning post about a friend recommending using bicarb to deodorise cat litter trays too.

Floor cleaner – I’ve got a steam floor cleaner and have previously added a splash of shop-bought floor cleaner into the water, but found it left streaks. I’ve started adding white vinegar instead and it definitely helps cut through dirty marks but doesn’t streak. It does leave a bit of a whiff of vinegar, but honestly it subsides in a couple of minutes.

Limescale Remover – I read about this on Pinterest…..the home of multiple vinegar tips! I used vinegar and bicarbonate of soda on our shower head this week to shift a build-up of limescale, and it made quite a good job. I’ve been reluctant to use anything super strong on my shower in case it tarnished the chrome coating, but our water is really hard and it was starting to look ugly. You just pop a cup of white vinegar in a freezer bag along with about half a cup of bicarbonate of soda, put the shower head in the bag and secure with an elastic bag. Leave it overnight and then give it a bit of a scrub in the morning. It needed a little bit more of a scrub than I had hoped, but we’re talking about quite a build-up here. I’m really pleased with the result, and because it’s more gentle than chemical cleaners will definitely be doing it on a more regular basis.

There are hundreds of ways you can use vinegar and bicarbonate of soda round the home (or so Pinterest tells me!), and I am ploughing my way through them. I’ll only recommend the ones that I think actually work. I’d love to hear any of your own tips…..

Top tips for speed-cleaning the kitchen

I wrote a post last week with tips on how to speed up cleaning, and it was really popular. So this week, I thought I’d include some speed-cleaning tips specifically for the kitchen. The trouble with kitchens is that they’re in constant use and staying on top of the mess is the only way to tackle it. No miracle solutions, little and often is the only way to do it I’m afraid!

The Sink

  • When you’re cooking, fill the sink with hot soapy water and try and clean as you go. It makes such a difference to the amount of dirty dishes left at the end of a meal.
  • If you’ve got the space and cash, a dishwasher is great. Be sure to make sure you load as you go to keep surfaces free of dirty dishes. I load through the day, put it on before I go to bed, and unload during breakfast.

More info on shining your sink, courtesy of Real Simple magazine.

  • Shine your sink a la Fly Lady (read one of my earlier posts for more info). However much I hate to admit it, having a clean and empty sink every morning does inspire you to keep on top of other jobs.  After our dinner (most nights!), I empty the sink and fill with hot water. Pop a bit of bleach into the water and leave for as long as I can before I want to crash on the sofa. After rinsing well and wiping down the taps, I dry the whole area with a tea towel and shine the shiny bits with a microfibre cloth.

The Floors

  • Have good mats at every outside door. Capturing dirt on mats saves a lot of cleaning. I like coir matting (you can get them from local carpet shops and they’ll cut them to whatever size you need), but Turtle Mats are good too. Just make sure the mats have a latex backing (to retain the dirt) and give them a good shake outside regularly.

  • Sweep up or use a hand-held hoover to help keep on top of crumbs. I try and give the floor a quick once over after every meal. I also have a packet of floor wipes that I use to spot clean if my 3 year old pest has spilt something.
  • Use a steam cleaner to wash floors rather than a mop and bucket. I hate mopping the floors, it just takes too long so I bought a steam cleaner about six months ago. Whilst it still takes me a lot longer than I’d like, it dries much quicker. I pop a bit of vinegar in the water and it helps gets the floors cleaner without going streaky (the vinegar smell subsides really quickly – I promise!)

The Surfaces

  • If you’ve got a choice, don’t opt for high maintenance surfaces in your kitchen (like wood, polished or gloss) to save on too much faff. But most of us just inherit what was in the house before we moved in.
  • Try and keep clutter to a minimum to make wiping over the surfaces as easy and quick as possible. More storage, shelving, notice boards and a major declutter can all help.
  • I use any old disinfectant spray that happens to be on offer in the supermarket for regular quick wipe-downs. Be sure to replace cloths often (you can pop dirty ones into the dishwasher).  Dry any wet patches on your surfaces (particularly round the sink) to avoid water stains.

The Oven

  • Again, given a choice I would opt for an induction or ceramic hob as they are the easiest to clean (Lazy, moi?!). Bar Keepers Friend is great for stubborn marks, just be sure it is suitable for use on your appliance.
  • I never have much success with oven cleaners and find they leave everything smeary. Oven Pride is quite good (the one that comes with a bag for your wire racks) but I think it is still quite time-consuming and tough to get everything properly clean.  My preferred way is to get the professionals in once a year! Costs vary across the country but I’ve had mine cleaned for £50 and they leave it really sparkly and as good as new.
  • To stop your oven from getting too dirty, use a liner on the bottom that you can just take out and wipe down (Lakeland sell a good one). I use tin foil to line my grill tray and baking trays (have also got some disposable foil baking trays for doing roasts which saves SO much washing up!).

Magic Oven Liner. £9.99. http://www.lakeland.co.uk

Hope these tips help! Would love to hear any more…!

Heel Protectors – Nifty or Naff?

Is this the best idea you’ve ever seen (or even mildly helpful!) or the naffest? I can’t quite decide….

Clean Heels Heel Stoppers. £6.99. http://www.amazon.co.uk

I’m talking about the heel protectors here, by the way – not the shoes!

We’re slap-bang in the middle of wedding season, and now that the weather has perked up there’ll be plenty of opportunities to “take drinks on the lawn”. I hate standing there, sipping champagne trying to look glam whilst your heels slowly sink in to the ground. Worse still, is when you start to walk off and you lose one of your shoes as it is still stuck in the grass. I’m the girl that happens to. (I’m also the girl at the wedding who comes out of the ladies with toilet roll trailing on her shoe, and I’m the one who accidentally spills drink on the bride’s dress when giving a congratulatory hug. Sophisticated to the core!)

Surely these are the perfect solution? If you just kept a pair of these in your bag and then slipped them on your heels should you need to? Obviously you’d need to remember to take them off your shoes as soon as you got off the grass; they’d look pretty hideous otherwise.

What do you think? For £6.99 a pop, I thought I would try them out at the next wedding I’m going to. Or would I look less of a fool if I just fell over on the lawn?

5 easy speed-cleaning tips

The sun is out, school holidays are under way and we’ve all got much better things to do than clean. Here are five sure-fire ways to speed up those necessary chores, so you can have more fun and less toil…

1. Get a hand-held hoover. Sadly this has proved to be one of my best ever Christmas presents. I must use it at least five times a day. It saves me hauling our large upright hoover out of the cupboard and makes light work of meal-time mess, snack crumbs, spillages. (I’m also finding al fresco dining great for keeping crumbs to a minimum!)

2. Keep microfibre cloths all over the house, and bathroom cleaners in every loo. It is so much easier to quickly clean a room if you’ve got a cloth squirrelled away in a nearby drawer. Our bedroom always gets so dusty (yuck!), and now I am so much more likely to give it quick once over every couple of days when the cloth is so handy. Same with bathroom cleaners, it’s much easier to multi-task and clean the sink whilst you’re brushing your teeth if everything is to hand. Microfibre cloths rock – if you’re not using them already, you must!

3. Quick 15 minute blasts. I’ve started setting an alarm and only giving myself 15 minutes to clean a room/do a particular job and it really works. You race through the job super-focussed, and it gives you a bit of a work out too.

4. Keep a “Donate it” and a “Sell it” box somewhere in the house. I started doing this couple of weeks ago and it is really helping with decluttering. When the boxes are full or you have more time (like when the weather turns rubbish again) you can tackle them. In the meantime it is somewhere for your clutter to go whenever you notice it. Clutter = crap you have to clean around = it takes longer to clean.

5. Never leave a room empty-handed. This is a tip I’ve picked up on one of those “habits of effective people” sites, and it works. Before you leave a room make sure you take a quick glance round and pick up the bits that don’t belong in that room and deposit it in the right room. Ideally everything in your house should have a home, but this is the real world, so I reckon even if it’s in the right room it’s a start, right?

Hope this list helps. Would love to hear more cleaning short-cuts….

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