Posted in Timely Tips

Household Uses for Lemons

Remove odors from garbage disposal – Cut up a couple of lemon slices into quarters, drop in, turn on the cold water, run the disposal for about 20 seconds. Odors gone! Once it has stopped churning, be sure to reach in and remove any rind pieces not ground up.

Remove lime scale from drain board and taps – Use half a lemon to rub over them. Leave a minute, rinse, and shine with a dry cloth.

Exfoliate and clean your feet – Mix up some lemon pulp and brown sugar, rub. Rinse and moisturize. This could be especially good to do as summer approaches and we may want to walk around barefooted!

Highlight your hair – This is much better for you and for the environment than commercial bleaches. Mix the juice of one lemon with one teaspoon salt, and comb it through your hair. Get out into the sun for a couple of hours. Note – don’t do this too often, as it will dry out your hair. How often, then? Depending on your hair, perhaps every couple of weeks.

Keep fruits from browning – Add lemon juice to freshly cut apples or pear slices to keep them from turning brown.

Repel weeds – Sprinkle lemon juice around areas in the garden to repel weeds, though not near plants you want to preserve.

Cat Pee Repellent – If your cat has a favorite chair or sofa that it likes to use as a litter box, make a lemon-water mix and lightly spray it on the spot. The cat won’t go there again.

Posted in Timely Tips

Surprising Items to Put in the Dishwasher

Since it’s spring (or trying to be, here in rainy Vermont), here are some (not-necessarily-just-spring-cleaning) tips about items you can put in the dishwasher. Some will be surprising!

Top Rack
• Baseball hats: Set your dishwasher to the least warm temperature setting and be sure to turn off the drying cycle, which can damage hats. Forms to help hats keep their shape are available through some retail businesses, but that’s not necessary if you remove hats and reshape them for drying. 
• Light switch covers: Once a year, unscrew them all for a good cleaning. Be sure to put the screws in a safe place so you don’t lose them.
• Hair brush: Use your fingers or a comb to pull out as much hair as possible, so the drain won’t get clogged.
• Flip flops: Wash away dirt and grime in a quick cycle.
• Plastic succulents: It can be nearly impossible to dust a fake succulent — especially where the leaves connect. Luckily the dishwasher can hit all those hard-to-get places.
• Sponges: You may have heard that you can microwave a sponge to sanitize it, but that actually is a fire hazard. A safer bet? Place it in the dishwasher with your regular load of dishes.
• Plastic toys: Did you know that plastic toys (that don’t use batteries) can be sanitized in the dishwasher?
• Silicone oven mitts: All things silicone can go in the dishwasher, which means your mitts can get a bath.

Bottom Rack
• Refrigerator shelves: You could take these out and scrub them by hand, or you can more easily wash them in the dishwasher. Smaller shelves will fit standing up (like your plates), but a bigger shelf might need to lay across the rack. 

Utensil Holder
• Ceramic cabinet hardware: These knobs are notorious for collecting germs. Also, if they have textured patterns, the grooves might collect even more unwanted “friends.” Instead of scrubbing them with a toothbrush, unscrew and place them in the utensil holder of the dishwasher.

Posted in Mental Clutter, Planning Ahead, Reduce, Timely Tips

Seemingly Random Organizing Tips – Oldies but Goodies

A few days ago, I came across excellent tips in a file. Here’s a sampling from the archives.

Since clutter tends to expand to fill the space “allowed” for it, move items from your junk drawer into the smallest drawer in the room. Keep miscellaneous storage bins small to keep them from overtaking your rooms and closets.

Creating a to-do list is a great first step, to get things off your mind and onto paper. The second step is crucial – schedule appointments with yourself to actually accomplish the written tasks. Checking them off, or crossing them out, can be surprisingly satisfying. Try it. You might like it!

When dealing with paper, have as few file categories as possible. Instead of, say, a file for paid cable bills, consolidate all paid bills into a file for the year. The more streamlined system also will keep your drawers less crowded.

As previously suggested, collect bills that are tax-related in a file for the year’s taxes. They could include child care, education, medical bills. Also add to the file – charitable donations, online purchases for paying state sales tax. (Yup – I’m honest about that!) Keeping a file of tax-related information, and adding to it all year, might help to make filing your taxes a bit less “taxing.”

Do you forget your lunch? Leave grocery lists on the counter? (I can’t count the number of times I’ve done that…) Solution – place your car keys on top. You likely won’t get far without them.

Posted in Kitchen Organization, Timely Tips

Caring for Wood in the Kitchen

While oiling a favorite wooden spatula this morning, I thought to write a Timely Tip about it. I prefer it to silicone, since wooden utensils won’t scratch pots and pans. Wood also won’t leach chemicals or chemically react with hot food. Here are some care suggestions for your wood utensils and/or cutting boards.
¥ DON’T put wood utensils or cutting boards into the dishwasher. The intense steam and extended time in hot water will crack the wood.
¥ DON’T let the utensils sit in water to soak for extended periods of time.
¥ DO wash the utensils in hot, soapy water fairly quickly after use.
¥ DO pat the utensils dry with a cloth and let air dry.
¥ DO rub with a slice of lemon and let air dry if any strong flavors have seeped into the wood.
¥ DO apply mineral oil to the wood to prevent it from drying out and cracking. If you’ve not done it before (if old or new), do it once a week for a month, then once a month for a year, then yearly for life. You likely can find inexpensive mineral oil at your local hardware store. I pour a bit onto cutting boards, then spread using paper towels. For utensils, a bit on paper towels, then rubbed around does the trick. Everything will look great, and nice patterns may emerge that you hadn’t seen before.

Posted in Timely Tips

Nine Easy Habits to Make You Happier at Home

We all know that being happy at home isn’t just about filling it with objects we love. You can find new satisfaction there by adding a few simple practices to your routine and, before you know it, these habits will refresh your life, both inside and outside your walls.

From starting your day off on the right foot, to carving out “me time,” to taking care of chores in the moment — it’s the little things in life that go a long way. The best part is that they are so easy to do you can start adding them today!

1. Wake up early – even if you don’t have to.

2. Make your bed right away – for a tidy start to the day.

3. Fuel up with a real breakfast.

4. Wash, dry and put away dishes – or place them in the dishwasher – as soon as you’re done with them.

5. Carve out a bit of “alone time” for yourself.

6. Especially effective during the winter, lift your spirits and add some beauty to your home by buying fresh flowers, even if just a relatively inexpensive bouquet from the grocery store. Maybe split it up and place some flowers in each room. To keep them fresh for as long as possible, change the water daily and snip the stem bottoms on the bias, so their cells can best absorb the fresh water. I often get them at a well-known national discount grocery store. They usually last for two weeks!

7. Take a walk, to keep your body and mind active.

8. Read something every day.

9. Share your home with others.

Posted in Suggestions, Taming Clutter, Timely Tips

A Simple Way to Conquer Clutter

Here’s a nifty suggestion just read online. Happy to pass it along.

If you’re always surrounded by seemingly endless piles of clutter — old catalogs and magazines, empty envelopes, the recycling and more — you might benefit from a shortcut to help conquer your clutter. This simple solution might not seem like much, but it could be just the trick.

Keep a small trash can, recycling bin or container in every room of your home. That might seem like a lot of trash cans, perhaps even unnecessarily so. Maybe de-cluttering and keeping your life free of unneeded things is more about making the process as uncomplicated and stress-free as possible. Maybe you let clutter stack up around the house because you can’t get into the habit of bringing stuff to the trash can or recycling bin. (Or maybe you get distracted on your way to toss things.) Maybe you skip getting to tasks you need to start because you’ve got to get over the hump about tossing them out.

Is it not trash or recycling that’s cluttering your life? If so, then you might use this suggestion in a slightly different way. Place “back home” baskets in each room.  They’re containers where you might put items that don’t belong there, to be brought back to their rightful places later on. Example – you find your car keys in your pocket while in your bedroom. Into a basket they might go, until they’re back to your back pack, purse, wall hook, or other “home” where they normally “live.”

If your goal is to reduce the amount of stuff you have, period, this idea could work with “out boxes,” where you might put items to toss, donate, or give away to others, presuming that you don’t add to their clutter.

The trick for making this work (and to avoid the containers becoming clutter piles themselves) is to schedule a consistent time each week to deal with each bin, back-home basket or outbox. That way, they won’t become added clutter. Bonus points – you’ll smile and maybe feel that you’ve accomplished something. You will have!

Posted in Testimonials

I worked with Ellen Gurwitz for two Saturdays. Under her guidance and logical approach, we turned my depressing basement from Clutter and Grunginess into Order and Cleanliness. It is nothing short of a miracle. Now I take all my friends down to see my basement!

For 29 years, everything that didn’t have a home found a home in the basement, along with drifts of dust and cobwebs. Now only those things that I want and need have a place in the basement. I feel that a breath of fresh air has entered my spirit. – Ann


Posted in Timely Tips

Spring Cleaning – During the Winter

It’s been a dreary weekend here in the northwestern part of Vermont, with thick clouds, some drizzle, fog, and temperatures in the 30s. There’s no snow in the valley areas, so no opportunities for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing.

While swimming laps yesterday morning, I thought about spring cleaning. If needed, why not do it now? The holidays are over, so lots of stuff that might need to be tossed, recycled, or given away, might still be around.

Why not spring clean now, instead of in the spring, when it might be more fun to be outside? Do the kitchen cupboards need attention? Do they hold old food? Might they be cleaned?

How about putting on some favorite music and getting it done? Maybe reward yourself when finished. Would a phone conversation with an old friend be satisfying? How about some time with a book and a favorite tea? Surely, you can think of something to warm your heart.

It might be worth your consideration. You’ll smile.

Posted in Clever Re-Uses, Timely Tips

Toothpaste – Not Just for Your Teeth Anymore

Here are some downright nifty tips found online for how to use toothpaste; that is, beyond its normal way. It also can help to clean your house, remove stains, fix scuffed shoes and scratched phones, and even polish your favorite jewelry. Here’s how:

Polish your jewelry. To make your jewelry (yes, even diamond rings) sparkle and shine more, put some toothpaste on an old, clean toothbrush and gently scrub away any dirt and grime. When you’re done, clean off excess toothpaste with a damp cloth.

Clean gunk off your iron. Rub some toothpaste on the bottom plate of the iron and wipe it off with a damp cloth. Of course, be sure that the iron is unplugged and cool before you do it.

Brighten up your car headlights. If your headlights are looking dull and grimy, you can use toothpaste to clean them up. As long as your headlights aren’t glass (toothpaste won’t be abrasive enough), you can scrub your headlights with some toothpaste and a rag, using slow and steady motions. Rinse off with water when you’re done.

Deodorize hands after cooking. Toothpaste can remove the smell that cooking fish or chopping onions leaves behind on your hands. Just rub it on your hands and rinse it thoroughly.

Remove scuffs from your shoes. To get scuffs and marks off canvas-covered shoes, apply a little bit of toothpaste to a clean cloth and gently polish them away. Wipe off any residue with a clean damp cloth, and let dry when finished.

Take out carpet stains. Rub toothpaste into stains on your carpet, then rinse or wash as usual.

Fix a scratched phone. Dab a little toothpaste onto a soft cloth or cotton swab, then gently rub it in (in circular motions) until the scratches seem to be gone. Then, use a slightly damp cloth to wipe off any excess toothpaste.

Posted in Holidays, Timely Tips

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Admittedly, I’ve posted the following suggestions before. They’re still of use; at least, I think so. Happy holidays!

It’s the holiday season and all that goes along with it – happy gatherings, glorious music, decorations, lights and, of course, presents. Wearing my de-cluttering “hat,” here are some suggestions to perhaps decrease your own and perhaps others’ clutter, too.

Reduce. Many people already have enough stuff. What to give? For something memorable, how about something intangible, like a special restaurant meal, or an experience. Yes, this is a repeated idea, but still feels valid. Concert tickets? A hot air balloon ride? Or, how about an especially good bottle of wine, with the promise to share it over an equally impressive homemade meal, including a truly decadent dessert? A built-in bonus – time together which, in these increasingly busy times for many of us, is precious. Perhaps save this gift for the New Year, after all of the holiday busy-ness, when you might be able to relax and enjoy it more.

Reuse. Another reprised suggestion, but what to do with all of that newly-used wrapping paper? Sure, while responsible to recycle it, you also can use it again. How, since it might look less-than-wonderful now? If you have access to a shredder, run it through, then save it for padding when storing fragile ornaments. Or, if you’ll have to send boxed gifts in the near future and have storage space, you might bag it for when the time comes. Another easy reuse – as written, egg cartons are great to snugly store ornaments.

Recycle. Yourself. Yes, by donating blood, also suggested before. Donation centers experience drops in contributions at this time of year, though the need remains constant. Even if you can’t stand needles, and I’m no fan, it’s not all that bad. It normally takes ~45 minutes, and you’ll feel good for having done it – like voting! The Red Cross will be grateful for your help.