I’m finally decluttering and organizing my kitchen. Click the images to see them up close and personal.
I’ve only just begun, but look at what I’ve already gotten rid of from just two cabinets. It’s clear what I have attachments to – lunch sacks (3) stainless steel coffee mugs (4), and glass and plastic food containers (infinite)! I’m recycling, regifting, and adding this stuff to a pile for a possible garage sale this summer. A friend of mine is cleaning out her basement in July – says it will change her life. So I’m going to buddy up with her and clean mine out as well (oh the horrors).
My main goal with the Whole House Detox project is to clear out space. Even if things are neat, unnecessary items take up space and, in my case, drain my energy.
Case in point. Here’s an organized cabinet….with just too much stuff in it. It’s going to look really different once I get finished with it! That cabinet is going to feature my spices – they will be so easy to access. Watch me!
I didn’t always know how to let go of perfectly good things. My friend Brenda taught me. I’ll share some of what I learned from her as we go along.
But for now, woohoo! I love the empty spaces in my cabinets already. Anybody want to join me?
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Many people would like to make their own nontoxic cleaning products but they don’t know how. They’re also concerned about whether they’ll clean as well as the store-bought variety. After reading this post, you will have all the information you’ll need to make your own natural, effective homemade cleaners.
I’ve been using my own homemade cleaning products for years. They’re easy and inexpensive to make and they’re safe to use. Don’t wait one more day without making your own! And don’t worry about proportions of ingredients you see on the internet. The recipes do not need to be exact to work. In fact, you could use straight vinegar and have all the cleaning power you need for 90% of your cleaning needs.
More good news. One all-purpose cleaner will take the place of most of the cleaning products under your bathroom and kitchen sinks so you’ll have more empty space. The recipe I use for my all-purpose clean is the one I describe below for cleaning glass and mirrors.
Vinegar is the secret ingredient. Vinegar is nontoxic, inexpensive, and a workhorse when it comes to degreasing, declogging, and demineralizing toilets, showers, tubs, and sinks. Not only is it gentle on all surfaces, but it’s also a disinfectant. What’s not to like about vinegar? Vinegar is the king of cleaners and baking soda is the queen.
My natural cleaner go-to person is Annie B. Bond. She’s an authority on natural homemade cleaners and has written several books and articles on the subject. You’ll find a lot of great information on her website.
Vinegar is the new smell of clean. We’ve been trained to think that clean smells like chemicals. Did you ever notice when you walk down the cleaning aisle that you sneeze or get a runny nose? I either hold my breath on that aisle or avoid it altogether because I don’t want to inhale the toxic fumes . When buying vinegar, Annie recommends Heinz white distilled vinegar because it is made of vegetables, not petroleum.
Conventional cleaning products no longer smell like clean to me. They smell like what they are—chemicals masked by lemon scents. While you’re getting used to the smell of vinegar-based cleaners, know that the smell dissipates quickly. If the smell of vinegar bothers you, hang in there while you change your paradigm about what clean should smell like. Again, it smells like vinegar!
At one point I thought I’d have to buy a new toilet because mine looked so disgusting and wouldn’t come clean. Then I remembered that vinegar is the best at removing mineral deposits.
Vinegar Cleaning Recipes
Revitalize an old, mineral stained toilet, sink, shower, or tub with virtually no effort. Here’s how.
Unclog the sink or tub drain: Pour ½ cup of baking soda down a clogged drain. Then pour ½ cup of vinegar into the drain and cover for a few minutes until the fizzing stops. Then pour a liter or two of boiling water into the drain. For very clogged drains, you may need to “snake” the drain and repeat the process.
Clean Mirrors or Glass (also for an all-purpose cleaner): Combine 2 cups water, ¼ cup vinegar and ½ teaspoon of liquid dish soap in a spray bottle to make a fantastic natural window cleaner. For a streak-free mirror or window, use a microfiber cloth. I also use this recipe for my all-purpose cleaner.
Disinfect Surfaces. Vinegar is your go-to natural disinfectant for use in the bathroom or kitchen. Mix 1 part vinegar with four parts water for an all-purpose cleaning solution that will disinfect anything from shower stalls to tubs to counter tops to doorknobs.
Greasy Kitchen Surfaces: Dip a sponge in vinegar and wipe down the greasy surfaces (stove, countertop, pots and pans, and fan covers).
Be sure to label your spray bottles of homemade cleaning solutions. I always think I’ll remember what’s in the bottle, but I never do.
So have I sold you on the idea that vinegar is one of the very best cleaners around? If you’re eager to read more, here’s an article about the top 10 uses for vinegar.
Learn to love the smell of vinegar in your home – it says clean and disinfected! Clear out the toxic cleaners under your bathroom and kitchen sinks and make way for one or two spray bottles of cleaners–so safe you can drink them!
Please Comment: Do you make natural cleaners? What are your recipes and cleaning secrets?
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After a thorough decluttering, organizing, and cleaning, my bathroom doesn’t look much different than it did before I started the clean out….until you open one of the drawers or cabinet. You’ll see what I mean with the before and after pictures below. Big difference.
Don’t expect perfect photos like you’d find in Real Simple because real people live here and we actually use all these things. The point of this Whole House Detox blog series isn’t to showcase a designer home. It’s to show how the average person can clean, organize, and declutter every room in their home.
I always start projects with a vision for what I want to achieve. In this case I wanted my bathroom to have these attributes: clean, decluttered, and organized. I wanted to have a spa feeling when I entered the room.
For me, it’s also helpful to tune into the biggest challenges with a project. In this case, the challenges were too much stuff in a small space and too many abandoned health and beauty products creating a jumbled mess. Even an organized bathroom can get disorganized and crowded over time. Periodic decluttering is the solution. It was definitely time!
My Detoxing Process
Here a simple process I always use to declutter, organize, and clean something–no matter the space. It works beautifully in every room, cabinet, drawer and closet.
The benefit of creating an empty space is that it’s much easier to envision organizing things in a different, more efficient way when you have a clean “canvas” so to speak. My middle name is efficiency, so I love this step.
Step 2: Clean all surfaces: shelves, cabinet doors and all other woodwork, walls, floor, ceiling, baseboards, mirror and windows. I use a soft scrubby for challenging dirt and my natural homemade all-purpose cleaner. Here are the recipes for the natural homemade cleaners I use.
Because the bathroom is a small room, I like to experience the feeling of cleaning on my hands and knees. It’s a great way to stretch while I get up close and personal with all the surfaces.
Step 3: Set up zones in your drawers and cabinets and gather containers so you can containerize everything. I divide my stuff into conventional OTC products, dogs, heat/cold/ace Band-Aids stuff, natural medicines, soaps, spa stuff, teeth, lotion, etc.
Obviously the size of the container is determined by the number of items I’m putting into it. For containers you can use bins (plastic, woven, wood) repurposed dishes, short glasses/mugs, or colorful boxes.
As you can see from the pictures, I use containers of all sizes. Inside the tub for conventional medicine, I separate over-the-counter medications for colds, allergies, wounds, etc. with plastic baggies so I don’t have to dig through everything to find what I want. You could also use short glasses or jelly jars for this.
Step 4: After gathering your containers, put back only the essentials—this is a key element because we tend to want to keep everything. Resist that temptation.
Give the items you use most often prime real estate. Follow the one-move retrieval rule in every drawer or cabinet. In other words don’t put anything in front of or on top of anything else. For the most efficient organization, you should be able to retrieve what you want with one movement–no need to move anything out of the way before getting what you need.
Be sure to leave empty space in all drawers and cabinets. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to put something away when there’s no space. Make space by getting rid of the nonessentials–the things you don’t really use.
What to do with the excess:
Do not flush medication. It’s toxic to our water supply. See if your city has a toxic waste disposal day.
Bite the bullet and let go of health and beauty products you tried, thought you’d like, but don’t use—even if they were expensive. They take up valuable space in your cabinet. Give them away to a homeless shelter, domestic violence shelter, FreeCycle.org, or friend who might enjoy using them.
Consider not purchasing any more toxic household cleaners (which includes almost everything in the cleaning aisle of your super market). You can make your own cleaners, and you can use the all-purpose cleaner on almost everything so you won’t need as many different kinds of cleaners. Natural cleaners are safe, inexpensive, and easy to make.
I gradually made the shift to natural homemade cleaners, and it pleases me a great deal to know that there are no toxic cleaners in the cabinet under my sink.
My next post will go into detail about making your own natural cleaners to clean, deodorize, disinfect, and unclog slow drains.
Please leave a comment. What are your challenges or secrets for a clean, well-organized bathroom?6 comments | Print This Post
Click on images to enlarge.
I like to have a clean, tidy car. I don’t always have a clean car, but it’s an on-going goal. My car is never grimy or full of trash, but it can get messy. Any day of the week I’d like to be able to say “hey, I’ll take you, hop in” and never be embarrassed by trash in my car.
What does the inside of your car look like? What does it say about you?
I’ve never owned a new car. I prefer to buy a used car in good condition. I’m frugal and a utilitarian. Even though my car is a 2003, it looks good, well taken care of. We live in such a throw-away society, some people never learn how to take care of things. They “stomp” all over their cars so they look worn out and broken down well before they should.
If you’d like to take better care of your car, van, or truck, I have a three step solution:
Step 1: Clear out the junk
Most people have some kind of junk in their car. It’s inevitable because we spend so much time in our cars and use them for so many purposes. Here are some kinds of junk we have in our cars:
Clear out all the trash and throw it away or recycle it. Complete the errands (recycling, returns, donations). If there’s anything left that doesn’t belong in your car, put it where it belongs.
Step 2: Contain and organize it
Our cars help us transport a lot of stuff. And because we’re in them while we’re in transition from place to place, it’s easy to see a mess and think “I’ll deal with that later” and then forget about it until we get in the car the next day and the cycle starts again. My experience tells me that the longer a mess stays around, the easier it gets to ignore because we stop seeing it. It becomes a part of the background.
The main challenge we face is that most things don’t have a place in our cars. If they did, we’d probably put them where they belong. So here’s how I’ve found places for things in my car.
I keep working on my systems and they get better over time. Life is easier with systems. If you don’t have any systems, borrow some of mine and make revisions when you get a bright idea.
Step 3: Clean it
I used to struggle with dog hair and dog smeared dirty windows—it’s the only thing about my dogs that isn’t cute. I got tired of vacuuming the back seat so I bought a Pontiac Vibe – Toby gets the entire back hatch area. Sophie gets a wee dog bed on the floor of the passenger side which is safer in case I need to stop quickly.
I don’t like to climb in the back seat to vacuum and clean windows so I take it to a full service car wash and pay them $13 plus a tip to clean the windows inside and out, wipe the dash and console and vacuum everything out. There’s nothing more pleasant that driving out of the car wash with a clean car, clean windows, and no dog hair on the floor. It’s satisfying in a special way. I visit this car wash at least quarterly and more often if it needs it. I also visit the do-it-yourself carwash whenever it needs it and am on that side of town. I keep several dollars worth of quarters in one of the little drawers on the dash.
After cleaning out my glove box and freeing up space, there was room for a microfiber dust cloth. Now I can easily wipe off the dash and console when I get stopped by a train or red light. I drive in the country a lot and the dash gets really dusty.
Lots of people eat in their cars so caked on food can become a problem. To clean my upholstery I use a spray bottle of my own cleaning mixture and a rag. I lightly scrub the upholstery when it needs it. This just takes a second if you do it before it’s totally trashed.
My systems have evolved over time. When I experience a problem or something that doesn’t work, I think of ways to solve the problem and then tweak my systems.
I’ve shared some of the ones that are working well for me to keep my car clean and organized. What solutions and systems do you use to keep your car, truck, or van clean and organized? If you’ve got challenges, what are they? Maybe we can help. Please comment at the link below.7 comments | Print This Post
When you walk up to your home, you want to feel “Ah, I’m home!” You want to feel happy and welcomed not overwhelmed and embarrassed by junk in the yard and on the porch. You don’t want to see unfinished projects wherever you look. You want to feel….now I can loosen my belt, take off my shoes, and relax into the pleasure that awaits me in my home sweet home.
The entryway says a lot about who we are and what we value. As you walk or drive through your neighborhood, you can’t help but notice how all of the homes appear–some messy, some totally overgrown, some tidy, and some spectacular. Occupants of these homes obviously value different things.
What do you value? On the value spectrum I’m not on either end. I’m not a slob and I’m not a neat-nick. I like to have a tidy home and yard, but sometimes I get engrossed in other things and the yard work sneaks up on me. Usually the fix is pretty quick because I don’t have abandoned furniture or other junk to clear away. I just have weeds and trash that blows into the bushes.
I enter my home from the back so I don’t often see the front walkway. Sometimes it gets messy and out of hand without my knowing it. Oops! Now that I’m working in my hard more regularly, I should be able to stay on top of it.
So let’s roll up or sleeves, get on our gardening gloves and spiff up the front entryway.
Good times to weed and trim
After weeding the sidewalk and retaining walls and weeding and trimming the raised bed, here’s the mess I created.
I used to dread this front walkway project because I’d get started before I had gathered all the tools I’d need for the job. I’d constantly have to stop and get the right shovel, the hedge trimmer, a trash can to collect the debris, etc. Now before I dig in, I gather up all the tools I need so I can just work, clean it up, and get it done as efficiently as possible. Then I can stand back and admire my handiwork.
Speaking of admiring my handiwork, here’s an “after” picture.
You can see how much better the sidewalk and raised beds look after a little effort.
Notice how much more light is shining too – the whole area is brighter (the camera angle and time of day helped too).
Home Sweet Home
Now when I walk up to my home, I smile and feel more on top of my life! This happy home says welcome!
How does your entryway look? Does it need some spiffing up?
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Finally got the raised bed garden ready to plant and extended the garden into the yard. Great exercise. This is what Randi Hacker calls the Earth Gym – great exercise right there in my yard.
I’ve got the bug to plant things I can eat–healthy eating here I come. Any sunny spot is fair game!
So far I’ve planted bug repellant plants (marigolds and cilantro), French lavender, three kinds of lettuce, and strawberries. Tomorrow I’ll plant blueberry bushes, asparagus, and purple onions. I have a bunch of seed packets so will need to figure out when to plant them. This is all one big experiment.
Are you putting in a vegetable garden? Feel free to tellme everything you know about it. I can use the help. Leave your comments at the comment link below.2 comments | Print This Post
What does a garden have to do with a Whole House Detox? Good question. Let me make something up…. Ah, yes, a garden is part of the yard and the yard needs to be spiffed up along with the house. A garden is also a part of detoxing my diet so I don’t have to eat vegetables sprayed with chemicals.
After cleaning up the back porch I decided to work on paperwork so I can get my taxes prepared. I was working away and then spring happened! Our weather is unusually warm so it’s time to get the garden ready. One of my lovely subscribers informed me that our city is giving away compost tomorrow so I quickly had to shift gears to get a raised bed up and ready to accept the new soil. The first garden handiman fell through so I went to Home Depot, selected the lumber and other needed materials and drove home wondering….now what?
I called my regular handiman with my fingers crossed that he could help at the last minute. He sent over a couple of guys that had the raised bed in place in about an hour. How’s that for right timing? Everything is coming together so well.
And tomorrow Nora (my yard helper) and I are going to drive the borrowed truck to pick up compost and mix it into the soil. As you can see from the stones, bricks, and weeds, there will be some work to do to get everything in place.
Then because the yard is an important part of the detox project, we’ll weed and whack and wake up the yard after its winter slumber. The paperwork will have to wait….but it can’t wait too long because I need to have everything to the tax woman by April 2.
It takes a village to take care of a home. And thankfully I have that village in place. Over the years I have developed great relationships with people who help me live in this wonderful little bungalow–a handiman, weeder, plumber, painter, and electrician. People are the best! I don’t know what I’d do without people.
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During the Whole House Detox program there is at least one big rule: expect the unexpected–expect delays, expect side tracks, and, thankfully, expect that sometimes things will be easier than you expected.
Case in point. I didn’t expect to post so late in the day today. But there was a technical glitch with the before and after pictures on my phone–they were gone! After searching the HTC Inspire forum, I found the solution so was able to recover them. Guess my phone isn’t so smart after all!
Click on the pictures to see a larger version.
It wasn’t very sexy but I started my Whole House Detox with the back porch. It seemed like a good place to start because it’s small and because Sylvia said to start there. Remember she’s my 5 year old decider.
I thought it would be a quick, though dirty win. It was dirty alight, but it wasn’t quick. Right before I started cleaning it out I adopted a rescue Chihuahua and attended the first retreat of a year-long Reiki training program I had signed up for long before I heard of this adorable creature. So the big rule I just mentioned—expect the unexpected—was in effect from day one with this project. I worked on this tiny room across several days. I had estimated it would take half a day.
Here’s how I approached the back porch cleanout. It’s a tiny space so it can’t hold that much stuff. But as you’ll see from the pictures, it DID hold a lot of stuff and was therefore hard to clean and organize. My habit was to just open the door, deposit things in there, and close the door. I put that ugly little room out of my mind because it worked for the most part.
Further study made these trouble spots obvious: I stored various fluids in there but every summer they’d get too hot and every winter they’d get too cold—I’d scramble to move them into the house so they wouldn’t bake or freeze. What a pain. It’s amazing what you can figure out when you just stop, look, and think. So I took all fluids out and put them in the basement. Why didn’t I think of that before!
There were also a bunch of odds and ends in that tiny space that really should have been stored with tools or garden supplies. Bottom line: all this excess belonged somewhere else and it had to go.
Here’s the 8-step process I used to declutter and organize my back porch. This process will work for any area you want to declutter, clean, and organize:
Time Saving Tip: You’ll be tempted to take things to a consignment shop or sell them on Craig’s list, but I have found those options to be time consuming and result very little monetary gain. If you have more time than money, go for it. But if you have a little more money than time, give the excess away. It’s amazingly fast to complete a project when you take the excess immediately to Goodwill. The faster you get it out of your house, the less likely you are to “find another use for it” and keep it.
During this process, you may be tempted to get judgmental and criticize yourself: Man, this back porch is so dirty….look at all that dog hair. What kind of a life manager am I!! Etc., etc. But so what. Keep moving. Tell the voices in your head to take a leap because you’re pushing forward. And then just keep moving. If you were a lazy person, you wouldn’t be taking action now, so there!
By now you’ve noticed that my back porch isn’t attractive. It’s clean and organized now, but it’s not a place I’ll show people when they come over. Real Simple isn’t always real simple. You know the magazine that makes everything look beautiful–even under the sink. Well, some places just don’t look that great—they’re clean and organized and that’s the goal. You can upgrade at another time. For now, just get it clean and organized.
I upgraded a little with the TJMax butterfly bags I use for recycling. They looked cooler than the yucky plastic bags I was using. Notice I hung them on hooks several inches above the floor so I can easily sweep all that dirty dog hair out.
Cleaning tip: Try to keep the floors clear of clutter. We’re more likely to clean something when it’s easy and we don’t have to move a lot of stuff to “get at it.”
More “After” pictures… (click to see large version)
Do you have an ugly place that needs to be cleaned out? Want to get started? Tell us about it at the comment link below! If you don’t have any ugly places in your home, I’m eager to hear your story too.12 comments | Print This Post
Ask a “Decider.” But I’ve gotten ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.
When you’re contemplating tackling a whole house of clutter and unfinished projects–after dealing with the feeling in the pit of your stomach–you might ask (whine/wail) where do I start? Even if you’re just cleaning up one messy room, the question remains….where do I start?
I used to start by turning on the TV and digging in to a pint of Häagen-Dazs ice cream with a big kitchen spoon. The thought of decluttering even one room was just too big. Thirty years later I’ve released about three-fourths of my resistance to getting started. Every year or two now, I look forward to tackling my whole house. “Look forward” may be a little too strongly stated.
Humans tend to complicate things. We’re so smart, we sometimes use all that brain power to overwhelm ourselves with so many options (and high standards) that we become immobilized. What do we do with this overwhelm and confusion? We pick up the remote control, or we troll Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter. Or we grab a big kitchen spoon and eat ice cream.
Let’s not do that this time. Let’s bite the bullet and start somewhere. But where? In a minute I’ll tell you where I started and why…but first a few ideas to get you started if you’re in this freeze-frame pickle.
Six ways to decide where to start the clean out…Pick one!
I asked my friend Sylvia. She’s 5 and very decisive. Doesn’t her picture tell it all? It’s fun to ask her questions and see how she goes about deciding. She’s fast! And I’m slow.
When I presented her with a list of options for starting my Whole House Detox project, without hesitation she said start with the back porch. Why Sylvie? Because you said it was messy. And she’s right. It WAS messy.
I liked her decision because the back porch is very small and it would be a quick win. A dusty, dirty win, but a quick win or so I thought. I estimated it would take a half day to complete…but life happens and it took part of 3 days, 4 if I’m really honest. When things calm down a bit, I’ll tell you about all the sidetracks I’ve had since I decided to do this project. Maybe that’s the universe’s way of seeing if I’m really serious about doing this. I am!
My next post will give you all the gory details about cleaning out the back porch. I’ll share before and after pictures too.
Do you have trouble deciding where to start and what to get rid of? Share your story at the comment link below and we’ll see if we can help! If you’re a great decider like Sylvia, share your secrets.5 comments | Print This Post
During this 90-day series I’ll probably feel discouraged at some point and want to throw my hands up. I’m going to create quite a mess each time I start decluttering a new room. And messes can be disturbing.
That’s why I’ve created a list of my main reasons for sticking with this big project. I’m posting it on my refrigerator to inspire me and perk me up when I want to quit.
What’s important to you? What motivates you to stick with decluttering and organizing? Please comment at the link below.2 comments | Print This Post