Archives For Cleaning and Organizing

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. -William Morris

Once or twice a year I get the urge to go through and purge our home of all the clutter. Where does all this stuff come from? It seems everyone I know has huge piles of unwanted crap in their homes. And yet still we shop-I’m guilty of this myself! I don’t have a solution to offer, but the quote above is one that guides my efforts to simplify my home. I don’t hold onto anything out of guilt, and sentimental items are limited to what fits in the chest at the foot of my bed (I go through every few years and purge what’s no longer meaningful), My big problem these days seems to be greed-if I hold onto all these outgrown clothes I can save them for the next kid (who may or may not be able to wear them based on gender, size, and season anyway), and if I sell these unwanted items instead of donating them I can use the money to buy something I really want or need. But because I don’t always have time/inclination to sort through everything to store or sell, I end up with piles. I’m considering setting a deadline-whatever I haven’t stored or sold by Thanksgiving goes to the Goodwill, no exceptions. Thoughts?

Last week I posted about the stained, dingy grout in my downstairs bath and asked for tips on how best to clean it. My goal is to get it white enough to seal, and since this room is on the large side as far as bathrooms go I need something that is relatively easy and inexpensive to implement. Well, you all did not disappoint! I’ve spent the last week implementing your suggestions in a very scientific and well-organized tournament-style experiment. Realistically, I just put down a piece of painter’s tape every five tiles and wrote a different technique to try on each one. First, the losers. Most of these worked alright, but not well enough to tackle years worth of grime.

Barkeeper’s Friend: Better, but not good enough. In person it was still pretty dingy.

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Oxyclean: I love this stuff for laundry but for hard surfaces it disappoints. I dissolved a pretty strong combination in water and tried scrubbing it with both a grout brush and a magic eraser. Even if it did work well it still wouldn’t have been my preferred technique because if you don’t rinse away every last trace it dries with a white film.

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Baking Soda + Oxyclean Paste: my problem with anything pasty is that it’s a pain to clean up afterwards, as evidenced by the pile of caked up powder pushed off to the side of this photo. The area directly above the painter’s tape is where I’d applied it and you can see that it didn’t make a huge difference.

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Lemon Juice, Baking Soda, and Salt: another paste that was just alright. Nothing to write home about.

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The big winner was actually discovered by accident. One commenter suggested spraying on hydrogen peroxide and letting it sit, while another suggested simply scrubbing with a magic eraser (I assume using plain water since that’s typical magic eraser protocol). During one of my cleaning sessions I spritzed some HP onto the area labeled as such, then moved down a few feet to the area marked “magic eraser” and started scrubbing. I hadn’t accounted for my sloping floors and thus the HP ran downhill to where I was scrubbing but hark! Turns out they’re a veritable dream team.

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Look at the huge difference here.

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I was so excited that I made a video! But by then my magic eraser was almost dead and the results weren’t quite as stunning as they had been earlier. I’m headed to the grocery store this afternoon and will stock up on enough cheapo store brand magic erasers to scrub the whole house down.

I’m pretty sure this is the first time ever in my adult life that I’ve bought hydrogen peroxide. Turns out it’s super cheap and non-toxic! I remember my mom pouring it over scraped knees and elbows when I was little, but I’d honestly never thought to use it for cleaning until a commenter suggested it. There are still a few dark spots, but the overall effect is quite impressive. After I get the whole room done I’ll assess whether to tackle the remaining stains or to seal it as-is. The idea of sealing in dirty spots makes me twitch but geez, how much scrubbing can I do? I wonder if I could use those grout painting or coloring kits to just touch up here and there before sealing? If I ever find myself in a place to make decisions about tile jobs I am so going with white tiles and dark grout (like this!). White grout is just not practical for people like us!

The grout in our downstairs bath is supposed to be white. I know this because it fades from dingy gray to bright, clean white in the areas that don’t see much traffic, like under the vanity and behind the toilet.

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From a distance nothing seems to be amiss, but up close the floors never look clean no matter how often I mop.

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I’ve made a few halfhearted efforts to scrub it clean, but seeing as this room is on the large side as far as bathrooms go I have only worked in small sections, not wanting to invest a ton of time into a method I’m not sure will work. I haven’t found anything that impressed me enough to do the whole room yet.

So I thought I’d ask you guys-what are your best techniques for getting grimy grout spic and span? I’ll test out the most promising suggestions and report back on what worked for me. And then I’m going to seal that grout so this doesn’t happen again!

This is the first place that I’ve ever lived in as an adult that had a bonafide pantry. My college apartment had a closet that we put a freestanding shelf in, and our rental house had a wealth of oddly proportioned cabinets, but this is the first time I’ve had a space that is specifically designated and designed for storing foods. And while it’s a far cry from the standard walk-in pantry found in many new construction homes it seemed so huge to me when we first moved in. Three years later it’s bursting at the seams.

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It got to the point where I really couldn’t put off cleaning and organizing it any longer. So on a bit of a whim yesterday I completely emptied the contents onto our kitchen counters. I blocked Jack out of the kitchen while I worked and he was surprisingly content to watch from the doorway.

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I examined and wiped down almost everything as I pulled it out. I’d set out a box for food to donate but a lot of stuff had to be tossed-like these three bottles of barbeque sauce, all expired (the two open ones were in the fridge-I was inspired to search for them when I found the unopened bottle in the pantry).

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The pantry, emptied of everything except a few libations in the back and a citrus juicer that in retrospect I really should have moved out with the other small appliances. After snapping this photo I vacuumed the shelves and wiped them down.

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Then, ta-da! I put everything back in. Except this time I was more thoughtful about it. I actually went grocery shopping in the midst of this whole thing-there is more edible food in the pantry here than there was in the “before” photo. I can’t believe how much more functional it is.

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One big change for my sanity is that I removed the small appliances and random clutter that used to take up the lower area and replaced them with out most frequently used pots and pans and two command hooks to hang insulated bags we use for packed lunches, snacks for road trips, etc. Since we added childproof latches to all of our cabinets removing anything from them has become really frustrating for me so moving the pots and pans over here was a really good move. Also, I realized this was not the best place for small appliances the day I caught Jack brandishing the blade to the food processor (I hadn’t even thought about it when babyproofing!).

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On the next shelf up, which is easiest for me to see/access and that’s all that matters because I do most of the cooking, we have a turntable with all our spices on the bottom and frequently accessed foods on the top (there’s a reason we have two jars of peanut butter: crunchy for me and creamy for Jack). On the left is more stuff we eat regularly: dry beans, cereal, cans of tuna, raisins, bread. The common denominator on this shelf is that it’s all stuff we rotate through and replace pretty frequently (with the exception of the spices, which just made sense to keep on the turntable).

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On the next shelf up is what I think of as a little mini stockroom. Since I started watching our grocery budget a little more closely a few months ago I’ve been stocking up on stuff we use when it’s on sale. But I kept running into the problem of forgetting where I’d put stuff and then buying more because I thought we were out. So now this shelf is the designated spot to put anything I’ve stocked up on or that we don’t use daily but still like to keep on hand. Examples: pasta, peanut butter, and oatmeal are all stockpiled in the back; that brown basket contains items we access infrequently like syrup, salt, pepper, vinegar, and olive oil (with the exception of syrup, we have smaller containers of all those things out in the kitchen that we just refill as needed); there are a couple of jars of pasta sauce over there on the right, that blue basket keeps all my measuring cups easily accessible, and the onions are corralled in a basket (they were on sale-buy one bag get one free-hence the large number). I made sure that the stuff we needed to access least often is way in the back where it’s hardest to get to while items we grab more often like onions, pasta, measuring cups, etc. are easier to access from the front.

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And finally, the top shelf. I’ve had these bulk containers for years-they’re just plastic snapware purchased at the grocery store that I labeled with scrapbooking letters (sealed with clear packing tape). They’re super functional and located front and center for easy access. My favorite mixing bowls are next to them and in the back I’ve got a basket of baking supplies. I bake maybe twice a year so having that same basket at the front of the shelf before was a waste of prime real estate.

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This lower cabinet on the other side of the kitchen used to house pots and pans but is now home to all of our small appliances. If we used any of these more than once or twice a month they’d probably earn a spot out on the counter, but since we don’t drink coffee and rarely toast our bread the only things we really pull out regularly are the food processor and crock pot (and okay, okay, I enjoy a homemade waffle now and then).

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Jack is a big fan of the pots and pans now located where he can get them. He considers it his personal mission to pull them each out every time he’s in the kitchen. I tell ya, though, it was really nice having him out from under my feet while I was cleaning out the pantry and it’s tempting to start keeping the baby gate up in that doorway all the time. He’s not old enough to understand when I tell him something is dangerous but he’s almost tall enough to reach the stovetop. I’ve been searching for a stove guard that doesn’t have crappy reviews but maybe it would be best to just ban him from the kitchen altogether. Anyone else with a gas stove (knobs in the front, which he can reach!) and little kids have any suggestions?

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Nick has been out of town since yesterday and I am oddly excited about showing him the reorganized pantry when he gets home today. Stuff like this just brings me such joy! I’m in there about a billion times a day making food for the baby who eats as much as I do so it might as well be super functional, right?