Absolute Chaos

For everyone who’s wondering where I’ve been at, I’m knee deep in sorting through all our stuff for a big moving sale this weekend and then for the move itself. So I may not get back to posting regularly for a few weeks. But I will give some updates here and there. Wish me luck!

More Waiting

So I haven’t written for awhile, and it warms my little heart that people have noticed my absence and perhaps even missed my random writings. I do have some wonderful friends. I will try to do better, folks.

I was in Chicago last week looking at apartments, but mostly I haven’t written because it’s been kind of a down time for me. Okay, maybe a little more than “down.” I have been practically weepy. I was trying to think of a title for this post and the first thing that I came up with was something along the lines of “The Nothingness that is My Life.” I decided against this title because I don’t want people to worry about me. However, my life does feel largely empty right now. I am stuck in that place between wrapping up the place I have been for the past couple of years and moving on to new things. In my mind I am already in Chicago, but apparently God has other ideas. I keep hitting one closed door after the other.

It’s been a week of stumbling. First, Brad and I decided that we can’t move until we sell our house so that kind of puts me back into the just waiting game. Then, the family that we placed Reina with returned her because she didn’t get along perfectly with their puppy. The washer died, and no one showed up at our open house (which my mom and I spent three days cleaning and scrubbing for).

So that’s all the junk. I’ve mostly decided to stop trying to clean the house spotlessly before every showing. I’m just going to keep in clean like I did before, doing a little every day rather than trying to do it all the day before someone looks at it. I’m absolutely sick of cleaning, so maybe that will save my sanity a bit. We did lower the price on the house, so I’m really hoping that that will appeal to buyers. I keep trying to remind myself that it’s an awful market to try to sell a house, and there is nothing more I can really do. I just have to wait. But it still is a very discouraging process, one that I’m not planning on repeating any time soon.

Some of the positive things: Reina is currently staying with another family who is trying her out to see if she will get along with their dog. She has been there since Saturday and I haven’t gotten a phone call yet, so I’m hoping that they might want to keep her. Also, my mom spent two days scrubbing my white cabinets and they look much better. Now, I don’t absolutely loathe them. It’s probably more like a feeling of disdain and tolerance. And yesterday, we spent the afternoon at Lake Wedington with the whole church family. The weather was absolutely perfect and it felt so nice to get out of the house and into some fresh air.

So I’m trying to stay positive and keep chugging along. I just hope that I will find an open door to something soon. This patience thing is pretty hard.

DIY Grout Cleaner

Never, let me tell you, never buy a house with 2 cm. wide white grout! Unless, of course, you are going to rip that tile and grout out the day after you buy the house. Grout is man’s worst invention (after war and bombs and all that).

Since I did not know the above rule (not to buy a house with fat grout) I have had to experiment with many a grout cleaner, and the simplest, cheapest, most non-toxic way to clean grout is with two very basic ingredients that I know you have in your house right now: baking soda and vinegar. Here’s how to do it…

First, select a section of your floor to clean for the day. Trust me, you do not want to try to do your entire kitchen floor in one day. This job requires a good bit of scrubbing on your hands and knees. You could probably do an entire bathroom floor if you have a small bathroom. Anyway, select a few short rows of tile. Then turn on some loud happy music and think good thoughts. Take your baking soda and spread some over the grout. Don’t dump a huge heap on all the grout. Just pour a few small piles and use your fingers to spread the baking soda over the grout. You don’t need very much, just as long as there is a little bit of baking soda touching all the grout.

Next you will need a spray bottle. Now you could just fill the spray bottle with white vinegar and use that. I make my own all-purpose cleaner (a mixture of vinegar, lemon juice, dish soap, and water) so I used that. The vinegar and lemon juice are both acidic and act with the baking soda to create the foamy, cleansing paste you need.

Spray the vinegar on all your baking-soda-ed grout.

Now you need a good brush. You could use a toothbrush, but I have this brush, which is like an over-sized toothbrush, with very hard bristles. It is great for cleaning grout. You need to scrub every inch of grout with your brush. It takes a bit of muscle, but it is worth it. After you finish scrubbing, use a rag and a bucket of water to wipe away the baking soda and vinegar paste.

Then, you’re done! And your grout looks like new (until you drop that jar of spaghetti sauce)

Before After

The Dirty Truth

Today I want to make a practical post…about cleaning (okay, I hear the groans now), but really, it’s something that takes a good amount of time so I’ve been thinking about the best way to tackle it. One of the things in life that I really strive for is making everything I do honoring to God and respectful of people and the world at large (but I certainly don’t have all this figured out; that’s why it’s a process). Cleaning has really been a spiritual thing for me. When I first got married I think I thought that we would split everything 50/50, and he would always do his part and I would always do my part. And he would notice when there are dirty dishes and just do them…I was wrong, and I was angry because I would end up doing a lot of things that I thought he should be doing. So cleaning became an angry time for me. Why do I have to spend my time wiping cat hair off the base of the toilet? Why do I have to cook all the food and then clean all the dishes, wipe down the counters, clean the table, scrub the oven, etc.?

Maybe two years into our marriage I realized that this couldn’t continue. I couldn’t stay angry, and the house needed to be cleaned. Also, my husband began doing the majority of the work for our business (to make money, you know), so I took over a lot of the housework. So I have tried every method. I tried doing all the housework in 2-4 crazy hours on a Saturday morning. I tried the FlyLady approach. I read lots of books about how to clean…quickly, how to keep order in your home. I prayed when I scrubbed bathroom floors. I plugged my earbuds in my ears and cranked up the Relevant podcast as I swept. I have thought often of Brother Andrew, praying and enjoying God’s presence while washing dishes. I learned that I do better cleaning in the mornings than at night (because by 4 or 5 p.m. I’m exhausted).

So right now here’s what I do…a little bit every week day:

  • Mondays I vacuum couches, chairs and rugs; I wipe down the doors and switchplates; I dust and put everything that got out of place over the weekend away; and I do the “quick bathroom clean up” wiping down the mirrors, countertops, sinks, and outside of the toilets
  • Tuesdays I empty and clean out the trashcans; I vacuum the vents if they need it; and I sweep
  • Wednesdays I do another quick bathroom clean-up, I vacuum everything again (I’m not obsessive – I just have 3 dogs); I change the sheets; and scrub the bathroom floors (I put the floors off until Wednesday because I don’t have any Right Start groups this day)
  • Thursdays I sweep (again the dog hair necessitates it); I clean off the coffee cabinets; I wipe down the outside of the kitchen cabinets; and I do something off my “once a season” list (this includes cleaning windows, sweeping under furniture, cleaning out the fridge, cleaning out closets, etc.)
  • Fridays I do a quick bathroom cleanup again; I vacuum (again – dang dogs); and I look at the kitchen floor and say “I don’t need to clean that this week” ๐Ÿ™‚
  • Saturdays and Sundays when I notice dirty corners I tell myself that God has given us time for rest too and that I don’t need to clean it now. I will do it Monday. This too is a very spiritual exercise for me.

It seems to be working. The house stays pretty organized and clean, but I’m always looking for better, faster ways. I’ve realized that some things just don’t work for me. For example, FlyLady recommends that you never leave dishes to dry in your sink and you should always wipe it down every time you use it. This is ridiculous for me because I use my sink probably once every 15 minutes. And I really just can never seem to get around to drying the dishes by hand. Perhaps when I have kids and they are older I will give them this task (oh yes, my kids will have chores). Also, I make an effort to have the kitchen clean when I go to bed, but I also have learned to give myself grace. I try to judge how tired I am (I am not a night person at all and if I have to do something I don’t want to at night I get super cranky). So I try to determine if I have the energy to do it now or need to wait until morning. I’m learning that it’s okay to let things wait until later.

As far as cleaning materials go, I use Method spray cleaners for wood and granite (for the table and counters respectively) and I use a homemade cleaner (a mixture of dish soap, vinegar, lemon juice, borax, and water) for the bathroom surfaces. I use rags from Brad’s old shirts, and other cloths that I wash and reuse later. We’re trying to cut down our paper towel use by a ton, but I do keep some around for when the puppies (usually Finnegan) have accidents.

I’d love to hear how you approach house work. I’m always looking for new ideas. How do you clean?

Pink and Goopy

A few days ago I realized I was running out of laundry detergent, some toxic green stuff I picked up at Wal-Mart when I was possibly clinically insane, but since I have been trying to make greener changes in my life I thought I should probably look into some better options for detergent. The Eco brand from the Natural Food store is like $7 a bottle, so perhaps something cheaper?

 

I found a couple recipes for making your own detergent, but this one from The Simple Dollar seemed the best.

 

It calls for:

 

  • 1 bar of soap (check).
  • 1 box of borax (check – I have been using a mixture of borax and warm water to clean the bathroom floor).
  • Water
  • 1 box of washing soda (what the…).

After searching for washing soda at Wal-Mart, Target, the Natural Food Store, and Atwoods, I finally found it where I least expected, at PriceCutter, which is the closest grocery store to my house and the one I go to when have forgotten something on the weekly trip to Natural Foods (I should really start biking to PC…soon).

 

Anyway, the recipe goes something like grate the soap into 4 cups of water you are heating on the stove and then stir until the soap is dissolved. Let me tell you a few things:

 

  • grating soap is hell on earth
  • do not put your face over the steaming soap/water – you will then sneeze for 10 minutes straight
  • if you give up and cut up the soap instead of grating it, it will take an hour to partially dissolve
  • your kitchen will smell so much like soap that you will not want to enter it for the rest of the day

So after that funness you mix the soap/water with more hot water, the washing soda and borax. Let it sit for a day and you come out with this:

Yes, pink and goopy goodness to throw in the washing machine (I am hoping for one of these soon) and then hang on the line to dry. All in all, I think it was worth it because a 5 gallon bucket of environmentally-friendly laundry detergent cost me $1 and it was kind of fun to make, if you don’t count the soap grating.