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October 25, 2013 / nuttystepmom

moving

In an effort to make life a little simpler, I am moving the contents of this blog to another blog I already had in the works.  You can check things out at http://www.nerdinthebrain.wordpress.com.  Enjoy! 😀

September 20, 2013 / nuttystepmom

cleaning: your weapons of choice

Before we talk about cleaning supplies, CindyLou, let’s take a moment to talk about commercials.  (I know you’ve already heard this a thousand times, but stick with me here.)

Commercials are designed to get you to buy things.  Their purpose is to inform you about products that you didn’t know existed that are going to solve problems you didn’t know you had.  You’re going to see commercials for a gazillion different fancy, specialized, single-purpose cleaning products.  Don’t let them get in your head, man.  Be strong!  You do not need all of that crap to keep a clean house.  In fact, I’ve actually known people who had so much cleaning crap, the cleaning crap itself became a cleaning problem.  Ridiculous.

You just don’t need all of that stuff.  Don’t believe the hype, down with the man, and all that good stuff.    Don’t be one of those women who loses all good sense when something shiny and new is put in front of you.

Okay, now onto what we do need to keep a house clean.  Well, that’s easy.  The answer is this: Not much.  Here’s a list of everything I have on hand to handle all of our cleaning needs:

  • a good broom
  • a mop
  • all-purpose cleanser (I like J.R. Watkins lemony stuff….smells great and not tested on animals)
  • glass cleanser (I like method minty stuff….smells great and not tested on animals)
  • an abrasive, scrubby cleanser (I like Mrs. Myers….smells okay and not tested on animals)
  • baking soda
  • vinegar
  • lemons
  • salt
  • dish liquid (I like J.R. Watkins lemony stuff)
  • dishwasher soap
  • laundry soap
  • bleach
  • rags – lots of glorious rags

That’s it.  That’s all I use to keep the house clean.  Not all of that stuff gets busted out to clean every room.  In fact, I might go weeks between episodes of whipping out the lemons and salt (a trick I will teach you later, I promise).  The stuff that sounds more like ingredients than cleaning supplies?  Yeah, that stuff lives with the cooking supplies/ingredients.  The laundry stuff lives in the laundry room.  The other stuff is kept in an easy-to-carry thingadoo under the kitchen sink.  In many years of cleaning, I have not encountered the situation that couldn’t be handled by this list of products.  Not once have I said, “Oh, I’d clean that if only I had a Swiffer.”  I’ve also never said, “I just can’t clean because I don’t have a specialized wipes required.”  (Wipes!  Geez.  Give a care for the world around you, eh?  Rags are reusable and not locked into having whatever vile product those wipes are stewing in all over them.)

You do not need an army of bottles to get your house clean!

You do not need an army of bottles to get your house clean!

Don’t fall for the commercials and the pretty packaging in the cleaning aisle.  All of those “specialty” products really just waste your money and cause you to find somewhere to store things. Do you really want to waste any moment of your life fretting about where to put your unneeded cleaning supplies?  I mean, you could be using that moment to pee or eat a cookie or do a cartwheel or something.

Keep it simple, don’t have a bunch of crap, and you pretty much can’t go wrong.  (It’s a theme!)

Tomorrow I’ll give you a list to help you breeze through the cleaning of just about any room.  Fun!  🙂

September 19, 2013 / nuttystepmom

cleaning: make a plan

So, now that you know the number one rule of keeping things clean (Don’t. Have. A. Bunch. Of. Crap!), we’re off to step two.  I’m afraid step two isn’t glamorous or entertaining.  Nope.  It’s kind of a boring ride ahead here, but still super-useful.

Step two is this: Make. A. Plan.

Yep, the second step to keeping your house clean doesn’t involve cleaning anything.  No, what you want to do is grab a sheet of paper and get ready to put the noodle to use for a few minutes.

Here are some questions to ask yourself…and the answers will vary based on a gazillion different factors (if you work outside the home, how many hours you work, if you live with someone else, blah, blah, blah), so you’ll want to do this over each time your living situation changes.  I’ll give my current answers so you can see an example.

1.  How many rooms do you have to clean?  (Example: Including the porches, 14 … that sounds like a lot, doesn’t it?  How the hell did we end up with so many rooms?!?)

2.  How much time do you want to spend each day or week on housework?  Zero hours is not an option here.  This will, of course, depend a lot on how much time you have at home.  (Example: Since I run a small business from home, I’m here most of the time, and 8 hours per week is reasonable.)

3.  What room do you hate to clean the most?  (Example: The kitchen)

4.  How often do things need cleaned where you live?  I know this sounds kind of dumb, but this actually has several factors.  Some places are way dustier than others.  If you live alone, things probably won’t get as messy as they would if you had children or room mates.  Don’t fall into the “things need cleaned once a week because that’s the way things are done” mentality.  (Example:  We don’t have a lot of dust here, so every two weeks is really quite enough cleaning for each room.)

5.  What needs done every day or multiple times per week?  Sucks, but it’s true: some things just can’t wait for two weeks.  (Example:  Here are the things I do every single freakin’ day – tidy up the common areas, sweep the tile floors, clean the bathrooms, and make my bed.  There will be more on that making the bed thing later, I promise.  The stuff that gets done once or twice per week?  Taking the trash to the dump and laundry.  Good times.)

Now that you’ve got your answers knocking around your brain thing, it’s time to write a plan.  It’s as easy as this: Split up the rooms you need to clean over the amount of time you want to spend.  This will be based on how many hours you decided to spend per week on cleaning and how much you have to do.  If you chose something ridiculous like an hour per week, you’ll quickly realize that just won’t work.  That room that you dislike the most?  Never clean that sucker all at once again.  Yep.  You’re freeeee.  I hate, hate, hate cleaning the kitchen all at once, so I just don’t.  I clean a little bit each day for a few days a week.  It stays clean, and I never have to spend more than about 5 minutes on it.  (Now that doesn’t include doing the dishes and cleaning up after dinner and whatnot.)  Now you’re going to take all of that stuff, smoosh it together, and come up with a plan.  You’ll probably need to revise things a few times before you find something you’re happy with.  You’ll also want to take another look at things after a few weeks to make sure you didn’t have any insane expectations or unexpected complications.

Now, little one, I’m going to share my plan.  Yep.  I feel like I’m unleashing an ancient family secret or something. 😉  My plan is for two weeks…I used to have a four-week plan, but I felt like things weren’t staying clean enough, so I revised.  See?  You have to check in on yourself from time to time. 😉

While making your plan, try to remember that little thing I tell you all the time:  Life is only as complicated as you make it.  Keep it simple.

Monday 1:  daily stuff, part of the kitchen, dining room, living room

Tuesday 1:  daily stuff, part of the kitchen, daddy’s room, my office, take the trash, laundry

Wednesday 1:  daily stuff, part of the kitchen, both bathrooms

Thursday 1:  daily stuff, part of the kitchen, your room, my room, take the trash

Friday 1: daily stuff, part of the kitchen

Saturday 1:  daily stuff, take the trash

Sunday 1:  daily stuff

Monday 2:  daily stuff, part of the kitchen, laundry room, daddy’s office

Tuesday 2:  daily stuff, part of the kitchen, porches, stairways, take the trash, laundry

Wednesday 2:  daily stuff, part of the kitchen

Thursday 2:  daily stuff, part of the kitchen, take the trash

Friday 2: daily stuff, part of the kitchen

Saturday 2:  daily stuff, take the trash

Sunday 2:  daily stuff

You’ll notice that I only actually clean entire rooms six days out of the two weeks.  Not bad, eh?  So, my housework varies from about 20 minutes to 2 hours each day.  For keeping the house sparkly clean all the time, that’s pretty spiffy, I think.  If you work out of the home, you may want to focus more time on the weekends or even things out a bit by aiming for an hour a day.  Whatever works for your schedule is the way to go.

After you make your plan, put it somewhere you can see it and use it.  Remember a plan is utterly worthless if you’re not gonna put that sucker into action.  Also, make sure you leave some space on that to-do list for each day.  We’re certainly not done with household maintenance.  That’s just cleaning….we still have errands, menus, cooking, yard work, appointments, holiday festivities, projects, and on and on and on.  You will have a ton of things to keep up with, but we’ll get you through all of it. 😀

not sure where this came from, but it's awesome

not sure where this came from, but it’s awesome

Next time we’ll enter the exciting world of cleaning products and how many you actually don’t need … then it’s off to an easy-peesy cleaning list for each room in your house.  Woot!

September 18, 2013 / nuttystepmom

don’t have a bunch of crap

Okay, CindyLou, we’re going to get this party started with some house cleaning advice.  Sounds stupid, right?  But trust me on this one.  Cleaning your home can be kind of overwhelming if you don’t know what you’re doing, so I’m going to break things down for you into super-easy steps.  (Don’t worry!  This will still be here when you need it.)  Perhaps there are other people in the world suffering from dirty homes and we can help them out too.  All the better! 

So, why even keep you house clean, CindyLou?  I mean, wouldn’t it be easier to just throw a “I don’t care” at the whole mess and live a blissful life of never having to do housework?  Well, actually, no.  Here’s the thing: you’re going to want clean dishes to eat off of, clean clothes to wear, a clear space to work on a project or two, an easy way to find your bills so you don’t forget to pay them, and on and on and on.  Life is so much nicer when these everyday things aren’t a constant battle.  There’s also that whole pesky truth that your environment has a pretty dramatic effect on your state of mind.  If you surround yourself with chaos, guess where your mind’s going to be?  Yep.  Chaosville.  If you surround yourself with a bit of order and serenity, that’s giving your brain a much happier starting point.

So, over the next few days (weeks?), I’m going to walk you through the entire process of making a cleaning plan and putting it into action.  Taking a few minutes up front to do this when you move in somewhere new is 100% worth it.  You will never be sad that you took the time to devise a plan.

But before we get to all of that, I’m going to share my number one piece of advice for keeping your home clean (and, honestly, your life happier) …

Don’t. Have. A. Bunch. Of. Crap.

Yep.  It’s that simple.  Don’t buy a bunch of crap.  Don’t hoard a bunch of crap.  Don’t accept donations of a bunch of crap.  Avoid the crap.

Here’s the thing about having a bunch of stuff.  You have two choices of what to do with it.  You can ignore the crap and let it pile up around you and plunge your life into an extremely unpleasant sort of chaos OR you can spend countless hours of your precious time on this planet cleaning, maintaining, and organizing your crap.  Personally, I think both options sound pretty assy.

Better plan?  Don’t have the crap to start with. 

Take this to heart:

havenothing

This philosophy will never make you sad.  If you ever find your home is getting cluttered with nonsense, come back to this.  When you look at your home with this perspective, it’s easy to see what needs to go straight to Goodwill.

Added benefit of this mentality?  It will be so much easier on your budget.  If you’re not spending your money on nonsense, you’ll find you have a little more for things that actually matter.  But, that, my dear, is a topic for another day. 😉

Just remember that step one of having a home you can relax and enjoy life in is this: Don’t have a bunch of crap.

September 11, 2013 / nuttystepmom

rethinking things

CindyLou, I tried the whole “daily writing prompt” thing to get this blog back on track, and it worked and didn’t work all at the same time. 🙂  I didn’t like the way the daily prompts were taking the blog, but they did help me figure out where I want this sucker to go.  So, yeah, that’s a win.

I’ve decided there are really seven areas of life I want to help you get ready for.  (Handy that there are also seven days in a week, no?  It’s like the universe wanted me to have a handy schedule.  Or maybe not…I have a lot more to say about some of these areas than others.  Who knows how it will turn out?)

For today, I’m just going to tell you what’s in store for you.  Next week we’ll get started on the actual meat of things.

Here’s how I’m going to break it down for you:

*your body – This is where we’ll focus on health and “beauty” and whatnot.

*your car – I think that one kind of speaks for itself.

*your family – This one is for sharing my “wisdom” on all of those fun family members.

*your food – Also kind of obvious…this one is for cooking, eating, and grocery shopping.

*your home – Oh, do I ever have things to share with you here.  This one is for cleaning, organizing, gardening, paperwork, etc.

*your job – Yep, eventually you’re going to have one.  This one is for interviews, co-workers, resumes, career goals, and all of that good stuff.

*your relationships – And this is a place for fun information about friends, boyfriends, husbands, and so on.  Of course, this one will cross over with “your family” from time to time.

Of course, these aren’t in order of importance.  No, I went with that fancy alphabetical order thing. 😉

So, next week we begin getting this blog whipped into shape.  I mean, we only have six years until you’re doing this grown up thing, and I have a whole lot of stuff to tell you before then. 😀

September 2, 2013 / nuttystepmom

glorious men: they actually do communicate

CindyLou, I told you in my first post about men that we would have a lot to discuss in this area, and that is absolutely true.  I’m certainly not an expert in relationships or gender studies or any such thing, but I have paid a great deal of attention to men over the years…I’ve learned some things.  😉

A lot of men aren’t very good at communicating their feelings verbally.  You will hear women bitch about this.  A lot.  From me, this is not a complaint.  It’s just an observation.  Here’s another one:  A lot of women think they’re good at communicating their feelings verbally.  From what I’ve observed, they’re actually not.  They’re good at saying something about every little thing that ticks them off or upsets them, but they’re not all that great at actually getting to the heart of the matter or really letting others know what makes them tick.  But that’s neither here nor there for today’s lesson.

Let’s go back to that notion of men not being good at expressing their feelings verbally.  Verbally is the important word here.  Why should men have to express their thoughts and feelings verbally?  Just because women do?  Well, that hardly seems fair.  Because, guess what?!?  Men actually do express their feelings.  They express them quite clearly most of the time.  More clearly than women, I think.  Women are just so caught up in words that they don’t see what their menfolk are telling them.

If men aren’t letting you know how they feel with words, then what’s going on here?  Well, you know that phrase “actions speak louder than words?”  It seems men actually take this to heart.  (While women throw it out there pretty frequently, but then keep on keepin’ on with the words.)  You have to pay attention to a man’s actions.  I will not lie…your daddy does not say the words “I love you” very often.  I don’t sit around feeling blue about it though.  You know why?  Because your daddy lets me know that he loves me all the time!  I have a computer problem, and he drops everything to help.  He suddenly feels like my car stereo isn’t doing all that I need, so he installs a new one.  He makes sure our home stays safe and comfy.  He makes sure my car stays safe and comfy.  He indulges my hobbies and whims.  Usually. 😉 He remembers the way I like my bacon cooked and how I take my coffee.  These are the ways a man tells you he loves you.

So, you have options, little one.  When you meet that super-special-awesome guy and fall in love and get married (or have a long-term relationship), you can sit around being sad that he’s not telling you he loves you in words OR you can look around and see all the ways he’s showing you that he loves you.

And here’s another thought: Instead of always expecting men to meet us on our verbal terms, we could put a little effort into meeting them on theirs.  That fella might be tired of hearing you yack about how much you love him…maybe he’d prefer to see some evidence.

Trust me, there will be more of this man advice in the future.  Maybe you’ll know some things going into a relationship that it took me several break-ups to learn. 😉

July 22, 2013 / nuttystepmom

the work of cars: wash that sucker

CindyLou, as much as it frightens me to think about it, you’re probably going to have a car one day.  Even though you’re 12 right now, we’ve already begun teaching you what all of the road signs and lane markings mean, but there is so much more to know about having and driving a car.

As with the other topics, we’ll start simple.  Yep, today we’re just going to talk about keeping that thing clean.

So, why bother cleaning your car at all?  Well, there are a few reasons.  First of all, if you don’t keep the inside cleaned out, you’ll eventually lose a milkshake or something in there, and it will smell to high heaven.  This is not a situation you want.  But, really, as I’ve tried to teach you all along, if your surroundings are calm and orderly, it helps your brain to be calm and orderly.  Trust me, when you’re behind the wheel of a car, calm and orderly is a desired state of mind.  Always remember this:  Your environment affects your mentality.  This includes your car.  If you’re constantly having to dig for things or moving things out of the way for passengers to have room for their butts or trying to identify the source of funky smells, you’re going to feel a little chaotic.  Avoid that.

Now, the outside of the car has even more compelling reasons to be kept clean.  It can actually goof up your paint and lead to rust and contagious diseases if you leave the outside of your car gross.  Okay, maybe not contagious diseases, but it really can speed up that whole rusting process.  You do not want a rusty car.  That’s bad.  Dirty windshields are also bad news.  If you can’t see, you’re not going to be in tip-top driving shape, are you?

There’s also that pesky thing about taking a little pride in the things you work for, pay for, and own.  Cars, like everything else, should be maintained so they’ll last longer, stay nicer, keep a higher value, and so on.

Okay, we’ve covered the why of the whole thing.  Now let’s talk about how.  As usual, I’m just sharing how I do things.  It works for me. You may find a better way…but I doubt it. 😉

Depending on where you live, you have car washing options.  You may have a business in your area that will do the whole thing for you, but it’s gonna cost you.  You may have a nice driveway to wash your car in, but that can cause troubles too…and it can also be kind of time-consuming.  And the car washes at gas stations?  Ehhh, they usually cost more than they’re worth.  This is what I like to do…

  • Keep some handy car-friendly wipes in the car (the trunk is a nice spot).  Once a week, I grab one or two wipes and clean up the dash, the drink holders, and all of the hidey-holes that cars seem to have.
  • Keep some glass cleaner and a rag or two in the car (again, trunks are good for this sort of thing).  After you’ve cleaned up the dash and whatnot, clean up the inside of those windows.  Replace the rags from time to time…they can only get so dirty before they become part of the problem.
  • Take your car to one of those goofy, do-it-yourself, put-the-quarters-in-to-make-things-operate car washes.  Get every scrap of trash out of your car.  Throw down the 50 cents to vacuum the inside of your car.  This will take you about 2 or 3 minutes.  Now throw away the $1 or $2 it will take to soap up and rinse your car.  You’re looking at another 5 minutes or so.  (If this gets done fairly often, it really doesn’t take long.)  In under 10 minutes, and spending less than 3 dollars, you have a spiffy, clean car.
  • One more note!  Those sprayers for the soaping and rinsing are really damn fun to play with, but be warned…some of those things spray water with enough ferocity to rip the skin from your body.  I’m not saying if I speak from experience on this issue or not (okay, I am, and that crap hurt really bad), but focus your water spraying energies on inanimate objects, okay?

As you are aware, I wash my car and Daddy’s car every two weeks (okay, so it’s more of a “my car one week, Daddy’s car the next week, repeat” kind of thing).  I promise you I don’t spend more than a few minutes each week on this and I generally invest $1.50 in the whole process.  Way better than taking forever in the driveway or spending a fortune to have someone else do it, no?

Sadly, the car information you need to have only gets less interesting from here.  Trust me…it’s stuff you need to know or I wouldn’t bore you with it. 😉

July 22, 2013 / nuttystepmom

gift bags…use them!

Okay, CindyLou, here’s one of those random bits of knowledge that doesn’t really fit anywhere.  I promise I’ll get this blog organized before you’re all grown up. 😉

Some women have a ridiculous amount of crap around the house for wrapping presents.  I’ve seen so many friends and family members with closets devoted to a heap of forgotten bits of gift wrap, half-used rolls of tape, squashed bows, and tissue paper in an array of hideous colors.  If one of these people is really on top of things, they’ve purchased some sort of high-budget, specialty  plastic bins or things that hang on the door to organize that mess.

But here’s the thing….all of that crap is a waste of money and space.  You just don’t need it.

Bring your brain to the gift wrap supplies we have in our house.  It’s one little box that easily fits on a closet shelf.  In that box are the following things:

  • about 20 high quality gift bags in a medium-ish size
  • a few smaller gift bags that match the larger ones
  • heavy-duty gift tags that attach with yarn or string
  • tape
  • one pack of tissue paper

And that, my sweet, is all you need.  Now, let’s talk about the details.

  • Make sure the gift bags are in an all-purpose color…go neutral.  That way you can use them for any occasion.
  • Do not be bashful about asking for your bags back from close friends and family.  Demand the bags back from people who live in the same house with you.  People you don’t know well or your boss or something?  Yeah, you just need to let that bag go.
  • Use those gift tags over and over.  Let’s face it, every Christmas and birthday, our gift tags have the same three names on them…why keep buying them over and over again?  Just remove them from the bags and store them in one of small bags or a little box or something so they don’t get messed up.
  • You will need to snag some tissue paper from time to time, but it’s cheap and easy to store….just grab the color you need for a particular occasion OR keep a multi-color pack on hand, and you’ll always be prepared.
  • Bows?  I’m pretty sure bows exist to get crushed and mangled.  Instead of keeping bows around, get creative.  Pick some flowers from the yard and tie them with twine to a bag handle.  If you have yarn around, use that to make a bow….or ribbon from previous projects…or guitar strings or phone charger wires.  You know, just whatever you can find that works. 😉  Another radical notion?  Why the heck does every gift need a bow?  Be brave and skip the bow altogether…you know, just when you’re feeling frisky.
  • On those weird occasions that you have a gift to give that won’t fit in a gift bag, get creative.  Just slap a bow in a lovely spot.

One last thing!  Always remember this: Presentation is important, but a well thought-out, meaningful gift is the real point.  If you give the people you love gifts that they will treasure and love, they probably won’t remember the gift wrap.

I promise you that these strategies will make your life simpler and easier…and you’ll still be prepared to not look like a goon.

Of course, as with everything on the blog, you may find your own, and better, way of doing things…if you do, please share! 😀

July 13, 2013 / nuttystepmom

lovely lemons

CindyLou, you’ve spent a lot of time with me in the kitchen over the years, but I thought it might be nice to document some kitchen tricks and tips for you anyway…just in case you forget some of the important stuff.   We’re going to start off easy with this category.

Lemons.  Have them.  You can buy a bag of lemons for stupid-cheap, and they have right around infinite uses.  They’re great for cooking, of course, but they also come in handy for cleaning, decorating, making the house smell nice, etc.

But, for today, I’m going to impart a very simple kitchen trick.  When you need lemon juice (and you will), before you cut into the lemon, roll the lemon on the counter a few times.  Roll it like you mean it!  Press down on that sucker and roll it back and forth a bit.  This makes a lemon sooooo much easier to juice.  That’s it.  A simple 5 second trick to make life easier. 🙂

Of course, after you juice the lemon, throw the peel in the compost pile.  Or find another use for it (more on that later).  Don’t fill the landfills with lemon peels, please.

Oh, and for the love of all that is good in the world, don’t buy that freaky lemon juice that comes in the fake lemon!  Why create trash?  Why spend more?  Why risk having things in your lemon juice that aren’t lemon juice?  Let the dorks who find squeezing a lemon to be too difficult take on the accountability for that nonsense.  You, my dear, are smarter than that. 😉

July 12, 2013 / nuttystepmom

glorious men: they are who they are

So, CindyLou, it’s time to talk about the fellas. Of course, there are approximately 900 billion topics to cover here, but today we’ll just talk about one idea…and it’s an important one, so pay really close attention.

In your life, you will hear women make all sorts of comments about “training” men or “changing” men or finding a “fixer upper.” Those women are uppity idiots, and you should promptly disregard every word that comes out of their mouths. Men are not pets or cars or houses. They don’t need trained. They don’t need to be changed. Seriously, just take a moment to think about how you would feel if someone believed they were “training” you to be a good girlfriend or wife. It’s degrading, sexist, and mean. Don’t be that chic.

Here’s a truth: If you feel like a guy needs to change to make you happy, then he’s not the guy to make you happy. It is not your responsibility or right to change another human.

Here’s another truth: The guy that you like just the way he is? That’s the one for you. Does that mean he’s going to be perfect and never annoy you or upset you? Absolutely not. Guess what? You’re going to annoy and upset him, too. Working through all of that crap together (and still liking each other at the end)…that’s where a real relationship happens.

One more truth: You cannot respect a person you are trying to change. Do you respect a dog that you’re training to sit? Do you respect the walls that you’re changing by applying paint to them? No, you don’t. Without mutual respect, a relationship is doomed to fail.

That’s all for today, chickadee. Tomorrow I’m going to teach you something really important about lemons. You see how I’m bouncing back and forth between things that actually matter and random brain thoughts with these posts? Yeah, that’s your stepmom. 😉

Thoughts to add about avoiding the “training” mentality? Go ahead and pop that advice for CindyLou into the comments!

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