Monday, July 28, 2008

Deterring Cats from Scratching Furniture - HELP!

I'm looking for YOUR suggestions again, because my kitties are driving me bonkers! I have a new couch, chair and office chair. (Hurray especially on the office chair! My old one was so sad and rickety, you would've laughed to see it.)

The couch and chair we've had for around a year, and already we've had to drape blankets on it to prevent our two cats (especially one is guilty as charged, the little monkey) from scratching. I've tried a few natural ideas I've seen posted on the Internet - like spraying the area with lavender. But I think my cats (like me, apparently) love lavender! It didn't help a bit!

Is there any other way to prevent them from scratching up furniture? They DO have a scratching post...I've heard that orange oil might work. Has anyone tried this?

Thanks all!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Really Big Cleaning Problem - One Reader's Touching Email...and How I Hope to Help

I've been putting off doing this post, because I just know it's going to be an emotional post...but I promised Cleaning Challenged a reply, and so here goes...First, here is her email to me:

Dear Christina,

I noticed that you sometimes answer questions on your blog so I thought it might be worth it to take a shot. I'm a 24-year-old college graduate, but my cleaning "education" as a kid consisted of my mom going off on my sister and me every few months for "not pitching in," and going on what we called "cleaning binges" in which things were shoved out of the way into boxes or random drawers and we couldn't find anything later. I suspect this is because as a foster child she grew up without consistent guidance on cleaning.

As a result, I don't know how to clean. Because a mess was my normal environment, I just don't see clutter or things that need to be cleaned until they reach epic, discouraging scale, at which time I procrastinate until some emergency prompts my own cleaning binge. On average, my wardrobe is approximately 75% on my bedroom floor, 15% on my bathroom floor, and 10% still in the hamper from the last time I did laundry. I make bowls out of aluminum foil to get out of doing dishes. I know it's ridiculous but I don't know how to change what I'm doing when it's based in something I don't notice. I don't have a neat-freak roommate or close friend to learn from. I've tried to find books and websites to help me, but tips for getting a stain out of the carpet do me no good when I can't find the carpet.

If I ever have kids I don't want to pass this along to them. How do I fix my complete lack of cleaning habits?


Cleaning Challenged

(please don't use my real name online)


Hi CC,

Thanks for emailing me. I do apologize that it took longer for me to reply on the blog than I'd first told you, but I wanted to mull over your question for a while, and hopefully provide something constructive, something that would actually really help.

There are likely a lot of people in your shoes - people who grew up without a regular cleaning routine. So you know what? I really want to help you learn some gradual cleaning routines that you can stick to, so you don't feel overwhelmed by it all.

So, first things first - I want you to learn about cleaning bursts. They've really helped me (a recovering slob, but still with a 'happy slob' nature) to keep our place a lot tidier, so I won't freak out if people happen to stop by. Starting tomorrow, do one cleaning burst a day - even if it's for five minutes.

Second, we're going to set up some time for you every day to tackle the closet-out-of-a-closet syndrome that's going on. :) Seriously, you're not the only person whose clutter gets out of control! I don't want you thinking you are, and thinking you're somehow awful because of it. We can gradually decrease that and then learn how to keep it contained.

So, for this week, here are two goals for you:

  1. One cleaning burst a day. A cleaning burst is basically a timed period of cleaning. Aim for about 5 minutes a day and hit the areas that people (including YOU!) will see the most. My cleaning bursts always include kitchen, living areas, and main bath. Put 5 mins on the timer and then set to work tidying. DON'T WORRY IF YOU DON'T THINK YOU'RE DOING IT ALL PERFECTLY! Seriously, none of us do this perfectly, but over time we develop a few more cleaning skills.
  2. 5 minutes decluttering in your 'danger zone' - the closet! Once you touch an item that's out of the closet, deal with it. Again, put the timer on for five minutes. If you can work for a few extra minutes, that's a bonus, but if not - five minutes is fantastic. Aim to spend five minutes a day. Make a pile of things to give away, things that need to be thrown away, and things that need to be laundered, repaired, etc.

Next week I'll post again and see how you're doing. E-mail me back, please! I want to know how you progress, and I'm sure all of the blog readers will want to, as well. But, two steps to start is doable, right? And I'm really proud that you emailed me at all. We'll tackle this together! (And next week we'll start to tackle dishes and the kitchen in a more specific way.)

Take care,


P.S. Anyone who reads this and was as touched by CC's words as I was - please post an encouraging comment for her...Thanks!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Crazy Cleaning Tips - Cleaning with Vodka - Happy Slob Housecleaning Tips

Now here's a bunch of cleaning tips that should really grab your attention - cleaning with vodka! "Vodka??" You might ask. "Is she nuts?" Well...that's still up for debate, but on the topic of cleaning with vodka, I'm absolutely serious.

I've collected some of my favorite vodka cleaning tips for you, all right here. And remember: you certainly don't need a beautiful, expensive bottle of vodka for cleaning purposes. Just the cheapest old variety will do a fantastic job.

  1. Cleaning pet stains - of which I've encountered many! Vodka is great at lifting even tough stains. Since vodka is colorless and odorless, it won't add any additional staining to your carpet. I would be tempted to try a few tablespoons in my little carpet spot cleaner the next time the cats have a stomach upset...I'll post the results.
  2. Jewelry cleaner - Get those rocks sparkling again! Just let them soak in a tiny dish, swishing the jewelry around a bit to loosen gunk and grime that's had time to collect over the years. This is a tip I'm going to utilize this week - my old diamond solitaire is looking pretty UN-sparkly and needs a good clean.
  3. Cleaning leather - this was posted a couple of years ago by a Happy Slob reader: "I also used straight vodka to clean white paint off my son's black leather jacket. Worked great."
  4. Cleaning chandeliers - Now I don't have a chandelier myself, but I can only imagine the agony it must be to clean one! So I found this tip using vodka for all of you who DO have chandeliers to clean: "Vodka is also an excellent cleaner for chandeliers. Just mix one part of vodka with five parts of water and spray it on your chandelier. Let the excess drip onto a towel on the floor below."
  5. Cleaning clothing stains - Use it full strength to muscle away stubborn stains on clothing, including grass stains or food stains.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Happy Slob's Housecleaning - Product Review - Dirt Devil Spot Scrubber (Mini Portable Carpet Cleaner)

Product Review of:
Dirt Devil Spot Scrubber - Mini Carpet Cleaner for Spots
I was really fed up with some nasty stains in our carpet (ahem...let's just say that one of our pet cats has a real affection for finding the most obvious spots to barf up her furballs!). No matter what I did, I couldn't budge those stains, and in fact seemed to be making them worse with every attempt to clean them! Whenever I looked at one of those stubborn stains, it seemed to grin and chuckle at me, or wave as if to remind me of its very presence. As if I could've forgotten it!
So...hubs and I decided that it was time to finally buy some sort of carpet cleaner. But, we live in a modest 2-bedroom apartment without much storage space at all. Even our closets are just sort of wanna-be's with not much room for anything other than the absolute essentials. (And don't get me STARTED about our linen closet...) Wow, I'm in a cranky mood today, huh?
Right - back onto the topic at hand: our lovely new portable carpet cleaner! It's tiny and meant for spot removal as opposed to large carpet cleaning jobs. Just what we were looking for! Here it is:

We had planned on buying the "Little Green" spot cleaner, but both stores hubs went to were out of stock, so he purchased this one instead. And I'm very glad that he did! Our little Dirt Devil Spot Scrubber (the exact model shown - I've read that the smaller hand vac type doesn't work nearly as well) works like a dream. We used it on an old tea stain (that one was entirely my fault - I was climbing into bed one day with a full cup of hot tea, and well, I ended up in the bed, but the tea didn't make it onto the nightstand. It splashed dramatically all over the carpet!) and a few old kitty-tummy-upset stains with much better than expected results.
On the oldest, most stubborn stains, I think it will take 2-3 runs of the machine to get the stain out entirely, but we were both impressed by how it slurped up the old messes. The dirty water container got muddy-looking very quickly! I was thrilled to see those old stains start to disappear before my eyes. And relieved to see the demise of my old, mocking enemies...
Good Points:
  • Large tank size! We would only need to fill this and empty it occasionally. Considering it's just for spots - you could do a LOT of spot removal before the tank would need refilling.
  • Worked great with just hot tap water, about a quarter cup of white vinegar and the tiniest drop (literally) of liquid laundry detergent. I think you could very easily get away without even adding the detergent, but I knew these stains were particularly tough ones.
  • Powerful suction - you spray the solution on (in our case, vinegar and water and a drop of detergent - I didn't even bother with the freebie cleaner solution that came with the unit), scrub it with the brush and at the same time it sucks all the mess away. The suction was impressively powerful - better than I'd expected for this price.
  • A great bargain! Ours was on sale for $59.99, but is on regularly for $69.99 at Amazon and other online vendors. I thought it was well worth it...

What I Would Change if I Could:

  • Make the brush bigger - it's about 3 inches in length, and it would be nice to have a slightly larger brush to cover a larger area more quickly. It's not a serious flaw, though.

All in all, I really love this little gizmo. Now, when my beloved kitty has a stomach upset, I won't be in a tizzy to get the stain out, because this machine on fresh stains I think will be a true powerhouse. (And on old stains, it's proven itself already!)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

6 Ways to Use Vinegar Around the House to Clean

Don't scoff - white vinegar is an amazing all-purpose cleaner! I've posted countless ways here and on the site that you can use vinegar as a cleaner. Here are some of my all-time favorite vinegar tips, hints, recipes & all around good vinegar advice for Happy Slob Housecleaners.

  1. Vinegar as an All-Purpose Cleaning Spray - The Very Vinegar Spray is the one I rely on every day! Don't let the vinegar scare you...this is the best cleaning secret you can find, and it costs about 10 cents a bottle to make. Try it! Very Vinegar Spray Recipe
  2. Freshen the dishwasher - Just a cup or so in an empty dishwasher will freshen and deodorize your dishwasher naturally. And the acidity will help scrub that dishwasher clean - from the inside out!
  3. Remove pet odors and pet urine smells from carpet
  4. Freshen up bread boxes Bread Box Refresher
  5. A few extra vinegar cleaning tips from a reader: Vinegar Cleaning Tips from Roberta

And remember - to make a fun, natural foaming cleaner, just use some baking soda and vinegar mixed together in a bowl. Kids love cleaning with this foamy cleaner, and it's a lot milder than harsh chemical foam cleaners. Especially good for the toilet...which brings me to tip #6:

6. Clean the Toilet with Vinegar: Pour about a cup in the toilet, give it a good swish around with the toilet brush and close the lid and let sit. Sprinkle with baking soda and then scrub with the toilet brush, and flush the mess away. You should be left with a clean, sparkling toilet bowl!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Organizing Life Tips - Tip #1 - Make a Weekly Menu

Sure, this has nothing to do with cleaning. But, the Happy Slob mentality is all about simplifying your life, right? And one thing I find not only incredibly helpful with reducing stress - and reducing my bill at the supermarket! - is to sit down on Sunday nights and come up with a weekly menu or meal plan.

To simplify even further, you can have themes for each night, such as:

  • Monday: Breakfast for Supper Night
  • Tuesday: Soup & Sandwich Night
  • Wednesday: Try a New Recipe Night
  • Thursday: Dad's Night to Cook (Hurray!)
  • Friday: Homemade Pizza Night
  • Saturday: Eat out Night (Which is particularly easy to prepare...hehe)
  • Sunday: Proper Sit Down Dinner Night

With a theme in mind, you can create meal ideas for each day, and then make a grocery list that contains all the necessary ingredients.

Okay slobbos...what do YOU do to simplify meal planning?