Friday, August 1, 2014

The Thrifty Stay-At-Home Wife: Cleaning

How society sees us (photo: Pinterest) Ah, this one is the pinnacle of housewifery - cleaning. You'll be doing it a lot, whether you have children or not. Are not adults just as fucking messy at times? Of course they are, particularly because they're drunk or tired... sometimes both.

Cleaning can actually be a relaxing, meditative activity. Well, unless you have a sloppy roommate. Just lay the hammer down a few times and hope they'll find chores can be fun and relaxing, too, then all will benefit from the zen that exudes off an immaculately clean house.

Contrary to what most wealthy, well-to-do snobbish types think of us poorer folk, just because we don't have money doesn't necessarily mean we don't appreciate nice things. All it means is that we can't fucking afford those things, and we make do with what we have. You don't need a two-thousand dollar sofa or fancy furniture to make your home look and feel like a million bucks. It's all about keeping everything in order, stretching out products as long as they can be stretched so that you'll always have the tools you need to get that fresh feeling all up in the air of your humble abode.

Make Your Liquid Soaps Last Forever

I like this idea... get a clear dispenser and put flowers in your soap after you fill it halfway, then fill the other half. Here's a simple trick to make sure you're never needlessly frittering away money on hand soap. Ideally, your soap setup will include a dispenser that you bought from a store (specifically one that matches whatever color scheme you're either going for and/or end up having the most of after you get hand-me-down furniture from your parents) and a big jug of any kind of pleasant-smelling store-brand antibacterial hand soap.

That's the most cost-effective way to run your soap-age in the long term, but if you find yourself in a position where you can't even save up ten bucks for the dispenser, just buy the cheapest (store-brand) hand soap in the disposable plastic pump. This trick will work with both types of dispensers.

All you need to do is when you start getting to the halfway point of the bottle, add enough water so that the contents of the dispenser now reach the full line. Keep doing this every time you reach the halfway point using less and less water on each fill until the soap in the dispenser no longer lathers, or bubbles up when you wash your hands. Trust me - it will keep lathering for a long time if you do it this way, and it doesn't affect the soap's antibacterial properties.

Another trick is if you're at the point of no more lather and you still have a while to go before you can get more hand soap, add a little dish soap to thicken the mixture and give it back a little consistency.

**Additional tip: You can do this with a lot of things to stretch them out, up to and including liquid laundry detergent, window or all-purpose cleaners, and even shampoo. Obviously, the more you water it down the less effective it will be, so be prudent with it the best you can. However, I also completely understand that every now and then, desperate times call for desperate measures, so do what you gotta do. No one's going to judge, because no one will be the wiser!

Lysol Wipes + Windex Are Your Answer For Everything

Your new best friends! Well, when you're cleaning, that is It seemed as though, for a while, cleaning products like sprays, dusters, vacuums, toilet bowl cleaners, et cetera... they were all sort of a waste in my eyes. Everything magically stays so clean, I thought to myself in my teenage years as I lived in my mother's house completely oblivious to any act of cleaning that occurred within it. There's no way you would need all this stuff to keep one little house clean.

Ah, the innocence of youth! It was simply a joy to discover that things do, in fact, amass grime, dirt and nastiness beyond your wildest imagining - and they do it quickly.

The toilet bowl cleaner I would not suggest skimping on, if you can help it. If you're a guy, you may not appreciate this much, but for any ladies who plan on reproducing in the forseeable future, take heed; keep your damn toilet clean. There is nothing worse than suffering "morning" sickness, except of course suffering it, puking every five minutes, and then puking immediately after that thanks to the almost unnoticeable smell (to the non-pregnant nose, anyway) and sight of the sorry state of your porcelain throne (which, even if it isn't that bad, it'll be the last thing you'll want to see when you're hunched over the thing all day).

Luckily, you can pick it up cheap and if you get a little packet of those tablets you drop into the tank of your loo (my favorite kind turns the water blue for a week or more and a buck will get you two tablets, which lasts approximately two months), then your likelihood of avoiding that situation just increased dramatically.

But even in the pinchiest of pinches, so long as you have some glass cleaner (preferably Windex, none of the others work as well and they have a green alternative) and some Lysol wipes, you can clean your way out any mess - yes, even toilet ones!

If you are without a duster (as I currently am), some paper towels and Windex can handle the job just as well, if not better. Lacking a toilet bowl brush? Grab a stick or some other stick-shaped object that you don't mind tossing out back into nature (or into the trash) and wrap a Lysol wipe around one end. Voila! Instant bowl cleaner. Of course, it helps if you have the actual goo they make to clean toilet bowls, since they're relatively inexpensive (around $2 in my hometown, don't forget to clip a coupon for it before you go), but either way, the job gets done.

You shouldn't forget to use your Windex/glass cleaner and your Lysol wipes for what they were actually meant for; cleaning windows, wiping kitchen counters, microwaves, sinks, toilet seats, tables, and anything else that tends to accrue an outer coating of griminess. Just remember to use it very lightly on wood surfaces as it has been known to take away the varnish with heavy use.

If you'd like to actually get a duster, Swiffer makes some cheap ones ranging from $6-$8. Those little buggers come in handy and are good for days when you really don't want to bust out the spray.

Dishwasher/Laundry Detergent - Pods are the Way of the Future

Photo: brownvegan.comWhen it comes to detergent, get the pod version of whatever kind you favor. Less waste and they usually yield a higher amount of loads than the liquid stuff for less.

Again - clip a few coupons first before you buy anything. It may seem lame or remind you of Grandma, but Grandma knew that 50 cents here and 2 dollars there adds up to a lot more money in your fucking pocket, considering these are all things you are going to need to buy anyway.

Thankfully, all you have to do these days is go to a website like this or Google search the product for a coupon, click, then print... although there are still ad inserts and coupon mailers going around, so keep an eye out for deals. I hate even saying it because of how lame it sounds, but when you think about it, coupons are just another genius way to stick it to the man. So, stick it to the fucking man and use some fucking coupons.

Quickie Upholstery Cleaning

Here again is where our friends the Lysol wipes come in handy. Instead of steam-cleaning your upholstery (who really has the money to do that, anyway), take a Lysol wipe to it and scrub the shit out of the surface area of your couch or chair or what have you. Finish off with some fabric refresher spray and not even the snobbiest, most discriminating nose could tell the difference.

Make Your Bed

The bed at Dracula's Castle in Romania - If only I could get a bed like this...

It's totally 100% free, and it'll make your room feel like a million bucks. Top it off with a spritz of fabric refresher spray for good measure in-between washes (since there really isn't any need to wash your sheets more than once a week, unless of course they are dripping with any form of bodily fluid). Bonus points for decorative pillows on the bed.

I also firmly believe that you sleep better (not to mention, sexual congress is more likely to convene) in a made bed. It also makes your bedroom appear cleaner, just as a messy bed will make a clean room feel unkempt.

Secret Witches (Cleaning) Brew

If you are in one of those worst-case scenarios and have absolutely nothing, here's a cheap DIY alternative to making an all-purpose cleaner. It's super simple and quick.
- 2 parts hot water
- 1 squeezed lemon
- A few pumps of soap (any kind will do)
- A dash of baking soda (optional)
It's great and equally as powerful as any all-purpose cleaner out there. Plus it smells like fresh lemons (well, because, the lemon.. obviously).

Some professional cleaners actually prefer using variations of this to any product on the market. And they do this shit for a living! Kind of like us stay-at-home moms do, except they get paid for it and we rarely get thanked and even get put down by idiots who think that cleaning just magically happen and tell us we're just being lazy bitches all day by staying home and playing nanny/maid/cook/chauffeur/nurse/wife/secretary/purchasing agent or whatever million tasks were needed of us that day.

To those ignorant (and probably childless) assholes, I give a hard and hearty "FUCK YOU".

You Don't Need 20 Zillion Cleaning Products (but you will need these)

Chill out, mamas and papas. You got dis.

If you're just starting out and aren't really sure what you'll need to tackle home maintenance, whether it be for you or for an entire family - which, by the way, officially makes you chief executive officer of making shit look nice.

No, it doesn't matter if you're the man or the woman of the relationship (in the figurative or literal senses) - if you are a human being who has passed the adolescent stage of life, the task falls to you to keep shit looking like it should. Even though I personally embrace them, in part thanks to having a few gypsy ancestors who's beliefs that a woman will be happiest taking care of a family and a home must have made its way into my blood, the old-fashioned gender roles are quickly withering away with time. While that may strike some happiness in all you men who now expect their woman to work, that also means that you'll be stuck doing just as much cleaning as she does, even if she does it better.

So, male or female, here is a list of essentials and smart investments that you'll need to keep on hand for a clean and happy home:

  1. A Swiffer WetJet
    It may seem silly, but this thing is invaluable, and the starter kit is around $35, even as low as twenty bucks on Amazon (not bad). You can circumvent having to pay that much by either cleaning your floors by hand armed with a paper towel and all-purpose spray (or even a mop, for the bravest of souls), but it is so time consuming, tedious, and exhausting. No way you're going to get around to doing it every couple of days if that is your method.
    You'll have to clean your floor every other day at least, even if it's just you and a dog. You can't help spilling crumbs or coffee grinds in the kitchen, and you can't stop Fido or Fluffy from stampeding indoors from out in the yard or springing forth like a race horse from the litter box, kicking up litter bits and evenly coating your seemingly-sorta-clean floor. Just get this damn thing, swipe over it real quick every day after a one-time thorough clean, and you'll never have to worry about flying pellets or mud splatter again.
  2. Duster
    A duster is one of those things you may not think you need, or perhaps see more as a luxury than a necessity. Once you start to really notice the Halloween-esque formations of cobwebs mounting in every last one of your ceiling corners, you'll realize it's not.
    Of course, the workaround is either to vacuum them up (if, by some miracle, you can afford a vacuum) or take some Windex and towels to it, but a duster is so much easier and takes less time. You can pick up a Swiffer duster for like, eight bucks. It's a good investment.
  3. Vacuum
    They make cheap ones if your budget doesn't allow for much, but if you're able, try to get a moderately-priced reliable sort made for heavy duty work (so it can handle the daily not-so-heavy work with ease and minimal maintenance) and it'll pay for itself in no time. Bonus points for finding one on sale or a coupon for one, and extra bonus points for getting one with useful extensions included.
  4. Windex
    You're going to need an all-purpose cleaner, and you're going to need window cleaner. Getting Windex just kills two birds with one stone, as it is an effective tool for both uses. Have squeaky clean, streak-free windows and fresh-smelling walls, tables, chairs and counters. All with one thing.
    Trust me on this one - just because they have a million different variations of a cleaning product doesn't necessarily mean they are any different fundamentally. Yes, they have all-purpose Windex, glass cleaners, surface cleaners, and electronic cleaners, but they are all the same product packaged to appeal to varying demographics.
    Stick to the originals and the basics. They usually work best.
  5. Paper Towels
    This kinda goes without saying, doesn't it? Always keep paper towels on hand, lest you spill your coffee everywhere and be stuck scrubbing at full force trying to get out the set-in stains from it.
  6. Lysol (or other antibacterial) Wipes
    These are your go-to quick fixers for almost everything. Spot cleaning is the easiest kind of cleaning. Start with a thoroughly clean house and spot here and there. It won't even seem like you're doing anything at all.
  7. Carpet Cleaner
    No need for a big steam job every six months. One can of Resolve or other foaming carpet cleaner. Use as needed and you'll never have need of an expensive pro clean or even a replacement carpet.
  8. Cheap Toilet Bowl Brush w/Base
    This is an item you'll probably be replacing every six months to a year, depending on how much use it gets, so go for the absolute cheapest plastic toilet brush that has a base to hold it in (since you don't want that toilet water on the floor of your bathroom I hope). Expect to have to do a quick scrub to your toilet once or twice a week to keep it from collecting a coating of grime composed of icky waste.
    Bonus points for getting one that matches whatever color is most prominent in your bathroom or matching your color scheme.
    Extra bonus points for getting those little tablets you can drop into the toilet tank to help keep it cleaner for longer. The kind I use in my house costs but a dollar, and it makes your toilet water a pretty deep blue for a week or longer. Don't really care if it makes me lame but it's kind of awesome when a bathroom is all clean, down to the water in the toilet bowl. Perhaps it's because since being pregnant, I appreciate bathrooms more than I ever did.
  9. Toilet Bowl Cleaner Liquid
    You're gonna need this stuff. Sorry. Toilets get the messiest the quickest, and if you leave that thing uncleaned for longer than a week it'll be so disgusting your dear old grandmother would faint if she saw it, even if it doesn't quite revolt you to that degree. Dunno why it wouldn't though, because it fucking should!
    Once a week (or once every other week, if you took my advice on those toilet tank tablets), squirt that shit around circumference of the toilet on the underparts of the rim (the cheap store brand toilet bowl cleaner works just dandy) and do a little scrub-scrub.
    Then you'll never have to worry about stumbling drunkenly into a filthy lavatory ever again! Well, at least in your own house, anyway...

Other things like liquid plumber stuff, CLR (or lime/calcium/rust cleaners), and extras like air fresheners (or even candles, to add le sexy) are optional and things you should only pick up on an as-needed basis. That shower cleaner spray (the one with no scrubbing involved) is only something you should pick up if you have tiles or crevasses where water usually builds and stays before mold is caused. If there's mold already or if you have no tiles in your shower, you don't need that stuff. Windex does just fine. (Yeah I know, I'm sounding like a old Greek man. Whatevs. That shit works on everything.)

It may seem like overkill, but you have no idea how absolutely invigorating and fucking wonderful a house home feels when everything in it is clean, fresh-smelling, and in its proper place.

This coming from a chick who was content to spend the first half of her life in utter filth. Trust me, a clean house - a really clean house - is one of those simple things that mean a lot in the end, and affects a great deal more than you might expect, including house morale, the aura of your environment, and a host of other things.

It also becomes easy work that takes no time at all when you give yourself a head start and just keep on top of it doing a little bit every day, or cleaning messes as you go. That little bit of spot cleaning here and there in a house that has already been intensely cleaned makes all the difference in the world, a difference that's unimaginable from the vantage point of a cluttered space.

Don't kick yourself if you're a little behind, though - we all have days, weeks, even months where cleaning just doesn't have an available slot on the roster. Shit, you couldn't get me to go near a dirty dish when I was pregnant. Fuck that! I'm too busy building a human to worry about that crap! Therefore, I totally get having a temporary fear or avoidance of all things cleaning. I also know that initial avoidance tends to develop more into a phobia that gets worse over time, making it harder to get back into your groove the longer you wait to do it. Just don't put it off too long! Why would you want to wait to love being at home even more than you already do?


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