Spring Cleaning Made Easy

Spring Cleaning Made Easy

Helpful Hints for the Domestically Challenged

I can’t say I’ve ever actually done any spring cleaning. The truth is housework is not that high on my priority list. In fact, it’s probably towards the bottom. It’s one of those things in life I dread doing, even though I know it has to be done, like taking out the garbage or mowing the lawn (oh, wait, my husband handles those things, but you know what I mean). When it comes to everyday cleaning, I usually limit it to only what the eye can see – like sinks and toilet bowls, dust on the furniture, dishes, and dirt on the floor. Of course, if we’re having company I try to make our home a little more presentable. But, for the most part I’m pretty lax when it comes to housekeeping.  I even have magnet on my fridge that says “An immaculate house  is the sign of a misspent life”.

The thing is I need to start doing something about my untidy abode soon because my closets are overflowing with clothes I’ve never worn (they were on sale, what can I say?) or no longer fit (I keep telling myself that I’ll squeeze into them someday). The junk drawers in the kitchen are jammed packed with, well, junk, and my bathroom cabinets are harboring bottles of prescription and over-the-counter medications that expired in 2010. And, I swear those dust bunnies behind my dresser are starting to multiply like real rabbits!  funny-cleaning-quotes

This year I’ve vowed to change my tune and finally get to the nitty-gritty tasks I’ve been putting off for too long, like washing windows, organizing my closets and chucking those misfit toys that are taking up space in my son’s old bedroom. He’s 24 now, so it’s time.

How and where to begin…

Angry woman in a chaotic living room with vacuum cleaner
Aarrgh! Where do I start?

When I look at all the projects ahead of me it seems so daunting and overwhelming (one of those eye-twitching, pull-your-hair out kind of things). That’s why I’ve decided it’s best to focus on one room or project at time. I realize it’ll take days or even weeks to go through my list. I mean, let’s be real, unless you’re Superwoman or live in one of those tiny houses that are all rage now, there’s no way you can do it all in a day or even a weekend! Besides, I happen to live in a hundred year-old, three-story house with six bedrooms!

To help me stay on track and reach my goals, I’ve made up a checklist of things to do (I did some research online first to compile my list). I’m hoping this will help other domestically-challenged people like me.

The List

Take inventory of cleaning supplies. Usually that means mops, brooms & dust pans, dusting/cleaning cloths, pails, and cleansers. After experiencing adverse effects from harsh chemicals (they make me cough, sneeze and feel dizzy), I’ve decided to experiment with natural cleaning products, like vinegar and lemon juice. Check out these homemade and natural cleaning solutions.

Tools and sodium bicarbonate for house cleaning
Try natural cleaning products – they’re better for you and the environment!

Declutter. Go through old mail, newspapers, magazines, piles of papers, etc. Recycle what you don’t need and file anything of importance, like unpaid bills, medical statements and tax forms, in a safe place. Just remember where you put them!

Organize closets. Pack up and store seasonal items. Donate apparel and shoes you no longer wear, but are still in good condition, to a charity or thrift store. You can also bring them to a consignment shop to get money or credit for purchases, or sell them in a garage sale. Basically, if you haven’t worn it for a year, get rid of it!

Reorganize kitchen cupboards and drawers. 

  • Dispose of anything that’s worn, broken or expired (even canned goods have an expiration date). That includes any plastic containers without lids and lids without containers (seriously, where do those missing pieces go? Probably into the same black hole as the mismatched socks!) See tips on storing containers & lids.
  • Take out and replace old shelf paper or consider covering your shelves with smooth and glossy paint. Go to hgtv.com for guidelines on painting shelves.
  • Restock cupboards and drawers in an orderly fashion, keeping similar items together. My sister-in-law even arranges her spices in alphabetical order so they’re easier to find. Hey, whatever works!
  • Wipe down outside of cupboards and cabinets as well as appliances to remove any built-up grease and grime.

Clean out the fridge. NOTE TO SELF: this should be done on a regular basis, like once a week or at least a few times a month!

  • Toss spoiled or expired food (you may be able to use some of it for composting).
  • Clean shelves and bins with baking soda or vinegar and water.
  • Arrange items neatly on shelves/in bins.

Go through every room from top to bottom. 

  • Sweep cobwebs off the ceiling and corners
  • Dust woodwork and furniture
  • Sweep/mop floors (don’t forget the dust bunnies!)
    Vacuum rugs or carpeting
  • Flip mattresses and remove dust/dirt from headboards and bed frames
  • Scrub sinks, toilets, bathtubs/showers – this should be done at least once a week too
  • Wipe down cabinets and vanities
  • Clean out (and in some cases debug) light fixtures
  • Wash curtains, bedding, towels, shower curtains, and throw rugs
  • Open the windows and let in some fresh air!

Wash your windows inside & out. I plan to use my grandma’s tried-and-true method – a vinegar/water solution and newspaper. Grandma always said it makes your windows squeaky clean! NOTE: it’s best to do this on a cloudy day as direct sunlight dries the glass too quickly, leaving streaks. Don’t forget to wipe away marks on window panes too.

Shake out throw rugs and steam-clean carpets. If you really want to get embedded dirt out of your rugs, hang them on the clothesline outdoors and beat them with a broom or an old-fashioned rug beater (fortunately I have two of these), then leave them on the line for a few hours to freshen them up. If you don’t have a steam-cleaner, you can usually rent one from a hardware store.

Who knows? Once I see the final result, I may decide I like a clean house and want to keep it that way. Or, I may just hire someone to do it.

Happy cleaning!

old fashioned quote

I have to agree with Erma Bombeck’s take on housework!

 

A Magically Delicious St. Paddy’s Day

GuinnessBeerCakeOnPlatter

Faith and Begorrah, March 17th is a mere two weeks away and soon people across the country will be parading around in shiny green hats and “Kiss Me I’m Irish” t-shirts, consuming mass quantities of green beer or shots of Jameson whiskey, and engaging in various festivities (or shenanigans) to celebrate the patron saint of Ireland. My good friend Kathy is three-quarters Irish, my daughter Meghan and grandson Dylan almost half and I know a slew of others whose ancestors hailed from the Emerald Isle. But, on St. Patrick’s Day it doesn’t really matter what nationality you are because everyone’s a Murphy, Kelly or Sullivan in spirit, right?

If you’d rather skip the pub scene and observe the holiday at home, consider inviting a few friends over for a traditional Irish meal of Corned Beef & Cabbage with Soda Bread, along with a pint of ale or a glass of limeade. You’ll want to save room for dessert, of course, and what could be more fitting than Guinness Cake! You may not be a fan of the bold stout, but this moist, mouthwatering and decadent chocolate confection with heavenly cream cheese frosting is sure to win you over!

Give these recipes a try and who knows? They may become a St. Patrick’s Day tradition!

Corned Beef Cabbage
Instead of dining out, enjoy a traditional Irish feast of Corned Beef & Cabbage at home!

Corned Beef & Cabbage 
Ingredients:
3 lbs. corned beef brisket
Water, to cover meat
2 tbsp. pickling spices
3 tbsp. salt
2 tbsp. peppercorns
1 head cabbage
Directions: Place corned beef with all the seasonings in a large stockpot. Cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 2 hours. If not tender after 2 hours, keep checking at 15 minute intervals. Remove corned beef, save broth for cabbage. Cut cabbage into wedges, place in a large pan, cover with broth from the beef and simmer until tender. Keep cabbage warm in broth until needed. Serve corned beef and cabbage together with some boiled potatoes and carrots. Don’t forget the mustard!
Recipe courtesy of Food.com

Don’t care for corned beef? Check out this recipe for Irish Beef Stew

Irish Soda Bread 
Ingredients:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/3 cup white sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup butter, melted
Directions: Preheat oven to 325º F. Grease 9×5 inch loaf pan. Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and baking soda. Blend egg and buttermilk together, and add all at once to flour mixture. Mix until moistened. Stir in butter. Pour in prepared pan. Bake for 65-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in bread comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. Note: for better flavor, wrap in foil for several hours or overnight.

Chocolate Guinness Cake (Pictured at the top. The photo was taken by my friend Mary Haehn – she baked the cake too!)
Ingredients:
1 cup Guinness (stout beer)
10 tbsp. (1 stick + 2 tbsp.) unsalted butter, cubed
2 cups superfine (granulated) sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 large eggs, beaten
2/3 cup sour cream
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2-1/2 tsp. baking soda
Topping:
1-1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
Directions: Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a 9-inch spring form pan and line the bottom with parchment paper; set aside. In a large saucepan, heat Guinness and butter on medium-low heat until butter melts. Remove from the heat; whisk in sugar and cocoa until well blended. In a small bowl, combine the eggs, sour cream and vanilla; mix well. Add to Guinness mixture. Combine flour and baking soda; whisk into beer mixture until smooth. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until risen and firm, about 45-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Place pan on a wire rack and cool completely in pan. Remove sides of pan. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Add confectioners’ sugar and cream; beat until smooth and spreadable (do not over-beat). Remove cake from the pan and place on a platter or cake stand. Spread icing on top of cake so it resembles a frothy pint of beer. Refrigerate leftovers, it there are any.
Nigella Lawson’s recipe from NYTimes.com

Luck_o_Irish_2

I’m a wee bit Scotch-Irish and although I have no idea what that means, you can bet your blarney stone I’ll be wearing green on March 17th!