Tag Archives: cleaning

My EXPEDIT rolls two deep


I think this picture embodies what is wrong about modern shelf decor. Sure, it looks gorgeous. It looks pleasant and organized. It has coordinated colors. But where are all the books? It’s a bookshelf! There are more vases than books on it. It’s a vaseshelf. Is this all the books these catalog-dwellers own? They must be very involved in their jobs/hobbies/kindles.

My EXPEDIT (www.ikea.com) is groaning under the weight of every cube filled, some with two layers, and on the very top, a row of cookbooks held up with bookends and more cookbooks.

So many books! You can never have too many, right? Our book collection is the sum of my husband’s fascination with Russia, Canada, philosophy, Philip Roth, Vladimir Nabokov, and Proust and my obsession with books about commodities, horse-racing, epidemic disease, and the works of Milan Kundera, Anita Shreve, Ha Jin, along with both of our inability to get rid of classics, art books, and literary criticism.

I have moved this collection personally once, packed it three times, and attempted to curtail its growth many times. I had movers complain about the number of boxes marked “books” (also subcategorized, if you must know, alphabetically for fiction or topic for non-fiction) like I was trying to kill them with my book-hoarding. It’s not SO bad. It was like 50, 2-cubic-foot boxes the last move. Sure, it’s a lot, but I know people with more. I guess they have houses. And don’t move very often. Sigh.

What troubles me, is that there is a little third person in this apartment who is pulling in the books at an alarming pace, not met by either of her parent’s acquisitions or offset by their willingness to part with “History of Ukraine.” And her books take up ridiculous amounts of space on her very own EXPEDIT, since many of them are made of cardboard and only have one line of text per page. Ridiculous.

She’s already two-deep in one cube. The madness is apparently genetic.

20 Domestic Demon Tips

I’m not even going to pretend that I’m any sort of Deity, when in fact the thing that is WRONG with my dwelling is most likely that I dwell in it and make messes of all sorts. Also, the cat. [Sidelong glance across the room. Cat yawns and walks away.]

But I know that blog readers love household tricks like toddlers love cellphones, so I’m going to attempt to give you my list, as totally uninspired as it may be. And just for reference, I’m not taking ideas from any other blog because then why would you be here? You could just go there?

1. To rescue white clothes (not synthetic fibers) from yellowing due to age or stains, you can soak them in 1 part bleach to 10 parts water, then pour off all the liquid but leave the clothes still wet and place them in a plastic garbage bag and tie it shut tightly. Let this sit for 24 hours and then run the clothes through a regular wash cycle. They will have a new life. You can’t do this TOO often, because bleach damages the fibers, but it’s good once in awhile.

2. If you simply can’t get a stain out of an otherwise good piece of light-colored, natural-fiber clothing, consider dyeing it with fabric dye that you can buy at most craft stores. It’s cheap and pretty easy and most stains will disappear under the new color. (Notable exception, oil stains may not.)

3. After cooking, when your skillet is really dirty, add dish soap and hot water while the pan is still hot on the stove and let it sit there on the turned-off burner. The heat and soap gets the de-griming action going faster for later washing.

4. To get an enameled pot or pan really clean after many uses, you can scrub it with powdered laundry detergent and water. This takes of months of stains and build-up.

5. Old toothbrushes make excellent scrub brushes for around sink hardware and along grout. Just spray the with cleaning product and go to work.

6. Speaking of teeth, toothpaste and a toothbrush is the best thing to use to clean pearls.

7. My sister told me that to clean a bad-smelling suitcase (the fabric kind), you can wet it down with vinegar and water and let it sit for a few hours and then rinse it off with water. After they dry, they will smell fresh. It works pretty well!

8. Don’t throw away your dry cleaner bags or the hangers/pins/clips. Take them back to the dry cleaner! I hate throwing away plastic, knowing that it will spend 100,000 years in a landfill. Most dry cleaners I’ve used, are happy to reuse hanger, pins, clips, and undamaged plastic clothing bags. If they won’t accept these things, many plastic bag recycling bins will also accept clear bags and metal hangers can be recycled with metals in most places. Check your local recycling guidelines for details. And if you CANNOT recycle the clear plastic bags, save a few now and then to use as drop cloths for painting, crafts, or under messy projects.

9. When packing up clothes for long-term storage, be sure that everything has been recently washed (on HOT if possible) and dried thoroughly. If you suspect a stain, be sure to treat that area well before the last wash. After the clothes have gone the drier, give them time to dry from the humidity of the drier as well, before folding. Layer the folded clothes with fabric softener sheets periodically in your storage container to keep them fresher. All of this goes for Space Bags as well.

10. Large size plastic salad shells from the grocery store, when washed out and stripped of their labels, make excellent storage boxes for shoes and flip flops.

I use this one!

11. Chocolate truffle boxes also make nice earring and necklace storage.

12. Keep your fine silver jewelry stored in small ziplocks, with the air pressed out, just like the jewelry shops do. Use silver polish only when necessary, as the oxidized silver layer gets stripped off, leaving a new layer silver to be oxidized.

13. Tights, nylons, and other garments made of spandex or lycra can become brittle when dry, so if you haven’t worn them in a long time, put them in a steamy bathroom before putting them on to avoid tears, runs, and snags.

14. It is best to iron cotton shirts while still slightly damp rather than drying completely first.

15. Alcohol will make glass streak free if you pour it over the surface to rinse off the surface. This is useful when you are trying to make stemware absolutely sparkle. The alcohol will evaporate and leave the surface clear without any wiping or towel drying. You need to use 70% ethanol or ethyl alcohol or higher. As a bonus, you’ll also sterilize your glass.

16. To ripen hard avocados, put them in a bag with an apple and tie shut. A day or so on the counter will make them ripe and ready to eat.

17. Instead of recycling all glass jars (from things like pickles and sauces), save some, scrub off the labels, and use them to store things you buy in bulk or that come in non-reclosable plastic bags. You can even put a nice label on the new jar or paint the lid so that it looks nicer.

18. Keep nuts from going bad by storing them in the freezer.

19. Store fresh herbs that are on stems like you would cut flowers, in a vase of water on the counter, instead of in the fridge.

20. Most glues and inks will dissolve in acetone, so if you have a stubborn label or ink stain, you can try nail-polish remover. Just be careful not to use it on silver, or polystyrene, which will cloud.

Aging out of Toys

One year and many toys ago...


A few months ago, I took many of my daughters infant toys and put them in a bag to take the donation place. I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t been there yet. I have a few bags of clothes, some other things, and so it’s not particularly fun for me to haul all this stuff on the subway and then down several blocks, so it gets put off and off…

A couple days ago, my toddler discovered said bag of infant toys. Now, these are the BEST TOYS EVER CREATED. She won’t let me put take them back. I know some of these were old favorites, but come on. She can’t be THAT misty about memories of being 3 months old and chewing on something, right?

Apparently, I was wrong.

She has carried a few of them around for hours. She tried to throw one of them in the shower with me. She spent a great deal of time with me on the bed trying to get me to make the sounds of the animals on her old rattle. I’m never entirely sure what a hippo is supposed to say, I’ve always just done “roar, blurbp, blurbp” like it’s roaring and then going underwater? The hippo onomatopoeia is not very formalized. The giraffe could use some help, too.

New Strategy: Leave these old toys out until she gets tired of them. Attempt to remove them, one by one, to a better hidden location and then get my crap together and get them out of the apartment with haste.

I already have a kind of toy-rotation going, but I think I’m going to go one step farther and actually hide more toys to take advantage of this absence-makes-the-toy-more-awesome phenomenon.

Those boxes…

You may remember that it was one of my resolutions (“Resolved”) that I would finally tackle the two giant boxes (more like trunks) of papers and odds/ends that I have been dragging around for several years.

Well, I started. It was not as truly awful as I expected. At some point in the frenzy of pre-moving while I was in NYC and oh-so-pregnant, I must have done some serious organizing. Other people got to “nest,” I got to pack. Nesting sounds so much more relaxing.

What I did not expect was the little trip down memory lane I would be forced to take as I sorted things into piles by year and tossed out things I no longer needed/wanted/ever wanted to see again. I found wedding invitations from friends, cards, tickets, programs, receipts, postcards, student IDs, diplomas, lab notes, solution recipes, campaign stickers, magazine clippings, newspaper clippings, one of my favorite issues of The Onion (“Christian Right Lobbies to Overturn the Second Law of Thermodynamics”), and so many photos. And this is not including the 4 foot stack of notes/homework/exams from my college classes (which I haven’t gotten to yet).

I had not really forgotten about all the stuff I did, but in stark contrast with the life I’m currently leading one thing was perfectly clear to me: I used to really go out! Wow. I went to THREE operas in Feb 2006. Three! I probably had dinner and drinks before all of them. Maybe even dessert after. That luxurious use of time seems so distant to me now.

I’m not really whining about it (okay maybe a little), I just was extremely struck by how much the notion of time (and disposable income) has changed since having a baby, moving, and going back to academia. I miss opera. I miss shows, restaurants, fundraisers, spontaneous trips, and I miss the high heels I probably wore for most of these. But more than these, I miss my friends who are all far away and who’s weddings were so lovely that it seems a shame that I only got to go to them once. And most of all, I miss the people who are gone forever. I miss them for myself and I miss them for my daughter who will only know them through my memory and the things left in those boxes.

The stuff under the sink


Things I have discovered cleaning out my bathroom cupboard:

I have no fewer than 8 kinds of deodorant. I am not a horribly smelly person (you would tell me, right?). I just have this really unfortunate habit of buying new deodorant before the last one has run out and deciding to put it in my gym bag or something, but then losing it and having to buy another or something.

And I’m sure you are thinking I’m a total liar, “you have never been to a gym,” you say.

Well I used to go. Before my gyms were transformed into the jungle variety.

Anyway, the contents of my toiletry basket were pretty shocking. I have no idea how I acquired so many samples and hand lotions and stuff to spray on my hair. I almost never use lotion. I almost never spray stuff on my hair. Sure, I try to now and then, but it doesn’t stick.

And I finally found my nail polish remover. I just bought a new bottle last week, of course. You can see how these things get started…

I have enough soap to last until my child is 10. I have enough dental floss to knit a sweater. But no one would want to wear a dental floss sweater. That would be weird. And minty.

There are fragrances I don’t even remember existing, let alone buying.

This post brought to you by Sephora.

Excuse note

11:36pm
Me: i have 40 pts, my husband has zero, the cat is DSQ in the “Cleaning The Apartment” race

My sister: wow. how many pts do i have?

Me: you did not enter

Sister: did u not get my entry rag?

Me: you had to be in the apt to enter

Sister: weird. i was standin outside, but registration never opened…..

Me: you had to come inside. there was a table

Sister: oh god i completely missed the table!!!! were there free t-shirts “i cleaned 2011″ and goodie bags (products from ur bathroom)

Me: there was free lip gloss from 2006

Sister: vintage??

Me: you could say that. I think this is going to be my blog post from tonight. I’m really phoning it in.

Sister: yeah get on that blog. ive been studyin 4 physics all day

Me: yeah yeah. I have been reorganizing my kitchen cupboards also

Sister: funnah

Me: It’s not quite mom’s “grain storage” level, but there are a lot of grains. And my plastic containers fell out a few times.

Sister: how did u let this happen

Me: and there are some without lids

Sister: oh no

Me: and I know where this leads
so I nipped it in the bud

Sister: yeah ya do

Me: Mom will be so pleased: that these are the lessons we’ve learned from her
by her negative example.

Sister: did u compile the futze containers

Me: I spell it “futsy”

Sister: shhhh

Me: Urban Dictionary lists “futsy” as meaning a “fart”

Sister: well thats not rite

Me: but a google search for “futze” turns up a few sites from Singapore that are not in English

Sister: i must say, effective use of ur time

Me: I should be cleaning out the coat closet, but I have lost the will to compete

Sister: maybe this is an opportunity for your husband to gain sum ground…..

Me: I think he’s accepted defeat

Sister: wow. mom’s thinking about writtin a xmas letter. i need to go over details of my life that are excluded for the press and general population & approve a photo she plan on using.
i wud hav my assistant do this….but i gave him sum time off
p.s. crosby is supposed to play 2morow! in other news i need to go shower

12:02 AM
Me: she didn’t ask me about a photo, or a press release

Sister: well she hasnt dun anything yet

Me: and yes I heard that Super Crosby is back to Save Hockey!

Me: i just cleaned out the coat closet

Sister: i feel like we’ve exhausted all the Eminem jokes…..

Me: as far as I know, no mothers were harmed in the cleaning of my closet. except me, of course

Sister: boo whooo

Me: My husband has two hats. I have seven. I win.

Cat for Sale

So my cat is a bastard.

He’s always been kind of a bastard, but maybe my patience has grown thinner or he’s getting worse, but lately both my husband and I are getting really pissed off at him, no pun intended.

He pees all over the place. It’s ridiculous. We used to know that if we left anything fabric on the floor (a shirt, a towel, etc) it was basically an invitation for him to pee on it. He’s about 12 and we have had him since he was about 5 months, so in the last 11 and a half or so years we learned his various triggers and avoid them if at all possible. Besides keeping fabric off the floor, we also do not have any rugs, cannot keep the bathmat anywhere he can pull it down, keep the shoes by the door to a minimum and try to keep them on a shelf if we can, and try to keep his litter box fresh.

We even put in two litter boxes in our last apartment.

When I had my daughter, suddenly his middle-of-the-night scampering and skittering down the hall was not so cute. And his morning meweling to be fed, completely unacceptable.

I kind of lost it a few months ago and pretty much had decided that I no longer even wanted him around but I got over it and resigned myself to being a responsible pet-owner. He got sick for awhile with pancreatitis and I felt bad for him. Things calmed down for a bit.

But in the past few weeks he’s decided to go on a spree of pee. A pee spree. And it’s no longer confined to fabrics. He peed on the edge of my daughter’s canvas toy baskets. I had to throw it out since it’s cardboard inside. He peed on toys, puppets, blocks, her foam floor tiles, in the bathtub (multiple times), on another toy basket with toys inside it, and inside the lower kitchen cupboards!!

It’s beyond ridiculous. And the worst part is, he STILL uses his litter box. Sometimes he’ll even pee in there and then a few minutes later, go pee on something else. And he KNOWS it’s bad. If you catch him, he’ll run away and hide only to reemerge a little later and go pee on something else.

Even my husband was like “that’s it, I’m done with him.” If you know my husband’s life-long love of cats, you know that means something. I was like “um hello? Welcome to the HMS That-Cat-Is-Bastard. I’m the captain of this ship. Which is a destroyer.”

But here we are: the three of us and the cat, still living together. I’m not sure we could get rid of him because we’d feel like bad pet-owners. And if we were to offer him up online, we’d have to lie about his bad habits or no one would want him. And then, after owning him for a mere 2 days, they’d discover why we dumped him and try to return him like a bad used car, demanding their money back. Except there would have been no money paid, but they’d demand some anyway for all the stuff he ruined.

So unless we want to pay someone to take our cat for a few days, we’re stuck with him. And all the cleaning and scrubbing and washing.

Did I mention he also sheds a lot?

Anyway. The upside is that he’s so freaking cute. It must be his evolutionary survival trait. If he weren’t this cute, I would have probably flung him to the urban wolves by now.

When they get to "potty training" kid, just ignore them. They'll still keep you.

Kitchen Floor Post

Why is the kitchen floor only clean for 5 minutes? It’s the strangest thing. I feel like no matter what I do, the floor gets ridiculously dirty so fast. Didn’t I JUST sweep? Didn’t I mop yesterday?

And before you are all like, “Shannon, be honest, are you just one of those obsessive housekeepers who likes everything to be sparkling and your ‘dirty’ floor is really just fine and there’s only a tiny bit of dirt over in one corner and you are totally overreacting” let me just say, I am NOT that person. If you have the misfortune to know me, you know I’m not that person.

My floors are not “omg, keep Architecture Digest busy in the hall while I do a last minute swiffer!” dirty, but neither are they “omg, keep CPS busy in the hall while I scrub with bleach” dirty. They are somewhere in between, somewhere like “omg, please let the UPS guy not look at my kitchen floors too closely.”

What would help is the cat making a modest effort not to get his food everywhere. But the cat helping? Surely you jest.

I spent like 20 minutes trying to find the counters, so did not get around to the floors tonight. Not that it would have mattered because they’ll be dirty again tomorrow, much like the toddler who likes to leave whatever she’s been eating on them. At least washing her is adorable…