Showing posts with label Homemaking 101. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Homemaking 101. Show all posts

Apr 25, 2019

Grandma's Tips for Using a Clothesline

How to Use a Laundry Line
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information.

When I was a kid, every summer my Dad and I went to a magical place called Missouri. Now, maybe you don't think Missouri is magical (though you might understandably think it's beautiful), but as a child, I sure did. It was the place where Grandma lived, and it was a radically different world from the suburban California where I spent my early years. It was a place with summers that lasted forever, sweet tea, a hand pump in the front yard, and Grandma's huge, musty basement with a huge musty bed for my cousins and I to sleep in. Plus cows in the nearby pasture. And a pond to fish in and a "crick" to play in. And my Grandma's clothesline.

It might seem strange that, at a tender age, I was fascinated by Grandma's clothesline. Certainly part of my interest was that I didn't know anyone else who used one. And I loved the way Grandma hummed as she pulled pins from her apron and hung my summer shorts on the line. In other words, clotheslines hold good memories and romantic notions for me.

But there are plenty of down-to-earth reasons to have and use a clothesline on the modern day homestead, whether that's in the city or in the country. I love that my clothesline takes my household chores outside. I also appreciate that it conserves electricity and saves money while eliminating static cling (and the need for fabric softeners or dryer sheets).

Today, the art of hanging clothes isn't known to many people. However, I still remember a few tips from Grandma.

Setting Up the Clothesline

At its simplest, a clothesline is just a rope connected to two poles. Those poles should be sturdy, though, because one load of wash that's been spin-dried in the washer weighs about 15 to18 pounds. There are three basic choices for the rope itself: Plastic, nylon, and cotton. Plastic clothesline  is stretch-resistant and inexpensive, but clothespins and fabric tend to slip from it. Nylon clothesline is mildew-resistant and strong, but again, it's quite slippery, making it harder to securely hang the laundry. Cotton clothesline is traditional, and although it might be counter-intuitive, seems easier to clean than synthetics. It's also not slippery.

How long should your line be? One load of laundry requires approximately 35 feet of clothesline. Don't make the line longer than this (unless you have a double pulley line) because it will sag significantly.

Where you put your clothesline matters, too. Don't place it near trees - because trees can have ticks and ticks can jump onto your laundry and then onto you. Trees may also leave debris (leaves, seeds, and so on) on your freshly washed laundry.

Generally speaking, you don't want the clothesline in full sun, either, because all that sunshine fades fabric and causes it to wear thin. Open shade is a better option. On the other hand, Grandma taught me that if your whites are looking dingy, a good hang in the sun will help brighten them.

Sometimes indoor drying is the only option. In cities and suburbs, for instance, there are sometimes ordinances against hanging laundry outdoors. Or maybe someone in your household is allergic to pollen - in which case an outdoor line may lead to clothes that cause misery. In rainy climates, indoor clotheslines may also be best.

Which brings up a good point: You don't have to use a clothesline to air dry clothes. For years,  I hung clothes on hangers and hooked them over the shower stall or on the edges of doors. It didn't look pretty, but it sure got the job done.

And while you're setting up, be sure to purchase some good clothespins (like Kevin's Quality Clothespins). There are an awful lot of cheap, China-made clothespins on the market. Many of them, such as those found at The Dollar Tree or Walmart, might be fine for crafts, but they just don't hold up well for laundry. They also tend to have rough edges that can snag fabric. It's smarter to buy clothespins that are a bit more expensive, but do a better job.

Prepping the Wash 

When I mention line drying clothes, people often remark how they hate stiff garments and linens. This is easily remedied, though. Just add about 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar to the wash and your clothes will dry softer. If you use a modern washing machine, pour the vinegar into the fabric softener chute and it will only enter the wash tub during the rinse cycle - perfect! If you have an older machine that doesn't have a softener chute, you can either catch the last rinse cycle and add the vinegar manually, or (less effectively) you may add the vinegar at the beginning of the wash.

Another cause of stiffly-dried clothes is using too much laundry detergent. I recommend using less detergent than suggested on the box; Consumer Reports claims that too much laundry detergent leaves behind lint and soap deposits, which can lead to mold and restricted filters, which in turn can result in mechanical failures.

Finally, the sooner you remove laundry from the washing machine, the better. Letting wet clothes sit not only makes them musty-smelling, but makes them a whole lot more wrinkled, too.

Hanging Up 

To prevent soiling freshly washed laundry, it's best to wipe down the clothesline before each use. Grandma kept an old washcloth handy for just this purpose.

When she hung the laundry, Grandma always gave each piece a good snap in the air to help remove wrinkles. She also took the time to un-crinkle wadded up clothing, like pant legs, shirt sleeves, and collars. Once again, this helps make wrinkle-free laundry (and if you're like me, the last thing you need to do is add another item - in this case, ironing - to your chore list).

It's helpful to hang like items together, since it saves time when you're folding and putting away the laundry. For example, I'll often hang all my son's clothing together on the line, followed by my daughter's clothing. Or I hang all the towels, then all the socks.

A little care in hanging clothes goes a long way toward having line-dried clothes that look wrinkle-free. Not everyone agrees on the best way to hang laundry, but Grandma taught me to hang shirts and pants from the hem. Other people tell me they prefer to hang shirts right side up with clothespins in the armhole seams. Another option I sometimes use is to place shirts on a hanger and hook the hanger onto the clothesline (which saves space, too).

You can also save space on the laundry line by hanging smaller towels on one another. For example, hang one washcloth on the line, then use clothespins to attach another washcloth to the first, and so on. In addition, I often overlap items. For instance, my placemats overlap each other slightly, so I can use three clothespins to hold up two placemats, instead of four. Some people also like using store-bought sock hangers (like this one) to save space; you can use them for washcloths, too.

Whatever you do, always hang items securely or they may end up on the ground, filthy. When in doubt, use more clothespins instead of fewer - especially with heavy items. When I hang bath towels, for instance, I fold them over the clothesline almost to the halfway point and use four clothespins to keep each in place. Yes, they take a bit longer to dry this way, but they don't fall off the line, either.

Removing Laundry 

Once the laundry is fully dry, Grandma removed each item, then snapped it in the air. This flicks off any little bugs that might cling to the laundry. Then she folded each item as she put it in her laundry basket. This - again - helps prevent wrinkles (do I seem preoccupied with that?) and saves time.

I'm thankful to Grandma for introducing me to her clothesline. Through experience, I've learned line-drying laundry isn't difficult - I even find it relaxing, as Grandma did. I hope you'll consider reaping the benefits of a clothesline, too.

Jul 20, 2018

Why Homemaking Matters

When I was a girl in the midst of the feminist 1970s and 80s, my mother pooh-poohed homemaking. She kept a reasonably tidy house, but she was forever in a hurry to get the house cleaning done so she could do "important things" - like her job or her artwork. She never had me do chores - I rarely even picked up my own room until I reached my teens. She didn't see any value in home keeping and wanted "better" things for me.

This was a great disservice to me (even though I know she believed the opposite and was doing her best at the time). When I was a teen and she wanted me to start caring more for myself and my things, I didn't know how. No one ever taught me. Housekeeping was apparently something so ridiculously simple, I was supposed to just know how to do it.

Later, when I had a home of my own, I was still unprepared. Like my mother, I generally saw home keeping as a chore to get out of the way as soon as possible so I could do "more important" things. By then, I'd figured out - the hard way, through experimentation - how to do things like wash the dishes and vacuum reasonably well. But I still had a great deal to learn.

All this came to a head when children came into the picture. That added responsibility is what tipped the scales of my life into chaos. I didn't understand the foundations of home keeping, so I couldn't control my household.

I saw immediate negative effects. My house was a mess. The dirt and disorganization made me feel depressed. My husband - ever gentle when it came to criticizing me - began to complain some. Being in the house was stressful for him - and for me. And what was I teaching my children?

It was then I realized that the old ideas about home keeping - that it was an important job - were correct. The feminists were wrong. There was a reason the Bible held high the good home keeper - the Proverbs 31 woman. Her work - her job - made it possible for her and her family to thrive.

A Few Benefits of Good Home Keeping:
* A restful home
* Less stress for everyone in the household
* A more peaceful family
* More money to spare for charities, savings, vacations, etc.
* The home maker develops useful business skills
* Saves times
* Makes it much easier to entertain
* Is one way to show our family we care about them

A Few Side Effects of Bad Home Keeping:
* More stress for everyone in the household
* Less money to spare
* Inability to find things - and the frustration that accompanies this
* Time is easily wasted
* Makes it difficult and stressful to entertain
* Feels embarrassing and can lead to feelings of resentment in family members

Nov 30, 2017

How to Get Out From Under the Laundry Pile!

How to Get Laundry Done Easily
This post may contain affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

Before I had kids, keeping up with the laundry was no big deal. When our first child came along, I still managed pretty well. But when our youngest child entered the household? Somehow, my ability to make sure everyone had clean clothes went amuck.

My husband began giving me withering looks when he discovered, in the wee hours of the morning, that he didn't have any clean shirts appropriate for work. My closet consisted of the laundry hamper, where I dug for the jeans I wore the day before - even if they were splattered with baby food. I even began making my oldest wear chocolate-milk stained jammies two nights in a row because I couldn't seem to keep up with the demand for clean laundry.

I won't say I have the laundry thing totally mastered. However, I have learned a few tricks that make the laundry pile easier to get through. Maybe some of my ideas will work for you, too:

* My best laundry tip is this: Instead of reserving one or two days a week for doing laundry, do laundry every day except the Sabbath. This keeps the laundry pile under control and makes the chore of cleaning clothes a lot easier. Through trial and error, figure out how many loads you must do each day; when my kids were younger, I did one load of laundry 6 days a week. Nowadays, I only need to do a load 4 to 6 days a week. Make your laundry schedule a habit, and it will soon become no big deal.

* Keep one laundry basket for every bedroom, if possible. As you pull things from the dryer or clothes line, sort them room by room into the laundry baskets. If you have time, fold as you sort. Then place the basket in the appropriate bedroom. Put the clothes away later, if necessary, or have the kids put away their own clothes.

* Easier yet, keep laundry loads segregated. By that I mean do one load that is only clothes for one child (or maybe all the kids), and a separate load that's just your clothes. This means you don't have to sort the laundry before folding it.

* Get the kids involved. Even toddlers can help with the laundry by bringing you dirty clothes and pulling out all the clean socks, or all of daddy's shirts, or all their own undies, for folding by you. Preschoolers can begin to help with folding and putting clothes away so that by the time they are in grade school they can do this chore easily. (No, they won't fold everything - or perhaps anything - perfectly, but a few wrinkles never hurt anyone.) By the time your child is 7 or 8, be sure he or she knows how to do a load of laundry without help.

* Treat stains before the clothes go into the hamper. If I put Spray N Wash Stain Stick on clothes as they go into the hamper, by the time I do laundry, those stains usually wash out. This saves me a lot of time because I don't have to soak or otherwise pre-treat stains. So, whenever clothes might come off, I keep a stick - including the bathroom and the kids' bedrooms.

* Wear clothes more than once. Truly, many clothes can be worn more than once without washing in between. Unless it's smelly or shows dirt, hang it up to wear another day.

* Buy fewer clothes. I know some women who literally buy their kids several wardrobes of clothes because they are always behind on laundry. If you follow the tips here, nobody will need as many clothes, which saves you both time and money.

* Hang any items that store on hangers as you take them off the clothesline or out of the dryer. It's a real time saver!

* Mark children's socks with their initials, using puffy fabric paint on the soles. This makes sorting so much easier.

* Don't separate darks from lights. This may seem revolutionary to some people, but I stopped doing separating darks from lights several years ago, and my family's clothes look just fine. If I'm washing new, dark clothes that I think might bleed, I wash them separately, once, with a cup of white vinegar in the wash water to help set the dye.

This post was originally published in October of 2009.

May 12, 2016

Finally, Really just 15 minutes a day!

Most days, I'm bored.

In a matter of weeks, I went from feeling I could never possibly get caught up on all my housework - that my house would never be totally clean and I just needed to embrace that fact while I have children living in the house - to feeling I don't have enough housework to do. And that, believe it or not, has led to boredom.*

How on earth did I come to this point? A house sale. It took months to weed through our belongings, send tons of boxes to a local charity thrift store, and pack up most of the other things we wanted to keep. But by the time our house went on the market, we had only essentials laying around: Our beds, the kitchen table and chairs, just enough kitchenware to get by, the homeschool materials we'd need in the next few months, and a handful of toys for the kids. I'd scrubbed the house literally from top to bottom. It sparkled.

And then I began a simple, daily cleaning routine. (You can read the details of the routine here.) After breakfast, every single morning, I made sure I did a few basic tasks, like making the beds and taking out the trash. Zip, zip, zip! and in 10 to 15 minutes, the house was spotless again. I actually began enjoying my cleaning routine - and that was certainly a first.

Now that our house sale is pending (for the second time), I've relaxed the routine a bit, but our house is still quite clean. And it takes so little time to maintain it! Who knew?

So here's what I think is the secret to my easy cleaning routine:

1. Lack of clutter. Our house is pretty much empty, which makes clean up a breeze! Obviously, under normal circumstances we'll have more things in our house - but now that I've experienced how much stuff can inhibit a tidy house, you can bet I'll be more selective about bringing things into our new house.

2. Lack of toys. Even if my 7 year old goes into his room and gets all his toys out, it isn't a huge deal to have him pick up. So once we move, I have a choice. I can start rotating toys (allowing out only, say, a box at a time and putting the rest in storage) or I can simply get rid of most of the toys.

3. Cleaning every day but the Sabbath. When it only takes 10 minutes, though, this is no big deal! And I love the almost instant gratification of having a tidy house each morning.

4. See a mess? Clean it! When the house is already clean, I'm more likely to clean as I go. Who wants a tidy house...but a sink full of dishes? Not me.

The Trick to Getting There

Just a few days ago, a friend of mine mentioned that her elderly father-in-law (who lives when her) disapproves of her messy housekeeping. She discounted this as a 1950s attitude and implied that a wife and mom who works outside of the home can't ever have a truly tidy house.

It's true I don't work outside the home, but I do think that if my friend could just get rid of a lot of stuff, even she would find housekeeping easier. (15 minutes a day, friends!) The trick, of course, is to find time and energy to purge.

I've tried to purge many times, only to become discouraged because while I was tidying one area of the house, another part became a bigger mess, due to other family members. My best advice is just to keep at it. Be ruthless. Give yourself a deadline to meet.

Because it's truly amazing how much more peaceful your home will be when it's de-cluttered and finally, really clean.

 * Normally, I would fill my spare time with gardening, extra homeschool projects, sewing or needlework, and a million other things. But right now, I have to leave the garden as is for the buyers, and all my "toys" (like the sewing machine - and even my books) are packed. I guess I need to write more blog posts!

Apr 5, 2016

Daily Cleaning Checklist - and House Showing Checklists, Too

It is finished. The scrubbing, repairing, and painting is done and our house is officially on the market. We had seven glorious days of sunshine - just enough time for our painter to give the house a new, fresh look. And then, BAM! It started raining. Pretty sure that was God's way of saying, "Yes, that was Me holding back the waters in answer to your prayers."

But the challenge isn't over yet. Now I have to keep this house spotless. Maybe for a naturally tidy person that would be easy. But tidiness doesn't come naturally to me. And I have two messy kids, and a messy husband, too.

So I'm using to-do lists to tame the madness. I have an every day to-do list and a couple of to-do lists for when the house is about to be shown. My everyday list is something most of us should be using everyday, anyway. Something I'm learning (I'm a slow learner, it turns out) is that it's best to clean before it looks dirty. In other words, if you clean it every day (or close to it), the job will be quick and so much easier.

(P.S. Even if it's something I normally do every day - like keeping up with dishes - I added it to my list. It feels good to have all the chores listed in one place - and then check everything off!)

My everyday checklist looks like this:

(You can download this list in a format that can be edited by clicking here. Also check out my Mama Chore Charts.)

* Vacuum.
* Vacuum under the kitchen table after every use.
* Mop.
* Clean sinks as used.
* Wipe down tubs/showers as used.
* Clean toilets.
* Do dishes after every meal.
* Remove clean dishes from the dishwasher right away (so dirty dishes can go directly into it).
* At least one load of laundry every day.
* Pick up. (Don't let anything sit out overnight.)
* Make sure flowers or fruit designed to pretty things up look fresh and appealing.

When the house is about to be shown, I'm using these checklists. (Totally inspired by Suburble, whose lists are prettier, but not as practical for me personally.) The first is if I have less than an hour to prepare:

(Click here to download these lists in a format that can be edited.)

* Make beds.
* Close toilet lids.
* Empty all trash bins.
* Hide small trash bins in cupboards.
* Put out nice towels.
* Tuck small appliances into cupboards.
* Open curtains/blinds.
* Turn on all lights.
* Grab a box and put all clutter - anything sitting out - into it. Tuck box into a closet. (After the showing, it's important to retrieve the box and put it's contents away.)
* Put out "From the Owners" binder. (More on that in a coming post.)

If I have at least an hour before a showing:

* All of the above.
* Vacuum and touch up bare floors.
* Clean toilets.
* Sweep porch.

Apr 4, 2016

What a Difference Some Paint Makes

When we moved into our house 15 years ago, it was pink. (Yes, even the shop was pink.) As soon as we could, we painted it cream with forest green trim. I thought it looked soooo much better. Well, today I wish I'd chosen a taupe and white scheme way back then. I can't believe how much more classy the house looks today. Never underestimate the power of paint!

Before...after scraping and priming.

After. (But before the lawn was mowed!)

Dec 29, 2015

Most Popular Posts 2015 - and All Time!

I've been blogging at Proverbs 31 Woman for six years (and have written over 1,140 posts!), but honestly, I never have any clue which posts are going to be the most talked about or viewed. They say the Lord works in mysterious ways, and judging by what posts are most popular here, I have to agree! It's always a pretty eclectic list. I hope you enjoy it!

(P.S. Want to see more popular posts from Proverbs 31 Woman? Check out the Pinterest page "Most Popular Posts at Proverbs 31 Woman.")

Most Popular Posts from 2015:

1. Why I Don't Watch HGTV (And Maye You Shouldn't Either)

2. Free Art History Curriculum: Edgar Degas (this whole series is popular, but this is the most popular post from the series)

3. How to Kill E.Coli on Vegetables and Fruits

4. No Fail Healthy Pie Crust Recipe

5. Keeping the House Cool in Summer (With and Without AC)

6. 12 Old Fashioned Birthday Party Games for Kids

7. How to Make a SCOBY for Kombucha

8. "I Am..." A Self Worth Craft for Kids

Most Popular Posts of All Time:

1. How to Train Chickens (and Get Them to Do What You Want Them to Do)

2. Best Free Apron Patterns on the Net

3. 6 Ways to Teach Kids the Books of the Bible

4. Best Ideas for Upcycling Jeans

5. How to Clean a REALLY Dirty Stove

6. How to EASILY Clean Ceilings and Walls - Even in a Greasy Kitchen

7. Canning Pickled Green Beans (Dilly Beans)

8. Easy Refrigerator Pickled Beets

9. Freezing Apple Pie Filling

Dec 17, 2015

The Hands-On Home - a review

In recent years, a handful of home keeping books have been published, and most of them were well received. None, however, have done much for me. Generally, these books start by telling readers how homemaking can be for feminists, too (sigh), and then proceed to give homemaking 101 skills. So when I first saw The Hands-On Home by Erica Strauss, I admit I wasn't particularly interested. Then I had a chance to see the book in person.

First, I was struck by the beauty of this 388 page volume. Throughout, absolutely gorgeous photographs by Charity Burggraaf are featured. They are all printed on matte paper, but somehow the photos are still crisp and clean and vivid and feature all the beauty of food and cooking. The fat hardcover also includes a bookmarking ribbon - and the sections of the book are tabbed in different colors, making using the book easier. Clearly, the publisher put a lot of thought into this volume.

And that's good, because author Erica Strauss has, too.

In fact, I think she's produced the best home keeping book of my generation. 

Strauss' premise is simple, but uniquely modern. She understands that many of us are striving to get away from the rush-rush of being away from home and instead want invest in our homes and families. She knows many of us are trying to eat healthy whole foods and stay away from expensive and potentially unhealthy store bought cleaners. She knows some of us are even looking critically at the chemicals we lather on ourselves in the form of shampoo, soap, moisturizer, and other beauty products.

Best of all, Strauss understands that modern home keeping isn't about keeping things Martha Stewart perfect. She knows that giving us a cleaning schedule to strictly follow isn't useful, and that customizing our home keeping for our own families is really where it's at.

Strauss starts her book by covering some basics. To my delight, she begins with cooking. Strauss used to cook in professional kitchens, and she actually taught me (a decent home cook) some things I didn't know. She emphasizes avoiding food waste ("The average American family of four throws out more than two thousand dollars of food every year. Pretty expensive trash or compost - that's money not available for college savings, retirement accounts, charitable giving, or travel."). She teaches that recipes aren't really necessary, if you understand a few basic techniques: braising, pureeing soups, roasting, sauteing, searing, and yes, good seasoning. ("...Heavily salt cooking water for anything starchy like pasta or potatoes, or for green vegetables you want to blanch. When the food cooks, that salt will be pulled into the food along with moisture, helping to create an evenly seasoned product.") Because when you drop processed food from your diet, you really don't have to limit salt, after all.

Strauss also covers fermenting and canning, giving excellent instructions and advice on how to do each. (Although she does perpetuate the myth that canning jars should be sterilized before filling and processing in the canner, this isn't dangerous advice; it only adds an unnecessary step. You can learn more about this topic by clicking here.)

My favorite section of The Hands-On Home, however, is the section on home care. Here, I found information I've never seen anywhere else. For example, Strauss explains the types of dirt (properly called "soil") one might find in a house: organic, inorganic, petroleum-based, and combination soil. Then she explains which cleaners (alkaline, acid, solvents, or abrasives) work best for each. ("Many commercial cleaning products are 'all-in-one' combo cleaners. Because they are trying to be all things to all soils, they take a brute-force approach, using chemical cleaners that are often far stronger and more caustic than are necessary." And, she says, because these commercial cleaners are combining alkaline and acid cleaners together, they are actually less effective.) She also gives a useful list of each type of cleaner; for example, in the "common alkaline" cleaners section, she offers details about how to use (and, if necessary, what precautions to be aware of) baking soda, liquid Castile soap, borax, powdered oxygen bleach, washing soda, ammonia, household chlorine bleach, and lye. (Strauss wisely counsels to start with the least caustic cleaners.)

Then Strauss goes on to offer advice on how to come up with a cleaning routine that works for your family. Here she discusses the importance of routines, what chores we should consider doing daily, regularly (perhaps weekly or monthly), and seasonally. What I love most about this section is that the author makes no demanding claims about what YOU should be doing. Instead, she tells us a wee bit about her journey from messy to reasonably tidy home keeper and gives us the tools to follow her path. Namely, she suggests we envision what a comfortable home looks like to us, personally. ("What state would your home have to be in for you to be able to grab a cup of tea and a favorite book and relax on your couch, or play with your kids, or spend an entire evening with your partner, without the nagging feeling that you maybe should, should, SHOULD be doing something else?") Then she encourages readers to turn that into a list, from which they can create a truly workable cleaning schedule.

The remainder (and majority) of the book is divided up into seasons, covering cooking, preserving, home keeping, and personal care chores the author thinks you may want to tackle during Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer. Here, you'll find lots of inspiration. There are from scratch recipes for bread and tortillas, ricotta cheese, mayo and salad dressing, yogurt, vinegar, and all manner of fresh vegetables, fruits, and some meats; there are instructions for making canned barbecue sauce, pickled asparagus and fermented dilly beans, mustard, salted preserved lemons, frozen caramelized onions, and jams made without pectin; there are lots of recipes for cleaning items like glass cleaner, bathroom cleaner, carpet freshener, grout cleaner, toilet cleaner, and oven cleaner; and you'll find recipes for tooth powder, soap, hair wash, deodorant, moisturizer, lip balm, bath bombs, and gardener's hand scrub. There's even advice on line drying laundry and giving mattresses and old fashioned airing.

In short, I am a big fan of this book.  

I'd even go so far as to say every home keeper should read it.

Dec 15, 2015

Why I Don't Watch HGTV (And Maybe You Shoudn't Either)

I've known for a year now that we were going to sell our house in the suburbs and move into our little house (motor home) in the big woods. And as the daughter of a former Realtor, I knew we'd have to spruce up our place before getting it on the market - if we wanted a reasonably quick sale in this economy, anyway.
Why I Don't Watch HGTV and maybe you shouldn't either

So I started watching shows about staging and fixing up properties. Because we don't have cable and I only have access to shows through our Roku, the offerings were somewhat limited. Mostly, I watched "Sell This House" on A&E. Then Netflix starting offering HGTV shows like "Property Brothers" and "Fixer Upper." I enjoyed these shows, and first.

Then I started to find myself feeling discontented with our home...and I had grand plans - too grand - for our next one. Finally, someone told me our house was a good "starter home" - and I, not easily offended, was offended. After all, my parents were successful, middle class people, and nearly every house they ever lived in was about the same level of quality as the one my husband and I currently live in. Growing up, we always felt our homes were nice. Certainly nobody ever called them "starter homes," as if they were something we should strive to outgrow.
Kitchen, 1910s.

When my husband and I moved into our house 15 years ago, I was delighted with it. No, it didn't have granite, marble, or quartz counters - they were practical Formica. No, it didn't have a custom kitchen - it had "builder's grade" cabinets that we thought were quite attractive. Nope, there was no tile in the bathrooms and no engineered hardwood flooring throughout the house; there was fresh carpet and vinyl throughout. But it was still a beautiful home.

So why suddenly do home buyers insist properties should be filled with luxury finishes? (And, no doubt about it, they are luxury.) Why do modern magazines showcase the homes of the rich when they used to feature the homes of the solidly middle class? Why do HGTV shows take (sometimes) perfectly acceptable homes and turn their interiors into mansions? Why do we feel the need to put marble in our homes when other, less expensive materials are actually more practical?
Kitchen, 1930s.

It all leaves a very bitter taste in my mouth. And as I see middle class people going into great debt to buy luxury homes, my heart asks: How can you fill your home with luxuries when the world is in such need? If Jesus were with you as you picked out those granite counter tops, high end appliances, and rainfall shower heads, how would he feel?

Now, none of this is to say that Proverbs 31 Women shouldn't strive to make their homes as relaxing, peaceful, and beautiful as possible. We definitely should - because our homes should be havens from the world. The problem is the world's idea of a "comfortable home" has gone haywire in the last few decades. HGTV and Pinterest have so many of us thinking we must always be "upgrading" our homes that we've forgotten that what we really need to do is upgrade our hearts. Because a loving heart doesn't splurge on itself. Instead, it gives to others.
Kitchen, 1970s.

How many Americans have bought homes they couldn't afford, which therefore kept them from giving to those in need? How many are so "house rich and pocket poor" they feel they are the ones in need? How many are so in debt from buying things they "deserve," that they completely ignore those who deserve enough food to eat and a warm place to sleep?

Now when I watch a show like "Property Brothers," I'm uncomfortable. The couples always spend their max budget, and usually get pretty demanding about what luxuries their "dream home" must have. I always wonder if they managed to hang on to their homes, or were foreclosed on due to the downward economy. And I wonder, if their tastes had been more practical, how could they have helped change the world?
Kitchen, 2015, Houzz.

As for me, I'm happy with my Formica counter tops and builder's grade cabinets. I'm glad my children are living in a home that's not luxurious, that will make them expect their grown up homes should look like something out of a slick magazine. And I'm glad that because we aren't always striving for more, better, richer, more luxurious, we have a little more to give.

"I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing...In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ Acts 20:33-35
"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'" Hebrews 13:5

Nov 19, 2014

The Right Way to Wash Dishes by Hand

When it comes to housekeeping, I hesitate to say one way is wrong while another is right - because, really, what's "right" is what works for you. However, when we move into our tiny house motorhome, for the first time in my life, I won't have a dishwasher. Sure, I've hand washed stray pots and dishes now and then, but I've never had to rely entirely on hand washing. And since no one ever taught me how to hand wash dishes, I knew I needed to research the "proper" way to do it. And if I'm not sure of the "right" way to wash dishes by hand, I feel pretty certain some of my readers don't, either.

First, a couple of notes:

* Consider putting dirty dishes in a plastic tub, instead of the sink. This way the sink is always available for dish washing - or whatever else it's needed for.

* Do dishes after every meal or snack. The sooner you wash the dishes, the easier they are to wash. Besides, nobody likes to see a sink full of dishes waiting to be washed.

How to Wash Dishes by Hand

1. Scrape food off the plates and into the compost bin or garbage.

2. Sanitize the sink.It's one of the germiest spots in the kitchen. Soap and water work okay, but a little bleach or ammonia really gets things much cleaner. Sometimes I'll spray the sink with Windex (which contains ammonia), walk away for several minutes, then rinse.

3. Fill the sink with hot, soapy water. It's smart to put a rubber mat or plastic tub in the sink, to protect glasses and plates from breaking. Use the hottest water you can stand, but don't burn yourself. Rubber gloves make it possible to use hotter water - and protect your skin from drying out due to soap and hot water. By the way, don't fill the sink or tub all the way up, because the water level will rise once the dishes go in.

4. Start washing. There are at least two schools of thought on what to wash first. Some believe that things that touch the mouth (utensils and glasses) should be washed first, since the water will be hotter and cleaner. Others simply wash things from cleanest to dirtiest. Certainly pots and pans should be washed last, because they dirty the water quickly. Also, some people like to use a brush to clean dishes - others prefer a scrubby cloth or sponge. I like Scotch Bright scrub sponges because one side is rough but don't scratch surfaces. Ideally, whatever you use should be easy to disinfect. (For example, you can microwave sponges or wash cloths.)

To wash: Place the item in the hot, soapy water and scrub it while it's underwater. Lift up from the water to examine it. Scrub again, as needed.

5.  Rinse with hot water as you go. If you have a double sink, run the rinse water in that. If not, just run it into the soapy water. Avoid letting the water run in between dishes, since this wastes water and money. If your dishes tend to look spotted after drying, fill a large bowl or tub with water - plus a splash of white vinegar; rinse the dishes in this. (Dump out and refresh as needed.)

6. Drain the tub or sink, if at any time the water seems too dirty. Refill with hot, soapy water.

7. Dry. There are two ways to deal with wet dishes. Some people place them on a dish drying rack; you may wish to place a rimmed tray (like a baking sheet) beneath it, to contain the water that drips off the dishes. Other people prefer to dry dishes as they go, using a good, cotton dish towel. (I find "flour sack" towels work best.) This method is less likely to leave dishes looking spotted.

Want more tips? Check out 10 Ways to Make Washing Dishes Less Miserable

Sep 22, 2014

How to EASILY Clean Ceilings & Walls - Even in a Greasy Kitchen!

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Few things make the whole house look grungy than dirty ceilings and walls. Yet many of us put off cleaning ceilings and walls because the traditional way to do it (with a sponge and chemical cleaner) is a real pain. But it doesn't have to be that way!

Last weekend, I decided it was time to tackle my really grimy, greasy kitchen ceiling and walls. (Yep, that's my kitchen ceiling in the photos here.) It wasn't hard, and it took me only about 15 minutes. (And so you can truly appreciate just how very dirty those ceilings and walls were, I hadn't cleaned them in about eight years. Yes, eight! Suffice it to say I just haven't been well enough to keep my house as spic and span as I'd like; recently, I gave up on conventional doctors and am seeing a naturopath who is really healing me up. But I digress...) matter how dirty your walls are, you really can clean them in a short amount of time - and without a bunch of chemicals.

NOTE: Popcorn ceilings require a different cleaning method; click here for more information.

How to Easily Clean Even Grossly Greasy Ceilings and Walls - Without Chemicals:

1. Grab yourself a new mop head. I highly recommend you use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser mop head because I think they are one of the greatest inventions in recent history. They make cleaning so much easier - and may make it possible for you to clean your ceilings and walls without any cleaners whatsoever. (More on that in a moment.)

If you prefer, you can use a regular sponge mop head. (Don't use the string-style, cut end mop head.)

2. Thoroughly wet the mop head, then wring it out very well.

3. Test clean an inconspicuous spot. Any type of mop head has the potential to do weird things to paint, so this is an important step. Read step 4 for advice about using cleaners - or not.

4. Start with the ceiling, so that any dirty drips that might roll down the walls get cleaned up later. Now mop the ceiling, beginning at one end of the room and working your way across.

If you're using a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser mop head, try moping without any cleaner first. I know this sounds crazy, but even my really greasy kitchen ceiling came out perfectly clean just by using water and a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser mop head. If you're using a sponge mop, I recommend using a little Dawn dish soap in warm water, and using that as your cleaner. If a damp Mr. Clean mop head or a mop head with a little sudsy water doesn't so the trick, I recommend using Windex. But that is almost never necessary.

5. Once the ceiling is clean, mop the walls.

6. If there are areas where the mop couldn't reach - say around light fixtures or in corners - use a clean sponge to wipe down those areas. For a cleaner, use warm, sudsy water or a little Windex sprayed onto the sponge (not onto the walls or ceilings).

Ta da! All done!

Apr 18, 2014

How to Buy Bath Towels that Last

Are you tired of buying bath towels only to have them shrink, fade, and unravel a short time later? Next time you're shopping, use this bath towel buying guide and avoid the disappointment and waste!

#1: Materials Used

The first thing to look for in quality towels is the type of material they are made from. The best towels are made of either cotton or bamboo. Cotton comes in several quality levels:

100% Cotton - 100% cotton towels are the minimum in quality you should look for. Many durable bath towels are made of ordinary cotton.

Prima Cotton - This type of cotton is made from the same plants that make the best Egyptian cotton, but are grown in the United States. A brand name for prima cotton is Supima cotton.

Organic Cotton - This type of cotton is about giving you a more natural product. Towels marked as made from 100% certified organic cotton are made from fibers that were never treated with chemicals while growing.

Turkish Cotton - Made from cotton that's grown in the Aegean region. Turkish toweling is almost as absorbent as Egyptian cotton, and is usually fluffy and thick.

Egyptian Cotton - The highest quality cotton available. The fibers are extra-long, highly absorbent, and very durable.

There are also micro fiber towels whose primary advantage is they dry quickly after use.

Be sure to read fabric labels carefully. Look for "100%" (i.e., "100% prima cotton"). Towels labeled "made with" (i.e. "made with prima cotton") include other fibers - usually synthetics.

Cotton plant.
#2. Construction
 In addition to the type of material used, consider the fabric weight. Sheets are given a thread count, but towels are measured by grams per square meter, or GSM. A lower GSM means the towels are thinner and lighter; a higher GSM means they are thicker and heavier. I recommend only considering towels 400 GSM or higher.

400-600 GSM towels are often used for beach towels or guest towels that aren't often used. They are medium weight, and each additional 100 GSM makes the towels a little more absorbent and heavy.

600-900 GSM towels are of the highest quality. They are heavier, more absorbent, and more durable.

You may also see references to "twist" - or the number of twists per inch made with the yarn during constructing. A lower number means the towel is softer and more plush; a higher number means the towel is more durable and heavy.
Some other construction methods are of note, too. For example, if the towel is combed cotton, the material is literally combed so that only the strongest and longest threads remain. Terry cloth towels have extra yarn and longer thread loops, making them more absorbent. Ringspin cotton is made from finer, smoother yarn, resulting in a softer towel, while two-ply towels are made with double the amount of yarn, making the towel absorbent, durable, and heavy.

#3. Size Matters

It's not true that all bath towels are of the same size. Some manufacturer's cut corners by making them smaller - and some more luxurious bath towels are considerably larger. The standard size of a bath towel is anywhere from 27 x 52 inches to 30 x 58 inches. If you want over-sized towels, look for "bath sheets," which are usually about 35 x 60 inches to 40 x 70 inches.

Hand towels are 16 x 28 inches to 18 x 30 inches in size, finger towels are about 11x18 inches, and wash clothes are about 13 x 13 inches.

#4. Making the Purchase

It may seem that buying towels in person is the best way to go. After all, if you can handle the towels, you can tell by feel how soft they are, and you can look closely to see how well made they are. Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for manufacturers to apply a finish to the towels to make them feel softer or look shinier - and that finish will go away the first time the towels are washed. And unless you can see that the towels are raveling in the store (highly unlikely), it's pretty tough to tell much about the quality of the construction by just looking.

Instead, I recommend buying towels online - or at least consulting the store's website to look at online reviews. Begin by seeking out towels with 4 and 5 star ratings. From there, look at the worst reviews for the towels. Read those reviews carefully. Is the customer really complaining about the quality of the towels, or something else? It's also important to note how many great reviews there are vs. how many bad reviews there are. If, for example, a set of towels has one hundred 4 star reviews and 2 bad reviews, it's likely you will be pleased with the towels. Another thing to look for, however, is how long the customers have had the towels. Some people leave a review immediately after buying the product - perhaps even before using the product. Such reviews aren't very helpful. But reviews written by customers who've used the product for, say, a month or more, are highly useful.

Mar 31, 2014

Spring Cleaning & Repair Organization - Plus FREE Printable Notebook Pages

Do you ever feel there's so much spring cleaning, repairs, or just general housework to do that you can't possibly remember it all? Me, too.

Here's an idea I love, which I originally saw at Clover Lane: Get yourself a nice, fresh notebook. Or download this free .PDF, print out the pages, punch holes in them, and stick them in a binder. Then:

1. Pick a room and either choose the appropriate printable page for it, or write the name down on the first page of your notebook. Then walk into that room and inspect it. Write down down everything that needs attention. You can include simple cleaning chores (like wash the ceiling and scrubbing the floorboards) to repairs (like fixing the grout or painting). If you like, you can also include things you'd like to change about the room (like change the color scheme or buy a couch slipcover).

2. Walk into the next room, change pages, and make notes.

3. Repeat until you've covered the whole house.

Now you have a handy checklist. You don't have to try to remember everything that needs doing, and you can systematically clean things up or make repairs.

So simple, but so effective, too!

Feb 3, 2014

How to Make a Bed

Nobody ever taught me how to make a bed; so for years, I just plopped the sheets and covers on and called it good. But there is something to be said for a neat, welcoming bed. So recently, I started doing things the right way. It's not at all hard, and it gives a much nicer appearance to the bed.

1. Remove all the linens. I only have two sets of sheets for each bed, so when I remove them, I wash them right away so they are ready to go next time. Although I wash most things in cold water, I wash linens in hot water, which kills dust mites.

2. Once in a while, vacuum the mattress. I only do this with the change of seasons. Again, the idea is to remove as many dust mites as possible.

3. Rotate the mattress. This prolongs the mattress' life and makes it more comfortable for a longer period of time.

4. Put a clean mattress pad over the mattress. It has elastic at every corner, so it's as simple as just slipping it on and making sure the edges are beneath the mattress.

5. Put the fitted sheet on over the mattress pad. I hear tell some people don't have fitted sheets. If that's the case, simply lay a flat sheet over the mattress pad and use hospital corners on all four corners to tuck it under the mattress. (See step 8 for more detailed info on hospital corners.)

6. Center the flat sheet over the bed so the bottom hangs below the mattress and the sides hang the same distance on each side of the bed. The short end of the sheet with the widest hem goes at the head of the bed.

7. Tuck the bottom of the sheet under the mattress, keeping the sheet smooth and wrinkle-free.

8. Make hospital corners at the foot of the bed:
     a. Grab and lift the side of the sheet near the bottom corner of the bed and let it sit on top of the bed.
     b. Tuck in the long side of the sheet, beneath the part of the sheet you just lifted.
     c. Drop the part of the sheet you lifted onto the top of the bed and tuck it under the mattress.

     d. Repeat on opposite corner of bed. If you're having trouble visualizing this, click the video below.

9. On both long sides of the bed, tuck the sheet under the mattress,. Although this gives the neatest appearance, some people prefer to skip this step.

10. If desired, center a blanket over the top of the sheet and make hospital corners at the foot and (optionally) tuck in the sides.

11. Place pillow covers on the pillows, followed by pillow cases. If desired, put pillow shams over the pillows. Lay at the top of the bed.

12. Center a comforter or quilt over the top of the bed and smooth out any wrinkles.

Sep 20, 2013

How to Clean a Stove

Exhibit One: My dirty stove top.
Until I got married, I never knew how to clean a stove. Oh sure, I wiped down the surface with a soapy sponge, but I didn't know how to clean under the burners, behind the knobs, or beneath the stove surface. I'm sure there are others who could use some tips on the finer points of stove cleaning - especially since "How to Clean a REALLY Dirty Stove" is one of this blog's most popular posts. And, keeping it real, I'm showcasing my extra-dirty, I-just-finish-canning stove top!

The first place to begin is with your stove's manual, if you have it. If you don't have it, try looking for it online. By Googling the manufacturer's name, the word "stove," and the model number (often found in the warming or storage drawer), you can probably find a free manual to download. Read the manual, noting what type of cleaners the manufacturer recommends. Then:

Removing the knobs.
1. Wipe off any food debris, using a damp, soapy dish cloth or sponge.

2. Clean the back of the stove, where the knobs are. Usually the knobs come off with a gentle tug. Degrease and clean that entire surface, as well as the knobs. Replace the knobs.

3. Remove the burners and drip pans. These typically just pop out if you gently lift and pull on them. Clean all around the surface of the stove, removing all grime and grease. If the stove surface just won't seem to come clean, be sure to read "How to Clean a REALLY Dirty Stove Top."

Lifing up the burner...

...and the drip pan.

4. For electric stoves, examine the burners. If they seem dirty, wipe them down with a cloth dampened in soapy water. Rinse, being careful not to get any part of the electrical plug wet. (Never soak electric burners in water!) If there is tough-to-remove gunk on the burners, in a bowl, pour a little baking soda. Add just enough water to make a paste. Use a cloth to put some of the mixture on the dirty area of the coils and allow it to sit about 15 or 20 minutes; scrub it off and rinse. Let the burners dry completely.

5. For gas stoves, read the manual for coil cleaning instructions. If you can't find the manual, very carefully use a pin to unclog the port of each gas burner. (If your stove has a standing pilot light, be sure to shut off the gas first!) Don't dig around in the port; just poke it. Soak all parts of the burner that can be removed in hot, soapy water. If needed for greasy or especially dirty burners, add some baking soda to the water. Scrub gently, if needed. Rinse well. Let the burners dry completely.

6. For smooth top stoves, there are no burners to remove. You simply need to clean the flat surface with a recommended cleaner.

7. There are several ways to clean drip pans; the easiest is to put them in the dishwasher. Soap, water, and the scrubby side of a sponge can work, too. For super dirty drip pans, try boiling them in water with a little vinegar added. Or place the drip pans in individual Ziplock bags; add 3 tablespoons of household ammonia. Seal the bag and let it sit overnight. In the morning, remove the burners from the bags and rinse clean. (Seal the bags and throw them in the trash.)
Lifting the stove top.
8. Replace the drip pans and burners. Finally, on electric stoves, lift the entire top of the stove. (Yes! It lifts up!) All this usually takes is a gentle tug. Clean the inner surface of the stove, as well as the outer sides of the stove, where food sometimes falls. Replace the lid.

But which cleaning products are best to use? Anything non-abrasive. Sponges are fine, but avoid the rough "scrubbing" type sponges. Dish towels work, too. For cleaners, I like a little Dawn and water. If the stove is particularly greasy, I follow this by putting a little white vinegar on a sponge. After wiping the stove down with that, I wipe off the surfaces again with a clean sponge. I've also heard of people using baking soda as their "soap." If you have a glass top stove, extra caution is needed, but you might wish to check out the homemade glass stove top cleaners here and here.

Just be sure, no matter what type of stove you have, that your cleaning products are not abrasive - or you could easily and permanently damage your stove top.

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