Get Ready for Spring: A Room-by-Room Purge Guide

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Spring is a time of rebirth! In preparation for your big spring cleaning ritual, now is the time to start sorting and discarding all the items that have collected in the last year. And there’s much more to it than just clothes closets and drawers. Here’s a handy room-by-room checklist of other things to focus on what to purge for spring:

Kitchen. From cabinets, pantry, refrigerator, and freezer, inspect and toss all foods that are past their sell- or use-by dates. If canned food is un-dated, decide based on: Is the packaging damaged or deteriorated in any way? Does the food appear discolored? Can you remember buying it? And, are you likely to ever consume it? For frozen foods, check this handy guide. When in doubt, throw it out!
Other things to purge in the kitchen include unmatched food storage containers and lids, chipped and cracked crockery, recipes and cookbooks you no longer use. Don’t forget to clean out the junk drawer too. Early spring is also a great time to replace water filters and to have cooking and carving knives professionally sharpened.

Bathroom. In addition to disposing (safely and securely) of expired over-the-counter and prescription medications, be sure to inspect and replace all aging cosmetics, toothbrushes, flossers, and so forth.

Family living areas. Look to purge broken toys and games and puzzles that are missing pieces. With spring-fair and yard-sale season coming, it’s also a great time to sort through and donate bulky media, such as books, magazines, CDs, DVDs, and video games. If you didn’t already do so with the change to daylight saving time, be sure to test and replace batteries in all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Laundry. Say goodbye to all those perpetually unmatched socks and dingy whites. Discard or fix garments with holes, missing buttons, broken zippers. While you’re at it, clear out accumulated lint in the vent that extends from your dryer to the outside (which is a big fire hazard). Cash in the coin hoard, and buy yourself a well-deserved treat.

Family closets and storage areas. Especially if you’ve got kids, there’s a good chance you have lots of outgrown (or unmatched) shoes, jackets, mittens, gloves, and other gear you can move along to free up space. It’s also a great time to take stock of all the spring and summer stuff you saved from last year—such as sporting equipment, flip flops, sunscreens, bug sprays, and so forth—to see what might need replacing.

Office/homework area. Once your tax returns are filed, many of the paper records you’ve been hanging onto can be safely shredded and recycled. Pick a rainy spring day to focus on cleaning up electronic devices—purging old emails, archiving files, downloading and organizing photos, and deleting those never-used apps.

15 spring-cleaning hacks for people who hate housework

Perfect for those who dread the annual deep clean, the money saving team at MaidPro have found the best tips for keeping your home neat and tidy without even breaking a sweat.

Forget expensive cleaning products and difficult organizing rituals, all of these tips are easy to achieve and won’t cost more than five pounds.

Some of the tips are unconventional, including pouring cola down the toilet but promise to have sparkling results.

The helpful pointers also include organizing tips such as keeping bed sets in a pillowcase and stacking clothes vertically not horizontally in drawers.

“These tips are great for those of us who hate cleaning as not only do they save time, they are cheaper alternatives to expensive cleaning products too.

“Saving time and money on cleaning leaves you feeling it’s a job well done and with more cash in your pocket too.”

1. Use a lemon to clean stainless steel

Annoying water stains on your tap and sink? Halve a lemon and use it to scrub stainless steel.

It will also make your kitchen smell fresh and citrusy.

Pour cola along the toilet bowl and flush for a sparkling result

2. Put a cup of vanilla extract in the oven

Sounds a bit crazy but by putting a few teaspoons of vanilla extract into a mug and baking for an hour, your whole home will smell gorgeous and inviting.

This is a trick estate agents swear by.

3. Steam clean microwave

Had a baked beans explosion? Clean your microwave the easy way by mixing two tablespoons of white vinegar and a few drops of your favorite essential oil with water and blast it for 5 minutes.

You’ll be left with a shiny clean microwave that smells amazing with zero scrubbing required.

4. Use cola to clean the toilet

You’ve probably heard about this one but never tried it, right?

It’s a miracle worker, just simply pour cola along the toilet bowl and flush for a sparkling result.

5. Use a cotton bud for cleaning keyboards

Instead of a wipe, take a damp cotton bud and use it to clean the difficult bits in between your keyboard.

6. Fold and stack clothes vertically not horizontally

Organise your t-shirt drawer by folding them and stacking vertically not horizontally.

This way you can flip through to find the one you want easily and minimize creasing which means less ironing, always good.

Use your dishwasher to clean children's toys

Use your dishwasher to clean children’s toys

7. Cover fridge shelves in cling film

Fridge spillages can be disastrous but easily cleaned up by simply covering the shelves with cling film or plastic wrap.

That way when something leaks or gets sticky, you can peel it off and start fresh, no cleaning necessary.

8. Microwave sponges

If you’ve only got one sponge to do all of the spring-cleaning with, disinfect it quickly and easily by putting it in your now spotless microwave for two minutes.

Just make sure your sponge doesn’t have any metal on it.

9. Store sheet sets in pillow cases

Finding matching bed sets can be a huge time waster but solved easily by organizing your linen.

Fold matching bed sets into the corresponding pillowcase so they are all kept together.

10. Stop your bin smelling of rubbish

Even after a bin is emptied, often a nasty lingering smell can remain.

To avoid this, sprinkle some baking soda or vinegar into the bottom of the bin to reduce the odor and lay down some clean newspaper to absorb any leftover moisture.

11. Clean toys in dishwasher

If your mucky pups’ toys are looking a bit worse for wear stick them in the dishwasher for a short cycle.

12. Make your bathroom smell constantly fresh

Add a few drops of essential oil to the inside of your toilet paper roll to keep your bathroom smelling lovely.

13. Refresh plastic containers

Get the leftover curry stains out of plastic containers by putting a solution of washing up liquid, bleach and water in them and microwaving until boiling point.

Once cooled, pour away and rinse.

14. Deep clean shower head

After having a shower, fill a sandwich bag with baking soda and vinegar and tie it around the showerhead using an elastic band.

Leave this to soak overnight then any debris will come off easily with an old toothbrush.

15. Use pastry brush to get crumbs out of toaster

Toast crumbs are notoriously difficult to get to but using a pastry brush can help sweep away the annoying trapped bits.

Be Smart When Ramping Up Your Workout Routine

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Are you bored or hitting plateaus in your current workout routine? Maybe you just want to accelerate your fitness efforts but keep injury and body stress out of the equation. Here are three ways to smartly ramp up your workouts while minimizing risk of injury:

Active rest. During workout rest periods, do simple but effective movements on body parts that need them most. For example, if your hamstrings are tight, try a few easy toe touches or inchworms. If your quads are tight, try some butt kicks or easy lunges. Active rest keeps your heart rate in a targeted zone, improves underdeveloped body systems and parts, and helps you to get more out of each workout session.

Try a new skill. Trying new skills keeps you mentally sharp—sometimes just what your body needs. Boxing/kickboxing fitness is easily integrated into any existing workout regimen. Yoga, in- or outdoor rock climbing, and swimming are all other great examples of how you can break out of a workout comfort zone. However, be sure to stay safe and maximize workout benefits by always seeking certified instructors to monitor and help you learn new skills correctly.

Hire a pro. As with most professional services (such as MaidPro home cleaning), professional trainers possess an enormous amount of specialized knowledge. They help you to focus on using correct, high-impact techniques and can show you different moves and how to perform them safely and most effectively. They can also provide the nutritional advice you need to keep your body properly fueled to gain that extra edge. Even if your budget does not allow for regular professional training, investing in a single session can provide invaluable insights into the world of professional fitness.

Workouts don’t always have to be knock-down drag out events. Sometimes a brisk walk, swim, jog, or light stretching is all you need. Kenneth H. Cooper was spot on when he said: “Fitness is a journey, not a destination.” My best advice to clients is to approach exercise with a primary goal of being healthy and keeping your body as functional as possible for the rest of your life. Shake it, don’t break it!

Six Unexpected Benefits of Green Cleaning

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If you’re looking to do more to protect the environment, switching to a greener way of cleaning is an excellent place to start.

We’re so serious about green cleaning here at MaidPro that we’ve dedicated a big section of our website to educating people about what it really means to clean green and how to choose solutions and tools that are simultaneously safe, environmentally friendly, and effective.

Aside from the satisfaction that comes with knowing you’re doing something tangible to protect the environment, there are other — often unexpected — benefits of going green when you clean. Here are six:

It’s really clean. If you take time to educate yourself and approach green cleaning correctly, you’ll end up with a home that is truly clean — versus one that simply looks and smells clean. Truly clean homes, in turn, look and smell clean for much longer than just a day or two.

Less stress about children and pets. Well-formulated green cleaning products contain fewer harsh chemicals and are less likely to generate dangerous fumes and chemical residues. That makes them safer for you, your kids, and your fur babies too.

More help. Because green cleaning is safer for kids, you can involve them more in helping you clean. Not only does it reduce your cleaning burden, it teaches kids important life values and skills.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T. If you hadn’t noticed, kids from preschool through college spend a great deal of time learning about environmental protection. They really care about the environment. When you demonstrate —  by action — that you care just as much, you earn their respect (which is a great thing especially if you have preteens and teenagers).

Less expensive (when you do it right). As we detail on our website, green cleaning is about much more than simply buying cleaners that are labeled green. It’s also about choosing products in concentrated forms that use less/recyclable packaging and cost less to transport and reusable (versus disposable) tools, such as washable rags. These choices generally save you money over time.

Sparks creativity. Once you get going with a green cleaning mindset — and thinking about all the ways you might apply to specific cleaning jobs   such as post-holiday or big-party cleanup —  it has a way of leading you into all sort of fun, creative activities, new personal interactions, and other changes that simply improve your quality of life.

 

Convincing Your Kids to Chip in around the Holidays

kids-help-holidaysIt’s tempting to use the holidays as a carrot to elicit positive behaviors from kids such as helping more with tidying and cleaning around the house. But there are helpful and not-so-helpful ways of going about it. Here are a few tips and tricks for getting more help from your kids while avoiding unintended drama or consequences:

Emphasize the nice part of the nice-naughty dichotomy. ‘Are there old toys we might declutter and donate to make space for the new?‘ Or, ‘For every room you dust, you can earn a dollar to donate to our local food bank’ (adding points to your ‘nice’ column just in time for the holidays).

Game-ify. For example: ‘Whoever finishes cleaning their room first gets to lick the cookie-icing spoon or hang a favorite decoration.’ OR ‘Whoever clears the table after dinner gets to open and enjoy today’s treat from our holiday countdown calendar.’

Chores before beloved holiday traditions. ‘If we get the house cleaned this morning, we can [fill in a favorite holiday activity] this afternoon.’

Deploy ‘outside agents’ with extreme care. Understand there’s an inherent creepiness in having one’s behavior watched and judged in every moment, either by an omniscient gift giver from the North or even an active spy in your home (e.g., Elf on a Shelf). While some kids will delight in the spy’s mischievous antics, others may be secretly terrified or stressed out by its presence. But making sure the spy seems super benevolent can backfire, too. Should you decide to invite in the spy into your home, know that kids will discuss and compare their antics amongst themselves at school, adding pressure for you to be creative on a daily basis at an already-hectic time of year. You can relieve some of the pressure by borrowing ideas from others or creating a unique version of the concept to do away with the comparisons altogether.

Create opportunities for redemption. Let kids know that the great holiday gift giver is an eminently forgiving soul and that helping more around the house is a great way to redeem past mistakes they might be fretting about in secret (and all the better if the help is unsolicited!). You can also avoid ‘rebound’ bad and unhelpful behaviors by resolving to extend positive incentives for nice behavior throughout the entire New Year.

Wellness Strategies for Navigating the Holidays

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The holidays are all about Peace and Joy…until they’re not. If you find your anxiety levels rising as the holidays approach, check out these 25 Ways to Fight Holiday Stress from Health.com. Here, we add a few of our own ideas for coping with four common holiday-stress triggers:

Scenario 1: Gift-Shoppers’ Nightmare. You’re on your fifth loop of a way-overheated department store, searching for that perfect something to give a person you either don’t know very well or who doesn’t need another material possession in their life. Think outside the gift box! Is there an experience you can create? A service you might provide? Some personal talent you can share? Maybe there’s a charity or cause to which you can donate in their name.

Scenario 2: Dinner Disaster. You have a glossy-food-magazine vision of perfection for your holiday feast. Now you’re thirty minutes out from mealtime and things are spinning out of control in the kitchen. Ask. For. Help. Most people would rather contribute and feel useful than stand around sipping cocktails while you struggle. Graciously accepting help creates a wonderful opportunity to connect authentically with your guests and will be far more memorable than your picture-perfect meal.

Scenario 3: Dieters’ Paradox. You’re walking into a lavish party. You’ve read all the articles and tips about how to ‘stick to your diet’ and ‘beat the holiday weight gain.’ But, oh, so much temptation! In floods the guilt, so even if  you do blow it (as you very possibly will), you don’t enjoy it at all. Accept that, no matter how disciplined you are throughout the year, there’s a very good chance you’ll indulge at least once or twice during the holiday season. Give yourself permission to truly enjoy and find solace in NEDA’s Declaration of Independence from a Weight-Obsessed World.

Scenario 4: Cranky Relative Syndrome. You’re staring down 4–6 hours in which you’ll be captive audience to Uncle Frank’s inebriated political rants. Or maybe you’re just the one person in your family with a radically differing lifestyle or viewpoint, and, for one reason or another, you don’t have an option of simply refusing to attend. First, take a moment to appreciate that you have people with whom to celebrate the holidays (many don’t). Then, arrive well prepared with a list of noncontroversial subjects and talking points to which you can redirect conversation. Or bring and encourage plenty of distracting activities such as card, board, and parlor games; a nostalgic singalong; a look through old family photo albums and yearbooks; or maybe just a long walk in nature after the meal.

Before and after the holidays, set aside at least a few hours to indulge in real self-care. That might involve exercise, physical pampering, hiring a professional team to clean your house, or maybe just a perfectly solitary afternoon with a cup of tea and a great book. Happy holidays!

Invisible Things to Clean Before Houseguests Arrive

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Holiday season = houseguest season. Here’s a zone-by-zone checklist of all the invisible things you’ll want to clean so you can feel perfectly comfortable telling your guests to: “Make yourself at home!”

BATHROOMS

There’s one level of clean that’s good enough for your family. But, with guests coming, you need to go deeper than usual: attacking soap-scum buildup, neglected toilet tanks, partially clogged drains, and any signs of mold or mildew growth—all of which contribute to odors your guests are much more likely to notice than you are.

KITCHEN

Deep clean, defrost, and organize your fridge, making extra space for all the leftovers your entertaining will yield. Assuming at least one or two guests will offer to help with the washing up after meals, make sure your dishwasher is sparkling and that the insides of drawers and cupboards are spacious, well organized, and free of crumbs and other debris. Inspect ovens for burnt-on bits that could set off your smoke alarm at the worst possible times. And wow your overnight guests with great morning brews by deep cleaning and decalcifying your coffee maker.

BEDROOMS

Offering clean sheets to houseguests is a no-brainer, but, consider also cleaning heavy linens and even rugs, which may be harboring odors you don’t notice simply because you’re so used to them. Another nice touch is to declutter and clear closet and drawer space for guests to stow their possessions, thereby avoiding that unanticipated yard-sale effect that can wreck your perfect holiday décor.

LAUNDRY AREA

If you’ve got guests staying for more than a day or two, you’ll want to offer access to your laundry facilities. Sanitize your washer—newer machines have built-in cycles for this or just run an empty load with bleach followed by another water-only load to rinse thoroughly—and clean lint vents to ensure your dryer operates at max efficiency.

ALL OVER

Inviting people into your home creates many opportunities for germ transfer. Before and after entertaining guests, do everyone a favor and sanitize or disinfect all the things people touch frequently, including doorknobs, appliance handles, drawer and cabinet hardware, light switches and plates, TV clickers, and all kitchen and bathroom fixtures.

If you don’t think you’ll have time for all that cleaning, MaidPro’s got you covered! Our standard 49-Point Checklist tackles nearly everything above except for the decluttering, drain- and appliance deep-cleaning.

5 Ways to Invite Fall into Your Home

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Decorating your home for fall can be both fun and inexpensive. Free materials are abundant and collecting them is a great way to spend quality time out of doors with kids, pets, family, and friends.

There are countless DIY fall craft projects plus arrangement and presentation ideas just a Pinterest searchaway. Colorful, fallen leaves can be made into seasonal art, candle containers, and fairy-lit garlands. Other free fall decorating materials you might find outside include fallen pinecones; hydrangea blooms (which can be dried); bittersweet and grape vine; oak, crabapple, and other tree branches, to name just a few. Even everyday groceries can serve as great fall decorations—from a bowl of apples or pomegranates to the assortment of squashes and pumpkins that keep for a long time and can be made eventually into soups and pies.

The key to fall decorating is to create a feast for the senses plus a feeling of comfort and sanctuary from the stresses of busy fall schedules and pre-holiday workloads.

Sight. When it comes to color, think outside the classic autumn palette of oranges, yellows, browns, and reds. Adding greens, whites, and blues to the mix makes it easy to update your fall décor for the holidays and the winter beyond. Adding warm, low lighting—from candles and twinkling white lights—is another great trick for making fall visuals pop.

Touch. There are plenty of great reasons to keep your home at cooler-than-comfortable temperatures through fall and winter. Strategic placement of soft, cozy throws and blankets, slippers, and sweaters creates a perfect balance.

Smell. A fall-themed simmer pot starring apples, cinnamon, citrus, and cloves, or a crockpot warming flavored cider or mulled wine permeates your home with familiar and comforting scents. So too, will plenty of baking and cooking of fall favorites, which brings us to…

Taste. Fall is the time to enjoy a bounty of nutritious and fiber-rich seasonal fruits and vegetables. And, while some fall favorites—roasts, pies, cider donuts, and caramel apples—might not be the healthiest, trekking out to farms and harvesting your own food can provide at least a partial offset in terms of exercise. What’s more, basically every traditional fall recipe now has a lightened-up a version you can easily find and try.

Sound. Finally, for the sense of hearing in fall, enjoy the crackle of a wood fire or simply the sweet sound of silence that descends after summer’s cacophony of the lawn mowers and weed whackers. Trade-in your leaf blower for an old-fashioned rake and your neighbors will love you for it. Plus, you’ll burn enough calories to enjoy all those sinful fall favorites guilt free!

Got Stinky House Syndrome? Green Ways to Rid Your Home of Odors

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The first thing you need to know about household odors is that you’re probably the worst judge of whether or not you’ve got them. That’s because the human body has a self-protective mechanism that quickly desensitizes your nose to lingering odors. So, if you suspect stinky house syndrome, start by asking a trusted friend to perform a sniff test immediately upon entering your home.

If the news is bad, the second thing you need to know is that—be they commercial/chemical, natural, or ‘green’—deodorizing agents work in one of three ways: they mask bad smells (short-term solution requiring repetition), interfere with your sense of smell (yikes!), or they eliminate odors at the source either by bonding chemically to neutralize odor-causing molecules or killing organisms (bacteria, molds, and mildews) that cause odors in the first place. When you remove the sources of bad odors in your home, you create a fresh, clean palette for adding all the scents and fragrances you really love. Our best advice for lasting—and green—household odor removal is this:

Open your windows! Just a few minutes of fresh, clean air works wonders for dissipating and displacing airborne odor-causing molecules—all the better if it’s a windy day.

Clean regularly. Regular and thorough home cleaning is, hands down, the most effective and ultimately greenest means of removing odor sources from your home. The reason: When you clean frequently, you can use mild, environmentally friendly solutions and still be effective at preventing big odors from developing. But, when you allow odor-causing agents to dig into surfaces and textiles, you need much stronger, harsher chemicals to address the unpleasant smells that result.

Deep clean if it’s been a while. If you’ve been less-than-dedicated to regular house cleaning for some time, deep-cleaning might be necessary to address well-established odor sources before regular cleaning can be truly effective. Key odor-producing areas on which to focus include: toilet tanks, drains, refrigerators/freezers, trash receptacles, recycling bins, garbage disposals, oven spills, washing machine (sanitize), mattresses, heavy bed linens, curtains, carpets, furniture upholstery, and your dishwasher’s food grinder and filter.

Use your science. Baking soda (which is alkaline) works well as a so-called ‘green’ deodorizer because it bonds chemically to neutralize acid-based odor-causing agents. The reverse may be true for acidic substances such as white vinegar or used coffee grounds, which are also often recommended as ‘green’ odor removers. The key takeaway here is that you need to know the basic chemistry or biology of an odor you’re attacking in order to determine what substance will be effective at eliminating it. For serious odor sources such as black mold or pet urine, it’s best to call seasoned pros (like MaidPro’s PROs) who know how to remove both effectively and safely.

Once you’re done eliminating all the sources of foul odors in your home, try these DIY projects to make your home smell amazing!

Take a Stand in Your Own Personal Work Style

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You’ve probably heard by now that ‘sitting is the new smoking’—at least according to scores of media stories referencing the catch phrase widely attributed to treadmill-desk inventor Dr. Jack Levine. Even worse news is that regular exercise might not be enough to offset the ill effects of copious sitting. If you work long hours at a desk job, you might greet this news with fear and trepidation—but there is actually quite a lot within your power to change. Standing doubles your metabolic rate, keeps core muscles strong, and is essential to both basic and dynamic anatomy and physiology. Here is a 7-step plan for transitioning to a lifestyle of less sitting at work:

  1. Go gradually. Acknowledge that your body needs time to re-learn how to stand comfortably for long periods. Start with a small daily goal and build from there.
  2. Check your posture. To avoid muscle and joint pain, cultivate a correct standing work posture, which is probably very different from how you’ve been sitting. If you struggle with this, seek the advice of an orthopedic specialist, chiropractor, physical trainer, or certified yoga instructor.
  3. Invest in equipment that enables you to stand and work comfortably. Purchase or request an adjustable/standing desk and a balancing type of chair. Less stable than regular chairs, balancing chairs force you to keep core muscles engaged, both strengthening your core and burning off calories and blood sugar to boot. If not in control of the office budget, ask for the right equipment anyway! The worst that can happen is your request will be denied.
  4. Look for any opportunities to stand and move more throughout your day. Walk around when taking calls. Drink lots of water and use the least conveniently located restroom. Park far away from your office or cubicle. Choose stairs over elevators. Get your computer reassigned to a printer at the far end of the building. Walk for at least half of every lunch hour and on breaks.
  5. Evaluate all the tasks you do each day; reserve sitting for only ones requiring the greatest concentration. You will be amazed at how many medium and low-concentration tasks you can complete more effectively and energetically while standing and moving.
  6. Preach! Think about it. If you can get enough coworkers onboard, entire meetings might be conducted either standing or walking, which is certain to make them shorter and more productive. Be prepared with examples and evidence to support what you’re doing and willing to evangelize a bit to bring others around to your way of thinking.
  7. Be patient with yourself. Keep reminding yourself that, even when you don’t feel 100% in control of your work situation, there are always opportunities to make choices and to take micro-actions that support your own good health and well-being!