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!

Summer Cleanout: Collecting Clothes for Charity

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Late August is the perfect time to clear out and donate old clothes, free up space, and reorganize closets and drawers. If there’s a rainy day on your horizon, here are 5 tips for getting it all done quickly and effectively:

Select a charity that picks up. To motivate yourself, go ahead and schedule a pickup date, being sure to allow time for laundering and dry cleaning of donations as needed. Plan to sort and pack by size, age, gender, and season so donations can be easily prepared for resale.

Gear up and pile up. Collect sufficient quantities of bags, boxes, and bins for packing up your donations. Then, pull every single thing out of closets, dressers, and storage bins and pile them all in the middle of a room. Be sure to include accessories: scarves, bags, belts, jewelry, and footwear, too.

Set rules. For example, resolve to donate anything that is in relatively good condition, BUT: doesn’t fit, is out of style, has not been worn recently (or often), still has the tags on six months after purchase, or fails to flatter. Toss any garments that are: torn, stained, smelly, shabby, have been used for sleeping, swimming, or as undergarments.

Purge ruthlessly (or recruit a friend to help). Instead of saving something for when you lose a few pounds, resolve to reward yourself with something new instead. If it’s too shabby to wear in public, it’s probably too shabby for working out in too. Heck, if you are going to be exercising and sweating, you deserve to look good doing it! Resist the urge to burden others with unsolicited hand-me-downs. If you know your frugal sister-in-law loves receiving your kids’ old clothes, go ahead and hand down. But never foist hand-me-downs on anyone who might be simply too polite to refuse.

Re-store your keepers mindfully. Some ideas for organizing the clothes you keep are by: color, type of garment, season, frequency of wear, or whole coordinated outfits. Before putting everything away, check out different folding techniques and other tips we have for turning over closets that not only save space but make it easy to find things and make full use of your wardrobe.

MaidPro’s Spring Cleaning Roadmap

Spring Cleaning

First step: Get your head in the game. The good news about spring cleaning is that it’s usually inspired by a combination of three things: stir craziness from being inside for much of the winter, that whole ‘new-growth’ feeling that spring brings, plus a desire to get a bunch of needed tasks out of the way before the high heat – and big fun – of summer come rolling along. You can add to the feeling of inspiration by focusing on the facts that: annual deep cleaning protects the value of your home and health of your family, is a great way to burn extra calories in advance of bathing-suit season, and yields a crisp palette for freshening up your home décor.

What to clean

  • Anything involving textiles – think curtains, drapes, rugs, carpets, bedding, mattresses, pillows, and furniture upholstery – which play host to tons of human and pet dander, dust and dust mites. When possible, expose textiles to fresh air, sunlight and wind.
  • Inside, under and behind all furniture and major appliances, including your refrigerator, oven, dishwasher (decalcify), washing machine (sanitize by running empty with super hot water and plenty of bleach) and clothes-dryer (clean lint venting system thoroughly to remove fire hazard).
  • Clean or replace filters on air conditioning units, water taps and/or inside refrigerators that dispense water and ice.
  • Closets, drawers, kitchen and bathroom cabinets – remove everything; purge unwanted and expired items; clean drawers, floors and shelves before replacing items.
  • Long-term storage areas – basement, attic, garage (take advantage of the numerous donation opportunities that arise in spring).
  • Windows – inside and out.
  • Floors – deep clean and protect or wax (if needed).
  • If you have young kids, spring is also the best time to clean and sanitize their toys.

Whew! That’s a long list, but with good planning and preparation, it can be managed quite easily.

Sequencing your spring clean

Start by making a list of the tasks you know you will never tackle yourself. Schedule appointments with contractors and service providers – for example, carpet and upholstery cleaners, gutter cleaners, landscapers – early before their schedules fill up. Tip: Schedule some of your own big cleaning jobs to coincide with times you know you will be home to host various cleaning contractors.

Purge. Purge. Purge. It’s a lot easier to clean when you’re not inundated with stuff. Figure out ahead of time when opportunities will arise for you to donate unwanted items. Collect boxes and make sure your junk is packed, labeled and ready to go well in advance of donation dates.
Unless you live in a climate that is warm year round, start with less-intensive inside cleaning jobs – closets, drawers, cabinets – that do not require extra ventilation for cleaning solutions.
Schedule the remaining fresh-air-and-sunshine jobs for those first blissful – throw-open-your-windows -weeks of real spring weather. Plan to work in half-day segments so you don’t squander all the good weather on cleaning. And set manageable goals for what you will accomplish in each segment so you don’t fall into the common trap of enthusiastically ripping everything apart, then running out of time or energy before you can get it put back together. Pay particular attention to long-term weather forecasts so you can match tasks to expected conditions. For example, warm, sunny and windy days are perfect for quickly drying damp upholstery, heavy bedding and area rugs outside.

Recruit a help crew

Unless you crave solitude after a winter spent cooped up inside with your family, be sure to enlist plenty of help for big spring cleaning jobs. Adult partners and teenagers should be recruited to haul junk, add extra elbow grease to extra grimy areas and push around larger pieces of furniture and moveable appliances. Younger children can be put to work with organizing and sorting (for example, re-uniting their game pieces, boards, cards, dice, etc.) and moving around lighter items such as pillows, curtains and bedding.
Make a detailed spring-cleaning plan and stick to it using the following MaidPro Spring Cleaning Survival Guide. Come summer you will be absolutely delighted that you did.

DIY Scents to Make Your Home Like the Holidays

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Ever wonder why particular aromas have the power to instantly evoke cherished childhood memories? It’s because your sense of smell is the only one of the five with a direct connection to your mood, memory, behavior, and emotion. With the incredible power of smell in mind, here are six easy and inexpensive techniques to fill your home with evocative holiday and winter scent combinations.

Simmer pots. A scented simmer pot consists of nothing more than water, fruits/fruit rinds, fresh herbs, and spices, simmering gently on a back burner, in a crock pot, or atop a wood-burning stove. It’s likely you already have most of the ingredients for a yummy smelling simmer pot or can easily find them at your local grocer’s. Think: cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, star anise, fresh ginger root, vanilla beans; baking extracts such as vanilla, almond, or peppermint; and fruits such lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits, apples, and cranberries. The possible scent combinations are endless. Be inspired by this simple winter recipe.

Potpourri. The word translates as ‘rotten pot,’ following a 17th century French custom of collecting and layering fragrant herbs and plants over the course of spring and summer, allowing them to ferment and mold, then mixing in aromatic spices in the fall and winter to scent rooms. Contemporary potpourris favor drying over fermenting and molding of plant materials – something you can accomplish quite easily in your oven on low heat with a baking sheet and parchment paper. Check out these winter spice and aromatic winter potpourri recipes.

DIY scented candles. You could spend upwards of thirty bucks on one great-smelling holiday candle. Or you can spend a great deal less making dozens of winter-scent combos to either burn in your own home or give as holiday and hostess gifts. DIY scented candles are a great way to use up mason or jelly jars and other beautiful containers you might have lying around the house or can pick up for next to nothing at yard sales and thrift shops. If melting wax seems like too much work, try this simple technique for making scented olive-oil candles.

Essential-oil combos. Used for thousands of years in spiritual, cosmetic and natural health practices, essential oils are thought to represent the purest essences of plants. They also happen to smell wonderful. Only a few drops will go a long way to scenting a room and there are countless combinations of essential oils you can assemble to evoke happy holiday and winter feelings. Do read up on safety precautions when using essential oils, as some can be unfriendly to pets, children, and the elderly. Some simple ways to diffuse winter and holiday essential oil combinations are with a DIY reed diffuser, creating your own EO-based room air spritzers, or using essential oils to make classic winter decorations such as cinnamon-scented pinecones.

Scented fire starters. If you have a traditional fireplace or outdoor fire pit, consider creating your own scented fire starters to layer comforting, traditional winter scents over the smell of burning wood. You can create dry sachets, plant and herb bundles, or these aromatic wax fire starters. Note: scented fire starters are not for use in gas fireplaces or enclosed wood-burning stoves.

 

Fall Chores to Ensure a Bright, Healthy, and Safe Home for Winter

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There are certain big household chores that need to be done only once a year, and fall is the perfect time. Here is a quick checklist of things you can do to ensure a bright, safe, and healthy home now that temperatures are beginning to drop and winter lies just around the corner.

Wash your windows inside and out. Now that windows will be closed more often than open, you’ll want them to allow in maximum light and to keep views crystal clear. While you are at it, remove and wash all screens and thoroughly vacuum outer sills.

Replace batteries in all smoke detectors (even hardwired devices use batteries for backup). Also, test all carbon monoxide detectors and check original paperwork so you know exactly when your CO1 devices are due to reach end of life. Typically this occurs every 10 years or so and will be indicated by some type of signal, but better to be safe than sorry.

Disconnect and thoroughly clean your clothes dryer vent. Unplug and move the machine, so you can clean both behind and underneath as well. Consider removing the back panel to clear lint trapped inside the machine. Trapped lint is a big fire hazard and also reduces the drying efficiency of your machine.

Unscrew, clean, and disinfect all airflow vents, and replace HVAC filters as needed. With less fresh air circulating throughout your home, you’ll feel good knowing your vents are free of added dust, dander, and pathogens.

Remove and clean all permanent lighting fixtures so your lights can burn more brightly. For the same reason, consider taking the time – or hiring a professional – to give your walls a good scrubbing down. Clean walls reflect light better, which is definitely what you want as the days grow shorter and darker.

Clean and inspect all fireplaces, chimneys, and flues. This is one task for which you definitely want to hire a professional who is trained to look for cracks and other damage that can pose winter home safety hazards.

9 Tips to Beat Summer’s Heat!

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Melting in summer’s sultry heat? Here are a few tips for surviving the dog days of summer:

Perform heat-generating activities – such as exercise, cleaning, laundry, running the dishwasher, and cooking – early in the morning when temps are at their lowest daily ebb. Prolong morning’s cooler temps by pulling window shades, closing curtains, and otherwise minimizing lighting inside the home.

Eat light and skip the alcoholic bevvies. Aside from being dehydrating, fatty foods and alcoholic beverages force your liver and other detoxifying organs to work overtime. The added energy expenditure generates heat that your body must address in order to maintain its normal temp.

Hydrate. Adequate hydration enables your body’s natural cooling mechanisms to work at top efficiency on hot days. It’s also key for replacing fluids and electrolytes lost when you perspire.

Run cold tap water or ice cubes on the insides of your wrists, the sides of your neck, your temples, and other ‘pulse points’ where blood vessels run close to the surface. This rapidly cools your blood, which transports a feeling of cool to other parts of your body.

Wear natural fabrics. Keep garments loose and make sure your head and feet can breathe. In the same way you keep your head and feet warm to preserve body heat in winter, uncovering your extremities has the opposite effect when summer temps are soaring.

Avoid heavy lotions and creams, which can clog pores and contribute to heat rash. Fragrances can also be especially cloying on hot, humid days, so either forego altogether or keep applications extremely light.

If you don’t have A/C (or prefer not to use it), place a big bowl of ice in front of a fan as an inexpensive, more environmentally friendly alternative. A misting bottle full of ice water – spritzed a few feet in front of a fan – can provide welcome refreshment too.

Take a quick, cool shower or bath right before going to bed. This will enable you to sleep more comfortably and leave you better rested and prepared to cope with the energy-sapping heat.

De-clutter and keep your home tidy! Air circulates most freely in neat, open spaces. Clean, tidy rooms virtually always feel cooler than dirty, messy ones! If living in humid climes, take a few extra moments to dry out sinks, tubs, showers, and so forth after using both to combat the feeling of humidity in your home as well as the added risk of growing molds and mildews.

6 Things Trained PROs Know About Cleaning (that others may not)

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There is a very big difference between a house that looks and smells clean and a house that really is clean. Here are some things trained cleaning PROs know that can help bridge the gap:

Chemistry matters. There is a great deal of advanced science that goes into designing safe, effective cleaning solutions — ones that actually dissolve and bond with dirts and oils, suspend bonded particles in water, and lift them away from surfaces — all without leaving toxic chemical residues. Using poorly designed solutions, nonabsorbent cloths and mops, and/or improper techniques can equate to simply swishing dirt and chemicals around on surfaces rather than removing them.

Water matters too! A cleaning solution that works well in one home, may work less well in another. That’s because varying degrees of minerals in local water supplies (hard vs. soft water) can interfere with solution efficacy.

An effective formula for cleaning (based on the famous Dr. Sinner’s circle) is: chemicals + temperature + time + agitation. Add more of one and you can use less of another. For example, using an effective cleaning solution can enable you to spend less time or to expend less energy in scrubbing.

There is a huge mathematical difference between sanitizing and disinfecting. Sanitizing kills 99.9% of germs — a 1,000-fold reduction in human exposure while disinfecting kills 99.999% — a 100,000-fold reduction. Most homes don’t require true disinfecting (that’s for hospitals), but it’s good to know how to interpret highly regulated marketing lingo especially when someone in your family catches a nasty bug or flu. ‘Antibacterial’ is a very different and weaker claim than ‘kills viruses that cause common colds and flu’.

Disinfecting takes time. You might notice a PRO cleaner spraying bathroom or kitchen surfaces and then walking away to perform other tasks. They know it takes up to 10-15 minutes for (wet) disinfecting solutions to kill germs. This is why all those convenient ‘disinfecting’ wipes rarely live up to their kill claims, since most people wipe too much counter per wipe and don’t leave enough wet disinfectant on the surface for long enough to kill germs properly.

Dirt falls. The mark of a true cleaning PRO is that they start high, dusting ceiling fans, light fixtures, shelves, etc and work gradually downward, finishing a room by vacuuming or washing the floor. They also start far away from a home’s entry point and work gradually back toward the door to prevent re-depositing dust and dirt on freshly cleaned surfaces. Finally, PROs segregate their tools to avoid cross contamination — between bathrooms and kitchens, for example.

Green Cleaning Myths Debunked

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established little by way of guidelines for what constitutes green cleaning solutions or practices. So – into the void – has flown a steady stream of misinformation and bogus so-called ‘green’ cleaning solutions. Here are four common green-cleaning myths and explanations for why they don’t hold water:

Myth No. 1: Cleaning with water alone is a safe and effective way to clean and protect surfaces.Dirt is complicated – a mix of particles, dead bugs, skin cells, germs, and oils, to name just a few. Since water and oil don’t mix, oily solids get left behind, darkening and scratching surfaces and making them appear dull. The water itself can also leave mineral deposits, increasing complexity of the dirt and making it even tougher to clean over time.
Myth No. 2: You need a mop and large bucket of soapy water to get a floor really clean. Well designed cleaners use solvents (to loosen and dissolve oily soils), builders (to bond with minerals in the water) and surfactants (to bond with oily soils and suspend them in the water). While a high-quality cleaner can suspend massive amounts of dirt in just millimeters of water, poorly designed cleaners do not keep dirt suspended, so it falls back onto the floor where the mop just pushes it around. Your mop is crucial too. If you want a floor to be truly clean, you need a highly absorbent mop to remove dirty water.
Myth No. 3: Cleaning with water and vinegar is an effective and environmentally friendly cleaner.Vinegar is just a mild acid. There are no surfactants, solvents, builders or oxidizing agents needed to remove complex soils. The result is not that much different from cleaning with water alone and it can make your surface a breeding ground for germs, which is definitely not green and potentially dangerous for your family.
Myth No. 4: Green cleaners are less likely than household or commercial cleaners to leave harmful residues on surfaces. A poorly formulated cleaner purported to be ‘green’ may not have the correct surfactancy or cleaning chemistry, which means both its chemicals and germ-containing soils can fall out of solution and onto the surfaces you are cleaning. A well-formulated cleaner will keep its chemicals in solution and soils in suspension, leaving less residue and unhealthy soils on the surfaces of your home.
The EPA defines green cleaners as those made with environmentally-friendly ingredients to preserve human health and environmental quality. There is also Design for the Environment (DfE), an EPA partner program that screens product ingredients and awards them a DfE logo if they pose “the least concern among chemicals in their class.” If you care about green cleaning, your best courses of action are to: Look for products with the DfE logo that are also effective – meaning you can use less to get better results. Also, look for manufacturers that: ship in concentrates to reduce fuel use, reduce packaging, cut water use and pollution, and select renewable/sustainable ingredient sources whenever possible.
Finally, you can use cleaning companies (such as MaidPro) that do the following: group clients geographically to cut fuel use; use reusable bottles, buckets and bags; use phone/email versus paper; use efficient washing machines and washable, reusable microfiber rags that capture dirt, dust and allergens; use CRI Green label vacuums to protect indoor air quality; buy supplies in concentrated forms; pick environmentally friendly suppliers; train employees to use the correct amounts of cleaning chemicals and make responsible use of disinfectants on critical surfaces to protect client health.Remember, if it’s not clean, it’s not green!

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