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.

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!

Smell Great and Keep the Bugs Away All Summer Long

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There are plenty of good reasons to start making your own (DIY) natural insect repellents (DEET-free and smelling good are two examples). Hundreds of DIY bug spray, candle, and balm recipes are just a quick Google or Pinterest search away. With the right ingredients on hand, you can whip up a fresh batch in just a few minutes and save money doing it. Before buying any ingredients, making, or using DIY bug repellent, though, consider these four important caveats:

  1. It’s a wild west out there. A surprising number of DIY beauty and skincare recipes contain potentially harmful ingredients (or concentrations thereof)—even when those ingredients seem perfectly innocuous. With DIY insect repellents, watch out for their use of essential oils. Not all essential oils are recommended for direct use on skin, especially with children or in high concentrations. Make sure to research usage recommendations and cautions for every ingredient on the list.
  2. Ingredient quality matters. If using essential oils for the first time, there is also a great deal you need to learn about oil quality and purity. Where DIY insectifuge is concerned, there seems to be a consensus that greater oil purity equates to greater efficacy at repelling bugs, but there are still many conflicting opinions and plenty of misleading marketing language. That said, you’ll need to make your own judgement call about what brand to trust.
  3. If at first you don’t succeed, try other recipes! A DIY bug spray that works well for you might be 0% effective for a different person. Plenty of rigorous scientific studies prove that bugs are simply more attracted to some people over others. You might need to try an array of different DIY bug spray concoctions before hitting on a formula that works well for you and other members of your family.
  4. Some risks need to trump others. No bug spray—commercial or DIY—can be 100% effective at protecting against mosquito- and tick-borne illnesses. Physicians overwhelmingly recommend DEET-based varieties when knowingly going into areas where such diseases are most common.If you’re just one of those people for whom nothing—not even the DEET bug spray varieties—seems to work, you might resort toother natural methods of repelling bugs, sitting in a screened area, or simply heading inside when the bugs come out to feed at night!

Summer Home Prep: Indoor Comfort

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The unofficial start to summer is here! With it can come lots of hot, humid weather. To keep your body as cool as possible—and conserve energy while you’re at it—brush up on these tips for beating summer’s heat. Meanwhile, here’s a checklist of cleaning tasks to prepare your home for a most comfortable and pleasant summer:

Clean and/or replace home ventilation and air conditioning filters. If you’ve not done so at least once in the past year or two, it’s also a great time to bring in a pro service to inspect and clean all central HVAC equipment, ducts, vents, and air filters.

Inspect for and address any signs of mold and mildew growth, which summer’s humidity will be sure to feed.

Clean ceiling and portable fans. Note that most portable fans can be easily disassembled, enabling accumulated dust and grim to be washed from blades and grills. If you don’t have the proper tools—such as an extender pole – for cleaning ceiling fans safely, recruit at least one person to spot you on a ladder. Since you’ll have the ladder out anyway, remove and clean lighting fixture covers, recessed fixtures, and bulbs too to brighten up your space.

Wash windows and clear away dead bugs and other debris that might have collected inside window casings over the winter and spring.

Clean and inspect screens; patch holes. If you have an outdoor water source, window screens can be cleaned quickly and thoroughly with just a hose and sturdy rag to wipe away accumulated dirt and grime. Dry in the sun before installing.

Clean blinds, curtains, window shades, and valances. Keeping blinds and curtains closed is a great way to keep your home cool and save on energy costs if you air condition. Since you’ll be seeing much more of them soon, it’s a great time to clean all window treatments and consider lightening up on fabrics and colors.

Lighten the bedding. Think cotton in airy colors such as pure whites and pastels. While you’re at it, flip, rotate, and vacuum mattresses (which should be done at least twice a year) and dust thoroughly in and around beds to remove accumulated pollen and other spring detritus.

Deep clean your fridge and defrost the freezer to maximize space for lots of fresh, light foods; stock your pantry with essentials for making salads, grilled specialties, and other cooling summer fare.

Finally, if you expect to keep your windows mostly closed for A/C, consider freshening indoor air with a few new air-cleaning plants.

In our next post, we’ll look at summer prep for patios, balconies, and other outdoor living spaces, so stay tuned!

Spring Cleaning Tips: Tackling the Bathroom

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Every room in your home needs a deeper-than-usual clean and refresh at least once or twice a year. With its fresh air and tone of rebirth and renewal, there is no time like spring for finding the inspiration to get it all done. Here are five tips for tackling the bathroom this spring:

Get into the nooks and crannies. Bathrooms have plenty of tiny, inconvenient-to-clean spaces that you might pass over on regular daily or weekly cleanings. For example, when is the last time you dusted out the narrow space between your toilet tank and the wall? Or, the last time you cleaned just under and around the lid of the tank? Both are great spaces for mildew and other germs to hang out and multiply. Other oft neglected spots include around the bases of faucets and fixtures where soap scum and grit builds up and hardens, often requiring scraping for a true clean. While you’re at it, take a good look at your grout, which can usually be brightened up with the right cleaner, a small sturdy brush, and a bit of elbow grease.

Inspect and discard all expired stuff. If you have unused prescription meds, bring them to your pharmacy for proper disposal or find out if your city or town offers a drug take-back program. Expired OTC meds can go right into the trash. Be sure to inspect all lotions, creams, and makeup items too, as many have surprisingly short shelf lives. Toothbrushes should be replaced about once every three months and be sure to store new ones in an upright position to enable complete air drying between uses, experts say.

Purge the excess. As bathrooms tend to have limited space, give careful consideration to everything you store there. Is there a curling wand that gets used only 2-3 times a year taking up precious real estate? Are there five hair brushes, where one might do? Are you storing large refill containers of shampoos and conditioners bought at wholesale clubs? Remove rarely-used items to a different location, such as a linen closet. The less you keep in your bathroom, the more functional it becomes and the easier it will be to keep clean and tidy all week long.

Do make room for critical supplies. No one wants to be the person using a bathroom when it runs out of toilet paper, hand soap, or towels. Nice baskets filled with unwrapped toilet paper rolls and a soap display add decorative elements to your bathroom, while also making family members and guests feel most comfortable. Pre-moistened wipes or a spray bottle and clean rag near to hand make it easy for you and family members to wipe up toothpaste gobs, stray hairs, and other small daily messes. If you ever entertain overnight guests, extra new toothbrushes are great extra items to keep on hand as well.

Get organized. If your bathroom often resembles a jumble sale, it might be worth investing in a few elegant, yet simple and inexpensive organizing solutions. Think wooden drawer organizers, canvas totes, shower caddies,and the like.

Refresh your look. Your bathroom is one of the easiest and least expensive rooms to completely re-style with a new look or color scheme, especially if floors, counters, and tile are white or neutral in tone. Consider changing up your shower curtain, bath mat, or towels and ‘shopping at home’ for things you might repurpose to add style and keep your bathroom organized. A china sugar bowl, for example, makes a great decorative container for cotton balls or tooth-floss picks, while a shallow serving tray can be a great way to corral lots of small items you want near to hand such as lotions, creams, and perfume bottles. There are also hundreds of chic, decorative paper designs available at low costs for lining shelves and adding visual pop to the insides of bathroom cabinets and drawers.

 

Cleaning Myths Debunked: Cleaning for Cold & Flu Season

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With cold and flu season in full swing, you might be taking a few extra cleaning precautions such as disinfecting doorknobs, kitchen and bath fixtures, handheld digital devices, TV clickers, and so forth where germ transfers are most likely to happen. Due to clever marketing tactics and media hype, however, many people don’t understand how disinfectants really work, so they end up spending time and money without gaining any additional protection from illness. Here are five common myths debunked when it comes to disinfecting for cold and flu season:

Myth #1 Cleaning surfaces and avoiding physical contact with sick people prevents illness.

Truth Most cold and flu viruses are contracted via the eyes and nose, and new victims typically inhale viruses from coughs, sneezes, or just the exhaled air of infected hosts up to six feet away. An estimated 30% of people infected with flu exhibit no symptoms, making them impossible to avoid. While cleaning surfaces can help, frequent, thorough hand washing and not touching your eyes and face are still some of the best defenses against contracting colds and flu. When water and soap are not available, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are a smart second choice, as they have been proven to kill a wide range of bacteria and viruses when used properly (at least a dime-sized amount of product rubbed in for a full 30 seconds over all surfaces of the hands).

Myth #2 Sanitizers and disinfectants kill germs on contact.

Truth The solutions all require different lengths of time to kill different types of germs, but almost none work instantly. Most sanitizers and disinfections require 5 to 10 minutes to kill all germs. Those that claim for marketing purposes that they “Kill in 30 Seconds” might kill only one organism that fast, but take 5 to 10 minutes for all the remaining important germs! Spraying and immediately wiping dry with disinfecting or sanitizing cleaners kills no more germs than regular soap.

Myth #3 Sanitizing, disinfecting, and antibacterial mean the same thing.

Truth Each means extremely different levels of germ kill. Sanitizing kills 99.9% of bacteria only, while disinfectants kill 99.999% of viruses, fungi, and bacteria. It sounds like a small difference, but that 0.099% reduces exposure to germs by 100 fold! Buyer beware: so-called antibacterial soaps are only required to contain antimicrobial agents and don’t actually need to prove they kill more than their non-antibacterial counterparts.

Myth #4 Sanitizers and disinfectants kill every type of bacteria and virus.

Truth To legally state “kills 99.9% of germs,” sanitizers and disinfectants must only prove they can kill a few specific types of pathogens and may not work on the ones you really care about, such as cold and flu viruses. As a rule, if the package doesn’t list it, the solution doesn’t kill it. To find out which germs your product works on and how long it takes to kill them, you’ll need to read the fine print.

Myth #5 Sanitizers and disinfectants kills germs on any dirty surface.

Truth Sanitizers and disinfectants only need to prove they work on flat, non-porous, and already clean surfaces! Neither can penetrate dirt or into porous surfaces where germs often hide. To kill ALL germs, you first need to clean and rinse away dirt and loose germs, then apply a disinfectant to kill any germs still clinging to the surface. Sloppy cleaning with disinfecting cleaners not only leaves germs behind, it leaves food for germs to feed on and multiply, and enables them to build resistance, leading to superbugs. Long story short, clean well!

The MaidPro House Cleaning Difference Newark, DE

New Castle County’s premier home cleaners.

At MaidPro Newark, creating clean houses is our priority. We are located in Newark, and deliver personalized, precise services to Bear, Christiana, Claymont, Edgemoor, Elsmere, Greenville, Hockessin, Manor, Marshallton, New Castle, Newark, Newport, Pike Creek, Port Penn, Stanton, Talleyville, Wilmington and Yorklyn. Whether you want shiny floors in Claymont or sparkling bathrooms in Yorklyn, just call us for all your Wilmington area residential cleaning needs.

Professional maid service, with a personal touch.

We know and trust our MaidPro employees on a personal and professional level. Our cleaning PROs undergo thorough background checks prior to employment and are bonded and insured. They also receive extensive maid service training to instill the skills needed to clean to the highest standards—yours! And while we strive to help our employees work to their greatest ability, we also make sure to have fun. Because when you love what you do, it shows in your work.

Shake Off Those Winter Blahs!

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If you feel unusually tired, unmotivated to go out and exercise, or find you have developed an affinity for binge-watching TV and comfort foods, you might be suffering from a case of winter blues. Here are seven quick ideas to get you out of winter hibernation mode and ready for spring—which, according to Punxsutawney Phil, is right around the corner!

Stop blaming yourself. The shorter days of winter have been altering your circadian rhythms and the complex hormones that regulate sleep, hunger, and feelings of well-being. According to Psych Central, the best way to reset your internal body clock is to allow yourself to wake naturally (versus setting an alarm) at least on weekends and to get at least 20 minutes each day with some skin exposed to direct sunlight. That doesn’t have to be outside. On super cold days, try taking a long drive, sitting near a window, or joining your wise pet for a nap in the sunny spot on the floor.

Buddy up! Ask a person whose company you really enjoy to join you for a daily exercise routine. The social aspect will energize you, and on the days you really don’t feel doing it, your buddy can motivate you and vice versa.

Check your gear. If you shy away from exercising outside in winter, check the quality of your outdoor gear. You’ll be more likely to head outside if you’re confident you’ll be warm and dry the entire time. Is your attire warm enough for all temps? Does it allow for delayering as your body temp rises? Is it designed to wick away perspiration? Does it help you to feel safe from hazards such as snow or ice underfoot and passing vehicles? Having the the gear attire handy for all weathers is a great motivator.

Dress upon waking. When you sit around all morning in comfy slippers and jammies drinking coffee or tea, it’s much harder to persuade yourself to get up and go. Dress for exercise as soon as you rise in the morning and you’ll be far more likely to actually walk out the door.

Discover new winter activities. Skating, skiing, sledding—all are great fun, but have you ever tried snow shoeing? Ice fishing? Maple sugaring? Curling? Winter bird watching or amateur photography? Building a snowman or starting a snowball fight are other great ways to get your heart pumping while you soak up some sunshine in late winter months.

Focus on signs that spring is coming. Maybe it’s a web site that shows day lengths growing by two-and-half minutes each day, browsing seed catalogs for your garden, tuning into the drip, drip of icicles melting, or the gradual return of morning birdsong. Focus on the positive and your mind-body-spirit is bound to follow.

Plan a summer vacation. Maybe it’s a week at the beach, a series of fun day trips, or even a productive stay-cation where you take on a strenuous home project you’ve been meaning to get to for a while. The point is to give yourself something to look forward to and/or something to work toward in terms of optimizing your health and physical fitness.

More Great Activities for When Your Kids are Stuck Inside

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Rain, snow, and cold weather often translate into more inside time for kids. Unfortunately, it often means more screen time, sedentary behaviors, unhealthy snacking, and ‘I’m bored’ complaints. Our November holiday postincludes a host of great non-screen activities for kids. Here are a few more ideas for keeping your kids occupied in positive ways on foul-weather days this winter:

Reading three ways. (1) Start a reading challenge where kids earn markers (such as stickers) for each book they finish. Offer non-material rewards for reaching specific goals: for 10 books, a favorite meal for dinner; for 15 books, the privilege of choosing what to watch on family movie night. (2) Select a beloved book somewhat above your kids’ reading levels, get cozy, and read it aloud. (3) Download a free kids classic audiobook and settle back to listen while a professional with lots of great voices makes the story jump right off the pages.

Build a fort. Gather a big pile of blankets, comforters, sheets, and pillows. Give kids permission to move furniture to add structure and let them go wild building an intricate blanket fort. They’ll play in it for hours, but be prepared when they want to sleep there too!

Cook or bake. Involve kids in cooking and baking projects. Let them do all the measuring and mixing, and demonstrate how to safely use knives, mixers, burners, and ovens. Teach other things, too. For example, what does each ingredient add to a recipe in terms of nutrition, flavor, and function? How is baking a lot like being a chemist?

Teach them to clean. Teach kids how to operate real household appliances such as a vacuum cleaner, washer, or clothes dryer. If vacuuming, let them explore what each attachment does and explain what it means to do a thorough job of vacuuming. Show them how to sort, wash, dry, and fold laundry. As an incentive to learn and help, let them keep any loose change they find under cushions or in pockets. If you do this when kids are still relatively young and eager to learn, they’ll have fewer excuses for not helping around the house in their teen years.

Introduce ‘old-fashioned’ games. You might not have many board games lying around the house anymore, but there is plenty you can do with a simple deck of cards. Rediscover the joys of playing Go Fish, Crazy Eights, Slapjack, Rummy, Blackjack, Solitaire, Spit, and so many more. You can also encourage kids to research, learn, and practice cool magic card tricks.

Online learning. If your kids simply must use their screens, encourage them to spend at least part of the time learning and practicing valuable digital skills such as photo or video editing, making music, animation, orkeyboarding (typing with all ten fingers without looking down). There are literally thousands of great, free tutorials available on YouTube and other sites.