Your Guide to a Kick-Butt Cleaning Routine

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My grandma was the queen of cleaning routines and she was really old-school about it, too- Mondays were for washing, Tuesdays are for ironing, etc. You know, kind of like that old song goes.

I’m not so vigilant when it comes to my house-cleaning but you can bet she showed me a thing or two whenever I stayed at her place for the weekend.

Here are some of the things I learned from her on creating your own kick-butt cleaning routine.

She planned it out in advance. Cleaning wasn’t something that was done only when company was coming over, or when it got so bad she couldn’t stand it anymore. Instead, she formed a plan of attack and stuck to it, meaning she still had time to spend with her family and do the things she loved. Oh, and she also was holding down a job at the same time. Did I mention that?

She focused on one thing at a time. I do this version of cleaning sometimes that I like to call “puttering” where I basically float around from room to room completing a small task here or there and never really getting anything accomplished. It feels good, but it’s kind of useless. Again, having a routine keeps you focused and saves you time and trouble.

She focused on up-keep instead of deep-cleaning. Sticking to a plan that focuses on one thing at a time in rotation meant that rooms were tidied more often, and deep-cleaning could be put off until her schedule allowed it.

She kept the house organized. My parents used to job that you could eat off of the floor at my Nana’s house; it was that clean. I tend to agree, but one of the reasons it was easy to maintain such pristine floors was that they were free of clutter. Everything had a place in her house which not only made it easier to find anything you needed; it also made cleaning less of a chore and almost-pleasant?

She stuck to it. There was no deviating from the plan, and if for some reason she wasn’t able to stick to her routine (like if hell had frozen over, for example) you better believe she was back at it as soon as she was able to make up for the time she lost.

But it was never really about the cleanliness for her (ok, it was a little). I think she derived genuine pleasure from homemaking. Growing up her family didn’t have a lot but their house was always spotless because her mother used to say, “We may be poor but we still have pride.”

My Nana was proud, and deservedly so, of the home she made in her adult life. She and my grandpa worked hard to provide for their son (my dad) with all the things she couldn’t have, and surround themselves with the comforts they needed to make a cosy home. They weren’t materially rich, but they took enormous pride in what they did have, and their house was a testament to all they had achieved.

Instead of thinking of cleaning my apartment as a boring chore, I’m trying to reach within myself and see if there’s a small part of my Nana in there so that I too may clean and derive joy from my home just as she did.

And with a kick-butt cleaning routine, I hope you do as well.

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I’m constantly striving to keep things tidy and organized in my personal and professional lives. I’ve collected some of my ideas here, and I’ve got more ideas on how to organize your household here.

There’s always something about that spring air that encourages as to make a fresh start. Click here for how to make this happen in your home, and here for some spring cleaning magic in your favorite outdoor space.

Reclaim Your Home From the Holidays!

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Cleaning up after the holidays is the worst. Not only is cleaning kind of a chore (har har), but you’re also coming down from that holiday high and finding yourself staring down at the long, dark tunnel of the winter months with absolutely nothing to look forward to until the spring.

I’m kind of a buzz-kill, aren’t I?

The Swedes have it down pat, though, when it comes to holiday clean-up: a whole other holiday known as Julgransplungering, or literally “the plundering of the Christmas tree”. It’s kind of a holiday unto itself that usually occurs the twentieth or so day after Christmas. There’s food, and singing, and one last dance around the tree (yup, just like a maypole) to mark the end of the holiday. I always regarded it as the “final hurrah” of the Christmas season before it’s back to the reality of winter.

If it’s something you’re into, I highly recommend conducting your own modern adaptation. Mine usually involves a glass of wine and one last listen of all my Christmas playlists as I take down all of my decorations. It’s not quite like dancing around a tree, although I may or may not do a happy dance after my apartment is looking clean and back to normal.

The time of year is another great opportunity to review your greeting card list (Don’t have one? Want one? Click here to learn more on how to assemble your own) and make note of any changes in address, or personal information. I always try to update my list to include anyone who’s given me a card during the past season. Hopefully there are no deletions on your list!

I’ve got a Christmas budget, too (read all about that here), so after the holidays I go through my receipts and make notes on how much I spent, saved, and of course, what I ended up buying. Sometimes I’ll come up with new ideas for gifts after the exchange has occurred so I’ll note those too, along with my purchasing information like sizes, color preferences, etc. It sounds like a pain but it really helps me with my shopping the next time the holidays roll around!

Every season I find that my decorations and other holiday fare grows exponentially in comparison to the amount of storage I have allotted for these items. Taking the time to put everything neatly away allows me to discard any unwanted items, and gives me a chance to make notes about repairs. (I chat a little more about storing holiday décor here.)

Dealing with the aftermath of the holiday season is not necessarily a party. (Although the Swedes have made it so.) But the act of cleaning up and organizing everything afterwards has become almost a ritual of closure for me. It’s a way of embracing the calm and restoring order after a busy and often anxiety-inducing time. I also find it clears the air and gives me a sense of renewal and purpose for the year ahead.

The final act of the Christmas tree plundering when I was younger involved a procession with the tree out of the door and to the yard, where we’d toss it onto the ground in a grand finale. Although I never actually threw the tree itself I found the whole thing kind of satisfying. There’s no tree-throwing in my version now as an adult, but there’s still something to be said for engaging in the ritual- it leaves you with that same sense of completion.

KBwB-BFlower-50I’m so happy to have spent another holiday season with you and excited to start a brand new year on the blog. What are some of your end-of-holiday rituals? Have you ever plundered a Christmas tree? (Have you ever plundered anything?) Tell me all about it below or email me at keepingbusyb@gmail.com.

I love talking about the holidays so if you’re still feeling that holiday fever, you can read more about the most wonderful time of the year here. Interested in cleaning up and getting over with? I write lots about organizing your household and your life here and here.

How to Get Your Outdoors Ready for Winter

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It always feels like the official end of summer when the time comes to dismantle the outdoor living space I’ve created on my porch for the season. It’s a bittersweet time; on the one hand, I’m sad to watch the days grow shorter and colder but on the other hand it gives me the opportunity to reflect on how much I’ve enjoyed my time out there this past summer.

Autumn is usually the time when I update my garden notes, paying attention to what worked for me during the growing season and what didn’t. I start brainstorming improvements too so that I can continue to develop these plans over the winter when I’m stuck indoors.

It’s also a good opportunity to do a little research on how to best care for your garden and/or outdoor space over the winter. Don’t limit yourself to just plants. Patio furniture, planters, pots, urns and other outdoor décor and accessories all need to be properly cleaned and stored for the winter as well. You may wish to clean and take inventory of all of your gardening tools at this time of year as well, and make any repairs or replacements accordingly.

Additionally, there are certain house maintenance issues that may require attention. Gutters and eaves should be cleaned and inspected, as should the screens and windows of your house. (Some people have storm windows that should be installed at this time of year as well.)

Getting my outdoors ready for winter is a unique experience for me because I live in an apartment building. Many potted plants will not last the winter; those I can save I bring inside or winterize in their pots. This I do by spreading mulch over the soil, wrapping them with burlap and twine, and stashing them in a sheltered area that will protect them from windy and damp conditions. Plants that find their homes inside often get cut back and repotted in order to stay strong and healthy during the period of hibernation.

In a way, I’m preparing to hibernate as well. Winter is a gloomy time for me (I’m a fresh air and sunshine kind of gal) and I like to get ready for the season indoors as well by giving my house a good clean to clear out all of the dirt and grit that the summer brought in. I usually take a look through my pantry to reorganize and purge unwanted or expired food. All that extra room gives me the opportunity to stock up on ingredients for homemade soups and stews.

You better my quest for cozy doesn’t stop there either. This is the perfect time of year to wash all of your quilts, blankets and pillows in preparation for some serious snuggle time, or at least a lot of hours catching up on Netflix. I do a ton of reading over the winter as well, so fall is the perfect time for me to dust and re-organize my ever-evolving bookshelf (more about that here) and amass my reading material for the season. (I know you wouldn’t expect any less of me.)

Yes, the end of summer is a sad time for summer babies and garden lovers like myself, but for those of you who feel the same way, take heart: there are still other outdoor holiday decorating opportunities coming our way.

KBwB-BFlower-50It feels like yesterday I was just telling you guys about how I get ready for spring. How has all of that time flown by? I want to know how your gardens did over the summer. What do you include as part of your autumn cleaning ritual? Comment below or email your suggestions to keepingbusyb@gmail.com. Pictures of fall colors are definitely encouraged.

Looking for other autumn-type stuff to celebrate the season? Click here to read why fall is still an opportunity to make a fresh start, get advice on how to store your summer shoes, or bake something seasonal here.