Spring Cleaning & Projects, 2011 Edition

Last week, Matt and I were off to do Spring Cleaning! 

Yeah, we took an entire week off just to clean. We started this little tradition in 2009 just before Matt went back to work after being off for three months with Brandon. He started daycare the week we were off and we purged, scrubbed and scoured our home into blissful - though sadly temporary - spotlessness.

This is the week that we move the heavy furniture and find all those missing toys. It’s also the week we start talking about making big changes.

This year, the change we started discussing is the dining room. Currently, our dining room has a beautiful table with 6 chairs and a curio that call it home. But last week I found the words, “What do you think about selling the dining room set?”, falling out of my mouth. Yes, I want to sell this dining room set that we drooled over for two years before we could finally buy it once we were finally in our new home. The set that we wheeled and dealed for weeks to get down to the price that we wanted it for. 

The set that we use once a year on Thanksgiving.

THAT, my friends, is why I want to sell it. It’s completely wasted on us! We aren’t dinner party people. We are go home, grab whatever’s in the fridge - cereal? okay - sit down at the breakfast table to eat people. Our breakfast table is well-used. We pay it visits two times a day. And on the weekends, it gets a third visit. So, that’s the big plan we’re considering. I even took pictures of our lovely clean table to post to Kijiji when we are finally 100% sure. We’re still only sitting at about 90-95%.

Spring cleaning with Matt is fun. We fight constantly about anything and everything. Most of the time it’s not even a little bit serious or real. When we’re tired, there’s a possibility that we end up crossing the line into serious territory. We were exhausted by the end of last week and, honestly, I’m still recovering. Cleaning and genuinely purging your entire house in a week is actually quite a lot of work.

Our biggest job was our home office. We had boxes in that office that were never unpacked when we moved into this house almost 4 years ago. So, that was the top priority for the week. Finishing the office took almost 2 days. There’s still a fair bit of sorting, organizing and purging left to do, but we did the essentials that we knew we could finish.

This year, instead of just one big change project, we’re actually contemplating three. The first is the dining room, which I mentioned. I’m also thinking of donating my hardcopy books (most of them) to the Ottawa Public Library. I haven’t read most of them since I started reading e-books, so I’m beginning to think about letting them go. Especially ones I’ve grown out of. What do you think? Would you give up your hardcopy books? I rarely buy them now that I have a Kobo.

The third project has to do with the first. Once we sell that dining room furniture, we’ll have a big, empty cavern that’s going to need something to go in it. So, I’m thinking about relocating our newly purged office to the dining room and putting Brandon’s play area (currently in the living room) in there as well. It’d be really different, but I love the idea of being able to see Brandon while I cook and he plays. The setup now doesn’t allow that.

Decisions, decisions.

The funniest thing of all? Now that my house is so clean, I totally want to invite people over!! :) So much for not being dinner party people!

I am (not so) slowly killing myself

The last few days on Twitter have been fun. I’ve been watching the ladies who were down in NYC at BlogHer 10 - living vicariously through the experience they are having as I go through my regular routine feeling just a wee bit green with envy. And then there’s been HomeHer10. If you’re a blogger and on Twitter, you’ve no doubt seen this hashtag parody of the BlogHer conference that was started by this funny dad and here’s his explanation.

This morning, I joked that my roommates had left, but that I was cleaning and why was I cleaning? Well, because maid service at HomeHer10 has been less than satisfactory. Someone had to do it. So I did.

Okay, so it’s only mostly clean - still a few things to go through and reorganize. Progress is progress, right?I cleaned my bathroom, because I like cleaning my bathroom. I start with the gigantic tub that makes me want to hire a cleaning service. Then I move on to the sinks, toilet and last I do the shower. The thing about my shower is that it’s floor to ceiling tiles on 4 sides and the glass door is the 5th side. I don’t know how to clean it without doing it during my shower. (Suggestions are welcome. See picture below for reference.) So, I spray it down, let the cleaner do a pre-soak and then I jump in and begin to scrub away the accumulated gunk in the shower before I scrub the gunk off of me. It’s not ideal, but it works.

No, I do not clean all the way to the top of my shower. I’m far too vertically challenged.Today it worked, but I also began to feel my lungs burning, my eyes burning and when I got out and breathed in some fresh air, I got woozy. And I remembered why I avoid cleaning. Because I still have a cupboard shelf full of cleaners that are probably burning holes in my eyes and lungs as I use them to clean my house, no matter how much ventilation I have. (Yeah, we’ll go with that being the reason I don’t clean as much as I should.) 

Several months ago, a friend of mine wrote about making her own cleaners and I thought it was a great idea. I decided I would use up what I have and jump on that bandwagon. I’m still not through the cleaners I had then but I have decided I need to find an alternative that I can buy. Because I’m just too lazy not disciplined enough to research, make and experiment with making my own cleaners.

I’ve been wanting to switch for a long time, but I’ve been holding on to my usual ways for too long. I’ve had a number of recommendations from people on Twitter today, from buying eco-friendly, affordable cleaners at Canadian Tire to ordering from Melaleuca. I’m a little torn because I grew up in a house where we used Melaleuca (my mom was a sales rep) and I know the products work well and are non-toxic. But there are some concerns about possible greenwashing, so I’d like to know more about that before I commit. Melaleuca is pricey, but also very concentrated, so the price is generally fair from what I remember. Canadian Tire is 5 minutes from my house. Melaleuca is mail order. Lots of variables to consider.

Do you have bad reactions to the cleaners in the stores? Have you switched to non-toxic cleaners? Any favorites?

The case for a cleaning service

 

When we were about to move into our house three years ago, I mentioned to Matt that I wanted to see if we could afford a cleaning service. He immediately poo-pooed the idea saying that we could handle keeping the house clean on our own. I let it go – mostly because I knew that time would probably change his tune. After all, we were doubling our square footage and we were trying to have a baby.

I got pregnant the first month we lived in our house and our son was born 40 weeks to the day after our closing date - on his due date. (Seriously, is that some excellent timing or what?) It’s also a lot of change in a very short period of time. Because setting up and organizing our new house was such a time-consuming job, we really never got into a routine of chores prior to Brandon’s birth. We tended to do massive cleaning days to get the house ready for company and the in-between times were spent unpacking, organizing and preparing for Brandon’s arrival. Of course, since Brandon’s birth we’ve relaxed our standards for cleanliness a lot.

One of the things we did when we moved into our house was to start a list of all the little things that we have realized we would have liked to have in this house or things that don’t work as well as we thought in this house. We intend to use said list if and when we move to a new home in the future. It includes items like “paint with a color”, because we didn’t and we’re officially tired of staring at off-white walls for three years. Who cares if the paint is like primer? At least you have color on your walls. For anal types like Matt and I, we want to take our time to find the right color that we’re going to end up with. We also don’t want to try to squeeze painting in to a short time frame that doesn’t allow us to get it done right. So far, since we’ve got Brandon around keeping us busy, there is no time to paint – yet. If we’d had our builder use color – even at an inflated cost – at least we wouldn’t feel like chumps for not having color on the walls.

At one point, I made a suggestion to be added to the list; it was that we should go with a smaller tub and get a fiberglass shower stall in the next house – both would be easier to clean. Without even thinking about it, Matt said no. His reasoning is that what we have is so nice, my suggestion is a downgrade in his opinion. He keeps the list so my suggestion isn’t on there. But he did finally come around to my way of thinking about having a cleaning service. I didn’t even have to try to convince him. After Brandon was born, it quickly became clear that doing everything ourselves was not easy and it only got worse once we were both back at work full time.

This year, we both took a week off to do spring cleaning and work on various projects that we don’t have enough time to do on the weekends. Honestly, even though it sounds like a lame way to spend your vacation from work, I quite like it because we’re able to get such a huge amount done in a very short period. In fact, this is the second year we’ve done this. But it did get me thinking about that cleaning service again – particularly when I was toiling away in the master ensuite.

 

The ensuite is one of my favorite rooms in my house. It’s large, has a nice layout and I love everything we selected for it. We attempted to go with a bit of luxurious, but modern and minimalist style in the ensuite. Our big splurge is the tub (some would say it’s actually a small pool). Our original ensuite design included a corner tub but I don’t really care for them. They’re also a little on the small side if your husband is 6’4” and wants to be able to stretch his legs out when he’s relaxing in the tub. So, our builder searched high and low for the biggest tubs they could get and we selected the one we liked best. We also have a beautiful corner shower that has floor-to-ceiling tiles in it.

You probably know where I’m going with this, don’t you?

They are a pain to clean! I can’t even reach the back of the tub without practically falling in. So, I climb onto the deck and contort my legs to be able to get the leverage needed to scrub the tub and also keep from slipping or falling in. There’s a list of reasons the shower is challenging. The floor-to-ceiling tile is at the top of the list. And though the shower is rather large, the shower can’t be running while the door is open without spraying the floor. So, I usually take my cleaning supplies in when I go to have a shower, clean the shower and then me. Not fun times.

Truthfully, I don’t actually mind cleaning house. It’s cathartic and when I’m done, I always feel better to see things clean and neat. It’s no longer as high a priority as it used to be, but I haven’t stopped wanting a clean house. Therefore, I have to compromise. Either I lower my standards or I have to get help to meet my standards. I’ve decided I want to get help and maintain my standards. So, when I have a permanent job again, that’s what we’ll do. In the meantime, the house will just have to be less clean. Frankly, it’s more fun hanging out with Brandon than it is cleaning tubs and toilets anyway. It may seem like a waste when I can do the work myself, but if my time is better spent with my family, I won’t hesitate to get help with the cleaning bits to be able to arrange my priorities the way I want them.