Simple Cleaning Lessons

>> Thursday, August 9, 2018

My house is tidy. Mostly picked up . . . most of the time. But it's actually quite dirty. Like, stuff-stuck-on-the-floors, soap-scum-residing-in-the-tub-for-months, need-to-scrub-all-the-toilets sort of dirty. I go in waves with my enthusiasm for cleaning. Right now in the third trimester? It's exhausting just thinking about getting on my hands and knees to do the work.

I've read all sorts of articles on embracing the madness. That a messy home is a home full of love. And all that stuff. But I've also hit the nesting stage and it's bothering me -- BIG time. I would like my house clean. At least sort-of, kind-of clean. And I think there's a happy balance to be had.

Nerd alert: I spent a good deal of Eloise's nap looking up cleaning videos on YouTube yesterday afternoon. Yes, I have a writing deadline I should have been working on. Yes, I could have probably better used that time to actually get off my butt and clean. But I'm desperate. I am trying so hard to figure out a better way to keep my house clean, not just picked up.

There are a few things I learned, and I thought I'd share them here. Because I was THISCLOSE to calling a cleaning company, which is a luxury I think to be totally worth it if you have the funds. I cannot allocate money in that direction right now, so figuring out a way to simplify my cleaning practices is key. That said, we may be saving up some dollars and cents to hire occasional cleaning in the first few months after baby comes this time around. Because no new, breastfeeding-constantly-always mama has time (OK. maybe time, but desire!) to scrub with three kids and a husband who's gone six days a week.

// 1: Stop zone cleaning. 

This was interesting to me. Several articles and videos I watched said to stop approaching the house from a "clean the living room" or "clean the bathroom" perspective. Instead, do tasks like dusting throughout the entire house first, then move on to cleaning windows and mirrors, then move on to wiping down surfaces/scrubbing toilets/etc. and then to floors. I've never tried cleaning my house this way, so I am intrigued.

// 2: Prioritize. 

Stephen and I have really different cleaning styles. I get bogged down basically taking a toothbrush to every microscopic area that could be gone over. He goes really fast and glosses over a lot. We need to marry these approaches, at least sort of. Like I could be LESS detailed and he could be MORE detailed. But we need to prioritize the areas we want the cleanest together. Generally things like kitchen surfaces and toilets/tubs are big priorities. Dusting the tops of the kitchen shelves and ceiling fans might not be something that makes it as high up the list.

// 3: Gather together. 

I don't have one of those cleaning buckets or baskets. My cleaning supplies are scattered in different areas by room. Because as I mentioned before, I used to clean by room. But if you do tasks, it makes more sense to gather everything in a basket or cardboard box -- whatever -- and take it to the areas you're cleaning in that moment so you aren't running around the house like a crazy person.

// 4: Enlist your kids.

This is something I have just started doing recently, and I'm seeing how it goes. Ada is old enough now to help with more cleaning tasks. Since my belly has kept me from wanting to bend over, I'm taking full advantage and asking her to do more. For example, after dinner ends up all on the kitchen floor . . . I ask her to go through with our hand vacuum each night and suck it up. No, she doesn't do a perfect job. But I don't have to do it. I have also asked her to start picking up toys (which is easier having gotten rid of so many!) with Eloise. Their top motivator is playing cleanup songs on YouTube. Yes, I could have started that way sooner, but I am a control freak and often figured it would be faster if I just did it.

// 5: Set a timer.

This is my own tip, because otherwise I think I may spend the next year cleaning without any breaks. I am planning to set a timer each day for 15 minutes to dedicate to cleaning. On another day each week, I may set it to 30 minutes or -- alternatively -- 15 minutes, twice that day. And then on the weekend, I may set it to 45 minutes or 15 minutes, THREE times in a day (with the whole family's help that day). I have trouble setting out to clean and having no set start or end time. If I break it into chunks, I think it will feel more manageable. I don't want to spend hours cleaning, but I am hoping by dedicating time each day -- even just 15 minutes -- I'll be able to power through better.

Do you have any cleaning tips to share?

I've seen so many "rhythms" and methods for taking each day to zone clean . . . but none of them have ever worked for me.

And if you're curious, my favorite cleaning YouTuber is Clean My Space. She uses VERY simple DIY cleaners. Mostly baking soda, vinegar, and water with microfiber cloths. No fussy recipes. She also gives tons of tips for fast cleaning and more deep cleaning.


Skincare + the Sea

>> Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Hey, guys! I'm popping in quickly today to share a post about skin care. This post is not sponsored, but I was sent some neat skincare items to try and give my real opinions on. I don't normally do review posts anymore, but when I was contacted by a long-time reader (Michelle) about her company's (Spa Technologies) products -- it felt like a good fit.

As you know, I try to do things naturally in many regards in our family. This goes with cleaning supplies for both the home and body, kids, etc. Spa Technologies makes high quality skincare products from organically sourced seaweeds and botanicals. It's been doing so since 1991. The products are also all paraffin and sulfate free, so you can see why this is right up my alley.

What I tried:

Revitalizing Sea Cleanse -- deeply cleans pores and is made of organic Laminaria Algae. Good for oily skin like mine. Smells amazing.

Micro Pearl Exfoliator -- dermabrasion with micro pearl particles, pumice, and bamboo. This was my favorite product of all. You only need to use it a couple times a week. Smells like citrus and peppermint.

Sea Clay Mask -- purifies pores and works against bacterial growth and sebum production. I used this once a week and the essential oils made my skin feel absolutely fresh and cleaned out.

Skin Calming Booster -- has concentrated omegas and liquid oxygen to soothe inflammation and sensitive skin. I also thought it was cool that it has probiotics and seaweed extracts to topically nourish the skin. I put this on before my moisturizer as an extra, well, boost.

pH Purifying Cream -- works to clear pores using salicylic acid and red clay. Also helps fight breakouts, which I'm prone to. Skin has a soft and matte finish that's a nice base for applying makeup (well, the little makeup I do wear).

I don't have dramatic before and after photos for you. That's because honestly, pregnancy is messing up my skin more than normal right now. But the changes I saw while using the products were subtle. I mean that in a good way, though. After using them, I did feel less irritation and my skin just felt really clean and fresh. It was also far less irritated than normal, and I credit that to the ingredients and to the specific formulas I tried which were chosen for me by Michelle.

I am basically giving myself a spa level facial throughout the week!

As you can imagine, with such quality ingredients and good sourcing practices, the products do come with a higher price tag than you might be used to if you shop the drug store on the regular. That's where I have trouble these days. I recognize that you get what you pay for in many regards, but budget constraints are real. I see Spa Technologies products in a luxury category for myself personally.

That said, I could see myself buying these products instead of getting facials at my local spa, which I tend to do twice a year as a gift to myself. It costs hundreds . . . but instead of putting all my eggs in one basket and getting pampered twice a year . . . I could keep the goodness going all the time.

Plus, I have tons of the products left after using them for a couple months. That's the benefit of more concentrated ingredients -- a little of the product goes a long way.


Overall, if you are looking for very naturally sourced skincare products that have a strong history, I recommend browsing around on Spa Technologies. Their laboratory is located in my home state of New York. Their products can be found in resort hotels and spas, medicinal spas, and certain retail boutiques. And also online, of course. If you are interested -- right now they're running a special with 30 percent off their enzyme and AHA perfecting masks.

Happy Wednesday! And thank you to Michelle for introducing me to these products!


Why I've Quit My Capsule Wardrobe

>> Monday, August 6, 2018

For such a long time, I was convinced that a capsule wardrobe would save me so much time and money. I think it does for many people. For years, I weeded my clothing down to just 25 items or so every spring, summer, fall, and winter. I felt a lot of pride looking into my bare closet. I felt like I had such control and so many options.

The thing is, I grew tried of constantly giving so much attention to my clothes. I work from home, after all, and sometimes I just stay in my lounge outfits all day. That's a luxury I know not everyone has. But in my life -- right now -- it doesn't make sense. One day, it dawned on me. What I really needed to do was to stop buying clothing altogether. That's the root issue here. After all, when I was searching to create a perfect capsule for any given season -- I'd inevitably find gaps. And I'd need to fill those gaps with almost a laser focus.

So, I've stopped doing that.

What have I done instead? Well, being pregnant twice in recent history has been tricky when it comes to clothing. I can't give a full tutorial on best practices if your body isn't constantly changing. I have several pairs of maternity jeans and shorts and flowy shirts. I've been sticking to those. I did buy a few new pieces with this last pregnancy, but they're just undershirts that I wear under things I already have. And jeans. I had to size up my jeans from previous pregnancies. No shame.

When I haven't been pregnant, I've tried collecting pieces (and now simply holding onto pieces) I can see working no matter the season and no matter my age. For me, and as most of you know, this means a lot of FLAX.

I don't have the money to spend on new FLAX or many of the second-hand linen pieces you'll see circulating eBay or Etsy. (The dress/tunic above is literally the ONLY thing I have ever bought full price and new.) In fact, I'm sort of disgusted by how high the markups are. More power to the people who are reaping the rewards -- but I find most of my linen for between $5 and $25 at various thrift stores and consignment shops locally. I don't need to spend $200+ on a piece of similar value.

End rant. Where was I? 

OK. For me, I like linen. Even in the winter months, I layer it with some cotton basics and pair with jeans. It works for me and my casual, work-from-home lifestyle. I've liked the way this style has looked since I was a teenager and went to my first Angelheart Barn Sale. It's meant to be loose-fitting. This means it accommodates my body as it changes. I'm able to wear the same sizes even when I weigh totally different weights, have different shapes, etc.

It's definitely not for everyone, which I have learned when I've polled readers on different looks on my Instagram. But I'm cool with that. I've never really dressed for what's stylish in the moment. The fact that FLAX clothing has been around as long as I have shows me that it will weather trends, even if it goes out of its current rise in popularity.

Right now I have all my clothing for all seasons in my closet. I have probably 60-70 things. I haven't counted, but I just know how much fits in there. Where I'm focusing my efforts on simplicity is getting rid of stuff that I haven't worn in a long while (mostly as I see them, not as a big organizing task) and not really buying more unless I find it on the cheap or it brings me joy. Because while I have stopped shopping mindlessly and regularly for clothing, if I find something I really like -- and it's $7? It may be worth it. So long as I don't do it all the time.

I realize this post may not be helpful to many of you. But I'm sick of trying to cultivate a perfect minimalist or capsule wardrobe. I'm sick of it being a THING online. And I was totally trying to make it a thing, too. It's exhilarating in a way, right? BUT it wasn't s.i.m.p.l.e for me in practice. (Which is the core of my new definition of simplification.) This new system is. And I find that I don't really have too much laundry of my own to contend with. I often wear the same things week after week . . . but at least this way I have more options.

I'm not a style icon.
I'm not a fashion blogger.
I just don't care THAT much.

My kids clothing, on the other hand, is another story entirely.

And I'll get to that later this week!

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