February 28, 2006

Vinegar's Unbelievable Variety of Uses

That plain, white, cheap vinegar you can pick up at the grocery has an unbelievable amount of uses around the home. Why? Vinegar is a natural germ-killer. The Heinz Company has produced research studies showing that white vinegar will kill 99% of the bacteria, 82% of the mold, and 80% of the germs it contacts. And, it's natural, biodegradeable, and safe for kids and pets.

How to use it? Use it straight to clean toilet bowls as well as kitchen cutting boards and countertops (let all set for 30 minutes, then rinse). Put a bottle into the washer and let a cycle run. Clean windows with a spray bottle filled with a dollop of vinegar to a bunch of water (10% vinegar, 90% water).

In gardening, vinegar is amazing. Put it out in a jar top, and the bugs run. Put a teaspoon in the vase water, cut flowers last longer.

There's lots more at about.com, 131 Uses for Vinegar.

How to Clean - 1

Keeping a house clean and neat is easier for some than others. Living the simple life means maintaining control of the house, as opposed to managing its chaos, in order to maximize your time and energy for other things.

For those new to living simply, cleaning can be overwhelming. Some may be new to doing it themselves: in their old life, they hired someone to do it for them.

Therefore, in tandem with the How to Cook series, this series of posts will deal with various aspects of housekeeping.

Simplifying Your Stuff, Organizing the Home

First, remember Rome wasn't built in a day, and the Queen of England isn't visiting tomorrow. A home isn't going to be 100% at any time, there's always going to be something on the task list. Your goal isn't a lab, it's a pleasant living environment. Check those expectations.

Second, stop and consider your rooms. They have a purpose - maybe more than one. Is one bedroom serving as a guest room and an office? Okay, two purposes. Kitchen, where you prepare and store food. Bathroom, well -- you get the idea.

Each room should not contain anything outside its purpose. The office/guest room shouldn't have your kids' sporting goods thrown about it. The bedroom shouldn't have dishes. You get the idea. What if they do? You're simplifying your life: decluttering is part of that. Anything that isn't a part of that room's purpose shouldn't be in that room.

Third, find your storage area if you don't have one. Consider the temperature and light: those food bargains from Costco need to be kept in cool, dry places. Plan and create storage shelves if you need them. At Lowe's, you can get metal shelf holders for about a buck and scrap lumber for the shelf itself. Get your storage area ready for work.

Fourth, get your storage containers ready. Dollar Tree, garage sales, and those BankerBoxes from Office Depot (6 for $6.00) are all good storage containers that will stack. (I like the clear plastic ones because I can see what's inside.) Heck, those free cardboard boxes left behind the liquor store are great, too. You want lots of places to put the excess stuff coming out of those rooms you're organizing.

Fifth, spurge on several big plastic laundry baskets. They're great. Easy to carry, and you can take them through the house: e.g., toss all the excess from the den into the basket, then distribute as part of daily pick-up.

In your big simplicity push, you can use several of these to sort a messy room: throw away basket, give to charity basket, goes someplace else basket. I like the basket approach because it keeps the overwhelming feeling at bay: a basket a day, and before you know it, the office is an office again. Like magic.

Next post: you've got to throw away stuff when you're simplifying. Every house has a limit on what it will hold. What to keep, what to let go of painlessly ...
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