Clean House Project: Making a schedule – and sticking to it

So, it’s been about a year since I started this Clean House Project, and I apologize for the long wait for Part Two. However, I still feel that this is an important part of keeping a happy home – and given the number of “cleaning checklists” pinned on Pinterest, a subject that’s very much in demand. I’ve worked out a simple and easy routine for keeping my home clean and organized, and want to share what I do in the hopes that it helps others.

First, make sure you check out Part One of the Clean House Project:

And so, now that you’ve taken a hard look at your home and determined what actually needs cleaning and when, let’s move onto the next step:

Write out a schedule

So, you know that your bathroom needs to be cleaned every week. Maybe your living room needs to be vacuumed twice a week due to your horde of furry pets. You’ve written this all down, so let’s turn it into something that makes sense.

Sit down and take out another sheet of paper. I use a notepad with a magnet on the back, so I can stick this on my fridge. Then, write out the dates for upcoming weeks. I keep writing dates until I run out of room, so I usually end up with three months worth of weeks. You do can do this any way you want, but I will write out the dates for each week beginning Monday and ending the following Sunday: “March 30-April 6”.

Then, start scheduling what rooms you’ll be cleaning, and when. If you clean your bathroom every other week (like I do), write “Bathroom” on every other line. If you thoroughly clean your kitchen once a month, write it once, and then again four weeks later, and then again four weeks later…It’s not rocket science.

For me, it doesn’t matter what weeks which rooms are cleaned, unless, of course, we’re going out of town for a long period of time. If you only deep clean one or two rooms a week, you can clean when you have time. For some, that’s Saturday or Sunday. For others, it may be on their day off during the week.

Now, you have to be realistic. As I mentioned in the first post, you can’t expect to deep clean your ENTIRE house every week – especially if you have a full-time job, have kids, have a hobby, interact with friends…aka, have a life. Sure, some people have the time and willpower to clean a different room everyday; those are different kinds of cleaning schedules, and if that’s what you want, they’re out there. This is the kind of cleaning schedule for those with little time on their hands, a smaller place, and the willpower to keep things organized throughout the week so that you don’t NEED to deep clean the entire house every week.

That being said, I do not recommend scheduling more than two rooms per week. Two a week is usually what I do, and when, while scheduling, I end up with only one room that week, I’ll stick in a special project (more on that later). The idea is not to overburden yourself.

Now, once you have this schedule all written up, you can type it up so that it’s prettier, but above all, put it somewhere where you’ll see it on a regular basis and then FOLLOW IT. I use a planner to keep track of my grad school assignments, dinners, and workouts, and so I also write down what rooms need to be cleaned that week. Then, I’ll work cleaning into my weekly schedule, depending on what my week looks like.

However, this kind of cleaning routine is not going to work if you don’t follow it. You’ve already determined that your bathroom only needs to be cleaned every other week; if you don’t actually clean the bathroom when you’re supposed to (aka, every other week), then it’s going to be even dirtier when you do get to it. The hope of this kind of routine is that by strictly following a schedule, your rooms won’t be THAT dirty when you finally get to cleaning them. And if you maintain your highly-trafficked area on a regular basis (more on that later), they’ll be even cleaner.

March favorites: Pins

Because I’m a Pinterest whore, here’s a collection of this and that’s that caught my eye in March.

  • Cinnamon roll breakfast cakeI actually made this cake, getting up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday to do so, when my dad came up for his birthday weekend. The recipe makes two 8-inch round cakes, so one is still in my freezer. But it was oh, so much of a win. Just make sure you let the stupid things cool enough before you pop them out of the pans. We don’t want a Pinterest fail.
  • 101 things to do in ChicagoJ and I are probably going to put off our end-of-April Chicago trip due to the unpredictability of the house-hunting process, but we really do want to get to the Windy City sometime this summer. J’s never been!
  • This outfit:
    pin-march
    I feel a strong need to buy a jean jacket this year, as well as a maxi skirt or dress. I’ve never owned either so I feel it’s…necessary.
  • Soft cheese bread recipeI also made this bread (the cheddar and herb version) earlier this month and it was a total win. I was also able to pull off the Estonian Kringle maneuver, of which I’m especially proud.
  • This dresser:
    pin2-march
    Can I has, please?
  • This s’more boxA friend “suggested” this pin for me, which always confuses me because I forget to check “suggested pins” for weeks and weeks. Then, it looks like you’re an ungrateful friend when all the other person did was think of you while they mindlessly browsed Pinterest on a Saturday night…God! Anyway, I thought it was funny she suggested it for me. We’re not campers (though we’d like to be), but maybe because of the proliferation of s’more recipes on my boards? It is a good idea. Let’s go make s’mores in March!
  • This handy moving checklist:
    pin3-march
    Will become very necessary in the next few months.

Follow me on Pinterest!

March favorites: Outfits

The best part of running a local news website for two and a half years is that I became very good at coming up with story ideas that could be posted on a regular basis. When you’re expected to “write” seven stories a day about a town that’s, in total, four square miles (!), you have to. Monthly round-up posts are particularly the bomb, and are utilized by bloggers the Internet over.

And so, introducing: My favorite outfits, a round-up of the favorite things I wore from the previous month. Since I only really started writing again in A Homebody in earnest in March, you have to forgive the lack of outfit ideas. Also, forgive the crappy pictures taken with my iPhone. One of these days, I’ll figure out how my husband’s DSLR works. I am, however, quite proud of my Pinterest-inspired outfit staging!

If there’s a theme to how I dress right now, it’s easy: cardigans. Yay cardigans! They’re cute, they keep you warm, they go with everything, they allow you to wear sleeveless dresses and tank tops in 20 degree weather.  They’re perfect. I should also probably cut back on them, but we’ll see how that goes. Here’s to hoping for more variety in April!

photo 1

Jeans: Gap
Tank: Gap
Cardigan: J-Crew
Shoes: Target

I saw on Pinterest somewhere that green and navy is a good color combo for spring. Hey! I have a green cardi and a navy blue tank top that I wear like every week … perfect!

photo 2

Jeans: Gap
Tank: Gap
Cardigan: Target
Shoes: Target

This is the same pair of jeans from before because they’re the best pair of jeans on the planet. It’s got a tiny flair but they’re mostly bootcut. They’re not too long, not too short. And, get this, they’re the ONLY PAIR OF JEANS I’VE EVER WORN WHERE I DON’T NEED A BELT. That’s a big deal. This is also one of my favorite cardigans, the boyfriend cardigan from Target that I found while on a mad hunt for a long, yellow cardigan. J told me they don’t sell yellow clothes in the winter. I proved him wrong!

photo 3

Dress: Urban Outfitters
Cardigan: Target
Scarf: DSW
Tights: ??

Enter the yellow cardigan as well, this time paired with the uber cheap dress from the Urban Outfitters clearance section that really can’t be worn with anything other than tights and a cardigan. Because the top is getting a little saggy. And it’s pretty short. BUT, I love the bottom and the dark colors make it a great winter/fall dress.

Buying our first house: Our wish list

As J and I really dig into the process of finding our first house, we know that we have to get over our anxiety and fear of failure, and just get out there and look. And that means, identifying our “wish list”. You know, those bullet points they list on House Hunters of the “must-haves” and “would-be-cools” and “definitely-nots”.

From the very beginning, we’ve tried to be realistic when coming up with our house hunting requirements. We know this isn’t going to be our dream home. We know it won’t be perfect. It will most likely be a little small. It may require some work. And really, what we want isn’t too much of a stretch:

Must haves

  • Three bedrooms
  • One-a-half to two bathrooms
  • A decent-sized, decently-updated kitchen
  • A basement (for storage and because we’re scared of tornadoes)
  • A two car garage
  • Detached home
  • Some yard or outdoor space (a patio or porch)
  • At least 1,400 square feet
  • Central air and heating

Not too much, right? Pretty basic, if you ask me.

Our wants and desires

  • Fireplace (man, I want one of these so bad)
  • Gas stove
  • Hardwood floors (I know, we’re one of those people)
  • A somewhat finished basement
  • Updated windows
  • Updated bathrooms (at least, updated in the last 10 years)
  • Lots of windows and light
  • An ensuite bathroom off the master bedroom (a lot of the older homes we’re looking at do not have this luxury)
  • Closet space
  • Built-in bookshelves (OK, this is me projecting my dream house, but it would GREAT)
  • A house that comes with most of its appliances including a dishwasher or dishwasher hook-up.

One thing we’d both like in a house – though we know it probably won’t happen with this house – is a house designed, laid out, or decorated in the mid-century modern style. J is a huge fan, and while I also appreciate traditional elements in a home, I do like the modern aesthetic, complete with clean lines, wood floors, and lots of light. While we know we probably won’t find an actual mid-century modern home in our price range, we will have our eye out for homes that can at least be adapted or decorated in that style. I’m thinking a combination of Crate & Barrel, West Elm, and Ikea (for budget purposes).

home1

home3

home4

home5

What I find funny about this whole house-hunting experience, though, is how my tastes have changed. I grew up in your basic 1960’s era ranch, and so of course, as a kid,  all I wanted was to live in a two-story house. It seemed so awesome to have a room upstairs, instead of, you know, down the hall from the kitchen. When you have your preteen angst attacks, you can just stomp up the stairs and blast your Savage Garden, and oh you would be so cool. I always envied my friends with bedrooms upstairs because it just seemed right and domestic and proper. It was all very Clarissa Explains It All; how else could Sam use his ladder to visit my window seat if I didn’t live on the second floor, damn it?

Now that we’re searching for a house, a lot of traditional two-story homes are showing up in our MLS listings. A bit outdated but oddly enough, exactly the kind of house I’d have loved to live in as a 12-year-old kid. But now that I’m older and wiser, all I want is an updated ranch. I think this is where J’s love of mid-century modern has influenced me; as a 27-year-old, I find myself drawn to those clean lines and open layouts. I also like the idea of the smaller home, both because two people with two cats don’t need a huge family home, but also because it will be easier and cheaper to clean and decorate.

Our house is out there somewhere…somewhere.

Recipe: Cheesy Cauliflower Soup

As all the food bloggers will point out, when the weather gets cold and crappy, the temptation to make soup gets even more powerful. And even though spring “technically” starts tomorrow, it’s still very winter-ish here in southeastern Michigan, and so for the past few weeks, it’s been soup on the menu for Sundays. Soup on Sundays is not a bad habit to be in; it’s warm and comforting, you have plenty of time to let things stew, and you tend to have leftovers for the rest of the week.

Well, except when you make this cheesy cauliflower soup because in that case, all the leftovers disappear on a Tuesday night. Sure you get a tummyache afterward because you ate ALL THE SOUP by yourself, but oh, it was so worth it. This is one of our favorite soups of all time, discovered, of course, on Pinterest. I’m always amazed, however, at the reactions I get to this soup. Say the world “broccoli cheddar soup” and it’s like, “Oh yeah, that’s my jam. I get that at Panera all the time. Cheese and vegetables, yeah!” But if you decide to pair white cheddar with cauliflower and then puree it, suddenly it’s like, “Wait, are you eating ranch dressing?”

But it’s not ranch dressing, I swear! It’s the most delicious, creamiest soup ever! It’s the best cheese-based soup I’ve ever made, mainly because it’s absolutely fool proof. It involves a few steps, but overall it’s easy and so worth it.

Roasted Cauliflower and Aged White Cheddar Soup (originally found on Closet Cooking)

Servings: 4+
Prep Time: 10 min.
Cook Time: 50 min.

The Stuff:

  • 1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 3 tbl olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp thyme, chopped
  • 3 cups of veggie or chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups white cheddar, shredded
  • 1 cup milk or cream
  • salt and pepper

What To Do:

Cut up your cauliflower. Personal note: cutting up cauliflower is so much more a pain in the ass than cutting up broccoli. Cauliflower just gets EVERYWHERE. Why you so difficult, cauliflower? I did not take a picture at this step because of frustration with cauliflower.

Spread out said cauliflower on a baking sheet, tossing in 2 tablespoons of the oil, salt and pepper, and bake in a 400 degree oven for 20-30 minutes, or until they’re light brown.

soup 6

These aren’t brown yet. Don’t take them out of the oven!

Heat the remaining oil in a large saucepan (I call this, my large soup pot) over medium heat. Throw in your onion and saute until tender, about 5-7 minutes.

Shortcut: You know what I love? Frozen chopped onions. They’re my new favorite thing ever. Whenever I’m making soup or something where chopped onions serve as a base, I don’t mess around with regular onions that make me weep all over the place. I just open my freezer, grab the non-sad frozen onions, and away I go! For this recipe, I used about 1/2-3/4 cup of the frozen stuff.

soup 5

Go onions, go!

When things get all sizzly, throw in your chopped garlic and thyme and saute until fragrant, like a minute. Fun fact: I’m not paying $5 for fresh thyme that I’ll only use once this week, so I used dried, powdered thyme. Not as cool as using the real stuff, but it still gives it that nice thyme-y smell/taste.

Then, add your chicken broth to deglaze the pan, and add the cauliflower. Bring it all to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

Shortcut: I typically don’t use “real” chicken broth because I’m cheap. Instead, I boil up some boillion cubes in water = instant broth! Woo!

soup 4

I’m sorry this picture isn’t more exciting.

Once everything is all simmered and done, you’ll want to puree your soup until it’s nice and thick and creamy. If you have a stick blender, this would be the time to whip it out. If you’re not cool enough to own a stick blender (like myself), you’ll have to transport your soup in batches to a real blender and puree that way. A little messier, sorry.

After that, or while the soup is simmering, shred up a block of white cheddar. Any white cheddar. For some reason, white cheddar is more expensive than orange cheddar, but it’s also tastier. Maybe because it’s less fake? Who knows. I like it more anyway. I just shred up a block instead of worrying about measuring out an exact cup and a half.

soup 2

Ehmergerd, it’s cheese!

Since this recipe is full of so many shortcuts, I next warm up my heavy cream. Let me explain: when I have to buy heavy cream or buttermilk for a recipe, I almost never use the entire container at once. Which means I forget about it, and have to throw it away a week later once it goes bad, and then I feel bad about myself.

To avoid this, I now freeze my leftover cream and buttermilk. I read you can do this for buttermilk, but I have no idea if you can do it for cream. Oh well, doing it anyway.  To make up roughly a cup of cream, I gently melted about six ice cubes worth of cream in a saucepan (the same one I used to make my fake chicken broth, if you’re counting dishes used…like I do…because I hate doing dishes).

soup 3

Is this correct? I don’t know.

Then, when it’s all done, make the magic happen: mix your shredded cheese into your pureed cauliflower soup. Bring it to a boil again, remove it from the heat, and then add your cream, and however much salt and pepper you want. Remember: you already salted your cauliflower when you roasted it, so it’s probably already pretty salty. Also, cheese is super salty. Don’t kill your arteries!

At that point, avoid drinking this through a straw. Instead, put it in a nice bowl, pair with a slice of freshly baked bread and enjoy!

soup 1

Spring Cleaning, Part 1: Planning

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It’s no secret that I am a devotee of cleaning schedules. Over the years, I’ve worked out a routine for cleaning our two bedroom townhouse that has not only continued to work with our changing work schedules (from when I worked at home, to when I had a full-time job out of the home), but it keeps our place clean and organized with minimal effort on our part. I’m a major evangelist for this routine, and will continue to share it with you as part of my Clean House Project (which, sadly, only has one entry so far…but stay tuned!).

However, there are times when the regular cleaning schedule just won’t cut it. Spring cleaning is just that kind of time. Although I don’t necessarily believe in adhering to prescribed periods for doing certain tasks (why are we only cleaning in the spring, anyway?), I do enjoy the idea of a nice, good, spring clean. After all, it’s in the spring that the ground starts to thaw, the dirty snow slowly melts away, a warmer breeze starts blowing, and the birds start singing. What better time to throw open the windows and air out your house after months of hibernation? And what better time to shake off the dust of winter and start the warmer season feeling fresh and clean?

And so, every spring I craft a special list of cleaning chores and organization projects. These are projects that go above and beyond my normal cleaning routine, and even beyond the little, mini-projects I scatter throughout the years. This is deep cleaning. This is rug-shaking cleaning. This is leaving a heap of old clothes and knick-knacks we don’t need on the stoop for Purple Heart, and digging through closets to unearth things we didn’t even know we owned.

Spring supposedly kicks off next week (although, at 18 degrees outside, I’m not sure I believe in warm weather anymore), so it’s just about time to take a look at my spring cleaning checklist for 2014. This year will involve digging even deeper into my spring cleaning, as we prepare to move out of our townhouse by the end of June. The ol’ townhouse has been good to us these past three and a half years, and she deserves a good, thorough bath before we leave her.

Stay tuned for some quick posts on all these cleaning projects.

Spring Cleaning Checklist 2014

  • Make a new batch of cleaning products 
  • Do a deep clean of my personal items that get icky, but are always overlooked:
    • Gym bags
    • Yoga mat
    • Purse
  • Go through our closets and donate some old clothes, one of our semi-annual rituals
  • Go through our stack of old textbooks and toss/donate what we don’t need anymore
  • Clean our gardening supplies to help make moving easier (and cleaner!)
  • Pick up some document boxes to complete my office organizing project
  • Finally toss those last few bags of random odds-and-ends that have been living in our basement since we moved here in 2010
  • Deep clean our car interiors – don’t you hate how you can’t really clean the inside of your car when it’s freezing out? Ugh, the crumbs!
  • Work on removing the salt stains from my poor, overworked boots
  • Flip my mattress and freshen it up with some baking soda
  • Deep cleaning projects to get ready for moving:
    • Baseboards
    • Walls
    • Windows
    • Carpets
    • Basement
    • Fridge

All right, spring, I’m ready for you!