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My Housekeeping Book!

Smart Housekeeping
The No-Nonsense Guide to Decluttering, Organizing, and Cleaning Your Home,

 

 

Smart Housekeeping

June

Kids' Rooms and Playrooms

Housekeeping with Pets

Floor Care

 

Contents

 

Kids' Rooms and Playrooms

How Clean?
Toy Storage Solutions
Just Shut the Door?

Housekeeping with Pets

Training Pets
Pets' Belongings
Keeping your Pet Healthy
"Pet Accidents"

 

 

 

 

Floor Care

Guide to Floor Care Tools

Carpet
Wood Floors
Linoleum and Vinyl
Stone and Terrazzo
Bamboo
Cork

Thoughts about Clutter--School Clutter

The Mice Step Out! The Farmers' Market

Book Reviews

Product Reviews

Credits

Kids' Rooms and Playrooms

How Clean?

I've heard parents agonize about cleaning. On the one hand, they're worried about making an entire household unhappy by insisting on order that isn't--obviously--natural for their children. On the other, they're worried that letting it slide will result in the kids not knowing or caring about having a reasonable approach to living with others.

Based on people I've known, I'm inclined to think that the housekeeping style of the family you grow up in is only one of several influences. If the family is extreme one way or the other, kids may rebel and end up opposite. Or, they may not.

I have known adults who grew up being waited on hand and foot by parents and, in some cases, servants. The problem there was that they had no idea how to keep house. This put them at a tremendous handicap in adulthood--dependence on others for basic life skills, and an inability to keep roommates for more than a few months. I'd imagine it would be a strain on most marriages, as well. Think ahead.

At least at some ages, most children enjoy helping and learning. Housekeeping is a fun adventure, and learning their parents' skills is seen as fun.

A friend puts it this way, "For chores, start very early. From the time they're old enough to stand at the sink and splash, stand at the counter and stir a with a spoon... when they still think wielding a feather duster is fun and folding a towel is a puzzle. All learning and work is play to a child and vice versa.

"And chores are just part of what everyone does to keep the household (and yard) running, each according to age and ability... not things to be rewarded for doing or used as punishment. Picking up toys is just another of the above, though I was never much of a stickler about them in his own room. The door could always be closed. A big wicker basket in the main room for end-of-the-day stashing sufficed and we usually did it together."

When kids are eager to help, it's a mistake to enforce adult housekeeping standards. If you're too picky, they'll be disappointed and frustrated instead of proud.

However, help can go awry, so make sure it's supervised. I know of one toddler who "helped" mom with her nearly finished all-white quilt by coloring it. With indelible markers.

Toy Storage Solutions

 

A toy box may or may not be the way to maintain order. It's easy to put things away in one big container, but it's not easy to find them again in the mess inside. Some children do better with low open shelves or cubbies. They can put things away easily, and can also see and choose what they want without dragging all their possessions out to look for things.

A toy basket in the living room, or wherever your children play, is also a good solution. There's no reason why toys have to be stored only in the child's room.

Other solutions, if you can manage it, include limiting the number and type of toys brought into the house, at least when your children are young enough that it's not realistic to expect them to pick up after themselves very well. Toys with dozens of tiny parts would be one example.

Just Shut the Door?

Some parents reach the point, especially with older kids, of confining the mess to the kid's room and just shutting the door. This may work, except that food mess has to be controlled to avoid odors and pests.

That may work for one bedroom, but there are still decisions to be made about the chores that are necessary for basic household maintenance.

Housekeeping with Pets

I've had pets--dogs, cats, and others--almost all my life. I love them, but there's no doubt that they complicate housekeeping.

If you have a pet that sheds, you may have to deal with large amounts of hair on carpets, couches, and clothing.

Even the most well-trained of pets will have occasional accidents.

Pets don't necessarily understand that destroying shoes, furniture, and other property isn't a good way to participate in the household economy.

Pets take resources of time, attention, and money.

If a frequent visitor or household member is allergic to the pet, controlling the problem becomes a serious issue.

Obviously, for many of us, pets are worth the drawbacks that come with them. Here are some suggestions for easier housekeeping with pets:

  • Dogs can be trained far more than many owners realize. If you aren't succeeding with training, take a class or hire a trainer. You'll save money in the long run. Many cats are moderately trainable as well, despite their reputation for independence. Don't let your pet become a neighborhood nuisance by barking, damaging property, or fouling neighbors' yards.
  • Get a vacuum that's designed for pet hair pickup if you have a pet that sheds a lot. Read reviews--not all vacuums with the word "pet" in their name are actually good at picking up hair.

  • Remove pet hair from clothing and furniture with a damp sponge. Or use a velcro hair roller or a lint roller. Of course, a vacuum cleaner attachment will remove it from upholstered furniture as part of your regular cleaning regimen.

  • Use a motion-activated can of compressed air to train cats not to jump on counters and tables. The puff of air doesn't harm them, but they dislike it, and they'll stay off your counters once they've been puffed at a time or two.

  • Put double stick tape on areas of furniture that cats are inclined to scratch. It should break them of the habit of regarding that tempting surface as a scratching post for quite a while.

  • Spray things they're inclined to chew a special chew repellant. It doesn't work for every pet, but it does for many.

  • If you have a cat with an indoor litter box, clean it often and use a litter that minimizes odors.

Training Pets

There are currently two basic approaches to dog training. One is the "alpha dog" system, which puts the owner in the role of pack leader and uses authority to train the dog. The other is a rewards system that uses mostly positive reinforcement. Apparently, different dogs respond more or less well to different approaches. It's helpful to figure out your dog's personality so you can get the best results from training.

If you don't have time to train the dog--which involves training for you, too--hire a reputable trainer. But don't just let it go--an untrained pet can wreak havoc in your home and add a great deal to your housekeeping load.

Cats are famous for being less trainable than dogs, but they're trainable to a certain extent. A cat should be housebroken and should respond to the word "no," at a minimum. Keep the litter box clean, or the cat won't use it. If your cat is indoor-outdoor, please take complaints from neighbors seriously, if you get them. If your cat is fouling their property or killing songbirds at their feeder, you and the neighbor need to work out a solution. Don't just brush them off.

Other animals that have been domesticated for less time than cats and dogs may not be trainable. For example, it may seem fun to keep a pet raccoon or skunk, but they may involve more work and inconvenience than they're worth to you, in the long run. Some animals are marginal--I have been told that it's possible to train a rabbit to use a litter box, but I wasn't successful when I tried. So it may depend on the trainer.

Pets' Belongings

Pets probably have fewer belongings than children, as a rule, but they do need beds, toys, blankets, and other paraphernalia. Keep pet belongings clean, and disinfect or replace litter boxes if they become smelly.

Pets I've had have been very happy with simple toys like balls, "fishing pole" type toys, and for cats, a strange object consisting of bits of paper rope on the ends of a springy wire. Keep pets' toys corralled in a basket or box when they're not in use. Some pet toys are hazardous underfoot, especially if someone in the home has limited mobility or poor eyesight.

Keeping your Pet Healthy

Follow your vet's advice about health care for your pet. Innoculations, spaying/neutering, control of parasites, and dental care are all important.

Keep your pet clean. If it has a coat that needs human help with care, brush and groom as needed. Don't let it get tangled and matted.

It's fun to feed treats to pets, but if you let them get obese, you're doing them no favors. A special problem can develop if you have two pets, and one of them is more aggressive about food than the other. If that happens, you should feed one of them in an area that's not open to the other.

Many purebreed animals are genetically predisposed to certain kinds of illnesses or other problems. If you have a pet with this tendency, watch out for it and treat as your vet advises.

Dogs need exercise. You have to make time to walk the dog in all weathers, unless you have a large fenced yard. Either way, the "housekeeping," i.e., poop-scooping, is on you.

Most vets recommend microchipping pets to ensure that they can be returned to you if they get lost--which can happen even to animals that aren't supposed to go outdoors.

And this is a tip for your own health--don't let pets ride loose in a vehicle. I've witnessed one automobile crash that was caused by a loose cat in a truch--it panicked and pasted itself to the driver's face. Cats should be in a carrier, and dogs should be restrained in whatever way is appropriate for the animal.

Pet "Accidents"

For some reason, pets seem to gravitate to carpet when they're nauseated or breaking training. Maybe the absorbency appeals to them. I've also heard of pets who favor the owner's bed for this, especially if they're making a point.

If a pet urinates in the house, it may have a urinary tract infection. Have it checked by a vet.

If house soiling is an ongoing problem that isn't caused by medical issues, consult a trainer.

For random accidents, there's probably no point in scolding. Clean up the mess, including removing any residual odor--and remember that the pet's sense of smell is much more acute than yours. Use enzyme solution and a handhold carpet cleaner to remove accidents from carpet or other fabrics.

Cleaning Floors

Remove any loose dirt by vacuuming, sweeping, or dust mopping. Once you've removed the loose particles, wet cleaning is possible without making mud puddles.

For a guide to floor care equipment, click here.

Carpet

For small or isolated messes, a carpet sweeper or stick vacuum is handy. Thoroughly vacuum carpet at least weekly, and steam clean annually or as needed. Deep cleaning of carpet is probably best done by professionals, but you can buy or rent machines for doing it yourself.

Wood

Natural Wood - Vacuum frequently to keep gritty dirt from "sanding" the finish. If your vacuum has a beater bar, make sure the bar is up. Use area rugs at points of high traffic. Mop with a damp mop only--don't use much water. Use an oil soap solution. Wipe dry.

Pre-finished natural wood flooring is easier-care than flooring that's finished in place. Use special cleaner that's made for this type of flooring.

Wood laminate--Dust mop or damp mop laminate wood floors--don't use a lot of water. If your vacuum cleaner has a carpet beater bar, make sure the bar is up before using on a laminate floor.

Linoleum and Vinyl

Vacuum or dust mop the floor to remove loose dirt. Wet mop or scrub with detergent solution or with a solution of one cup of vinegar to each gallon of water.

Ceramic Tile

Sweep or vaccum regularly. Avoid sponge mops, which may push the dirt into the grout. Keeping the tiles clean is relatively easy with all purpose cleaning products. Stained grout may require a special grout cleaner.

For natural cleaning of ceramic tile floors, mix 1/2 cup of white vinegar with 1 gallon warm water. Don't use abrasive cleaners on ceramic tile.

Stone and Terrazzo

Dust mop the floor regularly. Don't use general household cleaner on marble or other calcium-based stones. Use mild detergent diluted in water. Stone and terrazzo need periodic re-sealing.

Bamboo

Dust mop or sweep with a soft broom. Mop with a damp sponge mop and a vinegar solution or hardwood floor cleaner. Dry immediately with a towel and polish out any streaks. Never use any abrasive tool or cleaner on bamboo.

Cork

Dust mop or sweep with a soft broom. Mop with a solution of water and pH neutral floor cleaner.

The Mice Step Out! A visit to the Farmers' Market

Click here for ToddlerMouse's encounter with carrots

Thoughts about Clutter--School Clutter

Clutter control is a matter of having appropriate storage, and then training yourself to use it. It's not easy to habit-train yourself, and it's much harder to accomplish that for someone else. Especially children, who change so quickly, and whose changes are so important to you. Maybe you can hold onto the memories if you keep everything?

Except you can't. In fact, holding on to everything is going to drown the important things in a landslide of things that don't matter. Nowhere is this more important than with school papers.

If your child brings papers home daily--most do--don't let them pile up. Sort the papers daily and keep only the ones that are meaningful. Have a place to display special things like artwork, maybe a bulletin board in your child's room. And a file for saving special school papers during the year. And an archive box for saving the ones you want to keep forever.

Science projects and other large scale things are harder. You're probably proud of your child's work, but your storage space is limited. You probably help with the design and execution of the thing to begin with--maybe thinking about storage during the design phase will help with the eventual problem of what to do with the project afterwards.

It's hard to cull things that mean so much to you. I knew a parent who saved everything--not just papers, but outgrown clothes, toys, everything. Maybe it was an effort to stop time, but all it did was fill up her garage.

Book Reviews

Is there a Life After Housework?
by Don Aslett

Cesar's Rules: Your Way to Train a Well-Behaved Dog
by Cesar Millan

Product Reviews

I have no financial interest in any of these companies, and have not received anything in exchange for my recommendations.

Recommended:

ClosetMaid 421 Cubeicals 9-Cube Organizer

Nature's Miracle Stain and Odor Remover

Bissell SpotLifter Cordless Carpet Cleaner

Grannick's Bitter Apple Spray

PetSafe Ssscat Cat Spray Control System

PetSafe Scat Mat--A mat that delivers a static-level shock when touched. This is for serious situations--for example, if your pet could be killed by traffic if it ran out of your house and into the road. Touch it yourself--it is actually aversive rather than actually painful. Recommended only where absolutely necessary.

Cat Dancer Interactive Pet Toy--Hard to see what about this toy interests them, but I'm not a cat. Every cat I've known has loved these. Recommended.

Credits

Felted mice by Diyana Stankova

Miniature carousel by LasMInisdeMaini

Toy shelf by creativecraftsforU

Toy Chest by BlueBonnetLadies

 

 


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