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My Housekeeping Book!

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



Smart Housekeeping



Working with Busy Schedules

Household Employees




Shopping for Bedding

Bed Frames


Mattress Care




Comforters and Featherbeds

Bedside Tables

Chests of Drawers

Working with Busy Schedules

Household Employees

Thoughts about Clutter--Selling and Donating Discards

The Mice Step Out! A Visit from the Grandparent Mice

Book Reviews

Product Reviews



Of all rooms, you'd expect a bedroom to be restful. It doesn't always work out that way.

Bedrooms are usually at the back of houses. This means that, in a typical neighborhood pattern, they're directly facing neighbors' back yards. This can expose the room to a lot of uncontrollable noise from dogs, children, parties, and other activities. There's not a lot that housekeeping can do about noisy neighbors. A white noise machine can help with some sound control, but there's really a limit to your control of outside noise, short of calling the police. Although well-fitting, industrial quality earplugs can help a lot.

We bring our own noise and confusion into the room, as well. Maybe this comes from televisions, radios, and other devices. The screens of electronic devices have been shown to interfere with sleep, so this may not be the best idea. Even radios can bring irritation and upset--I remember a morning when I used a clock radio alarm, and was blasted from sleep with a breathless, shouted pronouncement, "Today, the world is closer to nuclear war than at any time in the past fifty years..."

Not a good way to wake up.

Bedrooms are also clutter magnets, especially shared bedrooms. There's less reason to keep the bedroom looking good, as it isn't on public view. And in a shared private room, each occupant has a sense of ownership, or even territory. When ideas about order conflict, it can be difficult to sort it out.

Another reason for bedroom clutter is that most bedrooms aren't just bedrooms. They double as reading rooms, dressing rooms, and sometimes home offices. Here, there's a great deal that good planning and housekeeping can improve.

For example, if clothes tend to collect on the floor, chair, and bedpost, add an attractive, covered laundry hamper to the room. Or move your chest of drawers into the bathroom, and do most of your dressing in there.

If the closet is chaotic and out of control, organize it. If books and newspapers collect around the bed, get a big basket for them. Or a nightstand with more storage.

If you're using a desk in your bedroom for your home office, the only way to avoid chaos is to have places to put active projects out of sight, and use them consistently.

It's really a matter of having alternatives to cluttering, and habit training until using them is second nature.

Shopping for Bedding

Read online reviews of any product you're considering, regardless of where you actually buy. Pay most attention to reviews that list both pros and cons--many vendors purchase "rave" reviews.

Bed Frames

There are so many different kinds of bed frames--lots of things to think about if you're choosing one.

Of course, there's your decorating style to consider. You probably already have an idea about the look you want.

What size do you need? Does that work with your room? If you're not sure, mark off the dimensions of the frame on the floor with masking tape. Is there enough space for the rest of your furniture? Enough space to move around easily? Enough space for night tables and lamps?

Keep in mind that the cost and availability of linens can vary considerably with bed size.

If the bed is to go under a window, does the headboard work with the windowsill height?

If the bed has a canopy, imagine that space taken out of the room. Tall beds will seem huge if there isn't extra space around them.Do you want a frame that holds both a mattress and a box spring, or would a platform bed suit you better?

If you want a platform bed, do you want storage drawers beneath?

If it's for a guest room, would a bunk, a sofa bed, or a trundle bed work better than a single frame?

What kind of maintenance does it require? An unvarnished antique brass bed is a major housekeeping chore.


A mattress is a big investment, and it's hard to predict whether you'll like it until you've used it for some time.

Unless the bed you're sleeping on is very soft and saggy, the chance that you'll fix chronic back pain by replacing your mattress is not as great as advertisements would lead you to believe.

I checked a number of sources for information on mattresses. Many that seemed neutral at first turned out to have agendas. The main source for reliable information was Consumer Reports Magazine.

A mattress is no place to penny-pinch. You're going to be spending a third of your life on the thing for probably the next ten years. Probably the best idea is to wait for a sale. Don't be fooled by "sales" at strip mall retailers, though. Shop at high-quality stores with a proven track record and decent policies for customer service. Some sources advise not buying a mattress the same day you test it in the store. Think it over.

You may or may not need a new box spring, or need or want one at all--maybe you have a platform bed. Some mattress warranties are voided if you don't buy the companion box spring, so be sure of what you're buying.

Choose a retailer with a return policy you can live with. Don't accept delivery without inspecting the mattress thoroughly Also make sure the tag on your mattress says, "All New Materials," and don't accept it if it doesn't have such a tag. Put a waterproof mattress cover on the mattress as soon as you get it. Stains will probably invalidate any warranty.

Before you buy a very large mattress and box spring, make sure it's possible to get them into your house. They may not go up stairs or around tight corners.

Mattress Types


Coils are different gauges, ranging from 12.5 to 18 or more. Confusingly, the smaller numbers designate the thicker coils, with size decreasing as the number increases. Lower numbers would make a firmer, more supportive mattress, while higher ones might feel more responsive to body shape. Coils are shaped, arranged and connected in different ways, and these designs supposedly affect the mattress's response to movement--this is more important if the bed is shared.

The bottom line, though, is how the thing feels. Technical-sounding differences in construction won't necessarily make a noticeable difference. Don't be snowed by technicalities that may be intended to impress and baffle you.

Memory Foam Memory foam is usually polyurethane, less often latex. It responds to position and body shape more than other mattress materials. Some users feel too hot on a foam mattress. Some complain of odors with particular mattresses--you may want to let a foam mattress air for some time before using it--which of course means that you'd have to have a space where that's convenient. Gel layers have been added to some foam mattresses to make them cooler, but opinions about effectiveness differ.
Air Air mattresses include camping or guest type air beds as well as foam mattresses with an air layer that's inflated by an electric pump. Based on reviews I've seen, many people like them. I don't. But try one and see, if you're curious.
Futon Futons began as hard cotton mattresses, usually fairly thin, and have gradually changed into products that are almost indistinguishable from any other mattress. Some have foam layers. Some have innersprings. Many are incorporated in fold down furniture. Apparently, the word "futon" doesn't really mean much anymore. If you do get a traditional all-cotton futon, expect it to be very hard compared to foam or spring mattresses.

Mattress Care

There are numerous kinds of mattress covers, from the simplest bed pad to hypoallergenic, waterproof, dust mite and bedbug proof encasement systems, and everything in between. Whatever you need, put a cover on a newmattress as soon as you receive it.

Mattresses should be vacuumed periodically. If you have a new mattress, follow the maintenance recommendations of the manufacturer. Many sources recommend that new mattresses should be turned and flipped at intervals of a month or so, decreasing frequency to about every three months as the mattress gets older.

I've read mattress care instructions that recommend banning plants, down pillows and comforters, and pets from the bedroom. Also forbidding stuffed animals. All this to discourage dust mites. I don't see any reason to keep dust mites as pets, but I'm not that afraid of them, either. I can understand extreme cleaning if it's necessary for control of allergies, but in my opinion, your home is to live in and enjoy--it's not intended to be laboratory clean. Do what makes you and your family comfortable. Hopefully, it will still be possible for your child to keep the teddy bear.


Down pillows are soft and easy to push into whatever shape you want. However, many people are allergic, so they're not recommended for guest rooms. A soft pillow is favored especially by stomach sleepers.

Firm pillows like memory foam and latex are likely to work well for side sleepers.

A medium to medium firm pillow is recommended for back sleepers.

I like to have several different pillows on the bed, and choose the most comfortable one for the temperature and desired sleep position depending on what works at the moment.

Clean pillows per manufacturer's instructions. To keep dust mites down, it's recommended that you clean them every three to six months.


In spite of fads to the contrary, thread count has very little to do with quality. Fiber type, length, and origin are far more important. Supima cotton is going to give you a fine quality sheet, as will Egyptian cotton and Pima cotton. A blend of cotton and polyester will produce a wrinkle-free fabric, but the sheets may not be as pleasant in hot weather--polyester doesn't breathe.

Bamboo has been highly touted, but in my experience, it shrank so badly that the sheets eventually couldn't even be put on the bed. An expensive mistake.

The weave of the sheets is important too. See how you like percale weave and sateen weave--they've different, but both are good.


One of the most important things to consider is, how warm should your blanket be? If your climate varies a lot by season, and you want to avoid heating or cooling, you may decide to use different typse of blanket depending on need.

Material Advantages Disadvantages
Wool Very warm.

Many people are sensitive to wool.

Most wool blankets can't be washed in home washing machines. Air dry.


("Vellux" hotel type blankets)

Soft, warm, and supposedly washable. Be very cautious about knockoffs. Some have been reported to disintegrate completely in washing. Also reports of "off" chemical odors. Buy reputable brands.
"Korean Mink" Made from various synthetics. The best of them are soft, warm, and luxurious. Buy carefully. There are many reports of low quality craftsmanship, lack of colorfastness, shedding, and poor performance when washed.
Polyester Includes "sherpa" and fleece blankets. Moderately warm as a rule, but check reviews of each product. May shed in washing.
Electric Blankets May save utility costs if you lower heating temperatures at night along with using heated bedding. Most are washable. Obviously, much less useful in a power outage.

Comforters and Featherbeds

For all products, look for baffle box construction.

A duvet cover helps keep the comforter clean. Get one that makes it possible to fasten all four corners of the comforter to the cover. If your cover doesn't have fastenings, use a few hand basting stitches at all four corners to keep the comforter from shifting.

I prefer a comforter that's a size smaller than a blanket for the same bed. I don't like them to hang over the edges of the bed, because they may tend to slide off if they do.



If you're not allergic to down, it gives you the most warmth for weight of any type of fill. Choose a comforter that's rated for the conditions you have--it's not helpful to get one that's too warm.

Fill power is the ability of the down to insulate. Look for fill power of 600 or above if you want a very warm comforter; around 500 for medium weight.

Duck down may be cheaper than goose, and it's equivalent in warmth to weight ratio.

White goose down may be more expensive, but if you're using a duvet cover, you won't see the color of the down anyway.

A mixture of down and feathers is cheaper, but is not as insulating as down.

This is one place where a high thread count number makes a difference, as it can prevent down from escaping or poking through the fabric.

Make sure it's constructed so that the down can't move to the edges of the comforter.


Usually heavier than down and not as warm. Easier care. Filling may be cotton or synthetic.


Filled with feathers, not down. This is bedding that you lie on. Featherbeds are very warm--too warm for any but the coldest climates and seasons.

Bedside Tables

One original purpose of bedside tables--maybe the primary one--was to conceal the chamber pot. Many bedside tables still seem to be designed more for that function than for today's needs. Think about what you want to store next to your bed when you're choosing a bedside table. Do you need shelves or drawers, or both? You need a surface for a lamp, a clock, maybe an electric blanket control--what else? A small white noise device? A box of tissues? A book?

You can also use smaller organizers with bedside tables, especially if you need to have many small objects near the bed. During a period when I was temporarily bedridden, I kept small comforts handy with an organizer that's intended for electronic devices.

Chests of Drawers

Bedroom clothes storage is traditional, probably because of privacy. However, a chest of drawers can be a constant source of clutter. If you keep a chest of drawers in the bedroom, and it seems to be difficult to avoid having a mess around it, give some thought to how you could improve things. Would it be easier to find the clothing you want if you had more storage space, and the drawers were more organized and less crowded? Are the drawers the right size for the items you have stored in them? Would drawer organizers help? Would it help to hang some of the clothes?

If you're digging through drawers, would it be better to store folded clothes on open shelves? Clear boxes or shelf dividers can keep shelves from getting messy.

Foldiing clothes to better fit the drawers can increase the capacity quite a bit. A clothing folder like the ones used in stores can be helpful here.

If drawers stick, try soaping the rails. If drawer pulls are loose, tighten them--usually a very easy job. If the pulls are hard to use, you may be able to replace them without too much trouble--but be careful to get new ones that work with the same fastener spacing.

Working with Busy Schedules

Scheduling Housekeeping

Time pressure is one of the main reasons people have a tough time with housekeeping. There seems so little time and energy in the spare moments, and housework isn't exactly anyone's first choice of the way to spend their meager share of either.

If this is a problem for you, it might help if you think hard about your housekeeping standards. If you have very little time, or have small children, it's not likely that you're going to live in an environment that looks like a decorating magazine. You'll probably make yourself and everyone else miserable if you try.

On the other hand, if you're uncomfortable with the way your house is now, setting a reasonable goal is a good idea. Make a specific list of what you want to change--concrete goals such as "I want the living room to be less cluttered so I can ask people over."

Then work on those goals for fifteen minutes a day. Set a timer--it's possible you'll keep going after the timer rings, but don't feel that you have to. Steady work on your project, day after day, will get it done. As long as you don'r undo your own efforts as you go along, you'll probably make more progress than you expect. (If a roommate is undoing your efforts, that has to be dealt with on a personal basis.)

Some people turn housekeeping and decluttering into a sort of game. This works well with some families (How much can you pick up in five minutes?) and not with others. You can also do challenges by yourself, or frame the job in any way that puts a little fun into it.

But basically, the main approach is to make it into a reasonable job and tackle it one step at a time, in time slots that you can afford to give to it. And count on it adding up, because it will. If you place is very disorganized, realize that that didn't happen in a day, and it won't get fixed in a day. Stick with it.

Keeping it in good shape is a matter of habit training. If you pick up after yourself, and clean after yourself, as you go along, there's much less to do on a corrective basis. At first, it's hard to remember to take your coffee cup back to the kitchen and put it in the dishwasher, and take your newspaper to the recycling bin as you leave the place where you've been reading. After you've been deliberately noticing and remembering for a while, it becomes second nature.

Household Employees

The best way to find household employees is by personal recommendation from someone you know. If that's not possible, get references and contact former employers.

Be legal. Follow all laws about domestic employment.

Pay at least minimum wage or at least the going rate, whichever is higher. Pay promptly. I also give an end-of-year bonus equal to one month's pay.

Be flexible about holidays. Also, to the extent that's reasonable, about other interruptions. If someone is sick or has an appointment or an emergency, try to accommodate the need. However, if an employee changes times erratically and frequently, you're entirely within your rights to object if you're being inconvenienced.

Some housekeeping employees provide their own cleaning products and tools. Others use what you provide. I provide my own mops, because I don't want dirt imported from someone else's house. If your employee uses your cleaning products, ask them to let you know when it's time to re-stock.

If you have to cut back on hours or let someone go for reasons that aren't their fault, give them a month's prior notice so they can find more work.

Thoughts about Clutter--Selling and Donating Discards

Before you decide to sell your discards, think about what it will take to do it, and think very realistically about what's in it for you. It's going to take time and attention. And don't expect to get a big payday when you sell things, even if they were costly when you bought them, and even if they're in good shape.

I got a lesson about this from a woman I knew. She owned a travel trailer, which she kept in a secure storage yard. She decided that she didn't want it anymore, and advertised it for sale. It was in only fair condition, but the price she set was above the price of a new one. Not surprisingly, she got no buyers.

She continued to pay storage fees, and pay for her sale ad, until the thing literally fell to pieces. Then she had to pay to have it hauled away and dumped.

On the other hand, you also don't want to be taken advantage of. Resale prices are absurdly low for some items, especially if you don't want to take a lot of time over selling them.

You'd think jewelry, for example, would retain some value, but it doesn't.The same is true of antiques and collectibles. I once tried to sell some Victorian wicker furniture in prime condition to antique dealers. I certainly didn't expect retail, but five percent of what I'd paid for it was not tempting. Likewise, an established online china dealer offered me eight percent of the selling price of some dishes--less, in fact, than the cost of the postage to send it to them.

My solution for this dilemma, if the item has significant value, is to get a professional appraisal, donate it to a charity shop, and take the tax deduction.

If you place things in a consignment shop, you do a lot better than you're likely to with a private sale, but of course it may take considerable time before the item sells. And, of course, they take--and deserve--part of the sale price. In my experience, this varies from about a third to half the price. Some have an automatic discount policy after a certain period of time--if you're not happy with this, find out before you place the item. If they don't have timed markdowns, think hard about pricing. Whether they set the price or you do, you won't sell something that's priced too high.

If you have a lot of discards, a yard sale might be the solution. But a yard sale is a big production. If you do it right, it can be worthwhile, but it takes time and effort. Whether it's worth as much as you're going to have to put into it probably varies with neighborhood, season, and your expectations. What you want to avoid, though, is collecting items in your basement or back bedroom in hopes of a magical "someday" when it's going to be easier. Maybe it's better to just donate your discards and get them off your to-do list.

When it comes to ordinary used items that you donate to resale shops, give some thought to whether the item is salable. Some shops have restrictions on what they'll buy--for example, my local thrift store doesn't accept or sell children's toys. Also, think about the condition of your donations--there does come a point at which nobody wants the item. And thrift stores pay for disposal and dump fees, just like everyone else, so if your donation isn't usable, you're actually burdening them.

Books are easier to resell than most items. Most used book dealers will accept books for a store credit. Some will pay cash, but the credit will usually be higher. On the other hand, if you don't buy used books, a credit wouldn't do you much good.

If you think your item might be valuable, check prices on Ebay. But don't check "for sale" prices, use Advanced Search to see what similar items actually sold for.

There's real value in getting things out of your home and out of your consciousness. Sometimes, that's worth more than anything else.

The Mice Step Out! A visit from the Grandparent Mice

Click here for the GrandMice's visit.

Book Reviews


Garage Sale Tips and Ideas: A Beginner's Guide to Having a Successful Garage Sale
by Jenny Dean

Home Maintenance for Dummies
by James Carey and Morris Carey, Jr.

100 Things Every Homeowner Must Know
by Editors of Family Handyman

Consumer Reports--Books, Magazine, and Online

Homekeeping Handbook
by Martha Stewart

Home Comforts
by Cheryl Mendelson

Product Reviews

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

3M Peltor Skull Screw Earplugs--Far better than drugstore earplugs. Their only disadvantage is that if you sleep on your side, you may not be comfortable with one of these in the ear on the pillow side. In that case, experiment with other industrial quality earplugs until you find a type you like.

No Iron Solid Sheet Set by Lands' End (Supima cotton)

Grid-It Organizer

GTech AirRam cordless upright vacuum cleaner

Hoover FloorMate Hard Floor Cleaner


Felted mice by Diyana Stankova

Felted squirrel by ClaudiaMarieFelt

Miniature book by LittleRedsClipArt

Miniature sheets, blanket, and comforter by OldSpoolMom

Embroidered sheets by ViolasNeedfulThings



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