Hungry Hungry Hippo.

No, this post is not about the awesome board game of the same name, where the entire game consisted of slamming on a lever on the back of your neon-colored hippo trying to get him to “eat” more white marbles than the other ones.  It’s about a different kind of hungry hungry hippo – a large canvas one that is hungry to store things for you in your child’s room or family room.  We were given one of these for A’s room for Christmas and I love it.  It’s so cute and it really does hold a lot of stuff.  Right now hers is storing all the extra diapers we just had to buy on Diapers.com in order to score the free shipping on the Snotsucker we needed during A’s first cold last month.  Side note – the Snotsucker totally looks grosser than it actually is, and it works like a charm on a stuffy nose.

The bins are made by 3 Sprouts, and they come in a few different color/animal combinations.  They also have some other options like boxes, caddies, and organizers.  They’re all fun and whimsical and a great way to keep a room clutter free.  Anyone who knows me knows I firmly believe there is no easier way to make your house seem cleaner than it is than by tossing things into cute baskets or bins.  I highly recommend any of these as a gift, or for your own child’s room.  And if anyone out there is wondering, I really like the green alligator wall organizer; it would compliment the hippo perfectly in A’s lavender and green-themed room.

Questions Answered: Closet Cleaning.

We’ve gotten some great questions on our Ask Keep It Neat! page and via email (keepitneatblog@gmail.com).  We picked out a few that we felt warranted their own posts.  Today we answer Question #1:

Question:

Hi Keep It Neat!

Confession. I have an addiction to shopping, but I also have an addiction to holding on to clothes too long. I admit, I have jeans with tags on them from 3 years ago and clothes I haven’t worn in years. I keep thinking that “one day I’ll wear these” or “one day I’ll have a need for neon leggings”. What’s your advice to clean up your closet? How long do you hold on to your clothes?

Answer:

Let me first say this: I do not think you will ever have a need for neon leggings.  Unless maybe it’s Halloween, or 80’s theme day at work.  Considering I know where you work, I also know such a theme day will not happen.  Ever.  Now with that behind us, let’s focus on how to keep your closet in order!

I’ve heard before that the general rule of thumb for waiting to donate/toss something you don’t wear is one year.  So if you haven’t worn it in over a year, it goes.  But, I don’t know that I agree with such a strict cut-off.  When you do your next big closet cleanout, take everything you haven’t worn in over a year and put it aside.  Try on each item and think about why you haven’t worn it.  The trick here is to BE BRUTALLY HONEST with yourself, and it might even help to have a friend over while you do this to offer second opinions.  Use the following guidelines to put things into a few different piles:

1. If it’s something you currently love, but you haven’t worn it recently because it doesn’t quite fit, it’s OK to hang on to it for another go-around.  Note – if the piece really doesn’t fit, it needs to go.  Hanging on to things in hopes of “just losing 10 lbs” is just unhealthy.  Wear what fits and makes you feel comfortable now, and stop dwelling on jeans that looked slammin’ when you were 25.  Everything looked slammin’ when you were 25.

2. If it’s something you once loved, but don’t love currently even though it fits like a glove, evaluate further why you don’t like it at the moment.  Too trendy?  It goes.  Too “young” (mini skirt, short shorts, really tight/revealing top)? It goes.  If it’s classic but just not “you” right now, keep it.

3. If it’s something you once loved, but don’t love now, AND it doesn’t fit, it’s time to go.  If it falls in this category but has true sentimental meaning (like, oh I don’t know, an old sweatshirt from when your sorority and your then-boy-interest-and-now-husband’s fraternity did Greek Week together…), put it in a box or bin to store with other important clothes.  But really scrutinize what you put in here – it can’t be a catchall for things you’re being trigger-shy about giving away!

Keep in mind that it may not be enough to do this just once – you may have to go through the process a few times to whittle your piles down even further.  But at the end of the day you should be able to get rid of a decent amount of things and feel good about all that space you just freed up in your closet.  Good enough to go out and fill it back up with expensive jeans and neon leggings probably, but hopefully you will find it within yourself to refrain.  At least take a few minutes to soak in your clutter-free closet and congratulate yourself on a job well done.  And then you may get back to trolling the J.Crew Factory Outlet online…

Clip Tip.

Tip to keep wrapping paper from unraveling using paper clips

A few years ago I was really tired of my wrapping paper rolls unraveling when I stored them away.  They would take up extra space and look messy, and the unraveled section would crinkle and sometimes tear.  (Yes, we’ve established I’m nuts.)  Taping the loose edge down was an OK solution, but that would rip up some of the paper each time you went to use the roll again.  Really annoying.  So I came up with the idea in the picture above.  Tightly re-wrap the paper around its roll and fasten both edges with a large paper clip.  That’s it.  A cheap and easy DIY solution for a problem you probably never knew you had!

Stow Day.

Stow Storage Ottomans from Crate & Barrel

If you live anywhere in the Northeast corridor you probably woke up to a couple of inches of snow and/or ice this morning.  I braved the elements for my favorite Lithe Method “Sleeveless” class earlier, but fully took advantage the rest of the day and hung at home with A, B, and KP.  B and I made awesome roasted chicken sandwiches with bacon and avocado, and then I spent some time straightening up the house.  We’ve had a lot of random stuff lying around from Christmas and my subsequent return to work (yes, some of it is probably kipple), and it really needed to find a more permanent home.

With no closets on our first two floors, and no room for furniture that would adequately store anything, we have to improvise a lot.  I rely on several strategically placed baskets to easily store items that would otherwise lie around cluttering up our small rooms.  We also have two leather storage ottomans like the ones pictured above.  These multi-tasking cubes are fantastic.  Not only do they act as extra seating when you need it, but the lids also flip over to be a tray like the purple one in the forefront of the picture.  And the best part, the spacious interior holds a multitude of items that you’d like to keep out of sight.

I spent the afternoon stowing away all kinds of things in my baskets and ottomans:  boxes of K-cups for our new Keurig machine are in one; the other is chock full of B’s lacrosse highlights on DVDs that he received for Christmas.  A’s toys now fill up a basket, and another is brimming with our cold weather gear.  And none of this stuff is lying around my house driving me nuts.  What an enjoyable snow stow day!

Faking It.

How to fake clean your home

Yep.  Guilty.  I totally “fake clean” my house, and I love it.  And actually, it’s really not anything to be ashamed of.  I’m sure many of you do the same, or worse, you don’t even fake clean.  Although my idea of heaven is taking a shower in a sparkling bathroom, putting on crisp clean PJ’s, and getting into bed with newly washed sheets every single night, reality is that there are too many other things in life that require my time and attention that it’s not possible to be constantly cleaning every room in my house.  Even before A came along it was a stretch to find the time to do a good deep cleaning each week.  So I’ve always done it every 4-6 weeks, with weekly “fake cleaning” in between.  It’s really easy; my weekly tasks take about 30-40 minutes in total and could still be pared down from that, if needed.  And the best part is that I don’t waste an entire day cleaning my house, meaning more time to spend with A, B, and KP, more time to go on long runs, more time to catch up on lost sleep, and more time for organizing!  Well, the last one probably isn’t always true, but you get the gist – giving yourself a break now and then means more time for doing other things that are meaningful and enjoyable to you.  And even I will admit that’s way more important in life than having a gleaming white toilet.

Here are the things I (try) to do every weekend.  And I don’t necessarily do them all at once.  For example, when I know I’ll be away for a weekend I’ll take 5-10 minutes a night during the week to do some of them.  And depending on the amount of human and/or animal residents in your house, there may be other things that you choose to do in between deep cleanings.  But these are my regular weeklies:

1. Pick up / straighten up in each room.  I do this in one big sweep through the house, starting in our kitchen.  It sounds like a lot but really it does not take more than a 1-2 minutes each room!  Kitchen: put food away in fridge/pantry, dirty dishes in sink or dishwasher and clean dishes in cupboards.  Living room: re-stack magazines on coffee table into neat piles, put randomly strewn items back in their places or toss into baskets, put important papers from the week together in a safe place and discard/shred what isn’t needed.  Bed & Bath rooms: put clean laundry away and dirty laundry in hamper, put out fresh towels and dirty ones in the hamper as well.  Also put items lying around back where they belong, or toss into a drawer so they don’t create clutter and gather dust (which then requires more cleaning!).

2. Disinfect Kitchen/Bathroom surfaces.  For this I rely on one of my two favorite “Power Tools” (pictured above): Lysol Dual Action Disinfecting Wipes.  These double-sided wipes are such a time saver.  One side provides regular disinfecting action and the other is textured with mini scrubbers that attack more serious messes.  They really can be used anywhere in the home and do just as good a job as the old spray-and-scrub routine, in significantly less time.  I use them to clean up the kitchen every night, and I leave a container of them under the bathroom sinks to do quick weekly scrub downs of all surfaces (counter, sink, toilet seat and rim, tub, and even walls/floors if needed).  Side note: I cannot take credit for finding these fancy wipes.  My sister-in-law turned me on to them at her shore house a few summers ago and was equally excited about their awesomeness.  She digs neat things too.  You know you have problems when you both gift cleaning supplies to one another at Christmas…

3. Vacuum heavily used rooms.  This is where Power Tool #2 comes into play: my Miele Olympus Canister Vacuum.  Aside from having great suction, this vacuum has an adjustable height handle that swivels well enough to maneuver the tight spots in our house, it is exceptionally lightweight (which is key because we have 3 flights of narrow, twisty steps), and it stores away nicely in the one and only (very) small utility closet I have in the kitchen.  Vacuuming weekly will help keep dirt, dust and grime from accumulating too much on your floors in between major cleanings, and really does help everything look a whole lot cleaner.

And that’s it.  Three steps to a fake clean home and a real happy you!