Top Clean With Me Hacks

cleaningtry

Gearing up for the Clean With Me videos coming up, here are my top CWM tips.

Weekend Chore Chart (1 hour):

floors
wipe/dust surfaces, including tub
wipe knobs/handles
wipe walls, baseboards, and cabinets sparingly (wherever needed)
do bedding/clothes/towels (in that order)
do drains/sinks
do a rotating oddball task (like shred papers, change out shower curtain/water filter, clean fridge/microwave, dust curtains)

Daily chore chart to come with an accompanying video.

General tips:

Own as few cleaning products as possible and store them together.
Elevate as much as possible (furniture and cleaning products).
Use only the carpet setting on your vacuum, even when on tile.

Minimize possessions to make cleaning easier. (More items block dust from the floor, which makes cleaning more difficult.)
Declutter > organize > clean.
Carry things to put back in a laundry basket to prevent multiple trips.
Store things where they’re easy to put back, not take out.

Try the one-touch rule.
Make a weekend chore chart, if you choose to do the majority of things on the weekend, and do the things that take the longest first.
Store loose possessions near each other so they’re easy to put back; i.e., in main closet.
Examine and adjust systems accordingly.
Personalize cleaning routine: Adjust weekly and daily workloads accordingly.
Make a list of oddball chores so that you know your workload before you start. Organize your chores in the most efficient way possible (start laundry first).

Cleaning and mindset:

Cleaning gives confidence and allows for visual progress, just like makeup, which boosts mood and productivity.
A clean environment allows for both relaxation and productivity; it maximizes your space.
Best days stop clean: Saturdays. Gloomy, rainy, and unproductive days.
Make cleaning enjoyable: Let the sun in. Put on music. Use cleaners that have a natural scent. Do what you like to do the most first.
Enjoy the free exercise that cleaning provides.
Motion does more than cleaners, so use naturally scented cleaners, which boosts mood.
If you clean often, you can clean with just water, or water and vinegar.
Time yourself, to give perspective.

Watch my cleaning hacks video for my favorite products in action.

Behind Melody

shutterstock_156525197

Most of my posts are not personal, but this one is. I grew up poor, as most people throughout history and even many people in First World countries today do. Albeit, poor in the US is not the worst you can do.

On the day that I was born, my parents were on welfare. We lived in a bad neighborhood in a single room. My grandma struggled with hoarding (as many of us who have gone without do), so my mother did as well, which made our space feel tighter. This is not to focus on a sad story about bullying or college debt or anything like that. This is an inspirational story because there’s a way out.

Upon entering college, I could not boil an egg or make rice. I did not know how to select linens, properly fold them, or how often to change them. It is difficult for families to pass down what they did not know or have themselves, especially since the poorer the family, the more stretched thin they are. So how can you find time to tie down loose ends?

I began to realize that poverty is not that bad if you have skill to compensate, but I didn’t have skill. It took me five years of studying, trying, and talking to grandmas and mothers. I knew that I wanted to be the best I could be at the small things. I wanted to find the best, fewest products to run a home well. I wanted to be a modern housewife; I wanted a career too.

Over time, my weaknesses developed into a desire to create a resource blog and to film so no one would have to go through the lengthy process of trial and error, perhaps never finding the ideal way or product.

I wanted any bachelor, any kid no matter their background, any college student, any woman in a bad relationship, to be able to do everything that involves simple living, from making money, paying bills, to hanging pictures, cooking, and cleaning. Do these things and do them as well as they can be done because confidence is important in regards to independence. Sometimes cultivating confidence involves makeup, a career, a nice wardrobe; sometimes it doesn’t. But whatever it takes, I wanted to cover the basics so that every person could have confidence in themselves and be free.

We are not really free on the day we are born, but with the right mindset (positive, independence of thought) and with developed skill over time, we make ourselves free even when we are under someone else.

I hope that I can save somebody from spending years of their life on what seems like the trivial day-to-day things and on worry. I hope that you can streamline and maximize your life so that you can get to what really matters to you. Maybe, like me, what really matters ends up being the towels and cooking. These are the small things, but not to some of us. Wherever you are, I know you can thrive in minimalism.

When it comes to blogging and filming, you are constantly reminded that you are not alone in pursuit and passion, that there are thousands of minimalists and spouses that love their families and want to be the best they can be. This is the best realization in the world, that you are not alone. None of us are an island. Thank you for joining me.

Top Cleaning Tips and Cleaners

green6

I will have more posts coming up on a great minimalist daily cleaning routine, weekly, and deep clean. I will have videos to accompany them. In this post, I wanted to cover my all-time top cleaning tips and cleaning products before I start the Clean With Me series. Cleaning items are divided in two: products and tools.

Top Tips:

1. Make a designated wishlist on Amazon just for products you buy regularly.
2. Limit DIY cleaners. Instead, buy less cleaning products and use less of the ones that you do buy because they’re potent.
3. Stay away most eco cleaning agents; i.e. just buy a lemon for the few times you’ll ever need lemon juice to clean something.
4. Use a bucket with vinegar under the sink and water so that rags don’t smell before putting them in the wash.
5. Use vinegar to freshen laundry and drains.
6. Use rubbing alcohol to clean electronics, like in-ear headphones.
7. Reuse Method bottles with a 50/50 vinegar and water spray, great for mirrors.
8. Put baking soda in a container that it is easy to pour out of, for drains and tubs.
9. Do NOT use baking soda for counters or floors.
10. Use a magic eraser to make Crock-Pots sparkle.
11. Use just hand soap if you have a dishwasher. Liquid soap is great for cleaning floors, some stains, tubs, and counters.
12. Buy paper towels, toilet paper, and dishwasher pods on Amazon.
13. Use a grout brush to get caked-on food off of counters and floors before wiping them down.
14. Use microfiber cloths on the bottom of your Swiffer.
15. You only need a small dustpan when you own a cordless vacuum; no broom necessary.
16. Keep cleaning products in as few places as possible.

Top products:

Method all-purpose
generic eco soap (hand)
unscented dishwasher pods
unscented laundry detergent
paper towels pick-a-size

magic eraser
hydrogen peroxide 3% – first aid
rubbing alcohol 91% – first aid
baking soda
vinegar
salt – kept in kitchen

Top tools:

cordless vacuum
microfiber cloths
Casabella grout brush
Casabella dish brush
generic scrubbing brush
rags
Swiffer
duster
dustpan
Oxo squegee

Best cleaning tools and tips video.

How to Pick the Perfect Towel

towelsFINAL

Towel tips:

Pick white, mainly because it’s easier to tell when it’s dirty and it doesn’t get ruined from benzoyl peroxide or bleach.
Wash in cold water to preserve brightness and fibers.
Don’t use fabric softener, as towels will be less absorbent.

To freshen smell: pour in vinegar with detergent
To freshen color: 1 cup vinegar + 1/2 cup baking soda with detergent

Store towels where they make the most sense.
Towels can be used as decor, otherwise they should be stored under the sink or in a closet to prevent dust from the towels and on the towels.

Ideal towel: thin organic waffle weave

Six types of house towels:

bath towel
hand towel
rags – anything you’d use a paper towel for, toothbrush, brush to wash dishes to rest on
microfiber – cars, wiping down sink, bathmat
dish towels
face towels – to prevent face from breaking out (rubbing face into conditioner) or from getting makeup on bath towels

Other towels:
beach towels
table towels

Fold all towels long ways (vertical) the first fold, except for the bath towel.

Formulas to fold:

bath towel: 2 • 3 • 2
hand towel: 2 • 2

dish towel: 2 • 2
rags: 2 • 2

microfiber: 2 • 3
face towels: 2 • 3

Why a thin towel?
Absorbs more water, dries faster (preventing bacteria), easier maintenance (can be washed with clothes and does not shed).

Why a thicker towel?
cheaper and feels nicer

The only reason to consider having hand towels AND dish towels:
Hand towels are softer than dish towels and match bath towels.

Why hand towels?
Besides the obvious that it’s not sanitary to wipe hands on something that has touched private parts, guests need to be able to differentiate between what is a hand towel and main towel. Also, hand towels are easier to hang than a bath towel for just wiping hands.

How to hang towels:
Command hooks or over-the-door hangers

Laundry essentials:

unscented laundry detergent
vinegar
mesh bag
drying rack

Watch the towel video here.

What is Floating? To Float or Not to Float

I have returned to the United States at last. While abroad, I tried floating, which is complete sensory deprivation. It is something that eventually catches the eyeball of anyone who fancies themselves interested in health and wellness, which is every millennial, right? So it was perfect. Possible greater inner peace, time and space for thoughts — sign me up!

I love being a guinea pig, and I’m here to report back.

Arriving:

When I first walked through the door, as before a massage, I filled out a form. There was a man who looked like he was into health and wellness (think Whole Foods) at the front desk, and I asked him what got him interested in working at a float center. He elaborated on travel and mentioned getting sick while on a meditation retreat in India (haha) and that floating was the best he had found for meditation.

When it was my turn, I was given access to the shower, bathroom, and tub. Tub size varies from place to place, but mine was as big as they come. “Even ball players can float inside,” the man who owned the business explained.

After warning that you don’t ever want salt water to get into your eye, mouth, or ear and after telling me to get wet in the shower beforehand so that the earplugs would expand (again, I’m sure this varies from place to place ha), the owner left me alone.

At this location, I got the whole bathroom and shower to myself.

IMG_7537e

After undressing and getting my earplugs wet, I got into the tub and shut the door.

totank

The Experience:

I’m not one to feel claustrophobic, but it did feel eerie and also warmer than I’d like, so I left the top up to let the air in at first. I could smell the incense burning, which is not my favorite scent, but I figured it could help with relaxation. Even though the water was the temperature of my body, I could still feel it.

tankfinal

The idea is complete sensory deprivation: no sound, no sensation on the skin, no sight, and no taste (if you’re not swallowing salt water). Once the top and side doors were shut, I could smell nothing. The amount of salt in the water keeps you buoyant easily.

After getting adjusted to the tank for five minutes, I cleared my mind of anything mundane like errands or worries, things that don’t serve dwelling on anyway. I pondered the existence of life, much like airplane thoughts, only more in-depth. My thoughts were clearer! Then my back started hurting.

There was no hallucinating or expanding of consciousness haha, although you could have guessed that with my kind of every-duck-in-a-row mind, there would have been none. I did clear my mind and focused on breathing. My thoughts were a step above shower thoughts. Focusing on breathing is important in the tank, they say. I do have a bad upper back from court reporting, and staying in one position for over an hour is not pleasant for me, in any situation. I like to turn over or move, but if you do so, the dreaded salt drop will get into the eye! Thankfully this didn’t happen until the 45-minute mark. It also got into my mouth. Let me just say that, there’s nothing quite like the taste of salty, salty water — except maybe muffins that you’ve put too much cinnamon in because you’re seven years old and think more means more!

Don’t rub. Don’t rub. Don’t rub.  
Okay. Clear thoughts again.

It was definitely hilarious at times, and it reminded me of getting a haircut, only I’d never pay for only the experience of a haircut — well, maybe, just once, if someone said great things about the thoughts you could have while in the chair.

In Conclusion:

I like trying new things, and I’m glad that I tried it. The music came on in the last five minutes (as it plays during the first five), and before it ended, I got up, showered, dressed, paid, and Ubered home, like a true American. The walk to the float was worth the price I paid — it was beautiful and relaxing — but you will want to drive home as your hair will still be wet.

My summary, which you’ve probably already assumed, is that I do not recommend floating, but I can see the benefits for those that do not have back problems and for those that are imaginative creatives or for those who have high-paced lives. For those who meditate frequently, it could be a treat. It is something worth trying if any of the aforementioned sounds like you. Some say that it takes two or three times to get deeper into a meditative state, but for me, I know that massages were made for my body and personality. In the end, I realized I enjoy sensation more than most things.

Have you tried sensory deprivation? What did you think?

Improving Life: Olive Oil

oo2

I have just put up my top lifehacks video, and in light of that, I wanted to mention something that can significantly improve your life. Perhaps the number one condiment used in the kitchen is olive oil. It works great for everything, from body care to salad dressing.

The best thing that you can do is to avoid olive oils that say “Made in Italy” when you live in the US. A lot of what is imported from Italy is not really olive oil. The best olive oil that you can buy will always be from the country that you live in. There is minimal regulation over what is imported, and much of it is diluted to cut cost. Whatever is local will be more expensive, but that is because it is pure. You will notice a great and pleasant difference in flavor. Tasting USA olive oil for the first time changed my life; I could not believe the difference. I wondered what I had been buying all the years.

One of my favorite things about taking on the 10-condiment challenge is that I could afford the time and money to buy only the best and purest condiments. Condiments made with a passion. Local jam, honey, or olive oil, organic/natural ketchup. No longer would I be consuming what’s expired because of the sheer volume of condiments, and no longer would I be eating high fructose corn syrup or other fillers to save money. Now I could afford to be careful and had every incentive to be since I would be eating my curated ingredients frequently.

Less truly is more. Less means less cleaning, but better quality of each thing. The pleasure of minimalism lies in finding the things that make a difference, in noticing quality, and in living with it every day of your life.

If you want to taste what true olive oil tastes like, try this one. It is one of the best in the US.

Pros/Cons and Equipment for Pet Ownership

catblog

I think it’s just as important to emphasize the cons as the pros, especially to children, since an animal is a 15-year commitment. Every pet owner wants all adopted pets to be well loved and cared for, so we don’t shy from the whole truth.

The best time to get an animal, in my opinion, are when kids are young or when you are well-established in your career. It is difficult to care for an animal while in college or just starting out in a career.

Pros:
health benefits – less depression, longer life
cute
less loneliness, comforting
exercise
great faces in family photos haha

Cons:
cost – $500+ per year, plus surgeries/illness as you get older, pet rent
work – cleaning litter (or walking/bathing, for dogs), cleaning pee/vomit
storage space – for litter, food, other supplies
emotional loss – illness/death
less mobile
possibility of damaging furniture/blankets
more difficult to accommodate guests
20-year responsibility

Equipment for cats:
lint brush
nail clipper
Trufood cat food
Ziwipeaks cat food
cat scratcher
scale
cat toy
pine kitty litter
cat mesh carrier
litter scooper
litter box
pee pads
containers for cat food
unscented baby soap

Other Notes:
Clean cat litter once a week. Clip nails once a month or less.
Weigh every month and adjust feeding accordingly. My cat is 8 pounds.
I buy the litter and cat food online because it’s heavy to carry in.
Make sure you don’t feed cats food they’re not allowed to have. Keep candles and certain plants away from cats.

When traveling out of town for more than a day or two, someone needs to check on your cat or you need to kennel him/her.
Make sure you check your airline’s specific requirements for a cat carrier.
Don’t bathe your cat unless it pees while in travel. Cats clean themselves.

For food: high in protein
For litter: pine litter

Happy cats: tail up, sleeping, purring, bumping head, may bite lovingly
Mad cats: puffy tail, tail twitching, dilated pupils, ears back, hissing, may scratch

The Case for Living in the Moment

1908474_620770348028948_2587078787940421827_n

 

If you have always been one to go with the flow, a post like this may seem odd. However, there are many analytical left brains, like myself. Many perfectionists.

It is easy to justify perfectionism and overthinking. “Well, too many don’t think enough.” We are doing ourselves no favors by not allowing ourselves to live in the moment, however. Life is to be felt and tasted.

Perfectionism:

I have always been pretty mellow. Almost nothing gets a rise out of me, but when it comes to my performance in my job and other areas, I go above and beyond in areas where it does not necessarily matter.

Reducing Effort:

Over the years, for pragmatic reasons, I dropped my perfectionism in cleanliness. I realized that spending an extra 10 minutes on the tub to get it picture perfect would matter to no one but me. I realized that spending an extra 10 minutes on my makeup would be noticeable to only me. Also, overwashing my body and hair caused dry hair and skin, so I toned it back, saving a lot of effort. Becoming minimalist saved a lot of time getting ready and organizing.

There are many ways to save energy by letting go, and I know you can think of at least three. Even a simple solution like putting a basket near the bottom of the stairs so you’re not making constant trips up the stairs to put things away one at a time or putting a bowl on the counter so you’re not constantly opening and closing the trash while cooking. Easy solutions to often self-made problems change our lives.

Expectations:

As the years rolled on, I realized I put too much on myself in college. My mother was a stay-at-home mom, and often many of us that work, we will try to keep the standard. We will try to keep the house (and kids) and career and ourselves, and balls inevitably drop. But we wish, in a perfect world, no ball would drop. As each new year rolls in, we plan how we can better hold on to the ball that is dropping, whether it is an organized house, a clean house, a relaxed body, or a healthy/fit body. Most times the ball that drops is our ball, our bodies and relaxation.

But why? Is there no end? Is this the meaning of life chasing after wind? What really matters? Thinking is necessary and good, and most things at a reasonable level are good, but extremes, no.

Living Like Children:

The way children live and move can inspire us: their genuine enthusiasm, even short-sightedness, and trust. Looking at everything for the first time, with new eyes – a flower, food, a chair. Anything can be entertaining and great. Anybody can be a friend.

Are we too serious to enjoy life simply again?

If you travel, travel like you have all the time in the world. Minimal set places. Take time for yourself. Refuse overconsumption; refuse jamming things in, and this applies to schedules even more than houses. Take a relaxing bath and sit in the grass, get a massage. Planning gets in the way of living. A certain level of planning and thinking is necessary and important so that we don’t hurt others and so that we recognize patterns and what we truly enjoy, but on the other side, living in the moment and recognizing how unique everything we come in contact with is (even the mundane), the more full our life becomes.

One-Touch Rule

lod

One-Touch Rule For Putting Away:

The one-touch rule is a great reminder that everything we bring home should be touched once and only once, until it needs to be used again. Therefore, we should not place paperwork or jackets or purses down without putting them where they belong, as it would then be two or three or four touches as we move it from place to place in our house, creating disorder.

This is a simple and revolutionary rule, and it is often used in workplaces. Employees are encouraged to touch email once, to deal with everything immediately so that there are not a lot of half tasks hanging around, causing disorganization and procrastination. That is how we feel as our house gets progressively messier. Where did it all start? We don’t know, but we see the evidence of a lack of a system: mail and belongings strewn about.

Think of Touch When Getting Things Out:

I want to go beyond the one-touch idea. Think about everything we go through for a night out. To each woman, that is different. Some are content with sneakers and a little eyeliner, if that, and others prefer shapewear, high heels, and a whole face of makeup. I want to encourage the most simple beautiful look you have in your arsenal, because even though the one-touch policy is great, no one is perfect.  Things will still be left out on occasion (on a lot of occasions, if you have kids), but the less you have to put away, the cleaner your house will stay.  Taking out less is more ideal because it means less things to put away.

Don’t just think of things in a one-touch manner when putting things away, think of how many touches it takes to get your look together.  Consider every reach for jewelry, perfume, makeup, and consider if it’s holding its weight. Does it actually add significant value to your look, or is it just a habit at this point?

Consider giving away what you no longer need as you streamline your systems.

Make Organization Convenient:

If you haven’t made one already, have a station by the door, one for mail, one for your keys/wallet or purse, and a place to put your shoes and coat. Everyone needs a place that is easy to access for their most-used things.

YouTube Update

In order to edit videos, you need adequate storage, either a network attached storage box or a Mac computer. Getting set up with the network attached storage box since moving to Europe has been a bigger task than I expected; editing has been excruciatingly slow. However, I will be back in the states July 15th. So from July 16, I will resume my regular once a week upload. Until then, I will get them out whenever I can.

I will continue to blog twice a week, and in this post, I wanted to go over the videos I have in the queue. These videos will be the ones coming out next, as they have already been filmed.

Videos filmed (in no order):

1. interview with my massage therapist
2. morning routine
3. channel intro video (top 10 tips)
4. Norway apartment tour
5. minimalist cat

Other videos that I plan to film first when I get back to the states:

1. hair care
2. what’s in my makeup bag
3. everyday makeup routine
4. more minimalist series videos

I am going out to get a proper vlogging Canon camera this weekend so that I can post pictures of the things that I will miss the most of Norway when I leave. Therefore, the blog posts on The Simple Brief will start to have a lot more pictures and color! I am hoping to include some footage of Oslo and Prague as well, when I do my Norway video.

Hope you all are having a great summer! In my next post, I’m going to succinctly list what goes into making a video for those who want to start their own channel or just so you can see exactly the equipment and hours involved. I always find it fascinating to see how other people work and live.

-Melody