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Deep Cleaning Tips

As a serial renter, I’ve moved around to many houses and apartment of varying levels of cleanliness, so I’ve learned on the job about how to scrub, scrub, scrub my way to a comfortable, livable home. But even if you’re not a renter, messes–and big ones!–just happen sometimes. Here are a couple of the mess-attracting-est places and how to get them glistening.

Linoleum Floors

What You’ll Need

  • De-greaser in a spray bottle (any off brand will suffice)
  • Bucket of warm water
  • A mop (I use the Libman Wonder Mop for almost everything)
  • A wet floor sign (or something to let the fam know that the floor you’re about to clean is off limits–warning: it gets slick)

How to Do It

  1. Square off sections of the kitchen, bathroom, or whatever space you’re in. This applies to all mopping–start in one corner and work your way one direction in the room. Preferably, plan it around your exit strategy so you don’t mop your way into a corner where you are forced to watch the floor dry. Especially because–and I can’t stress this enough–de-greaser is slippery.
  2. Spray a generous amount of de-greaser on the floor and give it just a few seconds to let the grime suffer in its own filth.
  3. Wet the mop head in the bucket just enough to give it some life; you don’t need the water and you don’t want to wash away the de-greaeser, but the de-greaser isn’t wet enough for the mop to really do its job.
  4. Mop over the area you’ve de-greased and give just a tiny amount of pressure to the mop. To be honest, the stuff is so powerful that you may not need elbow grease at all.
  5. Repeat as you go about the room

Follow Up Advice

  • De-greaser is great for cutting through that residue, but it sometimes leaves a different residue of its own, almost like a clean coat of protection. But that can be sticky, so I usually hit the floor with a multipurpose cleaner again after the initial deep clean is done.
  • I’m going to say it one more time: de-greaser is slippery. Don’t walk on it or you will fall and it will hurt.

Bathtubs

What You’ll Need

  • A gross bathtub
  • Dish soap
  • Scrub brush with a handle (here’s the one I use)
  • A towel

How to Do It

  1. Start running the tub to fill it up.
  2. Once you get the water going, pour one or two big squeezes of dishsoap in right at the faucet. This will ensure maximum bubbles and will carry the soap around the rest of the tub instead of having those weird pockets of lots of soap or no soap.
  3. Fill the tub up about halfway, including bubbles. Do not go higher than halfway.
  4. Let it sit. If you’re deep cleaning anything, one of the common factors is time. Cleaning products (even chemicals, which I try to use sparingly) take a fair amount of time to get the job done. Come back in an hour or two.
  5. Fold the towel at the base of the tub, on the outside. You’re going to kneel on this.
  6. Take your brush and just start scrubbin’ away. Start inside the water and scrub the bottom of the tub; there is no rhyme or reason on how to scrub so just go ahead and let frenzy kick in; take out your stress in this useful cleaning act.
  7. After you’ve made a dent in the base of the tub, your brush will be all soapy and malleable. Using the tub as a bucket, now you can scrub up the rest of the tub and the walls. Then use a shower head or wet rag to wipe the soap residue off.
  8. Drain the tub and watch it sparkle.

Follow Up Advice

  • If you aren’t keen on taking a bristled scrub brush to your tub, a dish sponge will work just as well. May just require a little more elbow grease on your part

Ovens and Stove Tops

What You’ll Need

  • Baking soda
  • Dish soap
  • Dish towel
  • Water
  • Spray bottle
  • Scrub brush

How to Do It

Oven

  1. Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda on the inside of your oven.
  2. Spray it with water to create a paste.
  3. Let it sit overnight.

Stove Top

  1. Sprinkle baking soda onto the glass stove top.
  2. Wet the towels and lather them up with soap. Lay them on top of the stove.
  3. Let it sit overnight

In the morning

  1. Wipe down the stove top and watch it sparkle!
  2. Use the scrub brush to break down residue inside the oven.
  3. Using the soapy towels from the stove top, wipe out the inside of the oven.

Follow Up Advice

These tips apply to glass stove tops. Leave a comment if you want to see a post about electric burners!

 

Have other stuff you need to deep clean? Drop a comment and I’d love to give more advice!

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True Prayer Takes Courage

Have you ever found yourself so obsessed with an idea that your prayer becomes like the monologue of a villain in a cartoon?

Because I do that constantly.

In my season of life, so many of my prayers are a reflection of my desire to live out my vocation. I pray a great deal for my future husband and what my life will and should look like when I meet him; and this causes a great blindness in my spiritual journey. Tunnel vision overcomes me to the point where I become the proud earthly patroness of the high and mighty. Lord, I scoff, pacing around my lair, striking up some divine deal, I know you’re the omniscient one, but trust me. I know I could change the world if I had a partner. Just give me one and you’ll see. Oh. You’ll see. 

It’s because of this radical notion that I know better than the Lord who created me–whose own breath gives me life itself–that I so often end up disappointed and wondering if He really is listening at all. Because I get to a point that I’m not praying for His guidance or His will; I’m asking Him to use His power to create the life I envision for myself. And that isn’t the surrender we’re called to. This is a lesson I learn often, and each time I learn it, it comes packed with more pain and more punch. But also, more power.

Here’s what happened this week (already, and it’s only Tuesday night). I found this old prayer I used to pray all the time. It goes like this:

Lord, I am willing for you to make me willing. For your will to be the desire of my heart.

And I thought to myself, Gosh, that’s a great prayer. Why did I ever stop saying it? So I scribbled it onto a sticky note and I posted it on my bedside lamp, knowing I would see it the minute I woke up and I could pray it immediately. This prayer would guide my day. Monday morning came, I opened my eyes, read the prayer . . . and in the course of the next 24 hours, my world turned over. Prayers I’ve been offering up for the life I wanted God to be giving me were suddenly, gloriously revealed to be not part of my path at all. In a spectacularly terrible day, friendships and plans and prayers that I’d been hanging my hat on for months were all pulled out from under me; and I remembered why I stopped praying that prayer above.

Because true prayer takes courage. And I am afraid.

It’s true; prayer takes faith, and patience, and quiet, and time, and intention. But the truth that I forget so often is that prayer–true, authentic, reckless abandon-type prayer–takes courage. There is a divine bravery that all of us are called to when we give our hearts over to God. A friend and I spoke today about the heart when it comes to faith–we cannot and are not called to give only a part of our heart. We’re meant to give the whole heart over.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; on your own intelligence, rely not.

Proverbs 3:5

Intelligence is a currency in our world. It’s how we prove so much of our earthly worth. We tie a lot of our value into how smart we are; how much we know about things; how little we need the help or insight of the people around us. And it’s this obsession with being right and being informed that leads us to a place where we are calling the shots in our prayer life, instead of praying for an abandonment to God’s plan for us.

A few years ago, I led a women’s group, and one of the most fruitful discussions came from this question:

What would your life today look like if God had answered every prayer the way you wanted him to?

That question is so powerful, it bears repeating.

What would your life today look like if God had answered every prayer the way you wanted him to?

And the thing is, I know it’s a jarring question because I remember the looks on the faces of all those women. The slow blinking of eyes as the magnitude of that question sunk in. By this point in our lives, none of us wanted what we had once prayed so fervently for. We collectively realized that despite our smartest, most thought-out plans and prayers we’d once cried and monologued for at the foot of the cross were actually nothing compared to the glory of what came when we didn’t get what we wanted.

Listen, I’m not saying that’s the case with all fervent prayer. In many cases, we pray for change or for people or for opportunities to come into our lives that really need to be there, and play an important role. But I think just as often, if not more often, we pray for what we believe is right for us in the moment. Even if the intentions are wonderful, it’s so easy to get caught up in the beauty of what we could do if God would only open that door. And just like I’ve written about before, there’s great joy in letting a God who loves us burn away the dead brush so that a new harvest can grow and thrive.

So, pray. Pray with conviction. Pray with courage. Pray when it’s difficult and it’s not going how you want, and it feels like your intellect is worthless. Pray with your heart. Not some of your heart, but your whole, entire heart. Not because it may yield something you really want, but because it will yield something that God really wants for you. And that, my sisters and brothers, is what we were created for.

Listening with Purpose

Earlier this summer, I was privileged to attend the Global Leadership Summit. If you aren’t familiar, don’t sweat it. This was my first time getting to go, so I was in the dark, too. It’s a two-day conference filled with faithful and practical tips for becoming a better leader, live-streamed to more than 40,000 people and featuring some of the world’s most influential leaders. Color me humbled to be a viewer at our Cape Girardeau satellite location!

Since that conference, I’ve been trying like heck to implement everything I learned. That’s that most difficult part of a seminar, class, or experience like this one, right? Hearing it is easy. Pinpointing exactly where these lessons apply to your own life is easy. But leaving the conference and plugging in these new methods of work and life into your rhythm? Uh, we’re creatures of habit for a reason.

Habit aside, I have been bound and determined to change my life and my leadership abilities based on what I learned. The lesson that comes up more often than any other is that of Whitespace. (Quick aside, Whitespace at Work is a movement created by Juliet Funt–you can (and should) learn all about it here.)

To paraphrase, whitespace is the idea of taking regular, purposeful moments of intentional silence. Get that? Both the time and the quiet are intentional! It’s not just using any quiet moment (like filling up your gas tank) to try and meditate on your life; and it’s not just scheduling five minutes a day to “not work.”

The purposeful pause serves to open your mind up to ideas and innovations that would otherwise go unheard amidst the nonstop clamoring of our daily lives.

The reason smart phones and tablets are so detrimental to our society isn’t because they ruin social moments, but because they ruin solitary ones. We have forgotten how to be alone, and how to foster that alone time into something wonderful. I read once that it is in these moments of quiet observation that we recognize the great potential around us–answers to questions that haven’t even been asked yet; ideas that are barely begun; solutions to problems we didn’t realize we had.

Of all the changes I have attempted in my adult life so far (eating healthy!, exercising more!, taking classes!, learning to drive stick shift!, reading a book a week!, etc, etc, etc) daily whitespace has been the most powerful, life-altering habit of them all. And I’ll illustrate why in a very, very basic story.

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Last week, my friend had her first baby. A beautiful little girl. Some unforeseen complications have kept the baby in the NICU for the last few days, and for the next few at least. She’s doing well–stronger each day–but as my many mom-friends can attest, there’s a lot of stress and worry that accompany a newborn, especially when you’re spending every moment in the hospital with her. So our gaggle of galpals decided to wrangle up some food–frozen meals, snacks, giftcards, and casseroles–and stock their kitchen so that upon their arrival home, they’ll have one less task on their to-do list.

This evening, my close friend Alex and I went over to their home to drop off the food. Alex is staying with her own daughter at her parents’ house while her husband is out of town. I picked her up, we drove the food over, and I drove her back home. I went home, promptly ditched my work clothes for some pajamas and set about making my dinner-for-one specialty: spaghetti. I got a text from my friend while I cooked and saw it was a picture. Thinking it would be an adorable baby picture, I opened it while I was busy multi-tasking. It wasn’t, so I tossed the phone aside and forgot about it.

Hours went by, and I laid about like a lump on the couch binging The Office on Netflix as I do every autumn. I idly scrolled through instagram and saw a message from my mom about the power of being quiet in prayer. Spending time to listen to the Lord and cultivate a relationship. Whitespace. Moved by this, I turned the TV off and laid down with my eyes closed. Think the unthunk thought, Funt would say.

My brain went to all the usual places it does when you try to quiet your brain: you should put that laundry away; do your dinner dishes, slob; what are your top priorities for tomorrow’s workday; whose birthday is closest and have you gotten them a gift yet–and then: wait, if that wasn’t a baby picture, what did she send you a picture of?

I scrambled for my phone and re-opened the text. It was a picture of Alex’s car keys. On our friend’s counter. Alex’s husband out of town, her baby’s carseat in that car, her job as a teacher demanding early hours–all the perfect storm for losing her keys. I texted back frantically, “Yes, I know those keys! I’ll be right over to get them!” Twenty minutes all said and done, I retrieved the keys and took them to Alex, who will be much happier when she sets out to leave at 6:00 tomorrow morning for work.

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I don’t share this story to brag about my victory in friendship; it’s just good sense that if your friend lost her car keys, there’s no way she’s going to be able to pick them up! But because the moment was so much more profound to me.

In 30 seconds of being quiet, I was able to recall something that, for Alex, was of vital importance. Her daughter, her coworkers, and all of her students count on her every day to be in a certain place at a certain time.

And God would do so much more for so much less if we would just stop and listen with more intention.

I truly do not think that God talks to us less than He did to the people in Biblical times. I think they were just better listeners. We’re surrounded by noise all of the time. But imagine the profound and life-changing affect that fifteen minutes of uninterrupted quiet time could do for you. Would you understand His call better? Would you hear an answer your heart has been aching for? Would you find the peace you’ve been waiting for? What will God do if you give him just 15 minutes? I promise, if you give the Lord, who loves you and created you, your heart for a few moments of quiet and prayerful, intentional listening every day, what God will give you in return is everything.

How to Clean your Make-up Brushes

Make-up brushes are pretty gross. They collect grime and bacteria that I don’t even want to think about, let alone smear all over my face. And after many years spent pouring money down the drain buying new brushes, I thought, there’s gotta be a better way. So I started researching the best way to clean them. Obviously, there were a lot of name brand sprays, shampoos, and costly sponges. But the winning solution was actually a combination of household items.

Full disclosure: I wash my brushes every two weeks–each of these “before” pictures is just from two weeks of daily use. (Ew.)

Step 1: Prep

What You’ll Need:

  • Dish soap (this is the cleanser)
  • Olive Oil (this keeps the bristles soft and shapely)
  • Plate
  • Towel (not pictured)
  • A bunch of gross make-up brushes

Step 2: Make your solution

On the plate, pour a good amount of dish soap with a very small  amount of olive oil (no more than the size of a quarter in diameter).

Step 3: Clean those brushes!

Dip your brush or sponge into the solution and swirl it around in circular motions in the palm of your hand. Then just rinse and wring out. Repeat as many times as you need per brush until it’s nice and clean. Use your hands and a towel to gently reshape the bristles.

 

Step 4: Drying

Fold the towel and set your brushes up with the bristles facing down. Extra water will drain out as they dry; if you leave the bristles skyward, it will seep into the handle and eventually ruin your brushes. Yikes!

Finally, your brushes are clean and your skin will thank you!

The Essential Saturday Chores

I am one of an elite few who looks forward to Saturdays for the cleaning time. All week, I watch eagerly as the mess around me gets worse and worse because it’s just a greater before-after picture for me come Saturday. My affection for cleaning is common knowledge for the people around me, so I am privy to the lamentations of those who do not share this strange love. And the one complaint that rises above the rest (well almost, right under “I just don’t want to”) is this one:

I don’t know where to start.

Almost every person I have talked to about cleaning or organizing their work, car, home, or even life, has said the same thing. They want the job to be done, they just don’t know how to get there. And the answer is the same as to the age-old question, how do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.

(I use this phrase a lot. Get used to seeing it.)

So instead of going on and on about the importance of cleaning and the healing powers of taking care of your life, I’m going to give you a practical list of Saturday chores–in a specific order that, when all is said and done, won’t take more than the morning or afternoon to accomplish.

Ready?

Linens and Laundry

Always start with laundry because the entire day, laundry should be cycling through while you do everything else. The first load should be bed linens–as soon as you’re out of bed, strip it (barring no one else is in it) and toss in pillow cases, sheets, blankets. The purpose is two-fold: (1) you won’t waste any time trying to collect a load of laundry because it’s all right there in front of you and (2) it completely eliminates the temptation to give up on cleaning and crawl back into bed.

While your linens are washin’ away, grab a white laundry basket and a black one (or two colors that signify dark and light) and go to every room of the house collecting laundry. If you’ve got kids, their first chore is to separate their laundry into two piles for you so you can grab it on the go.

Line your baskets of waiting laundry up at the washer and set timers for yourself to swap out the cycles. Step one: complete!

Tackling the stuff.

I’ll do another post later on the huge undertaking that is the stuff. Especially if you’ve got kids (which I don’t, but all my friends do and I was a nanny to 3 for six years) there’s just stuff everywhere. But for a quick clean sweep, all you need to do is collect and reallocate. Since you have at least one load of laundry going, I can safely assume you have at least one empty laundry basket–grab it and start making the rounds. Anything you see in a room that doesn’t belong, grab it and put it in the basket.

Here’s the most important part: Do not stop to clean anything else. Don’t run an item really quickly back to where it belongs; don’t pick it up and set it somewhere in the room that it could live; as a matter of fact, don’t even set the laundry basket down! The key here isn’t just to get the job done–it’s the strategy so you can get it done as quickly as possible and get to your Saturday.

Once you’ve made the round to collect it all, pick an open space and dump it all out. Organize it by the room it belongs to, and then return the pile to that room–whether you want to just get it to the room or actually put it away is up to you now.

Start at the top

Now we’re getting to the nitty gritty of cleaning. Start with a microfiber cloth or kitchen towel and wipe surfaces from the top down. Start at the ceiling fans, then shelves, then counter tops, then table tops. Why does it matter what order you go in? Because this way, you can just push everything onto the level below it, until you eventually hit floor. Once it’s on the floor, you’re going to get it with a broom or vacuum; let them do the heavy lifting.

Take out the trash

At this point, all of the dust and other trash items from counters should be on the floors. Grab a trash bag! We’re going trash hunting! Start by picking up anything on the floor that a vacuum couldn’t get. Then walk through every room in the house and grab any big visible pieces of trash, empty trashcans, and then wrap up by taking out the kitchen garbage. Toss it all in the can or dumpster and head back into the kitchen!

Everything and the kitchen sink

Since your hands are all filthy from trash duty, what better way to clean them than in a sudsy sink? Knock out all of the dishes in one fell swoop. Empty the dishwasher if it needs to be, then load it again and run it, leaving only handwash items in the sink so nothing is in the way of your victory over dirty dishes. Set those out to dry and bada-bing-bada-boom–you are the proud owner of a kitchen full of clean dishes!

Floors

This part is pretty self explanatory–sweep the tile floors and vacuum the carpets. If you’re feeling particularly chore-happy, you can even mop with a microfiber push mop and basic floor cleaner. But for quick chores, it’s not necessary.

Bathroom

Your dishes are done, your floors are spotless, your home is dustless, and your trash is at the curb. The only thing standing between you and your Saturday is a shower to get all the grime of a well-spent chore binge off of you. This is why I clean the bathroom last. I scrub and scrub because bathrooms are the grossest part of cleaning. But once I’m in the bathroom, I’m not leaving until I shower, so I can clean with power and intention, knowing I’ll be hopping into a steamy, cleansing shower in a matter of minutes. Wipe of counter tops with a Clorox wipe, use a glass cleaner to hit the mirrors, and scrub out the toilet. Ew. But it’s done now!

Last step: shower! You’ve earned it. Now off to your Saturday!

There is a basic principle of physics that objects in motion tend to stay in motion, while objects at rest tend to stay at rest. So for me, this is the list and order that works best because every minute of cleaning is accounted for. If I can stay focused and in the zone of cleaning, I’ll get done faster and can do something else. Happy Saturday and happy cleaning!

Have your own tried and true methods? Share them in the comments!

The Art of Letting Go

A few weeks ago, I got a new tattoo of a compass on my foot. I read recently that the compass is a more powerful tool than a map, because a map has two fixed points to begin and end and a fixed route between them. A compass, on the other hand, allows you to change your direction and even your destination. Your journey can be fluid, and you can be free.

This idea resonated with me; I love the idea of following God wherever He calls me. I love the freedom of changing my path as I find it, which includes the freedom to fail and re-route and move forward over peaks and through valleys. There is so much movement in a strong faith journey.

But there was an element of journey that I did not consider: what you must leave behind.

I’ve spent a great deal of time praying about and meditating on the fact that many doors will not be opened to me, and some I believe are open will be closed. Since we’re pretty accustomed to instant gratification, it makes sense that we’d become a people who not only receive instantly, but also want instantly. That is to say, it’s not just enough to expect an immediate turnaround once we make a decision, but that our decisions are actually becoming quite immediate, too. If a friend is reading a book, I decide instantly that I also want to read it and order it on Amazon–all in about 40 seconds.

By that logic, it makes sense how many times a day I find a path that isn’t mine. I see a life I dream about, a vocation I know I’d like, a job I think I’d be good at, and I say immediately, “Lord, could that be what you’re calling me to!?” without any real thought or discernment. Just a whim of a prayer. To which the answer is obviously (usually), “No, Erin, eyes on the road.”

What I have far less experience with are the moments when the Lord gently reminds us that there are many choices in life that we cannot make if we also choose to follow His plan for us. And that it’s not always a matter of right or wrong, but right or wrong for you. In my life, opportunities, jobs, friendships, and relationships have all come and gone quite naturally, some with a more abrupt stop than others, but not frequently. However, the more I invest in the idea of following God’s plan for my life with fervor and intention, the more it seems that the number of challenges in my life–the things I’m being asked to give up–is increasing.

When God increases your leadership capacity, He gives you greater problems to solve.

Bill Hybels, Willowcreek Church

God is calling each of us to be a leader in some capacity. That means shaping us and growing us up strong and ready to live as He asks.

To grow new, healthy crops, first the old, dead brush must be burned away. Lately, it has felt like God is burning away the brush of my life to make room for a thriving beginning. In the book of Job, we read, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the Lord.” (1:21). So my prayer has been not for healing or for answers, or even to get back what I once had; but for vision. Vision to see not the end of the road, but just the next step. Letting go takes a great deal of faith, but hands clenched around one thing cannot be open to receive another.

Because while burning is painful, the garden will one day be beautiful.

something resembling holiness

I love the Lord and choosing each day to attempt something resembling holiness, but I’m hardly an expert at getting it right.

One of my favorite stories to tell involves me and a library. At 9 or 10, I was small–a peanut of a kid. I wasn’t tall and I didn’t have very much meat on my bones. On this particular summer day, I was slotted with the very important job of running our library books back in to the counter. Mom dropped me at the curb and I went skittering towards the building, books in hand, and reached the door–which did not open.

I looked up at the motion censor but it did not look back down at me. It gazed on over my head into a world of fully-grown bookworms and college students, waiting eagerly for their arrival but unconcerned with my measly chapter books. I was a motivated, driven, and bossy kid (incidentally, I am a motivated, driven, and bossy adult) and I would not be undone by this door. It was too heavy for me to push, but I remembered being told once that some automatic doors are triggered by weight on the mat. So I did what any intellectual library-goer would do: I jumped.

I jumped up and down on the mat, thinking surely if the weight didn’t work then my bonus height from leaping as high into the air as I could would get the attention of the choosy door censor.

To be honest, I don’t remember how I ended up getting into the library that day. My memory ends at this moment: me, arms full of books, jumping up and down with fierce determination, in front of the library door.

I think about that day once every few months. In many ways, it’s how I see myself taking the course God is setting out before me. That the fervor with which I choose a path can actually blind me to a greater call. Perhaps I’m being gently called to try another way, another door, but I stand at the one I’m sure is right, and I jump and plea and beg for it to be opened to me.

Which is how I ended up here. I am trying to abandon any path and go wherever He calls me. In John 2:5, Mary the mother of Christ, tells the servants at the wedding at Cana, “Do whatever he tells you.” And what happens when they do? Jesus’s first miracle and the beginning of his ministry on earth. What a powerful testament to following where you’re called in the moment, instead of trying to anticipate God’s next move. I love this verse because there are levels of faithful obedience. Mary doesn’t know what she’s asking of the servants specifically–she just knows that for Jesus to become the Savior he was born to be, he needs willing participants in the ministry; so she finds them. The servants don’t know what Jesus is going to do; just that they’ve been told by his mother to get it done.

In the recent weeks, I’ve felt a stirring to start sharing with people. I’m very passionate about a handful of things, but none of them have ever felt noble enough (or I’ve not felt worthy enough) to talk about them. I love to organize the world around me, but it seems boring to others. I enjoy crafting and creating, especially calligraphy and handlettering, and have a small Etsy shop, but I’m not a professional artist. And I love the Lord and choosing each day to attempt something resembling holiness, but I’m hardly an expert at getting it right.

And yet, I feel called to share now. So I’m going to step away from whatever mat I’m jumping on at the moment and I’m going to follow this new path. As they saying goes, “God doesn’t call the equipped; He equips the called.” I’m not sure whether I’m building a boat in the water or building the plane as I fly–but either way I’ll trust whatever blueprints He throws at me.

I’m Erin, and it’s nice to meet you. 🙂