Oh, Spring Cleaning, you have such a bad reputation! The very phrase conjures up long weekends of hard work and it’s tempting to just plop on the sofa, watch back-to-back Chef and eat a sleeve of Oreo’s instead.
It’s all about the mindset. I like to think about Spring Cleaning (or any cleaning, for that matter) as grooming. Whereas “cleaning” is boring and difficult, grooming is like a bikini wax: painful, but necessary (with a genuine benefit at the end)!
I have set up and maintained homes on three continents and I can say with a certain amount of confidence that the rules for a good Spring Clean sesh are universal.
1. Get your kit together. I am a firm believer in having the right tools and cleaning house is no exception! The right surface cleaner for each job is essential and will make it so much easier to get through. I also like to have at least a dozen clean, lint-free towels to work with. A few good brushes and sponges are good too. Try and keep everything together in an organized cleaning caddy. I make it easy on myself by keeping a small one under every sink, so I can easily maintain it and I don’t have to lug one around all the time.
2. Now. Let’s set the mood. I highly recommend cleaning to music. It just makes everything more fun! This season, I am into a Samba/Disco/Folksy vibe. If you don’t have one of your own, please feel free to download mine!:
3. Give yourself a hand. My friend, Rita Konig also recommends hiding little “treats” in various parts of the house to be consumed at the completion of each task. Her favorites are Violet Creams, but I like to buy a stack of new magazines and some fresh flowers for the bathroom. Even a 10-minute break to do your nails will do. Whatever keeps you going. The main thing is not to cheat until you’re done!
4. (Un) Dress the part. Proper House Cleaning is hot work. Dress for a cardio workout, or even better, undress and do it in your underwear and an apron! Rita suggests that if there’s even the remotest possibility that your man could walk in, put some high heels on and he’ll think you are a Goddess. If not, slap on face-mask and you are seriously multi-tasking!
5. Tackle the big jobs first. For me, that means windows. You may want to put some clothes back on for this bit. The thing about windows is that you don’t really see them…you feel them. Once they are done, everything looks brighter, more cheerful and just…better. If possible, choose a cloudy day (or early morning) to tackle the windows, as a hot sun can dry them faster than you can, leaving those nasty streaks.
Once you are inside (clothes off again, please) you can take it room by room.
6. Work from top to bottom. Start with a general tidy up. Open the windows. Even if it’s chilly outside, all rooms benefit from a blast of fresh air! Bang cushions together and drag them outside if it’s sunny. Vacuum under the sofas and move things around. It’s amazing where dust can accumulate, isn’t it? You should be good and warm by now.
7. Dusting down: Once the cushions have had a good vacuum and airing, I like to spritz all the surfaces with our Furniture & Upholstery Cleaner and wipe them down with a clean, lint-free towel.
After dusting, it’s time to strip the beds completely bare and let the mattresses and pillows breathe a bit. I use our furniture cleaner on that, too and let it air dry before making them again. I like to have at least two of everything for each bed (including mattress & pillow protectors) so there is always one ready for service while the other is being laundered.
8. Surfaces: The Kitchen and Bathrooms will be your biggest challenge (but also your biggest pay-off area). Start by removing all of the towels and throwing them in the laundry. Carefully remove everything off the counters and give them all a good scrub.
9. De-Clutter: I have zero patience for trying to find something I need, so my favorite seasonal activity is re-organizing the drawers & cupboards. Throw out all the half-empty shampoo bottles and out of date medications. Check the junk and utility drawers and toss out dried up pens, used batteries and all of the assorted stuff that’s clogging your life. Finish with the mirrors and stainless surfaces. Once your reflective surfaces are good and gleaming, you are nearly done. How’s that face mask drying? Time for another treat!
10. Do the floors last. Dirty floors, like dirty windows aren’t immediately obvious, but you really do feel the difference when they are clean! For the best results, you’ll want to sweep or vacuum first before mopping. Please don’t make the rookie mistake of boxing yourself into a corner. Clear the floor as much as possible by removing small furniture, trashcans, and rugs before you start. Work from the farthest corner to your exit.
I don’t even bother with a traditional sponge mop anymore. A good floor cleaner with a trigger and a Swiffer mop are much easier and faster than traditional mopping. Make yourself a hot cup of tea and leave it just outside the room you are working in. You’ll be done before it cools.
11. Stand back and admire your handiwork. Reward yourself with a nice hot bah or shower and your skin will be glowing from your exertions! Now that you’re done, the house will be clean and fresh and so much more comfortable. Now’s the time to plop down and watch your favorite show. Scoot over and pass the Oreos.
We love our children. And we are especially charmed by the art they create. So sweet! But children can be fairly prolific artists and if you try and keep everything they make at school, you will need to rent a separate storage unit just to keep it all. Have you ever asked your Mother for that box of your old art projects from school? Exactly.
So, you need a system. We’ve moved countries at least 3 times and each time, we have to edit down some of the precious artwork that the boys have done. But I hate to lose those memories and all of that special work they were once so proud of, so instead of keeping it all, I archive it.
1. Photos: After your child’s work has taken Pride of Place on the fridge, mantelpiece or bedroom dresser for a suitable amount of time, it's ready to be "archived". If it’s especially special, then, by all means, keep it in a clear Perspex display box (or better yet, give it to grandma)! But if that painted clay turtle is destined to live forever in a box in the attic, just shoot it instead! Take a great photo of it and keep a photo file with the name of the author, title of the piece and the date it was made. My boys get a real kick out of “naming” their works. They are endlessly pleased to see their long forgotten projects on my computer. So professional!
2. Start a special Art Archive Box for those few pieces that you really can’t bear to part with. Try and limit it to one box per child, and once each box reaches capacity, it’s a one in, one out policy. Let them choose what to keep, but be firm and make sure you photograph and archive the outs!
3. Exhibit: If all else fails and you are still overrun with various art projects, you can always hold an exhibition gallery night! They can “sell” their art to family and friends and display the rest. IKEA shelving was practically made for this purpose. After a year or so, you’ll be surprised how little they care for it once they need room for their laptops and skateboards.
Poor old January – no other month carries the burden of expectation more heavily. Right from the get-go we launch ourselves in to a brand new year with high hopes and short memories. Damn You 2016. This year we will be different! We will lose those last 8 lbs, we will stop buying over-priced lattes so one day all those $3.50s will buy us a house, we will refrain from wasting our lives away on the life-suckage of social media. Poor Old January. No other month makes us feel quite so bummed when 4 days in we have stopped meditating, started smoking, resumed bitching and can be found feeding our feelings with a fat slice of cake washed down with tequila.
If an over-indulgent festive season has left you ripe for self-renovation, but this year you are determined to actually make it past week 1 with your resolutions still intact then let’s start by taking a look at what the hell we have been doing wrong.
Resolutions vs Goals? Most of the time our resolutions are not much more than lofty ideals. ‘This year I will be a better person’, ‘This year I will lose loads of weight’, ‘This year I will get out of debt’. I am afraid that bullshit is not going to cut it with our brains that are extremely effective in maintaining the status quo. It’s time to ditch these lofty ideals dressed up as resolutions and make the shift to setting specific goals.
That said, even goals can sound a little lofty if they aren’t broken down in to sizeable chunks. The 101 of getting anything done in life is to follow the S.M.A.R.T Rule (skip ahead if this is too elementary for you….).
It is said that the reason most of us fail at new resolutions or changes in our lives is because we aren’t actually going about them the right way.
Your Goals need to be:Specific: (what do you want to do?) – I want to Exercise 4 x a week for 45 minutes each session, I want to lose 6 kilos by the end of March, I want to invest $10k in my super by the end of the year. Be clear about the outcome.Measurable: (how you measure your success? – how will I know when my goal is accomplished?) – Being able to track your achievements ensures you stay on track and keeps you motivated. This might be about reaching a certain weight or running for a particular length of time or seeing the accumulated savings in your account.Achievable: (a close friend of realistic with a subtle difference) -an achievable goal is one that signifies improvement from current state but one set in the boundaries of reality. If you haven’t been 60 kilos since you were 13 years old it might be a tad unrealistic to think you will get back down there. Pick an achievable amount to lose or save or type of behavior change so you are not setting yourself up to fail.Realistic: (Keeping it real) This comes down to your own particular lifestyle. You might have set yourself an achievable goal to lose x or save y but are the ways you have chosen to do this realistic – can you actually run for 2 hrs every day? Will you never, ever buy anything except the absolute basics? Even if you could, how will this impact your work, your relationships and your wellbeing? Realistic/Relevant are pretty interchangeable here.Timely: (when will you get this done by?) Setting a deadline gives your goal focus and a sense of urgency. I will have saved x by June 30th, I will have lost 5% body fat in 4 months, I will launch my blog by my birthday.
But Wait there’s more………
The 4 Stages of Change – have you jumped the gun too soon?
Changes don’t just happen because we want them to. According to behavior change researchers James Prochaska & Carlo DiClemente, people change in stages. Stage 1 (pre-contemplation) is still at the newborn stage – you kinda want to give up frozen pizza because you know it’s bad but you aren’t entirely convinced. Stage 2 (contemplation) is starting to get up on two wheels – you do want to change but are worried about the downsides – you want to drink less but there is that party next week and that wedding in June and you are worried everyone will think you are boring. At this stage you think by talking about what you want to do you are in some way already doing it – sort of. Stage 3 (preparation) is when you can really start to visualize the change but still have a few doubts and reservations. Finding solutions to these obstacles (such as seeing a specialist or signing up to classes) and conquering your fear of failure see you chin up, shoulders back at Stage 4 – this stage produces the highest rates for success. So if January is looking a little premature for that particular change hold back or find something smaller to start with.
Biting off More Than You Can Chew? Don’t be a superhero.
Talking of smaller – my sister on the 4th January sent me a message assuring me she was on track with her resolutions – it seems she is going to the gym, has started playing tennis, has stopped week day drinking and also stopped smoking. Most of us get so excited about a fresh start – and what could be fresher than those hopeful first days in January – we often try to do everything at once. Anyone of the above goals is worthy (and do-able if the S.M.A.R.T rule is applied and you are in the right stage of change) but they don’t need to be done all-at-the-same-time. There are 12 months in a year – take a little pressure off poor January and take it one goal at a time. Beware too the ‘all or nothing’ mentality and remember even the smallest changes are good – just because you ate that one slice of pizza there is no reason to abandon ship and get Dominos back on speed dial.
Common Misconceptions: Telling people your goal isn’t always the answer:
Nearly every ‘how to’ list with regards to resolutions will say that it is helpful to tell people your goals and that in doing do we become accountable. Not according to Steve Salerno who wrote a mighty fine book called, Sham: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless. His concern is that ‘the resolution takes the place of the action’ and people ‘think some magic words, some avowed promise, will magically transform their lives, when we all know that the real transformational work is tough, grueling, and usually involves sacrifice and unpleasant choices’. In essence we are already patting ourselves on the back for something we haven’t yet done. This quick fix mentality can set us up to fail which is why choosing our goals wisely (do we really, really want this and are we actually prepared to put in the hard yards?) is so vital.
And if that all sounds too depressing for words you can take some comfort in my final suggestion.
New Year’s Resolutions (or goals) don’t have to be Negative: Part of the reason we can be tempted to give up on our goals is because they are usually focused on stuff that we perceive as negative. We become fixated on stopping this or giving up that or doing less of something else (that we probably love). How about being a little kinder to yourself this year and setting yourself some weekly, monthly and annual goals that you will look forward to keeping. It might be committing to a weekly catch up with a friend, or a monthly massage in the name of stress management, or an annual holiday with those you love.
If you must stop this or give up that, why not make those sacrifices in the same spirit of positivity. Why not giving up feeling guilty about x or stop apologizing about y? Stop doing less of stuff and start doing more.
*This Get Happier Post is brought to you by Charlotte Sherston: (Someone who believes that January is awesome and failing that there is always Monday).
For more advice about how to be happier and generally more kick-ass, please go to: www.thinrichhappy.com
We fly back to Sydney every Christmas. It is a loooooong and expensive flight. We can’t afford the flat bed luxury of first or business class, but experience has taught us many tricks for comfortable long distance traveling, so now seems like the perfect time to share! Here are our best tips for traveling in style (no matter where you’re seated):
- Map out your trip. Look at your itinerary. Really look. And not just at the departure and arrival times. Clock your layover if you have one and scope out the airport terminal ahead of time. Even if you are a member, airline lounges are almost always the same: dreary waiting rooms with bad upholstery, stale sandwiches and terrible coffee. On the other hand, there are some really first rate restaurant kiosks in most major airport hubs these days. Take the opportunity to check one out. You may discover a new favorite.
- Request a special meal. Even if you aren’t a child; a vegetarian, trying to keep Kosher or are gluten intolerant, try requesting a special meal. They are almost always better than the usual fare. And don’t forget to take a healthy snack from home, especially if you are flying domestically. Nobody wants a $4 pulpy apple. Or Chex mix.
- Dress the Part. It is an unwritten but common practice of ticket agents to allot the better seats to well dressed (and well mannered) passengers. You don’t have to wear a suit, but an ironed shirt and tailored jacket will go a long way toward helping you to snag that aisle seat. You can always change into sweatpants once you’re onboard. Score!
- Carpe Diem. Sometimes, a long layover or a delayed flight can be a plus if you are prepared to seize the day! Flight cancelled out of Austin? Time to sample some world-famous Tex-Mex or Bar-B-Que while listening to some great music! Endless delays out of Dallas? This is the perfect opportunity to indulge in a guilty pleasure: An airport massage and a Danielle Steel novel. Why not? Attitude is everything.
- Be Prepared. This is the part that really counts. We are against dragging overstuffed carry-ons onto planes, but always have a satellite bag or large handbag, packed with everything we need for the flight (and an overnight stay, just in case).
Healthy, portable snacks (of course)
A dopp kit with our overnight basics: travel toothbrush, mini toothpaste, my own face washer and face cream, lip balm, face mister and face oil.
An extra sweater. We use old cashmere one to wrap around the airline pillow.
Secretly Comfy Pants: We like J. Crew’s “Saturday Pants.” They can almost pass for slim trousers, but made in a cozy French terry fabric that you could seriously sleep in.
Slip on shoes or pool slides for trips to the airplane restroom. The floor is unthinkable in bare feet or socks. Don’t go there.
A practical wrap. Turkish-T towel. The perfect multi-tasker. A blanket, beach towel, pillow, sarong or scarf. It’s whatever you need it to be.
A good book and diary with a good pen (for those analog moments)
Mobile device chargers and extra battery pack.
A lightweight, foldable tote to hold all above and tuck behind your legs. With a plastic liner for trash.
Bon Voyage, Baby!
So you’re just about to sit down to dinner and your brother’s new girlfriend announces that she’s a vegan. Do you:
A. Smile, pretend you didn’t hear her and serve her the ham anyway.
B. Point to the mashed potatoes and green beans.
C. Have a vegan side dish in your back pocket that can be ready to serve before she finishes her glass of pinot grigio?
HINT: the answer is C.
We live in Los Angeles, which is basically ground zero for every kind of food fad and legit dietary restriction. Hosting a dinner party here requires a certain fluency in vegetarian, pescetarian, dairy, wheat, soy, and gluten-free options. There are fruitarians here, too, but they are still mostly regarded as fringe weirdos (at least until a Kardashian takes it up) and then it will be all the rage. Peel me a grape!
My Husband became a Vegan for health reasons four years ago, but my boys regard anything involving kale as radioactive. I had to quickly adapt and find meatless dishes for Mr. Handsome that could also serve as a healthy side for my little carnivores.
Thankfully, living in California, we also have access to Trader Joe’s. TJ’s has saved my (turkey) bacon more times than I can count with healthy, affordable, prepared food that everybody loves. Even if you don’t have one nearby, this dish is so simple that you can re-create it from almost any supermarket deli section.
• 1 punnet of Tabouli salad
• 1 punnet Balela (chickpea + tomato + onion) salad
• 1 bag Quinoa Duo from the frozen section
1. Pour the quinoa into a big ceramic bowl, cover with a plate and slam it in the microwave for 5 minutes.
2. Allow quinoa to cool and mix in the tabouli and Balela salads. If you don’t live near a TJ’s you’ll have to make the quinoa (I use a rice cooker). Buy a can of garbanzo beans, season with Italian dressing and add chopped onion and tomatoes. Easy.
3. Boom. You’re a Vegan chef and have just created a healthy, filling dish that will delight your guests no matter what they’re into eating (or not eating).
FYI: It’s especially good with grilled Tofu, Beef or Lamb kebabs and served with some hummus and pita bread.