Creating a Life Free From Chaos

Ridiculously Simple Shortcuts to Clean and Declutter Your Bathroom

Ridiculously Simple Shortcuts to Clean and Declutter Your Bathroom, Photo by Edgardo Lagmay on Unsplash

Hello friends! It’s been a while since we did a series, and with spring cleaning in the air, it seems like the perfect time to start one. This week, we’re starting a new four-week series to spring clean, declutter, and simplify your home. 

We’re starting in the bathroom. Why the bathroom? I like to start here because it’s the smallest room in the house and full of items that are generally not sentimental or overly expensive. If you have more than one bathroom in your home, start in the one you use the most OR the one that bothers you the most. We have three bathrooms in our house — I’m starting in the boys’ bathroom (EWW!), then attacking the half bath (small and quick to finish), and then I’ll finish in the master bathroom (biggest and the most stuff to deal with).

Grab your supplies.

Start with the basics — grab a large trashcan, a box for donations, and a box for items that belong in a different room. You’ll also want some basic cleaning supplies for a quick deep clean once you’ve decluttered.

Hit the shower.

Beginning with the shower/tub, remove any items you don’t use — those half bottles of shampoos you don’t like, the empties, the spent razors, the soap slivers. Toss the trash and set aside anything useable. If you have several bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, shaving cream, etc. that you use, consider leaving only one set in the shower and moving the others out until the first set is used up. Remove washcloths and bath towels and set them aside for the laundry.

Tackle the vanity.

Going drawer by drawer, cabinet by cabinet, take everything out of your sink vanity (or other storage space if you don’t have a vanity). Discard the trash and anything that’s old, expired, or that you don’t like. If there are toiletries you won’t use that are still sealed, place them in the donation box. If they’re open and you know you’re not going to use them (be honest), trash them. Remove anything that belongs in a different room. 

Organize the keepers by category — shampoo together, soaps together, dental supplies together, you get the idea. Gather up all those extras and put together a stockpile in a cabinet or plastic container so you can shop your stash before you go out and buy anything new.

Clear the counter.

Now that you’ve cleared the cabinets and drawers, let’s clear off the countertops. Toss the trash and anything you’re not going to use — be honest with yourself and pare down to just the stuff you use and love. Organize the keepers and, if possible, find space in a drawer or cabinet for these items so you can keep the countertop clear. 

For make-up, I like to use a plastic bin that I can store in a drawer but easily set on the counter while I get ready. Consider using a plastic silverware tray in the drawer to organize toothbrushes and toothpaste. Using bins and baskets makes it easy to bring your stuff to the counter while you’re using it but stash it discreetly away in a drawer or cabinet when not in use.

Instead of leaving bottles of hairspray, mouthwash, and hand soap laying around, grab a pretty tray and corral it all in one spot. It’ll make it easier to keep the counter organized, and you’ll be able to wipe down the counter in seconds.

Clean up.

Now that you’ve cleared the clutter, it’s time to give the bathroom a quick deep clean. Before you get started with the scrubbing, save yourself some elbow grease. Mix up a batch of this awesome Blue Soap, and spray it all over the shower/tub walls and floor to loosen up hard water stains, soap scum and other nastiness. It helps to mix the Blue Soap up a bit thicker so it’ll stick to the walls. Let the Blue Soap soak for at least an hour, longer is better.

While the shower soaks, we’ll work on the rest of the bathroom, dirtiest areas to cleanest. Toilet cleaning is the one place I go non-green and head straight for the bleach bathroom cleaner. I have one bottle and it’s only used on toilets. Here’s why: once you scrub the inside of your toilet and get it nice and clean, all you have to do is spritz bleach bathroom cleaner in there once or twice a week, let it soak for about 10 minutes, and flush. It keeps all the grunge from building up. I rarely have to scrub the inside of the toilet anymore (the outside… well, I have sons…!) Go ahead and spray it well, close the lid, and let it soak.

Grab all the towels and washcloths and start them in the washer. Wash all the towels and put them in the dryer promptly — you might want a shower by the time we finish cleaning the bathroom!

Once the toilet has soaked for a few minutes (like, while you were starting the laundry…), grab that toilet brush and get to scrubbing. Start with inside the bowl and work your way out. Make sure to get under the rim. Once the inside is clean, flush, then grab cleaning wipes  or spray cleaner and wipe from top to bottom, with special attention around the base of the toilet (boys…!) When you’re finished, check the toilet paper supplies and restock from your stash if necessary. Almost out? Write it on the shopping list!

Once that toilet is clean, wash your hands and move on to the sinks and counters. You’ve cleared the clutter, so it will be much easier and faster to clean. Use a step stool to wipe the dust off any above-mirror light fixtures. Spritz the counter down with all-purpose cleaner and scrub it clean. Wipe off dusty bottles from the counter, the speckles on the faucet, that little space behind the faucet that collects all that gunk. Wipe off the exterior of the outlets, the light switch, and the door knobs. Use glass cleaner to clean the mirror.

The shower/tub has been soaking with Blue Soap the whole time you’ve been working, so it’s ready to be cleaned. Using a damp scrubber or brush, work the Blue Soap around the tub, concentrating on any spots that were especially dirty, corners and crevices. If the Blue Soap has been soaking for a long time, the gunk should come right up. Rinse well. Use a squeegee or rag to wipe water off glass shower doors. If you have a shower curtain, remove it and run it through the washing machine, then hang it back up to dry.

Side note: I have handheld shower heads in every shower in our house — they make cleaning so much easier! Instead of tossing cups of water at a soapy shower wall or at the suds in the back corner, you can just aim the handheld shower at it and rinse everything in seconds. Also incredibly useful for scrubbing children or dogs.

Finish up by cleaning the floor. Grab a broom or vacuum, and clean up all that dust and hair, particularly the stuff that congregates in the corners. If you have rugs that are vacuum-able, vacuum them too — otherwise, shake them out outside and toss them in the washing machine. Grab a mop and give the floor a good once-over. Or, do what I do: pay the kids a couple of bucks to hand wash it!

Hang up some clean, fresh towels and then stand back and admire your hard work! I know this may sound like a lot of work, but it really only takes 15-20 minutes, and even less after your initial cleaning.

Maintain it.

You’ve worked hard to declutter and deep clean your bathroom, so don’t let all that hard work go. Here are some quick tips for how to keep the bathroom sparkling clean with very little effort throughout the week.

  • Keep a canister of disposable cleaning wipes in each bathroom for quick touch-ups. These will come in especially handy for cleaning up the toilet!
  • A couple of times a week (or as needed), wipe the toilet seat, rim, and outside of the toilet (including the base) with disposable cleaning wipes and toss them. It only takes about 30 seconds. Spray the inside with bleach bathroom cleaner, close the lid. Let sit for 10 minutes, then flush.
  • Keep a dish wand filled with equal parts dish soap and vinegar in the shower. Once or twice a week while you’re in there, use the dish wand to do a quick scrub of the shower walls, then rinse well before you get out.
  • Eco-tip: got half-used bottles of shampoo or body wash that you don’t really like from your decluttering? Combine them, then use them to clean the shower while you’re in it. You can even fill your dish wand with it.
  • If you have glass shower doors, get in the habit of using a squeegee after every shower to wipe down the door. Trust me. It’ll keep the bathroom looking nicer between cleanings and it will prevent scum from building up on the glass door.
  • Use a tray to corral bottles on the counter — it’ll make it easier to maintain the cleanliness. After you brush your teeth each day, use a disposable wipe or a damp washcloth/rag to wipe off the counters, faucet, and inside the sink — you’ll save yourself from the dried concrete that becomes of toothpaste blobs. If spots appear on the mirror, use a damp towel corner to wipe them away.
Ridiculously Simple Shortcuts to Clean and Declutter Your Bathroom

How to Simplify When Your Family Isn’t Interested

How to Simplify When Your Family Isn't Interested
Photo by Yoann Boyer on Unsplash

One of the biggest issues people face when deciding to simplify their lives is this: Can I simplify my lifestyle if my spouse or family doesn’t want to? How do I pursue a simpler life when my family won’t help?

I was very fortunate that my husband has been on board with simplifying since the first time I mentioned it (my kids are a different story). While the majority of the purging, organizing, and schedule maintenance falls to me, it is helpful knowing he supports my efforts. Not everyone is as lucky as I am.

I’ve talked to husbands who were adamant that their homes not change one iota, and I’ve talked to wives who refused to let go of anything. It can be a tough issue when you are the one who is overwhelmed and struggling to find a clearer path.

Here are some tips I have found helpful to deal with this disconnect between partners:

Find Common Ground

It is rare that a spouse or family member is completely inflexible about simplifying. Often times, it is the fear of what they might say that hinders progress. This is why an honest, open discussion about your household’s possessions, needs, schedule, and goals is so important. Focusing on what you as a couple or as a family want out of life can take the stress off of the decision to get rid of that old VCR or stack of unread books.

Focus on the Positives

List out the benefits of simplicity. Keep the list in a place that gets noticed. Focusing on the benefits will remind everyone of the positive changes you are seeking. Getting rid of a time commitment that’s not important to you can make room in the schedule for a regular date night or family time. Cleaning out the garage means you can park your car in there. Selling some dusty collectibles can bring in money to pay off debts.

Seek Input

Remember, people don’t like to feel like they are not being given a choice. If you want to get rid of something that’s a shared possession, such as a TV or a car, put it up for a vote and respect the decision that comes from it.

Start Small

But make sure you start. Simplifying is not a race, and the more you make it feel like one, the more stressed and combative your partner will be. Your home, your schedule, your life didn’t become cluttered overnight, so don’t try to declutter it in one frantic weekend. Take your time and be deliberate with your purging. Not only will you make more thoughtful decisions, your family will have time to get used to the changes little by little.

Start with Yourself

You can’t change anyone, only yourself. So focus on the stuff that is yours – your wardrobe, your desk, your schedule, your stuff. The best way to change the hearts of those around you is to lead by example – forcing the issue will not win you any allies. If it belongs to someone else in the house, keep your hands off.

5 Ways to Improve Communication with Your Teen

This is a guest post by Dale DePalatis. His new book, Parenting from the Periphery, is now available on Amazon.

5 Ways to Improve Communication with your Teens. Photo by Anton Darius | @theSollers on Unsplash

Have you ever looked across the breakfast table at your earbud plugged, morose, self-absorbed teenager and thought, “How do I communicate with this alien?”

I’ve been a high school teacher for 28 years, and I am a parent of three young adult children. These two things have conspired to teach me a few things about teenagers and their parents over the years. It is possible to break through to deeper communication with your teen.

I’d like to share five simple ways to develop and maintain good communication with teens even as they go through the throes of hormones, puberty, general gnarliness and grunge that characterize this strange period of life.

1 | Give them choices. 

Most kids under 10 are used to their parents ordering them around.

“Time to get up.” 

“Be ready to go at 7:00!”

“We’ll be going to your grandparents for Christmas, so I want you to remember to be on your good behavior!”

Although it’s a very good idea to teach your young kids to obey you, it doesn’t work as well when those same kids become teens. 

“I don’t want to get up. Leave me alone! I can get myself up.”

“Why do we have to leave so early?”

“Why do we always have to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s place? It’s boring!”

When your kids start to challenge the orders you give them, instead of dropping the draconian punishment boom on their heads, try to give them a few more choices and let them participate in the decision-making. 

“You decide when you want to get up, but make sure you give yourself enough time to get ready.” 

“I’d like to leave at 7:00, but 7:15 is okay if you’re okay with not having much time to get to your locker before class starts.”

“We haven’t been to Grandma and Grandpa’s place for awhile. We’re thinking this weekend might be good. What is your schedule like? Would this weekend be better or next?” 

Even giving a little bit of choice to your developing young adult will make them feel like they aren’t being treated like a little kid.

2 | Give them space.

Teenagers are in a period of massive change. Some kids grow a foot or more in a year. Radical changes are happening in the body due to hormones. For girls, periods are starting. For boys, the body reacts in different ways when girls are around. 

In the midst of all the physical changes, young people are adjusting to new social situations in middle school and high school. Bigger schools, more anonymity, peer pressure, etc. 

Finally, this is the time when kids are differentiating from their parents. The peer group’s voices become more important than their parents. 

So, give them some space!

With all those changes going on, at times they just need to do nothing. If they aren’t feeling like talking, don’t push it. If they don’t want to go along with the family to Grandma’s house this weekend, let them stay home and work on their homework or just vegetate a bit. If they want to just sit, let them sit.

3 | Talk with them like you would an adult.

Ever heard these words coming out of your mouth as you speak to your teen?

“Finish your dinner.”

“This weekend we’re going on a hike together as a family.”

“I want you to finish your homework before you do anything else tonight.”

The above are the kind of utterances a parent makes to a small child. If you talk like this with your teens, they will feel like you’re treating them like a small child and will resent it. 

Think about it. The main task your teenager is working on is how to grow up to be an adult. Will talking with them like a child help them do that? 

A basic rule of thumb is to think about what words you’d use with a co-worker. 

Instead of telling a co-worker to finish his dinner, you might ask him if he didn’t like it and why. If you wanted to go on a hike with a co-worker, you’d first ask him if he’d like to go, then throw out some suggestions for places that could be discussed. And it’s unlikely you’d place conditions on your co-worker that he or she has to finish a certain amount of work before going to lunch. 

4 | Don’t overreact to their failures.

Have you ever freaked out as a parent over something your child did?

“You backed the car into the wall! Pay attention!”

“You got another ‘D’! You are grounded until you get those grades up!”

“Why didn’t you call me? It’s two in the morning!”

We love our kids, and it’s hard to see them making questionable or even downright foolish choices in life. Overreacting to the sometimes-stupid things they do is the best way to get them to clam up and determine to keep you in the dark about later events in their lives.

Instead, be an adult, and talk with them as you would another adult.

“Oops! It looks like you backed up a little too far. Do you think you can get this car out of the rose bushes without too much damage?”

“It seems like you’re struggling in Geometry. Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Yeah, I’ve lost track of the time before, too, but it’s important for us to know where you are when it gets late. How do you think you can do better on that?”

Calm, reasoned questions that ask the teen to take adult responsibility will go a long way in developing the likelihood that they’ll share the next stumble with you.

5 | Listen to them with respect.

Finally, listen to your children. 

Really listen. 

When you ask them to respond like an adult, listen for an adult-like answer and respect their opinion. 

Although they may not always respond like an adult, listen for adult-like reactions and encourage those. 

“Do you think you can get your clothes washed today? It’s harder to get done during the school week.”

“I hate doing the wash! Do I have to?”

“It’s up to you. I know you don’t like it much when you run out of socks in the middle of the week.” 

“All right. I guess I can get it started this morning.” 

“If I hear the washer finish, I’ll try to help you by shifting the laundry to the dryer.”

“Thanks, Dad.”

You might be surprised how giving your teenager some choices and space, then speaking with them like an adult and respectfully listening to their answers will develop a much smoother communication between you.

Dale DePalatis is a high school English teacher in Carmel, California. He’s recently published a book, Parenting from the Periphery, that gives more insight into why teenagers are the way they are and how parents can help them navigate those difficult and sometimes dangerous waters of pre-adulthood.