I need basic help on...How To Clean

pyrmomJuly 14, 2008

Hi, my name is (too embarrassed to admit, since I have friends here), and I never signed up for Cleaning 101. And, it shows. ...and I want quite desperately to change that: a messy and unclean house just causes me so much stress that I hate being here. And, I have a lovely house, so that shouldn't be the case.

There are some things I never learned to do (had a stepmom - she hated us, so did most everything herself), and, as I just realized today that this forum was here, I thought I'd post some of my most embarrassing questions and hope someone here can give me some advice.

- How do you get the gunk from around a sink faucet, to go away? Yes, I know it needs to be cleaned frequently, and I've been making an effort to do that, but the gunk is still there, almost like it's hardened and won't come off no matter what I try.

- Any advice on to clean hardwood floors? I've used the Swiffer Wet Jet, but surely there's something else for deep cleaning, right?

- Also, about the floors, when we bought our house (about 16 months ago; the house itself is about 10 years old), the floors were shiny, and (see above) now they are not. Even worse, it seems that with three young children, having them use barstools has caused the hardwood floor beneath them to be damaged a bit - like they've been rubbed just a little too much. How might I fix the floor? And, any suggestions on what I might put on the stools to keep them from damaging the floor any more? Last, what about water damage on the floor - the hubby just can't be bothered with drying hands before walking away from the kitchen sink, and the area in front of the sink looks pretty bad.

- I live in a very dusty climate, and we often like to enjoy the breeze w/ open windows. This means everything is frequently coated with dust. I've contemplated getting one of those FlyLady feather dusters - do you think this would help?

- How often do you spend cleaning every day? I don't mean to include things like emptying the dw or doing dishes, but more like vacuuming and such? I keep thinking I should vac daily (big, hairy, shedding dogs and a cat, plus 3 kids), but I have yet to reach that point.

I had a lot of other questions, but I can't remember them. Anyway, if anyone reads and is willing to share, I'd be grateful!

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Do not use a seiffer on hardwood. You something like Bona, http://www.bona.com/en/US/Country_Start_page/ ,
Also try a routine that works for you not anyone else.
Here is a good place to start.

Here is a link that might be useful: Fly lady cleaning help.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2008 at 3:41PM
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Phobie Privett

Just to quickly hit some of your questions...
I'm assuming the gunk on your faucets may be hard water deposits. Spraying with vinegar and letting it sit for several minutes should dissolve it. You can also use a steam cleaner (like the shark steam blaster-see posts on this forum), it will blast it away.

Can't help you much with the dust. I have to dust literally every other day. I just use a swiffer duster or microfiber cloth.

Hardwood floors- I vacuum or dust mop at least once a week and then use a slighty damp sponge mop and pledge hardwood floor cleaner. Shines them beautifully without leaving a residue and doesn't have to be rinsed off. I use felt chair pads on the bottom of the legs to prevent damage.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2008 at 4:06PM
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Buy the felt self sticking pads for chairs, etc, at the hardware store. If the stools have been on a waxed floor, you might have to clean off the bottom of each with some alcohol so the glue-on will stick.

Teach the kids to put away whatever they took out. Pick up everything that is sitting out before they and you go to bed and put whatever away.

Not sure how to suggest you train your husband. Sometimes when they learn how expensive the replacement will cost because of the damage inflicted, or the repair, they realize that they have an investment there and help with doing their part.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2008 at 10:47PM
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Buy the book Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson -- sort of a Joy of Cooking for cleaning & laundry. Her advice is encyclopedically broad and she deals with the fundamentals (although IMO some of her tables of what to clean/how often are a little over the top). Later you can figure out your own shortcuts.

Do NOT use Swiffer on hdwd. It leaves a streaky chemical residue, it creates more waste in a landfill, and over the years it's substantially more expensive than a mop and a good hdwd floor cleaner. I use Bona cleaner and a mop (Sh'mop is the brand name) with a terrycloth cover; the cover is reversible and when it's dirty it gets washed along with the towels. Nothing goes into a landfill.

I try to sweep my hdwd every other day and mop once a week...at least, I try.

Refinishing hdwd may be your best bet but -- TMI -- you first need to find out whether it's solid or engineered hdwd.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2008 at 11:44PM
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Okay - I've ordered the book (was tempted to pay the extra $3.99 for overnight, but I can wait a second day); it looks absolutely wonderful.

Yes, I've discovered that the Swiffer has really dulled the finish. I've read both positive and negative reasons for using it, but I don't think it's working for me. If the one local store near me has the Bona cleaner in stock, I'll pick one up tomorrow; otherwise, I'll order from the website.

I'm certain that my floors are solid wood; it was one of the big selling points that realtor talked up: "real" hardwood floors. I had no idea just how bad of a combination they would be with my menagerie.

Before I can teach the children, I must first be a good example. I think I hear FlyLady calling my name? I like what she offers, and I think it will be useful once I figure out how to do some of these things. Oh wait - I've never noticed her detailed cleaning list. That's something I need!

I've talked to my husband many times about how the floors are being damaged when he drips water on them. He feels bad, but it doesn't seem to linger in his slightly longer-term memory.

I'll try the vinegar, and will check into the steam cleaner mentioned.

Thank you for your suggestions. I'm quite pitiful (just realized qtips might be useful for small areas), but I hope I can get it all working properly soon. I'm a homeschooling mom, and I'd really like to start our school year off right, and that means decluttering and establishing a routine (and chore list for the kids, too).

    Bookmark   July 15, 2008 at 2:55AM
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I use q-tips to clean, but I really love to clean the nooks and crannies, faucets, etc. with a toothbrush.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2008 at 8:20PM
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I second both flylady and the toothbrush cleaning (I save old ones for just this purpose). Also, when I had hard water I would soak a cloth in vinegar (which is also good for laundry softener and for dishes instead of jet dry) and let it sit on the build up for a bit, then scrub. I never vacuum daily, even when we had 3 cats and 2 dogs. Maybe give twice weekly a try and see how it works for you, adjust as needed. When I am physically able, I sweep 2 - 3 times a week to keep kitty litter under control. We have all hardwood floors and an area rug, much easier to keep clean IMHO. I am bad with dusting. Very bad.

When I was doing flylady it was so much easier to clean. Dishes and a bathroom swipe were done daily, junk didn't really accumulate. Weekends were for focused cleaning, like windows or something. Now my place is such a disaster (back problems) that I could spend a whole weekend and not be done :( It makes me crazy.

I should also add I don't have kids. Now that I live with my partner and his daughter is with us on weekends, I see what a difference that can make!! We're working on her habits, but it's hard with only 2 days a week.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2008 at 12:00AM
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pyrmom. . .don't be embarrased at all! In fact, I'm really proud of you for wanting to change what you recognize as a bad habit.

I've never been to Flylady's site, but I did just look it over. I would skip the feather duster and go right for a microfiber duster. I just found one at the Walmart superstore for less than $2.50. When I first saw it I thought that it probably wouldn't be that great, but I love it! The more you use it, the fluffier it gets. The head is removable to wash, and it washes great. The brand is Zwipes. I do have a feather duster. I have "popcorn" ceilings. . .awful. . .and it does a good job getting down cobwebs.

Now the children. If they are old enough for school, they are old enough to help. Involve them in picking up and "reward" them with something small, maybe 15 minutes of computer games. There are some great educational games. Teach them to sort and help with laundry. I have homeschooled also and I know that it is a full time job in itself. After meals announce that everyone needs to help clean up so that you can get started on school or summer activities.

I was on the Bona Kemi website a couple of days ago and they had a great closeout deal on the hardwood floor starter kit. Also, in Bed bath and Beyond yesterday they had a sturdy looking microfiber dust mop for around $25.00

I, too live in a "dust bowl", and it is a special challenge. When websites talk about dusting once a week I have to laugh. We would be buried alive! :) There again, invest in 4 of those dusters and hand one to each child.

As for hubby, I don't know HOW you train him. Mine is bad about using my dishtowels for wiping sweat, but instead of trying to change him, I changed me. I put the good dishtowel in a safe spot and put a stack of 2 or 3 old ones (nearly rags) by the sink and told him to feel free to use those. Works! We still have water spots, but we have tile.

Flylady certainly did have some great advice on schedules and maintenance housekeeping. Read her website and the book you bought and decide what makes sense and will work for you.

Above all, don't give up. I know you are a great Mom because you WANT to change. And remember, "A clean and tidy home is a gift you give yourself!"

Best to you!

    Bookmark   July 16, 2008 at 6:42PM
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I think keeping things simple can help and I have found that cleaning is so much easier with microfiber. I use the microfiber mop for my vinyl floors, as a dustmop for my hardwoods and also to damp clean my hardwoods. The microfiber cloths make it so easy to clean and shine the tiles in the bathroom, sinks, countertops, appliances, etc. They are the best dusting cloths ever. Washing windows with them is a breeze. They require no special cleaning products, but you can use them, if you wish.

Don't laugh, but I often give them to people along with a print out of this:

Care of microfiber cleaning cloths:

Wash separately (you can hand wash them). Especially do not wash with towels (they pick up lint and it ruins their lint-free properties). I use hot water and a small amount of soap when I hand wash and I rinse thoroughly. However, I have so many of them now that I usually use the washing machine to do a load of just microfibers. (I have two microfiber mops with removable mop pads that I can throw into the washing machine. I use them as dust mops and to wet mop my hardwood floors and my kitchen floor.)

No fabric softener of any kind!! (IT RUINS THEM.)

No bleach (except on the microfiber dish cloths which you can purchase at Target).

No cleaner is necessary when using microfiber cloths (in fact glass will be cleaner just using water because it stops the build up of stuff on the glass). However, you can use cleaners with them if you wish.

If you dont want to dry what you just wiped, do not overwet the cloth. Barely damp works best and you donÂt get any streaking. Really wring the dishcloths out well before you wipe the stove top and it will not streak at all.

Wet one microfiber cloth to wash the windows, use a dry one to dry. It is so fast and easy to get clean windows. THESE CLOTHS ARE REALLY GREAT TO DO A QUICK CLEANING JOB ON YOUR PATIO OR SLIDING GLASS DOORS. ONLY TAKES MINUTES.

I use them on the bathroom mirrors immediately after showering while they have condensation on them and I also wipe down the tile after showering (it only takes a second). I keep two in the cabinet under my sink and I have one hanging in my shower. They air dry very quickly.

They are great to use to do a quick clean on the bathroom sink after I dry my hair and put on my makeup.

Great to shine up appliances with little or no effort. Try on the washing machine, the dryer, the refrigerator. Excellent on stainless steel surfaces for all those pesky finger prints. Great for granite too.

Perfect for TV and computer screens (use barely damp).

If you have a glass shower enclosure, try wiping that down after showering.

They also work well as dustcloths or you can attach it to your swifter and use it as a dustmop.

The small eyeglass microfiber cloths, which have a much finer nap, are great for glass knick knacks.

Great for cleaning your car (both for washing it and drying it). You can really clean the car windows fast with microfibers if you need a quick windshield cleaning done. I keep a couple in the car in a plastic bag to wipe the condensation off of the outside windows and mirrors on dewey mornings.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2008 at 2:09PM
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Dear Pyrmom,

First and foremost there is something that you need to understand: You don't sign yourself up for Cleaning 101, your parents enroll you. Class begins at birth, if you are lucky. Like you, I was not put in that class. As a result, I'm still struggling in my 40's. I know how to clean things, but I can't maintain things for lack of good habits.

Gunk around faucet this is probably a combination of grungy things mixed with hard water deposits. Vinegar is good for cutting hard water deposits, but it is corrosive to some metal surfaces. I keep the biggest jug of white vinegar I can buy on hand, and mostly I clean with it. Cut a rag to size to wrap around the base of the gunk and soak it in the vinegar. set your kitchen timer for 15-20 minutes and go do something else. When the timer goes off, check the gunk. It will wash off with an old toothbrush. If it doesn't all come off this week, no big deal. You are trying to cultivate good habits, so next week when you clean it again, more will come off. In the meanwhile, wipe down around the faucet every day after you wash the dishes. If you have a junior dishwasher in training, this is part of the training.

Hardwood floors ah I haven't had any for more than 10 years, but they were the easiest care floors that I ever had. Vacuum them as needed and spot clean as needed. When I had hardwood I had a cat and a dog. The cat had a velvety coat; she seemed to live for the purpose of hair production. The dog should have been named Sir ShedsaLot. Between the dog, the cat me, myself and I, I needed to vacuum or use a dust mop every other day. After the dust and debris is off the floor, a mild soap and water solution would take up the random coffee drips or other spills.

Others have addressed the need to train your children to eat and drink in a specific area. Spouses are best enlightened with the economic reality of their actions. The cost of refinishing the floor due to the constant dripping is a good wake up call.

Dust Lambswool duster with Endust.

My sister was washing dishes from the time that she was old enough to stand in a chair and do it. Unfortunately, by the time I was old enough to start learning how to do things, it was just easier to have the older children do it. This was NOT a good thing for me. My older sisters keep nice homes while mine is a pit that I struggle with continually. If my mother failed me in any way, it was in failing to train me to good habits. It's harder to learn as an adult.

As for microfiber I like it a lot. I don't wash them separately and have not found that they grab lint from other items, but I do tend to hang them to dry.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2008 at 7:41PM
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I think I have to disagree on the vacumming schedule mentioned here. I have six dogs and five cats indoors and if the carpet is not vacuumed everyday it looks down right filthy. You'd be shocked at how much better the whole house looks just by getting the carpet clean. I have the luxury of having someone come in and do my vacuuming everyday but if I didn't that is certainly one chore I would make time for.


    Bookmark   July 21, 2008 at 7:55PM
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I was just coming here today, thinking that, by now, the thread would be on the 2nd or 3rd page, so it's nice to read the new comments here as they certainly hit home for me.

Justin, I think you're right. It's amazing to me how much my vac (Bissell Healthy Home - ironically, ahem) picks up from the small carpeted area in my great room after just a few days of forgoing vac'ing, and I would agree that vacuuming alone makes a big difference in the appearance of a room. Now, to figure out a solution to help my son keep his little bits and pieces of toys (Legos, army men, etc.) in containers so that HIS room can easily be vac'd.

Abejadulce, You hit the nail on the head - I wasn't really taught how to clean, thanks largely to an uninvolved step-mom with whom I spent my jr high and high school years, and a mom who was just as clueless as I was (she was raised in an orphanage from birth to age 12) at all other times. My mom meant well, at least. On the other hand, my sister had the same upbringing, and she's as neat as a pin. It probably helps that HER husband was raised by an industrious woman who cleaned houses for a living, and calling her dh a 'neat freak' would be an understatement. They don't have children, either - helps, I'm sure. :) In any event, I appreciate your advice - I'll be trying the vinegar for the sink suggestion (mentioned by someone else, too, I think) this evening.

Chickadeead, Ooh, I wish I'd seen this a few hours ago - I washed my only microfiber cloth in a load of towels (dried along with them, too). Ah well, it was the first time - I'll remember it from now on. I saw that Costco.com has a huge pack of microfiber cloths; seems a good deal esp. if I have little helpers. In any event, I just bought a new W&D, so no fabric softener for any of my clothes - including towels and microfiber cloths. I appreciate all of your suggestions and ideas for use; I'm sure I'll put those to good use.

ILoveTN, I especially appreciate your kind words and good suggestions. Since there isn't a Walmart near me (~1 hr away), I decided to check amazon. Of course, none of the microfiber dusters are as cheap as the one you mentioned, but after you factor in time and gas, it's a wash. Plus, I'm not filling up my cart with other things I don't need. :) Anyway, I bought four of the mini California dusters; I suspect they will all be used frequently.

To those who recommended the toothbrushes - I don't know how or why (or when) I forgot about them, but...of course! Good suggestions.

Bona Kemi: As near as I can tell, there is exactly one retail store within an hour of my house, that sells the stuff, so when I next go down the mountain (Aug 5th - have an appt), I'll be going by the store for that.

The _Home Comforts_ book: Oh my. What a comprehensive resource.

As for the rest: right now, I'm focusing on decluttering. It seems like it should be an easy task, but it's a lot harder (especially when toys are involved) than it should be. Still, I'm making fair to good progress.

I'm sure I've missed a few things, but I really just came here to thank you all for the advice, kind words, and encouragement. I have really appreciated it.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2008 at 11:57PM
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pyrmom, don't worry about having washed your microfibers with your towels. You can still use them as dust cloths and on your Swiffer dust mop. I always keep the ones I use for dusting separate from the ones I use for windows and mirrors. I don't wash them together.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2008 at 9:19AM
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No one has addressed the wet floor situation.

How about a large rubber bottomed rug or mat. They make those half-circle mats for this purpose, plus it's good for your feet.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2008 at 11:52AM
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Hi Pyrmom! A fellow clueless cleaner here. My mom did all the cleaning in our large, cluttered house when I was younger. I never learned a thing, because I never did a thing! Now, I'm 30 with a DH and 2 kids, as well as pets. And, it seems, all the cleaning is pretty much left up to me. I hate it, and I'm not very good at it, but I am learning.

I think I'm going to have to pick up that book! And some micro fiber cloths. I guess that would be a start. As it is now, I'm barely keeping my head above water in the cleaning department.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2008 at 1:01PM
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Oh, hi emmhip! :)

I completely know what you mean. And while I subscribe to FlyLady's emails, I haven't checked them (my "list" email is the most organized thing in my home - it all goes to separate folders in my inbox, lol).

Anyway, what I've been doing is just a bit here and there. Today, I went through all the drawers in my dresser, and got rid of matchless socks, underwear that weren't ever going to be worn by me again, and assorted other things that I was no longer using or planning to use (including a Motherhood slip - my youngest if now 4 years old, ahem). I also cleaned (with a toothbrush!!!) my bathroom sink, including wiping down the cabinets. Thoroughly cleaned the toilet, too. I've been vacuuming every day for the last week, and sweeping, too. Two days ago, I finally cleared (what a task!) the table and counters except for two hotspots that I'm still working on. The kids' bathroom had a decent clean two days ago; I still need to go in and do an "on my hands and knees" floor cleaning. And my laundry? Well, it's caught up only because we recently bought the largest capacity washer (and matching dryer - our old washer broke, perfect timing!) and for the first time EVER, my laundry has been caught up without my hubby stepping in to help. :) I LOVE my new W&D, and have taken meticulous care of it (I follow the care instructions carefully, lol). I was so proud the other day when I washed all the kids' bed linens in one day. I'm sure that hasn't been done before (by me, anyway).

However, my wood floor is still in bad shape, and I really need to wipe down all the kitchen cabinets, and most of the doors in the house. My daughters' room is still a mess, but that's largely because my 7yo dd has learned my bad habits, so we both need work. ;)

Anyway, there's still much to do, but I trust that FlyLady's admonition to take baby steps will eventually get me to where I need to be.

And also, this isn't really part of the above, except that it is FOR ME, but about 3 months ago, I was dx'd with severe ADD symptoms and mild/moderate depression. I've been on Wellbutrin since then, and the change has made all the difference for me. It was slow getting here, but when I look back to where I was before, I'm amazed at the difference in how I feel, and how far I've come.

The above probably doesn't apply to most folks, but I feel I'd be disingenuous if I didn't include it as well.

Anyway, it's hard to struggle and feel like you can't get ahead, and then, to be so overwhelmed in your own home that it's not relaxing, but rather stress-inducing, and I realized I was the only one who could change that for me. And I am, slowly but surely.

Best of luck to you, and yes, get that book! (Don't worry about her time tables for cleaning - for that, I'm fine with FlyLady's plan - I just need to know the "how-to" of taking care of a home.)

Best of luck to you - you need to trust that you can do it, and that the changes will be their own reward, and even more.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2008 at 6:42PM
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It sounds like you are really making progress! Keep up with those "baby steps"!

    Bookmark   July 31, 2008 at 6:11PM
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Yay Pyrmom!! Just a reminder that the majority of us are still taking babysteps in this cleaning business (or we probably wouldn't be checking out this forum! LOL)

    Bookmark   August 1, 2008 at 3:17PM
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Murphy's Wood Soap for the wood floors... it smells nice and shines them up really good too :)

Give the kids their own duster and have them dust daily. It's easy, fun, and all you have to do is make sure everything breakable isn't going to get knocked down by energetic dusters!

Buy a little vacuum and have the kids vacuum their own rooms. Have the kids brush the dog more regularly (outside!) to cut down on pet hair. If you garden, have them save the hair for your compost, or leave it outside for the birds.

Solution for the toys on the floor? My super-neat-freak of a mother would walk in with a cardboard box. She'd tell us that we had x amount of time to clean up our toys. Anything not in its place would go in the box "for a little kid who would appreciate their nice things". Some things did go in the box, and they never came back.

OR, get a couple of colored bins and keep them in the living room so all the kids stuff goes in their own bin, then can be emptied in their room.

Also, a chore chart. Teaching kids how to do things is a lot harder than just doing them yourself, but as parents we're in the teaching business, right? Have them check off their chores daily, and then inspect inspect inspect. My mother would sweep the floor after me, and then if I didn't do it good enough, she'd have me do it again. One dirty fork in the drainer, and the whole mess went back in the sink for a re-wash. I don't know if you want to be that uptight, I'm not! but I did learn there's a right way to do things!

Honestly, I throw a small rag towel on the floor in the kitchen. It's horrible, and looks awful, but that way I can just wipe up little drips with my feet as I'm running around during the week.

Last, know you're not alone and don't be too hard on yourself. It's a neverending battle, and we're all in it with you!

    Bookmark   August 5, 2008 at 12:31PM
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Six dogs and five cats IN the house? With carpet? Yuk. Vacuuming may make you feel like you are cleaning (removing the visual evidence), but get out the microscope one of these days. Your "vacuuming" is not cleaning; it is a cosmetic exercise. Pet dander; fecal material; you name it - it is there.

We had horses and a dog growing up, but neither were allowed in the house--yet mom never complained when I'd come in with ticks all over me from riding in the woods. She'd just get out her tweezers, rubbing alcohol and get rid of them. Being a nurse, all the clothes went into a hot water wash, followed by drying in the sun. Yup. She was a farm girl from the midwest; married dad, moved to CA, and raised a family - with many lessons to us all on food prep hygiene and storage; house cleaning and all that. Later in life when she developed back problems, dad hired a house-cleaning service to come in once a week. I don't ever reacall seeing dust in the house growing up, even though our very expensive home was treated as a place to live and be comfortable - not a showpiece.

So, is my house uncluttered and clean? Nope (she says with an embarassed smile), but it does not have pet hair, fleas, ticks, and the other critters they carry. Let's just say that it is sanitary but does not show it due to the clutter. It is small and has way too much furniture and books. At least we do not have any carpet or rugs (tile floors only) or in-the-home pets. Cats are the worst of course, because they like sitting on kitchen counters. The only way to disinfect after that is soduim hypochlorite, AKA bleach.

What has all this to do with the original poster's interesting, honest and real-life inquiry? Not much except a reminder that there is a difference between cleaning and having a house that IS clean, as opposed to just looking clean.


    Bookmark   August 10, 2008 at 4:49PM
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Buy very large, very good mats for all your entrances to the house. It's best if you buy one for outside each door and one for inside each door, as well. Try to get them large enough that people take three steps on them before hitting your floors. This will dramatically reduce what's tracked into your home. We got ours at L.L. Beans.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2008 at 2:34PM
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It's a whole year later, but pyrmom, how are you doing now. I enjoyed this post so much and learned a lot from reading everyone's replies, even at 68 yr old. Do you still think the Wellbutrin is a good thing? I'm trying to understand why my dr. put me on Celexa instead. Has your cleaning fallen into place? I'm very interested in hearing updates from everyone who participated in this special post.
Thank you.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2009 at 11:22PM
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