Friday, 29 May 2015

Special Report: Teaching "No"



Watching my son develop his independence and unique preferences is pretty amazing. From that little burrito of a person I brought home from the hospital to the fun-loving and adventurous boy I see now is astounding. He walks everywhere, stopping now and then to dance, clap, and experience his surroundings. The problem is, not everything he wants to interact with is safe, friendly, or clean. It’s time to start ingraining a sense of boundaries and teach him that when I say “no” or “don’t” that he has to respect that, for his own good. For a growing mind with limited communication skills, this is hard, and very frustrating. So how to you go about kindly, firmly, and appropriately teaching your child the word “no?” This is a very difficult question. I'm not an expert, but I'm going through it in my own way with my own son.

One major challenge that I'm facing is that it is super hard to keep a straight face when the naughtiness that your child is up to is really cute. You may have seen a commercial in which a pair of well intentioned sisters eagerly beg to keep a filthy dog they have already partially bathed, or the YouTube video in which a father tries to get the story straight from two brothers covered head to toe in paint! The tone that you use to address the behaviour is important, I find. Do your best to be firm and unimpressed. Even if I manage to be tough, sometimes my own dad or my husband is there chuckling in the background! If your child has a sense that what they are doing is funny, they take this as a positive response, and want to repeat it. Sigh...

It's helpful to discuss a consequence for inappropriate actions with other adults (your spouse, the grandparents, any day care workers, etc), so that there is a sense of consistency in how you approach the correction. Establish an age-appropriate punishment, explain it, and stick to your guns no matter the results.

To be clear, when I say explain, I mean tell your child what about their actions is wrong or unsafe so they can start to choose differently. I don’t think you should have to explain your parenting or consequence philosophy to anyone else. What seems right to you might seem too kind, or too harsh, depending on the background and generation of the commenter. Don’t let that sway you. No one knows your child better than you, and so long as you’re not doing anything too severe (such as any form of bodily harm) your system is just as good as anybody’s.

For my little guy, we always point at what the problem is, strongly say no, and remove him from the situation. He’s still small, so this sometimes takes a few tries, but when he realizes that continued attempts to, say, remove the night light from the socket, will keep getting him carried across the room, he gets tired of it and stops. Older children might need a time out step or chair, grounding, or other punishment. You'll find something that makes sense for your own child.



If a certain item is a trigger for bad behaviour, such as the cat’s dish, that night light, the rolling ottoman etc, the easiest thing to do is to remove the temptation outright. For items that can’t be removed or made safe, you need to make the object unappealing, and use repetition to establish that interaction with it is not allowed. This can ultimately result in some serious frustration and lead to a meltdown; the pout and point, throwing their head back, shrieking... It’s going to happen more than a few times in a child’s life, and handling an escalation is not easy. For very young kids, a distraction is usually enough. Don’t reward the tantrum with toys or candy, but singing, pointing out a nearby dog, or tickling have all been successful for me.


Being a disciplinarian is not easy, and I know it's only going to get harder. The job of a parent is to keep your child safe, and that doesn't always make you their best friend. There are always good days and bad days. Lean on your spouse, your mom, or a mommy friend to get you through it. They may not understand now why they can't eat the computer cables, or why climbing the bookshelf isn't a good idea, but that's okay. They will appreciate it later. Don't you? 

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Mommy Mental Health: Routine Shifts



As carefree and casual as your life without kids may have been, as soon as you’re a parent, you start to highly value a routine. It might be something as simple as a rough guideline for when things take place, or a strict regiment for maintaining structure and sanity. Whatever your style, occasionally things come up that might disrupt your orderly system, and throw life temporarily in to chaos. Having recently gone back to work from maternity leave, returned from a family trip that involved 3 time zones, and moved house into a temporary space, I know all about that. Here are a few tips I am using to re-balance my plan… until the next move, baby phase, or other disruption that is!

Reassess:


There aren’t a lot of pros to a major routine change, but the one upside is the ability to start fresh. Things are screwed up anyways, so why not re-establish the order in a more efficient way than before? Think about the major points that need to be accomplished in a day. What worked last time, and what didn’t? Could bath time be an hour earlier? Should dinner be a little later? Should the story be read upstairs in a darker space now that it’s summer? A change of environment and scheduling might end up being a good thing!


Plot it out:


If you have multiple moving parts to consider (a spouse, kids, parents, roommates, pets, etc), it’s important that you all be on the same page. You need to create 3 types of blocked time:

Fixed – this is the core and the backbone of what will make your schedule stick. It’s the points that cannot be moved, lest the chaos begin all over again. I would suggest things like wake up, bed time, breakfast, and dinner should fall into this category.

Flex – this is stuff that needs to be accomplished in some semblance of order to cue other events, or simply ensure they get done. Ideas of flex items might include end of day tasks (bath, story, cuddle time, etc), family bonding time (park, floor play, walks), and essential home care.

Fluid – this is the slots that are completely vacant, and perfect for scheduling medical appointments, grocery shopping, house cleaning, or just a nap! Give yourself time in every week that is not dedicated to anything in particular, because things come up!


Do a trial week:


Once you have a sense of how to reorder your time, do it to the letter for a week. You might find that the ducks fall beautifully in a row, or you might realize something you hadn’t accounted for. Maybe your little one can’t wait until 7:30 for dinner and needs an extra snack at the sitters, for example. You might have to push bedtime a little later to avoid having a 4am feeding, or get baby to sleep by 8 so they’re not a bear getting ready for day care in the morning. 

There are lots of fantastic products out there to get kids involved in understanding their day, such as this adorable and interactive schedule chart. If your kids are too young, it might still help to have something of a formal command center for tasks and schedule anomalies. This might be a desk area with a full calendar, a folio for bills, and a fully organized file cabinet. Sigh… a dream of mine. OR it might be as simple as a white board on the fridge. You just need somewhere to write “don’t forget milk” or “dance on Wed @ 6pm.” While this will not be the last time your routine goes out the window, it’s worth it to try to maintain some structure to your week when you can.  Roll with the punches, but don’t let the craziness of life leave you feeling knocked out.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Mommy Money Matters: Reaping the Rewards

When it comes to saving money, we all know what we need to do. Whether it is eat out less, buy used, stick to a budget, or something else, we know our weaknesses and the every day choices we need to make to get on track. It's not always about the big changes, however. Here are a few easy, no hassle services you can use to save small amounts of money that can add up to big yearly savings. Every little bit helps, right? 

Ebates
You've probably seen commercials for this cash back website. The premise is simple - companies give Ebates a commission for sending customers to shop on their sites, and Ebates gives you a kick back of the commission. As long as you have a minimum of $5 in your account at the end of the quarter, they send you a "big fat cheque." If you do a lot of online shopping, as I have to do, it really is a simple way to save. Instead of going directly to Walmart or Carter's | Osh Kosh or whatever store you need, go to the Ebates website first and click through to your store. Then, they'll add from 1%-30% cash back to your account. In the first quarter I used Ebates, I earned a cheque of $18.62 cents. Or, as I like to think of it: ordering in a pizza!

Zweet
This simple, free app let's you earn cash for purchases you were probably already going to make. Zweet is a reverse coupon app, adding money to your account when you buy the designated products (which change weekly). There is always a generic option (like bananas, milk, or oranges) and a whole host of name brand products to consider. If you make a purchase of a product with an offer, all you have to do is take a picture of your receipt, and if it's accepted, money is added to your account. Easy. I have been using the app for 2 months and I have $11.00 in my account. You must accrue $20 in order to get a cheque, but it's a relatively hassle-free way to save. You take your time, snap your receipt here and there, and eventually cash out. Why not?

Shopper's Optimum (and V.I.B.)
Shopper's Drug Mart carries many baby necessities and are generally pretty convenient places to shop. If you find yourself heading to your local Shopper's for diapers or baby shampoo - on top of your own make up, cleansers, and medicine needs - you might as well get yourself a free Optimum points card and join the bonus Very Important Baby club. With hefty bonus points coupons, double the points events, and a simple redemption structure, you'll probably find yourself cashing out pretty early on. I was able to cash out with $35 off of a $70 Medela breast pump within only a few months of using my Optimum card. You can't get two cards with the same number (for your partner's shopping convenience) but it is really easy to transfer points between cards, so you should both have one. Beware: Shopper's Drug Mart is HORRIBLE for accepting your points card through loyalty card apps (like Stocard), and can't type in the number, so you'll have to carry the physical card with you every visit.

Air Miles
For a really long time, we chose not to get an Air Miles card because we are not a family that travels. We thought it would be a waste of time to keep yet another plastic card in our wallets and collect points for a reward we'd never use. However, we have now discovered that you can use Air Miles to get money off of groceries at Metro! Well, hello, that's awesome. For the past 6 years we've shopped almost exclusively at Metro since it's our closest grocery store and we don't have a car. Imagine all the money we could have saved if we had started collecting points in 2009! When you sign up for Air Miles (for free), they send you special coupons to collect more points based on your preferred items as well as dollar amounts, so it's easy to rack up points quickly. I recently got a coupon that gave me 25 bonus points every time I spent $25 or more on groceries, so I split up my shopping over a few days instead of all in one shot and at the end of the month I got $30 off! You can collect points at places like Rexall, the Children's Place, LCBO, and Michael's.

I have saved over $150 dollars so far in 2015 by using these services. Small savings really do add up.


In what small ways do you save money? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below or on our Facebook page!

Friday, 22 May 2015

Mommy Mental Health - Moving with a Baby




Whether you're upgrading, down-sizing, or just relocating, moving is not easy. You have to find the place, the boxes, feel surrounded by chaos, and live in that unsettling limbo of "where did I put that?" As hard as it was for me, mentally and physically, as a youth and young adult, I never expected how much harder it would feel as a mom. I'm cranky and tired, leaving me with more mommy guilt and less energy than normal. Each stage of the moving process comes with different stresses, but they are manageable, knowing that the end is in sight. I hope sharing my experience might help you strategize and power through your own move.

Searching

Once you get it in your mind that it's time to look for a new place, you have a lot to consider. You think about prioritizing a list of needs and wants, likely you have to get some banking in order, and you might have to contact a real estate agent or a series of landlords for viewings. All these appointments can be difficult with a young one (or more) in tow, so plan accordingly.


  • Stack your nights and get it over with: make multiple viewing appointments back to back, then eat out. By piling the misery, you get it over with faster, which is inevitably easier than spacing it out over the whole week.
  • Get a sitter: if mom or the neighbour's daughter can watch junior while you talk fiances, take advantage. A cranky toddler at the lawyer's office was lesson enough for me.
Staging

Once you've found that new place, you're going to have to prepare to leave your current one. It's not as easy as a bachelor pad anymore - you've got piles of stuff to purge, hide, and store to make your place look appealing for the next tenant. This doesn't just apply if you are selling. Often landlords will want to show off your unit during your notice period so that it can be reoccupied as soon as you're out. This means leaving a clean and well cared for appearance, sometimes for multiple weeks at a time. This is a nightmare with toys and Cheerios as an accepted part of your living room landscape.
  • Cut the clutter: be brutal and purge clothing, linen, toys, and kitchen items that you no longer need. Have a garage sale, make a donation, or take a trip to the dump. Move over the entire room, taking in to consideration how spacious and inviting the space appears. This might involve a little "faking" like hiding even frequently used appliances (toaster, coffee maker) into cupboards temporarily.
  • Do the spring cleaning of all spring cleanings: a massive gut will make the daily chore list for unexpected viewings seem so much more manageable. Focus on your front entrance, kitchen, and bathroom especially. You might consider putting out nice towels or buying a new door mat.



Packing

If you've managed to live with things stored and hiding, packing isn't much harder. It's the unkempt and temporary maze that frustrates me most. Boxes in front of doors, markers, tape and newspaper at the ready. A clean, safe place to play starts to be harder to find. If you have a multi-roomed space, pick one room (or even a floor if you have it) to begin with and use for storage of boxes. Keeping the disorder to a minimum helps a little with finding room to have toys.
  • Write big and use stickers: Whether you colour code, or just clearly label, make sure you know what is in a box once it's sealed. Do not go back in to that box for anything. If you are going to need it for a while, pack it last, but once in a box, that's it until the new place. Consider having a "1st day" box with things like cleaning products in an easily accessible tote.
  • Exercise outdoors: If you're worried about space or safety, take a short trip to the park, pool, or even the mall to stretch out your legs before calling it a night. A cooped up kid gets restless, make it all the harder for both of you to stick to a sense of routine. At home, spruce up your playpen with a new toys, or a bag of balls, to make it a dynamic place to play out of harms way.

Moving


On the big day, don't be a hero. Plan ahead, and get some help. There must be people in your life that can help lug some boxes, or take care of the little one while you do the heavy lifting. Don't feel bad, divide and conquer! It's hard work, but friends and family are usually more than willing if you're able to return the favour one day! Order some pizza and cold drinks. Have a few laughs along the way. The more hands, the faster the job goes, and the less work it feels.
  • Have a game plan: tell your designated care giver and/or movers when and where to meet. Give some guidance to make sure they know how best to help you (such as, "if you don't know where to put something, just put it in the dining room" or "boxes marked with H are really heavy.")
  • Work hard, but work smart: be honest with yourself about what really needs to be accomplished immediately (emptying and returning the truck, setting up and making beds, etc). Once boxes and furniture is in the right general place, spend time cleaning and prioritizing the most important rooms, like the kitchen and bathroom.
While dreaming of and getting a new place is super exciting, trying to organize a whole house of boxes, then carrying those boxes multiple times is very frustrating. There will be issues, possibly things broken, or fights had. You might forget why you even started this process! In the long run, moves, like airports, are things to be survived. When it's over, you can sit back and remember in the comfort of your new home.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Online Parenting Advice - What and When?

With the world at our fingertips, and a child without a manual, it can be quite tempting to pop online and look up ideas. It's a great to be able to look for craft ideas, to get book recommendations, and search recipe ideas. The internet is a fantastic tool for these things. Though, when your query gets a little more personal, involves symptoms, or human relationships, you should be a little more cautious...as things get a little more complicated. Suggestions may come from experience, but not from expertise. Remember, every child is different. If you are too relaxed, or take the wrong advice, you risk prolonging physical pain, or causing the emotional kind. Today we look at 3 popular sites for the new parent and the when they can help, versus when they might just cause you more harm than good.

What: Pinterest

When: Your question is light in nature (tips, tricks, crafts, recipes)

It is a personal passion of mine to go on Pinterest for everything from planning my dream home to what's for dinner. I only wish I had known about it for planning my wedding! As a resource for rainy day activities, cute baby wear, and nursery décor, I recommend it highly. You can customize a board to a specific topic (ie my son's whale themed birthday party) and put all your ideas in one easily accessible place!

Be careful when pinning ideas that involve your child's health. The websites gathered on Pinterest can be posted by Jane down the street, who is probably not a doctor. Chemical formulas are also tricky. Any combination of household cleaners or beauty products should be carefully considered. You risk allergic reactions, burns, and even possibly explosions. Seriously.

What: Facebook

When: You need a little advice, or to blow off some steam

Once you have a child, your wall and all your photos are suddenly covered in messy faces and cute sleepy shots. While your single friends might not share your new passion for baby food purées and preventing diaper rash, Facebook has lots of creative communities in which to trade coupons, buy used toys, and even ask advice from other parents (such as our own page!) Finding a group with similar beliefs (be they religious, or just frugality) is a fun way to add to the social media experience gained from your own friend list.

Just be cautious of the Facebook "over-share." Consider scaling back the number of photos and be aware of the poses you post. Not everyone has the purest thoughts about kids, and once the photo is online, you can never be 100% where it gets passed around. Think too about your words. Frustrated statuses in the heat of the moment can really hurt people's feelings. It's fine to talk vaguely about confrontations or controversial choices, but calling people out is not the best way to improve the issue. If anything, you'll end up looking like the jerk.

What: Babycentre

When: You want some general information about phases and symptoms

No matter how different, there are certain commonalities when it comes to baby phases. From pregnancy to toddlerhood, there seem to be general experiences, but you may not have heard of them before. You'll often be asked at the doctor's office if your little one has hit a certain milestone (sitting, crawling, walking, etc) or has tried a certain food. If you're curious about if your child might be teething or why they seem to be sleeping differently than they used to, Babycentre has a wealth of information that might clear things up.

As with any website, the articles are not always written by people with authority on the matter, and the barrage of comments that follow can add to your confusion. If you're feeling uncertain about the validity of the advice provided, it's time to talk to a real professional. This does not mean another website, like WebMD, which is enough to make you think that paper cut will require finger amputation. Call your public health nurse, your doctor's office, or even consider the hospital in extreme circumstances. With infants especially, it's better to feel silly than regret not asking.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Play Time: Art with a Baby?

I love arts and crafts. They were always my favourite activities when I was younger (play dough, painting, paper crafts, you name it) and I continue to do crafts as an adult. So, I was impatient to start sharing this love with my daughter. Until recently, I took it for granted that babies can't make art, right? They're so little, they don't have the fine motor skills, they don't understand the concept of creation, etc. I didn't want to accept it, though, so I did some research and brainstormed some ideas for introducing art earlier than I had originally planned. Babies can be creative, you just have to make some small adjustments and treat it like a sensory experience as well as an artistic one. Here are some ways for you to get creative with a baby 6-18 months:
Sensory Collage
Babies love novelty and, lucky for us as caregivers, most things are still new to them! This activity is a great way to introduce your child to new textures, colours, and sensations. It is a great work-in-process art piece to re-visit on rainy days or whenever you're looking for something to do.

You'll Need:

* Contact paper 
(I've used clear and used it on a window, but you can use one that is white and put it low on any wall in your home.)

* Art supplies of different textures. Like foam, felt, feathers, fun fur, cloth, burlap, etc.
(These items can be inexpensive to pick up. The Dollar Store is a good place to start. I also went to the clearance section of Micheal's and got large sheets of textured scrapbook paper and pieces of felt all for under .80 cents a sheet.)


Cut the textured sheets into smaller squares and put them all into a bowl. Tape the contact paper to the window or wall, at a height your child can reach, with the tacky side facing out. Sit down with your child and the bowl and start to place the pieces into your child's hand and onto the "canvas." Discuss the look and feel of each piece as your child holds it. Is it scratchy? Soft? Rough? Pink? Don't forget to mention the sticky feeling of the contact paper. After you place a few pieces up, allow your child to add (or remove) as s/he likes. This is his or her art to create and creative activities with babies are more about the process than the end result.

Remember, you'll have to sit with your child as s/he does this activity as babies are going to try to put things into their mouths. Plus, you want to discuss the experience. We have left our art up on the window and we go back to it a couple of times a week since spring is so wet! You can add new items to the bowl as you come across them.

No Mess Painting
Painting in the traditional sense is obviously not suited for babies. They can't hold paint brushes in their little hands, and finger painting clashes with the inevitability of them putting theirs hands in their mouths. Babies can make little masterpieces, however, if you get creative. By creating a barrier between the paint and the baby, you allow him or her to feel the paint, move it around, experience the colours, and notice the action/reaction - all without any mess.


You'll Need:

* Ziploc™ bag 
(Doesn't need to be name brand, but you'll want a seal you can trust and a bag that can withstand a baby.)

* Paint
(Any brand/colours. I used Crayola Washable Kids Paint.)

* Paper 
(Card stock is preferable, because it's stronger.)


Put a few large globs of paint onto a sheet of card stock and then carefully (so as not to smudge them before baby gets at it) place it into the bag. Limit yourself to 2-3 colours per picture, lest you get a big brown blob-by mess every time. This activity is best done with baby on his or her belly, so they can move freely and easily. You'll have to place the little hands onto the bag at first, but they'll probably catch on pretty quickly as the paint feels really cool beneath fingers. The art is done when baby loses interest. Remember to take it out of the bag to dry.

It bears repeating that these activities are for doing with your baby. The bag creates a barrier between the messy paint and the baby, but you should obviously never leave a child alone with a bag and not to mention possible tears to the bag (read: paint spills!) from sharp little nails and teeth.

Edible Finger Paints

If you want to take it up a notch, and you're not afraid of a little mess, try edible finger paints. Baby gets an even more tactile painting experience, but there still isn't any worry about fingers in mouths. This is for a baby who has already started to eat solids. Hey, you might actually want to encourage baby to lick his or her fingers since they are healthy veggies and it took some effort to make!

You'll Need:

* Colourful food purées 
(Only foods that your baby has already tried. If you want a broader colour palate, wait until baby is older. )

* Rice cereal 
(Any brand. Again - use what your baby already eats.)

* Paper
(Card stock is preferable, because it's stronger.)

Make two or three vegetable or fruit purées (or use your favourite pre-packaged brand) and mix with rice cereal. You'll want a smooth texture with no bumps (like paint). Choose a surface where your child can get messy - this could mean outside, or on easily mopped tile, or as my friend prepared, on an old pair of sheets. Tape the paper down so that baby doesn't send it flying once the paint comes out.  Then, hand baby the "paint" and encourage exploration. My baby didn't need prodding - she immediately dumped both containers out and smushed them around - but other babies may need more encouragement. This is a finished product that you'll want to photograph for posterity, but not post on the fridge because it'll go bad.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Baby’s Own Health – Childproofing

I have to be honest – when it comes to baby proofing my house, I am months behind. I am less of a “lets bubble wrap everything” and more of a “oh, so now that’s a problem” kind of mom. I'm diligent with supervision, I have those plastic plug protector doodads, but otherwise, I'm flying by the seat of my pants, my lucky boy. I'm sure the internet is full of lists of products to buy and items to get rid of, but that’s not always realistic. You can very quickly drop a boat load of cash on a protective item, only to have your daughter injure herself with her own spill-proof sippy cup. With that in mind, here are a few things to consider (or not) when it comes to safeguarding your space.

Major falls are a major problem:

Whether you use baby gates or some other method, preventing large falls is essential. I’m not talking about the standard toddler misjudging the distance to the walker type falls. I mean stairs and other big drops. Making sure junior doesn’t tumble to the basement chasing the cat, or decide to climb the bookshelf while you make coffee. You can’t always secure them somewhere like a crib or playpen and expect them to be entertained. Playtime is a lot less stressful when access to other rooms and floors is limited.

If they can grab it, it goes in their mouths:

Common sense maybe, but it’s not that simple. I locked up my chemicals, and removed small objects (like batteries and nail files) from my coffee table. What I didn't anticipate he’d be interested in was; computer cables, couch fluff, cat food, my cell phone… the list goes on and on. I actually lay on my belly in the living room one day and imagined the number of items that he could (read: would) put in his face if he had the chance. It was a little frightening. Do your best to separate your room in two horizontally. If you need an item in that room, and you don’t want your baby to use as a teether, it should probably be locked up or on the upper half. It doesn't hurt to know a little infant CPR either. Any skill you can have to save your child's life, no matter where you are, is a good one.


Heat and water can kill in seconds:

No matter how relaxed I am about minor falls and other random baby klutziness, the two places I never mess around are the bathroom and the kitchen. If you are cooking, and also need to attend to your son or daughter, be sure to secure them in a high chair or playpen at a safe distance. Also, remember to prepare everything for bath time before your child is in the tub. Walking away for a towel or a ducky, even just for a moment is a serious, serious risk.

Small accidents are going to happen, and you can't protect you child from every knee scuffed at the park, or from playing with other children, frankly. Buy some fun bandages, take a deep breath, and move on. In your home, however, you want to be able to relax a little. That might mean a more practical coffee table, and putting away your shoes. It just shouldn't mean living in a bouncy castle until they go off to college.

Monday, 11 May 2015

What and When - Spring Cleaning (With FREE Printable!)

Download the free WIYDB? Spring Cleaning Check List!



With kids at home, cleaning and organizing is often something that gets put to the bottom of the priority list. When we talked about having realistic expectations before, we told you this was a good thing! Enjoying the company of your child, or getting through a rough day, is enough work to occupy your time. That said, after being shut up indoors with poor weather, colds, and other seasonal setbacks, it’s time to throw open the shutters and take in some of the sun! If your view is marred with streaky windows or your house smells less than lemon fresh, here are a few ways to squeak in the housework that will make the most of that spring time weather.

What: Windows and window treatments

When: Take one Saturday and get it all done.

· Take down all of your curtains and check for signs of wear. If they are in good condition, most can be washed in your machine on the gentle cycle, then rehung to dry. If they are old and worn, it might be time to pick up some new panels.
· Dust your blinds, curtain rods, and window frames. Run a damp cloth or a pre-moistened cleaning sheet (like Lysol or Clorox wipe) around the frame and in the slider for patio doors. Look at the weather stripping for cracking and peeling. This cheap fix can save a bundle on your energy costs. 
· Clean your glass with a fresh scented glass product (like Windex) or a home-made alternative like a combo of vinegar and water. This is the time to do inside and out (if you can). For houses, this might involve borrowing a ladder, or using a garden hose. For apartments, you might be able to open the frame, or use a cloth on a stick to get between the glass and the screen. It’s not glamorous, but it works.

What: Dust, dust and more dust

When: Take an hour or two in an evening.

· If you have a furnace, this is the time to change your filter. Check the size ahead and buy a multi-pack. This not only saves money, but keeps spares on hand for regular maintenance.

· Using a cloth and an all-purpose product (like Pledge Multi-Surface), do a good once over of all your solid furnishings like TV stands, bookshelves, and dressers. Take the opportunity to de-clutter. I like to bring a laundry basket with me so that I can cart out of place items to their proper home as I move from move to room.

· If you’re ambitious (and I know you are) consider going one step further. Run a duster over ceiling fans, light fixtures, and any baseboards/ moldings you have. Even if you do this only once a year, the results are worth it. The amount of dust you remove will actually make an impact in air quality.

What: Soft surfaces and furniture

When: A little at a time, over a week.

· Strip beds and flip or rotate mattresses. If they are a little older, consider adding a couple of drops of essential oils (like lavender or mint) to a box of baking soda and sprinkling over the surface. Leave the powder for a couple of hours then vacuum thoroughly. You’ll both feel and smell the difference.

· Remove cushions and give sofas and chairs a good vacuum as well. If you can wash the covers, that’s fantastic, but be sure before you try. Discoloration and shrinking can happen. You might want a fabric refresher like Febreeze or Lysol to remove odors and allergens.

· Pillows, bedding, and stuffed animals that can be washed, probably should. They take up a lot of room in machines, so allow patience (and extra dryer money if applicable). Don’t overdo the detergent – this will only add to the amount of time and energy it takes to rinse, plus you don’t want any residue.

This is some in-depth cleaning, and it’s not for every day. The impact of these will be pretty immediate and you’ll be impressed at how a couple of hours can really change how your space feels, not to mention smells! You’ll be so proud; you’ll want to host guests or have a barbecue! But what you should do is read a book, and take a nap. That’s what I plan on doing! Don’t forget to check out our handy printable for your cleaning check list! Plan and conquer! In moderation of course.

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