Apartment Therapy Complete and Happy Home (2015)
maintaining your home
the year-round healthy & happy home calendar
YEAR-ROUND healthy & happy home calendar
Truly loving your home means taking care of it. Just like anything worth doing, it requires some effort. But sprinkling your energy throughout the year, getting lots of good stuff done at a natural, sensible, seasonal pace will keep things manageable. Build in ways to let stuff go. Enjoy spending time at home. And remind yourself to slow down, worry less, and live a little lighter and happier. Every month, pop these five things onto your to-do list for a well-rounded, low-stress way to keep your home relaxation-ready.
○ CLEAN: Join the January Cure on Apartment Therapy, a kickoff to a cleaner, more organized home for the year ahead.
○ MAINTAIN: Flip your mattress, and while you’re at it, vacuum up those under-the-bed dust bunnies and launder your pillows (check the label for instructions).
○ LET GO: As you put away your holiday decor, pull out the items you didn’t use, and donate or swap them with friends.
○ DECORATE: Shop the annual white sales for towels and bedding. Now’s the time to stock up.
○ ENJOY: Host a get-together at the end of the month to celebrate your newly “cured” home.
○ CLEAN: Give all the lighting in your house a good wipe-down; dust the bases, bulbs, globes, and fixtures. Gently brush or vacuum the shades, too.
○ MAINTAIN: Check that your disaster supplies are in good standing. Replace items as needed. (Visit Ready.gov for a full list of recommended supplies.)
○ LET GO: Spend an hour trying on your special-occasion and work clothes. Pass things on that don’t fit—or anything you’ll never wear—to friends or a local charity.
○ DECORATE: This is a good month to find deals on floor coverings and furniture, as shops make room for new spring styles.
○ ENJOY: A special, splurge-y dinner prepared with gourmet ingredients (for one or more) is the perfect treat for this still-wintry month.
○ CLEAN: Wash your walls—yes, they need cleaning, too. Dust, then wipe the surface with a damp sponge, paying special attention to baseboards. (If you have flat paint, make sure the sponge is barely wet to avoid water stains.) Clean smudges and scuffs with a gentle all-purpose cleaner.
○ MAINTAIN: Change the batteries in your smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector. If you have a fireplace, get the chimney cleaned and inspected.
○ LET GO: Gather books and magazines you’ve already read and find places to pass them on to: a senior center, shelter, or hospital.
○ DECORATE: The little things you use every day are so important. For a small but mighty lift, choose one of the following that feels extra-tired and replace it:
• Kitchen cabinet hardware
• Light-switch plates
• Bath mats and shower curtains
• Place mats, napkins, or tablecloth
• A small appliance: hair dryer, coffeemaker, or iron, for instance
○ ENJOY: Make it a priority to play music at home. Find time to discover new artists, or play old favorites (while cooking on Sunday mornings is a great starting point).
○ CLEAN: Thoroughly wipe ceiling fans. Then set their direction to counterclockwise (if they aren’t already) to produce a breeze and help cool your home.
○ MAINTAIN: Dry-clean or launder cold-weather bedding. Pack it away for next season.
○ LET GO: Flip your closet. Clean and put away winter clothes. Donate or swap the ones you haven’t worn at all this season. And as you unpack your warm-weather clothes, edit them, adding things you know you won’t wear to the donation out-box.
○ DECORATE: Spruce up your front door. If you’re a homeowner, consider painting the door a splashy new color. If you rent, try adding a garden container or a fun new welcome mat.
○ ENJOY: Kick spring off right with a serious self-care weekend—or week! Make it a priority to eat well, sleep in, get a haircut, or book a massage or facial.
○ CLEAN: Start some good daily habits. Complete these three tasks every single day, no exceptions, for the entire month:
• Make the bed first thing in the morning
• De-clutter all surfaces as you go about your day (instead of letting them pile up)
• Complete kitchen cleanup before going to bed
○ MAINTAIN: On the first really warm day, open the windows, turn on the fans, and air out your whole place. Good-bye, stale air! Hello, spring!
○ LET GO: Clear out those mismatched glasses, straggler utensils, and old dishes. Fewer “extras” equal less-crowded cabinets, which is never a bad thing.
○ DECORATE: Get going on your outdoor space. Make sure you have what you need for seating, cooking, and entertaining. If something didn’t survive last summer in good condition, replace it now.
○ ENJOY: Take up something creative you’ve always wanted to try: photography, knitting, baking, writing, or upholstery. Extra credit for finishing your first project over the summer!
○ CLEAN: Do a massive refrigerator clean-out: remove everything, wipe the fridge down (inside and out), and vacuum the coils to keep the cooling at its most efficient. Restock in an organized way, tossing anything that has expired.
○ MAINTAIN: Whip your bathroom into shape. Take a few hours, and really scrub. Clean out your cabinets, wash the floor, and deep-clean the tub, toilet, and sink. Get that tile gleaming!
○ LET GO: Lighten your key ring’s load. Remove keys you no longer regularly use. Put them in an envelope, and mark the date and what they’re for on the front. If you need them, you know where they are. But if, in a year (when you do this again), you haven’t touched them, toss them.
○ DECORATE: Simplify for summer. Try storing heavy throws and area rugs and letting your rooms go a bit bare for the season. Bonus: things will feel “new” again when you bring them back into the mix come fall.
○ ENJOY: Be the nice neighbor. Turn an acquaintance into a friend by extending an invitation for a casual meal.
○ CLEAN: Give upholstered furniture a refresh. Take pillows and cushions outside for a thorough dusting and airing out. Wipe down the hard surfaces, and vacuum the upholstered sections, using the correct attachments.
○ MAINTAIN: It’s been six months … time to flip the mattress. And don’t forget: vacuum those dust bunnies, and launder your pillows again.
○ LET GO: You loved them when you bought them, but it’s time to surrender some of your shoes. Get rid of any pairs that fall into the following categories: You can’t walk in them for more than fifteen minutes. They don’t actually match that green dress you bought them for. They’re so well loved, they’re worn out (even your cobbler says they’re hopeless).
○ DECORATE: ’Tis the season for garage sales and flea markets. Make a point of going treasure hunting at least once in the hope of adding some vintage goodness to your place.
○ ENJOY: As a reward for letting go of some of your shoes, strap on your comfiest (remaining) pair, and enjoy a long walk, with an ice cream parlor as your destination.
○ CLEAN: Focus on your floors. Wash or dry-clean small rugs. Have larger rugs or wall-to-wall carpeting professionally cleaned. And while the rugs are at the cleaners, take the opportunity to polish or wax your hardwood floors.
○ MAINTAIN: Review your household paperwork. Make sure all records, warranties, and policies are up-to-date. Get rid of those you no longer need, and extend any that are nearing expiration.
○ LET GO: You’ve got a month. Set aside your newer products and finish up (or clear out) all those almost-empty shampoos, conditioners, and makeup. Keep in mind that items like mascara, liquid eyeliner, anti-aging creams, and acne treatments expire after three months.
○ DECORATE: Join the Style Cure on Apartment Therapy, and spruce up one room in your house.
○ ENJOY: Before life gets busier—and the weather gets colder—spend some time exploring your neighborhood’s new local businesses. A big part of loving your home is knowing and supporting the good people around it.
○ CLEAN: Show your window treatments some attention. Dry-clean or launder curtains. Dust or vacuum fabric shades. Wipe down venetian blinds and shutters.
○ MAINTAIN: Check the batteries in your smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector again. (It’s been six months already!) Get your heating/cooling system inspected and cleaned.
○ LET GO: Sort through your toys and games. Box up any your family no longer uses (but that are still in good condition) to donate to a shelter or after-school program.
○ DECORATE: Got the bedroom blahs? A refreshed look is one colorful new throw blanket or a few pretty pillowcases away. For a bigger impact, add new bedside lighting or switch out your artwork.
○ ENJOY: Make a complete, start-to-finish, new-to-you meal—from appetizer to dessert. Take the opportunity to try a new wine (or two), as well! If you decide to invite guests, embrace the experiment, and let them weigh in on the menu when they RSVP.
○ CLEAN: Dedicate some time to your ceiling fans—again. Wipe down the blades, and reverse their direction to clockwise—which pulls up cool air and pushes down warm air—to help heat your home.
○ MAINTAIN: Remove and clean all air vents, heat registers, and exhaust fans. It will up the air quality in your home during the months ahead, when the windows stay shut more often.
○ LET GO: Flip your closet for fall. Pack away your warm-weather clothes. Swap or donate the things you haven’t worn this season. And as you unpack your cold-weather items, put anything you no longer want in the donation out-box.
○ DECORATE: “Cozify” your home for the months and holidays ahead. Switch out a few key accessories, curtains, and throws; embrace different textures, colors, and scents that celebrate the seasonal shift.
○ ENJOY: Become an amateur mixologist. Teach yourself to make a new cocktail to enjoy (and serve) over the next few months.
○ CLEAN: Clean the things that clean. Give your dishwasher, washing machine, and vacuum cleaner some much-earned attention. Wipe the exteriors and attachments. Add a cup of white vinegar to your washing machine and dishwasher, and let them run through a full cycle. Change the HEPA filter in your vacuum cleaner, if it has one.
○ MAINTAIN: After Thanksgiving, check that your stove and oven survived the chaos. Soak the burner grates, knobs, and oven racks in warm, soapy water. Scrub the stovetop with a surface cleaner. If you have a self-cleaning oven, turn on the cleaning cycle. If not, consult the cleaning instructions.
○ LET GO: Reflect a bit on your good fortune, and then give a little of your time, money, or expertise to an organization that needs it.
○ DECORATE: Stay ahead of winter pileups by prepping your entryway with a good solution for hats, gloves, and other accessories, plus ample tray space for dirty shoes and boots.
○ ENJOY: Eat a piece of pie for break-fast the day after Thanksgiving, even if that means going out and buying a pie to make it happen.
○ CLEAN: De-clutter your media center: organize movies, dust all the components, and adjust wires to hide as many as possible.
○ MAINTAIN: Make sure all holiday lights and decorations are in good working order before using them. If in doubt, toss them—it’s not worth the risk.
○ LET GO: Give yourself a break. Let go of any expectations of perfection that can crop up during the holiday season. Accept the realities of time and budget constraints—and simply enjoy.
○ DECORATE: Go big … or not! Set a deadline for getting your decorations up, and stick to it—so you’re not fussing with tinsel and lights all month long. And remember: the just-right amount of festive for your home is whatever makes you happy, no matter what your neighbors are doing.
○ ENJOY: Start new traditions. Ban the “should,” and follow your heart. If that means escaping for some sunshine and eating pizza instead of wrapping presents and baking cookies … go for it! Everything that has to get done will get done—it always does!
Keeping your home tidy positively affects the way you feel.
Clean floors, cabinets, beds, windows, and air are all healthier and more comfortable to live in, of course, but they also all function better (leaving you more time to kick back and relax).
Don’t let the idea of cleaning overwhelm you. Staying ahead of the mess doesn’t mean permanently having a broom in one hand and a feather duster in the other. It doesn’t even mean regularly giving up huge chunks of time. The key is simply knowing the best tools and methods to tackle the job—and conquering a little bit of clutter daily, instead of your whole home in one go.
Maximize your cleaning efficiency with our helpful hit list of tricks and shortcuts for the most common mess-producing culprits in your house—from shedding pets to dusty blinds. And while you’re at it, get your cleaning kit up to par with our all-star lineup of trusty helpmates. Attention: you’re now entering a happy, dirt-free zone.
1. Vacuum Cleaner Canister versus upright comes down to ease of use and personal choice. Strong suction and attachment selection are key—and, if you have allergies, a HEPA filter is recommended.
2. Rubber Dish Gloves Slip-resistant fingertips ensure a firm hold; foam or cotton lining absorbs sweat, so dish-duty is a bit cooler.
3. Surface Scrubber Look for a comfortable grip, extra-stiff bristles, and an angled tip. Also, check that the label says “non-scratch.”
4. Carpet Beater This is the best tool for getting ground-in dirt out of rugs with a deep pile. Note: a proper outdoor space for rug beating is a must.
5. Dustpan Look for one with a deep pan and rubber edge.
6. Broom and Hand Brush Natural bristles are the way to go, but don’t get them wet. If that’s a concern, stick with synthetic bristles (either polypropylene or PVC).
7. Windex This is so much more than a glass cleaner; use it on porcelain sinks, enamel stoves—even chrome appliances.
8. Spray Bottle Mix your own “green” cleaners; write the recipe directly on the bottle. (Hint: Apartment Therapy has tons of recipes on the site!)
9. Feather Duster Ostrich feathers trap dirt best. Black feathers are more effective than lighter ones (because they’re softer).
10. Murphy Oil Soap The best option for treated hardwood floors and furniture, leather, vinyl, and ceramic surfaces. Note: Avoid use on unfinished wood.
11. White Vinegar This all-natural wonder removes mineral deposits, mold, and spots from drinking glasses; it even cleans your drains.
12. Bon Ami An environmentally friendly all-purpose scrubbing powder that has been around for almost 130 years. Sometimes we think it has superpowers.
13. Cleaning Supply Caddy Turn your most-used essentials mobile. Bonus: the caddy helps you keep track of what you’re running out of.
14. Sponge Color-code your sponge system: one for the tub, another for the counters, and so forth.
15. Magic Eraser It cleans certain stains from most surfaces with the addition of a little water. Warning: test on a small area first to avoid permanent scratches.
16. Mop and 2.5-gallon Bucket Mops with removable heads make for easier cleanup. A bucket this size holds a mop but also doubles as a vessel for soaking clothes.
cheat sheet: good-bye, stains
Mix one teaspoon (colorless) dish soap in a cup of hydrogen peroxide. If the stain is still wet, blot the area, apply the mixture, and then continue to blot and reapply as needed. If the stain is already dry, apply the mixture and let sit for half an hour as a presoak before laundering or dry-cleaning.
Hair spray and hand sanitizer both work as a presoak before laundering. Generously cover the stain with whichever you have handy. Let it sit for ten minutes, and then wash normally.
Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spritz the stain; then blot gently with a wet towel. If it doesn’t fade, try mixing 1 tablespoon of ammonia with 1 cup of water. Dab the area with this mixture until the stain begins to disappear.
Minor marks: Make a paste from two parts baking soda and one part warm water. Scrub the area using a damp rag. Major marks: Spray the area with WD-40. Wipe with a clean, dry rag.
Cornmeal is a natural absorbent. Sprinkle directly onto the stain, let sit for at least twenty minutes, and then vacuum up the cornmeal or shake it off over a trash can. Dry-clean after.
quick cleaning tips
BLINDS, CEILING FANS, AND BASEBOARDS: Wipe them down with a fabric softener sheet. It dusts and lightly polishes in one easy step.
FRAGILE ITEMS (artwork, lamp shades, lace curtains): Use a blow dryer—set to low and cool—to gently send dust flying. Just be prepared to wipe up the dust after it lands elsewhere.
PET HAIR: Run a damp dishwashing glove over any surface, and hair will stick right to it. Rinse the dirty glove in the sink when you’re through, and hang to dry.
PET ODOR: For indoor cats, look for clay-based litter; it clumps faster and absorbs odor. For dogs, brush and bathe them frequently (at least once every three weeks). And when accidents occur, spray Nature’s Miracle Stain & Odor Remover directly on the area.
GET STICKERS OFF WINDOWS OR WALLS: Slather a little mayonnaise over the sticker; it dissolves the adhesive after a few minutes. Wipe clean with a damp rag.
REMOVE GUM OR CANDLE WAX FROM HARD SURFACES: Rub with ice to help harden the wax or gum. Then scrape it off with an old credit card.
SHOWERHEADS: For metal heads, remove and boil for fifteen minutes in a solution of one part white vinegar to eight parts water. For plastic heads, remove and soak in a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water.
KETTLES: Fill the kettle with equal parts white vinegar and water. Bring to a boil; then let sit overnight. The bluish-green dots should wash right out the next morning.
FLIP IT: Twice a year, turn your rugs over and vacuum them from the reverse side. It’s a simple way to get out ground-in dirt.
REVIVE ANIMAL-SKIN RUGS: Sprinkle cornmeal over the surface; let it sit for one hour. Then vacuum on low using the upholstery attachment.
MIRRORS: Spray with glass cleaner, and wipe with an industrial-size coffee filter or newspaper. Both options wipe the glass clean while absorbing the liquid. Bonus: they contain less lint, which means you get a streak-free surface with fewer swipes.
EXTERIOR WINDOWS: Twice a year, remove screens and thoroughly clean windows. First, sweep away built-up gunk, like cobwebs. Then spray with the hose. Lastly, spritz with glass cleaner and wipe clean (with newspaper to remove grease).