I never thought I’d see this day: My family has run out of plastic bags.
We used to have several giant plastic bags filled with smaller grocery-sized plastic bags hanging on hooks in our garage. Back in the day, I wouldn’t even give that stash of plastic bags a second thought. They came in handy, after all—we would use them to clean up after our dog, for example. And I’m from the generation that was taught that choosing a plastic bag was a better environmental choice than a paper bag, because every time we used a paper bag, we were killing a tree.
I realize that in today’s world that last sentence sounds kind of ridiculous, but I’m pretty sure that if Rip Van Winkle fell into a coma in 1984 and woke up in 2019, he’d be stunned to find paper bags making a comeback in grocery stores, and would probably expect to find a barren global landscape devoid of trees as a result. He’d almost certainly be baffled at the concept of bringing your own reusable bags with you to the store.
Over the last year or two, after seeing story after story about whales and dolphins (my favorite creatures on earth) being found dead with tons of plastic bags in their stomachs, and after being educated by my smarter friends about how hard it is to truly recycle plastic, and how most of our plastic ends up in landfills where it can take upwards of 500 years to decompose, I decided to take a couple of baby steps toward doing my part to decrease the use of plastic.
Keep Reusable Grocery Bags in The Car
Baby Step One involved stocking up on about 5 reusable grocery bags which I keep in my car so that even if I make a spontaneous decision to go shopping, I will only have to walk back to my car to get them when I forget to bring them into the store with me—which literally happens every time I go. Every. Single. Time. (Thankfully, I almost never forget to wear my Fitbit, so I get credit for all of those extra steps. Always look for that silver lining.)
As of last week, our eternal stockpile of plastic bags is completely gone, and my husband is kind of beside himself, wondering how we’re going to clean up after the dog… He doesn’t really like my solution, which is to buy biodegradable pet waste bags that fit into a handy dandy (albeit plastic) holder that attaches to the dog leash. I mean, spending money on bags that we used to hoard for free? That’s crazy talk. But it makes me feel good, like maybe I’m helping out my dolphin friends in some tiny way.
Choose Tap Water More Often
Baby Step Two involves trying to decrease the amount of plastic water bottles we consume in our family. Bottled water is another one of those things that Rip Van Winkle would be baffled by. There is a legendary tale in our family about how my husband’s parents were approached by an innovative entrepreneur back in the 1980s. He was planning to bottle water from a nearby spring and sell it for individual consumption, and was looking for investors. My mother-in-law thought this was the most ridiculous idea she’d ever heard—who in their right mind would pay for WATER, of all things, when you can get it straight from your tap? Needless to say, they did not invest. Needless to say, we would all probably be gazillionaires by now if they had.
But as society is just starting to realize, the popularity of the convenient single-use water bottles has been pretty detrimental to our environment, polluting the oceans and overflowing landfills. Even the recycling process is messy and expensive, and the job is often shipped overseas to countries like China, who no longer want to do this kind of dirty work for us.
So I’m really trying. I still keep bottled water on hand for three main reasons, which I know environmentalists will frown upon, but here they are: A. It’s super convenient to have on hand to offer to visitors who are on the go; B. I prefer my kids drink water over soda, and if it’s available in a handy plastic bottle, they’re more likely to go for the water; and C. Sometimes the water from our tap tastes kind of funky; bottled water never gets that funky taste.
Yes, we’re still guilty of using plastic water bottles, but, like I said—baby steps. We’ve cut back big time. I personally am trying to lead my family by example, so I carry an insulated water bottle with me to the gym and almost everywhere else I go—and I’ve found it keeps the water so cold, it tastes much better. And I’ll no longer tolerate finding hundreds of half-consumed water bottles strewn about the house. Anyone who starts drinking from a plastic bottle must put their initials on the cap with a Sharpie so they can finish it later.
Oh, and here’s a bonus Baby Step— I ditched our Keurig coffee maker a l-o-n-g time ago, because I hated using all of those little plastic pods. This was before the big anti-plastic crusade, but it was clear to me from the beginning that all of that waste could not be a good idea. Besides—French pressed coffee tastes SO much better, involves no waste, and it’s super easy.
I realize we have a long way to go to really make an impact, and it’s virtually impossible for us ordinary, mainstream Americans to completely eliminate plastic from our daily lives. But taking a few baby steps in the right direction can’t hurt, right? I’m not judging anyone who uses plastic grocery bags and drinks from plastic water bottles, but I do hope you’ll challenge yourself to cut back, even just a little bit. It’s not that hard to do, and it will make you feel good!
Can you believe that less than three months ago we were still shoveling the remnants of the winter of 2017-18 off of our sidewalks? It’s crazy when you think about it: snow in April, followed by two months of rainy season, and somehow we already find ourselves in the midst of the Dog Days of Summer!
Dog Days Defined
So… what does that even mean, anyway?
I was curious about the origin of the phrase “Dog Days,” so I looked it up. (Hey, I’m a writer, that’s what I do.) Turns out, it doesn’t actually mean that it’s so darn hot that we all just want to lie around panting like dogs. Apparently, the phrase “Dog Days” originated in ancient Greece and referred to Sirius, the dog star, which in July would appear to rise just before the sun.
Those of us who have pets, however, know that the Dog Days of Summer could also refer to that time of year when our dogs or cats are just finishing up the shedding season, losing their winter coat just in time for the summer heat.
Pet Hair and Other Messes
Yes, it’s pretty embarrassing to have guests come into your home, sit on your sofa, and walk away with a fresh coat of dog or cat fur sticking to their pants… Unfortunately, shedding is only one of many ways our furry friends can mess up our homes. Personally, we have a little non-shedding Havanese dog, so one might think we don’t have to worry about cleaning up after him. One would be wrong.
For one thing, our dog does not like to put his precious little paws in the wet grass when he goes outside to do his business in the morning. Instead, he seems to prefer to muddy those precious little paws in the mulch—and then track his precious little footprints right across the kitchen floor.
He also likes to spend a lot of time lounging on the back of the couch in the living room, waiting for all of his neighborhood dog friends to walk by so he can say hi by way of frantic barking— which he cannot do without pressing his paws and his nose all over the windows.
The other thing is, even though he himself is supposedly a hypoallergenic breed, every time he goes outside, he cannot help but carry allergens like tree and grass pollen back into the house in his fur and on his feet.
The Three Pet P’s
If you don’t have a pet but are considering getting one, here’s some unsolicited advice. Maybe you think you can handle a little stray fur, muddy paw-prints, nose prints on the window, etc. But if you’re extremely particular, you’d better think long and hard about whether you can handle what I call the three pet p’s: pee, poop and puke.
Here’s the thing: no matter what pet you own, you are going to have to deal with the three p’s at some point. Your cat is going to puke up hairballs on your bed, and her kitty litter is going to need to be scooped every single day. Your dog is going to get into the trash someday, eat something he shouldn’t, and have diarrhea all over your guest room carpet. Even the goldfish your kid won at the carnival is going to get really smelly and gross if you don’t clean out its poop-filled bowl pretty frequently.
How you handle your pet’s bodily fluids is actually really important. My husband is a Realtor, and although we both grew up owning cats, he refused to let us bring any into in our new house after seeing more than one real estate deal go sour because of the permanent odor of cat pee. Also, once your dog has an accident somewhere in your house, he’ll be drawn by the lingering scent of that as a place to pee again in the future.
So, you really do need to clean up the scene of a pet accident promptly and thoroughly. The best way to do this is to use some kind of an enzymatic pet stain cleaner. There are tons of these on the market. Experts also suggest soaking the area in a mixture of equal parts vinegar and water, followed by a baking soda treatment, to help completely eliminate the odor.
Hiring Outside Cleaning Help
One thing you should NOT do when you need to clean up any of the three p’s is ask your Eldersburg, MD house cleaning crew to do it. They’re not equipped to handle it and it is just not a service they should be expected to provide. If you want professional help cleaning pet stains, hire a professional carpet cleaner, many of whom do have special enzymatic treatments that they use on pet stains.
For all of your other pet messes, you can definitely count on Immaculate Clean! They’ll vacuum up the excess pet hair, dust away the allergens, mop up the paw prints on the floor, and wipe the nose prints from the windows. As a bonus—they love pets and will keep your furry friends company while they clean!
It’s All Worth It
Animal lovers understand that dealing with the occasional mess is a small price to pay for the cuddles, the purrs, the unconditional love, the true joy and companionship that a pet brings to our lives. No matter what kind of pet you own, relax knowing Immaculate Clean can help you keep your home clean so you can enjoy the Dog Days of Summer this year!
How’s that for a headline? Do you think it’s a little dramatic? Well, I admit that I do have a tendency to exaggerate and be a bit dramatic sometimes, but in this case, it’s not really much of a stretch to say that cleaning your house the right way could possibly save your life.
That’s because it’s flu season. And if you’ve been paying any attention at all to the news, you know that this year’s flu is especially widespread and severe. Even people who received a flu vaccination are catching it, and otherwise healthy people of all ages are actually dying from this flu. This is not fake news! This is all coming straight from the CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/index.htm
Everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of the flu
So, with this deadly flu virus floating around, what is there to do, aside from locking yourself into a germ-free incubator, a la John Travolta from the 1976 classic made-for-TV movie, “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble?” (And if those of you reading this are too young to remember that one, perhaps you will recall “The Bubble Boy” episode of Seinfeld?) Clearly, bubble living is not a practical solution for many of us.
Instead, the aforementioned CDC suggests that in addition to getting a flu shot, we should, “Take everyday preventive actions to help stop the spread of flu viruses!”
By “everyday preventive actions,” the CDC means avoiding contact with sick people, covering coughs and sneezes, washing your hands frequently, avoiding touching your mouth, nose, or eyes, and disinfecting surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with flu viruses.
How the flu virus travels
There’s only one problem with that: “Surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with flu viruses” covers just about EVERYTHING. That is because, according to my other source for major medical news, The Today Show, droplets from a sneeze can travel 26 feet! And if there are flu germs living in one of those droplets, that virus can stay alive for 24 hours!
Not only is that a really gross thought—it’s pretty scary. It means that some sicko could have sneezed at Wal-Mart, or in the school cafeteria, or in your office, or even in your own home, from far enough away that they could barely hear you say, “Gesundheit,” and you could end up with a real, live flu virus on your shoe, or on your lunch box, or on your cell phone, or on your kitchen counter—and that sucker is going to stay alive for one whole day, just waiting for someone to touch it.
Cleaning is the answer
So, aside from teaching your kids to cough and sneeze into their elbow instead of their hand, and to keep their hands out of their mouth, and to wash their hands constantly, the most important thing you can do for them is to clean, clean, clean. Make sure you are frequently wiping down things like doorknobs, light switches, remote controls, and keyboards with disinfecting wipes. Another thing I learned on The Today Show is, those surfaces carry a disgusting amount of germs. https://www.today.com/health/which-today-anchor-has-more-germs-their-office-t121656
If there is ever an important time to have your home professionally cleaned, it’s during flu season. Hire Immaculate Clean residential cleaning services in Sykesville, MD to come in and give your surfaces a good disinfecting. Let them put their professional products and expertise to work on your sinks, countertops, floors, appliances, and all the rest of the hard surfaces that could be harboring viruses. Give them a call today, and keep the flu at bay: (410) 549-0727.
It’s the new year, and by this point you’ve probably been celebrating Christmas for almost two months. That’s just the way we do things in modern America, where each year the Twelve Days of Christmas seem to inch closer to becoming twelve WEEKS of Christmas. I don’t know about you, but as much as I’ve enjoyed the parties, the treats, the gifts, the music, the family time, etc., by the time January rolls around I am more than ready to ditch the tree and the wreath and all the remnants of The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.
However, once the trappings of the season are put away and life resumes its normal schedule, I often find myself slipping into a post-holiday funk. Sure, January is the month of new beginnings. But that includes the beginning of a long, grey winter with no more colorful lights to brighten the darkness. Any of that cold white stuff that may have seemed so magical when it fell in December quickly turns dirty, brown, and ugly. Bundling up several times a day in frigid temperatures to do simple things like walking the dog or checking the mailbox becomes a major chore. Hibernation is starting to sound like a viable option.
Make a New Year’s Resolution
Yes, I’m afraid the January doldrums are setting in already. But I’m hoping to distract myself from this by adopting a meaningful New Year’s resolution for 2018. Like most people, I have sort of a love/hate relationship with New Year’s resolutions. I like the idea of starting a year with a goal of some sort. But I dislike my usual inability to follow through by the time February rolls around.
Nonetheless, I’m thinking I may have come up with a realistic one this year — and one that I think can make a difference in my whole family’s life. Instead of making a resolution to get by body in shape this year, what if I make a resolution to get my HOUSE in shape?
Replace holiday decor
First of all, part of the post-holiday blues comes from taking away the pretty decorations and returning the house to its normal “blah” status. What if I could find a way to spruce up the living room with accessories that could brighten up the place for the other 11 months of the year? It doesn’t have to cost a lot. Maybe all it takes is a potted plant to replace the Christmas tree, or some colorful throw pillows and non-Christmasy candles to add to some of surface space now vacated by holiday decor.
Schedule small purges
Second, and maybe most importantly, having a clean and relatively tidy house definitely helps to brighten my mood. So as part of my resolution for this year, I think I will promise myself to set aside 20 minutes each week to purge a cabinet or a closet or a drawer. That’s totally doable, and the results will add up to a huge difference if I can keep it up for 52 weeks.
I’m also going to enjoy having my home professionally cleaned, without feeling one ounce of guilt about it. I know that cleaning is not my strength, so leaving it to the professionals ensures that it will get done right. My home and my family deserve it. If you feel the same, be sure to check out Immaculate Clean’s New Year specials, starting as low as $92! Text “New Years” to 410-549-0727.
If you read my blog post last month, https://immaculateclean.com/blog/tis-the-season-for-holiday-stress/ you already know that I have been stressing about this year’s Christmas preparations since before Halloween. After much careful analysis, I’ve concluded that most of that stress is due to the fact that the holiday “To-Do” list in our house looks much like this:
Wife’s Christmas To-Do List
- Fill Advent Calendar
- Have Christmas Card photo made
- Order Christmas Cards
- Address and mail Christmas Cards
- Water Christmas tree (daily)
- Move Elf-on-the-Shelf (nightly)
- Shop for Kid 1
- Shop for Kid 2
- Shop for Husband
- Shop for Mom
- Shop for Dad
- Shop for Mother-in-Law
- Shop for Brother
- Shop for Sister-in-Law
- Shop for Brother-in-Law
- Shop for Nephews
- Shop for Nieces
- Shop for Teacher
- Shop for Mailman
- Shop for Toys-for-Tots drive
- Shop for Boss
- Shop for Dog
- Shop for Best Friend
- Shop for Neighbor
- Wrap presents
- Hide presents
- Buy outfit for holiday party #1
- Buy outfit for holiday party #2
- Bake cookies
- Cook/clean for holiday guests
Husband’s Christmas To-Do List:
- Shop for Wife
So I’ve learned a few things over those 26 years. If your Christmas to-do list looks anything like mine does, and if every single year you just aren’t sure how you’re going to get it all done, here are a few tips:
- WRITE IT ALL DOWN. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Lists are the key to keeping yourself organized and remaining calm. Although a list like the one above might fill you with a wee bit of panic at first glance, it sure beats floating through your days wondering whether you’re forgetting to do something important. Plus, I’m all about that little dopamine rush that comes from crossing an item off of the list.
- SET AN EARLY DEADLINE. As a serial procrastinator, this was a hard lesson for me to learn, but after being burned by too many Christmas “emergencies,” including things like sick kids or snow days, I now set a drop-dead date for myself of December 20th for all shopping to be done and gifts to be wrapped. Without the last-minute shopping pressure, you might actually be able to relax a little bit and enjoy the last few days of the season.
- SET THE MOOD. Although I’m a Grinch when it comes to stores decking the halls in mid-October or TV stations showing Christmas movies before Halloween, once Thanksgiving hits, it’s all fair game. Crank up the Christmas tunes and sing along, loudly; it will put you in the right frame of mind to do whatever holiday-related task lies in front of you.
- GET YOUR HOUSE CLEANED. Maybe you are hosting your husband’s office party (yep, I somehow got roped into that this year), or maybe no one is going to step foot in your house besides your immediate family. Either way, having it professionally cleaned during the holiday season can alleviate a lot of your stress. For one thing, it is a lot easier to focus and get things done when your house is clean. Immaculate Clean makes it easy! They offer one time cleaning services! You can hire them to clean your whole house, or just have them focus on something like bathrooms and the kitchen. They even offer a One Time Holiday Clean Discount! Contact them for information.
- ASK FOR HELP. As evidenced by my list above, that’s a lesson I still haven’t taken to heart. But delegating some of the the tasks on my side of the list would probably do wonders for my stress-level and wouldn’t hurt my marriage either!
Oh, and here’s a bonus tip: If you find yourself struggling for a gift idea, don’t forget: an Immaculate Clean Gift Certificate makes a perfect (and easy) gift! New and existing clients can save up to 12% with their pre-pay discount. Contact them today to learn more!
Recently one of our clients from Carroll County, Maryland asked: “How often should I vacuum my carpets, really?” We think this is a great question, after all carpets can take a beating during the week, they get walked on, played on, laid on. Let us put to bed the question of vacuuming frequency!
Let us begin with there is no right or wrong answer to this question, but there are some guidelines and some best practices that we want to pass on. There is a general formula that you can follow to assess how often to vacuum each room; basically, you vacuum that room or area as many times per week as the number of people that walk around that area. For example: In a child’s bedroom with just one child you would vacuum it once a week, if the room is shared by two children, bump that to twice a week.
We understand that for high traffic areas around you home this formula could mean multiple cleaning a day, which, let’s face it, isn’t really doable for the average person. For these areas we recommend a twice weekly vacuum to keep it clean and safe for your family and pets.
If a twice daily vacuuming makes you cringe, or if you’re too busy to maintain some normal household chores like vacuuming, dusting, and dishes, why not let Immaculate Clean help? You might hate cleaning, but cleaning is what we love, contact us today to discuss your home or property and what cleaning services are best for you to outsource. We are professional, safe and insured, and affordable, you can trust us to do an excellent and respectful job.
So your sister stops by to drop off a box of your painting supplies she borrowed a few weeks ago to paint her new apartment. She asks you where to put them and you point her to the basement. She returns horrified at the amount of dust and spider webs in your unfinished basement. You call her a “neat freak” and you laugh about it. But deep inside you start to question your cleanliness standards. Should you clean that basement even if you only use it for storage? Do you vacuum often enough? These are some good questions and our Maryland home cleaning experts are here to help you find the answers.
Why Cleaning is Important
To determine how often you should clean, let’s first determine what cleaning does and why it’s important.
- Makes your home look, smell and feel nice
- Eliminates dust and other allergens
- Reduces spreading of germs
If having a clean and healthy home is important to you, then cleaning should definitely be close to the top of your priority list. The easy answer to how often you should clean is as often as necessary to keep the dust, clutter and dirt at bay, and keep you happy about the look of your home.
Cleaning in an Average Household
How often you clean will largely depend on how fast your place becomes messy and dirty. Generally, the more you use a room, the more frequently you should clean it. Consider cleaning the following rooms on a daily or weekly basis:
- Living Room
- Entrance hallway
Cleaning on a daily basis may sound extreme, but by doing a little every day you will avoid spending an entire weekend cleaning up a big mess.
On a daily basis you can:
- Break up clutter and put items where they belong
- Wipe kitchen countertops and stove top after cooking
- Wipe spills as they happen
- Collect dirty laundry in baskets
- Wash dishes as they get used
- Clean toothpaste residue inside sinks and wipe bathroom countertops
On a weekly or biweekly basis you can:
- Sweep/vacuum the floors
- Empty and clean kitchen sinks
- Do the laundry
- Wipe dust and fingerprints off the furniture
- Polish wooden furniture
- Empty trash cans and recycling
- Scrub the toilet, shower and/or bath as needed
- Clean the cat’s litter box and the space around it
- Throw away spoiled foods from the fridge
If you do all of the above, you will have a nice, neat house and won’t have to panic if a friend drops by unannounced or in-laws come for a visit. However, you would also need to invest a significant amount of time if you want to maintain a clean home. If you only have a few free hours a week, you probably don’t want to spend them scrubbing toilets. If this task list seems overwhelming, you can always rely on professional and affordable help of our friendly and experienced cleaning staff at Immaculate Clean.
Extra Cleaning Duties
We’ve covered the basics above, but there are plenty more places left around the house that may need cleaning. Some people choose to embark on massive annual cleaning sprees, also known as “spring cleaning.” But some of these things may have to be done on a more frequent basis, which will depend on your lifestyle and personal habits.
Consider tackling the following list on the quarterly, bi-annual or annual basis, or as you see fit:
- Wash all windows and glass doors inside and out
- Wash window treatments or wipe the dust off blinds
- Wash removable cushion covers from couches
- Steam-clean upholstery and carpets
- Wash baseboards and wipe dust from crown molding
- Clean door handles, light switches and cabinet knobs
- Clean lighting fixtures and ceiling fans
- Wash inside of trashcans
- Clean underneath movable furniture and appliances
- Wipe the inside and outside of the bathroom and kitchen cabinets
- Clean inside appliances: fridge, oven, dishwasher and washer
- Wash the kitchen backsplash
- Clean remote controls, cellphone and computer keyboard.
- Wash pillows, blankets, throws and comforters
Keep in mind that if you have small kids or pets, you might have to upgrade some of the above activities to a more frequent schedule. For example, if your dog likes to bark at passing cars, your glass front door may need a weekly cleaning.
Contact us today for affordable home cleaning services in Maryland if you need a hand with any of the above.