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Summer Sweep

It seems like every year the summertime gets shorter and shorter. As August ends, and September approaches conversations seem to revolve around curiosity about where the summer went, what we did, and how bummed we are that our beach time is closing in on us. For many people, including The Cleaning Diva, the end of summer marks major cleaning time. It’s time to clean out our summer homes, clean out our closets, and clean college abodes in preparation for fall.

Here are some tips to use while getting it all done:

Purge First, Clean Second

Throw out or donate the things you don’t need. Get rid of old papers, household items, expired food and medication, and any clutter in drawers, cabinets or surfaces that are just collecting dust. Donate any lightly worn clothes, shoes or accessories that you’ve shoved in the back of your closets and don’t planning on wearing again next summer.   Many non-profit organizations will come to you to pick up donations, such as the Lupus Foundation of America. Don’t bring anything with you from your current residence to your next dwelling that you do not need or will not use, especially if it’s a dorm room. Space is limited, and clutter adds up quick, preventing a clean and comfortable environment.

Leave your summer house looking spotless!

Leave your summer house looking spotless!

Time to clean

Take this literally. You need to dedicate a few hours (at least) to clean. If you are local and can’t make the time to clean yourself, call The Cleaning Diva for help. If you’re cleaning out your summer home, you’ll need to wipe out and disinfect your small and large kitchen appliances, such as toasters, coffee makers, microwaves, stoves/ovens, and refrigerators. You’ll also need to wipe down cabinets, surfaces, blinds, ceiling fans, lights, fixtures and furniture around the house. If you want to do all this the “green” way – mix some vinegar, water and fresh lemon juice in a spray bottle and grab a Scotch-Brite multi-purpose scrub sponge (the blue one). Add the solution to some baking soda and make a paste if sticky spots or caked on grime is an issue. If you prefer not take the all-natural route, then I suggest using Fantastik, all-purpose Heavy Duty cleaner spray in the kitchen. I’ve found that it works best for easy cleaning of stuck on food in appliances and on cabinets and surfaces. Either way, wear gloves. For both methods – spray down surfaces, scrub with the no scratch, abrasive side of the sponge, and wipe clean with the sponge side. Wipe with paper towels or a dry rag. If your appliances, especially the refrigerator, need more TLC, it’s best to take shelves and drawers out and wash them in the sink. Make sure you get in all the crevasses. Use an old toothbrush if you need to.

This is also a good time to move furniture around the house to get behind and under it with the vacuum and to wipe down hidden wood work and trim. Wipe down dusty closet and cabinet shelves with a damp rag and vinegar mixture mentioned above or some Windex Multi-Surface Vinegar. Don’t forget the bathrooms! Give your commode a good wipe down, including the neck and base of the toilet. Give tubs, showers and sinks a good scrub down with the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser or a bleach based product such as Clorox Bleach Gel or Soft Scrub Mold & Mildew Stain Remover Spray Gel with Bleach. Throw out your old shower liner and replace it if it’s in bad shape.

If you’re heading off to college – or one of your kids are — the dorm or apartment should be move in ready, but it’s still a good idea to give everything a quick disinfecting wipe down with an antibacterial solution like Windex Multi-Surface Antibacterial spray. Make sure you wipe door knobs and handles. If it’s not really clean – follow the steps above!

As sad as it is to see the summer end, you’ll be happy everything is clean and ready for you when you arrive next year! Cleaning feels good!

Kitchen Duty

‘Tis the season for cooking, baking, eating, celebrating, and more eating. And leftovers. With all of these wonderful festivities, comes cleaning. Yes – cleaning. The soaking and washing of dishes and dishrags, the vacuuming and mopping up of food crumbs everywhere, and the scrubbing of stove-top spillovers. The kitchen can get pretty messy this time of year. Especially the oven and refrigerator. So save yourself some grief and start off with a clean cooking headquarters before the holiday madness is in full swing.

Here’s how:

Reach for the top. You know. The top of your cabinets where you put “display” dishes and vases that probably have three years’ worth of layered dust on them. Get up there and take a rag, Windex and dust buster with you. Make it dust free so when you put some holiday decorations up there, it will be clean. And no dust or cobwebs will fall into your stuffing.

Clear your countertops! Figure out which appliances and chotchkies you don’t – and won’t – need during holiday prep time, and put them in a storage closet or pantry. This will give you more counter space for cooking, dicing and setting up. Give your countertops and the appliances you’re leaving on them a good wipe down.

Plan ahead. Make sure your pots, pans, serving bowls, utensils, silverware and Tupperware that you’ll be using during the season are clean ahead of time, so you don’t have to interrupt valuable cooking time to rinse them. Take time to sharpen your knife set as well, and ensure you have enough storage/freezer bags.

Give your stove and oven a good scrub down! You can do this before or after holiday cooking. Or both. Make a judgment call. If the inside of your oven is super grimy and has burnt food debris in it – then do it before. Ditto for your stove top. If you have a self-clean feature on your oven – use it. Take out the oven racks before you start, and clean them with steel wool pads and baking soda, comet, Dawn or another degreasing product (the same goes for the stove grates if you have a gas stove). Don’t leave racks in the oven while it’s self-cleaning. After a few hours the oven with be full of ash that you can quickly wipe out. And voila! Don’t have a self-cleaning oven? Spray some fume-free oven cleaner inside and let it sit for an hour or two with the oven door closed. Then use a little elbow grease and steel wool and scrub the tough spots and wipe clean with a wet rag and some paper towels. A clean oven makes for even cooking and no flavor spoiling! http://t.co/oGhsZIohux

Make room for leftovers! In other words, clean out your fridge and freezer. Ditch any old food, condiments, and anything else that has expired or is growing fuzz on it. Thoroughly wipe out your shelves and drawers with soap and water or a vinegar and water spray and sponge or paper towels. You’ll be surprised how much room you’ll have in there after you do this. Plus you’ll be able to see which products you need – and don’t need – to replace when you go to the store. https://njcleaningdiva.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/iphone-pics-054.jpg?w=700&h=

Don’t cause a pile-up. Clean while you cook, so you don’t have a hot mess in the kitchen that you’re too tired to clean afterwards. Wipe surfaces, load the dishwasher, wash and dry dishes, cutting boards, etc., and throw scraps away as you go. Get your kids, spouse or friend to lend a hand. Literally.

Pick up the pieces. Give your floor a sweep or vacuum and mop after you’re done cooking and cleaning surfaces. All those spices, crumbs, toppings, veggie buts and sticky spills end up under your feet and throughout the house if you don’t scoop them up.

Seal tight. Avoid messing everything up by making sure food you put away is sealed properly. Whether you’re using Zip Lock bags, glass or plastic storage containers or foil or plastic wrap to save your food, make sure it’s sealed tight so it doesn’t spill or stink up your clean fridge.

Cook, clean, eat, and repeat! And don’t forget to give thanks!

This is Sick!

I almost managed to get through this year without getting sick. Almost. Then yesterday I got smacked in the face with the sniffles, watery eyes, a runny nose and back to back sneezes all day. I couldn’t inhale through my nose at all, and my taste buds went numb. By day’s end I had gone through two Advil Cold & Sinus pills (which usually works like a charm), three Airborne packets, three boxes of tissues, and my eyelids and under eyes were completely swollen. I ate two bowls of chicken noodle soup with fresh sautéed spinach and garlic and drank five cups of green tea with lemon and honey. Nothing was helping, so I took a Mucinex D and went to bed. Thankfully I was able to breathe ok throughout the night, but this morning I woke up to a repeat of yesterday. So I ran out to Rite Aid to get Puff’s Plus with lotion tissues because my nose can’t take any more abuse.

All of my immune boosting tactics and constant lathering of hand sanitizer has failed me today. Although they must be playing a big role in my good health because I rarely get sick – especially considering I clean germ filled houses every day – and when I do, I quickly recover. Maybe I picked something up at the gym I just joined last week, or at the Justin Timberlake concert I was at Saturday night – which, by the way was a-maz-ing! Regardless of how and where I contracted it, I’m officially sick. My sinuses are under attack. It sucks. Especially because I had to cancel appointments, rearrange the cleaning schedule, and take the day off. I’ve been on overdrive and my body is telling me to slow down and take a break. So for today, I’m listening. Cleaning houses while sick is counterproductive. The dust, cleaning product scents and constant running nose do nothing but irritate me and make me blow my nose every two minutes. And who wants a sick person cleaning their house? That doesn’t make sense. So I went to the doctor and got an antibiotic – which is always a last resort for me – to clear this crap up, because I can’t afford to be laid up in bed all week. This Cleaning Diva has houses to clean!

So in light of my sinus infection, I’m sharing with you 10 ways to clean up your immune system and other helpful tips to aid you while sick, and/or to avoid getting sick this holiday season. Every little bit helps!

1.)    This is a given, and something I’m obsessed with, but some people don’t do it enough. Wash. Hands. Frequently. Use soap and water. Especially after you touch door knobs, go to the bathroom, eat out, or do anything in public. It’s also a must-do when you’re cooking or handling food. When exiting public restrooms, I often use the paper towel I dry my hands clean with to open the door to avoid germing up my freshly washed hands.

2.)    Use hand sanitizer or antibacterial hand wipes. Bath & Body Works has great smelling mini antibacterial hand gels that you can keep in your pocket, purse, or car so it’s always with you when you take public transportation, or drop the kids off at daycare. Use hand sanitizing wipes or moisten a tissue or cotton pad with rubbing alcohol and wipe down your phone, computer keyboard and mouse, or tablet at the office or at home.

3.)    Drink plenty of water and ditch the sodas and high-sugar drinks. They’re just not good for you. And they don’t hydrate you. Especially when you’re sick. Your body needs to wash out toxins, and drinking plenty of water daily is the best way to clean your body from the inside out, and stay hydrated. I recently invested in a water cooler/dispenser and it’s already paid off because I fill up my canteen several times throughout the day, eliminating wasteful water bottles. If drinking water bores you, then liven it up with some natural anti-oxidant fruits, veggies or herbs such as lemon, cucumbers, mint, basil, or apples. Get creative and you’ll drink more water.

4.)    Get steamy. Make a facial steam or inhalation with eucalyptus or lavender leaves or oils. Add it to a bowl or pot of boiling water, cocoon your head over it with a towel and inhale the scented steam to loosen mucus and sinuses. This really helps me!

5.)    Use nasal rinses or natural nasal sprays regularly to keep things clean and help mucus move through passages and rid bacteria. Saline sprays help keep passages flowing, as do saline-based rinses. Many people use Neti pots, but I prefer the NeilMed Sinus Rinse because I feel it’s simple to use. Refer to instructions for use.

6.)    Be a little bit of a germaphobe. Not like Howie Mandel, but use caution. Don’t share silverware, food, drinks or toothbrushes with others. In fact, change your toothbrush out for a new one after you’ve been sick. If you share a car with someone or have roommates wipe down the steering wheel in between uses, and use different hand towels in the bathroom.

7.)    Eat plenty of veggies! Fresh vegetables, especially the greenies (kale, spinach, broccoli, and mustard and collard greens) have an enormous amount of vitamins and immune boosters that will help you fight illnesses, diseases and infections throughout the year. Popeye wasn’t a vegetarian, but he certainly ate plenty of spinach to pack a punch. On the go a lot? Put veggies into a shake or juice them. Garlic is a winner too! And not just to keep away the vampires. It is scientifically proven to have immune boosting and antiviral properties. Two raw garlic cloves a day is said to do the trick. Too much for you? Pop some garlic pills instead. And cook with it too!

8.)    Listen to Dr. Oz. Lol. His suggestions for immune boosting, cold and flu fighting aids include, Buckwheat honey, NAC and Vitamin D3 supplements as well as Chinese herbs and spices such as astragalus, turmeric, and mushroom teas. I’m adding these to my daily menus! Do your research.

9.)    Do laundry! I know you probably dread doing it, but I consider it a necessity to wash your towels and sheets in hot water at least once a week, for obvious reasons. Think about it. Don’t forget to wash your gloves, hats and scarves frequently, now that the cold weather has crept in. They touch everything, and then touch your face. Keep ‘em clean.

10.)  Keep a clean house! The less dust mites and grimy surfaces and knobs you have in your house, the less likely you are to get stuffed up, pass along bad germs, and get the whole family sick. Wipe your surfaces, faucets, toilet seats, door handles (including refrigerator), knobs, remote controls, iPads, and other frequently touched-by-many areas of your house with disinfecting wipes or cleaners weekly. Daily if there’s a sick house member! Or call The Cleaning Diva to do it for you!

And for an added tip – 11.) Don’t Smoke Cigarettes! Smoking kills. Let’s be honest. It certainly isn’t good for your immune health or lungs either, especially when you’re sick. According to the American Lung Association, smoking is directly responsible for approximately 90 percent of lung cancer deaths and approximately 80-90 percent of COPD (emphysema and chronic bronchitis) deaths. Think about that the next time you take a drag. Quit while you’re ahead. Do your body good.

There. I feel better already!  😉

Clean From the Start

Two of the inevitable questions I’m asked when I give potential clients a cleaning estimate, is “How long have you been doing this?” and “What made you start?”

I usually try to give the abbreviated answers to both of these questions, which is 1.) About five years, and 2.) I wanted my own business. While those answers are concise and true, there is more to my story than just that.

I have really been cleaning most of my life. Clean is a gene my mother passed along to me, although she’d say I fought it most of my childhood. Of course I disagree. I am not saying my teenage room wasn’t always a little messy and dusty. But when I would clean it, I seriously cleaned it. I mean, seriously. I would dust and clean every nook and cranny, wipe down every bottle of perfume (which was at least a dozen), use Q-tips to get into creases of my furniture and trophies, and use newspaper and rubbing alcohol to shine my hairspray caked mirrors. And afterwards, I would feel euphoric. I loved it. I loved having a clean space, and felt so accomplished when the transformation from dirty to clean evolved. I still do. Ahhhhhh.

On the flip side, I would get totally skeeved out whenever I went over someone else’s house whose wasn’t as clean as mine. Granted, my mother was “the”  cleaning queen, I know, but I would cringe if a friend’s toilet wasn’t sparkly and smelling of fresh roses when I went to use it, or if their bathroom sink was riddled with toothpaste splatter. Ewww, gross. I couldn’t even think about heating something up in a microwave that was layered with old food remnants. I still can’t. In fact, a longtime friend of mine recently reminded me that I told her how dirty her microwave was when I was younger, and then I cleaned it before I heated up my snack. I was the babysitter who would put your kids to bed, and then clean the kitchen and living room before you got home because I couldn’t sit in the mess. Yeah – that was me. Still is.

My college and post-URI years weren’t any different. I lived with my best girlfriends, and to this day, they’ll attest and joke that I was always the one trying to keep everything clean.

So what prompted me to start a cleaning business? Well for one, I love to clean as I’m sure you’ve gathered. Plus, I’m really good at it. I like helping other people. It makes me feel good. But beyond that, I wanted to be my own boss. After working the 9-to-5 gigs for several years, I knew that working in an office wasn’t for me anymore. Especially if it was someone else’s office. Even if it meant leaving a job where I was the editor of a cruise publication. People used to be envious of me because I would travel the world and write about it. But then I would sit at a desk behind a computer for days at a time and stress out to make deadlines that would fill my boss’s wallet. I had enough of that. Something was missing for me. So I moved on.

I dabbled in a couple of things, but ultimately, was still working for someone else. While I was in between jobs, I cleaned a couple of houses for friends. They referred me to someone else, and that person referred me……and that’s when it hit me. I could make a business out of this. So I named my business The Cleaning Diva (because that’s what I am) got some business cards and put an ad on Craigslist.org promoting my services. One phone call led to another, and another, and I soon had a steady roster of clients, most of who are still on my current schedule and continue to refer me.

Today I have the best of both worlds. I work for myself and I’m writing all about it.  Not many people can say they love what they do, but I truly can, and it shines through in my work. I’m OCD – an Obsessive Cleaning Diva. I’m passionate about cleaning and it’s contagious. I clean my clients’ homes as if they were my own, and I also value the strong relationships I’ve built with them. For real.

The Cleaning Diva is here to do your dirty work, share clever cleaning tips, and catch up on everything clean and Jersey! Follow me, and keep it clean!

~ Jessica