Apartment Therapy’s Style Cure: Clean Sweep

Managing the Everyday

This weekend’s Style Cure assignment was to declutter and deep clean the room.

When it came to decluttering, there wasn’t a lot of work to do. 

I put away a large toy that Javi had outgrown and tucked away a couple rarely used electronics that were just taking up space (and gathering dust) on the credenza.

I know that the credenza drawers could use some attention, but that seemed like one big distraction just waiting to happen so I left them closed for another day.

I vacuumed the couch, removing the cushions and getting rid of all the lint & hair that a white couch can’t hide. (I absolutely love our vacuum cleaner. It picks up everything.)

After that, I vacuumed & mopped the floors with Method wood floor cleaner and my favorite microfiber mop. Juan mentioned that he felt we should squirt some of the cleaner in our coffee since it smells just like almond syrup.

I wiped down the mirror and picture frames with homemade window cleaner

I scrubbed the dining table until it was free of all remaining traces of mashed sweet potatoes. (Same for the walls/floor around the table.)

Managing the Everyday

I dusted the coffee table, credenza and electronics with microfiber cloths. I even dusted and watered the plants. 

I wiped down the books and magazines on the coffee table and straightened them into neat stacks. 

And then I lit a candle, sat down and admired the sparkle.

Can you see it? The floors & table are so clean they are reflecting the light!

Managing the Everyday

My biggest challenge was staying in the main room and not venturing into the other rooms to vacuum, dust or mop as I was cleaning. I’m glad I made myself “just finish one” and complete the assignment. 

Today’s assignment is to figure out what is missing from our room. I have a couple ideas…Any suggestions?

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Too Much Stuff? Start a Fire

Managing the Everyday: Too Much Stuff? Start a FireEarlier this month, I collected all the things in our apartment that 1) didn’t have a home and 2) we weren’t sure what to do with. 

Looking at that big pile on the living room floor, I immediately felt overwhelmed.

Managing the Everyday: Start a Fire

These were things that had been “undecided” for years. Things we had moved from home to home, not really because they were used or needed, but because we either felt bad about getting rid of them, thought they might be useful someday or just weren’t sure what to do with them. 

They were the things that at the end of every move, just got dropped into a box to be dealt with “later”. 

Managing the Everyday: Start a Fire

I decided to play the “Fire!” game:

Imagine your home is on fire. Which items would you save? 

I picked out a couple childhood trinkets, but for the most part I found myself wishing that there actually was a fire so I didn’t have to think about what to do with these things or feel obligated to carry them around with me any longer. 

And then it hit me. I could make my own fire. 

Managing the Everyday: Start a Fire

Now, to be fair, I didn’t start a fire inside our apartment. 

But I did label our kitchen trash can a “Burn Barrel”. 

Anything I wished would just get swallowed up in flames so I didn’t have to make decisions about it anymore, went in the can (or the recycling/Goodwill box if more appropriate). 

Juan and I helped each other by tossing things into the “flames” when the other person wanted something gone, but felt bad about it. Juan may have felt bad about tossing a college memento, but I didn’t. He helped toss some of my items too.

At the end of the day, the pile was smaller and I felt free. 

So, so free.

Is it time for you to start a fire? 

Natural Spider Repellent Spray

Managing the Everyday: Natural Spider Repellent Spray

Yesterday morning I was in the kitchen when I saw it. A GIANT spider. Eating another spider of similar size. Bleh. 

Juan was here so I put a mason jar over it until he was able to relocate it outside. (If I was by myself, that thing would be DEAD. Juan is nicer than me.)

We like to use natural products – especially now that we have a little guy rolling around the house – so I’m going on defense with a fresh bottle of natural homemade spider repellent. 

Does it work?

Spiders smell through their feet (who knew?) so that explains why this is so unpleasant for them. I used this at our last place and it seemed to work well.

The best testimonial, however, was when we saw a spider actually flee our home, running a straight line to the front door while avoiding the areas where we had sprayed. 

Managing the Everyday: Natural Spider Repellent

Because images of actual spiders give me the heebeegeebees. 

Natural Spider Repellent Spray

  • Fill a spray bottle with warm water. 
  • Add a few drops of lemon essential oil: I usually use 3-5 drops per 8oz of water. (Hate citrus? Try peppermint)
  • Shake & Spray.

Pay special attention to window sills, doorways and other entry points. Dark corners, under kitchen counters and little nooks are also prime spider spots.

Note: Oils can stain, so be sure to spot test before use if you are concerned.

An Important Note about Cats

Managing the Everyday: Natural Spider Repellent Spray

I’ve read that essential oils can be harmful for cats. I do not have a cat nor am I qualified to say whether or not this diluted spray is safe to use around them.

I can tell you that after what I’ve read, if we had a cat I would 1) remove the cat from the room 2) ventilate during & after spraying 3) avoid spraying areas where the cat liked to hang out (around it’s bed, etc.) and 4) only let the cat back in after the spray had dried. 

For more about cats & essential oils, see here

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Goodbye Paper Towels

Managing the Everyday: Goodbye Paper TowelsA few years ago, we stopped buying paper towels.

Instead, we bought a bunch of cheap washcloths from Target to clean kitchen messes. Our friends who do the same thing use inexpensive bar towels from Costco. 

At first, we bought white ones. They looked so pretty sitting on the countertop.

Sadly, the white turned out to be a big mistake for us since we also use them to dry & oil our cast iron pans. Our beautiful white cloths were soon murky grey.

Usable? Yes. Pretty? Not so much. 

So, lesson learned, we bought navy blue washcloths and the white grey ones became bathroom rags. Several years later, the navy blue washcloths are still going strong!

I keep them in a basket on the kitchen counter with the countertop spray. They are super durable, handle all sorts of messes and when I’m done with one I just toss it in the laundry.

Goodbye paper towels!

Quick Tip: No more missing socks!

Managing the Everyday | Quick Tip: No More Missing Socks!

Our building has a shared laundry room.  Usually this is just fine because it’s right across the hall from our apartment and even though it is shared, we rarely have to wait to do laundry. Plus there are 2 washers & 2 dryers – yay double time laundry!

Occasionally, I’ll find an unfamiliar sock in our laundry. Our socks have gone on adventures from time to time too. This is pretty common – so much so that there is always a small pile of socks and other items on the counter in the laundry room. 

The real problem has been Javi’s socks. They are so tiny that they are easy to miss when transferring our laundry from the washer to the dryer. 

Managing the Everyday | Quick Tip: No More Missing Socks!

My solution has been to clip a mesh laundry bag to our hamper. Every little sock and any other small items go straight into the bag. 

When it’s time to do laundry, I simply zip the bag shut and toss it in the laundry. 

No more missing socks. :)

Managing the Everyday | Quick Tip: No More Missing Socks!

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Our Bedroom Closet Makeover

Closet Makeover

Our 656sq ft apartment has one closet. Yes. One! Uno! 

It’s narrow, deep and tall. It’s also in our bedroom, so it’s where Juan and I store most of our clothing along with our suitcases and a bunch of other random stuff. 

Our closet has 2 rods, one in front of the other. We keep out-of-season and special occasion clothes on the back rod and our everyday life clothes on the front. 

The photo above is how it looked earlier today. 

Also, here is a photo of the laundry basket where we actually put our dirty clothes. It has been a semi-permanent guest in the living room for a couple months. Not awesome. 

Closet Makeover

(Note, we only use one of the three sections of this laundry basket. One of them is holding old pillows that I want to save for a project and the other is holding clothes that need to be dry cleaned. Again, not awesome.)

Also, I don’t even roll this basket to the laundry room. I fill up a regular plastic laundry basket and take that instead. 

Room for improvement? I think we can say yes to that. 

On my last trip to Ikea, I picked up a SKUBB laundry bag:


It’s tall, deep & narrow. Just like our closet. SKUBB in hand, I got to work. 

Here’s what I did:

  • Set aside anything that no longer fit for either storage or Goodwill (hello and GOODBYE post-baby clothes!)
  • Moved anything that we weren’t likely to wear in the next couple months (like sweaters, etc.) to the back rod and/or out-of-season storage. 
  • Emptied the 3-section laundry basket: gathered the dry cleaning for my next errand run, put the pillows in the back of the closet and washed & dried whatever was left. 

Here is the refreshed closet with the new Mr. SKUBB. See how I can now fit my boots in the closet? They were cluttering up the floor in the coat room and now they have an out-of-the-way home.

Our Bedroom Closet Makeover


I also hung all of the clothes on the front rod on black hangers and faced them in the same direction, grouping similar items together. It’s a simple change with big visual impact.

Closet Makeover

In case you are wondering about our plastic laundry basket, it has a future home in Javi’s new Pax wardrobe. And the 3-section laundry basket aka stuff-collector? It has been washed and is sitting by the door, ready to go to Goodwill.

Today has been a good day. 

DIY Natural Home: Window + Glass Cleaner

DIY Window & Glass Cleaner

Several months ago, we woke at 3am to the sound of someone trying to break in through our windows. We called the cops and he turned out to be a drunk (and incredibly stupid) friend of someone who lived in the building. Nevertheless, it was easily one of the most frightening experiences I’ve ever had.

The reason I bring this up? His smudgy handprints have been staring at me from our dirty windows ever since.

I’ve been wanting to clean the windows, but you know…baby.

Last week, it was beautifully sunny and Javi was having an excellent nap-day. I decided to take my chances and, baby monitor in hand, went outside to tackle the windows.


To bust the grime, I mixed up a batch of all natural glass cleaner based on this recipe from Crunchy Betty:

Crunchy Betty’s Alvin Corn Homemade Glass Cleaner

1/4 c. rubbing alcohol
1/4 c. white vinegar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
2 c. warm water

  1. Pour/dump the ingredients into a spray bottle. (I simply reused the empty bottle I had from the last time I went out and bought glass cleaner.) 
  2. Shake it up to dissolve the cornstarch. (I give mine a good shake before every use.)
  3. Good to go!

Later that day, I was sitting on the couch and thought to myself – “I should close that window”. But you know what? It was already closed! The glass was THAT clean.

Sparkling Clean!

Do you have a favorite homemade cleaner recipe? 

My New Mantra: Just Finish One

Feb 8/12 H is for Hanging up the laundry

This happens to me too often:

It’s finally quiet. Javi’s napping and I finally have some time to get things done around the house.

I start putting away the dishes when I notice the wine glasses that I wanted to donate to Goodwill.

Suddenly I’m inspired to gather up all the donation items. I grab a box and start filling it with the wine glasses, leaving the rest of the clean dishes in the dishwasher.

As I’m filling the box, I think of other things I wanted to donate. There must be something in my closet, right? I head to my closet. I’m greeted by a mangled mess of hangers and clothes. I’ll just take a moment and straighten things up…

Soon the bed is covered with the contents of our closet. I’m sorting sweaters and button-downs when I hear Javi.

I look at the clock. Yep, nap time is over.

Sound familiar? 

I get started on one thing, but soon I’m distracted by something else that seems more appealing or urgent. Even as I write this, I’m looking at the half-folded load of laundry, a growing stack of half-opened mail, things in the hallway that need to go to the storage room.

All of these uncompleted tasks just add to my mental to-do list. Instead of crossing things off and making progress, I feel like I’m constantly busy and yet falling further behind.

My challenge to myself the last few days has been this:

Just. Finish. One.

Take one task from start to completion.

I sometimes have to say it aloud. JustFinishOne. JustFinishOne. JustFINISHone!

It feels silly.

But it works.

The upside is that one completed task builds momentum that often leads to another. And if it doesn’t? I’ve finished one. It’s done. It won’t come back to haunt me at the end of the day.

And with that, I’m off to go finish putting away the laundry.

What’s your “ONE” to finish today? 

photo by Judith Doyle

An Easy & Natural Way to Get Rid of Kitchen Smells

An Easy & Natural Way to Get Rid of Kitchen Smells

This morning we woke up to a strong fish & garlic scent in the kitchen – the result of yesterday’s mini fridge-purge.

I took out the compost (the easiest way to get rid of a smell is to actually get rid of what smells, right?) but the stink remained.

What to do?

Grind up some lemon peels!

  1. Chop lemon peels into smaller pieces. (You can also use a whole lemon or other citrus fruit/peels. I just happened to have these leftover from making dinner).
  2. Run the lemon peels through your garbage disposal.

The result? A happy, natural lemon scented kitchen!

This is also a great way to clean out icky smells from your garbage disposal.

It smells so good that I love to do this even when the kitchen doesn’t stink. I had a lot of leftover lemon peels today so I’m going to freeze some to use in the future.

Another great use for lemon peels? Bait for your fruit fly trap! See here for how to trap those nasty bugs.

Be Nice to Your Future Self

kitchen sink-new faucet-galley kitchen

The other night I looked at the dishes in the sink and thought, “I’ll get to those later”. But then I remembered this phrase:

“Be Nice to Your Future Self”

So I took a few minutes and took care of the dishes. The next morning, that empty sink was a wonderful sight. Dirty dishes first thing in the morning are a real bummer.

I’m trying to incorporate this saying into my daily actions. I’ve come up with a few morning and evening “Nice” routines that have made life run a little smoother around here:


  • Make our bed.
  • Empty the dishwasher.


  • Pack up dinner leftovers into easy to grab lunch containers.
  • Load and start the dishwasher.
  • Grind fresh coffee beans and put then in the French press for our morning coffee.
  • Set out breakfast dishes.

Throughout the day, whenever I’m tempted to just let something be and take the lazy route, I remind myself to be nice to my future self.

It usually takes less than 2 minutes to put something away or wipe down a messy counter and the habit of taking care of it now rather than later helps our home stay tidy.

Of course, there are times when the best thing for my future self is SLEEP! When that happens, I take a nap or go to bed and let the messes wait until the morning.

How will you be nice to your future self today?

(photo by Maegan Tintari)