The Dos And Don’ts Of Cleaning While You’re Pregnant

Avoid common household cleaning supplies while you are pregnant.

The Dos and Don’ts of Cleaning While You’re Pregnant

There are so many things to take into consideration when you are pregnant, and while you are well aware of the foods and drink you should avoid during these special nine months, you might not be thinking about other dangers, such as the hidden risks when housekeeping. I learned early on in my cleaning business that pregnancy and certain cleaning tasks and supplies do not get along, and I had to consider those whenever a member of my cleaning staff became pregnant. I quickly learned what can and cannot be done during pregnancy, and I have a firm grasp on safe cleaning products, which I believe in using regardless of whether one is pregnant. I want to take a moment to share my knowledge with you, as there is nothing more important than you giving birth to a healthy and happy baby, and there is no sense in putting your child or you at risk by doing something you shouldn’t be doing while pregnant.

Don’t Try This at Home

Safe and unsafe cleaning products aside, there are numerous things you should absolutely avoid when cleaning your home during your pregnancy. These no-nos are dangerous for a variety of reasons, but the bottom line is no matter the cause of the risk, it’s not worth putting you or your unborn baby in harm’s way by performing the tasks; it’s time to assign these chores to somebody else. While you are pregnant, don’t:

  • clean out or change the cat litter, as cat fecal matter might contain the Toxoplasma gondii parasite known to cause toxoplasmosis;
  • clean up any mold growing in your home or on your foods, as the actual mold itself may be toxic to your and/or your unborn baby;
  • operate a heavy vacuum or attempt to move furniture and vacuum underneath it, as this can cause undue stress on you and your baby, particularly closer to birthing time;
  • perform cleaning chores that require excessive bending, squatting, lifting, and/or stretching.

Your doctor has no doubt coached you on what you should and should not do during each phase of your pregnancy. Of course it’s tempting to quickly wash your floor-to-ceiling windows before your mom comes to visit and help, but you’re not your usual self, and the repetitive bending and stretching might make you surprisingly dizzy and faint; not good for you or the baby, particularly if you fall down.

The bottom line is this: Assign the toxic, tough, and heavy-duty stuff to somebody else in your household and enjoy the break. Strenuous cleaning to ensure that your home is spotless is not worth the risk to you or your baby.

Cleaning Products You Should Avoid

Alongside the chores you should avoid, there are also cleaning products currently sold on the market that are dangerous to you and your unborn baby. During your pregnancy, you are going to find that you are more sensitive to things that normally would not bother you, and this might include the chemicals and fumes in the cleaning supplies that you regularly use. Even if you find that the products aren’t causing you undue discomfort, you should avoid them anyway, because inhaling the chemicals contained in these cleaners is harmful. While pregnant, do not clean with any product that is labeled:

  • Corrosive
  • Danger
  • Poison
  • Toxic

You’ll find this labeling on any product containing bleach, oven cleaners, drain openers, anything containing ammonia, and many other common household products, including laundry detergents and fabric softeners. You might decide to avoid these cleaning products even when you aren’t pregnant because they can be harmful to you and your household, as well as to the environment.

Safe Replacement Products

So, what can you use? Don’t fret; it’s not that hard to find replacement cleaners that are safe and eco-friendly. You can even make your own, which is oftentimes the best approach, because then you know exactly what is in your household cleaners. If you are looking for safe household cleaners to use during your pregnancy, try:

  • Dr. Bronner’s Organic Pure Liquid Castile Soaps
  • Earth Friendly Steel Cleaner and Polish
  • Earth Friendly Stone Countertop Cleaner
  • Ecover Ecological Automatic Dishwasher Tablets
  • Ecover Toilet Bowl Cleaner
  • GrabGreen Degreaser Cleaner
  • Method Tub Plus Natural Bathroom Tile Cleaner
  • Seventh Generation Disinfecting Bathroom Cleaner
  • Seventh Generation Dishwashing Liquid

If you prefer to make your own pregnancy (and environmentally) safe cleaners follow these simple recipes:

  • All Purpose Cleaner: Take equal parts white vinegar and filtered water and mix in an all-purpose spray bottle.
  • Tile Cleanser: Saturate the tiled area with white vinegar, sprinkle baking soda on the tile, and scrub with a sponge or cloth soaked in white vinegar.
  • Bleach Alternative: Use a hydrogen peroxide/water solution instead of bleach when doing your laundry, cleaning, and even washing your vegetables.

I recommend using these alternatives even when you aren’t pregnant, as they are safe and effective. If you do desire to go back to your traditional cleaning products after your baby is born, however, it is important to stick to a safer and healthier regimen while you are pregnant and in the first years of your baby’s delicate life. Yes, you want to have a clean home, but no amount of scrubbing with harsh chemicals is worth it if you harm your baby or yourself, so when you’re pregnant, keep it simple and keep it safe. Besides, the eco-friendly cleaners disinfect just as effectively!

New York City Is For Lovers: How To Celebrate Valentine’s Day In NYC.

New York City

Imagine stealing a Valentine’s Day kiss from up here! Photo by InSapphoWeTrust (Flickr)

New York City is for Lovers: How to Celebrate Valentine’s Day in NYC

New York City is an amazing place any time of the year. Most people think about visiting during the December holidays because of Rockefeller Center and, of course, ringing in the New Year in Times Square. If you’re a romantic, however, and I’m sure many of you are, you should know that NYC is also very special around Valentine’s Day. I know we New Yorkers come across as rough and gruff, but we’re softies at heart when it comes to the ones we love, and you will impress your sweetie to no end by celebrating Cupid’s special day with them in the Big Apple, whether you’re a tourist or a local. There are plenty of ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day in NYC, and here are some suggestions for you and your significant other.

Central Park Carriage Ride

Do this while you still can, as Mayor Bill de Blasio has been petitioning hard to ban this NYC tradition. There are few things more romantic than taking a horse-drawn carriage ride through the magnificent Central Park. You can do this during the day or at night, which might prove to be more romantic as you will need to cuddle to stay warm.

Kiss Up High

You’ve seen all of the romantic movies where couples kiss on the top of the Empire State Building, and this really is an NYC Valentine’s Day must-do. Once you’ve smooched atop the ESB, head over to Rockefeller Center’s observation deck and steal another romantic kiss. You can also share a smooch on the Brooklyn Bridge. All are NYC Valentine’s Day traditions.

Take a Valentine’s Day Dinner Cruise

Naturally, you’ll be smooching throughout the day and evening, but you also need to eat, and one of the favorite things to do in NYC on Valentine’s Day is to take a Valentine’s Day Cruise. This dinner cruise will take you along all of NYC’s skyline for three hours and serve you and your loved one an unforgettable four-course romantic dinner.

One if By Land, Two if By Sea

If you prefer to remain on land yet still want to impress your Valentine’s Day date with an amazing meal, book a reservation at the restaurant dubbed New York’s most romantic. One if By Land, Two if By Sea offers its diners incredible food and the perfect ambiance to pop the question, including a warm fireplace and a serenade by the pianist at the baby grand.

Spice it Up

It is Valentine’s Day, and you and your partner can get a little naughty by exploring New York City’s decadent side. First, spend some time learning about the history of sex at the Museum of Sex, or MoSex, as we locals call it. You can also visit the New York School of Burlesque to see why more is actually, well, more, when it comes to the age-old seductive form of dance.

For Singles, Too

One thing NYC does not do is leave singles at home sulking in front of their TVs with a pint of ice cream on Valentine’s Day. There is plenty for singles to enjoy on Feb. 14 as well, including the Power Ballads Sing-Along at Union Hall (that’s just fun no matter how you slice it) and the Anti-Valentine’s-Day Party at the Sunburnt Cow for you rebels.

As you can see, it doesn’t matter if you’re married, dating, getting ready to propose, or single on Valentine’s Day in NYC. There are plenty of romantic and single activities. New York City is a great city all year round, which is why so many people come to visit and why it is one of the most filmed cities in the world. We have it all in the Big Apple, and that includes stuff for you romantics to celebrate a special day with your Valentine and for you singles to ensure that you don’t feel left out.

Recycling, Exposed! A Breakdown on How And What Can Be Recycled.

Recycling, Exposed! A Breakdown on How and What Can Be Recycled

Recycling is a little more complicated than separating your cans, bottles, paper, and plastics. I know when I began my cleaning business, I had to take the time to understand what can and cannot be recycled, not to mention what happens to the recyclables after they’ve been turned in. You’d be surprised how many people ask me that. I consider the questions positive; people really are interested in a greener planet and the steps I am taking through my business to ensure that we have one. I’m going to break the information down for you as well. Let’s look at what can and cannot be recycled, and I’ll throw in some extra info to make you a recycling expert!

The Fab Four

You, no doubt, are already separating your soda cans from your glass and plastic bottles. We are all aware of the commonly recycled products that I like to call the “fab four.” As you’ll see, however, it’s not as simple as just tossing the recyclables into their appropriate bins. When recycling, consider:

  • Aluminum: Depending on the can, recyclable aluminum cans include your soda and beer cans, food cans, and even your wet pet food cans. The best rule of thumb is to see if the can is labeled as recyclable. If it is, you can toss it into the aluminum bin; just make sure to rinse it out first, as recycling plants need the cans clean.
  • Glass: Nearly all glass bottles are recyclable, but here’s something you might not know: You need to keep the clear and colored glass bottles separate not just for the recycling plant but for you as well. Clear glass is more valuable, so you’ll receive a higher return if your recycling drop-off center gives you cash.
  • Paper: Newspapers are the obvious recyclable product in this category, and you’re probably beginning to notice many of your cardboard products are marked recyclable as well. If they are, you can toss those in the paper bin provided they aren’t coated in a wax or plastic film and they aren’t contaminated by food. Check with your local recycling plant to see if magazines and catalogs are accepted in your area; sometimes, they’re not.
  • Plastic: This is a biggie, not only because most everything is bottled in plastic these days but also because plastic does not biodegrade in landfills. If you must purchase that 24-pack of bottled water rather than using a filter, recycle the bottles instead of just throwing them away. If anything plastic has the recycling symbol on it, don’t toss it; recycle it after you’ve separated it by its code. What’s the code? Keep reading!

Recycling’s “Code” of Conduct

You know what the recycling symbol looks like, but what are those numbers inside the triangular shape, and do they mean anything? You bet they do. It’s helpful to understand these codes and separate your recyclables by them. The most common ones are:

Aluminum Codes

41 – ALU: This code identifies aluminum as the recyclable content in your cans.

Glass Codes

70 – GL: This number stands for a mixed or multi-part glass container.

71 – GL: This number designates clear glass.

72 – GL: This is the number for green glass.

Paper Codes

20 – PAP: Recyclable cardboard will bear this code.

21 – PAP: You’ll find this code on recyclable magazines, mail, catalogs, and other related paper products.

22 – PAP: A more general code used for plain paper.

Plastic Codes

01 – PET: This code stands for polyethylene terephthalate, which is the polyester fiber used in soda bottles.

02 – PET: High-density polyethylene is also used in plastic bottles as well as plastic trash cans, bags, and even fake wood products.

03 – PVC: PVC pipes are made of polyvinyl chloride. Other products include your “vinyl” flooring and window frames.

04 – PE-LD: Low-density polyethylene is also a material found in plastic bags, buckets, and plastic tubing.

05 – PP: This symbol stands for polypropylene, and you see it on your to-go coffee cups.

06 – PS: You know this one best as Styrofoam, and the chemical name is polystyrene.

07 – O: Everybody needs an “other” category, even recyclables! This could mean the container is made from any combination of the plastics listed here.

ABS: This lettered code means acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, which is a fancy way of saying the hard plastics that make up your appliances, computers, and cell phones.

The Happenings

You’ve sorted your recyclables by material and code, so what happens to them now? Some amazing things, if you ask me! The fab four have quite a journey from your recycling bin to their next incarnation, including becoming a product all over again:

  • Aluminum: Aluminum cans see a rebirth as other aluminum cans. In fact, many of these cans are turned over and reused within six weeks.
  • Glass: The same thing happens with most recycled glass; the bottles and jars are melted down and reborn into new bottles and jars.
  • Paper: You’ve seen the labels on your paper products indicating the percentage of post-consumer recycled content the container contains; this is recycled paper.
  • Plastic: Depending on the type of plastic, your water bottles might turn into the warm stuffing in your next ski jacket or that “wood” desk that isn’t wood.

The Unusual Suspects

Sure, you know you can recycle your soda cans and water bottles, but I bet there are a ton of things in your home or office that you’re throwing away when you could be putting them to better use as well. Some recyclables you might not know about include:

  • Aluminum Foil: Just like your cans, you can recycle aluminum foil.
  • Batteries: You know not to throw them away, but did you know that all batteries can be recycled?
  • CDs/DVDs/Video Game Disks: All of these can be refurbished and then resold to somebody else once you’re bored with them.
  • Eye Glasses: The lenses and frames of that old pair of eyeglasses can be remade into a new pair for somebody else.
  • Foam Packing: Don’t toss that annoying Styrofoam packing popcorn in the trash: Recycle it.
  • Razors/Toothbrushes: If the plastic is recyclable, you can recycle these common toiletries instead of tossing them in the trash.

As you can see, recycling does a lot of good, not only for the environment but for other people as well. Why throw away a pair of glasses that you aren’t wearing anymore when it can be made into a pair for someone else in need who can’t afford the purchase? Recycling or reusing benefits so many that you’d be foolish not to do it. Now that you understand the recyclables and their related codes, it’s quick and easy to separate and reuse things, especially if your city offers a weekly pickup. Check with your local waste management company to see what you can recycle, and then go green: You’ll be happy you did.

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Cleaning With Condiments, They Aren’t Just For Food Anymore!

If you want to go green (or save some money) while conducting usual cleaning chores, you might be surprised that some of the cheapest and healthiest alternatives to mainstream cleaning supplies include condiments. I certainly was! Common, everyday items that people usually have lying around in their fridges can help with some of the worst cleaning woes. Sure, the idea of using ketchup, a condiment famous for staining white shirts, for cleaning purposes might seem odd, but every one of these tasty substances has a unique use. Open up the fridge, and for next to nothing, you can tackle some of the worst stains in the house.

Vinegar

Oh, the power of vinegar! If you don’t mind a bit of a harsh smell, vinegar can clean dozens and dozens of items in your house. Some of the most popular items that vinegar cleans are windows, microwaves, showers, and stainless steel appliances. Its close cousin, apple cider vinegar, also serves as a disinfectant and has a more pleasant odor. Most of the best cleaning recipes that include vinegar combine distilled white vinegar with water, oil, or salt.

Lemons

Halve a lemon, dip it in salt, and rub it against any copper, brass, or chrome appliance. It will show off a great shine. Mix lemon juice and baking soda to unclog minor drains. In addition to introducing a better scent, lemon juice can remove ugly stains from plastic containers. Let the containers sit in a mixture of lemon juice and water overnight. Also, lemon juice serves to remove several different types of laundry stains.

Ketchup

Yes, ketchup actually can lift stains rather than cause them. Polish copper with ketchup; its acidity dissolves tarnish and stubborn spots. It can also help you shine silver. Rub the red substance on your silver item, let it sit for about 5-10 minutes, and then polish it off with an old rag.

Mustard

Mustard powder specifically makes a pretty great deodorizer, so if you plan to re-use old jars for your next Pinterest project, splash warm water and a bit of mustard powder into the jar. The powder can also help you lift grease from really dirty dishes.

Mayonnaise

The eggy white substance is pretty useful for getting unsightly water marks out of wooden furniture. It can also help you wash pine pitch off of your hands and remove adhesives and glue from glass. Note that olive oil is also great for restoring the luster of hard wood. (And it’s also a less-fattening alternative for eating.)

Salt

Salt and salt water have tons of uses and are included in many cleaning recipes. Salt with lemon, salt with vinegar, and salt with oil can tear away many kinds of stains. Here’s another tip: If you have valuable cast-iron cookware, you know that soaps are a no-no, which, in my opinion, can be maddening. Instead, heat oil in the pan, then add coarse salt, creating a paste. Use that paste to scrub unwanted stains away. Also, the best way to clean coffee pots is with a mixture of salt and ice, which you can swirl around inside. Just pour away those awful brown stains.

These cheap and safe cleaning supplies are only an arm’s reach away. Now, there’s no shame in grabbing one or two extra packets of ketchup when you’re out. There are also plenty of other powerful cleaning agents in your kitchen, including baking soda, coffee grounds, and cornstarch that can be used for more safe cleaning alternatives. Give them a try: You might be pleased with the results.

8 Houseplants That Will Make Your Home Cozier And Clean The Air

Several years ago, I noticed that the first few months of the year were always my lowest. After the holidays were over, the winter months felt downright depressing. One of the ways I battled this emotional slump was by brightening my home with several plants. It added a touch of natural green inside the home when outside was still dead and bare. Not only were my spirits lifted, but I also began to experience the health benefits of keeping plants inside. Here are eight of my favorite houseplants that can make your home cleaner and cozier.

Aloe

This plant didn’t mistakenly end up in the first slot; I love it so much that I own three of these babies. If you snap a leaf, you will see the aloe goo leaking out. Put a little on your finger and be mesmerized by the silky texture that is surprisingly not sticky at all. Rub the ointment on burns and sores to help remedy the pain and accelerate healing. Healing is not all aloe does; it cleans the air by absorbing toxic chemicals while increasing oxygen levels.

Peace Lily

Even the name emits a sense of relaxation and calm. The Peace Lily cleans the air of benzene, trichloroethylene, and the dreaded formaldehyde. I have a soft spot for all lilies, and having this one in my home adds an extra bit of charm.

English Ivy

Mold can be very toxic when in homes, and it can often be hiding behind walls and in the ceiling. A great place to grow English ivy is in moist bathrooms with stinky toilets. Having it in a room for just a day can decrease airborne mold by up to 60% and airborne feces by 58%. How amazing is that?

Snake Plant

If you are new to the plant world, the snake plant is the ideal beginner one to grow; it is almost impossible to kill. I have a few of these in rooms that don’t have a lot of sunshine. As it grows and thrives, you get to receive the benefits of toxin removal without putting in a lot of work.

Rubber Plant

Here is another easy plant to care for with very little watering and light required. Formaldehyde doesn’t stand a chance with a little rubber plant in the room; removing this deadly toxin is its main skill. The only downside is the leaves can be toxic, so I always keep it above my kitchen cabinets away from the reach of visiting pets or children.

Spider Plant

The spider plant is a pet-friendly plant that looks great on the surface of a table or shelf ledge. If you place this plant in a 200-square-foot room or smaller, it will absorb carbon monoxide, styrene, and benzene from the air effectively. It is a filtering monster that doesn’t require backup plants for aid in clearing the room of toxins.

Croton

With colorful foliage and an elegant look, croton is a plant that is hard to not love. The maintenance requires a little more watering and bright light, but the toxin removal and cozy aura make it worth it.

Pothos

Pothos is a fun vining plant that is easy to grow in dim light. Hanging a few baskets up with this stunning plant will allow its white and green vines to grow freely and make your home feel more like home. The most important thing when choosing a plant is choosing something that fits your needs and desires. You don’t have to buy dozens of plants to enjoy the benefits of toxin removal and cozy greenery in your home.

The Best Ways to Keep Schools Clean During The Flu Season

A few years back, I was speaking to a first-year teacher. His nose was swollen pink, and his watery eyes hid behind restless bags. To put it simple, he looked miserable. I asked how his new job was going, and he cracked a smile and immediately began coughing. I don’t know if that was the answer he wanted to give me, but it was the answer I got. Kids are like giant germs that touch everyone and everything. Don’t get me wrong: They are darn cute and cuddly. They give you hugs and adorable homemade notes, and then when you smile with appreciation, they sneeze in your face. It happens, but you can’t lock yourself away in hiding. With hundreds of students roaming the halls, it is quite the challenge to overcome germs. While you can’t eliminate germs for good, teachers, parents, and janitors can all work together to disinfect and clean schools to prevent the flu from spreading rapidly.

Hand Sanitizer in Every Classroom

Hand sanitizer was a brilliant invention! It makes washing hands easy and convenient even for the laziest person. My wife keeps a travel-size sanitizer in her purse, and we have one in each of our cars and in our house. It helps keep the germs away and makes it easy to sanitize our hands after we spend the day around town and before we eat. Having a couple of bottles near the classroom door will remind students to put some on before they start their day. Teachers can have one on their desk so they continually stop germs from making them sick. The most common way to get sick is through the mouth, so keeping your hands clean will eliminate almost all nasty flu bugs.

Teach Washing Hands

Many younger kids forget why it is so important to wash their hands throughout the day. Many rinse their hands in the water after using the bathroom, but they completely forget to use soap. Yuck! Having a simple chart that lists the washing steps and posting it near all sinks is one way to remind kids how to wash their hands. It also helps teachers remember to wash them for more than a quick rinse and lather.

Wipe Down the Room

Janitors are key to a clean school. There is almost always one on duty during the day and another one or two after school is out. Janitors keep the garbage emptied, the toilets scrubbed, surfaces cleaned, and the dust away. Germs usually spread by touching a dirty item and then rubbing the eyes or wiping the mouth. Two of the most popular germy items in a school are doorknobs and drinking fountains. They can get touched hundreds of times throughout the day. Janitors can be a huge asset to preventing the spread of the flu by wiping the door knobs and other contact areas in every classroom. Wiping down and sanitizing drinking fountains regularly will keep them clean and keep germs from spreading.

Have Tissues Ready

The other day, I watched a young woman wipe her nose repeatedly with her fingers. It made me cringe and maybe even gag a little. Just as her nose would start to run, her hand would shoot up to her face and wipe it away. It. Was. Disgusting. I tried not to watch, but I couldn’t stop staring. Tissues are the best, and only, place students should wipe their face at school. If their noses begin to run and no tissues are in sight, either snot is going to run down their face or they are going to wipe it with their hands or arms. Keeping tissues readily available cuts back on the germs covering the hands.

The flu season can be rough, but we can protect our children from the flu by educating students, cleaning and sanitizing contact areas, and washing our hands regularly.

Keep Your Resolution To Be Less Cluttered This Year In 9 Easy Ways

The New Year is here, and boy, am I excited! I love a fresh start and the opportunity to create goals that I can accomplish. I wasn’t always like this, though. There was a time in my life where the beginning of the year meant failure. I created goals that were huge and almost impossible to reach; after only a few weeks, I would be lagging behind, feeling incompetent. Now, I choose only one or two goals, and I work hard on them throughout the year. One of my goals this year is to unclutter my entire house and keep it organized. It sounds hard, right? I thought that once, too, but I have done it before, and I plan on doing it again. Here are my nine easy tips to getting your house uncluttered and keeping it that way for an entire year.

Put Things Away Once

Last year was a busy year for us, and I found myself shoving items on shelves and in drawers without even thinking about it. My once-organized home slowly began to unravel until my closets and cupboards became an embarrassing mess. This year, I am going to make a note of putting things where they go and only there by checking every night that things are in their place.

Create a Place

You can’t put items in the right location without creating a place first. Go through your drawers, cupboards, and closets and remove everything that doesn’t have a neat spot. Then, return items to a place that is easy to reach and remember.

Unclutter Before You Shop

Don’t go to the store to buy any more stuff until you donate, throw out, or recycle current items. This works great before birthdays and holidays; get rid of old toys before you fill your already-stuffed closets with more. Being a minimalist is a great way to prevent clutter from piling up.

Sort Through Mail First

I have gotten in the habit of going through my mail right by the garbage and recycle bin. This makes it easy to toss things where they go before shoving them in a drawer or basket.

Remove Clutter-Collectors

I once had a basket on my counter for apples, bananas, and other fruit, but when the fruit was eaten, the basket started screaming for clutter. I would innocently be holding a pencil, and suddenly, the basket would demand that I stick it in there. Then it wanted pins, rubber bands, screwdrivers, and everything that was small enough to fit. It even claimed my mail and empty wrappers. Once the basket disappeared, the items were easier to put away where they go, and now, my fruit sits on the counter without a bowl or basket.

Clean Out the Fridge on Grocery Day

This is probably one of my favorite tips to share with people; it is easy to remember and accomplish. I started a few years ago, and it has been a success. I continually forgot to clean the fridge until it started smelling, but when I wipe it down and clean it out on grocery day, it never stinks and always looks clean.

Have a Donation Box

People always have recycle and trash bins nearby, but what about a donation box? Keep it in a closet, the garage, or the laundry room. It makes it so much easier to get rid of things immediately instead of waiting until you go through everything to donate.

Watch “Hoarders”

This might sound like a silly suggestion, and it kind of is, but there is nothing that makes me want to organize more than seeing how clutter can damage a life. It always inspires me to get rid of unwanted items that I am holding onto for no reason.

Take Five Minutes a Day

Uncluttering your home can be overwhelming, but set aside five minutes a day to work on a single drawer or shelf. It adds up quickly, and your home will be organized without you feeling exhausted or deflated. It doesn’t have to be endless work to get your home to feel neat and clutter-free.

The Best Times Of Year To Be A Tourist In New York City (Or The Worst Times To Be A Local)

I love the energy that surrounds New York City. There is always something to do, somewhere to eat, and something to explore. With museums, art, monuments, bridges, statues, and brilliant architecture, I can barely walk out my door without stopping for a moment to breathe in the backdrop. I love it here! Unfortunately for locals, the New York City glamor appeals to people everywhere around the world, especially during winter holiday celebrations. Tourists are pulled in from all parts with a taste for adventure and culture. If you are traveling and desire explosive celebrations, then a stop in New York City is your ticket to holiday enjoyment. If you are a local, close the curtains, grab your softest blanket, and start the longest TV series you have on hand; leaving home might not be the best option.

Rockefeller Christmas Tree

Locals might roll their eyes at doe-eyed tourists, but even we can’t help but drop our jaws when we see the lights of the giant Rockefeller Christmas tree. Warm and inviting lights wrapped neatly around a magnificent tree give your heart a little jolt of holiday cheer and a remembrance of why this time of year is so special.

Store Décor

The crowds are insane, and I do all I can to avoid the claustrophobic feeling that encompasses the streets during this time of year. Yet I can’t help but make a stop or two to admire the department store windows on Fifth Avenue. It is a free way to experience New York City’s creativity as you glance at the festive displays. This will keep tourists mesmerized for hours and is a great opportunity to purchase a few souvenirs to remember your trip.

New Year’s Eve Concerts

There are dozens of New Year’s Eve events, but my personal favorites are the concerts. The crowds can be overwhelming, but with tickets to a concert, the crowds will be minimal and almost breathable. The shows for Christmas are some of the best in the country, but it doesn’t end there. New Year’s Eve continues the fun with comedy shows at Times Square, live bands, and Broadway plays.

The Midnight Run

It might be chilly outside, but even the cold can’t stop runners from giving their legs a good stretch and leap around the streets of New York. Sign up for a race to start your New Year out with the goal to stay healthy and active. The Midnight Run begins with a fun parade before the clock strikes 12. I love the fresh start each year brings, and starting it with this midnight race shows your dedication to continuing the year right.

New Year’s Eve Ball Drop

This list wouldn’t be complete without the ball drop on New Year’s Eve at Times Square. I have been watching this glorious moment from the crowd-free comfort of my home for many years. While tourists will want to be a part of the raging crowds, laughter, and unforgettable dropping ball, I sympathize with locals shuddering at the thought of thousands of tourists swarming to one area. Yet, it is an experience everybody should have at least once in their lives.

Have a Very Green Christmas

I remember growing up and hearing my parents voice their frustrations about an overflowing garbage can after Christmas celebrations. It always took a few weeks to catch up on trash. It’s ridiculous the amount of waste that can grow during the holidays, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You can have a very green Christmas that is still filled with presents, goodies, and wrapping paper. Follow these 10 tips to make your Christmas greener than years before.

1. Don’t Over Buy

Before you start pulling dishes, ornaments, wreaths, and Christmas décor off the shelf, do an inventory check. You might be buying double of things that you don’t need. After a year of storing my Christmas décor, it’s a common occurrence for me to forget that I bought certain decorations years before. If you have double of something, think about giving that extra one as a gift to a friend or relative.

2. Send Electronic Greeting Cards

I have always been somewhat terrible about sending Christmas cards in the mail on time, but with electronic greeting cards, I can even send them the day before Christmas. This saves time, stamps, ink, and paper. If you feel a picture in the mail in more personable, think about only sending them to your closest friends and family; they will treasure the card instead of tossing it in the trash after the holiday is over.

3. Use LED Holiday Lights

They cost a little more in the beginning, but your electric bill will be significantly lower in the end. This is a great way to enjoy the beauty of holiday lights without hurting the environment.

4. Recycle

This is the number one way that I make my Christmas greener. Instead of filling up the garbage can on Christmas Day, it is my recycling can that is overflowing. Boxes, plastic, and wrapping paper are easily sorted and tossed for recycling.

5. Place Lights on Timers

I can be lazy about going outside in the cold and plugging in the Christmas lights, so these timers are double awesome. They keep you from freezing outside, but they also prevent lights from staying on all night long when you forget to unplug them. You can buy both indoor and outdoor timers.

6. Choose Green Wrapping Paper

Before you shove that sparkling red paper in the recycling can, make sure it can actually be recycled. Many papers that are covered in colorful ink cannot be recycled, but instead have to be thrown in the trash.

7. Decorate with Nature

The new style is very naturalistic, and this makes decorating more affordable and eco-friendly. Find pinecones, sticks, rocks, and trees to create ornaments and other Christmas decorations.

8. Cut a Christmas Tree Down

Head to a tree farm and have fun as you cut your own Christmas tree down. These farms plant thousands of trees every year to be cut and decorated for the holidays. The best part is trees can be returned to nature without doing any damage. Plastic trees are awful, and when they start looking lumpy and fake, people toss them in a landfill where they will never break down.

9. Purchase Gifts that Don’t Require Batteries

Batteries are necessary for many things, but they can do horrible damage to the environment when they are tossed constantly. Avoid toys and electronics that are going to eat batteries quickly and only add more waste to the environment.

10. Re-Use Bags and Boxes

I left this for last as it is my favorite thing to do to create a greener Christmas. Using bags and boxes over and over is a great way to save money and prevent excess waste. I even have a few bags that have been used for so many years that our family and friends have the bags memorized. Making your Christmas greener might take some creativity, but it makes the holidays a little less stressful and a little more meaningful.

Finish Your Christmas Shopping Like A Pro

December is already flying by, and Christmas is fast approaching. I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the long list of things I need to complete before the big day arrives. A majority of my shopping is done right online to save me time, but there are a few items you simply don’t want to purchase over the internet; some things just need to be seen in person. If you are ready to tackle the crowds, conquer your list, and enjoy the holiday season, then I have a few tips for you. Christmas shopping can be completed like a pro and even enjoyable if you go at the right time and to the right places.

Choose the Right Time

Unless you love the craziness of crowds and long lines, avoid doing any holiday shopping the day before Christmas Eve. It can be mad chaos and only put you in a grumpy mood right before the celebrations begin. I typically try to complete my Christmas shopping at the beginning of December, but many times the month slips away without me realizing it. Picking a day during the week will save you from heavy crowds and allow you to browse stores without added pressure. If the weekend is the only time that works with your schedule, get to the stores before the lunch rush arrives.

Don’t Forget the Food

Sure, I love spending quality time with my family, but if I’m completely honest, the food might be my second favorite thing about the holidays. Every sweet, salty, and delicious morsel of food is what has me drooling on Christmas Eve. As I write my holiday shopping list, I don’t forget to list the sweets to fill our stockings and tender meats and cheeses to cover the table. Murray’s Cheese Shop is one stop where you can stock up on the smelliest, tastiest, and freshest homemade cheeses around. If you need candy for that traditional gingerbread house then Dylan’s Candy Bar is a palace of candy to ease anyone that has a sweet tooth or three.

Shop the Holiday Markets

There are many holiday markets to shop from Thanksgiving through Christmas, and they make for a distinctive shopping experience. The Union Square Holiday Market is one place that we visit every single year during December. It has everything from toys, jewelry, and clothing, but my favorite thing to purchase is a traditional homemade Christmas ornament. We buy one every sing year, and this market sells something unique every time we come.

Make it a Day

I can’t tell you how many people I hear moaning and groaning about Christmas shopping, “It takes so much time, it’s stressful, the crowds are irritating, and it’s downright miserable!” When I hear this, I look them straight in the eye, call them a Scrooge, and explain how Christmas shopping can be a fun day if you plan it right. There are certain things to do and not to do, but plan your day with lunch, a Broadway play, ice-skating, a movie, and lots of shopping. When the day is complete, grab a blanket, heat up the hot chocolate, and sit back and relax.

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