How To Turn Spring Cleaning Into A Less Daunting Task


If everybody pitches in, spring cleaning is a snap. Photo by Dave Schoeff (Flickr)

Spring is here, and for most, it is a favorite time of the year. Why shouldn’t it be? The sun is shining, the flowers are in bloom, the birds are chirping, and the days are such that you can actually go out and enjoy some fresh air. Spring is also the time to refresh, not only yourself from being locked indoors all winter but also your home. Spring cleaning might seem as if it is a task that will take the fun out of spring, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, spring cleaning can be something the entire family can enjoy. If you get motivated, dive in, and get it done, you’ll not only have a wonderful sense of accomplishment but also the time to do the things you really want to during the spring, so follow these tips to turn spring cleaning into a less daunting task.

Motivate and Delegate

Without the ambition to do it, spring cleaning will become like climbing Mount Everest. You cannot hope to get your spring cleaning done if you aren’t motivated to do it in the first place. I won’t even get into how hard it will be to encourage your significant other and kids to pitch in if they aren’t inclined to do so. There are some easy things you can do to motivate yourself and your family, however.

Sitting down with each family member and discussing a reward for completing spring cleaning tasks is your first step. The best way to motivate your family is to find out something each person really wants and then agree to it as a reward for completing spring cleaning. Does your son want the latest kill-’em-all video game? OK, he can have it when he finishes his chores. Does your daughter want a shopping spree at her favorite clothing store? Same thing. And your hubby can have his shopping spree at the hardware store or tickets to the ballgame once he finishes his list, too.

Next, agree on the chores together. Sometimes, the best way to motivate others is to let them do the chores they want to do. The bottom line is that your house and yard need spring cleaning, so it doesn’t really matter who does what as long as it all gets done. Sit down as a family and make a list of all of the chores. Draw straws, or numbers, or whatever to determine the selecting order, and then each pick a chore you want to do until the list is covered. It’s fair, and everyone gets to do at least something they don’t mind doing.

Agree on a set schedule together. Once the chores have been divvied up, it’s time to make a plan for completion that is realistic and agreeable to everyone. There’s nothing more deflating to motivation than having a list of chores that will take you all day. That isn’t fun no matter how you justify the work. Set up the chores so that they will get done but everyone has time for other things. If you’re planning on doing your spring cleaning during the spring break, for example, set a couple of hours aside each for everyone to work on their chores, and then have some family fun. Be realistic in your scheduling and allow for some down time; otherwise, everyone will become unmotivated very, very quickly.

Operate and Compensate

You’ve divided the work and scheduled it; now, it’s time to crank up the volume and get cracking. What’s your family soundtrack? Do you all have a favorite movie? If so, put on the soundtrack and enjoy the music while working. Do you all agree on an artist or band? Probably not, but if you’re lucky enough to do so, play that music. Otherwise, create a playlist of everyone’s favorite tunes and play that. Music is incredibly motivating when you’re cleaning; this is why I allow my staff to play music when they’re working. So crank up the volume and jam!

Help out where you can. If you finish your list early, help the rest of your family with their list, and encourage everyone else to do the same. The bottom line is that spring cleaning has to be done, so why not help each other accomplish the end goal? Helping out once your list of chores is complete for the day is very motivating for everyone else. Teamwork is gratifying and encourages people to produce results. This is why projects are completed more effectively through teamwork than when someone tackles something alone.

Celebrate. You’ve done it. You’ve completed your spring cleaning chores. Sure, you set up individual rewards, but why not go out and celebrate as a family, too? After all, you worked together to get the job done, so celebrate together. Go to your favorite pizza joint and order an extra-large with all of the toppings. Then, hit the movies, miniature golf, or another fun family activity. Spring cleaning is a daunting task, but you planned it, tackled it, completed it, and deserve an entire day of fun together to reward yourselves for it.

How You Can Contribute To Saving Our Planet This Earth Day

How can this not be destroying our planet? Photo by Bill McChesney (Flickr)

How can this not be destroying our planet? Photo by Bill McChesney (Flickr)

April is upon us, and Earth Day is coming up. This annual event is a reminder that we need to take care of our planet so it continues to take care of us. The data is in, and we need to make changes to our habits permanently, not just during Earth Day. It really isn’t as hard as you think it is. I run an environmentally friendly cleaning business in the busiest and most populous city in the United States. How can you contribute to saving our planet on Earth Day and every other day of the year? Keep reading to find out.

Simple Things

Let’s begin with some simple things that make a huge difference but won’t cause you distress or damage your pocketbook. In fact, these suggestions will save you money. If you aren’t doing so already, save our planet by:

  • Minding Your Water Usage: You learned when you were a kid to turn off your water when you’re brushing your teeth, but are you really doing so? Did you know that if you aren’t, you’re wasting five gallons of water per day, and if your toilet is leaking, you’re wasting 20 gallons of water per day? Turn off the faucet when you brush, and fix your leaky toilets. Buying the toilet innards at your local hardware store costs much less than hiring a plumber.
  • Avoiding Plastic: The bottled water you consume every day is an environmental nightmare. Not only does manufacturing the water bottles take 1.5 billion barrels of oil annually, but it also unleashes greenhouse gasses, as do the empty bottles as they pile up in landfills. Guess what? Your bottled water is treated tap water, so why not filter your taps instead? The filters aren’t expensive. In fact, do the math: Calculate your monthly bottled water expense. Filtering is cheaper!
  • Recycling: Did you know that recycling one soda can saves enough energy to run your television for three hours? Using recycled paper cuts air pollution by 74 percent and saves water by 35 percent. Recycling your used products and using recycled products make a tremendous difference in saving our environment, so much so that there’s just no excuse not to do it, especially if you go to a center that will give you cash for the recycled goods.
  • Changing Your Bathing Habits: Aside from turning off the water when you brush your teeth, you should also turn it off when you wash your hands. Turn it off between soaping up and rinsing in the shower as well. Ladies, did you know that those plastic beads in your exfoliating face wash actually harm fish and wildlife once they go down the drain? And washing your hair introduces chemicals into the water supply unless you use an all-natural, biodegradable shampoo.
  • Going Vegetarian: When you buy that pound of hamburger for tonight’s dinner, you’ve just wasted 2,500 gallons of water. I am not kidding. It can take that much water to produce one pound of beef. It’s not that hard to go vegetarian these days; in fact, going vegan is even better, as dairy production is also extremely detrimental to the environment. If you don’t want to make the life choice permanent, have a veggie night weekly, or go vegetarian for one week a month or year. Guess what? Eating healthy beans for protein instead of meat is much cheaper anyway.
  • Leaving Your Car in the Garage: Whether you live in a big city with public transit or a small town, you can leave your car at home. I know it’s convenient, but it’s also killing our environment. Here is a fact to chew on: If you leave your car in the garage two days each week, you’ll save 1,590 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. That’s a lot. Why not carpool two days a week, take public transit, or take better care of yourself by biking or walking to work?

Some Big Things

Let’s talk about some major changes that will be, admittedly, expensive at first but will pay off in the long run. You can also save our planet by:

  • Replacing Your Appliances with Energy-Efficient Ones: You’ve been wanting to remodel your kitchen and laundry room anyway, so why not recycle those old appliances and replace them with Energy Star appliances? Include replacing your water heater and HVAC units if these are old. All of these appliances cost you thousands of dollars to run each year. Purchasing an energy-efficient dishwasher alone will save you (and the planet) hundreds of gallons of water monthly.
  • Performing Much-Needed Remodeling: If your windows and sills don’t seal anymore, if your weatherstripping is worn, if your insulation is degraded, if your plumbing is old… I could go on. These things are costing you a tremendous amount of money and placing an unnecessary burden on the environment. Replace your windows and sills, and tint them if you live in a hot climate. Replace all weatherstripping and insulation, and install low-flow toilets, faucets, and shower heads.
  • Composting Your Garbage: This really isn’t a big thing, but many people view it as such. I know it seems daunting to begin composting your garbage, but it’s an easy thing to do once you get the hang of it. It also saves you money on that dangerous and chemically laden fertilizer you’re buying at the nursery; compost is a natural fertilizer. Start the compost pile and clean up our landfills. Why? Because your tax dollars are going toward running those environmentally hazardous sites.
  • Buying a Hybrid: I mentioned above keeping your car off the road, and that really is the best solution. If you’re shaking your head and saying “No way,” then at least invest in a hybrid. These cars save you gas money annually and save the environment greenhouse gas emissions. While you’re out cruising in your new hybrid, slow down. Did you know that driving 10 miles per hour slower saves four miles per gallon of gas? And if you ensure that your tires remain properly inflated, you’re saving even more fuel.

These are just a few ways you can save the planet not only this Earth Day but every day. There’s so much more, such as switching to incandescent bulbs and turning off the lights the minute you leave a room. Unplugging appliances when you’re not using them also saves energy. The list goes on and on, but here’s the kicker: All of us can save this planet. We really can, and as you can see now, it only takes minor adjustments to your lifestyle to do so. So let’s all contribute to saving our planet every day of our lives.


Step Away from the Trash Can! Donate Your Unwanted Items to These New York City Organizations


Avoid this by donating your unwanted items rather than throwing them away. Photo by: Iris Goldstein (Flickr)

Whether you’re moving or simply decluttering, there is nothing more frustrating than looking at piles of stuff that you don’t want or need anymore. It is extremely tempting to fill the dumpster with your unwanted items: Problem solved, stuff gone, and in a very timely manner! There are many reasons why you shouldn’t do this, however. Aside from the environmental implications of continuing to load up our landfills, wouldn’t it make you feel better to give your unwanted stuff to somebody else who needs it? In a city the size of New York, the needs are extreme and, fortunately for you, there are plenty of organizations ready, willing, and able to take your junk off your hands. So, step away from the trash can and donate your unwanted items to these places instead. You may be able to get a nice tax deduction along the way!

  • Baby Buggy: Babies and kids grow up too fast, and you’re going to blast through a ton of clothing and equipment that is perfectly usable once you’re done with it. Don’t need that stroller anymore? Head to Baby Buggy in Midtown West and donate clothes and equipment your kids no longer use.
  • Big Brothers/Big Sisters: The Long Island chapter of this wonderful organization accepts donated furniture to give to other Long Islanders in need. Rather than throw your back out trying to lift the old couch into the dumpster, donate it instead.
  • Bowery Mission: Lower East Side residents are likely familiar with this organization that accepts clothing, linens, and bedding for the NYC residents in desperate need of bath towels, pillows, and, most importantly in the wintertime, coats, scarves, gloves, and hats.
  • Furniture Distribution Program: This wonderful city-run service is for all five NYC boroughs and addresses the needs of those recovering from a disaster or domestic violence, or anyone else that requires shelter. Donate your furniture and give someone in need a fresh start.
  • Goodwill: This organization also services all five NYC boroughs and accepts gently used clothing for men, women, and children, and takes in the used toys that your kids are no longer playing with. Just make sure the toys have all the parts necessary for play, please.
  • Housing Works: You’ll see Housing Works thrift stores throughout New York City, and proceeds from the sales of donated goods help those suffering from HIV/AIDS. This organization accepts clothing, household goods, jewelry, and even used books, CDs/DVDs, and LPs for its bookstores.
  • J-CAP: This unique Queens organization accepts window air conditioning units for those at-risk people who are in desperate need of a cool-down during NYC’s hot and humid summers. J-CAP will also take in your old bedroom set provided it’s in usable condition.
  • Room to Grow: Located in Chelsea, Room to Grow accepts donations for babies from infancy to three years old. This organization supports and monitors children born into poverty and accepts your used clothing, baby gear, toys, and other essentials.
  • Salvation Army: These thrift stores support Adult Rehab Centers located in all five NYC boroughs, and the good news is that the Salvation Army will take just about anything, including your used appliances and furniture. Even better, they will sometimes even pick up your unwanted items for you.
  • St. Francis Thrift Shop: Located in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, St. Francis supports needy children by accepting your gently used clothes, toys, and even the books your kids don’t read anymore.
  • St. Luke’s Thrift Shop: Greenwich Village’s St. Luke’s Thrift Shop focuses on the homeless, and one of the greatest things it provides is job interview clothing for those seeking to change their unfortunate situation. Don’t wear that old business suit anymore? Donate it to St. Luke’s.

This is just a small list of the organizations located throughout New York City that will accept the items you’re likely to give a dumpster burial. With so many options that do good within your community, there really is no excuse to throw things like clothing and furniture away, unless of course, they are completely unusable. Rather than litter our already overfilled landfills, donate your unwanted items. You’ll help someone else in need, and that just makes you feel great, doesn’t it?

Spring Is Here, And With It The Mud! These 6 Tips For Keeping It At Bay Will Have You

He probably won’t wipe his feet before coming inside.

Spring Is Here, And With It The Mud! These 6 Tips for Keeping It at Bay Will Have You “Floored”

Spring is in the air, and it’s pretty much everybody’s favorite time of the year. Nothing refreshes you more than a nice walk in the fresh, warm air. There’s just something about the sun shining, the flowers, the birds, the butterflies, and… the slushy mud! Okay, I set you up there, but it’s true. Spring really is a wonderful time of the year, but it’s also a messy one. Whether you live in an area like I do where the snow is melting into the ground or you’re dealing with spring showers (or both) you’ve got mud on your shoes and, no doubt, in your house. I’m not going to let this problem ruin your spring, however. Read my six tips to find out how to clean the mud once it’s indoors and, better yet, how to prevent it from getting there in the first place.

Clean It Up

Let’s just assume that you’re already staring at mud on your floors and carpets. This isn’t a stretch, especially if you have little ones. Don’t fret, panic, cry, or gnash your teeth at the muddy mess, however, because cleaning up the mud, even on white carpet, is not only doable but easy. Here are some suggestions:

1. Tile Floors: The type of tiling you have dictates the cleaner you can use. Your best bet for an environmentally safe floor cleaner is simply a mixture of white vinegar and purified water. This combo removes the mud safely and effectively without harming your floor. You can also use hydrogen peroxide to lift stains and then wipe the area clean with water.

2. Wood Floors: A mild white vinegar solution also works on wood floors, but sometimes these floors are more porous and can stain more easily. If this is the case, take a chemical-free dish detergent (you can find them in the organic aisle) and gently clean the mud off your wood floor with a mixture of the detergent and purified water. Condition the area with a dab of olive oil after it’s rinsed and clean.

3. Carpet: The worst thing you can do is immediately begin cleaning up muddy footprints on your carpeting. Wait… and breathe calming breaths while you’re waiting. Once the mud has dried, vacuum as much of it up as possible. Then, mix 1 tablespoon of your chemical-free dish detergent with two cups warm water. “Sponge” the mud stains; don’t rub or scrub. Take another clean, dry cloth and apply pressure to stain until the dish liquid and stain are absorbed and lifted away.

4. Upholstery: Thankfully, the carpet solution also works on your upholstery and throw rugs. Provided you purchase chemical-free dish soap, you needn’t worry about ruining the couch after the kids put their muddy feet on it. If you are concerned, however, spot check a small area with the cleaner (the back of the couch works well if you have it up against the wall) to ensure that you can safely remove the mud from it with your homemade dishwater solution.

Better Yet, Prevent It

Rather than subject yourself to the frustration of having to clean the mud stains off your floors, carpets, and furniture, let’s talk about how you can prevent the stains in the first place. After all, “Prevention is the best medicine…” I believe that’s how the proverb goes!

5. Shoes: The first and most logical prevention tool is to remove the guilty party: the shoes. Have a safe space out front or back for your shoes. If you have an entry into your home from the garage, you can establish the space there. If you don’t want the shoes outside, set up a couple of racks to accommodate the footwear just inside the doors and make the new household rule: Shoes off before entry. This avoids other things, such as outdoor pesticides, from being tracked into your home, as well.

6. Flooring/Mats: Another option is to get welcome mats for all outside entries, machine-washable entry rugs for all spaces just inside the doors, and/or tile your entryways with an easy-to-clean tiling option, such as vinyl or ceramic. Then, the rule becomes wipe your feet on the mat, the rug, and then enter the house. Just in case someone doesn’t do a perfect job of wiping his or her feet on the mats and rugs, the tile should catch the rest of the mud.

Spring is in the air and it’s time to enjoy it for all its wonder and beauty. Don’t stress about the mud. Rather, get outside and enjoy the fresh air and warm sunshine. Become a kid again with your children and play in the mud. You’d be surprised how therapeutic that can be. With these six tips, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy the spring and the mud that comes with it, so Happy Springtime to everyone!

When Life Gives You Lemons, Use Them in These 14 Amazing Ways.

Lemons make a great centerpiece and air freshener.

When Life Gives You Lemons, Use Them in These 14 Amazing Ways

I have to admit that I love the proverb, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” because in the cleaning business, you’d be surprised how useful this amazing citrus fruit really is. One of the things I take pride in with my business is how we use natural and environmentally friendly cleaning techniques to ensure that our service is safe and effective. Lemons give you the power to clean and sanitize as if you were using bleach or other harsh chemicals without the nasty smell and side effects, especially to those who suffer from respiratory issues. What’s even better? You can use the entire lemon, so nothing is left to waste. Has life given you some lemons? Read on to learn how you can them in 14 amazing ways.

  1. Move Over, Baking Soda: Lemons work wonders in deodorizing your refrigerator and are more economical than that box of baking soda. Remove any spoiled food from your fridge, soak a sponge in lemon juice, and place it in the unit for three to four hours. You’ll be surprised how nice everything smells once you’re done and guess what? Your sponge is now deodorized and sanitized, too.
  2. Toss the Air Fresheners: Lemons also freshen your rooms better than those expensive and irritating (if you suffer from allergies) air fresheners. Trust me, this even works if you have pets. For tough odors, cut a few lemons in half, place them in a bowl cut side up, and set them in the offensive room for several hours. For a more permanent freshener, leave the lemons whole; they still freshen the air, and you can grab one when you need it for something else.
  3. Keep the Fire Burnin’: I’m on a roll, so let’s keep talking odors. Everyone loves a warm and cozy fireplace in the wintertime, but one of the questions I am asked most frequently is how to eliminate fireplace odors. After time, your fireplace emits an unpleasant odor no matter how clean you keep it. Cut some lemons in half, scoop out the meat, and toss the peels into the flames. Voila! A deodorized fireplace.
  4. Keep Your Marbles: If you have marble surrounding your fireplace, or anywhere else in your house, you know how easily this porous material stains. If your tried-and-true marble cleaner has failed to remove the unsightly marks, try lemons – carefully! Cut a lemon and dip one half of it in salt; scrub your stain with the “lemon sponge” and then rinse very, very well, as the lemon’s acid can damage marble if there is any residue.
  5. Brass Knuckles: Lemons also work wonders on your brass, chrome, copper, and stainless steel… anything! Again, you’re going to be using lemons and salt (or baking soda if you prefer), but this time, squeeze the lemon juice out of the fruit and mix it with the salt to make a paste. Apply the paste to what you’re cleaning, allow it to sit for a few minutes, rinse with warm water, and polish dry.
  6. Don’t Scratch the Glass: If your coffee pot is showing its age and your wine decanter has an unhealthy purple hue, you probably need to do some cleaning. You could clean your glass serveware with detergent and a scrubber sponge, but you’ll scratch it. Rather, cut a lemon in half and rub the juice along the stained surface. Allow the juice to sit for several hours and then rinse to a sparkling-clean shine.
  7. Microwave Explosion: We’ve all left something in the microwave too long only to have it explode and leave a smelly, crusty mess. Again, harsh cleaners are not a good idea, particularly since you cook food in the appliance. Grab a microwave-safe bowl and squeeze 3 tbsp. of fresh lemon juice into 1 1/2 cups of water. Nuke it on high for five to 10 minutes and wipe the condensation, along with the mess, away.
  8. La Cucaracha: There’s nothing more horrifying than walking into your kitchen and seeing ants or roaches scurrying about. Take a fresh lemon and squeeze the juice directly on your windowsills and door thresholds. Cut up the rinds when done and toss them just outside the door. Identify any holes or cracks where the creepy crawlers are entering and squeeze lemon juice there, too. Mop your floors with lemon water.
  9. We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Bleach: Bleach can literally be deadly, especially to those with weakened lungs; never mind what it does to the environment. Sure, you want your whites white, but you don’t need to use harsh bleach in your laundry. Add 1 cup of lemon juice to your washing cycle and watch it clean and deodorize your clothing. It also works well on those kitchen and bathroom linens that mildew.
  10. Put Forth a Good Face…: I’ve been talking a lot about how lemons works wonders when you’re cleaning, but they’re good for you, too. If you have acne or blackheads that are distressing you, lemons have antibacterial properties perfect for your skin. Slice a lemon and rub the juice on your face; it might itch a little but be patient. Allow it to rest on your skin for a few minutes and then rinse clean.
  11. … And Body: Yes, lemon juice works wonders on the rest of your skin, as well. My wife makes a homemade body wash with lemon juice, and her skin is beautiful. She mixes lemon juice, yogurt, and lavender oil, and the concoction works wonders in cleaning and moisturizing her skin. Plus, when using this as a body wash you aren’t putting harsh and dangerous chemicals on your skin that might burn and irritate it.
  12. Finally, the Hair: If you suffer from dandruff or other scalp irritations, lemon might just be the ticket to sooth your stressed scalp. Just as it does for your face and body, lemon mixed with certain ingredients can provide antibacterial properties, and cleanse and moisturize your scalp. Try mixing coconut oil, honey, and lemon juice for your irritated scalp, and see the difference!
  13. Lose the Burn: I cannot swish alcohol-laden mouthwash in my mouth for 60 seconds every morning; no thank you. Fortunately, lemons freshen your breath and balance your mouth’s pH level. Take fresh-squeezed lemon juice and swish it around for a minute. Spit it out (or swallow it for even greater benefits) and then rinse your mouth with clean water after five minutes to remove the acid from your teeth.
  14. Down the Drain: So, what do you do with all the leftover lemon rinds from using lemons for the 13 reasons above? Slice them and run them through your garbage disposal to clean and deodorize it. Contrary to popular belief, you can also compost lemon and other citrus peels, so if you have a compost pile, check to make sure they’ll work well with your mix and add them to it.

As you can see, lemons are unbelievably useful for cleaning, sanitizing, deodorizing, and even taking care of you. I am a firm believer in cleaning and sanitizing in ways that are good for the environment, humans, and pets, and lemons are a key ingredient in many of our cleaning products. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, and then use the remaining juice and rind in some amazing ways.

Go Green For St.Patrick’s Day: How to Throw an Earth-Friendly Party

Put seedlings in repurposed toilet paper rolls for a humorous and green centerpiece idea at your St. Patty’s Day party.

Go Green for St.Patrick’s Day: How to Throw an Earth-Friendly Party

With the number of people who are Irish or have Irish heritage living in New York City, we take St. Patrick’s Day very seriously. We even throw a fantastic parade. NYC has always had a heavy Irish influence, so this time of year St. Patty’s Day parties abound with, of course, that ever-popular green theme. But some consider food dyes dangerous; what are you to do? Go green a different way! This post will tell you how to throw an eco-friendly party, including how you clean up the mess after the raucous crowd has left the building.

Green up the Tableware

The first thing to consider in greening up your St. Patrick’s Day party is your tableware. If you’re looking for convenience without the guilt, pick up compostable and recyclable disposable plates, bowls, beverage cups, and utensils. You might even be able to find them in a naturally dyed green color. You can go even greener, however, by buying sets of green dishes and glassware to use every year for your party. Washing them in an energy-saving dishwasher uses less energy than manufacturing the disposable ware, and your cleanup really isn’t that much more difficult.

Green up Your Décor

Balloons, centerpieces, streamers, leprechauns leading your guests to a pot of gold… all of these turn your home into a St. Patty’s Day wonderland, but most of them are made of plastic. Avoid littering your home, and then a landfill with a ton of plastic decorations. Instead, go green and find natural ways to put the party atmosphere in your home without harming the environment. First, skip those cut flower centerpieces with green balloons floating high above them and use potted green plants or baby trees instead. You can have a contest and send them home with your winning guests.

Next, look for decorations made from recycled materials that are also recyclable once the party is over. Or, better yet, make your own. Take green glass bottles or jars and fill them with candy gold coins for your pots of gold. Use cloth table linens in several different bright colors instead of paper tablecloths and napkins and make your room the rainbow. Finally, replace all your light bulbs with energy-efficient green ones so your room has a soft green glow to it. You should be able to find some at your local hardware store and you can use all the decorations year after year.

Green up the Booze – Naturally!

For many, the whole point of throwing a St. Patty’s Day party is the beer. So, after you’ve collected all of your guests’ car keys and ensured that they have a designated driver to get them home safely, serve them up in style with organic brews that are produced in an eco-friendly manner. How do you green them up? Serve them in green steins. Okay, not so much fun, but a lot safer for your guests than food dye.

Don’t fret; not all is lost. You can also make homemade beverages sure to please and be green. Call them whatever you want: Shamrock Shake, Green Goblins, Leprechaun Liquor, it doesn’t matter, but serve your guests some green cocktails naturally by mixing them up with Crème de Menthe, or making shakes that can include yummy natural ingredients like mint leaves that, when blended, will help turn the concoction green.

Green up Your Cleanup

The party’s over and everyone is safely back home sleeping off the Crème de Menthe and organic beer. You’re standing in your living room, and it looks as if a tornado struck. This is a good sign, actually; it means everyone had fun! So, let’s clean it up, greenly. If you didn’t give away your centerpieces, plant them to help clean the environment of toxins. Place all your dishes in the dishwasher and your linens in the laundry, and use eco-friendly detergents and energy-saving cleaning cycles. For a natural cleaning solution for your countertops and tables, mix filtered water, white vinegar, and hydrogen peroxide in a squirt bottle, and use that to clean up the spills. You can also use it to clean up any messes that made it to the floor or carpet, and leftover club soda will help remove any stains.

You see? Throwing a green St. Patrick’s Day party isn’t that hard, and many of the items you purchased for this year’s party will be used again, saving you money next year. Going green doesn’t have to be hard when it’s time to celebrate. You can easily make what you’re looking for, including the beverages. Whatever you do, be safe and keep your guests safe during the party and on their way home. And, most importantly, have a wonderful time and a Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

The Feng Shui Of Cleaning, Minimize Your Clean Time With These Design Tips

A cluttered space is not easy to clean.

The Feng Shui of Cleaning, Minimize Your Clean Time with These Design Tips

Harmonizing your environment is the philosophy behind feng shui, and whether you’re a cynic or a true believer, there’s something to be said about achieving balance in your life. I’m no feng shui expert, but I do know a thing or two about set-ups, and I bet you’ve never thought about how arranging your furniture can affect your ability to keep your house clean. Intrigued? I hope so, because nothing is more rewarding than finishing your chores and looking over your sparkling environment. If you find you are putting cleaning off because it takes too much time, however, you likely don’t have a balanced environment. Let’s talk about feng shui (when it comes to cleaning, that is) and how you can maximize your space while reducing your cleaning time.

Arranging Your Furniture

Perhaps one of the most important things about making your housecleaning easier is how you arrange your furniture. Sure, it might look cool to have an eclectic set up with a ton of pieces scattered oddly about in your space, but an unorganized space is impossible to clean. Like feng shui, simplicity is crucial when arranging your furniture to create an easy cleaning space, and you should keep a few things in mind.

Placing your furniture up against walls not only maximizes your space and makes smaller rooms look larger, but it also makes keeping the area clean easier. It’s much quicker to vacuum a large, square space than to attempt to vacuum between (and under) numerous pieces of furniture scattered about. Another benefit is not having empty space behind your furniture to collect dust, leaving you with the necessity of squeezing between the sofa and wall to clean the area.

Using larger pieces of furniture also helps. First, it’s much easier to arrange less furniture in a uniform and easy-to-clean manner than a ton of smaller pieces. Second, larger pieces, such as your sofa and bed, look natural pushed up against the wall. Included in this mix is a larger, rather than smaller coffee table. What is easier to dust? A large coffee table placed in front of your couch or several smaller tables scattered throughout your living space. You see where I’m going with this.

Worried about moving larger furniture when it’s time to clean underneath? No need. Furniture casters come in all shapes and sizes and make rolling your items out of the way while cleaning a piece of cake.

Easy-to-Clean Surfaces

The size and arrangement of your furniture is only half the battle. Some surfaces are simply easier to keep clean than others, that’s the bottom line. While that suede couch might look elegant in your new living room, your Labrador’s fur sticking to it is going to quickly become a huge frustration. So, what surfaces are better for quick and easy cleaning than others are? Consider this.

Do you have pets? If you do than you might already know that carpeting just works better with pets than hardwood floors for the simple reason that the fur sticks to carpet rather than floats around. Vacuuming a carpet cleans it quickly and easily, and acrylic and polyester fibers are generally the easiest to keep clean. Having your carpet treated with a stain guard also makes cleaning up unexpected messes a breeze.

You probably don’t want carpeting in your kitchen or bathrooms, however, so let’s talk tile surfaces. Sure, it’s nice to have the old-fashioned tile pieces spaced perfectly and held securely with grout… but what about that grout? When thinking easy-to-clean flooring surfaces (and countertops), think seamless, because nothing gets dirty quicker than tile grout. For your floors, stained and sealed concrete, linoleum, or sheet vinyl is the way to go. These surfaces sweep and mop easily and do not have hard-to-clean seams.

For your countertops, think granite, stainless steel, quartz, or laminate. Again, no seams, easy to clean with the appropriate cleaners, and if you set your sink low into them, you can just sponge spills and messes directly into your sink. It really doesn’t get much easier than that.

Cleaning is a chore, but it doesn’t have to be a huge burden. If you arrange your furniture with a sense that larger empty spaces are easier to keep clean, use casters to easily move the pieces once it’s time to clean underneath them, and select materials that are low-maintenance, you’ll find the perfect harmony between keeping your house clean and enjoying quality down time. Sounds like the perfect feng shui to me.

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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