...because home doesn't happen overnight.

clean house

It’s no secret that one of the perks of living small is a quicker cleaning routine. Our previous house was >2,700 square feet laid out over two floors and it took me a good 1-2 days to clean it thoroughly. At the time, I was working as a pharmacist and eventually I hired a housekeeper to come in once a month for a deep clean. (Initially, I felt extremely guilty and hoity-toity about hiring help. But the first time I came home to a clean house that I hadn’t cleaned, all negative feelings subsided.) I would try to follow a daily cleaning schedule to stay on top of things in between the deep cleans but I felt like I was constantly cleaning. Cleaning that house was the bane of my existence.

Fast forward to 2015 and cleaning still isn’t my favorite pastime but it’s much less painful in a smaller house. Not only do I have less house to clean, I have less stuff to clean. And I love it. I gave up the daily cleaning schedule in exchange for once-a-week whole house cleans. Daily cleaning isn’t necessary in this smaller space and, honestly, I enjoy an entire just-cleaned house. Otherwise, I start thinking about what isn’t clean or what I have to clean the next day.

At first, I did whole house cleans on Saturdays. I thought that everyone would pitch in and things would go more quickly. This went on for months unsuccessfully. Yes, everyone was home. Yes, everyone had a job to do. But it wasn’t quick. At all. We didn’t have a good rhythm. Not to mention, we were spending our rare family time cleaning. And as soon as the house was deemed clean, everyone was home to mess it up again in no time.

So I made the executive decision to stop cleaning house on weekends. Now I clean house on Mondays and, I have to say, it’s wonderful. We do laundry over the weekend but it’s a task that is easily broken up and sprinkled into our schedule with little disruption. On Sunday nights, we do a quick pickup of the entire house. On Monday mornings after everyone is off to school / work, (Mabrey and) I clean. I finally have a good routine and can clean the entire house in a little over an hour. I start wiping, dusting and vacuuming in the kitchen and then work my way into the living room and mudroom. Once the common areas are done, I check off the bedrooms. (Bed linens are washed over the weekend so things go quickly.) I use a Bona floor mop on the hardwoods throughout before moving on to the bathrooms. I finish up in the master bathroom where I clean the tub while I shower to save time. When I’m all done, I have several hours to enjoy a clean house before the post-school / post-work chaos ensues. I savor it.

Of course, we still have daily chores (emptying dishwasher, post-meal cleanup, litter box scooping, wiping down bathroom counters, taking out the trash, putting toys away, etc.) to attend to during the week but those are things that happen regardless. I think the biggest difference with this cleaning routine is that I’m not cleaning in anticipation of guests when I clean on Mondays. It’s more of a maintenance thing and I get to enjoy the fruits of my labor afterward. On the weekends, I’ve stopped fretting about our house’s appearance and focus on the people around me instead. Plus, I realized that most of our guests don’t really notice the difference between a Saturday clean versus a Monday clean (as long as we tidy up, wipe down the bathroom counters and swirl a brush around in the toilets before their visit). One weekend we had our good friends over and when they arrived I was folding a pile of laundry in the living room. My girlfriend said, “I’m so happy to see laundry in your living room! It’s like a real house.”

What about you? How long does it take you to clean your (big or small) home? Do you follow a daily schedule or do you prefer whole house cleans? Do you clean on weekends? Any advice for quicker cleans? Obviously, this routine works for us because I’m home. If you work outside of the house, don’t feel guilty about hiring out if you can afford it! And I would encourage you to choose a day of the week that allows you to enjoy your clean house as much as possible on your time off.

P.S. – A quick cleaning tip from my grandma: Lay old newspapers or used tissue paper on the top of exposed upper cabinetry to collect dust. On cleaning day, just fold up the papers and replace. Easy!

P.S.S. – My quick cleaning tips are: 1) Start with a tidy house. (I’m easily distracted if I have to walk into another room to put something away.) 2) Keep cleaning tools and products close to where you use them. 3) Let little kids wipe down base cabinets and call it done even if you would do it better. 4) Buy a smaller house! Get rid of stuff!

More cleaning-related posts: how I clean the globe lights, how I clean the wood floors.

image: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

hallway before 1

I need ideas for our hallway! But first, a story.

A few weeks ago I was introduced to FilterEasy. I hadn’t heard of the company before. FilterEasy is a subscription air filter delivery service. When you sign up, you simply select the number of filters needed, the individual sizes, your preferred level of allergen protection and how often you want to switch them out. FilterEasy does the rest and when it’s time to change, your filter order shows up at your doorstep. No more marking calendars. No more forgetting your filter’s size. No more nasty filters. It’s an ingenious concept.

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When was the last time you changed your air filter? You’re not alone. We’ve changed ours maybe three times in the last three years. Which brings me to this…

In the middle of the night last week our furnace suddenly started making a high-pitched screeching sound. It was not pleasant. Steve took a look at it (as much as someone can “take a look” half asleep at 3 a.m. with a flashlight running on nearly dead batteries) and guessed it was a bad bearing on the fan motor. The next morning we had a local HVAC company come out to confirm his initial diagnosis. Just for kicks, we asked for a quote for the repair. They quoted us >$600! Gulp. Luckily, Steve was able to find the part elsewhere and replace it himself for <$100 in just a few minutes. Whew.

Still, we got to thinking about our furnace. It’s 14 years old and we’d really like to have it around for a while longer. I can think of a million other things I’d rather spend my money on than a new furnace. (Wallpaper for the hallway? Hint, hint.) So we jumped on the FilterEasy bandwagon. Obviously, we haven’t been doing our furnace, our lungs or the environment any favors by skimping on air filters. Steve and I were pleasantly surprised to discover that the cost of the subscription service is actually CHEAPER than buying direct from our local home improvement store. And the filters are made right here in the U.S. by the same manufacturer that provides filters to hospitals and NASA. Really, it’s a no-brainer, folks. Act fast! The first 100 readers to sign up here will receive their first order for FREE!

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Now we have no excuse not to change our filter on time, every time. It’s as simple as opening a box and replacing the old with the new. (Is it just me or am I the only one who is overly excited to see where all the bloggers’ furnaces are? It seems like such a personal thing. It’s like getting a peek at their closet or something.)

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So, back to the hallway. The new, clean air filter is the most exciting thing here. Just look at how bored Cheetah is. She can’t even keep her eyes open. It’s a complete snooze fest and I’m ready to do something about it.

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The hallway is narrow and riddled with doors. A short hall jaunts off to the left at the bottom of the image. You can see the door to a small linen closet and at the end of the tangent hall is the main bathroom. My biggest problem with the main hallway is that it dead-ends into a closet door. Boo. In an effort to spruce up the space, I’m considering wallpaper.

Usually, I’m not a wallpaper person. (I thought I wasn’t a cat person either and we all know what happened there.) But I kinda want to go for it. It’s just a hallway, right? It’s not an entire room. And it might be just the oomph! this hallway needs.

hallway brainstorm

I’ve been scouring wallpaper sources, and I’ve fallen hard for this Eskayel grayscale pattern but I’m not sure about the scale. The kids said it looks like “grandma wallpaper.”

hygge & west pajarito

I’m also digging this Hygge & West pattern.

Beware the Moon

And I’ve admired this ostrich motif for years.

To tone down the busyness (and save money on wallpaper), I’m thinking of DIYing a wainscoting but I can’t decide if that would be appropriate for our house and / or if it will only chop up the hallway even more. I go back and forth. As far as the dead-end door goes, I’m hoping the wallpaper will distract the eye. If not, I’ve considered painting the door black or hanging coat hooks on it.

Anyway, I would LOVE to hear your thoughts! Sometimes it helps to have an outsider’s eye. What would you do if this were your hallway? Wallpaper? Wainscoting? Gallery display? Any wallpaper sources you’d like to pass along?

Thanks in advance and don’t forget to show your furnace some FREE love!

*This post sponsored in part by FilterEasy. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog! FilterEasy offers any size custom or 4” filter if necessary. Just email hello@filtereasy.com and mention HOUSETWEAKING.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

hidden litter box 8

Before we get into this hidden litter box business, can we talk about how “helpful” toddlers are? Mabrey is a BIG “helper.” If you had / have / know a toddler, you know what I mean. In their lil’ minds they are busy doing something important (like washing dishes, dusting, cooking, mopping, vacuuming, feeding the family pet, etc.) but in reality they are making an even bigger mess.

After Mabrey washes dishes, the dishes are still dirty and everything in sight is soaked. When Mabrey dusts, one square foot area is dripping wet and she’s still spraying it because (to her) it’s just not wet enough. When Mabrey cooks, she uses all of the things: pots, pans, spoons, spatulas, toothbrush (?!), measuring cups, Hot Wheels (?), bowls, whisk, baster, timer. All of the things. When Mabrey vacuums, everything is fair game: her braid, Legos, Cheetah’s tail, shoelaces, jewelry, rocks, Hot Wheels, crayons. Don’t want to pick it up? Sweep it up! When Mabrey feeds Cheetah, there’s no telling how much food she’ll put out or where the food will be. Two days’ worth of food in the water bowl? Two pellets in the food bowl strategically placed in the dollhouse? A perfect scoopful in the litter box? Yeesh.

Of course, after I clean up her helping messes and relay the day’s events to Steve in the evening, it’s comical. Sweet even. So she keeps “helping” and I keep reminding myself that she’ll want nothing to do with helping in a few short years.

But when it came to the litter box, something had to be done. Every time I turned around Mabrey was trying to clean it or throwing random stuff in it. Originally, I placed the litter box on the floor next to the dryer but that spot was a little too accessible for a two-year-old. I googled a bunch of hidden litter box ideas but it seemed like everything I found required a new, separate piece of furniture: a solid bench, an end table, a freestanding wood box, etc. I really wanted to keep the litter box in the mudroom and I wasn’t willing to give up precious real estate for another furniture item no matter how small.

So I started looking around at what we already had. That’s when the a-ha! moment struck.

PAX wardrobe + cat door = hidden litter box. Boom. Done.

We purchased a cat door for big cats (the vet guesses Cheetah is at least part Maine Coon which means we could end up with a pretty large cat when she’s full grown) that would accommodate the thin side panel of the PAX. If you’re curious, it’s this one. It doesn’t have the best reviews but it looks like they mostly pertain to indoor-outdoor use on an exterior door. Since we were going to be installing the door inside, we weren’t too concerned with the actual door function. We simply needed the large opening and the ability to install it into a thin panel.

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We removed the PAX doors and all contents (cat paraphernalia, sewing machine, sewing basket) from the bottom shelf. Using the included template, we cut a hole in the side of the PAX where Cheetah would be able to access it when the wood bench was in place (see first image of this post).

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Installing the door wasn’t difficult but it did require an extra pair of hands to hold everything in place while another person screwed everything together. Because we installed the door on a thin panel (as opposed to an actual door) we did have to trim the screws to get a perfect fit. Again, not difficult but an added step.

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I made the executive decision to install the door with the red locks facing the interior of the wardrobe. I didn’t want them visible from the exterior. (The 4-way locks allow access only in / only out / both in & out / both locked.) We could have done away with the flap door all together and just used the opening, but we decided to keep the door in case we ever need to put Cheetah up for some reason. That way, she still has access to the litter box.

We taped the door to hold it in the up position. We want Cheetah to get acquainted with the new location of her litter box before we introduce the door. I lined the bottom of the wardrobe with two Flor squares leftover from the boys’ room. I had to trim one for a perfect fit. I plan on hosing them off outside when necessary, probably each month when I empty and clean the litter box. A rubber mat, a scoop and the litter box sit on top of the rug squares.

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To accommodate the litter box, I raised the lowest shelf and reorganized all of the shelves. I moved my sewing machine and sewing basket to a different closet but, eventually, they will end up in the studio along with most of the other items in this wardrobe. The dark brown woven basket on the shelf above the litter box holds cat food, overstock litter, cat nail clippers and Cheetah’s brush. So I guess this is the cat closet now? Never thought I’d be typing that.

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I like that the cat door is easily accessible for Cheetah but completely inconspicuous. Mabrey’s interest in the litter box has waned. For now. The other great thing about this setup is that the litter is better contained. I’m not finding as many stray bits as I was when the litter box was on the floor next to the dryer. I also have my rolling cart back next to the dryer which is another plus.

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Luckily, Cheetah has adjusted to the change swimmingly. She took to it right away and hasn’t missed a beat. I actually think she prefers this setup over the previous one. It’s her contained space away from toddler “help.”

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After we installed the door and put everything back together, I got to thinking that if someone really wanted to they could totally go wild with a DIY cat house design that takes up the entire PAX. THE ULTIMATE IKEA CAT HOUSE HACK! You know, cutting holes in shelves, adding scratching / climbing posts to allow access to vertical space, etc. It was just a thought. I’m not THAT crazy ;)

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking