An Easy Way to Get Rid of Fruit Flies

A couple of weeks ago, the produce market sent me home with a bag of apples containing an unadvertised and undesirable “Free Gift with Purchase”: fruit flies! Unfortunately, this happened at a time when I was traveling a bit, and I didn’t realize I had new roommates until a full-blown infestation was underway.

From the depths of my memory, I recalled a tip advising the use of apple cider vinegar and a jar with holes in the lid to trap fruit flies. Something about the apple cider aspect attracting the fruit flies and tiny holes preventing their escape from the jar.

Since this seemed like an incredibly easy and inexpensive possibility, I gave it a try, but with a slightly different take on it:

mason jar with saran wrap under lid and cider vinegar inside

Not wanting to desecrate any of my jar lids, I put plastic wrap under the jar ring and used a toothpick to poke a few holes in the plastic.

Within minutes I had one fruit fly in the trap and an hour later, there were four or five. By morning, the jar looked like the aftermath of the Great Fruit Fly Massacre of 2013:

expired fruit flies in a mason jar with apple cider vinegar

Fruit Fly Graveyard

So easy, so frugal, and (so far) so very effective.

On the downside, there is a residual amount of guilt from killing semi-innocent fruit flies, but I suspect I’ll get over it.

If you have any effective ways to deal with fruit flies, I’d love to hear them!

Quick and Easy Tip for Cleaning Vinyl Floors

During my last post, in which I showed you an easy way to remove sticky spots from the floor, I lamented the sad state of my 40-year old vinyl flooring. All that inherited and ground-in grime that repeated scrubbing with every product known to mankind hadn’t been able to lift. I even tried ironing my floor, if you can believe that! (Hey, it worked on a carpet stain in my office, so I thought, why not? Didn’t work for me on the vinyl.)

But in reading the comments section of Jillee’s floor-ironing article, I chanced upon a reader tip that changed everything! A reader named Joyce had this suggestion:

spray scrubbing bubbles on the laminate floor, let it sit for about 20 min and mop up.

Bubbles are for the bathtub, silly. Pffft! Except, as one commenter noted, the main product in the scrubbing bubbles is ammonia, and that’s what I’d been ironing my floor with, per Jillee’s instructions. Could using bathroom bubbles on the kitchen floor be any sillier than using an iron on it?

What the heck? I had some Scrubbing Bubbles leftover anyway, so it was worth a shot.

dirty vinyl flooring

cleaner vinyl flooring

Now there was some scrubbing by yours truly involved. Those black dots didn’t just jump off the floor. But the bubbles did the biggest part of the work. It doesn’t look like a brand new floor, but it does look more like a clean floor, and that was my intention all along!

Thank you, Joyce, wherever you are! And Jillee for getting the whole discussion started!

One last shot, for comparative purposes:

before and after vinyl floors

Whew! I can now reinstitute the 5-second rule! :)

Removing Icky, Sticky Spots from Floors

I was mopping my kitchen floor the other night and found an ugly stuck-on piece of…well, it’s a mystery.

ickybsticky spot on linoleum

My best guess is road tar tracked in on the bottom of my sneakers, but who knows, it could be anything. I tried turbo mopping and then a plastic scrubby with no results. Ditto various other implements and cleaning solutions. This mystery gunk was STUCK!

I’d just about decided it would be simpler to pave my kitchen floor with asphalt when I remembered I had an internet connection. Oh yeah…

Bob Vila to the rescue!

For stubborn scuffs, try putting some WD-40 lubricant or jojoba oil on a towel and rub the area until the scuffs disappear. Clean thoroughly with the vinegar and water solution to remove any traces of lubrication.

This was more “stuff” than “scuff”, but it was stubborn and I did happen to have a tiny can of WD-40. I figured it couldn’t hurt to try, right?

spot is gone

It took me longer to find the WD-40 (it being right where it was supposed to be in the cabinet of seldom-used-but-important-to-have stuff) than it did to scrub up the spot. Amazing!

Thanks, Bob!

I’m still working on getting all the teensy little divots and dings clean. This is 40-year old vinyl flooring that wasn’t maintained very well by the original owner. The current owner is no Suzy Homemaker, either. :)

Any tips or tricks for deep-cleaning vinyl floors will be greatly appreciated! Given my current budget, I need to keep these around awhile.

Quick Tip: Removing Bug Residue from Car

Washing the car is one of those tasks I don’t mind so much, except for the front bumper. It’s a bug graveyard up there, y’all, and even the thought of having to scrub and scrub and scrub will have me putting off a car wash for as long as possible.

That’s all changed now. I read a tip on AutoEvolution (not in the article, but in the comments) that was so simple I couldn’t believe it would work.

Here’s what you need:
1) Spray bottle
2) Dryer sheet
3) Warm water

That’s it. You put the dryer sheet in the spray bottle and fill the bottle half (or so) full of warm water. Spray on the bumper and wash the bugs away. I used another dryer sheet as a scrubber and, I swear, it was like the bugs were jumping off the bumper. Which isn’t likely, considering they were long dead. Unless they were some kind of Lazarus bugs. :)

I did remember to pause halfway through to grab a demonstration photo:

before and after front bumper

Isn’t it amazing?

After the bugs were gone, I gave the bumper another pass with my soapy sponge and rinse water to rinse off any linger residue.

I’m so thrilled to have discovered this super easy method of banishing the bugs. I only wish it would work on the live ones. :)

Tip Test: Cleaning Foggy Headlights

One of my first Pinterest re-pins was a tip claiming that one could clean and restore foggy headlight covers using only toothpaste and a clean cloth. Every time I scan my pins, I think, I have toothpaste. I have a clean cloth. I have foggy headlights. And yet, I’ve not ever tried it. Until today. :)

before during after photos

As you can see, the cloudy area is somewhat diminished (smudged), but it’s still very much there. :( On a positive note, the non-foggy parts are ever so much shinier. :)

Before I proclaim this tip a total fail, I’m going to try again with a cheaper toothpaste and a little more elbow grease. I’ll update after test #2.

Have you tried this one? Do you think you might try it? Please let me know your results!

Waste Not, Want Not

It’s Tuesday morning, which is trash pick-up day in my neighborhood. That means it’s clean-out-the-fridge day at my house, time to clear out the tired and expired and remind myself of what needs to be used. With my goofy schedule, I forget sometimes. It’s especially problematic in the warmer months with fresh fruits and veggies are available in abundance and I tend to stockpile “cold foods”. With Spring rapidly approaching, I thought it might be a good time to look at a few ways to cut down on food waste.

Look what Susy Morris of Chiot’s Run does to keep track of her freezer inventory:

Yep, she uses a dry erase marker for tracking what’s in her freezer–very clever and very organized! This household of one doesn’t need quite that elaborate a scheme, but after testing a dry erase marker on the wall-side of my fridge, I have recently started using it to keep track of what’s in the fridge or freezer that needs to be used soon. I like having the visual reminder that there’s leftover barbecue chicken in the fridge before I make pasta with marinara for my dinner. :)

While I like the extra space in my fridge after a clean-out, I don’t like having to throw food out. Such a waste. Money Talks News published a good article, 12 Ways to Keep Good Food from Going Bad, with some ideas for making use of foods from your pantry or fridge that you might otherwise toss. (I’ll admit, though, that #9, “Bake old Oreos into crust”, had me laughing. As if Oreos in my pantry would ever go bad. :) )

One thing that might help with reducing waste and committing to eat what you buy, is to calculate the value of foods you purchase but don’t consume and then write a check to the local food bank for that amount. I haven’t had to write one yet, but if I do, that amount will come out of my future grocery budget. That’s actually inspiring me to check my pantry shelves for “aspirational foods” (they seemed like a good idea at the time) and donate them before they expire.

This week’s clean out was a good one for me. I only had one little stub of a cucumber that had passed it’s prime (and a step below that). It was a humongous cucumber, so I’ll give myself a pass on this one. :)

I hope you found some helpful information from this post. Be sure to leave a comment if you have tips of your own to share!

~

*One more note about the dry erase marker–you can also use it on other appliances. Washing a load of laundry that has an item that needs to be hung to dry rather than moved to the dryer? Write a note on the washer and wipe it away when the load has finished!

Favorite Organizing Blogs

I’ve explored lots of organizing/simplicity blogs over the years and enjoy browsing their articles, but there are a few that I read consistently. I think what makes the difference for me is that their tips are practical and affordable. Their solutions don’t require I paint my house in chalkboard paint, buy a $300 labeling machine, and throw out things I love because they don’t match. Some of the bloggers I read have cabinets full of mismatched containers, and I love them for that.

Without further ado, here are my favorite organizing blogs:

unclutterer.
Summary: “Unclutterer is the blog about getting and staying organized.”
Sample post: Today’s How to Organize Your Pantry has really useful tips, although this one caught me by surprise:

Blue painter’s tape and a Sharpie are perfect for these tasks. You can stick a piece of blue painter’s tape to reusable containers and then write the information on the tape

I was so sure I had invented that one. :) No matter, it works!

Simple Organized Living
Tagline: “helping you create your best life”
Sample post: I read Organization Should Be Practical Not Always Pretty on the exact day I needed it. I was feeling a bit blue over my house as compared to the home magazines and showplace pins on Pinterest. Andrea’s post was an awesome reminder that those spaces aren’t always practical or realistic for day-to-day living, and that I need to organize my space for my needs.

Organising Queen
Tagline: “get organized. take charge. live purposefully.”
Sample post: 7 Secrets of the Super Organized seems so reasonable, but I’m still 2-out-of-7 on a regular basis. I need to print this and hang it on my wall. Neatly, of course. Not with my blue painters’ tape. :)

I’m an Organizing Junkie
Tagline: “Encouraging others to get ‘hooked’ along with me.”
Sample post: How I Get Away with Filing Once a Year is one of my favorites, mostly because it validates my own methods. :) I have to file 3 or 4 times a year, because my basket starts overflowing. Perhaps I should buy a bigger basket?

Small Notebook
Tagline: “Practical tips to simplify and organize your home.”
Sample post: How to Remove Wallpaper from an Unprimed Wall is a post that I’m hoping will help me with my kitchen remodel. The people who lived in my house before (or their heirs) removed the top layer of wallpaper and then painted on top of the underlayer. On top of all that is a border that doesn’t want to come off. I’m going to try my garden sprayer, and if that doesn’t work, I’m just going to re-drywall.

There are other organizing blogs I like, but if I spent all day reading organizing blogs, I’d never make any progress! If I missed one of your faves, sing out in the comments.

SIDENOTE: I have no idea why my blog is displaying all italics. I haven’t even touched it, I promise! (Or did I?) I’m working on a solution and hope to get it fixed soon!

Tippy Toe Organizing

When it comes to my work, I’m very organized and methodical. At home? Not so much. I’m no candidate for Hoarders, but I definitely could use some improvement. Every year I resolve to get more organized at home and more importantly, to stay organized. I make progress for a while, but eventually I fall back on my previous disorganized ways.

In thinking about this over the holidays, I realized that this stop-and-start pattern was very much like the one I exhibited in my years on the “diet cycle”. I’d try-try-try, but at some point it would become too overwhelming or difficult to sustain, and I’d give up. Same thing with sustainable organization. I figured out how to lose 100 pounds, but I haven’t found the solution to my home organization issues. Isn’t it a pity I can’t use the same principles…oh, wait! ::Is the light bulb over my head hurting your eyes?::

tippy toe organizingFor 2013, I’m going to use the tippy toe approach to home organization. Smaller, consistent steps do add up, and I’m looking forward to applying the same methodology to organizing. I kind of have a head start, in that I’ve got the “small steps” locked up. I just need to connect them consistently. Here’s the starting plan:

  1. List the reasons why. It’s not enough to think them; I need to put pen to paper, list the reasons having a more organized home are important to me, and then refer back to them frequently to keep the momentum going.
  2. Break things up into manageable tasks. Rather than thinking of organizing the whole house, I’m breaking it into smaller projects. Really small. I’ve defined 16 areas, inside and out, and then further broken those into even smaller areas. As I (re)organize each area, I’ll define the process, or “rules”, that will keep it organized. My bookcases, for example, should only require a periodic weeding and dusting; however, I tend to stash small things in front of the books, which makes the shelves look messy. New rule: Nothing in front of the books, even decorative items.
  3. Set action-based goals. There’s an old saying that goes: People want to be rich; they don’t want to get rich. Meaning, we want it to magically happen without a lot of effort on our part. It’s the same with being thinner vs. getting thinner, and for me, anyway, it seems to be the same with home organization. Instead of setting a generalized goal of “being more organized”, which is the result I want, my actual goals require action.
  4. Give credit where it’s due. With the advent of Pinterest, it’s easy to get caught up in the beauty of other people’s organized spaces and to feel as though my own living space is somehow lacking. I need to keep my focus on my successes and to remember that the process is about improvement, not perfection.
  5. Have fun along the way. I don’t enjoy housekeeping so much, so a key for me is to find the fun in the process. With weight loss, I set silly challenges and rewards for myself. I suspect I’ll do the same with home organizing.

Any or all of the above is subject to change, of course, as I work my way through the process. I had success with tippy toe weight loss. Here’s hoping it works for home organizing.

In my next post, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite organizing blogs and websites, but I’m also interested in your tips and suggestions. How do YOU stay organized?

Great Holiday Ideas Courtesy of my Pinterest Holiday Board

I’ll be spending the holidays away from home, so my normal minimal holiday decorating became NO holiday decorating. Fortunately, I can still “decorate” my Pinterest board.

I like this Christmas tree idea, even if it is Martha Stewart’s (meow):

I also love this smart Michael Johansson design:


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But truth be told, this chalkboard tree is more representative of me:

This is my favorite kind of Christmas tree:

 

This is why I love Pinterest–I certainly wouldn’t have four trees in my house! Plus, “de-decorating” is a breeze. :)

I’ve also pinned some gift wrap ideas. First, some repurposing of food containers for gift containers:

This would be cute for giving someone a 6-pack of craft beer, and you wouldn’t need much in the way of supplies:

I laughed out loud when I saw this gift wrap pack on NotontheHighStreet.com. Out of necessity, I crafted a similar gift bag a few years ago when I ran out of gift bags for baked gifts. I used a pencil eraser and white craft paint to make the dots and topped it with a gold or silver foil star I had from a work project. I’d forgotten about it until I saw this product.

 
Don’t I wish I’d thought to package that idea and sell it for $11.95! :)

To wrap things up (hah-hah, Christmas pun!), here’s a great idea I found just today via Mel’s Kitchen Cafe:

Instead of giving a package of holiday cookies to someone who might be overwhelmed with sugary goodness, why not freeze the cookie dough and put it in a freezer-safe container labeled with instructions on how to prepare later? Genius! Especially, since I am super time-crunched just now, and this will save baking/cooling time!

Wishing you all a very safe and happy holiday!

 

Make Yourself at Home: Practical Tips for Entertaining Overnight Guests

‘Tis the season for house guests. Not for me, mind you, since all my family is local, but I know that other people are suffering anticipating a houseful of company.

(Just for today, let’s pretend this is my guest room and not one I found on Houzz.)

As if the preparation for weekend (or longer) guests wasn’t exhausting enough, we’re bombarded with magazine stories and HGTV slideshows picturing “the perfect guest room” (like this one) along with tips to ensure our guests enjoy their stay. Some suggestions are very practical (like clean bedding and ample lighting), but quite often they include suggestions for items that are totally unnecessary. Over-the-top, even. Call me selfish, but if I don’t have a mini-fridge in my room, my guests aren’t getting one in theirs. Ditto their very own in-room coffee maker with a selection of gourmet coffees and a snack basket with nuts, cheese, chocolate and imported biscuits.

I prefer a much more practical approach to providing for my guests. These are my tips for making your guests comfortable:

  1. Yes, give the room a good cleaning, air the mattress, and add fresh linens.
  2. Remove any unnecessary items. For me, that would be the treadmill and my workout equipment.
  3. Put a few current magazines and books in the room.
  4. Pull out a season-appropriate extra quilt or blanket for the end of the bed.
  5. Forgo the room fridge, coffee maker, and snack baskets; instead, show your guests around the kitchen and encourage them to help themselves anytime, day or night.
  6. Keep a selection of extra toiletries in the top drawer of the bathroom vanity and let guests know where to find them.
  7. Locate (or have made) an extra key, in case your guests will be going out on their own. Area maps are also helpful.

Maybe I’m just fortunate, but anyone visiting me overnight is close enough to feel comfortable asking for anything they need. And with two grocery stores, a drug store, a Starbucks, and a dozen restaurants within a few blocks, we have easy access to anything I don’t have on hand.

A long, long time ago, I made myself crazy in the anticipation of guests. I scrubbed every inch of the house and fretted every stray crumb or bit of fluff the entire time they were in residence. One day while at an arts & crafts fair, I happened to see a little plaque that read something like this:

What a wake up moment for me (and a heads up for any unexpected visitors)! People were coming to visit ME, not my house! I still cleaned before scheduled visits, but I no longer worried (too much) about anything I might have missed. Instead, I concentrated on enjoying the visit. I think my guests enjoy the visit more, too. Andrea at Simple Organized Living had an interesting observation this week in her article, Why I’m Not Cleaning for Company Anymore: “[Guests] don’t like coming into a home that is perfectly clean. It’s less inviting, less people-friendly, less welcoming.”

I agree! I’m not sure I ever achieved perfection, but for a long time, I wasted a lot of time trying! Now, I just do my best to make it all comfy and inviting, and then I relax and enjoy the visit!

What do YOU do to make your guests feel at home?