Finishing the Project – Kids and Incentives

When we purchased our present home in 2007, we found that the yard  was a high-maintenance affair with a do-it-yourself pond already installed.  After a fish-killing algae bloom in 2009, we began a major yard renovation project to both refurbish the pond and tear out almost 800 square feet of out-of-control periwinkle.  Since we’d had a quote of over $5000 to redo the pond, we thought that we could do it cheaper (a win) and instill some entrepreneurial drive in the older kids (For the Win!).  Since beginning the project in 2010, its end is now within sight and I’ve had to look back to see what I’d do differently.

  • First, don’t let the kids determine the pace of the project.  I’ll grant that it’s been a long – loooong – project tearing out hundreds of square feet of overgrown myrtle, landscaping the first half, installing a two-tier vegetable garden and mucking with a dying fish pond.  The intent was to do the work and let the kids do a large amount of the grunt labor within the context of the usual summer activities, prompted by good old greed.  But I miscalculated on the variety and time constraints of the activities and things lagged.
  • Second, I simply didn’t realize that the bulk of this is pure stoop, grunt labor and that the kids aren’t interested in hours and hours of grunt labor.  They’d do some work but with the interspersal of activities, it was never enough to gain critical mass.  While I’d become concerned that there was laziness that didn’t bode well for the future, especially on Eldest’s part, her subsequent part-time job has reassured me that she’s got a decent work ethic.
  • Third, the kids aren’t just going to go outside and work unless I prompt and actually join in, and set the example.  When I was there, it went better than when it didn’t.
  • Fourth, I discounted Youngest, who’s now old enough to put in the physical work and has actually proven to be more reliable and motivated than his older siblings. 
  • Finally, there’s something to be said for simply saying let’s get this done and be finished with it and making it a priority ahead of other work.  It’s something that I should have done last summer.

But had I done that, Youngest wouldn’t have made the money that he’s made thus far.

So for now, the last segment of the new waterfall awaits and then – then – we can actually enjoy the backyard.

Housework Minuet

Does your mate ever suddenly leave to disappear, reappearing again in a few minutes with an armload of laundry/stuff/toys?  (1-2-3, 1-2-3)  Do you ever wonder why your mate gets cranky, occasionally snarling about fair share or even simple appreciation?  (1-2-3, 1-2-3)  Is there ever a moment in which there’s a sigh as she escapes to respond to a buzzer?  (1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3-4)  If you’ve at least noticed these things, you’re ahead of some guys who don’t even recognize that she’s dancing the minuet, a particularly slow and monotonous variety that keeps the rhythm of cooking and housework as everything is done to keep the household moving and everyone on an even keel.

A family is a complex organism and each moves to its own rhythm and tempo – rarely the same and often punctutated by syncopation, especially as the kids age and develop their own interests.  The varying tempos means that greater attention must be paid to what’s required to keep everything moving and everyone on an even keel.  I don’t understand if it’s training or some sort of gender hardwiring, but I believe that the average woman is better able to multitask a variety of chores and activities than the guy.  Men are certainly able to learn and adapt, but I’ve come to know some women of whom I frankly stand in awe. 

There are multiple elements to running the household – cooking, laundry, childrearing, cleaning – and most men would probably view them as discrete items, akin to blocks that can be stacked atop one another.  Now the laundry is entirely done and I can move on to the cleaning.  Once that is done, then I can read to the kids and afterwards, start dinner.  Each item has a finite edge and end and never violates the space of the next block.  Women have learned that each element is actually akin to a strip of cloth or thread.  Each is discrete but instead of stacking, each element is interwoven with another through the course of the day’s and evening’s activities, resulting in something that appears to have been knit together.  I’ll sort the laundry and get a load of darks going, and then I’ll read to Junior.  After a short book, I can move the washer load to the dryer and reload the washer and while that’s running, I’ll take care of early dinner preparation.  It’s a creation of one element followed by another, and then back to the first and then to the third;  the result is that the guy’s elements are akin to a colorful Lego tower while the woman’s creation is a well-knit scarf. 

The difference between the two is that most men haven’t truly learned that the key to keeping things running is to shift back and forth between the elements, juggling them as deftly as a circus performer.  You use a labor-saving device that takes a half-hour to run and then you shift into something that can be accomplished in twenty minutes, such as reading a children’s book or cutting vegetables.  Likewise, you fold the laundry and then come back to it later, breaking the larger task into smaller segments.  Because they’ve done it for so much longer and been able to watch their own mothers, women have a much better sense of what’s involved and how they interplay.  Men can learn it too, but it will take considerable effort, attention and time before they can even begin to create a piece as intricate as their mate’s. 

The archetypal father was someone who came home from work and played with the kids, and then did the finite, discrete tasks that were akin to projects – the honeydew list.  Fix something, paint something and move on to the next item.  There would be singular differences between each which provided some variety and interest.  Women have known for generations that even after this was painted or that was fixed, they were left with the same four elements; there was – and is – never an end to the process.  The result is a sense of having to dance the same dance, keeping everything moving, with never a difference in the music for variety and worse, no one to watch them or realize how well they dance their particular minuet.  Everyone likes an audience from time to time, observing and appreciating them for what they’ve managed to accomplish and for some dancers, this is sufficient.  But if you think of it, dancing is something that’s meant to be done with a partner and most women find that the additional dimension of a partner gives meaning to the dance and respite from the boredom. 

Stop, observe and think about what you’re seeing if your mate is responsible for the household management.  Consider what’s involved and at least acknowledge the job being done.  Better yet, find the rhythm and give her a partner in the dance.

(1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3-4…)

Cleaning Up:  Where Do I Begin?

Kids are time-intensive.  When they’re young, you spend your time cleaning up the personal messes and keeping them on track.  When they’re older, they can handle their own bodily functions but they still generate messes and dirty laundry like the Dallas Cowboys generate hatred in Philly.  Couple that with the various activities and there are weeks when the household work takes a back seat.  This weekend culminated in a spate of soccer tournaments, scouting and youth activities and I awoke this morning to a household that’s adrift with debris.  Throw in a website that’s behind on posts and a spouse who’s work has taken her out for the better half of the month and things really are in chaos.  What can I do to effectively bring things back under control?

There are certain things that I’ve had to learn.

  • Take a few moments to lay out a plan on what has to be done.  On this particular day, I know that I need to pay attention to the website as well as do laundry and prepare a family dinner for about 5:30 this afternoon.  While the laundry is going, what else can I do? 
  • Multi-tasking.  Women really are better at multi-tasking than men but one can learn through time.  Devices such as washing machines and dishwashers are labor-saving after they’re loaded, so take the time to get them moving first and then move onto other tasks while they’re going.  Sorting laundry is time-consuming but once a load is going, I can move onto other items.
  • Understand that multi-tasking will generate chaos as piles of clothes await their turn.  Also understand that I’m not going to be able to handle any task to completion before moving on to the next item, as most men like to do.
  • Take a moment to think after shifting to a new task.  In my case, this is my second effort at this article.  I’ve already done several loads of laundry and cleaned the kitchen while returning to the laptop to write new bullet points and I didn’t take the time to remember that the posting software won’t hold the work for more than an hour  unless I remember to periodically save the writing.  So an article that was more than three quarters complete was lost and I’m now on the second take.
  • Think about what tasks can be passed off to the children.  Part of growing up is learning to care for things and that includes such household tasks as bathrooms, dusting and vacuuming.  The trade-off is that I might not have it done exactly the way that I’d do it, but it’s still done and they’ve contributed.
  • Look for little things to physically carry with me as I move from one part of the house to another.  I’m presently sitting at the dining room table and noting that Youngest’s toys are clustered on the living room sofa instead of the family room while Eldest’s shoes are at the base of the steps.  When I leave this spot, I’ll take the toys to the family room – which adjoins the laundry – and then take the shoes upstairs when I next go upstairs.  I could wait for the kids to come home, but the reality is that kids and teens have wildly short attention spans and it’s immensely frustrating to constantly remind them to take this or carry that.  This is definitely a case of picking the battles since I’d rather have them spend the time handling the bathroom and dusting.
  • Re-evaluate the plan through the course of the day.  Kids get sick or other issues arise that require time and attention and it’s frustrating to get to the end of the day and not have accomplished what you wanted. 

Finally, I’ve had to learn that these tasks and chores are a process instead of singular tasks or projects that can be completed, like a wood project or car repair.  That change in mindset will make the work infinitely more acceptable.

Why Do Housework?

If there’s anything that I despise more – apart from the New England Patriots – it’s having to do housework.  Even with the labor-saving devices, and they really are labor-saving when you consider the old ways, it’s dull work and full of drudgery.  The presence of children only makes it more frustrating since everything just gets dirtier that much quicker.  So if I hate it so much, why should I actually bother doing housework?

There are actually some compelling reasons.

  • The reality is that a dirty house really is a breeding ground for health problems, especially for small children who still haven’t fully developed their immune systems yet.  Kids exposed to higher amounts of dust and dirt are likelier to develop difficulty with asthma than kids who reside in a more dust-free house.  Likewise, kids are always bringing in new germ variants and will wander through the place leaving colonies like England in the 1600s.  These will be picked up by you or the other family members and next thing you know, WHO and CDC are quarantining your place and foreign embassies are issuing travel warnings to your neighborhood.
  • It honestly becomes embarrassing to invite people to your home when the carpet is obviously coated with animal hair and the bathrooms haven’t been touched in weeks.  This is coming from a guy who isn’t really concerned about appearances.  When the kids get older and become aware, they’ll also become embarrassed and unwilling to invite their friends over.
  • A relatively neat house – vacuumed, dusted and with most things properly placed/stored – does give a sense of order and stability to the home and by extension, the kids.  There’s going to be clutter with children and more cihldren generally produces more clutter, but keeping it under control provides a sense that things aren’t out-of-control.
  • Kids learn a huge amount by simply watching their parents and if they see that the parents are responsible and able to manage the household, they’ll have a sense of what to do when they’re older.  When they are older, you can teach them how to handle some of the chores by themselves and just provide some oversight to assure that things are done properly.  Seeing Dad demonstrate some discipline will help set the tone of exercising their own self-discipline when they’re older.

I truly do dislike housework and several thousand loads of laundry have taken the blossom off of the rose, but it’s important that it continue to happen.  So tomorrow, I’ll clean my bedroom and bathroom before heading off to take care of other responsibilities.  And I’m going to crank up the classic rock when I do.

Multitasking the Housework

Do you wonder how some women complete all of the housework, powerwalk and volunteer six days weekly at the elementary school?  So do I.  But there are some things that I can pass along that make things quicker and simpler.  And it starts with a different mindset about the household.

It helps to think in terms of operations management – what can I do to streamline the processes so that the output is maximized in terms of time?

  • Before you start, think ahead about what has to happen and set up a working plan.  While I no longer put it in writing, I still have a mental to-do list that I compile in the evening.  What has to happen and who needs to be where?  And nowadays, what article do I need to write and what kind of research needs to be done?  Then lay it all out.  Frankly, there are instances in which I have to arrange things days ahead of time.
  • Is there something relatively mindless that I can do while I interact with the kids?  Folding laundry is a great possibility since there’s no loud noise to interfere.
  • Is there anything that I can have the kids do to help?  If I’m cooking, the kids can fetch and carry items or ingredients.  If there’s laundry, the kids can carry clean stuff upstairs or dirty stuff downstairs.
  • Remember to carry things with you as it arises.  Housework is a process and there is no point at which things are ‘done.’  It’s continual and you just try to have things in a decent state at any time.  So if you have to go upstairs and there’s something nearby to go up, take it with you and deposit it; save yourself a needless trip.
  • What can be done while you’re gone?  Washers, dryers and dishwashers are terrific labor saving devices if you utilize them properly.  So if you know that you’re going to be leaving for some time, build a few extra minutes into the schedule to load any of the machines so that the job can be done while you’re out.
  • Keep tabs on the schedule of family members so that you’re on top of the clothing needs.  Is there a concert or event requiring decent and clean clothing?  Is there a gym class requiring clean uniforms?  If I know that there’s a need for a clean and pressed white shirt in two days, I’ll do with a full load of like clothing so that there’s no water or electricity wasted.
  • Keep tabs on the schedule of family members so that you’re on top of the meal needs.  Starting next week, I’ll have three kids in three sports at three different levels and the crock pot will be used heavily as kids are shuttled.  When the kids were in preschool, I generally had them play quietly while I prepared the food or they could join me in the kitchen and play or draw at the kitchen table.  Their favorite programs were in the late morning and I used that time to fix lunch, so I had things laid out at the table in advance.

There are no magic tricks to getting this accomplished, just trying a different mindset and sticking to it.  It doesn’t eliminate the chaos that kids breed but it does make it more manageable. 

Handling the Flea Infestation

Keeping up with regular flea treatments is a necessity for animals and my dropping the notes from the family calendar has led to a flea infestation that has taken over my life.  Because it’s been years since we’ve had issues with vermin of any kind, I’ve had to remind myself that treating any kind of infestation requires disciplined persistence.

Fleas – the Basics

Fleas have a lifespan of about 90 days and the typical female flea can lay upwards of twenty eggs each day.  However, most fleas aren’t on the animals; they’ll be found in the household surroundings such as carpets, bedding and furniture.  What’s stunning to see is the jumping ability of the adult flea.  During a vacuum session last week, I noted that one leaped ahead of the vacuum and it appeared to reach a height of a foot about the floor.  This would be akin to watching LeBron James leap over Madison Square Garden.

Removing Fleas – Getting Serious

Understand that it will require assiduous effort to get rid of the problem.  There are several steps that I’ve taken to remedy things.

  • Take the animals to the veterinarian.  Ours were each given a single tablet of a flea killer called Capstar, which will have a rapid effect on the fleas as it spreads through the animal’s system and poisons the fleas.  This kills off the fleas that can lay eggs and the medication lasts long enough that any newly hatched fleas will be killed as they bite the animal.
  • Frequent changes of bedclothing.
  • Removal of any and all stuffed animals.  In this instance, I’ve bagged them for a month so that any hatching fleas will starve.
  • Daily vacuuming of the carpets and rugs.  That includes moving furniture since cats and small dogs can move almost everywhere and the flea can wind up almost anywhere in the carpet.
  • After vacuuming, removing the vacuum from the house so that the fleas don’t crawl out of the bag and back into the carpets.  Seriously.  It was recommended by our vet that we toss every vacuum bag, but the cost is prohibitive so we keep the vacuum in the garage unless we are using it.
  • Spraying the house with Siphotrol, available at the vets and reapplied in two weeks.  Note that the animals have to be placed in separate areas and the house vacated for several hours due to the odor.
  • Renewing the schedule for the flea medication on each animal so that the issue doesn’t happen again.

 And with the kids always watching, when they’re old enough, they’ll learn that the responsibility for an animal extends beyond feeding them and playing with them.

More Laundry – What Now?

So you’re looking at a full hamper of dirty clothing in the hallway or bath and perhaps another in one or more of the kids’ bedrooms.  What do you do now with all of this dirty laundry? 

Understand first that a pile of dirty laundry is one of the two exceptions to that physics law which states that matter is neither created nor destroyed.  As you start to work through the pile, you’ll think that each item removed is replaced by another mysteriously appearing under the pile.  But you have to start somewhere.

Sorting It Out

Work through by creating a separate for each category of clothing.

  • Denim and other heavy material pants, including cargo and khaki pants and shorts.  Because the denim (jeans) will be probably be dark colored, this pile should be washed in cold water to keep the color from bleeding.  And you want to keep the heavier material separate from other clothing so that it doesn’t wear or damage the lighter fabrics.
  • Lighter fabric darks, including dark delicates, in cold water wash.
  • Bright colors – reds, blues, yellows – in cold water wash.
  • Towels, washclothes and linens.
  • Whites and grays, including boys/men underwear and socks, to be washed in warm water.
  • Womens’ delicates.

Which Pile Gets Done First?

Several factors can help you determine where to start.  First, any laundry that’s dried on a clothesline or rack should go early in order to give it time to fully dry.  As the day progresses into evening, the laundry on the line will dry more slowly and even absorb dew to become damp.  Second, consider what’s coming up on the calendar.  If a kid has an event or activity requiring clean clothing, be sure to get that done earlier than later.  If none of these come into play, then just find a pile and start.

Details, Details, Details

 Here are some things to remember when you handle the laundry; just tossing items in the washer invites a mess.

  • Check the pockets on all pants and shirts.  Pens will leak and stain multiple items if they break, money will be ruined or keys will rip holes in pockets.
  • You can’t use bleach on any items that have color of any kind.  Bleach is solely for whites.
  • You have to check the exterior of all items for stains.  Use stain products and scrub the heavier stains with a toothbrush before putting it in.
  • Likewise, check the stained clothing when you remove it.  If the stain remains, don’t put it in the dryer since the dryer heat will set the stain permanently.  If you think that there’s still a chance to remove the stain, do the item the next opportunity you have but don’t dry it in the dryer until then.
  • Check the labels on questionable items, especially womens’ tops and blouses.  Especially be sure to do so when you remove them from the washer.  Putting a Tumble Dry, Low Heat item in a regular setting dryer will shrink it until it’s unwearable.  And hell hath no fury like a woman who’s dress blouse is unwearable.
  • Make sure that dry clean only isn’t in the piles.
  • Womens’ hosiery and bras are dried on a rack, not in a dryer.
  • And remember that baby clothing is done separately, especially if you’re using a baby detergent like Dreft.

And despite all of the attention to detail, you’ll still find items are ruined.  But it will get better.





On my first day running the household, the pile of laundry on the basement sofa was one of the two things that led me to ask the question what in the hell do I do now?  The laundry has to be cleaned, but what do you need to know to assure that the laundry gets done, and done right?  Because what your  mother taught you before college is great for a steady diet of hoodies and jeans, but fails when applied to womens’ and baby clothing.

Let’s just spend this segment talking about washing baby clothing.

Even Before Washing Baby Clothing

Remember first that your infant has soft skin and absolutely no exposure to the fragrances and scents of many detergents.  The various scents are the product of chemical additives to the detergents and are known to create itchy, uncomfortable rashes on the baby’s skin; this is even after the rinse cycle removes the soap from the clothing.  So you’re going to have to use a detergent that is has no such additives.  While I don’t want to shill for any particular product, Dreft was the detergent of choice for years.  There are now other products available for baby/toddler laundry.

Even Before Your Infant Puts On Clothing

Now that you’ve settled on a detergent, let me ask you some questions. 

Think of that cute onesie that just came out of the packaging.  Do you know where it was before it got into the packaging?  Or that little dress that your mate rescued from the rack before another mother nabbed it.  Do you know where it was laying before it was placed on the rack?  Or even before it was placed in the shipping box in the Dominican Republic?  Just how clean are most factories?

If the answers are less than appetizing, then you probably want to wash new clothing before it hits Junior’s body.  I didn’t always wash the clothing before first use, but fell into the habit as I gained some control in the whole laundry process.  So make it a point to do a wash of new clothing before putting it on the baby.

Making Sure the Clothing Survives the Wash

Great, so you’re going to use an appropriate detergent and wash the new stuff.  Now you have to make sure that it survives the laundry routine in decent enough shape for the kid to wear it.  What do you need to know?

  • Obviously, dark colors are washed separately from bright colors and whites.  Even if brights and darks can go in cold water, don’t mix them if you don’t have to.  Neither of them go in with the new white onesies.
  • Check the tags to see what the material is since high-content cotton items will shrink in the dryer.  Go to Wally Mart and invest a few bucks in a drying rack and you’ll recover the investment when you get to actually dress Junior in the cotton outfits.
  • Check the tags to discover what the drying cycle should be.  Dryers have different temperature settings and tags specifying a low setting – Tumble Dry Low – mean that the item will probably shrink in the standard drying cycle.
  • That precious frilly outfit that your Mother-in-law bought for your daughter should be washed separately from the denim and heavy fabrics.  These heavier fabrics will batter the delicates and I’ve lost clothing to metal zippers/buttons tearing into lace and other delicate items.
  • Keep an eye on the amount of clean clothing in the drawers/closet so that you can have things moving in a standard process.  It actually is embarrassing to take the kid somewhere in clothing that’s obviously dirty.  What kind of parent are you anyway?
  • If you’re comfortable with the process, you can even get Junior into larger clothing by washing it first and then running it through a dryer so that it shrinks.  I’ve done it successfully – and not – so it’s only done if you have a sense of what to do.
  • I’ll bet you didn’t know that there’s an alarm buzzer on your dryer.  If you can get the clothes out shortly after the buzzer notes the end of the drying cycle, you can elliminate many of the wrinkles in the clothing. 
  • Of course, you have to actually fold or hang up the clothing after getting it out of the dryer.
  • Consider using a mesh bag to hold tiny socks so that they don’t get stuck under the washer’s agitator and add to the legend of the Missing Sock Zone.

If you think that it’s more than you expected, you’re right.  What brought it home for me was the money lost on unwearable clothing and the look on my mate’s face when her baby wouldn’t wear that outfit that she adored.

So pay attention and work the process.



Housework:  PracticalDad Notes on Bedclothing

There’s nothing exciting or sexy about it, but changing the bedsheets is one of the things that simply has to happen.  And even though the kids are only sleeping, their bodies continue to slough off skin and sweat so that the bedding can become disgusting in short order.

The Basics

Understand first that there are different sizes of sheets depending on the size of the mattress.  Since most households are a mix of bed sizes, one of the tasks is going to be keeping the various combinations separate so that you don’t waste time putting the sheets on, just to find that they don’t fit and have to be refolded.

  • Some families might opt to go with color coding, i.e. Junior gets the red shaded bedclothing and Juniorette gets the green shaded sheets.
  • Some families – this included – have the sheets folded in the linen closet by size.  The twin bed clothing is always on the far right for example.
  • Remember that in bedclothing sizes, "twin" size is the same as "single".  The rest – Double, Queen, King – are straight forward.
  • If you’re stuck, you can find the size on the tag attached to the sheet.

How Many Should I Keep and How Often Should I Change Them?

Most households have at least two sets of sheets per each bed, but for the younger kids, you might want to consider having a third set available in the event of illness.  When a smaller child has a stomach virus or flu, you can easily blow through two sets of sheets in an evening; they’re going to be vomiting in the bed before they can make it to a bowl, even if you’re at their side.  After cleaning the child, you have to get the sheets changed and you probably aren’t going to have the 60+ minutes required to wash and dry a load of sheets.

In our household, we had three cribsheets.  It first appeared as overkill, but there were moments when we were grateful for them.

As to changing, both my wife and I grew up in households where the bedsheets were changed weekly and we’ve stayed with that.  With kids however, I do keep a closer eye on how things look and have changed them more often if necessary.  With toddlers, you have to contend with bed-wetting events and even when they go through puberty, there are more instances of pre-menstrual and menstrual spotting, excessive perspiration and nocturnal emissions.  Don’t expect the kids to say anything – they might be embarrassed or simply don’t care.

Mattress Padding

Because kids are a stewpot of bodily juices – sometimes with the lid missing – you have to have a mattress pad under the sheets to help protect the mattress.  You can wash sheets, but you can’t wash a mattress, so you do what you can to protect it.  They’re thicker and heavier, so you might find yourself taking it to the laundromat to throw into a larger machine if your machine isn’t large enough.  How often you wash the mattress pads are open to debate, but again, I take the age of the kids into account and have also applied the smell test to see if they require washing.

You can’t wash a mattress.  What you can do however, is periodically leave the bedclothing off so that it airs out; some will also choose to spray it with a disinfectant spray to kill any germs.  If you do that however, leave the other bedclothing off for a short while to let it continue to air out.


Housework:  PracticalDad Notes on Dusting and Vacuuming

As mundane and mind-numbing as they are, dusting and vacuuming are two of the cornerstones of keeping the house in livable shape.  So wrap your head around the idea that these tasks will be regular parts of the the routine that keeps the household in decent order and diminishes the likelilhood of respiratory problems.

Why Dust and Vacuum At All?

Yeah, the old stereotype is that the housewife did these jobs in order to keep the house spic and span and presentable for the Ladies Book Club.  But she was also doing it to keep the dust levels and animal hair under control.  And let’s face it, if you have kids, you probably have a dog, cat, hamster, mouse, rat or ferret.  The PracticalDad household has the first three and I’m standing pat on the remainder.

What exactly is dust?  It’s not just one particular thing, but a mess of multiple components gathered together.

  • Tiny bits of human skin that is constantly being sloughed off as it dies and is replaced by new skin cells.
  • Tiny bits of hair and follicular materials.
  • The bodies of dust mites and desiccated feces of those same microscopic creatures.
  • Pollen.
  • Mold and fungus spores.

There has been a marked rise in the incidence rate of asthma among children between the ages of five and seventeen, reaching a level of 106 cases per 1000 kids in that age range.  This is spurred by a number of causes.

  • Air pollution.
  • The more enclosed nature of modern homes with central air and less frequently opened windows.
  • Children spending more time inside than before.
  • A greater exposure to vermin in the home.

While children can grow out of this condition as they age, it does create major issues for them and keeping the house clean is a large part of helping protect the kids.

There are also respiratory problems for adults in the form of allergies and a greater prevalence of respiratory illness.

So How Do I Do This?

On one level, it’s simple – you dust and vacuum.  But if you have to do these mind-numbing activities, then you should consider some things to make sure that it’s really worth the time and effort.

  1. Dust first and use a cloth with a dust spray (Endust, for instance) in order to capture the dust particles in the cloth.  By dusting first, you assure that any particles that land on the floor are then caught by the vacuum.
  2. Avoid a featherduster since it only kicks the dust particules into the air, where they’ll then settle back on the furniture.  There’s no sense doing things twice.
  3. A furniture wax should be used to keep the furniture wood moisturized but that should only be done on a more infrequent basis, perhaps once every several months.  Do it too often and the furniture will develop a perceptible wax build-up.
  4. On furniture where the wood is in close proximity to fabric – the arms or legs of chairs for instance – spray the cloth instead of the furniture itself.  The spray then is kept off of the fabric.
  5. While there are innumerable models of vacuum cleaners, make sure that you’re using one that has a HEPA filter to help remove the tiny particles not caught in the vacuum.
  6. Check the bag before vacuuming to make sure that there’s sufficient room for the dirt.  A too-full bag can create a strain on the motor and burn it out.  Full disclosure:  Been there, done that.
  7. Use an extension on the hose to periodically clean along the baseboard, where it meets the carpet.  This is especially important if you have animals that shed.  And what’s the point of having animals if they can’t shed and create more work?
  8. Use the attachments since the manufacturer didn’t include them just to get lost.  The brush attachment can be used on blinds and wood surfaces.  The broad attachment can be used for furniture fabric, drapes and carpeted steps.
  9. Move chairs aside in order to get underneath them and periodically move the sofa as well.
  10. When vacuuming on a hard surface, you might have better luck first sweeping the floor with a broom and then vacuuming up the pile.  The broom allows you to reach into corners and under counters that the vacuum might not be able to reach.

It might seem silly to consider these things, but there have been any number of times that I’ve wanted to bang my head into the wall because of a poor job or goof.  So think of it as saving yourself the job of scrubbing blood off the wall.