As I’m coming up on the last few weeks before I turn 25, I had a moment where I began to secretly freak out about all the things I feel I don’t know, or haven’t done, or have yet to experience. (Have I mentioned I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, so this is kind of a thing I do?)
Rather than fret over the fact that I’ve never been to a bar (serious) and can’t name all 50 capitals in the U.S., I’d like to reflect on some of the things I do know. Over the last 25 years, I think I’ve learned a thing or two about life, love, friendship, fashion, everyday living, beauty… basically, I know some things, y’all. I’m not Oprah or anything, but I can put together a desk from Ikea, so that’s something.
Each week, from now until my birthday (May 22!), I’ll focus on a topic and share some of my best tips. Maybe you’ll know them, maybe you won’t; maybe they’ll totally change your life, or maybe you can offer me an even better tip. The point is this: we all have things we know, we’re all smart, and we all have knowledge to share. Even if it’s along the lines of “never microwave butter in your plastic measuring cup because the cup will melt.” (I learned this the hard way.)
This week: cleaning! I am not particularly fond of cleaning, but I would say I’m overall clean person. I like things organized, I just don’t always like having to be the one to do the organizing. Thankfully, I’ve learned some ways to make your life easier – I basically made mistakes, so now you don’t have to. Yay!
Know who’s responsible for what. If you’re living alone, this is super easy. If you’re living with someone else, or more than one person, this gets trickier. Come up with some type of system to divide everything up. Maybe that’s in the form of a chart, maybe a Google doc will work best. Whatever will help things feel evenly split, or at the very least, fair, do it. If you start to feel like you’ve been doing the dishes too frequently, speak up. Don’t let it fester inside of you until you’re writing passive aggressive notes to the people you live with. It’s better to deal with it now rather than later.
Offer to do the things you hate least. My boyfriend and I tend to split things pretty evenly. However, he knows I hate-hate-hate putting groceries away, while I know he hate-hate-hates going grocery shopping. So we try to swap when we can. If you hate taking out the trash, but you don’t mind loading the dishwasher, speak up, sista! You could be saving you and your housemates a headache.
Tidy as you go. This is easier said than done, and I am majorly guilty of not even following my own advice – and then kicking myself for it later. It’s so much easier to clean as you go rather than having a giant mess to tackle later. So do a few dishes after you cook. Fold some laundry right when it’s done. Replace the toilet paper, vacuum one room, sweep an area of the kitchen – whatever it is, tackle it now rather than later. Future you will be super in love with you if you do.
Divide your laundry (and conquer). To me, there’s hardly anything more intimidating than a towering pile of dirty clothes. When I first moved out on my own, laundry was one of the first things I realized I didn’t want to do. Like, ever. My boyfriend, Bill, and I had one hamper that quickly turned into two, and before we knew it, we’d only be doing laundry once a month and it would take all day. We realized two things. One: holy crap, we had a lot of clothes. And two: doing laundry was dreadful. So we got rid of the huge hampers and replaced them with four much smaller laundry baskets. Each one has a purpose: delicates, darks, lights, and towels. It means we have to separate our items before we put them in the basket – but it saves a step later.
Do it now. With the smaller baskets came a new rule: whenever one was full, we had to do that load of laundry as soon as possible. It helped. The smaller baskets made things feel like we could easily tackle them, and it took much less of our time. We were doing laundry every few days, sure, but it was never an all-day affair, we always had clean clothes, and it was totally worth it.
After measuring detergent, toss the cup in with the wash. It’ll make the cup really clean, rather than having that gross, sticky build-up.
Throw everything in the dryer. At least for a few minutes. I’ve found that it helps to get some of the wrinkles out before I hang items up to dry.
Forget the iron. If I’m diligent about getting your clothes out of the washer and dryer sooner rather than later, I can usually get away with not having to iron. For particularly wrinkled clothes, I hang the item in the bathroom, door closed, as I take a hot shower. The steam will get rid of (or at least soften) most of the wrinkles. (What it doesn’t remove I’ll likely get rid of once I’m wearing the item, anyway.)
But do have an iron and ironing board somewhere. For certain occasions, like job interviews, it’s better not to take a chance on wrinkly clothes. Having an iron and ironing board at least somewhere in the house helps.
Anti-bacterial wipes are a God-send. I use Lysol wipes to clean everything. They’re decently cheap, they smell nice, and they work pretty much everywhere. They also work really well for removing food from stove and counter tops.
If you have a dishwasher, organize the utensil tray. Put all of the teaspoons together, the sharp knives together, the forks together, etc. When the load is clean, you can just grab a handful and toss them in their respective area in the drawer.
For the microwave, fill a glass bowl with water. Microwave for five minutes or so. The water and steam will penetrate most of the food inside and then all you’ll need to do is wipe it down. From what I’ve heard you can also add lemon juice or vinegar, but I’ve never tried it.
Run soapy, lukewarm water in a dirty blender. It does the preliminary clean for you.
For crumbs on the floor, get a dog. Just kidding. Sort of.
Next week, I’ll offer tips for organizing, especially when it comes to your closet. In the meantime, what kind of cleaning tips have you discovered?
25 to Life is an ongoing column that chronicles Crystal’s life as she prepares to turn 25. See her previous columns here.