EP33 – November 18, 2017: Painting Stairwells, Decluttering, Cleaning Hacks, and Decorating With Kids


Thanksgiving is just days away and soon our homes will be filled with guests. For some people, this is no big deal; their homes are always clean. For others, panic is setting in as they realize their house is nowhere near ready for company and probably won’t be unless they pull some college type all nighters. But don’t worry! We’ve got some quick decluttering ideas that can be done in a weekend and some cleaning hacks that will have the house sparkling in no time.

Listen here:

Show notes for episode 033:

Painting a stairwell is a daunting task for homeowners. How in the world do you paint the edge of where the wall meets the ceiling when it's 17 feet off the floor?

Well, there are a lot of "answers" out there. But some of those answers just don't cut it in our books!

For example, one solution given on the world wide web is to tape a paint brush to an extension pole. Or, better, to use an actual paint brush extender tool that's made for the job. In either case, you've got a brush on a pole that you're hoisting way over your head to cut a straight line between the wall and the ceiling . . . . Um. Right. For an experienced contractor, maybe. For a regular DIY'er, probably not.

Shur-Line Paint Edger

Instead, try the Shur-Line Edger.  You can see it over there on the right. It's a weird little gadget that can make your day or make you so mad you'll want to toss it across a room.

There are all sorts of mixed opinions regarding this little tool. You could honestly start a mini-war in the paint store just by vocally denouncing it or praising it!

Still, for this job, it might be the perfect solution because you can put it on an extension pole and use it to edge right up to the ceiling. You'll get a straight line and be able to do all of it from the ground!

However, there's a reason this little tool can cause arguments: if you don't use it correctly, it can really cause trouble. And the most common way of using the tool the wrong way is to load it with paint incorrectly. Here's a video that demonstrates the right way to load it:

The holidays are upon us! Here are a few quick weekend projects that will help get your home ready for your guests!

This segment is basically Part 2 of the Thanksgiving Survival Guide we started in the previous segment. With the Decluttering done, now it's time to talk cleaning. And we've got some great cleaning hacks to make your life easier and your cleaning quicker!

The Oven

For quick oven cleaning, mix baking soda, water, and vinegar in an oven safe bowl to make a paste. Dab the paste onto the messiest areas in your oven and then set the bowl with the remaining paste on the shelf in the oven and bake it for 45 minutes at 100 degrees. When that's over, wipe the oven clean with a sponge! It's quick and easy! Check out this video from cleverly.com to see the process:

The Microwave

To get all that gunk that's all over the inside of your microwave, try this quick fix: put water and lemon juice (or vinegar) in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for about 6 minutes or so and then let it sit and cool for a little while. Then, remove it and wipe the microwave clean. The steaming effect coupled with the vinegar or lemon juice will make clean up super easy! And the microwave will smell lemony fresh.

The Shower

For those overnight guests, it might be a good idea to give the shower a once over. And here's something simple: Fill a spray bottle with equal parts vinegar and Dawn Dish Soap. Spray it on, let it sit for a while (the dawn will keep the solution in place on the surface) and scrub clean. The soap scum and other gunk will wash away!

Another method is to put the same mixture in a dish wand--something with a scrubby on the end. Then, during your next shower, just use that and give it all a good scrubb!

Moldy Caulk

Moldy caulk around your tub or shower can be easily dealt with by wiping the caulk with a rag dampened with bleach. If the mold is surface mold, you'll be amazed how easily and quickly that terrible black caulk will turn white!

If the mold has established a bulkhead in your caulk, you could try a heavy gel toilet bowl cleaner that contains bleach. The heavy gel will keep the cleaner on the mold for longer, hopefully attacking the mold and whitening the caulk. After an appropriate period of time, rinse it off and measure your success!

Dusty Mini Blinds

Cleaning mini blinds is a pain. I hate pulling them down and tossing them in the bath tub and then trying to dry them off. I know I'm probably damaging the gears and mechanisms of the blinds, but I've always struggled to find a good way to get them clean. Well, here's the answer:

If they're dusty, simply use an old paint brush! Super fast! Super effective.

If they need a damp cleaner to remove other dirt, just mix vinegar and water. Then put a sock on your hand, dip it in the solution, and wipe over the blinds.

Ceiling Fan

Dusty ceiling fans are so messy! Sure there are little dusters that will go up there, but the problem is, you pull the dust off onto yourself or the surfaces below. Here's a Betsy-Approved method that will eliminate ALL of the mess:

Use an old pillow case. Just carefully slide the pillow case over the blade and then sandwich it top and bottom with your hands and pull. The dust comes off and stays in the pillow case! It's perfect!

Pet Hair on the Furniture

If you've got pet hair all over your furniture, there are a lot of different hacks out there to help you clean it off. Sure, you could use lint rollers and tape and all that, but here are a couple other options that are a little more unique:

The Squeegee. A regular window squeegee, when dragged across your furniture will actually pull the dog hair into little piles. It's really fun. It's almost relaxing. Until you actually look at the pile of fur you've scraped up and realize you've got enough to create another dog. Still, at least you've got it off your furniture!

It also works great on your carpet. And if you're not interested in crawling around on your hands and knees "squeegeeing" your carpets, consider a rubber carpet rake/squeegee! They're super inexpensive and very well-reviewed. Click here to view one on Amazon!

Decorating kids rooms can be an incredibly rewarding experience. And it can also be a train wreck! Here's how you can do involve the kids, get great results, and have limited conflict along the way!


There’s Nothing Like Throwing Away $300!

bigstock-Sweeps-money-in-the-scoop-91645844_no_handJust before Christmas, my wife and I decided to go through the kids’ toys and get rid of the stuff we didn’t need.  With Christmas coming and the inevitable influx of new toys, we figured we’d need to make space.  And so we decided to do some heavy-duty toy cleaning.  (Which is just another way of saying “we used garbage bags.”)

Anyway, just before Christmas we tackled this project and were surprised when the kids actually helped us fill up 8 garbage bags with dolls and playmobil toys and stuffed animals and other assorted things.  All of that stuff went to the mission.  Besides that, we simply threw away a ton of trinkety things the kids collected over time as well as some old, broken GIJOE vehicles from my childhood.  It took a while, but when we were done, we felt great.  Lighter.  Happy.  For a while.  Until I found something on EBay.

See, I was cruising around on EBay, looking for something, and I ran into an auction for some old GIJOE items.  I started scanning over all the figures and the vehicles and the memories of my childhood flooded back.  It was great…until I scrolled down to a listing that showed a picture of the great big GIJOE hovercraft vehicle I had just thrown away.

The listing read like this:  “Up for Auction:  1 GIJOE VINTAGE HOVERCRAFT.  Some parts missing.  Some pieces broken, but still great for scrap parts.”

Yeah, there it was:  a broken hovercraft toy that was WAY more broken than mine.  And it was up for sale.  Which really doesn’t mean anything, because everything can be up for sale.  The big question is this:  was it creating interest?  And the answer is:  YES!  There were 10 bids on the stupid, broken hovercraft with some parts missing.  What’s worse, the current bid was $49.00.  $49.00 with 3 more days of bidding to go!!!

Well, from there, I couldn’t help myself.  I searched the other toys we’d just given away or tossed out and I discovered that all together, I probably threw away anywhere from $300 to $500 worth of “vintage” (which is just a fancy way of saying “broken”) toys.

Now, that’s not a big deal…if you hate having money.  But if you’d like to have money or could use money for something, well, then throwing away $300 is like a dagger through your heart.

However, it was a done deal.  The toys were gone and I couldn’t get them back.  I could either sit around and feel depressed about what I’d done, or I could take the lesson to heart and learn from it.  I chose to do that second one.  (After doing the first one for about 2 weeks).

The next time I did some cleaning around the house, I decided (rather than throwing them away) to put some of my items up for auction on Ebay.  It took a little bit of reading to figure out how it was done, but after a couple hours, I had about six items listed.  7 days later, five of those six items had sold and I’d made a cool $150.

Oh, the things I sold were junk to me, but somebody out there in the big, wide world liked them, wanted them and was willing to pay for them.  It was exciting.

And I bring it up here for a couple reasons:  first, I want to remind you that there are places like Ebay and Craigslist and who knows what else–online places where you can hold virtual garage sales.  Secondly, I mention that so that you realize you can do it, too.  All you need is a computer, a digital camera (probably) and a little bit of a willingness to learn.  Or, if you don’t have those things, you can do what my parents would do and just ask your kid to sell your stuff for you.

Whatever you do, be aware that the junk you’re sorting as you go through your home, getting rid of your clutter, might have value.  Before you toss it or donate it, why not spend a couple minutes bouncing around on Ebay.  Search for the items and see what’s going on.  See if similar items are drawing any kind of significant money.  See if they’re creating interest or generating bids.  If they aren’t . . . well, then it’s off to the mission or the dumpster with no regrets.  But if they are–if they seem to be worth something to somebody–why not take advantage of that and earn some money?

Four Boxes That Hold The Key to De-cluttered Home

box-550594_1920_no_attribution_necessaryFor the last few posts, I’ve been writing about removing clutter from our homes.  And some of you might be wondering why.  I mean, really, why would RepcoLite Paints–a company who sells paint–be spending time on a topic like this?

Well, to quickly answer that, let me just say that RepcoLite isn’t just about selling paint.  Our focus as a company is on helping you get your home looking and feeling the way you’ve always wanted it to look and feel.

For all of you who flip through magazines or channels on tv and see beautiful, amazing homes and wish you knew what it took to make your home look like that . . . well you’re the people we’re here to help.  And really, what better way to get started on that than to get your home cleaned up?

See, cleaning is the first step in many home redecorating projects.  We clean a room and realize the potential that was lying just beneath all the clutter.  Next thing you know, we’re painting, buying some new decor and before long, that room we’ve always avoided is a place in which we want to spend more time.  And all of that starts with a little cleaning.  That’s why I’ve been writing about it.

OK, with that said, let’s get to the main point of today’s blog.  Last time (you can read it here if you haven’t read it already) we talked about setting a timer while you work.  That’s a great step to take when you’re cleaning.  However, to make sure your time is spent as efficiently as possible, here’s a very basic, but sometimes overlooked trick to help you:  Set 3 boxes or rubbermaid containers in the room you’re cleaning.

Label one of these boxes, “KEEP”, label one of them “DONATE” and label the third one “JUNK.”  If you’re of the selling mindset, you could put a 4th container in the room and label it “SELL”.  From there, it’s just a matter of sorting through the clutter and tossing it into the appropriate bin.

And when you do this, but utterly ruthless.  If you don’t use an item, get rid of it.  Sell it, donate it or toss it–but don’t keep it.  Remember, the goal is to cut down on the junk not just to re-organize it.  So be ruthless.

Don’t allow sentimental bonds to tie your hands and prevent you from making progress.  It’s hard to do, but you’ll be happy you did.  Next time, I want to spend some time blogging about that little “SELL” box you might have sitting there and how much money might be bouncing around inside of it!

3 Reasons Why Setting a Timer Makes De-Cluttering Easy

time-731110_1920When it comes to de-cluttering your home . . . helping your home shed some unwanted pounds . . . one of the best tips I’ve run across is this one: set a timer.

My family does this on a regular basis and it helps to solve what I think is the biggest problem we face when it comes to cleaning, organizing and de-cluttering: the paralysis we feel when our brain begins to fully comprehend the amount of work we need to do!

Here are 3 reasons why:

There’s An End In Sight

Setting a timer gives your project a definite ENDING POINT. If your “ending point” is the end of the project, it’s easy to get overwhelmed–especially when those projects are big. When you tell your kids (or yourself) “we’re all going to clean the basement and we’re not calling it quits until the walls have been scrubbed, the floors have been bleached and all the toys have been sorted by color, size, type and age-group . . .” well, you’re unlikely to find many happy people in your little work crew.

The job is too big. When you look at your basement, with that goal in mind–utter cleanliness–you realize how much work is ahead of you. For me, that’s a real buzz-kill because it A) makes me depressed, and; B) makes me angry, which; C) makes everybody else depressed.

However, when we set a timer, it no longer matters how BIG the job is. What matters is only the amount of time I programmed into that little timer. If I set it for 1/2 an hour, we all work knowing that after 30 minutes, we’re done. If I set it for 1 hour, we all know we’ve got 60 minutes and we’ll quit.

It doesn’t matter if we finish the room tonight or not. The finish line is no longer a flawlessly clean room. The finish line is much easier to reach–it’s that 30 or 60 minute mark.

When we do that as a family, we’ve found it takes the edge off the project. It doesn’t feel hopeless anymore. It doesn’t feel enormous. It doesn’t depress me, doesn’t make me angry. I know that I can jump in, start working and, in 30 minutes or so, pack it all in for the night.

The Guilt is Gone

Another benefit of setting a timer is the almost magical removal of guilt. See, if I tackle a project and set as my goal the completion of that project, I tend to feel guilty if I quit short of reaching that goal. I feel like I failed–that I should have worked harder or a little longer.

However, when we set a timer, we remove that guilt because we’ve changed our goals. As we mentioned above, we’re not working for a clean room per se–we’re working for a set amount of time. When we reach that set amount of time, we’ve accomplished our goal for the night. It doesn’t matter that the room isn’t finished yet. As long as the timer’s gone off, we’ve accomplished our goal and can call it quits for the night without even an ounce of guilt.

Cleaning Becomes a Race Against Time

A third benefit of setting a timer when you clean is that the timer–just the fact that it’s in the background, like a bomb, ticking away–gives everybody working a bit of a “we’re in a race” mentality. You work a little faster because you know that the timer’s ticking. You move a little quicker, you grab two or three things and sprint rather than picking up a single item and trudging dejectedly across the room to put it away.

You know the timer’s ticking down and you want to have as much work done as possible before it goes off. Instead of looking at the mountain of work and thinking “we’ll be doing this forever,” you’ll find yourself looking at it and thinking “we’ve only got 10 more minutes . . . go! Go! Go!”

When we do this as a family, we’ve actually found ourselves having fun while cleaning. It’s insane. It defies logic. But it’s true. Try it for yourself and find out.

4 Hernias and a Heart Attack: De-Cluttering Your Home, Step 1

house-690199_1920This past Wednesday, I woke up and did what many of you likely did: I looked out the window. I had listened to the weather reports all week and I wanted to see if we received as much snow as the Doomsayers had predicted.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t see much from the window–it looked bad, but not as bad as I had feared. So, buoyed with hopeful thoughts, I got dressed, put on my gloves, my little snowpants, my little coat and hat and all that stuff and headed outside to snowblow and clean out the driveway.

However, when I got outside, I very quickly realized that the situation was infinitely worse than I had thought: my car was buried so deep I couldn’t open the doors. My shovel (and here I’d like to give a special thank you to my children) was in the yard. Somewhere. Beneath 20 inches of snow. Thankfully, we have a second shovel.

Unfortunately, it too was in the yard. Somewhere. Beneath 20 inches of snow.

Well, after my initial . . . shall we say, disappointment . . . I decided it was alright.  Everything was cool. Everything was groovy. I mean really, with all that snow, I wasn’t going to be digging my way out anyway, right? Right. That’s why I have a snowblower.

And so I marched (like Frodo in the Lord of the Rings) through a vast expanse of waist-deep snow, all the way to our little storage barn. After a brief (and occasionally loud) struggle, I managed to muscle open the doors, only breaking them a little. But I didn’t care about that. I didn’t care about doors that were only a little bit broken because I was staring at my snowblower: a machine of glory and power–a machine that would soon free my driveway from the clutches of . . . well you get the idea.

Anyway, I reached for the pull cord to power the machine into action and remembered something sad: two weeks ago I had ripped off the pull-cord that starts the blower. So, no pull-starting it. I’d have to use the electric start. So no big deal, right? No big deal.

Well, not exactly. See, there was a slight problem: my cord for the electric start was 10 feet long and my power outlet was sixty feet (through waist-deep, Lord of the Rings, Epic snow) away.

Well, never being one to think overly long about a problem, I did what any guy would do: I started dragging the snowblower backwards through the all that snow. I went all of about 4 feet when I realized I’d never make it alive. And then (finally) my brain kicked in and said “Dummy. Go get your shovel.”(I think, though I’m not yet sure, that my brain was messing with me).

So I slapped my forehead and said out loud, “my shovel! I’ll shovel out a path to the power outlet!” I belly-crawled through the snow all the way to where I’d left my shovel only to remember that very sad truth I relayed earlier: my shovels were (thanks again, kids) buried in the yard somewhere.

At this point, anger and sadness were descending on me, burying my spirits quicker and more effectively than the snow had taken care of my tools, but I dug deep and (after kicking the trashcan and falling down in a snowdrift and hitting my head on the van when I fell over), I went back to dragging the snowblower towards the house.

Yeah, I pulled on that thing like I was a little Hercules and managed to drag it another 4 feet  before I felt what could only be the onset of 4 hernias and a heart attack.

Sitting down in the snow, holding my side, huffing and puffing, inspiration FINALLY struck: my power cord was 10 feet long and the power outlet was still about 52 feet away . . . but I had something in my basement that we in the modern world call an extension cord.

So I ran in, grabbed the cord and in minutes had started the snowblower. But, sadly, that was only half the battle. Now I had to somehow blow all this snow away.

Well, for the longest time (and this is the whole point of this story) I just stood there, breathing the fumes coming off the snowblower and wondering how long it would take just for Spring to melt it all.  The job, now that I was finally ready to start it, seemed too big.  Too enormous.  Too overwhelming.  I seriously wondered if I’d even be able to get it with the snowblower.  I moved my hand to the throttle of the machine, fully intending to shut it down and just go in the house and think about it for a while.

But then, just before I did that–before utter helplessness kicked in and took over–I put the blower in gear and cleared a 2 foot section.

It was a start.

I then wiggled the machine around and cleared out another section. Before long, I had an eight foot section cleared and I’d found one of the shovels.  Or, at least most of it.

From there, I chipped away at the driveway. It didn’t go smoothly and it didn’t go quickly, but I got it done. Eventually.

And that brings me back to what I started writing about the other day:  de-cluttering our fat homes. See, in the next few days, I’ll be writing about some tried and true tricks to getting your house de-cluttered. But before I start that, I want to start by focusing on very first problem we all need to overcome when attempting to get the clutter out of our homes: the paralysis brought about by the immensity of the job.

See, just as I stared at the driveway and almost didn’t know where to begin, many of us do the same thing when it comes to de-cluttering our homes. The job looks too huge. We stand there and stare at it and wonder if there’s any possible way to accomplish all the work. We almost become paralyzed.

Well, the first tip I’m going to give you is buried in the snow story:  start small. Start with that first 2 foot section if you have to, but find somewhere to start and start.

Don’t waste your time staring. Don’t waste your time and your energy gawking at the work. If you do that, you’ll never start. You’ll talk yourself right out of it.

Don’t look at the attic and basement and closets and the cupboards and the drawers and the dressers that need to be sorted and organized. Start with a single box in a single closet and focus on that, organize that. Then move on to the next one. Before long, the closet will be done and you’ll be able to close the door and move on to another one. When that one’s done, you’ll be able to move on to the next and so on.

Eventually, you’ll work your way through it all. But only if you start.  That’s the first step:  start.  That’s the way to defend against the paralysis.

Next time we’ll talk about some tips and tricks to help you with the actual work.

Is Your Home Fat? It’s Time to De-Clutter!

Have you ever looked at yourself in a mirror and thought “Wow.  What happened?”

I have.  And I’m betting a fair number of you have as well.  (And the ones who haven’t, well, it’ll happen).

What I’m talking about is weight gain.  I mean, really, the older I get, the more I notice how the train’s gone off the tracks.  I’ve got pouches and bulges in places I’ve never even thought about before. It’s hideous. Honestly, I look like all those old paintings from the renaissance.  You know the ones.  The ones with all the fat naked people eating grapes. Yeah, the paintings we’ve all seen at one point or another and have thought: “I don’t get it. Who would take time and waste all that paint to paint these people?” Yeah . . . now I get it.  The artist probably looked like that, too and was painting these folks to make himself feel better.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure that most of us have, at one point or another, assessed ourselves and have decided we needed to lose weight. For me, that moment came when one of the kids asked me why I didn’t wear a bra. For you, it was hopefully something else . . . because let me tell you, that comment stung. But whatever it was . . . we’ve all felt that shedding a few pounds wouldn’t be a bad thing.

And really, that’s not a bad idea for your home as well. (Yes. This little blog is still about home improvement stuff.)  See, just as we pack on pounds over the years, so do our homes. Oh, our pounds are packed on because of extra twinkies and donuts that we eat when we shouldn’t . . . but our house gains weight as well. Not like that–not from donuts–but from the old furniture you don’t know what to do with, so you stuffed it in the basement. Or the home decor you don’t use anymore that fills the shelves in your cupboards. For me, I’ve got an entire closet upstairs committed to the following items: 1 vacuum that no longer works, a big foamy sleeping mat that nobody will sleep on because somebody had an accident on it and even though it’s been washed, nobody will use it. 3 guitars I rarely play anymore, 1 keyboard I never touch, a mandolin I wish I knew how to play and a box of clothes my wife hid there because she didn’t think I’d look there and because she didn’t want to haul them downstairs and bring them to the mission.

My home, just like me, has gotten fat over the years. We’ve got every paper the kids have ever scribbled their names on stuffed into boxes. We have piles and piles of old CDs I never listen to anymore. We have loads of plastic storage units that just take up space in my workroom. We have what seems like 37 car seats because every time we buy one, the government comes out and says it’s no longer any good. We’ve got bottles the kids used when they were little because of the sentimental value they possess. We’ve got 15 1/2 sippy cups stuffed into our cupboards. 15 1/2 sippy cups for 1 child who still uses them.

And then, there’s the attic. That place of despair. That place that holds all the empty boxes of electronics that I bought–boxes I’m afraid to throw away because the minute I do, I’m convinced the electronic equipment will fail and I won’t be able to send it back to the company. That place of despair that holds extra interior doors that we don’t and never will need, a Christmas tree we haven’t put up in over 6 years, a fan that doesn’t work and mounds and mounds of ratty old insulation bats that I’ve just stacked up against a far wall because I don’t know what else to do with them.

Yes, my home is fat. Obese. Cluttered. And I know mine isn’t the only one. You’re home is fat, too. Oh, it may not be as morbidly obese as mine seems sometimes, but it’s still fat. And I don’t know about you, but that depresses me almost as much as seeing myself in a mirror.

I hate the feeling (especially over winter, when I’m trapped inside) that the house is bursting at the seams–that every closet and cubby and hidey-hole is stuffed to the gills with junk I don’t need. That makes me feel all itchy and claustrophobic just thinking about it. And when I’m stuck in the house all winter, it drives me nuts.

And I’m banking on the fact that it can drive you nuts as well in your own homes. And even if it doesn’t, I still know you’re going to feel tons better if you could find a way to shed the pounds in your closet and your cupboards and your attics.

So tomorrow we’re going to dig into it. We’re going to talk about some professional clutter removal tips and I’m going to prove to you that you can really, seriously make some money with your junk.  I can’t help you get thin physically–look at me, I can’t help–but I do know how to trim your house down.  We’ll start tomorrow.