Thursday, 23 July 2015

5 Ways to Make Your House Appear Cleaner Than It Really Is

Home, the place where you keep all your stuff. Several times a year, it looks pristine, like the pages of Vogue Living. The floors shine, the windows are completely see-through and clean surfaces make you swell with pride as you check your reflection on the kitchen bench.

The other 360 days a year it looks lived-in and for the bulk of those, it looks like it's lived in by 23 extra people.


Part of my commitment to include fun stuff in my life (and not just the have-to tasks that consume the bulk of it) means that most of the time, my house makes me cringe. I'm a Virgo, too, so "shit everywhere" is particularly hard to deal with.

My dining table is NEVER clear, never ready to use for a crazy activity like dining. Each night, all the objects scattered on the table get bundled into a pile and moved to the top of the buffet where paper goes to die. If your child's party invitation accidentally makes it to that pile, we will be unable to attend. Apologies.

We all make an extra effort to clean up before guests come over, even if that guest is actually a plumber coming to fix the leaking tap.

Here are 5 ways to totally cheat and achieve the Vogue Living look in a hurry.


To achieve clean surfaces, all the crap piled up on the table, the buffet, the kitchen bench and the coffee table has to go somewhere. The big obvious stuff gets dealt with properly (time permitting of course) and nobody escapes this task, not even the kids.

What about all the little bits and pieces? The bills, school notes, kids drawings, earbuds, magazines, USB sticks, McHappy toys and paper-planes?

Pile it all up and shove it into a cupboard or drawer that has been left vacant specifically for this purpose.

Next time you need something you can't find, go straight to that special place and sort through it like a rabid dog. You won't mind because you'll know deep down that your dining table was bare when your kid's 9 year old friend came over.

Yes, you'll eventually have to clean it out but the beauty of this method is that by the time you get to this stuff, you'll realise you don't need most of it and chuck it away without thought. Winning.


This one is particularly useful if you're selling your house.

There is not one good reason why you can't store your dirty dishes in the microwave before an open-house. Not one.

It's also completely acceptable to store crap in your car. Trust me.

Enough said.


Who has cleaning cloths that look like this?

Nothing says clean like the smell of bleach. OK, OK, don't yell. I know we don't like to use cleaning products. They're bad for the environment. But I'm sure a little Spray & Wipe on this special occasion won't hurt too much.

If you really want to show off, use Mr Sheen. Then your guests will not only be impressed that you've clean, waxed and polished as you dusted, they'll also think they've time travelled. Warning, they may then expect devilled eggs and ambrosia.

Taking it a step further, a scented candle implies you are calm as well as organised (little do they know) and fresh flowers look great while masking the usual odour of wet-dog.


Think realistically about where your guests will be at your house. Are they really going to hang out in your bedroom or the laundry? Sure, make your bed, do the basics but when it comes to the nitty-gritty, save it for the rooms that will actually be occupied. If the laundry is in view, remember to store all your dirty washing in the washing machine. An empty basket says superwoman.


Your guests won't have time to notice how dirty your blinds are if you hit them with a drink before they've even put their bag down. A ready to go platter means you can get them eating while you're still greeting, totally diverting their attention to what's really important: food and wine.

This is a double-edged winner's sword. If you have to rummage around for a platter or your fancy wine glasses in the cupboard where you just shoved all your shit, you might get caught out. No, don't do that. Be prepared.

Do you have your some cheats of your own? Let us know, share the love.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

5 Things to Do Now to Ease Back to School Pressure

The kids go back to school next week for the beginning of Term 3. These school holidays are like school-year equivalent to Wednesday, hump day. We're on the downward slope after this week, counting down to Christmas, summer (thank God) and the BIG holidays.

It doesn't matter if the kids have a couple of days off or 10 weeks, I'm never organised properly for them to go back. This time, I'm determined to be a little less chaotic on Monday morning and I'm here to help you too.

Here's a list of 5 things that I'm doing this week to minimise the stress of next week. They may be no-brainers to many, even most of you. But if I can help just one other mum, even if it's just reminding her that she needs to take her kids to school on Monday, then my work is done.

You with me?

1) Clean out the School Bags

The gunk that can accumulate in the bottom of a school bag is, at times, repulsive. Crumbs, apple slices, even mouldy sandwiches if you're particularly unlucky can pile up in the bottom of the bag. Wipe them out, wash their hats or jumpers or rain coats or whatever else lives in there. Put them in a sunny spot to dry out and get some good, sunny, germ-killing vibes in the bag. Check for any notes / forms in their bags and file / sign / return as necessary.

If I look, I'll always find a pencil with some other kid's name on it.

2) Replenish Stationery

Glue sticks, pencils and highlighters seem to be the items that wear out or get lost the most in my house. Write their names on the new stuff and pack them into their bags now. Cover and books that need covering and locate any school or library books that need to be returned.

3) Bake 

Cook a batch of something that can go in the freezer to call on for lunch boxes. Banana bread is always a good one and you can freeze individual servings wrapped in Glad Wrap. Be careful, don't cut yourself like husband did! You can read about that here.)

I tried a recipe for pumpkin muffins from Maxabella Loves and it is yum. Mr 9 won't have a bar of it (although he helped make them) but Miss 6 is on board. You'll find a lot of tasty lunch box suggestions there.

4) Prepare Uniforms

Wash and iron the uniforms. If they don't need ironing, fold and put them away so you know exactly where to find them on Monday morning. This includes shoes, socks, hats, ties, tabs and any other necessity for school.

5) Remind the kids 

There's nothing worse than your child being shocked about going back to school, especially younger children who are less time-aware. I find it's best to remind them regularly but reiterating that they still have so many days left to enjoy. If your kids love the idea of going back to school, this may not be much of an issue but if they don't, this can be a big one!

You'll still need to make up the lunchboxes and get the children dressed on Monday morning, which is always easier said than done, but if you've done these 5 things before Monday arrives, you'll be eternally grateful to yourself.

Is back to school a drama for you? Or is anything better than juggling school holidays?

Monday, 6 July 2015

Retail Anxiety and Coping with Kids at the Checkout

Do you shop at Aldi?

Have you ever used the self-service checkouts at Coles or Woolworths?

Have you ever done either of the above whilst shopping with children?

Good Lord, is it just me, or is grocery shopping, especially with kids, becoming more stressful?

The Aldi checkout is a well known centre for stress, particularly to the novice Aldi shopper. Even regular Aldi patrons with a trolley full of products can come unstuck at the register, trying in vain to pack their own goods, invariably scrambling to finish bagging their items well after the transaction has been completed.

"Sorry, I won't be a second, I just need to get my frozen chips, chocolate, ski-gear and drop-saw and I'll be out of your way." Crazy.

Add kids to the equation and you spend 30 minutes assuring them that Little Bears are EXACTLY the same as Tiny Teddies and promising them that they will indeed like Wheat Brix.

Aldi is cheap and they have fabulous random items each week that seem to be perfectly timed. Have you ever found yourself looking through an Aldi catalogue and spotting the very item you declared two weeks ago that you needed but didn't know existed or thought it was way out of your price range?

I need a dome-shaped, pink fridge with hairdryer attachment and bonus socks for less than $30. Oh, there it is, page 3 of the catalogue, on sale this Saturday. I'd better get there 15 minutes before the shop opens wearing riot gear because those other Aldi shoppers are BRUTAL. It's carnage.

Sound familiar?

The self-serve checkouts at Coles and Woolies are just their way of making us do the work for them. Once upon a time people used to scan our groceries and pump our petrol. Now we do it ourselves. They bloody-well tricked us into working for them! We tell ourselves it's quicker, more efficient and cheaper. Is it? I don't think so.

Do you avoid buying fresh fruit and veg if you plan to use the self-service checkout? No barcode, no purchase?

I've been that shopper. Not any more. I've gradually come to know the self-service system and am now competent at looking up items with no barcode. Please don't applaud, I'm not yet worthy. I'll let you know when I'm beyond competent, when I've reached the sparkly golden status of expert.

Skilled as I may be at it now, it's a particularly courageous mood that will persuade me to self-serve when shopping with the children.

There are basically two options here. Let the kids participate or don't.

If you choose the latter, you need to be prepared to put up with all kinds of shittiness as denying a child the right to scan a barcode is a punishable offence.

You must also be prepared for the system to glitch more than once as the kids will undoubtedly lean on the scale or remove a product / bag when the computer says no. You may need to call for assistance several times per transaction (irony?). That sucks.

Or, you can be patient-happy-herbal parent and let them help. "Help".

It will take longer. They will argue over who scans each item. They will lean on the scale and move the bag and take 45 minutes to find a barcode. You will, at least once, lose your shit.

The trick is to enable each child to scan the same number of items and touch the screen the same number of times. If you have 5 or fewer items in your basket, you should be sweet. Less than 15, it will be as outlined above. If you have a trolley and children, join the other queue and let the professionals handle it. Trust me.

How do you feel about self-service? Do you start to sweat when you reach the checkout at Aldi?