As an eco-friendly cleaning company, we are specialists in keeping environments clean and healthy—and that includes your workbag. Yes, your workbag. What you pull out of your workbag says a lot about you as a person and if some of those things are old receipts, gum wrappers and a broken ink pen, you might not be giving the best of impressions.
Starting tonight, we want you to clean out your workbag at the end of each day. We suggest cleaning it out in the same place each night (preferably in a spot near a trashcan and recycling bin)—empty out contents, shake gently to remove debris and gently pull the inside liner out and clean with a lint roller. You can wipe down the exterior of your bag (especially good if your bag has been lounging on the floor of a cab or train) by using alcohol-free baby wipes (some good eco-friendly options here).
Before you put back those items you are going to use the next day (and yes, you are only putting back those things you will actually be using), we want you to grab these five items that will help you keep things sorted, cleaned and organized.
Eyeglass Case: While it is a perfect place for your reading specs or sunglasses, an eyeglass case is just the right size for a cell phone charger and headphones. You can also use it to house small beauty items like lip gloss or mascara.
Mint Tin: We would like you to think twice before tossing that empty Altoids tin. Once you clean it out, you have a great place for your business cards. You can also use the tin for jewelry, emergency sewing items or even small first aid supplies (you are always looking for a Band Aid).
Baby Food Jars: If small items like paperclips, hair ties and loose change are forever lost in the bottom of your bag, put them in a couple of baby food jars. The jars are also great for toting snacks—put peanut butter in one and bite-sized graham crackers in the other.
Sandwich Bags: They now come in various sizes and can hold anything from makeup to pens to sticky notes. The bags not only help you keep things sorted, but their clear plastic coverings allow you to quickly see when you are running low on supplies.
Shower Cap: Do you have a long walk to the office from the train station? Throw on your comfy shoes and wrap your more stylish—but less practical—footgear with a shower cap before tossing in your bag. Shower caps also come in handy if you get caught in a rainstorm—they can quickly cover small tech items and keep them safe from the elements.
Talk to us: What strangest item in your workbag?
image courtesy of flckr CC/Tim Wright
While the timing of cold and flu season is quite unpredictable, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds cases peak in the United States between December and February. Now that the holiday rush is over and kids have returned to school while parents have returned to crowded offices, keeping your home safe from germs is a top priority during these final weeks of winter. Here are five things you should clean more frequently in order to help prevent the spread of germs and viruses in your home:
Personal Tech Items
Let’s face it, we’re constantly touching our computer keyboards and cell phones, making them a major breeding ground to all sorts of bacteria. Keeping them clean is critical all year long, but especially during cold and flu season. As a rule, clean your cell phone daily and your keyboard weekly. With microfiber cloths, isopropyl alcohol and cotton swabs, you’ll have a simple but mighty arsenal against germs. Click here to learn all you need to know about tech gadget cleaning.
According to Good Housekeeping, your child’s backpack and lunchbox can house germs and carry them into your home. Wipe down your child’s gear at the end of each day, using a spray bottle filled with a 50/50 water and vinegar solution. Just a few sprays and a scrub with a clean cloth will naturally disinfect and deodorize. Many lunch bags and tote bags are machine-washable. Check tags first to make sure and then give your child’s bag a weekly wash and hang to dry. For those items that can’t mix with your Maytag, wash by hand in your sink with a mild detergent and dry overnight in a dish strainer.
While germs generally don’t live on towels long, WebMD suggests they can live long enough to make a healthy family member sick. Generally, you should wash bath towels after every third use; however, if a family member is sick, consider tossing them in the wash after each use (especially hand towels and wash cloths). Consider skipping the fabric softener to keep towels more absorbent and carry laundry to the washer using a basket, and not your arms. “If you carry them in your arms near your face, some germs can remain on your clothing or hands and cause problems,” writes Mary Marlowe Leverette for About.com.
The trash can may be the last thing you think about cleaning during the cold and flu season, but between used tissues, disposable food containers and crumpled papers, your trash can is a haven for harboring cold and flu germs. Once a week, after your trash can is empty, take it outside and spray with a hose (or, if the weather is too cold, use your shower or bathtub). Spritz with vinegar to absorb odors and wash the inside with a scrub-brush. Let air dry outside of possible—sunlight will help kill any additional germs and mold.
You may be really diligent about keeping your kitchen countertops clean and disinfected, but what about your kitchen sponge. Germs and viruses love the kitchens sponge and most of us forget about keeping it clean as well. At the end of each day, soak your sponge overnight in a mixture of 1 cup of hot water, ½ cup white vinegar and 3 tablespoons of salt. The next day, rinse and toss in the microwave on high for at least one minute (but not more than 2 minutes)—make sure the sponge is still very wet and use caution when removing it from the microwave. You can also put your sponge in the dishwasher using the “heated dry” setting. Don’t get too attached to kitchen sponges. The rule of thumb is to discard after 3-4 weeks of use.
Talk to us: What is your trick for keeping your home clean during cold and flu season?
image courtesy of flickr CC/mason bryant
If you are like us, you are still getting used to a New Year—which means, you may be a little late in swapping out your 2015 calendar for the 2016 version. Before you literally toss out the old year, try one of these very easy DIY projects and repurpose those dates and images into something you can enjoy for the entire year.
Already gotten rid of your 2015 calendar? Bookmark this page to use for next year!
If your calendar is big enough (large desk calendars are best), use it to wrap your 2016 gifts. It’s a great way to personalize the present by wrapping it in the birthday girl’s (or boy’s) month and circling the actual date (this also works well for baby shower gifts—you can circle the expected due date!). If your calendar isn’t big enough for wrapping, cutout the numbers and the images and use to decorate gifts wrapped with plain craft paper.
Create cute picture magnets by looking for smaller images (or numbers!) that you simply “Mod Podge” onto clear accent gems. Click here for the complete directions from PopSugar. Magnets made from calendar numbers are a great way to work with your children on math or cut out individual letters and turn your refrigerator into a daily spelling tablet.
If your holiday shopping has left you a little short on cash, no need to let that stop you from decorating your empty wall space. Calendars with nature scenes or art from famous painters or photographers are easily turned into beautiful wall art by simply framing the images. If you’re really feeling creative, make your own collage of images—perhaps let them represent the very best that 2015 had to offer. Hint: this year, look for calendars that have great wall art possibilities like these ideas from The Creativity Exchange.
We love the look of stationary, but quite frankly, it’s expensive. Turn old calendars into unique envelopes and letterhead with these instructions from eHow. There are numerous designs and plans for both large and small envelopes along with how to create note cards (perfect for school or business correspondence). Make it a 2016 goal to send a personal note to at least one person each and every week!
Okay, this project is for the more crafty (and patient) among us, but we couldn’t resist adding these stylish and functional origami boxes to our list. With only a pair of scissors and a ruler, you can turn your calendar pages into little boxes—perfect for organizing tiny office supplies (paperclips), hair products (barrettes) and even toys (Barbie shoes).
Talk to us: What do you do with your old calendars?
image courtesy of flickr CC/Dafne Cholet
‘Tis the season for runny noses and harsh coughs—just visit any classroom and you’ll see what we mean. While you can’t put your child in a plastic bubble the moment cold weather hits, there are a few things you can do to keep your child as healthy as possible this winter season.
Use DIY Hand Sanitizer
While we love the convenience of hand sanitizers, most commercial brands contain at least 60% alcohol as well as other chemicals. According to Inhabitots, natural ingredients such as rosemary, tea tree oil and lemon have strong antibacterial and antifungal properties while aloe vera helps those oils blend in water and hydrates skin. Click here for a great DIY recipe and put the mixture in small bottles with spray lids before tossing in backpacks and lunchboxes.
Keep Hands Away from Eyes and Mouth
Even if your child is the master at keeping his or her hands washed (see our DIY hand sanitizer recipe above), you can go one step further in your quest for a healthier winter by telling your child to not touch his or her eyes or mouth during the school day. Your eyes and mouth are two of the main ways a virus gets into your system.
This may be the one time of year when you encourage your child to NOT share with others—especially water bottles and food. According to Mayo Clinic, a good rule of thumb for your child is simply, “If you put it in your mouth, keep it to yourself.”
Get Enough Sleep
Good sleep is important throughout the school year, but during cold and flu season sufficient sleep is one of your best defenses against illness. “Students should go to bed the same time each night and should brush their teeth just before bed,” suggests Dr. Julie Miaczynski in an article for the Daily Herald. Elementary through high school students should get an average of 9 to 11 hours of sleep every night.
If your child does become sick, please keep him or her home from school. School nurses who participated in the KidsHealth in the Classroom survey said the biggest health problem at school is colds and flu—revealing that parents who send sick kids to school are helping to create an unhealthy environment for everyone.
Talk to us: What is your best line of defense against colds and flu?
image courtesy of flickr CC/Loren Kerns
image courtesy of flickr CC/macinate
If the cold weather has you feeling a little less than warm inside, try one of these hot cocoa recipes. From warming up after a day of walking in the city to taking your cocoa with you to a sledding hill (click here for best sledding hills in NYC), these recipes—along with fun mug ideas—will take the chill out of the air for you, your family and friends.
Be sure to stock up on great hot chocolate toppings such as marshmallows, whipped cream, chocolate shavings and peppermint sticks!
Creamy Hot Cocoa via allrecipes.com
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ cup white sugar
1 pinch salt
1/3 boiling water
3 ½ cups milk
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup half-and-half cream
- Combine the cocoa, sugar and pinch of salt in a saucepan. Blend in the boiling water. Bring this mixture to an easy boil while you stir. Simmer and stir for about 2 minutes. Watch that it doesn’t scorch.
- Stir in 3 1/2 cups of milk and heat until very hot, but do not boil!
- Remove from heat and add vanilla.
- Divide between 4 mugs. Add the cream to the mugs of cocoa to cool it to drinking temperature.
Fun Mug Idea: Ordinary white mugs take a more personal turn when you add a chalkboard label to one side. You can write each person’s name on the mug or use it to share fun, cold weather messages such as “Warm hands, warm hearts”. Click here for DIY instructions.
Cinnamon Hot Chocolate via housevegan.com
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons + ¾ cup nondairy milk (something a bit thicker like almond), measured separately
- In your favorite mug combine the cocoa powder, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and 2 tablespoons of milk. Mix thoroughly with a fork until you’re left with a thick chocolatey syrup. Set aside.
- Warm the 3/4 cup of milk over medium heat until it reaches your desired temperature.
- Pour the warm milk into the chocolate syrup and give it a good stir.
Fun Mug Idea: Take your creamy hot chocolate on the go to the nearest sledding hill by putting it in the I Am NOT A Paper Cup. Made of double-walled porcelain, this perfect rendition of a paper cup will keep drinks hot and paper cups out of the landfill.
Homemade White Hot Chocolate via gimmesomeoven.com
4 cups of milk of your choice (or you can substitute heavy cream or half-and-half, or do a mixture)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 oz. white chocolate, chopped into small pieces (or white chocolate chips)
- Stir together milk, vanilla and chopped white chocolate in a medium saucepan.
- Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the white hot chocolate comes to a simmer. (Do not let it come to a boil.)
- Remove from heat and serve immediately, topped with whipped cream or marshmallows if desired.
Fun Mug Idea: Turn an ordinary glass mug into an adorable snowman by using Sharpie markers to draw the face (via hoosierhomemade.com). Kids will love watching the snowman face really pop once you pour in the white hot chocolate.
Talk to us: What is your favorite hot beverage to drink on cold days?
image courtesy of flickr CC/macinate
As January ushers in colder temps and those little flakes of white on the outside of your home, it also ushers in a little white on the inside: winter white. It is a trend that the fashion industry has embraced for many years, but now we are seeing more and more interior designers begin to add white to their winter color schemes as well.
You don’t have to go the full white winter route like this picture from Ikea to enjoy the clean design of this interior trend.
Here are three ways to use winter white in more practical (and less expensive) ways this season:
One of the easiest ways to change your home for a season is to buy new pillows for your couch and beds. Look for varying shades of white to add texture to the space and consider throwing in a pop of color such as a deep gray or blue. For the winter months, we also recommend looking for more cozy materials such as velvet or faux fur. If you are tight on storage space, consider purchasing pillow covers instead—we love these from Pottery Barn.
As you visit flea markets and antique stores, keep your eyes open for white pottery. From bowls to vases to interesting figurines, white pottery is the perfect addition to shelves in almost any room of your home. Gathering several pieces in one color will have a dramatic effect in a dark or light space. You can also add these pieces to your dining room table like this photo from houzz.com. Filled or not filled with winter flowers, the look is clean and classic.
While you might not associate colder weather with beautiful blossoms, a white phalaenopsis orchid is a natural—and mobile—decorative touch. Orchids are a very hearty indoor plant and because they are usually planted in pots filled with chips of bark, stones or treefern (no soil), you usually can get away with watering only once a week. This one from FTD.com comes in a sleek black vase—the perfect compliment to its winter white petals.
Talk to us: How will you be using winter white in your home this year?
A recent study of the most popular New Year’s resolutions found that “getting organized” and “spending less” are number 2 and 3 on most of our lists. Did they make it to your list this year? If so, we have five ways to accomplish both using these simple dollar store finds to keep your home organized this year.
You want to organize….
Small Bathroom Items
Ponytail holders, bottles of nail polish, and earrings…oh my. If your bathroom counter is a little cluttered with hard to organize pieces, create a tiered tray that is not only functional, but looks beautiful. Glue dollar store candleholders (paint them if you would like) to the center of cake tins or plates to create this organizational beauty (hint: it can also be used to house office supplies, spices, etc.). (via yesterdayontuesday)
A great way to keep pencils, pens and crayons organized is by using a dollar store plastic Popsicle tray. This mobile organizational unit is perfect for keeping crayon colors organized (you can fit 6-7 small crayons in each slot) and is the perfect addition to a craft table or homework desk. (via teachjunkie)
Did your child receive a lot of books for Christmas? Help keep your bookshelf organized—and your child happy—by creating these animal bookends. Purchase your favorite plastic animal from a dollar store, paint it a color that will match your child’s room and glue it onto a painted wooden base. Complete instructions are found via lovegrowswild.
Scarves, Hats & Gloves
The colder weather may be playing havoc with your hall closet or mudroom—especially if you have multiple people living under one roof. Create the perfect winter gear storage area by using dollar store plastic drink cups. Connecting multiple cups together and hanging them from a wall gives you an instant organizational tool that doesn’t take up much space. You can paint the cups to color-code them for each family member if needed. (via madiganmade)
Don’t get us started on how many times we lose our keys. Find a dollar store picture frame you love (you can also get an old frame at a flea market) and add small hooks on the inside of the frame (take out the glass!). Voila, perfect key storage! This is a great solution for dorm rooms too! (via redflycreations)
Talk to us: What is your best organizational find from a dollar store?