Christy’s Simple Tips–How to Clean a Vacuum Beater Bar

Use a stitch ripper to clean a vacuum cleaner bar. | Simple Tips from The Simple Homemaker

When people find out that there are seven girls in our family of nine, they often remark to my son and husband, “Oh, you poor things!” Whatever. Wink.

The one who truly deserves the pity is our poor vacuum cleaner. The beater bar on the vacuum gets so wound up with girl and golden retriever hair that the beater bar becomes more of a carpet buffer.

No problem! With a few quick passes using a stitch ripper, the beater bar is as good as new. Just insert the tip in under the hair and slide the ripper through. Voila! (That’s vwah-la, for those of you who are pronouncing that vee-oh-la. Voila is French for “see there;” a viola is a stringed instrument. Get it? Got it? Good. Back to the vacuum beater bar.) It’s like new, and you didn’t break your scissors, slice a vital artery with a kitchen knife, or take apart the whole vacuum and forget how to put it back together again. Been there!

If you don’t have a stitch ripper, you can grab one at any craft or sewing store, or in the craft and sewing section of your local discount department store. They are also available online for a reasonable price. (This is an affiliate link. If you buy something through this link, a portion of Amazon’s profits go to us…so we can make cookies for the poor outnumbered boys in the family. Wink.)

Now go rescue your vacuum cleaners!

Contact me to submit your simple tips to Christy’s Simple Tips for future publication and a link to your blog or website.

10 Tips For Clean Floors Without Cleaning (much)

In our former lives dwelling in a house of nine people and a shaggy dog the size of a Harley, floors could get pretty dirty.  I can think of about 18,274 things I would rather be doing than sweeping or mopping.  (Vacuuming I don’t mind, since it involves chasing down a laughing six-year-old boy who double dog dares me to vacuum up his toes, so that qualifies as family bonding.)

10 Tips for Clean Floors Without Cleaning (Much)

photo credit

As the great (and tidy) Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Applied to floors, it means “Don’t get them dirty in the first place and you won’t have to clean them.”  (Forehead smack.)  Why didn’t I think of that seven children ago?

As my gift to you other forehead smackers, here are ten tips for keeping your floors clean without actually cleaning (much).

10 Tips for Clean Floors

Tips for Clean FloorsEat only at the table.  This especially holds true if you have children or a hole in your lip (the most common excuse grown-ups use for spills).  In good weather, shoo everyone outside to eat and call it a picnic.

Tips for Clean FloorsDon’t wear shoes in the house.  This at first appears to fly in the face of some theories such as the Flylady’s dress to shoes philosophy, but you can switch to house shoes when at home.  Optionally, put comfy slippers on.  Don’t wear your house shoes or slippers outside…unless the house is on fire, naturally.

Tips for Clean FloorsTips for Clean FloorsBrush your pets daily…outside.  It will significantly reduce the amount of pet hair on your floors…and in your food.

Tips for Clean FloorsFeed your pets on a mat or outside. They might plead with those big brown puppy eyes to eat elsewhere, but resist.  Resist!

Tips for Clean Floors

Use one entrance to your home as much as possible. This confines the majority of the tracked-in dirt to one location.

Tips for Clean FloorsPlace mats on the floor near sinks and toilets. Better the spills and leaks go into a washable mat than onto the floor where they will get stepped in and tracked all over your carpet by a small child looking for Mama to announce “I missed.”

Tips for Clean FloorsCut back on floor clutter. The less you have on the floor, the easier it is to do quick maintenance cleans and prevent little messes from becoming ground in floor disasters.

Tips for Clean FloorsPlace floor mats inside each door and welcome mats outside of each door. This will trap a lot of dirt and debris. If you place a funky boot scraper/brush out there as well, people might (but no guarantee) use it.

Tips for Clean FloorsClean up spills immediately.  It’s easier to wipe up the PBJ splatters right away than to scrub them out of your carpet and off your couch after someone steps in it…and someone will step in it.

Tips for Clean Floors Tips for Clean FloorsKeep strollers and other outside “vehicles” outside.  No parking the mini van in the family room.  If tricycles and wagons must come in (and at our house, they must), run them over the welcome mat a few times, or pop shower caps on the wheels.

And a bonus tip: get a dog…with a big tongue…and name him Mop.

What’s your best tip for clean floors without actually cleaning (much)?

Linked up to Weekend Whatever, Teach Me Tuesday and Works-For-Me Wednesday.



10 Tips for Cleaning With Vinegar

10 Funky Tips for Cleaning with Vinegar -- save time, avoid chemicals

If you haven’t discovered the amazing cleaning power of vinegar, you haven’t lived.  Okay, you may have lived just a little bit, but chances are you are spending too much money on cleansers.

Cleaning with vinegar is cheap, simple, non-toxic, and, uh, aromatic. There is little that cannot be tackled by this powerhouse in the cleansing world, from stains and build-up to daily clean-up.  Tuck these tips into your mental filing system (or bookmark this page if your mental filing system resembles mine) for the many everyday messes that life throws at you.

Tips for Cleaning with Vinegar

Clean windows and mirrors with a mixture of one part vinegar to three parts water in a clean spray bottle.  (I get my spray bottles from garden centers because they’re usually prettier, and I like pretty things.  I’m a girl!) Spray, dry, repeat if necessary.  It may require a few cleanings before the residue from your regular cleaner is completely removed. Warn the birds!

Shine counters and appliance fronts with the window spray above, or add half a cup of vinegar to a sink of hot water, dip your washcloth and wipe.  (Do not use on marble!)  For that oh-so-perfect shine, dry well.

Clean the interior of a microwave by soaking a towel in half vinegar and half water.  Place it in the microwave and run it for a minute or two.  The towel will be hot, but when it cools a bit, use it to wipe up the now-loosened and non-smelly particles from the sides of the microwave.  Yup, it gets pretty nasty in there.

Make an abrasive scrub by mixing 1/4 cup of salt with a teaspoon of vinegar, applying to the area, and wiping clean.  Do not use on surfaces that cannot tolerate a little abuse.  If you have children, I recommend you not own surfaces that cannot tolerate a little abuse.

Remove stains, sticker residue, calcium deposits, and those questionables left behind by your children by soaking paper towels with vinegar and covering the area overnight.  If the object is small enough, such as a penny or other tarnished metal, soak the object in a container of vinegar.  A ready supply of shiny pennies will make you very popular with the littles.

Clean smelly drains and garbage disposals and simultaneously entertain the children by pouring 1/4 cup or so of baking soda down the drain and following that with 1/2 cup or so of vinegar.  When the fizzing subsides and the audience disperses, rinse with hot water.

Clean the dishwasher and remove hard water build-up by pouring a cup of vinegar into the dishwasher, paying close attention to the “water squirters.” Run a cycle.  You can also use vinegar instead of rinse aid for shiny dishes.

Clean a coffee maker by running a cycle with vinegar instead of water.  Unless you want flavored coffee the next day, run a few cycles with just water before adding grounds.

Disinfect a wet mattress (oops!) by spritzing with vinegar and sprinkling with baking soda.

Clean extremely dirty, unsanitary, or grease-stained surfaces with full strength vinegar.  Admit it—we all have such surfaces from time to time!

As long as the surface can handle the acidic nature of vinegar, give this affordable all-purpose cleaner a try for all your messes.  Naturally, before using vinegar on carpets or other fabric, you will want to test it in that discreet location we’re all supposed to have for testing carpet cleaners.

Don’t worry about the aroma from cleaning with vinegar.  It will dissipate as the vinegar dries.

For an amazing list of even more ways to clean with vinegar, visit


How do you use vinegar in your home?

Mostly Measurable, Manageable February Goals

Join The Simple Homemaker in setting mostly measurable, manageable goals for February.

How did you do on your January goals?

If you did great, great! If you overdid your goals, cut back for February. Remember, make it manageable.

Remember the ridiculously obvious rules for our mostly measurable, manageable monthly goals:

  1. They should be mostly measurable.
  2. It’s manageable.
  3. It’s a monthly goal.

My list is shorter this month than last, because–confession time–I overdid it last month. And because my baby is at mobile stage which makes life trickier…and so crazy fun!

Here are my mostly measurable manageable monthly goals for February:

Family Habits

  • Breakfast Bible: finish reading Mark aloud.
  • Monthly family manner: eye contact. We’re still working on this one.
  • Monthly family home care habit: keeping the van clean. Because we live on the road, we have a road trip every couple of days. If we don’t clean it every single time, it gets out of control.
  • Monthly character trait: practice finding the positives. This was something we started last year, but it’s going to continue.
  • Prayer: continue strengthening the family prayer habit.

Family Fun

  • Have one game night focused on the older group.
  • Have one game night focused on the younger group.
  • Celebrate National Pizza Day on February 9.
  • Bake a peach pie. It’s the Year of the Pie.
  • Have a Filipino feast!  Lumpia, adobo, pancit–I’m drooling!
  • Reinstate movie night elections or rotation.


  • Write two letters each…including mama!
  • Continue reading aloud The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain.
  • Teach omelet skills.
  • Hannah: Continue monthly goal sessions; edit her completed articles. (She writes faster than I edit these days, so I’m behind.) Also continue query class.
  • Marissa: Find a testing center in Sacramento for two college tests.
  • Order books for test prep for Marissa’s upcoming management classes.
  • Complete the Homeschool in the Woods elections study with middle five.
  • Launch Henty’s Dragon and the Raven study with everybody! So fun!
  • Start Here to Help Teaching’s writing lessons with Elijah (10) and Rebecca (7).
  • Continue Schoolhouse Teacher’s Charlotte Mason preschool with Eliana (4).
  • Continue Slow and Steady, Get Me Ready with Judah (6 months).

Music Mission

  • Write March 2016 newsletter.
  • Continue 2016 thank you notes.
  • Update subscriber list.


  • Work dog and self up to 30 minute walks by the end of the month.
  • Continue the two-a-week treat limit in churches
  • Add seven foods back into my diet. I’m on a total elimination diet for my nursing baby, and I’m currently up to ten foods I can eat.
  • Find a supplement that works for my baby–just do it!
  • Make two family dessert night treats that Hannah can eat. (No dairy, grains, sugar, processed anything.)
  • Continue food/symptom journal.
  • Schedule a doctor’s appointment–a major phobia of mine.


  • Write four non-sponsored, non-review posts here…for you lovely people! This counts as one. Hooray!
  • Write three posts at The Travel Bags.
  • Draft my article assignment for Pregnancy & Newborn magazine.
  • Write a post for Homeschooling with Heart blog.
  • Send one pitch. Done!
  • Edit one chapter in my book.


What are your goals for February?

How to Clean Burned Milk From a Pan

Argh! I burned the milk again! I know, I know, it’s my own fault–I have the attention span of a caffeinated fruit fly, and milk burns very easily. It’s a bad combination.

Lucky for my pots, I know how to get that stuck-on mess off the bottom of my pans.

And soon you will, too.

How to Clean Burned Milk Out of a Pan


How to Remove Burned Milk From a Pan

What you need:

  • salt
  • a wooden spoon or similarly non-offensive scraping implement
  • water
  • dish soap
  • a heating surface, like a stove

What you do:

  1. Sprinkle the bottom of the pot with a layer of salt.
  2. Add warm water to saturate the salt.
  3. Let it rest for 20 minutes or until you remember it.
  4. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a spoon, scrubby, spatula–whatever is scrapy but won’t damage your pot.
  5. Rinse out the pot.
  6. If it’s clean. You’re finished. Have a cookie.
  7. If it’s not clean, put a couple inches of water and several drops of dish soap in the bottom of the pan.
  8. Heat it to boiling on the stove and then simmer on low heat for about an hour. This reeks to high heaven in my opinion (maybe not quite that high), so open the windows and pass out the barf bags.
  9. If this doesn’t work, repeat ad infinitum.

Next time you heat milk on the stove, turn off the television, the radio, the the doorbell, the computers, your phone, your dog, your children, and your brain, and just focus. I know. I can’t either.

Print this up and keep it in your cookbook right by your favorite hot cocoa recipe. Ha ha! Only I’m not joking.

Here’s the printable version:

How to Remove Burned Milk From a Pan
Author: Christy, The Simple Homemaker
Since I have the attention span of a caffeinated fruit fly, and because milk burns easily, I have had to frequently use the following trick to get that burned-on gunk off my pots and pans.
  • salt
  • a wooden spoon or similarly non-offensive scraping implement
  • water
  • dish soap
  • a heating surface, like a stove
    1. Sprinkle the bottom of the pot with a layer of salt.
    2. Add warm water to saturate the salt.
    3. Let it rest for 20 minutes or until you remember it.
    4. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a spoon, scrubby, spatula–whatever is scrapy but won’t damage your pot.
    5. Rinse out the pot.
    6. If it’s clean. You’re finished. Have a cookie.
    7. If it’s not clean, put a couple inches of water and several drops of dish soap in the bottom of the pan.
    8. Heat it to boiling on the stove and then simmer on low heat for about an hour. This reeks to high heaven in my opinion (maybe not quite that high), so open the windows and pass out the barf bags.
    9. If this doesn’t work, repeat ad infinitum.

How do you get the burned-on milk out?

A Simple Stain Solution: Fels Naptha Stain Remover and Laundry Bar

I have seven children. To cut back on laundry, my children wear their play clothes to death before we wash them. It’s like the zombie apocalypse of laundry, which means there are some serious stains. I don’t usually care much about the stains on their play clothes, but sometimes they accidentally wear their church clothes to death, too.

Like this adorable top my sister-in-law gave our littlest love:

A Simple Stain Solution: Fels Naptha Stain Remover and Laundry Bar

Before a mustard splotch, grape jello, unidentifiable food byproducts, and a bloody finger, this was a white shirt. Ohhhh, poor shirt. You are doomed.

A Simple Stain Solution: Fels Naptha Stain Remover and Laundry Bar

Enter the age-old Fels Naptha laundry bar and stain remover.

A Simple Stain Solution: Fels Naptha Stain Remover and Laundry Bar

It looks like a great big bar of English toffee…

A Simple Stain Solution: Fels Naptha Stain Remover and Laundry Bar

but it doesn’t taste like one.

A Simple Stain Solution: Fels Naptha Stain Remover and Laundry Bar

We wet the shirt, rubbed the bar on the abundant stains, and tossed it…in the laundry basket and forgot about it.

A Simple Stain Solution: Fels Naptha Stain Remover and Laundry Bar

The directions say to let it rest for a minute and then wash it.

A Simple Stain Solution: Fels Naptha Stain Remover and Laundry Bar

Directions shmirshmections. I finally washed the shirt after a few days, threw it in the drier, and SHAZAAM! Stains gone!

So I put the shirt on my little model, ran to get my camera for an after shot, and SHAZAAM! Grape juice spill all over the shirt! Who gave the baby grape juice?! Oh…I did…well…not my smartest parenting move. Zombie apocalypse laundry:1, parental foresight: 0.

Option 1 was to wash the shirt again and take an after shot.

Option 2 was to embrace reality and just tell you people what happened.

I’m an option 2 sort of person. Who’s with me? It’s anti-climactic this way, but it offers more scope for the imagination. I mean, a picture? What’s that all about?

You’ll just have to believe me. The Fels Naptha bar worked. Another daughter used the stain bar on a white skirt and it came out looking like new. You’ll just have to believe her, too, because she doesn’t generally take pictures of her laundry. Crazy, messed-up kid. If you’re really set on seeing a before and after, check out this blog who did a similar experiment…but whose kids seem a bit tidier than mine. Ahem.

The bar did not take out our old stains that were already set in the drier, the kind that we sort of bonded with and which have become almost a part of the family. As far as I know, the best way to take out ancient stains is a pair of scissors. Do you have a better method?

I love products that have withstood the test of time, and this is one of them. It’s from 1894. How’s your math? That’s…uhhh…a long time! People use it as a laundry booster, stain remover, and ingredient in homemade laundry detergent, and I just read of people using to wash their dogs, dishes, floors, and furniture. Whoa.

If I were to change something, I would take out the fragrance. I always buy unscented, but that’s just me! Just me. It’s totally fine if that’s not you. It’s just me. Actually, it’s not me–it’s my husband.

A Simple Stain Solution: Fels Naptha Stain Remover and Laundry Bar

Don’t eat it. It’s not English toffee.

Purex gave me this bar to test. The fact that it was free did not affect my opinion. It did, however, affect my household budget slightly. They also gave me a few free coupons for some of you, which will be part of an upcoming mega-giveaway. Sweet!

What are some of your go-to stain removal solutions?

My Simple “Ten Things” Strategy

Sometimes life is overwhelming and everything just seems…complicated, which is the opposite of simple. I’m totally not on board with complicated. Away from me, Complicated!

When my life is feeling complicated and I don’t know where to start, I turn to my little bag of simple tricks. One of my favorites is my ridiculously simple, but highly effective “Ten Things” Strategy. It goes like this. Pay attention now.

Do ten things.

Do ten things! Simple life strategies from The Simple Homemaker.

That’s it! That’s the whole strategy.

You could stop reading right now and go do ten things, or you could procrastinate hang out here and let me break it down for you. Hangin’ around? Okay. Here’s the gist of my simple “Ten Things” Strategy.

If your backside is plastered to the couch, tell your backside, “Listen up, Backside. You can do ten things. You really can!” Backside may whine a little, but eventually it comes around and says, “Hey, you may be right about that. Let’s do it!” (Please tell me you have conversations with your backside, too.) Between the two of you (you and Backside, that is), you can quickly blast through ten things.

Sometimes doing ten things doesn’t make much of a difference, but if you and Backside work smart, those ten things can really add up.

Here are ten ways to be smart about my simple “Ten Things” Strategy.

1) Do ten simple things that make a big difference, like picking up the big blankets on the floor in the family room, or making the bed in your bedroom or putting ten big things in the dishwasher or picking up the ten biggest toys in the playroom.

2) Enlist your children. When I enlist all of my kiddos, that’s 8 people at work. That means 73 things gets done or picked up or folded or washed. (That’s 73 instead of 80 because the one-year-old can only count to three, so she stops there.)

3) Don’t give it too much thought. If you’re a TV watcher, hop up as soon as the commercial hits or the Netflix episode ends and do your ten things. If you walk into your bedroom and it isn’t inviting, quickly do ten things and then continue with your day.

4) Just do it, even if (or especially when) you don’t feel like it. If you’re just feeling blah and you want to ignore the mess in the kitchen and eat hot popcorn with chocolate chips melted in it, throw ten things in the dishwasher first, or clear ten things off the table. Whatever!

5) Let your progress fuel you. Sometimes (like in my alternate reality) there are only twelve things that need to be done. When I get through ten, I find myself motivated to do the last little bit.

6) Listen to your body, but don’t listen to your body if you’re in a funk. In other words, if you’re really hurting, pick up ten dirty socks and call it a day. If you’re just feeling unmotivated and whiny, pick up all the dirty socks and call it one thing–the dirty socks.

7) Apply this to anything–a pile of paperwork, a full email inbox, messy bedrooms, garage sale items needing pricing, unfolded laundry, lonely socks looking for soulmates, bushy eyebrows, unwrapped presents, thank you notes, dusty knick-knacks (no knick-knacks, no dust…just sayin’), fund-raiser phone calls, push-ups needing pushing.

8) I’m not above bribery. When my backside is feeling particularly unmotivated, I say, “Hey ,Backside, we do ten things, we’re eatin’ ten M&Ms.” It’s not pie, but it works.

(If you’re one of my food nazi friends (love ya!) cringing at the thought of my eating ten M&Ms, two things: 1, I don’t eat M&Ms because they make my stomach hurt and cause the air around me to turn a rather unpleasant shade of green (a humiliating, but amusing post for another day), and 2, chill. Still love ya.)

9) For a bigger impact, do ten things in ten areas of your life. Do ten things in the bedroom, bathroom, office, purse, sock drawer, email inbox, junk drawer, garage, van, laundry room, piano bench, spice cupboard, junk drawer, pantry, tool box, play room. That’s pretty intense. Usually I stick to ten simple things.

10) Use the ten things strategy in reverse to keep your playtime in check. “I will only pin ten things, read ten blogs posts, eat ten cookies (What?! They’re little!), chat on the phone for ten minutes, read ten pages.” Mmmm…cookies.

My “Ten Things” Strategy is so ridiculously simple, that it really didn’t need a ten step expose. Still, that was fun, wasn’t it? Yup, fun over. Now it’s time for you and Backside to get down to business. Now, right now, let’s get up and do ten things. (Eating ten cookies doesn’t count.) Ready? Break!

For Monday through Friday “Do Ten Things at Ten” reminders and fun, join me on Facebook or Twitter. Are there cookies? You’ll just have to find that out for yourself.

Did you do it? Did you do ten things? What’d ya do?

An important note: After reading the comments from some of my Simple Homemaker Facebook friends and Twitter tweeps who are doing a daily Ten Things Challenge with me, I’m noticing some confusion. When I say “Do Ten Things!” I do not mean these ten things:

  1. Clean the bathroom until it shines, AND
  2. Cook dinner…for a month, AND
  3. Do all the laundry in the house…or neighborhood, AND
  4. Change the tire on your car, AND
  5. Mow the lawn, AND
  6. Run for President, AND
  7. Get your doctorate, AND
  8. Write lesson plans for your child’s entire educational career, AND
  9. Get married and have children, AND
  10. Get therapy.

I mean something more like this:

  1. Wash ten dishes, OR
  2. Pick up ten toys, OR
  3. Trim ten little toenails, OR
  4. Address ten Christmas cards, OR
  5. Tackle ten things in your paperwork pile, OR
  6. Fold ten things from the clean laundry basket that’s become a permanent household fixture, OR
  7. Put away ten things from the dishwasher, OR
  8. Put away ten things on the kitchen counter, OR
  9. Pick up ten things on the family room floor, OR
  10. Dust ten things on the mantle (which, by the way, you would never have to do if you didn’t have ten things on the mantle, you know. Less is more because less is less dust, less work, less clutter, which means more time, more fun, more living!).

Please don’t feel like I’m telling you to work for an hour or wear yourself out. This is a simple strategy to make a little dent in a big project or to extinguish a hot spot or to tidy up a small mess. It’s simple! Of course, if you can and want to, go ahead and run for President and get your doctorate this morning…but don’t feel you have to. Are we clear? Good! Now go do ten simple things!