Running a home is no easy feat, and every little tip helps to make life easier. Growing up, I admit that I took for granted all of the small details that went into keeping a tidy and neat place. Looking back now, I realize just how much the women I admire taught me, from clever organizing tips to how to remove red wine stains from the carpet. Whether it was explaining the different types of salt or how to make gravy without lumps, I have had the blessing of growing up surrounded by strong women who have always made the most of what they have and learned so many household tips from them.
Keeping your own clean and orderly is quite the task when combined with all of the other responsibilities that life stacks on, from childcare to career to maintaining relationships. Since we don't always have the time or energy to spend long hours cleaning and cooking, having a few tricks up your sleeve is the best way to accomplish all that you want to while enjoying a well-kept home. From repurposing items to getting the most of common ingredients, these tips will make your life easier and your home tidier.
Here are the household tips that have stuck with me year after year.
Of course, for every tip I remember, there are probably 12 that I've forgotten over time, so feel free to share your own DIY household tips in the comment section at the end!
10. Lemon juice cures all.
There is little that lemon juice can't cure. Whether you're looking to make your sink smell better or you're simply in need of a quick Vitamin C boost, a swig of lemon juice does the trick. Growing up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, crabs and seafood were part of a regular summer diet. Did you know that rubbing lemon juice over your hands (often the one they give you in your water glass) helps clear away the seafood smell when you're in need of a quick fix? Just watch the cuts on your hands!
Lemon juice added to a damp cloth (microfiber cloth is best) is also a great way to clean pesky dark stains from the inside of coffee mugs.
The lemon juice trick I use most often now is adding it to my vegetables on the stovetop. A quick splash adds just enough brightness and flavor to bring out the freshness in green vegetables especially, and it's one of those kitchen tips that I use every single day.
9. Always keep a jug of white vinegar on hand.
A spray bottle full of a white vinegar solution with water is the one of the best natural cleaning products out there, and it's often half of the price! I buy a gallon of Heinz Distilled White Vinegar and it takes me quite a long time to go through it, even though I use it almost every day with my cleaning tricks.
I wash my produce in a white vinegar solution with warm water, I dump it down my garbage disposal to get rid of bad odors and grime, and I even toss a cupful into the washing machine when I want to soften scratchy fabrics, like towels. White vinegar is one of those indispensable household hints that still seems to remain a secret.
8. Plastic bags make excellent bathroom trash bags.
Nowadays, many stores ask that you bring your own bag or pay a small fee. I see nothing wrong with this, and I love my reusable grocery bags probably more than my favorite purse. However, when I was growing up, plastic bags were still a common thing.
Why waste money on buying special, small trash bags for your bathroom garbage bin? Chances are, those plastic bags fit easily inside and do the job just fine. Reduce, reuse, and recycle, y'all and save money while you are at it.
7. A toothbrush is your cleaning best friend.
This is one of my favorite cleaning tips. Simply soak a toothbrush (one clean of toothpaste) in a solution of hot water and white vinegar, or spray on your favorite cleaning products, and get to scrubbing those hard-to-reach places in your home. Think the bathroom faucet, the kitchen sink, your kitchen backsplash tiles (splatters happen!), and the dreaded corners of the shower to remove stains with ease.
Don't fuss with a soft cloth when you need hard bristles, and the crevices around your shower doors will look cleaner than ever. I even use it on my shower curtain rod corners and my shower head, just to be sure no algae or other unseemly bacteria builds up.
Pro Household Tip: Buy a pack of hard bristle toothbrushes in different colors so you can assign one to each room.
6. Cooking oil is the most important thing in your kitchen.
Whether you choose vegetable oil, quality olive oil, or canola oil, your kitchen should never be without cooking oil. Here are my three favorite old trick uses.
- When using a box grater, rub some cooking oil on it so it grates smoothly and prevents food from sticking to it.
- When chopping hot peppers, rub a little cooking oil over your hands to prevent the capsaicin from sticking to your hands. You can also wear gloves.
- Use it to fry our Pickle Brined Fried Chicken, one of my favorite Wide Open Eats Test Kitchen recipes.
5. One piece of bread softens everything from brown sugar to cookies.
Whether you cook or bake often, you definitely have some brown sugar hardening up in a plastic bag somewhere in your pantry. It can't just be me! Over the years, I've learned that a piece of bread in a jar of brown sugar or stuck into a plastic bag of dry cookies adds just the right amount of moisture.
Of course, the bread will be hard as a rock, but that just means it worked!
4. Baking soda paste solves most stains.
While some swear by dryer sheets to remove burnt bits from sheet pans, I'm more partial to the baking soda pasta method. A paste of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide is a homemade teeth whitener that's gentler than using chemicals. It also makes an excellent grout cleaner to get all those in-between spots with a toothbrush in your home decor.
A paste of baking soda can also help lift ink stains, blood stains, sweat stains, and just about any other stain you can think of. If using to lift blood, use cold water instead of warm. I like to use it on my wooden chopping boards when they've sat out too long, absorbing a very unattractive spill.
3. A Crock-Pot is the secret to a perfect pot roast.
My mother's pot roast was my favorite meal growing up, especially because macaroni and cheese doesn't technically count as a full meal. As I've tested and tasted multiple pot roast recipes throughout the years, I am fully in the camp of Crock-Pot pot roast.
My oven pot roast recipes never turn out just right, but whenever I use my slow cooker, miracles happen. Also, don't use measuring cups when cooking, only when baking. You should learn how to taste test your food as you're cooking, and follow your instincts.
2. A mason jar is the best storage option around. So are Country Crock Butter containers.
My Mommom swore that Country Crock Butter containers were the best leftover containers around, and looking back now, I realize just how right she was. Sure, they're not the most appealing thing to reveal behind your cabinet door, but they are large and the lid actually seals back on, making it a perfect household tip.
Additionally, a dozen mason jars to use in the kitchen are a home cook's best friend. I store leftover sweetened condensed milk from baking, leftover chicken broth from dinner, and have even made fruit fly traps using mason jars. To do that, add a bit of red wine to the bottom of the jar, and cover with plastic wrap. Seal with a rubber band, and poke holes with a toothpick. You'll end your fruit fly problem in no time. Just have dedicated jars for bugging, and dedicated jars for cooking, of course.
1. To show someone you love them, make them something.
Love is a nourishing, necessary feeling in life and there's no better way to tell someone you love them than giving them their favorite meal. For birthdays, my Mommom would ask the family members which special dinner they would like. It varied; some of us would choose her beloved barbecue, while others (like me!) would ask for macaroni and cheese. She never made a bad meal.
Whenever I see my Mammaw, she brings me a big plastic container of chocolate chip cookies. I've shared those cookies with many a friend throughout the years, and just knowing she thought of me enough to bake some cookies mattered the most. I hope these helpful tips work to make your own life easier or, at the very least, let you appreciate your own family and the tips they've shared throughout the years.
This post was originally published on December 3, 2018.