The older I get, the more attached to value-sized jugs of white vinegar, my vacuum cleaner and torn pieces of Tom's old tees I feel. I love multi- and repurposed items, and vinegar and worn shirts are surely some of the least expensive powerhouses out there. When I find it hard to settle, which is fairly often, I clean.
There's never a lack of cleaning to be done in a home with children whose first instinct is not to tidy up, a husband I've nicknamed the "Grand Relocator," and pets who collectively shed enough each day that a large area rug can be woven.
When everyone is packed up, dropped off and kissed goodbye, and I finally shut the door to a quiet home, I assess what I hope to accomplish as well as the state of my carpets, counters and kitchen.
The kitchen is my favorite room to master because it is my domain more so than any other except, perhaps, the garden. I like to return it to a blank slate before embarking on any new recipe: shiny counters, a mopped floor, a gleaming sink, a loaded dishwasher, an open range. In concert, the clean and unfettered expanse seems to make more possible a spectacular culinary outcome.
Armed with nothing more than a spray bottle and various brushes, towels and detail implements like old toothbrushes and toothpicks, I indulge my type-A desires and quiet my mind.
Do you have any idea how revolting the rubber insert for your garbage disposal is? It drips with foul-smelling beige slime! Use a toothbrush to scrub the steel round in which it sits while you let the rubber soak in a vinegar-water mix. Throw a lemon half and some ice cubes into the disposal and process for good measure. This will make things smell nice and keep the disposal's blades clean and sharp.
Have you ever used a toothpick to detail the small spaces between your stove and counter? In and around the displays on your oven and dishwasher? Around the vents in the hood above your range? You'll be amazed at the wiry looking squiggles of grease and grime that come up easily under the assertive poke of a toothpick point.
I like to look across my floor, as if I might be getting just the angle to skip rocks across a glassy lake, and see the sticky spots from whatever has been dropped or flung or dribbled down chins during the prior days. A quick once-over with my mop, and things look as new.
Tumbleweeds of pet hair and dust come up agreeably with my vacuum; finally I have one with great suction. The counters gleam as new with a strong-armed wipe. And when I'm finally done, have tossed the shirt-rags into the basement, have put away the sponges and cleaner, my mind is calm, my body is peaceful, and my kitchen is ready to be dirtied again.