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Just a housekeeping question that I wonder if any of the bright minds here have encountered and conquered in the past. I dutifully store my powdered dishwasher detergent in a space between the wall and refrigerator, not under the sink where I have read it tends to clump. I guess it has been humid enough here that this strategically chosen locale was still subject to humidity, and it has clumped terribly—still half full. (To exacerbate the agony, I paid full price for this detergent because when I was running low on the last box, I thought I had at least one more box stockpiled from the last sale—and lo, I did not.) If it was free I could maybe throw it out at this point, but it wasn’t, so is there anyway I can save the clumped up detergent—apart from ripping the box apart and dumping it into a new container where I can beat the clumps out myself? Many thanks in advance.

P.S. Oh yes, I have tried slamming the box repeatedly against solid surfaces. Only a few more grains of powder will trickle out after these raucous sessions.

Update: Thank you Heidi for the innovative suggestion to re-market the box as exercise equipment. I still could not bear the thought of consigning three-quarters of a 75-ounce box of detergent to such an inferior end (cleaning the dishes ranks higher than helping a fairly infrequent exerciser to shape up, in my opinion). I took a box cutter to it, dumped the contents in a large tupperware container, and hacked away at the colossal clump until it was gone. Now it’s usable! And I placed a large silica packet inside. We’ll see if that helps.


We don’t even own a deep fryer but for some reason, I have the hardest time keeping grease stains off everything—my clothes, being the obvious place where it lands; my cloth napkins, being another obvious place; and my walls, which is perhaps a less common problem. (I hang up my cast iron skillet, which I have to re-season with vegetable oil after each use, on a nail on the wall; somewhere along the line the grease rubbed off onto the wall in a near perfect circle, and nothing I try can remove it without posing a high risk of removing the paint as well.)

So, does anybody have any tried and true remedies for getting grease out of any of these three surfaces? I have a slightly effective way of getting stains out of my clothing, even after it’s been in the dryer: I wet the spot, rub it with dishwashing liquid, and let it sit for a few minutes. Then I sprinkle borax liberally over the stain, rub it in gently, and wash in warm to hot water. I haven’t seen any complete transformations with this method but it does seem to lighten the stain significantly.

UPDATE: Greased Lightning hath wrought a miracle on my napkins. They were formerly besotted with heat-set stains (I was fairly sure it was some sort of grease stain), but now, after one more wash post-application, I can only see one or two discreet stains left. I’d call that a solution. Thanks again Susan.

Have I put in a recommendation yet for Home Comforts? This book was written ten years ago by a lawyer and professor who secretly enjoyed keeping house enough to write the first single-author housekeeping manual (and an 800+ page one, at that) in 100 years or so. It is fascinating. At first I confess I was put off by the tone; sometimes it sounds as if the author is trying to evoke the housekeeping manuals written 100-200 years ago. You know how the Victorians sometimes reviewed an obvious point several times in different words. She goes off on philosophical tangents (or so they seemed to me) of why to dress the table with linens rather than leaving it bare, for example. I read what I could of it the first time (I have been checking it out from the library) skipping over those tiresome parts. But now I have it again, and I am actually enjoying some of the more philosophical commentary. I read in some of the post-release interviews that the author was disappointed by the way people received the book as an offense to their intelligence–as if it were about how everyone should clean or set their tables. But the book is clearly about homemaking, about why it is so important to families and even to society that people learn to keep house well. It mixes a bit of philosophy in with a LOT of useful information; above all it is thorough and answers just about any housekeeping question I have in a day.

An excerpt from the introduction:

To the contemporary mind, the idea that happiness depends on good housekeeping might seem quaint or odd. A century or two ago, and in fact until the past few decades, it was taken for granted, and the quality of housekeeping was not beneath the attention of such great novelists as Jane Austen and Leo Tolstoy. Several of Charles Dickens’s novels present an interesting variation on the whore/virgin theme when they contrast good housekeepers, who are lavished with praise, and bad housekeepers, who are described with appalled fascination. David Copperfield’s first wife, Dora, who ties a basket of housekeeping keys to her waist in a childish imitation of real housekeeping, all but wrecks their marriage through her infantile incompetence. And though David realizes that he must forgive and love her anyway, Dickens helpfully kills her off and remarries David to Agnes, a genius of a housekeeper who even in childhood brought order and cheer wherever she went with her own little basket of housekeeping keys. In Bleak House, the horrible Mrs. Jellyby serenely abandons her family to domestic squalor and confusion while she attends instead to charitable enterprises serving people a continent away. In contrast, Esther Summerson trips about creating comfort and order to the merry jingle of her little basket of housekeeping keys, and her guardian proves his good sense by appointing her his housekeeper within hours of meeting her.
. . .
Much housework is discretionary, but not all housework is. Minimum standards of cleanliness and order are inescapable necessities for health and happiness. It is up to each of us how to choose the dimensions of “necessary” in our own case. If this means that we can jettison without guilt a mother’s or grandmother’s idea of adequate dusting, it also means, on the other hand, that we still have to figure out just how much dusting represents the rational compromise between health and comfort and available time and resources. It is as true as ever that a dusty home is unpleasant and unhealthy to live in.

–by Lauren

Evidently I have been tapped to join this blog for my vast expertise at homekeeping. Readers should be made aware: my fellow Administrators have never met me. They have never seen my home. They believe what I have told them over the past couple of years, making me, I suppose, passably credible, or them passably credulous. As for our Cat who eats at the dining room table, we find this well within the pale of Titus 2:5 homekeeping.

Cleaning my house and its contents takes a fair amount of time; cooking is a fly-by activity. I usually load the crockpot three times a week, but I also roast briskets and cut them up, and cut up vegetables every few crockpot loads. I am knitting my 13th pair of socks, reading three books concurrently, and walking over an hour a day to maintain a sense of well being. It is a false sense for the most part.

Financial tasks and throwing away most of the mail takes minutes a week. It is this bailiwick in which my efficiency brightly shines. A few times a year I go on an organization binge. The last such foray was the bathroom cupboards. We have no medicine cabinet, but we have cupboards, drawers, and counterspace. I categorized objects by their basic purpose, put them in zip-lock bags, and put the bags in little plastic organizer baskets in the cupboards and in the drawers. I used a tableware organizer in the largest drawer for the various hair and skin things I had been tossing things out of the way to find. My husband has very diligently maintained the order, and has seldom asked for help at finding anything. The bathroom is slated for destruction and remodeling, and then we will consider acquisition of a medicine cabinet. But for now, we shun this pretense of normalcy.

My insurance agent has a sign at the door: “Please pardon the mess: We are remodeling.” The office is far from being a mess, and they are not remodeling; however, I asked if I could have the sign, just to post defensively. We have remodeled so much we have earned every defense in the book. And summer brings yet more projects, indoors and out. Those will be my husband’s purview; mine will be to practice my croquet put in the back yard.

July 2018
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