This is the third article I’m posting in my series on the importance and benefits of cleanliness and the obstacles that keep many people from achieving and maintaining it.  In this article, I’m focusing on financial hardship.  Most everyone can understand what it’s like to find themselves struggling to “stay in the black”.  An unexpected bill or medical expense, a death in the family, job loss, car accident, the list goes on.  All these things can put a severe strain on one’s ability to live the way every human has the right to live and can often lead to depression.  A sudden drop off in hygiene and cleanliness is often a symptom of this.

I know this from lifelong experience.  I grew up with my mother and two older brothers in the projects of a small town in Pennsylvania.  While we were on welfare and food stamps, things weren’t so bad.  But my mother being a combination of stubborn, prideful and financially irresponsible got us off of food stamps and welfare and into some serious financial struggles.  I was in the second grade when that happened but it wasn’t until they introduced a basic form of business math in the fourth grade that I began to grasp the concept of responsible spending. From then on, I did my best to try to show my mother what I learned about saving one’s money and how to spend it wisely.  I even aced an advanced bookkeeping and accounting class in high school to give myself more credibility.  But you know what they say about a child teaching their parents…….. well, I hope you do because I don’t. Hahaha.  Well needless to say, it didn’t catch on.
Fast forward years later, I’m half-way through the five-year span of the homeless stage of my life.  I’ve managed to save up several thousand dollars.  I was about to enroll in the University of Memphis.  And I was finally about to get my own place and I was about to start a new second job the following Monday.  That’s when I got the call that my mother was sick.  She had Non-Hodgkins T-Cell Lymphoma and it was already stage four when they found it.  So, like any loving daughter would do, I notified my jobs of my situation and caught the first bus to Pennsylvania. Turned out the only cancer treatment center that took her medical insurance was all the way out in a small town south of Chicago called Zion.  This was quite befitting for her since she was a hardcore christian woman.  While I was there, I was her only caregiver and support.  I emptied my bank account taking care of her.  When she passed away seven months later, I was back to square one.  No job.  No money.  And still no place to live.
Fast forward another five years and here I am.  I live in Oklahoma with my best friend and another roommate.  I have no job despite looking over the seven months I’ve been here.  The only way I’ve been making money is by scrapping alongside my best friend.  Other than that, our roommate’s spending habits very closely resemble those of my mother.  So, it goes without saying that we aren’t under the best financial circumstances.
Luckily, things are already starting to look up and I’m so close to a new job, I can taste it.
In the meantime, I’ve got some great tips for keeping your home champagne clean on a beer budget.

  1.  There are very awesome cleaning products and supplies to be found at the dollar store that when used properly can save you a lot of money:
  • Generic Pine-Sol (I think it’s called Pine-All or something).  It’s only $1 a bottle    and it works and smells just as great as the brand name.
  • Family Dollar sells this awesome bag of assorted sponges for only a $1.  It’s a great    investment because you get about seven or eight different kinds of sponges and some of them actually have the scrubby side to them.  And there’s another certain kind of material that mimics that of the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.  I like to reserve these ones for dish washing because, as long as you don’t leave them floating in the water, they retain most of their soap for a long time.  Just put a streak of dish soap on it, rub it    in gently, then get to scrubbing!
  • Generic bleach instead of Clorox.  It works just as well for cleaning purposes.  Wish I could say the same for its whitening power on clothes but what can I say?  Can’t have it all, right?
  • To address the whitening issue, just toss in a scoop of baking soda with each load of    laundry.
  • To keep the bathroom clean, all you need are three things: a big can of Comet cleanser, a spray bottle of bleach water and a bottle of Lysol toilet bowl cleaner.  Comet is that awesome, cheap miracle cleanser.  You simply sprinkle a small amount evenly over the bottom of the tub and an even smaller amount in the sink.  This is best done right after a shower and after the sink has been used.  The cleanser will stick to the water and become hard and increase its abrasion.  Since it already contains bleach, it’s safe to follow up with a misting from the spray bottle of bleach. Then, you walk away for a few minutes.  Maybe do a sink full of dishes and come immediately back.  That’s where your assorted sponges comes into play, and you use the one designated for the bathroom and a little elbow grease and scrub everything down.  And you already know how to use the toilet bowl cleaner so I won’t condescend you by explaining it, but you put that in the toilet bowl at the same time you do the comet and bleach in the other fixtures.  The important part is to wait until after you’ve scrubbed and flushed the bowl that you spray down the entire outside of the toilet and clean that.  That way you don’t mix the bleach with the ammonia-based bowl cleaner.  For the kitchen, you use a big bottle of Dawn dish soap for the dishes. A small streak in the “eraser sponge” as I call it, and a small squirt in the dish water and you can wash an entire day’s worth of dishes (about 2-3 sinks full) without using up all your dish soap.  The key to this is RINSE, RINSE, RINSE.  Don’t let your dishes go to the sink without rinsing them.  If you rinse them immediately after use, then that lessens the need for extra soap and soaking.  If you don’t do this, then this technique will not work.  For the counters, you can use the same bottle of bleach water you used for the bathroom.
  • Get a good scrub brush for carpeted floors and Resolve Pet Odor foaming carpet cleaner.  Even if you don’t have pets, this formula will eliminate the odors from dirty shoes, bare feet and the odors left behind from spills.  Simply follow the directions on the can and rub it into the carpet with the sponge and let it sit.  For higher traffic areas, follow this up with the scrub brush and some good elbow grease.  For dusting, I can’t recommend anything less than Pledge.  Whatever variety you use (I recommend the multi-surface), make sure to use it sparingly and remember that if the rag you’re using is still wet,    then, you don’t need to spray again it’s become damp.  It’s powerful enough that a little goes a LONG way.  This will lessen its frequency on the shopping list.
  • For windows, use Windex and use the same technique as you would use for dusting.  Use sparingly and don’t spray any more than is absolutely necessary.  When that runs out, use a couple drops of dish soap and refill the bottle with water and you’re good.)

2.  You might not like this one but go ghetto with it.

  • By this, I mean that every time you find yourself at a gas station that serves food, grab a handful of napkins.  And go into the restroom and grab a handful of paper towels.  This frees up the money you would be spending on paper towels for windows and spills, to be used on toilet paper and other things.
  • Whether or not you have a vacuum, get a broom and a hand broom.  By sweeping the carpet and bare floors alike before vacuuming, you’re safe guarding the life of your vacuum so that doesn’t become yet another expense.  And if you don’t have a vacuum, then this will help safeguard your future vacuum and aides in the cleanings power of the carpet cleaner.  To ensure at least 99% of the dirt makes it into the dust pan, use the hand broom to sweep what you’ve accumulated into it.  It gives you more control to ensure it doesn’t go flying over the back of it (don’t you just hate that?!).  It also gives you more accuracy in getting that last tiny bit into the dust pan (that dreaded line    they invented the Swiffer for eliminating).
  • If you don’t have a washer or dryer, alternate between hand washing and trips to the laundromat.  Hand wash your clothes by concentrating on the stains and “hot spots”.     Hot spots are the places that our scents originate from in the garment such as; underarms on shirts and the crotch and behind of bottoms.  The rest of it doesn’t matter until you get a stain in them.  Be sure to never wear the same garment more than once before washing them, hence the need to wash them every day.  And it only takes about the same amount of time as it does to wash a dish.  Then either weekly or bi-weekly trips to the laundromat are essential because things like towels and sheets need more thorough cleaning than basic hand washing can provide, especially if you have a busy schedule.

And there you have it.  Very simple easy tips for keeping your home clean on the scantiest of budgets.

For more tips like these, be on the look out for my upcoming blog dedicated to the home and garden.