April 14, 2008

Spring Cleaning: How to Make It Quicker and Easier

(ARA) – Spring cleaning is one of those things that seem like a really good idea at the time – until you are up to your elbows in grime, surrounded by clutter, and wondering what ever compelled you to start such a gargantuan project in the first place! Long gone are the days when people could devote so much time to the annual rite of spring cleaning. After all, we have busy lives and hectic schedules. How are we supposed to cram in spring cleaning when we can’t even get caught up on the laundry?

Here’s the good news – it can be done. After all, spring is a season that is full of possibilities. So throw open your windows and let the sun shine in because spring cleaning doesn’t have to be another dreaded chore if you keep in mind a few easy tips.

Spread out the work.
Nothing can blow good intentions like insurmountable tasks. It’s important not to bite off more than you can chew when it comes to cleaning the whole house. In other words, don’t clean up the entire house. Divide your home into zones and attack them one at a time. Instead of trying to tear through your entire home in a day, spend a week devoted to one zone of your home, such as the kitchen. After the week is over, move on to the next zone. Spring isn’t in a huge rush. You don’t need to be, either.

Set priorities.
Health and safety come first. Prioritize spring cleaning projects that will make your family and home more comfortable and healthier. For instance, consider replacing any chemical-filled household cleaners with natural, multipurpose cleaners. This could include using half vinegar and half water for cleaning glass or using baking soda and water for an inexpensive and chemical-free way to scrub bathtubs and sinks.

It’s also important to protect against the dust, pollen and dander that can cause poor indoor air quality and aggravate allergies or asthma. Installing a whole-home air filtration system, such as the American Standard Heating & Air Conditioning AccuClean, will eliminate up to 99.98 percent of these airborne particles from the filtered air in your house. It will also help you spend less time cleaning this spring and throughout the year so you can spend more time enjoying your family!

Stay on task.
This tip is probably the most difficult one for any homeowner to stick with, but it’s vital if anything is ever going to be accomplished. Set aside a chunk of time to do some spring cleaning tasks and then keep working. Distractions, of course, are inevitable. But take measures to prevent them as much as possible. Don’t answer the phone, refrain from checking e-mails, or put on a movie for the kids so that you can have at least one or two uninterrupted hours.

Seek help.
Nothing saves time better than increasing your workforce. Pick up the phone and invite some friends over for a spring cleaning party. After all, it’s always more fun to clean up someone else’s home. You provide the food and drinks, and your friends can help you attack a cleaning project. Turning spring cleaning into a friendly project will not only help you get the work done, it will make it fun. Of course, keep in mind your friends will likely ask you to return the favor!

Spring is a time of new beginnings, so begin today to achieve a cleaner, more comfortable home. No matter what your schedule, there is always time to create the home that you desire.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

June 27, 2007

Rediscovering the Outdoors with Your Kids Starts in Your Own Backyard



(ARA) – With school almost out, summer is the perfect time to rediscover the outdoors. Experiencing nature’s wonders firsthand — admiring a garter snake slithering in the grass, planting flowers in the yard or devouring strawberries picked fresh from the garden — can prove as captivating as anything on the TV or video-game screen. So begin today to get your kids to celebrate and capture summer outside with our living planet.

Parents searching for inspiration don’t have to look far to identify great outdoor activities that are nearby, easy and fun. And the benefits are enormous, studies reveal. More-active kids do better academically. They score higher on tests of concentration and self-discipline. They show better coordination, balance and agility, and they’re sick less often. They are less likely to bully, be violent and to vandalize. And they are more likely to develop their imagination and the sense of wonder.

“Unlike television, nature does not steal time; it amplifies it,” contends award-winning journalist and child advocate Richard Louv, whose book Last Child in the Woods coined the term “nature-deficit disorder” and also triggered a nationwide “No Child Left Indoors” movement. “In nature, a child finds freedom, fantasy and privacy: a place distant from the adult world, a separate peace.”

Not as many children today are discovering the outdoors. In a typical week, only six percent of children ages 9 to 13 play outside on their own, while a typical child in the U.S. watches more than three hours of television daily. The decline in outdoor adventuring is cited as one reason why the obesity rate has more than tripled the past three decades, to 17 percent from 5 percent, for children ages 12 to 19.

But getting your kids off the couch and out into the neighborhood for memorable adventures is easy and enjoyable. “We realize it can be a challenge for parents to identify outdoor activities that kids will consider fun,” says Jennifer Hanley, outdoor living and gardening expert at The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company. That very premise inspired the National Gardening Association — in conjunction with ScottsMiracle-Gro – to feature guides to creative, outdoor activities on www.kidsgardening.org. The site offers a wealth of ideas on how to get kids outside and in tune with their natural surroundings this summer.

Hanley’s nature and garden-related suggestions include a stroll around the yard or the neighborhood park to introduce children to the six basic parts of plants and their functions;  planting perennials that live and bloom year after year; and designating a day for immersing children in nature — without TV, computers and video games.

Whenever a child laments, “I’m bored, there’s nothing to do,” recommend any of these options and add enthusiastically that you will be glad to join in the adventure:

* Starting a learning garden in the backyard or neighborhood plot. This helps kids learn about taking care of plants (and the animals drawn to the plants) and respecting the environment and nearby nature. Your kids can take photos of the garden as it grows and produces whatever they’ve planted.
* Bird watching and identifying trees and plants that appear in the yard. These activities often entice older kids, especially if they understand that a periodic bird or plant census helps detect any significant shifts in their populations.
* Recording sight, hearing, smell and touch observations on walks in your neighborhood, which helps kids hone their sensory-observation skills. They can log the information they gather using a scientific approach and even make drawings to chronicle their observations.

Janet Fouts, a West Virginia environmentalist, invented nature games with her daughter, Julia.  In one game called “The Sound of a Creature Not Stirring,” they would listen for sounds they couldn’t hear — an apple ripening, dew on the grass, an earthworm moving through the soil, and a spider weaving its web, among others. Fouts maintains that this attention to nature’s details helped in her daughter’s speech development, writing, artwork and keen attention to detail.

By making outdoor activity fun, parents play an integral role in helping children appreciate the beauty of nature in their surrounding areas and understand the importance of being environmental stewards, starting in their own backyard.  

Courtesy of ARAcontent