Blog Posts by Emily Hsieh, Shine staff

  • Do you have a handheld vacuum? If not, you may want to fix that.

    I recently sprang for a handheld vacuum and it was probably the best 50-or-so-bucks I've ever spent-for me at least, it has been pretty revolutionary.

    It's just an incredibly handy thing to have when you don't feel like lugging out your heavier, clunky canister or upright vacuum (which I never do). Most are cordless these days too, eradicating the need to untangle and fuss with any wires or plugs. It's brilliant for sucking up dirt on and underneath floor mats inside a car, for running over the sofa seat cushions and back pillows (especially if you have a pet), tidying up before guests come over, for picking up basically any kind of little spill or mess, for getting into tight corners of a room… I've had mine for less than a month and have pulled it out at least three or four times a week for one reason or another.

    What's the cleaning tool your most fanatical about?

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  • A genius addition to any closet: cedar drawer liners

    Though the custom-built closet of my fantasies is built entirely out of fragrant, handsome, naturally moth-repelling (and unfortunately rather pricey) cedar, it'll be a long, long while-if ever-I can realize those dreams. In the meantime, I've settled for sprinkling cedar blocks here and there on my shelves and in drawers to keep my clothes smelling fresh and critter-free. However, I just discovered that there's a no-carpentry-required way to upgrade from the wooden blocks I've been using to something more sleek and substantial that even I can afford: cedar drawer liners.

    On, I saw cedar sheets for the first time, which come in rolls that you can cut to fit in your drawers. Like oilcloth, cedar paper makes an attractive base for the interior of any shelf or drawer, only these are especially great for clothing with their mildew/moth/mustiness-fighting properties. I shopped around just now, and found you can buy a generous 6' long,10' wide roll here for less

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  • 40 ways to clean with baking soda

    Though most of us probably have a box of baking soda in the fridge to keep it smelling fresh, as it turns out, baking soda is right up there with vinegar as one of the best, non-toxic, inexpensive, and versatile cleaning agents you can possibly get your hands on. In case you need a refresher (no pun intended!) on how to make the most of this magic white powder in and around your home, I've compiled dozens of ways to use the stuff, many of which you might be surprised by. Got anything to add to this list?

    1. Clean baby toys safely: dissolve 4 tablespoons baking soda in 1 quart water and use the solution to wipe down toys with a sponge, rinse, and dry.

    2. Get bathroom floors sparkling: mix ½ cup baking soda in a bucket of warm water, mop, and rinse.

    3. Deodorize trash cans: dust a bit of baking soda over the can every now and then, and then when you empty it, rinse the canister with 1 cup baking soda to 1 gallon water.

    4. Deodorize drains: sprinkle ½ cup baking

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  • How to make your own non-toxic oven cleaner

    I'm about to move into a house with an old, musty-looking oven. I peeked inside the other day, and realized that the interior could definitely use some TLC (there's a fair and unfortunate amount of baked-on grease stains going on in there). The appliance lacks a self-cleaning function, though the idea of firing up my oven to the point where it's that blazing hot scares me a little anyway. Courtesy of Martha Stewart, I just discovered the following non-toxic, no-risk-of-burning DIY solution I'm going to attempt over the weekend.

    All you need is a little baking soda and water. Mix up the two to form a paste. Spread it all over the interior of the oven, avoiding bare metal and the heating coils. Let it hang out overnight, and then use a plastic spatula the following day to remove it. Easy, right? She also suggests lining the bottom of the oven with foil afterwards to catch future spills-something I'm definitely going to do going forward.

    In the meantime, if you guys have any

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  • An easy, fun way to make over your cupboards

    With my move coming up next week, I've got all kinds of resolutions for the tidier, better organized new me. One of those is to actually take time to line the drawers and shelves inside my cupboards, which serves not only a practical purpose (protecting the surfaces) but looks pretty too-especially if you use a material like oilcloth, which comes in a slew of happiness-inducing patterns and colors and is easy to wipe clean.

    Ages ago I bookmarked this post on about lining drawers with oilcloth, and am finally ready to take action. You can buy oilcloth by the yard on (at a shop within a shop called Oilcloth Addict) or else you can probably track some down at your local fabric store. If you end up ordering it online and it arrives folded, simply lay it flat in the sun to smooth out any lines before trimming it to size. To get it to stick, you can either use a bit of spray adhesive, or try bits of sticky putty along the edges. The whole project shouldn't take

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  • Are landlines going the way of dinosaurs?

    I'm about to move, and among the 18 million things on my to-do list this week is figuring out what kind of home phone service to get. I happened to mention this to my techy, totally cell phone-addicted brother who was incredulous-"A home phone? Are you for real?"-and now I'm curious as to if the rest of you out there view landlines as things of the past.

    I stand by my love of a landline, for many reasons: first, not having to worry about dropped calls the way I do with my mobile; having a reprieve from my nagging paranoia that talking on my cell phone may somehow be damaging to my health; knowing that in the event of an emergency, I've got an old-fashioned phone on standby; and because, bundled with my cable and internet packages, it hardly costs anything extra.

    Coincidentally, just now on I saw that they were surveying their readers on the same issue, and most responded that they gave up their landlines in favor of cell phones ages ago. So, how about

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  • The ultimate organizational tool for staying sane and on top of it all during the school year

    With the school year about to get into full swing, now's the time to start preparing, before the juggling of class schedules, homework, soccer practice, carpool, parent-teacher meetings-all the while trying to manage the house and your own work-etc., etc., etc. launch into overdrive.

    After conducting an informal poll of some of my mom friends to find out how they balance everything, the key is clearly staying organized. A couple of them vouched for the indispensability of a dry erase board calendar, which they post in their kitchens so everyone at home knows what's on tap for the month. They prefer whiteboards to paper versions, since these are easier to update, and unlike using a computer, you don't need to log on to see what's going on-your schedule simply lives on the wall, so you get constant reminders of what's going on and in-store for the coming weeks. Here, five options to get you ready for the year ahead.

    How do you keep your family organized during the school

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  • What’s your all-time best ever flea market score?

    I was at a friend's house this weekend, where she had the most beautiful pair of navy blue leather Chesterfield sofas in her living room. Though it's an old fashioned style, the upholstery looked so fresh and glossy I assumed they were reproduction pieces rather than actually vintage. I asked her where she got them, and turns out they were a recent acquisition-from a flea market just a couple weeks ago, and she got them for a total steal ($400 for the pair, whereas these things normally cost well into the thousands, whether they're used or not). Major envy ensued.

    And just few days prior, I talked to a friend in Santa Fe who told me about the old school metal apothecary cabinet she found at her local market the weekend before-for $5! All this has me thinking that a) I really need to get back into the flea market circuit and b) I wonder what my own best-ever flea market score is. Sadly, I can't even come close to either of their purchases (there was a Shaker side table once upon

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  • Caring for granite and marble countertops

    I'm in home improvement mode, and perhaps the biggest (and the most costly) of the changes I have planned is springing for new marble countertops. And despite the fact that they haven't even been installed yet, given the risk of staining, I'm already thinking ahead to how to best protect my investment. In case the rest of you are in the same boat with granite or marble countertops, here are a few tips for how to keep them pristine.

    Granite and marble are porous, and need to be sealed on a regular basis (at least once a year)-otherwise acidic things (which includes soda, ketchup, and lemon juice) can leave spots. To check if you're due for sealing, splash a few drops of water on your counters. If the drops still look exactly the same after 20 minutes, you're in good shape. If the drops have started to spread out, that means the stone has started absorbing the liquid, and it's time to reseal.

    Thankfully, sealing is an easy enough process. Most come in spray bottles, so you

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  • Ever wash a baseball cap in the dishwasher?

    There's an old, dirty baseball cap of my husband's that's been crumpled at the bottom of our hamper for, well, at least four months. I've been avoiding dealing with it given I've somehow never washed a baseball cap before, but after seeing it for the umpteenth time this morning as I went to go do a load of laundry I decided it was high time to take action.

    After doing some research, I now realize it's an easier endeavor than I'd have thought. All you do is pretreat the stains with a spot cleaner and then wash it with the rest of your laundry. In this case, the cap is a deeply saturated dark blue, which means I'll throw it in with blacks just in case the color bleeds. There are special molds you can buy to preserve the cap's shape, but I've decided to forgo that step (though if you've got a lot of baseball caps in your household this is something you may want to consider purchasing). The key is not to put it in the dryer-just let it air dry to make sure it doesn't shrink or lose

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