• Simone Penn

Secrets of my Domestic G-Dessery (a term of my own invention).

Updated: Jul 3

Warning: not the shortest blog I’ve ever written.




I’ve recently become a domestic gddess, did you know?


It’s true. Vomit stained and 8 months pregnant I received the crown. And by crown I mean hairnet.


For over three months now I have been the acting CEO of the Penn residence and it’s actually quite empowering. The pay is less than satisfactory but apparently everyone feels undervalued in today’s economy.


In any event, I want to share my findings with you.


This is how I now run our home.


‘Tips and tricks’ you may call it...


CLEANING:


Firstly, I want to point out that I’ve noticed a cleaning routine seems to evolve totally organically. There tends to be one day a week per deep clean per area. One day the kitchen gets an overhaul. One day the toilet. One day the bath and shower. One day the beds and headboards. And so on. The rest of the time there’s just this sort of low grade maintenance clean happening. I didn’t write this down or set out a schedule it just sort of happened and I love it.


Floors:


I use boiling water on the floors after sweeping and then I wipe it all up with a hand towel and shove said towel into the wash. I don’t really need any product and find if there’s any residue whatsoever it ultimately leaves the floors dirtier than before anyway. If there is a stain I’ll just scrub it a bit.


The floors do hurt me in my neshoma, I will admit. I had a generic iRobot which is a sort of electric vacuuming pod, but it recently took its last breath and since then we’ve been sweeping manually. It’s very hard to bend down pregnant but I intend to get another electric vacuum with a mop/wet feature and I suspect that will make me SUPER zen.


EDIT: I published this blog on Thursday 2 July 2020. It’s now Friday and I have something to add!


I actually have to recommend Green Worx BioTech now. Specifically for floors.


I got a sample of the concentrate on Tuesday. It’s the most incredible technology that uses probiotics to clean. Once you’ve cleaned; the (good) bacteria stays on the surfaces and continues to clean. I’m not joking. They eat the germs.

Anyway, I hadn’t tried it yet. Then on Wednesday night one of my children didn’t make it to the loo so we had to clean an accident off a patch of floor outside the bathroom. I just grabbed a spray bottle (which happened to be the diluted green Worx) and started cleaning and wiping that small area.

This morning I noticed that this patch of passage looks so clean and the rest of the floors look like vomit.


Needless to say I just went full tilt jungle madness on my entire flat. The kitchen floors NEVER look clean and my bloody parquet attracts dust like a magnet. I cannot believe how clean my floors look I can weep.


Toilet:


I’ll use vinegar or whatever’s around, diluted, for the toilet. Sometimes I just wet wipe and then flush. Plus I scrub with the toilet brush. I was using toilet duck in the beginning of lockdown and I cannot see a difference between my way and the toilet duck way. Yesterday I used sunlight dishwashing liquid which was a triumph.


Windows:


Shall never stop using vinegar for mirrors and windows. Just works so damn well. The end.


Bathooms:


In terms of the bathroom I mainly use boiling water and a small towel. The bath is the only issue coz of soap scum (from my husband). The kids and I don’t use soap at all but he still likes soap. Of everything I’ve tried a dove bar produces the least mess after the bath so I buy those for Monsieur Penn.


Because of our seriously detoxed personal hygiene inventory the bath doesn’t actually get that dirty and I can usually just rinse it clean every night with the shower head.


In the beginning of lockdown the soap scum was so severe I got into the bath one day with about a kilo of bicarb and scrubbed the entire bath inside. It was glistening and so white and I haven’t had to do much since.


I must just say that every night my children leave more water outside the bath than in it so I usually take the dirty clothes they’ve invariably left on the floor, mop up around the floors and steps in the bathroom, and throw soiled-clothes-of-children in the washing machine.


I want to say something about towels but not sure where it fits in so it’s going here...


I’m obsessed with clean, fresh towels so I do wash our towels more than once a week.

But!


I’ve decided that they live on hooks behind the bedroom door and that’s OK. Every night, before the bath, I haul the four, enormous, white bath sheets to the basin and each person takes one after their bath. They are then hung on a bedroom door to dry overnight and the cycle begins again. I keep one more towel (the fifth of the five towels I own) on the towel rail in the bathroom for hand drying and emergencies.

My five white bath sheets spend a lot of time in the washing machine. I will also admit that I sometimes air dry them in the sun on a chair but don’t tell my boyfriend, the tumble dryer, that.


Also, did I mention we have birds? Two finches. They’ve been relegated to the shower. I put a plant in there for good measure.


COSMETICS:


I use my deodorant mix as hand soap because it cleans off the germs and leaves my hands so so soft but for shabbos I need liquid soap and I’m very happy with whatever I find. I use hand soap so infrequently that a bottle can last months.


I also (formally) wash my kids hair so seldom, and rather use the no poo ideology, that I’m happy to use the Africa Organics shampoo when necessary - even though it’s expensive (but certainly not outrageous compared to other conventional shampoos). They generally soak their whole head of hair in the hot bath water every night anyway.


LAUNDRY:


I’ve been using full blown store bought detergents in the laundry and the kids’ clothes still don’t come out clean, at all, without pretreatment so I’m more than happy to use any natural alternative and just accept that my kids are too little to have clean (read: unstained) clothes. Full disclosure.


The tumble dryer is my boyfriend. Can’t have nobody talking cr*p about my boyfriend. Have not hung one single item to dry since lockdown. Not even a sock.

In the interests of quelling the haters I must disclose that my home is a tiny 1.5 bedroom, east facing, flat. The .5 represents a small room, off the main bedroom, that used to be a balcony. All things considered I actually have nowhere to hang wet laundry - even if I wanted to. Before lockdown my domestic worker used to shlep the wet laundry all the way to the roof of the building, to hang it, and then go all the way back in the afternoon to fetch it. Did I mention I’m a pregnant beast? Not. Happening.


I have also instituted a no pajama rule. My kids get into comfy clothing after the bath and wear it the next day! I can’t fight for humans to get dressed TWICE in 24 hours. I have strength enough, only, for the after bath brigade. This system has changed my life.


I’ve been super gross about the duvets. I just cannot wrestle a duvet cover into a queen sized duvet once a week. I admit defeat. On the other hand fitted sheets and pillow covers give me a weird thrill so I wash those all the time and replace them the same day. We only have one set of each. Each family member also has a magnificent hand made quilt from my aunty in Israel. In winter we each add this to the bed every night. These get washed in the machine too.


As an aside, I also sterilize the mattresses every time I take the sheets off which makes me feel far less gross about the duvetcoverless-duvets. For this I use a cleaner from the essential oils company Young Living called THIEVES. It’s a concentrated liquid. I put a cap full in a spray bottle of water and just spray the mattresses like a trigger happy junkie until the bottle is empty. I’ve had the beds professionally cleaned, with chemicals, and an industrial machine, about four times in the last 18 months and the ONLY thing that’s ever taken out stains from potty training days is this thieves cleaner story.


Coming back to laundry, proper: separating darks and lights is the biggest fallacy ever. Although when I do the sheets I like to nuke them with some sort of bleach so then I land up doing a whites only load that day. I’ve learned to use my appliances really well (only took 8.5 years) so using the different cycles for different types of washing has also made a huge impact for me.


It’s safe to say I do one big laundry folding session a week. I was trying to do it everyday but, pregnancy. So now all the clean clothes pile up daily in this magnificent, big basket I own and once a week I listen to a shiur and fold all the laundry. We each have a capsule wardrobe which can last us about ten days so a weekly turnover is decent.


I do one load of laundry and one load of tumble drying per day. This generally happens as soon as I get out of bed. I literally don’t even notice it. My appliances are my heart. I’m so in love with them.


I own an iron. I do not use it. I recently got rid of my final item of clothing that requires ironing and I will never buy such a luxury ever again. The madness.


(In the interests of full disclosure I will say that my husband has a few, plain white, shabbos shirts. Long sleeve, button downs. By the grace of the almighty, and synthetic polyester fabric, they always come out of the tumble dryer straight. It’s a revealed miracle in our time. Thank you Mr Price).


DISHES:


The dishwasher is all about the heat. I’ve been using the finish tablets or Thieves cleaner and it really just depends on if I use the boiling cycle. So again, there, I’m happy to use anything in the dishwasher and vinegar for rinse aid as long as I use the hot cycle it’s fine.


I have a meat dishwasher so nothing meat or Parev or glass ever gets hand washed. I use paper plates for milk and I NEVER cook milk. The only milk we consume is tea, coffee, toast with cheese, snackwedges, and noodles and cheese. So my main milk items are teaspoons (about 20 a day I swear). Those get soaked in hot water and scrubbed but they don’t actually need soap because they don’t go in anyone’s mouth they’re just used for stirring.


I run the dishwasher roughly every two days.


I also emptied and cable tied all the below-counter cabinetry in my kitchen and bathroom. I CANNOT bend down any more. It’s just impossible. So replacing clean dishes and cutlery, from the dishwasher, in the kitchen has become the biggest breeze. Highly recommend.


Oh my goodness I nearly forgot the holy grail of domestic gddesry!


It is this: Never. Put. Plastic. In. The. Dishwasher. Ever. It doesn’t matter how fancy your dishwasher is, the thermal mass of plastic is much lower than ceramic or steel so it cools off much quicker disrupting the entire drying process of the dishwasher which uses steam and time. One tiny, insignificant, dishwasher-safe kiddies fork will leave your entire load damp. It’s infuriating. Figuring this out literally changed my life forever.


So ya, I don’t need dishwashing liquid. I actually really only need 6 items:


1. Vinegar

2. Bicarb

3. One all purpose concentrate which I can use across all applications (for example Thieves cleaner, Green Worx concentrate, or Enchantrix). By all applications I mean: bathrooms, toilet, floors, surfaces, laundry, dishwasher, hand washing, stain treatment, etc.

4. Natural Shampoo

5. Dove bar soap

6. Liquid hand soap


I don’t even need toothpaste but it’s been a nice change from bicarb while I’ve been pregnant.


GROCERIES:


Another area of my life that has become so magically streamlined is grocery shopping. I’ve managed to edit it down to a fine art. I buy meat once a month. Groceries once a week. And baked goods once a week or once every two weeks depending (and freeze).


I use three resources for this:


1. Moishes Kosher Butcher,

2. Zulzi App, and

3. Heidi Feldman’s Bakery.


I send an email once a month to moishes with my meat order, they deliver (for R20!) and I freeze it. I’ve also instituted a prince/pauper rule re: dinner. I will only cook gourmet every second night. One night prince. One night pauper (see unsatisfactory CEO remuneration mentioned above).


Every Monday I do a Zulzi from either Woolworths or Pick ‘n Pay, depending on what I need. Not both. This covers all the basics and fresh things. The proverbial breadmilkcheeseeggs. If something gets finished, it’s finished! We wait until next Monday.


The cherry on top, however, of my magical system has got to be Heidi’s. The previous two just leave me lacking something extra special for shabbos. Heidi’s challah is earth shattering. It makes my shabbos. And I say this being quite proud of my own homemade challah and challah recipe. Plus her babka is a dream and it makes shabbos morning kiddish so special in our little tiny home. I’ve also dabbled with her brownie mix which one bakes and the same with cake batter. All sensational.


The above three result in well fed happy Penns and magical shabbosim BH 🙏🏻


If someone could kindly deliver Friends hummus to me once a week I might just cease to exist from the joy. For now my husband will have to do the weekly hummus run.


I think the most important thing I want to say is this:


‘You’ve got to lower your standards to higher your standards!’


That quote right there is an SP original and it means that you’ve got to lower your standards from: hotel-level-full-time-live-in-robot, in order to higher your standards of mental health, zen, peace, calm, and serenity in the home.


I did and we don’t smell!

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