Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Don't Leave Home Without It

As a mother, there are certain favorite items that I never leave home without. Many of them also come in handy for me as a business owner and real estate investor. Every mom has one or more important necessities that she has by her side at all times. Below are some of the things that I consider indispensable.

Baby wipes clean everything. As a matter of fact, I think I use them more for purposes other than diaper changes. We always keep a container of wipes in the car. Besides scrubbing sticky snack residue from hands and faces, you can launder an entire Gucci suit using one baby wipe and leaving no marks. Ice cream, mayo, blood (don't ask), coffee, chocolate, seat stains, grease--you name it and wipes can clean it. They also work great for last minute shoe shines.

Your child steps in poop at the park and you'd like to tie the shoes to your radio antennae so they don't stink up the car on the way home. However, with enough baby wipes, you can remove most of the droppings that caused the offending odor. This happened to me last summer with the stroller. I was chatting away with a friend and didn't notice that a giant glop of fresh dog do was stuck to the front wheel. Let's just say that it took more than one wipe to get it clean as the sun set and the park vacated. Security arrived to ask me to leave so that they could close the gate, but when they smelled what I was doing, they said I could take my time, retreated quickly to their pick-up as though they were under fire, and closed the windows tightly.

Same for business. If we have a piece of apparel on display at a hotel or retailer and a stain magically appears, we just pull out the baby wipes, give that puppy a scrub, and, viola!, clean as a whistle. Before I show a rental, I like to ensure that it's in perfect shape. But if there's a telltale carpet stain from the last prospective tenant, I don't fear. Dab, dab. Stain gone.

I also carry a black Sharpie permanent marker everywhere I go. It's attached to my keychain. If I notice a scratch on any of our black shoes, I pull out my magic Sharpie wand and, in a flash, the shoes look newly polished (from a distance, that is). When I look in the rearview mirror and see a gray hair that I missed when I pulled them out in the morning am shocked to discover, I give a quick swipe with the marker and appear 10 years younger. Best of all, when there are nine water bottles floating around the van, we know who each one belongs to because we've put their initials on the cap.

Sharpies come in so handy when I need to make a "For Rent" sign. Or, if a middle school punk decides to pull out our sign and take it home with him again, I can threaten to write "I love my mommy!" on his forehead. He'll be sure to be the talk of the student body the next day. If I'm about to enter a business meeting and notice that I accidentally splashed Soft Scrub with bleach on my black skirt, I whip out my Sharpie, scribble over the faded area, and walk in with a well-dressed attitude.

My personal favorite necessity is super glue. I should buy it by the jug. Unfortunately, they only sell it by the quarter ounce like an expensive bottle of perfume. I need my super glue more than a desire to smell pretty. I don't just fix everything with super glue. I've turned it into an art form. Away from home, I use it for the many knobs, moldings, etc., that break off of the car. Before I reattach something, I clean it with a wipe and adhere it with super glue. Now I'm talented enough to apply it without getting my fingers stuck together. Needless to say, broken items come a dime a dozen in my house. I've repaired every type of medium utilized in the manufacturing of products: most plastics, porcelain, resin, Nerf (foam), rubber, metal, felt, cloth, stucco, paper, wood, drywall, you name it.

For our rentals, super glue has saved the day more than once! An electrical outlet cover is broken and someone's coming up the walk to look at the house? No sweat. I just paint (I prefer the tiny bottle with the brush) the edges and stick it on (hopefully, it's not crooked when I look at it again!). Damaged baseboards? Linoleum curled at the edges? Broken toilet paper holder? Loose screws? I know what to do.

Packing tape comes in a close second in the handiness department. I do throw it in the van when I go out sometimes, but I have to admit that I use it mostly to repair the tons of books that fill our home. It's also convenient for taping up projects by budding artists. During the Christmas season, I wallpaper the entry hall with cards, making the tape two-sided by wrapping it around itself. Also, it's my adhesive of choice for the occasional item that can't be repaired with super glue (like very shiny plastic).

Packing tape has saved the day more than once at my rentals. If I have an abundance of dust or lint after a carpet replacement or for some other reason, I just wrap it around my hand backward and wipe away at the intruding fuzzy mess. It's gone in a flash. I use it to remove lint balls from drapes (and clothing), too.

Where would we be without sanitizer? Now, don't misunderstand me. I'm not talking about the antibacterial soap for washing hands. That stuff is poison and I don't use it anymore. I mean the sanitizer that's made from isopropyl alcohol (a disinfectant). I actually carry a spray bottle of alcohol in my purse. In our van we not only have the gel sanitizer in it's pump container, but we carry an "emergency" 32 ounce container, too. You step in my car, you get a squirt in your hands. What do you think I did after I cleaned the poop off the stroller wheel? It's not like there was a bathroom close by where I could wash with soap and water. I took that sanitizer jug out, poured it over my hands, and scrubbed until the first layer of skin came off.

At the grocery store or Costco, as I approach the stacks of shopping carts, I stealthily glance over my shoulder to the left, swing my head around to the right, and, in one sweeping motion, unzip my purse, remove my pink spray bottle, squirt the basket--the entire basket, with a concentration on the handle--and whip it back in. I'm gone before other customers reaching for a cart catch the whiff of "hospital" and wonder where the doctor is.

In professional settings, I discreetly spray my hands as soon after shaking someone else's as politely possible (it works after the Sign of Peace at Mass, too). I just stick my hand in my purse without removing the bottle and press down on the sprayer. At rentals, I mist the handles and switches to everything--even after the move-out cleaning has been completed. Can't be too careful, you know. Do you have any idea how long it takes for a virus to work through my family? Generally, the first person who had it catches a second bug before the original one is done with all of us. I don't mess around here. Eat healthy, get plenty of sleep and sunshine, use sanitizer. Isn't that in the CDC guidelines?

It's your turn. What do you never leave home without?