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#1 of 21 Old 03-19-2010, 12:20 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hey mamas.
I realized when I got home today that my apartment ALWAYS smells bad. It's not always the same smell. It's almost always low level, like white noise, but irritating. I'm done. I am going to have a sweet smelling home gosh dang it!

Help me please? (And of course, no febreeze, plug in chemical smell stuff, etc.)

I know making it clean smelling and then layering in nice smells is what I want, not just masking the ukky smells.

Here are the problems that I THINK are causing the smell:
(I'm being brutally honest here, please don't be mean)
-not taking out the garbage as often as it needs
-putting herbs/etc in water on the counter to keep longer then not throwing them out when they start to rot
-not throwing out flowers on the counter when they start to rot
-having so much produce around that some of it is always starting to rot it seems like
-not washing the garbage can out as often as it needs
-maybe mildew/mold? we definitely have mildew around and we had some mold, hasn't come back, but there might be some I can't see
-no opening the windows often (twofold reasons-1 so that the cat doesn't fall out the window, (though when we're home he doesn't seem to try to get out the window if I pull the blinds down but keep them tilted open) and 2 because it's been so cold and rainy lately that it was miserable to keep the window open. now that it's spring, it's only number 1, which should make things better, because the windows can be open when we're home and watching the cat at least)
-I really don't think the cat litter box is the problem. we clean it regularly, and I almost never notice any stink around it, and what there is is easily remedied by opening the bathroom window

so my ideas are:
-finding a method of remembering the trash more often (ideas? it's three stories down, so when I'm tired at the end of a work day, after being on my feet all day, I'm often too lazy to take it down and back up)
-cleaning off my dining room table. this means ONE and only one plant can remain my tzedaka box, and candlesticks. the fruit goes elsewhere. the other plants go elsewhere. that way, there aren't herbs and fruit that go unnoticed behind other stuff. plus then we could actually eat at the table!! (it will require finding new homes for a lot of stuff and making new habits, but I want to be accustomed to dining at the table by the time we have kids.)
-add some nice smelling stuff (what? those citrus clove things? essential oil sprays? that sounds expensive. poupourri? what do you use to keep your home smelling sweet. or well, it's not really sweet I want. I want it to smell... fresh, clean, and spicy. I'm leaning towards lots of citrus clove things, and maybe some other stuff.)

What else can I do? any advice about actually doing and maintaining these things? how do you have a sweet smelling home.

Thanks!
I am so sick of low level stink.

Caroline, partner to J, post partum doula, kitchen manager, aspiring midwife, soon to be nursing student, mama to my furbaby, someday a mama to not so furry munchkins, G-d willing
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#2 of 21 Old 03-19-2010, 03:33 AM
 
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The best advice I have to offer is to go through each of the items you listed one by one and figure out a solution you are comfortable really doing. Just brainstorm on one at a time and work with your ideas/solutions for a little while. The more you concentrate on ONE thing, the easier it is to DO that one thing. Once you get one down pat, it is a positive reinforcement to the new behavior and that gives you a warm, fuzzy, feel-good pat on the back, which encourages you to keep going... and so forth. Soon enough, you have achievable goals right in the palm of your hand, so to speak. Seriously, though, slow and steady generally works better long-term for permanently building new habits.

With the windows and a cat, try opening two windows just enough for a flow of air (not wide enough for the cat to get out) that are located where they create a cross breeze. This alone can be highly effective on a daily basis for even 5-10 minutes. (Outdoor allergies negate this, however, in the seasons where allergies irritate you.)

Figuring out WHY you have so many items on the table will be of more use than just clearing it off. Solve the why and the rest will follow.

For the trash, we used to have that problem when we first got our much-improved recycling program. We had adjusted our recycling habits pretty quickly, but didn't really consider the impact on the trash habits. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, the solution for us was to use a SMALLER trash can in the kitchen. We switched from a tall kitchen can with a lid (to keep the cat out) to a bathroom-size can that fits under our sink and use any and all plastic bags that come our way (produce bags from our CSA currently fit rather well). With such a small can, we have to take it out more frequently and, therefore, it doesn't have time to stink. Now, for us, with the improved recycling, this is still a few weeks. If we have something to throw out we know is going to stink quickly, we got into the habit of taking it out right away on its own. We live in townhomes and do not have individual outside trash cans. The dumpsters aren't exactly right outside our door, so I get what you mean. I purposely built new habits to accommodate the situation. Walking from our home to our car is a bit of a walk and it doesn't take us by any dumpsters. I walk in our community more than I drive and I rerouted myself to pass by a dumpster nearly every day now and drop anything in that needs it. I walk DD to school every morning and I walk to pick her up every afternoon. I used to walk a different way and never passed a dumpster. Now, I pass one directly and two more indirectly. I first started doing this because one of those indirect dumpsters had recycling and the one closest to us didn't. Once or twice a week, I purposely walk a different route in order to pick up the mail.

For your situation, perhaps you could move the trash can to the front door at the end of the evening (or after dinner) and then take the bag to the trash in the morning on your way to work?

To answer your last question, I don't use much in the way of "scents" of any kind in our home. I rely on just basic cleaning and airing out the house regularly. Also, I asked DH to make it a habit to turn on the range hood every time he cooks on the stove top. We're both working on that habit, actually, but he cooks more often than I do. (Our old range hood was not particularly useful, but our new one is quite functional.) Also, plants help clean the indoor air. I aimed to get 2-3 plants in every room, except bathrooms (no natural light whatsoever) and DD's bedroom. She has one plant and both bedrooms have air purifiers that we run for a few hours every couple days.

You can do it!

"Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless." - Mother Teresa

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#3 of 21 Old 03-19-2010, 04:21 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks. Hmmm, I guess we should figure out why we have so much stuff on the table. (well, part of it is that apperently, to my parents, daughter with her own new apartment=she needs houseplants, despite the fact that I worked at a nursery and already had a surfeit of houseplants.) On the small kitchen table, we have a live christmas tree (those little ones. where the heck am I supposed to plant it? but it's thriving so I'm not wanting to throw it out, even though I hate xmas in march), an orchid with ivy (the ivy's grown like crazy, and takes up a ton of the table, though the orchid isn't blooming), and paperwhites (which I need to cut back and ummm do something with until next year I guess.) (I think my parents like flashy but impractical houseplants. I'm more of a spiderplant gal, with two of my own children(plants I started from spiderplant "babies", and hopefully, I'll have the space to cultivate some of the grandbaby spider plants next year. and a ficus and and and....)

So I think I have the plants covered

In terms of the other stuff on the table right now, mostly it's fruit (and empty paper bags which I just removed), and the little decorative stuff DP picks up. (crab shells, shells, rocks, feathers that I'm always picking up). I think we need a nature table for us adults And I'll look into options for storing the fruit. (Though the fruit is also there for decoration, but truely, it's getting out of hand. I have ummm 20 lemons on the table atm. at times this winter we would have 10 oranges, 5 pears, 10 lemons, 2 pomagrantes, and an apple....) (It rots too fast in a solid bowl, but maybe one of those mesh things...)

We don't have windows opposite each other, they're all on one side of the apartment, but I set up a window with a fan pulling the air in today since the kitchen was so gross, and that helped a lot for freshness, I'll try to do that more often.

Actually, having too big a trashcan is part of the reason we don't take the trash out enough too. I hate to waste the plastic to take the trash out every day when it's only 1/3 full, and we already have one of those smaller desk cans. (I guess I could use the one we have in the bathroom, which is even smaller, but the baggies would still be the same size.)

I'll try the putting the can by the door at night so it's easier to remember to take down. The dumpster is right near the front door, so once I get in the habit of remembering to take the bag, it's really no extra trouble. (the recycling is another story, but I'll start with the trash, since the recycling doesn't really smell). Thank you.

And thanks for reminding me to take it a step at a time. I'm good at telling other people that with dietary changes, but apparently not so good at telling myself that

Caroline, partner to J, post partum doula, kitchen manager, aspiring midwife, soon to be nursing student, mama to my furbaby, someday a mama to not so furry munchkins, G-d willing
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#4 of 21 Old 03-19-2010, 05:44 AM
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for the trash, we take it out in the morning. we live in an apt on a footpath. it's down a flight of steep stairs, down and up a small rise, down a switchback, across a park, down some steps, up a footpath, and down more steps before we get to a point where we can take the trash to "out" where it will be picked up.

there is no way i would do that after work.

but, sometimes, the trash is ready to go that evening. after cleaning the kichen for the night--doing dishes, etc--i then prep the trash by closing it off, pulling it out of teh can, and washing the can. after the can is washed, i lift up the trash and wipe down the counter, then put the trash in the sink (in case there is any liquid that would drip out).

the next morning, i set the trash on the ground (in the kitchen), , rinse the sink, and make breakfast etc. when I or my husband leave for work, we take the trash out then (because the drop space is on the way to work). we take out one grocery bag sized back per week right now. and that may go down as our composting comes fully online.

houseplants, we don't have any so i can't help there. perhaps rehome them?

for fruit, etc--really only buy what you are going to consume so that doesn't get out of hand. it can look nice and you can go a day or so with fewer pieces of fruit around.
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#5 of 21 Old 03-19-2010, 05:58 AM
 
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Is there a chance that the smells that are bothering you are in the carpeting (or drapes or furniture or cabinetry) or in the walls?

As far as the fruit and herbs go, I would just make it a part of my daily routine to inspect and remove any baddies. Maybe while you brew your coffee or tea in the AM? I also tend to keep some things in the fridge if I buy more than we can eat in a few days--then replenish the fruit bowl from that. It's not as desirable but it beats having them go bad on me.

But anyway, you mentioned it's a new apartment and I'm thinking if it wasn't just built, you could have lingering smells from the people before you. Scrubbing everything down with vinegar/lemon juice/baking soda, steam-cleaning tile, vinyl and bathrooms, etc. can really help. I'd also clean the carpets--there are some newer more eco-friendly methods I've read about. I'd wipe down every thing including walls, cabinets, doors and windows, etc.

Good luck! Personally I have terrible pollen allergies pretty much year-round, so opening windows is often not an option or comes with a steep price.

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#6 of 21 Old 03-19-2010, 11:28 AM
 
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You've gotten some great advice.

I will add this...in one area nothing works except a plug in air freshener thing. It is my laundry room where our dog hangs out a LOT. His food and bedding are there and it is a small room without a lot of ventilation (no window) so the smells just stay there. I fought it for months, tried a plug in and within a couple of hours the room was MUCH better. It might be a solution near the litter box.
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#7 of 21 Old 03-19-2010, 12:32 PM
 
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Since it is getting warmer, can you put your herbs out on a windowsill or deck?

Keep the fruit in the fridge, it will also keep longer and it won't attract fruit flies. Buy less, if you aren't eating it before it goes bad.

Make the trash part of your morning routine, and drop it off on your way out in the morning.

Hang bunches of herbs like sage or lavender or anything that you like the smell of throughout the house. I like lavender and I think it looks pretty, so I've got dried bunches all over the place.

Do you have lots of carpeting? I sprinkle baking soda on all the carpets and let it sit for about an hour before I vacuum. Get small boxes of baking soda and hide them behind the things that get smelly if you can't get rid of them.

Also, if there were previous tenants living there before you, maybe they were smokers? I've always noticed a stale funk in houses where people used to smoke. Maybe see about getting the walls sealed and repainted if that's the case.

I also like to burn smelly candles once in awhile to get a nice scent going through the house. A tart burner can be nice, too. Not everybody likes candles though, so that's a personal preference type of thing.
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#8 of 21 Old 03-19-2010, 12:36 PM
 
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If you've got 20 lemons, cut up a couple and run them through your garbage disposal. Cut up one or two more and boil them and let them simmer on the stove for a nice smell.

Slice one up and let the slices dry out, and use them for decoration.

I would really cut back on buying or having that much fruit unless you eat it all before it spoils. Get some dried/petrified stuff or fake fruit if you want it for decoration.

Also, since you collect pretty things like rocks and feathers and seashells, put those in your fruit bowl for decoration instead of the fruit.
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#9 of 21 Old 03-19-2010, 01:45 PM
 
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I'm not the OP, but I just wanted to point out one thing....

For us, the fruit on the table issue is due to our CSA. We get the box every other Thursday (large box, split with a friend). All the fruit from the box is sitting on our table right now since we picked up our box yesterday afternoon. DD & I make a game of arranging it neatly in fun shapes. As the days go by, the quantity shrinks. Before the two weeks is up, the fruit is all gone. BUT...... before we started leaving it on the table, it would NOT be gone before the next box arrived. I agree with the OP that fruit in a solid bowl (of which I have a gorgeous one that I love) goes bad faster than fruit on the table. Hence, my solution is to make a game of "designing fun shapes" with the fruit. It serves all of my purposes: what is seen is eaten around here and I like "pretty AND functional".

If I were buying the fruit under different circumstances, then, yes, I would cut down on the quantity at each purchase to keep the "fruit clutter" at bay...

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#10 of 21 Old 03-19-2010, 02:00 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChristyMarie View Post

I will add this...in one area nothing works except a plug in air freshener thing. It is my laundry room where our dog hangs out a LOT. His food and bedding are there and it is a small room without a lot of ventilation (no window) so the smells just stay there. I fought it for months, tried a plug in and within a couple of hours the room was MUCH better. It might be a solution near the litter box.
I really don't think the litterbox is particularly contributing. I always noticed my sister's cat's litterbox, and almost never notice a smell from W.B's, even when we first got him. I can't stand the plug in things, they were irritating across the house in my mom's huge house. in an apartment this small, it would be unlivable for me.

Quote:
Since it is getting warmer, can you put your herbs out on a windowsill or deck?
no, (they're actually cut herbs not growing herbs, but that's why so many plants are there, in front of the sun) that's why they are on the table. It's right in front of the kitchen window,and the table in front of the window is about the closest we have to a sill or deck. Our sill is only an inch deep. I could try seeing if we could find another shelf thing to put under the other window in the main room (one has a cat bench in front of it, the other, nothing), which would help with my clutter as well.

Thanks, I'll convince DP to buy less fruit (he eats it, not me much) and buy less myself, since I rarely eat it (more often in summer of course). No disposal, but I'll give boiling some lemon slices a try.

We used to keep citrus in the fridge, we should start doing that again, it would help keep it longer, and prevent rotting smells, and those dang fruit flies/gnats that are invading my kitchen again.

hmmmm baking soda on the carpet... I'm not sure our ineffective stick vacume would pick it up, but maybe thats just a sign we need a better vacume. any ideas on where to get a decent vacume (that actually works and the floor isn't still dirty after vacuming the same spot 3 times) for cheap? They seem like they're usually $100+.

We've been here a year, so it's not that new, I suspect the smells are all from us. (they also cleaned the carpets and repainted before we moved in.)

Thanks.

Caroline, partner to J, post partum doula, kitchen manager, aspiring midwife, soon to be nursing student, mama to my furbaby, someday a mama to not so furry munchkins, G-d willing
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#11 of 21 Old 03-26-2010, 11:58 PM
 
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We got a very effective, cheap Bissell vacuum that I have loved more than our 2 previous vacuums (one was a wedding gift--expensive vac; the next was our attempt to find something better, also more than $100)... the Bissell we have now is about 2 years old and we paid about $40 for it new... I'd buy it again!! I do the baking soda thing, too, and the vacuum picks it all up quickly.

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#12 of 21 Old 03-27-2010, 12:49 AM
 
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I just bought a $67 Bissell to replace the $130 Bissell that broke recently. It works just as well if not better than any vacuum I've had. The cup has to be dumped more often but with a small place it's not too bad of an issue. If you have carpet, I really think you need more than a stick vac to get it clean(er).

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#13 of 21 Old 03-27-2010, 01:56 PM
 
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you can also buy zeolite powder online at pool supply stores or ebay or at a local pool supply stores. I made filters out of it buy putting a handful in cloth tea bags and hanging them up and you can also sprinkle it on the carpet and vacuum up after about 24 hours or so. It acts a filter basically. My vacuum did have a hard time picking up the zeolite though Its been months and there are still little crystals down in the carpets, but we have a kirby i think it purposely is made to not go deep down or have some weird suction problems i dont know.
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#14 of 21 Old 03-28-2010, 12:39 PM
 
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I make it a point to air out each room almost every day. Maybe twice a week in the winter. I usually do my bedroom when I am making the bed. The living room when I vacuum or just pick. I do each room separately if it is cold out. I also think vinegar is a natural deodorizer. I sometimes spray vinegar and water maybe with a few drops of EO's in the air and on my couch/carpet. Lastly if I think it is smelling funky I put a pot of water on the stove with orange/lemon peels, cinnamon, cloves.

I think the airing out is what does it. Oh- I empty my trash when it is full- all the time. I think dirty dishes smell too so even if leave them in the sink they are rinsed clean.

Maggie, wife and mom to three
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#15 of 21 Old 03-29-2010, 03:36 AM
 
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I do the pot of orange peels, cinnamon sticks and cloves too. It smells great and last a long time. we use a small trash can thats emptied often

Blessed Mama through adoption. Diva 3, Baby J 1, Baby E 6 months (and still waiting for us to come get her!)

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#16 of 21 Old 03-30-2010, 02:06 AM
 
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Moving my garbage can outside the front door has dramatically improved the smell of my house! My garbage can locks so I don't have to worry about any cute little animals getting into it. It was a pain in the butt at first but I'm just used to it. I take out the bathroom garbage as soon as it starts to small funky.

I have an oil burner and essential oils that I like to light a couple of times per day. I mostly use tea tree, lavender, and/or orange to clean the air.

I save my baking for when company's about to come so my house smells delicious when they walk in the door!
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#17 of 21 Old 03-30-2010, 11:02 PM
 
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Suggestions from what you've said so far:

Get a basket or bowl for the rocks/shells/feather.

Take the trash out on your way out in the morning.

Don't buy more fruit than you can reasonably eat in a week or so.

Put most of the fruit in the fridge.

give away houseplants to friends until you have only the ones you absolutely love or are meaningful to you.

open the windows whenever you can.
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#18 of 21 Old 03-31-2010, 03:30 PM
 
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We make a lot of spicy food at home (which is a small apartment). And that smell tend to linger around, settle down on clothes or curtains etc, especially during winter when all the windows are closed. This bothered DH to a large extent and then I found that vinegar+water in equal measure when boiled for 30-40 mins helped get rid of any smell in the house. Works great for us!

nerdy mom to DD1 7yo, D2 infant
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#19 of 21 Old 04-01-2010, 12:52 AM - Thread Starter
 
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thank you for all your suggustions. sorry I've been lurking on my own thread

I've taken some of these suggustions into action. The smell has gone from most of the time bad to most of the time ok/not much smell, which is huge! We've been opening the windows a lot, which made the difference. and taking the trash out more often. of course now it's cold again and rainy so no open window for a few days and it doesn't smell as nice.

Caroline, partner to J, post partum doula, kitchen manager, aspiring midwife, soon to be nursing student, mama to my furbaby, someday a mama to not so furry munchkins, G-d willing
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#20 of 21 Old 04-02-2010, 02:21 AM
 
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Do you get plastic produce bags when you grocery shop? We sometimes use those for garbage liners. They're much smaller than regular garbage bags or grocery bags, so perhaps using that would help you need to take out the garbage more often?

I second the advice to air out each room daily. After we get up, I open the bedroom windows for a 10-15 minutes, even in winter, unless it's going to rain in those windows. In the Bay Area, you should be able to do that for a few minutes each day without making your apartment too cold. If it's a rainy day, I find that there are usually still some times when it's not raining and when I can air things out a bit.
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#21 of 21 Old 04-05-2010, 12:29 AM
 
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I'm very sensitive to smells and do not like perfumed sprays, candles, etc.

So...I open the windows daily - even if it is raining or below zero. If it is nice I open the entire house, otherwise I just crack open the kitchen window and the bedroom window. But, I love the fresh air and am not bothered by cold. Can you put in screens so your cat cannot escape? or as a pp mentioned, open only slightly?

You mentioned mildew...do you need a dehumidifier? We have one in the basement. If it is off for even a day, I can smell a musty smell even though our basement is dry and finished.

Our bathrooms do not have windows so I run the fans periodically throughout the day. My husband installed timers on the switches so we do not accidentally run them too long.

I have two elderly - sometimes stinky - dogs. I wash all dog bedding/rugs often and spray with Bac-Out in between washes. I also periodically spray the carpets/area rugs with Bac-out prior to going to bed - it is dry by morning. This might help considering you have a cat.

I do a daily scoot in the kitchen…spray the tile floor with a slightly lemon scented cleaner (Bi-O-Kleen’s hard floor surface) and scoot around with rags under my feet. I used to use TTO or vinegar but prefer the lemony scent.

We empty the bathroom and kitchen trashes daily and my husband washes them often - at least once/week.

I keep most of the produce in the fridge and try to keep no dirty dishes on the counter. Recycled items are taken out throughout the day.

I run lemons through the disposal and use them in the microwave. Putting lemons in a bowl of water then heating not only allows you to easily clean your microwave, it also removes any odors from the closed space.
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