Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 17: It’s Shoe Time

by Michael on April 7, 2010 · 0 comments

...or just let the guy drop ash on your spats. (Photo by jonrawlinson)

Ultimate Spring Cleaning is a project to clean and declutter not only your house, but your life. Each day you’ll get a housecleaning assignment, an assignment that involves the world around you, and a project to clear your mind. You can start anytime at the Ultimate Spring Cleaning main page.

Yesterday we finished the last of the rooms everyone has. Today our cleaning moves beyond, for those with extra spaces in their homes. We’re also going to celebrate the end of your Crap Detox, but embark on another fitness journey.

Your Home: Clean Your Entryway/Coat Closet

Today is for straightening the first area your guests will see: the entryway, or mudroom, or whatever you choose to call it. If this was part of your living room or kitchen you’ve already handled it, so congratulations. If you haven’t, you should know the steps by now:

  1. Remove everything from your closet and any other cupboards and storage places, and put it out of the way.
  2. Clean the closet walls and shelves.
  3. Now it’s time for sorting. Make three piles:
    1. Items and clothing you use.
    2. Items or clothing you might use or have purely sentimental attachment to.
    3. Items to get rid of (sell, toss or donate).
  4. Take the items from Pile 1 and put them where they should be. Clean them if necessary.
  5. One by one, pull items out of Pile 2 and determine, here and now, whether you actually need them. If you do, put each item where it should be (hint: if it really doesn’t have anywhere it should be, you probably don’t need it). If you don’t need it, put it in Pile 3. Be ruthless. Things can be replaced.
  6. Take the items from Pile 3 and put them in a box or garbage bag. Put the box or bag with the items from the other rooms you’ve cleaned – we’ll deal with it later on.
  7. Clean any walls or furniture in the area.
  8. Vacuum or mop the floor.
  9. Now it’s time to shine your leather shoes.

“Huh,” You say? Yep, we leave no stone unturned here at the Ultimate Spring Cleaning—otherwise it wouldn’t be “Ultimate,” would it?

Shine Your Dress Shoes

One clothing crime I’m guilty of is not shining my shoes nearly as often as I should. This comes back to bite me when I’m going out with friends and reach for a pair of dress shoes that would go perfectly with what I’m wearing‚ only to find them scuffed and grubby. If I have time, I do an emergency shine, but too often I’m forced to put them back and go with a second-best pair.

People (especially women—they’re shoe-lookers) do notice if your shoes are nicely shined. There are a few tricks to get them to a high gloss:

  • Clean the shoes first, with a brush and cleaning cloth or with a damp rag. If you use water, leave the shoes to air-dry completely.
  • Periodically use a leather cleaner to clean and condition the leather.
  • If you want a consistent shine, make sure the polish matches the shoes. However, black polish on brown shoes may give a pleasing “patina” effect, and it won’t ruin your shoes.
  • Use an applicator brush to apply the polish. Work the polish into the leather, including seams.
  • Wax polish is best for covering scuffs. Cream polish is best for moisturizing and restoring color. Liquid polish is for emergency touch-ups only and will dry out the leather if overused.
  • You can use tools such as a shine brush for buffing or a damp cotton ball for applying polish for more gloss, but simply being fastidious in applying polish and buffing will give you a good basic shine.

Look at your dress shoes or boots as an investment: good shoes aren’t cheap. Maintain them well and they’ll last for years. And if your soles are getting worn, take them to a shoe repair shop to be re-soled—it’s cheaper than a pair of good new shoes.

If you’d like to see some technique (and feel strangely mesmerized) watch this guy make these shoes sparkle:

Your World: End Your Crap Detox (Sort Of)

Congratulations! You’ve just gone two weeks without alcohol, coffee or sugar. It’s time to celebrate with a drink. But just one.

Today you can add back some foods, although we’re not quite done with the whole program:

  • Have some dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt) once a day.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation. “Moderation” is not much more than one drink a day. Think of it this way: you should have no more than 4-5 drinks a week, and no more than 2 drinks on any day. Studies have found that one serving a day is healthier for you than no drinks at all, but more than two is less healthy than no drinks.
  • Coffee is okay, but only one cup or shot per day.
  • If you want to sweeten, keep some honey on hand and use it sparingly (about half of what you usually use), or try alternatives to sweetening, such as fruit in cereal and lemon wedges or cinnamon in beverages.

Continue avoiding processed food, prepackaged meals, fast food, and anything containing vegetable oils (except olive), white “enriched wheat” flour, high-fructose corn syrup and white “cane” sugar. Try to stay off breads, cereals and other wheat products as well. If you’re dying without a bowl of oatmeal, though, go ahead.

Basically I want you to keep eating the good, wholesome foods you’ve introduced over the past two weeks.

However, if you’re taking this all seriously and being really, really good about eating healthy meals, there’s one more thing I want you to introduce to your diet: the cheat meal. Anything you want, in normally filling portions (no five-plate visits to Country Kitchen), with no restrictions. Sugar it up with a rich dessert, have a Whopper, whatever. One (1) cheat meal per week.

Yourself: Assess Your Fitness

Your diet nailed down, let’s turn to your fitness. Are you exercising as much as you should? Are you carrying a few (or a “few”) extra pounds? Is you muscle tone reminiscent of Jell-O? Let’s strategize.

First, if you’re happy with your current fitness program and the progress you’re making with it, you can stop right here. However, if you’re not certain of your goals, you might want to do the fitness assessment below and start tracking your progress.

If you aren’t currently working out at all, your first step should be to consult your doctor. Fortunately you scheduled a checkup yesterday.

Next, let’s look at your current state of fitness—it will help you “put a stake in the ground” so that you can track your progress. These steps are suggested by the Mayo Clinic as basic measurements of your fitness. If you’ve joined a gym, a more complete fitness assessment with a personal trainer may be included free.

One-Mile Walk

First, take your pulse while you’re at rest, either by placing your index and third fingers on your carotid artery at the side of your windpipe, or with two fingers on your radial artery between the bone and the tendon on the thumb side of your wrist. Count the number of beats in 10 seconds, and multiply by 6. Record your heart rate on a sheet of paper.

Then take a one-mile walk anywhere you like, outdoors or indoors. Make it brisk: no stopping to admire the birds (or the pastry shop) this time. Keep a steady pace a bit slower than “speed walking.” Don’t kill yourself with hills, make your course as flat as you can.

Use markers, a map or a GPS unit to calculate the distance. At exactly the one-mile mark, record the time it took, then immediately take your pulse again.


Next, measure your muscular strength with push-ups. If you’re not familiar with a strict push-up:

  • Lie face-down on the floor with your elbows bent and your palms beside your shoulders.
  • With your back straight, push up with your arms until your arms are fully extended.
  • To begin your first push-up, lower your body until your chest and chin almost touch the floor (one fist-width or lower).
  • Push your body upward to the starting position to complete the push-up.

Do as many push-ups as you can in one set until you couldn’t squeeze out one more if someone had a gun to your head. Record the number you completed.

Flexibility Test

Next, sit on the ground with your feet about 6-8 inches inches apart and your legs completely straight. Place a ruler or yardstick at your feet, with the first mark right at the soles of your feet.

Then reach forward, with knees locked straight, as far as you can. Do this three times, and record the farthest of the three.

You may require help keeping your knees straight—if so, find a friend to help.

What’s Your Body Type?

Next, measure your waist at its narrowest point (usually around belly-button high)with a measuring tape and record the result. (If you want, you can also measure your biceps, chest, shoulders, thighs and calves, all at their widest point. You may need assistance with these measurements.)

Finally, measure your Body Mass Index (BMI). This has become the accepted standard to determine body type, and although it’s not as accurate as a professional fat-percentage test, it will give you a ballpark figure of your overall shape.

Your BMI is your weight in pounds, divided by your height in inches squared, then multiplied by 703. In metric, divide your weight in kilograms by your height in meters squared. Or use a BMI calculator. Write this number down as well. The general reference points for BMI:

  • Underweight:  less than 18.5
  • Normal weight: 18.5-24.9
  • Overweight: 25-29.9
  • Obesity: 30 or greater

One thing to note about BMI is that it’s only an initial measurement: if yours indicates obesity, for example, you should see a doctor to determine whether you should be concerned. And if you’re very muscular, BMI won’t be accurate, due to the weight of muscle vs. fat, although carrying a lot of extra weight can harm the body even if it’s all muscle.

What we’re using BMI for is a frame of reference.

Put It All Together

What do all these tests tell you? Well, mostly they give you a starting point, so you can see whether your workout program is helping you. A good program should help you lose fat, lowering your BMI and waist measurements. It should also improve cardiovascular performance, lowering your pulse rate after a brisk walk. You should be stronger and able to do more push-ups. And you should develop more flexibility.

To track your performance, periodically repeat these tests. The Mayo Clinic offers a PDF spreadsheet for recording your test results.

Now you’re ready to begin a workout program. Of course, I recommend the Simple Starter Workout, which you can download as an e-book. If you would rather work out at home, have a look at the No-Weights Workout, and we’ll look at creating a super simple home gym in a few days.

Meditate, sleep well, and I’ll see you tomorrow.

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