You Asked, We Answer: Cleaning & Organizing Your Outdoor Spaces

Cleaning & Organizing Advice for Outdoor Spaces from Melissa Maker of Clean My Space

Summer is my most favorite time of the year. In fact, if I could live in a place with summery weather year round and I never saw another snowflake again, I’d die a happy woman (I’m coming for you, California). With the summer, at least for us seasonal folk, we end up spending a lot of time outdoors and that leads to cleaning and organization challenges we don’t experience any other time of the year; long weekend parties, beach days, barbecues and road trips, just to name a few. I have received several questions about summertime cleaning conundrums, let’s have a look at a few and solve them, shall we?

Sheryl from Indianapolis, Indiana asks:

My family and I do large picnics during the summer months, and we pack a lot of food. It’s hard to keep it all organized. I find it becomes messier as the meal goes on, and we end up spending a lot of time cleaning. Also, do you have any suggestions on how to keep foods hot when they’re being taken along for a picnic? Thank you!

I wish I could come, it sounds like a really fulfilling lunch and I’d of course help with clean up! Being organized and having the right tools is the best way to have a successful picnic, which is easy to manage and keep clean.

First, lay out a washable picnic blanket (ideally waterproof) where all the food goes and have that as your buffet blanket (if a picnic table is available, use that instead). Weighing the blanket down with heavy items such as apple-sized rocks at the corners helps to prevent any unexpected wind gusts from tipping the buffet over. Otherwise, no one should eat on that blanket; trust me, it keeps things cleaner and avoids spills. Have another blanket or two where people can sit and eat and place out a picnic basket containing plates, cups, napkins and cutlery where they can be easily accessed. I really like the Meori Picnicker which is easy to carry, lightweight and convenient.

I am a big fan of reusable picnic gear, it’s easy to wash and maintain and you end up having a weightier plate that won’t blow away. I happen to love the Great Plate, which is a washable plastic plate that has a space in the center for a soda or beer can or cup. If you can wash plates at the facility, give them a quick rinse and dry, then replace in your picnic carrier. Otherwise, place them inside a plastic bag, and place them in your cooler to keep the mess contained, then wash when you get home and replace inside your picnic basket when dry.

Remember to shake out picnic blankets before rolling them up, and launder them if they’re washable when you get home.

To keep your hot foods hot, I’ve found the Entertainer Hot and Cold Food Carrier to be a perfect solution; it’s lined with thermal foil in the lower section that keeps casseroles insulated, and if you don’t need to keep anything hot, it’s a perfect carryall for several prepared dishes.

Edwin from St. Paul, Minnesota asks:

My wife and I take our grandkids to the beach, but between them and the beach toys, we always bring back a hefty amount of sand into the car. Any ideas on how to keep sand at the beach?

Edwin, I have such a simple fix for your beach day! First, bring a large mesh bag for beach toys. Just before you are ready to go, rinse the toys in the water and place them in the beach bag, ensuring to not lay the bag back on a sandy surface. Line your trunk with a plastic tarp or a couple of trash bags to protect it from sand and moisture, and place the toy bag there. Have the kids rinse off and towel off beforehand. Then, apply baby powder to their skin; this absorbs moisture quickly and sand falls right off. Have the kids brush themselves vigorously and then change into clean clothing. Place beach clothing and towels into a sealed bag, and lay everything out in the sun when you get home.

Once the items dry, then you can launder them — all the sand will have fallen off outdoors. The same rule applies for shoes; have them sit somewhere without sand, dust baby powder onto their feet the sand will fall right off their little feet. At that time have them change into clean shoes. If you’re going to leave the items in a sealed bag for a few hours, sprinkle a few drops of lavender essential oils into the bag, which will help inhibit mildew growth.

Carolina from Newark, New Jersey asks:

I love barbecuing. But Melissa, keeping the barbecue clean is something I’ve never been able to figure out how to do well. Is there something I’m missing?

Carolina, you’re not alone. The Q is a large, fiery high maintenance appliance, but we keep them around because it makes our food taste oh so good. I’ve often heard that it is intimidating to clean the Q, too. Let me help with some easy tips! When your food is ready to be cooked, heat the grill up to a nice, high temperature. At that point, using heat resistant gloves, take a grill cleaner — I’m currently loving Grill Floss — and remove as much of the previous caked on, carbonized grease and food as you can. Let it fall toward the flame, it’ll burn off. Doing this before you cook is the way to go; leaving carbonized grease on between cooking will help to protect the grill.

Once you’ve cleaned the grates, always make sure that you have oil either on the food you’re cooking or on the grate itself. This helps prevent food from sticking onto the grill and makes clean up much easier. To oil the grill, take a wad of paper towel dipped in oil with a high smoke point and using tongs, quickly rub the paper towel along the grill, up and down. Don’t use too much oil; a drip will cause a flare up.

While cooking, I have noticed that the barbecue will splatter onto my deck, and grease is hard to clean out of wood. Look for a grill pad that you can place under your barbecue, it’s heat resistant which makes it safe for use while grilling, and will catch anything that your drip pan misses.

Those are some simple ways to keep things clean around the Q, happy grilling!

Wishing you all a wonderful July! Please drop me a line on social media using #AskMelissa with any cleaning questions or comment below and I’ll answer some next month! Next month’s theme is back to school!

Until then,