Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Nifty Scrapers

I got this idea from a friend at church.

What do you do with those left over tabs from bread bags? If you're like me, they go into a zipped baggy with a bunch of twisty ties, too. They are not thought of until I need one for closing a baggie because the original tab it came with got lost. But here is another life it can assume- scraper!

Instead of using your nails or even a sharp knife (oops, I do that) to scrape dried on who-knows-what off the counter-top or stove, use a bread tab! It's small enough to get into hard to reach areas, is easy to grip and maneuver, and is stiff enough but not sharp to get things done.

Make sure you recycle it when done! If there is no triangle on the plastic, remember to check out Agri-Plas! The link is on the left side of this page under "Other Resources To Consider." They reuse the crude oil from "un-recyclable" plastics to make new products. It's awesome!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bye-bye Odors

I bought a dresser from one of my husband's co-workers a few years back that was an awesome deal. After I got it home and opened the drawers, all I could smell was cigarette smoke. Grose. Luckily I knew a tip to get that pesky smell out without destroying or warping the wood from cleaners- dryer sheets! Just place UNUSED dryer sheets in an empty drawer (2 or more for really pesky odors or large drawers) and leave closed for a week. Change out the sheet and let alone for another week. I do not recommend using the sheets for the dryer after deodorizing. This may transfer the unwanted odor onto your laundry. Yes, deodorizing takes time, but it saves the wood. If you live in a dry and hot part of the world (like Arizona) just leave the drawer (or whatever item you are deodorizing) out in the open sunlight for a couple days. If the item is light sensitive or old, do not do this, use the dryer sheets.

After the odor has seemed to have gone away, line the bottom of the drawer with dryer sheets and cover with a tea towel before you put your clothes in. This keeps clothes smelling nice longer, and prevents the fabrics from wicking odor from the wood upon contact. The tea towel is to keep the oils from the dryer sheet from discoloring your clothes with prolonged contact. Odors in wood are very tricky and are nearly impossible to completely remove, no matter what remedy you use.

When you do laundry, especially linens, do you use sprays or perfumes to keep them fresh? Why buy an extra item when you already have dryer sheets? Stick an unused dryer sheet in between the stacks of linens or randomly around in the closet to keep it smelling fresh. When the sheet seems to have lost it's luster, toss it in a load, then use it afterward for polishing (see other post for dryer sheets).

Do you have a stinky closet from kids shoes or gym bag(s)? Stick an unused dryer sheet in the closet and/or each foul smelling object. Things will be smelling much fresher the next time you open the door. Again, I do not recommend using the sheet for the laundry after deodorizing.

Dryer Sheets Have a 2nd Life

Do you ever wonder what to do with dryer sheets after they've served their purpose- or do you just throw them away? Here are some useful tips to give them one more life before meeting the trash can:

Do you have scum, scuffs, or spots on your faucets and sink knobs? Polish them without cleaners or getting them wet (spots will just reappear). Use a USED dryer sheet. Buff the surface to a shine in no time at all with what would seem like a used up item.

Do you have stainless steel appliances or anything steel/steel alloy that needs a good shine? Use a  USED dryer sheet to buff out finger prints and smudges. I have heard some people say to use it on silver too, but I am skeptical. You can try if you'd like. Let me know how it goes.

Is your dryer lint not contained in the drier? Fuzz balls tend to get away when changing out the loads. Take a USED dryer sheet as use it a duster, wiping away those lint bunnies.

Let's all give those dryer sheets one more purpose before tossing them to the curb!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Using Resources Wisely

OK, so everyone has heard over and over: turn the lights off when you leave the room, don't let the water run when brushing your teeth, use fluorescent light bulbs instead of incandescent, turn the thermostat on your hot water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, keep the house thermostat low in the winter and high in the summer...on and on. And yet I have seen many households completely ignore these tips because it's "too hard to follow" or "I just don't care. I'll pay the higher bill to be comfortable." Personally, I don't feel it's hard because I've lived my whole life by these guidelines, and am not uncomfortable at all (except in the summer- I NEED a/c). It really does reduce utility bills, and dependence on electricity.

Here are some of my own personal tips:

1. When the sun is out, window shades are open- no lights on allowed! The bathroom is the only exception.

2. No wasting water! If you aren't going to drink all of the water you took, water the plants with the remainder. 

3. One water glass a day. Reuse the cup all day long. It reduces your dishes to wash and the water needed to wash them.

4. Load to dishwasher FULLY! It doesn't run until both racks are filled tetris puzzle style.

5. If nobody is actively watching the DVD playing on the TV (we don't watch network or cable TV), then turn it off! Kids playing is enough background noise. We don't have a fancy plasma either. Those suck more energy than a fridge!

6. Use/buy Energy Star Certified appliances whenever possible. It really does make an impact on your bills and most major appliances come with a tax rebate.

To give you an idea of what your bills could look like, my family follows all the guidelines listed in this entire blog. We have 7 people and a dog living under one roof. We go through 2 standard kitchen garbage bags of trash a week (including dirty diapers). Our average electric bill (with PGE's outrageous prices) is $95 a month for a 2211sqft house. I use the "Time of Usage Plan" where there is on-peak and off-peak hours and the price of the electricity changes according to the time used. It does take discipline to arrange when the washing machine, dryer, and dishwasher can run, not to mention showers (the water heater runs too). But it makes a drastic difference on the monthly bill. We do not have solar power (yet) but I really, really want solar panels. Our average water usage is 500 units a month (which is the lowest base charge the city will allow), whereas the average family of 4 uses 750 units. And we do not buy bottled drinking water. We use the filtered water from the fridge. We do not have cable TV or satellite. The internet has wonderful sites dedicated to TV series and movies, or watch shows straight from the network's home site. We do have internet, a land line telephone, and the adults have personal cell phones. These rates will vary depending on who's territory you're in and package deals going on. Not allowing the kids to have TV also keeps mass advertising and unwanted demoralization out of our home, and gives them the opportunity to discover the world around them instead of being parked on the couch being zombies all day.

When it comes to upgrades and getting the newest and best gadgets, we are not on the bandwagon. We wait until the object has been around for a while so the price drops and the kinks have been worked out of the system. My kids do complain because they see their friends with all this "cool" stuff, but I explain to them that what they have works just as well. We still have analog TV's. They work, so why buy a flatscreen. When they burn out, then we will get an LED widescreen, but until then...we are fine.

I love the old adage from the Great Depression, "Use it up, wear it out. Make it do, or do without." This is the motto of the frugal and thrifty. Keep in mind, this doesn't mean you live in trash or poverty. Quite the opposite. Because of living this way, you are able to use resources more wisely and rely on credit less. Your needs are sufficiently met, and can even at times help others when they are in need.

Trying many new tips at once can be overwhelming and discouraging if you don't stick to it. I suggest picking one thing you feel is doable and incorporate it into your daily routine for a month. When it comes naturally, add a new energy saving challenge to the routine... so on and so on, until you are where you want to be in your bill reducing quest. Good luck!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Ink on Fabric

How do you get ink out of clothes or carpet? I get asked this sooo much. There are a few was to try.

1. Hairspray. Though this method is using an unnatural product, it does seem to work. Thoroughly spray the ink and let set for 60 seconds. Using a clean white cloth, blot up the ink and repeat as necessary.

2. Rubbing alcohol. Same process as hairspray.

3. Milk. Wet a sponge with milk and rub the stain until it disappears.

Cleaning Naturally- Getting Started

There has been a big movement lately about cleaning with natural products, and steering away from all the harsh chemicals. This again isn't a NEW concept; it's going back to what has been done for generation after generation. All the "conventional" cleaners are the new thing and people are slowly realizing the negative impact they really are having on our health and environment.

Yes, you can go out and buy the big manufacturers "green" products, but there are better and cheaper options. And yes, your home will still be clean and fresh. Germs are killed and furniture is polished. Dust bunnies and odors are annihilated. Your pocket book will be fatter.

Here's how to get started:

Vinegar and borax are your friends. These are old tried and true methods of cleaning stubborn stains and odors. Next, use baking soda and fresh lemon with salt for sensitive objects. Vegetable oil, lanolin, and petroleum jelly are more cheap remedies for household ailments. Tea tree oil is a bit more expensive then all the aforementioned items, but it is a wonderful all-purpose cleaner and disinfectant. Also, there is the cheapest way to clean: steam and sunlight.

In the following posts I will give specific cleaning tips on cleaning objects around the house or preserving items. Let's get back to nature!