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Archive for the ‘Green Living’ Category

It’s difficult but the destashing/decluttering continues and progress is being made.  Yesterday, after waffling a bit about the handspun yarn I had, I emailed the middle school art teacher to find out if she wanted it.  She was thrilled to have it so I grabbed the box that was stacked behind my chair and went digging in the closet to find two more. Hey, what are all those notebooks in the closet?  Log books from my soap making days.  I kept the most recent one (probably the most refined recipes) and tossed the rest in the trash on my way out the door to take the yarn to school.  I was not going to allow any time for second guessing!  It felt really good.

Today I went through 3 boxes of of fiber and yarn and posted them for sale on a Yahoo group for buying and trading fiber related stuff.  I did have to stop and fondle a particularly soft batch of wool and silk mix, but then reminded myself that I really don’t enjoy spinning anymore.

The piles are getting shorter and I am happy.  Just packed up a book I sold online – out of print and the lady is thrilled to find it and I am thrilled to send it off where it can be loved:).

Time to go work on dinner.  I bought a pork loin on sale and need to go turn it into the correct shape for pork stir fry.

Best,

Lynn

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Yesterday I posted my grand plans for “a box a day….”  Seemed so simple, so straight-forward, and it is, but it does require a bit of an attitude adjustment.  Yesterday I tackled box #1, which held a bunch of framed pictures in 1980’s style frames, which seem a little garish now, along with things like patches from grade school summer camp, prints I had bought on vacation over the years intending to frame, and a big file with every piece of paper associated with my study abroad trip in college.

Pretty easy to go through really – study abroad papers trashed, pictures taken out of frames and frames designated for Goodwill.  I struggled a little with the prints, but realized that if they weren’t on my walls 20 years after purchase, they weren’t likely to go there anytime soon and don’t really fit my decorating style now anyway, so into Goodwill they go.  The patches were also a struggle, but I really have no use for them.  If I ever get around to scrapbooking my 1970’s era photos, they COULD go in the scrap book, but would make them lumpy so I am just going to let them go.

Today I moved on to the next box.  A box filled with handspun yarn from my days of spinning.  There are at least a half dozen boxes just like this one.  I really wasn’t an expert spinner and spun small varieties of stuff, so I really can’t sell it, but i am so through with fiber arts.  Now I am struggling where to donate it – I am not sure it is something that works for Goodwill.

I read an article recently describing several of the ways people think when they are trying to declutter.  One personality is the “perfectionist” – the person who has to find the optimum way to get rid of the thing, whether it’s to get the best price for it, give it to the right charity, or dispose of it in the most green way.  THAT IS SO ME!  It can be paralyzing.  I think I am going to email the middle school art teacher and ask if she has a use for the yarn.

Since I felt I hadn’t “dealt” with the yarn,  I went through a box of craft books and listed them for sale on a craft group.  If they don’t sell, off to the library, except the one that is out of print and likely to be worth a good $40-50.

So, I am making progress but it is a little hard going.  Let me know how you are doing.

Best regards,

Lynn Zentner

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Regular readers will recall that last summer I did set out on several decluttering attempts.  Made some progress, but still have way too much junk.  Last week, despite fighting a rotten cold for almost 3 weeks, I set out to clear a bunch of boxes out of the garage that have been there since our basement remodel 2 years ago.  We had a big outdoor bash this past Saturday and we had some concern that it might rain, so I set out to clean the garage so that the party could move in there if necessary.  Naturally, my cleaning resulted in a beautiful sunny day on Saturday and no need for the garage, but I am still glad I got to it.

There wasn’t much time to sort through things, so for the most part, I moved all the boxes that I needed to sort into my (very small) office.  They are now a towering wall behind my desk chair.  One of my summer goals is to turn my office into a relaxing oasis and I can’t do it with the wall of boxes behind me.  So yesterday I told my husband that my goal over the next couple of weeks is to go through a box a day and trash, donate, or sell whatever is in that box.  I started yesterday by listing 13 pounds of plastic tri beads for sale on the Yahoo group, AbandonedCrafts.  I used to make girls beaded socks to sell at Craft shows, but haven’t been to a craft show in years and my major client, my daughter, lost interest in the beaded socks years ago!  Today, my goal is to go through a box of old “desk stuff” that seems to have followed me around in that box since college.  If it hasn’t been on a desk in over 20 years, I think it’s time to get rid of it!

I figure that in about 2 weeks, I should have conquered the wall behind my desk.  I was recently given a gift card to Target and my reward for a clean office will be to use that gift card to replace something in my office with an object that better fits my “Oasis” theme.

Wish me luck!  By the way, I will surely be Freecycling some of this stuff.  I highly recommend you check out your local freecycle group (mine is on YahooGroups) for getting rid of things that may be usable by someone else, but may be something you can’t sell or drop off at a donation center.  Last week I was able to give away a nice oak fireplace mantel and surround as well as a gigantic piece of shower board that my husband had used as a dry erase board.  The people who picked the items up had a use for them and I was glad not to send them to the landfill.

Please join me in dejunking – try a box a day or even a box a week, if you are busy with work.  Just think, you could be 52 boxes lighter by this time next year!

Best regards,

Lynn

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Once again I must apologize for the regular lack of posts.  Week before last I was fighting off a cold (thank you dear daughter) and this week has just been busy.  But I wanted to share a funny tip that my husband recently came up with.

What parent doesn’t complain about kids who waste too much toilet paper?  My mom used to nag about that and “wasting bandaids.”  Go figure.  When I was on my own, it was a thrill to buy nice soft TP and use as much as I wanted and to feel free to stick a bandaid on whatever I darn well pleased.  But then my kids came along and behold, bandaids and TP disappeared at the drop of a hat.

Another problem we seemed to have was when toilet paper rolls got near the end, they sometimes spontaneously unrolled into a small heap on the floor.  My husband came up with a simple cure for the unrolling problem which also helps with using too much TP.   When we put a fresh roll on the spindle, we squeeze the sides enough to turn the cardboard tube from a circle to an oval.  This prevents the spontaneous unrolling but also adds a small bit of resistance as you pull on the roll – not enough to be annoying but enough to get you to slow down and think, whoa, I have enough TP before you get a gigantic wad in your hand.

It’s a small thing, but I think it helps.

I hope you are having a good weekend.

Best regards,

Lynn

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My mother-in-law kept about the cleanest house of anyone I knew and she was sweet to boot, so whenever she offered a tip, I would listen because she always did it to share information and never to criticize.  One tip she gave me was to never use fabric softener on towels – it does make them soft but also makes them less absorbent.  So I haven’t used fabric softener on my towels for years.  I was visiting my sister last week and noticed that while her towels were a little silkier than mine, it was harder to get dry.  My towels are by no means rough and I much prefer having them be very absorbent rather than a little bit of added softness.  In addition, I recently bought a set of hand towels that are a cotton/bamboo blend.  I have noticed that they so far are a little silkier than my other towels without using fabric softener and still very absorbent.  These towels are Vera Wang towels from Kohl’s – I got them on sale with a 30% off coupon so they were very reasonably priced.  Next time I get another good coupon I will probably replace a few bath towels.

But back to fabric softener.  Yesterday I was washing bedding and ran my son’s blanket and an afghan through the washer.  I have completely stopped using fabric softener at all – I have read and heard in various places that it essentially deposits a coating on your clothes that can build up on your clothes and in your washer.  When we bought a high efficiency (HE) front loading washer last year (my 20 year old washer blew its transmission and spurted transmission fluid all over a load of sheets – what fun!), I did a lot of research and much advice about keeping the machine running clean and efficiently recommended using only HE detergent and avoiding additives like fabric softener as much as possible.  So I just stopped using fabric softener on most occasions and don’t really see a difference in our clothes.

Yesterday, however, I did add just a dribble when I washed the blanket and afghan.  They seem to build up a lot of static electricity and a touch of fabric softener seems to help with that.  But I just added a dribble to the dispenser – certainly did not need a whole capful.  In the dead of winter when everything is quite dry, I might also add a tiny bit of softener to loads of wash, but otherwise I don’t use it.  I think the bottle I have may last me for several years!

So my household tip for the day is to try leaving out the fabric softener if you use it and see what you think.  If things are too rough or full of static, start using it again, but start with a really small amount and build up until you get the results you want.  Not only will you save money and reduce the amount of unnecessary manmade chemicals you come in contact with, but it’s possible you might extend the life of your clothes and appliances.

Hope this tip helps.

Best regards,

Lynn

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A few months ago, I completed an on-line energy survey through one of my local utility companies, and as a reward, they sent me an “energy conservation package.”  It consisted of a new low-flow shower head and several low flow faucet adapters.

The faucet adapters were clearly marked as 1 gpm (gallon per minute) flow rate, and I chose to replace the adapters in the kids’ bathroom, which dated to when the house was built in 1995 and were clearly marked 2 gpm.  The flow was significantly reduced and I thought the kids would complain, but they do not.  They do not use their sinks much except for hand washing and brushing their teeth and they were trained their whole lives not to let the water run while brushing, so while there may be a little savings from the new adapters, it is probably small.

I also replaced the original shower head in the master bath with the model sent in the kit – an ultra low flow shower head delivering 1.5 gpm – pretty much the lowest flow rate available in a shower head according to some quick internet research I just did.  The old shower head was not marked, but the flow from the new shower head is SIGNIFICANTLY less, so my guess is that the old shower head delivered at least double the flow rate of the new model, maybe more.

We all use this shower since it is a step in shower and more convenient that using the shower in the tub in the kids bathroom.    All of us take an average length shower, I think, with the exception of my daughter, who spends quite a lot more time in there.

When I first installed the shower head (pretty easy to do, by the way) and turned it on, I laughed hysterically at the little trickle of flow and told my family that we should try it for a month, at least, and then if everyone still hated it, I would replace it with something with a bit of a higher flow.

It took a while to get used to.  We have always had a bit of a wait for hot water in that shower since it is quite a distance from the water heater and now it takes even longer to heat up.  I think I spend a minute or two longer in the shower since it takes longer to rinse.  Everyone would prefer a bit stronger of a jet but complaints have been surprisingly minimal after the first week.  We do make jokes about getting dribbled on now and again, but after about 6 weeks, I think we are all used to it.  I still can’t guarantee we won’t bump up to something a bit higher in the future, but even so, I think we’ll end up with a lower flow than the original shower head.

I installed the water saving devices about 1 week into our water billing cycle and still we saw over a 10% reduction in our water bill from the previous month.  My spouse was curious about the gas bill – it went down about 10% also, but it is hard to tell if all of that was from less water heating or just the usual variation in the bill from month to month.

Overall, I am pleased about how it went.  It seemed like a big sacrifice at first, but we adapted quite well and it is nice to know we are saving water, energy, and money.

Try a new shower head out and see how it goes for you.

Best regards,

Lynn

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Thinking again about yesterday’s topic and “The Messiest Home in the Country” got me thinking about cleaning routines.  I don’t think of myself as a great housekeeper, but no one is likely to call the health department on me either!  When it comes down to it, my major goals are to keep the kitchen and the bathrooms fairly clean.    Sweeping, vacuuming, mopping, and dusting of the rest of the house occurs more on an as needed basis, but the kitchens and baths are on a fairly regular cleaning schedule.

The kitchen routine occurs pretty much daily.  Everyone in the house is responsible for clearing their own dishes and putting them in the sink or nearby on the counter, though sometimes I have to go on a scouting mission and pick up some plates and glasses that have been forgotten.  Usually after dinner and sometimes once during the day if needed, my husband or I load and run the dishwasher.  I usually unload the dishwasher first thing in the morning while I am waiting for coffee to brew.  I have timed it a few times and find that it only takes a couple minutes!  Other than that, the counters are wiped down whenever I notice crumbs or spills, and everyone knows to wipe up any major spills as soon as they happen, though sometimes smaller spills and smudges get overlooked.  The kitchen table gets wiped down before it is set for dinner and after it is cleared.  Really not much of a routine, but it works for us.

Now that the kids are older, sweeping isn’t as much of an issue.  Dog hair is the real problem and running my buddy Roomba (the robotic vacuum cleaner) about once a week takes care of the worst of that.  Appliances, sinks, cabinets, etc. get attention whenever I notice them looking grungy.  For a while I was using Guardsman Spray on the cabinets since it came with them when they were installed, but lately I have found that a slightly damp microfiber towel works as well or better and I am not having issues with trying to get all the spray wiped out of every little crevice.

My bathroom routine involves a weekly cleaning for each bathroom.  I also have installed a Scrubbing Bubbles automatic shower cleaner in the main shower, which the last person to shower will run every day.  I find it keeps most of the grunge down in the shower so that I only have to go in once a month or so and give it a good scrub.

I can clean the rest of a single bathroom in about 15 minutes.  Usually I do the powder room on Saturday and the upstairs bathrooms on Sunday.  I start by spraying the whole outside of the toilet and both sides of the cover and seat with an all purpose cleaner.  I let that sit while I completely clear off the counter and spray the sink with all purpose cleaner.  My powder room counter is granite, so I usually don’t spray that, but just wipe it down with plain water.  Once a month, I clean it with the recommended granite cleaner that we received from the granite yard.  My laminate counters upstairs get sprayed with all purpose cleaner each week when I do the sinks.

I use a paper towel to wipe all the cleaner off the toilet and also swipe dust and hair off the floor around the toilet base.  If there is still dust or dirt on the toilet or floor, I will use a disposable cleaning wipe to go over everything again.    I keep something called a “Johnny Mop” (bought mail order through Don Aslett’s cleaning supply company) in a caddy next to the toilet.  I bought only the mop and use a cheap plastic vase from the dollar store as a caddy.

http://www.cleanreport.com/p1027/Johnny-Mop-or-Bowl-Caddy-Set/product_info.html

I like it because it easily plunges most of the water out of the bowl and makes good contact for swabbing out the toilet.  First I push some water out of the bowl with the Johnny Mop, then squirt some cleaner under the rim all the way around and let it sit.  I used to use regular toilet cleaner but have since switched to stuff from the health food store to try to move toward more natural cleaners.  Currently I am trying Ecover’s bowl cleaner in one bathroom and Biokleen Soy Blend in another.  Both work well.  I like that Ecover has the conventional angled spout, but it has a slightly overpowering pine scent.  The Biokleen comes in a regular bottle with squirt top and tends to drip a tiny bit when you close the spout, but has a nice peppermint scent.  I bought them both on sale and they were still slightly more expensive than the standard brands, but worth it to me to use something more natural and I only buy the stuff a couple times a year anyhow.

While the toilet bowl cleaner sits, I wipe down the sink and counter with a sponge.  I plug the sink and fill to the top with hot water, letting some run down the overflow holes before opening the drain.  I read somewhere that a good bowl full of hot water down the drain each week helps keep the drains clear.  Unfortunately I still have to take everything apart once or twice a year and fish all the hair out the drain, yuck!

I spray the mirror with cleaner and use a lint free towel to wipe it clean, also spraying my stainless trash can in the powder room and wiping it down as well.  I use that towel to dry the counter and dry out the sink, then use it to wipe down anything that goes on the counter before I put it back.    I’ll also run the damp mirror towel over the towel rack, TP holder, mirror and picture frames, etc. to catch any dust.

Last step is the swab out the bowl, flush, wring on the Johnny Mop (it has a piece on it to do this without touching the mop itself) and then drop the mop back in the caddy and the bathroom is done.

There you go.  Aside from the day to day routine in the kitchen, I spend less than an hour a week on the bathrooms and while they may not be perfect, I am not embarrassed if surprise company needs to use the rest room.

One other piece of advice for easy housekeeping – we have a pretty strict rule about no food upstairs in the bedrooms.   That eliminates the whole issue of crumbs, old dishes, or grungy old food hanging around.  If someone is sick in bed, the rule is relaxed to allow crackers, broth, etc. and I do occasionally bring up a snack while I am reading, but clean up and take everything back downstairs immediately when I am done.  Kids are absolutely not allowed to have food upstairs unless an adult gives it to them when they are sick.   This rule might seem strict but it’s been in place since we moved into this house and no one even thinks about it anymore.

Enjoy your 4th of July.  It is raining here and I don’t know if we’ll get a chance to grill or go see fireworks, but we’ll play it by ear.  For now, I am off to clean a bathroom!

Best regards,

Lynn

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