Tag Archives: housekeeping

Week in Review–no-spend week #3

24 May

It’s now three weeks down in my no-spend month, and this week was the best so far. I don’t think I cheated once this week, except for a bus ride back from the Experimental Farm where we went for the sheep shearing festival yesterday. I have a membership so we didn’t have to pay admission.

I’m really enjoying this no-spend month, and I’m almost tempted to keep it up for the summer. I might have to get a haircut at some point, and we will be doing some travelling at some point, but other than those little things, I’m feeling good about the no spending.

One great thing is that weekends haven’t been about shopping. Too often I’ll make some grand plans for a bus expedition out to Canadian Tire on a Saturday afternoon because I can’t make it there during the week. That takes up my whole day, and nothing gets done. This weekend we spent two whole days together as a family, going to the Nature Museum on Saturday (and beating the crowds with our membership card!) and the farm on Sunday. Then today I organized a corner of our dining room that’s been needing attention–a major accomplishment!

Of course tomorrow I’ll have to do a big-ish grocery shop, but I’m happy to confirm that one of the fringe benefits of not buying anything apart from groceries is that I’ve been able to spend a lot more weekend time with the fam. And that, my friends, is priceless!

Nerdmobile cleaning cart

28 Nov

I blogged about it awhile back, but I finally did it: created my very own cleaning cart! And yes it is as exciting as it sounds (that is, if it sounds like the most exciting thing ever!).

What you see in the photo is my version of this cleaning cart. On the front is a blue bag for laundry, the inside is for items that belong in another room, with a red bag for small things or things that belong in my daughter’s room. On the back I have a garbage bag and a recycling bag.

This is the tidying version; when I’m doing cleaning too I have a tray with my cleaning stuff and rags that goes on top. The only additional things I have to lug are the broom, mop or vacuum if I’m using them.

The idea of the cart is that you set yourself up to sweep through the house once, tidying (and/or cleaning) as you go, with no time-wasting back-tracking to put stuff back where it belongs. Once I heard the idea, I was intrigued. Once I tried it, I was sold! It really works. It’s super fast to just stick things into the appropriate bags in the cart and move along. Otherwise, I tend to pick up a sock and bring it into the bedroom, there noticing a coffee cup and bringing it to the kitchen, where I notice that the stovetop is dirty, which I clean, and before I know it an hour has gone by and nothing substantial has been accomplished. With the cart, even if I can completely clean/tidy one room before a minor emergency distracts me, my life is seriously improved.

One fantastic additional thing I discovered about this cart is that my preschooler was really into helping me tidy up the living room! I guess she enjoyed sorting the stuff into the different bags. We actually tidied up the entire living room together, which really helped my sanity, and occupied at least 15 minutes of our time.

So, if you have a handy shopping cart like the one in the picture, try out the Nerdmobile technique and let me know how it works for you!

Buy Nothing Fail: I got me a freezer!

4 Aug

So, after MONTHS of deliberation, I finally bought my tiny chest freezer today from the Rideau Loblaws. It was definitely not an impulse buy: I’ve been weighing the pros and cons, and several times I’ve gone to bed having decided not to get one, only to wake up thinking about all the food I can freeze before Tiny Baby arrives.

So I will confess my sins on Crunchy Chicken, and move on to this new world of freezer meals . . . which is crazy! There are so many websites out there dedicated to “Once-a-Month Cooking” or OAMC as they are calling it on the interweb, but I think I need these last 2 months of pregnancy to slowly build up a supply of prepared dinners for the fall.

To be honest, I don’t even know what freezes well and what doesn’t. I’ve never been a very good freezer-user, so this lifestyle shift is going to require some training. My plans for the freezer include:

- a lot of home-made stock, in small packages (great for sauces)

- a bunch of local organic meat, especially ground beef

- cheese sauce (is it okay in the freezer??)

- pizzas: I’m planning to freeze dough that’s been rolled out, and separate baggies of pizza sauce in one-pizza sizes

- shredded cheese for said pizzas (Cheese is on sale this week at Loblaws for $4.99 for a large block): just shred cheese and lay it out on a cookie sheet to freeze in individual shreds, then sweep it into a baggie for storage

- a basic tomato-meat sauce that I can use as a base for either chili, spaghetti or lasagne by just adding different spices/ingredients

- some tomatoes if I can get some nice ones cheap at the farmer’s market. I’ve heard if you run a frozen tomato under hot water, the skins slip right off–great for sauces!

- 2 or three organic chickens

Not sure if I’ll have room for all this stuff, or if I’ll have room for more, but I think if I get these put away, we’ll be pretty well set-up for the first couple months of Tiny Baby’s appearance.  I’m glad I have some time to build up my stash. Next challenge will be to make sure we use all the stuff we put away!

Any other suggestions for freezable meals are very welcome!

My Cloth Revolution

27 Jul

Over the past year and a half, I have been a Cloth Revolutionary at my house.  Little by little, disposable paper items are disappearing from our landscape, only to be replaced by colourful, reusable Cloth replacements.

The first step in our Cloth Revolution was the switch to cloth diapers.  We did this when our daughter was 11 months old, after visiting with some friends whose daughter was using cloth. The cloth diapers seemed so cute and cozy, and more “natural” than the crinkly perfumed plastic ones we were using. I was nervous about the workload, but found them not to be that much work. We have a small washer that plugs into our sink, and we dry them (as pictured) on our collapsable drying rack.

The main benefit I saw right away was cost. We went with cotton prefold diapers, which are about the cheapest you can go, and we used some high-tech fleece-lined, microfibre-insert pocket style diapers for night time.  I think the four night time diapes cost around the same as our two dozen prefolds with four or five covers.  It has been great not to worry about having to drive out to Costco to get the best deal on diapers.

My next Revolutionary Act was to replace my tampons and pads with a set of beautiful, comfortable, reusable Lunapads.  This was after doing some reading about how tampons have dioxins in them left over from the bleaching process, which can then be absorbed into your body when you use them.  Also, after having my baby, I found them uncomfortable to use.

As the stickers say, “I ♥ my lunapads”! They are so comfortable and beautiful. The nicest thing about them is that I never run out! I had bought myself an “Intro kit”, and then after using them for a couple of months, I got another kit to round out my collection.  It has a good selection of sizes, thicknesses, etc. for different stages of my cycle. My only disappointment is that I got pregnant again right after my second kit arrived! At least I know they are waiting for me when I start my cycle again.

Next I replaced paper towels with cloth napkins. On a trip to Sudbury to visit my parents I stopped into an adorable new store called Mimi & Lulu. They have all sorts of beautiful handmade clothes, aprons, bags, toys and crafts, as well as a selection of fabrics so beautiful I thought I was looking at a magazine or something. I honestly don’t think I’ve seen such gorgeous fabric in stores, ever.

The best thing (for me) was their remnant bags, a bunch of colour-co-ordinated fabric bits from their collection, mixed with some cute vintage finds, all for $13.  Inside was enough fabric (in the right size) to make more than 10 napkins, some of which I kept & use, and some of which I gave away as gifts.

It’s so nice to use cloth napkins, especially ones in such cute fabrics. They seem to add a touch of class to every meal.

Home-Made Toilet PaperThe next item is a bit more . . . unusual, and I hesitate to mention it in my first post on the Simple, Green, Frugal Co-op, but here goes: the next paper product I replaced was toilet paper.  Well, not entirely, but I made some lovely wipes that my daughter and I use for #1. Being pregnant and having to drink a lot of water, this saves me a huge amount of toilet paper. I just throw them in with the diapies and wash them often.

Moving on, my most recent Revolutionary change was to make some cloth kleenex (tissues). Once again, so cute! Once again, so comfortable! I made them from some cloth I had in mystash, so I consider them basically free to me. We haven’t yet been through a major cold or flu with these, but I will report back on how they fare. I just throw them in any wash I’m doing (except for darks!) and they stay nice and absorbant.

Besides these recent changes, I have always used cloth rags for cleaning rather than paper towels or even J-cloths. It’s a great way to re-purpose old towels and t-shirts, and if a rag gets too dirty, I just throw it away.

For me, this process has been about saving money, being green, and more importantly, finding a better product to replace the cheap disposables in my life. If you have replaced something I’ve missed, please let me know! I’m always open to making more frugal & green changes in my life, and sharing them with the world.

Frugal, Green & Clean

18 Jul

baking-sodaYou’ve probably heard all about the 1001 uses for baking soda.  You probably know that vinegar is a natural antibacterial agent.  You’ve probably even used the two together to create a volcano or a volcano-like effect.  But did you know that you can replace most of your household cleaners with baking soda and vinegar?

The number one tool in my house cleaning toolchest is my spray bottle filled with vinegar.  This guy cost me all of 99 cents at the grocery store, and holds about 250 ml of vinegar.

And what do I clean with it?  Nearly everything in the bathroom:

- sink: spray vinegar around the sink, and wipe with a cloth.  You don’t even need to rinse.

- toilet: spray all the sprayable areas, and wipe down with a damp cloth. Then dump some vinegar in the bowl–around 1/3 to 1/2 cup–and scrub until clean.

- taps and tub: vinegar leaves it sparkling

- floor: use a strong solution of vinegar and hot water.  No rinsing required.

- mirror: straight vinegar, sprayed on, then rubbed off with a dry lint-free cloth.  Actually, plain hot water would also do a fine job here.

For more stubborn things like bath crayons and soap scum, baking soda does a fantastic job due to its mild abrasive quality.  Baking soda requires a lot of rinsing though, so it’s easiest to use on a surface that will handle a lot of water.

Simply google baking soda or vinegar and you will find dozens of blogs and websites containing tips for cleaning with these two powerful agents.

The benefits of switching from chemicals to these guys are many:

- they’re way cheap!  You can get 2 L of vinegar, or 2 kilos of baking soda for under $4.  No other cleaner is so inexpensive.

- they’re multi-purpose! Instead of needing a different spray, cream or foam for kitchen, bathroom, toilet, floors, etc. you’ve got just two products that can handle almost any job.  This is great news for my fellow apartment dwellers with limited storage space.

- they won’t kill your toddler!  Or your pet!  Or you by inhalation of fumes . . . you get the idea.  They are both very benign substances.

- you don’t even have to wear gloves when using them.

- and finally, while baking soda is a mined product, it is still much less harmful to use baking soda and vinegar than it is to use highly processed, perfumed, chemical concoctions to clean your house.  Nothing is perfect, but these guys bring you closer to nature.

Next on my list to add to my cleaning arsenal: pure vegetable soap.  Clean and green, and apparently it marries well with baking soda and vinegar to expand your cleaning power even further.  I’ll let you know when I try it!

Confessions of an Organized Housewife

15 Jul

I mentioned upon my return from my holidays that I had borrowed a couple of books from my mom.  Well, this is one of them, and frankly the more exciting of the two.  I’ve borrowed it at least once before, and it’s really quite awesome.

To begin with, there’s the title.  For some reason, it speaks to me.  She is confessing her clean little secret, and really, she’s proud of it.  I guess part of me really wants to be an organized housewife, just like her.

So what does she offer? Plenty!  Here is a breakdown of the gems to be found in this book:

- pep talks that work.  Really.  After reading this book I often come away actually excited about cleaning and organizing my house.  She points out that by working on improving your technique, you raise houswork out of the mundane into a craft. She also discusses the benefits of having a clean and orderly house, including the feelings of peace and enjoyment of the home.  To me, this is a frugal thought: if we like being at home, we will be less driven to leave it for expensive alternatives.

- six “Basic Organizing Principles” including: Think Before You Act, wherein you stop working by habit and instead think through all the steps of a project or day or organization of a room, looking for the most logical time-saving way to approach it; Discard and Sort, wherein you de-clutter each area of your home so that there is “a place for everything and everything in its place” and everything you have on hand is useful and used; Group, which is pretty self-explanatory, except that she often groups by use instead of by type so that you might keep all your baking spices with your baking stuff and all your savoury spices near the stove if that’s where you use them, instead of keeping all your spices together; Be Motion Minded, considering how you move in a room, and saving time by putting things close at hand; Use Your Accrued Benefits, wherein you learn that it makes more sense to iron 6 shirts at a time, than to iron one shirt at a time six times; Do it Daily, so that things don’t get out of hand; and finally, become an “Indoor Scout“, leaving a room better than you found it each time.

- advice for building your own planner that will accomodate your and your family’s needs.

- efficient ways of moving through the house methodically so that you’re not re-tracing your steps or wasting time.  The coolest idea here is her housework cart that she uses, like a hotel chambermaid.  It’s totally collapsable and handles garbage, laundry, sorting of “stuff”, and cleaning all in one amazing little buggy!  Seriously, I’m building me one of these.

There’s lots of other tips here, many of which involve using labelled containers to sort stuff in cupboards, etc., but you should really read the book if you want to get into that much detail.

I’ll end with the most reassuring part of the book, the second-last chapter which is called “Where to Start”.  In case you have a tendancy to get massively overwhelmed by books like this, she has a little checklist with the basics that should be covered before you move on to more ambitious home organization projects.  The basics:

- I am able to keep the house picked up; check, for the most part.

- I am able to keep the laundry current; check.

- Meals are well-prepared and served regularly; check

- The kitchen is usually in good order; thanks to my partner doing the dishes every night, this is also a check

- Bathrooms are cleaned and straightened regularly; this is a new one, but I’m doing pretty checking good on it so far

- I am able to keep entry areas clean and tidy; hmmm

Well, I’m doing pretty good on 5 out of 6, so maybe the entry way is a good place to start.  In any case, I’m very reassured that I am winning at 5 of these basics.  Her recipe for starting a new level of cleanliness is to give yourself and your family six weeks to get used to it.

So, starting today I will aim to keep my entry area clean and tidy, thus basically completing all six of her basics, and preparing to enter a new level of household organization.

That is, until Tiny Baby arrives.  After that, I make no promises.

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