Monday, November 5, 2012


I started writing this post when we first bought the house, and for some reason it's taken me over a year to finish it.  How that for procrastination??  These are just a few things I've realized we can do without, but for some reason think we need to buy on a regular basis.  Marketing and advertising use their sly, sneaky ways to trick us into believing something that isn't true or that is only partially true so they can sell their products and bring home the bacon for the head honchos.  Well here I am, folks, breaking the mold.  Taking a stand against all things (well, 5 things really) that don't make our lives easier.

#1: Paper Towels

First off, paper towels are expensive!!  And not only are they ridiculously expensive, paper towels generate a lot of waste as well.  If you live in a part of the world that has a biodegradable trash option, then your used paper towels decompose with your other food waste, much like a compost.  Paper towels will actually decompose in about the same amount of time as a banana peel, but sadly, the greater of the United States has yet to jump on the biodegradable trash "recycling." Consequently, our used paper towels end up in landfills, where they sit for 20 years or more because of a lack of oxygen and a moist, warm environment.

A life without paper towels seems a little bit unrealistic, but I have been able to cut down our usage to less than 1/2 roll per month, which equals a little less than $0.75 a month for emergency spill clean up.  Instead of reaching for our convenient paper friend, I keep a stockpile of "rags" that we use for everything from cleaning up spills to window washing.  

My mom saves all of her old cotton dishtowels that aren't pretty enough to keep out on display in the kitchen, but still good enough to use for other purposes, so when we moved, I stole borrowed from her stash.  I also purchased a 6-pack of flour sacks awhile ago for a craft project, but they didn't wash as well as I had envisioned (they're a little wrinkly around the edges) so I added those to the stack as well.  One of Brian's old t-shirts ripped and made it's way into the pile also, and voila!  

Just throw them in the wash with a little bleach and we're as good as new.  I know they're not the prettiest things ever, but it brings me a little glimmer of satisfaction every time I can go without using a paper towel.

#2: Cable

I think this one can go without explaining, but to actually have the guts to cut the cord and go cold turkey on the boob tube takes a lot of will power.  Fortunately, for us, it was the summer and there really was nothing good on TV anyways.  Before we moved we decided we were going to forgo cable  because it's just ridiculously expensive, and we couldn't justify the quality of life a few pay channels bring us with the monthly cost of having them.

We have Netflix streaming so we can just watch movies/shows on that if we get the urge, but we didn't have internet for the first month of living here, so we really had to go cold turkey on our TV time.  In addition to that, our DVD player broke just before moving, so if we watched anything at all, it had to be on the computer.  Quelle tragique.

Things have been very different since we cut ties with cable.  After dinner, instead of running strait for the couch, we find other things to do.  We take Addie and Gizmo for walks/runs, enjoy the sights from the front porch, sit and enjoy each others company, and even, I'll take a moment to build a little bit of suspense, READ.  Yes, folks, Brian read a book in the absence of the television.  I can hear the choirs of angels singing their hallelujahs.  Oh wait...that was my own rejoicing.

#3: A Plethora of Closet Space

Our house is a semi-traditional Florida Cracker house, which means it has lots of window, great air-flow, and NO CLOSET SPACE.  Our house has had additions and modifications, and even with the little bit of "modernizing" we still have a grand total of 4 closets in the entire house.  Because of Brian's job, one whole closet (the largest closet in the house) is devoted almost entirely to his uniforms and equipment.  I still complain about the lack of closet space, but it's forced us to be creative with our storage options, and to re-evaluate everything we own that needs to be stored in a closet.  We have pared down our belongings significantly because we simply don't have anywhere to put stuff, which makes me think about how much we live in excess, and how much we have and are grateful for.

#4: Air Fresheners and Plug-Ins

It seems like everyone is so obsessed with having a good smelling home, and the easy, simple solution is to purchase spray or plug-in air fresheners to make your home smell like vanilla cookies or apple cinnamon.  I've never been a fan of the air fresheners, but after living in a home where a plug-in occupied an outlet in every room, I began to re-evaluate the necessity and safety of these chemicals.

Not only are store-bought air fresheners ridiculously expensive, most of them contain phthalates and formaldehyde, two potentially dangerous chemicals.  Phthalates are commonly found in plastics, and have been widely thought to affect hormonal regulations.  California and Washington state have banned the sale of children's toys containing phthalates, and many health organizations advise that you minimize your contact with phthalate containing products.  I've made switches in our home to help  minimize the phthalates, so I certainly don't want to bring something else into our home that contains them or formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. 

So what do you do to freshen up a musty room?  First, get rid of whatever is causing your home to smell less-than-fabulous.  Then, use a spray bottle with a few drops of essential oil and water.  I use lavender essential oil, but you could use whatever strikes your fancy.  A few drops is all it takes, fill the rest of the squirt bottle with water, and your home will be healthy AND delightful smelling. And it's WAY cheaper than store bought sprays, and lasts longer too.

#5: Store bought laundry detergent and fabric softener:

Okay, so making my own doesn't exactly make life easier, but it's definitely not an inconvenience.  And laundry detergent is so dang expensive!  Plus, laundry detergents are laced with chemicals, and the "green" detergent I did use is no longer sold at Target. And if anyone knows me, if it ain't sold at Target, it ain't worth having (mainly because the closest Wal-Mart to us is about 20 minutes away, and not in a nice area of town).  I started using this recipe for making my own detergent, that I originally found on Pinterest, and it took me about 15 minutes from start to finish.

Now that I've been making this for about a year, I wish I could say I have suggestions or recommendations, but it's really so easy that it's all self-explanatory.  The recipe calls for 3 cups of each: Borax, washing soda, and grated Fels-Naptha.  Grating the Fels-Naptha is the most tedious process, but still only takes about 10 minutes, tops.  It does only yield about 1.5 cups of grated soap, though, so I just approximate and add about 1.5-2 cups of the other soaps and call it a day.  I don't think I've ever actually measured everything, but you can't mess it up.  Trust me.  Also, while we're on the topic, did you know that a bar of Fels-Naptha is probably the best stain remover out there?  And it's like $1.00 a bar.  This stuff gets out grease stains, pit stains, grass and mud stains, and pretty much anything else you can think of.  Just wet a brush, scrub it on the bar of soap a bit, and then scrub the stain.  Put it in the wash, and your life will never be the same.

I know some people forgo the fabric softener all together, but because my homemade laundry detergent is practically fragrance free, I like to add a bit of smell-goods in with my wash, just to freshen things up a bit.  I've played around with a couple different recipes for fabric softener, and this one is my favorite, though I do alter it a bit.

Again, this is so easy it's self-explanatory, but here's what I do:

First, it's easiest to get 6 cups of water hot in a pot on the stove, so I just mix everything in one pot right there on the stove.  Turn the burner on med-high, pour in about 6 cups of water, add 3 cups of vinegar, and 1 bottle of conditioner.  I use Suave Professionals because it's cheap and has no parabens, a chemical that has been linked to breast cancer.  In order to follow the directions exactly, you'd have to use 1.5 bottles of conditioner, or measure out 2 cups with a measuring cup, and that is just making things super complicated/messy.  I just add 1 bottle of conditioner, and then a few drops of essential oil, whatever fragrance will go with your conditioner.  I generally use Suave Professionals Rosemary and Mint, with a few drops of lavender essential oil and it smells lovely, but use what you've got on hand.  Stir your ingredients until the conditioner has fully mixed with the water and vinegar.  It should take you about 5 minutes.  Let your softener cool, and use a funnel to pour into a container for easy usage.  I just use an old Downy bottle, but, again, use what you've got.

So there you have it folks.  5 ways to cut down consumerism and help green your home at the same time.  What other things have you guys found you can live without?

:) xoxo- L.o.L.

No comments:

Post a Comment