Tackling the Closet Monster

Inspiration to tackle the Closet Monster came in the form of a posting I found on Pinterest.  It just appealed to everything neat and good and perfect and controlled that I think I should aspire to and made me feel like an unruly portion of my home could be tackled (Pinterest makes me think in run-on sentences).

My first thought was – the labelled baskets were ingenious and everything looked so clean and organized.

Except then the environmentalist that lives in my brain was like:  “Uh, yeah using a ton of newly purchased plastic crap.”

I thought well… I think I could do this with re-purposing.  I do have some boxes awaiting recycling that I could use if I wanted this type of effect.  Also, I found this cool way to organize sheets on Pinterest – basically you put the fitted and flat sheets in the pillowcase (Mind. Blown.)

Pillowcase Holding Sheet Set Concept

So, I thought I’d give it a go – I would tackle my closet monster.  Of course, if you know me – you know I jotted down a game plan with a list of goals.  …To clean your closet, you say?  Yes, I am well aware that I’m ‘a little different’.

Goals:

* Separate and Label the Different Bedding Sizes (We have King, Queen and Twin sheet sets)

* Re-purpose items instead of buying new items

* Have a bin to store wash cloths (I am against folding those things)

* Have a bin of cleaning rags (can cut up linens that are not suitable for donation)

Game Plan:

Take mental inventory of the different things that currently live in the linen closet.  Pull everything out of the closet and lay it out so I can see it all.  Start with the towels, then the sheets, then everything else.  Finish off with labeling.

The Closet Monster!

The Closet Monster!

I then went to work.  So, I won’t bore you with all of those details but – did you know it is a pain in the butt to stuff pillows like said Pinterest suggestion?  Am I surprised that a Pinterest suggestion was fussy and unnecessary?

Unnecessary, you said?  Why yes!  Because, I thought of something better.  Also, why would you want the pillowcase (where you put your face) to be the ‘dust cover’ for the sheets.  Amiright?  Just stack the fitted sheet and the pillowcases and then roll those babies up in the flat sheet.  You’re welcome.

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Sheet Bundles – Not Too Shabby

Oh, and I pulled out a LOT of things to donate to charity, also some things I will cut up for cleaning rags.  As a bonus, I also have a nice mismatched pillowcase full of cleaning rags from cut up old towels.

Voila!  Closet Monster = Tackled.  Here is the finished closet clean out complete with labeling (from a cut-up ruined sheet).  Out of pocket money spent on closet organization $0.

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Homemade Laundry and Dish Detergent – Tried and True

Over the past year or two I have been trying out recipes for homemade cleaning supplies thanks in part to Pinterest.  There have definitely been some fails, but I am happy to say these two recipes are tried and true.  I have made multiple recipes of these and they work really well. I have found that you can buy most of the ingredients at the grocery store (for example washing soda is in with the detergents at my grocery store), I did need to buy the citric acid online.

Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe (Borax Free)

The gal on the blog I got this recipe from did an actual Tide style washing of a white cloth with three different stains on it and compared it to store bought detergent.  She showed that the homemade stuff worked just as well as the store bought detergent.  I have found this to be true as well – I have been using this detergent on our clothes for the last year.  In fact I competed in the ‘Dirty Girl’ mud race and washed all of my stuff (shoes included) completely clean with one wash in this homemade detergent.

DirtyGirl2Aren’t We So Cute???

Some things to expect with homemade laundry detergent is that it doesn’t have naughty bleach included – so I encourage you to look up recipes on a safe whitener.  I actually just let my whites go off white and just not care too much about the whole thing.  Also, because this recipe uses real soap it provides a natural ‘fabric softener’.

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Oh, and a little quick tip: I’ve found it’s good to write the recipe right on the container so that I don’t have to look it up again the next time.

Homemade Dish Detergent Recipe

So, my water is hard… like stubbed your toe on it hard.  We have HUGE problems in our household like spots on glasses.

Yeah.

Well it bothers Mat more than it bothers me… Even still, I have found that compared to other dish detergents I have made, this one actually does pretty well in not leaving too many unsightly spots.  I also use vinegar in the rinse cup.  That being said, my full disclosure is that I use this homemade dish detergent recipe MOST of the time and then every once in awhile I use the store bought nasty stuff to get rid of any spot build up.

I figure that if it is good enough to use most of the time, then I am really reducing the amount of harsh chemicals that go down the drain and into the environment.

Well, good luck with these!  Let me know how they perform for you.

Thanks, EM

Finding Balance, With Cleaning Solutions

Zen Like Balance Demonstrated

Weeks ago, I posted about the Environmental Working Groups’s Safe Cleaning DatabaseSurprisingly, most of my cleaning products were rated poorly. Oh, and if you are wondering – I really did upgrade my cleaners to better choices.

Now, my big no-no areas were the dishwasher detergent and laundry detergent I was using.  So, with the guidance of the Environmental Working Group, I upgraded to Seventh Generation dry dishwasher detergent and I started using Dr. Bronners soap for the laundry.  (Disclaimer – there are other more standard choices for laundry soap that are rated well but my girls tend to break out into eczema so I decided to go as plain as possible). 

love hate to brag, but the rest of my cleaning was green before and is still quite green.  I have found love with using vinegar and water as an all-purpose cleaner and disinfectant.  I am free of having to smell bleach fumes.  Also, I love the Bon Ami cleaner for bathroom surfaces.

However, I started to realize that I wasn’t going to get a complete A+ on the green cleaner plight.

So, we have really, really hard water coming from our well and that can be a pain in the tookus with certain things cleaning-wise.  The Seventh Generation dish detergent did well for a few weeks but ultimately did not keep the glasses from looking spotty.  Also, a brown haze began to show on our coffee cups after a few weeks.

So, here is where I give completely up on the green cleaner?

Nope.

I deciced that ultimately, I do need some harsh detergent.  However, I don’t need it for every single wash.  The Seventh Generation works fine most of the time but every now and then I need to do a week or so of the harsher stuff.

Also with my laundry, Dr. Bronner’s soap will clean my clothes just fine but it is just plain soap so there aren’t any whitening agents.  Eventually whites will get dingy when washed with plain soap.  So, I find some balance in washing my whites in the Tide Free and Clear .  I wash all of the darks, towels, undies and socks in the Dr. Bronners soaps.  I actually have more loads that I wash with the Dr. Bronners than with the Tide, so most of the time I am being good to the environment.

Okay, I suppose  I could just buck-up and not care about dingy whites or spotty and/or brownish glass residue.  But, I am weak.

I would estimate that others are weak too, so that’s why I’m writing this.

…you’re welcome.

Anyway – my point being, maybe it isn’t always possible to commit yourself to the greenest cleaner available.  However, mostly using the greener cleaner and bringing the harsher cleaner once in awhile is a good way that I have found balance in my cleaning routine.

What are your favorite green cleaners?  What areas have you had to use harsh cleaners?  Could you find balance?

Easy Green – Buy Recycled Paper Products

Want to save trees, water and energy all in one action?  An easy way to be green is to purchase your paper products with recycled content.  My goal is generally to buy with as much recycled content as possible.

Toilet Paper – Recycled regular paper made into toilet paper – what were you thinking I meant?

All kidding aside – people are very specific about the feel of their toilet paper – so I suggest buying a brand that at least has some percentage of recycled content.  I buy Marcal Small Steps brand – and I’ve been really happy with it – it is 100% recycled content and the 1000 sheets bath tissue is very similar to Scott brand (which has always been my favorite kind).

Printer Paper – This takes some forethought generally because if you pick up some at the grocery store or local drug store they may only offer non-recycled paper.  You will enjoy more selection online or at an office supply store .

I found that printer paper seems to be the most price sensitive to recycled content – I think a good price/benefit compromise is 30% recycled content.  However, if you go higher – you get bonus points.

My girls are both artists so we go through paper pretty quickly here.  Of course almost all of the drawings are then recycled… Please don’t tell on me.  (o;

My Humble Cloth Pile

Paper Towels and Napkins – Okay… I haven’t actually bought paper towels in a long time.  However, when I have been cornered into buying some, I always look for as much recycled content as possible.

Yeah, well what do we do about bacon, you ask?  Try laying it over a cooling rack and letting the grease drip to a plate below… you’re welcome.

Anyways, what I use are dish cloths and old cloth baby diapers to wipe down my counters.  I keep a stash of nice-er cloth napkins to wrap snacks in for the girls.

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Super Cute but… is it Practical???

I’ve got to say – I keep seeing this set-up on Pinterest and while I admire the cuteness of it and the intention to reuse… I think it’s going to look like that once all snapped together in a roll and then eventually end up in a pile like mine anyways.  Also – how annoying would those snaps be in the dryer or as you are trying to clean?

Okay, that said – if someone gave me some for Christmas I would secretly love it…

Green Forest White Facial TissueFacial Tissue – This one is something I need to work on.  So far I have been faithfully buying the ‘with lotion’ kind feeling very sorry for myself.  However, I pledge here and now to try a box of tissue with recycled content.

Something else that you could do for an ouchie nose is cut up an old tee-shirt (one that’s too used up to donate) and use that for kleenex… nice and soft and it was going to end up in a land fill anyways.

Did I Miss Anything?  What recycled products do you routinely buy?  Have you stopped buying one type of product altogether and opted for a reuseable option?  Did you buy the snapped together roll of cute cloths and are offended by my review?  Let me know in the comments!  (o;

Favorite Etsy Shops

I love Etsy – it is an online marketplace where people sell handmade and ‘vintage’ items in an ‘Amazon.com’ type fashion.  Even though I am generally a boring technical type, I do have a side of me that loves artistic things and values handmade items.  The cool thing about Etsy is that by making a purchase, you are directly supporting someone’s home business. 

I like to buy the kids toys from Etsy for Christmas because it has that look like it could have come from Santa’s Workshop.  Another cool thing is that many items are easily customizable because you can just send the shop owner an email “can I get green stripes instead of pink?”. 

Without further ado – here are my very most favorite Etsy shops.  I only included ones that I have actually ordered from before -you know, for Christmas presents and what not.  For Etsy Christmas presents, it’s a good idea to start shopping by Thanksgiving as the products are sometimes made to order.

Wooden Handmade toys Firetruck  Oak and Walnut Heirloom Quality Beautifully  finished with all natural beeswaxMike B. Toys

There are some real good finds in this shop –  the girls have the fire truck (shown) and actually play with it all the time (they like to stuff it with dolls and drive it around.)  We also put Pelham Fire Department Stickers on ours that Megan got from fire safety day.  Mike B makes his handmade wooden toys ahead of time, so when you order he ships it priority mail the next day.  I have noticed that some of his more awesome toys sell out before Christmas though so shop early – these are the ultimate ‘Santa’s Workshop’ style toys! 

Grey Tie - Grey and Black Silk NecktieTie Obsessed

Oh what to get my dad?  Oh, what to get my brother… my stepbrother???  Right, these awesome reasonably priced handmade silk ties.  They are shipped nicely wrapped in liner paper ready to be inserted into a gift bag.  I believe she also makes her ties ahead of time and so they ship quickly.  Also, is there anywhere in the world you can get a really nice handmade silk tie for about twenty bucks?

Deluxe Old McDonald Finger Puppet Set (Includes Old McDonald, Cat, Cow, Duck, Pig, Dog, Frog, Horse, Sheep. and Rooster.)Wee Knit

This shop sells awesome little hand-knit finger puppets.  They have quite an assortment of styles and price points which is nice for gift giving.  Also, they offer themed sets to match story-books and sell the book and matching finger puppets as a set (love!).  I gave knitted  finger puppets to my nieces in a past Christmas – these would also make great stocking stuffers. 

Red and Pink Wooden Butterfly WandImagination Kids

Love the colors and designs from this store – browsing through the items is a real treat.  I did actually break down and buy the ribbon wands for the girls one birthday.  Also, they have some really cool multi-color stackers for younger kids or as a makeshift ‘stage’ for doll playing. 

 

Baby Daisy Visor Beanie - seaspray, yellow, white

PDX Portland Beanie Co

So, okay – these are a little pricey – but just looook at them.  Ooooh aaaaaah  They are so durned cute.  This gal must have a master’s degree in color combinations.  I bought this as a newborn baby gift once – matching beanie and booties in any color you want (she has several colors you can choose from).  She also sells  hats for men and women too.

 

Vegan Organic All Natural Ingredients -- No-Bottle Shampoo and 2-in-1 Conditioning Shampoo Pack --  Made In America

Ethically Engineered

Do you have a hip guy in your life that uses soap?  Hey – me too!  They have a cool ‘beer glass’ shaped soap too and city themed soaps.  Definitely a cool gift.  Also, their packaging is very eco-friendly – so that is a bonus.

Free Shipping -Green Bracelet

Bead Story

This asymmetric jewelry is so unique – combining intriguing charms with beautiful beads.  Again, I’ve bought from this gal in the past for Christmas presents and I may have bought myself something special as well.  (One for you… one for me…).

So, those are my very f favorite Etsy shops.  Have you shopped on Etsy?  What are your favorite shops?

Grocery Guides – All in One Convenient Spot

Hey!  Check out my updated Grocery Guides tab at the top of this page.  I will continually be updating this page, so let me know if you know of any good links. 

These organizations that I link to have painstakingly created printable guides and online searchable databases to make it easy for you to buy things that are healthy and safe for your family.

Why?  Because everytime we look up (for example) dishwashing detergent and make a purchase based upon this information we are actually voting for better products with our wallets.  Many small votes add up to big messages to companies to give us healthier and safter products.

Enjoy!

 

Halloween Fun

Proof of Fall Fun

We have been so busy lately – I haven’t planned much Halloween fun.  Although, I have proof that we have had some fall themed fun.  OH – just incase you were wondering, the girls were riding bikes while I was raking leaves. 

Looks like I have a few days left anyways before Halloween.  

Here is a round-up of fun Halloween things that are also eco-friendly.  Clicking on the pictures will bring you to the websites with tutorials.

Paper Mache Spooky Houses:

Make a spooky Victorian looking house out of newspaper and a flour/water mix.  This would make a truly cool decoration that we could pull out year after year.  Hope those aren’t candles inside…

Upcycled Tombstones:

Make your front yard look super scary with these cool tombstones. 

Green Halloween: 13 Eco-Creepy Crafts & Decor

 

Add Fun (or Scary) Color to Your Hair:

Actually, I am planning on adding very light whitish-green streaks to Jane’s hair for her costume as ‘Frankie-Stein’.  This might be fun for any occasion.  All you need is chalk and some water – when I did this with Jane’s hair, I didn’t bother with gloves or a hot iron and it turned out fine. 

For Spooky-Time After the Kids Have Gone to Bed

Super-fun – martinis that look like they are dripping in blood!  They use red cake decorating gel here – but you could also make a simple syrup with sugar and add some red food coloring.  I like the nice touch of the raven stamped on the napkin… although this being a green site, I would suggest cloth napkins (o;

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Apple Nachos:

Yeah, seriously – right?  This is a viable option for me because I’m too impatient to get the caramel just right for dipping a whole apple.  Also, this is good for grab-and-go at a party.  However, I think this is sprinkled all over with peanuts… we would go no peanuts for our peanut-free home.

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Hope you enjoyed these fun ideas.  What kinds of things do you have planned for Halloween?

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