Cleaning Without Breaking the Bank

As I sat around the house today after spending most of the morning cleaning up after the family, I got to thinking about how we clean. Today, we have so many options to choose from when we peruse a website or a store for cleaning supplies. There are products for just about every single job and every little cleaning task seems to require a different cleaner to get the job done right.

When I realized what the implications of this simple fact were, I comprehended just what it could do to a pocketbook in short order. This little bit of information had me longing for yesteryear when things were simpler. With the economy continuing to struggle in the middle of a slump, the last thing I usually have money for is cleaning supplies. In fact, most of the time, there isn’t money for a lot of other things either.

This is resounded in countless of American homes in a time when unemployment is rising and gaining new means of income is getting harder by the hour. Yet, we all want our homes to be clean and to reflect at least some semblance of normalcy when nothing else is stable in the world around us. How to combat the cost of living and cleaning when incomes don’t match what they once were is of utmost importance.

Therefore, instead of continuing the series I have planned on green living, I decided to take today to give some tips on how to clean economically while managing a budget as well. Some of these ideas are tried and tested by generations long gone and others are ideas I have used or that my neighbors have been kind enough to share with me.

I’ve mentioned and many readers have suggested the wonderful properties household white vinegar holds in the realm of cleaning. This is truly a standby from the past that works as well or better than commercial brands.

Plants are the best (and one of the cheapest) air fresheners around. Not only do they lend a subtle scent to the room, they also clean the air by absorbing carbon dioxide and giving off oxygen for us to breathe.

Vanilla isn’t just a great spice to cook with in the kitchen. I love to place shallow dishes of vanilla under the couch and in one corner of the room out of the way to lend a touch of old fashioned charm to my home.

Club soda is great for removing stains from carpets and curtains. It’s gentle and very inexpensive to use. Just rub it into the spot and blot dry. While it won’t work on really set in stains, it’s a lifesaver for fresh ones.

Baking soda
set about in the refrigerator and sprinkled on cat litter boxes can do wonders for the scent of those areas. It absorbs odor and neutralizes them so no unpleasant smells linger. I also sprinkle my trash cans with this.

Salt and lemon juice make a great scouring compound that not only smells good but removes a lot of grime easily. Just use gloves as the acidic juice can be murder on the hands. Also, salt will sting any cut, no matter how small.

Newspapers make great window rags and clean stainless steel well too. The shine left behind won’t show signs of lint as some other paper products will and it gives another use to the stack of papers that lay around after reading the news.

Old t-shirts too stained or torn for wear are wonderful cloths to use for dusting. They won’t leave lint behind and they won’t scratch delicate surfaces.

Those unmated socks also have other uses. I love to use them as wash mitts for the dishes. I just turn them inside out and wash as I would with any other cloth.

If your looking to keep the heat or the cold inside your house, you can use old socks filled with rice. These effectively keep drafts from entering or escaping areas you don’t want them in. These also double as great heating pads when warmed in the microwave and placed wherever you have need of a little heat.

When vacuuming, I prefer to use generic vacuum cleaner bags rather than name brand. The performance is no different than the pricier brands and the cost difference is significant.

I also choose hepa type filters as these meet my needs just as well as true hepa filters which are more expensive This saves on my pocketbook and still gives me a clean home.

For most items, soap and water is still the best way to go. I use these simple items to clean walls and cabinets. I use only hot water with a bit of bleach added for mopping my floors and for cleaning toilets and bathtubs. Both of these are cheap and easy to use. Just remember that the bleach has to be diluted with the water and it doesn’t take much. One part bleach to 10 parts water will clean quite nicely without a strong bleach smell. Ammonia can be used the same way, but must be diluted.

It is also very important to note never to mix bleach and ammonia. The results can be deadly. Before you mix any cleaners to make a stronger one of your own, be sure to check the components. If either of these is present, do not mix it! The odorous gas mixing bleach and ammonia together is toxic and will burn your lungs.

If ever in doubt, use plain soap and water. It worked for generations past and it will work for you today. Otherwise, try some of these tips out for yourself and send your tips in on how to clean around the house without spending a fortune. I’d love to hear how you manage the best of both worlds.

Getting Kids Involved in Conservation

Today as I cleaned up my office and sorted through an ever growing stack of paperwork, I opened my door and let in fresh air from the outside world.

First, there is a dollhouse in my office that is a constant source of stress relief and a great model for all of my designing ideas. (this is a great thing as it keeps me from moving furniture into odd arrangements and then moving it all back when I decide I don’t like it!) What I hadn’t counted on is the influx of neighborhood kids who stared longingly at my little world of miniatures. It wasn’t long before I had to give a play session to the kids (and to me). This is the one little disruption I enjoyed.

As we played, I began thinking of what to do a blog entry on for the night and realized that I had never asked a child what they thought living green was or how they thought one should go about living green.

“We can be like bunnies and eat the grass,” Chelsea, a four year old responded.

“No we can’t. That’s just dumb.” Her six year old and very sophisticated sister Jordan replied.

Logan, a little boy who lives just a few doors down from the girls, chimed in “It means we can’t pull up Mommy’s flowers ‘cuz they’re alive too and that would be killing.”

I chuckled but decided that perhaps a little experiment was in order. I pulled out the habitats I have for butterflies, ants, and frogs. I let the children decide which one they wanted to have for the experiment. Next, we collected some unsuspecting lizards, ants, and moths. I let the kids put in whatever they thought the animals would like in a natural world and got another surprise.

For those parents out there who don’t think your kids listen, please read on.

The children all chose vegetables for their new little friends. Unfortunately, the vegetables were the worst choices for food for the animals. I explained that the diets of their new “pets” were indeed many plants and foods that are not good for humans. The veggies, though, were like the pollution we put in the air with cars and the pesticides we use on our foods. They would slowly kill the very animals that the children had collected.

After a bit of research to show them using sites such as national geographic for kids, the children changed the natural world back to the way it should be for their pets. Then, we talked about how we could really do the same thing for ourselves.

I explained what organic meant and that it was kinder to the planet than any of the chemicals we used in a large portion of our foods. I discussed the experiments both NASA and Disney were running concerning how to grow food without water or soil and how to help the plants produce more fruits for eating.

They were most amazed with Disney’s 9 lb lemons. This lemon makes one gallon of lemonade and is grown organically. The sheer magic of this to them was that Disney created it so it had to be something from the fairies of Pixie Hollow and worth remembering.

By the time the afternoon was complete, I had gathered the mothers of these children and volunteered my teenage daughter and her friends for an outing to a local park this weekend. We are going to set the little pets free there and then work on teaching the children all about living green by helping to clean up the park.

I think if more of us did this just one weekend a month, there would be more understanding in the younger generation of what green living is and a better level of health in the older generations. In the middle of the conservation, you get some real quality time with the kids.

Our plan is to visit the science center as they have an area for kids to plant trees and flowers. Then, we’ll spend some time making a game of gathering the trash from the ground to make the park more beautiful. In return for their efforts, all the parents are giving the kids a pizza party. They’ll learn the beginnings of recycling and conserving our planet and we’ll be making memories to last into our golden years.

The idea is to get them involved. Kids will be more apt to be passionate about that which includes them than that which they are told they have to do without any input of their own. In the process, you will steer them toward a greener lifestyle without any resistance as they will be a part of it.

I think I’ll try to keep this as a monthly activity and get more children to join us as we begin teaching a little planet conservation to the next generation.

Recycling While Traveling

After spending a week in some really strange weather for Florida, I can’t say I wasn’t glad to reach dry land again yesterday when I arrived back at home. However, that little trip did teach me a lot about living green while traveling. It also provided some insight into how businesses and communities are working together to reduce the amount of waste produced.

Disney is one of the most popular vacation spots in the country. I had never been, so I hadn’t had a really good grasp of just how large this particular resort was in reality. It is vast in size and resembles a mid-sized city rather than a resort. Encompassed in its boundaries are every conceivable want of a tourist, vacationer, and even the business traveler could desire. In short, it is magnificent.

It is also extremely clean and environmentally friendly. The wildlife live side by side at Disney without either hindering the freedom of the other. This intrigued me, so I asked a few question on just how that could be since it doesn’t seem to happen anywhere else. The answers I received surprised me.

Disney has a multitude of recycling bins for various trash. This makes it a snap to continue recycling efforts while on vacation. To help reduce the confusion of mistakes in these bins, the receptacles had shaped openings to fit what should go inside. These were scattered throughout the park in vast numbers to encourage tourists to go green. They are simply painted and decorated to match whatever area you happen to be in. This keeps people happy as there are no eye sores and animals happy as there is less trash that can be harmful to them being left on the ground.

In fact, Disney goes even further in their conservation efforts than most vacation resorts. All of the benches in the Animal Kingdom are made from recycled plastic. They look and feel like wood, but are made entirely out of plastic that would have otherwise become part of a landfill. This greatly reduces the amount of trash inside the dumps and gives something that is needed back to the community. (Trust me, that park is huge and those benches are needed to rest very tired feet!)

Further, you can’t even get a straw in the Animal Kingdom because Disney doesn’t want them on the ground. They don’t want their animals to suffer at our carelessness. Some of the animals Disney shelters are on the endangered list, such as the manatee. For this reason, Disney takes extreme caution to preserve the natural world around us as much as possible while still delivering a magical experience that has become their trademark.

After learning about the efforts of Disney, I decided to look into what I could do with all of my discarded plastic trash at home. The possibilities are really endless-from molds to planters to containers for other items. One thing I discovered is that plastic shopping bags don’t have to end up in the trash at all. Out of boredom (read that as a need to relax and do nothing for a couple of hours), I began to braid some old shopping bags together. I spent most of the afternoon doing this yesterday and ended up with the best bath mat I’ve ever had!

I did put some double sided tape on the bottom of my plastic braided rug when I was finished to avoid slipping, but water won’t ruin this one and washing it is a breeze. I just have to rinse it every now and then under running water and I’m done.

I will be working on a completely recycled scrapbook and will post that with instructions as soon as I have it finished. So far, it is proving to be a most memorable method of preserving the trip to Disney. I’m finding as I research for this blog that going green is less work and much more fun than I ever imagined. In fact, it’s completely painless.

If you have ideas on how to recycle items and reduce the trash on the planet or on how to live a little greener, please feel free to share them with me. I’d love to hear from you.

Green Living On Vacations

Green living doesn’t have to end just because of a vacation! In fact, saving the planet is infinitely easier while on vacation than at any other time. But, before you get to protesting that statement too much, let me explain:

Currently, I am on a trip for a week at Walt Disney World in Florida. I arrived Friday evening and will not be returning home until Saturday. My vacation, as are many, is both business and pleasure. As I have been working on trying to live a little greener myself, I was positive this little trip of mine would derail my efforts. However, it is this trip that has instead inspired me to vacation greenly.

One of the best keepsakes from a vacation is scrapbooks. These allow you to keep your memories for years and show off your own creative flair. There is no right or wrong way to scrapbook and there is not right or wrong thngs to include in your book. My book for example will be covered in the wrapping paper from my welcome gift from Disney. This saves that particular item from a doomed life in the city dump.

The tickets, receipts, stubs, and other such memorabilia will decorate pages made from cards I received from my friends in Florida. In addition, the photography taken by the photopass photographers will adorn the pages to captivate my Disney moments .

To save even more, I have decided to place those photographs that I took onto an album online and avoid printing any paper copies to further reduce trash. Even the small scraps can be used in this way to create a mosaic look and feel to the finished product.

I’ll post a link to my online scrapbook and to detailed instructions on how to create your very own green living scrapbook shortly after my return from my trip.

I have also turned my vacation into green living at its finest is to take the opportunity to sort trash through the help of many a trashcans in my rooms. Then, I leave housekeeping instructions not to take the trash bins and empty them for those containing aluminum cans. I use these cans to collect small seeds to plant. I decorate the cans with various Mickey confetti and set them on the balcony. I intend to leave them with a charity organization in Florida before my flight home so that the plants will one day help clean the air, keeping Florida beautiful.

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Teens and Green: A Great Combination

In this article on going green, I would like to focus on a particular age group: teens. It is critical to understand certain truths about teens if you wish for them to live green…or any other way for that matter.

The teenage population must be regarded with respect and tasks, habits, and other requests you make should reflect a lot of coolness in order to be acceptable. This age group won’t be content with making kiddie crafts…unless it somehow helps them get a date for Friday night. They aren’t really into cleaning except when it guarantees the use of the car next Saturday. And, they have no intent on changing behavior unless they get something out of the deal–you know, extra spending money or some other privilege.

It isn’t that this group of society is bad. In fact, I think teens are absolutely wonderful. It’s more that teens aren’t little kids anymore and yet they aren’t adults with all the freedoms and responsibilities. In fact, a teen will inform you one second that they aren’t a baby and then argue they can’t do whatever it was that you asked because they’re just a kid the next.

What teens are great about is a cause. They love them. However, what you think is a cause may in fact be seen as something else you want them to do in their eyes. What you have to do is find a way to get your teen involved that is good for the earth and that relates to the lifestyle of teens in a big way.

Saving the planet, going green, and preserving nature are big for teens–just not in the way that you’re big on these items. For a teen, life is dramatic, dynamic, and always at full speed ahead. There are no such things as brakes, logic, rhyme and reason. There is an abundance of impulsiveness, spontaneous reactions, and emotional roller coasters.

To tap into this wide range of new and exciting aspects of teens in order to encourage green living, you just have to be creative. The following are ways to get your teen involved in green living without a huge headache:

*If you won’t do it, don’t ask your teen to do it. Teens are big on examples. Make sure your own examples show green living before you broach the subject with your teen.

*Introduce your teen to a world of volunteer activities. Animal shelters are wonderful places to show a teen how to preserve nature and provide a cause they can identify with. Consider that many teens feel rejected, abandoned, misunderstood, and mistreated by peers or other adults in some way. Teens relate and identify with the animals in shelters more readily than any other age group because of this and will fight to champion the animals toward a better life. In the process, you will see your teen’s self esteem improve, confidence rise, and mood change for the better. Volunteering at animal shelters teaches work ethic, preservation, compassion, and acceptance gently.

*Teens are proactive by nature. Encourage them to become involved in church, community, and green living. Help them organize activities such as cleaning up the park or planting trees or even hanging bird feeders in neighborhoods.You will discover that their ideas are often wonderful and worthwhile in our pursuit of going green. They will discover that they have value, can follow their dreams, and spend time with parents and other adults without it being painful.

*Teens make great mentors for the younger kids. Help your teen organize activities to get the children involved and watch the results blossom into something amazing.

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