What Would Future Me Do?

Yesterday as I began getting ready for work I noticed that several dishes had piled up in the sink. It wasn’t horrible but it was enough to make me sigh. I’d have something else to do once I returned home late that night.

Something caused me to pause: What would future me do in that situation? I asked myself.

Future me glanced at her watch. She’d started getting ready a few minutes early. If she hustled, she could knock out the dishes and still leave for work in time.

I grinned and got started. Once the dishes were done I realized that the trash needed to be taken out as well. Future me would definitely want that out of the way.

But I paused. I always run a scoop through the litterbox before I take out the trash; did I have time for all of that? I glanced at my watch again. The time was fast approaching for me to leave but if I hurried I might be able to get it done.

I double-timed the scooping, changed the trash bag, and carted it outside as I waited for the dogs to do their business. To my surprise, they apparently sensed my energy because they hurriedly did their thing.

I not only managed to complete some tasks that needed doing, I managed to scoot out the door in plenty of time to walk to work.

I might be on to something here. Normal me would have let it slide until I returned home from work — or procrastinated until my next day off, which is a common occurrence if I’m tired. By considering the issue from the eyes of the person I wish to become, however, the paradigm shifted. As a result of that shift, I accomplished more than I expected.

I will definitely have to experiment.

Have you ever looked at a situation from the eyes of the person you wish to become? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Cleaning on the Cheap

For most surfaces, Ivory soap and water cleans just fine. For heavier cleaning jobs I use Fels Naptha soap or Octagon Soap.  Lather it on, let it sit for a few moments on really grungy stuff, then scrub a bit and rinse.

For windows, take a bucket of warm water, add a small squirt of dishwashing liquid and swish to mix.

Wipe on windows with a cloth, then either use a squeegee or another cloth to dry. I generally clean all of my windows and mirrors at once using this mixture.

Back in the old days people used just regular soap like lye soap or Ivory Soap to clean almost everything, so I’m trying to learn from them and save money in the process. While I have discovered that Ivory soap is an excellent all-purpose cleaner, for tougher jobs Fels Naptha of Octagon Soap are MUCH better. 

I no longer use paper towels, and instead use cloth.  A wash with a cup of ammonia in the water instead of bleach really gets them clean!  Ammonia also makes for a good color-safe “bleach”—it really helps to clean your clothes, and it does not leave a scent! Also, ammonia only costs about a dollar per half-gallon, half the price of the equivalent in bleach (less than half for the color-safe variety).

Instead of fabric softener I use a half-cup of vinegar in the rinse for my whites.  I still have a lot of fabric softener left from where I purchased a gallon last year, so I dilute it half and half with water and use it sparingly in my colors.  At this rate that gallon will last me another year or longer!

I wash dishes with a bar of Octagon soap these days.  A bar costs 79 cents and lasts a while!  I’ve been using this bar for a month on my dishes as well as for general cleaning, and it is still over halfway intact! Considering that a bottle of dishwashing liquid costs several dollars anymore that is a considerable savings!

To deodorize my home I take used coffee grounds, dry them and place them in old socks that I place around like sachets to absorb bad odors.  Fresh coffee grounds actually work better, so occasionally I mix a little in with my used ones, but used grounds are much more frugal—it is something you would normally throw away or compost!

To freshen my carpets and keep insects at bay I sprinkle Borax on them and use a broom to rub it into the carpet.  I like to leave this on at least for an hour, but I frequently leave in in the carpet for a day or more. Not only does this help with odors in the carpet, but if insects walk on it, they will lick it off of their feet and it will kill them. Not sure of the science behind it, but I did use it to eliminate a flea infestation in this place when I moved here.

To treat my laundry stains I dip a bar of Fels Naptha in water then rub it on the damp stain.  It works really well—if not better than all of those expensive pre-treaters they have in the laundry section.

I do use Bon Ami scrubbing powder on tough spots on the stove—it seems to have a bit more power than baking soda or salt, but otherwise those two things are what I use for scouring powder.

My floor is washed in a vinegar and water solution, but I tend to mix this up with a borax and water solution to continued insect control.  Living out in the county I feel prevention is better than dealing with an insect infestation.

I do have some commercial cleaners that I purchased the other year.  I occasionally drag them out to try on this or that, but my current cleaners tend to do better than the fancy commercial stuff I’m afraid.  I’m not sure what I do with the leftover cleaners as a result—I hate the thought of wasting them!

One commercial product I still use is OdoBan.  I keep it diluted in a spray bottle and use it for serious odors or whenever I want to kill some germs.  I worked  for a cleaning company once and they used it to even kill smoke odors for a fire, and in daycares to eliminate the urine smells in the bathroom.  You can buy pre-mixed bottles at Wal Mart but I get it by the gallon at Sam’s Club because it is much cheaper this way and lasts a long time.

What frugal products to you use for cleaning?

Saving Money by Cleaning Less

Sometimes you can save money by changing little things you do in your daily life. These little steps can prevent dirt from entering your home, giving you less to clean.

Less to clean means less money spent running the vacuum cleaner.  Less to clean means less water and cleaners used to mop the floors. Less to clean can mean washing something less often because it doesn’t get as dirty.

Check out this post to learn one simple thing you can do that will significantly reduce the amount you have to clean.

Have a nice day!

Having Less to Clean

Simplifying your life can take the form of reducing things that you are obligated to do.  Cleaning is one of them.

One way to reduce the amount you have to clean is by removing your shoes at the door, outside the home even.

Leaving your shoes at the door will prevent a lot of dust and dirt from entering your home. If you have one spot at the door where shoes are deposited you will notice a significant difference in the dirt level of that area compared to the rest of your home.

The Japanese have done this for centuries to protect the tatami mats they use as flooring, and it is something that we can do to protect our floors as well.

By reducing the dust and dirt that enters the home, you will have less dust and dirt to clean.  This means that you will have to dust and vacuum less often, freeing up valuable time.

Another benefit is for your feet and your shoes. By allowing your shoes to air out regularly while you are in the home less bacteria will grow within them.  They will have time to dry out between wearings, giving a less hospitable home to these smelly companions.

You feet will also be freed from the damp and smelly environment of your shoes which may help with foot odor as well.

The Japanese have special house shoes that are worn while in the home. You can designate some simple sandals for this honor. 

I tried using the special set of shoes for the home.  I constantly forgot which pair I had on, wearing the house pair outside or the outside shoes inside.  As a result I gave up on that idea and just removed shoes entirely when I am in the house.  The difference in my kitchen floor alone is astounding.

Place a small rug near your door to hold your shoes.  This rug will catch the dust and dirt that falls from them.  Shake out this rug on a regular basis to remove the dirt from your house.  If you have an enclosed porch keep your shoes there and prevent any of that dirt from entering your home.

Sometimes the simple things can add up to save a lot of work.

Ammonia for Whitening Whites?

Yesterday I discovered an old bottle of ammonia under my kitchen cabinet. After some research I read that some use it to whiten whites and as an all-around laundry additive.

I decided to try it.  I had a load of whites ready to go today from all of the cleaning I did yesterday, and they were quite nasty, especially the kitchen towels…

I had a load from yesterday that I used my normal amount of bleach for comparison.  I normally use 2 cups of bleach to keep them as white as possible…

I took this nasty dirty load of towels and washed them using one cup of ammonia in place of the 2 cups of bleach I normally use.  Added blueing like normal (which I also used on the other load) and tossed them in the dryer.

I was amazed.  The ammonia-washed towels were whiter and brighter than the bleach-washed ones!  I took pictures of them and showed them to a friend of mine and she agreed:  the bleached towels look much older and harsher used, despite the fact that the towels are the same age and had been washed the same until today, when I experimented with using ammonia in the wash.

I am going to post some pictures so that you can see for yourself. The kitchen towels are all about 3 years old and have suffered heavy abuse.  The washcloths are about 2 years old if that, because I just bought a new pack this spring.  All of my whites get washed the same way with 2 cups of bleach and have been washed that way since I eliminated paper towels from our house.

The bleached towels have a bit of a yellow tint to them despite the blueing used.  According to Barbara, “The ones on the right

[bleached ones]

are just marginally okay, they are gray and darker, with more staining. They look grungy in the photo, especially in contrast with the ammonia wash.”  She even asked if the ammonia-washed towels were newer, or perhaps less stained than the bleach-washed ones…

Here are some photos.  See for yourself..

I called the local Wal-Mart for ammonia pricing.  Here in Western KY the current price for 2 quarts of ammonia is $1.12, so for three quarts, the equivalent of a standard bleach bottle the price is $1.68.  Cheap bleach sells around here for around $1.75 for three quarts while name-brand bleach is closer to the $2 mark.  This makes ammonia less expensive than bleach, especially when you use only a single cup of it compared to the two cups of bleach I was using per load.

Note:  Dollar General sells the same sized bottle of bleach for $1 a bottle, which reduces the cost even more…

I’m not sure, but I have heard that ammonia is safer environmentally than bleach.  I know it is safe for colors, while bleach is not…

I’m kinda happy that I found that bottle of ammonia under my sink.  I know I’m glad I didn’t just toss it after this discovery!

Cleaning on the Cheap

For most surfaces, Ivory soap and water cleans just fine.

For windows, take a bucket of warm water, add a small squirt of dishwashing liquid and swish to mix.

Wipe on windows with a cloth, then either use a squeegee or another cloth to dry. I generally clean all of my windows and mirrors at once using this mixture.

I tried using Ivory Soap to wash dishes and while it cleaned fine it left a bit of a film on the glasses after rinsing them. I am wondering if I’m not using enough vinegar in the rinse water.

Back in the old days people used just regular soap like lye soap or Ivory Soap to clean almost everything, so I’m trying to learn from them and save money in the process.

Also if I can eliminate a bunch of cleaners from under my sink that will simplify my life greatly!

As I use up these cleaners I don’t plan to replace them. Instead I want to use things I already have to do the same job.

I gave my sister a bar of Fels Naptha and she now swears that it is the best grease cutter she has ever used, so I will have to try it.

Does anyone have any ideas for not only simplifying the cleaning process, but eliminating the huge variety of cleaners we are told we need?

New Year’s Update

It has been a while since I posted last but I feel that it is important to share my progress.

I have greatly simplified the amount and number of cleaning supplies I purchase over this last year. I would purchase items like laundry detergent, dishwashing liquid, window cleaner, all-purpose cleaners, floor cleaners, etc. in bulk from places like Sam’s Club.

It has been about a year since I purchased most of those items. I now make my own laundry detergent (I have tried both the powder and liquid recipes–I prefer the liquid). I still have some of the last container of commercial laundry detergent I purchased but I rarely use it these days.

Instead of all-purpose cleaners I now use Fels Naptha soap, borax, vinegar and bleach depending upon the cleaning job. That switch alone saved me a ton of money!

I still buy dishwashing liquid by the gallon, and it costs a little over $4 a gallon these days at Sam’s Club. I’m thinking of trying to make my own however. A gallon lasts a long time but if I can make a gallon for a dollar or less that is a $3 savings. In this economy that is a lot.

I still have a bunch of the fabric softener I purchased some time in late 2008. I have discovered that we just don’t need it. On whites I use vinegar in the rinse and on colors I use less than half of what the manufacturer recommends when I do use it. In the summer when it is pretty I hang my clothes outside to dry and on those days I use nothing but vinegar in the rinse if I even use that.

I am still working on that big gallon jug of window cleaner I purchased back in 2008. It gets used when I clean a mirror on occasion but for cleaning all of my windows and stuff I now do what the professional window cleaners do: I mix up a bucket of warm water with a small squirt of dishwashing liquid in it. I scrub the windows with a rag or the foam part of my squeegee, then squeegee it off, using a towel to dry the squeegee. Mirrors are treated like a “Karate Kid” movie–wax on with a wet towel, wax off with the dry. They shine when I’m done!

I bought a big box of paper towels last spring, and still have most of it left. I keep them out for messes that would stain my cloth towels, but I have surprised myself at how little we have used this past year. We were using them as napkins until my daughter Katie pointed out that it would “save more trees” if we just used our old kitchen towels for napkins instead. She was more excited about that idea than I was, but I fell in line pretty quick I guess. We used to go through two boxes of paper towels a year, so that is a significant decrease.

We still use bathroom tissue however. I have read lots of blogs and accounts of family cloths but we have yet to jump on the bandwagon. Katie was willing to try it but so far this mom has been reluctant. Maybe this year I’ll try it if I can find a small covered bucket for soaking them in–our bathroom is kinda small so whatever storage container we come up with will have to fit in the small area between commode and vanity. Unfortunately 16 rolls of tissue were destroyed when the pipes froze and broke this winter–I wasn’t home at the time and the thermostat decided to die. Not kewel. I hated tossing all of that tissue! If we had been using family cloths I could have just tossed them in the washer!

Has anyone out there tried family cloths? If so please leave me a comment or something. I would love to hear your experiences!

I actually do more laundry now than I used to, the result of using more cloth. Not too much, about a load a week if that. I keep a covered bucket filled with sanitizer water (bleach water honestly–in a restaurant you called it sanitizer and paid a fortune for it however) into which the towels are placed after each use. Dishcloths and cleaning cloths are only used once before being placed in the water to soak. Towels may get recycled once or twice before getting tossed in.

I spin them out and wash them in hot water with my laundry detergent (actually soap is the technical term) and more bleach. Occasionally I treat them with Iron Out to keep them really white, but mostly I use bleach and a few drops of blueing. Some of these towels are close to three years old and still pretty darn white, but you can tell a few stains on the older ones from the days before I used the sanitizer bucket. I was using a bleach pen on the spots but then decided I wasn’t going to stress over it–it’s cheaper that way!

I no longer buy sponges, but I do keep one of those plastic netting scratchie thingys around. I also keep miracle erasers, but they get used less and less. Stainless steel pads were purchased once last year in a small box of 6. I’ve maybe used half of the box. I keep the pad in the freezer to prevent it from rusting after use.

We greatly reduced our use of liquid hand soap last year by purchasing two little bottles of foaming hand wash, one each for the kitchen and bath. Once the wash ran out I poured a small bit from our gallon jug of hand soap in the bottom, added water and shook. We had about a half-gallon of liquid hand soap when I started that late last spring and there is maybe two inches left in the jug now. Katie loves the foaming soap and washes her hands more now, for which I’m grateful. I switch between the hand soap and a good ole’ fashioned bar of Ivory.

We no longer even look at the body wash section. I buy Ivory soap in the 10-packs and place the scraps in a piece of netting that Katie uses when she wants to get all lathery. She says she likes it cause it floats, while I like it cause it’s the closest to natural soap one can buy these days in your local Wally World.

As my ancestors did, I use Ivory soap for almost everything these days. I use it in my laundry detergent recipes as well as for basic cleaning of whatever needs to be cleaned. I’ve done some research and it is the exact same thing as Ivory flakes–and those flakes were used for everything from laundry to dishes to cleaning oriental rugs! All in all, for laundry detergent and everything I think we’ve maybe used a dozen bars or so, but that includes making up a couple batches of laundry soap for my sister in that estimate. I wish I could give a closer accounting. I’ll try to keep up this year.

One thing I do so that the bars will last longer is unwrap them as soon as I get home so that they can dry and cure. They last a lot longer and grate so much better if you do that one little thing!

I keep Fels Naptha on hand for heavier cleaning. I have had this bar since last spring but it is getting time to purchase a replacement.

To freshen my carpets I regularly sprinkle borax on them. I brush it in with a broom and let it sit for a day or so (you can’t notice if it is brushed in well) then vaccum. This not only seems to help freshen things but I understand it kills fleas and other insects when done regularly as well. It must do something, because when I moved to this place it was overran with fleas and other insects, and I haven’t seen a bug in ages–but I use the borax regularly and treated with insecticide when I first moved in.

We still use toothpaste, but we use less on our brushes than we used to. Sometimes I get froggy and use baking soda to brush my teeth, but not very often at all. I have to be feeling really cheap to deal with the taste! I honestly cannot remember the last time we purchased toothpaste.. It was a big four or five pack from Sam’s Club and there’s still a full tube under the sink!

Mouthwash is still used regularly here. When I was a kid Dad would make up salt water for a mouth rinse but Katie likes the taste of the store-bought stuff. I may make a small bottle of salt water and try weaning her from the other one day.

One thing I am trying this year even makes me shake my head. It’s the “no poo” experiment going around on the Internet. You know, the one where people stop putting shampoo on their hair. I’m still growing my mop back out from shaving it when my cousin had brain surgery in late June last year so I figured whattheheck! It’s going to look rough regardless so why not go whole hog?

It has been seven days exactly since I last used shampoo on my head. Sunday I used baking soda/acv on it–I was amazed at the gunk that rinsed out of what I thought was a clean head of hair! The water in my sink literally looked like someone’s bubble bath, and I used no soap, I promise!

Since then the only thing I’ve done is a bit of dry shampoo with a sprinkle of corn starch when it felt a little greasy last night (didn’t look greasy at all, however). My super-short hair is definitely light and fluffy so far into the game!

I don’t know how long I will last with this experiment, so if I write next week that I quit don’t flame me! I have a thing about being clean, so if I start feeling like my hair is not getting as clean as it should I’m going back to shampoo, ok?

I’m curious as to how this will turn out. My mother washed her hair once every week or so, and I’ve had older ones tell me that they only washed their hair once a month even in the summer! None of them mentioned their hair ever stinking, and from the blogs I’ve read no one has mentioned stinky hair other than a faint vinegar smell when they overdo it on the acv!

Let’s see… we no longer own a television or stereo, we watch shows and listen to the radio via the Internet–our phone is a MagicJack and goes through the Internet as well! We do have a cell phone but it is prepaid and costs $25 every three months.

I think that about covers the efforts we made to simplify our lives last year. If I missed something let me know in the comments and I’ll blog about it at a later date ok? Until then, I’ve got to get back to work.

A Simple Goal

In order to simplify one’s life without going insane, one must start small. Only by taking small bites can one even hope to begin corralling the chaos that rules so many of us. Each of us has different needs, different lives – as a result our steps will be different from each other. What one thinks is laughable another will think essential. It is all part of our uniqueness.

I have decided to take one simple step. This is my goal for the next few months – a habit I wish to develop to simplify my life.

I have set a goal to have all of my dishes washed before going to bed every night. Period. Not washed and dried, not put away – just washed and placed on the drainer to air-dry.

This goal is the most important habit I wish to gain right now, for by having all my dishes washed when I go to bed I will not be greeted by unwashed dishes when I wake up, thus making a better start to each day.

This also means that I won’t have to wash dishes before cooking breakfast every morning (an unpleasant ritual when you’re hungry), and a more pleasant kitchen overall.

Each person has something that is important to them, and this is important to me.

For accountability I plan to post how well I’m doing here on the blog, and when this has become second nature I will move on – but only then.

For tonight the dishes are washed, the sink is cleaned, and life is good.

Goodnight, fair world!


Last night, I did something rare. I washed the dishes before retiring.

Usually whatever dishes in the sink are obliged to wait until after breakfast in the morning, but perhaps it would be more cheery to wake up to a clean kitchen instead of a cluttered one?

Perhaps if I change my routine, wash dishes twice a day instead of once life may actually become simpler, despite seeming like more work?

One benefit would be that I would not have to wash certain items before cooking breakfast in the morning, such as my measuring cup, spatula or skillet. That would save time in morning preparation, as I do not wish to have more pots and pans than I actually need.

I’m going to try it for a few days and see what happens. It definitely cannot hurt, and would be a great habit to start.