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.