Friday, August 13, 2010
"Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without" was the Depression era mantra. "Reduce, reuse, recycle" popular when I came of age. The idea never really goes away, and with the resurgence of the simple, frugal mindset in today's economic distress it seems more important than ever.
Salvage operations can run the gamut from huge to tiny, depending on what you have, what you can find, and what kind of space you have to store those finds. A few years ago, a 1940's-era trailer park below us was taken out in order to build a new strip mall. We watched as the residents left, and the trailers still movable were taken out. I checked with the project manager about salvaging what was left. Other than the office building, wrapped for hazardous asbestos remediation, he told me to help myself. They were going to bulldoze everything, and had to pay for everything hauled away by weight. If we wanted to "lighten their load," we had a couple of weeks to quietly help ourselves.
Wire fencing we rolled up - fencing always comes in handy around gardens and chickens. A few dry-stacked cinder block walls and cement patio blocks also found their way up to our place. The few remaining trailers, too decrepit to move, were pretty heavily vandalized by local teens, but we did find a couple of exterior doors we could use. One now graces our chicken coop, its sliding window providing welcome summertime ventilation.
Even more important, to us, were the trees in between the now-empty spaces. We gave a friend with access to a tree spade first chance at them, but he could only take out a couple because of the crisscrossed mess of electric, gas, and water pipes buried over the years. Then, it was our turn. We heat with wood - chunks of 50-year old apple, sycamore, and locust soon added to our firewood stacks.
Of course, you don't need a truck or lots of land to salvage things for reuse. Many of my canning jars came from Freecycle offerings. Mom had her junk drawer in her house in the suburbs; Dad had an old coffee tin filled with odd little bits of hardware out in the garage. When I inherited my mother-in-law's button box, she'd obviously cut sets of buttons from worn clothing, then tied them together with bits of string. Even the rubber bands from the daily newspaper and twist ties from bread wrappers have their spots in my kitchen drawer; plastic freezer bags are washed and hung up to dry over my sink.
Just a couple of caveats: anyone that's seen the reality TV shows about hoarders knows that sometimes people can go too far. Creative people are most at risk of this mindset - they're the ones that can come up with all kinds of reasons something "might" be nice to have. You have to balance what you find with what you really can use (fabric stash-busting, anyone?). And beware that upholstered piece of furniture out on the curb - it might not be such a good find after all. You certainly wouldn't want to bring bedbugs or other pests into your home just because it's free.
Saturday, July 3, 2010
The heat of summer has finally arrived. I needed a casual alternative to pants, a bit more appropriate than shorts, to wear. Making a denim skirt is an easy afternoon project. I've been turning old blue jeans into skirts for decades, a fashion that never seems to go out of style. It's easy enough for a beginning sewer too, involving only a bit of cutting, pinning, and straight, flat sewing.
Start with a pair of blue jeans that fit your waist and/or hips. Making a skirt is a great refashion for a pair of pants where the inseam is beginning to wear or fray. The cut-off legs are what make the gores of the skirt, and have to be long enough to reach from skirt hem to within an inch or two of both the bottom of the zipper fly and the back yoke of the pants to look best. A jeans skirt, therefore, can't be much longer than knee length, unless you want to piece together two pairs to make one skirt.
Either mark where you want the hem while wearing the pants, or better, with the pants lying flat, flip the legs up to the bottom of the back yoke and cut across where the fold is. I used an old pair of my husband's pants, now too small for him in the waist. He'd ripped a hole in the knee, but since he wears a 36" inseam I knew I could cut away that ripped bit and still have enough length left.
Laying the pants flat, cut away the inseam just inside the stitching and discard.
Cut the seams and hems from the pant legs. When finished, you should have four long rectangular pieces. Pressing them flat will make it easier to put the skirt together.
Match the side seams of the pants together and lay it out flat, front to one side, back to the other. Pull the curved crotch out front and back, smoothing everything so it all lies flat and equal. Cut the curved crotch away, making a straight cut from bottom hem to an inch or two from the bottom of the fly. Do the same on the back, making a straight cut from back hem to a couple of inches below the yoke. Use the leg pieces as a rough measure, since they will be filling in the area you're cutting away, to make sure they'll reach from hem to the top of your cut, especially in the back. After the photo above, I ended up making the back cut reach up even higher, after laying out the pant leg to make sure I'd have enough.
Rip the seam, front and back, another inch beyond where you've cut. Then press about 1/2 inch of the cut edges to the inside, overlapping one side of the ripped part of the seam over the other on the outside. Laying the skirt down flat, position one rectangular leg piece underneath, smoothing it flat, and pin into place.
On this skirt, I used golden thread that would match the top-stitching of the blue jeans. Top-stitch the front gore into place. I turn the skirt inside-out, to make sure I won't catch any other part of the skirt in my stitching. Then, making sure the leg part lies smooth and flat on the bottom, I stitch right next to the pressed edge from hem up to the top, across the top of the gore, and then down next to the edge on the other side. To match the jeans stitching, I top-stitched another row of stitching 1/4" from the first row on all pieces, and went back and forth at the top of each gore for extra reinforcement.
Trim away the excess pant leg material from the inside of the skirt. Do the same for a gore on the back of the skirt: rip the seam another inch (I think it looks best when the gore reaches all the way to the bottom point of the back yoke, if you have enough pant leg material to reach that far), press the cut edges to the inside, lay flat to get pant leg into position, pin, top-stitch, and then cut away the excess inside. The photo above shows a closeup of the reinforcing cross-stitching at the top of the gore.
If you want a straight skirt, you can proceed from here to finishing the hem. But I wanted more of an A-line skirt, so using the remaining two leg pieces I added gores to the side seams as well. Instead of cutting the side seams away, I just ripped them open up to where the front pocket was attached inside. After picking away torn bits of thread, I pressed both edges to the inside, laid the skirt flat, positioned, pinned, and top-stitched a gore into each side. To make sure I wouldn't catch any part of the front pocket in my stitching, I pulled each one up and inside-out the top before sewing. To make a nice point or corners at the top of the gores, leaving your needle down in the material, lift up the presser foot, and spin the material around the needle. Put the presser foot back down to stitch in the new direction. Stitching backwards and then forwards at the very top makes a nice bit of reinforcement over the seam. Cut away the excess bits inside.
Try the skirt on to decide where you want the hem. Lay the skirt out flat, front to one side, back to the other. Trim away the uneven bottom edges, making a nice, slightly curved, bottom edge. If you want a finished hem, leave an extra inch, press to the inside and top-stitch down all around.
For this skirt, I want the bottom edge to fray naturally. After trimming to the length I wanted, I made little bar tacks, stitching forwards then backwards, about half an inch from the bottom of each seam to keep them from ripping upwards. After a couple of times through the wash, and some thread-picking, I'll have a nice soft fringe along the bottom edge.
This is just a basic skirt. But jeans skirts make great bases for customization too. Add a cotton ruffle (or three), or maybe practice your embroidery stitches. Ready to start sewing?
Edit added later: Since my sister, Annodear, asked for a photo of the finished skirt - here ya go, such as it is. My only full-length mirror is old and spotty, and having to use a flash doesn't make it any easier. This pose, you can see both the front and a side gore.
Monday, February 8, 2010
We all love our modern conveniences, and plastic is one of them. But our world is also getting more toxic for us, because of our modern way of life. Most of us have been affected by cancer, if not personally, probably a loved one, or dear friend has battled the disease. My brother died of cancer 20 years ago, this past December. His long illness, made me rethink my life.
At that time, I was trying to make a decision whether or not to expand my ornamental nursery work on our farm. I was having second thoughts because of the chemicals required - my brother's illness, and ensuing death put the nail in the coffin of my nursery business, literally.
I was free of uncertainty, and vowed to come clean in areas that I had a choice in. Food was a big one. I ramped up my garden production and preservation. What I didn't can, I froze in plastic freezer bags and containers. I had no idea that plastic wasn't ideal for food storage. It is handy, convenient and fairly inexpensive, if you don't count the replacement cost and throw away aspect of it.
Several years ago, I had another wake-up call. A uterine fibroid run amok. I lost a lot of blood, had to be hospitalized for a blood transfusion and day surgery to remove the fibroid. I was lucky, I still have all my plumbing. My doctor quizzed me about my diet and how much plastic I used, and how I cooked. I scored points for no microwave, but failed miserably on food in stored in plastic. She went on to explain she understood the convenience of plastic, but that xenoestrogens (chemicals that act as estrogen mimickers) are thought to be the main culprit in the formation of fibroids and other types of reproductive organ maladies in both sexes. Xenoestrogens are a by-product of the chemical industry. Fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, plastic, and common household products are all contributors. We are bombarded daily. Even canning lids have BPA in them to protect the metal from leaching.
I understand the convenience of seal-a-meals and freezer bags and containers. But I also think this is place where I can personally make some changes for my health, and my daughters reproductive health. The answer was right under my nose really, in my old canning books, and on every box of canning jars. FOR CANNING AND FREEZING. I just needed to look. I already froze my butter in pint jars. Plastics are a huge marketing coup for the oil industry. And I was raised in the 60's when convenience for the homemaker was the ultimate. I have to admit, plastic is very useful. Change is hard. But, with so many factors in our lives out of control these days, this is one thing I can control.
As with any changeover, it takes time. Foods with fat cause the most leaching because of the interaction of fatty foods with the plastic, so that would be a good place to start. The rest will fall into place.
All but four of the jars in the photo above came from the freezer, it is still a work in progress.
Monday, December 14, 2009
From Amy at ProgressivePioneer.com
Here's a repost from my blog, but perfect for the season, I think! You could start making a few of these this year, adding some each year and eventually phasing out disposable, expensive paper wrapping altogether! It's an easy, satisfying project; have fun!
I'd been meaning to make reusable cloth bags to put Christmas presents in, but it took a girlfriend showing up with piles of fabric and initiative to finally get the project off the ground!
Luckily we have two sewing machines, so Rachel and I were able to work side by side making tons of little cloth bags to hold Christmas presents. She chose a variety of Christmas-y prints, while I limited my palette to red and white.
I used French seams on mine to make them a bit more durable and also to give the insides a nice finished look. Once I got into a groove I was able to crank out quite a few!
There were huge quilted ones, tiny striped ones and plenty of plain red ones made of sturdy duck cloth. I opted not to do a drawstring or anything, for simplicity's sake. I'm a ribbon hoarder, so we have plenty of lovely ribbons to tie the tops. I can't wait to see them all stuffed and under the tree!
I bought our first artificial Christmas tree five years ago. It wasn’t an impromptu purchase: I’d already decided on it 11 months before, when, as had happened every year, our Christmas tree once again died before I could transplant it. I’d always bought trees with a root ball, planning to transplant them after the holidays, but I only succeeded once, and even that lone survivor died inexplicably several months later, during the summer. And in my part of the world, a dead Christmas tree creates waste: it produces minimal firewood, and you can’t compost it very easily unless you own a proper shredder.
At first, my husband objected to the idea of an artificial tree, saying he’d miss the natural feel and scent of a real tree. And although, living at the edge of the woods with three kids coming in and out of the house all day, I feel like I’m spending most days trying to keep nature out of our house, I could see his point: the Christmas season is also about celebrating the dormant and yet living nature around us. But the idea of not killing a tree every year did appeal to him, and eventually we struck a balance between nature and, well . . . the unnatural (aka a plastic tree).
Nowadays, when we decorate our house for Christmas, in addition to our artificial tree, we also cut a few boughs from the local umbrella pines and drape the hearth with them, or hang them like wreaths on our doors. It never ceases to amaze me how long these branches stay fresh: they continue to emanate their fresh, green, aromatic scents for weeks. And whereas our old Christmas trees, which had roots and soil, would hardly survive until the end of the holiday season, despite regular watering, these fresh-cut boughs never seem to die.
In the past month I've been struck by the simple, creative ways that other bloggers have found to use nature to decorate their houses for Christmas. I've asked a few of them to share their projects in this space (all photos by the authors).
Trinsch, a Danish mom of three who lives in Israel, used a red wool sweater that was mistakenly put into a hot wash and got felted, to make felt hearts, and decorated a striking branch for the holiday season. I'm fascinated by the contrast between the red felt hearts and the stark, bare branch.
I love how Nicola salvaged some wood from fallen eucalyptus trees at her daughter’s school in Northern California and used it for crafting. Among other projects, she used the eucalyptus bark and a repurposed glass jar to make this amazing Bark Vase.
In cold and snowy Poland, Isabelle, who is French, made a wonderful garland by stringing mandarin peels together with pine cones she'd bought at a local market. It’s a garland that grows, because her family of four adds the peel of each mandarin they eat to the garland - until they use up the last of their pine cones!
Gardenmama in rural northeastern US used beeswax to craft sculpted figures and candles. She also made these beautiful beeswax ornaments, and in her tutorial she describes the intense incense-like aromas they gave off during the making.
I was very inspired by these handmade ways to decorate our houses for the upcoming holiday season, which turn simple, natural and repurposed materials into beautiful, artistic decorations.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Living The Frugal Life
I'm not really much of a crafter. I don't spend much time accessorizing my house, and I don't like to spend money unless there's really a good reason. But. I also don't like to waste things, so I put effort into finding a use for things that most people would consider scrap or garbage.
During my recent sewing competence project, my sewing mentor encouraged me to tear the edges of the fabric I had purchased in order to start with more or less straight edges. This just about killed me as it both made my gift wraps smaller and produced small pieces of fabric that weren't going to be good for much of anything. Still, I went along with her meticulous approach to sewing, fully aware that she was teaching me the proper way of doing things. But I couldn't bear to throw away the scraps, so she sent me home with a small bag of narrow remnants, including some of hers which she otherwise would have thrown away.
I decided to find some use for the scrap pieces. Some of the really narrow pieces I think I will use to bind up bundles of herbs or flowers for drying. They'll look nice hanging from the beam in our dining room. But the scraps that are about an inch wide, I'm using to make decorative gift tags. Since they're made out of some of the same fabrics that went into the gift wraps, I will have gift tags to match, if I wish. Or I could mix and match swatches as suits my mood.
All I needed for this project was a piece of cardstock, the fabric scraps, scissors, a piece of paper (in a contrasting color) to write on, and some glue to assemble all the elements. When the gift tags were done I used an office hole punch to make a hole in each one. It took very little time to assemble a large assortment of these tags. If I were being really, really green I would put the gift recipient's name on the tag in pencil, so that it could be erased and the tag re-used.
If you pursue sewing projects, or know someone who does, perhaps you can use this idea to personalize your holiday gifts this year, and prevent waste at the same time.
What creative uses have you found for fabric scraps or other waste materials?
Friday, November 13, 2009
Once you start getting into the simple lifestyle, sooner or later you're going to want an apron. So make one - they're a perfect project for beginning sewers. I have a favorite granny bib-style, H-back, one that I usually wear. But I like having a couple extra aprons around too - guest aprons, you might say. My sister and her family usually visit for Thanksgiving. She loves it when I offer her an apron to wear too. It just makes her feel more "in the spirit", she says.
As well as for yourself, and maybe your guests, consider making an extra apron or two for Tie One On Day. Started by EllynAnne Geisel, it's a way to put the "give" back in Thanksgiving: "Participation is simple. On the day before Thanksgiving, November 25th this year, pause in the preparation of your own meal, wrap a loaf of bread or other baked good in an apron, tuck a prayer or note of encouragement in the pocket, and deliver the wrapped bundle to someone without your bounty - a neighbor, friend or family member in need of physical or spiritual sustenance, a bit of recognition, or just a kind word."
A quick and easy way to make a cute half-apron is to start with a pillowcase. Nice ones can usually be found at your local thrift store for $1 or less. I look for ones with some kind of different print or decoration around the opening end. That end makes the skirt of your apron - cut it between 16 and 20 inches long for a nice length. I measure where I want to make my cuts, making little snips in the edge. Then I fold and smooth the pillowcase over at a snipped place, slipping my scissors inside the fold and cutting across to make straight cuts. The middle cross-cuts make the waistband and ties. Cut two equally sized strips 3-4 inches wide (I'm using a King case here, so I had enough material to cut three. I used one as a center piece and then trimmed half off the other two. Using all three would make ties long enough to wrap around and tie in front - would be cute too). Cut the sewn side seam off the skirt and waistband/tie pieces, and open them up at the fold. The closed end will make the two pockets, so don't cut the pillowcase seams on that piece.
Fold the raw side edges of the skirt over twice to the wrong side, press, and sew down.
Make the pockets by cutting the top corner parts of the case into two equal squares or rectangles (discard the center piece). Turn the corner inside-out, flatten, and stitch down the remaining two open sides, leaving a couple of inches left unstitched to be able to turn right-side out. Clip off the tip of your corner, just beyond your stitches, turn right-side out, (then use a crochet hook or unclicked click pen to push the corners out to a nice point) and press flat, tucking the unsewn part evenly to the inside. Repeat for the other pocket.
Lay the skirt out flat and position the pockets an inch or two on either side of the center, 4-6 inches down from the top. Try different positions until you have something you like best - maybe with the pattern running perpendicular to the skirt's or putting the pockets on an angle. Just make sure that the unstitched part of the pocket edge isn't part of the top edge (top-stitch it to close it up if you just have to have it on the top part). Pin in place, then sew down three sides close to the edge of the pocket, leaving the top open. I like to spin the pocket around and run a second line of stitching just inside the first (reinforcement - don't want to be losing anything through a hole in your pocket). You might like the look of using a contrasting color of thread too.
Join the ends of the waistband/ties, sewing with right sides together. Press the seam edges open, and then fold one long side over towards the wrong side, and press. Find the center of the long piece, then lay the long piece right-side UP on your work surface with the folded side farther away from you.
Lay the skirt, also right-side UP, on top of the long piece, matching centers of both pieces and the raw edges closest to you, and put a pin in the center through both pieces. You can just pin the pieces together flat, but I like to gather or pleat the skirt a bit. If you want to gather yours, measure out equal distances either side of your center pin on the long narrow piece, and pin the outside edges of the skirt there (4-8 inches closer to center is usually good). Keeping the narrow piece laid down straight and flat, then make the skirt part lay flat by making up the slack pinning down pleats or gathers, keeping the raw edge of both pieces even. Mirror what you do to one side of center on the other side too. Sew skirt to band (I find it easiest to have the skirt part up when sewing too, so that I can do any final adjustments to my pleats or gathers - just keep the band part underneath lying flat).
Fold the bottom edge of the waist ties up and press. Fold the top edge down, matching the folded edges together on the ties, and covering the line of stitching on the front of the skirt, and pin. Tuck the raw ends of the ties to the inside and pin them too, making a nice corner.
Top stitch the end of a tie, along the folded edges, across the top front of the skirt, along the folded edge of the other tie and across the end. A final quick pressing and you're done!
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Buying used however is not for the faint of heart. You really have to learn patience and the art of waiting. You learn to enjoy the search for that perfect item as much as having the item when you finally get it. It takes a little more time, particularly if you're trying to find these items locally.
So how do I go about finding used items? We look through our local paper for auctions and go to secondhand shops in the area. We have found however that our local Goodwill is not a great place to buy used items, they're overpriced (they sell single canning jars for several dollars each). After a few trips you'll discover which second-hand stores in your area are worth your time. Garage sales can also be a great resource, although I don't frequent them, I find auctions to be a better use of my time. Craig's list and Freecycle are both local sources and E-bay is an easy resource since it's searchable, although the item most likely won't be local and will require shipping. It is the perfect place to search if you need something specific or you need it right away. Salvage stores like ReStore, by Habitat for Humanity and other local places are great for finding used building supplies and furniture.
There are some things that I buy new, however, like shoes, undergarments, socks and most of my clothes. I could buy used clothes, but I find the time needed to seek them out is often not worth my time. In these areas I focus on buying a few well-made pieces that will last for years. We also often buy new when it comes to small power tools and items that diminish in quality as they're used.
Do you buy used or new? What's your best resource for used items?
Friday, October 23, 2009
I've shared here before that the quest to be simple, green & frugal has been a real journey for me. I've shared that I was very hard on myself initially, feeling I had to accomplish it all in a short period of time and feeling I'd fallen short because there was simply no way to accomplish it all, unless anyone wants to give me an acre or two ;)
But lately I've been thinking about some small steps I have taken that have reduced my carbon footprint and acknowledging those changes have really affirmed to me why this journey is so important. Furthermore it has helped me see that small changes really do add up!
I thought I'd share some of the teeny tiny changes I've made and would love at the end if you could share some of yours to!
- I've switched to low energy light bulbs
- I've requested electronic bills instead of paper bills
- I've begun buying fair trade items of food whenever possible
- I've started buying local produce as much as possible
- I've switched from shopping at a big supermarket and instead first go to my local fruit & veg shop
- I've recently had to purchase a couple of gifts and needed a new item of clothing, I went to several charity (second hand shops) and found just what I needed
- I eat vegetarian meals four days a week
- I did a small google search on ethical shopping and found out which shops are the best for paying decent wages to their workers in developing nations
- I purchase green alternatives to washing up liquid, clothing detergent and soap
- I purchase green friendly toilet roll
- I purchase vinegar and baking soda to clean
- I use the library instead of buying books, or purchase them second hand if need be!
- I take my trusty reusable bags with me wherever I go
- I try to leave my car at home at least two days a week
These are all very tiny changes, none have made a significant difference in my life but I know they will make a real difference in someone else's life and the lives of future generations! I'd love to know what little steps you've taken and whether they make you feel greener?
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Living The Frugal Life
I don't know where I first heard about the 50 Things project. But I liked the sound of it immediately. The idea is to get rid of stuff, not just your everyday recycling, but things that either have some value to someone else, or are simply taking up space because you haven't found the motivation to get rid of them up till now. It doesn't matter whether you donate it, sell it, give it to a friend, freecycle or craigslist it, repurpose it, or recycle it. Just get rid of fifty things that are serving no purpose in your life. The hardest things (for us anyway) to address are the things we've held onto for sentimental reasons, but which we have, in fact, very few sentiments about.
This seems like a good project to me for several reasons. We have a "junk room" which could really be a useful spare room or guest room if we could only get the stuff in there sorted. That irks me enough that I usually try to pretend that room simply doesn't exist. I'd like it to be otherwise. And I know we have things lying around that we'll probably never use that other people could find value in. If we have less clutter and others have things they can use, it sure seems win-win to me.
I've been mulling this project for a while now, and since the gardening season is just about winding down, the time seems ripe to begin. I thought I'd post here as a jump start for myself and perhaps to motivate some of you to begin 50 Things projects of your own. Some groups of items, such as books, or a group of things I donate to one place, I'm only going to count as one item on the list. See, I really am ambitious!
Here's my first list of just ten things, as a start:
- Spare dish drying rack, coffee maker, kitchen items - donated to a battered women's shelter
- Old iMac desktop, still functional - looking to donate to a school or charity
- Leftover toxic lawn care stuff from our home's previous owner - disposed of via the city's semi-annual hazardous waste collection day
- Ceramic butter dish we just don't particularly like or use (but pretty nonetheless) - given to friends
- Books - a batch donated to our local library
- Books - a collection of old travel guidebooks, recycled
- CDs - sold to a used music store
- DVDs - sold in a batch (less work that way) on eBay
- My childhood stamp collection (not very impressive) - looking for a dealer to evaluate/buy
- Miscellaneous junk cleared out of two drawers in my old desk - thrown away
How about you?
Friday, September 25, 2009
I grew up an Army brat and then joined the Army myself so moving every 12 months is more normal than not to me. Unfortunately now that I'm out of the Army my husband and I have to move ourselves. We are used to someone packing our stuff, loading it, driving it and delivering it. It's a virtually painless process that cost us nothing. This move it seems will be anything but...
To be honest I didn't even look at what it would cost to have movers come in and do everything for us. I know that the process is prohibitively expensive and since we are only moving 2 hours away I figure we can do it ourselves for a lot less money and with a lot smaller impact on the earth. Including gas moving is going to cost us about $600 considering we are currently in a three bedroom 1,500 sq ft home I think that's pretty good. So how are we doing it?
1) Cut the clutter. You know you need to do it, you know you have things that you never use but no one wants to sort through it all. This is the "easiest", greenest, and cheapest way to move. The key is to start early and organize in stages so you don't get overwhelmed. I started going room by room and closet by closet. Everything we were keeping got boxed up, everything else was sorted into trash, recycle, donate, and sell. I started with the easy rooms first and saved the basement (aka pit of unidentified items) for last. This way I went into the hardest part of the sorting with a sense of accomplishment . The basement was tackled over a couple weekends to avoid burnout. I knew if I pushed to do too much I would throw out things we might need or keep things we might not. It's better (if you have the time) to take things slowly and purposefully. Most of what we get rid of went to Goodwill. A yard sale wasn't an option for us and I really don't like wasting a lot of time trying to sell things. Unless I think I can realistically get $30 or more I don't bother. So far I've made $235 selling stuff, not bad eh?
2) Get used moving boxes. I got boxes from three individuals, all found through Craigslist and all were free. Cardboard boxes are remarkably durable and can be used three or more times without showing signs of wear or losing their structural integrity so why waste money and resources to purchase new?
3) Use newspaper and household linens as packing materials. If you get the newspaper you can save your own or you can get a big stack from a recycling center and then rerecyle them after your move. You do want to be careful though, newsprint can bleed or rub off in which case you may want to opt for packing paper or your sheets :) Instead of buying or renting moving blankets to protect your furniture use your own blankets and towels and save yourself some money.
4) Shop around for a moving truck and then shop around for discount codes. I googled "discount codes for budget rental truck" and pulled up a long list of various discount codes. Some work and some don't but even if they don't all you've lost is a little time. I saved $40 using an online discount code. That may not seem like a lot but it's the cost of a tank of gas for one of our cars (which we have to drive to the new house anyway). Oh and make sure you get the smallest truck you need. Most moving companies offer guidelines based on the number of rooms in your house or the square footage but these are often very generous guidelines. Take a good look at your stuff and then go look at the trucks you can save $10-$20 by using a smaller truck.
5) Once you've got the truck move as quickly as possible. In addition to mileage charges most rental trucks have daily charges and you want to pay as little as possible. The idea of moving everything you own in less than 24 hours may seem daunting but if you pack and preposition your stuff before you have the truck it won't be so bad. We already have 2/3 of the house packed up and have started to stack everything on the first floor. By the time we have the truck everything will be stacked on the first floor and ready to be quickly moved onto the truck (with the exception of the furniture upstairs which we need a dolly to move).
6) Shop around (including your friends garages and tool rooms) for moving equipment. It can cost $15-$20 to rent a dolly for a day but a dolly is essential depending on the furniture and appliances you are trying to move. Go out on a limb and asks friends and coworkers if they have a dolly you can borrow or if they can borrow one from work. I never would have thought my father had a dolly but he does and can borrow another from work for free. If you aren't that lucky moving truck rental companies usually rent dollies but so do home improvement stores so shop around for the best price.
7) Beer (or other beverage of choice) and pizza is usually cheaper then the hourly fees movers will charge. Ask friends if neighbors if they will chip in with your move in return for a free meal. You could also check your local Craigslist to find "movers" who have cheaper than average hourly rates. But keep in mind they may not have any sort of insurance or guarantee so if they break something you are out of luck. Of course your friends don't come with insurance either...
8) Return anything you rent on time as there are usually excessive late charges that you don't want to have to pay.
9) Once you've moved and unpacked offer up your cardboard boxes on Craigslist so someone else can use them to move or simply recycle them and any packing material you may have.
10) Once you've moved take a night off to check out a local restaurant. You'll want the break and it's good to get out in your new neighborhood.
Monday, September 14, 2009
We all live when we live, we can't go back or forward, we are living our lives right now, and dealing with whatever comes our way. It used to be a common marketing tool for companies to package their goods in re-usable containers. This was an enticement for the thrifty housewife to choose one product over another. Instead of single use packaging, if you bought coffee in a mason jar that could be used for canning - you were in fact going to save money. Another great example of this was the flour sack made from beautiful calico that could be used for sewing projects for the household.
More vintage jars - meat, condiment, and shortening containers.
Most of these older jars take a regular mouth canning lid and can be used for dry storage/decoration and canning too. Mayonnaise used to be sold in actual mason jars that were made for re-use. That is where the advice to can in mayonnaise jars comes from. Sadly, that is no longer the case. Some of those jars are still around, but haven't really been marketed that way since 1950 - since the companies realized they could squeeze out more profit by going to a lower grade (thinner) glass for their jars.
Will manufacturers go back to this? Probably not in our greedy world. But we can look for ways in the home to squeeze more "profit" out of our purchases. A penny saved is a penny earned and sometimes more.
We use sisal twine for our haymaking operations. But we buy straw for bedding and that farmer uses poly twine. So instead viewing the plastic twine as garbage we look for ways to use it. Being mindful and creative we see the twine as a 5' foot length of tough material that may be used for putting together a temporary pen or...
But to make the twine the most useful, we need be careful to cut it at the knot, and to save it in a manner that neither takes up space or allows it to become a tangled mess. Instead of a constant mess on the barn floor, this hank of twine looks functional and is handy.
We also save the good cotton string from our feedsacks - I have used it to string my pepper ristras, and am entertaining thoughts of knitting with it.
In the kitchen I save bacon grease for cooking. I make my own butter and pack it in canning jars for freezing, but I do buy butter from the store also. It is usually wrapped in wax paper. I find that if I save these wax paper butter wrappers, I can use them for greasing a baking dish. Folded up and stored in a ziploc bag in the refrigerator, I have ready made baking helpers. I am getting one more use out of that purchased butter and its wrapper before I throw it away. Every little bit does add up, I save money by using something that would get discarded, and I don't have to purchase a product specifically for greasing my pans.
I like to think of ways to re-use things, and I keep that in mind when I am at the store.
Lids from my coconut oil jars become extra lids for refrigerator storage of my home canned foods.
Vitamin bottles can become seed storage containers
Feed bags can become mulching material, or something to kneel on to stay clean while gardening.
Plastic food containers can become storage containers. Just make sure if you are reusing plastic containers for food items that you follow the rule of hot and cold. Do not put hot foods in a container that was made for cold foods, as the hot product may cause chemicals to leach from the plastic that was made for cold products. For instance - soup in a yogurt container is a no-no. Also it is not recommended that fatty foods be stored in plastic either. Hence, my butter goes in glass jars.
These are just a few money saving ideas off the top of my head - what creative tips have you found to be useful in your household?
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
A posse ad esse (From possibility to reality)
One of the things that I've begun doing this year is to expand on my outreach efforts to new gardeners in my community. It's not that I'm an expert on all things garden related, by no means do I fit that bill. I have however learned a lot of things through trial and error and this spring my wife and I attended a two and a half month training program called the Master Gardener program. I learned a lot of new information and it's really helped with my efforts.
In talking to neighbors and friends, a few of which have been affected by the global economic down turn, one of their concerns is that starting a garden can be a costly adventure. That is particularly true here in northern Utah where we call home. We are very near to the shore of the Great Salt Lake and because of that our soil is salty and alkaline. Add to that the fact that it is a sedimentary soil that over thousands of years has become hard pack clay and it's not what most would call the optimum conditions for starting a new garden. Because of these factors and because Mel Bartholomew of Square foot gardening fame began his whole movement in Utah just a half hour from where we live, raised bed gardening is very big here. It's not cheap to get started though, so I felt concerned with telling people that were already tight on money that they should spend a good size chunk of it on starting a raised bed. At the same time, I know that most people starting gardens directly in the ground have a couple of years of amending the soil ahead of them before they really starting seeing the "fruits" of their labors.
Enter the "Lasagna Garden". I picked up a book at our local thrift store last summer about a garden called a lasagna garden. It wasn't what it sounded like, a garden to grow lasagna ingredients, but rather was a raised bed garden that could be started with little investment and promised little effort for good return. The basics of what this is all about is building a garden bed from miscellaneous organic materials and letting them essentially compost in place to build a fertile soil that can support a garden.
I hate to suggest anyone try something that I haven't done myself so last fall, as a part of our "liberate the lawn" efforts in the back yard, we decided to give it a shot as a sort of experimental garden plot for this year. We already had plans to build a new raised bed there, so it was easy to just modify our plans to go with this new idea. We built the raised beds along our fence line using the same type of recycled concrete blocks that we'd used for the rest of our yard landscaping and, after breaking up the ground a bit with a pitch fork, layered the bottom of the bed with cardboard pieces that were gotten for free from work.
Next I filled the bed with layers of organic material like I was putting together a sort of organic compost lasagna. I took pictures of the process.
To fill the bed, I pulled over a thin layer of soil from the existing raised bed that I was tying into. Onto that I added layers of material like straw, homemade compost, grass clippings, composted chicken manure, course sawdust that was used as chicken bedding, coffee grounds from the local coffee shop and some left over peat and vermiculite that I happened to have on hand at the end of the season.
I filled it very full knowing that it would sink and left it to sit over the winter. The fall rains soaked it, the winter snows insulated it and by early this spring we had what was beginning to look a lot like soil. A few months later and I dug into into it to plant my first crops; a mix of different plants that I hope will give me a good idea of if this benefits some more than others. I've planted watermelons, casaba melon, tomatoes, bush cucumbers, peppers and eggplants in it. The soil was soft and friable and I needed so tools at all to plant the starts.This picture was taken a little less than a month ago. So far, I am VERY impressed with the results of this method. The rich organic matter of this bed drain well, while at the same time holding a good amount of water. Below the surface, the soil looks to be very rich and fertile. This is the first time I've been able to get watermelons to grow well at all, and I'm already starting to set fruit on my pepper plants.
If your feeling a pinch in your pocketbook, or maybe have friends that are, this is a nearly zero cost alternative to building a raised bed garden that can support a lot of garden and can be worked very easily. It seems to be a good alternative and is certainly one that I look forward to exploring further.
All the best to you all.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Neither of us leave tools out - our dry desert sunshine quickly splinters wood handles and destroys anything rubber or plastic. Besides, neither of us like having to hunt for a tool the other one was using last week. It just makes life easier when tools always get put back in their place after use. So we have a tool shed. Centrally located down among the chicken coop, orchard and garden, it was originally built as a small hay shed back when we still had the horses and goat. Now that they, and the corrals, are gone it's lined with hooks and shelves for garden tools, pots and planters, a mouse-proof plastic bin of frost-protection blankets, hoses in the winter, plus the chicken feed bins.
I love wandering in my garden - summer evenings especially. Or I might head out there with a gathering basket, planning to harvest something. No matter the reason, whenever I'm out there, I'll usually find a little something to be done: a bit of pruning, something that needs to be tied up, a leaking hose connection, weeds to be pulled. But I'd usually left my gloves in the house, plus then I hated having to go back and forth, in and out of the garden, to the tool shed and back every time I needed a little hand tool (and back again, putting everything away afterwards). I needed a hand-tool shed right there in the garden.
So, a few years ago, when I saw a huge rural-type mailbox at a neighbors' garage sale, I knew it was just what I was looking for - big enough to hold all sorts of useful little garden tools, small enough to be unobtrusive, and designed to provide weather-proof protection year-round. Perfect! I had just the place for it too! I have a cable spool just inside the garden gate - placing the mailbox out over the edge enough to open the door left plenty of room for my solar radio and a cold drink, seed packets, my gathering basket, or whatever else I might bring out while working in the garden.
Now, it's so nice having everything I might want close at hand, year-round. Besides a weather-proof place to keep my trowel, shears, hose washers, kneeling pad, and gloves, it's also a handy place to stash twist-ties, string, old pieces of pantyhose - all the little bits and pieces that can be re-purposed in the garden. I guess you could call it my garden version of a junk drawer, too.
Monday, May 11, 2009
I've started showing my friends my recent efforts in house decorating recently. Many of my friends have commented on how creative I've become.
Whenever I hear them say that I always feel like laughing. See in highschool, I never saw myself as "creative". In fact, when it came to the arts and home arts my grades were:
Art = 'C-' final comment by my art teacher in my highschool certificate was "Eilleen draws/paints to the best of her ability".
Cooking = "D"
Sewing = "F"
My experiences in highschool pretty much ended up with me believing that I was not creative at all. In many ways, this view stopped me from trying to live a simpler life for a long time. To me living a simpler life would mean that I would need to learn how to cook (but I can't cook!), I would need to learn how to sew (but I can't sew!) and I would need to learn how to make do with what I have (but this would mean my house would look like crap because....I'm not creative!!)
For years, I fell into the "commercial" view of what makes a beautiful home (ie buy furniture/home decor to look exactly the display room), what makes a good meal (ie a good restaurant) and buy all my clothes. Every now and then I would have "brilliant" ideas of how something could look better or taste better but I would quickly dismiss those ideas because....I'm not creative.
Believing I was not creative left me no option but to be an over-consumer.
Then one day, I stopped consuming. I made my impulsive decision not to buy anything brand new for a year. And suddenly I learned home skills...bit by bit. I still didn't believe I was creative, but now I am being forced to sew buttons back on shirts and coats. I slowly learned how to cook.
And then something strange happened, the more I did these things, the more ideas I had about how something could be altered in a different way to achieve different looks. Now that I can sew on a button, I can now sew on lots of buttons (to hide stains on my daughter's shirt):
Now that I learnt that I can add flour to a basic stew recipe to thicken it and that thickened stew can be the filling for a meat pie:
And the more I did these things, the more confident I became of what I am capable of doing. My children started to ask me to fix or make things for them. And I was now more willing to give it a go. And one day, as I finished a drawing my son had asked me to draw, I realised that little voice inside me that used to tell me that I was not creative had been silent for a long time.
And its amazing how freeing that can be. So now I try my hand at anything. Some things don't turn out well, but I learn from it. Being creative doesn't mean not making mistakes. To me, being creative is having ideas and turning those ideas into reality... and this includes working out what won't make that idea work.
For me, being creative meant having to learn some basic skills then surrounding myself with people in real life and on the internet who can show me the many ways of using those basic skills to maximum effect.
And more importantly, being creative means NOT listening to that voice telling you that your idea will never work because you're not creative.
my latest creative effort - mirror painted to achieve a stain glass look and old hallway table restored and painted for shabby chic look.
So now whenever I hear other people say "but I'm not creative!" I tell them, "Me too! but its amazing what non-creative people like us can do!"