Tuesday, July 28, 2009

How to make floor wash

Perhaps I should mop. What do you think? Doesn’t it look like a crime scene?

You know me. I’m not pulling out the Pine-Sol. A few simple ingredients, most of which you have in your house already, will get your floors clean as a whizzle (as my five-year-old son says).

Here’s what you need:
Liquid soap (here I’m using natural dish liquid, because it’s what I have handy; Dr. Bronner’s is my favorite, though, and another time I’ll show you how to make your own)
Peppermint tea
Measuring cups

And here’s why:
VINEGAR. I find that vinegar cuts grease and dirt well, and it’s an effective germ-killer. It’s a nontoxic way to add a little oomph – Mr. Clean with long hair, if you will.
LIQUID SOAP. The EPA recommends liquid soap as a germ-killer.
PEPPERMINT TEA. Also has disinfectant properties, and its strong but pleasant smell helps to cut the vinegar’s intensity.

First, sweep up schmutz, tragic Legos, and whatever else bedevils your floor.

Next, put ½ cup of water on the kettle to boil, and make a cup of very strong tea. As usual, resist the urge to slurp it up greedily.

While it’s steeping, pour a cup of vinegar and a scant 1/8 cup of liquid soap into the bucket. If you find at the end that it’s a little soapy for your liking, you can always add more water to the mix.

After about five minutes, add the tea and then a gallon of water to the bucket, and mix. Mop, rinse, and dry as usual. Good for one use.

Look, Ma, no Legos!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Moving green

Being the ever-frugal and environmentally conscious person that I am (or try to be), I wanted our Colorado-Illinois trek to have as minimal an impact on the earth and our bank account as much as possible. And now, with a month or so remove on it, I still feel like we did pretty well. Here's what went right, what went wrong, and some things that might help you the next time you have to uproot.

Shedding. I have gone from pack rat to compulsive shedder. (When I announced this to my husband, he hugged me with tears in his eyes. “Finally!” he said. “You’re one of us!”) It’s always been part of the “thrift” thing – “What if I need it one day?” So I lugged things around for 10 years or more, waiting for the day when I might need it. Then, when we realized we were moving, I looked around and, through my tears, said, “Well, I don’t want to take all this stuff.” I didn’t need this weight, this dormant energy that 20 boxes of unused stuff brings. Why not send it out into the world, to spread joy and comfort to those who need it (if I haven’t used it for 10 years, clearly I don’t)? So I did, and I threw very little away. And I’ve never felt better.
Have a yard sale (or two). Sell it on Craiglist or eBay. Put it on Freecycle. Give it to your local charity thrift store. Give it to friends. Spread the wealth (and create a little wealth for yourself), and keep it out of the landfill!

Boxes. Thank goodness my natural pack-rat tendencies led to my having saved every barely usable box I’ve accrued since college – we didn’t have to buy a single box this time! Family and friends also gave us some boxes, totally unsolicited. Never turn down gifts of boxes at moving time.
If you don’t have a stockpile from which to draw, or friends who will give or lend you boxes, get freebies from the liquor store or grocery store. That’s where many of ours came from in the first place. They’re free, and they’re strong; and by taking them off their hands, you’re keeping them out of the waste stream.

Packing materials. We had some leftover bubble wrap, which we reused, but mostly I multi-tasked my newspaper subscription (which helps an industry close to my heart in the first place). I say pish-posh to those who insist that one must pack in something other than newspaper – if you wrap your fine things well (as you would a present, but without the tape) and in a couple of layers of paper, you’ll have little to no breakage. (I always make sure to wash my plates and cups once they make it to their destination.) It’s so much cheaper, and it’s recyclable.
Another idea, which I used to great effect, is to use towels and sheets as packing materials rather than packing them separately.

Moving truck. We rented a Penske truck, the biggest one we could get (after all, there are six of us). One reason we picked Penske was that it purported to get 500 miles per diesel tank. But even on almost exclusively highways, and even with using cruise control, we found it got about half that. (We think they figured the mileage on an empty truck. Because who doesn’t rent a truck to PUT NOTHING IN IT? Thanks for the bait-and-switch, Penske. End of rant.)
We were paying for the move ourselves; thus, we did the whole thing ourselves. This was the balance we had to strike. If you are able to hire professional movers, it’s worth checking Green Movers to get a quote. Their partner movers are taking steps to reduce carbon emissions and their contributions to the waste stream. If yours is a local move, you might be able to find a mover that uses biodiesel-powered trucks (a little Google searching ought to help you there).

Friday, July 17, 2009

Forgive thyself

It took months, but finally, FINALLY, we are just about settled into our new digs in Chicagoland. It’s been a hard road. Thanks, fans, for waiting around for me to get around to posting again.

Which pulls me back around to this post. Sometimes life gets the better of you. Sometimes there’s just, frankly, way too much going on to fit into a 24-hour day. And sometimes there are days, and weeks, and months, and years that go on like this. It’s OK. We’ve all been there.
In the process of the move, I found, toward the end, that I just didn’t have it in me to maintain an everything-from-scratch lifestyle. Raising four kids on my own, dealing with the emotional Sturm und Drang (both mine and the kids’), and packing the place on my own … it was a lot. Obviously, I quit blogging. We started grabbing takeout more. I didn’t make bread once. And (shudder) in the last two weeks, I quit making cleaning supplies. I was overwhelmed.
And it’s OK. I gave myself permission to deal with the situation, to be busy, to grieve, to try to get my feet wet in a new area. I’m still doing it, too, but I find that I am ready to reclaim the things that make me ME. And so this is a perfect time to share these thoughts.

Many of us don’t give ourselves permission to think about how to play the cards we’re dealt. Many of us see sadness and anger as weaknesses, and we try to bury them under layers of work. Or, if we take time to indulge that moment (or those moments) of sadness or anger, we pile guilt upon ourselves for not doing more work, for allowing ourselves to work through those emotions. Why do we do this to ourselves? Is it healthy in the long run?

Don’t do that to yourselves. Do what you can. We all come from different life stations, have different life experiences, have different demands on your time. Can’t do it all? Then don’t. Do what you can. Do what you are able. And forgive yourself all the rest. You’ll never believe how much better you feel.