The Crazy Hat Box

there's a hat for that!

Reduce and Reuse – but Recycle the Pickle Jar

I’m a big fan of repurposing things.  I’ve turned old glass bottles into soap dispensers, tiles into coasters, and old windows into a greenhouse box.  But, my favorite repurposing technique is reusing containers and jars, often originally containing food, to store other things.  However, it doesn’t always work out.

I especially hate throwing out glass jars.  It seems such a waste, when they could be used for other things.  After I use the contents of a jar, I wash it well and use it for something else.  One day, after finishing a jar of dill pickles, I washed it and put it aside to use later.  Not long afterwards, I picked up a big bag of dark chocolate Peanut M&Ms (yum!) at the grocery store.  I brought them home and looked for something to keep my snack in.  Remembering the pickle jar, I emptied the bag into it and put it high on a shelf (so no one stole my snack).

The next day, I went to get a few M&Ms.  I opened the jar to a whiff of pickles.  Hmmm.  I tasted one.  Yep, M&Ms infused with pickles.  Not exactly what I was going for.  And the longer the M&Ms were in the jar, the more they tasted like pickles.  I still ate them because, c’mon, it’s still chocolate.  And, on the bright side, no one wanted my snack.

So, lesson learned – put the pickle jar in the recycling bin!

Here are some other items I’ve repurposed (without the new contents smelling like the old contents):

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A salsa jar repurposed as a container for yeast.

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A jar previously containing a candle now used for miscellaneous office supplies.

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A food can  as a fork holder (this works great for parties).

Happy repurposing!

 

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Take Off Your Coat and Stay a While

I’m not winter’s biggest fan for so many reasons.  It’s cold, the days are short, the mornings are dark, it’s cold, the weather is often dreary, it’s cold… well, you get the idea.  But one of the biggest annoyances of winter is the need for coats.  I hate coats.  It’s just one more step to getting two kids out the door… actually, make it about 3 steps, when you count turning the coat right-side out, putting it on, then zipping it up.  And that doesn’t count hats and mittens.

And then, when we get home, the coats end up all over the place.  On the floor, the couch, the banister.  Of course, it doesn’t help matters that we didn’t have a coat rack.  I tried to corral the mess by putting a basket in the entryway just for coats, but it didn’t work extremely well.  Sometimes coats made it in the basket.  Mostly, it just looked like this:

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Nice.  So, finally, after years of living in this house, we added coat hooks in our entryway, and it ended up costing us nothing.

We had a perfect place:

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Look at all that empty wall space!

My husband had a board left over from some project or other, so he measured and cut it to size.  We also had coat hooks that we were going to use on another project that we didn’t ever complete, and some left over stain and polyurethane.  And so, we made this:

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And now, coats have a place off of the floor:

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Yay!  One more step in fulfilling my resolution to being more organized.

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Wheel of Breakfast

Every year, I make the same short-term resolution (in addition to losing the holiday weight) – to get organized in January.  With all the Christmas decorations (a.k.a., Christmas clutter) taken down, and new stuff acquired not having a place, I feel the need to purge and organize.  This year, the first thing I tackled was the kitchen.

I have a pantry cabinet.  It’s very deep, so it holds a decent amount, but since it is so deep, you have to take everything out to get to things in the back.  It’s really annoying, especially in the morning when all you want is to have some oatmeal for breakfast.  So, I invested in a few turntables.  I was surprised that you can get them in all kinds of sizes, and they’re relatively inexpensive.  Here are the results:

Wheel of Breakfast!

The first shelf to get organized was the breakfast shelf.  No more pulling cereal boxes out to get to the oatmeal; just spin the turntable!  (My husband is the one who started calling it the “wheel of breakfast”.)

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Carousel of Cans

Next was the canned goods and beverages shelf.  Again – so much easier to get to things and to see what I have on hand!

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Snack-Go-Round

Finally, the snack shelf.  The kids had trouble pulling containers out to get to the snacks at the back, and they didn’t ever know what we had on hand, so this makes it much easier. This is actually in another cabinet, which is a little smaller than my pantry shelves, so this one was a 16-inch turntable, where the others were 18-inch turntables.

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These have worked out so well.  Whenever I look for ways to organize, I look for ways that are easy to keep up with, and these do the trick!

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Hold the Oil, Please!

I’m messy.  Or, maybe just clumsy.  Either way, I am constantly staining my clothes.  I can’t tell you how many articles of clothing have been relegated to workout or yard work clothes.  Bleach, paint, dirt, and oil have all been the culprit in retiring clothes.

A few years ago, a friend told me a cleaning secret that changed my life… or at least one that made me throw out clothes less often.  She told me how to get oil stains out of clothing.  The secret?  WD-40.  I’ll be honest, I didn’t believe her at first.  I was even afraid to try it.  But, after a while, I figured that the clothing was ruined anyway – why not try it?  You know what?  IT WORKED!

Take this shirt – one of my favorites – that I somehow stained with oil.  I don’t even know how.

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Put an old towel in-between the layers of clothing (or, just use your hand like I did), and spray WD-40 on the stain.  This part takes guts.

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Next, cover the WD-40 with laundry detergent, and work it into the area.

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Then, throw it in the wash.  No need to wash it separately or in any special way.  And, when it comes out of the wash… tada!  My shirt is now oil free!

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I’ve done this so many times, but every time, I still get nervous.  Something about spraying WD-40 on clothing seems counter-intuitive.  And every time, it works.  It’s probably the only magic trick I know.

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No Chemical Cleaning – An Easy Way to Start

I don’t know about you, but there are a lot of things I would love to start doing.  Cleaning using less chemicals, eating whole (non-processed) foods and using natural-ingredient beauty products are among those things, but the tasks seems really daunting.  How do you start?  Small.  You start small.

When my oldest was born, I decided I wanted to try cleaning without chemicals.  There are lots of products out there that you can buy that at least claim to have few or no chemicals, but it can get expensive, and sometimes the cleaners just don’t work as well.  It seemed like a big task to replace all my cleaners with something else, not even knowing if they would work.  So, I started small.  And you know what I found?  Cleaning naturally doesn’t always mean spending a lot!  In fact, I actually SAVE money with these simple choices.

Kitchen Cleaner

The first thing I changed was my kitchen cleaner.  I clean my kitchen counters at least once a day, so it seemed only logical that the first cleaner I changed was the one I used most often.  I started using white vinegar.  It’s antibacterial properties make it a great choice, and it’s safe for your family and the environment.  Some people dilute the vinegar with water, but it seems to increase streaking, so I don’t dilute it.

One thing I’m not crazy about is the smell of vinegar.  You get used to it, but it can still make your eyes water!  So, I use essential oils in my vinegar (about 20 drops a bottle), which helps to mask the smell.  And, since some essential oils also have antibacterial qualities, you can actually be increasing your cleaning power, depending on which oil you choose to use!

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 Recipe for Kitchen Cleaner

~24 oz of White Distilled Vinegar

~20 drops of Essential Oils (your choice)


Wood Floor Cleaner

More recently, I replaced my hardwood floor cleaner.  I’ve never been happy with the various cleaners I’ve tried on my hardwood floors.  A lot of them streak, and some of them leave a residue.  So, I started researching homemade cleaners for wood floors.  I played with a few recipes and finally came up with one I like using olive oil, vinegar and essential oils.  Be careful how much olive oil you use – it can make your floors really oily, which not only feels weird on your feet, but also shows footprints.  Depending on the finish of your hardwood floor, you may have to adjust the recipe to find the ratio that works best for you.  Also, since olive oil can go rancid, only make what you need for the task and throw any remainder out.

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Recipe for Wood Floor Cleaner

1 Cup White Vinegar

1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil

10 drops of essential oil (your choice)


 

Want more ideas for how to use vinegar to clean?  Try these links:

http://www.versatilevinegar.org/usesandtips.html

http://home.howstuffworks.com/green-living/uses-for-vinegar-cleaning-your-kitchen-ga.htm

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Essential Oils for the Non-Fanatic

I love using Essential Oils.  I think they are beneficial for a lot of things, but I’m not one of those people who thinks they are a panacea. I don’t think they’ll cure horrible diseases or that they should be used in place of medicine.  Also, double check that an oil is safe to use on your skin before doing so.  Some of them are really potent, and can cause a lot of pain when applied directly!

That said, I do love them.  Here’s how I use them.

Alleviate Cold Symptoms

At the beginning of winter, I stock up on Eucalyptus essential oil.  It smells like Vicks VapoRub, helping to alleviate coughing and congestion.  I put a few drops in the boys’ bath water and their humidifiers when they have colds.  Whey they are really having trouble with coughing, I start a steamy shower and fill up the sink with hot water and few drops of Eucalyptus oil, and we sit in the steamy bathroom for a while.  You can also add Rosemary and Peppermint essential oils to create a cold symptom-alleviating cocktail!

Relax

We all know that lavender is supposed to help soothe and calm you.  And, that’s how I use it.  Primarily, I will put a little dab on my face before bed to help relax me.  I’ve also heard that Lavender is beneficial for your skin and also helps to lessen the effects of allergies, so that can’t hurt, either!  And lavender is one of the mildest essential oils, so you don’t have to worry about using it on little ones!

Soothe Skin Irritations

Not only is lavender beneficial for your skin, it can also help with minor skin irritations.  It helps soothe razor burn, and can even help bug bites be less itchy and irritated.  The thing about it, though, is that the relief isn’t long-lasting.  You have to re-apply when the oil wears off.

Cleaning

I clean my kitchen with white vinegar, but I really don’t like the smell of it, so I always add essential oils to my bottle to help mask the smell.  My new favorite oil to add is cinnamon.  It not only smells good, but it’s also supposed to have antibacterial qualities, making it a great addition to my vinegar!  On a side note, cinnamon is very, very harsh.  Don’t get it on bare skin or you will regret it!  Trust me, I know.

I also mix a little essential oil with water in a spray bottle and use it as a linen spray.  Choose something like lavender or orange, or whatever makes you happy!  You could even try your own scent combinations!

Freshen the Air

To make your house smell amazing, try using your favorite essential oil in an essential oil diffuser.


For more information on essential oils and their use, check out the book Modern Essentials Usage Guide.

 

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