Tag Archives: Saving space

Eco-Saturday: Check your supplies

This post could fit under either Eco-Saturday or Tiny Tuesday, as it conserves both materials and space. You might already be doing it; if you’re not, it won’t cost you anything except a little time, and it might save you a few dollars.

Many years ago, I decided to boycott Wal-Mart. I really wasn’t sure I could pull it off, as I’m prone to work on projects at odd hours and frequently ended up having to make Wal-Mart runs to buy supplies or materials for whatever I was doing. Without the convenience of 24/7 access to paint, basic hardware, and whatever else I might need to complete a project, how would I get by?

Among other things, I discovered I was terrible about buying duplicates of things I already had, simply because I didn’t bother to check before I shopped.

Sometimes a project calls for a specific item; for instance, I made some repairs to my dining-room floor today and found a certain type of screw worked best for the job. If the item I need is a specialty item I’m not likely to have on hand, I’ve no compunction about going to the hardware store. But more often than not, I can make do with whatever I have.

When I quit shopping at Wal-Mart, I had to improvise. If I needed inch-long screws at 3 a.m., I had to remember where I put the leftovers from my last project. I spent a lot of time rifling through my toolbox and using up odds and ends I already had instead of going out and buying more just because I was too lazy to look for my existing stock.

This saved me money, obviously, and it allowed me to reclaim some storage space. It also saved resources: the materials to make whatever item I’d decided not to buy; fuel to get it from the manufacturer to the store; fuel to drive to the store to pick it up.

Over the years, this has become habit. Very rarely do I buy new items without checking first to see whether what I have will work — even when I’m shopping during normal business hours.

If you’re looking for a way to help the environment and your pocketbook, I highly recommend taking an inventory of the stuff you have on hand so you’ll know what you already have and won’t waste money and resources buying new every time you need something.


Tiny Tuesday: Multitaskers

As we continue working toward our tiny-house dream, I find myself increasingly impatient with single-function products. My current house isn’t tiny, but it’s small, and I don’t like cluttering it up with fiftyleven different bodywashes, shampoos, cleaning solutions, scouring powders, stain lifters and assorted other one-trick-pony products.

Instead, when I go shopping, I look for multitaskers: products and tools I can use for at least two or three different purposes, thus reducing the amount of space I need to store them.

I’ll do a blog on appliances and tools at some point in the not-too-distant future, but in the interest of keeping this blog to a manageable length, today’s focus will be products. Here are five multipurpose products I keep on hand and highly recommend:

Cider vinegar is easily the most versatile product in my pantry.
Cider vinegar is easily the most versatile product in my pantry.

1. Cider vinegar. Without a doubt the most versatile chemical in my house. Cleans; disinfects; degreases; dissolves lime deposits; opens clogged drains; kills fruit flies; neutralizes odors; lifts stains; preserves foods; curdles cheese; leavens cake; dresses salads; preserves pickles; and serves a multitude of other purposes — all for about $3 a gallon. Get a big jug and a spray bottle and keep it handy for basically everything.

Vinegar's chemical opposite -- and its best dirt-fighting partner.
Vinegar’s chemical opposite — and its best dirt-fighting partner.

2. Baking soda. Leavens cookies; helps unclog drains; absorbs odors; smothers grease fires; soothes insect bites and stings; makes a handy scouring powder; and doubles as toothpaste in a pinch. Do NOT use it as carpet deodorizer if you have pets, however, as it can cause upper respiratory problems for them.

A must-have for a beekeeper. Ammonia neutralizes bee venom and reduces recovery time for stings.
A must-have for a beekeeper. Ammonia neutralizes bee venom and reduces recovery time for stings.

3. Ammonia. If you can clean it with ammonia, you can probably clean it with vinegar, but ammonia is a better glass cleaner; neutralizes acid-based odors (vomit, for instance); discourages ant infestations (spray the areas where you see them to neutralize the formic-acid scent trail they’re leaving for the rest of the colony); and perhaps best of all, if you soak a paper towel with ammonia and apply it to your skin immediately after being stung by a bee, it will neutralize the venom and thus reduce the effects of the sting. It’s not as safe as vinegar, however, so be sure to keep it out of reach of pets and children.

Nature's scouring powder.
Nature’s scouring powder.

4. Borax. Whitens clothes; draws stains out of carpets; kills bugs; teams with washing soda and Ivory soap to make laundry detergent; and makes a great scouring powder when baking soda isn’t quite enough.

This stuff is so versatile. Bonus: It smells like strawberries.
This stuff is so versatile. Bonus: It smells like strawberries.

5. All-in-one shampoo and conditioner. About 30 years ago — shortly after the first shampoo/conditioner combos hit the market — I read a magazine article about packing for vacations, and the author recommended traveling with them because they take up less space in a suitcase and stand in for shower gel, shaving cream, and moisturizer in a pinch. I use them all the time — not just during vacation — although I have to supplement with lotion and conditioner during the dry winter months. L’Oreal kids’ shampoo smells nice and fits neatly in my backpack.

What are your favorite multitaskers?