Streamlined Task Juggling: Getting things done when working from home

This is a guest post by Ben Stallings (Becca’s brother), a Web developer and permaculture designer in Emporia, Kansas.

“In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and – snap! The job’s a game!” –Mary Poppins

I work from home, and my wife doesn’t, so I do most of the housework as well as home improvements and managing my own work schedule. My clients rarely have fixed deadlines, so it’s usually on me to find the motivation to do my work and stay on task. Friends who don’t work from home often tell me that they wouldn’t know how to “juggle” work tasks along with housework, or that they’ve tried and failed to do it, so I thought I’d share my method.

Where I’m coming from

But first, a little background. I was a die-hard workaholic in high school and through most of college. If I took a class, I wasn’t satisfied unless I got an A on every assignment. If I joined an extracurricular group, I attended every meeting, and I showed up on time or early, and I resented those who didn’t! Then, over spring break of my junior year of college, I visited a friend in a small city in Mexico, and during his workday we took a two-hour lunch break (from 2-4pm, the famed siesta). Noticing my anxiety at the slow pace of the meal, he explained: “In America you have the Protestant work ethic, which says to go to heaven you must work hard. In Mexico, we have the Catholic work ethic, which says to go to heaven you must live well.”

That conversation caused me to question my approach to school, and later to work and housework. It made me ask, Who am I doing this for? What are their expectations? What do I hope to get out of it? How might I meet everyone’s goals, working smarter instead of harder, and leave more time for “living well,” whatever that means?

I had a breakthrough when I stopped getting my satisfaction from completing tasks and started getting it from making progress toward my goals. In school, I stopped worrying about how I did on any particular test or project or class and instead looked ahead to how each task was getting me closer to my longer-term goals. After college, I took a part-time job that paid barely enough to survive on, cutting my living expenses to levels I can barely imagine now, so that I had ample time to explore the city and soak up everything it had to offer. I’ve followed a similar approach in my career ever since: I rarely bill more than 2 to 4 hours a day to clients, which is barely enough to pay the bills and stay mentally abreast of the work, because I have too many other things I want to do with my time! Read more of this post

Go Green in 2017: How to Clean

Photographs by Nicholas Efran.

It’s time for New Year’s resolutions!  There are many ways you could change your habits to reduce your environmental impact.  One change you could make is replacing cleansers that harm the environment with cleaning products or cleaning methods that are safer for your family as well as the wider world.

rubbing alcohol, peroxide, baking soda, vinegarWhat’s wrong with conventional cleaning products?

These health risks don’t affect only people who are in direct contact with the cleanser; many cleansers leave a residue on the surface or in the air that can be absorbed through our skin and/or lungs, and some of these chemicals are bioaccumulative–our bodies can’t get rid of them, so over time our repeated exposures can build up to toxic levels.

p1040148Here’s our complete guide to cleaning a typical Earth dwelling.  We’ve tried many environmentally-friendly products over the past 20 years and have found more good ones than duds.  Here, we recommend some brand-name products that work especially well and some inexpensive basic materials that are great for various cleaning projects. Yes, it is possible to make more homemade cleaning products than we do.  We’ve struck a balance between purchased and homemade products that works well with our cleaning habits and the amount of spare time we have.  If you use an awesome homemade cleanser, feel free to share details or a link in the comments!

For basic home cleaning, you will need:

  • dish detergent
  • laundry detergent
  • white vinegar
  • baking soda
  • hydrogen peroxide
  • toilet bowl cleaner
  • all-purpose cleaner

Other items we use regularly that you may or may not need, depending on your home furnishings and cleaning standards, are:

  • dishwasher detergent
  • hardwood floor cleaner
  • furniture polish
  • antibacterial spray
  • rubbing alcohol

Look for these items in your local stores where you shop regularly. If you can’t find them there, encourage your stores to make them available; meanwhile, order online. Many of the brand-name products are available from Grove Collaborative–click here for a $10 discount on your first order!  Here is more information about Grove (formerly known as ePantry).

Here are the details on how to use each type of cleanser. Read more of this post

Make a Soap Saver: neat, clean bar soap with no waste!

The finished Soap Saver hangs in the shower.Photographs by Nicholas Efran

This is a handy tip I learned as a Girl Scout that I still use in my home today.  It’s a great project for Girl Scouts (or any group of kids) as a follow-up to soap carving: kids can put their soap scraps in the Soap Saver and then add any bits of soap they have at home.

A lot of people have switched to liquid soaps, foam soaps, and body-washes instead of bar soaps.  One reason for this is that a bar of soap sitting in a soap dish accumulates a puddle of water underneath, which has an unpleasant look and texture, may harbor germs, and gradually dissolves the soap so that a lot of it ends up being wasted.  A soap dish in the shower really wastes soap if it’s positioned such that the shower water falls on it, causing the soap to melt rapidly and drip from the soap dish onto the shower floor, making the floor slippery.

The other problem with bar soap is that as the bar gets smaller and smaller, it’s more and more difficult to get the soap you need.  You end up turning it over and over and over in your hands, wasting time.  But it’s annoying to throw away perfectly good soap just because it’s a small piece.

However, most hotels still give out bar soap, and most of us don’t use the whole bar during our stay.  If we leave it, they’ll have to throw it away.  It’s best if we can take it home and make use of it.

Also, there are some nice soaps that are available only in bar form, not in liquid, that you might want to use if only you could control the slimy mess problem.

What you need is a Soap Saver!!

pack of 3 Other than soap, the only material needed for this project is a long, narrow mesh tube.  It should be at least 12 inches long; 18 inches is better.  You might happen to purchase some type of fruit or vegetable that comes in a mesh bag you can reuse.  If not, the best source is a scrubby-puff, like these, which I found in a 3-pack for $1 at a local dollar store.

intact scrubby puffOf course, if you happen to have a used scrubby-puff that you don’t mind destroying, that’s even better for the environment than cutting up a new one.  Each puff will provide enough mesh for 2 or more Soap Savers, depending on the size of the puff.

In addition to saving soap, this gadget saves time, because the mesh helps the soap lather up quickly so that you spend less time rubbing it.

Probe through the layers of your scrubby-puff until you locate the cord that holds it together. Carefully slide one scissors blade under the cord and clip it, being careful not to cut a hole in the mesh as you do so. (If young children are doing this project, an adult should prepare the mesh in advance.) Unravel the puff into a long tube of mesh. Cut it into appropriate lengths.
Scrubby puff is made of a mesh tube secured with a cord. unraveled mesh tube--enough for 2 Soap Savers Cut the length of mesh in half with scissors. Read more of this post

How to Clean a Blackened Baking Pan

Part 1Autumn is here! Time for some nice baked squash!  Unfortunately, this tasty side dish can really mess up your baking pan.  Here’s how my nice Corningware pan looked after my most recent batch of butternut squash.  For some reason, this particular squash had an unusually large amount of sugary juice that oozed out the sides and–especially in the areas that weren’t sheltered by the squash sections–burned into a blackened mess.

My pan and I have been through this before.  We’ve learned not to panic.  It takes some patience to recover from this, but it does not require a lot of hard work or any noxious chemicals!  This technique works on most types of baked-on food, not just squash.

This method is safe for any ceramic or glass pan or a metal pan with no special coating.  Don’t use it on a seasoned cast-iron pan (it will remove the seasoning) or a pan with non-stick coating (it may scratch the coating). Read more of this post

Has Your Favorite Soap Been Banned?

The United States Food & Drug Administration banned 19 antibacterial chemicals from hand soaps and body washes.  By September 1, 2017, manufacturers need to reformulate their products or remove the products from the market.  If you’ve been using an antibacterial soap, you may not be able to get it anymore.

Don’t despair!  The reason for the ban is that years of research have shown that antibacterial soaps aren’t as great as advertising has suggested:

“Consumers may think antibacterial washes are more effective at preventing the spread of germs, but we have no scientific evidence that they are any better than plain soap and water,” said Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER). “In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term.”

Here’s some detail about the risks of triclosan, the most popular of the newly-banned ingredients. Rather than breed resistant bacteria, breathe chloroform, harm your liver and thyroid, and contaminate your drinking water, why not switch to a new soap?

This is your opportunity to not only get away from triclosan but also do even better for the Earth and your budget by switching to a plant-based soap that will save you money!  I previously explained how to make your own environmentally-friendly foaming hand soap in just one minute using two ingredients at a cost of just 69c per bottle.  If you didn’t do it then, do it now!

If you don’t want foaming soap, just a nice liquid soap to use in the shower, skip the foamer and buy Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap, available in 7 delicious scents and unscented.  It’s not only plant-based and all-natural, it’s certified organic, fair-trade, GMO-free, vegan, and packed in a 100% recycled plastic bottle.  This soap is safe enough to brush your teeth with, and you also can use it to wash dishes, hand-washable laundry, household surfaces, etc.

Click here for a $10 discount on a method foaming hand wash and a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap to refill it–you’ll pay just $10.88 for your first 33 foamers full of soap!  This link will take you to Grove Collaborative (formerly ePantry), a household products subscription company that does not force you to buy anything you don’t want; each month’s order can be customized as you like, and you can quit at any time.  But if you don’t want to join Grove, you can find method and Dr. Bronner’s products in many other stores.

Happy washing!  Visit Real Food Friday for more articles on keeping our lives real and the Hearth & Soul Blog Hop and Works-for-Me Wednesday for more great tips!

Cleaning Products to Avoid if You Have Allergies

This is a guest post by Phoebe Parlade.  Follow the link to her well-researched article about the harmful ingredients found in many off-the-shelf cleaning products and about alternative ways to clean that are better for the Earth’s health as well as your own!


Do you suffer from allergies? If so, you know how crucial it is to avoid certain allergens. However, you have to do more than avoid pet dander, foods, plants, and so on. Allergens are found in items and products that you come into contact with on a regular basis. You may be surprised to discover that dozens of household cleaning products are a prime cause of allergic reactions.

Cleaning products are riddled with ingredients like formaldehyde and ammonia. These strong chemicals can cause a wide range of allergic reactions. Some examples include throat irritation, coughing, burning eyes, and more. As you can see, cleaning products pose a legitimate threat to you, your family members, and your pets.

Fortunately, you can learn about alternative cleaning methods that are safe and effective. These methods use everyday ingredients that are inexpensive and easily accessible. Reduce the chance of triggering your allergies by exploring natural options for household cleaning.


Alternative cleaning products work for me! Visit the Healthy Living Link Party for more great ideas!

Here are some Earthling’s Handbook articles about healthier ways to clean:
Recommendations of specific products and a site where you can buy them all!
Make your own kitchen scouring powder and a cute shaker from reused materials!
The easy, Earth-friendly way to clean a microwave oven!
Homemade wonder-scrub for your bathtub, face, pasta pot, or mittens!

ePantry keeps getting better!

ePantry, a convenient subscription service for environmentally-friendly supplies delivered to your home, has become more energy-efficient for customers living in the eastern United States by adding a distribution center in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  They’ve also expanded the product line to include more of the products I recommend, and I’ve tried something new that I like a lot!

I previously explained how to decide whether a subscription service is right for you and described my experience with the ePantry service and 11 specific products they carry. Six months ago, I noted one of the downsides of ePantry:

They are located in California.  I live in Pennsylvania.  This means that my order is being shipped across the continent.  It would be more eco-friendly to order from a company closer to home.  (But if you live in or near California, this is a plus!)

I knew that ePantry staff read my post, because after seeing it they offered me an affiliate arrangement.  But I didn’t expect them to respond to my concern about shipping mileage by opening a second warehouse right here in my state!  Wow.

The Earthling’s Handbook does not carry advertising and rarely partners with businesses because we have very high standards for consumer products.  Read more of this post

If you’d like to join ePantry…

…then click here to get $10 off your first order and a free organic soy candle!  This link will also show ePantry that I referred you so that I’ll get a credit with them–this week (May 24-31) I get double credit.  ePantry is a company that sells plant-based and recycled cleaning and hygiene products in a “subscription” format designed to deliver things just when you need them.  Consider whether a subscription service for buying environmentally friendly products is right for you, and learn more about ePantry and selected products from my review. I got one of those soy candles as a bonus in my last order.  It’s nice: smells good, not too smoky, and it’s in a glass jar so it doesn’t drip and doesn’t burn off too fast.  It’s made in USA of organic soybeans.  If you like candles but have been using the petroleum kind, try a soy candle!  They last a long time: This one says its 8 ounces of wax will burn for 70 hours, and the two smaller soy candles (different brand) that I got as baby shower gifts more than a year ago, and have used extensively, still have some wax left.

If you read my earlier articles when they were first published, you missed this update: ePantry responded to my concern about their office dogs:

I couldn’t help but notice your concern over the dogs in our office.
I want to let you know that there is no need to worry about dogs being near
your shipments 🙂 Though we do have dogs in the office, 100% of our order
fulfillment is done in our warehouse, 20 minutes away from the office.

This is good news for me because my dog allergy is sometimes severe enough to be triggered by something that spent time near a dog a few days ago.  I hadn’t had any problem with my ePantry items, but it’s good to be reassured that this will not be an issue.

Visit the Hearth & Soul Blog Hop and Works-for-Me Wednesday and Waste Not Want Not Wednesday for more great household tips!

ePantry and Earth-friendly Cleaning Product Reviews

UPDATE: If you decide to join ePantry, click here to save $10 on your first order and get a free soy candle! This is an affiliate link that will give me a discount, too–at no cost to you.  As noted below, this was NOT a sponsored post; ePantry encouraged me to sign up as an affiliate after they read this post.

Last week, I explained some things to consider before subscribing to household product deliveries.  Now I’m going to tell you about my experience with one particular subscription service and the specific products I bought from them.  This is not a sponsored post.  Aside from the special offer of $10 discount plus a free bottle of dish detergent, I received no special consideration from ePantry or any of the product manufacturers, and I did not tell them I was going to write a review.  After evaluating each product, I’ll tell you what else I recommend in this category–not all products are available through ePantry. I have been using Earth-friendly cleaning products since 1997, so I’ve tried a lot of them.  If you’re just starting to switch from conventional cleaning products to plant-based ones, I hope to help you choose cleaners you’ll like!


This is my second ePantry order. Left to right: Method foaming hand wash, Yes To hand soap, Seventh Generation dishwasher detergent, Seventh Generation toilet bowl cleaner, Method antibacterial cleaner, Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day multi-surface cleaner. In the jar in front is a soy candle that was my free bonus item.

I first heard of ePantry from a blog that was raving about it and offering a special introductory offer.  My first thought was that I don’t need to subscribe to green products because I’m able to buy them by the case to save money or to buy them in my local stores when I’m there buying groceries anyway.  Still, I spent some time looking around ePantry’s site.  Most of the products they carry are just a few brands–Seventh Generation, Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day, and Method–all of which I can buy at Target, for gosh sakes; they didn’t have the more interesting brands that my local crunchy hippie store sells, let alone anything I’d have to buy by mail.  Prices were okay but not all that exciting.  Oh well.  I decided it wasn’t for me, but I was glad that other households who don’t shop in crunchy hippie stores would be using green products for more of their cleaning because they could get them so conveniently (which seemed to be the gist of the comments on that blog).

Four months later, I saw the same special offer on Jaimie Ramsey’s blog, and this time I took it.  Why?  Well, our springtime calendar was beginning to fill up with special events, and when that happens, I have to scale back the grocery shopping, planning menus based on what we have in the pantry supplemented with strategic forays to stores when Daniel or I have time to get there–it’s not possible to time our shopping as well as we normally do, and that can mean running out of something.  Also, I realized that although we can buy Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day and Method products at Target, we hadn’t actually gotten around to trying any of those products except Method foaming hand soap.  (Seventh Generation, on the other hand, is a brand we’ve bought frequently since 1997; we’ve tried most of their products.)  I decided to use ePantry’s special offer as an affordable way to motivate myself to write some product reviews!

First, here are the pros and cons of the ePantry service, in my opinion. Read more of this post

Will a household products subscription help YOU save the earth?

A household products subscription is an arrangement by which a company mails you certain items–like soap, toilet paper, and laundry detergent–on a regular basis.  A number of companies have started offering this service recently.  Some of them only sell environmentally preferable products like plant-based detergents and recycled paper.  Others offer these items among a wide range of products.  Will subscribing to earth-friendly products delivered to your door help you to reduce your environmental impact?

Well, it depends!  Here are some questions to consider.

Would this get you to change to greener products than you’ve been using?  If you’ve been washing your dishes in petroleum distillates because your local stores don’t carry plant-based dish detergent, then buying the green stuff would be an improvement.  But if a subscription just means buying by mail the same products you’ve been sticking into your cart as you walk through your local store buying milk and vegetables each week, then the subscription is actually worse for the environment because of the additional energy used to ship your package and deliver it to your home, on top of the energy you use going to and from the store. Read more of this post

Cute and Thrifty Kitchen Scouring Powder

My dishwashing method gets most food to wipe right off the dishes, but some things still need to be scrubbed–tea and coffee stains in mugs, blueberry-juice stains in bowls, and bits of pasta that stuck to the pot, for example.  I also like to scrub the cutting board really thoroughly after chopping onions.  Baking soda is a safe, affordable, environmentally-friendly scouring powder that does a great job!

The trouble with baking soda is that it’s packaged either in a cardboard box or in a gigantic plastic pouch.  The box isn’t damp-proof, so storing it anywhere near the sink is just asking for clumped-up baking soda.  The pouch, although it costs less per ounce than the little boxes, is just too huge to keep around our tiny kitchen.  Either type of package tends to dump out a huge amount of baking soda, whereas for scouring you need just a little sprinkle.

That’s why I decided to make my own shaker-top bottle with dampness protection, custom-decorated to coordinate with my pink 1950s kitchen!

Read more…

Treasure Chest

We’ve been having two main problems with our seven-year-old Nicholas since he was about three.  Recently, I thought of a new strategy that just may be working to solve both problems!

One problem is that Nicholas is sometimes rude, bossy, and defiant.  Not all the time.  Sometimes he’s quite a delightful companion for hours at a stretch, maybe even a few days in a row, but then all of a sudden something twists and he starts acting very annoying!  (We now understand why people of olden times believed children were possessed by demons!  It’s often a really sudden change, as if our nice Nicholas has been taken over by someone else.)  He’ll argue with every instruction we give him, use a snarling condescending tone of voice, and scream, “You’re interrupting!!!” every time anyone else tries to speak–even when we’re answering the question he just asked–yet he interrupts us over and over again.  Daniel and I don’t want to allow our child to treat us this way, both on principle and because it usually upsets us, but up until this point we hadn’t found any consistently effective strategy other than taking away his television/computer time.  Putting him in time-out sometimes helps, but often it simply shifts the epic struggle from whatever was the original issue to getting him to go to his room and stay there.

Our other problem is that Nicholas wants to have a lot of stuff.  He keeps bringing home things he finds, buying things with his allowance, drawing pictures, getting gifts, etc., etc., and then he leaves his stuff lying around on the living-room floor or the dining-room table and says he’s going to put it away “later” and never gets to it.  Daniel and I are aware that we are hardly perfect in our ability to deal with stuff, so we’re not trying to hold him to an unrealistic standard of perfection; we just want to be able to go about our daily lives without stepping on Legos, shuffling around pyramids of stuffed animals, or taking trains off our placemats and heaps of artwork off our chairs before each meal.  We’ve tried various approaches to encourage clean-up and organization, with only mild success.  The most effective way to deal with the tide of stuff is to clean up when he’s not around and confiscate a lot of his stuff; some of it goes in the trash/recycling and some in the pile of things to be sold or donated to people who’ll take better care of them.  He often doesn’t notice what’s missing because he has so much stuff!

The weekend before last, we had a yard sale.  As I was sorting the items to be sold, after Nicholas went to bed Friday night, I had a brilliant idea! Read more…

Glass Jars Galore!

My ravings about the joys of reusing glass jars got too lengthy for my “What Do You Reuse?” article, so I decided to give these versatile, durable storage containers their own article! First of all, I want to rave a moment about how glass jars are much better for food storage than plastic containers! We save the jars from peanut butter, salsa, spaghetti sauce, etc., and use them over and over again. They wash so much cleaner so much more easily than plastic, especially with greasy or sticky foods or things that stain, like tomato sauce and blueberries.  Leftovers seem to stay fresh longer in glass. The threaded lids almost never leakGlass does not leach chemicals into food, like plastics do under some circumstances.  My very favorite feature is this: Read more…

Fruit Labels, Jar Labels, Six-Packs, Environment, and Health

You know those annoying little stickers that are on most fruits you can buy individually in supermarkets?  The ones that are so thin and so well-glued that they’re often impossible to remove without gouging a hole in your fruit?  Yeah, I always knew they were evil.  In addition to being annoying on edible-skinned fruits, if a sticker is left on the peel you remove from a fruit and put into the compost, it never biodegrades (that’s how I first realized they’re made of plastic, not paper) and becomes an annoying bit of garbage to pick out of the nice rich soil in the compost bin a few months later.

What’s more, I just learned today that fruit stickers create a significant problem when they get into the water treatment system Read more…

Easy, Earth-Friendly Way to Clean a Microwave Oven!

Today is the Spring Cleaning Tips edition of Works-for-Me Wednesday, and I’m hardly an expert cleaner . . . but I actually went on a little kitchen-cleaning binge last night and utilized a tip that I want to share! I believe I originally saw this in “Hints from Heloise.”

When the interior of your microwave oven is splattered with cooked-on food, simply place a cup of half white vinegar and half water in the microwave and heat it to a rolling boil. Read more…

Zippered Mesh Bags for Laundering

Many years ago, when I was fresh out of college, I discovered a laundry accessory that changed my life.

Some random doo-dad catalog sold these nylon mesh bags with zippers which, it said, could be used to protect pantyhose and other delicate garments while allowing soapy water to get in, such that these “hand wash only” items could go through the washing machine. Read more…

Reflections on a Bathroom Renovation

(I really, really want to say “Restroom Renovation” just for the alliteration, but I know this article will be more relevant to people searching for “bathroom renovation,” so I’m stuck with this title!)

We had our house’s main bathroom completely renovated last month.  We are thrilled with it and learned some things in the process that we want to share with anyone contemplating a major renovation.

We lived with a bathroom we didn’t really like until it was wearing out and falling apart so that we felt completely justified in starting from scratch!  We highly recommend that approach because it makes the new stuff even more exciting and luxurious by contrast!  It may actually be more environmentally friendly to renovate less often using conventional materials than to rip out stuff that’s still good to install a bunch of “green” materials. Read more…

Washing Plastic Bags

It’s Works-for-Me Wednesday , so here’s a mundane but easy tip that saves a lot of money and helps the environment, too!

We wash and reuse plastic food bags, like zip-top freezer bags and sandwich bags.  I always used to shake out crumbs or maybe rinse them a little, but if there was any significant food stuck in a bag I’d throw it away.  Now that I’ve figured out how to wash them, I can get several uses out of almost every bag.

Here’s how to do it: Read more…

Steel Kitchen Cabinets!

Our house was a bargain, priced about $40,000 less than similar houses in the immediate area.  Our realtor said, “Well, it’s a bargain to you because you like the kitchen.  Most people would expect to spend about $40,000 totally redoing the kitchen.”

Yes, we’re charmed by our kitchen decor, which dates from the 1950s: pink and gray, with chrome trim and boomerang-pattern Formica counters!  There are a few worn-through spots in the Formica, but otherwise it’s all in good condition, and all the appliances are newer except the dishwasher, which has such a cool space-age look that we don’t much care if it’s usable.  The kitchen layout is excellent, about as efficient as a kitchen its size (10’x10′) can be.  But after living in this house almost eight years, I think the best feature of the kitchen is the steel cabinets.

Now I can’t understand why anyone makes kitchen cabinets out of any other material!  Steel cabinets

  • provide gobs of surfaces on which to display things secured with magnets.  In addition to the puny refrigerator surface, we have magnetic areas covering most of two walls!  We can hang up all the shopping lists, artworks, nutritional references, cartoons, and inspiring quotes without overlapping.  (Note to gift-givers: We always can use more magnets!)
  • are coated with enamel paint that can be thoroughly scrubbed with plenty of water, without damaging it.  The constant grabbing of the door edges by damp hands takes a long time to wear off that paint–unlike the finish of many wood and laminate cabinets I’ve known.  When we get tired of the color (which we thought would happen much sooner–they’re a kind of battleship gray that we thought would be depressing, but somehow it isn’t), they’ll be easy to repaint.
  • are extremely solid and durable.  They don’t rattle, and the shelves don’t fall out when we pack them with heavy stuff.
  • operate reliably.  The latches sometimes stick just a little in humid weather, but that’s about it.  Even the doors that are missing their latch pegs stay closed until you touch them.  The hinges rarely creak, stick, or get loose.  The drawers slide smoothly.  After 50+ years!!
  • don’t have a lot of annoying grooves to gather dust that then suddenly falls into your mixing bowl as you reach for the cinnamon!  There’s just one ridged panel, in front of the sink (our cabinets are almost identical to the ones in this photo), and apparently I’m dusting it with my tummy every time I wash dishes, because it doesn’t accumulate much dust.  Everything else is a smooth, vertical or slightly curved surface except (unavoidably) the top edges of the doors.

Steel cabinets work for me!  If you’re shopping for a house or planning a renovation, I highly recommend them.  Like most good-quality home furnishings made of “real” materials, I bet new ones are hard-to-find and expensive these days, but steel cabinets turn up regularly at Construction Junction, salvage yards, and yard sales.

How to Clean a Basement or Porch Floor AND Use Up the Last Dregs of Liquid Laundry Detergent

This technique is suitable for any floor that has either a drain or an open side where water can spill onto the ground.  I learned the cleaning technique at Girl Scout camp, and years later I realized its wonderful compatibility with those “still very soapy on the inside but with not enough soap to pour” bottles.  It’s thrifty, it’s fun, it’s safe for kids to help with, it’s good exercise, and it gets the floor really clean, so it works for me! Read more…