Friday, 30 May 2008

12 Laundry Tips to Help Free Up Your Time

Simplifying life means finding ways to make life as easy for ourselves as possible and that, of course, includes household tasks. By simplifying our housework not only do we free up more time to spend on other, more enjoyable pursuits, we can also make housework less of a chore.

One area that’s actually very easy to simplify is the laundry. If you’re like I once was and often find yourself with a washing basket that’s spilling over onto the floor and that has things in the bottom that haven’t seen the light of day for months and could probably walk out of the house on their own given the chance, these tips are definitely for you.

  1. Use laundry baskets. Keep one in each of the bedrooms and in the bathroom, if there’s room. If you have a small bathroom, try to find room nearby. You can use a pretty lined and lidded basket, for this so it needn’t be an ‘eyesore’ if you choose to keep it in the hall. Old wooden boxes, chests and similar can also be used. I would try to find a way of lining them, though.

  2. Don’t have more clothes than you can store. If you don’t have room to put all of your clothes away neatly, you’ll never empty your laundry baskets. I have years of experience with this; I always had at least half a basket of dirty stuff simply because, if I washed it all, I’d be left with a pile that had no home.

  3. Change into pyjamas an hour before bedtime. If you wait until the last minute before changing you’ll be more likely to just throw your clothes in a pile on the floor, a chair or similar making more work later when you need to pick it up and put it in the washing basket. Besides, it’s comfy to lounge around in PJs for a bit before hitting the sack.

  4. Clear out pockets when you take off your clothes. Ideally you just want to bung your clothes in the machine and forget them without wasting time going through pockets first.

  5. Think twice about colours that run. If you’re thinking of buying a bright red t-shirt, think about whether or not it’s likely to bleed. If it does, you’ll just have to sort it out and wash it alone or wait until you have a machine load of reds, meaning once again that your basket will never empty. If you really must buy possible bleeders, then try soaking them for an hour in a bucket or sink of water with about a tablespoon of salt and 200 mls of vinegar added. Rinse, dry and then wash by hand to see whether the colour still runs.

  6. Choose neutral colours. If your wardrobe consists of neutrals you’ll have a lot less sorting to do. I wear mostly creams, browns, khakis, etc and never have to sort. My daughter, on the other hand, has every colour imaginable and is forever sorting her clothes. Neutrals save a lot of time.

  7. Get rid of stained clothes. I used to hang on to clothes that I liked even though they were stained, believing that one day I’d get that stain out. The truth is, if you’ve tried removing it and it’s still there, hanging on to it isn’t going to magically make it disappear. Cut it up and use it for rags, crafting, add it to the compost heap if it’s cotton, linen or wool or else put it in a donation box to be sent to the third world. Those people will be happy just to have something to wear, regardless of the stain. If there isn’t one local to you, then bin it.

  8. Reduce the need to iron. Ironing is a time consuming part of the laundry process and one most women would rather do without. By giving your clothes a good shake and a snap both as you take them from the machine and again before you hang them or throw them in the dryer, a lot of them will dry without wrinkles and the rest will have far less. Ask yourself whether those that are still a little wrinkled really need ironing – a child’s t-shirt that’s ironed isn’t going to look ironed after its been on for half an hour anyway and does it really matter whether your ‘slobbing at home’ clothes are wrinkle free?

    Hang shirts and blouses on hangars before putting them on the line as this will further reduce the need for ironing. Also, peg t-shirts and other tops underneath the armpits where any peg marks won’t show up so well when they’re being worn.

    Always, always, always fold clothes as soon as they’re dry. Take a basket into the garden with you and fold them as you remove them. The same applies if you’re drying on a clothes horse. You might like to take a look at this video explaining how to fold a t-shirt.

    If you’re using a tumble dryer then remove and fold them while they’re still slightly warm. Even those that do need ironing will have fewer wrinkles to get rid of. Shirts and blouses should be hung on hangars and left in the bathroom overnight to cool. By morning most will have cooled wrinkle free.

  9. Throw dirty kitchen cloths into the machine as you use them. If you do this, by the time you have a few in there, you’ll also have a few towels that need washing to make up a full load. It saves carrying them to a laundry basket or having to keep one in the kitchen, too.

  10. Don’t wash your clothes so often. We frequently get into the habit of throwing everything into the laundry basket as soon as we take it off, but that isn’t always strictly necessary. Unless something’s visibly dirty or smells, why clean it? If you’ve been sweating badly then sure, that blouse or shirt’s likely to start humming pretty nastily during a second wearing but if you’ve been relaxing in a cool place for a few hours, there’s probably no need to wash it.

    Every time we wash our clothes we knock a little of the life out of them. Living a simple life means taking care of what we have and extending an item’s life for as long as possible so it makes sense to think about whether or not we really need to wash something. Often, giving something an airing on the line is just as good as washing it.

  11. Turn clothes inside out. This prevents as much bobbling occurring so both prolongs the life of your clothes as well as saving you time spent ‘shaving’ them. Woolens - especially acrylics - are particularly prone to bobbling so always make sure these are turned inside out.

  12. Teach your kids the routine. Everybody in the house who’s over the age of ten should know to automatically empty their pockets, put their clothes into the laundry basket and to put them away as soon as they’re delivered back to them, although children should start to be taught this from a much earlier age. Get them into the habit of changing into PJs early, too.

A lot of ‘experts’ insist that we keep several laundry baskets to reduce the need to sort. That’s okay if you have the room but I find they just take up space and make rooms look more cluttered. Sorting isn’t a huge, time-consuming job so for me it isn’t worth it.

They also advise having a laundry routine – that we decide on a day(s) each week and stick to it. I personally disagree. How much laundry we have varies considerably and always has done. Sometimes the kids would get messier than other times, sometimes one of them would pee the bed or one of us would spill something and need to change. In bad weather I’d often come back from walking the dog with my jeans covered in mud, other times I could wear the same pair for days. Because of this I find it easier to check the laundry baskets daily and wash when I have a machine load or two. If I can wash when the weather’s fine and use the garden line, all the better.

Obviously, everybody will have their own ways of cutting down on their housework but sometimes we get into a rut and just seem to be going round in a never ending cycle. If some of these tips can be useful to you then writing this will have been worthwhile.

Sharon J


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Monday, 26 May 2008


Photo: coreyu

Kikimonkey over at Monkey See, Monkey Do recently posted about an Oprah show she’d been watching, where freeganism was highlighted. The post really grabbed my attention, not because I’m a fan of Oprah or intend to become a Freegan but because the philosophy behind the Freegan movement really made me sit and think.

It’s not that I didn’t already know that we’re living in a society fuelled by materialism, greed and a never ending desire to impress our peers but Freegans are really doing what their heart tells them is right. They’ve completely jumped off of the consumer band-wagon to the point where even their food is obtained by rummaging through dumpsters.

Yes, I know that sounds pretty gross and it’s not something I’d do but when you consider that about half of all food in the US is wasted, there’s a lot to be reclaimed. And we’re not talking slops, either. The situation here in the UK is no better.

They also believe that housing should be a right rather than a privilege, that all forms of transport should be eco friendly and that we should stop using animals as production “machines” – all of which I agree with.

I do think they take things a bit too far when they say that we should go back to the way we were intended to live – foraging for food, for example. It just isn’t feasible for everybody to do that. If we all went dumpster diving, who’d produce the products in the first place when there would be nobody to sell them to? And foraging for natural food wouldn’t work either; we’ve already destroyed too much of the planet’s resources for that.

It’s worth taking a look at their website though; it does highlight a lot of important issues that might get you thinking and the links section has some very interesting stuff on it. And even if what’s there is information you already know, there’s value in being reminded.

Sharon J


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Friday, 23 May 2008

Growing Up

Photo: Danny McL

I often think that my childhood and teenage years has helped me live a simple, frugal lifestyle.

There wasn’t much money around when I was young and most of what we had available Dad spent on beer. I know it isn't nice to speak badly of one's own family but he was an alcoholic (he's now very ill and senile) and very selfish with it. Mum was given a pittance for housekeeping and out of that she was expected to buy both her own and my clothes and anything else that we needed, too. She supplemented it buy taking an early morning cleaning job and doing child minding during the day but considering she also had to be pay the electricity bill, making ends meet was a constant struggle.

Dad didn’t care much about the house, he spent most of his time either at work or out drinking so why would he? It was never modernised so there was no hot water, no indoor loo, certainly no bathroom and the only heating was a simple gas fire in the living room. We boiled kettles and pans for hot water, the outside privy didn’t flush so we’d have to carry a bucket of water round with us whenever we wanted to go and bath day meant dragging a heavy tin bath into the house, filling it from umpteen kettles and pans and then dragging it full out into the back yard again, where it was emptied down the drain and hung back on its nail. There was no luxury in our house, believe me. The bedrooms were freezing but Mum couldn’t afford to keep electric heaters on; the bill was just about as much as she could handle as it was. Most of my clothes were hand-me-downs or things my nan sewed for me. She also sewed most of Mum’s clothes. She wasn’t very good so they were all in the same style.

As I grew into a teenager I obviously wanted to fit in with my peers more. I didn’t want to wear horrible crimplene dresses – I wanted 70s fashions. When I think back now, that must have put terrible pressure on Mum but she got me what she could and I never felt I was any worse dressed than my friends. In fact, I was more fashionable than some. I still didn’t have the latest gadgets they had though, but that didn’t bother me. And while their families all had phones, I didn’t consider it as hardship to walk to the phone box.

I think if I’d been given everything, or even most of what I’d wanted, I would never have learned to appreciate the small things. As it was, if Mum came home with a record she knew I’d wanted or a pair of fancy tights, it was like Christmas all over again!

We always had holidays, though. For all Dad's faults, he did make sure the family got away to the coast once a year. We also spent many a Sunday afternoon picnicing in Kent because Mum felt it was important to get me out of the polluted air of London's East End and let me breathe in some fresh stuff instead.

Regardless of how little we had, I have lots of happy memories from my childhood and Mum and I often have a good laugh on the phone reminiscing about the 'old days'. I had my mother's time and love, I had wonderful grandparents, and we lived in a street with a real sense of community. No amount of 'things' could ever have replaced those.

Debi put hit the nail on the head in the comments section of a post I wrote a while ago. She said “happiness is wanting what you have, not having what you want”. What a wise lady :-)

Sharon J xx


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Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Missing My Baby

Paul when he was little... cute, eh?

I haven’t seen my son now for about 18 months and I’m really starting to miss him. He’s been staying with my mum as she needs somebody to help her with Dad who has dementia, no bowel or bladder control, emphysema and mobility problems. He gives her practical help but above all, he keeps her company; stops her from going round the bend, as she says.

Paul has severe learning difficulties and needs adult supervision at all times. But as long as he’s shown what to do, he can perform relatively simple tasks that are helpful to Mum. When Dad wets through his pad and Mum has to get him to the bathroom, Paul helps her balance him. Without him, both Mum and Dad would probably end up in a heap on the floor, and if Mum should break a hip at her age… well, need I say more? Once they’re in the bathroom, Paul goes out to changes the sheet and put the covers back on while Mum cleans Dad up, then he goes back to the bathroom and helps her bring him back in. They make a good team.

Paul is in charge of filling the dishwasher, taking the rubbish out and vacuuming. Mum has enough to do having to spoon feed Dad, make him drink when he keeps spitting it out and hitting her, and taking care of the copious amounts of towels and bed linen he goes through. And underwear. The machine is on at least twice a day and during winter it’s been difficult to get everything dry. Her house looks more like a Chinese laundry than a home!

Once Dad’s settled for the night they go to their room, watch TV, have a chat and eat ice-cream. It’s the time of day when Mum can finally relax and kick back. Without Paul there she’d have too much time to think and in her situation, that wouldn’t be good for her.

I know he has to stay with her for the duration but I can’t help wishing he’d come home. Because of my health I can’t manage the long journey down to London at the moment and I’ve no idea when I’ll be able to. He may be 30 but he’s still my baby and in many ways he is still a child.

Although he was a bit of a nightmare to bring up, once he hit puberty he changed completely and became the most loving, caring person you could ever wish to meet. He’s still prone to the odd practical joke and sometimes he’ll try to be grown up and do what he’s seen other men do, like drill a hole in the wall or take the wires out of the back of the TV, but he doesn’t do things just to be ‘naughty’ anymore. He’d do anything for those he loves, even if it meant walking over flaming oil and swimming through stagnant water, and he never leaves anybody in any doubt as to how he feels about them or anything else. He’s honest down to the last bone.

And what’s more, he’s totally, one hundred percent happy to live a simple life. He has no material demands and doesn’t care whether he lives in a flash London apartment or a cabin in the sticks. Food is food whether it’s a steak or a simple bowl of soup. He knows what he prefers but if he doesn’t get it, well that’s ok. He draws the line at fruit though; he won’t eat it and that’s that. If the bed linen doesn’t match, what difference does that make and he loves animals. An afternoon playing Pooh-sticks in the stream that runs through the park is a good day out.

I think I’ve learned a lot from him so I feel blessed to have him as my son.

Sharon J


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Friday, 16 May 2008

Garden Plants to Use in Salads

Photo: jciv

Bored with the same old salad? Why not take a look in the garden and see if there’s anything there you can add to make it a bit more interesting?

Here’s a list of stuff that you can use:

  • Chickweed: Grow profusely in most gardens, especially if the soil’s moist. The leaves are tasty and definitely add interest to the salad.

  • Chives: Sew some seeds in a pot and you’ll soon have enough to add to salads all summer. These have an onion like taste.

  • Clover: Who doesn’t have that growing in the lawn? Both the leaves and the flowers can be used in salads and taste vaguely of honey.

  • Nasturtiums: Again, use both the flowers and the leaves. Have a peppery taste.

  • Pansies: Yes, the flowers are edible! And they certainly add colour to the salad as well as being a talking point.

  • Wild Garlic: Use fresh, young leaves.

  • Dandelion: Only use the young leaves – mature leaves are bitter! Dandelion leaves will actually help flush out toxins in the body.

There are probably more but they’re the ones I know about. Maybe you know of more?

Not only will they make your salad more interesting, they’re also as frugal as you can get… FREE!

Sharon J


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Saturday, 3 May 2008

The Story of Stuff

Some of you will no doubt already have seen this entertaining and thought provoking film called The Story of Stuff but if you haven’t, nip over there now and take a look. It’ll only take up about 20 minutes of your time but I can practically guarantee that it’ll give you something to think about.

The Story of Stuff

I thought I was reasonably clued up about ‘stuff’, but seeing things presented this way definitely gave me food for thought.



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