This week, I'm dedicating a little time to the clever ways you can reuse the simplest things from daily life. After you begin making an effort to reduce how much waste leaves your home, you start looking at everything that comes through the door a little differently. Coming up with new ways to use basic items can be really satisfying, especially if these simple things actually make the dark areas of your home a little lighter -- a dull pantry, linen closet, laundry room or under-sink cabinet.
I'd stashed a couple of items I thought I could find a reuse for and organized the madness beneath my kitchen sink with them last weekend. The results are great and cleaning isn't feeling like a chore at all these days.
I was also able to further streamline how many products I actually need to clean. I have my HAVEN workhorses and a few other simple products that get the job done -- vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, etc. -- as well as a couple of new formulas I'm currently making and testing. I rarely find the need to buy much else, so it keeps costs way down.
For extra storage, I used a couple of durable HAVEN cotton canvas totes, which make great cleaning caddies or organizers for stray grocery bags, extra sponges, trash bags and much more. I also used:
- Clementine Box
- It's the season for perfect clementines, so these little crates are everywhere. They're extremely simple but sturdy enough to serve a few purposes well and are good for organizing.
- Wooden Wine Box
- Wine in a box is super for parties. This year, this little box housed enough wine to keep all the glasses at Friendsgiving 2011: The Year I Fried a Turkey filled the entire evening. It also came in this nicely built wooden box that slides open to make a hideaway for unsightly scrubbers.
The other thing I recommend you welcome into your life is a heat gun. There are an endless number of things you can do around the house with this tool -- removing labels, removing wallpaper, shrink wrapping and much more. Imagine how much more you'd reuse if you could easily get industrial-strength label glue off of everything!
It's really fun to use but always heed the warnings and use the tool carefully, as it gets extremely hot.
First, I cleared everything out from underneath my cabinets and cleaned thoroughly.
Then I set to work on getting all the labels and glue off my wooden crates.
Using a heat gun and metal scraper, I quickly heated the adhesive and scraped all the paper and glue right off both boxes.
Do wear work gloves when removing gobs of glue like this. You don't want this stuff to burn your skin.
The cleaned clementine box is great for storing away sturdy shopping bags to reuse.
Then I hid away all the not-so-pretty items in my wine box. I always disinfect and keep old toothbrushes and use them to clean grout and tight spaces. I keep a soft-bristled brush around and use it with a little warm water and SOAP to clean jewelry gently but effectively.
I fill my totes with extra sponges, spare spray bottles, trash bags and more.
We reuse grocery bags a lot, as well. In New York, it's hard to get away from these flimsy plastic things. I'm now trying to start every checkout conversation with "I don't need a bag, thanks" and it's definitely reducing how many I end up bringing home.
In goes all the organized storage, as well as my product. Having everything accessible but not totally on display is great.
Last but not least, I like to keep my laundry products simple. I keep around unscented, eco-friendly detergent and a bottle of distilled white vinegar for the rinse cycle. Vinegar is an excellent deodorizer and germ killer after the vinegar smell fades. I like to keep some in a spray bottle, which makes it easier to use around the house. To add a nice laundry scent, I simply spray our clean clothing with a few spritzes of AIR & LINEN, which lends a really fresh, botanical Lavender scent while cutting static. Felted wool dryer balls also help cut static naturally and are much more natural and less wasteful than dryer sheets.
It's really nice to get an early start on Spring cleaning! Tackling these projects one at a time makes seasonal organizing much more manageable. Plus, finding creative ways to reuse basic items keeps me excited about consuming thoughtfully and reminds me to keep thinking out of the box when it comes to waste reduction in my space.
Have you reused something ordinary in a creative way lately? Share your ideas in the comments!