29
Apr

Five Tips for Reducing Paper Clutter

by Tiffany in A Green Home

Tips for Reducing Paper Clutter

There is nothing that says “clutter” like the bales of paper that swamp the average home. With just a few simple steps, however, you too can finally get your head above water and rid yourself of the unsightly paper clutter that seems to be a by-product of modern life and free yourself some precious space. While these are by no means the only ways to go minimalist when it comes to paper, by following these five steps you’ll find yourself well on the way to controlling the paper clutter monster in your life.

If you struggle with clutter in general I highly recommend reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. It is the final chapter, the end all be all solution in my opinion. I own it on audio (no clutter) and I listen to it every couple months to stay inspired but in truth if you follow the method in the book, clutter just stops being a problem for you. I feel that every highschooler should be required to read it!

On to the tips…

Tip #1: Do Your Bills, Taxes, Investing, and Banking Online

One of the largest sources of paper clutter is financial paperwork. While there are still some individuals holding onto the idea of getting paper bills and bank statements in the mail, it is becoming far more common to do all of your financial work online. In fact, it is a rare business or bank that doesn’t offer its customers the opportunity to receive their monthly statements by email. I receive most of my bills via email too. I pay all my bills online via a business website or through direct online bank payment. I still have a book of checks but it will probably last me 5 years. When it comes to taxes, consider doing them online too. Scan receipts into digital photocopies so you don’t have to keep lots of little pieces of paper.

I track and make investments online and through my smartphone. I use an application called Acorns to round up debit card purchases to the nearest dollar and invest the change. I also use Betterment (love them!). They take a specified amount each month from my checking account and invest it for me. I have been pleased as punch with the results and it literally took me minutes to set up online. I track all activity online and access my tax records there too.

Once you have made the switch, you can then go through and purge your filing cabinets. Make sure that you shred any paperwork that contains your personal information. Any paperwork you have left over after the purge you can keep in neat, stackable boxes. Decorative video and photo storage boxes are great for this. You can also scan these items and keep them as a digital file. If you decide to go that route just make sure you backup your files daily.

Tip #2: Subscribe Online

With the advent of smartphones, iPads and tablet computers it won’t be long until hard copy newspapers, magazines and newsletters will be a thing of the past. Now you can enjoy your favorite periodicals right on the screen of your electronic gadgets. If you prefer the look and feel of ‘real’ magazines and newspapers make sure that you rid yourself of those you’ve read instead of leaving them sitting in dark corners where they tend to multiply exponentially. If you want to save a single article, or two, rip them out and keep in a binder.

Tip #3: Organize Your Memories

Another source of paper clutter are mementos, things like greeting cards, letters, homework papers, kids artwork, movie stubs and all manner of other interesting things. It is understandable that you don’t necessarily want to toss these things the way you would old bank statements and dog-eared magazines, there is a way to reduce the visual mess. Simply buy yourself a number of scrapbooks and start getting creative. Condense all of your paper mementos for one year into one book. You’ll be surprised at just how much you can fit in one scrapbook, and the scrapbooks look great lined up on a shelf in your living room.

Tip #4: Be Selective With Your Books

With e-Readers so readily available now, there really is no reason to keep stacks of paperbacks, most of which you’ll never read again. With so many reference materials online now there is also no real reason to keep space-eating dictionaries and reference manuals when they will probably just come out with a new edition next year anyway. Instead, choose the books you want in your home to reflect your tastes and aesthetics. Display them proudly, and don’t waste your precious space on books you don’t need or want.

Tip #5: Condense Your User Manuals

With so many gadgets and gizmos in our homes and lives, chances are you sometimes feel inundated by user manuals and warranty information. The first thing you might do after purchasing or receiving a product with a user manual is see if that same manual is available online. Many times it is. Then you can save it to your hard drive and recycle the paper copy. After you have established what you need to keep, you can use a three-ring binder and a couple folders to store the others. Put user manuals in one and warranties in another. After six months you may want to revisit the issue and see if in fact you do really need to keep the manual for your rice cooker or toaster…if not, let them go.

It is vastly important to see how we can avoid all the paper coming into our lives in the first place and these tips offer ideas on how we can do that. After you’ve tamed the paper beast you will have less clutter and more peace of mind.

5 Tips for Reducing Paper Clutter

15
Jan

A Guide to Home Flooring Types

by Tiffany in A Green Home

flooring

When you are buying a new home or fixing up your current one there are numerous things to consider. Just one of them is flooring, but this is a biggie. You have to consider price, how long it will last, how easy it will be to install, and how easy it will be to clean and maintain.

Hardwood floors are the desire of many because they look so good and they last so long. They are also quite pricey though. Vinyl is pretty cheap but how long until someone scuffs it up or tears it? It is also ugly. Carpet is not too expensive but it is a major pain to keep clean.

What do you do with all these choices?? You look at all the options and you weigh the pros and cons until you come up with something you can live with. The chart below with home flooring options from DirectBuy has all of the most common choices and how they stack up in regards to cost, durability, installation, and cleaning. I would also add sustainability and toxicants to the criteria personally. In general the cheaper options are going to be more toxic to produce and more toxic to the owner (like vinyl and carpet). The natural options of stone, bamboo, and hardwood will be safer, more sustainable for the planet and yet more expensive. There may be some that fall in the middle of the spectrum, like ceramic tile. So it comes down to more than just cost, quality, install, and cleaning. It comes down to your values as well and what you are willing or able to pay. If your current flooring doesn’t align with your desires and values or money is the determining factor…you can use this handy chart to plan for next time.

Infographic - Home Flooring Types

Presented by DirectBuy.com

31
Dec

Top 4 New Year’s Resolutions for Home Decorating

by Tiffany in A Green Home

New Year's Resolutions for Home

It’s the New Year! Have you made any resolutions? Do any of those resolutions involve your home? Well, they should. Your home is your castle. It is the place where you find peace and a place to recharge. Making your home a reflection of the person you hope to be this new year will make reaching your goals even easier!

Here are four New Year’s resolutions for home decorating to help you get started.

1. Clear the Clutter!!!

A clutter free home is an important step to clutter free fitness, finances, parenting, marriage, you name it. When we clean up the physical mess we are also cleaning up our attitude and outlook without even knowing it. When is the last time a messy, cluttered kitchen made you happy? Never, you say? Well, do something about it! Clear out clutter.

Resolve to clear clutter in steps. It’s indeed overwhelming to look at your whole house and imagine tackling it all at once, not stopping until it’s finished. Instead, approach it on a room-by-room basis, resolving to clear the clutter from, say, one room a month. You could even begin with corners of rooms to make it even less overwhelming – say, clear the clutter from one corner of the living room every Saturday for four weeks. Then move on to the next room or area.

2. Organize Your Stuff

You won’t be throwing away or donating everything – there will be “stuff” you’ll need to organize and store in a way that’s aesthetically pleasing. Here are some suggestions.

* Baskets are definitely your friend. Baskets can be used to hold items like shoes by the front door, CDs, DVDs, remote controls, and all those adapters for cell phones and computers. Plus they can be bought second hand. My local thrift stores are swimming in baskets.

* Decorative boxes are also handy. They can be slipped onto shelves and look like decorative pieces but they’re actually holding stuff.

* Metal baskets with an without canvas liners are awesome on shelves.

* Luggage can be a great place to store things when it is not being used to travel. Vintage luggage might even look nice enough to keep out as part of your decor.

* Check out my post on Plastic-Free Storage Solutions!

Non Plastic Storage Container Solutions

3. Healthy Decorations 

A good goal for this year is to bring in houseplants. They are not only beautiful; they detoxify indoor air. Sources say this is even more important if you have a lot of electronics in a room. Another beautiful item that can increase the health factor of your home is an essential oil diffuser. Diffuse therapeutic essential oils in your home to keep you well and to enhance your health. Plus they make your home smell incredible!

4. Go Minimalist

Clearing clutter is important but not bringing it into your home in the first place is a preemptive step. It is also easier and less stressful to live with minimalism in mind. A big trend in books and media has been getting back to a simplistic, minimal lifestyle. Many want to have a life that is free of complications; a life that has been pared down to its most basic and fundamental needs. Minimalist decor is no muss no fuss. Get rid of all those couch cushions. Get rid of all those knick-knacks. Pair down to one bookcase full of your absolute favorite books. Stream videos instead of buying them. Stop buying toys!

Declare that this year will be the year that your home becomes a reflection of your hopes and dreams. When it does you will see that your dreams look more attainable.

29
Dec

Just Say No To Plastic Food Storage Containers

by Tiffany in A Green Home

Plastic free safe food containers

Glass storage dishes are classic and classy. They are what moms decades ago used to store their extra food and leftovers. Vintage Pyrex refrigerator dishes anyone??? Then we had to go and get all “modern” and start using plastic. Why did we DO that? Why did we mess with such a good thing?

Yes, glass usually does have a problem with breakage but plastic has its own issues, many of them. Did we really need to be so concerned about glass breaking that we had to start mass producing an alternative that is so indestructable it will sit in landfills FOREVER. In addition to the fool hardy practice of filling our planet with plastic it also has many unsavory chemicals in it and the propensity to leach them into things it comes in contact with. Plastics used to store food often have BPA, PVC, and phthalates. They are all things we don’t want to come into contact with let alone eat.

BPA or Bisphenol A is a hormone mimicking chemical that can cause a lot of health problems, especially for children. PVC is known as the poison plastic. Phthalates are a family of industrial chemicals that are used as plastic softeners or solvents. They can damage the liver, the kidney and the reproductive organs. Why exactly do these sound like safe ingredients for dishes to store food in? Call me baffled!

This page highlights some great alternatives for storing your food, alternatives that don’t use harmful chemicals. Don’t go to all the trouble of feeding your family healthy meals only to store them in toxic containers. Just say no to plastic.

The first thing you can do is look to see what you can recycle and reuse so that you don’t have to buy anything new. Buy your food in glass whenever possible and then you have glass to reuse.

Juice bottles
Condiment containers
Pickle and kraut jars
Pasta sauce jars
Coconut oil jars

All these things can be saved and used to store food in after you give them a good cleaning. Store your leftovers, sugar, dried goods, pre-cut veggie snacks, anything you could ever need or want to store you can store with stuff you already buy typically. If you lose the lids or they get rusty try these silicone food savers (below). They actually stretch to fit containers perfectly. You can even put them on canned goods to re-seal.

foodsaver for jars

The next step is to see what you can buy second hand? Why buy new when you can buy used and save items from being tossed into the landfill? Check out thrift stores, estate sales, yard sales, and Craigslist to find what you need. There are lost of vintage glass refrigerator dishes out there to be had…I find them all the time.

If and when you do need to buy new though look into these options…

Glasslock Snapware Tempered Glass Food Storage Containers with Lids 20 Piece Set – If you need lots of food storage containers then this is a good buy. Donate all your plastic ones and start fresh maybe?

Lifefactory Glass Food Storage with Silicone Sleeve – Lifefactory makes some awesome glass water bottles. I have several. So I was super pleased to see that they now have glass food storage and refrigerator dishes. The silicone sleeve makes them less breakable and thus a good way to transport leftovers in your lunchbag the next day. There are three different sizes.

lifefactory glass food storage containers for the frig

Abeego Flats Food Storage Liners –  These can replace suran wrap, tin foil, and even plastic food storage bags. They are slightly adhesive and malleable at room temperature but they stiffen when cooled – holding the shape you created. This means you can take all kinds of foods on the go from sandwiches and wraps, to fruits and veggies and more. Made of all natural materials: hemp, organic cotton, beeswax, tree resin jojoba oil, and hand washable with soap and water.

abeego food storage liners

Flip & Tumble Reusable Produce Bags – I love these bags and have many of them myself. You can take these with you shopping and collect loose fruits, veggies, grains, beans, etc. at the store, bulk bins, or at the farmer’s market. Then you can store them in the same bags if you wish and you never have to take the flimsy plastic produce bags from the store.

flip and tumble

Not only is plastic free getting easier, the options above look better too!

22
Dec

10 Rules for Cast Iron Care

by Tiffany in A Green Home

10 Rules for Cast Iron CareFollow these tips and your cast iron pots and pans will last forever.

#1 Use it often – Unlike so many other types of cookware the more you use cast iron the better it will work. Amazing.

#2 Show some respect – If you take care of your cast iron you will end up handing it off to the next generation in the same condition in which you received it.

#3 Clean after each use – Don’t throw it in the sink and forget about it. You need to cleanup afterwards, right after cooking. Rinse with hot water while the pan is still warm/hot.

#4 Don’t do it! – Never wash cast iron with soap and never put it in the dishwasher.

#5 Scour when needed – Use as stiff bristle brush and/or some course salt to scrub when needed.

#6 Water works – When you have grime and caked on food just add a bit of water and place the cookware back on the hot burner, bring to a boil. This will usually get rid of any food debris and you don’t even need to scrub.

#7 Dry & oil – Don’t throw these in the dish rack to dry or put them away when still slightly wet. Dry them completely off after washing put them back on the burner for a couple minutes. Use a towel to rub a thin layer of vegetable oil on the inside.

#8 Store them right – Keep cast iron in a cool dry place with good air flow. For pots and pans with lids a thin towel placed between the pan and the lid will allow for air flow.

#9 Keep it seasoned. Cast iron creates it own no-stick surface via seasoning. To season, coat the pan well with vegetable oil and bake at 400 degrees for one hour. Re-season as needed. Seasoned cast iron is shiny, smooth and non-stick!

#10 Get rid of rust – If you were neglectful and your cast iron got rusty or you pickled it up secondhand looking sad just use steel wool to scrub away rust and re-season when completely dry.

Happy cooking!

 

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

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