Category Archives: House

Tips on Reducing that F****** Ironing Pile.

I am very, very, very bad at keeping up with my ironing pile. Like, bad enough that there are clothes at the bottom of the basket that may or may not have been there since…May. That kind of bad.

I generally manage to take care of the top 75% every couple of weeks, but rarely seem to find time/motivation to finish it completely. (That’s probably a sure sign that we have more than enough clothes in this household, don’t you think?)

This has been something that’s bothered me for a while now. Growing up, my mum was Master of the Laundry. No sooner had you discarded your dirty clothes than they were in the washing machine, hung, dried, ironed and back on the bed. I grew up using this as one of many measures of competency at home.

And while that is super admirable and my hat is forever tipped to such Laundry Masters, my recently adopted path towards the simple life has seen me looking for a better way (for me). And as a result I’ve cut down so much on the amount of ironing I need to do, which leaves me time to do more pleasurable things, like scrape paint off windows or clean the toilet. Some tips for you:

1. Shake, shake, shake! 
My sister told me about this method, and it really works. As I’m hanging up the wet laundry, I give all the kids’ clothes, plus mine and Sparky’s tshirts, jeans, etc three really good, firm shakes before I peg them up. This plus line-drying generally takes care of most things.

2. Sort and fold straight away.
Not always practical, I know, but when I can I like to fold and sort the clothes as soon as they come inside or out of the dryer. It means they don’t get all creased up sitting in the basket for who knows how long.

3. Drop your standards a little. 
I can’t be sure, but I don’t think people talk about us behind our backs due to this non-ironing thing. “Oh, would you look at that rumply family? How embarassing for them. Can you believe they walk around with unironed clothes?”

Point being, I no longer iron tshirts, the kids clothes, pyjamas, outside work gear, exercise clothes, jeans, shorts etc. I iron Sparky’s work shirts, anything really creasy like cotton and linen, and a handful of my delicates. I will admit that I love ironing pillowcases and teatowels though. Weird, I know.

How about you? Do you iron? Do you avoid the ironing? Do you outsource it? Are you the Mayor of Wrinkle Town?

Renovation Nation: Painting…Still

Last weekend was chock-a-block full of projects, which suited me just fine. (I love, love, love a good project.) Sparky oiled the back decks (more on that below) and I started painting the front door and kept working on the neverending job of painting the timber trim.

The front of the house (paint-wise at least) is nearly finished – hopefully this weekend will see the end of that particular task – and while we still have a shedload of painting to do, to see something finished has really spurred us on.

On Sunday I picked up a tin of enamel paint for the front door (Blue Lobelia by Dulux) and gave it the first coat. Gotta say I’m really really pleased with the colour so far. To have a painted front door is ridiculously satisfying!

The colour is pretty vibrant and the paint-shop guy told me I would’ve been better off using a grey undercoat instead of white, but you live and learn. It just means I’ll probably need to do three coats instead of two.

Sparky also finished the deck with Organoil, and it has come up so beautifully. By his account it’s super easy to apply and I love the fact that it’s non-toxic and smells like eucalytpus oil. Two initial coats are needed, then one in six month’s time. After that we should be able to go 12 months between oiling.

 You can see the difference between the oiled timber and the raw new deck.

I also spent some more time finishing off the paving. When we took out the garage and the slab, there was a whole mess going on with the border, so we tore it up and I’m in the middle of relaying it. Not a huge job but it’s getting us closer to the end!

(Also note the chalk drawings. Excellent time consumer for toddler and mum alike.)

Current Status:

– Construction is done for now. We will put a roof over the new deck eventually and have to build a storage shed/studio in the backyard at some stage in the next 12 months or so, but no real rush.
– The back deck is finished. Just need to tidy up some loose ends and get us some retro cane armchairs to do some lounging on.
– I’ve started a master plan for the gardens and will slowly start to work on the beds as time allows. I’ve had to finish off some paving jobs, but they’re nearly done now – thankfully.
– We’ve decided on the kitchen renovation plan now – a cheapy refurb rather than an all-out replacement, which makes me happy. (Buying further into the K.I.S.S philosophy: Use what you’ve got before looking for brand-new replacements.) As a result, I’m now stalking eBay for second-hand shelving, a butcher’s block and a stepladder.
– We still haven’t finished painting inside, but we’ll get around to it eventually. Everything is undercoated, so if you squint it kind of looks painted.
– Slowly figuring out how best to furnish the new space and, again, stalking eBay for a mid-century lounge, some wireframe chairs, a dining table and a bookshelf.

Green Cleaning Toolkit: Castile Soap

This week’s Green Cleaning Toolkit edition is C for Castile Soap. (You can see other Toolkit posts here.)

I have previously written about my love for castile soap, and I admit to you now that I have a fondness for the slightly confusing and over-the-top spiritual rantings on Dr Bronner’s soap bottles. Aside from that though, I really do use castile soap every single day and thought I should probably revisit the ways I use it now that I’m doing the Toolkit series.

Castile soap is traditionally a pure soap made using olive oil. It is entirely vegetable based (no animal products, such as tallow) and much gentler on the skin than many modern soaps. This is mainly due to the fact that castile soap retains its natural levels of glycerin, whereas commercial soapmakers remove the glycerin in order to sell it separately.

Basically, it is super mild, very effective in cleansing and highly moisturising. It. Is. Awesome.

What Can I Use it For?

Well, according to the delightful ramblings on the label of the Dr Bronners Lavender Castile Soap that I use, it has 18 or more uses, including:

– Shampoo
– Body Soap
– Toothpaste (euch.)
– Laundry
– Floor cleaning
– General household cleaning
– Dishwashing
– Nappy wash

I can tell you that I have used it as shampoo (no good for me at all – it was Stringy Town all over), hand soap, body wash, laundry, nappy wash and general cleaning. And apart from the shampoo debacle, it’s been awesome. So read on if you’d like to see how you can use it.

Laundry Uses:

Washing Detergent – I use a front-loader, and add around 1/3 cup of the soap to the detergent dispenser for all my washing. I then add a handful of bi-carb soda to the same dispenser and about the same amount of white vinegar to the rinse dispenser. Works a treat every time. Plus, our clothes smell incredible. I actively sniff my clothes. Often. In public sometimes.

Cleaning Uses:

Dishwashing Detergent – Just squirt some soap into your hot water as normal. It may not suds up as much though, but don’t be tempted to use extra, as it will just make everything slippery. No good when washing priceless family heirlooms.

General Cleaning Ingredient – Add maybe a teaspoonful to your green cleaning recipes, particularly if you have a scented soap. It boosts the efficiency of your cleaning and smells d-to-the-vine.

Benchtop Cleaner (Scented) – A little (very little) squirt onto a damp cloth, combined with a sprinkle of bi-carb soda is a great benchtop cleaner.
Bathroom Uses: 
Hand Soap – Dr Bronner’s Lavender Soap can’t be beaten. The lavendery goodness is super relaxing before bed and a beautiful scent during the day. For hand soap I use just a normal hand soap squirty dispensery thingy and dilute the soap with water at roughly 1:1. This basically stops it from clogging up the squirty thingy.

Body Wash – I use a cute travel-sized squirt bottle (for shampoos and the like) and dilute the soap with some water at roughly one part water to two parts soap. The soap is really concentrated so this just stops me from using too much and becoming a lather monster.

Shampoo – As a shampoo, for me, Dr Bronners sucked. But I did have long, blonde highlighted hair at the time, so probably not ideal. I even tried Dr Bronners Shikakai Conditioning Rinse to help with the tangly, not-quite-clean feeling, but that was just weird. And it didn’t work. And it was full of brown lumps that looked a lot like poo. So back to Burt’s Bees for me.

And as for toothpaste… No.

So there you have a little rundown of why castile soap is indeed awesome, and why I rave about it. Aside from the fact that it’s organic and harmless to my family and our health, it’s also really quite economical as it’s super concentrated and you can use it everywhere. Which I do. Except on my teeth.

Green Cleaning Toolkit: Vinegar

image by Mattia Valerio

The next installment in my Green Cleaning Toolkit is: V for vinegar. (You can see previous posts here.)

I have already posted about some of the top uses for vinegar around the house, but as it is the one ingredient I use multiple times every single day, I think it definitely requires its own Toolkit post.

I buy my white vinegar in 4L bottles from the supermarket for about $1.50. This usually lasts me between one and two weeks, so it’s pretty good value. I’m on the lookout for somewhere I can buy it in bulk, to save on packaging, but so far I can only find it by the huuuge drumload.

Cleaning Uses:

General Purpose Cleaner – Dilute 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water and keep it in a spray bottle. You can use this and a damp cloth to clean just about everything. I use it to clean the bathroom vanity, the bath, the tiles (unless they need a heavy clean), the kitchen benchtops, the cupboard doors, the sink (unless it needs a scrub, then I use lemon and bi-carb).

High-Strength Cleaner – Keep straight white vinegar in another spray bottle and use it as a cleaner on stubborn marks like the bath ring or soap scum on tiles. Just spray thoroughly, leave for 15 minutes, wipe over the dirt with a damp cloth, rinse and dry. This is also really good to clean that greasy, dusty layer you get in the kitchen sometimes – particularly on the rangehood or the oven door.

Disinfectant/Cleaner – Spray all over your toilet with vinegar when you spray the bowl (remember the borax and vinegar toilet cleaner?) and leave it till you clean the bowl. This acts both as a disinfectant and cleaner for the loo. You can also spray your wooden and plastic chopping boards with straight vinegar, leaving it for a few minutes, then rinse and dry. This disinfects and gets rid of oniony smells.

Floor Cleaner – When we had our oiled floors laid during the reno, the floor guy told us to clean the floors using a bucket of warm water, half a cup of methylated spirits and half a cup of vinegar. That works a treat with the oil finish, but before the reno when we had floors sealed with polyurethane, I used a squirt of Morning Fresh liquid and a cup or so of vinegar in the bucket and that was really effective too. I think the vinegar cuts down on any soapy build-up and makes the floor lovely and shiny.

Laundry Uses:

Softener/Freshener – I add about a quarter of a cup of vinegar to every wash I do, with the exception of the fabric nappies (the vinegar can effect their absorbency), and it softens and freshens the laundry so much. I can tell if I don’t use it, particularly with the linen as it feels all scratchy and rough. And despite the smell of vinegar when you first put it in the washing machine, you really can’t smell it much once it’s been washed, and not at all once the laundry is dry. Apparently, adding some vinegar to the wash can help alleviate eczema in those who have skin reaction to laundry powder too. I used to wash Isla’s clothes in Lux flakes and vinegar before I discovered castile soap.

Other Uses:

Toy Cleaner – Spray the kids toys and board books with the 1:4 vinegar dilution and wipe over with a clean cloth. It lifts off stickiness and is a mild disinfectant too.

It really is just as easy as making one or two changes every couple of weeks, and before you even realise it, you’ll be cleaning greener and simpler. I can’t promise it will be any more fun though. Sorry.

Green Cleaning Toolkit: Borax

I know I’ve mentioned bits and pieces about various ingredients I use in my green cleaning toolkit (here, here and here) but I thought I could put together a post on each of the main ingredients I use week-in, week-out. Hopefully this will make it easy if anyone is keen on getting into green cleaning but not entirely sure where to begin.

First up is Borax.

Strictly speaking, borax is a toxic substance, even though it’s naturally occuring. So don’t go feeding it to your pets or kids, and if using it to clean, it’s recommended that you wear rubber gloves to stop any potential skin irritation. I’ve never had any issues with it, and it sure as hell is better than the highly toxic commercial cleaners you often find at the supermarket.

Cleaning Uses:

Toilet Cleaner – I sprinkle the wet toilet bowl with a handful of borax, then saturate the borax with a good spray of straight white vinegar. I also spray the whole toilet with straight vinegar at the same time, to clean and disinfect. Leave it to sit for 15 minutes or more. Wipe over the toilet with a damp cloth and then dry with an old teatowel and then, using a toilet brush or a cloth, scrub the bowl and flush. Easy!

Tile Scrub/Shower Cleaner – I do this once every few weeks and it seems to get rid of any mould in the shower and stop a lot of it from growing back. Just mix roughly equal parts of borax and straight white vinegar in a tub. You’re looking for a watery paste type consistency. Then using a damp cloth just spread the mixture over the tiles in your shower (walls and floor, concentrating a little more on the grout) and leave. 15 minutes plus is fine, and over night would do no harm. Then wipe down/scrub with a damp cloth, rinse and wipe over with a clean, dry cloth.

Disinfectant – A couple of tablespoons of borax in some warm water is a great disinfectant for bins etc. Just wipe over with the mixture and then rinse with clean water.

Laundry Uses:

Laundry Booster – You can add a sprinkle of borax to every wash and it will help whiten your whites and remove soap build-up and odour build-up in your clothes. I personally don’t use it in every wash, but have found it does help soften blankets and linen.

Other Uses:

Ant/Cockroach Control – Borax can help to get rid of ants and cockroaches. To get rid of cockroaches try sprinkling the areas most likely frequented by the little buggers (be careful if you have kids or pets though). The borax attaches to their feet as they crawl over it and will eventually be ingested. For ants you can mix some borax with honey or sugar syrup and put it in some upturned jar lids. The ants will be attracted to the sweetness and then take the borax back to the nest with them.

I’m sure there’s more tips out there, but they’re the ways I’ve used borax. It’s probably the least friendly of the ingredients I use, so it was nice to get that one out of the way!

Maybe next time you go shopping, pick up a tub of borax (it’s super cheap, in the laundry/cleaning aisle at the supermarket) and add it to your green cleaning toolkit. Dare ya!