Practical Reducing, Reusing, Recycling Tips

Mark your calendars for the upcoming Fred Meyer Plastics Recycling Event. Your opportunity to ditch difficult to recycle plastics.

You wish to be environmentally kind but there are so many varieties of waste and often few options for disposal. Learn ways here to reduce intake and dispose wisely.

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Practical Garden Tips

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Me vs. Dandelions:  This Time I Am The Eco-Victor

Are you fighting the good fight against weeds?  Do you wish to eradicate them while maintaining an organic yard?

For way too long, I have battled a row of dandelions between my driveway rock wall and the pavement.  Getting at the roots as you can see from the photo was impossible as they were lodged underneath, and no way was I going to resort to nasty chemicals.  I chipped away as best I could to dislodge the root systems, but within a week or 2 these tormentors taunted me again.  Two weeks ago, I fetched my arsenal big guns (holy heck, why did it take me so long to think of this?).  I sprayed each of the dandys with a mixture of baking soda and vinegar and let nature take its course. 

I completely forgot about them until 2 days later as I pulled into the driveway I noticed the withered remains.  While I could chalk it up to lack of rainfall, I purposefully did not treat other areas of my dry driveway, and those weeds are doing just marvy.  Now that I know this works, goodbye to those too.

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Caveat:  this technique, while powerful, could be devastating to plantings you wish to retain.  Using the mixture is ideal in areas where complete weed eradication is desired like driveways and sidewalks without concern about harmful chemicals leaching into your herbs and veggies or run-off into nearby waterbodies.


Fresh layer of potting soil creates a striking look

Fresh layer of potting soil creates a striking look

Good Doyt

As a toddler, my son was a vehicle fanatic.  Gawking at construction vehicles launched him over the moon.  One of his favorite DVD's featured a backhoe relocating soil and at one point, the narrator mentions the importance of good dirt.  My son latched onto that phrase and each time he watched, he would shout, "good doyt."

From that day on, whenever I work in my gardens I think about "good doyt."  Using high quality potting soil provides optimal nutrition and support for your plants' root systems.  As a bonus, fresh, dark brown potting soil (as well as mulching for your gardens) creates aesthetic curbside appeal for your patio or garden beds. 

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Gardening experts recommend a complete repotting each spring to loosen soil around the roots and ensure the proper size vessel allowing your plants room to grow. However, if your schedule is too tight for repotting or your budget is too thin to purchase yards of dirt, then opt for a top off layer to achieve "the look."   You will be amazed at the striking difference once you replace the old, matted dirt.

If a home sale is on your horizon or you just want your gardens to have a higher wow factor, consider freshening up your gardens and pots with a new layer of soil.


Keep the Pests Away

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It took me a while to find a practical solution to keeping the deer, birds, etc. away from my blueberry bushes.  I tried bird netting for a few years, but it was the bane of my garden existence.  It ripped my nails, frequently got tangled in the branches dislodging unripe berries, and made it extraordinarily difficult to harvest the fruit.   I have now replaced all of the netting with green tulle.  It camouflages rather well with the plants and it is so much easier to quickly pick the berries.  Although I felt bad about disposing the netting, the recycling center took it off my hands.

Trying this in my garden, I will keep you posted as to how this is working.  I am using dryer lint to surround my new plantings particularly veggies that are slug targets.  So far it seems the slugs have been avoiding the plants (knock on wood).

 

 


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Practical Cleaning Tips

Personal Spring Cleaning Tip:  Disinfect Your Earrings


When was the last time you disinfected your pierced earrings? 

Think back to when you first got your ears pierced.  As I recall, I was diligent about following the instructions to cleanse the posts in alcohol daily.  Throughout my life I have taken this precaution before wearing a newly purchased pair, but have been a bit lax otherwise. 

Ok, so I admit I do not sanitize my own earrings nearly as often as I should which ideally is weekly.  Our earrings can be contaminated with a variety of dirt and bacteria.  Since we are inserting them into our bodies, we should be mindful about any residue on them.  In fact, it is wise to wash your hands prior to inserting the posts into your ears in order to avoiding transferring any bacteria from our hands into the holes in our ears (or any other piercings).

Some earrings will scream at you that they need some TLC as they have become discolored, tarnished, or showing obvious signs of dirt.  Once you clean them, you will be absolutely wowed by the difference.  Therefore, I do ensure I at least incorporate a dousing, detarnishing, and scrubbing into my yearly spring clean. 

Before cleaning any heirloom, high value pieces and precious gems such as emeralds and pearls, please consult a jeweler or have them professional cleaned.  The Practical Sort assumes no responsibility for damage to your jewelry, so please exercise caution.

Here's my simple process:

Step 1:  Wash your hands with soap and water to remove any contaminants that could spread to your earrings and your ears.

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Step 2:  Pour some alcohol into a container, I prefer to use glass, but I had none available when I had a few minutes to do to this.  Therefore, I grabbed a small plastic container that was under my vanity.  I rinsed it first before adding the alcohol.

Step 3:  Swish the earrings around for a minute or two.  If you do not feel comfortable submerging them, then carefully cleanse the posts or wires with some alcohol on a cotton swab.

Step 4:  Run them under water for a quick rinse. 

Step 5:  Gently rub them with a microcloth to remove any remaining ick and to hasten the drying time. 

Voila, I was done in less than 10 minutes.

Check out this recent practical tip to learn how to remove tarnish from silver jewelry.  You can also use a toothbrush or other bristle to loosen ground in dirt.  But please do so gently.

What to do with any remaining alcohol?

I used the remaining alcohol to rub down door handles and toilet flushers since my husband has been sick the last several days.  Even if he had not been ill, it is a good practice to clean those heavily used areas frequently.  Paying extra special attention to bathroom handles that are touched after using the toilet but prior to washing your hands and handles used when entering your home.  You never know what germs you came in contact with while you were out.


One Day At A Time/One Thing At A Time:  Your Guide to A Manageable Spring Clean
 

Spring is here.  Have you noticed the cherry blossoms and their luscious scent?  The daffodils colorfully swaying their bonneted heads in the wind?  The neon azaleas and the vibrant white dogwoods screaming for your attention?  If you haven’t cottoned on, I love spring.  And like many folks, I welcome the season by delving into a deep dive clean especially for those neglected areas of my home that are crying out for some TLC.  And when I plunge in, I try my best to be mindful about the products I am using and the amount of resources consumed.  That is definitely not easy when it comes to things like patio moss removal, outdoor window cleaning, and roof washing.  But, where I can make an impact to be kind to the planet, I try my best because face it, that is all we can do right?

I cannot believe I am sharing this icky photo with you, true confessions for sure

I cannot believe I am sharing this icky photo with you, true confessions for sure

In fact, if you are interested in learning more about nurturing your home while reducing your environmental footprint, keep your eyes peeled.  Recycling Guru Betty Shelley and I have a number of workshops in the offing where we will be sharing a boatload of tips that are easy on your time, wallet, and Mother Earth.  And what guest would be more appropriate for my April Earth Day Month blog than Betty?  I am super excited for the interview.  She shared some awesome ideas.  Be sure to check that out next month.

Where to begin spring cleaning since there is so much to do?  Pick one thing a day that fits into your available time frame.  For instance, I use tiered shelving in my master bathroom closet for toiletries.  Wow, they were grossly dusty.  Well, they should be, I have not fully cleaned them in a year.  One unit was coated with oils that dripped from dispensers and mouthwash that ran down the side of the bottle unnoticed.  That took some scraping.

Before leaving for work one morning, I tackled that shelf.  I grabbed a bin to temporarily house the containers while I washed the plastic expandable shelving.  Then with a damp rag, I swiped down the built-in shelf.  Each day I selected a different row of the 5 sections to clean.  This kept the job very manageable in the time I had available.

Heck yes that is an embarrassing layer of thick dust.   This basket was atop my TV cabinet so it was hard to see the extent of the coating.   

Heck yes that is an embarrassing layer of thick dust.   This basket was atop my TV cabinet so it was hard to see the extent of the coating.

 

I also did the same thing with my artificial plants (yes, I still have some of those).  I filled the washing machine with warm water for a small load, grabbed the plants, and one by one swished them in the water.  I then allowed them to dry in the utility sink while some rested on rags on the countertop.  By the time I returned from work later in the day, they were ready to be returned to their baskets and respective homes in each room.

As I previously mentioned in another tip, I did have my throw rugs and upholstery cleaned by an eco-carpet cleaner a few weeks back,  and they did a beautiful and thorough job without toxic chemical smells or residues.  Another thing checked off the list.  And the advantage of having someone to do it for me was that I was able to do my work while they scrubbed.  The price was somewhat reasonable since we have been saving for ten years (embarrassed blush).  Thank goodness those dark colors hid the dirt pretty well.

Vinegar and Norwex Enviro Cloth and Window Cloth

Vinegar and Norwex Enviro Cloth and Window Cloth

Next up, one room a day interior windows and sills.  The job goes relatively fast using vinegar on a Norwex Enviro Cloth to do a first round cleaning.  Then I give the glass a shine with the Window Cloth.  When the weather gets nicer, I will tackle the exterior windows that I can reach. 

I hope this gives you some food for thought about how to get started on your projects without the overwhelm that some people encounter. 

If you need a quick boost to get past the resistance to making progress, check out this modified Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) tapping podcast.  Scroll down past the videos.  The videos might be helpful too.  I will be offering more podcasts and links to other's EFT and Simple tapping podcasts in the future.  This podcast by my tapping idol Gene Monterastelli will also get you moving if you are uncertain where and how to begin.

And if you still need a hand, contact ThePracticalSort.com and we will craft a path toward success together.

 

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Who Knew?  In all my years of doing laundry, I had no idea about the concept of givers and receivers.  In fact, it seems that only in the last few years I have been noticing white spots on my dark clothes.  The spots are most predominant on those items that I do not put in the dryer.  Most likely the dryer removes the discoloring as it tosses and turns.  It made me question with the reformulation of detergents whether that is a contributing culprit.

However, last month my 20 year old washing machine made its final spin to the recycling facility, and upon reading the manual for my new machine I came across something very interesting.  The concept of Givers and Receivers. 

Sorting by color to allow for temperature variances has always been my routine to avoid dark colors running onto lights and whites.  However, I have now added one more load, yuck the eco side of me is NOT happy.  Some fabrics shed lint while others attract which can lead to lint build up on items like my workout pants and Columbia fleece jacket.

The shredders are cottons, terry cloth, chenille, bedspreads and rugs and anything that has been heavily bleached.  While the receivers are synthetic fabrics, permanent press, knits (including socks), corduroy and any smooth, satiny fabrics.

Sometimes it is better to give than to receive and white ick on clothes is a perfect.  So if you are experiencing this same issue, it is time to think about one more sort.

 

Freshen Up the Linens

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If you have kids returning from college for the holidays or if out of town guests will soon be arriving at your doorstep, then this would be an ideal time to freshen up the bed linens and towels that haven't been used in months. 

Toss the linens in the laundry so that they will be ready when your guests arrive tired from their journey.   Add a few drops of pure lavender essential oil to your laundry detergent to help your guests fall into a peaceful sleep.  Be wary of using any scents if allergies or sensitivities are an issue.  If you would like to make your own Vinegar Laundry Rinse, check out this link for the ingredients.

Grubby shower curtains could probably also stand a run through the washing machine.  If the shower curtain liner is ripped or unsightly beyond repair, consider investing in a new one (they are fairly inexpensive) and use the old one as a tarp for painting or other household projects.

Keep up with the Practical Sort's latest blogs and tips by subscribing here.

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We have had some chilly mornings lately.  You may have noticed your heater pop on with that scent of burning dust.  With the change of seasons, it is time to think about replacing or cleaning your HVAC system air filters.  The accumulation of ash that descended upon the Pacific Northwest during the last month or two makes this critically important this year.

Clean filters will ensure your HVAC system runs more efficiently resulting in more economical, higher capacity performance.  You should notice less dust in your home which means less cleaning for you.  Good quality filters will remove pollen, lint, dust, and other airborne contaminants.

If you have a washable electrostatic filter, it is recommended that you simply dust off excess dirt and flush under hot water.  Let it dry completely before replacing. A mild detergent can be used if required. However do not use oils, adhesives, house hold cleaners, industrial cleaners or alkali solutions as this will damage the filter.

If you have replaceable filters, I recommend that you buy a multi-pack and bring the used one with you to the store or make note of the size to ensure that you purchase the correct one for your system.


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Eyeglass Cleaning

Wish to avoid harsh chemicals to clean your eyeglasses or sunglasses?  Use a Norwex Window Cloth to get them crystal clear.  I wash my glasses then dry them with the cloth using circular motions.  In a matter of seconds, the lenses are super clean.  The cloth also works wonders on your mirrors, shower doors, jewelry, stainless steel and of course windows. 

I use the window cloth to clean my silver earrings.  First coat the item in toothpaste (I use Crest) and rub it in until the tarnish disappears.  Then quickly rinse the toothpaste off with water.  Wipe it dry with the cloth.  The tarnish should be gone and the silver should be radiant.  If not, try the process one more time.

Click here for more information on Norwex products, or contact sherri@ThePracticalSort.com, and I can refer you to a Norwex Rep who can answer any additional questions you may have or help you to place an order.


Toilet Rust Rings

 

Do those rust rings in your toilet drive you crazy?  You may have tried scrubbing with toilet brushes or using harsh chemicals, yet nothing seems to work.   It took me many years before I discovered a pumice scouring stick.  It quickly, easily, and safely removes those rings at least temporarily.   Yes, nothing good lasts forever.  

Dampen the stone first in the water to soften it so that it does not scratch the toilet.  Then use the stone to erase the ring.

There are some reported circumstances of pumice stones scratching older toilets, so please check with the manufacturer first prior to using this method.

Because I keep up with removing the rust stains, it may be difficult to see the ring in the first slide.  After removal, I add some baking soda and vinegar to the bowl.  Let it sit for a few minutes, then finish cleaning with a toilet brush and flush.  You will be amazed at how clean the bowl is in a matter of minutes with no toxic chemicals.


Cleaning Up Excess Caulk

Need to get rid of excess newly applied gooey caulk?  Use ice.  Wrap the ice in paper towel (enough so that you can hold it without freezing your fingers, but thin enough for the cold to penetrate).  Scrape along the caulk and wipe up with a clean cloth as you go.   Even works on glass.  Use a little vinegar on the glass after to shine it up.

 

Practical Renovation/Fixer Upper Tips

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You may not know this, part of my business involves engaging contractors to facilitate rapid and lucrative home sales by putting your home's best look forward. Engaging contractors particularly in this crazy sales and home repair market, is no easy task. All sorts of contractors are booked months out. They are short-staffed. And most importantly they can name their prices. OUCH.

If you are looking to hire a contractor, the last thing you want to do is hire the wrong contractor and unnecessarily run up the costs or experience job delays. If you are inexperienced, doing the project yourself could also result in needless headaches. This morning a list of Common Mistakes to Avoid When Hiring A Contractor appeared in my inbox courtesy of Home Advisor.   Click here to view article

Whether you are doing repairs, spring touch-ups or getting ready to put your home on the market, these tips could help you avoid some project landmines.

Tips Reprinted from Home Advisor June 16, 2017 blog:

1. Poor Communication

Open communication is the golden rule of dealing with home improvement contractors. As long as you find a reasonably honest person, asking straightforward questions and clearly delineating what you want and expect from your home projects will eliminate the vast majority of potential problems. Put this verbal communication in writing to protect yourself from unreliable contractors.

2. Waiting Until You Need a Contractor

Not addressing major problems early on can lead to costly replacements in lieu of repairs. Spending $500 on a 20-year-old heating system is not a good investment, but it can take a week or more to find and install the right replacement heating system. As soon as you see signs of trouble, get someone out to your home for a look. Also, be sure to run your heating and air conditioning for an hour during the off-season. Much like a CEO, you should be concerned with the long-term financial status of your home.

3. NOT Hiring a Home Improvement Contractor

There are a number of different home improvements that present themselves as viable DIY projects, only to morph into money-sucking monsters. Fence building, deck building, exterior house painting and drywall repair can all fit into this category. None of these projects are impossible to DIY, but the average homeowner should always lean toward hiring a pro when there is even the slightest doubt.

4. Hiring Someone Who Shows Up at Your Front Door

Avoid door-to-door solicitation. Depending on what your gut tells you, respectfully ask for a business card and look up the company or call the local chapter of your Better Business Bureau to report suspicious behavior.

5. Hiring Someone to Fix a Problem Without Diagnosing It

Don’t hire a pro to solve a problem without addressing the cause. Perhaps the worst thing you can do is ignore recommendations for further repairs. If a contractor can show or explain why damage is occurring, don’t bypass the problem.

6. Being Enticed by Low/High Bids

You should always be wary of bids that are substantially higher or lower than those of the competition. High bids sometimes result from a busy contractor who isn’t looking to take on more work unless the profit margin makes it worth it. Just as you would with a suspiciously low bid, ask both the individual contractor and the rest of the bidding contractors why one single bid is so much higher or lower than the others.

7. Not Looking Far Enough

Don’t be afraid to look for contractors outside of your immediate area. Most home improvement contractors service multiple counties. Many contractors are willing to travel and provide bids — especially for larger projects.


Whew, What a Save!  Removing Stains from Wood Furniture


Months ago, a white stain appeared on my kitchen table.  No one remembers leaving a perspiring glass or bowl on the table.  Regardless when I glanced to the left from my chair that white shaped blob bugged me.  With guests expected, I would try to strategically arrange my husband’s placemat over the stain, but that not only looked awkward, it was slightly out of range of his eating area.

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Fast forward a few weeks when my mom inquired about removing an ink stain from her Formica kitchen table which then set me to work on solving my own exasperating problem. I was now determined to banish that ugly water stain.  When it first manifested, I tried several home remedies.  Baking powder (which actually removed some of the finish…still working on that), vinegar, and toothpaste with no luck.

My web search led me to try just one more option, ironing.  I selected the lowest setting and placed a cloth napkin on the table and began ironing.  In total, it took nearly 10 minutes so don’t expect immediate results.  However, keep checking as you go to adjust the temperature, location, and to watch progress.  Important caveat:  use cotton not polyester fabrics to iron.  The latter gave off too much moisture while the cotton wicked it up.  And, you can knock out some ironing at the same time.

As you can see from the after shot, the stain is virtually gone (it had been where the pen point is).  On the area where the finish had been rubbed off previously, I smeared a touch of mayonnaise.  That helped a little, but not enough.  After wiping that off, I applied some coconut oil.  And voila.  See the photo.

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Yay, no more awkwardly placed placemats and no more embarrassing stain!

Word of caution, please use a low setting if you try this and do so at your own risk!


Paint Recycling

Its the "fixer-upper" time of year.  Lots of folks are busy working on their landscaping; cleaning out garages; pressure washing sidewalks, driveways, and porches;  lacquering outdoor furniture; and painting. 

A fresh coat of paint can make drab rooms or a tired exteriors appear bold, clean, and inviting.  If you are selling your home, your realtor may have suggested livening up a room or two or toning down others to enhance marketability.

Once you embark on a painting project, what do you do with the leftover paints, primers, lacquers, and waterproofing sealers? 

You could:

  • save leftovers for a future project or touch-ups
  • donate unused paint (ScrapPDX-be sure to check scrappdx.org/donate/items-we-accept for guidelines)
  • recycle used paint

The PaintCare recycling program offers latex and oil-based drop-off sites throughout Oregon for five gallon cans or smaller regardless of age.  They will ensure that the paint is converted into fuel, other products, or properly disposed.  

You have already paid the recycling disposal fee at the time of purchase, so it makes economic and environmental sense to take advantage of this program if you have a location nearby.  To find your nearest location:  click here for Paint Care's search tool or call 855-724-6809.  Locate sites outside Oregon on the link.  Products accepted for collection are included on the featured flyer and also available at Paintcare.orgIf you have other waste disposal or recycling questions, be sure to contact Metro at oregonmetro.gov.

Practical Gift Ideas

5 Mother’s Day Gift Ideas For Downsized Spaces

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For many moms, as we begin to age the idea of keeping up with a house, no matter the size, can be daunting.  If your mom is considering downsizing her living space or has already transitioned to smaller quarters, then tangible gifts may not be ideal.  Here are 5 suggestions for alternatives to show you love her and respect her desire to pare down.

1. Spend the day with her.  Take her to lunch, the movies, a play, or a stroll through the park.  Can’t be there in the physical?  Facetime or Skype is the next best thing particularly if it has been a while since she has seen the grandchildren.  Each family member can spend some time making her day special through the lens.

2.  Lend a hand with chores or much needed projects.  Again, if you cannot be there, engage her preferred handy person to do the work.  Remember to have the bill sent directly to you.  Check with her to ensure her schedule is clear and that this arrangement suits her.

3.  Flowers, chocolates, an assortment of teas, or meal delivery are surefire ways to win mom’s heart.  A selection of herbs for her kitchen window will help to spice up meals and enliven the room with inviting scents.

4.  If she is computer savvy, send her a virtual photo album of events that have taken place during the last year or a compendium of momentous occasions through the years.

5.  Ebooks, downloadable music or movies might be the practical ticket especially for moms with mobility issues.

 If all else fails, give mom a phone call and tell her you love her.  That is guaranteed to induce a smile.

Valentine's Day Gift Ideas

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As a gift for Valentine's Day or any other holiday, treat yourself or your honey to the organized living spaces that you crave.  Allow the ambience of your home to reflect your inner beauty.  Make room on the dining table for a floral arrangement, clear out cupboard space for the box of chocolates from your sweetheart, or create space in your closet for a new negligee or sweater. 

No idea where to begin?  Need a hand realizing your organizing goals?  Contact The Practical Sort Eco-Organizing Solutions or sherri@thepracticalsort.com today, we will get you sorted with a Valentine gift of organized living. 

 

Practical Appliances & User Manuals

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After purchasing a new appliance, write the serial and model numbers on the user's manual or keep track of your appliances in an App or software file. Then if service is ever needed, you have all the information handy to relay to the tech or repair company. I have found this especially useful as my eyes have gotten older and print seems to have gotten smaller. It also saves time as I don't have to scour or move the appliance to locate these details.

I also find it useful to include tech support or repair company telephone numbers and any repair notes with the files. Trying to track down "800" tech support numbers can sometimes be more difficult than locating the proverbial needle in the haystack.