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A mom’s number one fault is probably lack of self-pampering. In our hectic lives, we often find ourselves rushing around to get a massive amount of work done & we put our family above our own needs. It’s important to remember, that to be the best parent possible, we need to make sure that we are in good spirits too! And it doesn’t take the time or money that you might think! We can be wise with our time & frugal in our choices. Pampering doesn’t mean lots of money & hours of time alone!

Make your home less stressful – Right off the bat, the easiest thing to do is remove as much stress as possible from our lives. You know your family – you can predict the things that keep you running around & stealing your time to just BREATH! If you have young children – baby proof! This will prevent accidents before they occur. When you know this are none (or no foreseen) obstacles in the way, you will feel better about taking a few minutes to sit alone and meditate, read your favorite blog or newspaper article or have a quick chat on the phone. Have your children learn the rules about interrupting during your personal time (barring emergencies). I’m not suggesting locking yourself away for five hours a day. Just a few minutes can be all that your spirit needs to restart fresh.

Have friends – This can sound difficult in the midst of daily activities, grocery shopping & more. Just trying to squeeze in a few hours of sleep (and likely interrupted at that) can sound like a daunting task! But friendships are important – they can assure you that you are not the only one in these stressful parenting situations. You can be assured you are not the only one with a crazy child or that other people out there have to wake up 4 times a night just to calm a fussy toddler. Friends are important for support, advice & just non-Elmo based conversations.

Help is not a four letter word – Don’t be afraid to let the words “I need help” fall out of your mouth. It’s ok to ask for help when you need it & I truly believe it takes a strong & good person to admit when they are lacking all of the necessary ingredients to accomplish something. Be it asking for help with a specific chore, to resolve a situation or just to have a break, it is alright to ask!

Teach your family to give you time – Children can be taught that you need your alone time. They can also be taught that certain areas are off-limits. Be it your bedroom, the master bath or another area – it’s ok to set limits and let people know that a certain space is for adults only.

Once you create a path for yourself that includes a moment or two of “only for me” time, you’ll find yourself functioning at higher capacity & you will smile more often. Just remember – pampering and selfish are NOT the same things.

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It’s that time of year! Time to till the soil and plant away! This year, why not try a more natural approach? The benefits of organic gardening are extensive – and easier than you might think!

The first thing to do is get your beds ready and have some plants that are popping up – either grown inside by you, or purchased from a local greenhouse (buying local cuts down on toxic emissions from trucks to bring them to you as well as supports your local economy). Once you’re all set to plant, be sure to mix in some of that compost that you’ve been brewing up with kitchen and yard scraps! Mixing it into your planting soil adds wonderful nutrients to the soil that plants can feast on! Once this is done, you can begin planting away! Be sure to consider things like companion planting and intensive planting. This can allow your plants to “use” each other for their benefits together and keep wasted space to a minimum! This also makes your job easier, reducing garden space and providing you with more fruits for less labor.

When you get all of your plants in their appropriate places, be sure to find preventative methods of keeping weeds at bay. Things like layered newspapers on the entire floor of the garden, covered with grass trimmings will not only keep weeds from invading before they get a chance, but it will also promise to keep moisture in the soil, where the plants need it. In addition, using this method recycles otherwise discarded reading material and yard waste, but it keeps you from having to water, in most places, or at least as much as you would. You may have to dig out a few weeds & lay down more newspaper as some of it tears or breaks down, but I can assure you that little effort will far outweigh not using it at all!

Bugs… you can keep them away without pesticide intervention. With a little research and some non-toxic efforts, your food will be grown without poisons and your environment will be thankful. Did you know that some pests are good? Learn which ones are beneficial and which ones are not. Allow nature to work for you and discourage only the pests that truly cause damage. To rid yourself of deer feasting on your garden, try alternative things like leaving slinkies stretched across the outside of your garden – the metal look and sound will scare them away. Human hair sprinkled about will also deter them (a great way to help recycle an otherwise discarded item from your local barber shop). Slugs or snails a problem? Instead of spraying with chemicals, try leaving sandpaper rings around your plants – cut out circles with holes in the middle (think an “O” shape) and place them around the base of your plants. The rough surface will deter them from nibbling your greens and they will turn away. Try sprinkling salt lines around your garden to kill them before they have a chance to enter.

When it comes to harvesting, the more you remove, the more will grow. Take advantage of this. Invest in some freezer bags or canning jars and every time you bring in some veggies for eating, bring in a few for canning or freezing. By the end of the warm season, you will have a freezer or cabinet full of nourishment, and picking ripe will provide the most nutritional benefits! This will save you money as well a allowing your garden to work for you.

What do you get out of these efforts other than some yummy food? You get safer consumables, a deeper pocket and some good old satisfaction from your efforts. Less gas is wasted too because you are supporting your own efforts and not the efforts of a farmer in another country, or at best, the other side of ours. And you’ll have plenty to share with your family and friends!
Have a great gardening related tip? We’d love for you to share!

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A Green Kind of Clean.

Too many times, I am amazed by the overflowing shelves of toxic cleaners displayed, proudly, in an isle all its own at supermarkets and chain stores. If a person is lucky, they will find a cleaner or two that boasts of supposed “all natural ingredients” or has a blurb about the fact that it’s “better for the environment.” Well, I doubt that most cleaners, claims or not, are healthy to have in your home. I also doubt that most of them are as great for our planet as they claim to be. With a need to keep our houses clean, but also a responsibility to be stewards of our environment, what can we do? Ahh, I’m glad you asked – there are oh-so many things.

First of all, we can get out of the rut of purchasing the latest and greatest cleaning products just because a commercial or printed add in our favorite magazine tells us to. We can investigate the ingredients in our favorite cleaners, “natural” or not. It’s important to remember that words such as natural are not regulated. Also, phrases such as “better for the environment” can be misleading. Just because a product makes claims, that does not mean they are true. Also, many a product claiming to be Earth-friendly have but one “natural” ingredient. Perhaps they replace bleach with the cleaning power of orange – well yes, orange is better for the environment, but are the remaining ingredients still safe? When I find myself considering a new cleaner I ask myself questions like “What if my child ingests it? What if the dogs lick the surface of something that has been sprayed with it? What if I breath in the fumes from this cleaner while spraying? What if I accidentally spilled the bottle while cleaning?” There are many other things you can consider, but this is just a start… if any of your answers to these questions are cause for concern – perhaps resulting in a sick child or pet, then maybe your consideration of that new product should end there. If accidentally spilling the bottle down the drain or elsewhere would be bad, again – perhaps your shopping trip is over. If you are cleaning your counters with a product containing chemicals that you would be uncomfortable ingesting, then it begs the mind to wonder, what can I clean with?

In our house, we clean with green products – be them store purchased after careful consideration and investigation of the ingredients, or ones that we make ourselves. They are safe for us and safe for the world around us. Since I love to be frugal and green, I will discuss how a person can easily make their own cleaner that will not add worry to our already hectic lives!

The recipe below can be modified easily based on your scent preferences. It’s the cleaner that I use the very most, capable of cleaning most any surface.

All-Surface Cleaner:

You will require a spray bottle (easily found at most stores – check your dollar store for a great deal!), vinegar (I prefer white), water, essential oils of your choice (my favorites are lavender or tea tree oil) and grapefruit seed extract. All of these ingredients can be found at a local health store, online or, surprisingly, at most drug stores.
Fill your spray bottle halfway with vinegar. Fill almost the rest of the way with water, leaving some room to add your oil/s and extract. I add my essential oil/s based on scent – generally around 10-15 drops. As for the grapefruit seed extract, I find that it’s very thick/stick and I just pour it from the bottle rather than messing with the dropper. I would guess it’s approximately 2 droppers full. Give the bottle a gentle shake and you’re done! Ready to clean – and it will clean! Did you know that grapefruit seed extract is more effective than bleach at killing off the bad things in your kitchen?

What’s so great about this cleaner? Everything! It will clean hard surfaces in the kitchen and bathroom. You can use it (same mixture) in a bucket to mop your floors – have wood floors or furniture? No problem! You can always add some olive oil to help give the wood an extra glow. We keep a bottle of this in our bathroom – after each shower, you can spray down the surfaces and it will keep soap scum at bay – even on the glass! Also, it’s great for spraying out the bath after you’re finished to avoid that unwanted ring around the tub that can quickly build up and become visible.

This is also an excellent glass and mirror cleaner – just spray and wipe clean with a microfiber cloth or newspaper (which can still be recycled after using to clean!).

Do you have a favorite tried & true natural cleaning recipe you’d like to share? We’d LOVE to hear it!

Remember, the more green we can be, the better for all of us – both our Earth and our bodies will be healthier, happier and more thankful each day!

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Clutter. It’s distracting, depressing & can ruin a good day when it catches us at our door. It steals our focus. Why do we let it drag us down & keep us from enjoying our day? Because we are either lazy or lack a good method to diminish or eliminate it. Perhaps even both! If we just made a few baby steps towards banishing clutter, we could add so much to our daily living! Getting rid of clutter will not only tidy up a space – it will enhance your life. Sound crazy? Think about it… if we weren’t trapped or crowded by disarray, we would spend less time picking up, searching for things and being generally confined by our chores. Instead, we would have added time to relax, enjoy family, play, and so much more!

Start at the door – Which door do you use the most? In our house we use the main entrance. As we walk in our front door we find a small rack that is installed onto the wall. It was an inexpensive purchase totaling less than $15. It’s perfect for keeping coats or backpacks from crowding the floor. A key rack would be great for some families as well – you’ll always know where they are when it’s time to lock up or take the car for a spin. Shoe racks are a great addition to an entry way as well – this not only serves the purpose of keeping your footwear tidy & in one location. It also reminds you to remove your shoes & keeps from tracking debris though your house. You can store out-of-season footwear in storage containers to cut down on the amount by your door.

De-junk your mail – Junk mail was a big issue in our house. Endless envelopes and papers found their way stacked up on counters, tables and desks. Not only is this a clutter problem, but it’s a waste problem as well! Stand next to your paper recycling bin and trash can when opening mail. This inhibits you from piling up more junk to clean later. Discard all advertisements, papers and mail that you do not need. File bills for payment. Keep only magazines that you intend to read (and when you’re done recycle them by way of passing them on to others or donating to church, doctors office, etc). Contact companies to remove yourself from mailing lists. Choose to opt-out of free mailings to conserve paper and eliminate your receipt of trash.

Clean up after each meal – Insist that items are put back in their proper location after meals. Clear the table. Place dishes in the dishwasher and wipe down the counters. Run the vacuum or sweep through the kitchen. This reduces what you will have to do later or in the morning. You will be more relaxed with the tidy state of the room.

Keep a box for donations, trash and sales – Go through items as you cross paths with them. While you’re folding laundry make note of the item’s size, color, wear. Does this fit anyone in the house? Is it’s color complementary? Is it too worn? Does it even get worn? Get rid of clothing items that don’t meet the criteria for needing to keep. As you are putting things away, do a “once over” to see if they are items that are no longer being used. While cleaning up toys, note if the toys are broken, get played with or are still age-appropriate. Any items in your house that don’t have a need, get rid of! Throw away items that have no use to anyone. Put items in an area for a garage sale. Donate items as well! Places like Goodwill, Salvation Army or local churches & organizations are happy to receive your donations!

Make a realization – Not everything of value is valuable. I realize this sounds contradictory, but it holds truth – I promise! Just because something is worth money or is attached to a memory, that does not mean it needs to be kept for all eternity. Be at peace with letting go. Realize how items may improve someone else’s life or how its value can add to a charitable cause. Take snapshots of items that are haunted with memories so that you can look back at them – old outfits, toys and more. If it’s not an heirloom and not adding an aspect of function or decoration to your house (and this does not mean in a “decorative pile” in your unused basement or storage closet) then you can part with it.

Teach your children – Contrary to popular believe, you should not be following your child with a trash can and broom! Teach your children to clean up after themselves. Assign chores. Ban playtime until all jobs are done. This will help add to the overall cleanliness of your living environment as well as get the whole family involved. Have young children? Don’t use the excuse that they are too young to keep them from helping! Even my two year old is learning to clean up with age-appropriate tasks. My four year old clears and wipes the table after meals and my toddler helps by carrying a few small things to the counter.

There are countless methods and lists to follow for clutter elimination. Chances are, even if you followed all of the lists around, there would still be some areas of clutter in your life! But it can’t hurt to take a few small steps to try and rid yourself of what you can & get back to just enjoying life!

Have useful tips? Share them here! I will choose one of my favorite tips & the winner will receive a FREE cotton t-shirt from Cotton Mamma just like the one seen here! I will choose the winner on Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008!

So, what are you waiting for?

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