The Unexpected Benefits of Doing Dishes

Woman by the kitchen sinkA friend of mine shared that her dishwasher had broken down, and it would be some time before a new one could be bought. She sighed over the thought of one more thing to do in her already busy schedule, but she knew her family could pitch in, and it wouldn’t be that long before they could save for a new one.

Now my friend has four boys who are always running in different directions, but when the boys started doing dishes in pairs, she noticed something change. As one washed and the other dried, they talked to each other. She overheard real conversations and playful teasing not the bickering or disinterest that usually filled their time. What was happening? Was washing dishes magic? Possibly.

Agatha Christie once said, “The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.”

What is it about doing dishes or other basic home-keeping tasks that grounds us and recharges us, even opens our minds to creativity? Is it the warm water, the repetitive nature of the task, the chance to let our minds wander wherever they want? I’m not sure, but there is something to it.

Okay, my virtual ears are buzzing. Some of you are thinking but I hate doing dishes, or scrubbing my floors, or hanging out my laundry. (I’m with you on the last one. There is no substitute for a dryer in winter!)

So, take a leap with me. For 15 minutes, give yourself over to some simple household task. You could

  • wipe your kitchen counters
  • clean your bathroom mirror and sink
  • sweep your front porch
  • or maybe even do your dishes.

As you do this task, let yourself be present in the moment. Let your mind relax and enjoy the sense of accomplishment when you finish.  You might be surprised at the good things that come from this little break in your day.

* Thanks to Lynn Blackburn’s blog Out of the Boat for the Agatha Christie quote. You can check out Lynn’s other great quotes for writer’s at Out of the Boat Writer’s Quotes.

Simplicity Tip of the Day: Take pleasure in your home. Straighten a bookshelf. Dust a corner. Put a cuddly blanket on the back of your couch. Do one thing today to bring you pleasure where you live.

Posted in Kitchen Tips, Simple Living | Tagged , | 12 Comments

Couponing for the Rest of Us

Extreme couponing? Not for me. When it comes to grocery shopping, most of our foods are from the produce section, and I’ve never seen a coupon for 2 for 1 celery stalks. (Oh, to see the day!) I do, however, use coupons for certain items like books, craft supplies, and office products. So, what to do? Getting a paper, creating a coupon notebook, and traveling to 5 stores for discounts seemed like a waste—too much time and money for too little return—but I still wanted to save.

Thus began these lean, but not extreme, couponing methods:

Use Your Phone – You can sign up for coupons from your favorite stores via email or text. If you have email on a smartphone, create a Coupons folder within your email. Put all coupons within that folder. No need to print out the coupon then throw it away if you don’t use it. Cashiers can scan the barcode right off your phone, or you can read them the discount code. Added benefits:  You may find you’re less likely to buy something you don’t need with a virtual coupon. Periodically you can delete the emails with expired coupons knowing another one will be in your mailbox soon. Also, you’ll always have your coupons. Most people don’t leave home without their cell phones

Receive Coupons from Your Newspaper for Free—Newspapers make their money from advertisers. The higher a paper’s circulation, the more it can charge for an ad. To increase circulation numbers, some newspapers have started delivering their Sunday coupon sections for free. Check with your local newspaper to learn if they have a similar program.  Your coupon use may not justify buying a paper, but it may be worth your time to review the circulars. Added benefits: Weekly sales for local grocery stores are frequently included. If a group of sales are good enough, you can change you buy groceries for that week.

Get Credit Card Benefits—Okay Dave Ramsey fans, don’t hurt me. If you don’t have a credit card, there’s no need to get one for this. However, if you do already have one, does it have benefits you use? My credit card gives me gift cards for spending a certain amount. This is money I would spend anyway. (It’s part of my budget.) The gift card is a bonus. Added benefits: You can use your gift cards to control impulse shopping. I love books and could easily spend too much on them. Unless I need a book for my business, I don’t purchase new ones without a gift card. No gift card=no spending.  Also, the extra gift cards make great gifts.

Consider the Balance—All methods to increase your wealth come down to two things: make more or spend less. If you are spending a lot of time trying to save money, consider if your time could be better spent on activities that increase your income. How you determine that balance is up to you.

How do you coupon? Do you go to extremes or keep it simple? Besides saving money, what other benefits have you found in your way of couponing?

Practical Living Tip of the Day:  Other people’s ideas for how to do something are just that—their ideas. Consider them. Tweak them. Use them or lose them, but do what works best for you.

Posted in Organizing and De-Cluttering, Practically Done | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

A Fall Cleaning Comeback

I’ve been on a break for quite a while, but fall has a way of rejuvenating me. Practical Light Living will be back on its regular schedule beginning next Friday, October 5th. In the meantime, as I clean out my writing cobwebs, I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite home cleaning supplies.

My husband has a habit of going overboard in cleaning. Not a bad problem to have, but traditional cleaning products aggravate my allergies. Once when I entered the kitchen after one of his cleaning marathons, my eyes teared up and I couldn’t stop sneezing. This had to stop—not the cleaning, just the sneezing. So began my search for a better way to clean, and here are the results—two simple, easy-to-make, recipes that are good for cleaning and good for you.

Lavendar Mist
This general, hard-surface cleaner is great for kitchen countertops, wiping down appliances (not stainless steel), tables, bathroom counters, etc. This also works well to spot-clean spills on tile and linoleum floors. Basically, this is our go-to-cleaner for hard surfaces.


10 drops lavender essential oil
10 drops grapefruit extract essential oil
16 oz of water

Pour half of the water into the spray bottle. Add lavender and grapefruit extract essential oils. Mix well. Add remaining water. Secure spray nozzle on bottle and shake well.

Manicure Worthy Tub Scrub
This simple tub scrub with shine your faucets, clean soap scum, and polish the sink. I have one in each bathroom and another for the kitchen. Best part—no need for gloves. Baking soda beautifully softens hands.


20 drops lavender essential oil
1 to 1½ c baking soda

Put the baking soda in a pint-sized mason jar. Poke holes in the baking soda with a straw, knife, or kebob skewer. Drop lavender essential oil into the holes, put a lid on the Mason jar, and shake.

You can tap holes in a mason jar lid to make a shaker. I prefer getting Parmesan cheese shakers from The Dollar Store. To retain the strongest scent, keep this sealed when not in use. For mason jars, just add a lid on top of the one with holes and place the band over both of them. For the Parmesan cheese shaker, a small plastic sandwich bag held down with a rubber band works well. Note: Baking soda can leave a residue on surfaces. Be sure to rinse well or use vinegar to clear all deposits.

That’s it—two super easy, wonderfully effective cleaners. And did I mention they’re cost effective? A ½ oz bottle of lavender costs less than $10. Mine lasted more than 2 years even though I use it for multiple cleaning recipes. The grapefruit extract costs even less.

Practical Living Tip of the Day:  Modern products aren’t always improvements. We may not be able to have our cake and eat it, too, but we can clean up the crumbs with healthy, budget-friendly solutions.


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You’ve Got Mail – A Frugal Christmas Fundraiser

The Christmas season is officially here, and charitable groups are seeking donations. While there are many worthwhile causes we may want to support, eventually we reach our budget’s limit. If you are trying to raise funds for a cause, this can be a frustrating obstacle. But what if there was a way to help people donate to a charity, get something they truly need, and not spend a penny more than they have already budgeted for their Christmas festivities?

If you’re involved with a church teen or kids group, here is a frugal holiday fundraiser that will do exactly that—raise money for your group and not increase your donors’ holiday spending.

The Christmas Post Office  – Church youth and kids groups can raise money by creating a post office for Christmas cards. Donors bring their Christmas cards for other church members to the kids’ “post office.” The kids collect the cards and then distribute them to the church members. Whatever postage would be paid for the letters is donated to the kids’ post office.

To keep things simple, cards can be sorted alphabetically in a portable hanging file box. In a small church, the kids can easily find the members. (This is also a great way for the youth and adults to get to know each other.) In a large church, a whiteboard or chalkboard can be hung with the names of members who have mail to collect at the “post office.”

To get the most benefit, make sure the kids are actively involved. Don’t simply have the adults do all the work. Kids have great ideas and enthusiasm and will appreciate the money more if they have a hand in raising it.

Do you have ideas for a frugal fundraiser, one that raises money for your group and gives the donors a true benefit? We’d love to hear your ideas and comments below.

Practical Tip of the Day: It’s easy for kids to ask for money, but their projects will mean more if they learn how to earn it.

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A Modern Work Frolic – The Christmas Card Party

A few years back, I noticed that every ladies gathering I attended involved a sales pitch, a gift purchase, or an expensive meal. Although I loved visiting with my female friends, I wanted to find a better way to get together, and the Christmas Card Party was born.

Here’s how it works: Before the holiday rush begins, ladies gather to address their Christmas cards and share a potluck meal. (Think Amish work frolic. We get a task accomplished and enjoy fellowship with friends at the same time.) Each person brings her holiday cards, pens, address list, and a dish to share. As hostess, I like to make a pot of soup and a batch of mulled apple cider. Then, we turn on some Christmas music and enjoy an evening of work and fun. By the end of the night, we’ve shared in each other’s lives and gotten a big holiday task completed.

To help add a festive touch to your gathering, here are a few links for great holiday drinks:

So, how do you combine work and play? Share your favorite ideas for accomplishing holiday to do’s in fun ways.

Simplicity Tip of the Day– To make the most of your day, turn your work into play.

Enjoy your week and have a great Thanksgiving from Practical Light Living!

Posted in Just for Fun, Relationships | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

On Second Thought – New Uses for Common Household Items

I’m a bit of a rebel. Maybe you are, too? When everything we see tells us to buy, buy, BUY, we can take impish delight in creatively using what we already have. Below are some tips for using common household items in new ways:

Pillowcase Fan Blade Cleaners – It can be tough to clean ceiling fans without re-depositing that dust all over our rooms. An old pillowcase will not only remove the dust but also keep it from falling on us. Simply wrap the pillowcase around a blade and slide the dust off. When finished with the fan, take the pillowcase outside and shake out any large particles. After a run through the wash, it’s ready for the next cleaning. There’s no used product for us to throw in the trash, and the dust is out of our homes.

Window Blind Card Holders – Years ago someone recommended keeping a folder of notes, emails, and cards to be an encouragement an on low days. This week I learned an improvement to this method – putting cards on window blinds where they can be seen.  Simply hang the cards between the slats, and we can easily see and read our greetings. With the holidays approaching this is also a great way to display Christmas cards or other seasonal greetings. (To read a great post on the value of handwritten notes and see where I got this tip, check out Heirlooms Come in Hard Copy on the new Christian Communicators website.)

Paperclip bookmarks – Clip together the last 5-10 pages you’ve read with a large paperclip. When you open your book, the clip is always on your left and you are ready to continue reading. Bonus- paperclips never accidentally fall out. Plastic coated clips work well without leaving marks, and a short ribbon can be added to easily see your spot.

Plastic Bowl Greenhouses – Home improvement stores sell a variety of seed starter kits with clear covers and black plastic bases, but we can get free versions by collecting large plastic containers (16 or more ounces) from sour cream, yogurt, whipped cream, and other products. Poke a few holes in the bottom of the container, add a coffee filter to keep soil from leaking out the holes, and fill with soil. Once the seeds are planted and watered, cover the container. If it came with a clear lid, use that. Otherwise, cut off a soda bottle that matches the size of your bowl, and voila – a free seed starter kit. FYI – use extra lids or a tray to catch any excess water from the holes in your bowl.

For more tips on using or re-using household items, check out:

RecycleThis – a UK blog on how to re-use or recycle all kinds of items. Readers can submit questions about what they are trying to re-use.

FreeCycle – a non-profit organization who’s website helps connect people looking for and willing to give away free items. Website is organized by city.

So, how do you use things around your home in unexpected ways?

Simplicity Tip of the Day:  Consider the wisdom of this motto our grandparents knew by heart – Use it up. Wear it out. Make do or do without.

Posted in Organizing and De-Cluttering | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Grandma’s Tools – Treasuring Our Inheritance

Part of the reason we choose to live practically and light is to free us from the burden of things and release us to the richness of relationships.

Years ago when my grandmother passed away, I inherited many beautiful things that I enjoy to this day. However, I also was given items I knew I would never use. For a long time I kept these pieces, and they plagued me.

I felt guilt over not receiving them with joy. I worried what my mother would think if she learned I no longer had them. (Would she notice? Would she ask?) And wasn’t I being wasteful by not using these perfectly functional pieces? They became a weight to my spirit, and they clouded the memories of my grandmother.

Eventually, I gave away what I wouldn’t use. Part of me felt relief and part still felt guilty. My actions seemed like a betrayal of my grandmother, but then a wonderful thing happened. I began using her crochet hooks.

My grandmother did beautiful work with a crochet hook—doilies, blankets, baby clothes, intricate tablecloths. She was amazing, and as I began to use her tools, I began to think about her differently. I remembered the times she worked the same design. I remembered the joy she had in giving to me the same style blanket that I would now make and give to someone else. My guilt vanished and a new connection to my grandmother emerged.

If you’re dealing with loss, or know someone who is, and the burden of things seems to be overshadowing the relationship, consider these steps:

  1. Keep the items you truly love.
  2. Keep one or two items you may not use but are unique to your loved one. (We have a violin form used by my husband’s grandfather. We’ll never use the form to make a violin, but it is a fascinating reminder of who his grandfather was.)
  3. Look for a tool you can use that reminds you of your loved one. Did she like to cook? Keep her monster mixing spoon or her whisk. Did he like to work on cars? Keep his wrench set or his tire pressure gauge. Find something you can use and keep it. Every time you use it, you’ll feel a connection.
  4. Finally, know your loved one wouldn’t want to weigh you down. People who truly love us want only what is best for us. They wouldn’t want us to keep a lot of things we can’t use. Give the other pieces away to charity and enjoy the treasures you have.

Do you have some tips for dealing with loss and the burden of things? How have you coped? What did you decide to keep and why?

Practical Living Tip of the Day–Keep family traditions alive or rediscover them by learning the skills of your ancestors.

Posted in Relationships | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments