Drum roll please....
I started taking sewing lessons.
My sewing machine really isn't that scary after all.
As I mentioned a couple posts ago, my sister-in-law is giving me sewing lessons and we started by making the rag bag project from the book Handmade Home. Basically, it's just a cute drawstring sack that you store your rags in. I just made one for the kitchen and I'm going to make another for the bathroom upstairs. Maybe it's weird, but putting something as mundane as a cleaning rag in a homemade, colorful bag helps change my attitude about cleaning. A little. Kind of how new dishtowels make doing the dishes a little nicer. I don't know why, but there you have it...
The project is fairly simple (except for the buttonhole part - we just improvised and it worked fine). It doesn't take much fabric, either - just a yard of material, plus some bias tape and embroidery floss. I would give the step by step on how to make it, but the author does such a better job. Just check out this link -- or the book, for that matter.
Ta-da! I sewed something and it actually resembles the finished product in the book! (the bow looks crooked because the bag is cinched - the bow is the end of the drawstring) I can feel the trauma and shame of my failed attempt at making a windsock in my seventh grade home ec. class lifting...
The other reason I'm mentioning the rag bag (besides highlighting my sewing baby step) is that I've been really thinking about having a completely paper-free home when it comes to cleaning. It started when I was in my son's pediatrician's office, reading a magazine. According to the article I read, just by eliminating paper towels, the average family could save anywhere from $100-$200 a year. Plus, I just read a post on Simple Mom about going paperless in your kitchen and I thought this was an concept worth sharing.
I'm sure people get tired of me always getting on the soapbox and talking about how beneficial it would be for us, especially in today's economy, to return to the way our grandmothers took care of their homes and how they fed their families. They managed without paper towels. The rag bag was a common thing in a household. Even as a kid, my mom mostly used dishtowels and rags for all the cleaning. I do the same in my house and after some transition, we're paper towel-free now. I haven't really missed them, either.
The key to making this work is to have a lot of rags at your disposal. I have a couple drawers in my kitchen full of them. This does mean a little extra laundry, but not a ridiculous amount. I have different rags and cloths that I use in each room. I know which ones are for the kitchen, which ones are for the bathroom (very important - even though I wash them in hot water with bleach, I still don't like the idea of cleaning the kitchen with rags I use in the bathroom. Ick.), and what ones I use for all the other various messes in my house.
We save the super-worn rags for the garage, for things like oil changes or painting jobs. Just this past weekend, I was going through some old clothes that have too many holes and stains in them even for the thrift store, so I just cut them up for cleaning and garage rags. Those can even just be used once - it gets at least one more use before it ends up in the trash. I was going to make a cute rag bag for the garage, but I made a sack (so easy to do - how-to here) out of my husband's accidentally-bleached Pink Floyd t-shirt instead. Got to keep things manly in there.
There's really no single, magic bullet to saving money and making your life frugal - it's all about making little adjustments here and there that eventually add up. Going paper-free in your cleaning is just one of those adjustments.