Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Egg Cartons, Part 2

Suddenly the purpose of this blog is coming into focus!! Remember my little post about reusing egg cartons a few weeks back? (Of course you do!) I lamented the fact that the 'good' eggs (hee, hee) came in non-recyclable packaging. But get this: I just learned from a recycling specialist at the county that they are recyclable!! This blows my mind in two ways, one humbling, one mildly irritating. First, I used to work for the county's recycling program as one of their recycling educators, so, my job was to educate people on what could be recycled, what couldn't, whatever. And while I worked there (I left that job a mere 18 months ago) our mantra was you can recycle plastics with a #1 or #2 on the bottom, but only if they were bottles. #1s and #2s. Bottles. Got it. No other shaped things, no yogurt cups, no toys, only bottles. And now I learn that things have changed and I didn't know. That's the humbling part. Second, the irritating part. This has nothing to do with the county, by the way, I have nothing but love and respect for the women who work in the recycling department at the county, seriously some of the finest women I have ever had the honor of knowing. They do a great job handling an ever-changing landscape of recycling rules. My irritation lies with the plastic industry and the plastic recycling industry. First, why the numbers with the recycling symbol on the bottom of all plastics, when only #1s and #2s can be recycled? This only confuses people. People who mean well. People who want to recycle. People who feel it is their civic duty. Second, why the different rules in different places about recycling plastics? I know the answer, it has to do with markets for recyclable materials and collection processes, but, again, hello!!! Different recycling rules in Waukesha County vs. Jefferson County vs. Dane County only causes confusion among, once again, those people who really do want to recycle, and want to recycle correctly. This was a source of irritation when I worked as a recycling educator and it still bugs me. Get it together plastic recycling companies!! Make it easy, simple, no brainer-ish for people to recycle and recycling rates will go up. Aluminum, steel, paper... easy! Now, we just need to get the plastic recyclers to heed the memo.

Apparently I am a bit worked up this morning. The simple message you really need here is this: at this point in time you can recycle any plastic item that has a #1 on the bottom. So, egg cartons, bottles, oddly shaped thing-a-ma-jigs, whatever, so long as it has a #1 on the bottom. But, until later notice, you can only recycle a #2 that is a bottle, as in the neck is smaller than the body. #1 - anything. #2 - bottles only. Oh yeah, and all those other plastic numbers (3,4,5,6,7) still do not belong in your recycling bin. Just don't talk to your friends in Lake Mills about it, because their system is totally different. Wait, did I say simple message?

Monday, February 25, 2008

The T.V. Should it Stay or Should it Go?

In early December, halfway through an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, I announced to my husband that I would watch the rest of the show, but then I would be turning off the tv for good. I told him he, of course, could continue to indulge in a bit of tv goodness now and then, but me and tv were done. What caused the break-up? Was it just the fact that I couldn’t stand to watch Meredith and Derek go through yet another hard time? While that has caused me irrational sadness in my heart (They’re perfect together! Beautiful people! Smarts! Doctors! Why can’t they figure a simple thing like a relationship out? How hard is this?!!!), the real reason behind the break up was two-fold. First, the ads had begun to cause me actual, feel-able nausea. I couldn’t take another cell phone ad or Macy’s ad or Target jingle. We don’t have TiVo, so the commercials just came with the package. Second, I didn’t like the ability the tv had of sucking me in for an entire evening of pointless entertainment. It was the brink of winter and I knew if I didn’t pull the plug, I would succumb to the usual winter pattern of sitting down to ‘just watch one show’ and find myself still watching a couple hours later. This despite the fact that I only actually liked two shows, the Office and Grey’s. (Jill has told me that this whole turning off the tv thing is awfully convenient what with the Writer’s Strike and all. She may have a point.)

So, that brings me to today. Last night I tuned into the Oscars for a bit, mostly to see if "Juno" got the props it deserved (it didn't), but that was the first time I had turned on the tv since the big shut off in December. I also wanted to see if, by turning off the tv, I was missing something. As it turns out, I really don’t miss it and after last night's lapse I feel even stronger about my tv blackout. I like my evenings full of reading or knitting or, gasp, talking with my husband. Which begs the question, should the tv stay or should it go? Our tv is a little 13-inch thing that my parents used to have in their motor home. It was a side-grade from our black and white tv. I say side-grade because it wasn’t exactly an upgrade (the black and white had better reception, though you had to tune in channels with a needle nose pliers) and it wasn’t really a downgrade (after all, this tv has a remote, so we can quickly and easily surf the 3 channels we get in our cable-less house). It’s not like the tv takes up a lot of space, but, still, a cubic foot of space in a small house is nothing to dismiss. So, I ask you, fellow purgers, if a tv isn’t being watched, does it still deserve a space in my house?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Host a Book Swap

Are books breeding on your bookshelves and bedside table? With so many good books to read and inexpensive second-hand options, our household seems to attract books with magnetic force. A few years ago, I made a rule that we could only own as many books as would fit on our shelves.  The selection process is difficult-what gets to stay, what must go. Since I tend not to re-read novels, most of them go. I do keep a few if they are likely ones I want to share with friends or family or if they simply make me happy by glancing at the title on the binding as I walk by (book lovers know what I mean). I realize this last rule is cheating. I also keep reference books that we use over and over. My daughter thinks it is silly to even own a dictionary with the internet, but I still like snuggling up on the couch with my gardening books in February in a way that my laptop just can't replace. This past year, we added two shelves and still the books are spilling across the bedroom floors. 

Time to purge. I know for many avid readers, this advice will be on par with tooth extraction, but think of all the new "yet-to-be-read" books that you will be making room to invite in! In addition, if you love a book, share with others! Here are a few ideas for your books:

1. Host a book swap party. A group of women friends and I do this each year. We pile all our books on a table and take home whatever looks good (not a 1-for-1 trade necessarily). It is like Half-Price-Books with live book reviews! We donate what is left to charity. 

2. Host a children's book swap. We do this at my children's school. The kids bring in books to donate ahead of time and the moms organize them by reading level and genre. The kids can then come by class to choose as many books as they brought in. We make sure that we have enough so that every child gets at least one, even if they didn't bring on in. It is wonderful to see their eyes light up at the surprise of getting a free book for summer reading. The teachers get to take any leftovers for the classroom, which is especially nice for new teachers who are building up their library. If you have 4-6th grade books to donate, we are always in need of these for the swap since most families donate books their kids have outgrown. Contact Hartland North Elementary at

3. Donate your children's books to an organization that gets them in the hands of children. Children's hospitals often give books to children who are hospitalized or can use them for their playrooms or waiting rooms. Our local library has a summer reading incentive program where books are given as prizes. Daycares or homeless shelters are other options.

4. Consider sharing a book through Book Crossing. This hobby shares books by leaving ("releasing") an internet registered book in a public place for someone to find. The finder can then let the placer know it was found online, read it, and leave it for another lucky finder. Check out

5.  Swap your magazines. Hartland public library has a magazine swap shelf. We also do this at our church. Consider starting a swap in your community. 

Share your ideas for local book/magazine swaps, donations and sharing on this blog. 

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Have your read this book?

On the way to work this AM, I heard part of an interview with author David Wann (also of Affluenza) on his book Simple Prosperity: Finding Real Wealth in a Sustainable Lifestyle. I really liked what he had to say about the fact that living a more sustainable lifestyle can give us MORE time, MORE meaning, MORE connections in our community. This concept was one of the ideals for this blog. So often our culture seems to be stuck on the 1970's idea that being eco-friendly means doing without or sacrifice. 

 You can listen to the interview at

This book and others by the same author are available through the Waukesha County Library system so you can enjoy in a sustainable way!

Clothes Purge

I once had a roommate who had the perfect clothes closet. I don't mean a walk-in or California closet. I mean what was in it. She had only 20 or so items of clothing. When I asked her how she did this, she replied, "I love everything in it and most of it goes together, I never have to think about what to wear". She was right-I loved (and borrowed) everything in it too! She didn't keep (or buy) clothes she wasn't going to feel good in on a day to day basis. My closet if far from this. I have clothes that no longer fit, that don't really go with anything, that just don't feel like me, etc. 

I have a tendency to hang on to clothes for all sorts of reasons. There are the pair of "skinny jeans", you know the ones that represent hope and possibility. No one should purge those! There are also clothes that have memories (like that itchy bulky sweater I bought in college) that really should go. When it comes to kids, the thrifty and environmental choice can be to hold on to clothes to hand down to the younger siblings. I buy unisex snow boots, rain jackets and other gear for that reason. However, I did learn my lesson that hanging on to too much stuff can also be wasteful. I have two daughters, 7 years apart. I saved all the older one's baby clothes out of nostalgia and thrift. When the younger one was born, I was shocked to open those boxes and see that baby clothes really do go out of style and I didn't like a lot of what was in there. For seven years I was hostess to these boxes when those clothes could have served several other babies while the styles were still cute and in good shape. Now I try to pass clothes on to someone who can use them right away and find other's second hand clothes for the kids.

Here is a closet purge idea I recently heard about that you can try. Hang all your clothes backwards on their hangers. As you wear them, turn them around. By the end of the season, whatever you haven't worn goes. See our links for local donation options or make some extra cash by taking them to a consignment store. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Day 10 - Crafty Reuse

It's a grocery store dilemma. Buy the conventional, caged-hen, bummer eggs in an easily recyclable paperboard egg carton or buy the organic, free-range, fabulous eggs in the non-recyclable plastic carton. Why do they do this to us? Don't the egg people know that the people who buy organic eggs are most likely also going to care about the eco-friendly-ness of the packaging? Come on people!! I used to not have to concern myself with such issues as I had Val and Betty, two lovely hens who laid packaging-free eggs right in my backyard. But Betty, sadly, went to chicken heaven and Val, to cure her lonesome-ness, went to live with her chicken friends Tulip and Iris at Kris' house. So now I have to deal with my egg and egg carton issues in the grocery store each week (or become a vegan or get more chicken pets).

Luckily, the plastic egg cartons are sort of like the Pringles container. So many reuse possibilities!! This carton begged to become a jewelry kit for a little girl. The inside of the lid can be decorated with fun paper (which doesn't show up too well in the photo) and the double carton on the inside folds out to become little cups for beads and string, plus extra empty cups for sorting beads in the jewelry-making process. Personally, I think this would make a very fun gift for a kid. Decorate it, fill it with beads of the kid's favorite color and tie it up with a bow. Let the fun begin! (I'm still searching for the perfect egg supplier though. Organic, free-range, local, and packaged in paperboard. Anyone know where I can find this?)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Day 9 - Crafty Reuse

This project took a bit longer than expected (maybe because I spent a large portion of my weekend at my nephew's basketball tournament), hence the three days of no crafty reuse post. I saw this idea on Ali Edwards' blog, which is oh so fabulous and if you have any interest in scrapbooking you should check it out, she is so hip and has great ideas. Every Friday she does a Weekend Creative thing where she posts a sort of homework assignment to get your creativity flowing. Anyway, last Friday she posted this great idea of using a punch to see how different types of paper look and lay out together. She mentioned using junk mail as one of her paper sources and I was hooked and wanted to try out the idea. So, while I don't own a butterfly punch (and wasn't going to buy one as this month is all about purging, not buying!), I made a little template out of paper and spent some time cutting out little butterflies out of all sorts of scrap paper, from old maps, junk mail, magazines, out-dated promos for concerts, sheet music and lots and lots of scraps of scrapbooking paper (a great way to use up odd size scraps). Then I took an old frame, gave it a coat of paint, cut some new mats and voila! A fun piece of art work for the baby's room, made just from scraps of paper. Cheap, cool art with a reuse theme.

Freecycle it!

Do we ever outgrow the excitement of getting something for nothing? If you are like me and still have a bit of that college-age mentality, it is time to try Freecycle (see link). Freecycle is a listserve where people can exchange their no-longer-needed treasures for FREE! You can sign up for a Waukesha County specific list, so you don't have to travel far to pick up your winnings. We have gotten a Nordic track, chalkboard paint and fabric, all for free! Such simple fun. 

Oh wait, we are not supposed to be accumulating more stuff this month, even if it is with the nobel intention of keeping it out of someone else's garbage. Freecycle is also a wonderful way to find a new home for what you are purging this month, especially those items that cannot be donated elsewhere. We cleared out some yarn to a woman knitting for charity, found a boy scout troupe who could use an old trailer and passed along crib bedding to a new mom. Now, when we have something we don't know what to do with, my husband and I say, "Freecycle it!". It is great fun to purge stuff when you know it is going directly to someone who wants it. We're still looking for someone who might be in need of a very large flagpole-let us know if we can make your day!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Use It Or Lose It!

My personal purging challenge for February is to begin by using and enjoying all that I have. Before I can decide what needs to go, I need to discover what I own and give some thought to whether or not it enriches my life enough to justify the space it takes up in my house. I am hoping that all this play will make it clear what to purge.

I am not universally opposed to "stuff". I am not sure it is always environmentally better to own less of it. A lot of the stuff I own has been handed down to me, therefore its stay at my house is part of its journey in the cycle of reuse. Much of the junk I squirrel away on the basement craft shelves have allowed my kids to create some pretty cool dioramas and school projects without an outing to the store. The excess number of coats in our closet does serve to allow my family to enjoy the Wisconsin outdoors in any weather. 

However, I don't think we are unlike many American families in that we seem to keep accumulating more and more stuff. Holidays, birthdays and grandparents keep the flow coming in faster than I can figure out where to put it all. I find that I spend more time organizing and managing this stuff than I do actually using it! I dream of a more simple and harmonious relationship with my possessions. 

Part of my motivation to pare down my stuff is that I would like to better use the space that we have. A recent home remodel has opened up new space in our basement. It seems wasteful to use it only for storage. I am hoping to make room to start my garden seeds indoors, for my husband to have a corner for his homebrewing hobby and a spot for the kids crafts and projects. 

Our "use it or lose it" challenge began on a recent snow day when the kids and I headed for the basement to dig out crafts and games that hadn't been played with for awhile. Out came the Easy Bake Oven, a dream-catcher kit and the remote control flying saucer. It was like Christmas all over again! We realized that the ant farm had been sitting on the shelf for three years waiting for me to order another batch of ants. It is time to either get the ants for set it aside for the garage sale box. I began to mentally sort through everything in my house. Stuff that is used and enjoyed...Good. Stuff that lives in my house only to gobble up space and utilities...Bad. It is time for all this stored stuff to start earning its keep. Is there a reason I still have my Duran Duran albums from high school? If we haven't attempted the 3-D puzzle of Notre Dame after 5 years, is it likely we ever will? Can I find a loving home for these items other than a landfill? The next time I am in a store, will I stop to think about how likely my pending purchase will be in next year's purge pile? 

Friday, February 8, 2008

Day 8 - Crafty Reuse

Ah, Pringles. Tasty chips inside a perfect "meant to be disposable, but oh the possibilities of reuse" container. Sadly, chips of any sort rarely make an appearance at our house due to my husband's view that they are bad for us. (What? Chips? Bad for us? Crazy talk.) As luck would have it I have a sister who is allowed to have chips in the house and at her house I tend to gorge myself on chips and then ask if I can have the container. Anyway, today's crafty reuse involves old Pringles containers and juice lids (the ones from cans of juice concentrate), which happen to fit perfectly inside the Pringles container (spooky, really). Two games came from these humble materials. On the right we have a simple game of memory, where I once again reached for the Mod Podge and decoupaged little magazine images on to one side of each lid, making sure there were two of each image. It's amazingly easy to find matching photos in magazines if you happen to get two magazines of the same genre (like decorating or gardening magazines) they will often have the same ads in both for that month. On the left we have a little word game, where each lid has a sticker letter stuck to it and kids can mess around with spelling little words. In both cases I covered the Pringles container with scrapbooking paper.

A little side story here. Last fall I was at my chip-loving sister's house and with an empty Pringles container on our hands, my nephews and I made noisemakers for the Wisconsin vs. Illinois football game by filling the container with coins and pebbles (not a terribly pretty noise, but it worked, in that it made noise). My youngest nephew, who was two at the time kept bringing the noisemaker to me and asking for a chip, despite the fact that we had covered the outside with decorated paper, it still had the unique shape of a Pringles container. I had to explain several times that all the chips were gone and that there were just rocks inside, much to his (and my) disappointment. When my dad came over to watch the game, my nephew took it upon himself to break the sad news to his grandpa by bringing the noisemaker to him and saying "no chips, no chips" with a very sad look on his face. So, the lesson here is, only tackle these Pringles projects if your kids can handle the heartache of opening the can and finding, not chips, but juice lids.

Where to take donations

My first load of purged items is ready to be taken to their next destination, so where should I go with what? Here are my go-to places for taking donations:

Lake Country Caring
603 Progress Dr., Hartland
Donation Hours: 9:30 – 11:30 Monday through Saturday
What they will accept: Almost anything that isn’t food. Household goods, furniture, clothing and kids gear are all needed. Computers are NOT accepted unless you have a complete, working system (see the bottom of this post for where to go with computers).

This amazing little organization is completely volunteer run (I also volunteer there, so I may be a bit biased about how awesome it is) and helps people who are truly in need. I like to explain it as a Goodwill where no one has to pay. Clients who come to Lake Country Caring in need of clothes, household items or furniture fill out an application and then they can visit LCC three times a month and never pay a cent. Personally, I think this is a great system, people can donate items and know that they are going directly into the hands of others who really need them and know that they won’t be charged for them.

St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store
W369 N5848 Brown St. Oconomowoc, WI 53066

(262) 569-0761
Donation Hours: M-F 10:00 - 5:30; Saturday 10:00 - 3:30
What they will accept: click here for a link to a pdf

As someone who prefers to buy used rather than new, having a St. Vincent de Paul resale shop come out to Lake Country was fabulous. Like other St. Vincent de Pauls they accept donations of clothing, supplies and furniture. Check out the link above to see a complete list of what they will and won’t accept.

Habitat for Humanity HomeStore (ReStore)
222 W. St. Paul Ave. 
Waukesha, WI 53188
Donation Hours: Call ahead to make an appointment
What they will accept: used or new building materials, check out their website for a list

While not in Lake Country, this is the closest ReStore we have… and ReStores are so, so cool (about half our house was remodeled with items from the Madison ReStore). The Waukesha ReStore is not open for shopping yet, but they are accepting donations of new or used (but usable) building materials. This is the perfect place to donate items left over from your latest remodeling project or items you have cleaned out of your workshop during our purge challenge. A complete list of what they will accept can be seen here. Make sure you call ahead before you bring items to donate so that you know someone wil be there to accept your donations.

U'SAgain Drop Boxes
Various Locations
Donation Hours: anytime
What they will accept: used clothes, shoes, textiles

When I have clothes or other textiles to donate I separate them into two piles, one pile of good, quality clothes, sheets or towels to bring to Lake Country Caring and then a second pile of items that are ripped, worn, dirty, stained or totally outdated which I bring to my nearest U'SAgain box. The beauty of U'SAgain is that it accepts items of lesser quality and it makes sure these items get recycled into other products. Items that one would typically think that no one could use U'SAgain has the connections to get the items to a place that will recycle them. Unfortunatley their website doesn’t have a list of all the drop-off boxes in the area, and the only one I can think of off the top of my head is the one at Health and Happiness in Hartland at 230 Pawling Ave. Does anyone else know of other U'SAgain boxes in the area?

We will add more donation places over the next couple weeks, so if you know of a place that you think we should highlight, leave a comment for us on this page. Until then, two last links for today: If you have a computer that you need to recycle, check out this link on the Waukesha County Recycling website. It has a list of all the places you can bring your old computer. And if you have an odd item that you don't know what to do with check out the "Where Do I Go With?" page on the Waukesha County Recycling website.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Day 7 - Crafty Reuse

I'm a sucker for clipping things out of magazines, so as a result I have binders and binders full of ideas. The binders were all in varying stages of decay: ripped covers, questionable binding, years of doodling on the front (clearly a sign of my rapt attention in college lectures). So today I gave them a makeover in two stages. First I covered all of them in matching fabric to make them look at least somewhat set-like (and to cover the aforementioned shabby covers and spines). Then I made labels for the binders out of bobby pins and bottle caps (I have dozens of both... the bottle cap collection is a given in Wisconsin, the bobby pin collection I can't quite explain since I haven't used a bobby pin since my high school prom). I secured the bottle caps to the pins with little glue dots and then put a picture inside the bottle cap to depict the subject of the binder. The bobby pins (why are they called 'bobby' pins?) then slide right on to the fabric covers. While not exactly Pottery Barn-esque, they look much better than before and I was able to salvage, rather than toss, several binders that were much past their prime.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Day 6 - Crafty Reuse

Snow Day! A perfect day to tackle a bigger project. These old boxes were my father-in-law's. He used them to store his oil paints, so the insides were really icky and gummy (note the before picture). I had always wanted to transform them into cool art supply boxes, but was continually discouraged by the total disgusting-ness of the interior. So, today, armed with Mod Podge, glue, and wallpaper scraps (Holly Hobbie from the 70's, how fun) I finally did the transformation. Everything in the box is an example of reuse: the metal magnet board in back is from an old computer monitor, the tins are (obviously) old Altoid tins, the little boxes next to the magnet board are empty match boxes (which slide out to hold little treasures), and the wallpaper scraps are left over from the creation of my dollhouse when I was a kid (pack rat, anyone?).

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Day 5 - Crafty Reuse

My father-in-law once said something that has become permanently lodged in my brain. He said that items should never have to be stored, that everything you own should be out and used and accessible. This idea is, of course, a bit out there, especially in a climate where keeping your snow boots out in summer and your beach toys out in winter doesn't make sense. But there is a bit of clear, pure truth in the statement. If you live in a small house, as we do, then having a designated storage room is basically robbing yourself of living space. And there is the dirty part to it as well, that if we own so much stuff that we don't use it all, that we have to find places to store it, well, perhaps we simply have too much stuff. Stuff, after all, comes from somewhere. So, today's little crafty reuse (actually, there wasn't much 'craft' involved) stems from the idea that if you own it, use it, and if you can think of more then one use for something then all the better.

My Scrabble reuse #1 is my favorite way to make place cards at the table, especially when there are kids around. The classic little wood tiles look cool and they are fun for the kids to rearrange and play with (you know, instead of actually eating their meal). Simple, fun, reusable.

Scrabble reuse #2 came to be for two reasons. One, I appear to be mouse-challenged as my mouse always ends up falling off of normal sized mouse pads. Two, normal mouse pads sometimes creep me out... what, exactly, are they made of? Some weird sort of foam/plastic composite that seems like it would have been toxic to make and will never break down (this is complete speculation, I have no idea what really goes into the making of a mouse pad, for all I know they are made from trees). Anyway, I started using the Scrabble game board as my mouse pad and it is heaven. No more falling off the edges of the pad. My mouse is free to roam far and wide. And I can play word games in my head while I work.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Day 4 - Crafty Reuse

I know, I know, I'm cheating by posting two Crafty Reuse items on one day, but, alas, yesterday slipped away from me without a post. So, you get two today! This project has been in my brain for a really, really long time. Years ago my mother-in-law (one of my craft and sewing heroes) made a blanket for me out of old sweaters that she had attached together with crochet between each of the squares. It is, hands down, the cuddliest blanket ever... stretchy and warm and soft and fun. However, my cats love it, too, especially to burrow under so there are now holes in the crocheted part where their little noses have poked through (I have never stopped this activity as it is too cute to watch them under the blanket, nosing around like a blanket alien, snorting all the while). Anyway, I have been saving sweaters to make a similar blanket for the baby's room and have finally tackled the project. It turned out better then I had expected and so, so soft as many of the sweaters were cashmere. There are many places on the internet to find basic instructions on how to make one, but really it is an extremely easy project. Just felt the sweaters, cut out squares and sew 'em together. A Friend to Knit With has an example on her blog, as does Danny Seo (a very cool green site... if you haven't checked out his blog you should). I followed the instructions in Alterknits, a fun knitting book. My blanket in the photo above is hanging on another fun reuse project, a wooden ladder (a major score one trash day) that I painted white and am using as a display rack in the baby's room (secured to the wall, of course).

Day 3 - Crafty Reuse

Thanks to Queen B for her suggestion/query about frames (Queen B also happens to be my lovely sister) as it inspired today's crafty reuse. Way back this summer (remember summer?) I bought a bunch of frames at St. Vincent de Paul in Oconomowoc to make a photo collage in our dining room. Months later, most of the frames were still unused so I decided to finish off that project as part of my February crafty challenge. I had bought frames that were all basically the same type of wood and then cut white mats for all the photos so that, while the frames were all different shapes, styles, and sizes, the mats would be the unifying theme. Finally, all the photos are framed, matted and put up on the shelf. I'm really happy with how they turned out... especially considering each frame was, oh, like, two dollars. Note the other crafty reuse in the picture, my ongoing collection of sand from various places we've visited. The sand is housed in little bottles that once held wine (I'm a sucker for those cute little bottles, partly because they are fun to drink from and partly because they make the perfect receptacles for the sand). I'm realizing now that we are so not little globe-trotters as there are only 18 bottles up there and most of those are from exotic places like Delafield, Madison, or Kohler. Alas, that is the beauty of a lifetime collection, right? Gives it time to grow.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Day 2 - Crafty Reuse

Day 2 of my personal crafty reuse challenge brings one of my all-time favorite projects - turning old, felted sweaters into fun bags. Today I made two bags out of one sweater, matching bags for my sister-in-law and my niece (the one pictured is the little one for my niece). They are knitting bags, so I put a liner on the inside with lots of pockets. Actually, a liner made from a medium-heavy weight cotton is a must with these bags as it prevents the bag from getting stretched out of shape when you actually use it. I also added a fun little flower as a detail, made from a scrap piece of suede (I used a pattern for the flower from Simple Gifts to Stitch by Jocelyn Worral, a fabulous book). There are many tutorials out there for sweater bags, one good one can be found here.

Friday, February 1, 2008

My Personal Purge Challenge

My husband and I live in a fairly small house, less then 1000 square feet, and as a result we have to be pretty good about not taking in too much stuff, if, you know, we want to be able to walk around in our house. However, we have a baby on the way and as a result there is a large pipeline of baby gear that has started heading our way. We are the major beneficiaries of some serious amounts of hand-me-downs, which is awesome. To make room for all the baby stuff, it is time to do a major whole-house purge. Over the course of the month I will be taking a critical eye to every last item that thinks itself worthy to sit on our storage shelves or clutter our linen closet. Items will have to prove themselves, I may assign five-paragraph essays to items in question. If they can’t explain to me exactly why they deserve to stay, out they will go, into hands that will love and appreciate them more then I can right now. At this point, the cats and my husband are really the only things in the house that are safe from my scrutiny.

To make things fun, I’m also going to take the crafty challenge and try to find a new use for 29 things for every day in February. This was inspired by the ‘thing a day’ group, which is a cool concept, and Bella Dia’s thoughts on repurposing. I will be sharing my ideas with you, my fellow purgers. I say, what fun is a challenge without a crafty clause?

So, here is today's entry for the first of February. A new use for old CD cases. I actually started this a while back, but continue to add to it as more pictures come in. I asked all my friends and family (especially the kids) to contribute a picture they drew of a frog or a bug (which is the theme in the baby's room). I supplied the paper so they would all be the right size. Then I put all the pictures into old CD cases, which serve as perfect little frames. I used the back side of each case, popping out the piece of plastic that holds the actual CD, putting in the picture and then popping the plastic bit back in. I then attached them to the wall with that foamy, double-stick, mounting tape. Assembled together they make a cute collage of kids drawings. This could be a fun thing to do in any kids room as it is a cheap (free!) way to frame art, and it is easy to swap out the pictures when you get tired of them (or when the new batch of art comes home with your kids from school). I've seen lots of variations on this theme, here is one tutorial on how to make a mural, and here is another on making basic frames (goes into more depth than I have here). Many more uses for how to reuse old CD cases can be found at Planet Green.

February Challenge - Purge! Reuse and Repurpose your way to a Clean Slate

It’s cold outside, spring seems far away, and winter has begun to overstay its welcome. What to do? Take our challenge and spend the month of February cozied up inside assessing what you have in your house, what could be put to better use in someone else’s hands, and what items really want to be something else. By taking our challenge you will benefit others, find things more easily, have a cleaner house (and the sanity that comes with it), and you’ll help the environment.

Wait. Hold on. How does purging - the time honored tradition of getting rid of all that stuff that clogs the arteries of your house – benefit the environment? Aren’t you just sending all those unwanted goods off to a landfill somewhere? Not so fast. Our purge style focuses on reuse and repurposing. Over the course of the month you will learn of so many reuse and donation avenues here in Lake Country that it will make your head spin. We’ll go into more detail on the environmental benefits of purging in a future blog post, but simply put, when you choose to donate usable goods or decide to turn an unused item into something you would use (what I like to call ‘repurpose’, some people call it ‘reuse’) then you are helping by not buying a new item and by allowing someone else to buy used. Another side effect of purging? You will be able to find all the things that you do have in your house so much easier. So you won’t go out and buy another pair of scissors because you couldn’t find the other four that you already own. Funny, it seems that purging might also save you some money.

Ready to take the purge plunge? Here’s what to do. Decide how you want to tackle the challenge, whether you want to dive in and scour the whole house or if you want to focus just on the kitchen. Maybe you want to take the crafty route and choose to find a brilliant reuse for 29 things in your house for each day of the month (hmm, I think I’ll do that). Or maybe you simply want to use the challenge as motivation to finally bring that box of stuff that’s been sitting in your garage for months to a donation center (we’ll highlight lots of places in the area that will welcome your used goods). Whatever you decide to do, comment about it on our blog so we can cheer you on. Share your ideas, share what works for you, and share how your purging is helping others and the earth. Welcome to February! Let the purging begin!