Loose Ends

Lest you think I spent the whole month of February entertaining myself, I have some updates on other chores and goals.

I completed one unplanned project.

“Before” Photos:

Small Spices
Small Spices
Larger Size Spices in envelopes in cookie jar...
Larger packs of spices in envelopes in cookie jar…

I have a vast collection of dried herbs and spices, most of which I use regularly. They were all in their original packaging, a combination of jars, tins and plastic pouches. I couldn’t find an affordable spice rack that would hold them all, especially since some spices I always buy in small sizes, and some in large. After scouting out several stores, I bought 40 glass jars at the Dollar Store – 20 large for $1 each and 20 small at 2/$1.25, for a total of $32.50 plus tax. I transferred all of my spices over, and printed (easily removable) inkjet labels for them. OK, I went a little overboard and colour-coded the labels. The green spices have green labels (oregano, basil), the hot spices have red labels (cayenne, chili) and so on. I placed all the small bottles on a cute tray and I still need a tray or shelf large enough to display or stack the large bottles. The new system requires more space but I can see and access everything.

“After” Photos:

The Littles
The Littles
The Bigs (in 12 oz. jars)
The Bigs (in 12 oz. jars)

Update to Big House List:

I am paring down the decluttered items that need to leave my house. I have a list of charities and which items they will accept, so I have been sorting and dropping off small lots of items. It is a slow process, but ensures everything will be re-used. For instance, a men’s shelter is happy to receive sketch books and art supplies, and the SPCA will take worn out towels and blankets for pet bedding. I brought old electronics, ink cartridges and batteries to specific recycling sites.

I needed some professional services. I was seriously ticked off when I booked a furnace cleaning appointment and they didn’t show up, so I had to re-book for next week. Meanwhile, I did get the regular maintenance on the car done. I waited in the shop, and they had a clean, comfy waiting room with wireless! I paid to have a pair of jeans hemmed. I can hem pants, but I drew the line at cutting and top-stitching jeans. Speaking of sewing, I threw out a pair of socks with holes in the toes. Although I haven’t done it, I feel capable of darning socks, but decided it’s not worth it for socks that have worn so thin. It made me question whether I shouldn’t buy better-quality socks that last longer and/or are worth saving.

Matting and mounting photos. Credit: digitalbirdphotography.com

Matting and mounting photos. Credit: digitalbirdphotography.com

I bought picture frames for my assorted pictures. The frames are all 10 x 13 and the pictures are various irregular sizes such as 9 x 10. I figured that since I am an exacting person, I should be able to figure out how to cut mats. I will buy some scraps to practice. I’ll let you know how I do!

I need to get my collection of robot toys off my desk where they keep getting knocked over, so I bought some cube frames to put them on the wall. It is the only one of my collections that I have on display. Photos to follow when finished!

Update to Garbage Without the Yuck:

I tracked my garbage all month to see how much I could reduce. There were only three more unusual items for the rest of the month.

First of all – twist ties. What evil little things for the environment, since they are bonded materials and sometimes made with plastic! I have too many to reuse, although I do like them to tidy up electrical cords. I will redouble my efforts to bring cloth produce bags (with drawstrings) and other containers from home, or if necessary, just knot any bags I have to take.

Next, I had a broken plastic clothes hanger. They would normally never break, but at one time I succumbed to buying some super-cheap ones, that were almost too flimsy to hold anything but a shirt. Once again, I would have been better off paying for quality.

Photo: wrqx.fimc.net

Photo: wrqx.fimc.net

Finally, I bought clementines (tangerines) and they come in a wooden crate. Do you have those? They are made of cheap wood with a press-board bottom and nylon mesh over the top. I could creatively reuse the box but it would be rather forced. Despite the bargain price on these crates, I probably won’t buy them any more.

Abeego food wraps. Photo: canadiandesignresource.ca

Abeego food wraps. Photo: canadiandesignresource.ca

Last month I also bought some food wraps from Abeego, which are an alternative to plastic wrap. They are made of fabric treated with waxes and oils, and are washable. You can wrap a food item in them directly (I wrap a muffin in a small one and take it to work) or you can use them to replace lids on bowls or containers. They are useful, with 3 caveats: they stain easily and you can’t wash them with anything harsh, so they won’t look good for long. It took two of the extra-large sheets to wrap just one loaf of bread. And, they are expensive if you buy enough to create a food storage system for yourself. I do think they are an “honourable” product but after buying two sets, I don’t know if I will keep building a collection. They would probably work best if you just used them to cover or wrap clean, dry foods. I would suggest they just make them in a dark colour like brown or red!

Update to Are You the Household Mastermind?



Homemade (with Lemon Soap)

Homemade (with Lemon Soap)

I have taken back doing the laundry for a whole month now. It has given me a break from always being the one to clean the bathroom, the floors and the fridge. So, I decided to make my own powdered laundry detergent using the usual recipe that one finds online. I have always felt uneasy about using the liquid laundry detergent from Costco that is labelled, “Ultimately Biodegradable.” What the heck does that mean? The three ingredients (washing soda, borax and soap bars) cost a total of $12.97 plus tax and it took me maybe 10 minutes to grate the soap and clean up. There is enough washing soda and borax to make several more batches by just adding soap at $1 per bar. I have used the mixture now for 3 weeks in my front-loading machine (tossing it in with the clothes, rather than in the dispenser) and I’ve been 100% happy with it.

Update to Winter Wardrobe Realities:

It took me a while to decide what kind of boots I should buy to replace worn-out ones. I decided on “fashion” rubber boots. They are made from natural rubber with EVA soles and are lined with cotton fleece, so they are warm, tall winter boots. They were on sale for half price and still cost 5 times the price of PVC rain boots! But they make me happy because they are a little more eco-friendly, and besides, they are orange. I am hoping they will last for many seasons.

PVC rain boots, $20

PVC rain boots, $20 Photo: gianttiger.com

My boots - $99 on sale (!) Photo: ilsejacobsenboots.com

My boots – $99 on sale (!) Photo: ilsejacobsenboots.com

That sums up my domestic task list for February! Did you try anything new in this last stretch of winter (or summer, for my Australian readers)?


  1. I love your new jars very much! Wonderful efforts! I bet you’ll cook more dinners from now.

  2. Oh I love the spice jars! The color coding is not overboard in my opinion – it’s fantastic!

  3. You’ve had a much more productive month than I have. I like the homemade laundry powder too – and, according to our appliance repair guys directions, I only use a tbsp for normal loads. I’ve been completely happy with the results too.

  4. Fiona

    I also adore the colour-coded spice jars!!

    I had not even thought of animal shelters for old bedding/towels and perhaps other old clothing (silly of me! you can tell we don’t have pets.) I have a cupboard full of old (torn) sheets, track pants and other items that I didn’t know what to do with – thanks, will clear out my laundry cupboard now.

    I can also relate to the cheap, plastic clothes hangers. I have several broken ones I can’t bring myself to throw out – never buying them again, though.

    • Thanks. It bothers me that there is no textile recycling available. When I lived on the Prairies, a Mennonite organization used to take worn clothing and save the good bits to make patchwork quilts.

  5. Not only do I like your colour coded idea for the spices but I might even copy it lol Lots of our old bedding and towels goes to the local Animal Aid and the vet still takes newspapers – although fewer and fewer are coming into the house. I often used them on the garden under mulch but with the hot summers they still tend to rise to the surface and make their way to all points anywhere but where they should be in the garden lol

    As for something new this summer well I suppose having cataract ops could be classed in that catergory 🙂

    Take care

    • Hope you do! I stopped getting a daily newspaper, but I have to get rid of a lot of flyers delivered to the door. I’m sure your surgery will go well – everyone I know who’s had it done, has been so happy and relieved!

  6. Live the new spice jars. And I have been thinking for a long time about making my own laundry soap–I am now going to definitely give it a try! Thanks for the recipe!

  7. I love the spice jars and wouldn’t expect anything less from you when it comes to color coordinating the lids 🙂 I look forward to hearing how you do with making your own mats, I have never been great at it and continue to try, one of these days I may actually break down and buy one of those tools for cutting the mats to give them that finished look. I would much rather do laundry than clean the bathroom, and use home made soap as well. I am still scratching my head at what ultimately biodegradable means.

    I haven’t had any old sheets or towels to get rid of in a while as any I do find are being repurposed in my daughter-in-law’s home where I am slowly and gently moving her towards eliminating paper products.

    I love your boots. I’m sure they will hold up better for you than the cheaper ones too.

  8. laura / move to portugal

    Love the jars too. I’m seriously considering decanting everything into simple jars, just need to actually do it!

    • Thanks – I think it will work for me because I use them a lot, but it takes up more room, unless you stack them. If I had fewer than 20 spices I could have just purchased a spice rack including the jars.

  9. I love the jars 🙂 I have a bit of an obsession with jars, and also have a lot of spices. I got a spice rack for Christmas that holds 16 spices and I love it, but the rest are still in mismatched jars. I like the idea of colour-coding them.

    I’m looking forward to hearing how the picture mats go, because I’m thinking of doing that myself.

  10. Wow! The spice organisation warms my heart – and prompts me to write about mine. Such an inspiration you are.

    Twist ties are excessive in my home too – with rubber bands. Maybe more cables need to be MORE organised? Plastic hangers breaking are a pain, can’t recall the last time it happened, but it used to a bit. We call them ‘mandarins’ (took me so long to realise these exotic ‘clementines’ were something I’ve tried!

    Oh so the Abeego wraps are a new addition? I don’t need them often (leftovers go in Pyrex dishes). It’s only for the odd thing. And stains haven’t been a huge drama for me yet. You could always make some (wink wink!)

    My homemade laundry detergent doesn’t have borax in it – and recently I read something at GoGingham, and am thankful I didn’t add it in (http://gogingham.com/2013/01/rethinking-cleaning-detergents/) Oh and I put mine in the drawer and it seems to work ok?!

    And finally – love the boots. And love the wrap up of all the posts – seems everyone else did too!

    • Thanks! I did think about the borax since I have read conflicting reports. I understand you should not let kids or pets near this mixture, so perhaps that is enough of a warning. But in terms of skin irritation, I think borax and washing soda are about equal. On a tangent, I was really surprised at all the chemical ingredients in “pure soap,” so will be shopping more carefully for that next time, too.

  11. My gran used to just put a plate over a dish with leftovers in the fridge and I do this too with some things. I love the spice jars I like things to be ordered and all of the same size. I buy herbs and spices in small amounts to keep them fresh and find I am using ones I have frozen more and more now.
    Check this out in the kitchen of this food blogger at SYBARITICA http://sybaritica.me/2012/08/14/goodbye-kitchen/

  12. I know what you mean about those cheap plastic hangers. I have been wanting to just buy some (nicer) wood hangers. I keep telling myself that they’ll not only last longer, but will be lovelier to look at, and if I’m giving my clothing nicer hangers to hang from, perhaps I’ll take better care of the clothing that I have.

    Have you found anything to wrap homemade bread in? The food wrappers you bought weren’t quite big enough, right? I’ve been using plastic grocery bags for the longest time, and now with using reusable grocery totes, my supply of plastic is next to nothing (plus so many stores are eliminating the plastic altogether). One of my thoughts has been to look for a source of waxed paper bags (like what grocery stores often put their garlic bread loaves into), or to sew some sort of bag that could be washed. I bake 5-6 loaves at a time, so even if I had a bread box, I wouldn’t be able to fit them all in.

    My mind always goes to “what did they used to use, before plastic wrap and bags?” Do you suppose they just kept loaves of bread on open shelves, perhaps wrapped in a cloth towel? Baking was just done once per week, way back when, so they must’ve had some way to keep their loaves fresh enough.

    • That is such a good question – how was it done before plastic? I usually make 2-3 loaves of bread at a time. I had saved some bread bags from commercial bread but I have used them so many times, they are wearing out! I have to admit, I use reusable grocery bags most of the time, but occasionally I get plastic ones on purpose, because I need them for cat litter, lining garbage containers, etc.! I was also wondering if cloth bags would do the trick for bread or if they’d let too much air in? Let me know if you find a solution!

  13. When I’m organized I baked a week’s worth of bread at a time (5 loaves). When I’m not organized we eat a lot of muffins, biscuits, rice and oatmeal. But I’m going to try and do 5 loaves this weekend, and I’ll experiment with wrapping one of the loaves in a large tea towel and see how fabric works. I’ll let you know the quality of the bread by the week’s end, next week.

  14. Pingback: Simple storage solutions – spices, frying pan lid, ironing & toliet paper | livetolist

  15. Pingback: Food Inventory: What’s in My Cupboards | An Exacting Life

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