EST. May 2000 (AD)


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Beat the Recession Blues: Five Awesome Household Hints!

By Karen Craig Carter

Economizing...isn't that something for poor people and little old ladies? Not any more, thanks to the recession! These days, vital, attractive people - people like you! - are economizing to stave off foreclosure, starvation, or Kmart. So we thought we'd give you some innovative household savings ideas for today...something other than the usual "clip coupons/turn off the lights" nagging. We convened a panel of experts - a home economist, a craftsperson, a conservationist, and a novelist - to brainstorm effective and (since we are good people) thoroughly "green" household hints. They came up with six cool suggestions; all of them show you how to recycle some of nature's own waste products, so they're totally cost-free! On the advice of attorneys, we whittled the list down to five (homicide and cannibalism are prosecuted as felonies in most jurisdictions). Following these suggestions won't banish all of your money woes, but they will help keep the wolf a few paces away from the door. Plus: the satisfaction of being "green" will make you feel a little less blue!

1. When in Rome...

Do you know the secret to the sparkling white togas of the ancient Romans? It was urine, which they used as a bleaching agent. Chlorine bleach is expensive and toxic; urine is free and organic. So do as the Romans did! All you need are a bucket and a functioning bladder. Pee into the bucket whenever nature calls (to minimize fumes, cover between times with plastic wrap). When you have accumulated a bucketful, pour it into your washing machine and dilute with an equal volume of water. Soak your whites in it for a day; rinse; then add detergent and wash as usual.

2. Pillow Talk

Don't despair if you can't afford to replace that sagging bed or that hideous what-was-I-thinking sofa! You can always spruce up your furniture with an old designer's trick: accent pillows, also known as throw pillows. And these pillows won't cost you a cent!

Every time you brush your hair or your pet's fur, remove the "fallout" hairs or fur from the brush and save them in a large bag. Meanwhile, find a discarded dress in a pretty fabric, cut out two 14" squares, pin them together with the good sides facing each other, and sew them on three sides, with 1" seams. Turn inside out; it now resembles a giant pocket. When you have accumulated enough hair and fur, stuff this "pocket" with the fuzzy stuff and sew up the fourth seam (use a slip stitch). Voila! A free decorative pillow to brighten your room and your spirits!

3. Physician, Heal Thyself!

You lost your health insurance along with your job, and now you're running a fever. You don't want to default on your mortgage, or sell your sexual services to pay for a doctor and antibiotics, but you don't want to die. Worried? Don't be - you can cure yourself for free! Just go to your kitchen and check out that old half-loaf of bread you were too depressed to deal with. Chances are, it has a greenish mold. Well, believe it or not, this mold (which is actually a fungus) is a close relative of penicillin. If you are not allergic to penicillin, eat the mold. It will zap your bacteria, most likely without killing you.

4. Getting into Scrapes

You've probably used a fingernail to scrape an occasional hardened food particle from your kitchen counter. Unlike steel wool, the human nail never damages hard surfaces. But fingernails are not a practical everyday option, so most of us use some kind of synthetic scrubber to scrape the dirt away. This is fine in good times; but when you're barely making ends meet, the cost of those scrubbers can add up. Here's a budget-savvy alternative:

Every time you clip your toenails or fingernails, save the clippings in a small bag. Meanwhile, find a discarded blouse in a pretty fabric, cut out two 4½" squares, pin them together with the good sides facing each other, and sew them on three sides, with ½" seams. Turn inside out; it now resembles a small pocket. When you have accumulated enough nail clippings, stuff this "pocket" with the clippings and sew up the fourth seam (use a slip stitch). Voila! A free decorative scrubber that serves myriad kitchen functions, from washing dishes to cleaning stove tops.

5. How Does Your Garden Grow?

Your flowers are drooping along with the economy, your lawn is in its own recession, and commercial fertilizer is too darn expensive. The situation looks bleak, but don't be too quick to throw in the trowel! Next time you and your dog come home from walkies, do not put the pooch pooh you collected into the garbage. Your plants need it! Dump it on bald or sparse patches of lawn, or under your scrawniest tree. If you don't own a dog, raid your kitty's litter box for little nuggets of fertilizer. No pets? No prob. Simply make some discreet nighttime garden deposits of your own. Your peonies will perk up in no time at all!

© 2009 Karen Craig Carter


Karen Craig Carter lives in Bernardsville, New Jersey.