I have been rediscovering the beauty of vintage hardware recently. The back door to our garage had an old doorplate that had been covered in many many layers of paint. I recently found out that it’s very easy to remove paint from small pieces of hardware like the door plate. All you need is an old pot, something that you will not be using to cook food, and a little baking soda. You just put a few tablespoons of baking soda in your old pot, fill it three-quarters of the way full with water, pop in your hardware, bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer and simmer for about 15 minutes. The paint just lifts right off. This piece of hardware had many layers of paint on it, so I did repeat the process about 3 or 4 times before all the paint came off. I love how it looks now that’s back to the original finish.
One of my very first posts was sharing with you how to extend your reach when you need to light a candle in a tall jar. Here’s another reuse idea along the same vein. Got old birthday candles? Especially the fancy long ones like Cheerlites? They work great for lighting candles that are too far down a jar for your fingers to reach. Plus it’s a nice way to use up old birthday candles without having to debate whether it’s green or gross to reuse old candles on a fresh birthday cake.
This year I started what may become a new annual Valentine’s tradition for us.
On Zakka Life I read about a simple and awesome way to turn envelopes into heart pouches. For weeks now each time I got something in the mail I trimmed down the envelope to make it into a little heart pouch.
On Valentine’s Day I numbered each of the heart pouches. Co-incidentally I had made enough to have 1 for every year of my Sweetie’s age so there were 39 in total. Then I wrote out scavenger hunt clues, famous quotations on love, and flirty little notes. Each heart got a slip of paper and then were placed around the house in scavenger hunt fashion. The only rule being to find the hearts in numbered order. From 1 to 39.
I started off by putting the first several hearts in plain site in our entry way on the stairs. The note inside Heart #1 said “Roses are red, violets are blue. See if you can see #2.” Of course Heart #2 was on the next step up so it was easy to find. Heart #2 said “I love your hazel eyes, use them to find #3”. After he saw that Heart #3 was just on the next step up he said, “oh these are easy”. Ha ha. Little did he know they were about to get more difficult to find.
After I had initiated the game with easy ones the next 10 hearts became progressively more creative with the clues and the hiding places. By the time he got to Heart #20 I had changed it up by putting a little chocolate in the heart pouch. For #21 he had to find me and give me a kiss to get the next clue.
After that the rest were either quotations on love or flirty notes and compliments from me to him. The were hidden around the house Easter Egg hunt style, partially hidden in plants or under a magnet on the fridge. A little bit of effort required but relatively easy to find. The final heart pouch had a clue to find a heart shaped box of See’s candies.
We both had a lot of fun. I could see that he enjoyed the scavenger hunt and that he was really touched by the effort that I put into it. He told me that his favorite quote was “Age does not protect you from love but love, to some extent, protects you from age.” by Jeanne Moreau.
And the only materials I used in the entire thing were envelopes that were already on their way to being recycled, scissors to cut the envelopes and the little pieces of paper, a red pen to write down the notes and a red marker to number the hearts. It was also really great using the recycled envelopes because it diminishes the sense of obligation to keep the hearts. We used them, enjoyed them in the moment, and now feel free to keep the memory and release the stuff.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
We all have them, right? A page or two of address labels with your name and address sent to you by a well-meaning charity soliciting donations. After I call up the charity to request that they put me on their “do not mail” list I’m left with more address labels than I can ever possibly use. So here are three creative ways to repurpose those labels.
(1) Cut off the postal address and simply use the Name part of the label. I’ve found this very useful for labeling my coffee mug, my leftovers in the community fridge at work, or anything where you just want to make sure people know this item belongs to you.
(2) Tape. Just peel off the pieces and use the old trick for making non-double sided tape into double sided and it’s great for wrapping presents or securing packages that you mail.
(3) Cleaning between the keys on your keyboard. Just floss the sticky side around your keys to pick up lint, crumbs, and dust and keep your keyboard clean.
Success. The Bernal Heights Library accepted all of the books I donated. I took them in to the Circulation Desk to drop them off. The Librarian explained to me that whatever they don’t keep they donate to Friends of the San Francisco Public Library.
Next time though I think I will donate them directly to the Friends of the Library because they will give you a receipt for your tax-deductible donation. I don’t think the libraries themselves are setup to give the receipts.
Also, they don’t accept magazines. I have yet to find a local place that I would consider a good source for buying and selling (or even donating) used magazines. I called my local bookstore, Red Hill Books, on Cortland Avenue. They do not currently buy or sell used magazines. That would be the most ideal location for me if I could buy and sell used magazines there. I know I would stop in all the time. I did provide that feedback to the person I spoke with on the phone so I will let you know if anything comes of that feedback.
I was told that Green Apple Books might buy and sell used magazines. I called them. They said no they do not buy and sell used magazines. There is a used book store in Berkeley on Shattuck near the BART station that will buy (in limited quantities for like ten cents each) used magazines and does also sell used magazines. Alas Berkeley is also too far to be a stop on my regular errands and therefore would not be a simple solution for me.
For now the best solution I’ve found is that I’m going to donate them to Gifts on the Hill. Gifts on the Hill is run by the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center which is an awesome non-profit that serves Bernal Community members in large part seniors and low-income. I called Gifts on the Hill and they said they don’t sell used magazines but that the seniors would probably enjoy them so that’s where I’m going to donate my magazines this year. Perhaps knowing that they are going to a place where people will enjoy them will help me to donate them as soon as I’m done reading them so they don’t end up as house clutter.
Word of the day? Word of the week? Maybe even word of the year? Simplify.
I am really excited about this article I read in this month’s Sunset magazine. It’s all about a family who lives a zero waste lifestyle. The family lives right here in the Bay Area in Mill Valley. The mom, Bea Johnson, is a professional organizer and a blogger. They have two kids and a dog. What amazes me is just how much they have simplified their life. I love the pictures of their home in the article. That’s actually the most appealing part of the article for me. The words tell you how to do it but when I saw the pictures of this clutter-free home I thought: I.WANT.THAT. How nice would it be to come home and have no clutter, no crowding in your drawers, no cramming in your closets? To love the things that you own and to release the stuff that doesn’t serve you? It has definitely motivated me to do more this year to simplify my life.
Here’s my story of one important thing (for me) that I’ve been motivated to do so far:
Books. In the article Bea talks a lot about how they don’t own books. They go to the library regularly. When I first read that I had mixed thoughts. The part of my that clings to stuff said “No books? Sacrilege!” Then the part of me that wants to simplify said, “Well, we have a library less than 3 blocks away. Why not share a few more books with the library. Besides if I decide I want to read one then it’ll be there at the library.” So my simplifying self won that argument and I took a good look at my bookshelf. And there it was “Ulysses” by James Joyce. I bought this book when I lived in Ireland, in 1999. I had great intentions of reading it. It has now been with me though 3 moves and eleven years and I still have not read it. So “Ulysses” and several other acquired-with-good-intentions-but-never-got-around-to-them books went into my box to donate to my library.
Now here’s the part where I’m not completely there with the simplifying. The simplest thing would have been to just donate all those books along with the other clothes and household items I dropped off at the thrift store yesterday. I held the books back because I plan to take them to our library this week. I know that the library may not accept all of them and that will require another trip to drop them off at the thrift store. I’m OK with that. See long ago I started to realize that when it comes to my own personal attachment to stuff sometimes I have to make little bargains with myself – the little Clinging Angel on my shoulder versus the little Simplifying Angel on my other shoulder. In this conversation the Clinging Angel was able to release the attachment to the books because those books would be available at the library. (Nevermind the fact that all the books I’m donating are probably already available in the SF Public Library system). Attachment to stuff is not simply logical. We carry a lot of emotional attachment to our stuff. My “Ulysses” book was part of my special time in Ireland, the time I spent devoted to learning about my Irish heritage. My Clinging Angel didn’t want to let go of that special memory or admit that I probably wasn’t going to get around to reading Ulysses. So my Simplifying Angel had to take a baby-step by donating the book to the library instead of the thrift store.
Logical, no. Effective, yes. Score one for my Simplifying Angel.
After I cut up old T-shirts in squares for casual napkins I had lots of T-shirts strips left over. I simply tied the ends together in double knots and strung them up in the entry way to welcome home my special someone who had been away for a couple days. Totally silly but it made him smile. 🙂
We all have them. T-shirts that are no longer in our wearing rotation. What to do with them aside from donating to Goodwill? Well we definitely try to minimize our use of paper towels but it’s a work in progress. I got to thinking that if I cut up old t-shirts into squares – similar to the size of paper towels, that these would make good reusable napkins. So some pinking shears and an hour later and Voila. I have a brand new set of casual napkins. We’ll probably only use them for everyday and not for guests. Nevertheless, I love them.
Don’t they look pretty all folded up?