Several years ago when my in-laws moved out of state they offered us some of the items they no longer wanted to keep. There was a period when we moved four times in 3 years, so I now have a policy to de-clutter often. So, I turned down most of their offers. However, there was an old game based on character traits that we decided to keep.
We only played the game a few times, but my husband's aunt suggested that we pick one character trait for the week. Sometimes our character trait hangs up for a little longer than that, but we try to change them frequently. That way some weeks we have to work extra hard at character traits we aren't good at, and some weeks we can focus on those that are our strength.
There are some character traits in the box that I hadn't thought much of. Two of those are resourcefulness and thriftiness. Good things to be, but I guess I never thought of them as character qualities. It makes sense when you think about it, since a person who is wasteful (the opposite of resourceful) or extravagant (the opposite of thrift) often lacks discipline and self-control.
In my experience most homeschool moms don't spend on things that aren't necessary or throw things out that we might still be able to use. (Although we need to be careful not to hold on to everything...often we can use it to bless others). So, when we came upon resourcefulness and thriftiness I thought it would be an easy week for me, since we already practice that by sheer necessity.
However, I have discovered that as thrifty as we homeschool moms can be there are always more ways to cut corners. Some things don't work for me, but some things I have really enjoyed. So, I cut my boy's hair (because it's easy and they mostly prefer buzz cuts), but I don't cut my daughter's hair, or my own (though I did attempt that a couple months ago to see if it was worth saving money...and I actually wrote about that on my blog).
In the last year I have decided to try to see if there were ways that I could save money cleaning. I am already the electricity police, so my family didn't need any more of that. (Although this winter I am thinking of trying some other things to keep our energy costs low). So, last year I started making my own laundry detergent to see how I would like that.
I used the Duggar's recipe, but at the time I couldn't find a single bar of Fels Naptha, so I bought a package of them. The soap seems to work just as well as regular laundry detergent. It doesn't get out all the stains without pre-treatment, but neither do any of the name brands. I only had a couple issues with it. Number one, because it's a bit more watery than what I'm used to I used too much at first because it didn't seem like it would be enough. Secondly, there are a few odors that it just doesn't remove. That may not be everyone's experience, but I had some clothes that still smelled when they were dry. The easiest solution to this problem was to add some baking soda to the laundry. So, I pour in the detergent and then a couple small scoops of baking soda. I made a new batch last week, this time using Ivory soap. I have to say I like the Ivory better than the Fels Naptha soap. It's easier to grate and it leaves a slight scent to my clothes. I once added some essential oils to a batch of the Fels Naptha to make it scented, but the one I chose didn't make much difference and I never tried anything else.
Anyway, I have been pleased with the batch made with Ivory. I have also tried homemade powdered detergent. It doesn't last as long, but it is quicker to make in a pinch. This is what I do if I run out of detergent during a busy season (like when my kids are in a play and have 3 dress rehearsals in a week).
Besides that, which has actually saved me a lot of money (since I do around 600 loads of laundry a year) I also stopped using fabric softener. For one thing I found out from a friend that there's formaldehyde in it (she can't use it because she's allergic to formaldehyde..which is in more things than you want to know by the way). It also made me a bit nervous that it doesn't really list any of it's ingredients on it. And our friend who fixes appliances told us that it's bad for our washer. Since it's so "gloopy" it doesn't rinse well, so it can cause build-up in our washer. Anyway, I use vinegar now. Vinegar still softens the clothes and removes static. It seems surprising, but it doesn't make the clothes smell. The strong vinegar smell evaporates and so your clothes don't stink.
Last week, I decided I would try to make a few more changes in an attempt to save money on cleaning supplies. I don't spend a ton on that, but I did have a slight downfall I wanted to correct. When my kids were smaller and I needed help cleaning the house I bought a Swiffer Wet Jet. We had hardwood floors at the time and my kids couldn't wring out a mop very well by themselves. I have replaced it a couple times as well, because it got broken. We don't always buy the spray that comes out automatically. A lot of times I have my kids spray the floor with a vinegar/water mix and then mop (but apparently they find this really annoying as they mention it to me every time they have to do it). We also tried using rags or paper towels instead of the disposable pads, but it doesn't work well (and my kids find this more than annoying...it crosses the line into highly irritating).
So, last week I went to the store looking for some washable pads that would fit on the swiffer and instead bought a whole new mop. I did find washable microfiber pads that would fit the swiffer, but I also found a mop where you can add your own cleaning solution and it sprays from the mop. (Even better, unlike the swiffer it doesn't require any batteries). I knew this way all of us would win. My kids won't be irritated at having to hold a spray bottle in one hand and mop with the other, now they can spray from the mop (just like before), but I don't have to buy an expensive cleaning solution (which in my opinion also smells like it has a lot of chemicals in it). I also bought a rag for my kids to clean the windows with, so we won't go through a whole roll of paper towels.
So far these changes were easy. I wouldn't mind doing a bit more work if necessary to save some dough, but since my kids know there's an easier way they would rather trade money for convenience. The only cleaning supplies I'm not ready to give up yet are in the bathroom. Scrubbing bubbles cleans my bathtubs so quickly that I just don't want to have to trade to something where I will have to scrub more to get that bathroom ring off (I'm working on convincing myself). The other thing is the disposable disinfecting wipes. I have 5 boys, and the only way I am going to get them to clean up their mess in the bathroom is if it doesn't take them long to do it. Their bathroom is 10 times cleaner since I bought those (and since I made the boys start cleaning it themselves), and that is worth the money.
I am sure a lot of you moms out there are even more frugal than I am. I would like to be more frugal in the kitchen, but I am not a good cook, so I can't make things from scratch (well I can, but my kids would gladly tell you stories about that). Some of you may be less frugal. I certainly don't think that buying laundry detergent makes you extravagant or wasteful. I do think though that when we think of thrift as a character trait it can help us to examine where in our lives we could be more careful with our resources that God has given us.