Living on Less: Real vs Perceived Need

girlHeather says:

window2.jpgI was picking up my bedroom the other morning and I opened the curtains to take advantage of the bright sunshine. Of course, that bright sunshine also made it clear that the doors were grimy. Over the past few years I have been working on reducing our paper consumption. Contrary to what commercials would have you believe, you don’t need paper towels for much at all.

window1.jpgInstead, I reached into my rag bag and pulled out a couple of cotton cloths and the cheap-o generic window cleaner. I have found that the cheap cleaner works as well as name brand, but the bottles typically fall apart after one or two refills. I’ve had the current spray bottle for nearly three years.

What is the point of this random story? Marketers exist to convince consumers there is a need. That they must have the better, easier, faster, “cheaper,” way to do things. All too often though the old ways were just as good, if not superior.

There are times where an investment in a tool will pay off. I believe in having a good vacuum, a sturdy mop, a decent broom, and a dustpan that isn’t going to end up in the landfill or recycling center the first time you drop it.

The next time you find yourself at the store and tempted by some convenience product, take a moment and ask yourself if you it is a real or perceived need. Do you already have something at home that could do the job just as well without buying something new. Disposable wipes and swipes, sponges and pads, they all cost something, they all go somewhere.


Are they really enough of a convenience to warrant the cost?


  1. Peg on February 10, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    On Bounce dryer sheets (@ hsgbdmama) : Please know these are toxic, or in PC parlance Not Good For You. See link for good explanation with appropriate links to data.
    “And since many of these chemical compounds are by themselves solvents, they are rather good at moving through cellular membranes and entering tissues of the body, including nervous system tissues. This is why intelligent consumers who wish to protect their health avoid brand name dryer sheets, laundry detergents, and even perfumes and colognes that are all made with toxic fragrance chemicals that can cause cancer, liver disorders, Alzheimer’s disease and many other chronic diseases.”

  2. hsgbdmama on February 9, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    Great thread! 🙂

    Dh hates the smell of vinegar, so that is out, but Tink I’m going to try your suggestion.

    Here are some of the things I’ve been doing:

    * I have a Swiffer WetJet, but for the pads, I have a double layer microfiber cloth sewn together and that works great; for the solution I reuse one of the bottles and fill it with a PineSol and water solution. This has worked out very well, and actually works better than the Swiffer consumables.

    * Shower spray (Target brand) bottles are repurposed for other things, including a kitchen cleaner, made of a couple of tbsp of Fabuloso (I have a gallon jug I bought at Sam’s a number of years ago, and will last me a long time) and the rest water — it cleans well and smells good.

    * I have a gallon jug of ammonia, which again I make window cleaner out of using a little bit of the ammonia with water in a recycled spray bottle.

    * Foam hand soaps … I have been repurposing body washes I haven’t been using with the decorative foam soap bottles (recycled) — about 1/4″ of soap to the rest water and we get wonderfully scented soaps, for only a few pennies per bottle (vs. $2 for new) and we’re creating far less waste.

    *Bounce sheets — I’m going to switch to something recyclable once my current box is gone, but I have reduced that use by cutting the sheets into thirds and use each third 3-4 times (that is the equivalent of getting 9-12 uses per sheet). I have heard good things about the dryer balls and might try that after my box is gone.

    I’m still using paper towels but have also been using rags cut from old undershirts of dh’s (another repurposing) and they work ok. I just need to get more consistent about using the rags. For bathroom cleaning, I like the handi-wipes (I got a big pack of them many years ago and still have a lot left) which can be washed and reused many times.

  3. Eyebee on February 8, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    We bought some of those 99 cent spray bottles, and we use those for such things as oil. It’s MUCH cheaper than buying that PAM stuff, and there’s no aerosol chemicals involved either.

  4. Tink on February 7, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    Microfiber cloths are excellent for cleaning windows, stainless appliances, etc without leaving streaks or lint. (They’re also super for dusting and just about anything else – just don’t wash them with linty stuff if you want them to remain lint free)

    I also use vinegar for much cleaning, but one of my clients “can’t stand that vinegar smell” so we make a solution of 1 bottle of rubbing alcohol, 1/2 cup ammonia, a few drops of dish soap and one gallon of water.

    I store mine in a clean gallon milk jug. Hey, a gallons worth of refills for about 75 cents.

    It also works great for exterior windows and a car wash brush – rinse with a hose and it will dry on it’s own with no streaks 🙂

  5. Susan on February 7, 2008 at 9:12 pm

    I think water and vinegar works much better than the name-brand stuff. I use a rag instead of paper towels as well.

  6. Jennifer on February 7, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    I haven’t used paper towel since I got a cat. She made nests out of the paper so I had to remove it. Found I don’t need it really. Vinegar is the wonder cleaner. I run it through my coffee maker to get the film off and then use what’s in the pot to clean the windows.

  7. Lisa- Domestic Accident on February 7, 2008 at 7:16 am

    I try to do all my cleaning with vinegar and water, but I do love those Method products. They just smell so good and they are supposedly environmentally friendly. I see you have the window cleaner there.

    Advertising doesn’t bother me too much when it’s aimed at me, but I despise when it’s aimed at children. Especially processed food.

  8. Ghillie Suits Guy on February 7, 2008 at 2:52 am

    To clean windows I use water and newspaper. Get the newspaper damp so that it makes a squeaking sound when you are wiping. It leaves absolutely no streaks. Try it!

  9. Peg on February 7, 2008 at 1:51 am

    Excellent post. For, there is no “away” as in when we “throw something away.” Also, I’m sure you know and/or have touched on this elsewhere, vinegar is a great cleaner for just about everything including/especially glass.

  10. Margaret on February 6, 2008 at 11:37 pm

    EXCELLENT point, Heather!! I consider myself pretty thrifty (we use rags, not paper towels; we use cloth napkins; have cloth diapers with a diaper service; no fabric softener; no dusting sprays, etc. etc.) but I do love to make a shopping list and buy things. sighhhh It takes discipline to get my jollies without purchasing something. . .
    And I heartily agree with Jeffraham – we need to try fixing things more often, which means sometimes buying quality things that are worth being fixed.

  11. Jeffraham Prestonian on February 6, 2008 at 11:08 pm

    Good point, re: toothpaste. I do that, and sprinkle some baking soda on it, after I wet it under the faucet briefly.

  12. Christopher on February 6, 2008 at 10:47 pm

    I think it’s also worth mentioning (though maybe in a separate post) that people often use much more of a product than they really need to. Toothpaste is the best example. It really only takes a blob the size of a small blueberry, but people squeeze out a stripe six times as long. Taking a “little as possible” approach with products often produces great results.

  13. Jeffraham Prestonian on February 6, 2008 at 10:34 pm

    Good subject. People also throw away some perfectly serviceable goodies that they could recycle or give away. Can it be repaired? No one asks this anymore about anything under the value of a vehicle, it seems.

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