$100 to keep my home, family and myself clean (and moisturized!)

Washing Hands Under Faucet

I’ve been experimenting with natural, non-toxic substitutes for my personal and home care for about the past six months. While I’ve been trying lots of different products and combinations, I think I could set up a kit to take care of my family, my home and myself for less than $100! Here’s what my kit would contain (prices are what I paid last time I bought them) and what I already use these products for:

Apple cider vinegar ($4/32 oz., store-brand):

  • all-purpose cleaner (showers/tubs, glass, mirror)
  • hair rinse

Dr. Bronner’s unscented castile soap ($17/32 oz.):

  • all-purpose cleaner for just about everything if it is diluted enough, including dishes
  • body wash and shampoo
  • laundry detergent (not the best but it can do the job)
  • toothpaste (OK, I don’t use it for this right now, but it would work)

Avocado oil ($14/16-oz.):

  • moisturizer
  • shaving cream

Jojoba oil ($16/8 oz.):

  • hair conditioner
  • moisturizer

Lavender essential oil ($12.50/.5 oz.):

  • treatment for a host of skin conditions including rosacea and acne
  • perfume
  • sleep aid
  • amazing additive for moisturizing oil
  • air freshener

Tea tree essential oil ($8.50/.5 oz):

  • treatment for more skin conditions than I can list including acne
  • antiviral and antibacterial for small wound care
  • great for dandruff and athlete’s foot
  • deodorant

Peppermint essential oil ($9/.5 oz):

  • helps with stuffy noses and headaches
  • air freshener (especially good for bathrooms!)
  • mosquito repellant

Microfiber cleaning cloths ($6/3-pack):

  • clean EVERYTHING with these – every brand I have ever used has worked well enough

The grand total: $87! Yep, that’s it. All I need to keep my family clean and my home shiny. With the leftover $13, I would buy some baking soda, which I already keep in my kitchen anyway, and I would hope to finally find a non-toxic SPF solution for my family (I’m thinking of making a cream using zinc).

I can guarantee that my family would complain a LOT if I actually did this to them! Yet, it would work wonderfully and we would all be a lot less toxic personally and for the sake of our environment.

What about you? Leave a comment: Could you take care of all of life’s essentials for under $100? Am I missing anything really important in my list?




My purchases so far this year

Since I pledged not to buy anything new this year unless it was absolutely essential, I have been keeping track of all of the stuff that made the cut here: https://livetobe100.wordpress.com/2014-purchases/. On the one hand, I look at the list and feel very proud that I have severely limited the amount of “stuff” coming into my life this year. In particular, the things that I have purchased are either replacement items or they are quality items that have added value to my home and life. But on the other hand (yes, there is always that “other” hand!), I still think I could buy so much less.

Through living with less and only purchasing items that are truly necessary, I am learning to set high standards for the stuff I choose to own. I feel like I am getting to a place where I choose my stuff, rather than my stuff choosing me. For example, I have pared down most of the ill-fitting or ill-suited clothes that used to cram my closet. These days, no matter what I wear or how quickly I get dressed, I am happy with my appearance. Gone are the pants with the saggy fanny, the shirts that gap at the chest, and the skirts that bind!

I have also noticed that I am spending much less time shopping. Which is fantastic because, honestly, I hate shopping. I have always hated shopping, which I used to feel guilty about admitting. I mean, what American woman does not like to shop, after all? Well, THIS one! I am learning to identify “needs” from “wants.” Even I used to hear the siren song of the sale rack of cute dresses at the mall and the lure of the “25% off” online sale. I can’t tell you how freeing it is to walk into my favorite big-box store and purchase only the 2 items that were on my list – no more losing track of time wandering the aisles gazing at all of the stuff I just don’t need! Likewise with the time I spend online (how refreshing to not waste time browsing online retailers and instead work on high-priority tasks on my list).

One more bonus in my “win” column: I am throwing away or donating my unwanted stuff like crazy! For each new item I bring into my life, I am getting rid of 3-4 things on average. Plus, it is getting much, much easier to get rid of the old stuff. I can’t believe I have been filling my life with so much junk all of these years. I guess it’s never too late to learn how to embrace simplicity.

Learning something new


Last weekend, my sister educated me about the delicious tradition of brewing loose tea. I am big tea drinker – black, breakfast, green, herbal, you name it and I’ll try it – and she has been trying to get me to give loose tea a try for years. Then over the weekend, we were stuck in a car together for 16 hours driving to a family funeral (in truth, we love to travel together, it just makes us sad when the reason is a funeral). So I asked her about loose tea, really just to make conversation. Little did I know what an impressive amount of information she carries around in her head on the subject!

Thanks to my sister, I am a convert to loose-tea-drinking! But more importantly, she reminded me what fun it can be to learn something new, especially when it is unexpected and delightful. What are you learning today that is new and fun?

Junk Information

angry frog

Why, oh why, is there so much TERRIBLE information circulating? Pick a topic and then wade through a sea of gobbledygook: politics, war, internet security, parenting, even TAXES! Yes, this is a bit of a rant, brought on by my own search for information on natural exfoliants for the extremely sensitive and rosacea-prone skin on my face. Link after link on the internet kept taking me to the same two or three horrible articles. I guess there is nothing easier than posting a link to a webpage these days, but shame on the writers who just can’t be bothered to do any kind of research or even verify their sources of information! (Likewise, thank heavens for the commenters who point out the errors in the information – one can only hope folks are wise enough to read the comments…)

I will continue to search for the information I need, and I know there are many reputable sites and books available. But this problem is huge, and misinformation (or downright harmful information) is rampant. If you keep looking long enough, you might eventually find some correct information or some truth – but it’s still best to be skeptical and verify sources.

Safer Skin Care – Soap

Over the past several months I have learned a lot of valuable lessons about how soap is made. Specifically, I have learned that most commercial soaps we use here in the U.S. are full of chemical compounds that I do not know anything about. What’s the point of all of that junk in soaps and shampoos, anyway? I want to use soaps made from ingredients I can relate to, especially since I smear soaps and shampoos all over my skin every day!

About two months ago, after doing quite a bit of research, I switched to using Dr. Bronner`s Magic Soaps (DBMS) on a trial basis. The Dr. Bronner’s company is very straightforward with all of its ingredient and process information. Its Magic Soap products are time-tested, made from basic ingredients (organic, whenever possible), and they really work!  Note: I really did not intend for this post to be all about DBMS, but once I started writing, I realized how important these products have become to me over the past several weeks.

The first switch I made was to try DBMS as a shampoo (why I decided to start with something as visible and obvious as my hair is a mystery to me!). I have thick, straight, coarse, oily hair (which I have worn in a pixie cut for the past several years) that has required daily washing and conditioning since I was a pre-teen. That amounts to a lot of water and chemical agents applied to my hair–and going down the drain–over the last 30 years! I used the liquid unscented Baby Mild DBMS (diluted 1:1 with water, which I find is a bit easier to use in the shower) as a shampoo daily for a couple of weeks, and though I learned that I also need to use a rinse of diluted apple cider vinegar, within two weeks my hair was shinier and softer than I can ever remember.  I had a few odd days where my hair looked a bit dull, but many folks experience a transition phase when making the switch (nearly every review of DBMS out there warns about the transition, but I did not really find it to be a big deal).

Then, since my hair was so incredibly clean and shiny, I got brave and decided to try washing my hair only every other day (something I had only been able to risk in the past while we were camping!). I got fantastic results: my hair easily stays clean for two full days, even after sweaty workouts and wearing winter hats. I still wet it down every day in the shower, just to make it easier to style, but that’s it.

Three weeks ago, I asked my 11-year-old son to switch to the Tea Tree variety of DBMS (his hair is a lot like mine except slightly wavy and with dandruff). Lo and behold, after a week of using DBMS, he, too has been able to go two days between washes, and his dandruff is well under control (he does not need to use the apple cider vinegar rinse). As an added bonus, his hair has no odor and is shiny and very healthy-looking.

I have now switched all of our liquid hand soap to a diluted 1:4 DBMS to water, I use DBMS diluted 1:3 for hand dishwashing (though I have not been able to convince my husband to make the switch…yet), and I use the solid soap Lavender DMBS in the shower, including on my hair. I have also started using the liquid Tea Tree DBMS for my own face wash (but I will discuss my skin care woes in another post) and it is absolutely the best face cleanser I have ever used.

In my neck of the woods, DBMS is available in a variety of formulations at all major grocery and big-box stores, as well as in natural food stores and co-ops. If you live in the U.S., it is available to buy online. If you live in a country that does not have access to DBMS, there are a number of other safe, eco-friendly vegetable-glycerin-based soaps that are most likely available to you. I highly recommend giving this type of soap a try for you and your family.

Leave a comment: which back-to-basics soaps have you tried and how would you rate them? What formulations do you like and what tricks do you use to make them work for you (such as my diluted apple cider vinegar rinse)?