The Benefits Of Spring Cleaning

The Benefits Of Spring Cleaning

Spring cleaning offers many health benefits

The Benefits Of Spring Cleaning

By D. S. Mitchell

The first day of spring, is March 20, which means it is time for spring cleaning. Washing windows, moving furniture, organizing the pantry are all big projects, but such annual tasks provide big benefits. Spring cleaning is more than just picking up your space, or tidying up a bit; it is about improving overall well-being. Organization and cleanliness can provide unexpected health benefits; read on.

Turn On The Feel Good Hormones

There is a proven connection between cleanliness, organization, and mental health. Studies have shown that a clean home and tidy surroundings are directly correlated to happiness, and the all important ability to focus. Clutter causes anxiety to spike. Laundry piling up in the corner, papers, and mail, strewn carelessly about on the floor and various surfaces can be overwhelming. If you want a boost in your mood, clean up. Cleaning the clutter will turn on those hormones that improve mood, and general attitude.

Send Germs Packing

Cleaning items that are touched frequently is a good place to start. Cleaning and sanitizing on a regular basis, not just as spring arrives, is a proven way to reduce the spread of germs. Keeping household surfaces clean can help reduce the spread of viruses and illnesses. Doorknobs, refrigerator handles, light switches, countertops, and TV remotes, are all places that germs are hanging out waiting to spread infection. Wipe it down and stay healthy.

Breathe Better  

I’ve suffered with asthma all my life. Dust and pollen can trigger an attack; causing me to cough, wheeze and struggle to breathe.  With spring comes pollen that aggravates such allergies. Pollen, however, isn’t the only thing floating about causing breathing problems. The build up of dust and pet dander can also cause respiratory problems, particularly for the vulnerable. Spring is the time for ‘deep-cleaning’. Changing out your air filters, furnace filters, and vents will go a long way to improving your overall health.

Get Moving 

Get up off the couch and get to work. Just running the vacuum and picking up the surface clutter will make you feel better. With that goal in mind here are a few tips from the internet to help you with the spring cleaning tradition.

Room by Room: Skip the areas that you clean regularly and focus on areas that are generally ignored or neglected.  Create a cleaning checklist for each room to help you stay on track and remind you what areas need special attention.

Seasonal Projects: Many tasks are seasonal, such as boxing and storing winter clothing, bedding, skis,  sleds, and decor. As you are putting away the memories of winter you will be preparing for summer activities.  Clean the grill, sweep the patio, wash exterior windows. Unpack summer linens, open the drapes and invite the sunshine in.

Clear And Organize: Focus on getting rid of clutter. Leticia Almeida, on her website, suggested a 4-step approach. “Identify problem areas, analyze reasons for the clutter, determine solutions and implement them. Sorting your belongings into four categories-trash, give away, store, or put away. . . ” is highly effective.  Her number one suggestion is “move the clutter as soon as possible, whether it’s bringing a donation box to a charity or having a garage sale.” (www.thespruce.com)

Enlist The Family: Make the Spring Cleaning project, a family affair. Young kids can be fun and imaginative, and excellent helpers. Assign tasks, and make everyone feel included. Turn on the tunes and plan a dinner at your favorite restaurant as a reward when the work is done.

My Take

Several of the experts suggest you break up the spring cleaning tasks in to multiple days to ‘establish cleaning habits’ that will last the rest of the year, encouraging you to spend 10-15 minutes a day straightening up and de-cluttering year round. Sorry, experts, I cannot deal with the mess that comes with cleaning, to want to extend it into several weeks; enjoying it in small doses. For me, it is all or nothing. Plus. it is easier to get help for a full eight hours, one day, or maybe a second day, but never a dozen days for half an hour a shot.  So, figure out what you want done and when you want it done and get on the phone and ask for help if you need it.

Reducing Food Waste

Reducing Food Waste

Edible food is thrown away by the ton every year in the United States

Reducing Food Waste

Food is discarded by the ton every day in the United States. . . 80 billion pounds a year.  Not only is this  morally unconscionable when more than 50 million Americans are food insecure, but it is also an environmental catastrophe. There are things each of us can do to help reverse this growing problem.

D. S. Mitchell

 

Huge Loss

As a Sierra Club member I receive the organizations quarterly magazine. ‘Sierra’ The Magazine of the Sierra Club (Winter/2021) published a short article by Paul Rauber on the topic of food waste. The article was eye opening for me. After all, I try to do my part; I carefully separate my recycling, buy local, refuse excess packaging, advocate for organic, yet I am guilty of wasting food. Apparently, I am a small part of the problem, but when multiplied by millions, we have a huge problem of food waste in this country.

At the Supermarket

In my youth I worked as a checker at a major west coast grocery chain. I remember the waste was high. We contributed large amounts of product to local food pantries, slashed prices on expiring produce, dehydrated some items for bulk sales, but we also filled the dumpster out back with a large amount of food waste. Statistics in Rauber’s article indicate that grocery stores alone throw away 3.5 million tons of food each year, mostly dairy and produce. But it isn’t just grocery stores filling the dumpsters that are causing the problem.

Environmental Impact

In 2020, farmers plowed under millions of tons of vegetables and ranchers killed thousands of heads of livestock because restaurants closed during the COVID-19 pandemic and there was no market for the food. Whether its the asparagus you let die in the crisper or the broccoli your toddler refuses to eat; it all ends up in the landfill. Of course, as already noted, there is a moral failure when there is hunger in a country as rich as the United States, but it is also an environmental catastrophe. Rauber states in his article, “Discarded food is the single largest component of U.S landfills. There it becomes the country’s third largest source of methane.” Methane is a greenhouse gas that develops as our wasted, uneaten food rots in the landfill.

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Safe Medication Disposal: Do It Right

Safe Medication Disposal: Do It Right

It is important to dispose of medicines safely.

Safe Medication Disposal: Do It Right

D. S. Mitchell

Read the Dates

I was getting packed for my third move in two years. I know, too many, too often, but it was a strange set of circumstances and not worth talking about here. Usually I just go into the bathroom and dump the drawers into a box and then sweep the contents of the cabinet shelves into another box, and voila, the bathroom is packed. But, I picked up the first bottle, a bottle of Aspirin and glanced at the expiration date. Holy Moly, it had expired three years ago. That knowledge shook me up a bit. I’m a retired R.N. for Pete’s sake. The next bottle, a prescription for Flexeril, was outdated by 10 months.  I was two for two. Not good. Next,  was a bottle of cough syrup, expired the previous year. I was batting 100%.

I Have Information 

If your medicine chest is full of outdated medications or medications you no longer need and you are wondering how to dispose of them I have some information for you.  The best option is to use community-based drug disposal programs. Go to the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) website, dea.gov and use their search tool to find an authorized drug disposal collector in your area.

Local Police Departments

If you don’t find a program in your area don’t give up, call your local police department or county sheriff. Often these law enforcement centers have disposal programs. As a last resort you may be forced to dispose of them yourself. Please do not flush medications down the toilet, or the sink. These toxins are dangerous to animals, fish and water systems. Throwing them in the trash, makes them available to folks who may try to use them, no matter what they are.

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25 Great Ways To Save Money

25 Great Ways To Save Money

25 Great Ways To Save Money

D. S. Mitchell

AARP Tips

For at least the last decade AARP Bulletin Magazine has been highlighting clever money saving ideas and sharing them with members once a year in their “99 Ways To Save” issue. Some of them are a bit over the top and others sensible and worth passing on. So here are a few tips they have offered over the last several years.

1.) Sell To Amazon: Amazon buys used items, including video games, books, Kindle e-readers for trade-in, in exchange for a gift card. Go to the Amazon Trade-in Store and if an item you have is listed there, print our a free shipping label and send it off.

2.) Pass On Dryer Sheets: Easy trick to save about $8 on 80 loads. Instead, cut a sponge in half and soak the pieces in a container with 1 cup fabric softener and two cups of water. Wring and toss one sponge into each dryer load. You will need to replace the liquid every 3 months.

3.) Get Free E-books: There are nearly 60,000 public domain e-books available on gutenberg.org. You will find favorites and classics and easily save $3 to $10.

4.) 401(k) Know How: Sadly 1/4 of American workers employed at companies offering 401 (k) plans fail to take advantage of the full company match, this means folks are missing out on an average of $1,336 in free money each year. Ok. Get out your calculator and multiply $1,336 times 30 years (your working years) and you will see that you could potentially lose out on over $40,080. Now, is the time to take advantage of this huge employer giveaway. It’s free money. Grab it.

5.) Free Streaming Movies: Check out kanopy.com. If you belong to one of the more than 4,000 participating public libraries or campus facilities, you can stream over 30,000 movies for free.

6.) Fancy Dancy Lunch: When you want to try out a glamorous restaurant, do it at lunch. The menu is usually similar to what you would have at dinner but is usually 25% cheaper and a more relaxed atmosphere.

7.) Individual Development Accounts: IDA’s are designed to help people of modest means buy a house or start a business. Go to ProsperityNow.org/map to find community organizations that administer the programs. There are some programs that provide up to $4 for every $1 you save.

8.) Car Rental Discounts: If you are an AARP member just show your card to lock in big savings. With Avis you could sew up a 30% savings. That would mean $90 off a $300 rental charge.

9.) Start Using Your Cruise Control: Studies confirm you can reduce fuel consumption by about 7% using your cruise control device. The average U.S. household spends about $2,000 annually on gasoline. I could suggest switching to an electric vehicle but, I will not. Use your cruise control and save about a $100 annually.

10.) Check Engine Belts: Broken belts are a major reason for automobile breakdowns. Be sure to have a tech check on yours before you head out on that next long trip. Avoiding a single breakdown could save you at least $100 in towing charges and keep your vacation frown free.

11.) Small Carts Win Out: When you go to the grocery store don’t grab the biggest cart, here’s where you are advised to go small. Research shows when the size of your grocery cart is doubled, you buy 40% more! Downsize your cart and save up to $230 per month for two people.

12.) Forget The Bark Dust: When you are ready to spread bark this spring call your local tree service and ask for a pile of their free wood chips. Depending on the size of your yard you could easily save several hundred dollars.

13.) Cross The Border For Gasoline: I live in Washington state, I buy my gas in Oregon. Two reasons; in Oregon they have attendants that pump the gas, which is great when I’m in my heels and mini, plus there is no sales tax in Oregon which means gas and other items are at least 6.5% cheaper. In Washington many localities add on their own tax, so you might save even more buying across the river.  You  can improve your chances of getting the best price on gas by using the GasGuru and GasBuddy apps which will show you prices at all area gas stations.

14.) Raising Your Deductible: Raising the deductible on a homeowner’s policy from $500 to $1000 will likely save you 25%, according to the Insurance Institute. That’s about a $300 savings on a $1200 policy.

15.) Fifteen Year Mortgage: In November 2021 the interest rate on a thirty year mortgage was 3.5%-3.7%. The rate on a 15 year mortgage was 2.6%-2.7%. On a $200,000 mortgage you will probably pay about $400 a month more for the fifteen year mortgage. Cutting that mortgage by fifteen years will save you over $100,000 in interest.

16.) Skip The Coffee Kiosk: Imagine you spend $4 at Starbucks on a couple tall coffees, that’s $1,000 a year, just on workdays. Most businesses have breakrooms with free coffee. A pound of $7.99 coffee from Kroger’s will make 25 (12 oz,) cups. Big savings.

17.) Donate Stock, Not Cash: You could save big by donating stock instead of cash. by donating the stock versus the cash you aren’t liable for capital gains tax. An example, say you give $5,000 worth shares of stock to your favorite charity. You originally paid $1,000 for the stock. If you sold the shares and then donated the cash you’d owe $1,000 in capital gains taxes if you’re in the 25% tax bracket. The choice is easy, give the charity the stock. They will be able to use their tax exempt status to sell the stock without tax consequences.

18.) Stop Smoking: There’s a million good reasons to quit smoking. One of them being non-smokers, exercisers and people who maintain a healthy weight can get as much as a 50 percent savings on life insurance.

19. Prescription Savings: You might find a prescription medicine is cheaper than one you commonly buy over the counter. The heartburn remedy Prilosec, as an example, costs about $10 for a dozen tabs. With a prescription for Omeprazole you can get 90 tabs with a $10 co-pay. That is about a $60 a month savings.

20.) Stop Rinsing The Dirty Dishes: It is no longer necessary to prewash dishes. Just scrape thoroughly and load. You can expect to save about 55,000 gallons of water over the lifetime of the dishwasher.  That is about a $280 in dollar savings, plus using less water is good for the environment, in addition you will spare yourself a lots of unnecessary work.

21.) Help For Veteran Caregivers: The Department of Veteran Affairs offers caregivers a temporary break by paying all or at least a large portion of  the costs of an in-home health aide or for the veteran to attend an adult day center. Find details about the program by going to caregiver.va.gov, or call 855-260-3274.

22.) Apply For Free Medicine: You may be able to find help to pay for your prescriptions from The Partnership for Prescription Assistance, pparx.org. If you qualify you could potentially save hundreds of dollars a year on needed medications.

23.) Unclaimed Property: If you haven’t done it recently, go to unclaimed.org, find your state (or any other states you may have lived in) and enter your name. You may find the state is holding money from a savings account you forgot about, or an undelivered refund check.  I recently found $79 at the State of Oregon unclaimed property site. When I was there I also found $219 for my son and another $110 for my daughter. Yipee skipee! It took a total of 15 minutes and three Forever stamps to recover over $400 of the big green ones.

24.) Property Tax Breaks: States across the country offer property tax breaks for homeowners over 65 years of age. Since losing federal write offs on property taxes many homeowners on fixed budgets are endangered of being taxed out of their homes. States offer many types of tax programs, depending on the homeowner circumstances. I am not talking about tax deferments that defer taxes until the homeowner dies or sells the property, but are rather exemptions. That means it will not be collected later. Huge difference. Exemptions include caps on assessed value, tax rates and assessment freezes.  Each state, and many counties in those different states, have various programs and requirements. Programs like these can save senior homeowners thousands and thousands of dollars.

25.) Upgrade your refrigerator: A new model fridge may reduce your electric bill by about $350 over the first five years of use. Before buying go to your electric provider and check on rebate offers that are offered for buying an energy efficient appliance.

I decided I wanted to give readers a bonus, so here are two more great money saving tips.

26.) Reduce Your Lawn: The grass in your yard is one of the most expensive and labor intensive parts of your property maintenance. Statistics indicate Americans spend over $30 billion each year keeping up their lawns. Think arid. Think creative. Patios, decks, plant native species. Grass is not environmentally friendly nor is it pocketbook friendly, go natural.

27.) Buy Wine By The Case: Check with the retailer, but stores usually discount cases of by anywhere from 10% to 25%. Watch for sales and pick up a case of (12) bottles of wine for a great price and you’ll always have a handy house warming gift right at your finger tips.

Again I want to thank several issues of the AARP Bulletin magazine for the various money saving tips. Hurry out there and start saving.

Simple Life Lessons From My Mom’s Kitchen

Life Lessons From My Mom’s Kitchen 

By D. S. Mitchell

Life Lessons and Distant Memories

At the time of this writing, my mother has been dead for 32 years. But, every time I go into the kitchen she is there waiting for me, or more truthfully, she comes with me. She is not there in a bodily form of course, but from my heart and distant memories she emerges and pats me on the shoulder, and kiss’ my cheek.

The Chemistry of Memories

I don’t understand the chemistry of memories, but I am sure that every time I bring out her hand-typed recipe book, she hums her little work song and reminds me that she is always with me. As I remember the times I spent cooking with her; whether it was making dinners, prepping picnics, devising scrumptious desserts, or savory breads, I learned a great deal more than cooking tips. I now realize it was in my mother’s kitchen that I grew into the woman I am, where I learned the things that are most important in life.

Apples Everywhere

The Apple Quake is my all-time favorite cake, topped with my most favorite frosting. In the 1950’s everybody knew somebody that had fruit trees. It seems most people in today’s busy world forego fruit trees when they plan their landscaping. Without the fruit trees busy people don’t need to feel guilty because they have left the fruit rotting on the ground unwanted and unused.

Buy Local

I am so glad to see a slow but growing movement in this country to bring fresh unprocessed foods back to the American table. God bless each person that rises up and demands safe, local food sources. Read about it. Get concerned. Get involved. Demand, Fresh & Local.

 APPLE  QUAKE

  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 to 3 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 to 2 Tb. vanilla
  • 5 green apples, washed but unpeeled
  • 1/2 cup walnuts

Directions:

In a large bowl combine eggs, sugar, olive oil and vanilla with a mixer.

In a separate bowl combine flour, cinnamon, soda, and salt; when well blended add to the egg mixture. Lastly, add walnuts to the cake mix and blend together gently. Spread the thinly sliced apples over the bottom of the greased glass baking dish.  Pour batter over the apples.  Batter will be very thick. Place the batter into the sides and corners first, and then into the center. Let the batter sit for about five minutes to make sure that the batter is evenly distributed before placing it in the pre-heated oven. Bake: in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour. Remove from oven and cool thoroughly. Frost: generously with cream cheese frosting. Refrigerate: left overs.

MOM’S  CREAM  CHEESE  FROSTING

  • 8 oz. softened cream cheese
  • 2 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup softened salted butter
  • 1 to 2 Tbs. (or more) lemon juice to taste

In a medium bowl cream together the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Mix in lemon juice, gradually stir in powdered sugar, beat until smooth. Frost cake.

Somewhat Vague

The measurements for cinnamon, vanilla, and even the lemon juice for the frosting are somewhat vague, I admit, but there is a lesson here. LIFE LESSON: As my mother would say, “be generous”,  especially if you like a particular flavor.  I think that is wise.  If you like something-always be generous in its use.  When you believe in a cause, give generously of your time. If you love someone, give generously of your kindness and respect. If you are dedicated to a project then generously donate your money. What you love and believe in deserves your generous contribution of time, energy, and yes, even money.

**The name Apple Quake came from my young pronunciation of cake. Cake, quake–get it?

ENERGY SAVING TIPS: Season Specific Ideas

ENERGY SAVING TIPS:

Season Specific Ideas

This article is a continuation of www.calamitypolitics.com 10/16/19 article, “ENERGY SAVING TIPS THAT COST NOTHING.

ENERGY SAVING TIPS: Season Specific

By D. S. Mitchell

FALL AND WINTER SPECIFIC OPTIONS

Saving energy and money is a great dual purpose. As the weather begins to cool it is important to take control of your energy use. Check out the following energy saving tips to start today. Most of these tips are referred to in Part One of this article.

  • Add or repair weatherstripping on windows and doors to reduce heat loss and drafts.
  • Reverse the direction of your ceiling fan in colder weather. Running the fan in reverse pulls the warm air off the ceiling and disperses it throughout the room.
  • Check your air filters every month to improve air quality, reduce heating costs, and improve the efficiency of your heating system. Be sure to change the filters regularly to keep the system running properly.
  • If you have a programmable thermostat, program it to automatically change to the temperature at set times for each day. Temperature is a personal/household decision, but the U.S. Department of Energy suggests setting your thermostat to 68 degrees F while you are awake and at home and lower it while you’re asleep or away from home.
  • Take advantage of winter sunlight by opening your shades, allowing for natural light and capturing the warmth from the sun.
  • Keep furniture, drapes, carpets, and other objects from blocking the vents or registers.  Blocked wall/baseboard heaters or register vents prevent heated air from circulating freely around the room and may cause your heating system to work harder and prevents rooms from warming up to the set temperature on the thermostat.
  • Lower your thermostat when using your fireplace and close the damper when not in use.
  • Holiday lighting can increase your energy bill, so consider using LED holiday lighting instead of standard incandescent bulbs. They use less energy, stay cooler to reduce the risk of fire and injury, and last longer.

SPRING AND SUMMER SPECIFIC OPTIONS

As spring and summer months start heating up, many of us look for ways to keep cool without breaking the bank. Consider adopting some of these tips to increase your comfort while saving.

  • Block heat from entering your home in the warmer months by keeping your shades closed. Sunlight passing through windows heats your home and makes your air conditioner work harder.
  • Consider installing shade screens, awnings, or window film or blinds to prevent solar heat gain.
  • Hang laundry outside when weather permits. Not only does it save energy, but reduces the wear and tear on your clothes to help them last longer.
  • Switch to LED light bulbs. They use a fifth of the energy used by regular bulbs and keep your home cooler on warm days.
  • Well-placed trees and landscaping can help reduce heat gain and increase your comfort on warm days.
  • If you need to replace your window air conditioning unit, consider investing in an efficient Energy Star certified unit. They typically use about 10% less energy than conventional models.  (1) Make sure the unit you purchase is the right size for the area you are cooling; a unit that is too large will operate less efficiently. (2) Before cold weather hits, make sure to remove your unit from the window to help it last longer.
  • Use fans instead of air conditioning to stay cool on warm days. This can be more cost effective than cooling your entire home because they target a specific area. It’s important to have the blades spinning in the right direction to improve cooling.

Household Helps: Cleaning Schedule

Cleaning Schedule

By D. S. Mitchell

Helpful Hints

I love saving helpful hints. You know the stuff you see on the side bars of Good Housekeeping. I’ve had some things saved so long they may have been written in cuneiform. These little hints and helps are often preserved written on the back of an envelope, or a crumpled magazine page I snatched from a magazine at my doctor’s office. I have an entire filing cabinet drawer memorializing “helpful hints”.

Rolodex Mind

John S., my second husband was a very organized fellow. He had a schedule for nearly everything. You know, those things a conscientious hubby tends to do around the house. He kept track of oil changes for the cars, Spring window washing, furnace filter changes, gutter cleaning. You get the idea. Anyway, I often miss his “already done” attitude toward household tasks. When I saw this household cleaning schedule I just knew I had to have it….and pass it on, of course.

When Lights Come On

Seriously, without this list how would you know that the coffee maker that I haven’t cleaned since I took it out of the box should have been cleaned every day.  That I should be cleaning the mirrors weekly but instead I clear them after they steam up from the shower with my bath towel.  Monthly cleaning includes maintenance on the vacuum cleaner instead of changing the bag when the light comes on.  Ovens aren’t cleaned when you want your deposit back, you’re supposed to do it every 3 to 6 months.  And finally, I’m pretty sure that none of my homes have ever been pressure washed, let alone annually.

Now you can refer to this list in order to better ignore important tasks around your home too!

Enjoy your weekend checking off chores on your cleaning schedule.