Living More-with-Less


Spoons and forks.

I pack my lunch for work but always seem to lose spoons and forks. So I just grabbed a plastic set at work. Then I realized one day that I could buy odd mismatched flatware at almost any secondhand shop. I now use those—and oddly never seem to lose them!

Linda Miller, Harrisonburg, Virginia

Bath water.

For years now I have been using bath water to flush the toilet. It costs only the time it takes and an ice cream container.

S. Pickard, St. Albert, Alberta

Excess water.When taking a shower I run the cold water into a bucket and then store it in gallon milk jugs. The water can be used for: washing laundry by hand, cleaning, washing the car, watering plants, in the washing machine, among other uses.

Virginia Claassen, North Newton, Kansas


We live in Nairobi, Kenya, where water is scarce. Weíve learned that a few big sturdy buckets are invaluable in using water more wisely. Our buckets are used to collect our shower water and then lugged outside to water the plants and to hold the rinse water from our washing machine that can be used later to wash the car. A toddler favorite in our house are "bucket baths"; our little ones love the feeling of sitting in a bucket of warm water that reaches right up to their shoulders (and which can be used the next day to wash the floors).

Kirsten Krymusa, Nairobi, Kenya


Iíve tried lots of different things on slow drains but the thing that has worked the best is simply using a plunger. Iíve only used this on the bathtub drain. When water is not going down the drain because of a partial blockage, use a plunger to plunge vigorously several times and then run hot water through the drain.

Lorene Byler Miller, Goshen, Indiana

Baking soda.

I never believed all the hype about baking soda until I tried it when battling allergies and trying to eliminate chemicals from my home. It sometimes requires some elbow grease (I just think of it as exercise for my arms), and needs to be rinsed well.

For difficult stains or ground-in dirt, I use a scrub brush. Keep a box in every bathroom and by the kitchen sink. Or put into a sprinkle-type container (such as those used for sugar), although I go through it so fast itís almost as easy to just use the box. If you start using it this way, I recommend buying two or three boxes at a time.

Uses include floors, tubs, sinks, and pots and pans (wash with soapy water and dishcloth, rinse with the soapy water, place on counter out of the water, sprinkle soda liberally on pan or dishcloth, scrub until clean or add more soda if needed). Also can be used on discolored plastic containers.

Lorene Byler Miller, Goshen, Indiana

Limiting dryer use.

After washing a load of clothing, I put the timer on for twenty minutes, then take out the clothing and hang to dry (outside in the summer and on an indoor clothes line in the winter). Starting the clothing in the dryer keeps them soft.

Kathleen Springer, Saybrook, Illinois


By venting your electric clothes dryer indoors during the dry, cold months, you can capture heat and humidity that would otherwise be lost. A simple screen placed over the vent catches most of the lint. Gas dryers should not be used in this manner due to the by-products of combustion.

Jonathan Fox, Scottdale, Pennsylvania

Clothesline to trellis.

Over the years, your rotary clothesline may need replacing. An old line can be reused quite efficiently by a vegetable gardener as a trellis for cucumbers or climbing beans. Remove the support pole and diagonal support braces, select a site in your garden, and, using two metal posts, connect the clothesline so it is securely mounted perpendicular to the ground.

Randall Moyle, Pickering, Ontario

Wax paper.

I use the wax paper bags from cereal boxes instead of buying wax paper. Useful for covering food in the microwave or any other way wax paper is used. Cut off ends of the bag and cut open, wipe off crumbs, and itís ready.

Lorene Byler Miller, Goshen, Indiana

Lent without bags.

In 2008, I gave up paper and plastic bags for Lent. I had been taking my own cloth bags along to the grocery store or farmers market for years, but sometimes I forgot my bags—or even worse, left them in the car and didnít take time to go back and get them. On more than one occasion near the start of Lent, I ran into a store without a bag to pick up one item—only to find other things I "needed." Since I had come without a bag, I left these stores with arms laden as I tried to convince the clerk that I really didnít need a bag.

The constant need to have a cloth bag at my side reminded me throughout Lent of my unending need for Godís presence in my life.

Two surprises stand out to me: First, no one cared. I had thought that at least at large department stores or bookstores I would have to defend my right to bring in my own bag, or that store personnel would want to search my bag when I entered. But that did not happen even once; instead, I got smiles from clerks.

The second surprise relates to buying habits: as Lent wore on, I became accustomed to running fewer errands. If I didnít have a bag along, I just didnít stop to run into the drugstore for contact solution and toothpaste. I waited to shop until I had a bag. Ultimately I found myself spending less money and making fewer small trips to the store.

Amy Gingerich, Hudson, Ohio


We receive numerous requests for donations to this or that fund, and each one includes an envelope. Instead of throwing away the envelopes, we save and reuse them by just writing a name or identifying group on the outside back of the envelope. My former boss taught me this trick by using them for paychecks each week rather than purchasing a new box of envelopes.

Jill Landes, Souderton, Pennsylvania

More envelopes.

I seem to have an endless supply of long envelopes with preprinted addresses and white backs. I cut off one side, use the blank back for grocery and other lists and pop coupons, measurements, fabric samples, or whatever else I need to take along for my shopping expedition into the envelope.

Linda Miller, Harrisonburg, Virginia


When one prints out a lot of information, there is bound to be material that has been printed out erroneously or not needed. I keep a box beside my printer and save all the misprinted material. Then when I need scrap paper, I just take a sheet and use it. Iíve also cut some of the paper into smaller panels for use as grocery lists. Then, after the paper is reused, I place it into the recycling bin, making the original sheet both re-used and recycled.

Randall Moyle, Pickering, Ontario

Fire starters.

A friend of ours makes fire starters by mixing sawdust with wax and pouring the mixture into small wax-coated paper cups. We do not have access to sawdust, but we do have a paper shredder. Fill small wax-coated cups with shredded paper, being sure there is no plastic from shredded credit cards or discs; just paper.

Using old, partially burned, or misshapen candles, melt the wax double-boiler style (that is, put the candles in an old coffee can and set the can in a pot with water an inch or two deep. Boil the water to melt the wax). Pour the melted wax over the paper in the cups. Note: the can can be bent to form a spout to make it easier to pour the wax. Let fire starters set until the wax sets up.

These make great fire starters for campfires, grills, or fireplaces. They can be made ahead and stored in a dry place. A basket or decorative bag full of them would make a nice gift for family and friends.

Dwight and Betty Layman, Ephrata, Pa.

For more information

Recipes for cleaning solutions: Find a variety of recipes for housecleaning solutions.

Project Laundry List: offers tips, information, and resources for air-drying clothes and cold-water washing.

Back to Stories, Tips & Links to Resources main page.

MennoMedia Herald Press Job Openings Donate Contact Us Staff Directory