Book Review: Greeniology 2020 by Tanya Ha

No comments :

The idea of ‘going green’ can seem so overwhelming that it’s easier to just get into the car, put the pedal down and drive as fast as possible to the nearest shopping mall for an afternoon’s retail therapy. But a new book on living sustainably in Australia demonstrates that you don’t have to be a tree-hugging hippy to adopt a green lifestyle. Tanya Ha’s Greeniology 2020: Greener Living Today, and in the Future is a reference book that covers going green in Australia in all major aspects of a modern lifestyle.

Guidebooks on adopting a sustainable lifestyle are hardly a new phenomenon, but that Melbourne University Press has published this one indicates just how mainstream the concept has become. MUP’s publishing role here is also fitting for the reason that this book combines practical tips and Ha's trademark accessible style with scientific rigour.

Tanya Ha’s green credentials are impeccable; in fact it’s probably fair to call her Australia’s foremost mainstream advocate for the benefits of going green. A science graduate, she’s a natural communicator who has made it her vocation to demystify environmental issues for the layperson. She’s already published a number of books in this area, including the 2007 Australian Green Consumer Guide, which received rave reviews; is a reporter on ABC TV’s science program Catalyst; and was environmental coach on the SBS program Eco House Challenge

Greeniology 2020 covers the entire spectrum of areas you’d expect in a book like this, as well as a few more. There is information on green cleaning, health and beauty, sustainable food and fashion, saving water, saving energy, cultivating a green garden, buying a greener car, and green building and renovating. There’s also a chapter on healthy homes and indoor air quality that is particularly useful for those with allergies, one on how to go green at work, and one on how to have a green baby.

What Ha does particularly well is move from the straightforward kind of green advice to more complex and technical areas while still writing in an accessible, conversational way. Thus, there’s information on the ingredients to avoid in cleaning products, as well as how to make your own; but you’ll also find detailed specifications for different kinds of lights and light fittings; what and how to recycle; the costs and carbon emissions of various hot water systems, cooling systems and heating systems; and environmental ratings for new homes.

The book also covers what to consider when installing a rainwater tank, and the role of building orientation when designing a green home. Home-based renewable electricity sources are explained, and windows, floors, decking, insulation, cooking ranges and fridges all get a look-in.

Ha makes the leap from simple to complex while seamlessly weaving scientific knowledge into the book’s structure. Each chapter includes the ecological context that requires us to act, as well as plenty of useful facts and figures, for example, an explanation of the concept of greenhouse intensity. Interspersed throughout are Ha's answers to detailed questions sent in by readers, and there is space at the end of each chapter for readers to create weekly, monthly and longer term green goals.

I did have a problem with how Greeniology 2020 positions itself, which in turn throws up questions that go beyond the intentions and scope of the book itself, to the larger terrain of how we as a society deal with climate change.  In her introduction, Ha strongly advocates the path of personal responsibility. She aims the book at what she sees as a new kind of green citizen, someone who’s fairly middle of the road and wouldn’t think of protesting against government inaction but is willing to take measures to reduce their own footprint.

I’m sure Ha deals with political responses in other forums, but this appeal echoes a widespread and erroneous assumption that could lead us into letting governments and large corporations off the hook. Citizens doing their bit just isn’t enough to significantly reduce carbon emissions; strong government regulation is absolutely essential. Indeed, setting an emissions reduction target means that the more the population helps the federal government reach its target, the more corporations will be able to pollute. ‘Greeniology’ can’t stop at your front door if it’s to be effective. There are other ways to agitate besides protesting, such as writing letters, blogging and so on.

Having said that, the two areas – personal responsibility and pressuring governments to make radical, society-wide changes – are in fact complementary. That Ha deals primarily with one side of the equation isn’t in itself a problem. If a groundswell of people take up green energy, for example, the industry would have to transform; and if enough citizens reduced their emissions, this would put pressure on governments to increase their reduction targets.  Nor is going green purely about climate change, although that remains our greatest challenge.

I also found the chapter on green fashion a bit disappointing, having recently read an expose of the UK fashion industry, Lucy Siegle’s To Die For. Ha acknowledges the huge complexity of the issues in this area, but I think she could have advised readers of more of the options available, for example the growing range of ethical and Fairtrade fashion available from online stores in the UK. The birth of the sustainable clothes stylist, and trends facilitated by the web such as the renaissance in home sewing and the practice of transforming op shop clothes through alterations also deserved to be included.

Despite my quibbles, this is an excellent all-round reference book for anyone who wants to go green and stay that way. It’s comprehensive, clearly written, up to date, and with plenty of in-depth information from someone who is not only an expert but a talented communicator.

Until next time!

If you enjoyed this blog entry, you might also like Be an Ethical, Frugal Fashionista: How to Shop Ethical When You're on a Budget.

Read More


Secrets of Harmonious Haggling

No comments :

Haggling in a retail store is one of the last taboos. Unless you’re buying a big-ticket item, it can feel humiliating to tell a salesperson you’re only willing to buy something at a lower price than the store is advertising: you fear you'll look cheap. 

ince the economic downturn, however, haggling has become more acceptable, especially if you have a smartphone. But you can still be an effective haggler if you don’t have a smartphone, or in situations where you can't use it. And of course, haggling is a longstanding tradition at flea markets and garage sales. Try the tips below to become a happy (and effective) haggler!

* Effective haggling takes practice. You may have to try it a few times before you feel confident about doing it, or before you’re successful at negotiating a reduced price. View your first attempts as practice, and if your spiel or approach isn’t effective, change it the next time.

* If the item you’re haggling for is available elsewhere, research the price before you start haggling. It's important that you can truthfully tell the seller you could buy it more cheaply somewhere else - obviously this is where shopping apps coming in handy, but you can also research on the internet and by ringing around.

* Create a rapport with the seller before you start to negotiate. Make eye contact and greet them in a friendly way. Don't rush them, but at the same time, if they're obviously busy, wait for a lull in the customer traffic.

* Be absolutely confident you are willing to pay the price you offer for the item. If you're making a low offer, you need to be willing to follow through.

* If you’re expecting a discount,  offer the seller something in return. This could be loyalty, word-of-mouth advertising, bulk purchasing, or buying an additional product. Offering to pay cash is an obvious incentive for retailers to accept a lower price.

* Don’t haggle if you want the item very badly, or you know it has limited availability. Only haggle for items you’re prepared to walk away from, and make it clear that you are willing to walk away.

* Don’t haggle if you know the price of the item is already rock-bottom. To be successful, you need to feel justified in your haggling!

Don't be afraid to haggle at secondhand stores. Traditionally haggling hasn't been the done thing at op shops (thrift stores) but it's becoming more acceptable as prices have risen; however, I'd suggest only doing it if you think an item is grossly overpriced. You can also haggle at upmarket recycled fashion stores. A friend of mine spotted a sequinned George Gross dress in one of these stores that looked fantastic when she tried it on. The price tag was $100 but my friend managed to bargain down the saleswoman to $60, although the dress was retailing for $900 in George Gross stores. 

Part of the reason why haggling is embarrassing is because we often shop to express our status and wield power. Haggling suggests that we don’t have the money to pay the listed price. But these days most of us are trying to save money. If you can get over the initial embarrassment, you could find yourself saving money throughout the year rather than just at sale time, and even enjoying your haggling.

Until next time!
Read More


Steps to Take Before You Buy a Big-Ticket Item

No comments :

There comes a time in every shopper’s life when you have to make a large purchase. Whether your washing machine has gone on strike, your oven has decided to call it a day, or you can no longer live without a tablet or e-reader, buying a household appliance or digital gadget can be a stressful and drawn-out process.

Getting to the point where you’re able to make a good decision on a big-ticket item can take time, but it is worth it. The following steps can help.

1. Decide whether you really need the item, and can afford it. Sometimes we buy a new product because we are hoping to change a longstanding habit or because our friends or family have it. Other times, we succumb to the purely rational belief that we need the item when we actually don't - the Shopping Shoulds. On the other hand, there are big-ticket items that we genuinely need and that can make our lives easier or more fun. Think about how much you're likely to use the item; if it's only once in a blue moon, (eg a chainsaw or drill) it might be simpler to borrow it from a neighbour, family member or community borrowing scheme whenever you need to use it. If you decide you really need the item and you can afford it, then it's time for the next step.

2. Ease yourself into the research process. Use internet search engines to gain an overview of the kind of features and benefits you can expect from the item, and the issues and pitfalls to be aware of. Don’t worry about details at this stage, but focus on getting general information from many sources.

3. Speak to salespeople. Salespeople are often surprisingly honest about the products they sell. Tell the salesperson you’re just researching, and promise not to take up too much of their time. Then ask just enough questions to get information you can use as a basis for further research. Have a pen and notebook with you and take notes. Salespeople often earn commissions on what they sell, so try not to monopolise them if you’re not intending to buy from their store.

4. Research yourself! Take an honest look at your own lifestyle, and how it will affect your ultimate choice. What are you going to use the item for? Will it fit in with what you already have? Which features are important to you, and which can you do without? Should you buy new or secondhand? If you buy secondhand, what additional checks will you need to make? Do you have any special needs, and if so, what features should the product include to accommodate those needs?

Decide on the price bracket you can afford. Think about the ethical and green considerations you want to take into account (for example, plasma television screens use more electricity than do LCD screens).

5. Obtain in-depth information from trustworthy, independent sources. Once you have an overview and you’ve worked out your own needs, you’ll need more specific information: the price points of the item, the best time of year to buy it, the special features you can expect for different price points, the quality measures you might use to compare different products, the level of customer service offered by the various brands, and the cheapest price at which you can obtain the item once you’ve chosen it.

Use a range of trustworthy sources, including consumer websites and journals, comparison and product review websites, and shopping apps. Detailed specs are often available on company websites, but you can ring the company’s consumer information line if the information is incomplete. For Australian readers, Choice  is an excellent resource for comparing the performance of different products.

Follow your energy during the research process, as it can prevent you going up blind alleys that lead to unnecessary confusion.

6. Research the store as well as the product. The store you end up buying the product from will affect the experience you have is something goes wrong, so this needs to be part of your decision making. Find out about the returns policies and customer service record of the store before you buy.

7. Don’t overdo the research. Consumers get fazed by too much choice and may even opt out if it gets too hard! Putting some boundaries in place early on – eg the upper limit you’re prepared to pay, brands you don’t trust – can be helpful. Another option is to ask a salesperson or knowledgeable friend to recommend four or five of the best brands, and use that information to determine the direction of your research.

8. Shop wisely to get the right price. There are loads of shopping apps that can help you find the best price for a product. Here’s a list of the best iPhone shopping apps from lifehacker, and here’s one for the best Android shopping appsIf you find the best price at an online store, ensure you take freight costs into account. For extra savings, combine a coupon app with an app that gives you the cheapest price – but also consider points 6, 9 and 10.

If you don’t have access to shopping apps, use comparison websites to check prices, but also use the internet to check the prices offered by bricks-and-mortar stores that may not be included on comparison websites. You can’t assume that online stores are always cheaper, even when freight costs are waived.

9. Don’t assume you have to use price as the sole basis for deciding your preferred retailer. Because I value convenience and avoid risk, I prefer to buy big-ticket items from retailers to whom I can easily return the item if something goes wrong. In contrast, many consumers are happy to buy significant items from online stores, especially those stores with good returns policies.

10. Don’t let the smartphone rule you. You are the ultimate arbiter of what you buy, not your smartphone. Use shopping apps to give you the information you need to make a good decision – don’t let them make the decision for you.

11. Use your intuition when making your final choice. You may reach a point where you’ve worked out what’s right for you, and still have to choose between two similar items. If so, using your intuition can save you much time and effort. You just know you need to choose brand X rather than brand Y, although you can’t say why. (Note: this is not the same as mindless brand loyalty!) You will probably never know why this decision is right, but it may mean you avoid the hassle of a faulty or inappropriate product.

12. Let go for a while. If you’re finding it hard to choose between brand X and brand Y, step back and practise letting go. Decide that you’re going to temporarily give up, and let your unconscious handle it. Symbolically give the whole thing away. Do something that occupies your mind and see if an intuitive choice presents itself. This could be in the form of a mental image, a coincidental mention of the brand by someone or something, or just an overall sense that you’ve made your decision.

13. Give yourself time to get used to the item once you've bought it. A big-ticket item can take some getting used to and incorporate into your life. Expect a period of discomfort and uncertainty while you adjust to it. However, don’t hesitate to return it as soon as possible if it’s faulty.

Until next time!

If you enjoyed this post, you might like Become an Expert at Navigating Online Sales.
Read More


An Op Shop Find Transformed by the Needle!

No comments :

I’m not much of a sewer, but when it comes to op shopping for clothes, I’m discovering how important it is to be willing to alter op shop finds, even if the alteration is only minor. The top above was altered with no sewing machine stitching at all, so if you can handsew, you an alter.

This is a Katies top that cost only $4.99 from Salvos in Carnegie. I liked the texture of the top, the weave and the earthy colour. Originally it had a large band that hung down without any elasticisation, which made the top look ‘draccy’ (a word that never gets used any more and reveals my age!). The sleeves were very wide and hung down past the elbow, which also did nothing for the look of the top. If I’d been more confident, I could have simply cut the band off and quickly hemmed it using a sewing machine (I could have made the top shorter but felt okay with this length). Instead I just took the band up so that it now has a very large hem, handsewing the whole thing.

The sleeves were much easier. I just rolled them over twice and handstitched in four places on each cuff – at the top, the bottom and in the middle of the cuff on each side (ie the back and front).

I don’t have my own sewing machine and in hindsight I probably would have been better off enlisting my mum’s help. She’s always been a sewer and to this day is constantly altering things she buys to fit her better. Although she was able to teach me the rudiments of sewing as a teenager I didn’t practise threading the machine often enough and was never confident at bringing up that bobbin thread. And when the thread knotted while I stitched, which always happened sooner or later, I would throw a tanty and start abusing the Singer. Now I regret my impatience!

Anyway, my mother was wrapped with my alteration and declared that I was ‘your mother’s daughter’ (the implication being ‘after all’)!

Until next time,
If you enjoyed this post you might like Great Tips for Successful Op and Thrift Shopping.
Read More


Cultural and Frugal Potential of the Kindle: Part 2

No comments :

Part 1 of this blog entry looked at some of the ways the Kindle could encourage you to read more, and enable you to get more out of your reading. This time we're looking at the frugal possibilities of the Kindle, including finding cheap and free e-books.

Lending potential
As you may already know, Kindle e-books recently became available for loan from 11,000 US libraries.

You’ll need to contact the libraries themselves to find out whether they offer this service, as Amazon doesn’t provide a listing of participating libraries.

Owners of Kindle books can also lend books to each other

My understanding is that at this time both these services are available only in the USA (let’s hope that changes soon!). And not all e-books can be lent out: availability depends entirely on the publishers and rights holders.

Free e-books on the internet
There are loads of free e-books available for download onto a Kindle, most of them classics. Some of these can be found on Amazon but there are many more on other sites, almost 2 million altogether. Amazon has a good guide to them; this guide also tells you how to download the non-Amazon books to your Kindle, a process that is less straightforward than downloading Amazon books. (Many of these books will have poor formatting because they have been scanned from traditional books.) 

Many of the books available on the Smashwords site are also free or cheap, and you can usually download a Kindle version.

Free e-books on Amazon
There are thousands of free e-books available on the Amazon website. Two categories are ‘Limited-Time Offers and ‘Kindle Popular Classics. However, there are many more free books on Amazon apart from these ones. 

A good way of finding the most popular free e-books on Amazon is to go to the Kindle Store and choose any book, then go to the Product Details section and press on the ‘See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store’ link.

This will take you to a list of the bestsellers in whatever category the book is in, with a separate list of the top 100 free books in that category. Choose ‘Kindle ebooks’ from the the list on the left-hand side, and this will give you a list of the various subject categories. Choose the subject area  you’re interested in, and you should get two lists – the top 100 in that category, and the top 100 free books in that category.

Cheap books on Amazon
Once you’re in the Books section on Amazon, you can find e-books that fit into the ‘Bargain Books’ category. While you’re in any of the major subject areas, select Bargain Books from the left-hand side column, and then select Kindle books from the Format menu running across the screen. (For some reason the ‘Bargain Books’ category doesn’t appear in the left-hand column if you start off in the Kindle Store, only if you select Books first, select a subject area, select Bargain Books and then specify that you want Kindle books.)

As well, Amazon offers a Daily Deal, which is announced on Twitter (this book won’t necessarily be available in all territories). 

Amazon also offers discount coupons for a very limited range of books.

Sometimes it’s worth paying a small amount of money for a book rather than going for a freebie. For example, while it’s possible to buy free classics, occasionally it may be worthwhile to pay, say, $2.99 for the collected works of a major author published by a reputable publisher. When you consider that the author’s entire oeuvre is conveniently included in the one book, three bucks doesn’t seem like much to pay.

Cheap and free author-priced books on Amazon
As you’re probably aware, the explosion of self-publishing also means that there are simply ginormous amount of free and cheap e-books available on Amazon (and Smashwords), where the low price, or the fact that the book is free, is determined by the author. To access all the free and cheap books on Amazon, not just the classics, promotional offers and most popular books, you need to go to the subject and genre areas.

Once you’re in the Books section on Amazon, select your preferred subject area from the left-hand side column and then select Kindle books from the Format menu running across the screen. Then select ‘Price low to high’ from the ‘Sort by’ link on the top right-hand side. Any free books will be shown first. And of course the cheaper ones will be shown next.

I did a quick perusal of the free books that aren’t classics in subject areas of interest to me, and to be honest the pickings were thin – but it’s still well worth checking the free books in your areas of interest. And of course there are heaps of books that are under ten dollars and as cheap as 99 cents.

Amazon also features book lists created by Amazon users, known as Listmania lists. These include lists of free and cheap books in various genres. You can search Listmania for your preferred types of lists using the main search function on Amazon; for example, you could search Listmania for ‘free science fiction books’. The writers of these lists may also link to blogs that review books in your favourite genres.

Checking out free and cheap e-books
With so much to choose from, if you want to sort through the chaff, it's best to read a number of reviews for each book. Don’t just check the stars on the Amazon book page, but read a few of the actual reviews.

Here’s a list of five good book review sites. There are also dozens of bloggers that review self-published books (although the vast majority review only genre fiction). Here’s a list of e-book review blogs, which also includes sites that provide info about free e-books. 
But there are many more review blogs – I suggest doing a Google search for review blogs in your favourite genres, and don’t forget the links to blogs from Listmania.

Hope your frugal journey with the Kindle is great fun.

Until next time!
Thanks to Michael Wilbur-Ham for additional research. If you enjoyed this post, you might like The Last Days of a Dying Behemoth.
Read More


Cultural and Frugal Potential of the Kindle: Part 1

No comments :

Warning: this article is biased towards Amazon and the Kindle, as I’ve published an e-book for the Kindle and also own one (a Kindle, that is!).

I was given a Kindle by a friend about two weeks ago. It was a complete and welcome surprise, and I’m still adjusting to it. The potential frugal (and decluttering) uses of the Kindle are immense, but there’s more to the Kindle than saving money and space.

Because I wrote an e-book for the Kindle before I got mine, I was aware of the massive cultural change that the explosion of self-publishing enabled by e-readers was bringing about, and I’d already thought a bit about how that would affect reading. Now, having my very own pet Kindle, I feel even more positive about its potential to change and improve the way we read. And the release of three new Kindle models, including a tablet, raises further questions about how the Kindle will affect reading.

So here are some thoughts about how the Kindle can enhance life, with some information about its frugal and cultural potential, and some questions about how the Kindle Fire might fit into this (or not).

You don’t actually need to buy a Kindle to benefit from it

You don’t have to own a Kindle to benefit from its frugal and cultural potential – you can use any of Amazon’s free Kindle reading apps. You may not fancy reading a book on your PC, but if you have a laptop, iPad or iPhone you can read Kindle books on these devices for free.

If you switch between different devices your place in the book will be kept, as will bookmarks, notes, and highlights.

You can also read books on your Kindle that are formatted for other e-readers, such as classic books that are out of copyright, as long as they don’t have digital rights management (DRM). To do this, you need a conversion program such as Calibre. For example, if there was a classic book in EPUB you wanted to read, you could use Calibre to convert it to Mobipocket, which is the correct format for Kindle e-books. Amazon also offers a free program, KindleGen, which converts EPUB files and several other formats to the Kindle format.

Reading becomes an easy choice

Often when I’m tired but not ready for sleep, I want to read but I’m too fatigued; it’s easier to watch TV, even if there’s nothing decent on. Because of the lightness of the Kindle and the control you have over the text size, you may find it easier to make the choice to read rather than watch TV when you're feeling fatigued.

Getting more out of the classics

One of the first things to go onto my Kindle was a free copy of Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities.

There are loads of cheap and free e-books on the Amazon website that can be downloaded onto your Kindle at no cost as soon as you open an account, including many of the classics. (More on finding the freebies in the following entry.)

But it’s not just that you have access to these cheap and free classics. In fact, using a Kindle will enable you to get more out of them.

Classic books are often very long and, especially if they’re cheap editions, tend to be written in small type. These two factors definitely affect how much attention I pay to the language. When reading a thick book with small type, I usually get preoccupied with the Herculean task of completing it, and focus too much on how much progress I’m making. Not to mention the physical effort involved in holding a thick, heavy book.

With an e-reader there is only one page of text in front of you or, depending on the text size, perhaps just a few paragraphs. With total control of the size of the text, all you need worry about is the block of text you can actually see. Suddenly the language comes alive like never before, and you are free to appreciate its intricacies and the skill of the author without the manual difficulties of reading, or concern about how far you’ve got to go.

This in turn may encourage you to read more, and especially to read and appreciate more classics – a relaxing, low-cost hobby!

E-reading as a whole new hobby

With the rise of the e-book came warnings from the publishing industry about the death of reading, the fear that no one would read books straight through any more and, because of the potential to reconfigure books and so on, the fear that a book would lose its autonomy as cultural object, and become malleable. In other words, legitimate fears brought on by the internet about loss of attention span and capacity for deep thought (and capacity to produce texts created through deep thought) were being projected onto e-readers.

All this actually made me think that the opposite could well be the case. With its convenience and capacity to store huge amounts of text, as well as the explosion of self-published genre books (and online communities formed around genres) it struck me that reading on an e-reader represented a new form of entertainment along with, say, gaming. You could watch TV, stream a movie on your tablet, read a traditional book, play a computer game – or you could read on your Kindle.

Think I’m being overly optimistic? A computer-savvy, film buff friend of mine whose offline reading was previously confined to New Scientist bought a Kindle a few months ago and recently completed The Raw Shark Texts, an IT-based sci-fi thriller that was perfect for his sensibility. He is reading books on the Kindle that he simply couldn’t be bothered reading in paper form. This harks back to my previous point about the Kindle encouraging you to read more.

A shift away from reading?

Will the release of the Kindle Fire, with its access to other Amazon products besides books, including music, streaming movies and TV shows, full-colour magazines and games, destroy this potential of the Kindle to make e-book reading a whole new pastime? Probably not, according to telecommunications engineer Michael Wilbur-Ham. He says that the Fire is a ‘cheap multimedia consumption device’ that is not aimed primarily at readers of e-books, but at users of tablets.

‘Amazon knows how many of their users buy different kinds of products, and many of their users don’t buy books', he said. 'The Fire is primarily for those who can’t afford or don’t want to buy more expensive tablets.’

This doesn’t mean people won’t read books on the Kindle Fire – of course they will (and they do on their iPads). But the emphasis seems to be on the colour screen and how this will enhance the experience of watching movies and TV, gaming, and using apps. At the same time, Amazon has released new Kindle models that are dedicated e-readers, the Kindle wifi 6” and the Kindle Touch. Both have advanced ink displays for ease of reading and are touted as being lighter and smaller than their predecessors, indicating that Amazon intends to keep producing a device that is primarily for the purpose of reading.

(In fact, at only $199 the Amazon Fire may be cheap upfront, but like the iPad it’s designed to make users consume and buy more of the company’s offerings – so frugal consumers may not necessarily consider it a good buy.)

Note: Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet and Touch e-reader are not available in the UK, Europe, Canada or Australia; but the Fire would be next to useless if it were available, as users wouldn’t be able to access the movie streaming, music, apps and games because of licensing restrictions.

In Part 2 I'll look at ways to find free and cheap books for the Kindle, and other frugal aspects of the Kindle.

Until next time!
Read More


Clothing Conservation - Tips for Making Your Clothes Last Longer

No comments :

Got a throwaway approach to fashion? Throw it away! It doesn’t matter how little your clothes cost or whether you bought them new or secondhand, you can get more wear out of them simply by looking after them – and that means you’ll need to buy fewer new clothes, which will save your precious dollars and help the environment.

Building TLC for your clothes into your routine also helps you to appreciate them and reminds you of what you already have in your wardrobe, which in turn will help you reduce your clothes spending.

Some of these tips will sound mind-numbingly obvious, while others are more obscure. But sometimes it’s good to be reminded of even the most obvious ways to look after your clothes. After a while, greater care for your clothes will become second nature.

Prevention is better than cure

* Always wear an apron when cooking. This rather obvious tip applies just as much when frying up a quick omelette as it does when settling in for some serious baking, as oil stains are extremely difficult to remove. After a while putting on an apron will become automatic and you won’t have to think about it.

* Use napkins (serviettes) when eating. The same principle applies here; placing a napkin or serviette on your lap before eating will soon become second nature.

* Keep some old, ratty clothes in your wardrobe that you wear just for domestic tasks. You may think it’s fine to weed the garden in jeans, but grass stains are very difficult to remove! Even a bit of housecleaning is better done in old clothes, or at least with an apron.

* Eat and cook mindfully – stay focused on what you’re doing and you’ll be less likely to spill food!

* Always iron clothes according to the instructions. If you’re ironing delicate fabrics, iron your clothes inside out. For extra care, keep a large handkerchief near your iron and place it over a section of fabric before ironing it.

Mindful maintenance

* Check the label on a piece of clothing before you buy it. You may still decide to buy it if it says ‘dryclean only’, but at least you’ll be forewarned that the garment will be more expensive to maintain.

* Sew buttons on properly as soon as they become loose, so you don’t run the risk of losing them (this tip is actually aimed at yours truly, who tends to turns a blind eye to loose buttons).

* Hang your clothes up in dry, mould-free cupboards. Use plastic from the drycleaners to safeguard them from dust.

* Air the room you store clothes in regularly.

* Don’t use mothballs to store out-of-season clothes safely. Store them in cedar chests or vacuum-sealed bags (but you do need to wash them first if you’re doing this). Moth repellents made from herbs and essential oils are another alternative, but I wasn’t able to ascertain how scientifically effective these methods are. This website has useful information on making your own herbal sachets while this website provides info on which essential oils are effective in repelling moths.

* When you’re sitting in front of the TV, use the time productively – use a decomber to remove pilling from pullovers, brush your clothes with a clothes brush, and catch up on your mending.

Wiser washing

* If you’re buying a new washing machine, buy a front loader. It uses less water and is gentler on your clothes.

* Always check the washing instructions on the label. If in doubt, a cold wash is best.

* For delicate clothes and those you want to preserve, consider handwashing for at least the first few months. Wait until you have a few clothes in the same colour and do a batch at a time. Ensure that you’ve dissolved the laundry liquid in the water before you put the clothes in. This is easier to do in the warmer months when it’s easy to take advantage of natural solar power to dry them.

* Don’t wash your clothes more often than you need to. This blogger has some useful information on washing clothes less often. If you work from home and just put on something for a couple of hours to go out in, depending on the weather it may be okay to wear three or four times – or even more! For me it depends on whether I’ve worn clothes next to my skin – I confess that with cardigans and jackets that I wear for only a few hours at a time, I may not wash them for many wears. Use your gut feeling (along with your sense of smell!) to decide whether clothes need a wash or not. Airing clothes is a great way of reducing the need to wash them.

* To keep track of clothes that you’ve worn but don’t yet need to wash, set aside part of your wardrobe space and store them there.

* Jude’s (my mum’s) tip: If your clothes don’t need a wash, hang them up as soon as you take them off at night to air them and prevent creasing.

Delightful drying

* If you have a dryer, try to minimise your use of it. Dryers wear clothes down faster, and can damage the elastic in clothes and underwear. Needless to say they’re also energy guzzlers.

* Line drying is great for clothes, although not for woollens and anything that will stretch. Hang the clothes their full width, pull them down to minimise wrinkling and include space between each one to maximise drying. If it’s a hot day, don’t leave clothes that can fade out in the sun too long. Also, check your line on a regular basis for worn-out plastic, as this can expose the wire and lead to rust.

* Don’t keep your pegs on the clothesline – store them in a peg bag in the laundry.

* Dry woollens on a flat surface after gently removing excess water. Place a towel on a large square drying rack, and carefully arrange the garment on the towel so that it’s as flat as possible. If the day is warm enough, place the drying rack out in the sun. For quicker drying, turn the garment over when one side is ‘done’!

Savvy stain removal

* There is loads of information on the web about getting rid of stains, but be careful. Try more gentle approaches first and then proceed to more drastic solutions if these fail. Test substances out on the fabric first if possible. Don’t use hot water on the stain in the first instance and don’t rub the stain if the fabric is delicate, as this may damage the fabric permanently. If in doubt, it might be worth taking the garment to the drycleaners.
Useful sources of information regarding stain removal can be found here and here, while this is a good article on using green methods to remove stains.

Until next time!

If you enjoyed this blog entry, you might like Be a Creative Stinge - 12 Great Tips for Cutting Your Spending and Saving Money.
Read More