Make Homemade Laundry Soap for 7 Cents a Load

As homeowners and homesteaders look for satisfying ways to simplify their lives and keep costs down, many are making their own soaps. Making homemade laundry soap can slash the cost of keeping laundry clean while extending the life of clothing, towels and other laundry. Continue reading

Making It Yourself: Why Bother?

Kathy's homemade soap. Find the supplies you need to make yours at Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron, Ohio.

Kathy’s homemade soap. Find the supplies you need to make yours at Lehmans.com and our store in Kidron, Ohio.

I recently taught a workshop on soapmaking at our local folk school. I was telling a friend about it and she asked a pretty profound question: Why do you bother? Continue reading

The Benefits of Washing Clothes by Hand

breathing hand washerThere was only a half a load of laundry and I decided to wash it by hand rather than use the washer.

The bathtub was my container of choice, and I decided to use a plunger to work the clothes in the hot water. Now, I’ve washed clothes by hand before – quite a few times, as a matter of fact. I used to own a washboard, a tub and a hand wringer, but when I moved to town, modern conveniences and all that mythology was calling me, so I got rid of both the washboard and wringer.

Anyway… the bathtub worked great, except that I have one of those push in plugs and when I caught it with the plunger, it came loose and the water started draining. The plunger worked fine, too, except that if I wasn’t careful it would stick to the bottom of the tub and I’d have to pry or pull it loose with a mighty splash. (Lehmans has a real laundry plunger called a “Breathing Washer,” and it won’t stick to the bathtub!)

I learned a few things that I’d either forgotten or hadn’t taken the time to notice before. One is that if you have a basement laundry and you’re washing clothes upstairs, you really should bring up the laundry soap when you bring up the dirty clothes. And bring up the basket at the same time. And any other laundry aids you might need.

Our Amish-made laundry lug goes from the bedroom or bathroom, to the washing machine, out to the clothesline and back in again. Durable and versatile, it's made just a few miles from our store in Ohio.

Our Amish-made laundry lug goes from the bedroom or bathroom, to the washing machine, out to the clothesline and back in again. Durable and versatile, it’s made just a few miles from our store in Ohio.

I forgot to bring up the basket when I brought up the detergent and I forgot to bring up the fabric softener when I brought up the basket. Washing clothes isn’t the hardest job in the world, but running up and down stairs in the midst of it makes it a little harder.

The benefit of washing clothes by hand

Washing clothes by hand has some definite advantages, nevertheless.

  1. One is that you find minor problems before they become major problems. As I was checking to be sure the socks were clean, I noticed that one of them was wearing thin at the heel. I will put that back when it’s dry and darn it before wearing it again. This is a sock that I knitted from some mystery yarn a couple of years ago, so it will be worth darning although it looks like it won’t wear as well as those made from sock yarn.
  2. Another benefit to washing clothes by hand is that most fabrics won’t pill as they do in washing machines.
  3. And third, while scrubbing dirty socks isn’t my choice of fun exercise, it is exercise. In this day of computers and push-a-button, turn-a-dial work, a little exercise doesn’t hurt.
Find clothesline kits, pulleys, wooden clothes dryers and clothespins at Lehmans.com!

Find clothesline kits, pulleys, wooden clothes dryers and clothespins at Lehmans.com!

The last point is one that maybe not everyone can appreciate. I had a moment of utter pride in a job well done when I hung the clothes out to dry. Clothes hanging on a clothesline make me smile anyway, and to think that I’d done it from start to finish…

(Editor’s Note: This post first published in 2007.)

The Value of Dirty Socks: Loving Your Laundry

A couple pairs of these rugged socks will see you through seasons of hard work, indoors or out. (Or, sew your own piece of Americana: the legendary sock monkey.) USA made for over a century.

A couple pairs of these rugged socks will see you through seasons of hard work, indoors or out. (Or, sew your own piece of Americana: the legendary sock monkey.) USA made for over a century.

I read recently that, in spite of a plethora of “time-saving” appliances and gadgets, we actually spend more time on household chores than people did 100 years ago. Vacuum cleaners are certainly easier than beating carpets but a century ago, carpets were only cleaned once a year rather than every day. Families had far fewer dishes and washed up after every meal. Now we have dishwashers but we have so many dishes, pots and pans and we snack so much that running a full load twice a day is not unusual in large families. By the time you scrape, rinse, load, and unload, it may take less time to just wash your dishes by hand. Continue reading

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5 Skills Your Grandparents Had – And You Should, Too

sock darner

A sock darning ball makes it so easy to repair socks or gloves. Slide the large end of the “ball” end into the sock to support the area needing repair.

Talking to my grandmother is always enlightening, but especially so when she speaks about living through the Great Depression. She was the baby in a family of seven children and has many memories of those hard times. “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” is an axiom that has stuck with her for 85 years, and a good reminder for all of us Baby Boomers, Gen X’ers, Gen Y’ers, Millennials and so on.

Generations ago, almost everyone had the following skills and many, many more. Some will save you money, some are eco-friendly, some are healthier for you and almost all will come in extremely handy in an emergency or power outage. Here are a few simple ways to start doing something with your own two hands, today.  (Your grandparents would be proud.) Continue reading

6 Small Ways to Simplify – and Enjoy It

These days, who isn’t looking for a little more “simple” in their life? I know I am. But

Make fresh, nutritious pickles, sauerkraut and more right on your countertop – no heavy crocks, cultures or cooking required.

Make fresh, nutritious pickles, sauerkraut and more right on your countertop – no heavy crocks, cultures or cooking required.

sometimes knowing where to start is daunting. I’m not ready to plow up my half-acre yard for a garden, put up a hundred quarts of canned food, or chuck my electric washing machine to the curb. Yet.

But there are lots of small steps I can take on the “road to simplicity” and still know I’ve done something with my own two hands (that doesn’t include typing or swiping on my phone). Here are 6 ways to start: Continue reading

Always wanted to try ___? Start smart with a kit.

Contrary to popular opinion, it just isn’t possible to make a living selling some

Our starter set includes everything you need to make several batches - enough to wash more than 800 loads at less than 7¢ per load.

Our starter set includes everything you need to make several batches of homemade laundry soap – enough to wash more than 800 loads at less than 7¢ per load.

honey, maple syrup and candles at a farm stand. I have to do other things — many, many other things — to avoid leaving home and hearth to pay the bills. I do a fair bit of writing and I teach a lot of workshops. Some have to do with my work with children impacted by abuse, neglect and foster care (my other life) and many are focused on teaching traditional skills like soap making, candle dipping, food preservation and making herbal salves and ointments.

I teach classes on how to do these things the traditional way, but I’m definitely not a purist. In fact, I’m a big fan of beginner’s kits. There are all kinds of kits available for all of the skills mentioned and just about any other you can think of. In fact, I got my start in mastering a lot of skills by purchasing said kits. Continue reading