SoBo Mama's Tips & Tricks

{March 26, 2013}   Repurposing: Junk Mail

A few weeks ago, I was absolutely disgusted with the state of the computer hutch.  I needed to move Grizzly’s work computer off my kitchen table so that we could eat, which meant my old desktop needed to be relocated.  After moving my computer to Monkey #2’s room (without the privilege of internet access!  She’s only 8!), I was left with a year’s worth of dust bunnies and a mountain of paper to go through.

If there is one thing I really enjoy about paperwork, it is shredding.

I sorted everything out and when I was done, had a small pile to file and a huge pile to shred.  I mean, checkbooks from banks I’ve not used in two years, billing statements from 5 years ago, and even check stubs from my first office job in 1993.

I promise I’m not a hoarder.  Just a procrastinator.

I filled one of Grizzly’s paint buckets several times over, transferring to bags when the bucket was threatening to overflow.  But what to do with the bags of shredded paper?  I could now safely put them out with the garbage on Friday, but there had to be a better use.  I know Granny-at-the-Farm expressed interest in making logs for her fireplace, but this was overwhelming!  So I turned to my friend, Google, and found several neat ideas.

Here are some of the suggestions I found:

  • Packing material for gifts and mailing – wish my mom did this instead of those awful foam peanuts!
  • Craft projects – I saw snowman pictures made from shreds of paper, papier-mache bowls, and even pinatas.
  • Pet bedding – of course the four-legged monkey buddy prefers her quilt, my couch (she thinks she’s slick!), and Monkey #2’s bed.
  • Making new paper – messy, messy, messy!
  • Cat litter filler
  • Fire starter for the barbecue or fireplace (Granny was on to something!)

I also saw it can be used for composting.  Which is something I have yet to tackle.  But it gave me an idea.

The four-legged monkey buddy loved to dig when she was younger.  I discovered on hole in particular in my backyard last year, which put me in an Ace wrap for way longer than I liked.  At our old house, I invested a small fortune in dirt to fill a hole in the front yard, only to have it sink in soon after.  I refuse to fight that losing battle again!  However, I did find a purpose for my shredding.  I emptied a bagful into one of Monkey Buddy’s pits.  I watered it down till it was really mushy and then covered it with dirt.

2 weeks later, it hasn’t sunk down.

What do you think?  Do you have any ideas for shredded papers?

~ Katie


Monkey 2 desperately wanted Santa Claus to bring her a dream house for Christmas.  Along with a variety of accessories for her doll and the desired house, of course.  Her daddy and I explained that Santa can’t do everything he used to because so many of the elves joined the union and their hours are much shorter.

No lectures, please.

I remembered when I was a little older than Monkey 2 and really into my fashion dolls.  My grandma made lots of clothes for my dolls but I really wanted a house for them.  My dolls had a sweet silver Corvette and a four-wheeler (it really worked!) but they didn’t have a place to live.  My mom’s friend was really crafty and made an amazing dollhouse from some cardboard boxes, wallpaper samples, and corkboard.

It was the best dollhouse ever.

I had told Monkey 2 about it and she decided that, although she still wanted the elf-made version, it would be pretty cool to build her own dollhouse and decorate it the way she wanted.

Good save!

This morning, I woke at seven and started grading essays and inhaling coffee.  Typical Saturday.  But Monkey 2 started rustling around early today, too.

“I’m ready for a grown-up lady craft,” she told me.  “I need a box.”

Looking up from a pretty decent essay, I waited for her to explain further.

Barbie needs a house,” she said, thrusting a mylar mini-skirted diva at me.  I convinced her to give me thirty more minutes with my essays and then we would start.

So this is what Monkey 2 and I crafted today and how we did it:

We took a box from the meat processor, probably 14x14x30 (but remember, I’m NOT a math person).  We cut out a window first thing from the bottom of the box, which would now be the back wall.  Using duct tape and glue, I tacked down three flaps to the box, leaving the fourth as part of the dollhouse floor.  The outside has not been painted or papered at all, because I think we’ll be adding an “upstairs” so that Monkey can have an elevator.

Then we got into my scrapbook stash.  Monkey 2 would have liked to use the same Valentine patterned paper that we used on her hair bob holder, but I only had one more 10×10 sheet, so she settled on some blue flowered prints and green dotted swiss.  We glued a smaller print to the “back wall”, a larger print to the sides, and the green forms a chair rail and flooring.  Monkey 2 scotch-taped all of the seams.

We haven’t made curtains or rugs yet but I have some fabric that will be great.   I also have yet to address furniture.  I can see a battery operated string of Christmas lights around the “ceiling.” This will be an ongoing project. Obviously.

No pics yet, but I’ll edit my post and add them in when we take some.  Monkey is so proud of this project and keeps telling me I’m the “best dream house builder, ever!”  I’ve always said this kid is just as happy with a box as an expensive toy.

This was a quick and easy way to bring some sunshine to my baby – and I exercised my cheaptitude muscle, wasted not, and had the chance to be creative.  Do you have any crafty projects going this weekend?

~ Katie


{January 3, 2013}   Waste Not, Want Not

Okay, so some wiseacre (Rhonda Belle, aka Granny at the Farm) voted for a “Waste Not” post.  Most of my posts are about things I’ve tried and my experiences with those things.  Well, waste not is big in my house.

Do we waste a lot? Yes.  My “Property of the City of Bossier City Utilities” trash can is down at the curb every Friday.  Sometimes it is even joined by my decrepit Rubbermaid garbage can without operational handles.  And when Grizzly cleans out his truck (once or twice a year, I think), forget about it, the garbage men hate my house with a purple passion.

We don’t waste as much as we used to, though.  Before I throw things away, I catch myself looking and thinking “Can I use this for something?”  In the past year, wine bottles have become candle holders.  Plastic coffee cans hold cookies and snack mix and canning lids.  Canning lids cannot be used more than once for actual safe canning, so I have a stack that I think will become snowmen at some point.  Or a magnetic board.  Or something.  And if your husband (or you, I guess) have developed the lovely habit of using smokeless tobaccos, there is no better spit cup than an old soup can.  My hard-won Mardi Gras plastic cups are pretty much off-limits for that kind of nonsense.

So here are some things that I try to repurpose:

Cans (from soup or beans)

  • After emptying these pantry gems, I rinse them and run them through the dishwasher.  These cans have become pencil holders for teachers by hot gluing an assortment of hand-me-down crayons.  They are great for organizing plastic utensils for get-togethers.  I also have this vision of using them to organize my school supply stockpile (currently residing in a deep dresser in the garage). I saw the coolest idea for an art caddy made of soup cans on Pinterest.  Love love love.  Tuna fish cans are shallow and are great for organizing a kitchen or bathroom drawer.  Any other soup can ideas?

Coffee Cans

  • I LOVE a coffee can!  I have come to prefer Folgers to Maxwell House, not because the coffee tastes great, but because of the shape of the cans.  I especially love the small ones that are round.  In my plastic coffee cans, I keep canning lids, canning rings, food coloring, and other baking necessities.  They are fantastic for organizing my pantry.
  • Due to my cheaptitude, I occasionally purchase the store brand coffee.  When I do this, I’m certain to buy the bigger can because the smaller ones are constructed out of some kind of foil-coated cardboard – not useful to me.  Those big cans hold colored pencils in my classroom as well as nails and screws in my garage.  At one point, I slit a lid and used it to store my massive collection of Box Tops for Education (you are very welcome, Bellaire Elementary!) and another became the Laundry Fairy’s wallet.  Love a coffee can!

Butter Bowls

  • I remember at 10 or 11 years old eating my cereal from a Cool Whip bowl at my parents’ in the summer.  I can count on one hand how many times I’ve purchased whipped topping during my adult years, but butter/margarine containers?  They are marvelous!

A serving size of Cocoa Krispies for Grizzly is the big Country Crock tub.

  • While not great for long-term storage or freezing, these containers are convenient for throwing leftovers in the fridge or toting a dish to a potluck (I’ve had too much expensive Tupperware not make it home over the years!) or even just serving a side at dinner.  And it doesn’t just have to be butter tubs.  I have some of the Country Crock sides and Lloyd’s Barbecue containers as well.

Oatmeal Containers

  • My family loves instant oatmeal.  You know the kind that comes in little paper envelopes? And that’s fine, when it’s on sale.  But I always have a container of regular, supposed to cook it on the stove oatmeal because I LOVE no-bake cookies (aka Doo Doo Balls) and when I want them, I want them.
  • While these are also cardboard containers, I can repurpose them.  On Pinterest, I found an oatmeal carton that was used to contain ponytail holders on the inside and headbands were wrapped on the outside.  How cute!  I have a plan to Mod Podge scrapbook paper that matches Monkey 2’s bedroom and then all of her hair bobs can be in her room.  Cute and functional.

Glass Bottles and Jars

  • Beer bottles, wine bottles, olive oil bottles, pickle jars…I’ve learned how to remove the labels and put them to further use.  Lots of ideas come from Pinterest ad I have yet to try even half of them.
  • I have tried one project and was pretty happy with the results.  After cleaning a jar/vase/bottle, I drew a picture in hot glue and then spray painted the bottle.  Mine is now a black vase with a fleur-de-lis.  Once I get a little more practiced, I could see making these as gifts.
  • On the windowsill by my sink, I keep an old bottle.  The bottle holds a repurposed toothbrush for scrubbing dishes and such.  It works out really well.
  • Bottles also make fantastic candle holders.  We used to have this amazing store in the mall, Wicks N Sticks, but it’s long gone.  At this store, you could purchase these cool colorful candles that when they burn, they drip down the sides of whatever holder.  I’ve seen where they’re available online, but they’re too pricey for a cheap chick like me.  I simply buy the really cheap tapers from the dollar store and guess what?  They drip!

Dryer Lint

  • Ok, this one is different, and I don’t save it for myself.  Granny at the Farm is collecting dryer lint.  I believe she’s making starter logs for the fireplace?  I currently have a grocery sack overflowing with lint, just waiting for me to take a trip to the farm.
  • I wonder if it could be used for felting?

Leftovers – It’s What’s for Dinner

  • My family is really easily bored with leftovers.  I hate it for them, but there are certain things I cannot feed my indestructible four-legged baby, and I cannot throw away good food.  Here is a trick I saw on TV.
  • One of my favorite former Bravo Housewives was on some morning talk show.  She’s a professional chef and has it so together when it comes to food.  She says she always has a bit left over from dinner each night.  The next night it is incorporated into another dish.  Leftover corn?  Throw it in tomorrow’s taco soup.
  • Grizzly did question the appearance of corn in this week’s Magical Mystery Beans.  They were part of a frozen serving of taco soup!

So slowly but surely, I’m repurposing rather than contributing to the local landfill.  I’m far from perfect, but it’s amazing what I can do with what I already have on hand.  Who needs Tupperware?  I have a coffee can.

What ideas do you have for repurposing things at your house?

~ Katie



et cetera
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