4 Miraculously Multipurpose Household Products for Minimalists!

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“A minimalist by intent, I live a beautiful life with fewer things—simple, yet full.” Laurie Buchanan, PhD

At first it may not seem clear why learning about the multiple purpose of various household products is relevant to minimalism. Here’s the thing. When you use one thing for several purposes it saves you from having to buy 5 other things that would then be taking up space unnecessarily. You can radically cut down on the amount of clutter in your household simply by figuring out how to “stack functions,” a nifty term used in the field of permaculture to mean “getting many yields (outputs) from one element (thing) in your system.”[1] What follows are just a few examples of basic items you probably have lying around, or can very easily acquire, that have a whole lot of uses you may or may not already know about. Once you start looking around at what you have in your home there are likely several things you could get rid of by simply using more basic stuff in creative ways.

13.1 Glass Jars: The Hip Holder For Just About Anything!

In many places mason jars (i.e molded glass canning jars…) are the new “in” thing for drinks, be it coffee or cocktails. Invented and patented in 1858 and originally used in order to create a hermetic seal for preserved foods, they now clutter cupboards across continents serving as receptacles for everything from water to soup.[2] Glass jars of any type can also be used for short-term food storage for both dry and wet goods. They can make great take-away containers. Though slightly heavier to carry around then their metal or plastic counterparts, they have the benefit of not leaking any carcinogens or heavy metals into your food they way certain plastics and metals do ( such as plastics with BPA’s and metals like aluminum and copper…).

Glass jars can also make great plant holders, depending on how much drainage the specific type of plant needs. For certain plants you can adapt to the lack of drainage holes by watering less or simply putting a layer of gravel or small rocks in the bottom of the jar below the soil, which helps avoid roots being stuck in stagnant water and thus eventually rotting. Some nurseries suggest using activated charcoal as a drainage layer, for the following reasons. “Activated charcoal has been heated at high temperatures, which increases its naturally absorptive properties. This means that a layer of activated charcoal at the bottom of your pot is actually able to remove some of that excess water, which makes your plant very happy in the case of over-watering. Plus, another issue that arises from over-watering is fungal and bacterial disease. Activated charcoal has natural microbial properties, and can help deter those harmful bugs.” [3]

Yet another great use for glass jars is as pencil or cutlery holders. They look stylish on a countertop and allow you to see what you have and where it is, instead of riffling around in a dark drawer or opaque container. If you want to get crafty, some people even go to the lengths of decorating their jars by putting bands of ribbon around the lip or using markers that can write on glass.

Finally, you can also use your extra jars as candle holders. This works best with small tea light candles which you can light and slide in, or if you have a longer lighter, just put them in the bottom and reach in! These make for both awesome-looking and very fire safe containers to add a little ambiance to any occasion (not to mention keeping your cat from knocking over candles!). Now that you’re on a role, you can probably come up with plenty of other uses for your erstwhile boring old glass jar!

13.2 Apple Cider Vinegar: Sure It Stinks, But It’s So Useful!

“Anything you use often, and which truly adds value to your life, is a welcome part of a minimalist household” Francine Jay

Apple cider vinegar may not be your favorite tasting or smelling liquid, but it certainly makes up for it’s sourness by being so darn useful and good for you! There are myriad health benefits to consuming apple cider vinegar regularly. Research shows that apple cider vinegar (and other vinegars as well) improves insulin sensitivity,[4] help improve metabolic disorders and support weight loss by increasing your feeling of fullness,[5] balance out cholesterol levels and decrease inflammation.[6] If you’re on the verge of acquiring some, when you get it, go for the organic, unpasteurized variety. Apple cider vinegar is used primarily in cooking (for things like salad dressings, marinades, for poaching eggs and…to make vegan buttermilk![7]) and for making preserved foods such as quick pickles and to add flavor at the end of certain fermentations (though it’s not recommended for lactic acid fermentations as it can mess up the fermentation process!).

What you may not know is that apple cider vinegar can also be used as an all purpose cleaner! Most people mix it with a bit of baking soda, water and essential oils (unless you really love the smell of vinegar) to make an awesome, easy and non-toxic cleaner for around the house. With apologies to any Jains out there, on the cleaning front, it’s also an ingredient in the standard fruit-fly trap. You mix a bit with some dish soap and water and either put it in an open bowl or, for the majorly anti-fruit fly among you, you can put it in a long container like an old wine bottle, as vase or a jug and roll up some paper into a tube that’s smaller on the end sticking into the container and larger on on the outside end. This creates a kind of funnel that fruit flies have a hard time getting out of. Some people have also used apple cider vinegar as an effective weed killer by simply spraying it onto the weeds in their yard or garden.

Apple cider vinegar can also be used as a natural skin toner and anti-acne wash, as well as for washing hair. “What? Why would you use vinegar on your skin and hair?” Surprisingly, enough, apple cider vinegar can help remove oil and rebalance skin pH, plus its antibacterial properties can drastically improve acne. As for hair, it serves as a natural dandruff cure and revitalizes the scalp while also detangling and adding shine to your hair, especially if you’re trying out the no-shampoo method. You can also use apple cider vinegar as a natural tooth whitener by mixing it with baking soda and using as you would toothpaste, as well as to replace mouthwash. It even works to fight fungal infections (such as foot or toenail fungus), including candida, particularly candida in the mouth.[8]

13.3 Olive Oil: Cleans Everything From Your Liver to Your Furniture!

“The olive tree is surely the richest gift of Heaven.” Thomas Jefferson

Many of us know and love olive oil for its use in the kitchen. On a brief side note, if you don’t already know, olive is however not a great oil to cook with for anything requiring high heat levels…heating olive oil actually destroys its beneficial Omega fatty acids and polyphenols, plus the monounsaturated fats in olive oil aren’t stable. That being said, it’s still great for sauces, marinades, salad dressings, you name it! Some people even use it as a morning liver cleanse tonic. A compound known as hydroxytyrosol has been shown to have a protective effect on the liver as well as being an antioxidant.[9] Downing shots of olive oil is not necessarily for the faint of heart.

Similar to multipurpose marvel apple cider vinegar, olive oil can also be used on hair and skin, While research varies, there is significant data showing olive is not only a useful moisturizer for both hair and skin, but that its antioxidant properties may also reduce skins aging, not to mention the potential benefits of olive oils antibacterial properties.[10] Some studies have also shown that tumor growth in mice after exposure to harmful UV rays is far less when olive oil is applied to the skin, which has implications for the potential anti-cancer uses for humans[11]

Moving right along, olive can also be used a great furniture polish. In fact, Cambria Bold of Apartment Therapy blog has several suggestions on how to use olive oil to spruce up a lot more than your furniture! She suggests using it to:

a) make your stainless steel pots and pans shine

b) repair squeaky door hinges

c) clean your cast-iron pans

d) protect rattan and wicker furniture from cracking and

e) repair scratches on leather furniture. [12]

You can use even to wash your hands of tricky sticky stuff like tar, sap, chewing gum or paint!

13.4 Baking Soda: Basically, You Want To Have Some Around!

Baking soda is yet another all-purpose item hiding in your pantry. You’ve probably heard of, or maybe even used it for its magical properties of making any stinky fridge smell fresh as a spring day by simply having an open box on one of its shelves. But it’s odor-busting skills don’t stop there! It can also be used as an easy homemade deodorant, toothpaste or mouthwash, similar to our buddy apple cider vinegar. In fact, most people like to use the two in tandem for double the effectiveness with less of the vinegary smell you may dislike (though you might also one day learn to love it!).

Some of the less known uses of baking soda include soothing the pain of bee stings and other insect bites, sunburns and even welts from some poisonous plants such as stinging nettle. A lot of over the counter products for dealing with such things actually have baking soda as a main ingredient. Just make a paste out of baking soda powder and a bit of water and put it on for about 15 minutes and reapply as needed!

It can also calm upset stomachs because baking soda is an alkaline substance and helps balance out pH levels when it comes into contact with acids (which usually are the cause of upset stomachs).[13] For the same reason, it can be used as to prevent urinary tract infections and maintain healthy kidney function. As Sarika Rana cites in her article on the health benefits of baking soda, “according to a study published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN), the rate of decline in kidney function was greatly reduced – about two-thirds slower than in patients as compared to those who didn’t take baking soda.”[14]

Another use you hopefully won’t ever need to put to the test is for putting out fires! This is because, “when sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) is heated, it becomes sodium carbonate. In this process water and carbon dioxide is released. The CO2 starves the fire of O2.”[15] Baking soda will put out small oven fires and even some grease fires, however it does take a fair amount of baking soda so it’s not recommended to try using it on fires of any significant size.[16]

On top of all that, baking soda can also be used to “boost” laundry powder. Katie Avis Riordan of the House Beautiful blog suggests adding half a cup of baking soda to your laundry powder to both make clothes cleaner and make the powder last longer.[17] Some people even use baking soda as a full-on laundry powder replacement! So yeah. If you don’t already consider baking soda a must-have for your household, now’s the time to start making it one!

13.5 Action Point Summary: Here’s What You Need to Do Now!

“An idea not coupled with action will never get any bigger than the brain cell it occupied.” Arnold Glasow

Are you ready to both simplify and spice up your life by setting yourself the challenge of using everything you own for as many purposes as possible? Are you excited about all the stuff you will no longer need once you open your mind to the multiple uses of things you once saw as boringly “monopurposed”? Start with this fabulous four and then see how many other things you can apply the idea to!

  1. Tap into your glass jar collection. Get rid of any food storage containers, tupperware, plant holders or cups that can be replaced by one of your multipurpose jars!
  2. If you don’t have any, get yourself some organic unpasteurized apple cider vinegar! Include it in your cooking for health benefits, use it against fruit flies, weeds, as part of a homemade all purpose cleaner, mouthwash, toothpaste, shampoo etc. etc! The world is your oyster!
  3. Olive oil. Get some. Use it. Extra virgin, organic if possible. See the above list and knock yourself out! Replace whatever can be replaced (e.g. furniture polish etc.).
  4. Baking Soda is also your new best friend! Combine it with apple cider vinegar for your DIY cleaner, toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoo etc., use it as a natural antacid and to soothe burns and stings, and to keep your fridge smelling impeccably clean…Do a little research and I’m sure you can add to list of uses for all these remarkable household products!
  1. Course outline, Heathcote community website, heathcote.org
  2. Wikipedia, wikepedia.org
  3. How to Plant in a Pot Without Drainage Holes,” Pistils Nursery, pistilsnursery.com
  4. Vinegar Improves Insulin Sensitivity to a High-Carbohydrate Meal in Subjects With Insulin Resistance or Type 2 Diabetes,” Johnston, Kim and Buller, American Diabetes Association, care.diabetesjournals.org
  5. Anti-obesogenic effect of apple cider vinegar in rats subjected to a high fat diet,” Bounihi, Bitam,Bouazza, Yargui and Koceir, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  6. Fruit vinegars attenuate cardiac injury via anti-inflammatory and anti-adiposity actions in high-fat diet-induced obese rats,” Bounihi, Bitam,Bouazza, Yargui and Koceir, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  7. “20 Uses for Apple Cider Vinegar,” The Academy of Culinary Nutrition, culinarynutrition.com
  8. Antifungal Activity of Apple Cider Vinegar on Candida Species Involved in Denture Stomatitis,” Mota, de Castro, de Araújo Oliveira,de Oliveira Lima, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  9. Olive oil compound found to reverse the damage of high-fat diet.” Ann Sandoiu, Medical News Today, 2017, medicalnewstoday.com
  10. Antimicrobial activity of olive oil, vinegar, and various beverages against foodborne pathogens,” Medina, Romero C, Brenes M, and De Castro A.,US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, 2007
  11. Protective effect of topically applied olive oil against photocarcinogenesis following UVB exposure of mice,” Arief Budiyanto, Nazim U. Ahmed, An Wu, Toshinori Bito, Osamu Nikaido, Toshihiko Osawa ,Masato Ueda and Masamitsu Ichihashi, Oxford Academic, 2000, academic.oup.com
  12. 6 Ways to Clean with Olive Oil.” Cambria Bold, apartmenttherapy.com, 2010
  13. “Baking Soda Do’s and Dont’s,” WebMD, webmd.com
  14. Baking Soda Benefits: 11 Health And Beauty Benefits To Look Out For!” Sarika Rana, food.ndtv.com
  15. “Why does baking soda extinguish fires?” James Semper, quora.com
  16. “How to Put Out a Fire,” WikiHow, wikihow.com
  17. “10 Household Items That Are Amazing Multipurpose Hacks,” Katie Avis Riordan, housebeautiful.com

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