If you have kids, you might be dreading how many new toys you're going to have to find room for come the next birthday, Christmas or other gift-giving occasion. Reader Beth has a great toy-inventory balancing system that's sure to please everyone, even the kids.
Dear Mary: Family friends of ours have a great system that solves the problem of an ever-growing inventory of way too many toys, most of which the kids no longer play with. Their children know that each year after Christmas, they are required to count and create a list of new toys they received as gifts. Then, the kids go to their rooms and find the same number of toys that are still in good condition that they no longer play with, which they need to give away to create space for the new ones. Of the toys they designate to be purged, they are allowed to select one to be put away and kept in a memory box.
As a family, they load up the car and drive the toys to a local charity that accepts donations (many churches, preschools and shelters are grateful to receive toys). Doing this each year helps to keep their house less cluttered. But more than that, the kids learn a valuable lesson about making choices and allowing other children to benefit from things they once enjoyed but have outgrown. -- Beth
SWEET SKIN CARE. I have a great home recipe for an exfoliant that uses what I have in my pantry. I mix equal amounts of honey and cornmeal and apply it to my face, elbows and heels. It leaves my skin feeling wonderful, and it smells nice, too. -- Lee
RUBBER BAND GRIP. Instead of using those rubbery disks designed for gripping a jar lid to make it easier to open, simply put a rubber band or two around the lid and twist! It gives you a great grip on the lid, and it's much handier than keeping one more thing in your kitchen that only serves one purpose. -- Mara
GRINDING THE GROUNDS. Instead of purchasing whole peppercorns for use in a grinder, I just fill my grinder full of regular ground black pepper. The grinds are big enough that when ground again, I get a fresh ground pepper taste at a fraction of the cost. And a bottle of coarse ground pepper lasts a lot longer than those tiny bottles of peppercorns. -- Jennifer
WRAP UP A BOUQUET GARNI. If you make soup, a bouquet garni (spices and herbs tied into a little bundle so they can be easily removed before serving) is a wonderful thing. But instead of buying cheesecloth for this process, I wrap the herbs and spices in a coffee filter, roll them or fold them in, and wrap it with string. I drop it into the soup pot and fish it out easily with a spoon when the soup is done. -- Jessica
FOIL SCRUBBER. One morning, I faced a tough job cleaning the dried-on pancake batter in a bowl. Instead of reaching for a scrub pad, I balled up a piece of used aluminum foil, and it worked perfectly to scrub the bowl clean. -- Brenda
HANDY CHARCOAL LIGHTER FLUID. I've discovered that charcoal lighter fluid works well to remove the residue that stickers leave behind. A little on a cloth does the job. I also found that it does a great job getting oil-based paint out of brushes. It has very little odor, and it's a lot cheaper than the stuff you buy in the store for that specific purpose. -- Grace
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at firstname.lastname@example.org, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.Copyright 2017 Creators Syndicate Inc.