New Uses for Old Things: How to Reuse Toilet Paper Rolls

As a busy, penny-wise mama, I’m on an ever-present mission to find new uses for things that may otherwise end up as trash. So when I was recently faced with a growing pile of paperless rolls left over from paper towels and toilet tissue, I polled my budget-conscious parent friends for tips on new ways to use these things.

Try these ideas if you’re looking to reuse leftover toilet paper rolls:

Get Organized

Toilet paper rolls are a wonderful way to keep electrical cords tangle-free. Fold the cord and slide it into the roll before plugging it in. Get bonus decor points by covering the roll with colorful tape.

And what about those tangled Christmas tree lights? Keep them in holiday-ready shape by wrapping them around a tube before storing for the year. Cardboard tubes can also be used to protect important documents or kids’ artwork: Roll the papers, slide into the tube (or tubes, if the artwork is long) and stash in a drawer or box.

Get Cozy 

Fill a cardboard tube with dried leaves and wrap in newspaper for an easy and accessible fire-starter. Stock a basket with these homemade starters during chilly months, and even the most hesitant of fire-makers will be ready to start a bonfire for some backyard summer fun.

Get Crafty

Cardboard tubes of all sizes are the ideal foundation for kid-friendly crafts. Paint the tube with stripes or dots and glue on feathers, or fur plus ears and a tail, and you’ve got a quick and cute handmade animal.

For the mini musician in your house, tape one end of a toilet paper tube with masking tape, fill with dried beans or rice, tape the other end closed, and you have a homemade maraca. Increase the fun factor by decorating it with bold paint and glittery glue.

Get Creative

Kids love pretend play: Try gluing two toilet paper rolls together horizontally and decorate with paint and stickers for a pair of homemade binoculars. Pretend you’re on safari in search of wild animals or a spy on a dangerous mission.

You can also turn empty tubes into fire-free candlesticks: Simply turn the rolls upright and outfit them with orange and yellow paper flames. Decorate them in festive colors (like orange and black for Halloween), or encourage your children to go exploring by ‘candlelight.’

Invierno Makeover: El Dormitorio

With winter upon us -- plus loads of winter sales -- now is el momento to whip your house into an invierno haven!

Luxe Linens
January has traditionally been a great time for "White Sales," when department stores slash prices on bedding, linens and towels. This is a great time to buy luxury items on the cheap, such as high-thread-count sheets and luxury towels with soft long-thread cotton.

Mattress Maintenance
Give new life to your mattress and help distribute the wear evenly by flipping it four times a year. Also, vacuum mattresses and box springs with the upholstery attachment every three months (each time you flip it).

Color Your Home Happy!

Add some color to revive and revitalize your home. Lift up the vibe in your bedroom with a splash of color on your walls. Or add pops of primary colors to your living room to offset the dreary days of winter.

You can also use paint to fix problem areas: Warm up a loft or big room by painting it in colors that envelop you, such as red, brown and gold. Make any room appear larger by painting it in hues that recede. (This works with natural panoramic colors such as blue, green and violet -- think of an infinity pool or a far-reaching landscape.) You can also make a ceiling appear higher by painting it a lighter color, like sky blue. A ceiling painted bright white reflects natural light better, making the room seem brighter. Likewise, you could lower a ceiling with a darker shade, such as chestnut.

If the weather in your area is not conducive to opening windows and doors, consider buying low-VOC (low-volatile organic compounds) paints, which don't produce the noxious fumes traditional paints do.

Lighten Up

To combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), replace commonly used light bulbs in your home with brighter full-spectrum (also known as broad spectrum) light bulbs. While more expensive than regular bulbs, they provide light that is similar to natural sunlight.

Fast Fixes Para La Casita

The holidays are here, which means lots of presents, cheer -- and house guests. If your home repair to-do list is still woefully long, no sweat. Here are some ways to get your pad visitor-ready, rapido.

Start Small

Often the very idea of cleaning or organizing is overwhelming. We either do nothing or everything at once. Instead, pick a room or an area to clean, such as your front coat closet, and a set a time limit so you don’t get carried away.

Take Stock

Go from room to room and scope out the scene. Take note of dingy bed sheets, loose doorknobs, mildewed shower curtains and lumpy pillows.

Assess What Can Save and What You Can Toss

Take a moment to save what’s salvageable before spending unneeded dough during Christmas.

·   Mildewed shower curtains: Toss. Mildew is hard to fight, and the curtains are easy to replace.

·   Stained or torn sheets: Toss. We spend over a third of our lives in bed -- why not invest a little money here to be cozy for you and your guests? Find some sheets with a nice thread count: Typically the higher the thread count -- the number of horizontal and vertical threads in one square inch of fabric -- the softer the sheets

·   Loose doorknobs and stained couches: Fix. It’s easy to tighten loose doorknobs, and covering your couch in a pretty piece of fabric will make it seem brand new. Now is not the time to go furniture-hunting!

Scent It Up Buy a bag of pinecones and lay them out to infuse the house with holiday scent. Light some festive candles, and boil some water infused with cinnamon sticks and orange peels. Nothing is more inviting than a cozy-smelling casita!

Kitchen Pantry: Organiza e Utiliza

Holiday time is the right time to toss what’s old in your cupboard and stock up on what you need for Thanksgiving and Navidad entertaining. Try these easy tips for streamlining your kitchen and saving money at the supermarket -- just in time for las festividades!

1. Check Expiration Dates

Anything that is past due gets the boot. Better to be safe than sorry! Start by looking through your spice rack. How long has that onion powder been hanging around? The rule of thumb is that herbs and spices keep their flavor for six to 12 months. The best way to tell if your dried herb or spice still have flavor is to give it the crush test. Crush a pinch between your index finger and thumb: you should immediately get a rich, full aroma. Also, color fades with time: Do your red spices look brownish and your green herbs grayer? It may be time to replace them.

2. Make Counter and Cupboard Space

You need loads more counter and storage space when you’re entertaining. Consider hanging your pots and pans to give you coveted cupboards inches, and either put away or give away handy kitchen gadgets sitting on your counters that you haven't used in years.

3.  Save Money at the Grocery Store

Fresh produce can add up quickly, so don't overlook frozen fruits and veggies, which tend to be cheaper. And nutritionists say they might be healthier for you because they are picked and frozen at their peak of ripeness. Another trick: Buy paper products at discount stores instead of the grocery store. You can also save money at the grocery store by keeping your eyes focused on the register at the checkout counter. Americans lose between one and three billion dollars per year in scanning errors, either because of human error or because sales prices have yet to be entered into the computer.

The Great Fall Limpieza

Most of us abide by the yearly spring-cleaning ritual. But a growing number of Latinas con la falda bien puesta realize that spreading household chores over the year lightens the load. Here are five timely reminders when giving your home a deep scrub this season.                

Clear the Clutter
Before you do anything else, open up more of the surface area that you will need to clean. That means disposing of unwanted items, such as clothing you haven’t used in more than a year, unnecessary cooking utensils, piled-up magazines and papers, withered plants, and any other items that you are ready to let go. If you find expired vitamins, canned goods, or cough medicine, well, you know where those go.

Vacuum Everything

Use your vacuum on every household item that collects dust, and insert it into every nook and cranny that you find. Remember to vacuum such things as moldings, window curtains (in front and behind) and windowsills, upholstered furniture, sofa cushions, and both sides of your mattress. Give a wipe-down to closets, as well as kitchen and bathroom cabinets.                     

Deep-clean Your Carpet
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a carpet acts as a “sink” for indoor pollutants, such as pesticides, dust mites and fungi. But since a regular vacuum will not pick up the mites and mold that are hiding deep in the carpet, many experts recommend steam-cleaning at least every six months. If you want to hire a company to steam-clean your carpet, remember that carpets dry faster in warmer weather. So schedule your appointment early in the month.

Disinfect Linen
Because dust mites thrive in used bedding and may trigger allergies, wash pillows, comforters, duvet covers and mattress pads to get you through the winter. Remember to wash bed sheets on a weekly basis in a hot rinse and a dry cycle. And in order to prevent overusing one side of your mattress, turn it over bottom-to-top and head-to-foot.

De-grime Your Home Appliances
Remember to clean the filters and bins inside washing and drying machines. Another popular spot where dust gathers and grime accumulates is behind refrigerators and dishwashing machines.

Photo: Corbis Images