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Archive for April, 2008

A Green Kind of Clean.

Too many times, I am amazed by the overflowing shelves of toxic cleaners displayed, proudly, in an isle all its own at supermarkets and chain stores. If a person is lucky, they will find a cleaner or two that boasts of supposed “all natural ingredients” or has a blurb about the fact that it’s “better for the environment.” Well, I doubt that most cleaners, claims or not, are healthy to have in your home. I also doubt that most of them are as great for our planet as they claim to be. With a need to keep our houses clean, but also a responsibility to be stewards of our environment, what can we do? Ahh, I’m glad you asked – there are oh-so many things.

First of all, we can get out of the rut of purchasing the latest and greatest cleaning products just because a commercial or printed add in our favorite magazine tells us to. We can investigate the ingredients in our favorite cleaners, “natural” or not. It’s important to remember that words such as natural are not regulated. Also, phrases such as “better for the environment” can be misleading. Just because a product makes claims, that does not mean they are true. Also, many a product claiming to be Earth-friendly have but one “natural” ingredient. Perhaps they replace bleach with the cleaning power of orange – well yes, orange is better for the environment, but are the remaining ingredients still safe? When I find myself considering a new cleaner I ask myself questions like “What if my child ingests it? What if the dogs lick the surface of something that has been sprayed with it? What if I breath in the fumes from this cleaner while spraying? What if I accidentally spilled the bottle while cleaning?” There are many other things you can consider, but this is just a start… if any of your answers to these questions are cause for concern – perhaps resulting in a sick child or pet, then maybe your consideration of that new product should end there. If accidentally spilling the bottle down the drain or elsewhere would be bad, again – perhaps your shopping trip is over. If you are cleaning your counters with a product containing chemicals that you would be uncomfortable ingesting, then it begs the mind to wonder, what can I clean with?

In our house, we clean with green products – be them store purchased after careful consideration and investigation of the ingredients, or ones that we make ourselves. They are safe for us and safe for the world around us. Since I love to be frugal and green, I will discuss how a person can easily make their own cleaner that will not add worry to our already hectic lives!

The recipe below can be modified easily based on your scent preferences. It’s the cleaner that I use the very most, capable of cleaning most any surface.

All-Surface Cleaner:

You will require a spray bottle (easily found at most stores – check your dollar store for a great deal!), vinegar (I prefer white), water, essential oils of your choice (my favorites are lavender or tea tree oil) and grapefruit seed extract. All of these ingredients can be found at a local health store, online or, surprisingly, at most drug stores.
Fill your spray bottle halfway with vinegar. Fill almost the rest of the way with water, leaving some room to add your oil/s and extract. I add my essential oil/s based on scent – generally around 10-15 drops. As for the grapefruit seed extract, I find that it’s very thick/stick and I just pour it from the bottle rather than messing with the dropper. I would guess it’s approximately 2 droppers full. Give the bottle a gentle shake and you’re done! Ready to clean – and it will clean! Did you know that grapefruit seed extract is more effective than bleach at killing off the bad things in your kitchen?

What’s so great about this cleaner? Everything! It will clean hard surfaces in the kitchen and bathroom. You can use it (same mixture) in a bucket to mop your floors – have wood floors or furniture? No problem! You can always add some olive oil to help give the wood an extra glow. We keep a bottle of this in our bathroom – after each shower, you can spray down the surfaces and it will keep soap scum at bay – even on the glass! Also, it’s great for spraying out the bath after you’re finished to avoid that unwanted ring around the tub that can quickly build up and become visible.

This is also an excellent glass and mirror cleaner – just spray and wipe clean with a microfiber cloth or newspaper (which can still be recycled after using to clean!).

Do you have a favorite tried & true natural cleaning recipe you’d like to share? We’d LOVE to hear it!

Remember, the more green we can be, the better for all of us – both our Earth and our bodies will be healthier, happier and more thankful each day!

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And the winner is…

It was truly a difficult task to choose a winner for the recent “Reducing Clutter” contest. But, alas, I took on this difficult job and picked a winner. But before revealing the name, I am compelled to give some detail as to why I chose this particular tip.

While all tips were great tips, my mind kept hugging to the one that sounded like the most fun & convinced me that it was not only reducing clutter, but a hidden recycling effort as well. This tip not only removed clutter for her own house, but it offered items another chance to find use in someone else’s life. As mentioned, perhaps it would only be a “shift in clutter,” I came to the realization that once it arrived at it’s new home, and it was not needed there, it could still be passed on to a resale shop, neighbor or be reborn as a donation somewhere. It also aides in keeping friends or family in touch in a fun way. And I also think to myself, “Who doesn’t love a surprise in the mail?” So, yes, our winner comes from Jennifer, perhaps better known as Zillabaubles. And just in case you didn’t read her tip in the comments, let me share it for you here!

My sister and I keep an empty box at our houses. When we are picking up around the house and we find something that we no longer use and we put those items in the box. Once the box is full, we tape it up and ship it off. It is always fun to get a package and see what has been cast off from my sister’s family.

It really keeps us connected or at the very least some really funny conversations when a package shows up and we look inside to find treasures. This could be considered shifting of clutter, but there are things that I no longer need/use and she can or vise versa.”

Thank you to everyone that played! And we’ll have more contests, so don’t you worry. Just because you didn’t win this time, that doesn’t mean you won’t have a shot at it again!

What’s next? We sit and we wait to see just how long it takes a certain someone to realize that her tip has paid off!

Peace.

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Clutter. It’s distracting, depressing & can ruin a good day when it catches us at our door. It steals our focus. Why do we let it drag us down & keep us from enjoying our day? Because we are either lazy or lack a good method to diminish or eliminate it. Perhaps even both! If we just made a few baby steps towards banishing clutter, we could add so much to our daily living! Getting rid of clutter will not only tidy up a space – it will enhance your life. Sound crazy? Think about it… if we weren’t trapped or crowded by disarray, we would spend less time picking up, searching for things and being generally confined by our chores. Instead, we would have added time to relax, enjoy family, play, and so much more!

Start at the door – Which door do you use the most? In our house we use the main entrance. As we walk in our front door we find a small rack that is installed onto the wall. It was an inexpensive purchase totaling less than $15. It’s perfect for keeping coats or backpacks from crowding the floor. A key rack would be great for some families as well – you’ll always know where they are when it’s time to lock up or take the car for a spin. Shoe racks are a great addition to an entry way as well – this not only serves the purpose of keeping your footwear tidy & in one location. It also reminds you to remove your shoes & keeps from tracking debris though your house. You can store out-of-season footwear in storage containers to cut down on the amount by your door.

De-junk your mail – Junk mail was a big issue in our house. Endless envelopes and papers found their way stacked up on counters, tables and desks. Not only is this a clutter problem, but it’s a waste problem as well! Stand next to your paper recycling bin and trash can when opening mail. This inhibits you from piling up more junk to clean later. Discard all advertisements, papers and mail that you do not need. File bills for payment. Keep only magazines that you intend to read (and when you’re done recycle them by way of passing them on to others or donating to church, doctors office, etc). Contact companies to remove yourself from mailing lists. Choose to opt-out of free mailings to conserve paper and eliminate your receipt of trash.

Clean up after each meal – Insist that items are put back in their proper location after meals. Clear the table. Place dishes in the dishwasher and wipe down the counters. Run the vacuum or sweep through the kitchen. This reduces what you will have to do later or in the morning. You will be more relaxed with the tidy state of the room.

Keep a box for donations, trash and sales – Go through items as you cross paths with them. While you’re folding laundry make note of the item’s size, color, wear. Does this fit anyone in the house? Is it’s color complementary? Is it too worn? Does it even get worn? Get rid of clothing items that don’t meet the criteria for needing to keep. As you are putting things away, do a “once over” to see if they are items that are no longer being used. While cleaning up toys, note if the toys are broken, get played with or are still age-appropriate. Any items in your house that don’t have a need, get rid of! Throw away items that have no use to anyone. Put items in an area for a garage sale. Donate items as well! Places like Goodwill, Salvation Army or local churches & organizations are happy to receive your donations!

Make a realization – Not everything of value is valuable. I realize this sounds contradictory, but it holds truth – I promise! Just because something is worth money or is attached to a memory, that does not mean it needs to be kept for all eternity. Be at peace with letting go. Realize how items may improve someone else’s life or how its value can add to a charitable cause. Take snapshots of items that are haunted with memories so that you can look back at them – old outfits, toys and more. If it’s not an heirloom and not adding an aspect of function or decoration to your house (and this does not mean in a “decorative pile” in your unused basement or storage closet) then you can part with it.

Teach your children – Contrary to popular believe, you should not be following your child with a trash can and broom! Teach your children to clean up after themselves. Assign chores. Ban playtime until all jobs are done. This will help add to the overall cleanliness of your living environment as well as get the whole family involved. Have young children? Don’t use the excuse that they are too young to keep them from helping! Even my two year old is learning to clean up with age-appropriate tasks. My four year old clears and wipes the table after meals and my toddler helps by carrying a few small things to the counter.

There are countless methods and lists to follow for clutter elimination. Chances are, even if you followed all of the lists around, there would still be some areas of clutter in your life! But it can’t hurt to take a few small steps to try and rid yourself of what you can & get back to just enjoying life!

Have useful tips? Share them here! I will choose one of my favorite tips & the winner will receive a FREE cotton t-shirt from Cotton Mamma just like the one seen here! I will choose the winner on Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008!

So, what are you waiting for?

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I’m sitting here, and I am at a loss in my effort to figure out when we got to the point that we are at – the point at which we don’t care about our one Earth around us. The point where all is taken for granted and we all just assume that our resources will never be depleted and that new is the best thing to have. Since I’ll never be able to really figure out why we (we as in the general population of the world) ever got to this point, I’ll have to focus on how to fix it. How can I fix this? Add awareness? Make a difference?

There are countless things that I can do – that we all can do – to add to the effort to preserve this amazing planet for the next generations – the generations probably running at your feet right now or climbing on you as you read this. Your children and theirs. I’ll start with the simplest things…

For goodness sakes, recycle. It’s really not that hard & takes minimal effort. And this isn’t just for empty beer cans or plastic pop bottles. This is for all the “trash” you think you have. Honestly, what truly is trash? It’s the name for something that no longer has any use. Not just something you don’t want anymore, but it is no longer valuable or useful to anyone for anything. Using that simple definition, we should all think – really think – before discarding something carelessly. Is this trash? Perhaps it’s not trash, but something different. Perhaps it’s just unwanted, unloved or useless to you. If that’s the case, decide where it would be useful or who would love and want it. I truly believe that, in doing this, you will find a lot less trash around you, as well as make this world a bit tidier.

Let’s start with a few simple things that we can all do to use to live by the three “R’s” (reduce, reuse, recycle (in list format for ease):

1. Start by eliminating the trash that you purchase. If you don’t buy it, you don’t have to throw it away. This means, look for products with minimal to zero packaging. We are consumers of waste! Perhaps if we do this one, simple thing, a message may be sent to companies – stop selling us trash! Use less packaging! And, at the very least, there will be less for us to toss in the garbage each day.

I do understand that some items must be bought with packaging. Try your best to purchase items made with post consumer recycled materials. Also, check the labels to see if the packaging may be recycled. Better still, know what items your area recycles and purchase that packaging. Many items have the recyclable symbols, but facilities in your area may not recycle them. That just means they go to the landfill (an example are the different kinds of plastics).

2. Repair items that can be repaired instead of casting them aside as useless forever. Just because something is broken doesn’t mean that it should be doomed to the trash heap! If you can fix it, do so & continue to use it. And if you simply must still have new, fix the item still & give it away or donate it so that someone else may love it.

3. Donate donate donate. Not only does this give others a chance to use your item again, should you not desire to do so, it gives you something nice to deduct on your taxes. Who doesn’t love a little extra money back every year? Even items such as stained or ripped clothing can be donated – they are turned into rags & sold off by the pound by many thrift stores. Items like old towels and un-loved or worn out stuffed animals can be given to animal shelters! Use a little brain power to consider where else your items may be needed. Remember – something does not fall into the category of trash until it is no longer usefull to anyone – not just you.

4. Recycle! This doesn’t just mean aluminum cans or glass bottles – this means everything around you. Yes, please recycle food & beverage containers, but more than just those can be “played again.” Fabric scraps can be used to stuff pillows or homemade stuffed animals. Newspapers can be used to clean windows (and can still be tossed in the recycle bin after that!). Old sheets can be used to cover plants during a frost or sewn into an apron. Coffee cans are great piggy banks! Old t-shirts make great rags for cleaning or washing the car. The list goes on endlessly – be creative! Think “outside the box!”

5. Compost! Many areas are now offering community composting. But, at our house, we compost & reuse the nutrients for our gardens in the spring! Again, trash is something that has no use at all – so think before tossing your food scraps in the trash. Can it be composted? An incredible amount of trash is eliminated from our family alone, simply by composting. We have a container in the kitchen (an old coffee can works wonderfully!) that we put all our compost goodies in, emptying it into a compost pile when full. Wonderful, nutrient rich foods for the soil. Things like egg shells, coffee grounds, vegetable peelings and more. This may sound or even look gross to the average person, but to me I see a gold mine for our spring time garden.

6. Purchase or craft your own reusable items. Stop buying things like paper towels when cloth works just fine (even better in my opinion). Consider other washable items like family cloth, cloth diapers & wipes, nursing pads, dinner napkins. When packing lunches don’t use paper or plastic bags. Instead, reach for a reusable tote or lunch box. Ban things like plastic baggies and opt for products like the Wrap N Mat. Reusable drink containers like the Klean Kanteen are also a better, eco-friendly choice. Cloth pads & Sea Pearls are environmentally friendly as well. If there is a disposable product and a reusable one – opt for the one that will go the distance and live a long life.

7. Use packaging multiple times. Get an item in the mail? Save the box or mailing envelope to later package up something you intend to mail. More often than not a box or polymailer can be used again. Slit the opening carefully & store it for later use! Just imagine the waste we could banish if 5 people used a box again before it got the “boot” (and hopefully the “boot” is getting made into something new since polymailers and cardboard are recyclable!).

… and the list could continue on and on and…

Hopefully this will get our brains working more & people will take the few seconds that it takes to think about an item & whether it’s really trash before casting it aside. And please, don’t keep this information to yourself! Pass it on via word of mouth, educating your young ones or pass on the link.

I dare you to find passion in this subject as I have. I dare you to make a difference.

Peace.

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Hello world ;)

Hello all! I blinked too fast & decided that I need just one more thing to do in my life! That’s right, a blog! I’m just not getting going, but be sure to check in now and again as I am sure to add things. I love living naturally, so I’m hoping to update this site often with ideas on how to make changes to do just that! In addition, I’ll share natural recipes, fun tutorials and more.

I hope this turns out to be fun for me & anyone that digests my writings.

Peace.

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