I was never too crazy over new year’s resolutions as such but I’ve always, in my own little way, made the effort to ensure that my ‘todays’ are better than my ‘yesterdays’, and that feels like enough. Of course I make important plans for the future too, but I just find it a lot easier to take it one day at a time with most things these days; it just works better for me. Right now my focus is on living a greener and cleaner life so it seems fitting that my very first post of the year is to share with you 5 easy ways make your home cleaner and greener.
How lovely would it be to have a simplified, uncluttered life? Extremely lovely I think! Which is why I’m trying to achieve that, starting with my home. I’ll admit that I have no original or failsafe ideas for you on decluttering, as I’m still trying to master this myself. The general rule is, if you you haven’t used it in months, then you probably no longer need it. If you no longer need it, then it’s time to get rid of it. But it’s not always that simple right?
Last year, I made numerous trips to the my local charity shops to donate bags of things I no longer needed. Yet somehow I still have lots of stuff to go! I’ve now decided on a strict new strategy and given myself a deadline for getting rid of the remaining items I no longer use. I learned this one from Apartment Therapy’s The January Cure, which is a realistic and manageable ‘one day at a time’ approach to getting your home fresh, clean and organised throughout the month of January. In Assignment #3 of the January Cure, Janel Laban – Executive Editor of Apartment Therapy suggested that we all need a clutter collector which she calls ‘The Outbox’.
The Outbox – We’re encouraged to choose a clearly defined space in our home that is out of the way of daily activities and can be allowed to get a little chaotic. This space will serve as a ‘halfway house’ for items while you decide their fate. There are rules for managing the outbox, there will be prompts to use the outbox throughout the duration of The January Cure and you will be given a date to empty it. My outbox is the spare bedroom, which is perfect given the amount of stuff I plan to drop in that halfway house! I’m confident that this method will help me to get rid of the excess baggage I’ve got around here. Wish me luck!
2. REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE
I’m sure you’re all familiar with the three Rs which are fundamental to environmental stewardship. It’s pretty self explanatory and really important to practice in the correct order as mentioned here.
Reduce – the most effective of the 3 Rs. We’ve all fallen into the trap of purchasing items we don’t really need at one point or another, and if you’re a sucker for packaging like I am, then it’s likely that you too have bought products being sold in more packaging than necessary. While I’m very good at carrying around my reusable shopping bags in my handbag, I’m fully aware that I need to pay a bit more attention to what I’m purchasing and how it is packaged.
Here are a few easy ways to start reducing waste at home now:
- Eliminate the use of paper towels by investing in good quality reusable cleaning cloths and fabric napkins. Mabu Cleaning Cloths are an excellent choice. They don’t get smelly, they’re super absorbent and they’re biodegradable too
- Avoid using disposable cups, flatware and cutlery even for your summer BBQs and garden parties
- Avoid using plastic shopping bags by carrying your own reusable bag when shopping. There are a myriad of styles of reusable shopping bags out there, many of them fold up into a nifty little bundle that you can easily take with you everywhere. I love this one I found on Etsy with the cheeky print below.
- Avoid buying products in excess packaging where possible
Reuse – Let’s face it, sometimes you’ve just gotta get those items. After all, this is not about stopping the circle of life, it’s quite the contrary. I’ve got into the habit of choosing what to buy based on how I can reuse its packaging or the item itself and I can be a major show-off when I find a clever way to reuse just about anything. A perfect example of that is how I reuse my Aesop Mouthwash packaging.
- Think of different ways to use items or packaging before throwing them in the bin
- Donate your unwanted goods (in good condition) to charity/seconhand shops, this could mean less items going to the landfill. You might also find some pretty awesome things you could buy from there too. One man’s trash is indeed another man’s treasure!
- Buy products that are made from recycled materials
Recycle – Recycling gives new life to materials. Although there’s always a huge drive for recycling, this should really be the last resort after you’ve made your best efforts to reduce and reuse. It’s easy to recycle most materials these days. Glass, plastics, aluminium, and paper can all be broken down to make new products.
You can make or buy partitioned recycle bins to make the process easier at home. You might even be able to get free recycle bins from your local council at no extra cost; I returned home to find they delivered recycle bags for my neighbours and I without our request. It’s pretty good too, a sturdy rectangular shaped bag with a wide base so it stands on its own, with 2 labeled sections so you can sort your recycling right from the start.
Two good tips to get you into the habit of recycling at home:
- Start thinking about recycling when you’re out shopping and try to choose items that are recyclable, or at the very least, packaged in recyclable materials.
- Invest in a recycle bin. Whether you decide to make one or buy one, it’s a good idea to allocate specific sections for specific materials so you can sort items immediately after use
3. USE NATURAL AND NON-TOXIC CLEANERS
I’ve always been more than a little irritated by the harsh residual scent of regular store-bought cleaning products. I mostly felt I should be wearing a hazmat suit while using many of them, so there’s a long list of brands and products that I’ve completely avoided over the years.
For me, this was the easiest switch to make; I started by discarding all the toxic cleaners from my cupboards and I have no regrets. Now armed with lemons, vinegar and baking soda, I can make the whole apartment sparkle! You can do the same. Just scour the internet for ways to make natural household cleaners, you’ll find that most of what you need is already in your pantry. One of my favourite places for natural cleaning recipes is the Hello Natural website. Don’t forget to check out the green beauty tips and delicious food recipes over there too by the way!
Not too keen on DIYs or creating your own cleaning products? As you’re probably already aware, there are many environmentally friendly, non-toxic plant-based cleaning products readily available in stores these days. While I’m happy to make my own natural cleaners for daily use, my go-to eco-friendly brands for hardcore cleaning days are Method, Ecover and Earth Friendly Products. When making the switch, bear in mind that product performance may vary across different brands so it’s worth trying items from a few different brands to find what’s most suitable for your needs. For example, I like Method for the kitchen, hand wash and laundry liquids, Ecover for the bathroom and laundry liquids, and Earth Friendly Products for laundry liquids. I recently tried and liked the Fruit & Veggie Wash from Earth Friendly Products which is 100% biodegradable, natural, non-polluting and most importantly, non-toxic. Another good thing worth noting is that all these brands are available in refill and bulk sizes which helps you save money and reduce waste.
4. INVEST IN AIR-PURIFYING HOUSE PLANTS
Believe it or not, there are a wide variety of toxic substances lurking around our homes and compromising the quality of the air we breathe. One of the most prevalent chemicals in the household is formaldehyde, a volatile organic compound (VOC) emitted in low levels by various household building materials and furniture. It is found in carpet, flooring and furniture glues, sealants, paints, furniture finishes and even in water/stain-repellent finishes of upholstery and clothing. That said, our exposure to VOCs is virtually unavoidable, but lucky for us, in 1989 some trusty NASA scientists discovered that having specific types of plants indoors can eliminate this and other chemicals from the air.
My non-existent green-thumb always made me too scared to buy indoor plants in the past but I’m finally ready to give it a good try. While I vow to care for them the best I possibly can, I think it’s only wise to do a little research to find the more hardy types air-purifying plants first…it just makes sense, given my history.
I’ll be posting my top picks here next week but for now, let good ol’ Google be your guide or get a copy of the book How to Grow Fresh Air by Dr. B C Wolverton.
5. STAY ORGANISED
Once you’ve de-cluttered, deep cleaned and finally got everything in its place, the challenge at hand will be to maintain your newly organised home. Naturally, some of our days are busier than others, and we won’t always have time to clear up after ourselves and each other every day. However, it’s worth remembering that if you make a habit of returning things to their rightful place after use, your next scheduled cleaning day will be far quicker and easier than your last.
Here are a few things you can do to help yourself along:
- Return books to the shelves once you’re through with your research or browsing
- Spare a few minutes before bedtime to tidy the sofa and cushions in the living room
- Return outfits to the closet once you have decided against wearing it
- Return cosmetics to the bathroom cabinet immediately after use; if they’re empty, bin immediately unless you plan to reuse it.
- Keep your dining table clear and tidy between meal times. Somehow dining tables and kitchen surface areas become an automatic hoarding place for random items like water bottles, books, spectacles, keys, mobile phones, and other gadgets. If your household struggles with this problem, see the next point below
- Have a designated ‘hold-all’ tray or ‘tidy’ basket near your kitchen or dining area where you can drop the random items mentioned above. Be careful not to turn it into a ‘junk’ basket by returning the contents to their rightful place once you no longer need to have them at hand
- Place items in the dishwasher immediately after use. They’re going to end up there anyway so you’re only providing more work for yourself by making the sink and worktop (or any other piece of furniture) their half-way house. The same reasoning applies to your dirty laundry
- Fold and put away the clean laundry once they’re dry
I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea. If you can get into the habit of doing these simple things, then cleaning day can be reserved for actual cleaning and will take only half the time and energy than before. Even better, you won’t feel so stressed about tidying up when your Mommy’s coming over to visit on short notice!
Make your home cleaner and greener today. You can do it!
Happy green cleaning!
©ALL CONTENTS OF THIS BLOG ARE ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY ME, NOVA WILLIAMS OF 18 CHELSEA MEWS LTD, AND ARE MY PERSONAL OPINIONS AND VIEWS, UNLESS OTHERWISE STATED.