Out with the old and in with the new. A friend of mine who moved once told me that rather than finding the process chaotic, she found it cathartic. A time to take stock in what was truly needed in her home and to start fresh. Generations ago our ancestors undertook this domestic overhaul in the spring, scrubbing off months of soot and grime that had accumulated in their homes thanks to winter fires, kerosene lamps, and the impracticality of beating carpets in the snow. These days, few of us have to worry about creosote in our kitchens, but the annual ritual of spring cleaning prevails because it just feels so good when the job is done. This year, use this time of renewal to revisit your goals for living cleanly. Take a critical tour of your home, assessing how you’re living up to your own healthy standards. Have you fallen back on great intentions? No worries – we all do. Now is the time to get back on track.
Clean Up the Kitchen
What is under your sink? Purge those cleaners that claim to have magical powers but don’t list ingredients – or who’s ingredients are clearly questionable (if it is purple and smells like a meadow, it probably is questionable). Replace them with non-toxic, plant-based alternatives and avoid sprays, which disperse much of the cleaning agent into the air. It is also easy to make your own effective, inexpensive cleaners using household ingredients such as white vinegar, cornstarch, lemon, and baking soda (see recipes at eartheasy.com). Be sure to check the sink itself for leaks that may keep this area damp and attractive to mold.
How about the cabinets? Clean out old water bottles and food storage containers (including bags) and replace them with non-BPA alternatives that are now readily available at grocery stores. Eliminate non-stick cookware, or at least get rid of any that is showing signs of wear such as scratches or flaking. Consider switching to enamel or cast iron, which will become non-stick if properly seasoned. The fact that it may introduce iron into food is actually a nutritional benefit!
Ever think that maybe it isn’t a good thing that your clothes smell like perfume days after they’ve been washed? Artificial fragrances (which often contain hundreds of synthetic chemicals) and funky colors aren’t necessary to clean clothes. Use natural, environmentally-friendly detergents that are just as effective at removing dirt and odors – not masking them. These products usually list ingredients on the package for consumers. Hold the same standards for other laundry products like dryer sheets, stain spray, and bleach. Try natural brands that are up front about what they contain (and what they don’t).
Dust mites be gone! Actually, it is impossible to be completely rid of these microscopic creatures, but it is relatively easy to manage them. Wash all bedding – including comforters, mattress pads, bed skirts and pillows – in very hot water. For items that can’t be laundered in hot water, adding tea tree or eucalyptus oil to cooler wash water kills the mites, and smaller items can be put in the freezer for at least 24 hours. Use a couple of teaspoons of essential oil mixed with a pint of water to damp dust furniture and clean floors. You can also buy allergy covers for the pillows and the mattress and create a physical barrier.
Move alarm clocks, phones, and other electronics away from beds to limit exposure to electromagnetic radiation. Consider using a salt lamp. By naturally flooding an area with negative ions, salt lamps may improve air quality, reduce stress, improve sleep, increase energy levels, and reduce allergy and asthma symptoms. They’re great for every room in the house!
A Better Bathroom
How’s your medicine cabinet? Clear out the post-date products and ensure a good supply of basics including supplements such as a whole food multivitamin (such as IntraKid and IntraMax) a probiotic, vitamin D and fish oil. Take a close look at your health and beauty products, eliminating those that will expose your body to irritating and harmful chemicals (see www.EWG.org and www.SaferChemicals.org) such as parabens, formaldehyde, triclosan, and phthalates in products such as moisturizers, soaps and shampoos, cosmetics, nail polish, and deodorant. Women should pay special attention to feminine care products and lubricants which may expose sensitive, highly absorptive areas to toxic chemicals. If a product doesn’t list its ingredients, move to one that does. Cotton products may pose less health risk than synthetic fibers (such as rayon), and it is best to avoid scented tampons and pads.
Take it Outside
As bulbs push their way through the soil, so do weeds. Few of us have the patience to individually pick them from our lawns (kudos to those of you who do!), so we’re understandably tempted to engage a chemical lawn care service to feed our obsession with perfect turf. STOP! Herbicides, pesticides and fungicides widely associated with neurological damage, reproductive harm and cancer are routinely used in chemical lawn care, and there are safer alternatives. Find a service that provides organic lawn care using natural fertilizers such as chicken poop. There are also many organic options for do-it-yourselfers available online or in hardware stores.
The act of spring cleaning can itself be therapeutic, so embrace the ritual! Set aside time to detox your home and start afresh. Then sit back, relax, and be mindful of feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.