Before I lived in this apartment, I was in a shared house. In this shared house, the communal areas were cleaned by our gracious landlady. It was great – she did an incredible job and it meant that we the housemates never fought over who’s job it was to clean. Everything really was scrubbed to perfection and it made living with so many others relatively pleasant.

The only thing was, after she’d been there would be that familiar, lingering scent of bleach all up the stairwell and into the kitchen. I get it – I do – she was just sanitising the surfaces. This is what most people do. However I loathe the smell of bleach. I think I always have, but especially after working in a laboratory where bleach becomes a cling-on on the first day.

So the house would be clean, but the bleach would be etched into the surface of my nostrils for hours post. It would almost make me want to hibernate for a little bit before venturing out of my room. It physically made me nauseous and would induce a headache.

When I moved into an apartment with Jonny, I saw the opportunity to consciously think about which cleaning products we were going to use. Hardly the most exciting aspect of moving in with the person you love, but important none-the-less. There’s nothing romantic about sharing dinner and a glass of wine if your surroundings are disgusting, right?

By the time we came to shop for essentials for our totally unfurnished space, I had compiled a list of environmentally-friendly, non-toxic cleaning products that I was determined to place under our new kitchen sink. It is now a year later and bleach hasn’t even tried to make an appearance. Irritation no more!

Below are my essentials. I totally encourage you to consider these if you’re wanting to make the move to products that keep agitated skin and environmental pollution to a minimum.

  1. E-cloths – These are by far the best discovery. Long-lasting, machine washable cloths interwoven with the finest of fibre threads that remove bacteria from surfaces. All you need is cloth + water to do the job. No product required. I use this for wiping down surfaces and cleaning windows and mirrors.
  2. Ecover & Method – these are two cruelty-free, plant-based brands that produce a whole array of cleaning products. When water just won’t cut it, or for bathroom cleaning products, I reach for these natural brands. Most supermarkets will stock the basics from these brands, otherwise I recommend Ethical Superstore if you want to pick up some more specialist items.
  3. Baking soda & Vinegar – When the drain is blocked, instead of reaching for those life-destroying, vomit-inducing ‘solutions’ that annihilate everything in their path, try something more fun: baking soda and vinegar. These two will clean just about anything, from a kitchen sink to a carpet stain. Check this article out for great recipes.
  4. Michael’s Original – these scourers are made from biodegradable plant fibres and do an awesome job at everything from scrubbing limescale in a shower to cleaning root vegetables. These are great because there’s nothing to throw away from them…they just wear away over time.

I feel that a home should be a safe and sacred place. Treating it with kindness and respect is a great start. I wouldn’t say that I have a passion for cleaning, by any means, but I do care about my impact on the planet. Oh, and my health. For me, it starts here.

Photo via Unsplash

 

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Minimalism

Minimalism is the trend of the moment and it’s easy to see why. Clear surroundings equal a clear mind. A de-cluttered mind is free to create its best work. You’ll likely know the obvious ones like cleaning out your closet and donating old books, but what about the more discrete sources of clutter? I find these accumulate quietly until the hum becomes so loud that I need to stop and have a serious sort-out for my own sanity.

Lately I’ve been on a mission to rid my aura of stagnant materials. I’ve been clearing out the old that applied to a previous version of myself and making way for the new to come in. This takes peaceful practice, but is aided by a great deal of spring cleaning. See below the five ways that I’ve worked to rid the clutter from the depths.

  1. It’s really easy to accumulate a whole host of subscriber emails that you totally ignore. These ping through as your day progresses, offering nothing of any worth to you and your journey. Unsubscribe. Don’t just delete, but actually take the action step to prevent another infiltrating your inbox the next time the sender is trying to sell you something. I recently had a mass eviction of all the crap and boy did it feel good.
  2. Assess your pantry. If you like cooking and are anything like me (inheriting my mother’s siege mentality and having permanently rammed store cupboards), you’ll keep buying new items, totally forgetting about all the near-expired produce at the back. It’s a bad habit to keep layering the new stuff at the front as you are a) wasting your cash by letting the good stuff go bad and b) not incorporating good kitchen feng shui. Its horrible opening your cupboards and having a momentary panic that everything is going to fall out. Who needs that much stuff?! And if you really are the keen cook, get it organised.
  3. Go through your documents. Those of us doing adulthood with at least some clarity or care will likely have a document wallet or file – that place where all the important stuff is kept. This is where I store bank statements, insurance details, bills, contracts and all that other important but unattractive stuff. Chances are, if you have one of these you’ll keep ramming in document after document until the thing is bulging at the seams. Do yourself a favour and go through it, shredding and disposing of all the old stuff. It applies to a time in the past and not where you’re at now. Why are you still holding on to a paper statement from 3 years ago when everything can be found electronically now anyway? And on that note, if you’re really committed to the minimalism thing, see where you can go paperless and do so.
  4. Cosmetic clutter. I realise that this won’t apply to everyone because some of us are more product-junkies than others. I used to work in the skincare industry and it was at a time in my life when I was beauty-obsessed. Over the past couple years I’ve let products run their course and empty. I’ve made a point to use what I have, rather than do what I used to – and what I’ve seen so many others do – which is to purchase a product and once the novelty has worn off repeat the process with another. I’m at a point in my life now where I really only want the bare minimum, high-quality products in my bathroom and make-up bag. It’s so much more streamlined only owning what I truly adore and need.
  5. Apps & Programs. This one I find really satisfying, I must admit. It’s essentially the process of going through the apps on my phone or programs on my computer and deleting what I don’t use. This will free up storage space and stop you having to keep sifting through unwanted items to get to that which is useful for you. Digital clutter is just as bad as material clutter.

We can think of material possessions as being valuable and contributing in a certain way up until a point. After that they’re simply a burden.

Value of possessions

Photo: Flickr

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I live in the city. Whilst I am never stuck for things to do, my heart lies in the vast outdoors and I spotted a perfect opportunity for bringing a very small piece of that to me. It started with some plastic.

I work in a laboratory. That means sterile rooms, cold surfaces, toxic chemicals and an enormous amount of waste. That’s a whole issue unto itself, really. But amongst this I saw what could be transformed into something beautiful. A diamond amongst the cold, hard plastic.

Welcome to my urban babylon. I used water sample bottles, but you could use yesterday’s milk carton. You will need: bottle/container of choice, a sharp knife, a plant or two, soil/compost, catcher tray:

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