Spring: Gentle Cleaning and Conscious Shopping

These past couple months have been INSANE! In all good ways, but INSANE none the less. I have been the musical director for a production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dream-coat” and shows began this month! It has been SO much fun, but definitely all consuming. When I haven’t been obsessing about the musical, I’ve been preoccupied with all things BABY! I have really tried not to be “that” person that finds out they’re pregnant and talks about nothing else, and the musical has definitely helped me bring balance in that area, but alas, I get home from a long day at work, and can’t help but think and plan for baby. 

Speaking of baby… this is not related to anything “Gentle Project”, but just for fun, here are a few pictures from our Gender Reveal last month:  

The good thing about becoming mildly baby obsessed has been that it ties in nicely with my March and April projects. Learning more about chemical-free cleaning, and organizing seems timely.

So with no further adieu, here are 5 easy ways to keep your house clean, organized, and chemical free: 

  1. Stay Organized: I find when everything in my home has a place, it is far easier to keep the house clean. Tidying becomes quick when every item in my home has a place, and quick surface cleaning becomes a breeze. I have become a fan (as many have) of all things Marie Kondo; I find many of her tips and tricks very practical and easy. What do you love? Keep it! What doesn’t make you happy? Get rid of it! What you keep? Have a place for it! Marie Kondo’s Netflix series “Tidying Up” is worth the watch; it’s like a not-as-gross “Hoarders.”
    IMG_9472
    I went to Ikea and got a few closet organizers– I am slightly obsessed now.

    One of the things I love about her style of cleaning and organizing is how specific she is about having a place for everything. Little boxes and jars designated for everything! This way of tidying hasn’t just help me stay organized, but it has made it so much easier to clean the house quickly.

  2. Keep it simple: One of the most helpful discoveries I made this month was the Thieves Household Cleaner from Young Living. Add a small capful to a spray bottle with water and use it on literally EVERYTHING! I used it to clean the kitchen counters, the shower, and even my washing machine on the clean cycle. Having one cleaner (and one that is chemical-free no less) has really helped me clean more often. I also really enjoy not worrying about what I’m breathing in while I clean. 
  3. Fresh Air: Such a simple, small thing to change, but keeping the air in the house fresh inspires me to keep the house itself fresh and clean. Our beautiful weather lately has been a great excuse to open the windows, and breakout the diffuser to freshen our home up. I have been slowly ridding our house of harmful, harshly scented candles as well, and instead using my diffuser from Saje. 
  4. Norwex: I don’t sell Norwex, or Young Living, but both companies have products I really enjoy. I’ve slowly started acquiring some Norwex cloths and I find they work stupendously to clean the house, completely free of ANY cleaning products. I want to expand my collection, especially with a baby on the way. 
  5. Less stuff = More time: I am a ruthless purger of things! But I wasn’t always; I used to have SO many sentimental items that I could never dream of letting go. I changed after I spent some time in Uganda. It wasn’t necessarily my time in a third-world-country that made me turn from my selfish first-world ways and purge my excess belongings. Truth be told, it was the fact that my time back and forth in Uganda (and the fact that I was never sure where I was going to land) caused me to evaluate my stuff more carefully. I found myself asking, “is this thing worth packing, shipping, and unpacking, potentially several times?” Most of my things inspired a resounding NO! I still apply this concept to my life now that my husband and I are settled in Canada, and I must say that having less stuff does not solely benefit ones ability to travel. Having less stuff in our house truly causes us to have more time. It’s good to be clean and organized of course but nearly impossible when there’s stuff consuming every corner of your house. Less stuff means we have more time to things other than clean.

Gentle Cleaning has also caused me to ask some questions (that I fear are dumb, but I’m going to ask them anyway):

  1. Where do you bring old chemicals that you want to get rid of? 
  2. Do you have any solutions for an inexpensive, chemical-free, freshly “scented” (or at least leaves your clothes fresh feeling) laundry detergent? I want to try Saje’s dryer balls and get rid of those toxic dryer sheets… but all the other laundry detergent that’s “natural” seems crazy expensive. Any great suggestions? 
  3. What about car-washing? Anything environmentally friendly for washing the car? 
  4. Coming into the new season of parenthood, how do you stay clean and organized with a baby? And don’t say it’s impossible! How do you control toy accumulation? Organize laundry? Clean your floors easily?

Now, here’s the temptation I often have once everything in my home is clean and organized: I want to shop! There’s space for things, empty hangers, and time to kill… why not indulge in a little shopping? And to take it further, THERE’S A BABY COMING! I NEED ALL THE THINGS! I don’t, but you know, first baby! Who knows what I need? So I should just get it all right?! 

Which leads me to my April project: Gentle Shopping. 

My Rules for April: 

  1. No impulse shopping or mall-wandering 
  2. Learn about “Fast Fashion”
  3. My mantra for the month, “I have everything I need.” 
  4. Learn some DIY’s for things I’d usually buy
  5. There is no baby here yet, I don’t need to buy baby things this month. Say it again ASHLEY! You don’t need to buy any baby things this month! 
  6. Maintain the habits I’ve developed thus far:
    1. Reducing household waste
    2. Make more vegan adaptations to my diet
    3. Continue to rid our house of all chemical based cleaning products

Know of any great resources when it comes to Gentle Cleaning, or Conscious consuming? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you.

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9 Ways to Reduce Household Waste

I used to think that my menial effort to recycle, and the fact I would never throw garbage out of my car window made me a real tree hugger. I have discovered over this month of January I have a lot of work to do to live more kindly towards the environment. I am by no means an expert now, but here are a few quick changes I have made this month to reduce my ecological footprint.

  1. Be Mindful: This month has been all about self-discovery. My biggest discovery is I am the most wasteful when I am mindlessly going about a task or when I am rushing to complete a task. When I am frantically picking up groceries, or rushing to clean my kitchen, or simply zoning out in the shower I wasted resources, and curiously enough often wasted more time. My best piece of advice for becoming less wasteful is be mindful in your day to day, mundane tasks. 
  2. Shampoo Bars changed my life: 02008Fun fact, I HATE washing my hair. I don’t know why it feels like such a chore but it does. However, I recently discovered something that flipped the script for me (do the kids still say that?). SHAMPOO BARS! I started buying shampoo bars from Lush Cosmetics. I love it for several reasons: they leave my hair shiny and smooth, shorter shower time because I only need to use shampoo no conditioner (which I use to think was sacrilegious but now I’m all about it), it’s vegan, it’s completely waste free, it lasts forever, and it smells like heaven! The secret is to also buy the little metal containers that Lush sells and it helps it last for a long time. Here’s the link to the one I use.
    https://www.lush.ca/en/hair/shampoo-bars/karma-komba/02008.html
  3. Showers: On that note, being more mindful about showers has also been a game changer for me, but I have REALLY had to adjust my mindset about it. I forced myself to remember back to when I lived in Uganda. I remembered that I would NEVER dream of having a 10 minute long cold shower. My showers were 3-4 minutes MAX! With that in mind I had the idea that maybe I should change the temperature of my Canadian showers (not freezing but a little cooler than usual) in an attempt to speed myself up… and it worked. I admit I still have a smokin’ hot shower once a week, but my average shower has become a lot less wasteful. If you’re not convinced, here’s a great article about the benefits of shorter, cooler showers. https://www.bustle.com/articles/152226-how-long-should-you-shower-it-takes-less-time-than-you-think-to-get-clean 
  4. Compost those organics: img_1114After visiting the Surrey Biofuel Plant, I feel so much more empowered to compost my organics. To know that my city has a resource like the Surrey Biofuel Plant and to not utilize it, seems like a waste in itself. But even if you don’t live in the township of Surrey, composting those organics does wonders for the environment. A little trick I learned from a friend of mine is to keep a paper bag in the freezer and put organics in there; reduces the smell in the house, and it’s easy to transfer into the big green bin!
  5. Say “see ya” to those plastic bags: 71p51l7qwdl._sl1500_When I first thought about plastic bags, I thought grocery bags, and then stopped there. The fact of the matter is, we use a TON of plastic bags for so many things. Produce, snacks, clothing shopping etc. A great purchase I made recently was reusable produce bags. They are small enough I can keep them in my purse, I can wash them easily, they save on a lot of plastic, and they’re strong enough not to break like the cheap plastic ones when I’m buying sweet potatoes. Getting in the habit of using them is the hardest part, but once you have, you’ll never go back!  https://www.amazon.ca/Yomitek-Reusable-Washable-Drawstrings-Shopping/dp/B07G2117CJ?keywords=reusable+produce+bags&qid=1547660847&sr=8-1-spons&ref=sr_1_1_sspa&psc=1
  6. The Paper Towel Revolt: A simple change I made to cut down some of our waste was to use cloth rags instead of paper towels. When I was sick this month, I even took it one step further and used a handkerchief instead of Kleenex. I thought the whole idea was disgusting honestly, but my husband pointed out to me how much toilet paper I wasted blowing my nose (and he even got me a nice new hanky) so I had no excuse. 
  7. Learn how to Recycle: This goes along with becoming more mindful. Knowing how and where to recycle makes a big difference for the environment and my household. Here’s a great site for BC residents to help navigate recycling more efficiently: https://www.recyclebc.ca/what-can-i-recycle/   
  8. Ladies Only: A game changer for my time of the month has been Thinx Underwear (or as I affectionately refer to them as: period panties). I use them at the very beginning and the very end of my period when it’s the lightest, and then swap over to tampons when it’s heavier. They are super comfy, and I’m amazed at how clean I feel. They have helped cut down my tampon/liner usage significantly. Next step is to build up my confidence and try the Diva cup; I’ve heard really good things (money saver, kind on the body, kind to the environment, etc.). 
  9. Cut down the Take-Away: My husband and I are pretty good at making home cooked meals, but now that our schedules are reversed I am definitely guilty of leaning towards eating out instead of cooking something just for myself. “It’s only me! Why would I make a big meal! That’s wasteful. This is waste-free January. Sushi here I come!” The obvious problem with this is (other than the waste of money) most “eating out” requires a great deal of packaging. Meal plan, and skip the take-away.

january- pin- waste

How To Get Free Stuff On Your Birthday

I love my birthday!

I have no shame in planning myself a birthday party, wearing a “Birthday Girl” sash, and proudly announcing the countdown before my birthday occurs. Being a December baby has turned me into a bit more of a birthday enthusiast; maybe it’s the need to compensate for the fact that my birthday is slightly overshadowed by Jesus’ (fair).

If I were to compare myself to anyone and their ability to celebrate their own birthday with gusto, it would be Oprah. Yes, not only have I admitted I love my own birthday, I have also compared myself to Oprah.

With the right budget I too would make it rain with luxury vehicles, and fancy kitchenware for all my friends and family. My birthday would be a televised event which was celebrated for weeks upon end.

“EVERYBODY GETS A BRAND NEW SPEED BOAT!”

Sadly, I don’t have the budget required to truly celebrate my birthday in style, therefore, I rely upon freebies to give off the allusion of birthday extravagance.

Free birthday swag has become one of my favourite parts of my birthday, for the following reasons:

  1. Presents from strangers are exciting (not to be confused with candy from strangers… do not take candy from strangers)
  2. I get to celebrate my birthday for (at least) a week.
  3. It becomes socially acceptable for me to announce, “It’s my BIRTHDAY!” in the middle of a crowded restaurant.

So, in true Oprah-like-fashion, I am sharing with you my free birthday swag secrets.

*Insert Ashley yelling “EVERYBODY GETS FREE BIRTHDAY STUFF” in her best Oprah impression*

Free breakfast at Denny’s: All you need to do is bring in your ID and a friend, and you get a free breakfast. Yum!

Free drink at Starbucks: Sign-up for Starbucks rewards (which is awesome for more than just birthdays) and receive a free drink on your birthday.

Free tea at David’s Tea: Become a “Frequent Steeper” and receive a free drink on your special day.

Present from Sephora: Become a beauty insider and receive a free birthday gift (and free goodies all year long as you earn points).

Free dinner at Washington Avenue Grill, The Hawthorn, or The Vault: Sign-up online, bring a friend, and receive a free dinner at anyone of these restaurants. This year, I went to The Vault and it was absolutely delicious!

Free dinner at Edith & Arthurs: Sign-up online, bring a friend, and receive a free dinner. My husband and I also received an email on our anniversary for a free bottle of champagne and free dessert.

Free burger at Red Robins: Sign-up online, bring a friend and get a free burger on your birthday. Always yummy! And… bottomless fries and freckled lemonade!

Free Booster Juice: Sign-up online and get a free Booster Juice!

Krispy Kreme: Sign-up for their e-club and receive a free donut and coffee.

Forever Yours Lingerie:  Sign-up for their points program and receive $20 off a $75 purchase during your birthday week.

Smash + Tess:  Sign- up for Romper rewards for a $10 off coupon.

Pearl Fever: Register on their app and receive a free drink on your birthday (or 10 days after)

There are plenty of places that will give you a free dessert or some kind of discount on your birthday, but the list above is my list of favs (Ashley’s Favourite Things, if you will) because most of them are completely free.

I hope this list brings you as much joy as it brings me, and I hope it helps make your birthday just little bit happier 🙂

Do you have any fun birthday traditions?

Free birthday swag locations you want to share?

Comment below and share the birthday joy.

How To Forget Where You Live

Hi.

My name is Ashley,

And I’m a stalker.

*Insert many other voices greeting me in unison*

Don’t worry; there is not some poor schmuck somewhere whose unrequited love has driven me into hysteria. No, the object of my stalking is actually a house, to be more specific, the house I grew up in.

My family moved into our house when I was about three years old, and we didn’t move again until I was ten. Almost every fond childhood memory I have took place in or around that house. I learned how to swing on the swing set in the backyard. I fell in love with the boy across the street. I had Christmas’, birthdays, and Easter egg hunts in that house. I did homework, playtime, family dinners, and jumping on the bed in that house. I loved that house. I don’t think we would have ever moved out if it hadn’t have been for my parents divorce, but that is neither here nor there. We moved and since then I have moved over 15 times.

So yes, on lonely days, lost days, cold days, or if I just happen to be in the neighborhood, I stalk my old house.

I say stalk because I always feel supremely creepy when I’m doing it. I don’t peek in the windows or sneak around the side or anything, I just drive by… really slowly. Like, imagine slow, and then go slower, that is how slowly I drive by the house. I do not mean to make it look as creepy as I imagine it looking, I just get lost in thought and can’t help but linger.

I envision what my adolescence would have looked like in my house. I scoff at how poorly the new owners have kept up the lawn, and can almost hear my father’s voice saying, “All the time I put in, and look at what a mess they’ve made.” My eyes drift across the street, and I think about the little boy I loved for so many years. I think of my summers with him jumping through sprinklers, and eating watermelon popsicles. I see the shed in the backyard I was convinced had monsters in it for an embarrassingly long time. I smell my mom’s cooking and remember her as did when I was little. I even drive down the back alley to peak at where my tree house use to stand, and am still flabbergasted as to why anyone would want to tear down such a magnificent structure. I see my mom and dad sitting on the patio on a sunny morning, my mom with a book, and my dad with his smokes.

And for just a moment, I feel like I am home. Then I drive back to real life.

In Between Addresses

“What do you mean you don’t know your address?” says a judgmental sounding voice on the other side of the phone from a bridge toll company that shall remain nameless.

“Well, I just moved, so I don’t know my new address.”

“Well, what was your last address?”

“I don’t think I ever got around to giving you my last address, so I think what you’re actually looking for is the address before last.”

“Fine, give me that address.”

“Yeah, I can’t remember that one.”

“Well isn’t that the address on your drivers license?”

“No, no, my drivers license has the address from before that on it. Do you want that one?”

*Insert stunned, frustrated silence*

This conversation and others like it are the reasons why, “Can I have your address?” has become a remarkably challenging question for me. Every short-term address I hand out is just another piece of mail I’ll have to redirect later, and it’s strangely exhausting. It makes me feel like I’m floating in between where I am, and some mysterious place I will be 6 to 12 months from now. With every piece of mail that gets lost in between addresses, it just reminds me that I’m wandering, and suddenly I become terribly unsettled.

Hopeless Wanderer

“I will learn to love the skies I’m under.”- Mumford and Sons

Life has changed a lot for me over the past few years. I have lived on another continent, I have adjusted back, I have gotten engaged, I have gotten married, I have been fired, I have been hired, I have lost old friends, gained new friends and, of course, I have moved.

With all of the changes, my biggest struggle has been to refrain from stalking my past. It is so easy to look back on what could have been, how I would have hoped to be treated by people, how I would have liked to end or start something, or the homes I wish I hadn’t moved out of, but there’s no use in dwelling on my shoulda, coulda, wouldas’. I can do a drive-by every now and again, but at the end of the day, it is just a waste of time and gas.

Instead I just need to learn to love the skies I’m under. Thank God for the lovely things I’ve had, the ridiculous crap I’ve endured, and the feet He has allowed me to keep wandering with.

A Prayer for the Hopeless Wanderers

I pray not that you stop moving, but that the Lord gives you sturdy shoes to travel in.

I know that when it rains, it pours, so I pray for umbrellas, rubber boots, and an internal knowing of how to clean up after a flood.

I pray that the Lord accompanies you on all your journeys, so that no matter how far away you go (and even if you’ve forgotten the address that gets you there), you always feel at home.