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

Gentle Waste: Mid-Month Update

So far my month of Gentle Waste has been enlightening, but I definitely have work to do to get my household less wasteful! 

My biggest challenge has been cutting down my showers. I timed myself at the beginning of the month and my average shower was about 10 minutes (shorter if it’s a quick “back from the gym” shower, and longer if I wash my hair or shave my legs). I love using my showers to warm me up in the morning, but I have had to consistently remind myself that that is not actually what showers are for. I have, however, found a few practical solutions to help make my showers shorter (and better to be quite honest). I will share some of those solutions in my final post for the month of January. 

Cutting down on my plastic use this month has gone quite smoothly when it comes to my grocery shopping. Where it’s been more challenging? Snacks! I’ve realized how much I use plastic sandwich bags for my snacking items. I know I can use my Tupperware containers but, I confess, I don’t want big bulky Tupperware containers all over the place (which they would be in my car, in my purse, lost at work etc.). 

Has anyone every used those silicone snack bags? I found some on Amazon, they seem pricey… but potentially worth it? These are the ones I have been scoping out:

https://www.amazon.ca/Stasher-Reusable-Silicone-Bag-Clear/dp/B01DZQT9CU/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1547578765&sr=8-7&keywords=silicone+snack+pouch

If you’ve used these ones or something similar, I’d love to hear your thoughts. They look like they could be a potentially helpful solution. 

imageI also had the chance to visit Surrey’s Biofuel Plant where I learned more about how composting my organics positively affects the environment. Surrey’s Biofuel Plant is the first closed-loop waste management system in North America. When I drove up to the facility I was surprised by the fact that I couldn’t smell the organics (I was expecting to be gagging my way through the place). The Biofuel facility processes the city’s organic waste into 100% renewable natural gas which is then used by natural gas powered service vehicles. The most fascinating part of the tour for me was when I ventured into the organics “viewing area” (at least that’s what I’m calling it).img_9334 I was shocked to see how much garbage made its’ way into the organics piles; the most shocking malfeasance was the white plastic lawn chair protruding from the mountain of banana peels and coffee grounds. The facility not only processes organic waste, but also has an education centre where school groups visit and learn more about renewable natural gas and compost. There was something about watching a bunch of 14 year-olds re-learning how and what to recycle that really warmed my heart.

The past 15 days have helped me realize how many things I do mindlessly through out my day. There have been a couple times I have been out, bought a coffee, and then once the dang thing is in my hands I curse the sky remembering my “no coffee without a reusable mug” rule. 

My biggest revelation from this month so far has definitely been: being less wasteful has a lot to do with being more mindful.