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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February: Gentle Eating Rules for the Month

Ecological Footprint: 1.9 earths (down from 2.3 in January), 19.3 hectares (down from 20.3 in January) 

I eat animals. 

I LOVE sushi, a good charcuterie board, and a breakfast platter adorned in animal products. 

I have also proclaimed several times in my life that if I were to ever discover I was lactose intolerant, there would be no need for me to go on. If I can’t partake in a hearty cheese board, what is life really about anyway? 

Here’s the kicker: I really love animals. I can not even watch a movie where trouble or harm befalls an animal. I can watch a movie where the entire human cast dies, and not miss a beat, but a dog gets injured and I’m a mess for days. Case in point: the new Dumbo movie is coming out… I sobbed… at the TRAILER! One glance at Dumbo dressed like a clown and being mocked by the circus crowd… Ugh, I can’t even talk about it anymore. 

I have been finding myself presented with this idea a lot lately: how in the world can I say I am an animal lover and also consume them? To take it a step further, I would never eat a dog EVER, why do I think a pig is any different? Or a cow? Or even a chicken or a fish (gasp)? 

Family Values

Much of the way I eat is reflective of how I grew up. Meat, cheese, butter, and milk were staples; I’m Italian for crying out loud, isn’t that a birth right? My husband makes the same retort; he is Ugandan, therefore it is his right to eat chicken and pork. But just because this is the way our parent’s eat, and our communities eat, does that mean it’s right? 

The New Canadian Food Guide

Canada recently rolled out the new Canadian food guide and there are significant changes from what I remember as a child. The biggest changes being the removal of emphasis on meat and dairy, and the focus on eating a plant based diet.

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Apart from the animal cruelty involved in the meat and dairy industry (which is indeed a big deal), there is also the matter of the damage these industries have on our environment. Here are just a few statistics from http://www.onegreenplanet.org:

  • Raising animals for food (including land used for grazing and land used to grow feed crops) now uses a staggering 30% of the Earth’s land mass. (Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options, a 2006 report published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization)
  • The massive amounts of excrement produced by livestock farms emit toxic gases such as hydrogen sulfide and ammonia into the air. Roughly 80% of ammonia emissions in the U.S. come from animal waste (The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency).
  • Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of the total release of greenhouse gases world-wide (this is more than all the cars, trucks, planes, and ships in the world combined)  (Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options, a 2006 report published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization)

For the past few months I had been trying to transition my diet to “plant-based.” I was doing pretty well until December… and then I fell off the wagon… hard. Like, sausage and egg McMuffin hard. Now for the month of February I am going the cold-turkey route (so to speak that is) and am going to live that sweet Vegan life. My hope is that it sticks for good. 

My rules for February are few but mighty! 

  1. Eat zero animal products (I am not including yeast, or “bee” products)

Education: 

  1. Learn from a real life Vegan
  2. Watch: Food Inc., What the Health… Any other suggestions? 

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