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.”
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    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.

5

January: Rules for the Month

Eco Footprint: I am currently using 20.3 Hectares of land (Average Canadian: 9 Hectares), 2.3 Earths, and my “Overshoot day” is June 10th 

All I Want for Christmas is EVERYTHING

The Christmas season is always a great reminder for me of all the crap I think I need. I am all of a sudden acutely aware of every kitchen gadget that will elevate my cooking, every item of clothing that will make me feel like a Pinterest feature, and of course the new watch that will track my steps, heart rate, and emotions guaranteeing I will be a more balanced, and aware human. 

The truth is I do not really need anything. I can cook just fine with what I have, I have enough clothes to be fully dressed for work each day, and that watch that counts my steps is only going to turn me into a neurotic basket case, marching in my living room at 10:36pm because I haven’t hit my 10,000 step goal for the day. 

Waste Not, Want Not

I have created a bit of a tradition for myself every time I come home from a trip to Uganda. I arrive home with my luggage covered in fresh red dirt, and my head whirling with thoughts about how us “Westerners” live. Before my shoes are even off I am scanning my house looking to give away anything I haven’t used in the past 6 months. 

“Why do I have so many shoes? No human needs this many throw pillows. Am I planning on conducting a seance? Why do I need all these candles?” I mumble to myself as I ferociously toss all the things I don’t need. 

And here in lies the strange tension I hold between Christmas and my most recent trips to Uganda. How do strike a balance? How do I become a conscious consumer in every season of my life? How do I de-clutter but also not waste that which I already have? 

Rules for the Month of “Gentle Waste” January

In the past being “waste free” looked like a giant purge of my home inventory. I was living “simply” if my counters were clean, and my Tupper-ware cupboard wasn’t overflowing. However once I took the Eco footprint quizzes (Eco Foot Print Quiz 1 and Quiz 2 ) a whole new world of (rather simple) changes opened up to me. I was forced to think about the way I consume and waste not just at home, but also when I’m out and about. 

Here are my goals for January: 

  1. Shopping: Reusable bags for groceries and produce, cut down food that has packaging (by at least half). Look into reusable snack bags, and wraps. This is really just a matter of REMEMBERING my bags. I have all the reusable bags I could ever need, but I am constantly forgetting them in my house or in the car. I suppose it’s also a matter of laziness… walk ALL THE WAY back to the car for a bag? Meh, just once will be okay. 
  2. Cook the correct amount & eat leftovers. We are usually pretty good at this, but we could surely get better. Our biggest problem is when we intentionally make big batches of something and then not freezing it in time. 
  3. Coffee Talk: Make coffee at home. If I am stuck, I am only allowed to purchase a coffee if I have my own reusable cup. Same goes for water. My S’well Bottle has definitely helped with my water consumption and cutting down my use of plastic water bottles, but I have yet to hit my stride with coffee. Having the rule that I cannot have coffee without the cup should definitely keep me thinking about it. 
  4. Recycle with more accuracy and Compost ALL food waste. This feels really shameful to admit, but I have been guilty of throwing out entire containers of food if the food is too moldy or gross to deal with. Especially if it’s just those cheap zip-loc containers. I also get really lazy about composting and recycling. I have no idea what all the different recycle numbers mean, and I am sure I recycle the wrong things to the wrong places. 
  5. Water Usage: 3 minute showers- use a timer/ Reduce flushes/ Cut down dishwasher use. This one kind of devastates me. Not only do I love long, hot showers, I also love putting on full blown concerts whilst in the shower. I’m going to need to find somewhere else to perform the entire score of “Wicked.” 
  6. Watch “A Plastic Ocean,”  and “Before the Flood.” I want to educate myself. I hope the more I know, the more I will care. 
  7. Visit the Surrey Bio-Fuel Plant. Surrey’s Bio-Fuel Plant is one of only a few of its’ kind in all of Canada. An understanding of where my compost goes, and how it’s used will hopefully help my buy in. 

There it is, month one! Any great resources you think I need to be aware of? Any giant blind spots in my plan? I’d love to hear from you. Comment below, and follow along on social media @theashleyrhapsody

The Gentle Project

In the past, whenever I have made “big announcements,” they have been really BIG announcements. For example: “SURPRISE I’m moving to Uganda!” Or, “Surprise, I’m married!” So I shouldn’t have been surprised when I announced on Instagram I had a “big” announcement, and everybody over shot. 

No, I’m not moving or winning a Grammy. 

This announcement does have the potential to be life changing though. 

Let me set this up a bit for you. 

Be Careful

I recall as a child being told to “ Be Careful!” an awful lot. Be careful not to break your toys, your bones, your friends toys, or your friend’s bones. As I grew older the list of things I needed to become more “careful” of changed. Be careful where you walk at night, be careful with how you dress, be careful to choose the right friend group, and be careful with what you say and how you say it. An endless list of all that could befall me developed. 

As a result, I have grown to be a rather “careful” person. I would not say that I exhibit very risky behaviour: I have never broken a bone, I’ve never smoked a cigarette, I don’t think I’ve ever been drunk (I got giggly once after my second Bellini, does that count?), and I’ve led a pretty vanilla young-adulthood. 

As careful as I have attempted to be in my life, I had an epiphany over the past year: I am a very careful person, but I am not very gentle. 

Peaches, Pampers, and Baby Animals 

When I hear the word, “gentle” I think of baby ducklings and Dove soap. I think of pastel colours, Jesus holding a lamb, and diaper commercials (which is funny because diapers themselves are quite possibly the complete opposite of gentle). 

To me, being gentle to the earth meant: “The Three ‘R’s.” 

Being gentle to myself meant: don’t get drunk, or high, or obese. 

Being gentle to others meant: treat other’s the way you would like to be treated. 

Being gentle looked a lot like abiding by Sunday School directives, and if you did those things, Congrats! One ticket to heaven! 

I have taken great pride in the illusion of my “gentleness,” but really I am just good at being careful not to appear as if I am a shitty human being. 

An Alarmist 

I think that I need to become more radical about how I treat the earth, others, and myself. The older I get the more I recognize that these things are intrinsically connected; I can no longer merely exist knowing the way I mindlessly shop, eat, clean, spend, and talk affects those around me so deeply. I also think it is hypocritical of me as a “Christian” to say I believe theologically I am meant to be a steward of the earth, and then on a practical level treat the earth like trash. 

I thought a great way to start thinking more deeply about this would be to calculate my ecological footprint. I went to www.footprintcalculator.org and did their quiz to determine what my ecological footprint is, and to calculate my overshoot day. 

Do you know what an overshoot day is? I had no idea. The world’s overshoot day in 2018 was August 1st; that is the day humanity exhausted nature’s budget for the year. To put it in financial terms, August 1st is the day we stop paying cash, and start throwing all our coffee orders on the credit card. 

I did the quiz, and to be honest, I thought my results wouldn’t be too bad. My husband and I carpool to work or use public transit, we recycle, I buy my clothes from consignment, and we make the occasional vegan meal… what more could you ask for Earth? 

I was expecting a hearty pat on the back for all my efforts but instead, I was floored! 

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2.3 Earths! That’s how many earths we’d need if everyone on this planet lived like me. To make matters worse, my overshoot day was June 10th. To remind you, humanity’s average was August 1st… which still sucks. 

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After calculating my Ecological Footprint on www.footprintcalculator.org  a teacher-friend of mine shared another more extensive Eco footprint calculator. 

That quiz can be found here if you’re interested: http://www.earthrangers.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/how_big_is_my_ecological_footprint.pdf

I thought surely I would be around the average consumption level, but this quiz gave me an even WORSE score. 

Our earth has approximately 12 billion hectares of biologically productive land and there are about 6.3 billion people on the planet. This means that the average person should use approximately 1.9 hectares of biologically productive land (the “Average Earth Share” number). The average Canadian uses 9 hectares (22 acres). 

Do you want know how many hectares I use? Approximately 20.3 Hectares! That’s right, recycling, no-meat-Monday Ashley is using 20.3 hectares of land. That’s 11.3 more than the average Canadian, and 18.4 more than I should as a human. 

The Gentle Project

It’s time for me to make some changes, and I would love all of you to keep me accountable.

Each month in 2019 I will develop a new way in which I can be gentler to the earth, those around me, and to myself. At the beginning of each month I will share what my “Gentle Project” will be, and how I am planning to stick with it. I will do my best to share what I learn and to be honest about how committed I’ve been. My goal will be to build upon each month, and not ditch what I learned the month before. 

Each month I will also retake the ecological footprint quiz to see if I can move my “overshoot day” (and perhaps also adjust the number of earths I use). 

I am, clearly, not an expert in this area so I could use all the help I can get. Feel free to share your feedback, take the Ecological Footprint Quiz for yourself, let me know how many earths you’re using, and maybe even join in on the fun! 

Changing how I live is a scary thought, but I am excited for the challenge. 

The Gentle Project begins January 1st, 2019! 

Monday Moment of Joy: Target

I love Target and I don’t care who knows it.

I even loved CANADIAN Target. Talk about commitment.

For those of you Americans who don’t know what I mean, let me give you the Coles Notes version of what happened with Canadian Target.

  • Canada did not have Target
  • Target was brought to Canada
  • Ashley rejoiced
  • Canadian Target didn’t do so great
  • ALL Canadian Target’s were closed down
  • Ashley mourned

In my opinion, Canadian Target could have been successful. They opened too many stores, too quickly, and they were poorly stocked, and staffed. If they had opened a few, stocked them like Granny stocks her pantry, and hired staff that embody the energy and charisma of a Disney Land attendant, the powers that be at Canadian Target would have been rollin’ in the Benjamin’s (or the Borden’s I suppose).

Regardless as to it’s success, it was still Target and I still loved it. To this day if I hear someone say, “Target in Canada was terrible,” I escalate into a well rehearsed rant about how it’s that kind of attitude that got us here… with no Target. Quitters… bunch of quitters.

So with passport in hand, and American Target merely twenty minutes away, I proclaim with a full heart, and a full shopping cart, Target brings me real joy.

A friend tagged me in this video and it is all too true; I’m sharing it with you to bring a little joy to your Monday.

Happy shopping.