A Fresh Start: All Around the House

Are you thinking ahead to spring? I know it’s hard to fathom in the midst of our deep freeze, but spring really IS just around the corner. Sadly, spring is when my allergies rear their ugly mugs and turn the otherwise lovely experience of new life blooming into a major sneeze-fest. Whether you've got allergies or you’re just looking for a way to clear your home of allergens, toxins, and other not-so-pleasant environmental hazards, here are some ideas that may help. (Don’t forget to check out our previous articles on detoxing your kitchen and your bath and laundry.)

Here I offer a list of non-edible treats for the Simple, Good, and Tasty crowd, because clearing your nose will make it easier to taste the wonderful local food you'll be eating all year long. Here goes:

  • Get organized. A little clutter clearing love is a good thing. Somehow this excess detritus sneaks up on us regardless of how good our intentions are. Start the spring thinking of a detox and purge of the “stuff” that complicates the living in our lives.
  • I won’t insult your intelligence by saying, “Recycle.” But seriously. Do it, ok? Even if it’s hard.
  • Replace the filter in your HVAC system. While there are any number of variations on the theme (more particles, different types of particles, various sized particles, etc.), the key is to change out your filter more often than is probably suggested. Especially in allergy season. I buy the cheapest 3M filter and change it monthly.
  • Go Japanese. Take off your shoes when you enter your home. Not only will this dampen the dust, dirt, and debris and keep your cleaning time in check, it will also protect your various floor coverings. You can even offer your friends cute slippers to keep feet warm on hard floors. They’ll love your thoughtfulness and you’ll be a happier sweeper.
  • Get your pets in on the gig. Leave an “outdoor” door mat outside of your cat’s litterbox to keep the litter tracking down. Train Fido to stop at the door for a paw wipe down before he enters the home. It’s not as crazy as it sounds; we trained our dog so well that he just simply stops and holds out a paw. It can be done!
  • Use non-toxic cleaning alternatives when dusting and cleaning. For an overnight freshening and cleaning of carpets and rugs, try sprinkling baking soda over the area, work in with a broom, and leave while you sleep. In the morning, vacuum everything up. If you want to be fancy about it, start with a couple of cups of baking soda and add a few drops of tea tree, mint, eucalyptus, or lemon essential oil before you sprinkle. Fresh and lovely smelling, all while adding a knock-out punch to lingering germies.
  • Try a low-tox dusting aid. ½ c oil soap (like Murphy’s), ¾ c water, 5 drops sweet orange or patchouli essential oil, 15-20 drops cedar essential oil. Combine in a plastic spray bottle and shake to combine. Spray this onto a soft, dry dusting rag and then wiping down the dusty surface. (Method adapted slightly from The Naturally Clean Home – an AMAZING resource for great green cleaning recipes.)
  • Sweet slippers!Sweet slippers!Give your bedroom some flip! Per the above mentioned book, “Researchers have confirmed that the bulk of all inhaled allergens originate in the bed.” Besides being green when choosing your bed linens, take good care of the bed itself. If you’re allergic to dust, be vigilant about changing your linens at least weekly. Think clearly about choosing natural vs. man-made materials in your bedding, which can seriously affect allergy situations. Clean down-filled goodies (pillows, feather beds, duvets) by regularly airing out and sunning them (really, a good couple hours in the sun helps bake out mites and makes everything smell wonderful). And clean them according to manufacturers’ instructions (although I'll also mention that most down- or feather-filled pillows and box-stitched duvets can stand a spin in a high volume washing machine). Use a gentle, low-sudsing detergent and ensure a good rinse, maybe even two. Then dry on ultra-low or no heat with a clean shoe or a couple of tennis balls to fluff the feathers back up. (Don’t try this with channeled or unstitched duvets as the down and feathers never seem to redistribute properly - it’s not worth the disappointment.) Cover your mattress, and flip that bad boy. Flip head-to-toe when you set your clocks back for the year. Then flip side-over-side when you set your clocks forward.
  • Green up your home office. Go as paperless as you can, and use 100% post-consumer recycled paper for your printing needs. Staples frequently has good deals on this one. Religiously recycle your printer ink and toner cartridges. Consider using refillable pens and pencils instead of replaceable ones.

There are hundreds of things you can do in your own home to step towards a less-toxic and more economical lifestyle. But the world we live in is a busy, complicated place. Hopefully some of these suggestions will help you ease into a more simple, good way of life. Go ahead and dig in – with gusto!

Tracy Morgan is a Twin Cities foodie and the owner of Segnavia Creative, a marketing services consulting company located in St. Paul, MN.