Can a Clean and Natural Home Make the Earth Cleaner?

by - Saturday, March 03, 2018

unsponge on white tiles

March is about the time we start to get that itch to clean out our house. Everything feels a little bit cluttered, and even our normal cleaning routine leaves those little piles (you know the ones I'm talking about- the devil is in those handy little nothings that have a pile but no purpose).

Cleaning does come up as an environmentalist issue mainly through all the nasty chemicals that are in most cleaning products, but if you are just starting to green up your lifestyle, it can be the perfect place to start. All you have to do is accept this one simple truth:

There is no away.

You can't just throw something away or rinse it down the drain. That trash, or junk, or chemical still goes somewhere and could even come back in your water or the food you eat. Because everything is deeply connected and we are all suffering from the things we throw away, you don't get to stop caring just because the garbage man carted it away. It's a pretty gross realization.

I know, this is a real dick thing to say as you get ready to clean. I am totally stealing that wonderful feeling after you have cleaned something out! Why would I steal the joy of your purge!??!?

Well, I promise it's all positivity from here on, because we can start talking about all the benefits you get from cleaning your house in a greener way.

I am not a great cleaner, and it's not in my comfort zone to wax poetic about cleaning strategies, but I think we can split most cleaning into two categories:

Decluttering and Deep Cleaning.

So this blog is going to spend the month looking at both. Why doing them is green (and good for your life), and how you can make changes to make them even greener.

First, Decluttering. 

The average American has 300,000 objects in their home, and it comes at a really high cost. We buy object after object hoping to make us happy, respected, or enough, but instead we know the ever growing pile of chaos is making us miserable. We know that decluttered and minimalist spaces create better mental health and prevent depression. This is a big deal.

On the environmentalist front, we know that having what we need (not just an epic pile of what we want) means that we have a better sense of what we have. Most Americans buy multiple duplicates a year of something they already own. No one can keep track of 300,000 objects. No one can make one million great choices. But if we minimize our stuff, we know what we have AND we can buy less.

That means less plastic packaging, less shipping and fossil fuel waste, less waste in general.

That said, it can be tempting (and honestly satisfying to send our unwanted stuff out to the fields and never think of it again.

But that is a HUGE mistake. First, it creates tons of unnecessary waste sent out to landfills that could have been recycled or reused. Secondly, someone out there could use the thing you are done with. If they can't get it from you, they might buy it, and the cycle of shopping and waste (and never actually being all that happy) continues.

So, if you are decluttering this spring, consider joining my Great Donate challenge. The goal is to donate 2,018 items out of your house this year. It is so cleansing and life-affirming, plus you have less to clean up.

The bottom line? The best thing you can do for yourself and the Earth is get tons out of your house but not into landfills.

It sounds intimidating. I know that. But I am here to help. We have a whole series of blogs going up this month that show you can donate (or recycle) almost anything. You can see the whole list of them here. Check it out, you are bound to be surprised.

So, let this be the month you finally start cutting those collections in half and free your life from super oppressive clutter. This isn't about being perfect, but it is all about finding that progress and sharing what we have. Right now, we have community groups like Buy Nothing and freecycle, charities and thrift stores left and right, terracycle, electronics recycling and SO MUCH MORE.

We know our things can have another life after us, we just

Also, I know it is hard at the start, but it starts to feel really good. There is a reason that lots of environmentally-aware and zero-waste people started with minimalism or decluttering. Once you start to change that relationship with stuff, it changes your world view for the better.

Second, cleaning. 

Cleaning seems straightforward enough; you get the schmutz off your floor and things look nicer, right?

Our cleaning supplies bring all sorts of chemicals into our lives. And before you roll your eyes about my crunchiness and think "they are harmless," think about how much cleaning has changed in the last few generations. And think about how much more we know now about cancers, alzheimers, and other diseases. On some level, we know that these chemicals and plastics are part of the problem. Pesticides we thought were fine a generation ago, we now know actually stunt brain development and mess with children's chemical build up.

In short, hell yes these chemicals should matter to you.

Don't wait until it is validated by study after study to get this junk out of your house. Especially because whatever is around you is also in you. And that stuff gets sent out in the world, so it is in everyone else too.

Not to mention, you can do any cleaning job without them.

Cleaning supplies, soaps, and tools for every job (from dishes to laundry to floors to all the weird orange peels my toddlers leave around my house) have green options. All of them. Some of them you can make yourself (and save BIG money) and some you can buy. I will be doing round ups of both. You can have a natural, non-toxic collection of cleaning supplies by just switching out as things run out.

This is also a great area to reduce your waste. We are all so comfortable with one-time use cleaning supplies meant to be tossed completely- wipes, swiffers, plastic sponges, dryer sheets, and more.

You can find reusable, plastic-free, and eco-friendly options for every tool you use. I will even find you reusable swiffer pads. Choosing reusable can eliminate TONS of waste out of your life and out of landfills. Think about how many of those wipes or paper towels you use. Now, replace them with unpaper towels that you can use a thousand times instead of once. That is a big freaking deal.

So, is cleaning the most exciting or sexy topic? Probably not, but like so many things we talk about on this blog, the little decisions we make everyday (or every week or every month depending on how much of a cleaner you are) add up. Like our diets, every little good decision adds up.

So, let's do this. Any green cleaning tips that have worked pretty well for you?

natural cleaning and how it helps the earth

Want to make your home greener? No matter the size or location, you can limit your waste and make your house have a more positive impact on the environment. Check out the Green Home Page for thousands of ideas on how to do it. 

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  1. we already donate everything that isnt damaged beyond repair. my only issue with "green" cleaners is that sometimes, they just don't do a good job.

  2. I declutter regularly so that I dont end up feeling overwhelmed if I would have to do it all at once.

  3. It's pretty crazy to think the lack of education we have on what happens with garbage. Kids think "we put garbage in the trash can, mum/dad puts it on the street, and then it disappears", then adults think "we put garbage in trash can, take it to the street, then it disappears. I feel that there should be more awareness as to where the trash goes. I look forward to reading your other posts on recycling.

  4. Ahhh I cannot stand clutter. I swear it makes me physically unable to relax!



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