Upon hearing the phrase ‘green way of living’, it is the initial reaction of many people to roll their eyes in a dismissive manner. This is understandable because there is a trope that greening up your lifestyle involves never shaving again and rubbing tea tree oil in your armpits. Relax; this is not the case.
A greener way of living simply involves minimising your clutter and applying common sense, especially when it comes to cleaning products. Natural products such as vinegar, oil of cloves, bicarb soda, lemon juice, and a bit of old-fashioned elbow grease are easily as effective as commercial products, and a lot kinder on the environment and the wallet – not to mention the lungs and skin!
An awareness of the need for environmentally friendly cleaning products has led companies such as Enjo or Nano Towels to develop a suitable range of cleaners and accessories like mitts and towels, which are other options for you to explore. ‘Greenifying’ your life will lead to a healthier wallet, a healthier home, a healthier household, and a healthier planet as harmful chemicals are eliminated, and less landfill is generated.
But you must declutter.
If the word ‘green’ makes people dismissively scornful, the word ‘declutter’ can make people
defensive, and send them to clutch to their old childhood teddy bear, which is missing an eye, has an ear hanging by a thread, and patches of missing fur giving it a mange-like appearance.
Relax: nobody wants you to chuck out Teddy. If the object is special to you for whatever reason, then keep it. If it’s something you haven’t looked at for a few years or is broken, get rid of it. The item in question does not need to be relegated to the bin; why not see if it has another use?
For example, your old toys might be enjoyed by a local playgroup, or those takeaway containers in the kitchen can be used to store crayons and general miscellany. To get you through the decluttering process, and make it less overwhelming for you, we’ll discuss it room-by-room.
Grab yourself a big garbage bag and open the refrigerator. Is there out-of-date food in there?
Alexander Fleming is already credited with the discovery of penicillin, so there is nothing to be gained by leaving food there to develop mould.
When you’ve done the fridge, look in the pantry. If you’ve been hanging on to a packet of paprika that you’ve not used in eons, throw it out (be honest; are you going to cook with it again in the near future?). Any dry goods past their use-by date, or unlikely to be used over the upcoming few months – get rid of them.
Check the drawers; have you been hanging onto cracked wooden salad servers, or a wooden spoon whose bowl is splintered and stained with turmeric? Yes? Be ruthless and throw them out. Like with Teddy, nobody expects you to get rid of special items of cutlery like the spoon with the puppy on the handle with which your mum fed you those pureed carrots; but if there is a set of cutlery you just never use, why not donate it to a charity or food kitchen?
Have a look around your kitchen and dining table areas. If you see crockery and earthenware that’s not currently used, or has NEVER been used, put it aside for charity or a sale.
Go through your first aid and medicine kit. Hanging on to medication that has outdated its
efficacy is pointless and possibly dangerous. Before you dispose of the medications, check with the pharmacist about the safest method of disposal; flushing pills and elixirs down the toilet invalidates the green quest you’ve undertaken, and once out in our waterways could be
detrimental to plants and wildlife (who needs three-eyed fish?).
KIDS BEDROOM & MAIN BEDROOM
Anybody with children knows the difficulty involved in clearing out the old toys. The minute they spot you with the garbage bag in hand, kids tend to develop a sudden attachment to a broken or obsolete toy, even if it’s one not played with for over a year.
You have two options: firstly, wait until the kids are out and smuggle out the items with the stealth of a contraband mule; or secondly, bribe the kids. Persuade them with tales of less fortunate children who would love the old toys and promise them a treat for their altruism.
Then it’s time to tackle the wardrobes and drawers. Get yourself three piles: clothing to be kept, clothing to be donated, and clothing to be thrown or recycled. Be ruthless and ask yourself WHY you insist upon hanging on to that old Wham T-shirt with the frayed, yellowing neckline. It’s taking up valuable space and could be converted to a cleaning cloth or donated to a charity that makes quilts for people in need.
If you’re seriously downsizing and decluttering, and feel you can get rid of your wedding dress, you could donate it to an organisation such as Angel Gowns, who convert donated wedding dresses to tiny gowns in which to dress stillborn babies. Your donation will help grieving parents. Similarly, these organisations will convert old bridesmaid frocks into dress-up costumes for children who are in hospital. It can be difficult to part with a special dress, but there is the adage: ‘Don’t cry for things that don’t cry for you’.
Go through your underwear drawer, and if you see underpants and bras with no elasticity,
remove them. A bra that’s lost its structural integrity will not do its job.
BATHROOM & LAUNDRY
Look at your towels. Hold them up to the light. Can you see the opposite wall through the towel?
Yes? Then out it goes. A threadbare towel is a useless drying object, but the local veterinary practice will be grateful for a donation of old towels and blankets to line cages for their four-legged patients.
Remove any loose rubbish like chip packets, or out-of-date street directories. Put CDs in the
appropriate compartment, or in a container (maybe one from your decluttered kitchen). Sprinkle bicarb through the car, then give it a thorough vacuuming.
The garage often ends up being a storage room by proxy for useless, obsolete, or broken household items. If the items are useless or obsolete, explore whether they can be recycled.
Your local scrap metal merchant or panel beater could assist you here.
Like with other items from the house, consider whether anything could be sold or donated, and have a garage sale, or advertise on local Buy/Swap/Sell Facebook page. Bits and pieces, you need to keep, such as nails, nuts, and bolts can be placed in the old takeaway containers you’ve removed from the kitchen.
When you have duly decluttered, it’s time to clean down the surfaces with the ecologically kind products mentioned before, like the vinegar etc, or Enjo mitt, or your old Wham T-shirt.
Then you can breathe a deep sigh of relief (which won’t leave you spluttering from the chemical fumes of most commercial cleaning products) and RELAX!
You can see it’s not a difficult transition, and just takes a few changes and a common sense
approach to the items you keep in your house, such as swapping scented, patterned toilet paper for a plain, unbleached brand (which is logical when you consider toilet paper’s actual purpose!).
Your health, your wallet, your conscience, and the planet will thank you for it.