My Eco-Friendly Cleaning Guide

I am slightly obsessed with keeping our house clean, organized, and as healthy and toxin free as possible. The past several months were very difficult since I was on bed rest and not allowed to do any cleaning (you can read more about my pregnancy journey here). My husband cleaned as much as he had time for, but since his time is so limited (and he doesn’t know my normal routine), our house was never as clean as I usually keep it. We considered hiring a cleaning service, but things were in too much of a state of unpacked chaos, with a bunch of half finished projects all over the house.

Since I have been off bed rest, I have made it my main goal to get this place unpacked, cleaned and organized. We bought the house just a short time before I got pregnant, and then all the pregnancy complications brought much of the unpacking and organizing to a complete standstill. It has been just under two weeks, but we have finally been able to get pretty much everything unpacked, and I went on a crazy organizing spree. I also did a thorough seasonal deep cleaning of the entire house. It took me much longer than normal since I am just slowly regaining my strength, but it feels so nice to have a clean, organized house again! It has not felt like this at all the entire time we have lived in this house.

One of my favorite resources to make sure I do a thorough cleaning job on a regular basis is Martha Stewart’s collection of cleaning checklists. I have them all printed out and in sheet protectors in the floral binder shown above. I used to have the daily checklist posted on the fridge, but by now I have it memorized and it is part of my regular routine. The weekly cleaning checklist is great, as are the monthly and seasonal lists. I actually put in my weekly, monthly, and seasonal cleaning days in my organizer app (we use Cozi), scheduled to repeat regularly, so I never forget which list to use and when. Since I have really bad dust allergies, I usually add in another mid-week mini cleaning or two, to try to keep the dust at a minimum. That also helps with the crazy amount of pet hair that our family tends to generate. 🙂 You can find all of Martha’s cleaning checklists here. I also recently found a daily cleaning checklist that I love on A Bowl Full of Lemons (available here). This one is definitely going on the fridge and becoming part of my new routine! So far, it is really helping me keep things maintained and clean!

Many women get a strong nesting instinct while pregnant, and want to get their house really clean before the baby arrives. Since I have been doing so much cleaning lately, a number of people have asked me if that is from my nesting mode kicking in. I don’t think the baby is coming in the next couple of days, but I am just so happy to be able to catch up on my normal routines! I am a strong believer that your house is not actually clean if all you are doing is replacing the dirt with a bunch of toxic chemicals. I don’t use any “traditional” cleaning products in my house, and I can guarantee you that on a regular basis, our house is just as clean or cleaner than any house you can find that is cleaned with the “strong” cleaning products. I do not use products with bleach, ammonia, or other harsh ingredients for the safety of the environment and our own health.

When I was a kid, I started using Simple Green to do the cleaning for my chores since I was a very environmentally concerned kid. While I still use Simple Green on occasion for really deep cleaning jobs, the scent is honestly not my favorite. These days, I vary between using homemade natural cleansers and store bought natural cleansers. If I have the time, I love referencing the cleaning recipes detailed in the book shown above, Lemons & Lavender. I make good regular use out of homemade lavender oil, lemon juice, vinegar, and baking soda. Other times, I love using the products from Method. I seriously love the way they smell. 🙂 They have a wide range of products for a variety of needs. My favorite is the cucumber all purpose cleaner. I use that for almost everything. I also love the fact that they have naturally disinfecting products for the kitchen and bath…no harsh chemicals needed to sanitize things!

Also in my cleaning caddy is Bon Ami. I love this for scouring the sink, showers, really dirty pots and pans, etc. It has been around forever, is super cheap, and non-toxic. I always save the mesh bags from potatoes, garlic, and other produce since these make great (and free!) scouring pads. You can see my little stash in the caddy above (the red thing is a bundle of mesh bags).

If a particular pot or pan is dirty beyond the scrubbing point, and the Bon Ami is just not enough to get off some kind of burnt, caked in mess, I put a mixture of water, baking soda, and vinegar in the pot and boil it over low heat. This always gets the impossible to clean tough stains off my stainless steal cookware. It may take a little scrubbing after boiling for a while, but this method has never failed me. I never use anything that may scratch the surface of the pots and pans to get them clean (no scouring pads, etc.).

Instead of cleaning with paper towels, I keep stacks of rags on hand for dirty tasks. I also keep a microfiber cloth on hand for mirrors and windows. If I still have streaks after that, I use the tried and true method of a crumpled piece of newspaper to get rid of any remaining streaks.

My two favorite sponges are a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (great for so much!) and the Scotch-Brite Greener Clean Sponges. These are also great to use in place of paper towels as well since they are absorbent! Once a week, I wet all of my sponges and heat them in the microwave for 30 seconds to kill any lingering germs.

For dusting, I love using the pink microfiber mitt shown above. It fits on your hand like a big mitten, and makes it really easy to dust surfaces. I am very short though, and that limits my range of what I can reach easily. As a solution, I attached the mitt to an old Swiffer stick with a rubber band. I love the ease of use of using a Swiffer, but feel so wasteful using them since they have to be thrown out so often. For me, this is the perfect solution!

With so many pets shedding so much fur all the time, keeping our floors clean is a big task. I start by sweeping each room with a regular broom and dustpan to get rid of the dirt, pieces of cat litter, and whatever else has been tracked all over the house. Even though the floors may look clean at that point, I have come to realize that we still always seem to have even more pet hair lingering after that point. I then use the Mr. Clean microfiber dust broom shown above, which picks up the rest of the pet hair and any lingering dust bunnies. I am seriously obsessed with this dust broom/mop combo. It is one of the best things I have ever found. One side has a dust broom, and the other has a mop attachment. When I finish with the dust broom side, I go through and use the mop side. Since the mop is made out of detachable fabric, I love that I can take it off and give it a really good rinse in between each room. When I finish with the whole house, I can take off both attachments and throw them in the washing machine with all of my dirty rags and towels. It is so easy and so efficient!

The caddy shown above is my whole house caddy. I also have a second container of bathroom cleaning products that I keep under the bathroom sink in our master bath. One of my favorites for the bathroom is the Method Daily Shower Spray. We give a quick spray every day after our showers, and it helps keep the grime down between cleanings.

I hope my guide has inspired you to consider using some healthier, more environmentally friendly ways to keep your house clean! I am not going to go into detail about why the traditional cleaners are horrible…there are plenty of other resources online and in books about why those cleaners are bad for the environment and your health. None of the products or references listed above have requested to be listed or provided sponsorship…these are just my honest tips about what I have found to work best for me! 🙂

Gardening Lessons Learned the Hard Way: Composting

I have created compost using a variety of methods over the years, and I have never struggled to create rich “black gold” until we moved into this house.  You can see my composting at our old house here.  At our new house, I made a few assumptions that ended up being disastrous lessons learned.

1.  A compost pile or compost bin needs a mix of “greens” and “browns”, freshly cut greens, and dried out “browns”.  Previously, I have created a large pile of leaves in the fall that I add in periodically with grass clippings and kitchen waste to find that right balance.  When we moved into this house, my husband thought I was crazy when I asked if we could bring a pile of leaves from the old house to the new house, and refused.

The majority of the “browns” at our new house were dried pine needles when we moved in.  I made the incorrect assumption that they would work in a similar manner as regular dried leaves.  I put them into my compost tumbler along with grass clippings and kitchen scraps.  Weeks went by and nothing decomposed at all.  I knew that something was not right, and then learned that pine needles take a really long time to decompose, making them better as mulch than compost material.  I emptied the compost tumbler out, and decided to start again.

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2.  I started again with an empty compost tumbler.  I still didn’t have any dried leaves, and could not locate the box where I was saving all of our used newspapers (which can be shredded and used as “browns”).  My husband stopped me from transporting the dried leaves, and my backup plan of the box of newspaper could not be located at the moment.

I tried doing an experiment of adding in only “greens” and some compost accelerator (a powdery substance purchased at garden centers).  No luck….nothing happened.

3.  I had by now trimmed back some of the ivy in our new yard, and left the clippings in a pile to dry out.  For my third attempt at making compost at this new house, I added in dried ivy leaves along with the usual grass clippings & kitchen waste.  Things started to finally show signs of breaking down, and then I added in more in the tumbler.

When the compost tumbler got too full, signs of decomposition halted.  I decided I needed to start a secondary compost bin since I obviously have a lot more green waste at this house than I had at our old house.  I am using a regular trash can with holes drilled in it for my backup compost bin.  Once the compost tumbler had room again, things have finally started to break down properly.  Hopefully I will have homemade compost again soon!

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Recycling & Re-Purposing In the Garden Part 2: Garden Structures

We currently have a hidden junky area of our yard with tons of items that are on landfill death row.  The previous owners left a lot of items behind when they left, and we have strangely found uses for quite a few things. We are hoping to find uses for as many of the items in the junk pile as possible…hopefully we will get some more creative ideas for the rest of the items. 🙂

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Recycling & Re-Purposing In the Garden Part 1: Garden Decor

We love finding new uses for every day items around our house.  Lately, our recycle bin is the only one of our three trash cans that regularly gets filled up.  I have found new uses for everything that I used to throw in the green bin (full post coming soon!), and there is no need to throw away “trash” if you can find a new use for it!

All of the items pictured may have been otherwise seen as trash, but with a little inventiveness, it has all become part of our charming garden decor. 🙂  I hope this inspires you to think of some creative ways to repurpose some “trash”.  Part 2 coming soon!

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New Kitchen Compost Bucket

I love our new kitchen compost waste bucket!  I got this at World Market, and it is awesome.  It has a charcoal filter under the lid, which really cuts down on any odor or bug problems.  We had tried using a large mason jar on the sink to collect the scraps, but that got pretty gross pretty quickly.  I tried just using a bag to collect the scraps, but our dog kept getting into the bags and eating all the gross stuff.  This is a great solution.  I also got the biodegradable compost bags to line the bin, so we will see how quickly they actually break down in our compost tumbler.

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“Reusable Paper Towels” Drawer

This is my “reusable paper towels” drawer. 🙂  Our current house is so old that there is no spot for a dishwasher, so we have to wash all of our dishes by hand.  With limited counter space, I usually have to end up drying at least some of the dishes by hand since there is only so much space on the little dish drying rack.  To cut down on the amount of paper towels we go through, I organized this drawer with a towels for a couple of different purposes.  There are some nice fluffy towels for drying dishes, and then some smaller ones specifically for cleaning.  When I am cleaning the furniture, the kitchen counter, or the bathroom, I use one of the smaller towels instead of using paper towels.  When I am finished using one, I have a small basket in the laundry room where they all get placed until I am ready to wash towels.  I pre-soak the cleaning towels before I wash them, and it has turned out to be a pretty good system!

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My New Compost Tumbler

I love my new compost tumbler!  We have been good about gathering up all of our vegetable and fruit scraps from the kitchen, gardening waste, etc.  The composting tumbler is supposed to help everything decompose faster.  Doesn’t that black gold look beautiful?  I was excited to spread the first batch of this around the garden this morning, instead of having to use the store bought compost I had been using previously.

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