Winter weather can be fun, but after a few months, cabin fever can start to make you feel cooped up and crazy. Getting an early start on your spring cleaning will not only brighten your day, it can also free up much needed space and make the air inside your home easier to breathe.
Too much stuff, including clothing, furniture, or electronics on your shelves and in your closets can make you feel trapped in your own home. Making a clean sweep to de-clutter your house at least once a year can help restore order in your home, but resist the temptation to throw it all in the trash! There are lots of greener ways to get rid of your junk and even make some money in the process.
If the items don't work and you can't find a local recycler that will take them, think about checking out Gazelle.com or YouRenew.com. These two websites make it easy to trade your old electronics in for cash, or recycle them responsibly for free.
Freecycle.org members are people who want to give (and get) stuff for free in their own towns. It's all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. You can find your local group and locating your group according to the region where you live. After joining your local group, post a message by sending an email to your local group's yahoo address or click on "messages" at the local Freecycle group web site.
Also designed for people who need free stuff, or have stuff to give away, Exchango.com is just like Freecycle, but without as much emphasis on the local group format.
According to the EPA, chemicals are widely used as ingredients in household cleaning and disinfecting products. These products release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) while you're using them, and, to some degree, when they are stored. Studies have found that levels of several VOCs can be 2 to 5 times higher indoors than outdoors. During and for several hours immediately after certain activities, like cleaning or painting, levels may be 1,000 times background outdoor levels.
Life is hard enough without poisoning the air inside your home, and one of the easiest ways to avoid these toxic levels of VOCs is to utilize more natural and environmentally-friendly cleaners. There are lots of different "green cleaning" products available on the market today, but the greenest (and most affordable) cleaning products are the ones you make yourself. Here are some quick recipes that you can make with things you have around the house:
All Purpose Cleaner: Mix ¼ cup of baking soda with ¼ cup white vinegar and 2 tablespoons of l peppermint liquid castile soap or 1 teaspoon of your favourite essence. Place in a spray bottle and top with water. Spray onto your area and wipe with a cloth.
Glass Cleaner: Mix ½ to 1 cup of white vinegar and 1 quart of water in a clean spray bottle. If you can't handle the vinegar smell, try adding a few drops of your favorite essential oil.
Furniture Polish: Mix 2 cups of linseed or olive oil, and 4 drops of lemon or lavender essential oil in an airtight container. Dip a soft rag into the oil and rub sparingly all over the furniture.
Once you've purged the toxic cleaners and disinfectants from your home, it's time to take additional steps to make sure your indoor air stays naturally fresh. Here are some things to think about:
Ban cigarette and cigar smoking inside your homeAvoid allowing your car to idle in the garage (it could increase the carbon monoxide levels in your home)Decorate with low or no-VOC paintsReplace air filters and clean dehumidifiersOpen your windows to allow fresh air to circulate your home whenever possibleStop using conventional pesticidesMake sure you bathroom and kitchen have proper ventilationAdd some houseplants to your indoor décor (many varieties suck toxins out of the air and release pure oxygen)
What other suggestions do you have for readers who want to green their spring cleaning without the chemicals? Share them in a comment!
Beth Buczynski is a freelance copy writer and environmental blogger. She holds a Master's in Public Communication and Technology with specialization in Environmental Communication from Colorado State University, and is passionate about leaving this planet in better shape than she found it.