Getting Green, Mean and Ready To Clean

Hmmm, cleaning. What an exciting post, I hear you say! While it may seem incredibly dull, cleaning is one area in which my desire to reduce my stuff, reduce my impact on the planet and reduce my expenses all dovetail in perfect harmony. And so, while the topic may not sound exciting, once you rephrase it as “how I improved my home, saved time, money and stress, and felt less guilty about harming the environment”, I hope you can see why it is something I’m excited about!

After my first blitz on minimising my possessions, I was in a better position to clean my home. Only true fellow pigsty-creators will understand that when you are an incredibly messy and disorganised person, cleaning doesn’t begin with cleaning, it begins with tidying up for well over an hour, followed by washing up a mountain of dirty dishes, followed by doing laundry etc etc. In practice this meant that by the time I’d got my home to the point where I actually COULD clean it, I was sick of housework and so frequently gave up here. Hence my home was nowhere near as clean as I would have liked it. Once I had less stuff and more clear surfaces however, the initial pre-clean tidy up took much less time (I’m not going to pretend it stopped existing!), meaning that cleaning time became actual cleaning time.

Despite living in a tip, I’d always been a bit of a sucker for cleaning products. A one-use miracle product, a nice scent, a ‘new and improved’ recipe that promised amazing results, I snapped them all up! I think it was in part due to my knowledge that since cleaning was low on my list of priorities, perhaps a cleaning product I liked would entice me to actually use it. However, I also have enough self-awareness to recognise that this was just another area in which to fall for marketing ploys and acquire stuff, except with the benefit of having the defence that I ‘needed’ this stuff and it was for a ‘good’ activity therefore it could be bought guilt-free! As a result I had a whole host of cleaning products for every cleaning task imaginable, stuffed into a cupboard that wasn’t big enough to contain them all, and yet wasn’t using any of them.

During my decluttering I had also started to read more about cleaning with natural products, both to live more simply and to reduce more harmful cleaning products from getting into our water and ultimately, damaging the planet and all the life living on it. I had always considered myself an environmentalist, but in reality this equated to donating to a few charities, and recycling where I could, but not really looking deeper at how my day to day life impacted the environment and what I could do to limit that impact. I now realised that my ‘guilt-free’ cleaning products were anything but! Not only were they another symptom of my tendency to buy buy buy, but they were also a potentially unnecessary use of resources – both the products themselves and the difficult to recycle packaging – so natural products that I could make myself, and that were multi-purpose, were therefore an appealing starting point in reducing my environmental impact.

These days, simple homemade products are pretty much all I use to clean my house, from three ingredient sink and toilet scrub that takes just seconds and costs pennies to make, to huge batches of all-purpose cleaning spray that smells so beautifully fresh I’ve had moments in which I’m tempted to spray it on myself. What’s more, all of the ingredients can be bought in bulk and are used in multiple recipes, so there is more space in my cupboards. I’ve even managed to tempt some friends and colleagues over to the ‘green side’ and regularly make extras when I’m mixing up batches or products to share with them. Over the coming months I’ll be sharing some of my favourite recipes and explaining how I use each, but if you’re just starting out exploring these products then remember: you don’t need to dive in all guns blazing (unless you want to); making the switch to greener, more natural products can just be made one at a time, and while finding the perfect recipes for your home and your life.

The other element of my cleaning routine that changed is that I now clean a little bit, regularly. In the past I felt like cleaning when the house was ‘clean dirty’ rather than ‘dirty dirty’ was a bit of waste of time. Also, since cleaning is an activity I don’t like, why (I reasoned) would I want to do it every day rather than every now and again? As such I waited until my house was filthy, spent a whole weekend cleaning until it reached an acceptable level of cleanliness, then promptly got down to griming it up again! The result of which was that I felt constantly frustrated; I didn’t like living in dirt and also felt like cleaning took up so much of my precious weekend when I did do it. In hindsight it probably didn’t help that if you wait a long time until dirt is caked on, it becomes much harder to clean (I know, obvious right?!). I resented giving up such huge blocks of time to cleaning but felt like doing it any other way would just mean cleaning ALL THE TIME.

Oh how wrong I was. Lazy little me had forgotten one important piece of this equation; splitting the cleaning time into smaller chunks might still equal the same total cleaning time (although I’d argue as above that it probably ends up being less overall) but the time in which I am able to appreciate the efforts of my cleaning just shot up exponentially. Instead of enjoying a truly clean and tidy home for perhaps a few hours every few weeks, suddenly I could enjoy a relatively (key word here people!) clean and tidy home almost all of the time. Revelations my friends. I’d generally consider myself a relatively bright person but this nugget of wisdom somehow escaped me for a long time, such is the power of your brain to justify not doing the things you just don’t want to do!

I am still sometimes a complete and utter slovenly human being. I’m not talking “oh gosh, look at the amount of dust on that sideboard – how mortifying!!”, it’s more like “Dammit we have no plates to eat our dinner on because they are all dirty and spread around the house. Also, everything is covered grossly in cat hair and I haven’t been able to find my watch for a week and half. And WHAT DO YOU MEAN SOMEONE IS COMING OVER TONIGHT? WE CANNOT LET THEM IN OR THEY WILL NOT BE FRIENDS WITH US ANY MORE!!”. Improving my home and my habits is a journey and I try to step back and appreciate my progress, rather than waiting for perfection before celebrating (man I’d be waiting a long time!). I say this in case anyone reading this post suddenly thinks that I am now so far removed from the realities of being messy that I can no longer relate, or that I am writing this as some kind of brag about my amazing competency as a well-rounded person with a home that could be featured on Apartment Therapy. I am not and it could not. I am writing this because these ways of doing things actually helped me get my house under control a little, which meant being happier in the home which I work so hard to have. That is something that we all deserve.

Thanks for reading,

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