Cleaning Stainless Steel: A Non-Toxic Solution

Cleaning stainless steel - non-toxic - olive oil

When transitioning to non-toxic cleaning products, a common complaint for the newly initiated is that they don’t work. Usually I find this is simply a result of using the wrong product. For example, stainless steel appliances require an easy but possibly surprising solution: olive oil. Really any oil will work, but I’d stick to organic olive or refined coconut. Just add a few drops to a rag, and then rub and polish into the stainless steel until the smears are gone. Add more oil and move around the surface until the job is complete. Super fast, and couldn’t be simpler. (And yes that is a cloth diaper cut in half—my favorite thing to use for rags!)

A Tip for Avoiding Piles

Garbage can

Piles. We all have them. They start as innocuous little stacks. They might even appear neat, at first. Good intentions are nearly always behind them. But piles are a slippery slope.

Part of having a place for everything (a mantra I firmly believe in) includes having a place for the discards. Oddly enough, the discards tend to make up a substantial portion of the clutter in people’s lives—they stick around much longer than intended. Luckily, there are some really easy solutions. For example:

Add a trash can. This basic necessity is very often absent from a cluttered room. When helping a client, I often find piles of paper merely waiting to be disposed of in a trash can … in another room. Adding a small trash can to most rooms makes a significant difference in deflecting clutter—especially in the foyer, office, laundry, and mudroom areas. (Recycling this paper would be even better, but let’s take baby steps …)

Relocate the laundry hamper. The most common reason dirty laundry piles up in the wrong place is that the hamper is either inaccessible or inconvenient (or both). Think about where it would be most useful to have your hamper—the location of the pile is usually a good hint—and then put the hamper there if you can.

Designate a bag for donations. I highly recommend always having a Goodwill bag at the ready. It is more likely to be filled and prevents the piles from happening elsewhere.

Put store returns in the car. A small basket in the trunk is great for holding items to be returned. Keep the item in its original bag along with the receipt, if you can.

Set aside clothes for consignment. I keep these items on hangers all together in the back of my closet. I make a trip to the consignment store at the start of each season. With the clothes already cleaned and corralled, it doesn’t feel like a big chore. Also, by separating them, I am not dealing with them every time I open my closet.

Bag children’s outgrown clothing. I have a bag in each child’s closet to hold clothes they outgrow, and I add to it frequently. Then, once a season, I move those clothes to the attic for long-term storage (until we decide whether or not to go for #3!) .

Corral presents for others. Designate one area where gifts are stored until they are given. Might seem a little too Type A, but I can’t tell you how often I unearth gifts meant for others while helping clients clean out. They couldn’t find the original gift so had to purchase another!

All of this comes down to convenience. If something is inconvenient, most people simply won’t do it. By providing these much needed collection points, the ease of putting things in the right place outweighs the temptation to let it pile up.

While these tips might seem fairly obvious, it is just like eating right, exercising daily and going to bed at a decent hour … Advice we hear routinely and yet we still struggle to do it sometimes. So hopefully this gentle reminder will help nudge you in the right direction.

An Alternative For Mother’s Day

Every Mother Countsfrom Every Mother Counts

All moms need a break, and Mother’s Day feels like an especially good time for an indulgence. All the dishes, the doctor appointments, the cleaning, the laundry, the cooking, the wild bath times, the putting away of all of the stuff. Again and again and again. It can make a lady crazy sometimes.

But you know who really needs a break? Moms without these things. Moms who don’t cook dinner because the pantry is bare. Moms who don’t make the beds because her family lives in a car. Moms in such remote villages there is no such thing as doctor visits. Moms without fresh water to clean their babies. These are the moms who really need Mother’s Day.

This May, I invite you to consider an alternative gift … and, bonus, it is also clutter free. Share with your family how blessed you already are, and ask them to support an organization that supports mothers on your behalf. There are so many good ones to choose from, but if you are looking for suggestions, here are some ideas:

National and International:
Sama Hope
Every Mother Counts
Save the Children
Unicef
Together Rising
Women’s Voices for the Earth

Jacksonville, Florida:
Community Connections
Hubbard House
Sulzbacher Center

You’re exhausted. I get it. Me too. But what a blessing to have this mountain of work ahead of us. From this angle, it is just about as good as it gets. (But hand-scribbled cards, peanut-butter-smeared kisses and a few minutes extra to sleep in … I’ll take these things on Mother’s Day, too.)

p.s. If you are at your wits’ end and now want to strangle me, I find this old post from Momastery/Huffington post always does the trick to pick me up :) If you are a mom, know a mom, have a mom, or have heard of moms, this article is a must-read.

An Abundance of Extras

FullSizeRender(5)

We will soon be moving to a new house, and with that comes a lot of planning. The new house has a fair amount of additional storage, and I was happily plotting where things would go … particularly in the closets. And that’s when I noticed a word excessively present in one area.

Extra.

In a hall closet, I was planning to put extra craft supplies, extra fabric, extra artwork & frames, extra lamps, extra blankets … and more. For someone who diligently avoids clutter, I had somehow nearly filled an entire closet with only extras. Yikes.

I was humbled. And embarrassed.

What am I saving these things for? Why the extras, particularly for such superfluous categories? To be fair, some of the things were genuinely saved for when we moved to a bigger house, which is now happening … Some of them … I don’t know.

I’ve got some sorting to do. If the extras are not pretty immediately employed in the new house, out they will go. And hopefully that closet will dwindle down to much less content.

We’ve all got stuff we can get rid of—even when we might think otherwise. What extras might you be holding on to?

Third Trimester To-Do List

Let me begin by saying nothing on this list needs to be done. The only imperative is to take good care of yourself and listen to your body. However, like many people, I had quite the nesting bug during both pregnancies—especially at the end. So, for the person who likes to stay busy and is seeking some guidance on how to do so, this list is for you. As always, these types of lists look different for everyone—there are so many wonderful ways to prepare for birth and to care for children.

third trimester to do list 4

Finalize the nursery. Here are my suggestions for creating a non-toxic nursery. It might seem like this can wait, but I like to have my nursery done at least six weeks before my due date. Part of that is the worrier in me that I could deliver early (HA! Joke’s on me—I’m always super late!!)  … and the other part is I like to have nothing planned for my last month of pregnancy.

Finalize any changes to a sibling’s room. Those little guys are going to experience enough change as it is. I like to do this gradually so it doesn’t feel like a major transition right before a baby arrives. A few months give them time to adjust.

Buy any final baby necessities. This list will look different for everyone, but be sure you have what you need now. Amazon can deliver in a day, but sometimes that doesn’t even feel fast enough.

Wash linens and clothes. Here are my tips for non-toxic detergent. Choose organic fabric whenever possible (GOTS certified is even better). If you can’t go organic, at least choose all natural fibers—cotton, linen, wool—and be sure all clothes (especially sleepware) are free of flame retardants. Tip: Be sure you have some newborn or 0-3 size shirts and pants for right after the baby is born. Just 2-3 of each. Newborns cannot wear solid pieces like onesies until their umbilical cords fall off (I didn’t know this for my first pregnancy! Oops!).

Sterilize your pump and bottles. Like many women, I was very engorged after my milk came in and being able to pump off excess was invaluable. A small manual pump is a great option if you aren’t sure you’ll need the full size. It is also helpful to learn how to use everything now—though easy once you’ve done it, pumps can be a little tricky to sort out initially. The bottles can wait but I like having those done, too (we start giving a pumped bottle around 2-3 weeks for a dream feed. Mentioning bottles can spark debate, but for us, it worked out really well. Both of my babies remained strong breast-feeders and never had nipple confusion.)

Assemble and set up any baby gear. Get the car seat and stroller ready. Wash the sling and carrier. Same for a bouncy seat and swing if using those. Tip: if you need to move an older child’s car seat to a different location in the car, do that now. The more changes that can be done ahead of time, the better (at least for my family!).

Think about diapering. Disposables or cloth? We are not a cloth diaper family (as much as I’d like to be!), so I always had a few packs of newborn diapers and wipes ready to go. We use Seventh Generation or Honest diapers and wipes. Bring these with you to the hospital, too, or you will have to use whatever they supply (which is surely more toxic). Also, don’t buy too much in the newborn size as you can always buy more if you need them—both of my babies were into size one very quickly. (I have no advice for those going the cloth diaper route, but more power to you!!!)

Stock up on the essentials. Make sure your pantry and household staples are in good supply. The last thing you want to worry about with a newborn is toilet paper or shampoo! Also, freeze meals and stockpile simple, healthy snacks.

Buy postpartum supplies: Check out my personal list here.

Consider your birth experience. Where and how you plan to give birth should be thoughtfully considered. A hospital birth was our choice both times, but whatever you choose should be done carefully and with considerable forethought. Begin/continue childbirth classes if desired. If you have decided to work with a doula, stay in close contact with her (consider my friend dear Kelly Googe. She is incredible!).

If applicable, pre-register at the hospital or birth center and take a tour. It was very comforting for us to see where I would give birth. I highly recommend this. Also, take an infant CPR class (even if you have done so in the past!). If needed, plan your route to the hospital and what you will do in the event of traffic.

Find a pediatrician. Ask your trusted girlfriends who they go to.

Continue date nights with your partner … and kids! Do this as much as you can before the baby arrives. It might be tricky to make the time, but it certainly won’t get any easier.

Talk with your team. Whoever is your team in life, get them in the loop—the friend at work who is taking over for you, the neighbor who will watch your house, the family who will come in the middle of the night to stay with the kids, those precious people who will be there for the delivery, etc.

Think about who will help. Although there is much lead up to the birth, the real work begins once the baby is here (ta daaaa!). Consider who might be able to help—family? friends? Nanny or doula? Perhaps you need more practical help and want to hire a housekeeper and/or lawn service if you don’t already have one. “It takes a village” is cliché for a reason! Every day we are thankful for the little village we have cultivated and find tremendous support and strength from those people in our lives (and we love returning the favor when other people have new babies!).

Narrow down names. Waiting until he or she is born is perfectly fine (that’s what we did!), but think about narrowing down the options.

Schedule any final personal appointments. Taking care of these things now—dentist (but no x-rays!), eye doctor, hair cut—will be a relief.

Finish any parenting books (sleep, siblings, etc). It is easier to read a book with a big belly than a crying baby. Also that pregnancy insomnia? Books were always the best way to get me back to sleep.

Clear the decks. Get your paperwork and projects in order. If something has not been completed by now, avoid planing to do so during the first few months of your baby’s life. That is a precious (and exhausting) period.

Engage in soothing practices—often. Our bodies are really working overtime now. Prenantal yoga, meditation, prenatal massage—these things really helped me in the last trimester.

Finalize maternity leave plans. Make sure your boss and appropriate colleagues know the plan. Wrap up projects and get things in order so they aren’t calling you later. (For those not returning to work, that is fantastic, too!)

Look into childcare if you are returning to work. Begin thinking about this now. It can take a while to find the right fit for your family.

Babyproof the house. Actually, this does not need to be done quite yet, but think about how your house will need to be adjusted once there is a mobile baby living there.

Prepare for breastfeeding. If you are planning to breastfeed, start reading now, watching videos (so helpful for latching!) and familiarize yourself with helpful web sites (I love kellymom.com). If you’ve struggled with this in past pregnancies, go ahead and line up a lactation consultant (my friend Kelly Googe also does this—so helpful!).

Corral the diapering supplies. Diapers, wipes, diaper cream, tissues, disposal system (for us, that is just a lidded garbage can and bags), and organic hand sanitizer. We simply did this on the dresser in our nursery, but for folks with a bigger home, it might be more convenient to have this elsewhere in the house. No need for fancy organizers to hold everything. Also, if using a changing pad, be sure it is free of flame retardants (if it doesn’t specifically says it is FR-free, it almost definitely contains them).

Designate a comfortable feeding area. Whether you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding, you will be glued in place many times throughout the day, especially in the early weeks. Having the necessities at hand makes a big difference. In addition to a comfortable chair, for me, those things were burp cloths, a place to set my water, and a clock or watch. Avoid upholstered furniture with flame retardants. I am not big on nursing pillows, but some people love them. If you use one, be sure it is free of flame retardants—most contain them. Lastly, and this will likely make you think I am crazy, but resist the temptation to use your phone while feeding your baby. There is no solid research proving the safety of wifi/cell phone radiation, and for a tiny developing body, it is certainly not worth the risk. (Some people also argue using a phone while feeding a baby is a bit dismissive of the baby and inhibits bonding, etc).

Pack your hospital bags. I won’t go into detail now for what I like to bring to the hospital, but suffice it to say, this is a good time to check this one off the list!

Know your body and the stages of labor. Familiarize yourself with this so that you are not calling your doctor 18 times. It is so easy to confuse Braxton Hicks with real contractions!

Say yes to meals. If someone offers to set up a meal list for you, don’t hesitate! I am eternally grateful to everyone who helped us during those early months.

Practice swaddling. This seems so silly, but practicing now on a non-moving target will give you the slightest edge of confidence before you do it for real the first time (should you choose to!).

If applicable, create a birth announcement mailing list. This task is for the pregnant lady with so much energy, she needs to find ways to put it to good use (ahem).

Continue with the healthy choices. Keep on with the good diet and exercise. Hydrate hydrate hydrate. Take your prenatals. See your doctor. And consider identifying and ditching the toxins in your life (beauty and personal care products, cleaning products, kitchen storage and cookware are all great places to begin).

Take it easy. It can’t be said enough (although this post could certainly make you think I recommend the opposite!). You might be moving much more slowly these days, and for good reason. Listen to your body and take it as easy as you can.

Earlier in your pregnancy or maybe just curious? Here are my first and second trimester task lists.

 

Non-toxic Postpartum Supplies

FAIR WARNING: This post is real life, guys! While I am tip-toeing into TMI territory, it is with the hopes it will be useful for someone. I had to scramble after my first birth to get these things, and the traditional product offerings often contain ingredients I’d rather avoid. It is so much easier to buy these things ahead of time.

This is my (very!) personal postpartum list. Everyone does things differently, but if you’d like some ideas, I hope these are helpful. While some of this might seem like overkill, taking care of our delicate bodies after a birth not only helps prevent infection but also makes things far more comfortable … and more apt to heal quickly. I recommend corralling all of these items in a convenient place in your bathroom so it is at the ready every time you need it. Here we go:

Non-toxic post partum supplies

Seventh Generation overnight pads and pantiliners. 2 packs of each. Traditional pads and pantiliners often contain questionable ingredients, including chlorine and fragrance.

Organic cotton rounds plus organic witch hazel in a glass spray bottle. These are to replace Tucks, which contain parabens.

Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Spray. This is to replace the Dermoplast numbing spray provided by the hospital, which feels amazing but isn’t the best in terms of ingredients.

Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Balm. This is to replace a traditional hemorrhoid cream, which often contains parabens.

Peri bottle. Although plastic is best avoided, I wouldn’t worry about it in this case. The hospital or birthing center will provide one, so definitely bring it home with you.

Earth Mama Angel Baby nipple cream. This is an alternative to lanolin. Although it has been used for generations, lanolin really is not a safe ingredient. The lanolin itself is not that bad, but the sheep are nearly always sprayed with toxic ingredients. Click here to learn more.

Stool softener. TMI, I know, but many women struggle with this after delivery. I hear Annie’s Organic Fruit Snacks is a great organic option (I have not tried it personally).

Prenatal vitamins. Continue with these. I like the ones from Rainbow.

Heating pad. Great for sore backs. This etsy seller did a custom cover for me in a plain natural cotton for no additional cost.

Underwear. And here it is: do yourself a favor and buy a pack or two of comfy white cotton underwear. These likely will end up in the garbage and that’s okay. Comfort and recovery are the key here. (And then treat yourself to something beautiful and organic when things are back on track!)

There. Now we are really friends.

Not on the list but something to consider: pain reliever. Many women forgo pain relief altogether due to concern about the ingredients. Although I avoid medicine whenever possible, after something this disruptive to the body, I wouldn’t hesitate to take Advil for a limited period if I needed it. For my son, I think I took it for two days, and with my daughter, I don’t remember taking it at all. Just be sure to take it with food, and limit it to what is genuinely needed.

No doubt this list is incomplete—every birth is different. For example, I did not need ice packs, but I know many women do. Here is a recipe for making your own … and if you use the products listed above, they will be even safer. If needing a sitz bath, Wellness Mama has a great herbal recipe.

And finally, I was still learning about toxins when I had my first baby, so I used some ingredients back then that I now regret. This list, while not perfect, is a huge improvement. Sending love and comfort to all expectant mamas!

EDIT: Soooo I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the pain relief. Our bodies are all very different and by all means I support however you need to cope and recuperate. If you need Advil for two weeks, go for it! If you need something stronger, I support you! I had epidurals with both deliveries, and I don’t regret it for one minute and would do it all over again the exact same way. Everyone’s experience is extremely personal and different. The goal is healthy babies, healthy moms … however you get there is amazing!

On Relaxing and Guilt (and why they don’t go together)

Magazines

It is so easy to hold ourselves to an unrealistic standard. Trying to do it all can be a slippery slope, and one that often leaves little time for self care. The tricky part is, many women—especially mothers—tell me they feel guilty when they take time for themselves. Of course we shouldn’t feel this way, but that doesn’t mean the feelings don’t exist. One way to alleviate the guilt is to be sure we are spending our down time thoughtfully.

So how do we know if we are doing this? For me, it all comes down to how I feel afterward. Do I feel good/recharged/energized? Or even more drained?

This is the difference between actually relaxing and aimlessly passing time (aimless in a lazy way). After relaxing, we know we’ve done something good for ourselves, even if it has taken time away from our other responsibilities. We know it was time well spent. Absentmindedly flipping on the TV, pulling up Facebook or shopping haphazardly usually leads to a down, lethargic feeling. And likely that dreaded guilt.

Everyone recharges differently. But the important thing is that this time is used intentionally—maybe not always, but more often than not. This doesn’t have to mean extravagant trips to the spa, hours in hot yoga or deep conversations with friends. Sometimes a pile of magazines and a cozy bed is all it takes. Or grabbing a cup of coffee with a friend. Simple pleasures are often the best.

How do you relax?