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HOUSE CLEANING (January 2016)

I've been cleaning my house using natural products for at least the past 20 years. Back when I started, I had to make up my own products and relied mainly on baking soda and vinegar, a citrus orange cleaner, and Murphy's Oil Soap. Then I found Sal's Suds and life got SO much easier! (It was especially helpful when one of my dogs got skunked ... we combined it with our regular shampoo and the cedar and pine resins did a fantastic job of cutting the oil that is left behind on whatever the skunk sprays. Which made living with our dog easier while the remnants of the experience faded.)

Now you can hardly turn around without someone touting their cleaning products are 'Green'. Are they? Some are, some are just 'green-washing'. So be careful and check them out.

I trust products from Seventh Generation primarily, but there other great green cleaning products that work just as well as the branded products most of us are already familiar with.

Ok, need to come clean here (ha ha, pun intended)... I am not much of a house cleaner. Which is to say, I don't enjoy it so I don't do it very often. Now, in the old house (900 sq ft) that wasn't such a big deal because it didn't take long to clean when I did it. But over the years I developed allergies to old dust and so waiting made cleaning even more onerous to me because I had to wear gloves, a face mask, protective glasses and cover my hair. Then I had to throw all my clothes into the washer and take a shower right away.

What is OLD dust? Well, it surprised me to find out that dust becomes toxic if it is left to its own devices for more than a couple weeks. I learned this at the 2004 Greening the Heartland Conference when I sat in on a session that had information about mold and was in the room where I wanted to make sure I got a seat for the following session. It blew my mind away! No wonder cleaning made me sick! I've looked up a few web sites so you can read more about other issues regarding toxicity of dust for yourself:

Well, when we moved to this 2,100 sq ft house, you can imagine my concern about keeping it clean! Luckily, my dear hubbie had long ago told me he would be A-OK with hiring someone to help keep the house clean. When in the old house, I just couldn't bring myself to admit that I couldn't clean that little house on my own... but this BIG (to us anyway) house was another matter! So I started asking friends about how to hire someone and what I should expect from them and how much should I pay... then I started interviewing prospective cleaners.

I hired a lovely woman to come out every 4 weeks for 4 hours. She used products she made herself, did a wonderful job, and basically taught me how to clean efficiently because I paid attention to what she did and how she did it. She cleaned for me for seven (7) years and eventually I decided that I could clean my house myself and was ready to give it a try. The nice lady and I parted our business arrangement on very friendly terms... you certainly don't need to worry about her.

I now have a cleaning kit that includes:

  • a bucket with an insert that holds spray bottles and supplies,
  • a long-handled duster,
  • my canister vacuum cleaner,
  • a broom,
  • a floor steam cleaner, and
  • a rug steam cleaner.

The spray bottles have products specific to cleaning different surfaces: an oil based cleaner for wood, diluted Sals Suds for non-wood, and an odorizer for cloth/carpet. I keep different colored microfiber cloths in the bucket under the insert and that helps me remember which product I'm using on which cloth. Tools in the kit include a straight-razor holder (with extra razors), toilet scrubber, sink/bathtub scrubber, scrubber pads for small jobs, an old toothbrush, and a Swiffer duster (with extra pads).

My biggest challenge was cleaning without getting angry... I had long ago figured out why cleaning made me angry and that was because I used to clean when I was angry as a way to vent rather than do something destructive or yell at anyone. So in that sense, it was healthy. The problem was that I associated cleaning with being angry, so even if I wasn't angry when I started to clean, I became angry.

It turns out that is a common problem! Wow, was I surprised that others shared my problem. I had read an article about different methods of meditation and one of them was to use cleaning as a meditation. (FYI, this is primarily what stirred me to consider cleaning for myself.) I posted on Facebook my intention to do this meditation while cleaning technique to remove that getting angry problem and SO MANY people spoke up and asked me to let them know how it went.

I don't know what you know about meditation, but what happens is you are supposed to clear your mind of all thoughts and hold that for a given period of time. And while that sounds simple, it certainly is NOT easy. The key is to not worry when a random thought pops into your mind... first recognize it is there, acknowledge it, and clear your mind again. When you first start meditating, this may be all you do for a really long time. Eventually, your mind will stay clear for longer and longer periods.

OK, cleaning meditation is the same thing, except your body is doing cleaning instead of sitting still. You have to think about what you are doing, but random thoughts still pop up. And that's exactly what happened to me. I started cleaning and thinking about what I needed to be doing and consciously decided to focus on each task as I was doing it and nothing else. Soon a random, angry thought popped up and I recognized it, I acknowledged it was there, and I consciously stopped thinking about it and went back to focusing on the task at hand.

It took 30 minutes of doing that (angry thought, recognize, acknowledge, stop and focus) and sometime after that I suddenly realized that I had continued cleaning without any anger interrupting me. WOW. I count that as success! In subsequent cleaning sessions, the time it took to stop having the angry thoughts became less and less. Now, when I clean, I don't feel angry. My mind will still wander if I don't consciously focus on each task and intentionally meditate, but those random thoughts don't elicit angry feelings.

Now my challenge is to stick to a schedule of when to clean and what to clean. It is very easy for me to put cleaning on the back burner. It still ranks right below filing in my list of least enjoyable things to do.

Oh, I also learned (and you may already know this) that there is 'surface cleaning' and 'deep cleaning'. I am not very good at 'surface cleaning'. As I understand it, surface cleaning is when you use the duster on the surface without applying any product to the surface (picking up the knicknacks, if there are any). I figure that if I am going to the trouble to get out my kit, I'm wiping all the knicknacks and using the oil cleaner on the wood and removing the smears from the glass. But this too can be learned, LOL.

Here's my basic cleaning regimen (thanks to watching my teacher):

  • Dust up high (using the long handled duster, knock any dust/debris off where the walls meet the ceiling... run the duster over the ceiling fan blades et al... dust off the tops of frames, mirrors, windows, and run it along the rest of the wall hangings... also dust the tops of cabinets, etc.)
  • Dust a room at a time (everything else that didn't get dusted during the 'up high')
  • Vacuum the floors, both carpeted and not-carpeted and the furniture (I only move furniture to vacuum once a month. Otherwise, my canister vacuum head reaches beautifully under my furniture) FYI, I suck some very aromatic tea leaves into my vacuum at the start so that the scent that comes out the vent is pleasant... the kind I use has cinnamon, cloves, orange and I forget what else in it.
  • Spray the odorizer on the carpets, drapes/curtains and furniture.
  • When needed, steam clean non-carpeted floors (for me this is more often during mud season due to farm work and dogs)
  • When needed, steam clean carpets (I spot clean emergencies, but otherwise every four (4) months works for me)
  • Clean the bathroom (first I vacuum, then dust, and then I spray Sals Suds on everything that needs it and leave it to soak for 20 minutes or so; scrub what needs it, rinse and wipe down what can benefit from that with a dry cloth)
  • Clean the kitchen (again, vacuum, dust and Sals Suds, scrub, rinse and wipe... if there's burnt on stuff on my stove top, I bring out the razor and scrape it using the holder keeping the razor as flat as possible on the glass surface)

I learned a long time ago to put my books in bookcases that have glass doors and my special glassware and trophies are also in glass cabinets. So I only open those to dust/clean inside if they obviously need it... which means being careful because what dust is in there is going to be old and out comes the gloves, mask and glasses. But that is only once a year, if even then. Same goes for inside the kitchen, bathroom and other cabinets.

That does it for house cleaning. Another time, I'll tackle telling you about cleaning the farm stuff, garden stuff, garage, etc.

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