The Healthy Home 101 - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 30 Old 02-16-2002, 12:28 PM - Thread Starter
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Okay community. I want to pick your brains here a bit. If someone were to ask you "I want to slowly change my home from The Unhealthy Home to The Healthy Home. Where do I start? What would be the most important and then what and then and so on?" what would you advise them?

I've been asked this on several occasions but I find it hard to say what is most important. Also, in the area I live many of things that are available to most of you by way of alternative cleaners, organic foods, and such are not readily available or even easily attainable by mail to make it feasible to substitute one with another.

So shoot -> what would you advise to start from scratch and convert a home to a healthy one?

~Cynthia

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#2 of 30 Old 02-16-2002, 02:56 PM
 
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Hi Cynthia,

First, I believe nutrition is the key to getting "healthy". Start by ridding the cupboards of processed foods. If organic foods aren't available maybe they can get with a co op or order over the internet. I don't know where else because we don't have that situation here. On the cleaning aspect I think this is the easiest thing to do because the simplest ingrediants can be used to clean your entire house. I hope this helps a little bit!
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#3 of 30 Old 02-16-2002, 03:34 PM
 
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I agree that nutrition is a good place to start. Also, we have a Lifebreath Ventilator system in our house. It brings the fresh air from outside in and circulates it sending the stale air out. It warms the air by passing it by our hot water heater. So we don't have freezing cold air coming in. I hope that makes sense. Any way it has really helped. I couldn't even stand to be in this house before we put the ventilator system in. I am hoping to get our carpets replaced with wood floors as soon as we can afford it.
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#4 of 30 Old 02-16-2002, 05:07 PM
 
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I think I started by getting rid of & not buying any foods with artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. I started out simple just trying to eat more whole foods. I also got rid of everything that contained petroleum products or derivatives (health & environmental issues). The I got rid of bleaches (dioxins). As I ran out of my usual products, I did research & replaced them with healthier, more environmentally friendly alternatives. (You just can afford to get rid of everything & start over!)

I clean with baking soda, vinegar, & citrus cleaner. (Available mailorder from www.gaiam.com ) For kitchen & bathroom surfaces, I mix up 1/2 water, 1/2 vinegar, 1tbsp dish washing liquid, 1tbsp citrus cleaner in a spray bottle. For mirrors, it's 1/2 water, 1/2 vinegar. For the toilet, straight citrus cleaner & a scrub.

Finally, I got rid of as much plastic as I could. I use baskets for storage (toys, magazines, paperwork). The best thing I've learned is not to buy things unless I REALLY need it & I am agreeing to be it's caretaker. It has to be something useful AND aesthetically pleasing.
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#5 of 30 Old 02-16-2002, 05:29 PM
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I agree that good food and safer cleaning products are good starts - but if you are talking to someone who had never done anything like this before I think the first things should be a little more gradual.

- use whole wheat pastas and crackers instead of white - won't taste the difference - get more fruits and veggies - and start experimenting with alternative foods (tofu, stevia, other flours, etc.)

- use baking soda - but you have to rinse more times - and vinegar (add scent if you wish) and then start switching to the other cleaners

- add plants - especially spider plants which filter the air really well and are easy to care for - and open windows once in a while too to let stale air out

- get a water filter - system if you can, or even start with a brita or buy bottled water -

- try to vaccuum your chairs, sofas, or cover with washable removeable covers -

That would be a good start I think.
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#6 of 30 Old 02-18-2002, 03:06 PM
 
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I agree with the other posters but wanted to add my own slant.

- What you put in your body: organic foods and things labeled "health food" can be expensive. A lot of foods labeled this way are just as processed as their commercial counterparts. The "wholer" the food, the better it is for you, and generally it is cheaper than packaged food (ie. cornmeal is cheaper than cornbread mix). I like to think about where my food is coming from- is it local or not, is it organic or not, how far is it from its natural state. Thinking this way helps me buy healthier foods.

-What you put on your body: I think this is very important. Natural shampoos, soaps, lotions can be expensive- but many are cheaper than fancy brands that are full of chemicals. Kiss my face soap is reasonably priced, Natures gate shampoo is cheaper than most commercial brands. I also use fewer products than most people I know- once you get out of the habit of listening to advertisements and get in touch with what you really use, you can streamline your purchases (one kind of lotion works for my whole body, we all use Kiss my face soap- even my toddler, etc.)

-What you use to clean your house- there are a gazillion household cleaners out there- each designed to clean a specific thing- toilet bowl, shower tiles, carpet, etc. And they all contain BLEACH. I would phase out all bleach products and cleaners and phase in a couple of alternatives. Environmentally sensitive companies are making and marketing tons of alternatives as specific as the bleach-filled ones- but do we really need different cleaners for each of these things? Instead I use lemon oil to polish furniture, Dr. Bronners Sal Suds to clean most surfaces and even take spots off of floors (talk about cheap!), Bon Ami (still $.79) to clean sinks and tubs, Baking soda, Vinegar, and washing soda for lots of other stuff. And because of these boards I recently ordered a book to help me make my own cleaners.

- Garden and Compost- growing food, just a little, will help you have a healthier connection to the food you eat. And composting is extremely satisfying- it is one of the best things that I do. And it can be done for FREE. (Certainly in my community where I have to pay by the bag to get rid of my trash, it saves me money)

Find some help. Here in VT there are tons of buying clubs so I get a real discount on food, soaps, cleaners by belonging to my local buying club. We buy direct from the distributor and work together to sort out the order, bag flours and grains, etc. If you can't find a buying club find a co-op and join and volunteer for a discount. And if these things aren't available- seek out others who are living closer to the earth to share ideas, pool resources, and have fun.

This is such a fun journey- I learn more on the way than I ever thought possible. Enjoy it!
-jeanie
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#7 of 30 Old 02-19-2002, 12:17 AM
 
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I loved all of your ideas. We are also phasing out the BAD things in our home. We've always been healthy eathers and try to eat organic and all fresh foods. I love to garden and each season try something new. I'm really interested in making my own laundry detergent and get rid of the bleach. I can't believe I still have it!!
Lindy- could you tell me more about your ventilator? We were looking into an air purifier but I love the idea of FRESH air!
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#8 of 30 Old 02-19-2002, 12:54 AM
 
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I'm interested in the book that helps you make your own cleaners. Could you tell me the title? Thanks!

I think you guys all have great ideas. I also started really slowly. I still need to work on the food part a little better. I also need to work on not buying so much stuff! I love using all of the "natural" soaps and lotions on my body. It makes me feel so much better. I have a long way to go to be purely "organic" though!

Amy - Blessed wife to Jesse (the best dad in the world), mother of 10 on earth plus 8 in heaven.   PROUD to be a Catholic! : winner.jpg familybed2.gifhomeschool.gif

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#9 of 30 Old 02-19-2002, 10:37 AM - Thread Starter
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Lots of great ideas! Thank you everyone! I'm going to draw up a step by step program using the points brought up here. Hopefully I can pull together something worthwhile to offer a workshop for. Keep the ideas coming, please!

~Cynthia

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#10 of 30 Old 02-19-2002, 11:40 AM
 
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I think the best book I've seen on making your own cleaners is Better Basics for the Home by Annie Berthold-Bond

It covers just about everything.
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#11 of 30 Old 02-19-2002, 11:45 AM
 
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About "natural" cleaners being unavailable- we use nothing but water, vinegar, baking soda or washing soda, and a vacuum cleaner to clean our house. Scrubbing is good exercise, right?
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#12 of 30 Old 02-19-2002, 01:23 PM
 
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Thanks, Ceili, for the book suggestion. I'm going to the library today so I will check it out!

Thanks everyone for the terrific ideas!

Amy

Amy - Blessed wife to Jesse (the best dad in the world), mother of 10 on earth plus 8 in heaven.   PROUD to be a Catholic! : winner.jpg familybed2.gifhomeschool.gif

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#13 of 30 Old 02-19-2002, 04:10 PM
 
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Hi Pamdu, We have a Lifebreath Heat Recovery Ventilator. We got it from our local heating and plumbling people. They installed it. It cost about two thousand dollars. Yep it's expensive. But that all depends on the model you get, how big your house is and how many intake and outtake vents you want. You can get special air filters on them. We have a brand new house that is very well insulated and we weren't getting any fresh air at all. We live in the northeast were you just can't open a window in the winter. I think it was the best investment we ever made.

I have heard of window models, kind of like air conditioners

You could do a search on google for Heat Recovery Ventilators and see what you come up with.

Take care,

Lindy
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#14 of 30 Old 02-19-2002, 11:34 PM
 
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Another good book to check out is Clean House, Clean Planet by Karen Logan. She has some great ideas about using olive oil as a furniture polish, plain club soda as a window cleaner... I have actually enjoyed making and using my cleaning supplies! Another plus is when my dd is old enough, she can help me clean, I won't be using anything toxic!
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#15 of 30 Old 02-19-2002, 11:38 PM
 
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Thanks for the info. Lindy! That IS expensive, but like you said, I'm sure well worth the money. Where in the NE are you? My husband and I are originally from MA. I miss New England!
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#16 of 30 Old 02-20-2002, 05:15 PM
 
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Pamdu, We live in upstate New York, very rural, it's beautiful. Not many AP people though.
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#17 of 30 Old 02-20-2002, 10:59 PM
 
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The book I got is Clean, Naturally: recipes for body, home, and spirit. It has a lot of homemade soap recipes but also recipes for shampoos, cleaning solutions, laundry soap, dishwashing soap, etc.
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#18 of 30 Old 02-23-2002, 10:07 AM
 
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"Living More With Less" by Doris Longacre is a great book. It's really about simplifying your life and getting away from consumerism, but there's a great chapter on homemade cleaning agents using readily available ingredients including an upholstery and carpet cleaning foam made from dish detergent and water. The book may be out of print because it's kind of old (copywright 1979, I think) but maybe a used book website would have it.

I think hard surfaces are cleaner and healthier than soft, such as wood or tile for floors rather than carpet. Wall to wall carpeting is a haven for dust, mold and germs!

I don't know if you have central air conditioning, Cynthia, but if you do, you might want to investigate what types of filters are available there. For the summer months, I buy a special filter that helps keep down the pollen count in the house. (And I'm a great believer in good old fashioned fresh air.) In our house, the air conditioner is running only is it's unbearably hot out--meaning 95 F or higher. It bothers me to be outside on a beautiful summer day with nice temps in the '80s and everyone's house is closed up tight and I'll hear the humming of the a/c. But I digress.

I would definitely avoid any "antibacterial" products although you probably do that anyway. I think they allow resistant bacteria to come into being, and I think it's healthy to come into contact with some germs. Your body needs to fight them off, not have some chemical kill them first. Here in the states, it's harder and harder to find things that aren't "antibacterial." I needed a simple sponge/dishscrubber and I couldn't find one that didn't have an antibacterial agent in it.
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#19 of 30 Old 02-23-2002, 04:27 PM - Thread Starter
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I agree with you daylily on the AC issue. We too only use them when it's really hot. We have window AC's but we also have Desert Coolers which cool by water rather than freon and which is much more enviro-friendly and healthy I believe.

This thing about sponges and anti-bacterial agents. Have any of you ever thought to use loofahs's for scrubbing dishes and other cleaning needs? It cam to mind because I received some as a gift from a family friend who recently returned from Egypt - farm grown loofahs (so cool huh!). He also gave us some seeds to grow our own plants. So this talk about the sponge problem made me wonder if we could use loofahs for the same purpose.

~C

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#20 of 30 Old 02-23-2002, 05:23 PM
 
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It never occured to me to use a loofah to scrub dishes, but I think it's an excellent idea. It's certainly worth giving it a try.

I was thinking more about this as I was cleaning my bedroom today. (I found an astonishing number of condom wrappers under the bed.: ) Anyway, I think the first step in creating a healthy home should be to de-clutter and get rid of stuff you don't like or need. Regarding physical health, excess stuff means more to clean and more things to attract dust or mold. But more importantly, too much stuff drags down the soul. I've often felt like I'm drowning in my own possessions and I try to keep clutter to a minimum. A famous person once said "Have nothing in your house that isn't really useful or truly beautiful."

A house should be a haven from the outside world, and for good mental health, it should be comfortable and beautiful. I don't think it's frivolous to want beautiful surroundings. I think humans need beauty especially in our homes. I wonder if the pervasive sense of anxiety and unhappiness and discontent in American society is in part due to the fact that we've made our country so ugly with endless suburbs, blacktop and shopping centers. Well, just food for thought.
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#21 of 30 Old 02-23-2002, 05:52 PM
 
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Lots of great ideas! Thank you everyone! I'm going to draw up a step by step program using the points brought up here. Hopefully I can pull together something worthwhile to offer a workshop for. Keep the ideas coming, please!
When and if you get this together, I would love a copy. I'm trying to make the transition to a Healthy Home.
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#22 of 30 Old 02-23-2002, 06:01 PM
 
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One of my all time favorite quotes! "Have nothing in your house you find not to be beautiful or useful". I have followed that for years and strongly believe it. I could not agree with you more daylily. I live in an extremely small house, but honestly wouldn't have it any other way. We don't need much, but the things I do have I cherish. Everything in my house tells a story, from the pottery I bought in Poland, the antiques in Germany, my rugs from Turkey and silver from Denmark and England. It all means something to me. I also love that my house is not beyond me, I feel like I can wrap my arms around it. I don't need to scream someones name to call them for dinner, we're all within a few feet of each other and I love that! I just have to say that I had a wonderful Saturday morning cleaning my house! I used nothing but baking soda and vinegar and water to clean my house. I threw open the windows and my little house feels so clean!! Thank you all for your ideas. Please keep them coming!
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#23 of 30 Old 02-25-2002, 05:42 PM
 
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Check out this link for great info on household toxins and how to reduce them. Many of them come into the home on our shoe soles.

http://www.futurenet.org/6RxforEarth/morris.html
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#24 of 30 Old 04-30-2003, 06:11 AM
 
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I made an outline of this thread. I work best with "to do" lists. What did I forget? It's not perfectly organized, but I like it : D

1) Nutrition
a) get rid of processed food
b) organic
1)co-op
2) Internet
c) no artificial colors
d) no artificial flavors
e) whole foods
f) whole wheat bread products
g) more veggies and fruit
i) experiment with new and alternative foods
j) local food
k) trans oil free
l) bulk cooking
m) plan menus
n) make bread
o) no microwave
2) Cleaning
a) simplest ingredients
b) clean with baking soda, vinegar, and citrus cleaner (gaiam.com) For kitchen & bathroom surfaces, I mix up 1/2 water, 1/2 vinegar, 1tbsp dish washing liquid, 1tbsp citrus cleaner in a spray bottle. For mirrors, it's 1/2 water, 1/2 vinegar. For the toilet, straight citrus cleaner & a scrub. (add scent if you wish) Book - Clean, Naturally: recipes for body, home, and spirit.
c) No anti-bacterial stuff
3) Fresh Air / Filtration
a) add plants - especially spider plants, philodendron, and golden pothos which filter the air really well and are easy to care for
b) open windows once in a while too to let stale air out
c) special filters for heat/AC
4) Wood floors rather than carpet
5) No petroleum products or derivatives
6) No bleach (dioxins)
7) No plastic
8) filtered water
9) vacuum upulstry or get washable covers
10) natural bath and body products
11) Garden
12) Compost
13) declutter and live a simple life
14) "Have nothing in your house you find not to be beautiful or useful"
15) don't wear shoes in the house
16) dust often (takes out toxins)
17) use a natural product when ever possible
18) No disposables (paper towels, diapers, swifters, etc)
19) make soap
20) rethink everything you put on or do to your body
21) Use a clothes line
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#25 of 30 Old 04-30-2003, 03:48 PM
 
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I definitely don't have OCD, but I love people that do! Thanks for such a well-founded list. You have given me some things to think about!
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#26 of 30 Old 04-30-2003, 03:49 PM
 
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Thanks for such a well-founded list. You have given me some things to think about!
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#27 of 30 Old 04-30-2003, 04:01 PM
 
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I'm definitely not OCD, but I love those that are ! What a well- founded list Elizabeth, thank you! You have given me some things to think about!
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#28 of 30 Old 04-30-2003, 04:04 PM
 
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Sorry for all of the posts, toddler fingers are so quick!
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#29 of 30 Old 05-01-2003, 05:15 PM
 
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It won't post as a nifty outline like I have on my computer.

It's amazing what those toddlers can do!
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#30 of 30 Old 05-01-2003, 05:38 PM
 
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Thanks for the ideas...I already do a lot of the things mentioned but can always do more..
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