Archive for the ‘Housekeeping’ Category

A glimpse into the goodness of God

Today is my Memere’s birthday.  (Memere is French for Grandmother.)  She is an amazing woman.  On this special day I thought it would bring her joy to highlight her commendable qualities by telling you about the most amazing product of her labors: my mother.

My mom is sad in this picture because my Memere's visit was just about over.

This past weekend was a perfect example of the selflessness, the diligence, and the sacrifice without hesitation that my Memere has passed along to my mother.

Let me start with how I got in a position to need her selfless, diligent and sacrificial care.  Over the course of the last 3 months during this first trimester, my house has slowly drifted into chaos:

  • Kids toys had begun overtaking our living room.
  • A nasty film of gunk had formed on our coffee table where smoothies and other unknown substances had spilled and never been cleaned up.
  • The original color of the tile in our half bathroom was hardly recognizable due to our dogs’ sloppy drinking habits which leave water all over the floor to then draw out any mud on their paws.
  • My recycling had only been halfheartedly dealt with, so I had stray empty toilet paper rolls, empty oatmeal boxes, and random scrap papers bursting out from under my kitchen sink and other random places.
  • My floors hadn’t been mopped in nearly the whole 3 months.
  • Boxes and other homeless items had taken up residence in my stairways and hallways.
  • Plants I had intended to re-pot months ago, still remained in their original (and presently WAAAY too small) containers.
  • And I needed to buy maternity jeans.  I am not a huge fan of shopping and I needed someone to help push me to make it happen.

I needed help getting back on top of things.  And I knew of only one person who could possibly be willing to help me to the bitter end.  My mother.

Like a hero she arrived Friday evening and had my kitchen and living room whipped into shape within just a couple of hours.  Before I had even come downstairs on Saturday morning she had folded a load of laundry, organized all of my recycling, cleaned my oven, and taken out our dogs. (And actually, I could be forgetting 4 or 5 other things.)

Before 11am Saturday, she had helped me clean up the kitchen after breakfast, clean out half of the clutter in our garage, drop off all of our recycling, and pick up a few things at the grocery store. I already felt like life was back on track and was feeling like a hundred pounds had been lifted off of my shoulders.  But she still had more in store.  She bought us lunch, helped me find maternity jeans, and mopped my hardwood floors before finally passing out exhausted on our couch that evening.

And the next day before she left to take care of things in her own home, she did another couple of loads of laundry, loaded up the dishwasher, gave my kids a bath, dressed them and dropped them off to church (where Erich and I had to be early that morning).

As I considered all she had done for me that weekend alone, I was a teary-eyed mess. And as I enjoyed worship, I realized that my mom had given me a glimpse into the goodness of God by her actions.  Not just that weekend, but all my life long.

“For His perfect love will never change
And His mercies never cease
But follow us through all our days
With the certain hope of peace”

My mom had helped me to better understand God’s perfect love and unceasing mercies by her actions. And what a thought that the Lord’s love and mercy extend far deeper than my mother’s!  His go all the way into my sinful heart.  His beckons me even when I push Him away.  He loved me when I ignored Him and worshiped myself instead.

So, mom, thank you!  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And Memere, thanks for creating and raising such an awesome mom for me to have!

Just like the Proverbs 31 woman, you two work with willing hands, rise while it is yet night (a characteristic I’m not sure I’ll ever grow into) to provide food for your houses, dress yourselves with strength and make your arms strong.  Strength and dignity are your clothing.  The teaching of kindness is on your tounge.  You look well to the ways of your houses and do not eat the bread of idleness.  Your children rise up and call you blessed.

Yes, you are blessed indeed. And I have been the recipient of your energy and strength. I love you both!  Happy Birthday, Memere!

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The Proverbs 31 Woman and Non-Toxic Cleaners

Clean Green Image

Here’s an angle to becoming more like the Proverbs 31 woman we don’t usually consider:

Using non-toxic cleaners in our homes.

It may seem totally unrelated, but I propose that looking well to the ways of our households and seeking to do good and not harm to our families definitely includes how we clean our homes. After all, conventional cleaning products add dangerous toxins to the air. So, the “cleaner” your home is, the more toxic it may be.

Dangerous “Secret” Formulas

The government exempts cleaning product manufacturers from publishing ingredients lists on their labels in order to protect their “secret” formulas.

So, on the labels you’ll find innocent words like “odor eliminator” or “fragrance.”

But in reality, lab tests reveal that the labels should read something more like “known carcinogen,” “asthma trigger,” or “untested chemical compound.”

Lab Results

Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit group, recently tested 21 cleaners used in California schools, including a few that are also sold for household use. They sent the products to an air-quality lab, where levels of air pollutants were checked after the products were used according to instructions.

In their Executive Summary, EWG reports on these common household cleaners you may have under your kitchen sink:

  • Comet Disinfectant Powder Cleanser emitted 146 contaminants when used as directed, including formaldehyde, benzene, chloroform and four other chemicals identified by the state of California as causing cancer or reproductive harm.
  • Simple Green, a general purpose cleaner, released 93 chemicals into the air, including two linked to cancer (2-butoxyethanol and acetaldehyde) and one linked to cancer and asthma (formaldehyde).
  • Febreze Air Effects, an air freshener that gave off 89 airborne contaminants including acetaldehyde, a chemical linked to cancer.

As a side note, when Erich reviewed this post and did a little research on the EWG, he advised me to remove them as my source.  Some of the main guys behind the group have been involved in questionable liberal political activities.  While I did find a few other sources that came to the same conclusions as the EWG, I liked their format the best.  So, I decided to keep their study in and just let you know that we don’t approve of or appreciate all of their other activities.

Here are links to a couple other sources who reveal the same kinds of problems with household cleaners:

http://berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2006/05/22_householdchemicals.shtml

http://www.health-report.co.uk/toxic_household_chemicals.htm

http://www.worldwatch.org/node/1484

“Green” Cleaners Not Much Better

Though the EWG’s study found that green cleaners released 3-5 time less contaminants and lower levels of VOCs than their conventional counterparts, I tend to think that cleaners shouldn’t contaminate anything.  But maybe I’m just a little crazy.  😛

Non-Toxic, Environmentally-Safe, Kid-Friendly and Cheap Alternatives

It is possible to clean without contaminating.  Let me introduce you to three cheap and totally harmless things will revolutionize your cleaning:

Baking Soda, White Vinegar, and Hydrogen Peroxide

We’re talking good environmental, health, and financial stewardship. (I think the Proverbs 31 woman would have been all over these if she had the choice back in her day.)

Here is how they can replace those 3 standards in most homes:

  • Use baking soda instead of Comet to safely scour surfaces
  • Use vinegar instead of Simple Green.  Or for an extra disinfecting boost, follow the vinegar spray with  a spray of hydrogen peroxide.  The vinegar-peroxide combo kills all kinds of bad stuff and is safe enough even to spray on your fruits and vegetables!
  • Use baking soda or vinegar instead of Febreze Air Effects to get to the smelly root of the problem instead of just covering it up.

If you’re scared because you think vinegar is “stinky,” let me assure you that the vinegar smell vanishes after a few seconds leaving nothing behind. And once the vinegar smell is gone, any other odor will be gone too.

If you miss the perfumed smells of your old conventional cleaners, you can consider adding a few drops of an essential oil to your spray bottle – like Lemon, Tea Tree, Lavender or any of the other plentiful options.  Essential oils are not just good-smelling, but many of them also have germ-killing properties.

Here you can find some more specific recipes for home-made cleaners.

Want Proof?

If you’re anything like my husband, the lab results showing the dangers of conventional cleaners might not be enough incentive to make the switch to a natural alternative.  You might want proof that these natural alternatives actually work first.

Here are a few things I dug up:

  • A study published in Biological Research for Nursing in 2001 showed that 5% distilled white vinegar was as effective as bleach in cleaning urinary drainage bags.  The vinegar actively killed bacteria in the bag and was not highly irritating, not bad smelling, not corrosive, and not staining.  See summary here.
  • A study done by O. Peter Snyder, Jr., PHD in 1997 showed that 5% distilled white vinegar was more effective than both water and a 200-PPM quaternary ammonium compound sanitizer in cleaning wood, plastic, AND stainless steel.  See report here.
  • Susan Somner, a food scientist found that spraying fresh produce with peroxide and vinegar (from separate bottles) sterilizes it, killing almost all Salmonella, Shigella, and E. coli bacteria.  Read more here.

I found many online sources saying that other studies have shown vinegar also kills 82% of molds, 99% of bacteria, and 80% of viruses, but I wasn’t able to track down the studies myself.

Getting Started

Here’s a great video to introduce you to various natural cleaning ideas.  I hope it inspires you to happier and healthier cleaning!

Bleach or Vinegar to Kill Germs?

I just read this excellent write up on rodale.com.  I don’t agree with all of rodale’s positions in general, but this whole article I love.

Over the course of the last two years, I’ve been in the process of weeding out all of the bad cleaners from our home (including bleach) and transitioning solely to non-toxic methods.

Vinegar is my power-playing cleaning component.  I have it in a spray bottle in the kitchen.  I use it to clean my countertops, table, chairs, and windows.  For produce I use the one-two punch described in the rodale article: a spray of vinegar followed by a spray of hydrogen peroxide. I also have a jar of vinegar in the laundry room to freshen and disinfect some loads.

Here are my top reasons for going “green” with my cleaners:

  • Things still get clean.
  • The healthy cleaners leave no sneaky residue behind.  The residue of regular cleaners could do more damage than the germs/bacteria they helped kill in the first place.
  • My kids can help in the clean up process, and if they accidently spray themselves or a dog or a sibling (you get the picture), no harm is done.
  • The healthy cleaners are CHEAP!  I’m pretty convinced that $15 would cover all of the cleaning materials I would need for a year.  I plan to put my theory to the test in 2010.  So, stay tuned!

I also follow the recommendations of the article and use wood cutting boards instead of plastic.  We also use rags instead of paper towels or sponges to clean.  AND the kids and I use slightly dampened washcloths as napkins at mealtimes.  We just throw them in the wash when we’re done.  (Erich still prefers regular paper towels.)

Anyway, I hope this gives you a few new ideas for stewarding your health and the environment well.  🙂

Weekly Cleaning Schedule

As I’ve said before, I don’t make decisions in a hurry.  And in many cases, I’d rather make no decision than one I might possibly regret later.  This goes for routines and schedules too.  Sometimes I fear that I’ll make the wrong schedule that will lead to failure, so I’ll make nothing “official” at all.

It’s really just sin.  In my pride I don’t want to reveal myself as imperfect.  If I don’t have a standard to go by, I won’t fail at it.

It’s really an interesting dynamic, because I hate chaos and disorder.  I love routines – successful ones, of course.  So, though I’ve actually had a weekly cleaning routine in place for the last couple of years, I haven’t “set it in stone” for fear that suddenly circumstances would change and the stoned-in plan would shatter OR that I would simply not measure up to my own plan.

But that’s where the comforting truth that CJ Mahaney spoke to his wife comes in: Only God finishes His to-do list.

Committing to weekly meal plans for the last several weeks has been helpful for me to acknowledge this.  Yes, the plans change.  No, I don’t perfectly carry them out, but having a plan all laid out is far more beneficial than the slight discomfort of having to scratch something out and move it around a bit to make it fit with real, unpredictable life.

So, I’m officially laying out my weekly cleaning schedule.  Once it’s laid out, I’ll be better able to evaluate how well it really works.  And then I’ll actually be able to change and improve it.

Monday

Clean out fridge
Take out trash
Grocery shopping

Tuesday

Laundry

Wednesday

Laundry

Thursday

Clean upstairs

Friday

Clean downstairs
Water plants

Saturday

Rest

Sunday

Menu planning
School planning