Back to the Future? - there's nothing new under the sun!
I don't know about you, but I can't help feeling we've been here before!
It used to be desirable to have a gadget or a product for everything and a new outfit (or four, for every occasion) but that's changing, isn't it?
It's easy to see how "peak stuff" happened. It's no surprise that the post war generation were happy to wave goodbye to rationing and embrace all the products and items that were flooding into the shops. The promises of products designed to make you more glamorous or make your life easier, were just too good to pass up!
In the sixty years that followed companies have continued to respond to the insatiable appetite for the new and the shiny. We need X "because we deserve it" we've been told. Maybe we do, maybe we don't, but one thing's for sure and that's that it doesn't seem to be making our planet, or society any healthier.
The more we have, the less healthy we seem to be. There, I've said it (and of course, I'm talking generally here), but is it a co incidence? The incidence of "modern day illnesses" such as cancer, diabetes, asthma is increasing year on year in the more developed countries. There's plenty of evidence to suggest that dietary factors are playing some part and books such as The China Study by T. Colin Campbell make interesting reading, but could it be that what we're living with in our homes,is also a contributory factor?
It's a subject that I've been giving plenty of thought to over the last couple of years, as I've seen so many bathrooms filled with toiletries and cupboards under the sink overflowing with cleaning products (to the extent that it is rare to see them confined to just one cupboard). We need separate products to clean toilets, basins, windows, kitchen surfaces, ovens, don't we? Hmm, maybe not but why sell the consumer just one product when you can sell four?
Did you fall for it too? Don't worry, we all did!
At first I was looking at this purely from a Decluttering & Organising perspective, helping people reduce the sheer number of products in their kitchens and bathrooms and organise them so that they were easy to access. Then I became interested, from a waste perspective, as having so many different products results in so much plastic waste. Did you see the programme where everyone in a street had to bring out of their houses, all products contained in plastic? It was a phenomenal amount of plastic (and by the way most of it not recyclable). Check here for recycling information for your local area.
My search for plastic free products led me to discover the world of refilling and companies such as Filling Good. This has now transformed my kitchen and bathroom. Instead of show gel and face wash, I use bars of soap. For hand wash I re fill an amber glass dispenser. As much as possible I refill glass jars with pasta, rice and grains. I've pledged to avoid adding to the plastic bottle and cup mountain by taking a refillable water bottle and cup with me, as much as is humanely possible (don't feel guilty for the one time in twenty you forget, we're all human and the point is you're trying!).
During this time someone (actually it was more than one person) suggested I read Low Tox Life by Alexx Stewart, sparking my interest in essential oils, natural toiletries and cleaning products (by no means mutually exclusive). So what do I mean by natural cleaning products? Bicarbonate of Soda, Citric Acid, white vinegar, lemon juice. So simple, so why hasn't anyone thought of it before?
Actually they have, this is exactly what people used to use to clean their houses before they used chemicals in plastic bottles. In fact when I was talking to a ladies group recently, I felt a bit of a fraud, as though I was "teaching grandmother to suck eggs." The only reason natural cleaning is not promoted widely now is because the ingredients are so cheap, nobody's going to make any money out of it!
So, space saving, potential health benefits, environmental benefits, cost benefits. Oh and did I tell you that the products smell so much nicer, that it actually makes cleaning a pleasure?
You've heard it all now? OK, I apologies, I'll stop there!
We don't know for sure that by reducing the plastic and other chemical toxins in our home, we're going to see widespread long term health benefits. But knowing what we do so far, it's got to be worth a try hasn't it? We do know for sure that it'll benefit our planet.
We've got so used to having a product for everything, that for some people it might seem like a big shift, perhaps even an overwhelming goal. So where or how do you start?
Decluttering & Organising is the first step. Not only does this give you an opportunity to take a good look at where you are now, but once it's done, it frees up not only space in your cupboards, but also the space in your head, necessary for making the switch to natural products. For kitchen decluttering and organising read my guest blog for Lunchbox Doctor Jenny Tschiesche, How Cluttered Is Your Kitchen, for bathroom advice see What's Lurking In Your Bathroom?
I've been testing out "recipes" for natural cleaning products and will be making these available as a download to subscribers of my Less Is More monthly update this month. I'm learning all the time and tweaking it as I go along, but it's a good place to start! Sign up for it here.
Jo Hall is a Berkshire based Declutterer & Organiser
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