Monday, September 27, 2010

Decluttering Your Main Rooms- Part 2 (Green) Clean it Up

 I don't know about you but it has been WAY too long since I deep cleaned the main rooms.  When was the last time you vacuumed the curtains, cleaned your ceiling fan, or cleared the rooms to completely clean your floor?  I'm not going to tell you my answer but can say I'm excited to see how great the rooms are going to look.

We recently discovered that our almost 3 year old, Rita Clare, has environmental-related allergies.  Our family doc suggested we invest in a air purifier, especially since we often run our ceiling fan.  The fan kicks up all the dust from the room and contributes to allergies.  Our 8 month old, Tyler, is also crawling/pulling up like crazy.  That boy is also putting EVERYTHING in his mouth.  Our floor and table space is overdue for a deep clean.  And it's time to eliminate all spit up spots and lost cheerios once and for all!

Materials Needed:
A lot of rags
Safe Cleaners (might need to purchase materials and spray bottles)

You're more than welcome to use store bought cleaners.  We personally like 7th Generation.  However, here's an opportunity to make your own and see just how easy it is.  I also want you to take this opportunity to COMPLETELY say good bye to all your harsh chemical cleaners.  Bye bye oven cleaners, drain stoppers, chlorine bleach, windex, Comet, and all other toxic cleaners.  Instead of the running chance your child might poison themselves or doing yourself harm from inhaling or absorbing these chemicals into your system, let them go and vow to only clean safely. Guess what?  Those harsher chemicals aren't going to outperform your green cleaners.  That's a myth!  In fact, they might actually harm the things you're trying to clean by eating away what they are trying to clean (pipes, clothes, floor surfaces, etc). What's even better is that you will save A LOT of money too.

What to do with your old cleaning bottles?
- Give them to a neighbor that uses them or use Freecycle.
- Dispose of them properly by bringing them to your local hazardous waste center.

Much like transitioning to cloth diapers, the hardest part about switching to green cleaners is the upfront education, purchasing the materials, and using them for the first time.  After that, you'll probably be thinking "why did I think this was going to be so hard?"  Let's just say "the man" wants you to believe that you are incompetent to do things on your own. Ok, enough of my soap box.  Here are some easy recipes for getting started:

Glass/Mirror Cleaner:
1 C White Distilled Vinegar
1 C Water

All Purpose Cleaner:
1 1/2 t. baking soda
2 t. borax
1/2 t. liquid soap or detergent ( Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap is recommended)
2 C hot water

Wood Cleaner (all types of wood, including bamboo):
1/4 C Vinegar
30oz warm water

NOTE: Oil-based cleaners are not recommended for wood floors, contrary to popular belief. 

Soft Scrub Formula (Stove, Bathtub Grime, etc):
-1/2 C Baking Soda
-2 T. Castile Soap (Dr. Bronner's)
-Enough water to make a paste.

Other Things to Clean with just Vinegar:
-Defogging glassware
-Deodorizing toilet
-Stove and Refrigerator- Removing sticky substances
-Coffee Pot

Most of these items can be purchased at a Dollar Store (white distilled vinegar, baking soda, borax).  Here in Tallahassee, Dr. Bronner's can be purchased at New Leaf Market.  I'm sure it can be found other places too.  Where have you found it? Also, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil for a nice fresh scent.  What's your favorite?  We like lemon and eucalyptus!

OK, now that we have our supplies here's what we're going to tackle.  Remember to clean from top to bottom or you'll spend time re-cleaning surfaces.

1. Cobwebs on ceiling and room corners (Tip: Wrap a rag around the end of your broom using a rubber band and swirl in circles on the webs).
2. Dust ceiling fan (all you need is a few damp rags).
3. Ceiling air vents (take off the covers and soak/scrub them in a bucket of warm water)
4. Clean windows inside and out (tip: Wipe vertically inside and horizontally outside to see which side still needs more attention)
5. Dust off all items on table tops.  If necessary wipe them down with a multi-purpose cleaner.
6. Wipe down all surfaces with a new damp rag (only water necessary).  After wiping down, dry off the wood surfaces.  Recondition them with olive oil.  Using a clean rag, dab olive oil on rag and rub it into the wood in a circular motion.  Get ready for some serious shine!
7.  Time to pull out those cushions and vacuum inside your couch and chairs.  How many cheerios did you find?  Any money found to treat you for doing a good job cleaning?
8. Move out your furniture and clean up your floors (don't forget the base boards too!).  Spot clean your rugs, vacuumed and sweep.  Then clean up your floors if they're wood (see cleaner above).  

This is also a good time to consider rearranging your furniture.  It's amazing how different a room feels when the furniture has been changed!

Special considerations for Kitchen:
1.  Clean under the heating elements with a baking soda/water paste.  Let the paste sit on it for awhile and it will come right off.
2.  Use the same paste in your kitchen sink.  Voila, a bright (and disinfected) sink!
3.  Use the same paste inside your oven too.  Bye bye toxic fumes in your house with the self cleaner!
3. Microwave and fridge can be cleaned out with the multipurpose cleaner.

Did I miss anything?  PLEASE share some of your homemade solutions with us.  We'd love to hear what you use!

Other Green Cleaning Resources:

Good luck and HAVE FUN!


Jen Starks, Owner 850.284.5887

Decluttering Your Main Rooms- Part 1 Reflections

 Well, it's clear my time line was a bit off ;o)  In my house, these days, decluttering a room is kinda like digging a hole in sand close to the tide.  If the tide is low, then the hole I dig may stick around a while and I might be lucky enough to make a great sandcastle.  But if the tide is on its way in, I can't make too much progress before it disappears.  Right now, I feel the tide retracting and thus can make progress on simplifying our house.

Our first part of decluttering the main rooms has been a 2 tiered project.  I typically don't think of our house as being terribly cluttered. What I found was that once I took away the visible clutter and piles that initially bothered me, I realized that I have many little things laying around that have been there so long that I hadn't even really noticed them anymore.  I changed my lens to a finer focus and started to tackle the little things and they were mostly "unfinished projects" like taping up a ripped page in Rita Clare's pop-up book, putting cd's back in their cases and storing them in the other room, random seasonal items needing to be put away, etc.

With the main rooms cleared away, I actually feel a lot more organized and clear headed, even though many of the others rooms are still a disaster (trying not to think about it!).  I now enjoy my living space and feel more "present" in the room.  Who says Feng Shui is bogus?  :o)

Unfortunately, this journey toward simplifying your home isn't a quick project.  At least, not in my home.  Maybe before kids, I could tackle this all in one weekend.  Now, I can barely finish 1 project from start to finish.  If I do, I usually feel a bit guilty that I've neglected my kids.  Alas! 

Now you have a choice.  You can either move on to all your other rooms and do a big sweep of purging the unnecessary items OR clean up the other rooms.  This is a great opportunity to deep clean the rooms, since you'll have less to move out of the room before more things return and take up space.  I'm going to move on to cleaning in my next post and then will revisit cleaning up the other rooms later on.  Each other room has some special considerations.

If you've started this journey with me, what are some obstacles you found?  Any surprises? Issues?

Jen Starks, Owner 850.284.5887

Friday, September 24, 2010

Step 1 Achieved: Local Media Coverage

 Tonight, my story was shared on our local news highlighting the greater issues with Delta's safety regulations in question and accountability for their flight attendants.  This was a great jumping point for us, especially since the station made it the lead story for the 5pm news.  By being the lead story, it reiterated how significant this issue really is and how it has potential to make some real positive changes in regulation and our experiences flying with Delta.

Next, we REALLY need someone national to pick up the story and run with it.  Delta isn't going to make any changes without some serious attention and pressure.  Here's the link to the story:

The best way to keep up the momentum is to copy this link on your Facebook, Twitter account and continue to ask your friends to spread the story around.  Delta cannot get away with treating families poorly and should be providing us with extra consideration during our flights.  

Jen Starks, Owner 850.284.5887

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Delta's First Offer of Compensation-Take it or Leave it?

Yesterday evening, I received a phone call from a Delta Customer Care Representative.  I can't tell you how nice it felt to have someone from Delta eager to hear what happened, empathize with what I went through, and apologize for it.  Instead of blaming me, she listened and asked questions.  After hearing the whole story, she said there will be a thorough investigation on what happened.  We'll see!

After apologizing, she said she wanted to make it up to me by compensating me for my plane ticket and offer me some sky miles. I was thrown a little off guard, since I figured nothing would be offered until the investigation went through.  At that point, I had the opportunity to take the offer and let the situation go.  Perhaps I should. After all, being heard, apologized to, and refunded was a nice gesture.  Over the last few days, however, I have realized that I might have the opportunity to be a voice for all the other mamas (and dads) to listen to our concerns about flying with children, change/improve the regulations, and request all parents to be better informed on how to keep our children safe inflight.

Here's the bottom line:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Rebel with a Cause- Best Case Scenario, Can you Help?

After reading all your responses, I realized that this situation with Delta is bigger than my lone experience.
I want to discern my ultimate goal/what would correct everything. Of course, we'd all love to have free flights the rest of our lives and for the delta attendant (whom somebody nicknamed Cruella the Attendant!) to make a public apology for the way she has treated myself and others on the plane.

But this isn't really about just my situation.  It's about much more. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rebel with a Cause-Delta's 2nd Response (Small Victory!)

I just received an email from the Delta Social Media Team.  Here's what they wrote:

Dear Ms. Starks:  We have had the opportunity to review your posting on the “Raising a Green Family” blog and have initiated an internal investigation on the matter. 

Rebel with a Cause- Delta's First Response

 SO, I filled out my complaint online (see my Part 1-My Complaint to see what I wrote) and received an auto-reply (listed below). I wonder how many people complain on a daily basis and am sure they probably won't do much unless the press gets hold of this story.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Rebel with a Cause (Part 2)-My Complaint

 Here's the statement I submitted to Delta.  If I receive a response, I'll post it!  Thanks everyone for your support!

Rebel with a Cause :o)

This past weekend, I was almost arrested for misconduct on an airplane.  I wasn't the obnoxious drunk or a physical threat to anyone, although I wished I might have had a little buzz as I was escorted off the plane by police when we landed.  The story?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Decluttering Your Main Rooms- Part 1 Picking Up & Removing

Decluttering Your Main Rooms- Part 1 Picking Up & Removing

The main rooms in our homes are our living/family room, kitchen, and dining area.  These areas are top priority, since we spend the most time living in these spaces.  After these rooms are finished, we are already going to feel tremendously better.

Our Recommendations: Turn up your favorite music and have fun with this!

Main Objectives:

  1. Tidy up the room and remove everything that doesn’t belong.
  2. Clean the room.
  3. Organize what gets to stay.

Task 1: Tidying

This process can either be an easy one or a tough one, depending on how attached you are to the things in your home.  I try and think objectively about what I really don’t need or haven’t used in this room in a while.  For instance, I had been collecting my shopping bags by the front door to take to the car (someday).  It had been there so long that I stopped seeing it.  Look on top of your surfaces, then below it.  Have you been storing things on higher surfaces, so that your kids can’t get to them?  We have! 

Everything that doesn’t belong in that room either needs to return to the room where it belongs (e.g. shoes by the front door need to go back in my closet), or it needs to find another home. 

Here are some suggestions:
Garage/Yard Sale
Thrift Store

Everything we decide is going to leave our house is going to be stored in one place.  My rule: Once I put it in that area, it’s not going back in the rest of my home.  You’re welcome to give yourself a couple days to think it through before you let it go.

Give yourself a day or so to do this.  In my house, I rarely get a long time span to devote to anything.  It’s bits and chunks of time (and often depends on how well the two kids slept the night before!).

What's your favorite local thrift store?

Next Objective: Cleaning the Room!
This will include moving furniture, simplifying your cleaning products, removing the dust bunnies, and more….stay tuned!

Good luck and have fun!

Jen Starks, Owner 850.284.5887

Before We Begin-Our Intentions

"The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak. "
~Hans Hofmann, Introduction to the Bootstrap, 1993

First a disclaimer....In no way am I an expert on simplifying your life nor do I want to impose any of my personal values on you.   This journey has to come within yourself, and take or leave what you want.  This is a great opportunity for those of you who are pregnant and nesting like crazy, have kiddos at home constantly undoing the house behind you, and those of us who haven't done our "spring cleaning" in a while.  If you have just had a baby within the last 6 weeks, please don't do this right now.  The beauty of these posts are that you can start it whenever you like, at the pace you want, and pick and choose what you want to do.

As we begin this journey toward decluttering our homes together, we're going to start with our main rooms- front living room, kitchen, & dining room.  These are the spaces we use the most and are most visible to us.  Once we tackle these rooms, we'll already feel a lot better about what we're doing.

 I'm constantly being told by family and strangers to enjoy the time with my kids and not worry about keeping the house tidy.  I understand the intention and believe it's important to spend quality time with my kids. 

There are a few reasons I'm advocating decluttering and organizing your/my home:

1. I think much clearer when I'm organized.  A clear head means I'm able to be "present" to my kids when I'm spending time with them.

2. I want to know what I have in my house to use with my kiddos, rather than miss an opportunity of fun because I didn't know I had it.  (Quick story to illustrate my point-I recently discovered a bunch of arts and crafts materials I bought Rita Clare for Christmas.  All this time, it was hidden under junk I haven't moved since Tyler was born.) Goal: I'd like to have an organized craft area that is accessible to use when Rita Clare wants to do something fun.  It's a waste of time rummaging around a mess and I'm not as likely to want to take the effort to do it when it's unorganized.

3.  Other people could actually benefit from your unused possessions. Whether you sell it, donate it to a thrift store, or post on freecycle, it's time to let things go.

4.  It's better for the environment.  Your house is using extra energy when there are more things inside.  How many things do you have plugged in that you haven't used in a long time?  I can think of a few things of mine off the top of my head.

Can you think of other reasons? Are you ready to begin??? 

Jen Starks, Owner 850.284.5887

CONTEST: Submit Your Best --Beans & Rice/Legumes & Grain Recipe

One of the best ways to start our journey of simplicity is to embrace a simpler and healthy way of eating. I'll admit that I used to despise beans. But over time, I've experimented with different types of beans/legumes and recipes. Now, I really enjoy them and particularly embrace them during the cooler months.

This month, I want to start eating a legume & grain meal once a week. It's a great way to start eating healthier, is a simple meal, saves money, helps us be in solidarity with those in poorer countries, and better for the environment. (I'll go into more detail about the last statement in another blog post.)

Join us in pledging to eat a meal like this once a week. I know many of you have a great recipe or two you already use with your family. Let's put our favorite recipes together, so we have a great central location to try new recipes.

Contest Requirements:

For the next week, submit some of your favorite beans & rice (or legumes & grain) recipe. At the end of the week (9/9 5 pm), I'll draw a name for the winner. Our lucky winner will receive a set of 4 plates from Kidishes. ($17.99 value)!!

To Qualify: 
1. Post the recipe in our Discussion Board section under "Great Simple Meals".
2. Every time you submit a new recipe, you are entered into the contest. (PLEASE don't just submit a random recipe from the web you've never tried. I want these recipes to be GREAT...and the simpler, the better!)
3. You have to be a "follower" of our blog.

We look forward to trying some of your fabulous recipes!



Jen Starks, Owner 850.284.5887

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

September's Theme: Simplicity

This month, we're going to be focusing on simplifying our lives. There's something about the beginning of the school year that feels like a new beginning (much like New Year's). This is the first year our oldest daughter started school (preschool) and I've been "nesting" again like crazy trying to become organized in our house.

As you know, both simplifying your life and becoming organized is a process. It's almost like detoxifying both our physical homes AND our inner "home". It's a spiritual experience. Initial questions such as, "Do I NEED this?", "Am I ready to part with that?" "Am I ever going to look at my house and feel like it's not cluttered?"

Once you clear the physical clutter, it's time to work on embracing a simpler lifestyle. Instead of having to regularly remove the clutter in your life, you'll be preventing the clutter from occurring. In the long run, you'll be saving money and time spent on figuring what to do with everything. The Earth will also thank you :o)

So join me this month. First we'll go through your home, car, office. Then we'll work on organizing everything you have so that you actually USE what you're keeping. Then we'll focus inward, understanding why we consume, how we can embrace a simpler, yet deeper life. Are you ready? I know I am!!!

Jen Starks, Owner 850.284.5887