Does Your Life Need Spring Cleaning?

There are few rites of spring more satisfying than the annual clean. For many people, however, the pleasure comes only after the work is finished.

Spring is a natural time for renewal. The weather warms, days lengthen and windows open. As clean air and light pour in, you may feel inspired to let that freshness into everything—your physical space, your mind, your body. And it turns out that doing so is intricately tied to your overall health and well-being. Studies show that the rituals of cleaning and getting rid of what's no longer serving you—such as worn-out possessions, old habits, emotional ties, or unhealthy thoughts—can actually improve your physical and mental health. Your spring cleaning may never become effortless, but you can make the project more manageable -- and even enjoyable

For some just the thought of starting is overwhelming – with so many areas to clean the best place to start is with a plan. 

Where do I start?
Choose the area of your life that needs the most attention or that feels the easiest to tackle, and then take one simple action to get started. "Our minds shut down when the goal is too big," says Jennifer Louden, author of The Life Organizer Book. "Don't worry about finishing—just take that first step."
What about the piles of old bills? So start by organizing and tossing -  grab a trash bag and set aside 15 – 30  minutes a day for the next week and organize the bills, keep what you must and toss the rest. 
What about the junk drawer – this is a really quick and easy cleanup task – set aside a few minutes and start digging through – remember your Mom’s rule…if you haven’t used it in the past six months, you probably do not need it.

 Next is preparation for the “Big Spring Clean”.
 2010 is a new decade, if you haven’t already done so, let’s start by ditching all toxic cleaners.

Did you know that with 3 ingredients you can make your house shine and create an aromatic oasis? 

All it takes is a combination of vinegar, baking soda and your favorite essential oils. It’s easy, with these recipes! Your new cleaners are highly customizable, so don't be afraid to play; after all, we're talking non-toxic stuff here.  And the ingredients for your cleaners cost very little and are available at most traditional grocery stores. 

What are essential oils?  An essential oil is a liquid that is generally distilled (most frequently by steam or water) from the leaves, stems, flowers, bark, roots, or other elements of a plant. Essential oils, contrary to the use of the word "oil" are not really oily-feeling at all. Most essential oils are clear, but some oils such as patchouli, orange and lemongrass are amber or yellow in color.

Essential oils contain the true essence of the plant it was derived from. Essential oils are highly concentrated and a little goes a long way. There are more than 100 different varieties of essential oils used in aromatherapy, such as lavender oil, lemon oil, bergamot oil....so go ahead and experiment!  If you can’t find the oils in your traditional grocery store, try your local health food store.

Pour about 1/2 cup of baking soda into a bowl and add enough liquid castile soap to make a texture like frosting. Scoop the mixture onto a sponge and wash the surface. This is great for cleaning the bathtub because it rinses easily and doesn't leave grit. 
Tip: Add 1 tsp of vegetable glycerin to the mixture and store in a sealed glass jar to keep the product moist. Otherwise, just make as much as you need at a time. 

*What is castile soap? Castile soap isn't a brand but a type of soap made exclusively from vegetable oil rather than animal fat or synthetic substances.

1/4-1/2 teaspoon liquid castile soap
3 tablespoons vinegar
2 cups water
Put all the ingredients into a spray bottle, shake it up a bit, and spray onto windows and wipe off.  No streaks!

1 cup or more baking soda
Liquid castile soap
Sprinkle water generously over the bottom of the oven, then cover with enough baking soda so that the surface is totally white. Sprinkle some more water over the top. Let the mixture stand overnight. You can easily wipe it up the next morning; baked-on grime will have loosened. When you have cleaned up the worst it, dab a bit of liquid castile soap on a sponge and wash the remaining residue from the oven. Works best when you use LOTS of baking soda.

1/2 tsp oil, such as olive
1/4 cup white vinegar
Mix the ingredients in a glass jar. Dab a soft rag into the solution and wipe onto wood surfaces in the direction of the grain. Cover the glass jar and store indefinitely. Optional: add 20-30 drops lemon essential oil.

Vinegar does everything. Keep a spray bottle filled with straight vinegar; it kills mold on surfaces if allowed to stand for a few hours. It also disinfects the toilet bowl and you can spray it on cutting boards to disinfect also. And the smell dissipates after a few hours.
I use diluted vinegar as an all-purpose spray cleaner. I mix in some essential oils of lavender or tea tree to add additional anti-bacterial properties.
2 cups white distilled vinegar
2 cups water
20-30 or more drops of essential oil (optional)

Just a note: If you want to ensure that you are killing the germs while cleaning.  There are many essential oils, such as lavender, clove, and tea tree oil (an excellent natural fungicide), and grapefruit seed extract that can be added to your cleaning agents.

Use one teaspoon of essential oil to 2 cups of water (make sure to avoid eyes). A grapefruit seed extract spray can be made by adding 20 drops of extract to a quart of water.

Caution: Even though these are natural ingredients, they are very powerful.  Make sure to keep all homemade formulas well-labeled, and out of the reach of children.

Spring is in the air and your house is smelling good!

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