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The sound of robins singing greets you in the morning. Tulips and daffodils are peeking through the ground.
The sun is actually warm on the skin as you step outside. And with that, thoughts start turning to your home, and how you can make it bright as it is becoming on the outside.
Whether it’s getting that kitchen re-model done before the summer vacation, BBQs and holidays, spring is the time we research and start these projects.
As we are contemplating these projects-large or small-we need to look at “healthy” or eco-friendly alternatives when painting, buying furniture and accessories, or just re-arranging furniture!
The difference employing healthy home design, and even feng shui, can make a difference in our mental, spiritual and physical well-being is amazing.
Healthy home design is especially important for those who suffer from upper respiratory ailments, asthma, allergies and headaches, have or are expecting babies and/or have elderly parents living with them.
So, how do you go about “spring cleaning like Mother Nature” and bring about healthy, green and/or eco-friendly cleaning principles into your space?
The real push for eco-friendly design actually started in Europe about 30 years ago in studies done on “sick building syndrome” or Bau-biology. Sick building syndrome is caused by our vacuum sealed, no ventilation buildings that are filled with products (paint, carpet, furniture, cleaners…) that are emitting toxins and poisons into our air.
Frequent migraines, fatigue, upper respiratory ailments and sore throats are only a few of the symptoms of SBS (sick building syndrome). Bau-biology is the study of design and construction of homes that fulfill all health/holistic requirements.
They are spaces that are built with natural materials, utilize natural light, and avoid the effects of EMFs and uses energy and resource efficient systems.
Slowly, we are catching up to Europe in our views towards green design and “healthy home” design choices. If you need some more reasons to “go au naturale” here they are:
1. Increase the health of all living occupants of the space (kids, pets, elderly, you…) by improving indoor air quality, reducing chemicals/toxins, increase water quality and mental health as you reduce stress and anxiety by becoming more “connected” with nature.
2. You will be following the 3 Rs (reduce, reuse, and recycle); however, I’d like to add 1 more as Re-think! As you become more informed of all available choices, you will see how easy it is to decorate your home in a healthy and fashionable way!
3. Read The Lorax, by Dr Seuss!
OK, you say, you’ve convinced me! But how do I start? Well, you’ve already done the hard part, making the commitment. I always suggest that my clients start by doing a MAJOR de-clutter and purge. It’s OK to start small but you must go through each room, closet, drawer and cabinet and ask yourself: Do I LOVE it? Do I USE it? Do I NEED it?
If you don’t answer with a yes to any of the questions, you must get rid of it. If you have a hard time with this, you aren’t alone.
I teach workshops on this that are always on a Wait List with men and women, young and old.
After you are done with your purge (I guarantee you will feel a cathartic release of the past-items=emotional baggage!) do a good spring cleaning.
Use natural house-hold cleaners. Sun and Earth, 7th Generation and 3E Products (a division of Bante Design) are all wonderful products that are available in mainstream channels.
Check their websites! There are also some great books out there if you have the time and energy to make your own cleaners. (Green Clean is one of my faves!).
Here are some other tips to help you to de-tox your home:
- Use natural hygiene products and cleaners-these are chemicals that when made pollute the environment, our homes and our bodies.
- Go organic when possible-food (buy local and in season), clothing (man-made fibers are petroleum based and also include formaldehyde (new smell)) and linens.
- No VOC paints and finishes. All major paint manufacturers now make low or no VOC paint. Sherwin Williams has “Harmony” and Pratt & Lambert have Comfort Care in their lines. You must ask for it though! VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are the chemicals and toxins used to inhibit mold and quicken dry time, or “that new paint smell”. Make the smart choice.
- Eliminate plastics and vinyls from your home. Studies have shown that PVC also off-gas like VOC and have been shown to cause certain types of cancers. Yes, this includes your shower curtain!
- Beware of what candles you buy! Candles are a leading cause of indoor air pollution (which studies have shown to be worse than outdoor air). The big offender here is the wick. Wicks in most inexpensive candles are made with lead.
Lead has been shown to cause a variety of illnesses. When purchasing candles for ambience, look at the wick, if you see a metal core-DO NOT BUY IT! Some wicks will be made with zinc, which is OK; however, the best choice is cotton.
Wicks with metal are the cause of sooting and black smoke that can stain walls. Look for candles made from beeswax, palm or soy wax and scented with natural botanicals and/or essential oils.
Now let’s apply what we’ve learned to individual rooms (and some more tips!):
The bedroom is the most important room of the home. We spend 1/3 of our lives sleeping.
Therefore, it is imperative that this room is chemical/toxin free and promotes rest and restoration, as well as romance. (In feng shui, the bedroom is related to the Relationship area) Here are a few tips:
- Keep this room clutter-free, especially under the bed. Air needs to be able to circulate around the body to rejuvenate. Clutter is a dust collector-if you haven’t purged yet-Do it!
- Keep electronic items to a bare minimum in this room to reduce the EMFs. If you must have an electronic alarm clock and/or phone in the room, keep them at least 3 feet from your head to reduce this risk.
- Buy as luxurious linens as you can afford-this will add to the “sensuality” of the room. (3E Products offers SLEEP-an eco-friendly line of laundry products specially designed for bedding, blankets and pajamas. Stain pre-treater, fabric softener and liquid detergent are scented with lavender essential oil to help promote a healthy night’s sleep).
- Lastly, lie down and see what the view is. This is the first and last thing you see before you fall asleep and this will stay with you subconsciously. Make it good, we want pleasant dreams.
Just as the bedroom is related to the Relationship area of the Bagua, the Kitchen is related to the Wealth/Abundance area of the home.
Keep all appliances and plumbing in working order to keep “wealth” in the family. This room is for gathering and nourishing-keep this in mind when designing this room.
Buy as good a quality kitchen tools and food/ingredients as possible to promote that feeling of wealth. Other tips for the kitchen:
- Again, clutter-free. All flat surfaces seem to attract clutter. Resist this urge! Keep all small appliances that are used infrequently in cabinets. Knives should also be kept away when not in use (negative, cutting energy).
- Since this room is about abundance and nourishment, keep pesticides out of this room period, and use natural cleaning products. Think healthy! This is a chemical/toxin free zone. (3E Products offers CLEAN-an eco-friendly dish-washing liquid).
Another of the social, active rooms of the home the Living Room is where you want to think comfort and flexibility.
This room must accommodate numerous activities from watching TV, reading, talking…floor plan must be able to adjust to whatever the function of the room is at that moment.
Rounded corners on furniture will reduce injuries if kids or pets are present. To bring life into this room include upward-growing plants. This encourages growth and new opportunities. More tips for the Living Room: ·
- Flexible lighting is key in this area. Due to the variety of activities that take place in this room, think 3 types of lighting: general or overhead, task (desk, reading) and accent.
- 3E Products has an almond oil-base line of Environment Sprays to use instead of potpourri or other room fresheners. Scents include: lavender, orange, grapefruit, geranium, eucalyptus, lemongrass, bergamot, clary sage, and ylang ylang.
Bathrooms tend to accumulate more clutter than you’d think possible in such a small space. From out-dated medicines and make-up, to insufficient lighting and clutter filled counters can make for an unhealthy, crowded mess.
It also should be stated that mold and mildew is a huge issue in this room. This room needs to be well-ventilated and cleaned frequently. Soap scum is a breeding ground for mildew! More tips for the bathroom:
- No rules on color here, be as bold and bright as your personality allows.
- If you don’t already have an exhaust fan and/or a window, put one in to add the much needed ventilation in this room.
- Throw out ALL out-dated medicines and make-up as they are ineffective at the least, and unhealthy.
- There should be an overhead light (general) and a shower light (depending on building codes in your area) AND task lighting for putting on make-up and shaving.
- Keep all plumbing in good working order. Fix all leaks immediately-you don’t want to waste water and/or create bigger problems.
- Purchase natural bath and body products and bathroom cleaners. You’re doing a lot to create a healthy environment so why would want to poison your body. Again, if something is labeled “fragrance” it’s a synthetic, petroleum based product-do not buy.
The last room we’ll look at is the Home Office. With more people working at home or self-employed, this space takes on new significance.
Health issues concerning EMFs are prevalent in this room due to the concentration electronic equipment. Computers, printers, scanners and telephones can literally drain your energy.
To off-set this, bring in plants like spider plants, philodendrons and ivies to create a healthier work environment. Jade, money and orange trees are auspicious and represent wealth and abundance in Feng Shui terms-place these by the office entrance!
As a general rule, there should be 1 plant per 100 sp feet of space for good indoor air quality.
- Paper clutter is a constant in this space. Know how long you need to keep taxes and other important documents and shred the rest. Purge any un-needed/old papers from files. Keep all files up-to-date. Organizing at first will be a large project; however, the result will make you much more efficient in the long run.
- Task lighting is very important here-do not ignore. Save your eyes!
- Natural light and ventilation are important (as in all rooms) here due to the bombardment of EMFs in this space. Open up the windows year round to allow some fresh air to circulate, utilize crystals and sun catchers to “capture” the sun and disperse it throughout the space and maximize outside views with mirrors.
Here’s a quick maintenance checklist to keep your space healthy:
- Daily- Open windows to let fresh air in and pollutants out
- Monthly- Vacuum or wipe down return and delivery vents to keep dust from blowing around, wash refrigerator drip pans to keep mold away.
- Bi-monthly- Change furnace filters in winter months (use HEPA pleated filters which have more surface area to collect dirt/dust).
- Annually- Have your furnace inspected to ensure that it’s not leaking carbon monoxide.
- Bi-annually- Have forced air ducts cleaned. Do not use fragrance or antimicrobial chemicals. If someone has allergies/asthma, do this annual.
Obviously we tackled a lot in a short amount of space, however, I hope some of these tips and information can help you create a beautiful and healthy space for you and your family. Life is stressful enough, our homes should not add to it.