Irwin Weiner ASID -- I like to pass the Decorate Shmecorate baton over to other designers from time to time, and we are pleased at Design2Share to welcome DeAnna Radaj, owner of Bante Design LLC/3E Products, an integrative lifestyle design company. DeAnna is a design consultant, author, and nationally recognized speaker on feng shui (a favorite topic of ours!), healthy home design, and clutter and business issues that challenge the entrepreneur and small business owner. Here is DeAnna's take on GREEN Spring Cleaning.
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 as bright and fresh as the outdoors. You may want to get that kitchen remodeling started before the summer vacation, BBQs, and Fourth of July kicks in; spring is the time we research and start these projects. As we contemplate these projects, large or small, look at “healthy” or eco-friendly alternatives when painting, buying furniture and accessories, or just rearranging furniture. Employing healthy home design, and even feng shui, can make an amazing difference in our mental, spiritual, and physical well-being. Healthy home design is especially important if you suffer from upper respiratory ailments, asthma, allergies, and headaches; and don't forget the impact healthy homes have on expectant parents and the elderly.
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 filled with products (paint, carpet, furniture, cleaners . . .) that are emitting toxins and poisons into the 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. Spaces are built with natural materials, utilizing natural light, avoiding the effects of EMFs (ElectroMagnetic Field radiation), and using energy- and resource-efficient systems. The United States is slowly catching up to Europe in our views towards green design and “healthy home” choices. If you need some more reasons to go au naturale in your home, here they are:
- You can increase the physical health of all living occupants of the space (kids, pets, elderly, you . . .) by improving indoor air quality, reducing chemicals/toxins, and increasing water quality. Mental health improves, too, as you reduce stress and anxiety by becoming more connected with nature.
- You will be following the 3 Rs (reduce, reuse, and recycle) by adopting a healthy design plan for your home; however, I’d like to add a 4th R: rethink. As you become more informed of all available choices, you will see how easy it is to decorate your home in a healthy and still-fashionable way!
- Read The Lorax, by Dr Seuss. It's all in there.
Okay, DeAnna, you say, you're convincing me -- but how do I start? Well, the hard part is making the commitment. I always suggest that my clients start by doing a MAJOR declutter and purge around the house. It’s okay 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 popular, wait-listed workshops on this subject. Men and women, young and old alike, are having struggles with decluttering and purging their house.
I guarantee you will feel a cathartic release when you do a house purge! Remember my motto:
Past Items = Emotional Baggage!
After the purge, it's time to do a good spring cleaning. Use natural household cleaners. Sun and Earth, Seventh Generation, and my very own 3E Products are all wonderful resources available in mainstream retail channels. 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 favs!). Here are some tips to help you to de-tox your home, all a part of your new, green spring cleaning regimen:
- Use natural hygiene products and cleaners. There are chemicals in many cleaning products, and when they were made, they polluted the environment; try not to bring them into your home or your body.
- Go organic, whenever possible, with food (buy local and in season) and clothing and linens (man-made fibers are petroleum based and also include formaldehyde -- that's what makes that nice "new smell").
- No VOC paints and finishes. All major paint manufacturers now make low or no VOC paint. Sherwin Williams has Harmony, Benjamin Moore has Aura, and Pratt & Lambert has Green Performance Standard products in their lines. You must ask for them, though! VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are the chemicals and toxins used to inhibit mold and quicken dry time; again, they're what makes "that new paint smell." Make the smart choice.
- Eliminate plastics and vinyls from your home. Studies have shown that PVCs also "off-gas" like VOCs and have been shown to cause certain types of cancers. Yes, unfortunately 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 okay, 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 look at individual rooms in your house (and some more tips!):
Bedroom: 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, so 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 health risks.
- Buy the most luxurious linens you can afford. This will add to the sensuality of the room. And then use healthy products to care for your linens. 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.
- 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.
Kitchen: 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, so keep this in mind when designing your kitchen. Buy the highest-quality kitchen tools and food/ingredients you can afford to promote a feeling of wealth. Other tips for the kitchen:
- Again, keep this room clutter free. All flat surfaces seem to attract clutter. Resist the 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. Use only natural cleaning products. Think healthy! This is a chemical/toxin free zone. 3E Products offers CLEAN, an eco-friendly dish-washing liquid.
Living Room: 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 like watching TV, reading, and talking. The floor plan must be able to adjust to the functions of the room at any given 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 three 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.
Bathroom: People 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, we can create an unhealthy, crowded mess. Mold and mildew is a huge issue in this room, so keep it 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 ventilation.
- Throw out ALL out-dated medicines and make-up as they are ineffective at best, and unhealthy at worst.
- There should be overhead general lighting and a shower light, depending on building codes in your area, in addition to task lighting for putting on make-up and shaving in front of a mirror and lavatory.
- Keep all plumbing in good working order. Fix all leaks immediately; you don’t want to waste water or risk 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 it.
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 of electronic equipment. Computers, printers, scanners, and telephones can literally drain your energy. To offset 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 home office entrance! As a general rule, there should be 1 plant per 100 square feet of space for good indoor air quality. Other tips:
- 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 unneeded, old papers from files. Keep all files up to date. Organizing at first will be a large project; the results will make you much more efficient in the long run.
- Task lighting is very important here. Do not ignore, and save your eyes!
- Natural light and ventilation are important (as in all rooms). 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 whole-house living 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, and 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 or asthma, do this cleaning annually.
We tackled a lot here! I hope some of these tips can help you create a beautiful and healthy space for you and your family. Life is stressful enough without having our living conditions create even more stress.