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Greening Your Home for a Fresh Start

If you’re like many Americans, you’ve made a few resolutions for the new year, but you’re already having trouble sticking to them. What’s holding you back from achieving your goals could be the thing you least suspect – your very own home. Your sanctuary, or what should be your sanctuary, is actually draining your energy.

Too much clutter, stale air, and even toxic materials in your home may be harming your physical and mental health.

Clear the Clutter and Go Green to Clean

Blog0115_GreenHomeResolution2Professional Organizer Melody Granger tells Natural Choice Network about the domino effect of clutter. “Paper and fabrics are big sources of dust and insects inside the home. Insects are attracted to paper, so cleaning out piles of papers, magazines, cardboard boxes, and paper bags will give insects fewer places to infest. When you have fewer insects in your home, you’ll probably find you also use fewer pesticides. By removing fabric items like clothing, jackets, linen, blankets, and curtains that you no longer want or use from your storage spaces, you'll have less to protect from insects and more space for the oxygen to flow through your favorite items, which keeps them smelling fresher!”

Ms. Granger adds, “Not only will your respiratory system get higher quality air, but there will be less dusting and cleaning for you. And, of course, less dust may mean less cleaning products being used in your home. Letting go is a healthy and easy way to keep your home feeling fresh and staying green.”

When it comes to cleaning, you may also want to take a good look at the ingredients in your cleaning products. Many contain harsh chemicals that get on your skin and in your respiratory system. White vinegar, baking soda, lemons, and a variety of green cleaning products can do the same job without risking your health. Also, you’ll remove more allergens and contaminants if you use a vacuum with a HEPA filter.

When it comes to unnecessary items, think beyond paper and fabrics because you may have some hidden hazards right under your nose. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), certain chemicals found in your home can harm your health in a variety of ways. Some may be especially harmful to young children and pets. You know that tobacco smoke will pollute your home, but other potential culprits include old batteries and fumes from gasoline, adhesives, building supplies, paint, and paint removers. These items should be discarded or stored as far away from living and sleeping areas as possible.

Faulty furnaces, fireplaces, and wood burning stoves can release toxins into your home. So can pipe sealer, old insulation, and outdated plumbing. The upfront expense of fixing out-of-date and faulty appliances will pay off in terms of health and peace of mind.

Get Organized and Go with the Flow

Once you rid your home of unnecessary items, organize what’s left so you don’t have visible piles of stuff to distract your thoughts. Make sure you put things where they belong. Every time. Every day. Once you develop a clean routine, it’ll become second nature and will no longer be a drain. If the initial organization seems overwhelming, a professional organizer can help you make the most efficient use of your space.

Besides decluttering and cleaning, being able to move about your home freely can affect your state of mind. Strive for good traffic flow and the feeling of clear space.

Choose a color scheme that welcomes you when you come in the front door at the end of a hard day.

Opt for living plants instead of artificial plants or bric-a-brac. Replace heavy draperies with window treatments that make the most of the view and the light. Whenever possible, open your windows to let stale air out and fresh air in. Keep electronics and paperwork out of the bedroom and decorate so that it’s conducive to a refreshing night’s sleep.

As you shop for home furnishings, remember that some items like sofas and mattresses may contain flame retardants and other harmful chemicals. Search for certified organic or chemical-free items whenever possible.

Personalize Your Space for a Clear Head and a Peaceful Heart

Blog0115_GreenHomeResolutionCarve out a little niche for yourself – a place where you do nothing but relax, meditate, or read. In her home, Certified Life Coach Marie Dubuque designed a small space that serves a powerful purpose. For Ms. Dubuque, a single comfy chair, a small water fountain, and an Asian theme do the trick. You can create a peaceful oasis of your own using green plants, candles, or artwork that really speaks to you.

“The key is that this area of your home is just for you and no one else,” says Dubuque. “That’s why there is only one chair in the space. I think alone time is extremely important for you and the people in your life. If you have a place to go to unwind, you will be much happier and less irritable when it comes to dealing with your loved ones on a daily basis.”

You begin and end your day at home. The way you feel there follows you everywhere. Greening your home can give you a new outlook and new energy to face life with a clear head and peaceful heart.

For information about the potentially toxic chemicals in your home and what to do about them, see the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Household Products Database, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Household Hazardous Waste page, and the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Guide to Healthy Cleaning.

Photo: (1) Cluttered Shed by Unnar Ýmir Björnsson, (2)photoXpress.com, photographer: huaxiadragon

Ann Pietrangelo is a freelance writer and the author of "No More Secs!" and “Catch That Look.”