Spring is to cleaning as New Year’s is to resolutions. I am generally aggravated by both (the cleaning and the resolutions that is – I enjoy bringing in a new year and I adore spring). I don’t understand why we are only inspired to renew at these two times…shouldn’t we be constantly revisiting and revamping, striving to do our best and be our best?
It will take dedicated effort and a conscious choice to make changes…but we can all do it. Pursuing a sustainable and smarter lifestyle simply begins with you making the decision to do so, it’s really as simple as that. Whether you do it for yourself, your sanity, or your kids, so they learn how to do better, making simple, yet effective changes to reduce your waste is a family effort. After you begin and get used to change, it does get easier, and might even become as exciting as your latest hobby. Seriously.
These are things I do with my family to avoid Spring Cleaning, and hopefully some will be things you are willing to try in your home, but remember it’s a constant work in progress. Go at your own pace, try your own ideas, and hopefully these suggestions will inspire your family’s path of living to be a little bit cleaner – and always ready for new, no matter what the season.
- Don’t buy single-use stuff – singles suck.
- Stop all junk mail – this is a constant battle with new catalogues arriving all of the time, and really, who uses the Yellow Pages anymore? Call them as you receive them and request them not to be delivered anymore, and pounds are shed just like that! For the best kept secrets on how to stop catalogues and all of your junk mail click here.
- Cancel my newspaper subscriptions (I get my news from twitter mostly!).
- Use your kids’ art and remodel into other art, or make it into gift tags (after taking digital pictures to preserve the memory, of course).
- Refrain from printing all pictures of your family (no matter how cute they are) and share with others electronically.
- Don’t wrap gifts the traditional way — reuse what’s around, including kids’ artwork, magazines, catalogues, junk mail or just use reusable bag, dishcloth, scarf or towels so the wrap is part of the gift. Saves a lot of time, and scotch tape, to boot! Remember that “free” gift wrap at stores isn’t actually free for any of us!
- Stop the pop, or any of those drinks in cans (here are eight reasons why if you need extra motivation beyond this suggestion).
- Do not purchase or drink water in plastic bottles — that includes vitamin waters, herbal waters and other bottled water pretending to be better than bottled water (keeping our hormones undisrupted). I instead carry my awesome reusable bottles with me everywhere — usually a Reflect (no paint, NO plastic!) and an insulated bottle to keep my cold drinks cold, and my hot drinks WAY hot no matter how cold it is out).
- Do your takeout with your own containers. Bring food into your house without the immense amount of garbage! I did start the TakeOutWithOut Campaign because it’s so easy for us to cut waste in this way, and that green plastic sushi “grass” drives me completely insane!
- Shop at the farmers’ markets where there is less packaging, and the produce isn’t individually stickered! You can even buy your bread, beans and chocolate from the farmers’ markets with your own bags and containers — they love it, and often offer a discount, as a bonus…plus reusable bread bags are pretty awesome and there are a lot of food bags made in the USA from safer materials than all of that plastic! You can also return egg, fruit, berries and veggie containers and cartons to the farmers at the markets for reuse. You can’t do that at your grocery store!
- Use neither paper nor plastic bags – most of us are used to this by now. If you want to take this to the next level, bring your own produce bags when shopping.
- Use reusable napkins, and tissues in your home. Take steps to use reusable towels instead of rolls of paper towels. (some resources to get going on this task include: Hankybook, People Towels and in our Kitchen Essentials Guide you will find some beautiful, organic reusable napkins)
- Make your own household cleaners to avoid lugging heavy jars and jugs home from the store, and doing this perpetually. Bonus: you’ll never run out of what you need!
- Reuse cloths (and old T-shirts) for cleaning cloths around the house – they work great, and there’s a little nostalgia involved when remembering your favourite concert as you wipe down your light switches.
- Buy the largest size product you can (I would shop from bulk bins, but with severe allergies in our family, we cannot take the risk). And, even though large sizes come from Costco, try and stick to buying large sizes of ONLY the things you actually need!
- Give used clothing to charity or to friends — and take theirs too. This also goes for sporting equipment – it’s so hard to keep up! How many pairs of skates do you want in your garage? You can also list things for sale or giveaway on Kijiji, Craigslist, or Freecycle if no one I know wants it.
- Print as little as possible and always use both sides.
- Buy less of everything. But buy better quality from ethical and sustainable sources and retailers, so it lasts longer and you’ll value it more. You’ll have much less to purge over time.
- Teach your kids to be proud of their refusing and reducing, and inspire them to share what you are doing at home with their friends.
- Constantly reconsider your habits, knowing that we can always do better.
Let’s keep the list growing together as the seasons come and go!