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2 January 2008

Simple cleaning

The way I do my housework has changed considerably since I started living more simply. In days gone by I would sometimes just quickly do what I absolutely had to do and sometimes I would ‘not see’ what was around me. When my boys were young, I felt so tired I didn’t want to do anything, and when I did do what had to be done, I felt resentful because I was working, looking after the boys and their activities AND the housework.

When we moved here, I got help in the house but when I closed down my business, I started doing my own house work again. However, by then my attitude had changed. I liked being at home, I felt good being in my own space and I wanted to make our home a warm and comfortable haven for my family, myself and our friends. I think that made the attitude change happen – I could see a reason for the work. It wasn’t just tidying up after three others, cooking their meals and washing their clothes, I felt I was caring for them, and myself, through this work. I had changed from seeing housework as a demeaning activity that no one wanted to do, to a dignified and generous way of caring for my loved ones. Once that shift in attitude happened, it was a breeze.

I'm well aware that you may not have experienced that change in attitude towards cleaning yet, but you're reading this post so I know there is an interest in simplifying your life, and that is a good start. If you have the interest you might gain some motivation by reading and taking part in the activity I suggest later in the post. So don't dismiss this after you finish reading, join in and it might make a difference - it might be the start of your attitude change.

In the old days, I wanted to do the least amount of work in the smallest amount of time. I didn’t think about the work, it was just unwanted work that I had to do. When I started thinking about the nature of housework, when I understood why I was doing it, and when I realised it was an expression of love for my family and myself, I didn’t want to do it quickly, I slowed right down and did my work mindfully. Instead of grabbing the most expensive all purpose cleaner I could find, I made my own cleaners and I organised myself for the task at hand. It made a difference to how I worked and it reduced the amount of mass produced chemicals I used – this was a good thing for both our health and the health of the planet. It also saved money because I wasn’t buying expensive cleaners – one for the floor, one for the surfaces, one for the plastics, one for the glass, well, you get the message.

I’ve had a couple of emails lately asking how to start simplifying a home so I thought it would be a good idea to write about green cleaning and how to cut costs in each room of the house as we go through it. Below are most of the ingredients we’ll use as we go from room to room, but as all our homes are different, we might need to add others as we go.

The laundry is a convenient place to make up your cleansers and to store your big bottles of cleaning ingredients. Make up three small kits – one for the kitchen, one for the bathroom and one for general cleaning. Keep your cleaning equipment close to the area you will clean. For example, keep rubber gloves and a small bucket full of your homemade cleaners under the kitchen sink, keep another kit in your bathroom cupboard and your general kit in the laundry. Make sure you don’t mix up your kits or use the bathroom kit in the kitchen or the bathroom kit in the living room. Maintain your general hygiene procedures and make sure you keep each kit in its own area. You may like to colour code them or mark them in some way.

Your home cleaning kit will include a small four litre bucket or old ice cream container, rubber gloves (if you use them), terry or cotton cloths for cleaning or polishing and whichever of the homemade cleansers you choose for that area. Of course, you may decide to knit cleaning cloths of a specific colour for each area. That can be a good ongoing project for you when you sit and relax after dinner at night.

Bicarb aka baking soda
Washing soda
Pure laundry soap or homemade soap
White vinegar
Tea tree oil
Eucalyptus oil
Liquid bleach

Please note: Ammonia and bleach must be used sparingly but they do have a place in the simple home. If you’ve never used ammonia before, NEVER open the bottle and sniff it, it will blow your head off. =:-O

All these products will cost you about $30 to buy at the supermarket and you’ll have enough for your various cleaning jobs for many weeks.

Tomorrow we’ll start cleaning our bathrooms using the list above. Get your aprons ready. : - )


  1. I'm so excited to learn how you clean the "green" way!!! My daughter and I are very sensitive to chemicals. I've read recipes on other sites but never a first hand account of how one uses them! I can't wait! Thanks for all you do for us novices wanting to live the simple life!!


  2. Happy New Year. May 2008 bring you joy, peace. love. and health! Cann't wait to learn how to clean the green!

  3. Happy New Year Rhonda - I already have all the ingredients so I'll be there with apron on tomorrow morning to clean my bathroom with you :)

  4. Rhonda, I will be looking forward to following this closely. I have a hubby with Occupational Asthma and has lost 44% of his lungs and fumes are a no-no for us.

    Things like borax and do they stand up against asthma??? Will the room be left with a high smell after using???

    It's a real challenge in my house to keep the house clean and to be low in "those fumes"

  5. Rhonda Jean, Your progression in attitude toward cleaning is encouraging. I've gone through the first levels similar to you. I am looking forward to the changes that have come over you. I'm still not there. I'd rather be doing something creative. But I am starting to use simpler cleaning products already, and they make me really happy when I clean.

  6. I can't wait to get ideas on how to clean my home in a more "green" way- I love doing housework, but I have never been very good at making home-made soaps and cleaners so I really look forward to your next posts!! I hope to really get more organized and more green this year.

  7. Hi Rhonda Jean and Happy New Year!
    I have been cleaning "green" or very close to it for awhile and I am looking forward to tomorrow's post!

  8. Ah Rhonda, you are the best! By far my favourite blogger. You make the most mundane tast exciting and desirable. I have a heart for home but must admit to struggling with feeling like a 'slave' to the rest of my family at times. I'm torn between loving my home and home-work and loathing it. I just can't get enough of your wonderful, inspiring writing.
    I secretly wish for a "Rhonda Jean book of Simple Household Management" in the style of Mrs Beeton. ;o) A dirty great big manual choc-a-block filled with your wisdom.
    Lady, you ROCK!! I love you (g)
    I do hope you and your family have a wonderful 2008 and you are able (& willing) to keep writing.

  9. You are right on time. These past two weeks I've been filling bags and boxes and getting rid of clutter. Now, I can join the pack in cleaning "green".

    I think of you every day now that I'm trying to simplify. What would Rhonda do?

    Happy New Year! Love the new photo of you.

  10. Hi Rhonda, I'm a new reader but I love your blog. You inspired me to create my own (Plain Old Kristi). I have been cleaning green for several years now. I became extremely concerened after some pretty serious health problems. I save a lot of money and really do not know why I did it any other way except it was what everyone else did. I just do not use bleach or ammonia. My whites really look dingy though. Not sure what to do. Thanks for your inspiring blog

  11. Hi Rhonda Jean :) Thanks so much for this post - what a lovely encouragement! This especially blessed this young mom's heart:

    "When I started thinking about the nature of housework, when I understood why I was doing it, and when I realised it was an expression of love for my family and myself, I didn’t want to do it quickly, I slowed right down and did my work mindfully."

    I hope that you have a wonderful 2008, and it will be a part of my joy this year to meet you here each day :) Love, Q

  12. What a timely post... one of my New Year resolutions was to start using natural cleaning products, can't wait to get started. Thanks Rhonda.
    Happy New Year!

  13. Thanks for this post! I'm excited to see what you suggest since I've been looking to simplify cleaning products and have made my own scouring powder. I'd love to see what you do in the bathroom. :-) Happy and hopeful new year!

  14. Rhonda, if via your blog I could give a warning. I know of a case where someone - faced with an extraordinarily filthy floor to clean - made a decision: to mix Handy Andy (detergent with ammonia) and Snow White (chlorine bleach) together in the expectation that this would make a cleaning agent twice as good.

    Fortunately, someone came along while she was using this and was experiencing a fair degree of lightheadedness. Warning is that ammonia and chlorine should never be mixed together. Even ordinary household chemicals have to be treated with knowledge and respect.

    Happy New Year.

    Blessings and bliss.

  15. Hello everyone! I hope the posts helps you get started with your green routines.

    Thanks Miss Eagle. Yes, I have the warning in.

  16. Kristi,
    You can get your whites white white without chlorine a few ways.
    1.If the grime is grease use a 1/2 cup of borax along with your normal amount of soap nuts or whatever soap you use.
    2. Hang it to dry in the sun on a hot day. Just like with hair being wet and out in the hot sun it will bleach.For the same reason hang darker/ brighter clothes indoors or in the shade if you can.
    3. add a pair or two of blue jeans to your whites. People used to use a small amount of blue dye call bluing to get whites looking cool white (instead of optical brighteners which are why your stuff isn't as bright as it was before you went non toxic). You can still get it ( it costs money for no real reason. I find adding jeans that leak a little blue does the same trick. Test it on white towels first to see how it works with the local water.


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