I’m very excited to share this guest post about clean living with you from my friend Leslie at Faithful Motherhood. For me, living with chronic pain made me desperate for solutions. One thing that has made a difference is watching what products come into my home and my body. After years of figuring out what works for me and my family, my food, cleaning products and skin care routine is simpler, cleaner and greener. However, this process can be overwhelming and paralyzing if you don’t know where to start. I’m thankful for Leslie walking us through some simple steps to take for a cleaner life! Leslie blogs at Faithful Motherhood, where she writes about faith, motherhood and clean living.
If you’re a mom in the year 2020, chances are you’ve heard the term “clean.” As awareness grows, it seems like there are “clean” options all over the place — making us feel like the world is full of toxic chemicals and imploring us to buy a million extra over-priced products to ensure the health and safety of our families.
We spiral down the rabbit hole and find ourselves with overwhelming choices, spending more money than we have, and being fearful of even washing our hands in public bathrooms… And then, because we are rational people with real lives, this usually lands us in a spot where we question whether all the extra effort is worth it and usually end up exclaiming, “My mom used all the toxic chemicals and we turned out OK, so what’s the big deal?!”
Here’s the thing. As a granola-ish mama, I’ll be the first to tell you that “clean living,” is, in fact, important.
Since the chemical boom of the 1960’s, more than 80,000 new chemicals have entered the industry with very little testing for safety. In the personal care industry alone, the US bans a mere 30 harmful ingredients while the EU bans 1500 and Canada bans 600. These chemicals have proven impacts on our hormonal health, fertility, risk of cancer, and more.
However, as a mother of two young babes, operating on a *very* limited income, I can also relate to the paralyzing feelings we get when the noise of the “clean” industry starts to crowd our anxiety and stretch our wallets.
The good news is that I have found a way to be an informed consumer, make healthier choices for my family, and feel confident about the safety of the world I’m cultivating in my home without my husband coming home to find me hiding in the pantry rocking in the fetal position.
I’m here to share some insights I’ve learned in my journey to clean living so you don’t have to jump through all the hoops I did. I hope you’ll walk away empowered to make healthier choices without getting wrapped up in the overwhelming noise of the clean living world.
I have learned that despite the noise imploring you to complicate your life, one of the best things you can do on your journey to “clean” is actually to simplify.
Cleaner Living Tip #1: Start with your food.
Now, let me be clear. There are about seventeen million different dietary recommendations out there, and I truly believe that what works for your body will be different than what works for my body. I’m not a doctor, and I certainly won’t be giving nutritional advice in this post.
BUT, the good news is that there are some basic principles you can explore to help your family start the journey to clean in your food choices.
The easiest first step to take is to shop the perimeter of the grocery store for the bulk of your groceries.
This simple step will guide you to the place where food is closest to the original source, which is a super helpful way to avoid a ton of food additives.
My typical trip to the grocery store (before COVID and Instacart revolutionized my life) started with a right turn in Publix, straight to the produce. After that I would keep to the perimeter, loading my cart with fresh produce, eggs, meat, dairy products… These items form the back bone of my weekly meals, typically including a meat, veggie, and starch in every dinner that I cook.
Since having kids, I definitely venture into those center aisles more often, grabbing kid staples like cereal bars for snacks or sauces and condiments as needed. Check out this guide on food additives to avoid when you do have to dip into the middle aisles for items to round out your shopping.
One thing to note: some produce is highly susceptible to contamination from pesticide use, so I use EWG.org’s Dirty Dozen guide to prioritize which produce to buy organic. Yes, mama, that means that you are allowed to buy some conventional produce and not feel like you’re poisoning your children!
Cleaner Living Tip # 2: Simplify your cleaning routine:
Ok, y’all…a recent study showed that using conventional cleaning products had similar effects on our lungs as smoking several packs of cigarettes a day. Seriously.
But, if we look at using all the “clean products” to replace the 9,000 cleaners we have in our house, we’ll have to take out a second mortgage to cover the cost! (I know we all have a glass cleaner, a bathroom cleaner, a toilet cleaner, an all purpose cleaner… need I go on?)
So, instead of refilling the array of cleaners under your sink, my suggestion is to do more with a few heavy hitters. I clean almost everything in my house with just a few products: Castile soap, baking soda, and vinegar.
Castile soap is a highly concentrated soap that doesn’t have all of the additives that traditional soaps use. I use it as a base for cleaning sinks, tubs, toilets, makeup brushes and carpets. In my house, Vinegar is an all-purpose cleaner, disinfectant, toilet bowl rinse, and fabric softener. Baking soda (yes, the one that might be in your kitchen right now), is added in my cleaning routine to add scrubbing and deodorizing power to my natural cleaning routine. You can also send some baking soda down a clogged drain, follow with boiling vinegar, and then block the drain for a safe and environmentally friendly “Drain-O.”
From your kitchen, to the bathroom, to the laundry, if you have some baking soda, vinegar, and Castile soap on hand you can clean almost anything you need to.
My favorite place to find realistic DIY recipes for cleaning is livesimply.me. She is a fellow mom-blogger and really does her research to find out what works well! These 3 ingredients serve as the base for most of her recipes, which makes for a quick DIY project (I’m talking 5 minutes).
My go-to brand when I don’t have time to make something, or I’ve run out of my staples, is Seventh Generation.
You can also head to this post on my Faithful Motherhood blog if you want to get a crash course on cleaning up your laundry, specifically!
Cleaner Living Tip # 3: Find trustworthy brands for your go-to skincare.
This tip might be coming up last in this article, but it’s definitely not least. Evaluating your personal care products reduces your toxic load by reducing the number of chemicals that go on your skin, which is your largest organ. In other words, what you put on your skin can go through your semi-permeable membrane and end up in your blood stream. If you think I’m kidding, check out this article by CNN, reporting on research that shows sunscreen chemicals showing up in our bloodstream 24 hours after application.
Since the average person uses about 9 products a day, feeling like you have to overhaul your entire line of products can feel extremely overwhelming (and expensive!).
To start, swap out the products that stay on your skin. In other words, lotions, serums, essences, masks… If it isn’t immediately washed off with water, it should be as clean as possible.
If you’re ready to make the switch to some safer personal care products, I suggest finding a few good brands that you can be confident in. I recommend finding companies that champion transparency in their product labeling, but don’t skimp on product performance. I would recommend investing in some clean, high-end essentials that work and don’t run out quickly.
My go-to brands are Beautycounter (for almost everything), Tom’s for toothpaste, Ursa Major for deodorant, and Phlur for perfume!
Sephora is a great place to shop as they have higher safety standards for their products than most retailers. They recently reached out to Beautycounter to ask them to “pop-up” in their stores from July-October 2020 to boost their status in the clean beauty world and encourage their other brands to up their clean standards. This gets a win in my book, for both Beautycounter and Sephora. If you’re interested in learning more about Beautycounter, check out this post on my Faithful Motherhood blog!
Phew, there they are! Even when you simplify, sometimes it can feel like so much information. To give you some context, I worked through these steps over about a year-long process.
Don’t let the overwhelm paralyze you.
Instead, take one of these tips that feels manageable, and just start there. Bookmark this blog post and head back here when the first step you tried is fully integrated into your life and you’re ready to try one more thing.
Ultimately, each step you take will reduce the amount of environmental toxins in your daily life, which will reduce the toxic load on your body and improve the function of your liver. Think of your liver like an A/C filter—it works most effectively when it’s not clogged with too much yucky stuff. Making some switches in your food, cleaning, and personal care choices will effectively “change your filter,” and get your body ready to filter out the toxins we can’t control coming into contact with.
Thanks so much, Leslie, for sharing your tips with us for cleaner living! Don’t forget to check out her blog at Faithful Motherhood.