“I love a clean house. I just don’t like cleaning.”
That’s a direct quote from our twenty-year-old daughter, Emma, who recently graduated from college and is now living in her first apartment. Emma is honest enough to express what most of us feel—we want our homes to be uncluttered, fresh, and inviting, but getting there can seem daunting.
People of faith who care about God’s creation face another confounding factor: how we do we tend our homes without hurting the planet? Fortunately, it is getting easier than ever to care for our homes while caring for the planet. The bonus of homemade and green cleaning products? You’ll save money while exposing your family to fewer harmful chemicals.
Here are my top ten spring cleaning tips for saving time, money, and God’s green earth:
- Clean the house together as a family every Saturday in preparation for the Sabbath. The anticipation will make this day of God-ordained rest all the more precious.
- Institute a “no shoes inside” policy: keeping the dirt outside will make a dramatic difference in the amount of cleaning you need to do.
- Purchase green cleaning products. The price has dropped dramatically in the last couple of years, and they now can be found in most grocery, “dollar,” and home improvement stores.
- My universal (and cheapest) cleaning solution: Fill a spray bottle with 1 quart warm water mixed with ¼ cup vinegar. I use it in the kitchen, bathroom—just about everywhere!
- Baking soda is my other “must have” cheap and green cleaning product. Use it to scour toilets and bathtubs, scrub nonaluminum pots and pans, deodorize the refrigerator, and clean the kitchen sink.
- Clean from the top down. Save floors and carpets for last, so dust has time to settle.
- Go through one closet per week and give away anything you haven’t worn in the last year. “If you have two coats,” he replied, “give one to the poor.” Check to see if your local Goodwill will give “credits” for your donation to local charities—a great way to give twice!
- If I know something is going to a family that needs it, I am much more likely to give it away. Get to know the folks at your local refugee ministry; many people come to our country with nothing, which is a big motivation for me to clean out the garage, attic, and basement.
- If you don’t have a compost pile, start one. We used two inexpensive ($20) flexible containers made from recycled tires. We filled one pile and let the other sit. Every few months, we had a new crop of “black gold.” Then, get the kids outdoors and start cleaning up the yard!
- Invite some friends over for a laundry detergent party:
- 1 cup washing soda (such as Arm & Hammer)
- 1/2 cup borax
- 1 bar soap
- Approximately 3 gallons water
You’ll also need a container to mix this in, such as a five gallon bucket, a large wooden spoon, another pot to boil soapy water in, and a box grater to cut up the soap.
Put about four cups of water into the pot. Turn on high until it’s at boiling, then lower the heat to a simmer.
While it’s heating, take a bar of soap and cut it up into little bits using a grater.
When the water is boiling, start adding the soap a bit at a time, stirring until all the soap is dissolved. Divide into containers and celebrate!
A final thought for parents: the Proverbs continually warn us about the dangers of spoiling our children. These warnings are more relevant today than ever. Many parents are afraid to ask their kids to do any chores, and we wonder about the rise of childhood obesity, overuse of entertainment technology, and lack of responsibility. Show your children how much you love them by expecting them to be contributing members of the family; their future roommates (and spouse) will thank you!
P.S.—I’m happy to report that Emma’s apartment is impeccably clean—and green! She even saves money (and five pounds of greenhouse gases per load) by hanging her laundry on the line.
Nancy Sleeth serves as the Program Director for Blessed Earth and is the author of Go Green, Save Green: A Simple guide to saving time, money, and God’s green earth, the first-ever practical guide for going green from a faith perspective.