Saturday, October 4, 2008

Who Says Crime Doesn't Pay

So, as legend (or more accurately, legends) has it, there were four thieves who ran rampant during 13th century plague-ridden France, robbing left and right. The French government, totally overwhelmed with nearly 1/3 of the population dying horrible deaths, searched high and low to capture the audacious robbers. The funny thing, though, is that they wanted the criminals not for their crimes but to find out how they successfully avoided getting sick. It turns out that these petty thieves were really smart! They figured out that by infusing vinegar (antiseptic and antibacterial in its own right) with highly antiseptic herbs, then saturating their clothing and facemasks with the solution, they could rob the dead and dying without succumbing to the plague themselves. Although there are many different variations of the recipe, the one that comes up most often includes: thyme (think original version of Listerine), sage, lavender, hyssop, wormwood and peppermint. All the above herbs have strong antiseptic properties that are drawn out by a long soak in vinegar. After about a month of “brewing,” the Vinegar of the Four Thieves is an excellent substitution for commercial disinfectants. In fact, several “green” hospitals regularly use vinegar for cleaning patient rooms. The Four Thieves version can be diluted with water and used in any situation where one might usually reach for Purell™ or other “antibacterial” products. The version that plain jane’s makes is as listed above with the exception of wormwood (used to make absinthe) and rue (which can be unsafe for those with immune system disorders). The result is a wonderful smelling, highly effective, and SAFE disinfectant spray. It’s also a great skin toner, bug repellant, and makes killer salad dressing! Many Europeans actually add up to a tablespoon to their drinking water to boost their resistance to colds, flu and infections. So who says that crime doesn’t pay!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Too Much Stuff

Stuff, we have way too much of it! It not only clutters our homes, it also clutters our minds. The worst thing about too much stuff is that it actually saps energy from us, quietly and sneakily. Just look around your space – I’m sure that you will be able to identify several items that are not useful or beautiful just within your sight line. It can be a tiny trinket that just floats around your desk, a piece of furniture, piles of paper or any useless object. Typically people keep things that are not Beautiful or Useful because of self-imposed guilt.

GIFT GUILT: It could be that the object in question was given as a gift from someone truly special, therefore, getting rid of an unwanted, unloved, item FEELS like it’s hurting the gift giver. But, would giving the item a new home where it will be loved really be a negative? Also, odds are, that the special person who gave you the gift would not want you to keep something unloved. Getting rid of an object, in the vast number of cases (note I’m not talking your grandma’s wedding ring, that you pass along to another family member) will have NO effect on a true relationship. In the future, urge friends and family to forgo gifts unless they are somehow consumable or request that they join together to buy something you NEED, or you can always ask for donations to your favorite charity!

MONEY GUILT: Another great way we beat ourselves up is by keeping stuff that we hate simply because we bought it/spent money on it. Discarding high priced (or not) purchases makes us feel even MORE wasteful than we already feel every time we see the item. If an unloved object is worth some money, take 10 minutes and post it for sale/online auction. The cash payout can be reserved for a small treat like a dinner out or a massage; notice I’m suggesting things that are experiences rather than new stuff.

SENTIMENTAL GUILT: Feelings surrounding these objects are typically very intense and complicated. Often they are visual reminders of specific emotions. One example is keeping an item that reminds you of a failed venture, a lost relationship, bad times, etc. If you are an artist or extreme sentimentalist and you must keep such an item, either store it, take a photo of it, or write about it in a journal. You’ve recorded its existence, you are now free to let it go.

WHAT IF GUILT: Many people also have “what if” guilt. As in:“what if I need this thing down the line”. If you can identify a concrete use for the thing within the next six months, AND it’s an expensive or difficult to replace then, by all means, keep it. If, on the other hand, you are holding onto Hawaiian drink stirrers that you bought ten years ago because they were on sale, now that’s pretty wishful thinking (that you might host such a themed party) and definitely ridiculous guilt. Donate them to a school for arts and crafts or give them to a friend who DOES host Hawaiian parties!

Less stuff=more money, time, and a relaxing home!

Full Disclosure

Going through my linen closet recently, I unearthed four raggedy, but bright white, bath towels. I kind of just stared at them for a minute... and it all came rushing back to me. Here's the full disclosure: the green housecleaner was once a full-on bleach lover. It all started when I bought those white towels ten years ago. I was just married and about to host my first houseguest in a new apartment. I wasn't raised to be particularly domestic-minded but for whatever reason, now that I was an adult, it just seemed right to have brand new matching white towels. I was getting ready to cut them up for rags when I smelled the bleach. It's easily been four years since I stopped using the noxious stuff altogether yet these towels still smelled "bleachy-clean”.Damn, those towels drove me mad. We didn't own many more towels so they even got used for the occasional home hair dying fiasco. On top of that, I routinely poured straight bleach down the drains (which never seemed to clear them) because a landlord had advised it. Oh yes, I loved bleach. It defined "clean" for me. Turns out it also gave me serious asthma attacks and skin issues. When I decided to cut out the toxic products, my health improved dramatically and all of a sudden I craved colored towels, sheets, curtains anything NOT WHITE! It was as if a huge weight fell off my shoulders. All that high maintenance white stuff I owned (because I thought I should) just didn't seem worth the trouble. There are, of course, much less toxic ways to keep whites bright: oxygen bleaches, borax, even lemon juice can achieve wonderful results… But, really, why bother?