Organic Housekeeping, by Ellen Sandbeck
I saved this one for last because I was dreading it. Being green seems hard. But when I read, "The only real reason to do any cleaning at all is in order to maintain our health" my world changed. Epiphany time -- housekeeping doesn't need to be all tied up with emotions and guilt and interior decorating. Just do what you've got to do to prevent your family from getting Listeria and get on with your life. And then she says, "Suggesting that housework is fulfilling or satisfying?...?is disingenuous." Thank you, Ellen Sandbeck. You had me at housework isn't fulfilling. Most of this book is just plain good advice with less of an environmental bent than I expected. Sandbeck goes green reasonably and practically. It's not crazy green -- it's good, cheap, and sensible.
Day 1 First things first: I order a "Dutch Rubber Broom." Sandbeck talks about these incessantly. I must have one. They are available on amazon.com. Who knew? It seems so exotic. It's just a long broom with a flat scraper on the end with rubber bristles. You can use the rubber broom to sweep, or like a squeegee on your floor, or you can use it to push rags around to clean the floor, which led me to the second thing I need: rags. I rip and cut some old towels and clothes into stacks of rags to replace tree-killing paper towels. Pretty satisfying.
Day 2 Next I get my vinegar on. Sandbeck swears by the stuff. It doesn't smell good, but you can clean anything with it and when it dries the smell goes away. I miss the "clean" smell of typical cleaners, but you get used to it and you can't beat the price or the lack of chemicals. Sandbeck recommends hydrogen peroxide for disinfecting bathrooms, cutting boards, and any heavy-duty microbes you might be worried about.
Day 3 I'm just cleaning to make sure no one gets sick from living here and my house itself doesn't rot. That's it. I don't have to love it or embrace it. It's liberating. I am also developing a sort of Mr. Wizard ethos with my kids by using baking soda for everything from cleaning tubs to clearing out drains.
Day 4 The broom is here, and boy is it awesome! I may never mop with a bucket again. Psych! I never did in the first place! It's a lot easier to use wet soapy rags for quick cleanups around the kitchen than my grotty old sponge mop.
Day 5 Guess what? If you quickly dry your bathroom floors after a bath they won't grow mildew. I teach this principle to everyone in my house. It is received with little enthusiasm.
Day 6 The rag bag is full. It turns out that throwing socks into it is actually easier than throwing them on the floor and much easier than searching for mates. Who knew?
Day 7 Frugal living is making me cheap. $5.49 for a package of cleaning wipes? I can clean all the tile in my house for a week on a nickel. Oh, and sponges are really gross bacteria farms and it doesn't help to throw them into the dishwasher. Instead use a clean dishcloth each time you would reach for a sponge.
Everything in this book is practical, inexpensive, and makes sense. I love the fact that you don't have to be a radical environmentalist to find the advice useful; but it's especially good for those who don't outright hate the earth.