Let’s be honest: Laundry is not that exciting. There are always things I wish I could be doing instead, but like all other household chores, it must be done. I like to think our laundry routine is relatively simple and nontoxic, so I decided to share it with you.
Did you know that typical laundry detergents are filled with ingredients such as petrochemicals (a chemical derived from petroleum and natural gas), synthetic fragrances, and many other hormone disruptors? Many of these ingredients are also harmful to the environment since they end up in our waterways through washing our clothes. I don’t know about you, but since I learned those things a few years ago after college (Purex was my best friend because it was cheap and smelled good), I don’t want anything like that touching clothing that I wear on a regular basis. There are so many other alternatives out there that work just as well (some better!) than mainstream brands. I made my own laundry detergent for awhile (see recipe here), but I haven’t in over a year because time got the best of me with our move and everything. For now, what we are doing works for us and I am sure it could work for you too!
To wash our clothes, we absolutely love Seventh Generation laundry detergent. We have used both the liquid and powder form and buy whichever is on sale at the time. For an extra-large load, we use about half a scoop and get way more than the 70 loads listed on the box. I recently started adding 2-3 drops of Eden’s Garden Cleaning essential oil blend to the detergent before adding it to the washer, and the smell when I take out the clothing is lovely. The blend of Lavender, Lemongrass, Rosemary, and Tea Tree conditions clothing and adds fragrance naturally.
For stains, I am enjoying the Ecover Mineral Based Stain Remover. It works on food stains and those pesky everyday ones that happen just with wearing clothes, but I haven’t had to try with heavy duty stains yet. Wet the stain and then apply the stain stick. It works much better that way.
To dry, we use wool dryer balls instead of dryer sheets. Dryer sheets are extremely flammable and are nothing but chemicals. Once you try wool dryer balls, you’ll never go back. It cuts drying time in half, reduces static (if the clothes are staticky upon taking them out the dryer, then reduce your drying time), and saves so much money. I have six wool dryer balls and use three for small to medium loads and all six for large to extra-large loads. These are not the exact ones I have, but a good set can be found here.
There you have it. A simple low-maintenance laundry routine that meets our needs perfectly. Whenever my husband and I pass the laundry aisle at a store, we honestly start to feel sick to our stomachs and I often develop a headache quickly. As you weed out toxins from your everyday routine, you may find a chemical sensitivity that didn’t exist before. That’s normal and shows how bad so many mainstream items really are. I encourage you to examine your laundry routine and see where changes can be made. The Environmental Working Group (website and app) is a great resource if you need additional information.
Unless you live under a rock, then you most certainly have heard of Marie Kondo’s book (and now Netflix TV show) “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” Her method, often referred to as KonMari, advises individuals to declutter their lives of things that don’t bring them joy. Possessions ranging from jewelry, clothing, shoes, paperwork, books, and other material items should be cleaned out and organized by category (not room) and in the process, those items that are no longer serving you should be discarded. By doing so, you are putting simplicity and order into your life and keeping your items at a minimalist manageable level.
Let me start by saying that I, as a whole, find the method extremely effective when done efficiently. Organizing by category definitely makes more sense than clearing out one room only to find the same or similar items in another. I also don’t like hanging onto something simply for the sake of it, but I also dislike living in a cluttered environment. Now here’s where my concerns come into play. Thrift stores are receiving items at astonishing rates: One in Texas reported a 324% increase in donations, which is astonishing. However, have the buyers increased? Unless more people start secondhand shopping to buy the items, many are still unintentionally flooding landfills. There is simply too many items and not enough space or buyers to hold everything being donated. If you have items that are in good condition or that are something that could benefit others, consider one of the following instead of immediately going to a donation bin: Freecycle.org; Women’s, Men’s or Homeless Shelter; Yard Sale; or start selling on an app like Mercari or Poshmark. There will always be items you have that someone else can use.
While I believe we don’t need to keep things that just take up space and want my items to have a second use, I want to focus more emphasis on the things we bring into our homes than what we’re discarding. Constantly getting rid of things is not stopping the constant cycle of items being produced: It’s encouraging it and then discarded when we’re done with them. Buying items creates a supply and demand effect. You buy it: They will continue to make it. Prime examples are fast fashion clothing (think H&M, Zara, Topshop, etc), cheap furniture that isn’t built to last, and holiday knick knack decor that serves no purpose except to be used once or twice and then thrown away. If you think “will this item bring joy?” along with something like “what purpose does this serve?”, you’re more likely to be intentional with your purchases instead of bringing in things on a whim. The purpose could be sitting pretty on a shelf (I definitely love my Willow Tree figurines), and if that makes you happy, then go for it.
Here is a kit I have put together of some of my most recent (and intentional) purchases. While I almost always buy secondhand, a few of these meet my needs and didn’t cost an arm and a leg.
The blue Rescue Strong bag was bought on Poshmark and while it may have been secondhand, it had also never been used. Win win! The tote on the right was a wedding present from my MOH and dear friend, which holds the items shown in the second picture. These bags are hung by the garage door so I try and remember to bring them with me when I leave. I don’t always remember, but the intentions are there. The To Go Ware carrying case holds bamboo chopsticks, knife, spoon, and fork: Cheap utensils will work just as well. The cloth napkins are for anytime a mess may be made. The bamboo straw will help me avoid plastic straws in public. The Stojo silicone drink cup is perfect for hot or cold beverages and even has a flexible straw inside. It is compact and fits perfectly in the bag. Last but certainly not least, the aluminum container was $1.99 at Goodwill and holds my restaurant leftovers perfectly. I couldn’t believe that good find!
If the whole concept of decluttering your life all at once seems overwhelming, step back and ask yourself why you’re doing it. Is it because the new “trend” is to live with less? Are you seeking the minimalist photos of white walls and a fake plant on a wooden dresser to spruce up your Instagram feed? Maybe you really do just want to free your life from clutter and find joy in the possessions you have. Whatever the reason may be, I encourage you to take it slow. Living with less and decluttering doesn’t happen overnight. Truthfully, I regret donating many of my impulse donation purchases from when I randomly decided at 10pm that my spare closet needed to be cleaned out. If you know with 100% certainty that you’re never going to be use an item again, by all means get rid of it. If you’re on the fence, keep it for six months or so and reevaluate it at that time. If you look at it and experience involuntary excitement, it’s a keeper. You can read all the books and watch all the shows out there about how to live with less, be conscience with your purchases, create a capsule wardrobe, etc, but honestly, none of that matters if you don’t know why you’re doing with it. Start with the items you see online, on the store shelves, on Facebook Marketplace. Evaluate them and assess their value prior to them even entering your home. It will make decluttering that much simpler.
A simple thought process to bringing items in:
Do I like this item enough to pay my hard-earned money for it?
Do I need this item?
How is this item made? Is it cheap or appear to be long-lasting?
What will happen to this item when I no longer have a need for it? If it breaks or wears out, will it simply go in the landfill or can the materials be recycled, composted, etc?
Think about it for a week and come back to it if you just can’t get it off your mind. Find a space for it PRIOR to it coming into your home so it doesn’t go in a closet and forgotten.
A simple thought process to getting items out:
Why am I getting rid of this item (no longer use, doesn’t fit, etc)?
Can someone near me benefit from this item before I donate it to a thrift shop or Goodwill? Try selling it or posting it online. Freecycle.org is a great way to spread the wealth of items you no longer want with neighbors who may have been wanting that exact (or similar) thing.
Can the materials from this item be used for something else, like art or a craft project? How about recycled materials?
Does this item bring you joy?
There’s no science or rhyme and reason to those lists. They’re simply what thoughts run through my head when I’m either 1) about to make a purchase or 2) giving something up. While in graduate school, I owned so much clothing that it took two closets, two under the bed storage containers, a five-drawer dresser, and a shoe carousel to fit everything I owned. I would buy everything I liked no matter the material, season, style, or even if I thought I’d wear it a lot. I can say with honesty that five years later, the thought of owning so much makes me cringe at how much money (even though 85% of the pieces were secondhand) was wasted. If only I had taken my own advice years ago!!
I wish you all the best as you work to spark joy in your life. Take a walk, clean, have a coffee date with a friend, go out to dinner, or even declutter your home bit-by-bit. What works for me may not work for you: That’s totally normal! Once you are comfortable with what you have, then I honestly believe you will be just fine.
Although I don’t feel you need to buy “zero waste” products (think buying a bamboo travel cutlery set when you can put a knife fork and spoon in a cloth napkin and secure it with a rubber band) as soon you start adjusting to a low-impact lifestyle, I do get excited when a product comes along that checks off all the boxes for me. I want the items in my home to work efficiently, serve a purpose, and ultimately bring me joy. Two gifts I recently received from my mother do all those things, and I can’t wait to share them with you.
#1: The Cora ball.
The Cora Ball is made from 100% recycled plastic and is designed to catch the microfibers that end up in our waterways through constant use of a washing machine. These microfibers are detrimental to sea life and pollute our precious oceans. While not perfect, this nifty ball will reduce microfibers in your wash by 1/3 or more. The amount caught is determined based on types of materials being washed, size of load, if pet hair is present, and washer settings, but through a great deal of testing, a third of the fibers has been found to be caught at the end of a cycle. I’ve only used mine a couple times since receiving it, so I cannot say its effectiveness on many different types of loads: Mine have been towels and a regular load of shirts and jeans. I suspect that after a few more washes, the fibers will be more visible and then can be thrown away. Until laundry lint is able to be recycled, the trash can will have to do. This link will explain more in-depth on microfibers and why it’s important to keep them out of our oceans as much as possible: https://spark.adobe.com/page/5Q4c8b8ORYG5l/
#2: Plaine Products Shampoo and Conditioner
I bought a travel set of the shampoo, conditioner, and body wash from Plaine Products last year and fell in love with them. The aluminum bottles felt secure in my toiletry bag and there was no leakage. My hair felt light and shiny, which is odd for my fine, wavy, and damaged hair due to years of coloring it. Also, my husband and I were living in an area with extremely hard water, and I was blown away at how effective the shampoo was still able to clean my hair. Also, the smell was heavenly! Due to plenty of 1/2 full bottles of hair products under my sink, however, I did not invest in the full-size bottles upon finishing the travel ones. Financially, it was just not possible. As fate would have it, I’m 2/3 done my current shampoo and conditioner, so I was extra thankful for these bottles.
Here’s why I think Plaine Products’ mission is so unique: They’re part of a circular economy, a regenerative design intended to be better for the environment and overall health of individuals. Little waste as possible is created in this type of economy. A customer buys an initial bundle set of items and receives them in aluminum bottles: Only plastic is the pumps that can be used with each new bottle. Once it’s time for a new order, refills are ordered and empty bottles are sent back in the refill box to be reused and sent to another customer. Aluminum is an ideal material because it can be recycled a numerous number of times without losing its initial structure, while plastic breaks down a bit more each time it’s recycled. Aluminum is also much stronger than plastic, so it can withstand mail travel to a greater extent than typical plastic bottles would. The whole concept behind the business model is brilliant.
All products are cruelty free, vegan, sulfate and paraben free, and biodegradable, meaning the actual product is not harmful to ocean life once it reaches our waterways. As someone who washes her hair every other day, the biodegradable aspect is something for which I am grateful.
I understand not everyone can afford $30 for a bottle of shampoo and conditioner. If you cannot, that’s okay! Do what works best for you. I use to print BOGO coupons for Giovanni products every time I saw one online and stocked up so I wouldn’t ever need to pay full price. In fact, I’m fairly certain there’s still a coupon in my purse to be used. Now I have the chance to give these products a good chance (16 oz. will last me a long time), it will be up to me to determine if the price tag is worth it. I will certainly report back once I’ve given these a “go” for awhile!
In church this morning, this question was posed to those in attendance: “What do you value that makes you unique?” It’s an interesting thought. We all value something whether or not we realize it. How it makes us unique, however, is something I’ve never really thought about until recently. I ended up thinking about it all day and these are the things I’ve come up with. It may be blunt and direct, but I really don’t know how else to say them. I’m unique because my values align with my belief system and it’s important to find others who share them with you.
Those who keep their word. If you tell me you’re going to do something, then do it. In words that all children (likely or should have) learned, don’t cancel just because something better comes along. It makes you a shady person and will catch up to you in the long run.
Being yourself. Laugh. Joke. Smile. Don’t put on an act and be someone you’re not. It’s okay to not be perfect: No one is. Our imperfections together can create a remarkable friendship.
Sustainability. I find importance in recycling; bringing your own silverware, straws, and reusable bags everywhere; and trying to find ways to cut down my waste. I have a long way to go and will never be “zero waste,” but I do 100% believe in living a more low-impact lifestyle that’s better for you and the planet. If you don’t have a reusable bag, find one secondhand or sew one out of a t-shirt: They make AWESOME grocery bags. Buy one reusable stainless steel or glass water bottle and take it everywhere you go. The conversation on how detrimental plastic water bottles are for the environment isn’t for this post, and while I see a purpose for them in emergencies and for those who don’t have access to clean water, they are completely and utterly a waste for the average person who has water in the fridge dispenser or adequate tap water.
Animal rescue. If you still believe that going to a breeder (backyard or not), a pet store that won’t show you the mother dogs or tell you where the puppies came from, or an Amish Farm are the only ways to get your “perfect” pet, think again. I encourage you to set foot in a shelter and sees the faces of creatures who have been let down by mankind. Look up Libre’s Law in Pennsylvania and see how a throwaway puppy on an Amish form set the course for animal protection in a state with some of the worst puppy mills in the country. Look at the euthanasia rates of dogs and cats each year in the United States alone because people 1) don’t spay and neuter their pets, 2) consider animals disposable, or 3) think that someone else will take them. The ASPCA estimates that out of the 1.5 million dogs and cats surrendered to a shelter each year, 670K (dogs) and 860K (cats) are euthanized. The fact that people continue to support industries where spending hundreds of dollars is acceptable but an $85 adoption fee isn’t because the animal may not be “perfect” is a load of crap. I’ve seen too many dogs bought from breeders end up at shelters for various reasons, so reasons mean literally nothing. Like with the plastic bottles, this post isn’t for an animal debate, but it’s certainly worth mentioning.
Supporting small businesses the best you can. Large businesses get your dollars because they’re the norm: They don’t need your dollars to survive. Small businesses do, and I believe in supporting them when it’s feasible to do so.
Honesty. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.
I’m certain there are others that I failed to mention, but these are the top five I was able to think of today. The challenge wasn’t realizing my values, but a) finding those who share the same or similar ones and b) living out these values when those around you don’t. I go to a dinner every week with friends and even though there’s perfectly good silverware in the drawers, plastic (that will literally exist forever) is always used because it’s convenient. I talk about my animals a lot because they’re basically my life, but no one can relate to seeing them overcome obstacles like Miner’s submissive peeing due to abuse and Leia’s nurturing personality because she once had puppies before ending up as a stray. When recycling is suggested, I’m looked at like I have three heads and then see the soda can get thrown in the trash. Aluminum can be recycled so easily and an endless number of times. It takes all I have to not reach in there to take it out and put it in my own recycling can. Why don’t I, you may ask? Because despite values, no one wants to be the odd ball out. It’s hard standing up for what you believe in, no matter how important they are to you. I tell Matt often that sometimes it sucks knowing so much. Is it better to live a life of ignorance (ignorance is NOT the same as not knowing: If you don’t know why single-use plastic is bad, ask. If you want to know why recycling is important, ask. Ignorance is totally different.) or research, study, and educate yourselves on things that matter only to feel like an outcast anyway? It’s easy to follow tons of pages online of others who share your values, but it’s often 10x more difficult to find them in real life.
One of my goals as I approach 30 is to stop caring so much about what people think. My values have shaped me into a social worker, rescue mom, doctor’s wife, clothing/shoes reseller (the clothing waste in this world is out of control), thrifter, and crazy couponer. Okay, I’ve calmed down on the coupons since discovering cash back apps, but my thrifty nature is still there. My values may not be the majority of those in the world, but I’m determined to start making them my normal. Instead of plastic silverware, I’m going to remember my reusable set this Thursday. I’m going to actually put a stainless steel straw in my car so I have one next time I go out somewhere. Stop talking, more action. Let’s do this.
My biggest support system and encourager. So thankful for him and these pups.
A picture totally irrelevant to the post, but I figured something cute was needed after such an intense read!
Exactly one year ago today, I wrote an entry titled “Five Things Med School Has Taught Me: Spouse Edition”: I highly encourage you to check it out if you haven’t already. Even though Matt and I are no longer in the med school world, residency is a world of its own, and while I didn’t plan on writing this entry exactly a year later, the timing sure is appropriate.
Yes, my husband has the initials D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) behind his name. No, that does not mean we are made of money. Med school costs money. Board exams cost money. Rotations and all involved (hotel stays, airfare, gas, interview clothes) cost money. The graduation cap and gown costs money. The move for residency costs money. Being 300K+ in debt for a career is not something many people know and while that’s okay because it’s not relevant to them, please stop assuming new doctors are rich: They’re not.
Residency is a sacrifice for all parties involved, not just the new doctor. Medical school was tough, but being a resident intern takes thing to a new level. Matt is currently working day 8/13 (including being on-call this past weekend) and averaging 12 hour days at the hospital. His pager is attached to his hip (yes, pagers still exist and no, neither of us knew how it worked when he got it) and he continuously checks on his patients from his phone. His world is medicine and uses terms I usually Google when he’s done talking. His nights are often late and even though it really sucks, I’ve gotten used to flying solo to many outings and group activities.
He has no control over his schedule. The shifts for the residents are planned in advance, and although he does have allotted vacation times, there are certain rotations when it cannot be used. Leaving early because of an evening activity isn’t an option either. Don’t get me wrong: Married Couples’ Small Group is fine by yourself, but it’s much better when your spouse can be there too.
They will continue to question themselves. Becoming a doctor is a huge deal, but the pressure and expectations put on them immediately after earning their degree is enormous. While on-call yesterday, Matt had to deal with a situation via phone to a nurse to discuss medication options for a patient he had seen previously. As he’s flipping through his medicine book (I’m sure there’s a proper title and I just don’t know what it is!), he sounded confident that his advice was correct. Afterwards, he got off the phone, sat down next to me on the couch, and said, “Boy, do I pray that was the right thing.” Doctors are stressed and stretched thin in general, but new doctors are expected to learn and treat at the same time. It’s a challenging and rewarding spot to be in all at once.
Be their sounding board. Seriously. There have been days where he comes home and needs to vent about this that and the other thing. Other days, all he wants is lay on the couch with Miner and Leia and decompress. Matt may be exhausted at the end of the day, but he’s also incredibly happy, and that makes this whole crazy journey worthwhile.
Lastly, be proud of them for all they’ve accomplished and be proud of yourself for sticking it out together. The road to being a physician isn’t easy and the majority of people only see fancy cars and big homes at the end of it. They didn’t see the late nights of studying, the scrubbing blood out of a white coat, or the anticipation while waiting for board scores to appear. It’s a bumpy ride, but it’s so much better together!
I’m going be real and raw here for a quick second: This move has been harder than I’ve let on. True, I’m happy where we are and most days I’m perfectly fine. Others, not so much. Without getting into the intimate details, it’s difficult uprooting your life every four years to move to a new place: College, grad school, medical school, and now residency. Last night, Matt and I were talking about this topic, and I told him how happy I was in West Virginia. He responded with, “no, you were comfortable, which made you happy. You’re not comfortable here yet.”
BAM. Way to tell it how it is husband, way to tell it how it is. He’s 100% correct too. I wasn’t initially comfortable in WV, but as I found a job and made friends who had similar interests, things got better. He assured that things will here too, although it may take time. Right now, I’m really trying to get my health back that was put on the back burner for so long in West Virginia. I’ve been walking the dogs an average of 14 miles a week and doing yoga 3-4 days a week, both which I knew are helping me physically and emotionally. Matt and I are getting back into meal planning and conscious eating (with the exception of chocolate chip cookies because, let’s be real, they stay in all circumstances), which has been good for our waistlines and wallets. I’ve been active in becoming a secondhand reseller on Poshmark and enjoying it very much. I’m also soaking up every day with my pets since time with them will be less when I do start a job, and their happiness enhances mine.
Delco Park – 8:00AM – The loves of my life
Most mornings I walk the dogs around our neighborhood, but I was feeling something different today. Ever wake up and just feel off? Well, that was me at 6:00AM when I officially rolled out of bed and said bye to Matt. I ended up taking the dogs to Delco Park to walk around the lake. Rather than the bustle of the school buses and cars driving by, the lake was so peaceful and calm. The breeze was blowing leaves everywhere (could fall really be on its way?!?!) and the sound of the water was so soothing. The stillness and quiet did my anxious self good. Plus, my companions were pretty cute 🙂
Just like the change of place for this morning’s walk was good, I need to keep telling myself that so was our move to Ohio. In another four years when we move again, that move will be good too. You know what else is good? God is good. Life is good. The sunshine is good. The fresh air is good: All things I’m surrounded by on a daily basis that I don’t even notice when my internal chaotic mess is stirring. Trying to find calm in the midst of chaos make not be as easy as a walk in the park, but I’m grateful that this morning’s was all it took.
Well, it finally happened. Matt graduated from the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine. *insert proud wife smile here*
Dr. Matthew Smith, D.O.
Four years seemed so long, yet they flew by so fast. West Virginia was good to us, and I mean really good to us. We got married and celebrated three anniversaries there, made lifelong friendships, I started my Social Work career with a state job, added three adorable fur babies to our previous pack of two, and I found my passion and heart for animal rescue. Oh, and of course Matt became a doctor 😉 West Virginia was truly Almost Heaven. However, as one chapter ends, another one must open. For us, that chapter is Dayton, Ohio, where Matt will be spending the next four years as a Neurology resident with Kettering Health Network. Although we were initially scared and nervous to start over again in a new state, the excitement soon took over and we began planning the next phase of our lives.
The next step involved finding a place to live, and big news alert: WE BOUGHT OUR FIRST HOME! There are special mortgage loans available to residents due to the sheer amount of debt they’re in after graduating, and we were extremely fortunate to not only get approved, but also work with fantastic realtors. They were a husband and wife team and made the process a breeze for us, especially since we did 95% of everything out-of-state. We had three hours to look at homes on one visit to Dayton and then 1.5 hours over lunch to decide on a house. Well, the Lord must have known what He was doing because we absolutely love the home where we ended up. It meets each of our needs and beyond. There are tasks that need to be done, so I’ll make a mini checklist here so then it’s in writing and I know they must be done! 1) Clean front door 2) Paint white sides of door 3) Paint lamppost out front 4) Pull weeds 5) Try and not to kill the plants that were here when we moved in.
Although this post could go on and on if I shared all the intricate details of the move (DO NOT get an upper respiratory infection when moving), I will simply leave you with some pictures of favorite aspects of our house. We are proud of how far we’ve come to get here, and it’s a wonderful feeling to be able to call this house our home.
Hello and welcome to our home!
How long do I give until these are dead….?
Love that window!
Matt’s home contribution 😉
For me a house or an apartment becomes a home when you add one set of four legs, a happy tail, and that indescribable measure of love that we call a dog. -Roger Caras