My green cleaning secret

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As a teenager at home, my designated chores were washing the dishes and mopping the bathroom and kitchen floors once or twice a week.

I remember being instructed to pour some bleach into a bucket of hot water, and then using that to mop and clean the floors.

Fast forward to when I got married. I knew bleach was a cleaning agent, and on my first supermarket shop as a married woman, I purchased a bottle or two. I was excited to get my first load of laundry in the washing machine. I vividly remember holding that bottle of bleach and saying to myself “pour a little bit in the detergent section! It will make things extra clean!” Suffice to say, that was my first lesson in how not to wash clothes!

Everywhere we have lived, the smell of bleach has permeated the air around us; from the mosque toilets in Makkah and Madinah to freshly mopped kitchen floors at some friends’ houses. People associate cleanliness with bleach but it is a highly corrosive and toxic liquid that irritates the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract (read this article for eye opening information re: bleach). If you google the dangers of bleach, it is pretty shocking. So when I had my daughter, I started to look at greener and cleaner alternatives.

I have tried the good old baking soda and vinegar cleaning combinations. I have tried more eco-friendly products from brands like Ecover and Method. However, a couple of years ago, I stumbled across this product whilst shopping in a department store, and bought one to try it out. It sat at the back of the cupboard for a few weeks, but late one night, I was scrambling in my cleaning stash and picked it up to test out.

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What am I talking about? The e-cloth (click me!) !

The best thing about using an e-cloth is that it only requires a splash of water! No chemicals, no funny smells and no irritation. It works on bacteria, grease, and dirt and leaves your surfaces gleaming. Ok, I know this is sounding like a sponsored post but nope! This is just me, genuinely sharing a product that has made a difference to my life!

And yes, it is a bit weird at first, to think of cleaning without soapy bubbles and chemical-laden spray bottles, but you get used to it. Since my first experience of the e-cloth washing up pad was positive, I have gone on to try the rest of their range: glass polishing cloths (great for smear-free windows, and I even use them to wipe my eye-glasses clean and my laptop screen too!), tea towel (quick-drying and super-absorbent), and finally the bathroom cloth. So now my green cleaning secret is out! PLUS it is environmentally friendly!

(All blue highlighted links show the products on Amazon)

Do you have any green cleaning tips to share?

You can find out more about how the e-cloth works on their website: http://www.e-cloth.com/pages/how-cloths-work.

Here are some alternatives to the e-cloth: (I haven’t tested or tried them out though!):

http://www.deeplyclean.com

http://www.enjo.com

 

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Nature journaling 101

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We have recently discovered the joys of nature journaling in our home education journey. Nature journaling is all about observation, documenting what you see around you (vegetation, trees, animals etc) and your feelings, to put it quite simply. There are many forms that a nature journal can take, and many resources available online, that I will link below, to help you discover what exactly you would like to explore in your nature journal.

 

 

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We currently have the blessing of living in a very green environment, near a nature reserve in Turkey. There are pine trees adorning the pathways, juniper berries glistening in the sunshine, conkers and pinecones carpeting the ground at our doorstep. It truly is a beautiful place. It only seemed natural to document the beauty we see around us, and also to explore the emotions it stirred up within our souls.

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I find myself unable to name common trees or mini beasts that we find along the way, and so this is just as much a learning tool for me, as it is for my daughter.

John Muir is quoted to have said ‘In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. ‘To be outdoors, to observe what is around you, to then translate it in to a picture, drawing, sketch or painting is quite fulfilling, and a reminder of the vast and beautiful grandeur of God’s creation.

 

Here is some guidance on starting a basic nature journal with kids:

  1. Decide where you want to go (a local park, woodland, beach, your own garden etc). Take a  good quality note-book and some pencils or sketching pens, and any other supplies you may need.
  2. Find some animals or trees and plants you would like to focus on.
  3. Think about the details of your focus – the colour, the size, the surrounding environments. Nature journaling means that you will observe closely, really see something, and not just look at it.
  4. How does what you see make you feel? 
  5. Make a note of your observations, reflections. Take photos, for reference, if needed. Collect something to take back home with you, if possible – try not to take something from a tree or plant that isn’t already on the ground.
  6. Get drawing (if you are fortunate to be able to do so in the moment, go for it!) If not, get home and draw.
  7. Search for further information at the library, or the reference to learn about your plant/tree/animal.

Recommended links where you can learn more:

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Our works in progress

 

Handbook of Nature Study

The Nature Journal as a tool for learning

An Autumn point of discussion: why do leaves change colour? (England)

Autumn activities

 

 

We were also lucky enough to discover a nature walk in our locality for children by an organisation called Usturlab (Astrolabe). They conducted a ‘Forest Explorers’ walk where they looked at different trees and plants at Ankara Botanical Park. The children were given a tour and information about the local vegetation and then created a collage of the different bits they found. Totally recommend this walking tour, if you find yourself in Turkey! Here are some photos from the day:

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How do you connect with nature? 

Bedtime with children: 3 tips from my experience

Peace all,

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I know bedtime is a big parenting struggle, and so I thought I would write a few words from my own personal experience. These are some things I discovered along the way. Some may seem pretty obvious, some may not. My intention is to put this out there in the hope that it may be of some help.

The following three things worked for us:

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  1. Ensure your child is well-fed:

 It is hard determining how much sleep your child needs on a given day, especially if they are going through a growth spurt. My daughter can have a huge appetite on some days, and barely touches the food on her plate on others. There have been nights where I have exhausted myself in trying to get her to sleep, and then realised that perhaps she is hungry. Eating late at night is not ideal, especially after she has brushed her teeth and completed her bed-time routine, BUT it gets both of us out of what could be a stressful situation. And, well, who doesn’t fancy a midnight toast or some yummy dates dipped in cashew butter?!

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    2. Use up all that energy!

I picture winter as a cosy time of hibernation indoors in which we all snuggle up with hot chocolate on the sofa. The heating is on, our toes are warm, and my daughter is snuggled up in bed. Except sleep does not come so easily. Again, another ‘aha’ moment is that we didn’t even set a foot outdoors today (home-schooling con’s!). As a result, I try and ensure (whatever the weather/season/country) that we get ourselves out the door, breathe in some fresh air and get playing, walking/hiking, running or anything active. On the days that we aren’t afforded the luxury of the world outdoors for whatever reason, we resort to indoor activities like yoga (here’s a link to our favourite Cosmic Kids Yoga youtube channel), or just turn up the music and get grooving (or in my case, tripping over and knocking things over). Sometimes, we chase each other and jump on beds, tickle-fight or pillow-fight. Kids need to be moving and active, and tired enough to sleep soundly.

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  3. Establish a bed-time routine

I cannot stress how important routine is for my child. It is hard, I admit, between the moving and travelling, but we do my best. I found that my daughter thrives when the day is more predictable; when her body knows when to start winding down. Find what works for you. Maybe a bath, brushing teeth, pj’s and then a bedtime story. A song, a du’a (prayer) or a warm drink (chamomile tea is a good choice) that signals bedtime is here (although I can’t promise that the kid/s will be happy about it!) . Give yourself at least an hour to wind down and get the routine started, and try to begin the ritual at the same time every night if possible. Some kids need a comfort item like a blanket to help fall asleep, but our daughter never got attached to anything (well, not counting me, that is). Take turns with your partner, if needed, to give yourself some space and time too, as a mother.

As mamas and babas, no day is easy but the rewards are tremendous.

And the best part of sleeping is waking up to each other in the morning with messy hair and funky breath, and hearts and eyes full of love and gratitude.

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Mindful moving and de-cluttering

I always struggle with having to de-clutter our gear whenever we move. Our ‘stuff’, worldly possessions and the physical markers of a life we made, have to be reduced to the baggage allowance (23kg usually!). I have always found this process quite difficult, however prior to our latest move, I stumbled upon the Kon Mari method by Marie Kondo, a form of Japanese minimalism that seeks to teach organisation and decluttering.  I was captivated by her practical advice.

Travelling is hard work. It is limiting in most ways, but is also limitless in others. Being organised makes me feel better. As a home-educating mother and wife, it helps to have things in order (mostly so you know where ‘lost’ things are when a family member can’t find them). The Kon Mari method appeals to me because I like to travel light without unnecessary clutter. This grants us the space to form new beginnings in a new place. I found that the method reduced my stress levels, made packing easier, and made me realise that ‘less is more’.

Another motivating factor in my decision to ‘declutter’ was the desire to identify the possessions I own that ‘spark joy’. This is the criterion by which Kondo decides whether a possession should be kept. If an item generates happiness or sparks joy within you, it stays. If not, it goes. By keeping only that which produces joy for our family, I believe we were teaching our daughter that what we do own, we treat with honour and utmost care.

My issue with the whole idea of ‘sparking joy’ is whether it can be balanced with my understanding of spirituality. I do not want joy to be sparked by material items. I value memories, moments, and growth. Instead of relying solely on the ‘sparking joy’ criteria, I asked myself ‘is this item going to be useful where I am going?’, ‘can it be replaced easily?’ and ‘will I use it more than once?’

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Clothes

I found that I had a whole range of clothing, for every season and in a lot of colours (!) but I only wore about 20% of what I owned most of the time. Impulse purchases meant that I had a really nice top but nothing to wear with it, or a great patterned pair of trousers that weren’t practical.

I allowed myself to keep one or two items of clothing that had sentimental value but otherwise, I decided to be practical.

Ask yourself:

  1. Can I wear this with at least two other items? (for example: a pair of black trousers or a black maxi-skirt can pretty much be paired with most items)
  2. Can I find a way to use this in all seasons? (a summer t-shirt can become an extra layer during those cold winter days)
  3. Does it fit? Does it look good on me? (still got to work it, girl!)

There are more questions one could ask, but these were pretty much the basis of my decision-making.

What also happened along the way was that I found these: Travel Organisers on Amazon.

I used these amazing travel organisers to group items accordingly – one for undergarments and socks, one for headscarves, another for my (co-ordinated) outfits, and one for lounge and night-wear. I also utilised the Kon Mari folding method. This allowed me to measure exactly what I had packed, and upon arrival, made unpacking much simpler (straight from my luggage to the wardrobe with minimal fuss).

Toys

Our children do not need more material ‘stuff’. They need genuine love, care, and undivided attention, and, as clichéd as that may sound, this is enough to fill their lives. I found that toys (especially the cheaper items) just cluttered our homes and were rarely played with. As our children grow, so does their need for ‘different’ play-items. Again, try to look for items that can be used for longer periods of their life, and can serve more than one purpose (wooden blocks can be used for counting, imaginative play and so forth)

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Books, however, were a whole different story. They did use to take up almost all our baggage allowance until we decided to invest in a Kindle app for my daughter’s iPad. This was another magical space saving tip!

Comfort and miscellaneous items

A huge part of our clutter were little knicks and knacks that somehow found themselves in our home. This is one of the reason I am always grateful for the arduous moving process because I find things buried deep in to corners of drawers; items like old phones, extra wires that I discovered, odd bits of paper. You know the things that you just stash in to a hidden space so that you can ‘deal’ with it later but you never do. I found this clearing process quite therapeutic.

There is also the task of the sentimental, or what I like to call comfort items. The possessions we are attached to for some emotional reason or for nostalgia. In Marie Kondo’s book, she has a list of categories to work through and sentimental possesions are the last category to tackle! Of course, also the most difficult of all!

In my case, although I hoarded nostalgic items like my daughter’s first pair of Clarks shoes. I realised that they no longer served a purpose. I was grateful for the comfort they provided when she was taking her first steps and yes, they were cute and red and sparked a positive emotion, but ultimately they were just taking up space.

There is always so much more to say. I have just touched the tip of an ice-berg but here are some of my favourite links about minimalism, tidying up and organisation:

Zero Waste Home

Youtube Channel: Home Organising

So get de-cluttering, be mindful about what you own and happy Kon-Mari’ing. 

Ps. They are some affiliate links in this post. Thank you