Powerful GREEN Cleaning Products You Can Make Yourself

November 29, 2018

Would you knowingly bring toxic products into your home? Products that could affect your family’s lungs, skin and even their hormones? Of course, you wouldn’t!

But you probably already have. And so have I.

Just look under your sink and in your cabinets at your cleaning supplies.

Many household cleaners contain toxic chemicals. Some are even potent enough to cause respiratory problems and even disrupt hormones. What’s even more frightening is there are no safety standards manufacturers must follow.

Rebecca Sutton, Ph.D., a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group (EWG):

“In terms of household cleaners, neither ingredients nor products must meet any sort of safety standard, nor is any testing data or notification required before bringing a product to market.”

But opting for a ‘green’ alternative doesn’t automatically mean you’re buying a safer cleaning product. Maybe it’s time to consider making your own cleaning products.

Products made with natural ingredients aren’t 100% safe – no matter what anyone tells you. Even if these products are made with natural products, they are still chemicals. Use with caution – just like you would with any cleaning product.

Do not use any homemade cleaner made with vinegar on granite or natural stone. The acid in vinegar can etch the stone. The same goes for waxed wood floors as vinegar can damage the finish. Always test in an inconspicuous area before proceeding.

You need to also be aware that essential oils don’t always play nice with plastic spray bottles or containers (the oils can degrade the plastic.) Store your homemade cleaning products in glass or stainless steel containers. Plastic #1 HDPE or plastic #2 PET are also excellent options.

To extend the shelf life of your homemade cleaning products, always use distilled (or boiled, filtered water) in any recipe that calls for water. Distilled water is free from impurities that can make your cleaner ‘go off’ before you can use it up.

Air Fresheners

Let’s face it – life can stink at times. From smelly bathrooms to funky laundry baskets and furniture, sometimes the air could smell a little sweeter.

The problem with commercial air fresheners is that they often contain synthetic fragrances (detrimental to anyone with respiratory illness or allergies) and phthalates (linked to hormone disruption in males.)

Who wants that in their house?

Try these all-natural air freshener recipes instead.

DIY Air Freshener (Don’t Mess with Mama.com )

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup witch hazel
  • 5-7 drops Lavender essential oil
  • 5-7 drops Lemon essential oil

1 reusable spray bottleInstructions:

Fill the spray bottle with water and witch hazel.Add essential oils and twist on spray nozzle.Shake the bottle for a few seconds before each use. Recipe NotesOther essential oil combinations for this recipe:5-7 drops Thieves + 5-7 drops Orange = Pumpkin Spice5-7 drops Eucalyptus + 5-7 drops Peppermint = Minty Clean5-7 drops Lemongrass + 5-7 drops Lemon = Lemon ZestVodka can be used in place of witch hazel. It’s actually a nice alternative because it dissipates faster than water.

DYI Natural Air Freshener Spray (NaturesNutureBlog – Small Steps to a Non-Toxic Home)Author: Sarah UmmYusuf

Ingredients

1 tablespoon witch hazel (or isopropyl alcohol)30 drops essential oil1/2 cup distilled water a little less than 1/2 cup; (distilled is best, but filtered tap water is fine for short-term storage)1 4oz fine-mist spray bottle

Instructions

Add witch hazel or rubbing alcohol to the spray bottle.Add your essential oils of choice. Swirl the bottle about 10 times to combine oils with witch hazel.Top off with water, leaving a little room at the top for shaking.

To use:Shake well, and spray into the air.

Recipe Notes– Distilled water lasts longer because it doesn’t contain any impurities. You can also use filtered tap water, but if it starts to smell “off” then just toss it and make a new batch.– Do not spray directly on fabrics. Use caution around children, pets, and pregnant women.

All-Purpose Floor Cleaners

Most of us are used to cleaning our non-wood floors with a range of products that could surely, given enough time, strip paint. And it’s completely unnecessary – especially if you vacuum on a regular basis and clean up spills as they happen.

Removing your shoes at the door (and asking your guests to as well)  keeps floors cleaner too.

But when you do need to wash your floors, you can get them clean with a few simple, non-toxic ingredients. A 50/50 solution of vinegar to water works great, but if you dislike the smell of vinegar, here are a couple of alternatives.

Ultimate All-Purpose Cleaner (NaturesNuture.com)

You can also use this recipe as a general all-purpose cleaner

Author: Sarah UmmYusef

Ingredients

1 cup distilled water (distilled is best, but filtered tap water is fine for short-term storage)1/2 cup vinegar (white distilled vinegar)1/2 cup isopropyl alcohol (aka rubbing alcohol or surgical spirits)2-3 drops dish soap25-30 drops essential oil (my recipe uses 7 drops lavender, 7 drops orange or lemon, 10 drops tea tree oil, and 5 drops peppermint)Fine-mist spray bottle at least 16 oz capacity

Instructions

Add all ingredients to spray bottle and shake to combine.Sweep/vacuum the floor, or remove stray crumbs from your surface.Spray the cleaner on the floor.Wipe up with a microfibre cloth or microfibre mop.

Recipe NotesDo not use this formula on granite, marble, or other natural stone surfaces.

Homemade Floor Cleaner for All Types of Floors – Housewife How Tos.com

This recipe claims that it’s suitable for:

  • Laminate
  • Hardwood
  • Vinyl, linoleum & tile
  • Marble or granite (Note: I would use with caution because of the vinegar.)
  • Cement

Ingredients:

2 cups warm water1/2 cup white vinegar1/4 cup rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol

3 drops liquid dish soap 5-10 drops essential oils (optional)

Combine in a bucket or spray bottle.

All-Purpose Kitchen/Bath Spray 

For good health, we just need to sanitize kitchens and bathrooms, not full-out disinfect them.

Sanitize means to reduce numbers of pathogens to a safe level, while disinfection means to completely kill them. Unless a family member is sick (or has recently been sick), then there is no need to completely disinfect.

The chemicals in commercial disinfectants are harmful to our health – and are linked to lung problems and even to certain cancers with long-term exposure.

Nearly all of these recipes rely on vinegar. Because of its acidic nature, vinegar not only cuts grease but also wipes out many types of microbes. Others rely on hydrogen peroxide, a well-known disinfectant that isn’t hard on the lungs.

Popsugar.com has a great selection of all-purpose cleaning spray recipes to choose from.

All recipes below were authored by Sarah Lipoff.

Pet-and-Child Safe All-Purpose Cleaner

Tea tree oil has been used for centuries because of its powerful antifungal and antiseptic properties. (FYI: it also has a very strong aroma.)

Note: Full-strength tea tree oil is poisonous if ingested, so store it in a safe location.

Add 10 drops of tea tree essential oil to four cups of water, in a spray bottle. and shake. Excellent for kitchen/bathroom counters and sanitizing hard surface toys.

Rosemary-Lemon Food Safe Cleaning Solution

Rosemary and lemon have natural antibacterial and antifungal properties. This is a great cleaner for the kitchen because it’s 100% safe on food surfaces. Plus it smells divine!

Ingredients:

  • 3 lemon ends
  • 10 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 cups vinegar

Instructions:

Place lemon ends, rosemary and vinegar into a glass jar with a lid. Shake to combine.

Let the solution sit for 3 days. Strain and put into a spray bottle.

DYI Citrus Spray Cleaner

As well as smelling delightful, this spray cut through tough grease with a citrus punch.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups orange and lemon peels
  • 2 cups white vinegar

Instructions:

Place the vinegar and citrus peels in a sealed glass container for seven days. Strain and pour into a spray bottle. The acidity in the mixture helps kill most mould and germs.

Note: the citrus peels can be saved to make another batch of cleaning solution.

Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner

This recipe will leave any surface in your house shining, with the grease-busting properties of vinegar and Borax plus the disinfecting bubbles of hydrogen peroxide.

  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Borax
  • 1 tablespoon hydrogen peroxide
  • 2 cups hot water
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Spring of rosemary (optional)
  • Essential oil (optional)

In a bowl, add the Borax to the hot water and stir until dissolved. Add the hydrogen peroxide, vinegar and lemon to the mixture and stir.

Pour into a spray bottle and top with a sprig of rosemary or a few drops of your favourite essential oil.

Homemade Bathroom Cleaner for Tub, Tile & Grout

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup baking soda
  • ¼ cup hydrogen peroxide
  • 1 tsp. Liquid dish soap

Instructions:

Mix together in a small squeeze-top container. The baking soda will scrub away hard water spots and stains, while the hydrogen peroxide will whiten and clean.

Clothing Stain Removers

Stain removers may contain toxic ingredients such as Sodium Laurel Sulphate (a proven skin irritant), chlorine bleach (linked to respiratory problems), synthetic fragrances (which can cause migraines and allergic reactions) and phosphates, which can harm aquatic life.

These stain removers can knock out some serious stains, without harming your clothes, your body or the environment.

DIY Homemade Stain RemoverTiffany, DontWasteTheCrumbs.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp baking soda
  • 4 tbsp dish soap
  • 8 tbsp hydrogen peroxide

Stir together in a small jar. Apply directly to stain and rub in with an old toothbrush. Let sit for 15-minutes to an hour. Wash as usual.

Miracle DIY Spray Stain Remover – Sarah Lipoff, PopSugar.com

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup dishwashing liquid
  • ½ cup rubbing alcohol
  • 6 tbsp. baking soda
  • 1 ½ cups warm water

Instructions:

Whisk the dishwashing liquid and baking soda together in a small bowl. Slowly add in the rubbing alcohol and the water. Shake before use. Spray stain with stain remover. Let sit 20 minutes and wash as usual.

Degreasers

Ugh. There is nothing worse than having to clean up a greasy kitchen – especially if the grease has been left on overnight.

Most commercial degreasers depend heavily on petroleum-based surfactants.

But these homemade degreasers can make short work cleaning greasy surfaces.

Homemade Degreaser (Manasa-Reddigari for BobVila.com)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • ⅛ tsp of Castille soap (e.g. Dr. Bronner’s)
  • 1 tbsp. baking soda
  • 3 cups warm water
  • 20 drops pH neutral essential oil (optional – fresh citrus scents such as lemon and orange work great)

Note: use unscented Castille soap if adding essential oil.

Instructions:

Combine ingredients into a spray bottle and shake well to mix.

Let sit on the greasy surface for 10-15 minutes. Rinse.

The following two degreaser recipes are from Audrey Pannell from Hunker.com

All-Purpose Degreaser.

Mix ½ cup lemon juice with 2 cups of vinegar and pour into a spray bottle. The natural acids in this mixture will make the greasiest surfaces squeaky clean)

Perfect for greasy surfaces such as cooktops (make sure its cool before you start), backsplashes, range hoods and pots and pans.

Sink Degreaser

Ingredients:

  • Juice of one grapefruit
  • ½ tsp dish soap
  • 2 cups of water.

Instructions: Mix together in a spray bottle. Spray the dishes with this mixture and let stand for are few minutes in the sink before washing. Also works great for cleaning up greasy residue left in the sink itself.

No Rub Degreaser for Your Kitchen Hood – by Elena K. for Hometalk.com

Instructions:

Remove filters from kitchen hood.

Fill the tallest pot you own with water until 2” from the brim. Add 1 cup of vinegar. Add one tablespoon of original Dawn dish soap (or Fairy if you’re from Europe.) Stir well.

Slowly add ½ cup baking soda in 1 tbsp. increments, stirring well after each addition.

(Note: if the bubbling gets too high, turn down the stove and let cool down for a few minutes.) After the pot comes to a boil, turn it off.

Carefully add your filters to the pot of hot solution. Let sit a minute or two. If necessary, scrub any remaining grease off the filter with a small brush.

Natural Kitchen Degreaser (TheKitchn.com)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • Natural liquid soap (such as Dr. Bronner’s)
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • Warm water
  • Essential oil (optional)

Instructions:

Add vinegar, a drop or two of the soap and the baking soda to a spray bottle. Fill the bottle to the neck with warm water. Add a few drops of your favourite essential oil if desired.

Homemade Citrus Degreaser – One Good Thing by Jillee.com

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons liquid Castile soap (Dr. Bronner’s, etc.)
  • 20 drops lemon essential oil

Instructions:

Combine ingredients in a spray bottle. Spray on greasy messes and wipe with a wet cloth.

Dusting Spray/Furniture Polish

A little spray, a little wipe and that fresh lemon scent! There is something wonderful about a freshly dusted home. But winning the battle over dust bunnies isn’t worth filling your home with toxic chemicals.

Household furniture polishes often include petroleum distillates, mineral spirits, C10-12 Alkane/Cycloalkane (which can be fatal if ingested) and phthalates (which is noted for its damaging effects on male reproductive organs.)

So it’s time to pledge to lose that can of Lemon Pledge polish.

Here are some effective, safe dusting spray alternatives that smell great too.

DIY Dusting Spray Sarah Lipoff, PopSugar.com

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups water
  • ½ tsp. Dr. Bronner’s soap
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon olive oil
  • 10-20 drops essential oil of your choice (optional)

Instructions:

Mix together in a spray bottle. Shake before use.

Homemade Furniture PolishSarah Lipoff, Popsugar.com

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice

Instructions:

Combine ingredients and add to a small squeeze bottle (using a funnel if necessary.) Shake before using. Squirt a small amount on a soft, dry cloth to polish your wood furniture. If you like a high shine, buff with a second dry cloth.

Homemade Dust, Wood & Furniture Polish SprayKate Kordsmeier, RootandRevel.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup organic extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Castille soap
  • 15 drops essential oils (citrus & herb recommended)

Instructions:

Combine ingredients in a spray bottle. Spray furniture or surface and wipe with a microfiber cloth.

DIY Dusting Spray – Sarah, OneEssentialCommunity.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup distilled water (can substitute boiled and cooled filtered tap water)
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • ¼ cup fractionated coconut oil
  • Your choice of essential oils (optional)
    • Fresh home scent: 20 drops lemon + 10 drops lavender
    • Citrus grove scent: 15 drops orange + 10 drops lemon + 5 drops grapefruit
    • Clean & fresh scent:  20 drops lemon + 10 drops peppermint
    • Clean & calm scent:  20 drops orange + 10 drops lavender
    • Cozy fall scent:  20 drops orange + 5 drops cinnamon + 3 drops cardamom + 2 drops clove

Combine in a spray bottle. Shake before using. Mist furniture lightly or apply the spray directly on a microfiber cleaning cloth and wipe.

Glass/Window Cleaners

Who doesn’t like shiny, clean glass and windows? With apologies to the dad in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you don’t need Windex to make your glass shine! Try some of these simple formulas for streak-free glass.

All-in-One Glass and Stainless Steel Cleaner Kristin Marr, LiveSimply.me

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup rubbing/isopropyl alcohol
  • ⅓ cup white vinegar
  • 12 oz. water
  • Optional: A few drops of your favourite essential oil

Instructions:

Combine in a spray bottle. Shake well before using. Apply and wipe with a microfiber cloth.

Note: Some manufacturers of stainless steel appliances recommend that they are only to be cleaned with plain water. Check with your manufacturer before using this formula. Test in an inconspicuous spot before spraying down your entire appliance.

DIY Glass and Stainless Steel CleanerTracey Black, DontMessWithMama.com

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup rubbing alcohol or vodka
  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch or arrowroot (prevents streaking)
  • 5 drops lemon essential oil
  • 5 drops orange essential oil
  • 2 cups distilled water

Instructions:

Add rubbing alcohol and vinegar to a 16 oz. spray bottle using a funnel. Add cornstarch and essential oils. Add water. Screw on the spray nozzle. Shake well before use.

Natural Homemade Window CleanerSarah Lipoff, Popsugar.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup  fresh lemon juice
  • Essential oil of your choice (optional)

Instructions:

Mix the ingredients in a spray bottle. Shake well before use.

Hardwood Floor Cleaners

Nothing is more inviting in a home than a beautiful hardwood floor. But hardwood needs some TLC to look its best.

The main danger with hardwood is getting it too wet when you mop. The wood can swell and buckle if standing water is left on it for too long. For this reason, it’s recommended that hardwood is cleaned with a spray bottle and mop, instead of a bucket. A little spritz and wipe is all that hardwood needs.

Make sure you test these formulas in an inconspicuous area before use. Always follow manufacturer’s cleaning recommendations for your hardwood floors. In some instances, nothing should be used on hardwood except plain water.

No Vinegar Hardwood Cleaning Formula – CleanMama.net

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1-2 drops Castile soap or Sal Suds (Dr. Bronner’s)
  • 3-5 drops essential oil (Sal Suds already has a slight pine scent)

Instructions:

MIx ingredients in a spray bottle. Shake before use. Spray floor lightly and mop with a microfiber mopping pad.

Cleaner for No-Finish or Naturally Finished HardwoodAshley Adamant, PracticalSelfReliance.com

Hardwood that has no finish, or is finished with oil instead of a factory finish or urethane need extra care because it can get dried out and brittle. This recipe uses a touch of olive oil to help put needed moisture back into the wood.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2-3 drops of your favourite essential oil

Instructions:

Shake well as you lightly spray and mop your floors. Use this recipe within 2 months since olive oil eventually goes rancid.

DIY Wood Floor Cleaner Recipe – HouseWifeHowTos.com

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups warm water
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • ¼ cup rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol
  • 3 drops plain liquid dish soap (original Dawn or Fairy recommended. Do not use dish soap with antibacterial, moisturizing or scented ingredients, or contains “oxygenating action:)
  • 5 drops essential oil

Instructions:

Combine ingredients in a spray bottle. Spray floor lightly and wipe with a dry microfiber cloth.

Black Tea Wood Floor Cleaner – TipNut.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp. Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap
  • ⅛ cup vinegar
  • ¼ cup brewed black tea (steep 1 tea bag in 2 cups of boiling water, let cool)

Instructions:

Add ingredients together in a spray bottle. Lightly spray hardwood and mop with a microfiber mop.

Note: The tea brings out the shine of the hardwood.

Kitchen/Bath Counter Wipes

Counter wipes are super convenient, but they are quite expensive and contain some quite toxic ingredients.

Specifically, many wipes contain dangerous ingredients like quaternary ammonia compounds, which can irritate the lungs, eyes and skin. Many contain preservatives with formaldehyde to prevent bacterial growth. Wipes that contain chlorine bleach are linked to asthma, and also contribute to a rise in ‘superbug’, antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The good news is that you can have the convenience of wipes without the health risks. Instead of quats and chlorine bleach, these wipes use vinegar, hydrogen peroxide and essential oils with antibacterial properties.

Homemade Natural Cleaning Wipes that DisinfectBetsy Jabs, DIYNatural.com

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup filtered water
  • ¾ cup white distilled vinegar
  • 15 drops lemon essential oil
  • 8 drops lavender essential oil
  • 4 drops bergamot essential oil

Instructions:

Cut 15-20 pieces of lightweight, yet absorbent cloth into 10”x10” squares. (Old t-shirts work well.)

Combine ingredients in a mason jar or other sealable container of your choice (if you use plastic, make sure it won’t react with your essential oils.) Stir to combine. Add pre-cut cloths to the container and press down to soak up the liquid. Store upside down in a cool, dark cupboard to keep wipes moist and preserve the properties of the essential oils.

Homemade Cleaning Wipes and Canister – Sarah Lipoff, PopSugar.com

Materials:

  • One pound coffee canister with lid
  • Roll of paper towel
  • Serrated bread knife
  • Spray paint (optional)
  • Needle
  • Scissors

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup vinegar
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup rubbing alcohol
  • 1 tsp liquid dish soap
  • 10 drops essential oils (optional)

Instructions:

If desired, spray paint your coffee if you would like a more decorative canister.

Cut roll of paper towel in two crosswise with a serrated knife. Place one half of cut roll upright in the canister, with the cardboard center in the middle.

Mix together vinegar, dish soap, rubbing alcohol and essential oil in a small bowl. Pour liquid over the paper towel. Once the towels are saturated, remove cardboard center. Pull a single towel from the center of the roll.

Poke the needle through the center of the lid several times to make a pilot hole. Fit scissors in the hold and cut a ½” diameter circle. Feed paper towel from the middle of the roll through the hole cut in the lid. Secure the lid over the wipes. Pull out one-at-a-time for cleaning countertops.

DYI Reusable Cleaning Wipes – Tracey Black, DontMessWithMama.com

Materials:

  • Package of reusable cleaning cloths (e.g. J-Cloths)
  • Airtight glass container (check out your local dollar store, or use a large glass jar with a lid)

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 cups warm water (depending on the size of your container)
  • 2 tbsp. Liquid castile soap
  • 5 drops Lemongrass essential oil
  • 5 drops Lavender essential oil
  • ⅛ cup hydrogen peroxide (helps extend shelf life)

Instructions:

Add ½ of the water and the soap to the container. Add the essential oils and mix well.

Cut reusable towels in half. Roll each towel and stand them up in the container. Add remaining water and hydrogen peroxide. Seal jar and shake well. The solution will last about a week. Wash dirty wipes in your washing machine and reuse.

Disinfecting Bleach-Free Bathroom Wipes – LivingOnaDime.com

Materials:

  • 24 rags, cut into 4”x6” pieces 
  • Plastic container (old baby wipes container works well.)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup rubbing alcohol
  • 2 tbsp. Dawn dish soap (do not substitute)
  • 2 tbsp. ammonia (optional)

Mix up the solution and pour over the rags. Use as much solution as you need to moisten the rags; you don’t want them sopping wet. Store leftover solution for future use.

Soft Scrubs and Scouring Powders

There are times you just have to put in a little elbow grease to remove soap scum, hard water marks and assorted hardened crud. That’s where scrubbing gels, powders and creams come in.

Some commercial formulas are harsh and will scratch surfaces. Many also contain chlorine bleach, which is terrible for your lungs and skin. The good news? You don’t need ‘em!

Check out these homemade cleaning pastes. They’ll make short work of your nastiest, grimiest crud – even the dreaded ring around the tub.

Natural Cleaning Paste for the Tub – ApartmentTherapy.com

Materials:

  • Jar with lid

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 10-12 drops antibacterial essential oil (suggestions: Tea Tree, Rosemary, peppermint, eucalyptus)
  • 1 tsp. liquid soap
  • Water

Instructions: Combine baking soda, essential oil & liquid soap in the jar. Add just enough water to make a paste and shake to mix. Seal jar and use to scrub your bathtub and sinks.

Simple DIY Scouring PowderErin Huffstetler, TheSpruce.com

A lot of grime can be removed simply by adding baking soda to a sponge or damp cloth and adding a bit of elbow grease. But if you need more cleaning power, try these additions to the baking soda. Always rinse with plain water after scrubbing.

Additions:

  • Make a paste of baking powder and water and let it sit on the stain for a few hours before scrubbing.
  • Add 1 tbsp. borax to ⅓ cup baking soda and mix well
  • Pour a bit of white vinegar on the stain and scrub with baking soda
  • Grate a ½ bar of soap (not antibacterial) and mix with 1 cup baking soda.

Note: If there is a film left after rinsing, dilute some vinegar to do a secondary rinse. Wipe dry.

Optional: Add 3-8 drops essential oils to ½ cup baking soda if you’d like a scented scrub. Store your scrub in a sealed jar.

Grapefruit Soft Scrub – MommyPotamus.com

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp. liquid castile soap
  • ¾ cup baking soda
  • Just enough water to make a paste ( about 2-3 tbsps)
  • 10 drops grapefruit essential oil.

Instructions:

  • Combine baking soda, castile soap and essential oils. Add enough water to make a paste. Transfer to an empty squeeze bottle (old ketchup, shampoo and dish soap bottles work well) Squirt on a damp sponge and rub into grimy surface. Store in a sealed container for up to 12 months.

Homemade Bon Ami Alternative Scouring Powder – Katie Wells, WellnessMama.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup baking soda
  • ½ cup non-iodized salt
  • ½ cup washing soda
  • 5 drops lemon essential oil (optional)

Instructions: Pour ingredients into jar or bowl and stir to mix well. If you’d like a shaker, poke some holes in a pint or quart mason jar lid. Lightly wet down the surface to be cleaned. Sprinkle scouring powder on the wet surface and let sit for 5 minutes. Scrub and rinse.

Mildew Removers

There is no other way to put it – mildew stinks. Literally.

Mildew is fungi and a close cousin of mould. Its typical appearance is grayish-white and powdery.

Here’s how to get rid of it and keep it from coming back.

Tea Tree Oil Mold & Mildew Killer – Sarah Lipoff, PopSugar.com

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • 20 drops tea tree oil

Instructions:

  • Combine in a small spray bottle. Use in showers, tubs and sinks where mould or mildew exists. Spray and leave sit.

3-Ingredient DYI Mildew CleanerJennafer Ashley, PaleoHacks.com

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup water
  • 1 cup 3% hydrogen peroxide
  • 10-20 drops citrus essential oil

Instructions: Combine in a spray bottle. Spray directly on affected areas. Leave for 10 minutes before scrubbing.

Shower/Tub Sprays & Cleaners

Much of the grime in showers and tubs are from hard water buildup and soap scum. These non-toxic sprays will cut through the gunk and leave your shower sparkling.

A Natural Shower, Tub, and Tile Cleaner – Katie Vance, DIYNatural.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 4 tsp. fragrance-free dish soap
  • 10 drops tea tree oil
  • 10 drops eucalyptus essential oil

Instructions:

Add white vinegar and dish soap to an 8 oz. or larger spray bottle. Swirl to combine. Add essential oils.

Spray tub/shower generously and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes. Wipe with a soft, clean rag. For best results, use daily.

Homemade Daily Shower Cleaner SprayJessica, Mom4Real.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup distilled or boiled and cooled filtered water
  • ⅛ cup hydrogen peroxide
  • ⅛ cup isopropyl alcohol
  • ½ tsp. castile soap or dish soap
  • ½ tsp white vinegar

Instructions: Using a funnel, add all ingredients to a 16 oz. spray bottle. Shake well before use. Spray shower and let sit for 10 minutes to loosen built-up soap scum. After the initial application, spray shower walls daily to prevent soap scum build up. No rinsing required.

Daily Shower Cleaner SprayBeverly, MakeYourOwnZone.com

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup hydrogen peroxide
  • ½ cup rubbing alcohol
  • 1 tsp.dish soap
  • 1 tbsp. Dishwater rinse aid (Like JetDry)
  • 3 cups water (approximate)

Instructions:

Add first four ingredients to 32 oz spray bottle using a funnel. Slowly add water until bottle is full. Swirl bottle to combine ingredients. To use, mist walls of shower daily after showering. No rinsing or wiping needed.  

Glass Shower Door Scrub – Sarah Lipoff, PopSugar.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Epsom salts
  • ½ cup baking soda
  • ¼ cup liquid dish soap

Instructions:

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Scoop a small amount of mixture on a soft, damp cloth and apply in a circular motion over shower doors or tiles. Can also be used to shine tub spouts. Let still for a few minutes, the give another light scrub. Rinse with warm water and polish with a clean paper towel.

Toilet Bowl Cleaners/Bombs

No one likes cleaning the toilet. There are few jobs as gross and disgusting.

But that doesn’t mean that you necessarily need to use a harsh chemical toilet bowl cleaner, either. Commercial toilet bowl cleaners often contain chlorine bleach and hydrochloric acid, which is extremely corrosive.

To follow are some highly effective DIY toilet cleaners. They’ll help you get a dirty job done dirt cheap using non-toxic ingredients.

DIY Toilet Bowl Cleaner – Karen B. Gibbs, Today.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup borax
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1 cup salt
  • 6 drops Tea Tree oil

Instructions:

  • Combine dry ingredients and stir in Tea Tree oil. To use, turn off the water to the toilet and flush so the bowl empties. Sprinkle the powder into the toilet bowl and scrub the bowl (wear gloves.) Add 1 cup white vinegar and let sit for an hour. Turn on the water and flush. Scrub weekly to keep your toilet sparkling clean.

Heavy Duty Toilet Formula – Betsy Jabs, DIYNatural.com

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup borax
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 10 drops lavender oil
  • 5 drops lemon essential oil

Instructions:

Combine ingredients in a bowl or squirt bottle. Wet inside of the bowl with a toilet brush. Pour entire mixture into the toilet bowl. Allow it to sit in the bowl overnight. Scrub bowl and flush to rinse in the morning.

DIY Cleaning Disinfecting, Deodorizing Toilet Bowl BombsDebra Maslowski, DIYNatural.com

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup baking soda
  • ½ cup citric acid
  • ½ cup borax or cornstarch
  • 25 drops essential oils to disinfect and eliminate odours (recommended: Tea Tree, lemon, lavender, peppermint, rosemary, eucalyptus, bay rum)

Thanks for reading!

While you’re here, why not grab some labels for your own homemade cleaning products?

10 Awesome Family Budgeting Apps – End Battles Between Savers and Spenders

November 28, 2018

Money.

Is there any other topic more likely to cause an argument between you and your partner than money?

The reason? There’s a good chance you married your financial opposite. (Weird, but true.)

If you’re a saver, your partner’s easy spending will make you fume. If you’re a spender, having to watch every penny frustrates you — life is meant to be lived, right?

Talking about money is our last taboo — there’s still a lot of guilt and shame attached to the topic. But don’t let that stop you and your partner from having a serious talk about your finances.

A lot of the stress and anxiety in your relationship will vanish when you work out a budget you both can live with.

The good news? You no longer need to fiddle with complicated spreadsheets or spend hours reconciling accounts to keep on top of your finances.

A new generation of financial apps makes budgeting easier than ever before — no spreadsheets required.

Love (and Budgeting Apps Designed for Couples) Will Keep You Together

Budgeting apps designed for couples are such a godsend. They help keep you on track, with your budget most have another feature couples will enjoy.

Many allow couples to choose how much information they share with their partners. For example, you could choose to share account balances with your partner, but not the individual transactions.

While it’s important for couples to be open and honest with each other financially, it’s also important to have a bit of fun money set aside to spend as you wish — without any fear of judgment from your partner.

HoneyFi (iOS & Android)

HoneyFi is a free app that claims to “help couples simply their finances and spend mindfully. Together.”

A unique feature of HoneyFi is that users can add comments and reactions to specific transactions.

Seeing a smiley face from your partner when you add to savings may be the encouragement you need to contribute regularly.

Features:

  • Syncs individual and household accounts to the app (bank accounts, credit cards, loans, investments)
  • Suggests a budget based on your previous spending (this can help prevent overspending.)
  • Receive financial insights — you may be surprised where the bulk of your money is going
  • Searchable, categorized transactions across accounts for easy spending tracking
  • Choose how much info to share with your partner (use this feature with caution — it’s not wise to hide significant purchases made without any input from your partner.)

Home Budget with Sync (iOS & Android )

This app allows users to create a “Group” where all devices in the group sync with each other. When a group member completes a transaction, it’s seen in real time by the other users.

Recurring transactions sync across devices, eliminating the stress that occurs when you forget about an upcoming bill.

Features:

  • Provides an integrated set of features to help you manage your expenses and cash flow.
  • Supports tracking both your expense and income tracking
  • Support for budgets, accounts, payees and bill tracking
  • Group your expenses into categories and sub-categories, and lets you set a budget, and track expenses at the category/sub-category level.

Honeydue (iOS & Android)

This app’s mission is to help couples “outsmart money, together.”

Honeydew’s founders noticed that many couples rely on spreadsheets for budgeting. They decided there had to be a more straightforward way to juggle tracking multiple bank and credit card accounts.

As with HoneyFi, Honeydue users can decide how much information to share with their partner.

The comment section allows partners to check in with each other over transactions they don’t recognize.

Features:

  • Couples can see all their bank balances in one place
  • Track both credit card and bank balances, along with individual transactions related to each account.
  • Transactions and balances update in real time, so there’s always a complete, accurate snapshot of where these accounts stand.
  • Ability to choose which accounts your partner can see and at what level of detail.
  • Categorized spending — Honeydue categorizes expenditures into the following categories: cash & checks; family & pets; getting around; gifts & charity; miscellaneous; personal & wellness; home & utilities; food & drink; trips & occasions; shopping & fun.
  • Edit categories — if Honeydue puts a transaction in the wrong category it can easily be edited

Family Budget Finance Tracking (iSave Money) Android only

This free app help users simplify personal and joint budgeting.

Unlike some financial tracking apps, FBFT displays data in graph form to help you quickly understand your spending habits.

You can also add your children to the app to let them be responsible for their cash flow and help them track their spending patterns.

FBFT supports multiple currencies (most apps don’t have this capability.)

  • Set up recurring transactions once and they’ll automatically appear in the future
  • Budget templates included(or create your own)
  • Cloud backup to Google Drive or Dropbox
  • Export CSV files
  • Built-in speech recognition
  • Autocomplete based on prior entries
  • Budget forecasting — 6 months out based on previous transactions
  • Daily transaction monitoring
  • Built-in income & expense calculator
  • Syncs across multiple devices, so family members have access to financial data at all times

Give Every Dollar a Job (Envelope Budgeting Apps)

Envelope budgeting is old-school but powerful.

The name comes from the practice of budgeting for various expenses with cash and envelopes. Every expense in the budget (e.g. groceries, rent, car payment) has a corresponding cash envelope.

The goal of the system is to budget every dollar of income and put it into envelopes for expenses and savings. When the envelope is empty, then you don’t spend anything else in that category until your next payday arrives.

Any surplus cash left over at the end of the month goes into savings.

Many financial gurus advocate this budgeting method, including Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruz. But having envelopes of cash around that could easily get lost or stolen isn’t appealing to some people.

Now you can create digital expense envelopes that do the same job as the cash envelopes with less worry.

If you’d like to give envelope budgeting a try (without an actual paper envelope!), check out the following apps:

Mvelopes

Mvelopes has a four-pronged approach to personal finance:

  1. Give your money a purpose via the envelop system
  2. Avoid debt/rapidly pay off current debt
  3. Simplify — access income and expenditures in a single dashboard
  4. Planning — anticipate and prepare for future expenses (avoid living paycheck-to-paycheck)

The Basic Mvelopes plan is $4/month.

But if you’d like some help getting your finances in order, you can opt for quarterly or monthly coaching plans for an additional fee. The coaches will help you create a long-term financial plan to reduce debt and build savings.

The additional coaching fees are quite reasonable. The quarterly coaching plan (Plus) starts at $19/month, and the monthly coaching plan (Complete) starts at $59/month.

Features:

  • Unlimited envelopes and financial institution accounts (All Plans)
  • Auto transaction importing and account balance monitoring (All Plans)
  • Live chat/knowledge base (All Plans)
  • Interactive reports (All Plans)
  • Quarterly coaching (Plus)
  • Monthly coaching (Complete)
  • Learning & Debt Reduction Center (Plus & Complete)
  • Debt Assessment (Plus & Complete)
  • Setup assistance (Plus & Complete)
  • Dedicated personal coach (Complete)
  • Personalized financial plan (Complete)
  • High-level priority support (Complete)

GoodBudget

According to their website, “The Goodbudget Way is an invitation to relate to money differently where you spend in line with your values, stick with a budget, deepen your relationships, grow in character, and transform your financial life.”

This powerful tool combines the best of envelope budgeting methods with a family budgeting app.

The ability for all account users to see transaction data in real time can help prevent accidental overspending in a shared category.

Features:

  • Free Plan: 10 Regular Envelopes/10 extra envelopes/1 account/2 devices/1 year of history/community support
  • Plus Plan — Unlimited Regular and More Envelopes/Unlimited Accounts/5 Devices/5 years of history/email support — $6/month or $50 year
  • Syncs between mobile devices for couples

EveryDollar

Financial expert Dave Ramsey created the EveryDollar app for followers who prefer digital envelopes to paper ones.

The app comes with some categories already created for you, such as health and car insurance, groceries, car payment, credit card, mortgage, emergency fund, etc. (If you need additional savings or expense categories, it’s easy to add them.)

If you make a mistake entering a transaction, it can easily be reversed.

While EveryDollar is a solid budgeting app, it has a couple of drawbacks to consider.

The free version of the app requires all transactions to be entered manually, which can be a bit tedious. Another drawback is that EveryDollar has no reporting capability to look back on your transaction history.

But if you’re after a basic, user-friendly budgeting app, you might find that EveryDollar is the answer.

Features:

  • Email support
  • Split transactions across multiple budget items (for example if you cleaning products at the grocery store, but want to track these purchases separately from your groceries.)
  • Syncs across devices — ideal for shared accounts
  • Add/edit categories
  • Spending tracker lets you see what you’ve spent and what you have remaining to spend for the month
  • EveryDollar Plus — $99/year gets you phone support, the ability to connect and log your bank accounts, and track credit card spending in one place

You Need a Budget (YNAB)

Like the other envelope budgeting apps featured, YNAB’s mission is to give every dollar of your income a purpose.

To set up the app, connect your bank accounts.

You’ll then see the available dollars ready to be budgeted.

Assign every available dollar to the appropriate categories in YNAB(add your own categories if you like). Make sure the ending balance to be budgeted equals zero and you’re set to go.

Features

  • Bank auto syncing (your banking information is always up-to-date in the app)
  • Syncs over multiple devices (share info with spouse)
  • Reporting (graphs/pie charts)
  • Investment tracking (a feature most other envelope budgeting apps lack)
  • Free for 34 days, then $6.99/month
  • Supports US/Canadian banks
  • Daily Live Workshops to brush up on topics like budgeting, rapid debt repayment, cutting expenses, etc.
  • Envelopes for infrequent spending such as car repairs, vacations, Christmas, etc.
  • If you overspend in a category, move unused funds from other categories to keep your budget on track

Get Your Big Financial Picture with This App

Love it or hate it (users tend to fall into both categories), Mint is probably the most complete financial app available. It has features that aren’t available in other budgeting apps, such as credit score monitoring.

If you’re looking for an all-in-one solution for tracking spending, savings and investments, look no further than Mint.

Features:

  • Create and manage savings goals
  • Credit score monitoring
  • Alerts (late fees, over-budget in a category, bill reminders, rate changes, large purchases) via email or SMS
  • Weekly email summaries of your transactions
  • Automatically syncs your financial data over multiple devices

Financial Peace is Only a Download Away

Imagine how beautiful it would be never to have a single argument over money again.

Or to finally work together as a team towards your financial goals — whether your goals are to break free of debt or save up for a down payment on a home.

It’s never too late to rewrite your financial story.

The next step is to grab one of these apps to keep your budget on track. Financial peace and prosperity can be your new reality (sooner than you think.)

How to Declutter Your Home…Even if You’re a Slob at Heart

November 27, 2018

You dread walking in from work….because you know the disaster that awaits when you walk in the door.

Dirty dishes. Piles of laundry. Toys scattered through the house. Magazines and craft supplies left in random piles.

You feel too embarrassed to invite anyone over.

And feel pangs of jealousy when you walk into friends’ tidy, organized homes.

But take heart.

You can start on a path towards a home you’re proud of today.

Phase 1: Small Wins Add Up to Big, Positive Changes

decluttering is challenging but so worth it.
Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash

It’s important to feel you can make headway before you fully dive into declutter mode.

That’s why I’ve included three preliminary steps before you start any hardcore decluttering.

None of these steps are hard.

It’s just a matter of making them part of your routine.

Once you’ve put these steps into practice, you’ll get into the right frame of mind to conquer your clutter once and for all.

Step 1 — Make Up Your Nightly Nest

Getting into a bed where the sheets and blankets are tight, smooth and wrinkle-free is one of life’s little pleasures. And it only takes a couple of minutes.

Looking at your nicely-made bed will give you a sense of accomplishment.

It helps you get your day off right without a lot of effort.

Make this a daily routine for a week. Then get ready to tackle the next step in your mission for a blissful home.

Step 2 — No More Dish Disasters

Coming home to moldy dishes in the sink and counters filled with crap is demoralizing.

Who wants to cook in that mess? That’s one reason people pick up takeout (which gets to be expensive as hell.)

A simple system is all you need to keep your dishes under control.

Rule 1: Put your clean dishes away as soon as the cycle ends if you can.

(Or as soon as is practical.)

It shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes max to put your clean dishes away. (This a perfect task for a kid.)

Rule 2: Put your dirty dishes straight into the dishwasher. No leaving them stacked in the sink for later.

Rule 3: Soak pots while you eat. (Hint: use a bit of cooking spray to make sure food doesn’t stick.)

This makes your pots easy to wipe out, even if you don’t have room in the dishwasher for all of them.

Step 3 — Laundry for the Lazy-at-Heart

how to keep up with your laundry
Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

Not doing your dishes can cost you plenty purchasing pricey takeout to avoid the mess.

But did you know not keeping on top of your laundry can cost you money too?

When you don’t have a regular laundry routine, you end up purchasing extra clothing to get you through the week.

Whenever you have enough laundry for a full load, do it.

Even if that means washing a daily load to keep up with your family’s dirty clothes.

Doing a load of laundry every day or every other day is much more manageable than giving up your whole weekend just to catch up on the laundry.

And doing laundry means you fold it and put it away, too. (It shouldn’t take more than 10–15 minutes for this task.)

Don’t leave your unfolded laundry piled in a basket, unless you enjoy a wrinkled mess that needs to be ironed.

I know I’d rather spend my time doing something fun with my family instead of ironing…and I’ll bet you would too!

Consistency is the key to keeping laundry under control.

Now that you’ve got routines going for bed making, laundry and dishes, it’s finally time to start your decluttering efforts.

Phase 2: Give Everything a Designated Spot

get your dishes under control so you don't feel overwhelmed
Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

“One of the main reasons stuff piles up on counters, dining tables, coffee tables and floors is that it’s homeless.”

Pam Young — FlyLady.net

Not having a dedicated space for everything is the perfect recipe for crap accumulation.

It’s all too easy to plop things down wherever you can find space.

Then before you know it, you have piles of random junk everywhere.

But did you know not having a home for everything can also cost you money?

If your stuff is scattered all over the house in piles, you’ll end up purchasing duplicates because you can’t find what you already own.

Even worse, you add even more stuff to your collection of clutter.

So before you begin decluttering, decide where to put your things.

For example, pens will go into a jar in your office, books go in the bookshelf, batteries are kept in a certain desk drawer, etc.

Make yourself a checklist so you can find these items easily when needed.

Phase 3 — Gather Your Weapons of Mess Destruction

Mess won’t stand a chance when you use these simple, inexpensive tools in the war against chaos.

Step 1— Time Your Way to Tidy

Using a timer is an effective way to get started with decluttering
Photo by Marcelo Leal on Unsplash

Get a timer. It’s your best friend in the war against clutter.

When you look around your house and you feel like the clutter is closing in, here’s what to do.

Pick a single room in your home. Set a timer for a few minutes and pick up what you can before it goes off.

“I hate cleaning, but I can do anything for ten minutes, right? So I set a timer for ten minutes, and I get to washing those dishes. Lo and behold, the timer rings, and the dishes are halfway done. And then I clean the rest of the kitchen, because that was really not so bad. What you’re doing here, really, is just making yourself start. That is half the battle. Actually, that is the whole damn battle.”

Nancy Mitchell — ApartmentTherapy.com

Step 2— The Black and White Solution to Decluttering Dilemmas

using black and white trash bags can make your decluttering efforts easier
By Sethronious ([1] => Moustache May) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Grab yourself a white trash bag and a black trash bag.

Trash goes into the white bag. Items to give to charity go into the black bag.

Why a black bag? Glad you asked.

The black bag prevents anyone from seeing what’s inside and dragging it back out again.

Avoid making a ‘maybe’ pile when decluttering.

It will only add to your indecision and slow you down. Decide in advance that every item is either a keeper, or is trash or a giveaway.

After you’ve finished with your session, don’t take your donation items to the basement or garage.

Take them to Goodwill (or other favourite charity) ASAP.

“ I made a rule for myself. Immediately after a purge sesh, I would bag up all the trash and donation stuff and take it where it needed to go…

This meant the trash went straight out to the trash cans, and the donations went straight to the trunk of my car to be taken to Goodwill later. I even set alarms in my phone for three days after each purge, and that alarm was my deadline — I had to take the stuff to Goodwill by that date or it had to be thrown away. Creating a “no excuses” setup for myself helped me follow through and increased my success for sure.”

Allie Casazza — AllieCasazza.com

Phase 4 — Defuse the Danger Zones

Your home has some clutter danger zones - here's how to tame them
Photo by Kevin Jarrett on Unsplash

Kitchens, bathrooms, closets and kid’s toys are some of the toughest areas to keep clutter-free and organized.

But don’t let that scare you.

Go slow, tackle one area at-a-time.

All your efforts will begin to snowball fast!

Step 1 — Banish Bursting-at-the-Seams Bathrooms

It can be shocking to realize how much clutter can accumulate in one of the smallest rooms in your home.

Take an inventory of your medications and OTC medicines. If you have expired items, take them back to your pharmacy for safe disposal.

Check for any empty bottles that can be recycled.

Ratty towels past their ‘best before’ date can be cut up and be re purposed into cleaning cloths.

Get items off the counter and back into the medicine cabinet, or under the sink (whichever is appropriate.)

It will be much easier to wipe down your counters without all the clutter.

Step 2 — Kitchen Clutter Curation

The kitchen is a danger zone because most of us have small appliances and gadgets we never use taking up valuable storage space.

Donate/sell your unused small appliances.

Remove items used only seasonally, like Thanksgiving platters, from your main kitchen storage areas.

Place them in a well-marked box you can access when you need them.

“When you tackle your kitchen cabinets and drawers, think about which implements you have to have at hand when you are cooking and which appliances you only use occasionally. The ones that you use least often can be stowed away, leaving adequate space for frequently used ones.”

Emily Green, WorkingMother.com

Trying to decide which gadgets/utensils to keep and which to donate?

Peter Walsh suggests emptying your kitchen drawers and putting your utensils and gadgets into a box.

If you use an item in the box, return it to the drawer it came from.

If there are any items left in the box after 30 days, donate them to charity.

Step 3: Toy Taming Tactics

keeping toy clutter under control is always challenging
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

The best way to deal with out-of-control toy clutter is an all-or-nothing approach.

Once your child is old enough to pick up their own toys, make a rule that when playtime is over, they pick up their toys and put them away.

If the rule gets broken, grab your black trash bag and load up the toys.

It might seem a little mean, but sooner or later kids need to figure out that actions (or lack of them) have consequences.

“Take away toys. When MY room was messy as a child, my mom would go in my room while I was in school and clean it. The difference is that she took away EVERYTHING that was on the floor! I mean, everything. Clothes, toys, anything that was on the floor I had to EARN it back! You can easily start out small. They pick up after themselves when you ask, give them something back. If they are still not getting the hint, take away their better toys, the ones they love. Every child has SOMETHING they REALLY love.”

-Sarah Titus, SarahTitus.com

Getting your kids to pick up their toys is only half of the battle.

It’s guaranteed your kids’ toy collection will grow over time and become unmanageable if you don’t do regular purges.

Donate or give away toys your children have outgrown and no longer play with.

To prevent tears, let your kids decide which toys to let go.

Good timing for these purges is around holidays and birthdays where the kids get new toys as gifts.

Step 4: Be a Closet Commando

closets can easily get out of control - here's how to reduce closet clutter
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

No one looks forward to cleaning out the closet.

Many experts say that if you haven’t worn an item in a year, it’s time to donate it.

Sometimes this isn’t because you’re not really sure what items you wear on a regular basis.

One suggestion is to turn all the hangers in your closet backwards. When you wear an item, turn it around.

After a month or two, it will be easy to see which clothing you wear often and which you don’t.

Give your unworn stain-free clothing to charity so it can become a regular part of someone else’s wardrobe.

Phase 5 — End the Paper Chase

Getting a handle on the volume of paper in your house can make a significant difference in the overall level of clutter.

Let’s face it — sorting through piles of paper isn’t fun.

So why not stop the paper clutter before it starts?

“Go paperless. Paper clutter takes up a lot of space and can be harder to get rid of. Start small; get paperless statements for bills and pay online. Go through your stash of manuals and consider tossing any ones you don’t really need, like the manual for the iPod you got in 2005. Scan receipts and important documents rather than keeping hard copies of everything.”

Tracy Black, Redbook.com

Here are some creative ways to tame your paper monsters.

Kid Art Treasures

I’m a mom too. I know how hard it is to let go of your kids’ art treasures.

But what if you could keep them forever without cluttering up your home? Well, you can.

Just scan or take a photo of them.

Create digital folders for each child and the year. Then add them to a jump drive and/or cloud storage so you can look back on them any time.

Holiday/Birthday Cards Control Tactic

There’s no one more sentimental than me, so I get how hard it is to throw out cards from friends and loved ones.

Scanning cards preserves them for prosperity, without cluttering up your home.

Magazine/Newspaper Taming

How often do you hold on to a magazine or newspaper thinking “I’ll find time to read it later,” Step Step then you never do?

These items tend to pile up fast and get out of control.

So look into getting digital, instead of physical copies of your fav reads.

Eliminate Waste from Paper Bills

Having utility bills and credit card statements mailed to your home makes for a lot of paper clutter.

Instead, get your statements emailed out.

If you’re worried a bill could get lost in your inbox, set up automatic payment via a credit card or bank withdrawal.

Scan Receipts

Scan all receipts needed to tax purposes to a folder designated for this purpose.

Tax agencies accept scanned receipts in many localities. (Verify with your local tax agency.)

Invest in an E-reader

While nothing replaces the experience of reading a physical book, consider investing in an e-book reader like a Kindle for books you’re unlikely to read more than once.

Especially for those trashy paperback novels. (Don’t pretend like you’re above them.)

E-books are also a good option for kids that read voraciously, because they’re much cheaper than physical books.

Phase 6: Memorabilia Management

The hardest part about decluttering is letting go of items that have sentimental value.

But all too often, we find ourselves holding on to stuff that no longer has purpose in our lives.

Remember That Your Home is Not a Museum for Other People’s Memories

“I can’t let someone else’s memory be what makes me keep them. I have enough of my own memory-laden-clutter to deal with.”

Dana White, ASlobComesClean.com

Parting with an item previously owned by a beloved relative is difficult for many — even if you don’t really love the item.

If an heirloom doesn’t fit into your life, ask other family members if they’d like it.

If there are no takers, sell it or donate it to charity with a clear conscience.

That brings me to another point.

Don’t Store Other People’s Sh*t

Take a look around and see how much stuff you’re storing for others.

If you’ve borrowed something, return it.

Items other people have left with you for safekeeping aren’t your responsibility.

Set a deadline for these items to be picked up.

Warn the owners that their items will be trashed or donated after the deadline.

What About Your Own Memorabilia?

The most difficult memorabilia to get rid of is our own — because certain objects takes us back to important times in our lives.

The teddy bear you won at the fair thirty years ago.

The well-worn concert t-shirt. The ticket stub from a play.

The thing is, your memorabilia isn’t the keeper of your memories

Only your mind is.

Mementos from your own life are harder to part with because when you see them, you relive the story: To you, it’s the cashmere V-neck you wore on your first date with the man who would become your husband; to anyone else, it’s just an old sweater full of holes. The key to parting with items suspended in time is not to replay that story. Leave the room, come back in and see what you’re really holding on to — a sweater that’s seen better days. Rule of thumb: If it serves no purpose, let it go. — Andrew Mellen

Phase 7— Keep Up the Good Fight

keep up the good fight to keep your clutter under control
Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash

You’ve come a long way baby…from an unorganized and chaotic home to one to be proud of.

Now you’ll feel comfortable inviting friends and family over whenever you feel like it.

More than anything, decluttering and being organized is the matter of creating routines for yourself and your family. There really are no secrets.

And if you’re feeling a little disappointed that you’ve done all this work, and your home still doesn’t look like a page out of Better Homes and Gardens, take heart.

Magazines are fantasy. No one actually lives like that.

“Very few people have closets and drawers that resemble those in catalogues…You will ultimately be disappointed if perfection is your goal. The goal is to set up a space that works well for your needs. That is success.”

Nicole Anzia of Neatnik.com

Decluttering is an on-going process.

Now you have the tools and systems in place, it will be much easier in the future.

Your inner slob will want to come out and play once in a while.

That’s okay, as long as you remember to show them who’s boss.

You’ve got this!

The Real Reason You Struggle with Meal Planning

November 20, 2018

You’ve just added up last month’s takeout receipts — and it’s clear that eating out is bleeding you dry.

Still, meal planning feels daunting.

Planning out an entire month’s menu, complete with recipes and ingredient lists? The shopping, the chopping, the hours of cooking and the endless pile of dirty dishes when it’s over?

The very thought of it stresses you out.

But here’s the thing. Meal planning shouldn’t be stressful. It should be easy and…yes, even fun!

So why does it stress you out so bad?

5 Reasons Just the Thought of Meal Planning Fills You With Dread

It’s easy to talk your self out of getting started with meal planning. Because everything you’ve read makes it seem so damn complicated!

Maybe thoughts like these run through your mind:

  1. You dread sitting down and figuring out how many onions you need for 2 1/2 cups diced. Ugh.
  2. So many recipes are stupidly complicated, take too long to make — they just have too many ingredients to deal with. Or they feature foods that would incite a riot in your house (kale, anyone?)
  3. And what happens if your plans need to change suddenly? For example, what happens to your planned meals if you have to work late, or if your kids stay overnight at their buddy’s house? Do they get tossed into the bin?
  4. Accepting a last minute dinner invitation means you’ll have an extra dinner thawed out. Then where does it go in the meal rotation?
  5. You only get two days off, and you don’t want to spend one of them cooking all day long

No wonder it seems easier to pick up the phone and order takeout!

Your Meal Planning Efforts Don’t Need to Be ‘Pinterest Perfect’

Too many of us get caught up in feeling our lives should be as perfect as a Pinterest board. And when we can’t measure up, we feel inadequate.

But here’s why you shouldn’t feel that way.

Newsflash…nothing on Pinterest looks that good without a Photoshop assist.

You don’t need to feel unworthy if you’re not ready to plan out a month’s worth of menus just yet.

Meal planning doesn’t have to be the all or nothing proposition it’s made out to be.

Baby Step Your Way to Success

Taking the time to plan and cook just a few simple meals per week will save you tons of time and money. Not only that — you can avoid takeout food loaded with sugar and sodium. (That stuff’s as hard on your body as it is on your wallet!)

Here are a few tips to make your first meal planning efforts successful:

  1. Stock your pantry with staples before you even think about starting meal planning. It takes a bit of a cash outlay to build up your pantry, so get that stocked up first. Having a well-stocked pantry helps you avoid last minute trips to the store. (Need a printable list of basic pantry staples? Grab one here — feel free to skip the suggested snack items.)
  2. Shop during off-hours if you get overwhelmed by a busy store
  3. Don’t buy a set of coordinated containers to store your meals right away. Ziplock bags will work just fine for now.
  4. Stick to simple recipes and family favourites like chilli, spaghetti sauce, and soups if you’re not an accomplished cook. Expand your recipe collection once you build up your cooking skills and confidence. (Need help picking out recipesTheKitchn.com has some excellent advice for planning novices.)

Remember: Every Meal Planning Winner Was Once a Beginner

Forget ‘Pinterest Perfection.’

You need meal planning that fits your family’s life — not the other way around.

Allow yourself some wiggle room.

If you enjoy a weekly pizza night, don’t feel guilty about it.

Meal planning is about saving time and money where you can, not about blindly following someone else’s plan. Don’t stress yourself out. Do what seems manageable right now.

When you cook dinner, cook a little extra and save it for lunch the next day. Or this Sunday, maybe just prepare lunches. Or maybe just a couple of dinners. Whatever feels manageable.

Your efforts will soon pay off for better health and a fatter wallet!

Why Millennial Moms Should Embrace Tech For A Better Work/Life Balance

November 15, 2018

 

Are you a millennial mom dreaming of creating a better work/life balance?

Gen X moms like me had few choices when it came to balancing motherhood and work.

It was either stay home with the kids and lose my income . . . Or else go to work and send the kids to daycare.

Frankly, neither choice was ideal.

I needed the income, so I reluctantly chose to work.

But by choosing to work, I knew I would miss out on so much in my kids’ lives.

First steps. First words. School field trips. And so much more . . .

So I felt like a lousy mom, guilty for not always being there. Pulled in all directions and feeling like I wasn’t doing justice to anything.

But thanks to technology, you don’t have to make the same sacrifices my generation did.

Tech Equals New Choices for Moms

Scared of technology? Not you. You embrace it and all of its potential.

Part of the first generation to grow up with the internet and tech gadgets, you know how to bend it to your will.

 You’re not intimidated by tech in the least.

And that gives you a massive advantage in the workforce.

The Cloud Changed Everything

Cloud computing makes it possible to work remotely from home while still having full access to company files and software.

Online productivity suites, such as Office.com, Google Drive, etc., file sharing programs, video conferencing software and messaging tools are just a few of the tools that make working from home possible.

Why put up with commuting to the office when you have all the tools you need to do your job online?

The cloud has also opened doors for women to start freelance careers in coding, writing and graphic arts.

Freelancing lets moms can control their schedule — taking on only as much work as they think they can handle. (Which makes it a perfect choice for moms who want to stay home with their kids.)

Cloud computing has also opened up another option, too.

It’s made it possible for you to run a business 100% from home.

Mompreneurs Use Tech to Make Bank

Tired of working for ‘the man’ — but not interested in freelancing? Good news!

It’s never been easier to be an entrepreneur…without forking out upfront for rent, inventory and utilities.

Here are just a few possibilities for moms like you to create an online business.

Graphically-gifted moms can produce products ranging from mugs to pillows to t-shirts with print-on-demand services.

Many of them will even ship your designs directly to your customer.

Not artsy?

The online arbitrage business model is perfect for bargain hunters. And it’s very straight-forward.

Buy goods at a low cost and sell them at higher prices on Amazon or e-Bay.

Passionate about a hobby? It’s a money-making opportunity.

People will pay to learn from you — whether you’re into cooking, photography or basketweaving. All you have to do is create an online course that teaches others the fine points.

Want recurring revenue? Create courses around different aspects of your hobby and house them in a paid membership site. Charge members monthly or yearly fees for continued access.

Last, but not least, affiliate marketing is another way for moms to earn online.

You don’t even need a product to get started — earn commissions for promoting other people’s products to your audience.

Tech Helps Make the Worst Part of Parenthood Bearable

One of the worst parts about being a mom (or dad) is having to tackle the mountains of housework kids create.

Dishes. Laundry. Vacuuming. The list goes on-and-on.

And you know damn well as soon as you get the house cleaned up, the kids will be well on their way to trashing everything again.

But thanks to an assist from new smart devices, the number of hours parents spend doing housework is declining.

Robot vacuums, mopping units, window washers and even lawn mowers let you spend time with the kids while they do the hard work.

New top-of-the-line fridges can monitor their contents and even order groceries for you when stocks get low. Talk about freeing up your time!

Bluetooth enabled devices like Instant Pots, ovens, and sous vide machines make cooking a breeze. They help you turn out perfect food without the need to continually monitor as it cooks.

Last, but not least, every parent’s dream gadget has arrived — an automatic clothes folder is now on the market.

Spend more time having with your kids… and fewer hours doing the tasks you love to hate.

Live the Life YOU Want

It’s exciting to see so many options open up for moms.

Now you can choose to pursue a full-time career…or be a traditional stay-at-home mom …or take up freelancing or remote work.

But here’s what’s important —tech has made it possible to live your life on your own terms, not on the whims of an employer.

If you’re not happy with your work/life balance right now, explore how adopting new technology could give you the career of your dreams…

Without leaving your house…or spending hours in a long soul-sucking commute.

All while you spend a relaxing afternoon doing crafts with your kids — as a robot washes your floor and folds your clothes.

How to Have a Productive Day at Home (Even if Your Kids Are Driving You Crazy)

November 13, 2018

“Work from home,” they said.

“It will be fun,” they said.

“They” couldn’t have been more wrong!

When you work from home, you’ve still got the pressures and deadlines that come with a regular job.

Combining working from home with the demands of parenthood(“You want me to read that AGAIN?”) can make you doubt your very sanity.

As a work-from-home parent, you often feel like you’re short-changing yourself, your clients and your kids.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel for work-from-home parents.

There are many ways to make the combination of working from home and parenthood easier on yourself.

Phase I — Shift Your Expectations

Welcome to your new reality.

Even if you pride yourself on never missing a deadline at your old office job…it’s a brand new ballgame as a work-from-home parent.

In fact, you can only plan on one thing with absolute certainty.

And that’s nothing will go 100% as planned.

So don’t set yourself up for failure with an overly ambitious work schedule. Give yourself a pat on the back if you can get halfway through your to-do list while your kids are awake.

There will be days when your child is sick or needy, and you just have to roll with it.

Tomorrow is another day.

Phase II — Soothe Your Mind (Safety First)

Every parent alive has had the sudden realization that the kids are way too quiet. We all know what that means.

They are into something they shouldn’t be!

When you work from home, you’re not going to be able to keep your eye on the kids every single second of your day. Not if you want to get your work done.

That’s why if you do everything possible to ensure your kids are safe, you’ll be more at ease. You won’t be jumping out of your skin every time you hear a noise.

When you’ve done everything you can to protect your children, you’ll feel more relaxed. You’ll be able to finish up those last-minute TPS reports without jumping out of your skin every time you hear a noise.

Here is an excellent checklist from Parents.com about how to kid-proof your home.

Phase III — Schedule for Your Success

Set up a schedule to accomplish as much as you can in short bursts. Make the most of the time your kids are sleeping.

Step 1Get up earlier.

You can get a fantastic amount of work done in just a couple of hours when the house is quiet. Your productivity will go through the roof when you don’t have to herd kids. To increase it even more, don’t stop to answer emails or texts during these quiet hours.

Step 2Use nap time productively.

Most kids aged from 2–4 will nap in the afternoon for an hour or so. Plan activities that require extra focus during this time.

Step 3Work after the kids are in bed.

Sneak in an extra hour or two after you get them settled down for the night. Establish regular bedtime hours to make the most of your time.

Step 4Schedule online meetings when kids are sleeping (or when you have childcare.)

It’s not realistic to expect small children to maintain radio silence while you chat up clients.

Step 5 Schedule some breaks into your day.

Give the kids your full attention during break times, and they’ll interrupt you less during working hours. Set a timer to help kids countdown to your next break.

Phase IV — Quiet, Please!

Everyone who works from home with kids needs some uninterrupted time to focus. You’re probably not going to be able to get all of your work done when the kids are asleep.

And that’s why you need to pre-plan some daily activities to engage your kids in quiet play. Create a weekly calendar where you rotate activities daily.

It might seem like a hassle to sit down and plan a week’s worth of kid activities in advance, but the benefits are enormous.

Your kids won’t be whining “We’re bored,” and you won’t be scrambling finding something for them to do at the last minute. As well, planning ahead lets you stock up on any needed craft items.

Suggestions:

  • Sorting games, threading large beads on pipe cleaners, puzzles, building towers, forts made with sheets, playdough, activity jar. (There are some great suggestions for pre-school age activities on Pinterest and YouTube.)
  • Empty cardboard box & crayons — there are few things that spark a kid’s imagination like an empty cardboard box does. Give them crayons and stickers to decorate their box to their hearts’ content.
  • Sticky easel. Tape a piece of contact paper sticky-side out to an easel or cutting board. Kids will have a ball sticking craft sticks, buttons and other small items to the easel. (See www://learnwithplayathome.com for more info.)
  • Have some special movies on hand for when you just have to get something done
  • “Paint” toys with water. Give a kid a small container of water and a paintbrush so they can paint waterproof toys.
  • Daily busy boxes. Busy boxes are small containers with books, a sensory item, small toys, puzzles and other items that keep kids amused for long stretches. Kids love the element of surprise busy boxes offer — it’s like opening up a new gift every day.

Phase V — Get Some Help

Reconsider if you think that childcare is too expensive.

Having childcare frees you up so you can be more productive.

This means that you can bill out faster — which will often more than cover your childcare expenses.

Here are some other childcare options to consider:

  • Your spouse takes over when they get home. This is many people’s go-to option, but it can be tough on relationships. Your spouse doesn’t get any downtime when they get home from work, and you don’t get any time to enjoy together as a couple. You can start to feel like you don’t know each other.
  • Swap childcare with a friend a couple days a week. This can be a great option if you work remotely, or you have tasks that need to be completed on specific days of the week.
  • Consider a nanny — Hiring a nanny can sometimes be a less expensive option than daycare. This could be an ideal position for a college student.
  • Part-time daycare — This isn’t an option everywhere, but certainly one to consider. Daycare for a couple of afternoons per week can make a real dent in your projects.
  • New option on the horizon — Workspaces for freelancers combined with on-site childcare are starting to pop up. This is an excellent option because you don’t have to commit to full-time childcare. (Typically, you book your workspace and childcare a week or two in advance.) You’ll also get to network with other freelancers — a real bonus because working alone for long stretches makes you feel isolated.

Phase VI — Smile (They Won’t Be Little Forever)

While your days as a work-from-home parent are bound to be hectic, remember there is light at the tunnel. Kids grow up fast. Every day they get a little more independent.

So, plan your work around your kids’ schedule as much as you can. Try to get in some uninterrupted time while they’re asleep or napping. Shut off your phone and ignore emails during this time.

You can make huge strides towards your goals with even a couple of hours of intense focus.

Use a calendar to plan some quiet activities for the kids on a rotating basis. Planning an activity schedule ensures you have all the materials you need on hand — and avoids any last minute panic or interruptions.

Don’t go it alone. Arrange for some childcare so you can really focus on your projects when deadlines loom.

Balancing the needs of your kids and the needs of your clients or boss is probably the hardest thing you’ll ever do.

“Trying to do it all and expecting that it all can be done exactly right is a recipe for disappointment. Perfection is the enemy.” — Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg

Forget about perfection when you work from home.

Cut yourself some slack. Go for good enough.

Enjoy your days as a work-from-home parent as much as you can — because they won’t be here for long!

16 Awesome Food Allergy Apps to Make Your Life Easier

June 4, 2018

The Best Food Allergy Apps

Food allergy sufferers face a wide range of symptoms from anaphylactic shock, to hives, gastrointestinal distress and even nasal congestion.

For those who have food allergies, it’s critical to avoid foods that can trigger symptoms. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done in many cases. Many times, food manufacturers use different terminology for the same ingredients. That’s why grocery shopping and eating out can be landmines for anyone with a food allergy.

Luckily, technology has come to the rescue for people with food allergies.

Now there are a wide range of mobile apps to help those with food allergies:

  • There are apps to scan ingredients while you’re shopping, alerting you of potential allergens in foods.
  • If you’re a cook, there are apps to easily find substitutions for foods that cause sensitivity.
  • Want to track your symptoms to share with your health professional? Yep, there are apps for that too.
  • And because dining out is such a dangerous activity for anyone with severe food allergies, there are even apps to find restaurants that are allergy friendly.

If you have food allergies, check out these helpful apps and breathe a little easier.

Food Substitutions Apps

The Substitutions food allergy appsSubstitutions 

This food allergy app provides over 1300 ingredient substitutions, including specific brand recommendations for specific allergies –  whether you have gluten-free, dairy-free or egg-free dietary restrictions.

Migraine sufferers can also benefit from the Substitutions app. The app provides a list of foods that may trigger these horrible headaches.

Vegans will enjoy the list of plant-based alternatives to choose from. Those with dairy allergies will even find a recipe for a vegan cheese to enjoy.  If they aren’t allergic to cashews!)

Note: this app is included in an app suite that also has apps for conversions and cooking times.

NxtNutrio Healthy Diet & Gluten Free, Allergy, GMO Scanner

Select your profile settings to avoid specific foods. Options include filters for artificial colour and sweeteners, corn, dairy, egg, fish, gluten, MSG, peanut and more. 

To use NxtNutrio locate and scan the barcode on your chosen food. Then NxtNutrio works its magic.

A green circle appears at the top of the app when a scanned food choice is allergen-free. A yellow circle means use caution. When a red circle displays, the food is a no-go. (NxtNutrio displays a list of alternatives in that case. )

If you’d like to track your weight, water consumption, food choices and activities through NxtNutrio, it integrates with Apple’s Health app. 

Smart Chef

This suite of apps contains a food substitute guide, a dictionary of cooking terms and a kitchen calculator. Get alternatives for over 400 foods, including gluten-free, dairy, baking, spices and more.

Kitchen Swaps Lite 

KitchenSwaps Lite’s database contains over 1300 ingredient substitutions and equivalencies. But there is a big catch. The free version of the app only displays the first substitution in the list. If you want to view more than one suggestion in the list, you have to upgrade to the $0.99 paid version. 

The interface is rather primitive. But for the budget-minded, Kitchen Swaps Lite is a good choice.

Grocery Shopping Apps

Food manufacturers often give strange names to common ingredients, which makes grocery shopping a massive challenge for allergy sufferers. Here are two examples. 

Eggs can be listed on labels as albumin, globulin, livetin, ovomucin and phosvitin. Milk ingredients can be listed as ammonium caseinate, casein, lactalbumin, and lactoferrin.  You almost need a scorecard to keep up with all the names! 

That’s why you need a food allergy app scanner.

Foods You’d Never Think Contain Allergens Often Do

It’s not always as clear-cut as you might think to identify allergens. Many foods you’d never suspect could trigger allergies still can.

Here are a couple of examples for people living with dairy allergies.

The wax on fruits and vegetable is often derived from casein, a milk product. Some seasonings can also contain milk.  These are just a few examples of why people with allergies must carefully read labels. 

Luckily there are some allergy scanner apps to help you uncover these hidden allergens.

Eat It You Can 

Set your user preferences to filter out any manufactured food products that contain allergenic ingredients.  Next, browse by keywords to find foods that fit your criteria. (For example, breakfast cereals.) 

EIYC even searches for allergy-friendly salty or sweet snacks, breakfasts, desserts or cookies.

Spoon Guru 

This app contains a built-in barcode scanner to weed out any allergenic foods. Spoon Guru also sends allergy-friendly recipes directly to your phone (which is a massive time saver.) 

My Food Facts

Use the My Food Facts app to scan food label barcodes. You’ll instantly receive an easy-to-read, searchable list of ingredients to alert you about any allergy triggers.

Recipe Apps

Yummly food allergy app

Yummly 

Enter any foods you’re allergic to into the app. Next, select dishes that appeal to you. (Yummly then remembers your preferences.)

 The next time you open the app, Yummly finds similar recipes to the ones you’ve favoured. An especially nice feature of Yummly is the integrated grocery list. 

Youmiam

Youmiam is a combination of a recipe app and a community. Set up your profile to avoid recipes containing your allergens. If there are particular foods you dislike, you can also filter them out of the results.

Provide the app with your level of cooking expertise (beginner, intermediate or expert), and it returns suggestions based on your skill level. You might see a few recipes in French, as the app is based in France.

Important to note:  The “Staff Picks” tab won’t always filter out your allergens. In this case, you’ll see “The following recipes don’t include your food preferences” displayed in a green banner.

Stick to the “Recommended” tab to be safe.

Symptom Trackers

If you suspect certain foods trigger your symptoms, then a tracking app can be your best friend.

Record what you eat (and when) and also any symptoms you experience. If you consistently note the same signs after eating specific foods, then follow up with a doctor for further allergy testing.

Foody

This allergy app bills itself as “your personal diary for keeping track of your food and symptoms.” If you accidentally miss tracking a meal, you’ll receive a reminder notification. Foody features predictive text, so you don’t have to keep re-typing the same foods in your diary.

Rate the intensity of your reaction to avoid trigger food in the future.) Export your food diary via PDF to share with your nutritionist or physician.

Cara 

Designed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease sufferers in mind, this app bills itself as a “Food, Mood & Poop Tracker.” 

Don’t let the label scare you off. The Cara app tracks all your foods and symptoms, as well as your mood, stress levels and medications. This helps you identify patterns when your symptoms are apt to be at their worst. 

Cara also suggests substitutions for foods that trigger your symptoms. Export your food diary via PDF for your health practitioner.

mySymptoms Food+Symptom Diary

The mySymptoms app features food logging as well as mood and symptom tracking. View suspected trigger foods, trends and correlations in the Food Analysis tab. The more you track your meals, the better analysis you’ll receive. Export your data for later review by your healthcare provider.

Restaurant Apps

Eating out is a challenge for food allergy sufferers. Few menus list all the ingredients in their dishes. And although restaurants take food allergies seriously, cross-contamination of dishes with allergens does occasionally happen. 

That’s why apps that help food-sensitive diners find restaurants to accommodate their special needs is most welcome. The drawback to these apps is that they tend to be location-specific. (For example, available for U.S. or U.K. users only.)

AllergyEats 

This U.S.-based app has been around since 2010. AllergyEats claims to be “the leading guide to food allergy-friendly restaurants around the United States.” Read reviews by diners, or add your own reviews to the community and share them to social media.

Over 850,000 U.S. restaurants are listed and rated in the app, including Allergy Eats picks for the most allergy-friendly restaurant chains.

DineSafe

This free app tracks 33 common allergens found in restaurant meals, including milk, egg, shellfish and peanuts, and also advises allergy-friendly dining options. If you have particular dietary restrictions (for example, keto, vegan or kosher), DineSafe will track down a restaurant catering to your preferences.

Restaurants can also submit menus to be uploaded to the app database. This makes it handy for diners who want to check restaurant menus before they venture out. 

Spokin

Find top-rated restaurants, food products, allergy doctors with Spokin. Follow users with the same allergies as you have to see their recommendations.

Spokin’s hidden allergen feature discovers allergy triggers in food products and menu items.

Allergy FT: Allergy Food Translator

This app is a godsend for travellers with food allergies. Create profiles for family members with food allergies. The app translates 622 different food allergies into local tongues (including a warning message to show wait staff.)

Currently, the app supports French, German and Spanish, but more languages are in the works. All translations are by native speakers.

Profiles are stored locally on the app, so you’ll be able to use AllergyFT without a WiFi connection.

What are your favourite apps for dealing with food allergies?

What food allergy apps have you found useful for dealing with your food allergies? Please leave a comment below and let us know!
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Social Media: The Pressure On Girls to Be Perfect

May 11, 2018

Social media pressure puts a lot of pressure on girls to be perfect. When you’re a teenage girl, your public image means everything to you.

That’s one reason why social media has become such a force in girls’ lives. It allows them to portray themselves in the best light.

When you’re a teenager, controlling your image is appealing because so many aspects of your life aren’t in your control. You’re discovering who you are. You’re figuring out the give-and-take of relationships.

Social media gives users the image control they crave. But it also opens a Pandora’s Box.

Too many users’ self-worth comes just from likes and follows.

Manipulating Reality Through Social Media

Girls want to be attractive. Social media gives them instant validation of that.

While social media gives girls the image control they crave, it gives them false feelings of self-worth too.

“The ease with which we can edit and manipulate our social media accounts proves that any of these sites allow us to create a false reality, a version of ourselves as we want to be seen, a false self to increase the feeling of self worth, reflected by the number of likes and followers.”  TodayPictures.com

Laura Buffardi and W. Keith Campbell from the University of Georgia made the same connection about how social media gives users control over their image.

“Owners have complete power over self-presentation on Web pages, unlike most other social contexts. In particular, one can use personal Web pages to select attractive photographs of oneself or write self-descriptions that are self-promoting.”

But having control over their profile isn’t the only thing that encourages girls’ social media use.

The Dopamine/Social Media Connection

When a girl posts a flattering photo on social media, getting likes and positive comments sends a surge of dopamine through her brain. Dopamine increases feelings of reward and motivation as well as addiction.

“Dopamine starts at “seeking” behavior in each example. Then you get rewarded, which makes you seek more — to do it again. And again. It’s hard to stop. Chances are you have checked your email — or at least thought about it — in the past few minutes. Or Twitter. Or both. That’s not technology knocking. It’s your brain. It’d like some dopamine — now.” – Phil Pruitt, Chance Seales

When you understand the positive connection between social media likes and dopamine, you see the addictive power of social media. Many users freely admit how addicted they are to social media, like Jessa Haines.

“I am addicted to the adrenaline rush I get when my phone tells me someone commented on a photo I posted or link I shared. I am addicted to the connection I feel when members of my social network post about their families, travels and lives. I am addicted to sharing information about myself that generally no one should ever care about.”

But what happens when a girl’s photo doesn’t generate the ‘likes’ she wants? Or what about negative comments on her posts?

Negative feedback sets the stage for a hit to a girl’s self-esteem.

Low Self-Esteem & Social Media Pressure

 

Let’s be clear.

Social media isn’t the cause of low self-esteem. However, if a social media user already has low self-esteem, it can contribute to her anxiety and depression.

Here’s what body image expert Claire Mysko says:

‘While social media is not the cause of low self-esteem, it can contribute to it. Social media creates an environment where disordered thoughts and behaviours really thrive.’ 

 

Surprise: It’s Not Celebrity Photos on Social Media that Make Girls Feel Inadequate

According to Mysko, social media can ‘serve as a catalyst for more insecurity.’

You might think your daughter’s anxiety comes from celebrity profiles. Think again. Teen girls are smart enough to realize celebrities have trainers, personal chefs and stylists.

Friends and classmates are a bigger source of anxiety for many teen girls.

“These days . . . . impossible standards are set much closer to home, not by celebrities and models but by classmates and friends. With social media, teens can curate their lives, and the resulting feeds read like highlight reels, showing only the best and most enviable moments while concealing efforts, struggles, and the merely ordinary aspects of day-to-day life. And there’s evidence that those images are causing distress for many kids.” – Rae Jacobson

She May Not See the Whole Picture

Social media makes us think other people have perfect lives. But that’s not the truth.

A girl feels jealous when she see’s her friend’s stunning photo. But she doesn’t see the fight her friend had with her mom ten minutes earlier.

When she sees her classmate looking flawless in a photo, she doesn’t see the filters that made her that way.

Exotic vacation photos? No one mentioned that Grandma financed the trip.

Social media lies – and that’s what girls need to understand.

“People need to learn to take other people’s social media posts with a grain of salt and recognize that it represents how people want to share their experience. . . all the facts are not there. – Karen North, Ph.D

Encourage Your Daughter to “Think Outside the Crop”

Encourage your daughter to think critically about the images she sees on social media. There are lots of images obviously cropped or edited.  Ask her to question why? That are they trying to hide? 

This opens up an entire discussion about people not always being what the seem on the surface.

The video below gives some food for thought on how social media is so deceiving.

What’s Your Take?

Have you discussed the pitfalls of social media with your daughter? Comment below!

Is It Time To Phase-Out Passwords for Good?

April 25, 2018

Password Replacement is in The Works

 Replacing passwords will ultimately make us safer online. 

According to Business Insider, it takes a hacker less than half a second to crack a simple password.

Most passwords too easy to guess or else we use the same password over-and-over. (Uhh, guilty of the last one!)

What About Using a Password Keeper?

So what about using a password keeper to keep track of your passwords?

It’s a great idea in theory. But your data isn’t safe if it’s stored in a browser. Anyone with access to your device can see your passwords. 

We can all agree that passwords are a poor way to authenticate your identity.

The FIDO Alliance was formed to find a better way than passwords to keep user data safe. 

The FIDO Authentication Protocol

FIDO (which stands for “Fast IDentification Online”) wants to make online authentication safer for consumers while reducing costs for businesses. Password phase out is FIDOs ulitmate goal. 

Members of FIDO include Amazon.com, American Express, Bank of America, Google, Intel, MasterCard, Microsoft, PayPal, Samsung, Visa and eBay. When all these corporations are on board, password phase out is a certainty.

FIDO authenticates users via two pieces of encrypted information, called a public key and a private key.

Here is how public and private keys work. 

You electronically present your public key to a website you’d like to sign into. Next, the website sends back a piece of random data to your device. (This is called a challenge) Then the challenge is signed with your private key and access to the website is granted.

All this passing of public and private keys happens in the background in a split second.

Let’s take a closer look at how Microsoft and Apple incorporate FIDO using a biometric assist.

How Microsoft’s Windows Hello Authenticates Users 

Microsoft made a move toward password phase out with their Windows Hello feature. It allows users to use biometric data for verification on Microsoft Surface tablets, PCs and laptops with Windows 10 installed.

Windows Hello gives users three biometric options for data verification – fingerprints, facial recognition and iris scan.

 Windows Hello’s facial recognition process. 

  1. An infrared light illuminates your face. Next, an array of infrared dots is projected on your face, to map out high and low spots.
  2. An infrared camera captures an image of these dots. The image is stored on your device.
  3. After you’ve completed this setup, simply scan your face to access your device, scan your face. Your device unlocks when your scan with the previously taken infrared image.

How accurate is Microsoft’s facial recogntion? Very!

The Australian Business Review ran a test of Windows Hello with six sets of identical twins. Impressively, Windows Hello was able to tell each set of twins from each other. 

However, Microsoft isn’t the only game in town for technology to replace passwords.

Apple’s TrueDepth Facial Recognition Feature

Apple has their own facial recognition feature called TrueDepth. It works in much the same way as Windows Hello 3D Structured Light works. TrueDepth is able to detect your face even in the dark because of how it uses infrared light.

Here’s how TrueDepth works on iPhone X:

TrueDepth uses a combination of infrared emitter and sensor to paint 30,000 points of infrared light on and around your face and also capture flat or 2D infrared snapshots. For the points, the reflection is measured, which allows it to calculate the depth and angle from the camera for each dot and construct a depth map.”

Using biometrics for authentication sounds great – but do they really make your data more secure? Some experts say no.

Biometric Data IS Subject to Hacking Too

Tying biometrics to authentication SHOULD keep your data safer, but it isn’t foolproof. It’s easier than you’d think to hack biometric data.

Isao Echizen, a researcher for NII’s Digital Content and Media Sciences Research Division, says that “Modern phone cameras are powerful enough to capture sufficient fingerprint details if users expose their fingers to the camera.” – BleepingComputer.com

Last year a group of scientists extracted fingerprints from Facebook photos taken three meters away.

Determined hackers have unlocked devices with masks, photos and lifted fingerprints in the past. You don’t have to be a genius to be a biometric hacker either.

Just ask the six-year-old who used her sleeping mom’s thumbprint to unlock her phone. Then she used mom’s Amazon.com app to go on a $250 Pokemon shopping spree.  

Yikes! The question becomes . . .

Is Biometric Authentication Really Less Risky Than Using Passwords? It Depends

For the average person, authenticating with biometrics is much less risky than using passwords. That is, as long as your data stays stored on your own device.

You’re at risk for the rest of your life if your biometric data gets into the wrong hands.

After all, you can change your password, but you can’t change your fingerprint or facial features. 

What’s Your Take on Password Phase Out? Is Biometric Authentication Really Better? 

Do you feel the benefits of ditching passwords for biometric authentication outweigh the risks or are you still skeptical? We’d love to hear your take – please leave a comment below!

How Much Screen Time for Kids is Too Much?

April 18, 2018

Screen time for kids is a topic of concern for parents, especially for parents of kids under 5. Everyone can agree that excess screen time isn’t good for anyone. But how much is too much?

 How young is too young to watch TV or interact with a video, DVD or games on mobile devices? What about educational games?

Experts agree that too much screen time comes with some serious consequences, especially for the youngest children. Touchscreen technology has also added another wrinkle because while it is interactive it can also interfere with sleep patterns.

Here’s what the experts have to say.

Too Much Time On Screens Contributes to Speech & Language Delays 

Kids don’t learn better from a screen than they do from you.

A study by Weerasak Chonchaiya and Chandhita Pruksananonda found a relationship between early onset and high frequency of TV viewing and language delay.”The researchers say children who start watching TV at younger at than 12 months, and for more than two hours per day, were six times more likely to have language delays.

One of the worst possible effects of screen time on the youngest kids is delayed language development. Every minute spent with a screen is a minute that a child doesn’t learn the give-and-take of a real-life conversation. Children don’t receive any needed feedback, encouragement or language correction from a screen.

Babies and toddlers learn best from interacting with a loving caregiver, not from a screen. Reading to your child, singing and playing with your child helps them develop their language skills. A child needs to be able to ask questions and interact to become a confident speaker. There is no electronic substitute that comes close.

Our window of language acquisition is very short, and most language learning occurs before the age of two. If a child doesn’t receive the interaction they need before that age, speech delays are possible.

Cognitive Delays from Excessive Screen Time

Aric Sigman, a fellow of the British Psychological Society is concerned about kids who get hooked on screens at an early age. Excess screen time harms more than just speech development.

The ability to focus, to concentrate, to lend attention, to sense other people’s attitudes and communicate with them, to build a large vocabulary—all those abilities are harmed”

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/behind-online-behavior/201604/what-screen-time-can-really-do-kids-brains

Watching videos on a tablet is a passive way of learning. It doesn’t engage the child’s mine the way that a one-on-one interaction with a caregiver does. When children are read and spoken to, they create a mental picture from the words spoken and create a storyline to follow in their mind. Kids also receive non-verbal cues from interactions with their caregivers that are important for them to learn, such as tone of voice.

The bottom line? There is no educational video or app that can ever come close to what your child learns during one-on-one time with you.

Screen Time and Childhood Obesity

There is a link between how much screen time kids get and childhood obesity.

The more time a kid watches TV or plays video games, the less time they have for physical activity.  There are other factors at play in childhood obesity too – advertisers target kids with unhealthy food choices.

It’s important to note that too much TV can affect children’s BMI. But that’s not all. Excess time spent watching TV as a kid is a factor in adult obesity too.

A 30-year long study in the UK found a direct correlation between the number of hours of TV watched on the weekends to BMI. The more hours TV was watched, the higher an individual’s BMI was at age 30. For every additional hour of TV watched on the weekends, the risk of adult obesity increased by 7%.

A study of 8000 Scottish children found those who watched more than 8 hours of TV per week had increased the risk of obesity by age 7. Japanese and American studies report similar findings.

Having a TV in their bedroom is a strong risk factor for childhood obesity, regardless of kids’ physical activity. Kids with TVs in their bedrooms eat fewer meals with their families, drink more sweetened beverages and eat fewer vegetables than kids without.

Children who spend more time watching TV and engaging with visual media also tend to have reduced and disturbed sleep. Lack of sleep can contribute to metabolic changes, including Type-2 diabetes, which has skyrocketed in children.

Baby & Toddler Screen Time Risks

Screen time for kids is not recommended for children under 2

Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

In 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that “Infants aged 18 months and younger should not be exposed to any digital media.” The ban includes background noise from televisions. Lights and sounds coming out of your TV are enough to cause “distress and sleep problems” in babies, even the TV is only playing in the background. 

And I probably don’t have to tell you that tired kids are cranky kids.

After 18 months, the Academy allows screen time on a limited basis, as long as parents view the digital content with their toddler. This allows you to ask your child questions about the content and have a conversation about it. 

The American guidelines make an exception for video chats (like FaceTime or Skype.) Video chat is an important way for kids to stay connected to parents who travel for work, or with grandparents or other family members – and gives them all-important personal interaction. 

The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends no screen time at all for children under 2 – and that includes background TV. Paediatrician Michelle Ponti, the chairperson of the task force states:

 “The youngest children cannot learn from screens. They’re not developmentally ready to transfer what they see on a screen to real life.” 

Children aged 2 and up can learn from quality programming, but it has to be at their developmental level.

Screen Time for Kids Aged 2-5

Limited screen time for kids is permitted for 2-5 year olds

Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

Experts say screen time for 2-5 year-olds should be limited to under an hour per day. Kids aged 2-to-5 can benefit from quality TV shows as long as they are appropriate for their developmental level.

However, for your toddlers to really benefit from programming, you should watch the show with them. (Yes, I know you’re thinking, “Say it ain’t so!”) Viewing with your child allows you to ask them questions about the content and interact with them. This helps them retain more information than passively watching a screen does.

So what should you look for in programming for preschoolers? CommonSenseMedia.org recommends that parents follow these 5 tips when selecting shows for their kids.

  1. Look for shows with short episodes –  the length of the segments inside the episode count as much as the length of the entire program. Shorter segments mean it’s easier to turn the TV off without causing a toddler meltdown.
  2. Choose a show that doesn’t drive you crazy – let’s face it, some of the dialogue on kids’ shows is annoying. Pick a show that doesn’t make you feel like you’re bleeding from your eardrums listening to whiny, sing-song voices.
  3. Pacing and tone – a fast-paced energetic show may be great for your toddler at 10am, but at bedtime? Not so much.
  4. Avoid programs with ads –  shows aimed at the younger set generally avoid ads, but certain networks may cross promote shows. Record your kids’ favourite shows with your PVR to skip the ads.
  5. Choose shows with messages you care about – exercise buff, science supporter, healthy food advocate, bilingualism booster? You’re sure to find shows that help your kids develop curiosity and enthusiasm about specific topics.

For more information about picking out great shows for your kids, visit Common Sense Media’s post with their picks for Best Preschool TV Shows. 

While there are clear viewing guidelines for age five and under,  appropriate screen time for age six and over gets murky.

Elementary Age Kids and Screen Time

Surprisingly, there hasn’t been a lot of research on the effects of screen time on school-aged kids. Older kids benefit from age-appropriate TV programming and app usage, but moderation is the key.

Technology makes learning theory a lot more fun than just reading it out of a book but there is a trade-off. Information received from screens promotes only shallow processing, which means information received isn’t deeply encoded in memory. Jotting down notes by hand forces students process and prioritize information before they can write it down, which makes for deeper levels of learning.

So what’s the best way to manage screen time for older kids? Many experts say the best way is to draft a family media plan.

How to Create A Family Media Plan

A family media plan the ages of your children into account. The plan sets out guidelines for when screens shouldn’t be used (for example, at mealtimes, and an hour before bed, no texting when someone is talking to you, no screen time when you’re doing homework, no devices or chargers in the bedroom, no screens in the car, etc.)

Kids watch their parents closely. When your kids see you put away your phone at mealtime, or turn it off when you are having family time or reading, you’ll get less resistance from them to follow suit.

The Canadian Paediatric Society has four common-sense guidelines for screen time. The guidelines help parents manage screen time as much as it helps their kids.

General Screen Time Guidelines for Kids

The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends that parents follow the “four M”s when it comes to young children and screen time:

Minimize screen time – No screen time for kids under 2. For 2-5-year-olds, limit screen time to under an hour per day. Make mealtime a screen-free time, and keep kids off screens for an hour before bedtime to lessen sleep disturbances.

Mitigate the risks associated with screen time – Be present when screens are used – don’t hand over your tablet or smartphone to your child and walk away. Be choosy and make education, interactive and age-appropriate content a priority for your child.

Mindful about screen time – Sit down with your family and access how much time you spend as a group on screens. Develop a plan for how, when and where screens can and cannot be used.

Model healthy screen time for your kids – Turn off your devices when they aren’t in use and during family time. Avoid using the TV for background noise. Turn on some music instead if the house is too quiet (quite a feat when kids are around!)

 

Give Yourself a Break – No One is Perfect

Don’t feel like you’re a bad parent if you turn on a video for your toddler while you grab a shower. We can’t be everywhere at once.

The thing is to be aware of why you’re allowing your child some screen time. If your child constantly has meltdowns because they want to play with the iPad, then it’s time to rethink why you’re allowing them to have it.

Is it to calm them down, or is it having the opposite effect and over-stimulating them?

Even ten years ago, parents didn’t have the electronic options they do now to entertain their kids. Maybe it’s time to go analog again. How did you decide how much screen time was appropriate for your child? Let us know in the comments below!