Make your home (and your life) healthy

When selling your home, it should be super clean and smell fresh. Not like chemicals and not like you’re trying to mask a bad smell. Read on for some ideas that will make your home and you look, smell and be healthier.

This year, my new personal project is ridding our home of as many unhealthy, chemical-laden products as possible. Not just getting rid of them responsibly at the hazardous materials dump, but replacing them with organic, cruelty-free products. You may wonder, why go green now?

I’ve reconciled myself to animals being used in labs where they’re trying to cure cancer or Parkinson’s or cystic fibrosis, for example. That’s important work. Making my eyelashes look longer and thicker, however, or my hair silkier and softer, is not important work. I like to look presentable, but I don’t want any more rabbits or mice blinded on my behalf. I’ve been converting for years to organic cleaning products to do my small bit for the environment. I may not have kids myself, but that doesn’t mean I’m okay with your kids or grandkids having a ruined planet.

First step: culling cosmetics and toiletries.  I feel good that I’m no longer harming myself and the environment. I checked the contents of every product in our bathrooms and if there were no parabens or sulphates, they passed the first test. (There are many chemicals that are harmful for us, but I can pronounce these ones and therefore remember them!). If it had the cruelty-free symbol on it (a leaping bunny or bunny ears), or said “no animal testing”,  it stayed. A surprising number could be kept, I was happy to find. But LOTS are gone; contact me for the product lines you may wish to avoid.










Some of the organic product lines I’m now trying out: (highlighting products made in Canada) Neutragena Naturals,  Pure Anada (made in Manitoba), Bambu, Burt’s Bees, Arbonne, The Naked Bee, Pro Terra, Live Clean, Zuzu, Gabriel, Barefoot Venus (made in Kelowna, BC), Millcreek Botanicals, The Green Beaver Company (Hawkesbury, ON), Kosmea, Pure Ayre, Lucia, Paula’s Choice, Badger, Penny Lane Organics  (also Ontario) – I have more on these if you want to email me.  Just because a product is organic and cruelty-free doesn’t always mean it works well. But that applies to the non-organic, tested-on-animals products, too!


Organic, cruelty-free cosmetics and toiletries that do a good job

It’s easy to find organic, cruelty-free hand lotion, body lotion, moisturizer and lip balm.  In Ottawa, we are fortunate to have the largest environmental store in Canada, Terra 20, with one on Wellington, a huge one on Iris beside IKEA, and a new store at the Rideau Centre  –  they don’t carry cosmetics at the Rideau Centre location as they’re beside a MAC store and Sephora is a few doors down. Terra 20 carries cleaners, toiletries, cosmetics, kitchen items, clothing, paper products, baby products, etc. All are environmentally-friendly, but I’m not sure that all are cruelty-free, so check the labels; they are well-marked. Kardish Health Food Centre also has a reasonable selection of organic, cruelty-free toiletries and cleaning products.

Another very good source of organic, vegan, cruelty-free and (often) Canadian-made toiletries (and other items) is DreamWeaver, a gorgeous boutique in Westboro, in Ottawa’s west end. Lee Anne Frederickson, the owner, carries bath and body, fashion, gourmet and gift items, home decor and baby products, many of which I’ve purchased over the years.

Second step: culling the house cleaners. This is very important. I attended a webinar  in late March through CSP International® called “Chemicals Hiding in Plain Sight“. Did you know that 70% of soil and water contamination in North America comes from household cleaners? If that doesn’t bother you from an environmental perspective (but it should), it also means you pay higher water bills when your municipality has to spend $$$ to clean the water. What’s under our sinks could be harming us, or at least contributing to health problems we don’t want, like cataracts and blurred vision.

Safe cleaning products that do a good job

Safe cleaning products that do a good job

Products containing tri-halo methanes, hydrocarbons, sodium laurel sulphate — these are ingredients you want to dispose of responsibly ASAP. Did you know that some foaming products, like hand soap, contain sodium laurel sulphate, and is considered a cause of cataracts? Fabric softeners haven’t been used in our home since we got our dog 12 years ago. They’re poisonous to dogs, and Chloe liked to get into everything when she was a pup. J.R. Watkins® has organic products for cleaning; I’ve switched to their  laundry detergent, all-purpose cleaner, and  multi-purpose wipes, and am very pleased. Caldrea also makes lovely dish soap that’s organic and cruelty-free; buy it at Terra 20 and Solutions at Train Yards, for example. NatureClean makes organic, cruelty-free, Canadian-made dishwasher pellets, which I’ve seen at both Terra 20 and Kardish stores; I’m very pleased with this product.

There are too many dangerous chemicals in our mass produced daily-use products to enumerate even a quarter of them. But please do yourself and anyone living with you a big favour: check out the alternatives for safe cleaners, safe toiletries and safe cosmetics, and switch to organic, cruelty-free products. They are, sometimes, more expensive, but as demand for healthy products increases, there’s a lot more choice at reasonable prices. And some of them, for instance, Penny Lane Organics and Barefoot Venus, are Canadian-made, so they’re an even better choice!

If you have questions, please contact me. I’m happy to recommend ones I’ve found  most effective.


Room Makeovers – are they for you?

A room makeover – just what you need to shake off the blahs!

What is a room makeover?

Reviving and refreshing a space with:

Colour  (paint, accent pieces, art);

Lighting (lamps, window treatments, skylights);

Furniture layout (identify focal point, maximize the space in the room, create flow);

Furniture choices (make the most of pieces the client owns; source pieces that give the client the biggest bang for their buck)

A room makeover is not taking down walls, rewiring, modifying ceiling height, and other structural changes.

That’s a renovation, and you need a professional interior designer.

Before you embark on a room makeover, consider this:

[Read more…]

Expert tips for home improvements

Here are some great suggestions, culled from 40 years of Canadian Living© magazine.

1. If you’re renovating your home [to live in or prior to selling], start at the top floor and work your way down. You don’t want debris being hauled out through finished rooms.

2. When painting, punch holes in the rim of the paint can with a hammer and nail. The excess paint from your brush will drip back into the can – not all over the outside of the can.

3. To catch drips when painting ceilings, poke the handle of your paint brush or roller through a paper plate.

4. Choosing new window treatments? Select sheers in neutral colours that coordinate with your wall trim or ceiling for a more pulled-together look.

5. Before you choose your paint, view paint samples at different times of day. The change of light affects a paint colour’s appearance, so don’t commit until you’ve checked it out.

6. Decorating a small space? Furniture made of transparent materials, like acrylic and glass, have less visual weight than similar-size opaque pieces, making them perfect for a small space.




Room Makeover Extraordinaire: Scrap-booking Paradise

Room Makeover Success Story

Elegant Strategies has just completed an enjoyable collaboration on what I would call “a scrap-booker’s paradise”, a room which my client said would henceforth be her “happy place”. Making the most of her existing space and transforming existing furniture has changed this spare room from a little weary to wow. [Read more…]