There’s this idea out there that “home takes time”. It’s the idea that your home doesn’t change overnight to be exactly what you envision. And it’s the idea that slowly making changes and improvements one by one will eventually add up to the home you’ve been dreaming about. And I can’t agree more with this idea. A home changes as you change and evolves as your priorities and importance evolve. This concept applies especially to a home where you’re reducing environmental toxins and creating a healthy lifestyle plan for your space.
My own home journey is still in the process — in fact I’m still improving and changing things with each new day. The beauty of the journey that takes us from what we envision to what we make a reality in our homes is that along the journey we can pivot or change depending on what we learn or what may become important to us. If you overhaul your home and your home habits in a short period of time you run the risk of either being unable to sustain those changes OR, finding out later on that There’s either a different or better option out there for a product or habit.
Sometimes I think we let the panic overwhelm us into thinking we need to change our indoor spaces and healthy lifestyle habits immediately and sweeping fashion. But I really think if we can step back from that stressed, overwhelmed feeling and come up with a level-headed plan to reduce environmental toxins at home, we give ourselves an advantage of going through the work and process of this journey.
As a healthy home expert, I’m always looking for new ways to help inspire and motivate families to stick with healthy lifestyle changes and healthy habits for a healthier home. I’ve found that changing a few key mindsets and embracing the process are beneficial to permanently removing environmental toxins from the home. The journey of creating a truly healthy house in terms of products, habits and materials is a long process; however parts of the journey can be quick and swift changes. The ultimate goal is a lifestyle that supports a healthy home space so that it is second nature to our healthy lifestyle. It starts with reducing environmental toxins at home and building on healthy habits and changes to support that healthy home space.
The Importance of Reducing Environmental Toxins at Home
First and foremost, knowledge is power in this space of healthy home habits and changes. Without the knowledge of environmental toxins, there would never be any positive changes made towards reducing them. It’s the obvious place to start when we start detoxing a home and making an indoor space one of the healthy building blocks of our body.
Once you understand that the products you bring into your house are affecting your body and your indoor environment, you’ll start to naturally reduce those products and materials.
These toxins are the big offenders in our homes and they’re the ones we need to protect ourselves from when we’re trying to create a healthy lifestyle:
Formaldehyde: A known carcinogen and also causes issues to the neurodevelopment of the brain and pulmonary system. Changes how cells grow and reproduce and can harm white blood cell production.
Flame Retardants: Immune system suppression, carcinogenic, reproductive toxicity, developmental delays, reduced neurological function, and endocrine and thyroid disruption.
VOCs: Respiratory issues, bone marrow problems, possible human carcinogen. Toxic to liver and kidneys as well as linked to reproductive disorders.
PVC Toxins: Endocrine and hormone disruption, possible human carcinogen, abnormal reproductive development and delayed development in children. Also linked to childhood obesity.
Bisphenol Toxins: Alters hormone production in the brain, linked to gestational diabetes and metabolic disorder. Mimics estrogenic activity and has been linked to obesity and breast cancer.
Phthalates: Abnormal reproductive development and neurological toxicity in kids and adults. Endocrine disruption, thyroid issues, immune system suppression. Also linked to lower IQ, attention problems, hyperactivity and poorer social communication in kids.
Synthetic Fragrances: Toxins are made so they don’t break down easily causing long term respiratory problems, allergies and asthma. Also linked to birth defects, nervous system disorder and cancer risk.
How You Can Create a Healthy Lifestyle Through Your Home
Creating a healthier indoor space that is as free from environmental toxins as possible is a PROCESS. Believe me when I say that it is not an overnight change. As much as I think we want to quickly and efficiently remove toxins so that our health doesn’t suffer, this thought process can leave you feeling overwhelmed and stressed out.
Embrace the fact that creating a healthy home takes some time. But once you get moving on your process and journey, you’ll be able to gain traction and move more quickly. The process of creating a healthier home that I walk my clients through has some very clear steps.
- Know your home and evaluate your spaces. This might mean looking in each room and noting the products or materials that need some changing. It might mean getting an indoor air quality monitor to assess your spaces. Either way, get familiar with your home and spaces — even the ones that don’t get visited very often.
- Write down the changes you want to make. A list will free up your brain from worry and constantly mulling over the changes. Just like any area we need to change, creating a list of WHAT needs to be changed and then planning HOW to make the change are key.
- Research new products and purchases. Most of what we’ve been told about products and materials has been told to us through some sort of marketing propaganda. Doing research on your own and focusing on FACT rather than an opinion will help you in replacing any items or products you need to. Research can be daunting, which is why most of us don’t do it. But there’s help when you need it if you get stuck.
- Take it one step at a time. The process is a good one! It allows you to create habits that stick. When you think through each change you’re making — reasoning the change with the facts – it’s more likely to become a healthy habit rather than something you have to work at remembering on a consistent basis.
The 5 Healthy Mindset Shifts You Need to Make
I have found that in helping families create healthy lifestyle changes throughout their homes and reducing environmental toxins, the simplest way to stay on track is by changing the root of the problem: our mindset. These five mindset shifts will improve your healthy lifestyle from the inside out and help keep your home a healthy space.
- Less is better. The minimalist lifestyle approach is one of my FAVORITE mindset shifts when it comes to creating a healthy home. Basically every purchase or change you make boils down to a “do I NEED this” question. Using that filter as you make purchases means that you’ll avoid many toxic products and materials just because you’re not buying them.
- Be the gatekeeper. This is another empowering mindset shift that I really try to engrain in my healthy house families. The idea that you are the keeper of your home and YOU get to decide exactly what comes into your space should leave you feeling pretty good. You can confidently say “no” to items or products that just don’t align with your healthy lifestyle habits.
- Small batch and high quality is your friend. Finding products that are made in smaller batches and buying materials and items that are intended to be so high quality you NEVER have to replace them is a mindset change that will guide you throughout your journey of creating a healthy home. It helps you say no to a lot of plastics that you could potentially bring into your home. It also is a good foothold for finding handmade items and small businesses that support your mission of a healthy home.
- A healthy home is not a destination, but a healthy lifestyle. It kind of reminds me of that one time in my twenties where I counted every calorie I ate until I got to my “goal weight.” Then I stopped counting — I’m sure you can guess that some of my hard work came undone. But once I learned that changing the WAY I ate by opting for double veggies and reigning in my sweet-tooth, my extra pounds I knew I didn’t need kind of fell off. The same is true of a healthy home. If we look at our homes as place to make changes only until we get a result, we’ll end up sliding back. I help my clients create healthy habits that support a healthy home and naturally reduce environmental toxins. This way a healthy home is just a natural part of life, and not something that has to be decided on every day.
- Don’t worry about what you can’t change. I mean this is just a practical mindset for life, isn’t’ it? You can only change SOME of the areas inside your home. Changes are you’re not going to be ripping out insulation or removing plywood from inside your walls. And that’s okay! Focus on those changes that you CAN make. Can you replace a plastic water bottle for a glass or stainless steel one? Then focus on that change and let any other worry fall by the wayside.
When Overwhelm & Stress Appear
It seems like every day there’s a new study or research paper that hits the web claiming that something in our homes is killing us. I think it’s important to remember that yes, we come in contact with A LOT of environmental toxins at home, but while we’re removing the toxins, there are things we can do to improve our space. And because of this, there doesn’t need to be this panic or stress over making the changes we need to.
Remember that creating a truly toxin free home is virtually impossible. We have toxins and chemicals in our world, and they’re here to stay. This is why I want to help you with a simple plan to change your home without the overwhelm of not knowing where to start or the stress of negative health effects.
First, keep in mind that you should only focus on what you can truly control. If you’re home’s drywall is out of your control right now, shift your focus to something else that you CAN change and control. Start with small, very simple changes. Things like removing air fresheners, getting rid of plastic in the kitchen and creating a healthier cleaning routine are all SIMPLE things you have control over completely.
Second, remember that there are things you can do to improve your space in the midst of slowly reducing environmental toxins. The whole reason our homes become such a toxic environment is because we have very poor indoor air quality. This essentially lies in the fact that indoor air is concentrated with toxins from VOCs, plastic, pesticides and other chemicals. By diluting the indoor air with fresh air from outside, you can reduce the concentration of these toxins and improve your indoor space.
To dilute the indoor air, you can work through these steps, and know that you’re indoor space is healthier even if you can’t make a big change at the moment:
- Open windows as much as possible. This allows toxins inside to become diluted with fresh air. It also allows some toxins to be pushed outdoors
- Run HVAC fans, vented fans and ceiling fans. This will help exchange the air inside with outside air and move the air around your house to avoid toxins becoming highly concentrated in one area.
- Dust! Dust contains toxins and chemicals from our furniture, carpet, cleaning products and shoes. By removing dust from your home, you’re removing toxins that have built up in these particles. If dust is disturbed it can be inhaled or ingested, allowing the particles into our bodies and bloodstream.
- Filter and purify the indoor air if possible. If nothing else, make sure you’re replacing your HVAC filter with a high quality material like carbon to reduce at least some toxins that build up in our indoor air. You can also invest in an air purifier (which I recommend anyways) to improve your indoor air and reduce some environmental toxins that you may never be able to fully remove.
Finally, come up with a plan. Most of the time stress and overwhelm hit us in a big way when we have no plan or no idea what to do. By creating a plan for your home to reduce environmental toxins, you can calm the panic each time that stress comes back. Once you have a plan created, you can just fall back on it and not only see what you can do next to change, but also remind yourself of just how far you’ve come.