When it comes to ditching the toxins, I always encourage people to start with small but achievable changes. Here’s the thing, these seemingly ‘small’ changes can have a huge and positive impact on your health, and with so little effort! Creating a low tox space, be it your living area, office, car or bedroom is such a beautiful gift you can give yourself. Studies have shown that decluttering, adding plants, reducing synthetic fragrance and nourishing your body are just a few of the ways you can improve your quality of life. So without further ado, read on for my top five ways to create your very own low tox space.
#1 Ditch The Air Freshener
When it comes to your stock standard air fresheners you’ll want to run the other way. These air fresheners are generally loaded with phthalates. In fact all conventional fragranced products are – so that’s perfumes, fragrance sticks, incense, and much more.
The real problem with phthalates found in fragranced products is that they’re hormone disruptors and they totally mess with our bodies. Phthalates are a ‘plasticizer compound’ that make fragrances last longer and they make certain plastics uber bendy / soft/ stretchy (think of those kids goopy coloured gels and ‘monster slime’ from a toy shop or a cheap puzzle play mat or a PVC raincoat or contact paper or vinyl flooring).
The good news about phthalates is that they don’t stay in the body for long like some chemicals and ditching those ‘fake smells’ out of your home is just about the quickest change you can make.
While you can detoxify from phthalates the real damage is caused by daily, repeated exposure – more than our bodies can handle. That damage can mean everything from male sperm count and quality issues to allergic asthma in children, to a change in the male babies’ testes, to increased breast cancer incidences. And that’s just some of the research thus far, there’s many more studies cropping up as we speak!
While the science can feel a bit dense at times, you no longer need to wade through loads of research. It really is becoming increasingly apparent and publicised that phthalates are not our friends! So what to do? The best way to replace your fake fragranced products and lighten up your new low tox space is to bring in some natural fragrances and get that room smelling delightful.
Some simple tips for improving the smells in your space include:
- Diffusing essential oils (more on this below!)
- Opening the windows… I know radical idea, right?!
- Make your own natural air freshener diffuser by dipping a whole bunch of wooden skewers in your favourite essential oil blend and pop it by an open window to breeze through into the house.
- Pop a little water in a saucepan and do a 5-minute simmer of your favourite essential oils and rosemary or citrus peels – The house will smell amazing in minutes!
- Winter air freshener: fill the bottom of a jar with baking soda and add a few drops of essential oils (bergamot and cinnamon for example) then arrange the cinnamon sticks in the jar for a sweet-smelling play on snow-covered branches. The best part? No chemicals and you can easily freshen up the scent by stirring the baking soda with the cinnamon sticks!
- Bathroom tip: Drop some essential oils on the inside of the toilet roll cardboard… It’ll smell great in there for a fraction of the environmental or monetary cost of a fake air freshener.
- Burn 100% beeswax candles with natural essential oil fragrance. Beeswax candles are phthalate-free just be wary of how they are scented (if it’s got synthetic ingredients, leave it in the store).
If this whole phthalate chat has made you want to learn more, then you might like to check out my Go Low Tox eCourse. In it, I cover in great detail and with many, many options how to identify synthetic and harmful chemicals and how to make small but significant changes in your home. Can’t wait for the final round of 2018 at the end of October!
#2 Add Some Greenery
Bring in some natural flowers and plants. Not only can they purify the air, they can add a beautiful natural scent. A small warning, many commercially sold flowers and plants are heavily treated and sprayed. Here’s a blog post by Danielle White & Celine Watz on which sustainable, ‘slow’ flowers to buy.
There are so many benefits to having natural plants and flowers in your home. You can read all about them in this paper by the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture here, but we’ve summarised it for you below:
Indoor plants can:
- Reduce indoor air pollution. Research shows that plants remove many indoor air pollutants, including toluene, benzene and formaldehyde.
- Reduce excess noise. Yep, a good lot of plants can improve the acoustics in your new space. They can reflect, diffract, or absorb sounds, depending on the frequency. Perfect if you work from home or you’re in a noisy location.
- Increase feelings of happiness. Multiple studies have been conducted on the positive effects of plants on people’s overall mood. But let’s be honest, you don’t need a study to notice how much lighter and invigorated you feel when there is something beautiful and alive in your space.
- Reduce stress. Studies have shown that viewing films with plants or nature can drastically reduce stress, alternative studies have shown that stress-reducing responses also occur when people are in a room with interior plants.
- Increase productivity. Productivity has been shown to be 15% higher, and mental fatigue lower when plants are present in an office or home space.
#3 Diffuse Essential oils
Essential oils are such a beautiful way to create balance, focus and clarity in your office space.
In case you’re not familiar with them, essential oils are a natural oil typically obtained by distillation. They’re commonly sourced from barks, stems and leaves and other parts of plants. They have the characteristic odour of the plant or another source from which it is extracted.
My top oils for my home/office space are:
Rosemary: This scent is robust and herbaceous. I tend to diffuse it in the afternoons when I notice my focus waning or when I’m about to dive into a big project.
‘Believe’ (a Young Living blend): This is a great oil to help you get motivated with a mixture of balsam fir and frankincense. The blend is uplifting, steadying, balancing, grounding, and empowering. I tend to diffuse it during moments where I need to be creative and ambitious.
‘Grounding’ (a Young Living blend): I find this blend incredible for well… grounding myself. Sometimes I can get a bit flighty or quick to jump from one thing to another. With a few drops of Grounding in my diffuser, I feeling connected, focused and steady.
Lemongrass: I just love diffusing lemongrass. Something about it picks me right back up if I’m feeling a little lethargic or stuck with my work. It’s got a very subtle citrusy-herb scent and can really bring a sense of ease and calm to your office space.
Cypress and Peppermint mixed together: I use these two oils together to create a sense of stability. Cypress is warming and comforting; with its herbaceous, fresh and woody scent, it’s said to promote spiritual harmony and growth. Peppermint oil brings in a freshness and helps to improve energy, especially when your day is dragging.
If you want more information on essential oils, I love and use Young Living and have done for 4 years. Gary Young was a brilliant man who upped the industry standards and safety of essential oils – a true pioneer and a brand that I wholeheartedly support due to their ethical and environmental standards and practices. You can read up on that here.
#4 Sip on Herbal Tea
Every week my team and I meet at my house and have a whole day working together. It’s honestly delightful and often super productive! We just know we have a few good hours to squeeze in as much useful work into our day as possible. Though we’re often head down working away, there’s ALWAYS time for tea… and chocolate. I have a big cabinet filled with all my favourite Pukka teas, plus a collection of other random brands I have discovered along the way. Sipping on organic herbal tea is not only therapeutic, it also allows for pause, reflection and a good old chat around my whistling kettle.
Choosing a tea can be so personal and really dependent on your mood, for me, I LOVE Three Tulsi, Mint Refresh and Three Fennel from the Pukka tea range. It’s always well stocked in my home. So good! And the Marshmallow Soothe from the Ovvio range…hmm reminds me I need to go get some of that!
I asked the team what their favourites were and why – here’s what they said:
‘My favourite is Chamomile, Vanilla and Manuka honey from Pukka, super relaxing and naturally sweet so it hits the spot when I’m craving a sweet treat :-)’
- Elise (My assistant!)
‘I’m obsessed with the Three Licorice from Pukka, it totally hits the spot when I’m craving a sweet treat. Like Alexx, I’m also a big fan of Ovvio Organics teas, especially the Dandelion Coffee with roasted chicory root. It’s a great alternative to coffee and gentle on the digestive system.’
- Steph (Content Producer and Naturopath)
When picking your tea, try and source an organic variety and steep with a lid or plate over the cup or mug, this ensures any natural therapeutic oils that are released stay inside your cup! Be sure to ask a prospective brand you’re considering if there is any plastic in their tea bag – Yep. It’s hiding in many tea bags, so let them know you don’t want plastic in your tea!
#5 Keep things clutter free
There is lots to be said for keeping your workspace or home clutter free – I can attest to this! After spending the better part of two months clearing out 7 years worth of stuff before moving house, I now truly appreciate the value of having a clear clutter-free home.
So how do reducing clutter and living a low tox life relate? Well, in those 7 years where I lived and worked in my apartment, I suffered a serious case of CIRS (chronic inflammatory response syndrome) as a result of a mouldy, damp and dusty house (I’m going to be sharing more on this soon). In those few tricky years, no amount of supplements could help me until I was clear of all the mycotoxins trapped in all of the stuff I had accumulated. While this may not be the case for everyone, dust and damp is a hotbed for people suffering from allergies or inflammatory conditions, so if you are noticing symptoms like brain fog, dizziness, sinus or respiratory issues, chronic illness, mood swings and much more, then it’s worthwhile taking a look at your home and office space. If you need inspiration on how this might look for you, check out my blog post, Useful Techniques from Five Decluttering Thought Leaders.
When it comes to the additional benefits for decluttering, the proof is in the pudding:
- Clutter causes your stress hormones to rise. A study published in The Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that women who considered their homes more cluttered or unfinished felt more depressed and had higher levels of cortisol than women who described their homes as more restful.
- A decluttered home improves overall health. A study conducted by Indiana University compared the tidiness of participants’ homes to their physical activity and overall health. The healthiest and most active participants in the study were those who kept their living spaces clean.
- A clean environment leads people to choose healthier snacks. Another study on clutter conducted by the University of Minnesota found that people working in a clean environment were more likely to choose an apple over a chocolate for a snack. Interesting, no?
To summarise things, there are five easy ways to create a low tox home or office; ditch the air freshener, add some luscious green plants, diffuse essential oils, sip on herbal tea and declutter your space. These are all simple, affordable ways to make a change, that’ll be great for your productivity and health.
I’d love to know if you have any golden tips on how you make your own Low Tox Space. Share in the comments below!
Low Tox. Happy Bodies. Happy Planet.