A clean living lifestyle isn’t something that just happens without effort. It takes time and intentional change. Learn how to get started on this journey in your own home today with these tips.
If you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time, you might have already heard this, but I didn’t always care about the products I used or the food I ate. In fact, up until about a decade ago, I was as conventional as they came! As a young adult, I lived in the drive through. I couldn’t cook a meal from scratch to save my life, and my house wasn’t clean unless it smelled clean.
Needless to say, I had a long way to go when I started making changes. That’s how most people start.
I love listening to the struggles, tips, and wisdom of others who have gone before me, no matter the journey. It’s so inspiring! And still, to this day, I love hearing about others’ clean living journeys as they share how they approached changing their lifestyles and what they found helpful.
And, because I love hearing everyone else’s stories, today I want to share mine. Whether you are brand new to clean living, green cleaning, and whole foods based cooking, or you’ve been doing it for a decade like me, I just hope to offer some inspiration and encouragement that you can take into your own life.
In this post, we’ll talk about my own family’s struggles, how we cleaned up our lifestyle, and the tips I’d give any beginner wanting to try and make changes.
My Clean Living Journey
I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, and like anyone who grew up back then knows, nutrition advice has changed a lot. Those decades are marked by a fear of fat and a high demand for convenient and fast options for busy families. Food manufacturers and their marketing departments ran with this, and gave us an entire industry of “low fat” convenient options. Just add water and heat!
Because of this mindset, things like processed artificial cheeses, low fat sugary drinks, and TV dinners were staples in my childhood.
Outside of buying low fat foods, we didn’t think much about nutrition back then. Food was food, convenience was king, and we were all full and happy, right?
The closest we ever got to thinking about what was in our food was in elementary school. I dealt with crippling headaches that were so bad I was getting sent home from school on such a regular basis that we had to get a doctor involved. They diagnosed me with what they called an “intolerance of MSG,” and told my mom to start packing my lunch instead of letting me eat the hot lunch at school, and that was it. That’s as deep as we ever dug into how food impacted our health. It wasn’t until much later in life that I experienced a higher level of food awareness.
Learning to Cook
I think my husband’s favorite story to tell about our early years is the first time I attempted to cook for him. We met while I was in college, and one weekend, I told him I was going to cook him spaghetti. He cooked for me all the time, so it was the least I could do, right?
Now, when I say I was going to cook spaghetti, I meant I was going to boil pasta and pour a jar of Ragu over it. To me, that was cooking, and it’s about the level of complication I could handle.
Or…at least I thought so….
Somehow, I ended up setting off the smoke detector while trying to bring the water to a boil, burned my hand, and -in the process of trying to open a window to let the smoke out – broke my finger.
After that, he cooked all of our meals for years.
It wasn’t until I was very pregnant and staying at home all day that I decided to try my hand at cooking again. I found some simple recipes on AllRecipes.com, and decided to surprise my husband with a home cooked meal that night.
I’m super proud to say that I didn’t fail him a second time. From then on, several times a week, I attempted new recipes, and made dinner. Those early dinners were nothing like what I cook now, but they were a start.
I cooked things like baked chicken using Kraft dressing as a marinade, pasta with jarred sauce, veggies in the bags you could steam in the microwave, and lots of scrambled eggs with salsa and cheese.
How Motherhood Opened my Eyes
For most of my life, and well into early adulthood, I really didn’t give a thought to nutrition. Food was there to fill me up, and I ate what tasted good. Sure, I ate fruits and vegetables, but I also ate in much the same way as I did growing up. Fast food, meals from a box, and overly processed foods were the staples in my diet. Fruits and veggies were the extras.
Of course, as I went through my first pregnancy and my daughter was born, I started getting introduced to those first ideas that blossomed into the clean living lifestyle I live today. I’d read about aspartame, and how you should avoid it while pregnant, and that was my first introduction to actually reading an ingredients label outside of checking fats and calories.
This started a gradual process of cutting out ingredients, one by one. And, by the time my daughter was 6 months old, I’d decided on following the Baby Led Weaning principles. If you’re not familiar, that means you start your baby directly on soft finger foods and foods you’re already cooking. Of course, I wanted my baby to get plenty of fruits, veggies, and healthy foods, and so…I had to reevaluate my own diet to match.
This prompted our biggest diet change so far. One that allowed me to give my daughter food off my own plate, and know that I was feeding her pure, nutritious foods.
Gone were the boxes of convenience foods, and the processed cheeses, and many of the other foods I’d eaten most of my life. Instead, I was focusing on lean meats, healthy fats, fresh fruits, veggies, and whole grains for the first time in my life.
It’s not all about the food
Of course, when most people hear the term “clean living,” they immediately think of food. It’s the biggest culprit for sure, but it’s far from the only change we made.
The more I read about becoming healthier, the more I learned. And, the more I learned, the more I wanted to change.
My daughter had struggled with eczema her entire life, and despite her pediatrician insisting it was normal, I knew something was causing it. (Spoiler alert: I was right).
I started inspecting everything I brought into my home. I’d already learned that many of the food products I’d previously eaten had bad ingredients. Was it that far fetched that other products had ingredients I didn’t know about, either?
Every time I cleaned, I got a headache and a cough, so I knew I was onto something. Gradually, I started learning about making my own cleaners, and one by one, I replaced all the products in my home.
My first blog
This was about the same time that I decided to start my first blog. I wrote about life as a new mom, and documented a lot of what I learned there.
Over time, I started to build a community, share tips, and trade recipes with other moms who were trying the same things I was trying. We all grew together, and shared ideas as we went. To this day, I’m still thankful for those women entering my life, and still keep in touch with some of them.
Through this community, I started finding recipes for DIY skincare, what soap brands were best, and how to remove laundry stains and soap scum without harsh chemicals.
Honestly, I owe so much to that first blog, the friends it brought me, and the things I learned in those early days of my journey.
Because going against the “norm” requires a community, people who can hold you accountable, and share their ideas. It’s what I try to create in this space now as much as possible.
If that’s something you’re looking for in your life, I encourage you to sign up for email updates and join the Facebook community! You’ll get to stay up to date on all sorts of ideas, recipes, and new things to try.
Growing and changing
For years after that, my life just kind of trucked on. We were happy, healthy, and felt pretty confident in the life we were leading.
It would have been easy to stop there and tell you that’s the end of the story, but it’s not. I’m still not done growing and changing, because things like this truly are a journey. There’s always something new to learn and try.
In fact, many of the aspects of my life that I consider vital to our well-being now (like yoga, essential oils, and chiropractic care) were introduced to me well after I thought we were done making changes.
If there’s only one thing you take away from everything I wrote today, it’s this: There is no finish line. For the rest of your life, you will be growing, changing, and learning. And I think that’s amazing.
Are you ready to take this leap yourself? Read on for my top clean living advice, and how to incorporate these ideas into your own life without feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
What is Clean Living
Clean living is all the rage right now, but it can be hard to really nail down a solid definition. That’s because the idea means different things to different people. In one camp, you’ve got people that think it’s just a diet. On the other, you have people who think it’s an entire lifestyle.
Clearly, by now you know which camp I fall into.
Clean living is a lifestyle that focuses on intentional, healthy choices in your diet, lifestyle, and cleaning products. As you grow into this lifestyle, you become mindful of everything you bring into your home, whether it’s lotion, cereal, or even your bathroom cleaner.
It’s about mindfully choosing the products with the best ingredients to support your healthiest life. If you’re not sure what that means, be sure to read here and here for more information on how the ingredients in our every day products affect our health and well-being.
But, to go even a step further, clean living is also about making the decisions that are best for the environment around you. Things like eliminating single-use plastic, supporting companies who keep the environment in mind, and minimizing waste as much as possible.
Of course, no one starts out doing all of those things, because that would involve a very sudden, expensive, and stressful lifestyle change. But the longer you follow the principles of this lifestyle, the more you begin to incorporate. It might start out with diet changes, but eventually it’ll change your whole life for the better.
The Benefits of Clean Living
I’m not going to lie. I have some days where I wish I could go back to not knowing about clean living. When I’m out of town and forgot to pack my lotion, it’d be so much easier to just go grab what I need without giving a second thought to the ingredients.
But, I do know, and once you know, you can’t go back.
The thing is, there are so many benefits to choosing natural products, eating better, and being more mindful in general.
Some benefits you might notice:
- You’ll feel better: Obviously, eating healthier foods is going to make you feel better, have more energy, and be overall healthier in the long run.
- You could lose weight: The number on the scale isn’t indicative of anything, and I know that, but if this is something you struggle with, it could happen naturally as you incorporate these ideas into your diet.
- Your skin will thank you: Since swapping to natural makeup products and skincare, my skin has been so much healthier. I used to deal with eczema and cystic acne all the time, but now it’s incredibly rare!
- You’ll enjoy better air quality: Did you know the air inside our homes is often more polluted than the air outside, thanks to the chemicals in our cleaners, air fresheners, detergents, and candles?
- You’ll enjoy generally better health: I’m not a doctor, and I know that some problems can’t be solved with lifestyle alone, but in general, you should see an improvement in your health by eating better, avoiding harsh chemicals in the home, and being mindful of what you put on and in your body.
- You can save money: I know it doesn’t seem like it, but over time, these choices can help simplify your life and your routines. I now buy one bottle of cleaning concentrate that I use to clean my entire home. I’ve also been able to simplify my makeup and skincare because my skin is healthier. And I shop seasonally so I save money on things like produce and groceries.
Tips for Beginners
Before you jump in, get stressed out, and decide this is all just too much, I want to give you some tips. These will really help you focus as you transition into starting to live a cleaner, healthier lifestyle.
First, start slow. I know a lot of people advocate for big, sweeping changes, but those just don’t seem very practical or attainable to me. If you ask me, change like this takes time. It takes money. And it’s not something that you’ll be all done with in a week. Take it slow, learn as you go, and just make one change at a time.
It’s important to prioritize in order to find out where to start. Is your diet the thing you’re most concerned with? Maybe, like me, you get sick every time you clean and want better alternatives? Or, maybe your skin is in serious need of some immediate help? Figure out what’s bothering you the most and start there. The rest will come later.
An important skill you’ll need to learn through all of this is to learn to read labels and understand them. Have you ever looked to even see what’s in your products? I bet if you start looking and learning, you’ll be surprised. I recommend looking up ingredients you don’t recognize on EWG or ThinkDirty to see more information about them.
And, just as important, you should learn about greenwashing and how to avoid it. So many products come in packages that boast that they’re “green,” and “all natural,” but the ingredients label is where the real information is. Don’t trust packaging without looking at the actual ingredients. Brands know how to market to us, and like to use a lot of buzz words to get us to buy, so be weary!
Simple changes for a greener life:
As you start making these changes, keep in mind a few areas you’ll want to evaluate:
- Swap to green cleaners
- Find natural, non-toxic makeup options
- Buy clean skincare, soaps, deodorants, and other toiletries
- Look into essential oils and other natural wellness options
- Look into low waste options for your home, like replacements for single use plastics
- Find ways to simplify your life, create routines that save time, and spend more time doing what you love
Remember, you don’t need to do all of these things at one time. Figure out where you want to start, and make as many changes as you feel comfortable with there. Start finding cleaner alternatives for your products as you run out, and slowly, you’ll touch on everything on this list.
Want more reading on this topic? Be sure to check out these posts!
- Natural Cleaning Products: How and Why to Make the Switch
- How to Start Eating Real Foods (and Ignore the Fads)
- Why is Self Care Important? Rethinking the Trend
- How to Create an Intentional Life
- 10 Easy Ways to Reduce Waste
I also thought this post from The Pistachio Project was good. It’s from back in 2011 and mostly focused on parenting, but when it comes to living naturally, most of it stays the same over time.
Getting Started with Clean Living: Final Thoughts
Clean living isn’t just something that happens without effort. It takes time, and intentional change. It truly is a journey that doesn’t have a finish line, and even over ten years later, I’m still learning and growing.
These are the steps I used to slowly change the foods I ate, the products I bought, and the cleaners I used without overhauling my entire life overnight. And I know that they can help you as well!
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