Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The devil made me do it! Cleaning and other hazards.

I have some friends who are neatniks. They clean up the dishes while they’re cooking and after every meal. Their counters and sink are clear. Everything has its place—there are no unsightly piles to be found, not even in the garage. Their toilets sparkle. There is no dust or cobwebs gracing the nooks and crannies. And, like this guy at Burning Man, their floors are spotless.

I am in awe and a little bit suspicious. How do they do it? I certainly have never been accused of being a neatnik! But I do enjoy periodic cleaning. I like to imagine that I’m releasing elemental spirits trapped in the dust and grime.

“If one has thoughts that relate to the world of elemental beings in a valid way, then they receive something…. They receive nourishment from the centre of their evolutionary situation. It is nourishment for them when human beings think of them and relate to them lovingly. Elemental beings are like children who dance and are happy if their mothers stroke their hair.”
Manfred Schmidt-Brabant, The Spiritual Tasks of the Homemaker

There is a freshness, a lightness of being, that arises from this kind of care. It doesn’t even require antibacterial soap, bleach or harsh chemicals. In fact, the scent of those makes me feel like I shouldn’t even be breathing in! Michael Pollan, in his latest book, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, advises not to eat anything containing more than 5 ingredients. Could we apply this wisdom to the other products we buy? Do we really know what’s in our household and personal cleaning products? In How to Know Higher Worlds: A Modern Path of Initiation, Rudolf Steiner describes various meditations for self-discipline and achieving freedom in thinking. One of them is called the Pin Exercise. He suggests imagining a straight pin in your mind’s eye. Think on its form and function. Then, working backwards, visualize in detail how it came into your hands: retail store, distributor, factory, and the process of gathering various raw materials. A straight pin probably is comprised of less than 5 raw materials, but I wouldn’t even know where to start. Who would in this day and age? And to think of the multitude of ingredients in our dish and hand soaps, hair and beauty products, and floor cleaners. I can’t even pronounce most of them!

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a company that explains where the raw materials come from, how they are extracted and processed to become the product for sale? They could provide research on the negative effects on people and the environment. And they could rate companies for best practices. But knowing, we probably wouldn’t buy anything. Would we?

But if the devil makes you do it, clean! David Suzuki has some recipes for making your own 5 ingredient or less supplies.

Scouring Powder

Laundry Soap


Hair Mask

Check out Suzuki's website for recipe cards for just about any household cleaning product you might want, as well as a wide variety of cosmetics. Clean safe and have fun!


  1. The picture of that guy with the vacuum! I just can't get it out of my head. It has me cracking up.

  2. I took that picture several years ago, and when I started writing this post, I thought it would be perfect. Isn't it awesomely manic?! It makes me laugh! :D Like I said, I wouldn't win any housekeeping awards, but I HAVE felt like that guy before!

  3. We make almost all of our cleaners, and I love them.
    I use essential oils in them, and have a lot of concoctions for different things... creativity, tranquility, morning meditation, etc.... and it's so easy to imagine my home sparklifying with happy energy as I'm cleaning!

    I've often also thought that companies should put plain language on their labels so that we can decipher what's in them. :/

  4. Stephanie, I like that you put yourself into your "concoctions" and make them uplifting and not just to get it done and over with.

  5. What a great post - I fall into the category of never being accused of neatnik-ism...*grin*...but I also yearn for a clean house.

    I, too, have found that if I consider housework a rather more spiritual exercise - a little house magick - than a tedious one, it makes it go a little easier. The essential oils in the mop water does wonders for this!

    I use only soap nuts for laundry and then vinegar for all other cleaning - baking soda added for scrubby stuff - but other than that, you really don't NEED anything else. Contrary to what the great marketing machines would like to have us believe...

    ~brightest blessings~

  6. I find so much more pleasure from working with simple things, things that I can really sense where they come from. Like getting produce from local farmers that I've met. There is something so much more fulfilling about that. I'll have to look into soap nuts. Thanks for mentioning it, Mel.

  7. Hi Jenell, I am not a neatnik, though I aspire to be one! I despair over not really understanding what things are made of or how they are made. That's one reason I like cleaning with vinegar and baking soda (though I'd have to research how those are made!)

  8. I think I'd just rather have a lot less stuff. That way I wouldn't have to devote quite so much time to cleaning when I'd rather be exploring or reading.

  9. Great post. Love all the homemade recipes featured here - exactly what I'm looking for at our eco camp. I've been successful with things like homemade air freshners and insect repellants already and I have an extensive range of essential oils I love & cherish so I will give these a go. Never heard of 'castile soap' though... any ideas where I get this?

  10. Den, it sounds like you're already on the road! What a wonderful idea to have an eco camp. Where are you located?

    The castile soap they're refering to is made here in the U.S. (California). However, it must be widely available at natural food stores around the world? You can order it online here:

    These recipes call for the liquid castile soap.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  11. Hi Jenell. Thanks for the info. I'll check it out. We're in Montenegro, of all crazy places... I'll be stopping by as often as I can - you have amazing 'recipes' and such an inspiring blog...

  12. Montenegro, huh? I've never been to Europe. I have in-laws that are Croatian, and they describe how beautiful it is in Croatia. Is it similar? Have you learned the local language?

    Thanks again. :)