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Clutter Costs Us Money And It Could Be Harming Your Health

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Photo: Julia Saltzman

Oftentimes, clutter takes on a persona of its own. First, you form an emotional bond with your things, and the fact that they continue to pile up doesn’t seem like a big deal. Then after a while, your clutter starts to accumulate, requiring more and more space until—in some cases—it takes center stage and you agree to move some of it into a temperature-controlled room at a self-storage facility, which you can only visit on its terms. Clutter is such a diva!

Self-storage facilities are widely popular these days, with an estimated 54,000 facilities in the United States feeding into a $32.7 billion industry. I believe that while storage units can be necessary in some extreme cases, they are unnecessary more often than not. So before you put down your credit card, consider how much you can save financially, mentally, and emotionally by not storing your things.

1. Financial burden.

The self-storage game is changing. They will pick up, store, and create a personalized digital inventory database—but it will cost you. Their storage units range from $89 up to $8,000 a month. Employing a self-storage unit temporarily can be helpful during a move or a renovation. But over time, it becomes a very a costly investment that never provides a return. Can you imagine the vacations or experiences you could have had by saving $100 per month over the course of a year? Instead of spending money to keep things “just in case,” consider selling or consigning large-ticket items like furniture and electronics for cold hard cash or donating them for a tax write-off.

2. Mental anxiety.

Clutter is mentally taxing. Whether we are conscious of it or not, our things hold energy, and energy affects us deeply. Looking for more proof? A study out of UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives and Families (CELF) found a link between high cortisol (stress hormone) levels in female homeowners and a high density of household objects. Additionally, the brain is only able to process a certain amount of visual information before the other senses kick into overdrive, compensating vision. When we find ourselves in a room piled high with stuff, our capacity to think clearly begins to wane. Many people use self-storage as a Band-Aid solution—a way to move clutter from one home to another. But similar to that nagging feeling you get when you’re forgetting something, you’ll know that the underlying issues remain, undressed and just sitting elsewhere.

3. Emotional strain.

Clutter emotionally stunts people. Emotionally charged possessions can weigh heavily on a heart to the point of debilitation. When does clutter become too much? Do you own your belongings, or do your belongings own you?

Learning to release our attachments and let go of physical excess is incredibly freeing and empowering. If you must keep a physical reminder of the items you are willing to release, I suggest taking photos and keeping a journal. Your footprint is much smaller using this method, and you are creating a living history in the process.

Your belongings don’t need to have jurisdiction over your life, nor do you need to make special accommodations for them. You have the power to sever emotional ties to your things. Surround yourself with things that bring you joy—and let everything else go.

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Liver Phase I and Phase II Detoxification Pathways

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A major function of the liver is to filter blood, neutralizing and removing toxins and other harmful substances. Blood moves from the intestines through the portal vein to the liver. Poisons from the intestines, including heavy metals, are typically deactivated in the liver.

Some of what is filtered is chemically neutralized and expelled from the body through bile or through the kidneys. Many of the toxins, however, are chemically changed into a more active form and “tagged” for recognition so they can later be neutralized and eliminated from the body.

As long as our filter, the liver, stays clean, it can quickly break down toxins such as coffee, alcohol, nicotine, drugs, pesticides and food additives. A properly functioning liver is able to clear 99% of toxins from the blood before they enter the general circulation of the body. Approximately 2 quarts of blood pass through the liver every minute for detoxification.

Because of the liver’s central role in detoxification, the major difference between a person who experiences symptoms when exposed to toxins and one who does not is in the ability of his/her liver to detox the blood adequately.

The Detoxification Process

The body eliminates toxins by either:

excreting them directly via the kidneys, colon, skin and lungs

OR

chemically converting them into substances that can be excreted by the liver into the bile or, if necessary, stored in the body

There are basically two types of toxins. Toxins that enter from the environment are called exotoxins. Some examples are prescription drugs, alcohol, pesticides, heavy metals and food additives. Anything that enters the body and is not food for cells probably needs to be filtered and eliminated.

Toxins are also created inside the body which are called endotoxins. Endotoxins often originate in the intestinal tract. Many are created from undigested food or as a by-product of the overgrowth of bacteria or fungi. Undigested food putrefies which produces ammonia or alcohol. Bacteria and fungi can produce many toxins like ammonia, indo or skatole.

Regardless of the origin of toxins, it is the function of the liver to process and filter them to be excreted from the body.

Phase I and Phase II Detoxification

The liver transforms fat-soluble chemicals into water-soluble compounds so they can be released through the kidneys and bowels. This is carried out by a complex system of enzymes that are made in liver cells.

Phase I of detox involves activation of a series of enzymes called cytochrome P450. This system consists of 50-100 enzymes, each specializing in detoxification of chemicals. They metabolize or chemically break down toxins absorbed from the intestines, hormones, alcohol, drugs and chemicals from food and water. When the body is deficient in some of these enzymes, its Phase I capability is limited.

Cytochrome P450 enzymes begin the transformation of toxins into non-toxic substances. Fat-soluble toxins are converted into active intermediaries which is even more toxic than the original substance and therefore can do significant damage if not properly eliminated.

To function properly cytochrome p450 requires copper, magnesium, zinc and vitamin C. A sufficient intake of cabbage, broccoli and brussel sprouts, as well as foods rich in B vitamins (whole grains) and vitamin C (peppers, tomatoes, citrus) will ensure that this enzyme system is working well. Phase I detox slows down as we age so it’s important to eat a healthy diet and supplement as needed.

If Phase I is inhibited, many drugs, caffeine, histamine, hormones, dyes, insecticides and other substances will not be detoxed adequately and will be stored in the liver.

In Phase II, the substances must be broken down a second time, combining with minerals, amino acids or other chemicals that are water-soluble. This process is called conjugation. There are at least eleven of these conjugation processes in Phase II. Each process requires special nutrients and enzymes. If these processes are not functioning in the liver, then there is a delay in the breakdown of toxins, and they can build up in the body.

Causes of Phase II liver dysfunction are:

  • illness that causes our livers to not function well
  • toxic load is more than the liver can handle
  • nutrients aren’t available for detoxification process
  • digestive tract is overburdened with endotoxins which causes leaky gut or constipation

People most prone to chronic illness, such as Lyme disease for myself, usually have rapid Phase I systems but depressed Phase II systems. This is because a build up of bio-transformed substances from Phase I increase overall toxicity. This forces other organs apart from the liver to store these toxins for later elimination. If these “backup” organs fail to neutralize and eliminate them, toxins get stored in fatty tissues leading to degenerative disease.

The liver has an amazing ability to heal itself as long as we give it the nutrition it needs. Diet, exercise and regular detoxing will help keep your liver in tip top shape!

 

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DIY Indoor Mason Jar Herb Garden

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With just a few supplies and a few minutes, you can plant your favorite herbs in a jar. You’ll quickly grow a kitchen herb garden that’s as hardworking as it is pretty.

Supplies for Your DIY Herb Garden

You’ll need:

  • Mason jars/glass jars
  • Fresh herb plants or seeds
  • Potting mix
  • Pebbles
  • Chalkboard or other labels

Step 1

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Line the bottom of your jars with pebbles. This will ensure proper drainage and prevent the roots from becoming waterlogged.

Step 2

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Add potting mix to your jars, making sure you leave room for the plants.

Step 3

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Place your herbs into the jars, taking special care to ensure the herb plants aren’t overcrowding the container.

Step 4

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Using chalk labels or any other label, write down the name of each plant and affix. While this step isn’t essential, it may save you from grabbing cilantro instead of parsley!

Step 5

Display your jar herb garden! There’s no limit to the options—try mason jar hangers or a vintage milk carrier that lets you move seamlessly from windowsill to sink for easy watering.

Caring for Your Mason Jar Herb Garden

With a few simple tips, your DIY indoor herb garden will help you add flavor and interest to your recipes for seasons to come:

  • Don’t overwater. If the leaves begin to yellow, scale back. Frequent small waterings will help keep your herbs happy.
  • Prune regularly. Cutting leaves from the top of your herb plants on a regular basis will help promote a fuller, healthier plant, and keep limbs from becoming too leggy.
  • …but don’t cut too much at once. Aim to never remove more than a third of the plant at any given time, or it may struggle to rebound.
  • Cut correctly. When harvesting your herbs, be careful not to tear the stems. Use your fingers or a kitchen scissors to make a clean break.
  • Provide ample light. Most herbs love sun.
  • Keep it hot. If you live in a colder climate, don’t let your herbs touch a frozen window, and watch for signs of distress if they’re placed in a windowsill during the winter months.
  • Repot any bigger plants. If you’re doing it right, your herb plants will eventually outgrow their mason jar homes. When the roots reach the bottom and begin to become impacted, move the plant to a larger container on your porch or patio and replace.
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5 Minimalist Habits For A More Peaceful Lifestyle

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I’m sure by now we’ve all heard about the benefits associated with scaling down our possessions and simplifying our lives. Everything from your finances, to organization skills, aesthetics, psychological clarity and the environment can benefit from a minimalist approach.

But what does a simplified life look like in practice?

When you’ve committed to paring down your belongings and de-cluttering your living space, the things that you do choose to keep take on greater importance. Here are five minimalist habits to bring more order and efficiency into your life:

1. Dress with Less

In a world filled with choices, the need to make lots of small repetitive decisions day after day is a drain of your energy.

You can avoid stress and decision-fatigue by automating your daily processes as much as possible. Particularly with deciding what to wear. Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and President Obama are known for their very limited wardrobes, which reportedly helps them save brain power and maintain focus on the important things. Minimizing your wardrobe will make for a more efficient lifestyle.

2. Plan and Repeat Your Meals

Food is a great domain for enjoying abundance and variety. But constant attempts at creativity can be a drain on your time, energy, and resources. To solve this problem, many minimalists commit to a simple and repetitive meal plan, which automates the shopping process and removes a lot of routine decision-making from the day.

Deciding what to eat can be deceptively exhausting, especially if you’re dieting. By creating a meal plan, you’re limiting alternatives and options. Your mind can relax. Plan ahead of time your meals for either breakfast, lunch, or dinner; or all three. Stick to it during the week, or for your particularly busy days. And save your more ambitious or spontaneous cooking projects for the weekend!

3. Rethink Your Space

Walking into a room in your home, and being overwhelmed by the clutter is not a good sign. Every room in your house should serve a purpose, and no, a junk-room doesn’t count as ‘a purpose.’

Creating more space is not the solution; Americans are building bigger homes than ever before. When you have too much space, human tendency wants to fill it, and usually, we don’t fill it with things we actually need.

To become a minimalist at home, begin “The Great Purge.” Gather boxes and trash bags and go through one room at a time. Have three piles: 1) keep 2) throw away 3) donate/sell.

Anything to be thrown away, take out to the dumpster or trashcan immediately. Don’t let it linger so you can second-guess yourself! Any items to be sold, snap pictures of and set a time limit on how long you’ll keep it posted on Ebay or Craigslist before you donate it. Two weeks is a suggested amount of time. For items being donated, load them up in your car and get them out of your place ASAP.

Once you complete “The Great Purge,” you’ll have much more room and storage than you originally thought. You can also check out these tricks of the trade designers use to make spaces seem larger and more functional.

4. Minimize Debt

It might not be a physical hindrance in your everyday life, but debt will be a looming black cloud of frustration following you everywhere. Part of being a minimalist should be studying how to pay off any debts you have, especially bad debts, like credit card balances.

One suggestion is to take a small amount each week — around $20 to $40 dollars — and slap it onto payments you already make. It won’t hurt as much to part with a small amount of money. If you can make the payments automatic or a direct deduction from your paycheck, go that route.

It’s also helpful to have an “emergency fund” to minimize any bad financial surprises. The same principle applies – take money each week and set it aside in an account. If you can forget it exists, do it.

5. Life in Digital

Receipts, bills and records have a place, but it’s not on your counter scattered everywhere. A great way to de-clutter is to digitize your important documents, and have them ready for printing if needed in physical form.

Photo quality is just as good as scanning nowadays. Once you’ve uploaded all your documents, keep a bin by your computer and upload new items each week. Don’t get too far backed up, or you’ll feel overwhelmed. Invest in a hard drive or cloud space so you won’t lose anything should your computer fail.

There are many more steps you can take toward becoming a minimalist, but baby steps are important in any major life transition. As long as you are motivated and driven toward creating a simpler lifestyle, you’ll get there. Celebrate small victories (but not by buying more things!)

Do you have any tips for living a more peaceful and minimal life? I’d love to hear!

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Want To Clean The Air In Your Home? Do These 5 Things

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Photo: Stocksy

If staying inside makes you feel restless, tired, or unhappy, there’s a chance your indoor air quality might be to blame. The Environmental Protection Agency has defined “sick building syndrome” as the result of inadequate ventilation, chemicals, and biological contaminants that can affect your physical comfort, concentration, and energy levels.

Try tossing these things from your home and see if it solves the problem-

1. Household cleaners made with synthetic ingredients

Common ingredients in household cleaners like aerosols, all-purpose cleaners, and detergents include VOCs (volatile organic compounds) like benzene, formaldehyde, tetrafluoroethylene (aerosols), phenols, ammonia, and propylene glycol.

According to the New York State Department of Health, when these VOCs enter the body, they can cause damage to tissue and organs. Additionally, short-term exposure to high levels of some VOCs can cause headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness, drowsiness, nausea, and eye and respiratory irritation. If you want a clean home and body, avoid cleaning products with these chemicals and consider switching to natural alternatives.

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Photo: Stocksy

2. Petroleum-based scented candles and incense

Filling your home with different aromas can create an inviting environment and cozy mood. However, a study by the EPA found many risks associated with burning candles and incense. When heated, products with petroleum, additives for color, and synthetic fragrances can release potentially harmful chemicals such as acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, and acrolein. Candle wicks can also contain lead in some cases, and almost all of them produce soot and other fine carbon particles that can affect the respiratory system.

Knowing this shouldn’t stop you from filling your home with pleasing scents. Instead, look for products made with natural essential oils like peppermint, ginger, or frankincense. Or better yet, make your own candles!

3. Dusty furniture, curtains, and floors

What exactly is dust? It can be a host of things, like soil, pollen, insect waste, pet dander, and even human skin. In fact, human skin is thought to make up 80 percent of all dust in our homes. When inhaled, dust can irritate the tissue in the lungs and bronchial tubes. Dust and dust mites are also the primary cause of allergic reactions. Dust mites thrive inside the home because skin cells contain proteins that are their primary source of food. When these microscopic insects eat, they release an enzyme to make the protein in skin cells more easy to digest. Contact with these enzymes can result in mild symptoms such as a runny nose or sneezing, or in more severe cases, congestion, facial pressure, or a severe asthma attack.

Hundreds of thousands of dust mites can live in bedding, mattresses, furniture, carpets, curtains, and other fabrics. To reduce the risk of exposure to dust mites, create a weekly cleaning schedule that includes among other things, dusting furniture, curtains, and floors every week and more often if you have pets!

 

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Photo: Stocksy

4. Carpets and rugs that don’t wear a “green” label

Environmentally friendly carpets can greatly reduce your exposure to air toxins. One study evaluating the “new carpet smell” found that certain carpets emit chemicals like formaldehyde, vinyl acetate, and isooctane. Over time, these chemicals escape into the air. In some cases, vacuuming or using professional cleaning equipment might not even be enough to suck them up.

If you’re looking for a carpet that is made with fewer chemicals, the Carpet and Rug Institute created a certification program called Green Label Plus that tests carpets for benzene, chloroform, formaldehyde, phenol, and many other potentially harmful compounds. When shopping for carpets, simply ask to see products that have Green Label Plus certification and always looks for ones made without synthetic fibers. Opt for cotton, bamboo and other natural fibers.

5. Air filters older than 90 days

Consider your heating and cooling systems the lungs of your home. When air is inhaled through the return air vent, it enters the heating and cooling system before being exhaled through vents or registers. Just like our nasal passages have mechanisms to trap allergens before they reach our lungs, our homes use air filters to stop pollen, dust mites, and more from reaching the heating and cooling systems. And since we breathe what the home breathes, we need air filters to help reduce the number of allergens found in the air.

Air filters use woven fibers that allow air molecules to pass through but trap microscopic particles such as pollen, mold spores, pet dander, dust mites, and other allergens. Over time, as these particles fill the gaps in the filter material, airflow will diminish and the filter will be less effective at improving air quality. You can prevent this by replacing air filters every 90 days. You may need to replace them sooner if you have pets, use your stove and oven often, or experience frequent allergies.

What can you add to your home to clean out the air?

We spend a lot of time indoors: about 90 percent of the day. As research has found, levels of indoor air pollution can be two to five times higher than outdoor air. Indoor pollution can be the result of everything we have already outlined above and a few other sources such as pets, things kids track indoors, cooking, and more.

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Photo: Stocksy

While you definitely want kids, pets, and food in your life, the best way to deal with your remaining indoor air-quality problem is to add plants around the home that absorb harmful chemicals over time. You should also open your windows at least twice a month to allow fresher outdoor air to replace the stale indoor air. To make this process more effective, set your thermostat to the “fan” setting to speed up the circulation of air to other areas of the home. During the winter or summer months, this step might sound unpleasant, but the difference it can make might make the brief discomfort of hot or cold air worth it.