This month marks the fourth season U.S. premiere of Downton Abbey, which as most entranced Americans know is the story of an aristocratic British family and the community of servants that attend to their every need. While you may not need to maintain a centuries old English manor as the Crawleys do, chances are you can learn a thing or two about running your household from the Downton Abbey residents "below stairs."
1. Use sunshine not chemicals to clean your rugs
Clean carpets are a necessity, but conventional carpet cleaning agents such as Perc and its ugly cousin Naphthalene are toxic and have been linked to illness and disease. Take a cue from the chamber maids in Downton Abbey and beat the dust and grime off your rugs outdoors. Just 20 minutes of sunshine a day will kill germs and bacteria from rugs and other textiles, so if you can't clean rugs outdoors you should be able to open up the blinds and let the sunshine in.
2. Repurpose old clothes
Take your warm--but too small--sweaters or jackets and turn them into hats and woolen mittens for yourself, your kids, your friends & family, or give them away to strangers in need. All it takes to repurpose old clothes in this way is a spark of creativity and a sewing machine.
3. Use houseplants to purify the air
Before mankind invented air purifiers Mother Nature created the houseplant. Indoor air is five times more polluted than the air we breathe outside. Houseplants suck in dirty air and convert it to purified oxygen, making your home and office space naturally healthier.
4. Clean floors often with non-toxic cleaning agents
Pesticides, pollutants and other nasties stick to the soles of your shoes only to be tracked through your home. Clean floors often with plant or vegetable-based cleansers. A word of warning! Claims such as nontoxic, bio-based, chlorine-free, organic, phosphate-free, natural fragrance, and/or biodegradable are not carefully regulated so research a product thoroughly before you use it in your home.
5. Stock all-natural bath products
Downton Abbey is set in the early 20th century, a time when beauty and bath products were made with essential oils and natural ingredients. At bath time, turn back the clock in favor of products that are toxin-free, sustainability-focused, and made without toxins such as Diethanolamine (DEA), sulfates and other synthetic ingredients.
6. Make dingy windows sparkle with lemon
Mix ½ cup of lemon into a spray bottle of water, shake well, and get to work. Wipe windows down with a clean, dry cloth after you spray.
7. Shine copper with lemon
Pour sea salt onto the cut side of ½ a lemon and use it as a sponge to rub tarnish out of copper. Continue adding salt and rubbing until you get the results you want. Rinse and dry well when you're finished.
8. Pick up after yourself and maintain a regular cleaning schedule
When our homes and offices are clean we are more productive, organized, and happier in general. That's no accident. Humans are incredibly visual and being in the center of clutter translates to a feeling of internal unrest. Regular cleaning maintains a sense of calm and organization in your life, which translates to a happier and more stress-free existence.
9. Eat organic, local food
In this day and age it's common for food to travel thousands of miles to arrive at your kitchen. Eat like it's 1922 and buy fruits and vegetables from your local farmers markets or Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) sources.
10. Use cloth towels
Every time we dry our hands or wipe a counter top with a paper towel, we're adding to the world's garbage problem. Switching to cloth towels in the kitchen and microfiber for cleaning will keep thousands of pounds of paper products out of landfills and go far toward reducing your carbon footprint.