“The Hands-On Home” by Erica Strauss
Last weekend I hosted a gathering at my home. And here’s the thing — I didn’t resort to my old trick of repurposing the laundry basket to hold all the stuff that had piled up on my dining room table, and then stashing that load o’ shame in the far corner of my bedroom for post-party consideration and sorting. That’s because at long last my housekeeping skills are improving — there were no piles of any consequence to begin with! The laundry was able to stay put!
With this success under my belt, I figured I had nothing to feel guilty about and maybe something additional to learn with “The Hands-On Home,” a sturdy new guide from Edmonds-based Erica Strauss, maven of the popular urban homesteading blog called Northwest Edible Life.
Strauss makes a great argument against artificially colored, lavishly scented and disturbingly toxic commercial lotions and potions.
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I checked out her blog first. Strauss is a cheerful proponent of do-it-yourselfing. Her chatty blog addresses everything from making your own laundry-drying rack, butchering your own rabbits, and fertilizing your own vegetable patch — with your own urine. Profanity is sprinkled casually throughout. The blog wasn’t my priggish cup of tea.
The book, however, tones down on the expletives and does offer some pretty nifty advice. It is organized by season: spring, summer, fall, and winter each have their own chapters on cooking, preserving, home care and personal care.
I seized upon the introductory section devoted to home care basics. Strauss makes a great argument against artificially colored, lavishly scented and disturbingly toxic commercial lotions and potions, as well as that “flimsy mop thing with the disposable pads that look disturbingly like panty liners….” She advocates instead for some basic housekeeping tools and effective homemade cleaners.
Strauss offers a primer on the differences between alkaline and acidic cleaners, solvents and abrasives. This involves some basic chemistry, and as your enthusiastic DIY coach, she urges you to “put on your geektastic science hat” and follow her simple formulas for creating your own cleaning solutions and soaps.
Beyond that, she also gives a thoughtful presentation on how to customize your daily housekeeping routines, your regular weekly maintenance, and your seasonal deep cleaning in a way that is workable for you.
Strauss makes similar arguments when it comes to the personal care products you stock in your home. I had to laugh at her description of silicone-based commercial hair sprays as shrink wrap for the hair. But when you think about it, it’s kind of horrifying, too. Again, with the relatively modest list of ingredients and instructions she provides, you can mix up your own petroleum-free and natural personal care products – an effort that ultimately can save you money, simplify your routine, and be better for your health.
Unlike her blog, Strauss focuses on the home but not the garden in this book, although her seasonal cooking and preserving sections do focus on typical garden bounty of each season.
“The Hands-On Home” encourages DIY wannabes to give this stuff a try, and provides justification and good instructions for doing so.
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