things have changed . . .

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I wished I’d kept a food journal, but now I’ve thought about it; a consumer journal. What I supposed were lifelong constants are no longer. I was willing to be faithful so long as manufacturers were true. I wanted them to care about the things I did. They offered more products and promises to get my money. I ditched them. But it took many years to get to that point. Back to the less-is-more world I grew up in.

During my rural small town 1970’s childhood brands didn’t map my life. My earliest memories are of Mr Sheen, the timber furniture polish and Fabulon ironing aid. The overspray from both made our timber floor fantastically slippery… great fun for a 4 year old wearing socks. I can’t remember what kind of washing detergent my mother used but a vague memory of the fragrance of Handy Andy mopped floors. At my grandparents’ farm I can remember only Sunlight soap and Phenyle.

My own first household brand choice was clothes washing detergent. My sister once remarked about our joint and ongoing dedication to Cussons Radiant washing detergent as we collaborated on bargains. It’s been around for over 25 years, and I’d been loyally using it the entire time until almost 4 years ago when a move to an apartment with a front load washer rather than top loader made me take another look, and opened up the world of eco brands.

"I pressed the fire control... and ahead of me rockets blazed through the sky..." Once I started changing I couldn't stop!
“I pressed the fire control… and ahead of me rockets blazed through the sky…” Once I started changing I couldn’t stop!

Light turned on, I made the switch to eco not only clothes washing detergent but everything I could get: dishwashing detergent and tablets, paper towel and toilet paper. Not only changing brands but decreasing consumption.

I swapped out half washing powder scoops for bicarb soda and ditched cleaning products except eco glass spray and bleach of which we use less than a bottle per year. I substituted vinegar as laundry rinse, adding lavender and eucalyptus oils to make sprays for cleaning the kitchen and bathroom. Reusable cleaning cloths and tea towels go into the daily wash. This, in the city by choice… But in the country by necessity because we have a septic tank for sewerage and otherwise our grey water runs into the garden.

No not-so-plastic-fantastic bottled water for us. In the city we boil & filter tap water kept chilled in the fridge or taken with us in stainless steel water bottles, and we use a Soda Stream to make carbonated-aka-fizzy water. In the country at Taylors Arm we employ an old-fashioned soda syphon and drink rainwater collected on the roof into tanks straight from the tap. For the G.O. and I, both coming from farming backgrounds drinking tank water is back where we began.

Coffee has been a lifelong journey from the instant powder of my early teen years to a grown up penchant for takeaway large soy lattes.  About 4 years ago we went with straight blacks and invested in a Jura Ena 5 coffee machine which has more than paid for itself. I buy bags of organic fair trade coffee and we use our own cups at home or KeepCups for DIY takeaway. At Taylors Arm we make pour over coffee using a Hario drip decanter and unbleached paper filters.

Occasionally I encounter the G.O. shuffling jars around the tea shelf hoping, in vain, for a glimpse of a yellow Lipton’s teabag label therein. Left to his own devices he is a creature of habit. I offer to swap out another of his indulgences. Coke or Cadbury? No. He was just hoping but he’s fine with Daintree or herbal tea. He’ll have a Lipton’s at his mother’s.

I feel that same way about personal products as I do about food labels, if I don’t know what it is I don’t want it as an ingredient. It didn’t make sense to go to the effort and expense of pursuing clean and home cooked food while undermining the effects by applying goodness-knows-what to our persons.

Seduced by product claims, marketing and colours I have a drawer full of accumulated lotions and potions. Now, I wear less makeup, perfume, nail or skincare products and look for brands that are safe-ethical-eco-organic such as Natio. I’m fond of Clarins and OPI which are apparently ok but could do better. We use locally made lemon myrtle products and oral care products such as Grants.

Of course, it’s all work-in-progress. Ongoing changes come about as I continue to research and discover good products. I’ve checked my habit of impulse buying fragrant candles replacing them with beeswax, essential oils and incense. Magazines also are a treat rather than a regular purchase. I find more than enough inspiration via the blog-world, Facebook Pages Feed, Pinterest and free online subscriptions to websites that interest me.

On my to-do list is make my own washing powder and skin moisturisers. On my to-do-better list are clothes and household items. Possibly the most complicated and expensive exercise. The best we manage at the moment is to limit consumption, buy Australian Made where possible, get value from wear and reuse-recycle.

A daunting and recent change is abstinence from hair colour. As a kid my fair hair was naturally blonde due to the time I spent outdoors. In my late teen years it darkened to mouse with increased time spent indoors at a desk studying, then working. It’s been lightened unnaturally for just over 30 years. Now I’m turning 50 and my hair is turning silver, I’ve decided to embrace it.

“Act as if what you do makes a difference.
It does.”
William James

29 thoughts on “things have changed . . .

    katechiconi said:
    July 10, 2015 at 7:49 am

    I’m a bit less dedicated than you, but one thing I’ve had to abandon: eco-friendly detergents simply cannot cope with the Husband’s diesel and grime impregnated work clothes. I do use vinegar and lavender/teatree/eucalyptus oil for the rinse, though. And lemon juice on the hair and an hour in the sun will give you some nice blondish streaks… Not that I need it any more; like you, I’m LOVING my natural silver highlights!


      EllaDee responded:
      July 10, 2015 at 12:34 pm

      Oh yes, on occasion I’ve had to add truck wash to the G.O.’s work clothes wash if he’s been in contact with diesel or grease. Mostly though it’s just dirt.
      Throughout autumn I resurrected my teenage habit of sunning myself with lemon juice in hair and it faded the re-growth nicely. I’m quite amazed at how much I no longer care about the silver strands than only a year ago I diligently removed!

      Liked by 2 people

    ardysez said:
    July 10, 2015 at 8:07 am

    It wasn’t until a few years ago I realised what made the nice smell in my grandparents’ house when I was a child. It was the non-smell of modern perfumed products!! There are some modern things I use, because truthfully, I don’t want to go back to all the elbow grease and living with grime of the old days, but mostly I use few cleaning products when bicarb or vinegar will do the job. A small bottle of bleach lasts me years. I use vinegar on the floors and windows, lavender oil in the ironing water, and yes, I still iron, we have no clothes dryer. I use Sukin organics for skin care and my skin has never been better, except for the vagaries of age! Like you Dale, I no longer have blind loyalty to products or foods that are not what they pretend to be, or what I want for us to consume. Very thoughtful post, and I love the photo of the blazing rocket as yourself blitzing through consumption choices!

    Liked by 1 person

      EllaDee responded:
      July 10, 2015 at 12:42 pm

      My bestie paid me the nicest compliment on a recent visit to our apartment. She said “it smells in here like my nanna’s did”! Like you a keep a couple of things in my arsenal for serious cleaning… I can’t seem to get some of the promised results with bicarb, water & elbow grease alone. The city apartment oven requires the attention of oven cleaner but the gas oven at TA is fine with a wipe of a damp sponge.
      I have a bottle of Sukin handcream right here, and like their products too. I just can’t quite shake the thrill of the chase for different products…
      Thank you… the quest for honest products sometimes feels like skirmishes in a combat zone 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    acflory said:
    July 10, 2015 at 9:15 am

    Coming full circle. 🙂 I remember Mr Sheen too, and still have a bottle under the sink [not the aerosol though]. I rarely use furniture polish as eucalyptus and lemon oil are far nicer. But I have a fondness for the memory of Mr Sheen. 🙂


      EllaDee responded:
      July 10, 2015 at 12:50 pm

      Even just the Mr Sheen jingle makes me feel cheery… I’m truly a domestic child born of a 60’s housewife! The G.O. has a tin of Mr Sheen that he sometimes uses to polish the chrome bits on his motorbike and if our timber furniture needs a spruce up in a hurry I grab it but the G.O. is wonderful at doing the furniture polishing properly with beeswax & lavender! I have some lemon oil… that would be nice 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

        acflory said:
        July 10, 2015 at 10:53 pm

        You know I sometimes wonder why people have a million bottles of this and that when a few, simple, non-toxic things can clean literally everything. But yeah, that Mr Sheen…. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

    philosophermouseofthehedge said:
    July 10, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    It is a process, but little at a time makes real progress ( and is easier than everything all at once.)
    You do learn a new way of life without city water/sewer system!
    Something funny: once you blow off most of the make-up ( I’ve got a tinted sunscreen that works terrifically for most of my days) and stop worrying about hair (People started saying I was going blond – but actually it’s the silver and being in the sun walking the dog and doing the yard) – that freedom somehow makes you look younger than those all fancied up.
    Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

      EllaDee responded:
      July 10, 2015 at 2:31 pm

      Thank you 🙂 Sometimes I feel like I’m going backwards one step at a time to go forwards… and reverting to BH&G + Good Housekeeping household hints & tips of the 70’s… clean your house for under $5, 10 surprising things to do with tin foil/ground beef/ripe banana’s…!
      Fortunately for me my skin doesn’t take to foundation (or vice versa) so in summer I use tinted moisturiser-sunscreen but winter I need plain moisturiser and lots of it. I think nothing makes a person look older than trowelled on makeup, no matter how proficient.

      Liked by 1 person

    davidprosser said:
    July 10, 2015 at 1:24 pm

    Well done to you both for making the conscious effort to be so eco-friendly. Over the years, the manufacturers that have stood the test of time seem to be the ones that have made the same kind of effort to source natural ingredients themselves though just having more honesty in the labeling is starting to tell as people try to move towards ethical products. I hope landfills are seeing less waste dumped now as people move towards reusable goods like takeaway coffee mugs.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx


      EllaDee responded:
      July 10, 2015 at 2:40 pm

      It’s heartening to see the trend to eco-friendly lifestyle not just in my home. That groundswell of support for sustainability & quality, and backlash against dodgy products & corporate tactics is promising for the future. Maybe enough beginning of a turnaround to save us from the hell in a hand basket where we’re surely headed unless there’s tangible changes in behaviour.


    Gerlinde said:
    July 10, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    It’s a slow process , taking one step at a time. Three years ago I changed all detergents to eco-friendly and less is more. I rinse all my clothes in vinegar and my dry skin no longer itches. I use a worm box for all food scraps and compost everything else.


      EllaDee responded:
      July 10, 2015 at 5:00 pm

      You’re so right… my dry skin and psoriasis has improved the more I’ve changed, and my terribly fine [now greying!] hair that was so prone to breaking off is so much stronger and longer.
      I hadn’t realised how much had changed over the past 4 years especially since we moved apartments and more so since I tapped into the wisdom and inspiration of the blogging community 🙂


    Glenda said:
    July 10, 2015 at 7:39 pm

    Good on you Ella. Slowly, slowly one by one we can change the world.

    It turned out I was allergic to hair dye. I was only able to use it a couple of time before I blew up (literally). I don’t mind a bit. I think older women look better with naturally coloured hair.


      EllaDee responded:
      July 10, 2015 at 8:31 pm

      I think we’re certainly changing the world… one blog post at a time 🙂
      Looking back, my natural color was fine but fashion was such an influence (let’s not discuss the spiral perm!). Good for you your allergy saved you the choice. I’ve gradually gone darker in the last decade easing closer to my natural colouring but not brave enough to eschew it altogether until now… I’m looking forward to my hair taking up natural summer highlights. But I’m relieved to have gotten past the hurdle, and for my sister’s kind description of my hair colour in transition as “hombre”!


        Glenda said:
        July 11, 2015 at 10:57 pm

        Ella. I hated having a grey stripe down my part but I survived 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    diannegray said:
    July 11, 2015 at 8:48 am

    I’ve got a great book my MiL gave me – Mrs. Beetsons Hints for Housewives (about 1927). She thought it was a bit of a joke when she gave it to me but it’s full of really useful natural products for the house. I love it. I also use vinegar in the rinse cycle when I wash, baking soda to clean the oven (it’s brilliant!), and Sunlight soap for just about everything else, honey and eucalyptus for colds and cuts, I make my own pawpaw leaf tea, and the list goes on…. I rarely look in the cleaning isle of the supermarket any more because there really is so much awful junk in there. I totally get this 😀


      EllaDee responded:
      July 11, 2015 at 9:13 am

      I downloaded for free from somewhere The Book of Household Management by Mrs. Isabella Beeton (3 volumes!) but a real book of her Hints for Housewives sounds so much better 🙂 I’ll look out for it.
      I’m still inclined to a Pavlovian response to product marketing but I know better and I really love the old household remedies.

      Liked by 1 person

    anne54 said:
    July 11, 2015 at 2:10 pm

    One of the reasons I don’t use many cleaning products is that I can’t stand the smell of them all in the supermarket aisle. (Another reason may be that I don’t do a lot of cleaning!) Your dedication to making your life and our world healthier is great, and I admire how you have reassessed so many different aspects of your life. Good for you! This morning I went into a little dress shop just up the road from me. I was impressed to find out that they source their clothes from small makers in Australia who use sustainable practices wherever possible. I am going back on Monday, when I am not in my gym clothes, to try some on. Things are out there, it is a matter of looking past the big conglomerates.


      EllaDee responded:
      July 12, 2015 at 8:43 am

      Thankfully a lessening of my own over zealous cleaning standards means I’m more relaxed as well. The fumes and smell is one of the reasons I use a small among of bleach and microfibre cloth the clean the shower… other products make me wheezy. And other cleaning products leave me feeling fuzzy headed and woozy.
      I love the smaller local shops, and their assistants which I find essential for outfitting me. Your Monday shopping expedition sounds like fun 🙂


    sara said:
    July 11, 2015 at 3:32 pm

    All of these things do make a difference. I’ve always been thoughtful when it comes to purchasing things – definitely my upbringing, and possibly also the fact that from the age of 12 I was doing the shopping for the family. I was an inveterate label reader even back then :). Never underestimate our power as consumers.


      EllaDee responded:
      July 12, 2015 at 8:51 am

      I did shopping as a kid but it was simple fare, from a country small town supermarket and local shops. There wasn’t much to navigate. I never learned label reading until I worked for Jenny Craig in my 20’s… it often tells the real story of the flashy product claims on the front and unlocks many secrets. I think recent campaigns about Australian products and labelling demonstrate consumers do care, are now becoming aware that the marketplace is being manipulated by corporates and are demanding simplicity and transparency.


        sara said:
        July 12, 2015 at 9:43 am

        Oh yes, people do care, very much so. I think many people get overwhelmed by the huge amount of often conflicting advice , theories, diets etc. I’ve had years of training in nutrition as well as being brought up by a naturopath mother and it gets tricky for me as well. Keeping it as simple as possible is my personal solution.

        Liked by 1 person

    memoirsofahusk said:
    July 16, 2015 at 2:17 am

    Hair colour. Aargh! I can’t ….


      EllaDee responded:
      July 16, 2015 at 7:04 am

      Can’t live with it? Or can’t live without it? Or both? Me neither! It’s taken a truckload of metaphorical concrete for me to grow out the blonde and live with mouse-silver-tabby. Maybe later I’ll try henna but my natural hues throw to red, so we’ll see. I’m hoping the summer sun and more lemon juice will save me 🙂


    roughseasinthemed said:
    July 18, 2015 at 1:56 am

    You won’t be surprised to hear I’ve been using Eco products for decades. But, I don’t use anything in a washing rinse. Vinegar does get used on my hair. If you are losing/have lost the blonde, try vinegar. Really good instead of a conditioner. We do use bleach though. Not on my hair.

    Fabulon reminded me of one of the Redgum songs, can’t remember the name, but I can sing it 😀

    We each do what we can. We do it differently. Partly it depends on our own environment as to what works best and where we need to compromise.

    I’m glad you’ve found an online community that helps to inspire you. Maybe I should do a list of some basics 😀


      EllaDee responded:
      July 18, 2015 at 7:57 am

      The song is called Fabulon! I love it. I’ve never heard it before.
      I only use vinegar rinse here in the city for balcony line drying and the G.O.’s work clothes. At TA where we have a proper Hills Hoist in the backyard the sun does the trick. I will try the vinegar in my hair on Thursdays… shower cleaning morning, rather than wander into work reeking of bleach maybe the vinegar will kill the smell and lighten my hair 🙂
      I’m always collecting ideas, some are relevant now and some for future use.


        roughseasinthemed said:
        July 18, 2015 at 4:08 pm

        I was indoctrinated into Redgum during my Australian period as Partner adored (still does) them. Fabulon’s not one of my faves, partly because it’s difficult to get out of your head 😀

        The vinegar hair rinse is odd in that it doesn’t leave any residual smell – that I’ve noticed. It does leave it feeling soft without that residual greasy goo that conditioners seem to leave. Haven’t noticed any effect on colour, but lemon juice didn’t lighten it either when I used that. I’ve found white wine vinegar better than apple cider vinegar.

        Liked by 1 person

          EllaDee responded:
          July 18, 2015 at 4:54 pm

          Thank you – I have a bottle of white wine vinegar, I’ll try it. And yes, I have Fabulon/Rivers of Babylon running through my head…

          Liked by 1 person

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