Houses have evolved so much over the past decades and the layout of them continues to change as our needs as a society change. Many older homes have formal sitting rooms and dining rooms sectioned off, while newer homes tend to embrace the open floor plan a bit more.
My house is very traditional in the sense that it has a formal living room in the front of the house and a den-style family room in the back by the kitchen. Needless to say the front room never gets used, but the back area by our kitchen is the main hangout for our house.
And because this room is a place we tend to spend a lot of our time, it got me thinking about ways we could make it more of a retreat. I wanted to make it a space that my kids could come and relax without burdening their bodies or brains too much.
Creating a space that is both inviting and relaxing can be difficult. This is especially true if you have kids and your kids have toys. Our family room living space tends to be where all the toys end up and so keeping it feeling peaceful and relaxed can feel impossible.
But if you take the time to really think about your space and plan it out, you’ll be able to easily create a space you love and want without spending a lot of extra money. A lot of detoxing a living room is about removing things from the space. You can also do a little maintenance and implement some habits that will help. But overall, the process of detoxing your living room space is an easy step forward.
I have it broken down into four larger sections that can help you detox and begin to create a healthier space for you and your family. First, the environment is all about reducing the dust, improving air flow and reducing humidity. If you have carpeting, this is also part of the indoor environment and you can do a “mini detox” to it without ripping it out and spending time and money on new flooring.
The second part of the equation is improving the indoor air quality through the removal of unnecessary synthetic fragrances and adding essential oils and air purifying plants to the room to improve the air quality.
Third is to reduce VOCs in the space. This can be the toughest part as VOCs are in everything from paint to furniture to rugs and textiles. These VOCs off gas for the lifetime of these materials and products. Reducing VOCs is a great addition to the other areas you’re working to improve, but it’s a section that you can improve gradually, or just deal with until you have the time or finances lined up.
Finally, adding elements you love and cherish will dramatically improve the feel of the space. There are some amazing things you can do to the space to make sure your family and guests feel welcomed and at-home there.
The environment around your living room or family hang out area is really important to the health of your family. If you do nothing else for your family space, these four areas are KEY to creating a healthier environment in your home. IN fact, you can follow these four practices in ANY room of your house to help create a healthier living space.
Air Flow: Get that air moving! The more indoor air that is stuck in our homes with no way of being diluted, the lower the air quality is. OUr indoor air is filled with CO2, VOCs, chemicals and other pollutants. Diluting the air with outdoor air is the best course of action next to reducing the toxins and chemicals. Fresh air from outside is your best friend when it comes to indoor air quality. If you can find a way to open a window, a patio door, turn on a ceiling fan or run the whole house fan. DO IT. If you can do all of these things together, you’ll allow so much fresh air into your house and dramatically improve the indoor air quality. This page is one I have devoted just to indoor air quality to help you understand why and how to improve it.
Reduce Dust: Dust not only contains human skin cells (eww), but it often times contains chemicals and pesticides from inside and outside. Getting rid of dust with a wet cloth or wet mop is the best way to keep dust to a minimum and remove it rather than pushing it around. This article about what exactly is in house dust can be helpful if you want to wrap your head around just WHY it’s important.
Lower Humidity Levels: The lower the humidity levels in your home, the less products and materials will off-gas. Lower humidity levels also mean that mold and mildew won’t be able to thrive in your home either. Keeping your humidity levels between 35% – 40% is ideal. If it goes too low, you’ll end up with dry skin and natural wood that gets dried out too. This blog post all about your indoor humidity levels is really helpful when trying to either raise or lower the humidity inside.
Detox Carpeting: Our house was built in the early ‘90s and there is carpet EVERY.WHERE. And while I love the feel of cushy carpet beneath my feet, I have learned over time just how toxic and harmful synthetic carpeting is. Never mind the pad below the carpeting and how full of chemicals they are. If you’re house is like mine and you’re just not in a position to replace hundreds of square feet of carpet, there is a quick mini detox you can do pretty easily and quickly. Baking soda naturally neutralizes many components, including toxins. While it obviously can’t remove them, it can reduce the amount they off-gas. Simply sprinkle baking soda (you can even mix in some essential oils to freshen at the same time) and let it sit on your carpet. Vacuum it up with a HEPA filter vacuum. You can also use a vinegar based carpet cleaning solution to help reduce germs, mites and mold.
IMPROVE INDOOR AIR
Indoor air quality is often most affected by our choice of products in our home. A home with lots of fragrances and synthetic chemicals is a home that has likely poorer indoor air quality. By reducing the use of chemicals and scents, you can improve your indoor air quality right off the bat.
Remove air fresheners/scented candles: I get it, I used to be a candle junkie myself. I loved having them all over the house and in every scent for every season. But I’ve learned SO darn much over the past few years that has led me to remove all the candles from my home in order to improve the indoor air quality at home. This goes for air fresheners and oil plug ins that use synthetic fragrances too. This blog post about synthetic fragrances and the havoc they wreak on our indoor air and bodies is a MUST read if you’re looking to eliminate this toxic element from your home.
Use Essential Oils to Purify: After removing air fresheners, I decided to give essential oils a try. I used them just for their scent at first, but I’ve slowly added them to other applications throughout my house. There are some essential oils that will actually help purify the air in your home and reduce the CO2 we produce. You can find all my favorite diffuser blends here to help you improve indoor air and support emotional wellness too.
Add Air Purifying Plants: Plants are an INCREDIBLE resource and bringing them inside can do WONDERS for your indoor air. Plants naturally reduce CO2 levels in the home and can improve the indoor air quality. They are a great natural solution to naturally filter the air. The only thing to keep an eye on is giving your plant too much water. An over-watered plant will increase the humidity levels and can also breed mold and mildew.
Volatile organic compounds are everywhere and in so many of the materials and products around our house. Other chemicals like flame retardants are also VERY present in household furniture and textiles. Below are a few ways you can limit the VOCs that off gas from these at home.
Furniture: Furniture foam is usually quite toxic as it contains flame retardants and usually has formaldehyde. If you have the option to replace the foam with a natural filling like wool or cotton or an all natural latex, you could eliminate that problematic chemical right away. You can even check with a local upholsterer to see if they can do this for you.
You can also check to see if your furniture has plywood or particle board within it. These materials are often made with adhesives that contain Formaldehyde. The formaldehyde will off gas for the entire life of the product, and in fact, it off gasses more with age. Using a product like SafeCoat SafeSeal to seal in the VOCs can really help limit what is off-gassed in your home.
Rugs: Rugs are often treated with PFCs to ensure that water beads on them rather than gets soaked into the textile. If you can’t replace your rug with an organic or GOTS Certified Rug, then making sure to keep it dry is your best bet. You can also neutralize some of the chemicals by sprinkling it with baking soda every few months.
Textiles: Textiles like curtains, pillows and throw blankets make the living room cozy. But so often they are treated with chemicals to ensure they don’t wrinkle or absorb spills or stains. This is difficult to avoid, but you can wash the textiles in hot water and baking soda to help reduce the amount of VOCs that off-gas. If you’re able to replace them with natural cotton or untreated natural fabrics you’d be remove the VOCs all together.
Paints: Paints that contain VOCs are thankfully becoming fewer and fewer. If you’re going to repaint, make sure to use a paint that has zero-VOCs. Paints that are lighter in color often contain fewer VOCs naturally, but you can also paint a sealant on your walls that will help contain the VOCs in the current paint you have if you’re not ready to paint your living room space.
CREATE A RESTORATIVE SPACE
Creating a space that you love and WANT to be in is a great start to making your living room a retreat you can restore your body in. Being away from home and in spaces that have toxins and chemicals can begin to burden our bodies over time. Creating a space at home to unburden yourself and also unburden your mind and your spirit can be beneficial to our overall health.
Salt Lamp Benefits: Salt lamps can not only purify the air, but can also provide a calming environment and balance electromagnetic radiation. This helps calm the mind and naturally reduce cortisol levels.
Things You Love: Adding in things you love to your living room space like photos, objects and decor can really help you feel good when you’re in this space. If you have items you just really don’t like, it can be a gnawing reminder whenever your in your living space.
Toys & Clutter Hidden: Do you have kids? I feel your pain of kids’ toys being strewn about and piled up in corners. I realized early on in parenthood that if I didn’t want to feel like “mom” after the kids were in bed or at school, I needed to make sure toys were hidden away. Nothing is less relaxing than seeing brightly colored toys all over the living room at the end of the night. We have our kids put them in cloth bins that are then placed in a cabinet in the family room. This makes it easy for them to play, but easy for the toys to be hidden away.
Textiles That Bring Peace: Sometimes all a space needs is an extra soft throw or a pillow that really feels good on the couch. Textiles can offer a sense of peace and a sense calm to your space. Feeling that extra soft blanket or sitting in a comfortable spot can help create a relaxing feeling in your living room. Make it beautiful and pretty as well as functional and healthy.
Self Care Box: The idea of a self care box is that you have a small basket or box in your living room that is filled with items you can use to mentally unwind at the end of the day. You could choose a journal, a book, essential oils or slippers. These are items that you can use to really promote an emotional recharge at the end of the day in your living room.