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10 things all roommates should do together for a healthier home


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Living with roommates has its highs (cooking together!) and lows (dirty socks on the bathroom floor…again). One way to create a happy home is to make it healthier, and nontoxic living expert Sophia Ruan Gushée has just the right ideas on doing just that. Here, the Well+Good Council member shares her easy four-question “quiz” and suggestions on detoxing your shared space together.

No matter whether you live with one other person or a group, everyone should be able to have a healthy, nontoxic home. That starts with your apartment hunt—ideally, you don’t want to live close to high-traffic roads and highways, or near farms that spray pesticides. But once you’ve found your pad, getting all roommates on board is essential to make your place a sanctuary of clean air and safe surfaces.

To do this, I suggest asking four questions of your roommates:

  • Do you value a non-smoking home? If one roommate smokes and the other does not, you could have a big issue on your hands.
  • Are you interested in trying new things to be healthier? This one is simple, but being open to ideas can help you create a home with healthy relationships.
  • Do you want to sleep better? Meaning, do all roommates want to try little things to see if they sleep better? If one person doesn’t care, or likes being up until the wee hours of the morning, then you know it may be challenging to implement across-the-board sleep changes.
  • Do you know if you’re sensitive to chemicals or electromagnetic fields? If the answer is yes, there are simple things you can do to make life easier (switching to fragrance-free, nontoxic cleaning solutions, for instance.) If you don’t know, you can experiment together to see how certain changes make you feel.

Once you know the answers, it’s a good idea to set up house rules. Establishing these when you move in together is ideal, but it’s never too late to have the discussion. In this case, clearing the air by talking can help you all breathe easier—literally.

Here are 10 house rules roommates can establish for better health and a happier home.

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1. No smoking indoors

You might want to discuss what constitutes “smoking,” too. Cigarettes? Vaping? If you agree to make the home smoke-free, how will you communicate that to guests who may smoke? Set the ground rules early.

2. Clean up your cleaning

Change your cleaning products to non-toxic formulas. One easy way to do that is to buy a housewarming present of safer products that everyone can share. Or make an activity of concocting your own nontoxic, DIY cleaners.

3. Clear the air

If you don’t love it and you don’t need it, then get rid of chemical sprays—they can be a fast route to the blood stream when inhaled. With some sprays you love or need to use, like a certain hairspray, explore whether there’s a possibility to spray outside the home.

4. Slip off your shoes

The bottom of shoes could track in toxic chemicals. Wear socks or slippers indoors instead.

5. Ventilate while cooking

Before and after making a meal, turn on the fan—it will help move gas out of your kitchen.

6. Go low-scent

Fragrance can have hundreds of unknown chemicals, and a lot of fragrance ingredients are known to be harmful to human health. And so many things, like trash bags, don’t need to be scented at all. When it comes to fragrance: Unless you love or need it, then don’t have it.

7. Shut down electronics at night

Some studies suggest that radiation from things like cellphones and other wireless devices can compromise your body’s ability to get into deep sleep. So definitely in areas close to your bed, try to minimize any radiation from those things. If you must have your phone by your bed (which I do), turn your phone to airplane mode, which will turn off Wi-fi and Bluetooth.

8. Ditch cordless phones

If you’re using a land line, I advise using traditional phones with cords. Some cordless phones could emit small amounts of radiation, so it’s better not to increase your risk.

9. Drink filtered water

This one is easy (and tasty). Have a pitcher for filtered water and agree to keep that filled.

10. Be mindful about candles

Ideally, it’s best to not burn anything at home. But if you really want candles, then go fragrance-free. If you must have scent, choose 100% beeswax candles that are made of pure essential oils, and make sure the wick is organic cotton, because some conventional candles have lead in the wicks.

Sophia Gushee is a sought-after toxic exposures expert, author of A to Z of D-Toxing, and founder of Practical Nontoxic Living, a multimedia company that produces podcasts and is incubating the D-Tox Academy, an online portal to make practical nontoxic living simple and accessible.

What should Sophia write about next? Send your questions and suggestions to experts@wellandgood.com.

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