Your Natural Home
Creating a cozy hearth for the family

5 Household Uses for Thyme

Herbs have been household staples throughout the centuries due to their culinary and medicinal uses. Today, most herbs have been relegated to the kitchen and thyme (thymus vulgaris) is no exception. Although this herb does add delicious flavor to meats and stews, it has plenty more to offer.

Recent studies have shown that thyme oil is among the most effective essential oils for battling E. coli and other harmful food-borne bacteria. In addition, it has been used through the ages to treat muscle spasms, cough and infection. Take thyme out of the spice rack and boost the health of your family with this simple household uses.

cup of fresh thyme tea
Photo by ThinkStock.

1. Cough Eliminator: Thyme can be infused into a tea or tincture to help relieve respiratory ailments such as cough and sore throat. Traditionally used to treat whooping cough, it’s also safe for babies and small children. To use: Add 2 teaspoons of fresh or dried thyme to 1 cup of hot water and steep for 10-15 minutes for best results.

2. Tummy Soother: In The Herbal Apothecary, author JJ Pursell shares that thyme can also be used to relax muscles in the digestive and reproductive systems which may relieve stomach or menstrual cramps.

3. Healthy Mouth: Thyme was traditionally used to treat cavities, due to its antioxidant and antibacterial properties that make it useful in combating infections. Add thyme to natural, homemade mouth rinses to give them an extra boost of antimicrobial action.

4. Kitchen Disinfectant: Due to the new studies that have demonstrated thyme oil’s efficacy in killing food-borne bacteria, keep thyme essential oil on hand for cleaning countertops and other surfaces that frequently come in contact with foodstuffs. To use: Combine 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar, 1/2 cup water and 10 drops of thyme essential oil to a spray bottle. Spray the solution on countertops, tables or sinks to keep bacteria at bay.

5. Erase Acne: With antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, thyme can help reduce the appearance and occurrence of blemishes. Add a few drops of thyme to a carrier oil that suits your skin type and use as a facial cleanser or moisturizer. Thyme can also be added to a facial steam to help balance skin.

Sustainable Home Improvement Ideas for Spring

Photo by iStock

Spring is just around the corner, and that means it’s time for some cleaning and redecorating to banish those winter blues. I try to give my house a fresh feel every spring, just to change the mood and vibes of my space. I try to make sure that I make my living space a little more sustainable than it was before, so as to reduce my impact on my surroundings and make my house feel more “one with nature.” While conservation and redecorating aren’t something most people consider together, I do believe that there is a sustainable alternative to most actions. Here, I’m going to share some spring home improvement ideas I’ve incorporated over the years - hopefully these will inspire you to make your house more eco-friendly.

Clutter-free Countertops

As winter comes to a close, there’s nothing I detest more than seeing all sorts of items flung across the counter, especially considering that countertops, especially large ones, are one of the most eye-catching features of any space. The first step is to de-clutter any unwanted items that have made your counter their temporary home. Personally, I find that a relatively empty countertop gives an illusion of space, so I make it a point to only have minimal items like a vase of fresh flowers on my counter. If you prefer to keep your counter covered because it’s ugly - don’t fret! Spring is a great time to change it out for something beautiful. If your budget allows, go ahead and change your counters.  With the variety of absolutely stunning granite options out there, it’s easy to turn your counter into a work of art. Since granite and marble are naturally found stones, choosing an indigenous variety helps reduce the environmental impact of long distance transportation.  

Work the Windows

Windows cause a lot of heat loss, especially during times of extreme weather.  Replacing windows not only increases energy efficiency, but also is the perfect way to add some new style elements to your space. You can use the opportunity to create a new feel to your living quarters, by allowing for more light, different angles, and new textures. To make sure you are maximizing on energy efficiency, you will have to consider some factors while choosing your window replacements. These include choosing the type of panes (double or triple-paned), and the types of frame (wood, aluminum or vinyl). Finally, choosing an energy efficient design, such as double-hung windows will help reduce costs overall.

Perfect Lighting

While this isn’t a redecoration project, replacing your lights is a springtime project that will serve you well for the year to come. Replacing regular incandescent light bulbs with LEDs or fluorescent light bulbs is a wonderful energy saver. What's more, energy efficient light bulbs last much longer than regular bulbs, making them cost-efficient too. This report by the Department of Energy explains some of the more technical differences between incandescent and fluorescent light bulbs.  

Quick ‘n’ Easy Mood Changers

So, maybe you aren’t ready to invest in some serious redecoration, or you just don’t have the time. What then? Well, I’ve found it’s easy to change the feel of any space even with the smallest alterations. For example, something as small as rearranging your bookshelf can give your room a more open and airy feel if you set up your books in a certain way. Placing some horizontal and some vertical is aesthetically pleasing to the eye and this sort of book arrangement goes well with other accessories on your shelf, such as photo frames and trinkets. If you feel like changing your walls in a more drastic way, then consider getting some custom removable wall papers or murals printed, to make your walls unique. These can be switched out every season, or whenever you need a change of scenery. Similarly, changing pillows, adding throws to couches, and changing the way your art/frame display is set up will leave your living room feeling completely different. An easy way to do this in keeping with reducing your overall wastefulness is by collecting and keeping fabrics, reusing and upcycling old linens, and then changing them out seasonally rather than buying and throwing away new materials each year. One of the best ways to liven up any space is by bringing home some life, aka a plant! Having a burst of green screams spring, and having plants at home help cool down temperatures and naturally clean the air!

I hope these home improvement ideas inspire you to make your house more eco-friendly, because in the long run, having a sustainable living space will have better consequences for you and your surround environment.

4 Ways to Create a Safe and Soothing Environment at Home

Soothing Home
Photo via SocialMonsters

Your home is a place of reprieve, where you can relax in a safe and comfortable environment. Enhance the calm and comfort of your abode by adding new systems and amenities to prevent potential problems. Revamp your home with these specialty features to help you keep an eye on your property, prevent intrusion, and create a soothing environment.

See What's Going On with a Security Camera System

Keep an eye on your property and your home with video monitoring. Position the cameras around the perimeter of your home, near the entrances, as well as near any windows, which are the most high-risk points for forced entry. Make sure the cameras you purchase are weather resistant and have high-resolution capabilities, as low-resolution cameras don't provide a reliable image. A complete camera system, like ones offered by Lorex Technology, are very user-friendly, and allow you to check on your home anytime, from anywhere.

Shut Out the World with Blackout Curtains

Blackout curtains are a useful tool that will help you block out light, noise and provide energy-efficient insulation. Most brands of blackout curtains will block up to 99 percent of light. This is a beneficial feature, especially if you often wake up from light glares or other visual distractions when you sleep. The curtains can also block 40 percent of noise, which will keep unwanted noise pollution from disrupting the calm within your home. Blackout curtains will serve as insulation keeping the heat in, during the winter, and blocking out solar heat gain in the summer. These curtains are especially useful for your home theater room, your meditation space, or any work space within your home where you'd like to maintain a sense of calm.

Keep Your Home the Perfect Temperature with a Smart Thermostat

Keep your home at the optimal temperature for your ultimate comfort. Install a Wi-Fi connected thermostat that will keep your home at the temperature you desire and also help you save on energy bills. The Nest thermostat learns your schedule and automatically adjusts temperatures based around your daily habits. It can also be controlled remotely by your smartphone or tablet, in case you'd like to warm or cool your home to a specific temperature before you return to it. The device lets you program your personal preferences, but also informs you of how you can save energy and lower your heating and cooling costs.

Secure the Premises with High-Tech Locks

Install smart locks in your home, so you can monitor who is entering and leaving your abode when you're not home. If you can replace your entire lock system, install the Kwikset Kevo, which uses Bluetooth to connect to your phone or a keyfob (a touch-to-open device). You can share the lock password with your family and close friends, which they can use within the Kevo app.

If you can't replace your entire lock, you can install the August smart lock which can unlock the door when you are approaching, as it detects a signal from your smartphone. The lock will also automatically lock when you leave, or close the door, so you don't have to worry about whether or not you forgot lock up your home.

Kyla Stelling is enrolled in the Master in Teaching program at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. Previous career roles have entailed everything from design and event planning to public relations and child care. In her spare time, Kyla hikes the Cascade Mountains, designs elaborate cakes, and writes alongside her cuddly cat, Wellington.

6 Ways to Detox Your Laundry Room

Photo via SocialMonsters

Americans want to be clean. And apparently we go a little bit overboard in that department. Case in point, 53 percent of people use more than the recommended amount of laundry detergent, according to Adam Lowry, co-founder of Method Products. This overzealous usage pumps extra chemicals into our water supply and wastes materials. To curb your environmental impact and start detoxing your laundry room, follow these six steps:

1. Use Natural Laundry Detergent

Traditional laundry detergents generally contain phosphates that help kill germs and improve overall washing performance. However, phosphates also damage surrounding aquatic environments. Instead, opt for natural laundry detergents, like Method or Mrs. Meyers, which are at least 85 percent plant-based and biodegradable, perform well in cold water, and use less (if any) fragrances, dyes, and optical brighteners.

2. Use Natural Stain Fighters

Rather than using harsh chemicals to fight grease stains, opt for a common kitchen ingredient to remove stains. Rub some salt, cornmeal or cornstarch on a grease or oil stain. Let it sit while you do other laundry, then brush away and wash as usual. For an ink stain, wet the item with cold water and apply a paste of cream of tartar and lemon juice. Let it sit one hour before washing. Wine spill? No problem. Just pour club soda on the spot, then sponge up both soda and wine before laundering. For blood stains, douse spots with hydrogen peroxide or diluted ammonia before rinsing in cool water.

3. Soften Your Water

You can use half your usual amount of detergent, switch from hot to cold water and still get better stain fighting power with softer water, according to the Water Quality Association. Using less detergent means less environmental impact in the chemicals and packaging materials used, plus less cost to the consumer. Softer water also prolongs the life of washing machines and water heaters by causing less scale build-up.

4. Skip Dryer Sheets

Air-dry clothing whenever possible to reduce energy use. However if you must use the dryer, skip the dryer sheets (and their accompanying cocktail of “fragrant” chemicals). A research study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found 29 unique volatile organic compounds in dryer-vent emissions, which are hazardous pollutants and possible sensory irritants. Since most of the individual fragrance ingredients are not usually listed on a product, it is safer not use dryer sheets at all. Instead, create your own DIY dryer sheet using scraps of an old flannel sheet, white vinegar, and tea tree oil.

5. Unleash the Power of Vinegar

Vinegar has many versatile uses. In the laundry room, white vinegar is perfect to fight perspiration stains and urine. For perspiration, rub the stained areas with white vinegar before laundering. For pet urine, dampen the offending area with equal parts white vinegar and water and blot dry. And the cleaning uses of all-natural vinegar are almost endless, from sparkling silver to scuff marks on linoleum.

6. When in Doubt, Use Baking Soda

Baking soda is a naturally occurring non-toxic substance and helps to maintain an optimum pH balance. It can serve as a mild cleaning agent, deodorant, and abrasive to scrub, dissolve, and lift away dirt from tile floors, textiles, and appliances. Mix a half cup with a bucket of warm water to mop with, and add a half cup to regular wash loads to boost the laundry detergent’s cleaning power. Baking soda will also remove and neutralize odors (rather than masking them, like artificial fragrances). Sprinkle generously over a dirty clothes hamper to minimize offensive smells, and add to the load’s rinse cycle to combat persistent odors.

Brittany Wren is a freelance writer living in Nebraska. She’s all about travel, coffee, board games, and good poems. On the weekends, she’s usually busy remodeling her 100-year home. She writes on her blog:

Recommended Home Organization Tools and Products

Living & Bedroom

Get it Poppin

Get It Poppin'

Poppin file cabinets are made with extremely durable powder-coated steel, are available in an array of colors, and one lock secures all three drawers.
To Buy: $229,

What You See

What You See...

It's easier to get dressed and wear our accessories when they're easy to see. Check out Etsy shop The Knotted Wood for stylish, handcrafted organizers.
To Buy: $35,

A Shoe In

A Shoe-In

An affordable bamboo stackable shoe shelf makes footwear organization easy.
To Buy: $30,

Shelve The Topic

Shelve The Topic

If you don't have enough display space for cherished items, add a stylish floating shelf. This one is made of industrial pipe brackets and rustic wood.
To Buy: $42.50,

Bask in It

Bask in It

Few storage solutions are as beautiful and versatile as woven baskets. The ones from Connected Artisans generate income to provide food, shelter and education in rural Senegal.
To Buy: $55,

Kitchen & Bathroom

Put a Lid on It

Put a Lid on It

Keep lids organized and accessible with a simple lid organizer.
To Buy: $15,

Flip Out

Flip Out

Invest in a high-quality, beautiful wooden spatula you love, and never buy a spatula again.
To Buy: $10,

Jarringly Simple

Jarringly Simple

This bathroom organizer, made of reclaimed wood and Mason jars, can corral clutter and open up space in bathroom cabinets.
To Buy: $31,

Roll Out

Roll Out

Made of durable chrome steel, this cabinet organizer offers a lifetime of hassle-free use.
To Buy: $64,

Stack It Up

Stack it Up

Organize any drawer anywhere with mix-and-match stackable bamboo drawer organizers.
To Buy: $4 to $8,

Storage Spaces

Bin There

Bin There

Perfect for mud rooms, garages, kitchens or kids’ rooms, this Wire Mesh 6 Bin Cubical Storage tower is a versatile storage tool.
To Buy: $89,

Tool Time

Tool Time

Corral garden and yard tools in a handy tool rack with wheels.
To Buy: $64,

Garden Aid

Garden Aid

Give yourself a dedicated space to keep garden supplies organized with a Potting Bench made of durable eucalyptus wood.
To Buy: $200,

Store Outdoors

Store Outdoors

This handy Klasen outdoor storage cabinet on wheels offers extra space to stash tools.
To Buy: $129,

Be A Sport

Be a Sport

Give sports equipment a permanent home with this heavy-duty triple storage bin.
To Buy: $49,

The Great Holiday Debate: Real vs. Artifical Trees

Photo by Fotolia

Christmas trees are a treasured tradition brought to America from Germany in the 1700’s. Believe it or not, the American Christmas Tree Association says that the very first Christmas trees in the states were relatively “artificial.” While still made with natural materials, wooden pyramids were constructed, then decorated with greenery and candles. This Holiday tradition started out as a mix of our distinctly separate preferences today; real trees and artificial ones.

Truly artificial trees came into play when Germany feared they were over harvesting their forests. Goose feathers and poles were used to create reusable versions, which were converted into the plastic variations in the US. 

The ACTA also states if a household uses an artificial Christmas tree longer than 4 years, their carbon footprint would be smaller than an identical household that cuts down a fresh one every year. Whichever you choose, a Christmas tree accounts for only .1% of a family’s annual carbon footprint.

 This does not settle the debate of which is better, there are other factors to consider. Each fact that comes into play may be specifically more significant to each unique individual. Let’s weigh it out.

Artificial Trees

PVC is a type of plastic made from chlorine and oil, and is a typical material in artificial trees. Chlorine makes PVC fire resistant.

When the plastic is heated, dangerous chemicals leak into the environment. Although the  plastic is hardened when you purchase a fake tree, traces of chemicals can seep out.

PVC is everywhere: water bottles, imitation leather, toys, furniture, you name it. Most of it ends up in landfills, and the plastic does not degrade well. Most artificial Christmas trees use PVC in some form, or a mixture of PVC and polyethylene, or PE. There are a few options that offer strongly reduced levels of PVC, such as Balsam Hill’s Balsam Fir model. Ikea also offers a PE Christmas tree in some areas of the country. Nearly Natural offers silk trees.  

Real Trees

Most trees come from a farm, meaning millions of people aren’t chopping them out of a forest without replanting. But running a farm does take resources, and so does transportation. 

Real trees can also contain mold and fungi that can be harmful to those with asthma or other lung issues. However, this can usually be resolved by a hose down and a few minutes in the sun before bringing it inside.

And last but not least, unless you buy organic, your farm fresh tree will likely be coated in pesticides, which can cause neurological issues, cancer and endocrine disruption. These chemicals can be breathed, ingested or absorbed through the skin, just like those from PVC. Some farms also spray trees down with a green coloring.

Another option does exist; living trees. Black Hill or Colorado Blue spruces are available in mini pots on Nature Hill's site. Each tree has a complete root system with hopes that every owner will pant the tree after the holidays. It’s quite a notion, a new tree is grown every year rather than one being lost. Living Christmas offers a live tree rental service in California—simply set a delivery area, choose the type of tree you prefer, and the company will deliver the tree, in a pot, to your door. When you’re done, the tree can be picked up, and returned to the Living Christmas nursery.

Other options

If live trees aren’t a possibility for you, and you’re put off by PVC, it’s also possible to go unorthodox and get creative with your holiday decorations. Check out our project for a recycled newspaper Christmas tree, or this wooden version made from old shipping pallets:

The Verdict

It truly comes down to personal decision; you need to balance out what you think is most important. If you are lucky enough to have an organic tree farm around, I’d say that would be the best option if the farm also follows sustainable practices. Let us know which you choose and why.

Karyn WoffordKaryn Wofford is a type 1 diabetic, EMT and Certified Wellness Specialist. For years she has educated herself on wellness and natural, wholesome living. Karyn’s goal is to help people be the healthiest they can be while living fun, happy lives.

5 Reusable Products for Coffee and Tea

On The Move
Photo courtesy Bobble

On The Move

The stainless steel Presse by bobble is a waste-free hybrid coffee press/travel thermos that brews in three minutes and keeps drinks piping-hot for hours.
To Buy: $30,

Fit to a Tea
Photo courtesy Jarware

Fit to a Tea

Jareware's BPA-free tea infuser attaches to any regular-mouth Mason jar for refreshing cold tea without the need for a fancy infusing thermos.
To Buy: $10,

Waste Free Filter
Photo courtesy Coffee Sock

Waste Free Filter

CoffeeSock makes reusable organic cotton coffee filters for makers of all shapes and sizes. To clean the filter, simply dump the grounds, then rinse and hang dry.
To Buy: $13 for two,

One Cup Wonder
Photo courtesy Ekobrew

One Cup Wonder

Single-cup coffee makers can be convenient, but the pods pile up in landfills. The reusable Ekobrew filter is BPA-free and compatible with most machines.
To Buy: $8,

Keep it Toasty
Photo courtesy Rachel Smalter-Hall

Keep it Toasty

Avoid the coffee shop's disposable cup sleeves by bringing a reusable one. Try making your own, or buy a stylish handmade sleeve to keep your drink warm.
To Buy: $18,