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The Year of Change

This article appeared in the on-line magazine for actors The Networker on January 1, 2009

As the new year starts, I always get super-organized. I clean up my desk, the files and folders on my computer, my closet and everything from the bedroom, to the bathroom, to the kitchen, to my bike. I like to start out the year clean and clear.

I have already started cleaning by taking some old electronics, computer parts, an old laptop, batteries that I saved in a tin can, lightbulbs, water filters, VHS tapes, a broken bread maker, empty hairspray cans and old paint to the S.A.F.E. Collection Center.

There are recycling centers all around the nation that take all kinds of electronic equipment, including your Christmas lights and your snow and glitter cans, as well as your old VHS tapes after you have transferred them to digital media.

Landfills aren’t equipped to handle the toxic trash we’re generating in increasing amounts. Electronic equipment often contains lead and mercury, among other nasty substances that leach from landfills into groundwater.

The US Environmental Protection Agency has a fantastic website that is all about recycling and disposing safely of hazardous waste. They even have a search box that can help you find your nearest recycling center.

If you don’t find a recycling center near you, ask some of your neighborhood stores if they recycle used electronics. A lot of electronic stores have Take Back programs, so it’s worth asking.

Also, check out one of LA County’s Household Hazardous Material Collection Events to unburden yourself of old fertilizer, drained batteries or moldering paint cans. These events can be really fun and enlightening.

Another great way to get rid of stuff is through the fantastic nationwide Yahoo group Freecycle, which allows its members to give away things they don’t need anymore and pick up items they can use. I’ve been using this service for a few years now and I have given away electronics, household items and books. I’ve also picked up a bread maker, clothes, cat food and back issues of magazines. Sign up for one in your area.

If you have something that you think is worth some money and you don’t want to hassle with having a garage sale or selling it through Ebay or Amazon, try donating it to a local non-profit and get your money in the form of a tax donation. My theatre company just started a fundraising campaign that picks up items worth at least $50. We then auction the items on ebay. We are hoping that with this campaign we will never have to ask for cash and will still be able to raise money during these difficult times. Plus, donors receive a tax deduction, so the system benefits both the recipient and the giver.

When you are ready to clean out your closet, make it into a fun event! You can host a Wardrobe Exchange and invite all your friends to bring some of the clothes that they want to get rid of. Let the trading and bartering begin! You can also donate your clothes to various second-hand stores.

Don’t forget about your old blankets and pillows. They can be re-used at animal hospitals, animal shelters and rescue organizations. The animals will be grateful to you!

Old t-shirts can be cut up into little wipe cloths, or you can make a grocery bag out of them. Old pants can be re-used as bathroom mats by cutting them up and weaving them. Old stockings can be used to tie up plants. Make a pillow out of an old shirt and stuff it with small cloth pieces (these make great beds for your pets). Make a messenger bag out of your old coat. The sky is the limit! Find inspiration online from stores that sell re-used and recycled products or from the kids you know. Their ideas are limitless.

When it comes to cleaning, I have never liked chemicals in my house. I’m always conscious about what I have under the sink, not only because of what goes down the drain and into our oceans, but because household chemicals can give off fumes that are bad for our health. Instead of buying hazardous cleaning supplies, make your own this year:

Bathtub and bath or kitchen sink cleaner:

Mix two tablespoons of salt with the juice from one large lemon (or two small lemons). Put on some cleaning gloves and dip a rag (it can be an old sock or a piece of towel that you cut up for cleaning) into this mix and wipe your bathtub, sink and countertops. Leave it on for a few minutes if you want to get rid of difficult stains or if you need to disinfect. This mix is 100% biodegradable and has quite the cleaning power. The lemon and the salt both act as bleaching agents and disinfect at the same time. The lemon will leave a nice, fresh scent. You will be amazed at how powerful this mix is. Don’t clean with your bare hands or the salt and lemon will “eat” your skin!

Toilet Bowl Cleaner:

Mix two tablespoons of baking soda and enough white vinegar to create a paste. To remove really difficult stains, mix two tablespoons of Borax with lemon juice until you have created a paste. DON’T put any bleach in this mix! Bleach kills everything and is very harmful to the environment! It’s best if you stay away from it altogether.

Washing Windows and Floors:

Mix one cup of warm water with 1/2 cup of white vinegar. Dip a clean cloth into this mix or apply it with a spray bottle. Wash your windows and then dry them off with crumpled newspaper. You’ll find that this process won’t leave any streaks and your windows will stay clean longer.

Keep your drain clog-free:

Toss two tablespoons of baking soda into your drain and then pour one cup of vinegar down on top of it. It will fizz when you do this. Let the mixture sit for five minutes and then pour a pot of boiling water down the drain. (Don’t burn yourself!)

Stovetops:

Boil a small pot of water, then turn off the heat and slowly pour some of the hot water onto the surface of the stovetop. (Be careful! Don’t burn yourself!) The heat will lift the stubborn stains and in a couple of minutes, after the water has cooled on the surface, take a scrubbing sponge and wipe off the food stains.

The new year always brings new hope with it for me. Planning a bit for the future and knowing that I leave less poison and waste behind leaves my conscious clear and open for my acting career and my creative profession. Start out the year right and join me on this journey of helping mother planet recuperate! Let’s give her a bit of a break and help our communities, our oceans, our wonderful earth and those who have asthma, allergies and weak immune systems.

I wish you all a wonderful, happy, prosperous, joyous, creative, inspirational and rich New Year!


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