Have y’all “met” Natalie Wise yet, either online or in person? Natalie is a prolific author, blogger and poet who writes on a variety of lifestyle topics including DIY; home and garden; and motivation / inspiration. I recently had a chance to review one of Natalie’s latest books called The Modern Organic Home. The book is quickly becoming one of my most valued DIY manuals — I highly recommend it.
Since I think the information in this book will also be valuable to other home decorating enthusiasts, I reached out to Natalie. I asked if she’d be interested in posting a discussion about her thoughts on the book to give our readers here at DecoratorsWisdom.com some additional insights. What follows is an email interview with Natalie Wise. My questions and comments appear in boldface type below, and Natalie’s answers follow. I hope you’ll find this information interesting, thought-provoking, and inspiring.
Amy: “Natalie, congrats on the recent publication of your latest book, The Modern Organic Home, with Good Books. Can you please briefly summarize for us the main things people will learn from reading this book?”
Natalie: “If you’ve been thinking about switching from caustic commercial cleaners to inexpensive, healthy, kid- and pet- and lung-friendly alternatives, this book will quickly become your go-to guide. I walk you through each ingredient, the general cleaning process for each room/area, and then we tackle how to clean just about every surface in that room or area. This is truly a whole-house guide.
Amy: “There are zillions of books about cleaning and decluttering available. Why would a reader want to choose this one over all the others?”
Natalie: “A lot of books will simply give you recipes, but with no knowledge or insight on the how or why. I try to provide that for every recipe. I also include things you wouldn’t necessarily think about, such as how to use your body when you’re cleaning so you don’t strain yourself, what ingredients to never mix, and there are even some recipes I WON’T give you! For instance, you won’t find a laundry detergent or dishwashing soap in my book. You might in others, but they should come with big warning signs that says they might cause major plumbing damage in your home!
Amy: “By now, The Modern Organic Home is in the hands of bunches of readers who are no doubt benefiting from the information you’ve shared. Have any of your readers (other than myself) come forward with success stories resulting from their application of the principles you’ve written about in this book?”
Natalie: “Yes! This is the most rewarding part. One friend has been searching high and low for a furniture polish that didn’t include vinegar (a polish never should; a cleaner, yes, but not a polish), wouldn’t damage her furniture, and wasn’t a caustic spray. My walnut oil wood polish was what she and her husband had spent weeks unable to find online.
“As I mentioned above, I don’t have a recipe for homemade laundry detergent. But I know many readers are looking for a natural alternative. My favorite is Nellie’s, for so many reasons. One friend who has a baby, was really skeptical that a powder would dissolve fully, let alone take out baby stains. And she was floored at how well this worked, so much so, that she’s telling everyone who will listen about it!
“The “Relationship Saver Spray” is one of my favorites, too, and just about everyone who tries it can’t stop raving about it. It works, and that alone is worth the price of the book. Not to mention how many people have started making their own foaming soap, saving tons of money and the environment at the same time. I get so excited about this stuff!”
Amy: “Thanks for sharing those fantastic testimonials, Natalie. For anyone who might be interested in seeing more testimonials, I’ve posted my own success stories in my book review of The Modern Organic Home. I hope you’ll all find them interesting and inspiring.]
Natalie, thanks also for the tip about Nellie’s Laundry Soda. That looks like a great find! I’m going to try it out soon, although I’m not at all dissatisfied with the detergent brand I’ve been using. I discovered a certified organic liquid laundry detergent perhaps about a year ago called Greenshield Organic. That’s what I’ve been using for washing dirty cloth diapers, my husband’ grimy workout gear and much of our other laundry. They also have an outstanding line of cleaning products I highly recommend — although their products are generally pricier than making your own cleaning supplies. I’m going to be using them less in the future and making my own more, but I think it’s nice for you all to know about your organic options regardless.
Amy: “Natalie, you begin your book by writing, “Keeping home is one of my favorite things.” Has it always been that way for you, or did you have to work at developing that mindset?”
Natalie: “It’s a little bit of both. I have always innately felt that way, from a very young age, but I’m also very messy. My first book is called “Happy Pretty Messy” for a reason! So while I love a colorful, happy, mess that means LIFE, I equally love tidying that mess, putting things in order, and breathing a sigh of relief when I see my colorful dishes gleaming on the drying rack, or a stack of colorful laundry just in from the drying line.”
Amy: “Let’s say someone doesn’t start out with that mindset — and in fact she might say the opposite, ‘Keeping home is one of my least favorite things’. Perhaps she works full time, has kids to raise and a marriage to maintain. She also wants to make time for going out with her friends and maintaining her social life. Her home is a long-neglected disaster area, and she feels exhausted and defeated and overwhelmed even thinking about where to start with the housekeeping.
“She could benefit tremendously from applying the information you’ve shared in The Modern Organic Home; but maybe she needs a change in mindset before she’s ready to buy the book or apply any of the information you’ve shared. Do you have any advice for how she can make the switch from a mindset of ‘I HATE housekeeping’ to a mindset of ‘I really want to make this housekeeping thing a priority in my life. Let’s do this!'”
Natalie: “Oh absolutely. In fact, this book is made for someone who feels that way! I think we all aspire to the aesthetic of a Modern Organic Home but I understand that it isn’t always reality. I think the biggest thing that can help you make a mindset change is to think about what you’re losing when you say you hate housekeeping. What effect does that mindset have in your life? It’s probably affecting more than you realize, including all of the things that you list get in the way of your housekeeping tasks. Clutter and uncleanliness is probably affecting your work life (getting coffee and eating out too much because you aren’t organized), your children (overstimulating them, overcrowding their rooms, they can’t clean their rooms themselves because there are simply too many items, etc.), your marriage (nagging is such a romance kiler!). If you don’t think so, just watch one episode of Hoarders and you’ll be inspired!
“I truly believe that your home should be your haven. If your home doesn’t feel like a haven at the end of your busy day, let’s work together. In this book, I’m your ally. There is no judgement whatsoever. I take you by the hand and really walk you through the entire process of decluttering and cleaning, and ease you into making your own cleaning products. You can also read it alongside my other new book this year, The Self-Discipline Handbook! “
Amy: “Has clutter ever caused you any embarrassing moments? If so, tell us about the situation. How did you handle it? What advice would you give others to avoid similar embarrassment in the future?”
Natalie: “I had a phase where it seemed like every household liquidation in my family was coming my way. My fiance had died suddenly, and he lived across the street, so in 2 weeks the entire contents of his apartment had been transferred to mine. Then my mom moved, and her ‘leftovers’ were also added to my collection. My dad decided it was time to unload all of my childhood items, so those took over nearly my entire office space. All three within a few months. That amount of clutter was overwhelming. My friends were astonished, which, even though it wasn’t all mine, it had become mine, and I still had to deal with it, so it felt pretty embarrassing. I didn’t have anyone over for months and months while I tackled this job. The easiest way to deal with this is to not have friends. I’m kidding, only kidding! We all want a home that we can invite someone into at the last minute, so this is where having fewer things really comes into play. Fewer things means fewer things to deal with, to store, or to ‘hide’ when someone comes over. If you have an overwhelming garage, attic, or spare room, just keep plugging away. Make sure you are actually removing things, not just re-organizing. I also recommend emptying the entire room to a staging area, such as a garage or another room, and only putting back things you absolutely can’t live without. Everything else gets donated! Just make sure you give yourself a deadline for this. “
Amy: “You mention in the book that you suffer from allergies. I did a quick bit of research and discovered the following statistics posted at the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America website:“
- Researchers think nasal allergies affect about 50 million people in the United States.
- Allergies are increasing. They affect as many as 30 percent of adults and 40 percent of children.
- Allergies are the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S.
Amy: “So a main takeaway is that allergies are a huge, and growing, problem in America. While some of these allergies have obvious causes like ragweed pollen, the causes of others are puzzling and harder to identify. It seems that many people who suffer with allergies are not aware their cleaning products could possibly be causing or contributing to their discomfort. In the case of your own allergies, how did you make this connection? What made you come to realize that toxins in your cleaning products were triggering allergy problems for you?”
Natalie: “I’d always suspected they were causing issues, to the point that I would avoid cleaning until a day when I could open all of the windows and I would cover my mouth and nose when cleaning. But it wasn’t obvious to me that I had any other choice.. I thought, “Wow, this is really intense. My nasal passages are burning, my eyes are itching, my lungs feel all closed up, and I’m feeling dizzy,” and one day, cleaning the bathroom, I realized I had the power to change this. I didn’t have to keep making myself sick. It was one of those sad moments (why didn’t I do this sooner?) that was also enlightening (I CAN do something about this).”
Amy: “So what happened when you went searching for cleaning supplies that wouldn’t set off allergic reactions?
Natalie: “I wouldn’t say I was great at this from the beginning. I searched the same commercial cleaning aisle for something “better.” This still meant commercial cleaning products, but those labeled ‘green’ or ‘natural’. As I mention in the book, some of them worked absolutely terribly. I threw one bottle down the drain, gave others away to friends. It was a process. Slowly I started doing my own research and gathering a pantry of essential oils. I got excited about the elementary-school volcano-project reactions of vinegar and baking soda that had natural disinfecting properties, and I didn’t have to hold my breath. I liked that when I scoured my porcelain sink, I didn’t feel I had to rinse it 80 times before it felt safe for food again.”
Amy: “Can you help us understand what your “before” and “after” look like? How were things before you started making and using your own organic cleaning supplies? What changes did you notice afterwards? On a scale of 1 to 10, how dramatic was the difference for you (with 1 being not much difference, and with 10 being a spectacular and life-changing difference)?
Natalie: “It has been pretty drastic for me. I am lucky to only have nasal allergies and not skin reactions to most cleaning products. But even still, cleaning was something I avoided due to the reactions it caused me. When it was supposed to make my living space healthy, why was it making me sick? If I did a big bathroom and kitchen cleaning, I would have to leave the house for the rest of the afternoon. I thought a feather duster would set my allergies off bigtime, but it didn’t, because it actually traps the dust, instead of many commercial dusters, which simply dispel it into the air. So there was a learning curve of my own, too, of getting past mental hurdles. I’d say the difference started at a 5 immediately, and I was able to get it to a 7 shortly, and eventually, a 10. Cleaning is now something I enjoy, it relaxes me, because the essential oils I use are aromatherapeutic and the whole process is rather Zen-like.”
Amy: “How big is your living space? On a weekly basis, approximately how much time do you spend on the combined tasks of cleaning, decluttering and organizing your space?”
Natalie: “I don’t have kids yet, so this task remains relatively manageable for me. But don’t dismiss me yet; most of my friends have multiple kids, from one baby to 6 of varying ages, and I have nieces and nephews and plenty of little friends who come to visit. So I’m not immune to the challenges that are added when children enter the picture. I’m not actually sure how many square-feet my space is, but I spend up to an hour a day, usually less, tidying. This includes straightening up, laundry, dishes (I don’t have a dishwasher), cleaning the bathroom, going through mail, vacuuming, and other miscellaneous tasks.”
Amy: “How’s your home decorated? “
Natalie: “My home is eclectic. I like a mix of vintage and modern items, have way too many books (three full floor-to-ceiling bookshelves), and a lot of kitchen items. I make little displays of pretty things according to the season or my mood. For instance, I just took down my Easter display, which followed my Valentine’s Day display. I have a small table between two chairs, and it’s right in front of a window with beautiful light, so I place my displays there. They are small; a vase of flowers, a seasonal candle or two on top of a seasonal fabric, and perhaps a ceramic bunny or the like. But they make me happy. I rotate these often so they are never “clutter” to my mind or the actual space. You can have items that don’t serve an actual purpose, so long as you care for them, and don’t let your mind become numb to them. I keep out of season items behind closed doors in a small cabinet in my living room. This is a fun part of keeping home your haven; the finishing touches! When your home is tidy, not only do you have the mental energy and space to make a fun display, your eye gets drawn to it immediately, which brings a smile to your face.”
Amy: “Where do you do most of your writing? What does your writing space look like?”
Natalie: “Until very recently I had a studio space I rented on the Main St. of my downtown. I’m getting married in a few months and moving soon, so I decided to let the space go to save money for the wedding. I hope to have another space soon. In the meantime, I’ll be setting up office in my home. Having my studio space was absolutely wonderful, as I could steal away there to focus on my writing and photography. But I’ve also had my writing space in my home before, and as long as I focus on making it a separate office space, with delineated ‘edges’, it works great. I don’t have a door to shut to an office, so I make good use of defining the space in other ways, with furniture placement, rugs, and the like.”
Amy: “You have a Master’s degree in poetry, correct? Tell us a little bit about that. Did you draw on any of your poetry writing skills when you wrote The Modern Organic Home?
Natalie: “Yes, I have a Master’s in poetry from Dartmouth. The Modern Organic Home is probably the book that shows the least poetry, mainly because of subject matter. But you will see I wax poetic about keeping home in parts, because I can’t help myself. I did use fun titles for most of the cleaning products. My fiance ( a writer as well) is most proud of his contribution to the book, the title for the fruit fly trap, “No-Fly Zone.” He used the vinegar and dish soap trap to stop a major fruit fly infestation in his traps and was impressed and inspired!”
Amy: “What are your professional goals for the rest of 2018 and for 2019?”
Natalie: “I am actually hoping to work on a poetry book next, but my current publisher does not publish poetry, so I’ll have to look into self-publishing or another publisher. I would also love to start some online courses so we can delve into the topics in this book, and my other books, together and with like-minded people. I’m also working on filling my online shop with hard-to-find products I mention in all of my books. Setting up another studio space in my new town will be a priority, too, so I can get back to hosting classes!”
Amy: “Those are fantastic goals! Please do keep us posted on your progress with them. Do you send out email newsletters? If so, how can interested readers sign up for them?”>
Natalie: “I do send out email newsletters! Readers can sign up at www.nataliewise.com, down at the bottom where it says “Let’s be Friends!” I mean that, truly, I love getting to know my readers!”
I’d love to be friends through my website, e-newsletter, and especially instagram, where you can follow me @goodgirlstyle. Send me before/after photos of your cleaning wins, and questions of your cleaning troubles, and I’m happy to help! We are all in this together. You can purchase signed copies of all of my books, and a limited selection of items featured in the books, on www.nataliewise.com. And if you’d like a copy of the Modern Organic Home Mantra, which is featured in the back of Modern Organic Home, those will be available in my shop soon, too, I hope!
This page was last updated on 4/25/2018.