Clear living

A conversation about green living with Kerry Grundhoefer

CLEAR (Body and Home): Holistic Therapies for Body and Home is dedicated to the healing of the mind and spirit through the cleansing of the home and body on the belief that both impact one’s energy and health. We talked to Kerry Grundhoefer, a nationally certified shiatsu therapist and owner of CLEAR, 406 S. Cedar Lake Road, to get her take on green living.

What makes a home green?

There are a lot of layers of it. However, the most standard green home is about what you choose to decorate your house to make it a home, as well as the cleaning methods and products used in the home.

What does it mean to be green?

It’s really all about environmental sustainability. It’s really about making the right choices of products and applications: using products that are sustainable and wrapped in with the environment.

What kind of products would you use?

I tend to ultimately use water, vinegar and essentials oils. If I need more abrasion I’ll use salt, depending on the surface, or Borax. There are very few things that can’t be completely cleaned or disinfected with the simple use of vinegar and water and thyme, clove and lavender. They are such potent cleaners and disinfectors and they come right out of nature. They are actually good for us.

I like to choose water, vinegar and essential oils because, although there are a lot of prepackaged options out there, ultimately you can eliminate even the process of packaging and product waste.

What are some simple and cheap ways to make a house green?

Certainly there are cleaning options, but as far as decorating your home and creating a living space, I’m a big fan of thrifting and reusing items. There are so many things that people get rid of because they are ready for a change but it’s still a perfectly good item or just needs a little TLC.

I feel that it ties in with our consumer habits and being green or environmental in regards to that it’s sort of minimizing our consumerism as much as we can. It’s not all easily avoidable but there are a lot of ways we can have a green home simply by minimizing our waste and choosing where we purchase our products. Even if it is new, buying from a company that had a good, sustainable ethic helps.


For new furniture, my favorite is Room & Board. They are not inexpensive, but properly made heirloom quality furniture isn’t. However, I think Room & Board is really top of the pack. They are local, they have amazing design and they are really on top of their ethics regarding the building and manufacturing of new items.

For a lower price-range spectrum I’m also kind of a fan of IKEA. I don’t necessarily suggest the upholstered items. There is a term in furniture that’s called “landfill furniture” — it’s just not made to withhold a lifetime of use, which is really what you hope for.

But there is also the realistic factor of finances, and IKEA does have a really nice design. They are very sustainable in the way that they design, not simply aesthetically, but for their shipping. It’s the real work that goes into how they can create their product so that it can be boxed and shipped in the least expensive, least space-consuming way, which can really reduce the environmental impacts of the transportation.

I love The Salvation Army, Savers, and one of my smaller favorites is the Steeple People in Uptown.

How can you improve on what you have and make it more green?

What I deal with most on the home aspect of my work is clutter. It’s not that people need new things, but they need to clean up what they do have, eliminate the amount of excess and just honor the items that they already have.

On the organizing aspect I’m a big fan of calming a room by cleaning it and keeping it free with trays from thrift stores. It consolidates items, gives them a contained place that keeps it aesthetically and emotionally tidy and calm.

A furniture floor move, just shifting things around can do wonders. A reupholstering of a piece is fantastic.

I know designers talk about how wonderful a fresh coat of paint or some color using paint is, which I agree. I think color brings a lot of energy, it resonates on certain levels, and color can really bring that to a space, really freshen the energy. You can get paint at the Habitat for Humanity store and there is a shop on Minnehaha [Avenue, Natural Built Home] that has paint from people who bought too much or couldn’t finish a can. So, if you are willing to have a little adventure in finding a color those are great options.

But, again, there are environmental issues when it comes to using paint, though there are some good paints out there now. To avoid using it, and still get color and energy, I love to suggest using fabrics. You can hang fabrics on walls or purchase old frames from thrift stores and stretch it over the fame using a staple gun or tacks. Then you’ve got a beautiful canvas of fabric.

You can get fabrics from people’s old window treatments or places like SR Harris or remnants shops, and they are so easy to switch up and create nice splashes of color. All these things are so easy to find in a secondhand retail way so you aren’t feeding the manufacturing beast.

What is key to a relaxing home?

It’s a lot about the amount of clutter in a space. It’s what I deal with a lot, but it’s very hard to relax in a messy, cluttered area, and I think sometimes people are really in tune to that. And other times you don’t really realize it until you’ve tidied up.

Keep things minimized so you don’t have excesses. There is a great saying that the universe can’t fill a cup that is already overflowing.

I like to encourage people to burn a sage stick to clear out and freshen items before you bring them into your home or even do it to your home. It’s a really good energy clearing method.

What can you do on your own?

All of this can be done on your own, but sometimes it’s nice to have some extra hands or inspirations from others. Even if it’s just a one-man project, it can be really nice just to wrap someone else into it. It’s not that people can’t do it; it’s just that they need a little help or inspiration to keep the motivation there.

Your website says, “simplify, organize and balance.” Does that mean a minimalist mindset is best?

That is my belief. And it doesn’t have to mean sparse. I think if you don’t really know the things that you own it’s excessive.

Simplify, because life is already as complicated as it could possibly be. In many homes, modern life has gotten really busy and it’s hard to keep up on. All those items, the maintenance of the things we own, can really consume our time and take away from the more important things in life such as just living, breathing and experiencing.

What is most important in balancing a home?

It comes down to time. Looking at what takes your time and how important those items are, creating a hierarchy and trying to aspire to make that happen. Such as if you are an individual in your home: What consumes your time? If you are a family in a home, choosing what those priorities are together is what makes it a home.

How do you recommend doing that?

It’s a multifaceted thing. In health you need to look at different foods, like that we ingest in our stomachs the food of life, like our relationships and our spiritual needs. So, it’s looking at those, writing those down and meditating on what each of them mean and how they fit into your aspirations. How you’d like to perceive your life, where it’s at and finding that middle ground.

Lists on paper is the first step. Writing something down brings it to a tangible level, and starting with a list is an easy way to start.

The next step is working with someone and looking at those items to decide which should come first. Follow up by setting time to do self-checks, and look back at those notes. Doing a daily affirmation helps.

How is the home connected to the body?

It’s all energy. Our homes should be a place of pride and comfort. When things are not, it affects us. If it’s a simple task or chores that you haven’t done it’s not the end of the world, but you have a kind of energetic umbilical cord to them that each time you see these things there is a little bit of frustration or internal sigh, a titch of disappointment. These are a lot of emotions, and emotions are at the root of what a lot of health conditions are.

Ultimately, we all know these things can build up. Until you can find a good balance with those items and their energy it’s just something that you know can emotionally drain you.

How does this tie back to being green?

Ultimately, it’s all back to self. Everything is microcosms and macrocosms. If we disregard the environment and our impact we are hurting ourselves. We are hurting ourselves directly by inhaling toxic chemicals or applying toxic things to our skin. The wastes of those items are going into landfills or our ground and water systems. How we treat ourselves is reflected on the greater world and environment, and vice versa. How we treat the environment is ultimately going to reflect in our lives. There is no disconnect.