Last year, I took some photos of Eleanor to help her set-up her her business - Be Fee Cleaning. It was one of the first shoots I did last year to develop my portfolio, so it was a great opportunity for me to practice taking a variety of shots at Eleanor's home. Since then, life has been so busy and whilst I've shared a lot of these images on my Instagram account, I haven't had time to share them on my little blog.
To accompany the photos, I've included a Q&A as I wanted to share Eleanor's story and her top tips for natural, eco-friendly cleaning.
What made you want to start your own business and why Be Free Cleaning & De-Cluttering?
I never expected to one day be my own boss! Having always worked in administration, I was made redundant in early 2017, so decided to make a complete change. I grew up living with a hoarder so have personal experience of what it’s like, both practically and emotionally. I’ve also always loved cleaning so establishing a cleaning and de-cluttering business seemed just the thing to pursue.
What’s it like to run your own business? What are the highs and lows?
Challenging and yet liberating. I knew setting up a business would take me out of my comfort zone but a challenge was what I wanted. To take the lead and make decisions does not always come naturally to me so I’ve had to really push myself. The financial side of things, how to keep accurate accounting records, was quite daunting at first but I’m learning it’s just a question of being organised, which is something I am good at. One of my initial concerns was about how to build a client base but most of my business has come through word of mouth, which is exactly what I want. If clients recommend me I know they’re happy, which is why I do what I do! I’m really enjoying the freedom that comes with being self-employed and I have much more flexibility in my schedule now.
A natural approach to cleaning and homemaking is at the core of your business – why?
Because I honestly believe it’s the best way to clean. A couple of years ago, I began to think more about the cleaning products I was using in my own home and I realised that as consumers we’ve become conditioned to buy what we do out of habit. My primary concern was that so many of these so called ‘safe’ products contain potentially harmful chemicals. A second concern was that many are manufactured by companies we know test on animals. Plus, these products can be expensive to buy. I began to question whether they were really necessary. I’d heard about cleaning with vinegar, for example, so decided to find out more about a natural approach and my eyes were opened! I started cleaning my own home in a different way, using natural alternatives to harsh chemicals, and found that I could actually clean much more effectively.
A lot of people would love to try a more natural approach to cleaning – what tips or advice would you give them?
We’re so used to using shop-bought chemical cleaning products, and to having a different product for every job, that it can take time to adjust our thinking. I didn’t just change the way I cleaned my house overnight. Rather, I made gradual changes as I became confident in what I was doing. There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of knowing that you’re home is clean and that you achieved that quickly, safely and cheaply.
What chemical nasties should we be aware of?
There are so many but one commonly used ingredient in cleaning products is limonene, which is a fragrance. It’s also used in fragranced candles and air fresheners. Prof Alastair Lewis of the National Centre for Atmospheric Science at the University of York produced ‘The York Study’, which found that on contact with the air limonene changes into formaldehyde, linked with cancer since the 1980s (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-35281338 for more information).
What’s in your natural cleaning kit? Can you recommend any natural cleaning recipes?
I have a few staple ingredients, my favourite being soda crystals. A 1kg bag will cost you around £1.00 and you can use the crystals for so many different jobs around the home. They are simply amazing! In my opinion, they are by far the best product to use to clean white uPVC window frames. Simply mix a strong solution (follow the guideline on the packet) using really hot water and wipe. It couldn’t be easier. Vinegar is another product I use a lot and it’s great for keeping stainless steel kitchen appliances looking beautiful. You can use undiluted white vinegar or a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water. Spray on to the appliances then buff with a clean cloth.
Where can people find you / contact you online?
The best place to keep up to date with cleaning and decluttering tips and advice is via my Facebook page but you can also find out more about me and the services I provide by visiting www.befree2.co.uk.