Written by contributor Katie Kimball of Kitchen Stewardship.

I‘m a chronic baby stepper.

I subscribed to the “use it up and then switch over” philosophy for adding in real foods and natural products to my routine.

I would rather live with my in-laws for five months than rush into buying a home.

I even made myself wait an entire week before deciding that dating my husband-to-be was a good idea!

It can’t just be me. I’m guessing that for many people, setting small, manageable goals that baby step toward a bigger end game is often the way to go. January is the perfect time to set some goals for the month, and hopefully you’d like to make your life a bit more eco-friendly in 2012 than you managed in 2011.

If you glance in your medicine cabinet or under your sink and see popular brand names, chances are you still have some weeding out to do when it comes to nailing all-natural personal and cleaning products.

I recommend taking it one step at a time:

1. Pledge to avoid the worst offenders

Triclosan, responsible for anti-bacterial properties of products and a host of problems related to bacteria including bacterial resistance and simply being ineffective anyway. Found in hand soaps, antiperspirants, deodorants, toothpaste, and more. (More on the dangers of triclosan.)

Bleach, used for cleaning and sanitizing but also linked to respiratory distress, headaches and other health problems. It’s a rare day in a normal home that requires bleach to do the job; you can find all sorts of natural alternatives to bleach, probably in your cupboard right now.

There are plenty of others to consider: aluminum, petroleum jelly, the ever-popular DMDM hydantoin (and about nine others I memorized as “evil” at one point), ammonia, and other chemicals that smell bad or give you a bad feeling about the whole deal.

Parabens: I mostly left parabens alone until this week, even though I’ve known for quite some time that they’re no good for anyone. Now that we’ve been unpacking some things I haven’t seen in a year or even two years, parabens have become my new measuring stick. I just can’t imagine exposing my kids on purpose to a potent hormone disruptor.

I’ve pitched things from lotions to pretend “bathtime” shaving cream to Huggies baby wipes. This only worked for me because I have natural substitutions in place for every item, bringing me to step two:

2. Try something new

Maybe you buy or make some natural lotion, put homemade deodorant on your list, or try no ‘poo shampoo. Find something you’ll enjoy switching over, and most importantly: Do one thing at a time.

3. Put a reminder in your calendar for next January

Will you be ready to throw out all the chemicals in your house? It took almost six years of slowly making changes for me, from thinking that anything in Walgreen’s that said “natural” was a good choice for my baby to learning how to really read ingredients.

Educate yourself, seek out natural options, and take it slowly if you have to. Better to move forward inch by inch than to stand still surrounded by chemicals!

We’ll be talking even more about personal products and some specific suggestions for “greening up” your cupboards next month here at Simple Organic.

What is your “no way!” chemical? Or, what product gives you the hardest time finding a green solution?