Category Archives: Simple

Simple Living – Does it Have to be All or Nothing?

Simple Living - It Doesn't Have to be All or Nothing

So, I have a friend. And this friend is working to simplify her life, has been for years.

She has purged her family’s belongings, simplified their calendar, got out of debt, adopted green cleaning, got rid of all but her most wearable clothes and, more recently, started trying natural body products.

She’s doing OK.

But she feels bad because, well, there’s more to change.

There’s always more to change.

She still drinks coffee from her (gasp!) Nespresso machine.

She still gets her hair coloured.

She enjoys travelling to far-flung places.

She buys organic denim.

She eats non-organic food.

She is a fan of a gutsy shiraz.

And she feels bad about some of these things.

Not so much because there is anything wrong with buying quality jeans or drinking red wine (there’s a First World sentence right there) but because she feels that, in her quest to live simply, she should be all or nothing. That something worth doing is worth doing right.

And to me her, I say – nope.

What is “doing simplicity right” anyway? What does that look like?

To some people it’s living in an RV or a tiny house, while to others it’s living in the country and creating a self-sustaining home.

To some people it’s going digital and using technology to remove as much physical stuff as possible, while to others it’s completely eschewing modern gadgetry in place of old-fashioned pen, paper and ink.

To some people it’s DIY everything, while to others it’s fair-trade, locally-grown, support the farmers/growers/brewers/makers/roasters.

To many more, however, simplicity lies somewhere in the middle.

It’s cutting back our belongings, growing some tomatoes and line-drying our clothes.

It’s getting our bills and statements delivered via email, digitising our photos, signing up to Spotify and keeping a journal.

It’s mending our clothes, making our own laundry detergent, shopping locally, buying secondhand.

It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It’s enough just to do what you can.

I really believe that this idea of all or nothing – we need to be super-crunchy/ultra-minimalist/hardcore homeschoolers/insert your stereotype here in order to do simple living right – is harming our ability to step up and try something new.

For me, it’s all about baby steps. Often those baby steps will lead to bigger things. But sometimes they won’t. And that’s OK.

What’s not OK is sitting by and doing nothing when what you crave is a simpler, slower, more contented life. If that’s what you want, then ignore the voice that tells you it needs to be all or nothing, and take a step.

Just one, tiny, baby step.

  • Clean out your car
  • Buy your fruit and vegetables at the farmers market
  • Check the op shop before buying that thing you need from a big box store
  • Opt to receive your bank statements via email
  • Use white vinegar to clean your kitchen benchtops
  • Declutter the utensil drawer
  • Say no to a plastic bag
  • Eat a meat-free meal
  • Smile at a stranger
  • Go do some colouring with your kids
  • Say no to a social engagement

Every one of these baby steps has an impact on the life you live. And while it’s not the same as upping sticks and moving to the country, or selling your home and travelling in an RV, these steps matter.

Each change, each step, each little shift in the way we do things makes a difference. And – not to sound too Pollyanna here – but I do believe that if each of us made small changes where possible, we could actually start to shift the world.

You can do something. We can do something.

It doesn’t need to be all or nothing.

No ‘Poo for You

How to wash your hair with bicarb soda

Way back in the day, Sparky and I backpacked around the world. We were fairly typical young travellers - straight out of Uni, broke, staying in questionable hostels with questionable company and putting beer above food in our own personal hierarchy of needs. (Side note: we absolutely loved Prague, not only because it was a beautiful, fascinating city but also because beer was cheaper than soft drink! Na zdraví!)

It was during this trip that I first started experimenting with unwashing my hair. I had heard somewhere that if you left your hair unwashed for 30 days, it would “dirty itself clean”. So, like the keen youngster I was, I thought I’d try it out. After all, I hated washing my hair every day or two. That 10 minutes in the shower was eating into beer exploration time.

I lasted 12 lank, greasy days and quickly lost my enthusiasm for going ‘poo free. That was, until Isla was born and I began to research just what was in the toiletries we used every day. Turns out, a lot of it is nasty stuff.

So I tried using castille soap instead of shampoo. No dice. (Stringytown. Population: me)

I tried buying expensive bars of handmade, natural shampoo that never really made my hair clean.

I even tried the old unwashing again. I didn’t even last a week.

I finally settled on an organic supermarket brand of shampoo, which did the job. It wasn’t ideal and my eyes were constantly itching, but I stuck with it for quite a while.

Eventually (and I have no idea why it took me so long to cotton on to this method) I tried using bicarb soda in place of shampoo, and I haven’t looked back.

That was over 2 months ago, and aside from a trip to the hairdresser for a cut and colour, my hair has been completely shampoo free.

I can’t be too sure, but I think my hair looks acceptable and I’m fairly certain I don’t stink.

No 'poo for 2 months.

I know this is hardly ground-breaking anymore, but I know a lot of people are interested in trying the no-shampoo method and simply don’t know where to start. So here are my tips:

Start dirty.

I left my hair unwashed for 4 days before I began using bicarb. It was well and truly in need of a wash by then, so the feeling of the bicarb lifting the oil off the roots of my hair was such a relief. Anything was going to feel good after 4 days of not washing, the fact that it was not my usual shampoo didn’t matter!

It takes time. 

You need time to work out the right ratio of bicarb/water for your hair, as well as how often your hair will need to be washed. My hair has taken over a month to settle in to the no shampoo phase, so be sure to give it at least 30 days before you decide whether it’s right for you or not.

Use a little, or use a lot. 

Some people only need a very small amount of bicarb to wash their hair, while others (like me) need a much higher concentration. I also find I have to wash it twice most times, as I have quite thick hair.

Condition your hair – sometimes.

I use a rinse of apple cider vinegar on the lengths of my hair once every week or two. I also use conditioner on the tips of my hair once a week. This is enough to keep it moisturised and manageable.

Get to love your brush.

The night before I am going to wash my hair, I will spend 10 minutes brushing it. This helps to distribute the oils down the length of my hair, and ensures I stay tangle-free.

How to wash hair using bicarb soda:

  1. Take a clean, empty squeeze bottle, a large cup or a clean old jar and fill it with 1/2 cup bicarb.
  2. Add water to it as needed, give it a little mix (depending on how much bicarb you need in your mixture, this might be a little swirl or a vigorous shake) and squirt onto your scalp.
  3. Focus on one area of your scalp at a time, squirting the water and bicarb onto your head and gently rubbing it in. Move on to the next area of the scalp until you have washed all areas.
  4. Rinse well and repeat if needed. Make sure to rinse the hair and scalp thoroughly.
  5. Pour a small amount (maybe 1/3 cup) of apple cider vinegar through the lengths of your hair and rinse out. This helps to remove residue and leave your hair shiny. And the vinegar smell? It goes away once the hair is dry.

People also ask if I use this with the kids, but to be honest, I can’t tell you the last time I even shampooed my kids’ hair. I condition it once a fortnight and it gets washed with plain water every few days, but they just don’t need the shampoo.

Have you tried to go ‘poo free? Are you curious to try? Let me know if you do and how it goes.

If you’d like to explore other recipes and methods for homemade, natural haircare, there is a great ebook available in this week’s Bundle of the Week. The bundle also includes books on the basics of foraging and herbal remedies.

{Top image via grandmaitre on Flickr}

Enough

What is enough?

I’ve been struggling with the idea of enough. (Am I enough? Do I do enough?) And rather than rehash my thoughts on this same idea, I wanted to resurrect an old post where I ask, “What is enough?”

Interestingly, it was first published almost exactly a year ago. Turns out that my natural seasonal rhythm lends itself to quieter, introspective winters!

——

As a parent, friend, sister, daughter and wife I struggle with the notion of enough.

Do I play with the kids enough?
Am I healthy enough?
Do I call my sisters enough?
Have I been a good enough friend?
Is it enough to be content?
Am I trying hard enough?
Am I attractive enough?
Do I give enough?
Do I care enough?

Enough – not too little, not too much. Just… enough.

After struggling with the idea for a very long time – never feeling good enough, never satisfied, never entirely content – I’ve started to frame the idea of ‘enough’ in a different way. And can I tell you, it’s helping me find some much-needed perspective.

Much like the idea of tilting – where we willingly throw things off-balance and tilt in the direction life requires – I wondered if we could view the idea of ‘enough’ as a long-term notion, rather than something we need to achieve every day?

I think we can. And I think we should.

But what does that look like in real life?

Do I play with the kids enough?” Maybe not today, but sometimes clothes need to be washed, emails returned, toilets cleaned and phonecalls made. On the other hand, do I feel good in my gut when I ask if I’ve played with them enough over the past six months? Yes.

Am I trying hard enough?” Some days, I phone it in. And on those days, I am lacking. But, again, over the past 6 months? 2 years? 10 years? Yes, I try hard enough.

There are peaks and troughs, mountains and valleys for everything in life. Sometimes we feel that we are enough, other times we are filled with doubt. I think that’s simply being human. But reframing the idea this way has shown me that enough really IS enough.

But what about when it isn’t enough?

When you ask yourself the question, “Am I doing enough over time?” and the answer is silence. Or worse, when the answer is a pang.

What do you do then?

When that pang reverberates in my gut I know I need to pull up and listen. I know I need to make a change, or ask a different question.

Do I call my best friend enough?” PANG. No. Pay attention and make a change.

Have we made enough time to unplug on the weekends?” PANG. No. What can we do differently?

Am I present enough when I do play with the kids?” PANG. No. How can I change my approach?

My aim, in turning the idea of enough upside down, is to be mindful and intentional about what I’m choosing to do. Instead of being carried away by panic and regret and frustration at not being enough every day.

Essentially that means if I haven’t played with the kids enough, there’d better be a good reason. If I haven’t called my best friend enough, again, show me a good reason.

It’s a matter of listening to your instincts, your gut, and that little voice inside your head that when given a longer view of things suddenly becomes quite wise.

“Relax. You’ve done enough over time. That counts,” it says.

I think it’s time to listen.

 

 

 

What does simple living mean to you?

What does simple living mean to me?

Ask 10 people and you will get 10 different answers to the question: “What does simple living mean to you?”

In fact, ask me 10 times and you will get 10 different answers.

Not because I’m flaky, but because simplicity can be kinda complicated. What we need it to be will change depending upon circumstance, seasons in life and who it applies to. And that’s OK.

Recently a friend asked me to describe simple living. And while it was easy enough to give the expected answers:

  • cutting away the excess in life
  • getting back to what is truly important
  • decluttering
  • saying no to things that we didn’t need or didn’t need to do
  • taking time to do nothing
  • looking for contentment
  • practising gratitude
  • living an environmentally conscious life…

what I found myself thinking about were the benefits. What the actual day-to-day nuts and bolts of life look like now that we have embraced simplicity. Instead of focusing on the what, my mind was drawn to the why – to the things we’ve gained simply because of living a simpler life.

My answers weren’t about living in a clutter-free home (although that is so lovely) or having only clothes that I wear in my wardrobe (even though it makes getting dressed in the morning infinitely easier) or cleaning our home with natural cleaners (although I appreciate the impact of this).

Instead, I focused on the time I got to spend in the garden. The tiny beauties I now notice and appreciate. The giggles of our kids. The joy of a lazy Sunday afternoon. The sunlight in the trees.

And I know these are cliched answers, but that doesn’t make them any less real. If we hadn’t taken the time, and worked for years to create a simpler life, I wouldn’t have been around to notice these things. If I hadn’t suffered a crushing breakdown and closed my business, I’d still be working all hours, I’d be falling further and further behind at home, I’d be barely present in my kids lives and I would be missing out on the tiny (and yet massive) joys of the sun on my face, the dirt on our hands and the hugs of our kids.

That’s what simplicity means to me.

It’s not a destination. I don’t think I will ever look around me, brush my hands together and say, “Well, that’s it. I’m done.”

I believe that our ideas of enough and simple and freedom will continue to change over time, as our perspectives and seasons of life change.

Simplicity is a mindset, but it’s not the point in and of itself. The way we live, and the life we live - this is the point. The sun, the dirt, the travel, the laughter, the memories. These are the point. Noticing them and carving a life from these tiny moments – that is the point.

The decluttering helps us to get there. Learning to say no helps us to get there. Letting go of constant busyness helps us to get there. But those aren’t the point.

So what does simple living mean to me?

Living. Simply.

In October this year, a group of simplicity advocates and enthusiasts will gather in Minneapolis to share their ideas on living a simple, intentional life. You have the opportunity to join them and join the ever-growing movement towards a simpler, slower way of life.

SimpleREV

The first-ever SimpleREV is being held at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis on October 3-4, and shouldn’t be missed if you’re looking to slow down, simplify and get real in a world of hyper-consumerism and endless busy-ness.

Those who do attend will work closely with workshop leaders and keynote speakers such as Joshua Becker (Becoming Minimalist), Joel Zaslofsky (Value of Simple) and Dan Hayes (Simple Life Together), as well as an entire community of people who value a simple life just as much as you do.

This event is for anyone interested in living a simple life – whether you’ve sold 90% of your belongings and live in a campervan, or if you’re merely dipping your toe into the pool that is simplicity.  There will be encouraging keynote speeches to uplift you, while intimate workshops will help you craft a more intentional, simple life. At SimpleREV, there is something for everyone. (And can I tell you, the line-up of workshops and presentations makes it sting even more that I can’t attend. Unfortunately, living on the other side of the planet has its downsides and I can’t swing it this year.)

Grab your ticket today, or visit the SimpleREV website to discover more about the event, the founders and what you can expect during the first weekend of October.

 

Wake Up. Come Home. Fill Up. Be Simple.

 

Can a Change-Up be Good Enough?

Can a change-up be good enough?

 

This is a post from guest contributor Saida Rashid of A Breath of Simplicity. Enjoy, and learn more about Saida at the end of this post.

 

When we moved, I was adamant about getting rid of our four poster bed.

It’s a nice bed. There’s nothing wrong with it. Still. I didn’t want it in my new home. We were down-sizing and it didn’t sit well with my journey in “less is more.”

The bed is BIG. You can never just flop down on it. It’s too high. You have to climb onto it. By far, the biggest nuisance was having to clean the dust that gathered on top of the wood canopy.

The final case in point: The master bedroom in our new home is a third of the size of our old room – I was convinced the bed would take up the entire room!

I tried, really, really hard to sell the bed online, but there were no serious buyers. So I watched as it got dismantled, loaded onto the moving truck and transported to our new home.

I relented, but in my mind it was a temporary arrangement.

When my husband reassembled the bed, I requested that he omit the wood canopy. And now? It’s been almost a year since we moved. We still have the bed and, what’s more, I like it.

Funnily enough, it doesn’t occupy the whole room like I feared, and removing the canopy made a HUGE difference. The bed used to make me feel overwhelmed. It doesn’t anymore. It’s good enough, after all.

A few years ago, I would have insisted on a new bed and donated the old one. And we’d be out of pocket a few hundred dollars. But life is full of opportunities for a change-up. I’ve come to recognise that I experience these moments quite frequently.

It’s not easy to ‘fess up and it’s unfortunate, but the truth is I have a tendency to fixate on things I feel I must have – sometimes the feeling is SO profound it interferes with my sense of inner peace.

In the past couple of years I’ve been learning to wait rather than jump in at the deep end (i.e. spend money). The process of waiting has helped me recognise that new is NOT always better.

When I make myself wait I’m more likely to try a change-up. This often leads to a moment of good enough. Sometimes I forget to wait, but I’m learning and getting better at it every day.

I was recently convinced that I needed something for our kitchen sill. It looked SO bare. But I waited. Then I tried a change-up. The kitchen sill is now good enough and I didn’t have to spend any money.

The next time you feel the urge to spend money; try a change-up first.

• Think your kids need better toys? Try re-organising and displaying the toys you already have differently.
• Think your kitchen is too small? Try de-cluttering and re-arranging your kitchen stuff.
• Think you need a new bedside table? How about a coat of paint on that small coffee table sitting in the basement?

You get the picture.

I bet more often than not, you’ll find that the stuff you already own is good enough.

You can check out Saida’s tips on simple living and learn about her journey towards eliminating processed foods on her blog abreathofsimplicity.com.

(Image courtesy of Allison)

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