5 Things this Monday.

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As it’s Minimalist February on my blog, why not have a themed 5 Things this Monday! Here are 5 things I’ve read recently on the topic of having less…

  1. I myself have an attachment to books. But I recently had a purge of my personal collection, only keeping a select few, as well as ones I haven’t read yet (which is waaay too many!) I love this post though, because it explains so simply and perfectly, that the joy of books isn’t in their ownership. Give it a read, I know you want to!
  2. The Ethical Unicorn’s first post on materialism and her discovery of the impact of having so much stuff. It’s so refreshing and relateable to hear someone who’s just unpacking the ‘unwritten rules’ that life throws at us.
  3. The writer of Near-O Waste shares the ways her life has been simplified since minimalism. Yeah it means that she makes little changes that move her away from the zero waste ideal, but it’s all about having perspective, and not beating yourself up. Striving for zero waste can be a faff, and stressful. But if you can minimise that with a compromise, then that’s great.
  4. Next up, is a Youtube channel I discovered recently. Ashlynne Eaton has a really sweet personality and I love her humble style. The focus of her channel is minimalism and intentional living, which is a nice term that encompasses all sorts of causes such as environmentalism and ethical shopping. Her videos are not too heavy, but still inspiring and entertaining- I’m obsessed 🙂
  5. Finally, why not another Youtube channel! The Minimalist Ninja is quite a different channel. She has been a minimalist for 4+ years, and so she has an awful lot of experience and advice. She breaks things down into bitesize topics and is very sincere and considered when it comes to why she decides to do things which I like.

Hopefully that’ll keep you going until my next post 😉 See you soon!

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Minimalist February | Pitfalls and misconceptions about minimalism.

If you haven’t guessed from the title of this post, I’m going to be posting with a focus on minimalism this month. And where better to start than by defining the term! (can you tell I’ve been a student for too long? Killer essay starter right there..) You probably have an idea about what minimalism is by now. I don’t blame you, it gets bandied about a fair bit these days. Here are 3 misconceptions about minimalism and 3 pitfalls that people can fall into when trying to achieve it.

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Misconceptions:

  1. You’re not allowed to have a lot of stuff– minimalism means different things to different people. Yes, it generally means having less items overall than the average person, but if you really like shoes and all of your pairs make you happy- keep them! Ditto books or Star Wars memorabilia (I don’t know what you’re into!)
  2. You have to like white EVERYTHING– it seems that when you search online for minimalist interiors, the vast majority look very similar: white walls, neutral/white furniture etc. I think the reason is that it attracts light, and highlights the lack of objects which is enjoyable for a lot of people. However, this is just a general preference, and by no means is the right or the only way to do things.
  3. Minimalism relates only to possessions- I have to admit I’m finding the slightly less tangible side of minimalism quite tricky, so you lucky people get to watch me struggle with that this month! But you can apply minimalism to technology, your diary, cooking… Practically anything. It’s about paring it down to only what you need, only what makes you happy. More on this later 😉

Pitfalls:

  1. Racing to the finish line– by this I mean trying to clear out your belongings in one fell swoop. Yes, some people find that this is the way to go, and prefer to just have it over with, but I am of the opinion that it can’t hurt to take a little time. This is because sometimes when you’re too hasty to chuck things away, you might find you’re making way harsher decisions than you need to in order to achieve your desired amount of belongings. This could lead to disposing of an item you actually cherish, or the dramatic increase in space in your home- both of which can cause you to want to buy more to fill the emotional or physical void. As far as I’m concerned, it can’t hurt to take your time. If you declutter a space, then a week later you’re still not satisfied with it then by all means work on it again.
  2. Focusing on numbers– you’ll find a lot of blog posts and videos out there entitled ‘my 30 item closet’ or ‘this man lives with only 102 belongings!’ and it’s easy to get fixated on the numbers, thinking they are obviously doing it better than you. But you know what? Fore some people it works, and that is their ideal amount. Others need more and there’s nothing wrong with that. I would recommend focusing on how much is ideal for you, regardless of what anyone else is doing.
  3. Not addressing your emotions- Items are inevitably going to make us sentimental, and thinking we can plough through regardless is unrealistic. For me at least, shopping is emotional. I do it when I’m bored or feeling low. Keeping things makes me feel safe, and sometimes it represents a time or person in my life I care about. It’s not as simple as getting rid of things. Sometimes you need to deal with some baggage first (yay.) But it all leads to a place of being more in touch and in control of your emotions (genuine yay!)

Stay tuned for more minimalism this month. Thanks for reading!

No Spend January | Things to do.

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I’m getting so into this photography lark. So proud of this picture 🙂

So, I think we can all agree I’ve now become an expert in not spending money and I’m perfect… I wish!

But I have been thinking- as much for my own sanity as for this blog post- about things you can do with no money. Even when this challenge is over, I don’t think it would hurt me financially or emotionally to spend more time doing things that don’t cost money!

So here’s a list I compiled of things I could think of. It is a bit London specific in places, because that’s where I live, but it might prompt ideas of places near you too (if you’re not London based).

  1. Visit a museum – all the museums and a great deal of galleries in London are free to enter, it’s pretty cool actually. I just finished a Christmas temp job at the Natural History Museum which was the first time I’d been to a museum in years (boo!). It reminded me how great they are, and I realised I’ve been missing out! I paid a visit to the Science Museum this week too, that’s always a fun one.
  2. Go for a walk – I know, anyone could’ve thought of this one! But you know, it’s an easily forgotten activity (at least for me). Some days I do plenty of walking from a to b, but it’s a completely different feeling walking just for the sake of it. Some of my happiest and most mindful times have been walking in the rain, kitted out in my raincoat and wellies, sometimes with an audiobook in my ears, or just listening to the sounds around me. And you don’t even have to be in nice surroundings for it to have a significant effect on your wellbeing. Trust me, I’ve been through some grotty, concrete covered places on walks! Or you could go to a park if concrete’s not your thing 😉
  3. Take pictures – Whether it be a flower in the park, your wellies next to the door, or your friends laughing on a day out. Whipping out your phone or camera is a really nice pastime. I had no idea I would get so into it, but I now spend hours every week taking + editing my pictures for this blog, as well as for personal enjoyment. I can thank my sister for teaching me to appreciate the process- thanks Naomi!
  4. Make something – Be it sewing, drawing, colouring in, crafting is really good for getting you really immersed in what you’re doing. It’s a personal goal of mine to have at least one craft always on the go, it’s so good for my mental health. If you get creative with things you have around the house, you won’t have to spend a dime!
  5. See the sights – It’s easy to live and work in London and become desensitised to the view. It’s not all pretty, like I said, but when you pause for a second you can find beauty. I often like to walk along the Southbank next to the river Thames. There’s such a variety of magnificent buildings. You can go the 10th floor of the Tate Modern and look out over the whole city, or cross over the river to St. Paul’s Cathedral or Westminster Abbey. My favourite is standing on Waterloo or London Bridge at night, looking over the river with all the lights shining 🙂
  6. Write a letter – I suppose this doesn’t count as strictly free, if you consider stamps. But paper and pens can definitely be scavenged from around the house. I wanna make more time to write letters and make my own birthday cards, I think people appreciate the effort.
  7. Declutter – If you haven’t tried it, I swear once you get into it it’s the most therapeutic, addictive thing! Taking an afternoon/day to get a room in order can make a huge difference to how you feel, plus you’ll be one step closer to a simpler, more eco-friendly life.
  8. Exercise – Go for a run! Do some press-ups! Follow a Youtube workout! Yoga! I have a very love/hate relationship with the gym, I’m about to cancel my membership for the second time in 6 months. There’s something about being in a stuffy building with other people working out that makes me hate it in the end! Then I get all guilty that I’m paying money and not using it.. I much prefer being out in the open, or at home. But whatever your thing is, do it.
  9. Journal – When you challenge yourself not to spend money, you find you’re freeing up a whole load of time. If you’ve ever wanted to start or keep up a diary, spending less money is a good way to do it! Sometimes these days, I find myself with so many thoughts and feelings in my head that I can’t not write in my diary- it’s the dream! I really want to start a bullet journal too. Just need to find the right notebook (Google it, they’re super cool!)
  10. Cook – Cooking seems to be one of the first things to suffer when we get busier. But if you’re not spending money on much else other than food, why not learn to enjoy it? Look up some new, exciting recipes on the internet, and try them out! There is nothing more satisfying than making an awesome meal from scratch (especially when you present it really nicely too).

 

I’m sure you guys have some much better ideas- if so, share them in the comments, I’d love to hear them 🙂

Reaction to ‘Your convenience is irrelevant’

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So I saw this video come up on Gittemary Johansen’s Youtube Channel (great channel btw, do check it out for zero waste related awesomeness) and the title sounded provocative so I thought I’d write a quick commentary on the main points she covers..

 

“Everything worth doing is difficult” 

Agreed. Hands down.

 

“Convenience has become a really important value in our society” 

It’s so interesting that the concept of something being easier to get has grown into a virtue. Something being more easily available says nothing about the quality or ethics of its production, so it’s interesting that it has become in a lot of cases the ONLY guiding principle.

 

“Your time [has to] matter… all the time”

Convenience has a whole lot to do with time. Time has become its own currency in a way, and for many people, taking advantage of modern convenience is the only way to get everything done in the day. It will probably require you simplifying your life or prioritising zero waste over other areas if you want zero waste to work, or at least not feel like a mammoth task to you. (My review of In Praise of Slow is relevant here)

 

The difference between being wasteful and not, is a matter of “really small insignificant changes”

For the most part this is true. Most of the time it just means picking up a tote bag or a reusable bottle/cup etc. or buying a different brand/from a different shop. The harder part is changing your habits and going against the grain. It’s these two things (and particularly the latter) which make going zero waste more difficult to achieve. I suppose it still comes under the umbrella of convenience; it is socially inconvenient to have to explain yourself/argue with someone who is intent on giving you unnecessary disposable items. Preparation and repetition is key here.

 

“Those seconds… make the difference” 

I like this point that the video ends on: when it comes to making zero waste changes, we’re talking a matter of seconds or minutes difference. It is small, but they add up. Concentrating on the small changes one at a time stops you from being overwhelmed by the larger picture (I say as a reminder to myself as much as advice to anyone else!)

 

 

Thanks for reading!

Navigating Christmas presents.

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As I sit here googling ‘how to ask for no presents’, I stop and wonder how we got to this point. How is me having basically everything I need and not wanting (or trying not to indulge in) new things something I should be scared to tell people? I will spend the next half an hour carefully researching how best to word my request without seeming ‘ungrateful’, ‘rude’ or ‘judgey’.

I’ll be honest. The adverts and the frenzy have crept into my mindset recently, and I’m not yet strong enough to resist it completely. I have treated myself a few times and I have given my boyfriend and mum a couple of ideas of things I’d like. For me at least, it is inevitable that I will end up gaining a few possessions over this period, and I’m okay with that. At least this way (by asking for specific items) I know I’m going to use them.

The presents I’m not at all keen on are the ‘for the sake of it’ ones. And what I mean by that is the ones where the thought process has gone something along the lines of this…

I need to get them something… That’s cheap, that’ll do.

or

That present doesn’t look like enough on it’s own… I’ll pick up a few other little bits too.

These are the kinds of presents that I have no time for. They’re the novelty gifts, the mugs, the slipper socks, etc. I appreciate that they don’t break the bank and they make the recipient feel special because you did make some effort, but they’re also the first things that end up sitting in a drawer for years, going instantly (or eventually) to the charity shop, or if they are actually used they die an early death due to poor quality.

A few years ago I would’ve said ‘What’s the harm in these little gifts? Gifts just show you care, and it’s not the end of the world if you just donate it afterwards’. The crucial difference was that back then I didn’t think material things had value. I would cycle new clothes in and out of my wardrobe without a care because ‘it’s harmless’. I would put things in the bin and think they were ‘gone’ and ‘dealt with’. I would send something to a charity shop and go ‘I’ve done my bit’.

Since then I’ve learned that when you buy something cheap, the person who made it had to pay for it with their freedom and quality of life. When you throw something in to landfill, it causes health problems for the people that live nearby, and you contribute to the destruction of the planet and increasing natural disasters. I’m still not perfect, but I recognise that even apparently small decisions like this have an impact.

I know that getting every friend or family member a present that 1) they want 2) they’ll use 3) was made sweatshop free 4) is eco-friendly is just not possible. And that’s why I want to opt out of as many present-exchange (but mainly receiving) opportunities as I can.

HOWEVER! I also know that it’s not that easy to just say you don’t want anything. Sometimes that’s not enough. I will be posting in a few days about other alternatives, not to worry 🙂

 

 

No poo.

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February 2017

I was going to wait until my shampoo bar ran out until I tried going without, but I found I started thinking about it more and more to the point where I couldn’t wait to ditch the products! I’m pretty sure I haven’t used shampoo or conditioner since at least the beginning of November, so it’s been at least 4 months. Let’s talk about No Poo 🙂

No Poo is short for no shampoo. Some people interpret this as only using sulphate-free shampoo, bar soap, or bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) then rinsing with apple cider vinegar. I heard about water-only no poo washing and it appealed to me for its simplicity. When I travel that’s one less thing I need to bring with me!

The premise is that your hair produces sebum (oil) naturally. This method simply uses what nature produces to replace the need for shampoo and conditioner. What you normally do with conventional hair products is strip the oil from the scalp with shampoo, then replace moisture to the middle and tips of the hair with conditioner. By running water and scrubbing your scalp, then distributing the sebum down the hair shaft, you can remove oil from the scalp and moisturise and soften the rest of your hair without any products.

Method:

  1. Before jumping in the shower, de-tangle your hair with your fingers (preferable) or a comb/brush.
  2. Rub your finger tips against your scalp to warm and mobilise the sebum for 1-5 minutes.
  3. Run your fingers from your root down your hair to distribute the sebum down the hair shaft.
  4. In the shower, stand under warm/hot water and continue to run your fingers down your hair. You should be able to feel the oil spreading down away from the root and towards the middle/ends.
  5. When you are finished, lean over so your head is upside down and saturate your hair with cold water then turn the shower off.
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This kinda sums up the state my hair was in before. Dry, dry, dry, and only really curly at the ends.

A couple of years ago my hair was pretty damaged from bleach and hair-dye and I didn’t treat it too well. Since I shaved it completely in October 2015 and transitioned from a shampoo bar to water-only, I am amazed by the difference in texture. My hair has never felt softer, healthier or more curly- I love it!

Advice:

Water-only hair washing relies on sebum, so I would say if you’re used to using conventional shampoo and/or washing your hair more than twice a week, consider transitioning first. Purchase a sulphate-free shampoo or shampoo bar and use that for a while. If you wash your hair a lot, try cutting down by one wash every week (3 times this week, two times next week etc.) until you are only washing your hair once a week or once a fortnight. It is completely possible to go straight to water-only from washing your hair a lot, but you will more than likely go through a greasy stage which wouldn’t be too fun.. I washed my hair at best once a week before I started water-only and I took to it basically straight away, but everyone’s different so stick at it if you’re struggling at first!

The picture at the top of the post is what my hair typically looks like a day after a wash. For reference my hair type is 3B (see here for more info). I have seen people of all hair types use this method, but it might take some adapting. By all means do your research and find someone with similar hair on Youtube or the web who’s done it successfully for tips that suit you.

**UPDATE 10/09/2017**

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August 2017

So, by this point it’s been about 10 months of ‘no poo’ and I know my hair so well! I know what it needs, I am set in my routine, it is easy and simple enough that I know I’ll stick with it, and I’d say my hair is looking reminiscent of my early teens before I started messing about with dye and heat. Except I think it’s even healthier than that, because I’m not even using chemical-laden shampoos and conditioners now!

If one thing is true about me, it’s that I am lazy! So naturally my routine has pretty much halved. This is the updated routine…

  1. Before jumping in the shower, de-tangle your hair with your fingers (preferable) or a comb/brush.
  2. In the shower, stand under warm/hot water and continue to run your fingers down your hair for 2-5 minutes. You should be able to feel the oil spreading down away from the root and towards the middle/ends.
  3. When you are finished, lean over so your head is upside down and saturate your hair with cold water then turn the shower off.

So as you can see I’ve sort of cut out the middle steps because I found it’s not really necessary for my hair. I never get oily, and my hair has settled into the new normal. Even after doing sports and being sweaty and muddy the water-only method works just fine. If my hair is very dirty from something I would just spend a bit longer in the shower working my fingers through the affected areas until satisfied.

5 things this Monday…

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(Source)

Hello friends!

Today I thought I’d change things up just a little bit with a Veganuary themed 5 things this Monday! I’ve been amazed at the hype surrounding Veganism this year and I think it’s really picking up steam! Here are some things that have crossed my path so far…

  1. First up, you can never have too many reminders of why giving up animal products makes a HUGE difference to the planet. According to this article from the Telegraph, even just going vegetarian can cut global food emissions by two thirds and save millions of lives! If more people make positive changes to their diets their could be up to a 10% reduction in global mortality! Say no more.
  2. For anyone just starting out on this vegan adventure, this is a list of simple tips that’ll help you transition more easily (complete with memes!). Take a look even if you haven’t taken the plunge, because even doing one of these is a step in the right direction.
  3. Here’s some really exciting news. There are so many restaurants and food places releasing special vegan options and offering deals on meals out! Now you’re speaking my language 🙂 It’s reached the point where wherever I go in the UK I can either find a vegan option or ask them to change the veggie one so that I can eat it, but having more than one option- let alone a whole menu!- makes me wanna go on a food tour of all of these places! This is the future!
  4. The BBC asks the question ‘is following a vegan diet for a month worth it?‘ and asks 2 experts from both sides of the spectrum to weigh in. It’s quite a balanced argument, covering the many health benefits of veganism as well as things to look out for and possible challenges. I enjoyed that read.
  5. Finally, I found this video of primary school aged children being shown pictures of animals in factory farms. Children are great for opening our eyes to things because they are not so accustomed to the images that adults come to accept and become desensitised to. It’s a perfect reminder of what we should feel when we see animals suffering.

Thoughts on Black Friday.

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Ooh, so artistic.

In the aftermath of this Black Friday weekend, I thought it’d be interesting to write about it this year. Partly because of the blogs and organisations I follow nowadays, and partly because many people are starting to wake up to the reality of marketing ploys, I’ve witnessed more anti-consumerist responses to Black Friday this time around.

The likes of Greenpeace, Buy Me Once and Balloons Blow all published alternatives to the craziness of the buying frenzy, and inspired me to recommit to my conscious spending aim. Here are some things to think about when faced not just with Black Friday, but sales in general…

A sale doesn’t mean you’re saving money. By this, I mean that every time you buy something- whether it’s been reduced or not- that company has succeeded in taking your money. It’s no coincidence that you saw that ad online for 50% off, it is not lucky that you happened to click on it and find a bargain; it’s exactly what they planned to happen. Sales are designed to play on that part of your our nature that scavenges and hoards to survive (or at least did in the past), but most of us could do without another top or necklace in our lives and be just fine. I find that the more aware I am of my feelings and temptations when it comes to shopping, the more likely I am to be able to challenge myself to resist.

Believe in what you buy. It is no secret that we buy and own way more than we did even 50 years ago. But it’s gotten to a point where the planet can’t handle our wasteful ways (see this video showing what happens to much of the West’s discarded clothing for example). The solution is two-fold; it involves buying less in the first place, and then when you do need to buy something, choosing good quality things. Researching items that are ethically made, made of natural ingredients/materials and that are minimally packaged is really important because every time you spend money you are casting a vote for the type of world you want to live in. If you care about the process and workmanship that went into making that product for you, you should be prepared to pay for it full price.

Forward planning when you’re low on funds. By all means, if you want or need something but you don’t have a whole heap of spare cash lying around, a sale can be a glorious thing. If you hang on long enough and look in the right places, you can find pretty much anything at a reduced price. The good thing about being patient is that you have the space to evaluate and reevaluate whether you want that item. By the time you come across a good deal, you will know clearly what you need and whether you’re going to make use of it. I suppose what I’m saying is that there’s nothing wrong with sales if you look at them differently. Instead of them influencing you to spend money when you didn’t even want or need anything, consider shopping around and waiting for the appropriate (and inevitable) sale to roll around to get a deal on something you know you need.

Those were just a few things that sprang to my mind during the weekend. Do you have any tips for not giving in to the spending frenzy?

Tips for zero waste food shopping.

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A recent disposable cup-free success!
  1. Keep a canvas/mesh bag on you for spontaneous shop visits. I’ve pretty much got my normal weekly food shop down without creating rubbish, but whenever I’m caught out it’s when I’m travelling or out and I remember I need something because I have no option but to take a plastic bag in the shop. You’re best off with one fabric bag on you for ’emergencies’ 🙂
  2. Cloth for dry goods, mesh for produce. I made my own small drawstring bags to store food in when I go bulk shopping, but you don’t have to search hard online to buy them if you’re not craftily inclined. I use cloth (calico) bags for grains, nuts etc. because these products can be crumbly. Using mesh bags for produce is often helpful in markets and supermarkets however, because the checkout person needs to know what and how many items you have.
  3. If it looks impossible, ask anyway. This one is generally more effective the smaller the business (some large companies have annoying policies on stuff), but still. There may be plastic/paper bags laid out for you to use, but it wouldn’t hurt for you to ask ‘is it alright if I use my own bags?’ or ‘would you mind putting that in my own container please?’ I worked myself up to ask someone to put my smoothie in my own bottle a few weeks back (pictured above), and she was just like ‘yeah no problem!’ The worst that’ll happen is they’ll say no, so you have nothing to lose.
  4. Package-free first, recyclable second, and try to avoid plastic. This one’s pretty self-explanatory, but prioritise buying package-free items first, then settle for recyclable packaging (non-plastic) next. Cardboard and glass are widely recycled, but even if your council technically collects your plastic, most of it won’t be recycled and the rest will be down-cycled (turned into a less valuable type of plastic which’ll then go to landfill after use). Jars are great for repurposing too, so there’s that.
  5. Don’t beat yourself up. It’s taken me over a year to get to this point, and I still have to throw stuff in the bin more than I’d like. But it’s about being better than you were last month, last week, even yesterday. Small changes are far likelier to stick than doing it in one fell swoop (I’m reminding myself here, as much as telling you!)

A really useful app for finding package-free products is the Bulk app (now a website) created by Béa Johnson of Zero Waste Home. You type in the area you want to search, then you have the option to pick the types of products you’re looking for (optional), and it shows you the locations on a map! I would encourage you to have a look if there’s anywhere near you.