Book Review: The Year of Simple Living

The Year of Simple Living is written by Steph Parrell

She is the creator of ScaleitSimple.com. She wrote this book as a guide to living a more simple life over the course of one year.

The book starts off with the author listing the benefits beyond financial to living a more simple, back to nature lifestyle. She also goes into how her grandparents lived and how she started exploring their way of life a little more.

The concept of the book are working through 12 different areas in the span of 12 months. The challenge is to take the full month and do every part with an open mind, so I cannot tell you how much of an impact it has had already, I’m just getting started with month one but I will update over the course of the 12 months.

If you’re feeling stressed, frazzled and you’re wanting to live a less stressful, simpler and more natural life, this book is definitely worth the read. Remember, nothing happens literally overnight- so how this book is broken down month by month and all the aspects of your life are laid out, this makes it easier for beginners to the lifestyle to ease into the change.

Anyone else doing Blogtober?

I totally forgot this was a thing, but decided to do this with 4 websites.

Since I’m letting my “primary” site expire (it was an experiment and it filled it’s need, so the special extras are expiring), I’m going to use this challenge this month to up my content on all four niche sites.

I’m going to try to keep with the fall/Halloween theme but also thinking winter/Christmas/Thanksgiving- crafts and of course, allergy friendly recipes.

 

This will coinside with a major holiday promotion I’m starting today as well as prep for Campnano next month, so I’ll be leaving one challenge to enter another.

If anyone is doing Blogtober, I’d love to see some links in the comments

 

Simple Steps to Green Up Your Life and Live Healthier

You don’t have to live out in the country to live a more sustainable life.

You also don’t have to be a stay at home mom/housewife/house husband or stay at home dad in order to cook more home made meals or start making your own detergents, cleaners or anything else around your home.

Batch cooking and slow cookers are two of the best ways to make homemade meals when you and your spouse/partner work part/full time.

Batch cooking is best done on a day off when you can spend several hours prepping at once and a slow cooker just requires tossing the meal in the cooker in the morning, setting it to low and leaving it as you are heading to work. When you get home, you have your dinner ready.

Batch cooking can help with giving you a week worth of frozen, easy to fix meals. Just cook everything at once then portion out into tupperware- when you need something fast, toss in the microwave like a microwave meal and you have a healthy, home made meal fast.

 

There is a whole organization devoted to helping with urban homesteading, if that’s what you’re interested in trying. Urban homesteading is the city version of modern day traditional living- gardening, home baking and cooking, even growing your own grain can be included, collecting rainwater, making your own detergents/cleaners and hygiene products and can go as far as sewing your own clothing and other cloth items.

Some tips to get started-

If it’s legal, collecting rain water can be done in a small area. Check and make sure it’s legal and make sure the barrel or item you’re using is safe.

Rainwater is as natural as it gets and it’s free. If you collect enough, it will save you on your water bill and it helps when you live in areas prone to various problems (it can help if you live in a drought prone area or if run off and pesticide use is a concern, here is further reading about rain water harvesting)

Gardening

There are special lights sold to help tomatoes grow indoors. All it takes is a small enough area to put a pot and they have special pots to help grow tomatoes in small areas and inside your home.

Regardless if you have very little yard or no actual yard, if you can put something like a table or stand next to a sunny window, you can grow some plants indoors. You can also start a container herb garden on your kitchen counter.

Cleaning and Personal Hygiene

Making chemical free cleaning products as well as detergents, shampoo, soaps and deodorants are another easy way to make your life a bit greener.

Pinterest is a huge resource for recipes for any kind of cleaner or personal hygene product you can find. If you have vinegar, it’s a great start. If you clean a countertop with straight white vinegar, you can disinfect. It also works for a lot of other cleaning that I’m putting into a different blog post.

Baking soda helps as well. With it’s gentle but rough texture, it helps polish and can help get harder to remove stuff off dishes and other harder to clean items.

Borax is also a great tool to have in your inventory. Others that work alone or in combo are

1. lemon juice/lemons

2. Castile soap

3. peroxide

4. alcohol

5. salt

There will be other ingredients added but it will depend on what you’re using. Baking soda helps whiten teeth and peroxide can help as well. Baking soda also helps with exfoliating your face (gentle exfoliation) and salt can be added to coffee and coconut oil as an anti-aging exfoliant. Put lavender oil in instead of coffee and it can soothe skin and help with relaxation.

Salt is abrasive, it can be gentle as a facial or body exfoliant but can also be rough enough to help get grease off a pan.

Alcohol cleans cuts and scrapes. It hurts but it disinfects. Using pure rubbing alcohol also helps kill various pests and helps sterilize.

 

Shopping

You can either buy reusable shopping bags from most grocery stores, Etsy or you can sit down with a sewing machine and make them yourself.

Not only do they take up less room than that huge plastic bag filled with plastic bags, they hold more (less trips to the car) and they can be used more than plastic bags.

They don’t get thrown out and end up in a landfill either so it’s actually helping if you’re trying to be more eco-friendly.

It’s simple to make a couple bags if you know how to sew (I’m going to do a walk through tutorial when I have access to my fabric and sewing machine)

There are also mesh produce bags you can buy online or in some stores. They keep your produce cleaner while using less plastic.

Not all foods you buy need to be labeled “organic.” Anything with a thicker peal doesn’t. (like avocados, bananas, etc)

The main concern a lot of people have with conventional vs organic are the pesticides used (growing your own is the only way to really ensure no pesticides are used and I have had some beautiful gardens in the past without any chemicals being used. If you have a thick peal that you’re not eating, there will be less residual pesticide left on the food you eat. The ones you eat like apples, pears etc are the ones you want to look for organic. The difference will end up saving you money in the long run as well.

Composting is also easy to do whether you live in a small apartment or house. Save your scraps (except meat and bones, etc). Here is a guide to show what items to compost and what benefits it gives your garden. It also reduces trash waste, which reduces plastic- even by a tiny bit.

Misc. Ways to Reduce Waste

Plastic is being banned in different forms in some cities, and for a good reason. It takes plastic over 100-200 years to break down once it’s in a landfill, it’s also being found in oceans and other bodies of water and actually harming some of the fish that live in those bodies.

Most of us use large amounts of plastic on a day to day basis (especially after our water was poisoned a few years ago, I only drink bottled water, since I starteed drinking bottled spring water the purified water or tap water has too strong of a chemical taste for me personally to stomach). Here are a few ways you can reduce plastic- in ways you won’t miss.

A. Buy a reusable stainless steel straw- you wash them out between uses and can take them with you to restaurants instead of using their plastic one time use straws.

B. Use reusable razors instead of disposable. The razor blades may seem like they cost more, but in the long run they will save money and it will be less plastic being thrown out.

C. Make deodorant or toothpaste instead of buying the ones in plastic. There are tons of easy recipes both on Google or Pinterest for home made products of both varieties. If you buy in a plastic tub, make sure you use all the product left instead of just tossing it out when it gets low. There is a roller made to get

D. Buy reusable shopping bags and produce bags

E. When you look hard enough, there are reusable zip lock bags as well- designed for food in your lunch but also reusable and washable so you don’t end up just tossing it out. Also- buy a lunch box instead of using a plastic bag. You get years of use and very little waste.

F. Use cardboard where you can instead of plastic. Any time you can choose between a cardboard container over plastic, go with cardboard.

G. There are many other ways to reduce plastic waste- look around your home and see what alternatives you can use.

2. Up-cycling old jeans instead of throwing them out or making a tote bag out of old shirts you were going to toss helps reduce waste.

3. Buying second hand. You do need to be careful about catching infestations, but as long as the clothing or items don’t have bugs or eggs, buying from thrift shops helps reduce waste as well. You’re buying other peoples’ old clothing and items they could have thrown out. It’s the same with consignments and sales. Also donating your stuff or selling your old stuff keeps more stuff from being thrown out

4. Switch to getting your bills online instead of snail mail, go to the magazine’s website to read the articles you’re interested in or donate old magazines to waiting rooms.

5. Read the newspaper online, recycle physical papers or use newspaper for packaging.

6. Stop buying paper towels and napkins- start using cloth instead. It saves money, trash and you can reuse for many years. Cloth is also more gentle, so it’s safer to use on types of glass.

 

These are a few tips to save some time, money and show that anyone can eat a little healthier and live a little greener regardless of how much time you have and regardless if you live in a small apartment or a large house with lots of land.

If you want to add any tips, feel free to comment any other tips and if you would like further guides with any of the items I mentioned, I will add it to my list of blogs for this site.

 

I Watched Marie Kondo’s Show

All January, people have been talking about professional cleaner/organizer Marie Kondo’s new Netflix reality show. Like most of the people in her target market, I decided to check out the show myself, so my kids and I have spent the last week watching it. I have gone through my kitchen, book closet, bed room and both of my kids’ bedrooms and have cleared out over ten bags of items to donate or sell. On top of that, we threw away at least 10 bags of broken or unusable items we hadn’t got around to getting rid of. Watching the show gave me a lot to think about, some of the things she said didn’t really apply but some of it resonated with us quite a bit.

Here are the top five ways watching the show helped me in declutter my home

1.Piling all my clothes on the bed together. Making my pile helped me sort and see exactly how much for each season I still had. I didn’t have as big a pile as some of the people on her show, but I go through my clothing on a regular basis. I only had one bag by the end and it wasn’t even completely filled because my last purge was less than a year ago (my first purge gave me three full bags of donations). I like her way because it helps you see how many and gives you a chance to really go through

2.Only keep items that really “spark joy.” Although, my toaster doesn’t spark joy, it is needed. It’s a good piece of advice to follow with items that serve no actual need and are only there for sentimental reasons. Most of the time, if you have something shoved in the back of a closet “just in case you need it,” you won’t need it so if it serves no purpose and doesn’t make you feel good, you don’t need it.

3.Take the time to “thank” items you’re going to get rid of. It seems a bit cheesy, if you’re not familiar with her religion, but when you stop and thank an item you no longer need, it can help you respect the item itself, even the process. It gives you a few moments to really think about the service that item gave you. You don’t even have to be a practitioner of her religion to get the benefit of taking the time to express gratitude toward the item.

4.Her folding method may not be new to everyone, but it really helps with saving space and storage for clothing. Putting underwear and bras in containers makes the underwear drawer look a lot better.

5.The biggest thing that influenced me was simple “peer pressure.” Not peer pressure from people I know in person, but a kind of feeling of peer pressure from watching the show. Watching other people go through everything was motivating me to go through our stuff, even if their homes still seemed cluttered, the show is most definitely not a minimalist show, but it can help start down the path to minimalism.

The show has received a fair amount of criticism, but it has also mixed with New Year’s resolutions and caused many viewers to go through their homes, donating larger than usual amounts of stuff to thrift shops everywhere. Getting rid of everything that doesn’t “spark joy” may not be possible to a lot of us (really, certain foods may not spark joy, but we need to eat, same with certain appliances) but the show seems to have done more good than bad and there are some valuable takeaways.

We still are far from done, but it has made a world of difference in my kids’ rooms, our bedroom and kitchen. We can now see our living room floor and the kids can play in their rooms. I also have a new appreciation for my clothing. Now that I have the ground work, I’m positive I will be able to help us get our home organized within the year.