DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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22 April 2013

Guidelines for change


I'm often asked what can be done in the home to live a more sustainable, simple life. I find it difficult to answer a question like that because I don't think there is only one way to live like this. There is not one answer, there are many. Everyone is different, we're all at different ages, we don't have the same ambitions or goals. The best I can do it to give general guidelines and hope that everyone marches to the beat of their own drummer while finding the place that feels comfortable for them. Here are those general guidelines:

Money is not, and should not be, the most important thing in your life but it is the glue that holds everything together. Develop a spending plan and always live within your means. I find I'm better with money if I use cash. Cash is real to me and I'm reluctant to hand it over. When I buy with a card, it's different. I try to use cash, always. If you don't know how much money you're spending in a week or a month, it's a very worthwhile exercise to track what you spend. You don't have to tell anyone you're doing it but at the end of the month it will show you, with no doubt, how much you've spent. You can then identify how much you spend on things you don't need, and that money can then be redirected towards debt repayment or your real needs.


Organise yourself. We all have our own ways of doing organising. Some will want to declutter and live with fewer possessions, others will get rid of a few things but be at ease with what they keep. There is no right way to organise and declutter, do what feels comfortable. I have found it very helpful to make a weekly list of the things I have to do. Each morning I  transfer tasks from that list onto my daily list. That helps me get through the work I need to do without me forgetting just what it was I was going to do. If something doesn't get done on the daily or weekly lists, they're simply allocated to the follow-up list. Your work shouldn't make you feel guilty. If you can't do it, you can't do it, get over it and move on.


Getting rid of disposables. This can be paper plates, cups, knives, forks, tissues, menstrual pads or tampons, baby nappies/diapers, dishcloths or cleaning cloths. It could be anything. If you know you're frequently buying a product that you could replace with something you already have on hand, do it. It's an excellent way to recycle.


Recycle, reuse, repair. This will save you money and cut down on the amount of rubbish you have to send to the dump. Of course, you can separate your recyclables from your general garbage and have it recycled at the dump, but you can do a certain amount of recycling at home too. A sensible home recycling program starts with wise shopping choices. For instance, if your family uses tomato sauce, dish liquid, shampoo etc. in a squeeze bottle, keep the last squeeze bottle, buy a large container of that product, wash the last squeeze bottle and refill it. You can do that  number of times before you need to replace the smaller bottle. When one of your sheets or towels is worn out, cut it up into cleaning cloths. Not only will you have a good supply of very absorbent cleaning rags, you'll extend the life of the sheet or towel and get the full value of the money you spent on it. When it really is threadbare, put it in the worm farm or compost to finish its life off there.


Grow what you can. There are several reasons to do this. We all know how expensive it is to buy or rent a house nowadays. You will get better value for your mortgage or rental dollars if you use your land to grow food. You'll be able to grow and eat organic vegetables without the expense of buying organic. You'll teach yourself and your family valuable like skills. You'll become more self reliant. I'll write a post later in the week about starting a vegie patch.


Learn to cook from scratch and use what is in your garden. This includes bread, snacks, cakes and biscuits/cookies, jams, sauces and whatever else your family enjoys on a regular basis. Cook once and eat twice. I am an expert at this. It saves time and energy on the second day and often the flavours have developed and the dish tastes much better on the second day. If you're trying to build up a stash of home-cooked frozen food in your freezer, this is a good way of doing it, especially if you don't seem to have the time for a dedicated cooking session just for the frozen food. So still cook enough for everyone for two meals but instead of eating the second portion on the next day, freeze it. It will only take one week to build one week's supply of frozen food.

 Celery will remain crisp and ready to use in your fridge for six weeks if you wash it and wrap it in foil.

Don't compare yourself with anyone else. You are unique. What someone else does may not suit you. Even if some of the points in this post don't sit well with you, don't do them. Invent your own way or follow what others do only when it makes complete sense to you and you trust the person telling you. There is no such thing as perfect. Never try to be better than anyone else, try to do your best instead. And when you do change the way you do something, examine what you're doing and customise it to suit you and how you work.


This way of living will make you calm and content as long as you're doing it because you want to change. If you're doing it because you think you should or all your friends are making changes, it will seem too difficult. One thing is for certain, living this way will probably give you more work to do, not less. But it is satisfying work and you can see the results of changing quite soon after you do. You won't see the merit of everything I do and that's a good thing. We all come to our own changes when our time is right. When you get there and you decide that you're ready to become more self reliant and live a more sustainable life, that's when it all makes sense and you see many of the benefits.

What tip would you add to this list?

26 comments:

  1. Such a useful post for so many reasons, not least of which is the tip about celery; I had never heard of doing that before but it's a great idea.

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    1. Its works, i was gob-smacked. At the end of six weeks it was still snap crunchy.

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    2. I am a single girl and I find it hard to get through a whole celery by myself. I use it for soup in it's later days of life, but I really love it fresh in tuna salad or potato salad. I read this tip some months ago, and I have used it ever since. It really does work and is one of the best money saving tips I have ever come across. xx debbie

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  2. Rhonda, a great post on guidelines and change, we can make little changes to start with and keep going one step at a time!
    And now I would like a slice of that bread:)

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  3. I love these tips! What great values to live by! I would add time, allow yourself time to get what you need done, but also time for yourself to revitalise and regenerate.

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  4. This is a great post with some very useful tips, thank you.

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  5. Great post. I keep my celery, carrots and any other vegies which are crisp in a long plastic container with an insert on the bottom which allows the moisture to drain. I have two, one made by Tupperware and one made by Decor. I've used them for years. They keeps all my vegies fresh and crisp for weeks.

    http://www.decor.com.au/usage/viewproducts.aspx?id=2099

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  6. Baby-steps! And if you slip up every once in a while that's ok. Just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back to it. At the end of the day you're still better off even if you do make mistakes from time to time.

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  7. The warm fireplaceApril 22, 2013 8:05 am

    Great post Rhonda,i think being honest with yourself and abilities, also being open to ideas to simplify your life, i agree with you organisation is the key, i have a Housekeeping journal which is invaluable as i can note weekly/monthly jobs down and as you say things dont get forgotton.
    Sue

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  8. hi :) great post, i think i would add start small, there isnt always one solution to doing things, research your big changes like starting a vegie patch, getting chooks, going solar power, and have fun xx Shilo

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  9. Good advice as allways, changing seasons often sparks rethinking what we are doing,I am in the middle of a big "Spring clean" (using my home made lemon cleaner) as I know I won't tackle this when the cold weather really hits,cleaning out the fridge, washing walls and windows, makes me shiver just thinking about doing it in Winter ..... rather be knitting.
    Thank you for the celery tip, I have been buying whole big bunches for juicing and noticed by the end of the week it was looking pretty sad ! so some ended up in the compost or soup. I don't use foil often, but will give this a try.
    It is amazing how doing a few things will inspire and energise you to do more on the road to simple living.

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  10. I have never responded before but I just love your blog. I just received your book and have already read many parts several times. I don't have many friends like myself but doing all of these things at home makes me feel so satisfied.

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  11. This is a great list. I would add "live behind the times" as my single best suggestion for simplifying. People get so caught up in being on the cutting edge of this that or the other, but if you're willing to live even a year or two "behind," then much of what those around you spend top dollar to own can be had for nearly free.

    This applies to technology: desktop computers - they're practically free for the taking these days. It applies to fashion - if you get beyond the idea of being "in style" most clothing can be purchased used for less than it would cost to buy the material - or better yet, you can get it for free on FreeCycle! It also applies to entertainment. If you don't have to see xyz movie the instant it comes out, you can simply wait until the library has it on DVD and you can watch it for free. The same principle applies across the board... cars, furniture, appliances, etc.

    The only thing on your list that doesn't work for me is using cash. I charge everything to one credit card and pay it off religiously each month. In fact, it's set up to pay the full balance automatically! So in my mind, the balance of that bill (and my bank account) is the "real money." If I have cash on hand, then it's already been taken out of my bank account, so in my mind, it's sort of already spent... which makes it kinda like Monopoly money, and it's REALLY easy to waste it on stupid stuff because somehow my brain thinks it "doesn't count."

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    1. This is EXACTLY how I feel about cash!! If it's taken out it's already spent, so it doesn't matter. I use my debit card for 95% of my purchases. I still balance my checkbook (a large ledger) the old fashioned way so I don't overdraft.

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    2. I love what you say about "living behind the times". I do this as a way of life but never have thought of a name for it. Pam

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  12. I think you've covered it all really. One thing I do also is make as many gifts as possible. saves money as well as keeps me away from shops.

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  13. These are all such great places to start. Too often it's easy to get overwhelmed and give up without even begininning!

    I would add some more basics, like learn to read your power meter, and learn the value of the power you are using. Change your light globes, even if it's just one every time you do the shopping, doing the ones that are on the most first. It still amazes me how many people don't understand what those numbers on the light globes mean to their bills, and their budgets.

    Also, pass on as much of these skills as you can. There is very little in school these days in terms of old fashioned "home ec" and a lot of cooking, household management and budgeting skills are not being taught. If you find someone who is interested, take the time to show them how it's beneficial for them to live like this - for their health, their wallet, and the planet.

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  14. These are all great tips. Whenever I perform a task at home, whether it's doing laundry, doing household chores, gardening, fixing something, or cooking a certain dish, I always try to ask myself the following questions: Is there an easier way to do this? Is there a way I can do this more cheaply? We are making the switch to a more simple life and we went through our home room by room, looking at how each room functions, identified what needs repaired/altered, and what needed to be done to make it perform more efficiently for us. We've added extra shelves in our laundry room, took out an awkward & hard to use cabinet in the kitchen, etc. I think organization is the key to being able to live more simply. If I can't find certain ingredients or tools in an unorganized kitchen, cooking from scratch is very hard to do. This is a very windy comment. Just thought I would add some things that work for us. :)
    Kristina

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  15. Well said Rhonda....and I couldn't agree more with you. I also think that it is very humbling that you share ideas rather than preach "it's my way or the highway". Not one size fits all but we all want a similar style of clothing (ie simple and sustainable and meaningful life). I also dare anyone to use CASH ONLY for one month and see how they go. It is a totally liberating experience using cash and I must admit I use my card a fair bit now more than I would like however I used cash for "entertainment, petrol and food" which are the main spenders and I just allocated a weekly amount and then topped up the wallet each week. Some days the food money might go into the wallet on day 6 vs day 8 but overall you feel more in control of your cash because you can touch it, hold it and see if it's there in your wallet or not. If you only have $70 left in your wallet and you need groceries, there are no buying extras. If anyone doesn't want to track, just take out $$ and see how long it lasts you at the shops...it is a real eye opener. Thanks also for popping my blog on your weekend reads as it has inspired me to document more of what we are trying to achieve in the suburbs of Brisbane. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane, Ausralia www.oursimpleandmeaningfullife.blogspot.com.au

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  16. I like how you mentioned tampons and pads. You can buy cloth pads off etsy for relatively cheap (they will pay themselves off soon anyhow) or you can make yourself. A menstrual cup if you like tampons... ROCKS. Seriously. AMAZING. They make your period SO much better... not to mention you are not wasting a bunch of money and creating waste. They can last for 10 years if you treat it right. You don't have to change it as often and they are more comfortable than tampons. I use the lunette and I LOVE it. Then on top of that I use cloth TP for pee. Our family is 3 and I am the only girl (husband and little boy) and so I am the only one who uses TP for pee. I threw away my TP for one day and once I saw it all sitting in the trash I realized how much useless waste I was creating and for nothing... what a couple of drops? So I cut up a flannel receiving blanket into small squares (let's say... 3x6'') with pinking shears and they work great, they are more comfortable too. I did this same thing to create cloth kleenex that my whole family uses. They are SO much easier on your nose!!! The kleenex I once again cut up a flannel receiving blanket into slightly larger squares (5x6'') the same way. Then I have a small wet bag (it has an outer unlined pocket and an inner PUL lined pocket-water proof and very easy to clean) and anytime I am sick or have the sniffles, I roll up some cloth kleenex into that outer pocket, and as I use it up I put it in the PUL lined pocket. I also bought that bag on etsy. I don't have a lot of time to make stuff like that myself, so for now I support other moms who do.

    That is how I got rid of a lot of disposable products. We still keep some disposable paper towels if a guest may want one, or if there is something really nasty to pick up, but otherwise we cut WAAAAAY down on the disposables and it saves so much money and WASTE.

    I feel bad because we did not use cloth diapers, but really we do so much else that most homes don't do, so I try not to let this bother me too much.

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  17. Such great suggestions and I love that you emphasise that we are all different and will have a different approach to being more sustainable. I love your philosophy and will certainly take on some of your suggestion and others that I am already doing I will continue. Thanks so much, such an inspiration x

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  18. One suggestion I would like to add is, don't obsess over simplifying. It is okay to want to change, but don't put too much pressure on yourself to do so, as that would take the fun out of it and (in my opinion) make it less worthwhile.

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  19. Don't be afraid to compromise rather than give up completely. For instance, I use a combination of cloth nappies and disposables for when out and about or when I just haven't managed to keep up with the laundry mountain that a family of 7 creates! Using them as often as I can is better that not at all. (Tip: if you use laundry liquid, you can almost always use MUCH less than they say with great results, save a ton of money and have less chemical residue left in your clothes and flowing into the water system...)

    Don't be afraid to try something and decide it just isn't feasible for you in your current life season. We had chickens for two years and I loved it. But eggs are not the only thing to come out of that rear end. Great if you have a big plot of veggies on the go that could do with the nutrients, but I really need that small garden of ours for the younger children to play in without being boil washed every time they come back in! (And I didn't want to keep the chickens "cooped up" in a space that I wasn't sure would keep them happy.) Plus a new baby. And too little time to devote. So the chickens have been responsibly re-homed for now and we'll try again in a few years. Doesn't mean we can't try again when our circumstances change.

    Have fun with trying out your new life!

    Rachael

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  20. I enjoyed your friendly, informative and encouraging suggestions, and also the tips already contributed in prior comments.

    Living behind the times really resonates, too! Remembering to turn off un-needed lights, walking instead of riding, and making used of libraries would be my suggestions.

    Best wishes.

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  21. Great list. My addition is to meal plan. In our family this is really how the food budget can be kept and waste avoided. As soon as I slip, an ehm...that happens, the money doesn't go nearly as far as with a plan and there are depressing "what am I going to do with these veggies" in our fridge. Yes, it is one more thing to do, but it makes also cooking easier as there is no decision making needed at that point. You could also save your menus and recycle them! Most of us do rotate a trusty list of dishes anyway.

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  22. i think it's great advice to try not to be perfect :) it's a trap i fall into and end up being too hard on myself... we do have to remember to do what we can and know that as our life changes (with children, age, health) that it will affect what we can do... sometimes i bite off more than i can chew (being pregnant and with 2 small children at home ), trying to grow a big vege garden, make everything from scratch, cloth nappying as well as looking after my children etc- because it really does take a lot of time to do everything for yourself...and sometimes i have to learn when to say enough to ensure i am not spreading myself too thin!
    amy

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