Thursday, January 14, 2021

Small Steps Towards a Slow, Sustainable Life

For several years now it's been my desire to live a slower, simpler, more intentional life, but if I'm completely honest, I've failed, in most cases, miserably. I'm all for reducing our use of plastic, until I don't want the hassle of cleaning up after a meal, and out come the plastic plates, forks, knives. Living the in van we've also tried to be mindful of the cleaning products we use. But I've been somewhat dissatisfied with what we've purchased so far. Nothing cuts grease like Dawn! And then me, being me and big on scent, I want my peppermint body wash and my orange clove dusting spray! I console myself by saying that it's just this one thing. But that was what I said yesterday, and because of that there are now three bottles of toxic sludge in the cleaning bin. 

But then this past week I came across a number of articles;

and this You Tube channel, in particular, this video. And I was inspired!

I really loved what Jen had to say, regarding slow living becoming a catchy trend, which I think has been further driven by the hygge movement. Do you know how many books there are currently on the subject? And don't get me wrong, I was hygge before hygge was cool or I even knew that weird little word described my life to a t.  But slow, sustainable living isn't some new fad, in fact if anything, at least for me, it's a return to our roots. My grandparent's lived a slower, sustainable live when I was a child, and I have many fond memories of lying on their soft, worn couch by the fire and reading books in the winter, and playing in their enormous garden in the spring and summer. Slow living has been modeled for me, and I don't have to search back too far in my memories to reconnect with those days. 

Simple living is traditional living. 
Simple living is intentional living. 
Simple living is natural and nontoxic living. 
Simple living is ethical living. 
Simple living is sustainable living. 
Simple living is seasonal living.

- Katelyn Kennedy

I listed a number of things on my 101 Things in 1001 Days list, that align with living a simpler, slower, life, but I felt that many of those things would have to wait until we are living in a house, or an apartment.  But I feel a real urgency to really give this a good go and to implement some of these practices into our lives now. I may have to alter or modify a few of them to make it work in the van, but I don't want to wait. I want to begin to live the life I've always dreamed of, now. So I've decided to choose two things and to work faithfully to establish them as regular practices in our lives. Then, once I have them down, I'll add others, one or two at a time, until eventually I/we are living mindfully and sustainably. 

So here's what I've decided:
  1. Eat seasonally, locally (when possible), adding more greens and fresh vegetables into my diet and cutting back on refined sugar.

I'm going to be honest here and say that this is not going to be all that easy. I am a meat and potatoes girl and my appetite surpasses that of my husband. But I'm currently dealing with some health issues that I know would be greatly improved by changing my diet. Sugar is also a big ooof! I've tried cutting back before, but since I don't like the taste of honey or maple syrup as an alternative sweetener in things such as say, oatmeal, I became quickly discouraged. I also LOVE my sweet tea, which in my mind is better than soda which has far more toxic ingredients, but is still loaded with sugar. At least, if you're a true Texas girl like me!

All that being said, I've decided to live by the 80/20 rule, which means that 5.5 days of the week I will follow a stricter diet and eat healthy, but 1.5 of those days, which for me will either be Friday night and Saturday or Saturday night and Sunday (depending on our plans), I'll allow myself to indulge and eat and drink what I want.

"Slow living isn't about buying things or looking a certain way, it's about making decisions that benefit you and your family long term. It isn't a fad, it isn't a marketing gimmick, it's working together to achieve your goals. It's about living a life with intention and with purpose. It's not a quick fix solution and a co-ordinated Instagram feed. It's about accepting where you are now and making gradual changes to help you on your journey to living a life you deserve."

- Jen Chillingsworth

  2. Eliminate as much plastic from our daily lives as possible.

We've become really lax about this since moving into the van, because . . . convenience. Often after a long day of driving we'll stop for dinner and to avoid clean up we'll use "disposable" plates, knives and forks. And then there are things that I hadn't even given that much thought, such as the brush we use to scrub and clean the dishes. It has a plastic handle, and once we're finished with it, it will be thrown away and live on in a dump somewhere long after I'm gone. The same goes for toothbrushes. So just this week I ordered these natural bamboo dish brushes and these bamboo toothbrushes. I also realized that we have a cheap little plastic broom and dust pan that I think we actually picked up at the dollar store. I've hated it because it's well, cheap, how good a job could it do? So in consideration of changing out our plastic, I ordered this brush and dust pan set, which I think will be a definite improvement. I also just realized as I was writing this that we use 2-3 plastic wash tubs. So now I want to replace those with perhaps, galvanized tubs. But I am thinking in this case that as long as we already own the plastic tubs and they are useful, we'll use them up and make a more conscious choice when replacing them.

I also want to make more of our cleaning supplies, and I've had a nice orange pine all purpose cleaner waiting to be strained and poured into a bottle. I'll share how I made that in another post. I LOVE Mrs. Meyer's products, but unfortunately the scents that I want to use year round are seasonal, such as pine, peppermint and orange clove. So I'm looking for ways to make my own hand soap and dish soap that incorporates those scents. I'm sure it's doable, I just have to find the tutorials and experiment. I also would like to experiment with making our own tooth paste, laundry detergent and shampoo, so if these are things you have done or are currently doing and you have so no-fail recipes and methods you use, please pass them on!

So that's it. I'm going to begin with those two small things and then move on from there. I loved this line from one of Jen's many inspiring posts on slow living. 

"It's important not to feel bad about what you can't do and totally embrace what you can. If you are trying to adopt a slow life then it's a good idea to accept that you can't do everything and that a perfect life isn't attainable"

- Jen Chillingsworth

Right now, at this point in our life, I might not be able to do everything, but I can do something.  And this, is a start.

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Anonymous said...

I am on this same journey, so your thoughts echo my own.

BTW~ I LOVE Mrs. Meyers dish soap, Iowa Pine being my favorite, (with the green colored label being my favorite) and I use it year round. I simply stock up on it for the year in December, by doing that, I get free shipping as well!


Anonymous said...

I forgot to mention, that I've also been slowly "upgrading" my cleaning tools, such as dish scrubbers, dust pan and brooms, switching out plastic buckets for galvanized, etc. just as you are. (I switched to the bamboo toothbrushes as well. :)) I find that using "beautiful" things has made tasks more enjoyable, and I do them more mindfully. I've found I really like using products made by Redecker.


Kimberly Lottman said...

I used to stock up on Mrs. Meyers at Christmas, too, but living the van isn't very conducive to stock piling! :) It seems you and I are always on the same page at the same time, my friend! Great minds think alike! :)

Katie said...

I so enjoyed reading your thoughts and was reminded of some of the things we used to make. Over the last few years as we've added two more children to our family and moved, resulting in no support/community (yet!), not to mention homeschooling our older two children, we've stopped making these things and while I feel okay about the brands we've been buying instead, I miss making them! Your post has gotten me thinking about small ways I might be able to move back in this direction without overwhelming myself! Here are some of the recipes we have liked in the past:

Laundry Soap:
1 cup grated Fels Naptha
1/2 cup borax
1/2 cup washing soda
Mix thoroughly and use 1-2 tablespoons per load.

(some of these ingredients were challenging to find but Ace Hardware and Walmart usually had them.)

Tooth Powder:
1/4 cup kaolin clay
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon finely ground sea salt
a few drops of peppermint essential oil

Allow to air-dry, then store in an airtight container. Either use as a powder with a moistened tooth brush, or mix into paste with a small amount of water (only mix enough for a week or two at a time).

1 cup filtered water
3/4 cup Castile soap
2 tablespoons carrier oil (almond, jojoba etc)
10 drops essential oil
Mix in a spray bottle.

Kimberly Lottman said...

Thank you SO much for sharing these recipes! I will definitely add them to my ever expanding collection!