10 Things You Can Stop Buying Now

Over the years, I have picked up many different ideas for how to become more sustainable, how to save money, and how to live a healthier life. Many of these ideas are a perfect union of those three attributes, and even though some of these may require a small investment up front, the items can be used for years to come.

1. Notecards/Thank You Cards/ Stationary / Birthday cards

You don’t have to be a master scrapbooking hobbyist to make your own notecards. It can be as simple as using the back of your children’s artwork, or cutting out pictures from old cards and pasting them on the blank spaces behind the front of old cards.

2. Wrapping Paper and Gift Bags

When I think of all the Christmases as a child where we overloaded our trash can with heaps of crumpled wrapping paper, tissue paper and ripped up gift bags I cringe. I’ve been saving my gift bags and tissue paper for years, and have a stash of about a dozen or so to choose from at any given time. I keep ribbons and bows, and a variety of small boxes as well. My dad always used the funnies from the newspaper as wrapping paper, and my aunt always sewed simple gift bags from discount fabrics. She also made reusable cross stitched gift tags to accompany the bags, and they’ve had decades of use with zero waste! Ingenious!

3. Cleaning Products

With a few very inexpensive household products (think vinegar, and baking soda) you can make very dependable and eco-friendly cleaning products that get the job done. You can make fancier recipes using alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, lemon juice and essential oils as well, but I’ve found most things can be easily cleaned using just those two ingredients.

4. Paper Towels and Napkins

Start stocking up on dish towels (keep a drawer or basket of them in the kitchen) and you will never again need to buy paper towels. Same for cloth napkins and disposable napkins. To make it easier on myself I put a small bucket on the counter to throw the dirty ones into, then I just throw them in the wash when the bucket gets full.

5. Herbs

It is so simple and easy to grow your own herbs. If you live in a cold climate, you can always find an empty windowsill to use. Herbs grow relatively quickly and take up very little space. Right now I’m growing oregano, mint, dill, rosemary, sage and basil, but you can grow virtually any herb you can think of. For an even cheaper option, you can order organic herb seeds online. Many herbs are perennial meaning they will continue to grow, giving you a limitless supply of fresh herbs! You can even grow rosemary just by taking a sprig off and putting it in the dirt. So easy!

6. Bottled Water

This one is kind of a no-brainer. I think the key to this is thinking ahead. For one, you will need several high quality water bottles (think stainless steel or these glass ones I love) for multiple members of your family, and also for when some are in the dishwasher or lost. Plastic ones are cheaper, but they may release nasty chemicals into your water when they get hot or sit for a long time. Keep some in the fridge so they are cold and ready to grab and go when you’re headed out the door. Then when you get back home, make sure to bring your water bottle back inside. It starts to become second-nature when you do it consistently.

7. Disposable Diapers

Cloth diapers are not the cotton fabric and safety pins that your grandma used. Today they come in many different kinds that are so easy to put on with snaps and Velcro, and come in many cute patterns. They are also much easier to store and wash then you’d think. All you need is a large wet bag for home, and a small wet bag for on the go. It zips completely closed and keeps them nice and contained. About half of the diapers my daughter uses now are the same ones we bought before she was born (she’s now 2!). I think I will write another blog post just on cloth diapering soon!

8. Pads or Tampons

Cloth pads are infinitely more comfortable than disposables, and all you need is enough for a few days as you can just throw them in the washer. On the other hand, there are many reusable menstrual cups such as the Mooncup that can be easily rinsed off each time.

9. Tupperware

I actually can’t believe that I’ve just started doing this, it is so obvious and easy. Just save all the glass jars when you use up your pantry items such as all-natural peanut butter, pasta sauce, jam and pickles. You can use them to store dry goods like beans, grains, loose herbs and teas, and also to store leftovers in the fridge. Just rinse them out and run them through the dishwasher to use again and again.

10. Toothpaste

There are many recipes floating around out there for home-made toothpaste, and most of them involve baking soda, charcoal, and mint essential oils. Infinitely cheaper, infinitely less waste, and much healthier for you as they don’t contain dangerous chemicals like fluoride.

There are so many other things you can stop buying now if you think outside the box. Oftentimes when I feel the need to buy something, I just wait a few days and I usually think of something I already have to use instead. What have you stopped buying?

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Achieving True Greatness

I used to think I wanted to go out in life and do great things. I wanted to have accomplished something noteworthy, or be known by a lot of people. What I’ve come to find now is that I really want to be an intelligent, magnetic, multifaceted person to myself. Impressing myself! What a strange idea. This doesn’t mean I’m egotistical (though everybody is to an extent); just that I want to be the kind of person that I would admire.

I used to think that material possessions would make me happy: beautiful designer clothes, a brand new house, a flashy car. At this point (and I think having a daughter has helped be become way more humble) I would be more impressed with myself the LESS I have. Also my mind is starting to expand. My scope of consciousness is becoming so much wider. Learning what really is important, and staying focused on that has become in the forefront of my mind.

Listening to the vibration of your heart instead of the loud messages we get from ads and magazines and movies would free us up so much to follow our true passions and to live authentically. I’ve only just begun trying to undo all the messages I have received from this society I’m in: how to live, how to dress, how to eat, how to spend my time and money. I’ve decided to take the road less traveled instead of the busy highway. It’s rocky and can get lonely at times, but it’s more beautiful and peaceful here. I’ve realized that greatness isn’t all about the accomplishments on my resume, but the space of peace and fulfillment that exists in my own soul.

Getting Minimalist with Toddlers

Often times people will walk into my house and say “I love the energy in here,” or “this feels so zen.” To me, that is the biggest compliment they could give to my home. My life is already so stressful just because I have a husband in the army, I watch six small children during the day and one 24/7, I live in a high traffic area, and life just takes so much time. Preparing healthy meals, doing laundry, cleaning, cloth diapering, meeting with friends, grocery shopping and taking care of myself on top of that just jam packs my days for the most part. One of the major things that keeps me sane and grounded is that my house (for the most part!) is pretty orderly and peaceful.

To say that this is “just the person I am” as the reason my home is this way would be the biggest lie I’ve ever told. In all honesty I’d rather leave my grungy jammies on the floor, I’d rather swing my towel over the top of the door than hang it neatly on the towel rack. I’d rather leave my jewelry on the bathroom counter! The problem is the convenience and lackadaisicalness of these things is very similar to racking up debt on a credit card- it’s just something you will have to deal with later, and probably when you have even LESS time than you do now! What minimalism does to help you in your battle for peace in your home is it allows you space and clarity so it is easy to see what is important. It makes it easy to find what you’re looking for. It makes it so simple to put your items back where they belong. It makes taking care of your possessions a joy rather than a burden.

I hear a lot of folks talk about how they need to block out a date to organize and get rid of junk, some even hire a professional to step in and do it for them! The best way (coincidentally my way) is really to just do it all the time. Think of every spare increment of time you have in your day as a time to look around and see what you don’t need anymore. Notice all the little things that have been bothering you (that cobweb up in the corner) and take care of it then. Think of the act of getting rid of things you don’t need like a spiral dance, one which you do constantly. You would think that not buying more things is an easy solution, but even that isn’t enough. Especially if your children have a few pairs of adoring grandparents, it might seem impossible to stay minimalist with the constant influx of toys.

One way to sort out what is important is to look out for what your children enjoy playing with. Give away any toys that your child has stopped playing with. Designate an area in your home for toys, and do not allow any more toys than what will fit. You can even explain this limit to your child so they understand why they can’t keep all the toys on the planet! Throw away broken toys (unless you will repair it today). Look out for toys that may be too advanced for your child, or those which are too complex or intricate for their age range. I am definitely not a fan of bins for toys, as bins seem to encourage children to dump the contents out. Instead, I prefer to display the most used, loved, high quality, and beautiful toys on open shelving. If a toy has too many loose parts, it’s ok to remove many and only enough to capture interest.

playroomHere is my playroom before.

playroom2Here is my playroom after.

As you can see, they are pretty similar. Some of the changes and reasons:

– Bins are gone! Too much dumping of bins and standing on baskets which was ruining them!

– Curtains removed! They pulled them down.

– Painting removed! They kept taking it down.

-Dollhouse removed! They mostly wanted to stand on it!

– Bookshelf removed! They kept throwing the books and small toys behind it, and kept trying to climb it which was unsafe.

+Step bridge added! This was a great purchase as it allows them a safe place to climb and jump!

+Unit blocks added! These are very high quality, heavy, durable, precise blocks. I removed about half of the set to make them easier to manage. Great for open-ended play!

+Line with clothespins added! If you look you will see it on the top right. It is out of their reach but allows them to see their own art on display! Beautiful and practical.

artdisplay

So there you have it! Some of the reasons I started my minimalist journey and ways I’ve found to implement minimalism with my kiddos.

Creating a Harmonious Routine with Young Children

Are you always behind on everything on your to-do list, but you’re busy all the time? Ever wonder where your peace went? Did you leave your old hobbies and interests back in another year? Let me tell you something right now. Your child wants you to be happy, and they want to contribute to the care they receive. Believe it or not, they even want you to be cared for as well. They certainly don’t want to be a burden, and they actually don’t need to be entertained (though they will want to if that’s what they’re used to!)

The key is to plan ahead, and more specifically to design a sequence of events that occur throughout the day, every day to help the day unfold smoothly and peacefully for the whole family. It seems like a daunting task with huge stumbling blocks (and perhaps even some exasperated excuses) at first, but with forethought this simple step can create an atmosphere of tranquility and inspiration for both you and your children.

First, let me talk about the elephant in the room. The Big Letters T and V. Ours is certainly big enough and uncomfortably (for me at least) prominent in our living room to discuss. The problem with TV is that it is a drug. It just is. For more information about it, please read The Plug-In Drug. It affects the brain in the same way sugar or any other pleasurable substance does, and they more it is consumed the more strong the urge to keep consuming it becomes. The best thing of course would be getting rid of it all together. I’m such a big fan of that. But it’s so strong in our culture that I feel the unfortunate need to say, the second best thing would be to severely limit screen time (i.e. once a week for a very short time). Believe it or not, kids need time to be bored. Boredom is the precursor to creativity (by creativity I really mean child-lead imaginative play.) Just think about how every moment your child is a pacified zombie in front of a screen, is a moment your child could be spending fully engaged in REAL life with their mind, body and soul.

When you take care of the things in your life that need tending to, you’re actually showing your child what it means to be human. Everything you do is a functional model for them to follow as they grow. It’s so important that you do the things that are not only necessary, but the things that are good for you. The things that are good for the world. The things that make you happy and healthy.

At about the age of 2, children become not only able but eager to help you in your endeavors. It may take a bit of practice, but if you let them they can help you fold clothes (or maybe just throw the wet laundry into the drier). They can help you put dishes away (try wooden bowls!) and they can certainly pick up their toys (As long as they don’t have too many!). Involve your child in not only their own care routines, but the care routines of the house and yard. Let them put some of the groceries on the conveyor belt. Let them carry a few items into the house when you’re unloading the car.

sisi baking

The benefit to this is threefold. A child’s feelings of self-confidence is definitely boosted when they are helping to care for themselves, but it is boosted even more when they are helping to care for others. You are going through your day with your child, getting chores done alongside them as they need to be accomplished, instead of waiting for naptime or the end of the night. In this way you’re keeping your house peaceful and free of clutter and uncompleted tasks. You’re also allowing yourself to have the time during nap or night time to do the things you love to do, or simply to relax.

The learning and sensory experiences involved with chores are beautiful. The soil in the garden replaces play dough. Using a safe knife to cut pears replaces the toy knife. The bubbly water in the sink replaces the water table. The fine motor skills practiced to pull weeds, or the large motor skills needed to sweep up. Talking about colors while folding laundry, or letters while writing the shopping list. Another term for this is “Life as the Curriculum” and is also the Lifeways model of child care. Instead of creating a contrived life for your child full of classes and preconceived play scenarios, just allow them to be a part of your life. Give them time to play independently (in this way they will experiment and replay the real life scenarios to further assimilate the learning in their brain!)

It’s most certainly an old way of thinking and doing things, a life wrought of necessity. It’s certainly contradictory to everything we are told we need to provide our children (505 Summer Play Themes to Keep Your Toddler Busy… Pinterest, I’m looking at you…) But what a beautiful, peaceful way of life for you, your child and your family!

Calm Water to The Tidal Wave

A typical family dinner was happening. My daughter was eating her tortilla and laughing. She said “All done,” and I started taking her out of her booster seat. Then it was “more juice!” and as I said “Ok” and buckled her back in, it was a wail of “Noooo!”

Enter tantrum mode. A tantrum usually comes up at THE most inconvenient times. The reason for this is that despite their rough and tumble, adorable exterior, toddlers are sensitive little guys. Your toddler is most likely either extremely tired, hungry or overstimulated. Shaming, bribing or trying to console your toddler will most certainly make the already unbearable situation more aggravated. Though there is no quick magic trick to stop a tantrum, understanding where your little one is coming from is the best way to start to get past the initial panic.

The best way to avoid tantrums all together (most of the time!) is by covering all your bases. Have a consistent naptime, and make sure they get ample rest (oftentimes this is 14 hours of rest each 24 hour period). Make sure you have mealtimes, and offer a variety of nutritious options. A good rule of thumb is a grain, fruit or vegetable for breakfast, a grain and two different fruit/vegetables at lunch and dinner with milk or non-dairy option at each meal, plus access to water throughout the day. I’m amazed by the over-packed, overcrowded, noisy situations that many parents put their child in throughout the day. Malls, theme parks, fairs and other events like these easily become a loud, chaotic nightmare for toddlers and babies. Remember that their brains are still developing! Try to avoid these things at all costs, and limit your child’s time in these types of situations as much as possible. A good rule of thumb is it’s best to leave BEFORE you start to see signs of tiredness or discomfort. Remember, toddlers thrive on consistent routines and calm, familiar environments.

But once the tantrum strikes, your first job is to recognize the situation and keep calm, knowing that your little one isn’t being bad or naughty, but they have distress that is too much for them to handle. It’s best to remove them from the situation/bring them to the situation they need (bed, food, calm), all the while acknowledging their big feelings. Be the calm water to their tidal wave. Mostly they just want to express themselves, and they want you to respect, love and care for them without judgment, but with patience, kindness and understanding.

8 Survival Strategies For Frazzled Parents

Let’s be honest. Parenting young children can be a black hole of playdates, tantrums, grocery store trips, dishes, laundry piles, and tripping over toys every 5 steps on your way to the kitchen to make some coffee. It can be an all consuming, sometimes insurmountable hurdle each day just to make it to nap time without yelling or crying (and we’re just talking about you here, not your child!) Even without my day job caring for 5 other toddlers besides my own for 10 hours strait, parenting my one sweet little dumpling by herself was a challenge. Throw in other stressors like living away from family, a deployed or absent spouse, or an illness or disability, you have yourself a long row to hoe.

So, let’s just jump right into it. How do you do it? How do you do it with PEACE and LOVE? With a GENTLE SPIRIT? Here are some ground rules I have figured out are just necessary for my survival through trial and error. But by all means, do what works for YOU and YOURS.

  1. YES Space

What is a yes space? It’s a space in your home and yard to play in where there you don’t have to say “No” all the time. Check out this article here to read more about it. Yes, it is a pain in the ass to set up, but it will definitely make up for that in units of PEACE

  1. Cut the Clutter

Too many toys will definitely over complicate your life. Often when kids have too many toys they will lose interest or feel overwhelmed fast. Just pick a few high quality, open-ended toys and set them up in the yes space. Also do yourself a favor and lose all the noisy neon plastic junk. It’s all annoying, overstimulating and generally positive vibe-killing.

  1. Check Yo’self

Are you OK? If you need to pee, need some water or are starving, chances are you will not be a pleasant person to be around. Put on your own air mask before helping others. Wake up before your kids so you can take a shower and brush your teeth!

  1. Meet Basic Needs

It is your job to give your kid the opportunity to eat 3 square meals and maybe a snack or two each day. (Do your American butt a favor and read French Kids Eat Everything). Let them decide what they will and won’t eat. Give them a chance to nap (Clean diaper, quiet space, dim light, maybe diffuse some lavender oil). Same for bedtime (and for Goddess sakes, put them to bed before 8PM!) Give yourself a break for an hour regardless. Make sure they’re not running into traffic or playing with knives (unless you’re Ben Hewitt). Don’t worry about getting them enrolled in BabyGymMusicStorySignTime. Just let them play!

  1. Acknowledge

They fell down? “Ouch that really hurt!” They start wailing for daddy? “You really miss Daddy. I miss daddy too!” They get frustrated and throw a toy? “You seem very upset right now.” Whatever they throw at you, just accept and let them know they are heard. Don’t try to fix it (although offering a hug is often appreciated). Don’t get ruffled by any of their toddler antics. Know that it is probably normal behavior, and will pass. Trust that they need to express their big feelings (have you checked out Janet Lansbury yet?) she’s kind of the best thing ever.

  1. Get a Rhythm!

It’s not just what you do When You Get The Blues. It’s what you almost always do. Because living with young people is like living with a mental patient. They need to know what to expect and what is expected of them. Children crave order because their own feelings can often seem chaotic to them. You don’t necessarily need a schedule, but a flexible routine. Be consistent in meal and nap times, and even indoor/outdoor times. Set the expectations of their behavior and make sure it’s actually within their capability to do. One of my limits is no throwing food. Once food throwing happens, the meal is over every time. Hunger as a result of this is called Natural Consequences. Don’t get discouraged, it often takes MANY tries to get it right. But doing this will also let your children know what to expect of YOU as well!

  1. Forgive Your Child, Forgive YourSelf

Nothing makes my blood boil like witnessing my own child go and hit another kid, especially a younger kid. Your kid will always do things that will “push your buttons”, and the buttons they push are most likely things from your own childhood that you struggled with or were shamed for. And often when this happens, we the All-Knowing Responsible Gentle Parent Mama Guide will lash out. We may yell or say things in a way that is disrespectful to our child. After the cool down period, just talk about it with your child. Tell him or her at their level how you were feeling, and talk about what happened. Admit you made a mistake and let them know you’re sorry and you love them. Even though you might have caused some negative emotions in your child and failed a little, modeling this amending behavior does a whole heap of good for their little souls. Children always want to forgive you!

7. Let Them Help

Though it often takes longer, let your children help you do housework. I promise the task will be completed, but it will be fun and so beneficial to your little one. Whistle while you work, let it be a game, use the time to sing and bond, watch how your child is learning. You will be amazed at how each time you let them help make their bed, they get better and better at spreading the blanket. Doing “real work” activities with your child is the best way to keep a beautiful harmony going in your home. Save the more adult type activities (sex? web browsing? Plucking your eyebrows? Basking in the Great Quiet? stuff like that.) when they are asleep.

8. Breathe Deep

When all else fails, just breathe. I know it’s a song, but seriously it works. It gets oxygen to your brain, which helps you use your prefrontal cortex (the rational, mature part of your brain). It helps you to physically calm down but also allows your attention to refocus on the moment you’re in, helping you to live in the NOW which ultimately makes you happier. I could write a book about that! (A New Earth anyone?)