Finding Exponential Happiness in Empty Spaces

I’m finding that the more “stuff” I get rid of and the more “activities” I actually accomplish the happier I am, and the more I crave just going even further down the rabbit hole. If you haven’t yet read or heard of it, please do yourself a huge favor and check out the Mr. Money Mustache blog. It is an exceptionally written blog that is both smart and funny, both philosophical and practical. It has been one of the major inspirations for me to make such radical changes in my own life.

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My kitchen before it was filled up with appliances on the countertops!

I don’t even know where to begin with all the changes I have/am currently making. I have deactivated my facebook account. I am getting rid of my gas lawn mower and replacing it with an old fashioned manual push mower. I just bought a hybrid bike and am selling my big Japanese boat of a car (2011 Toyota Camry). I’m getting rid of most of my living room furniture soon. I keep making more and more trips to the local homeless shelter and Goodwill to drop off donations. I’m getting rid of all the appliances, spice racks, holders and other do-hickeys on my kitchen counters (besides my Vitamix which I’m stowing in one of the cabinets). I’m listing several items on eBay. In fact, I’ve already sold more than $500 worth of my old items that no longer served a purpose in my life. Happily, I’ve also been able to save up $2000. Some of my far-off goals are becoming financially independent and curing my rheumatoid arthritis, as well as becoming 85% self sustaining, and running a zero-waste household.

The main idea I’m contemplating right now is that living with the items and in the setting that makes you happy is more important than impressing everyone else, or even meeting their expectations at all. If you find something is no longer making you happy or is causing you stress, do your very best to change it so that it can make you happy. Sometimes what that amounts to is just knowing when to graciously let something go. The immediate reward to doing so is the wonderfully freeing area of space or time that is created when you let go of things, activities, and people that drag you down and steal your energy.

This is the snowball effect that happens- because as you have more energy and space you find that you have the confidence and motivation to let go of even more. You find things in your life that you can tweak or replace so that it most perfectly fits your own needs. One of the hardest things for me to do has been to get rid of gifts that people have given me. Even if it is an ugly outdated article of clothing that never fit right, it’s still hard to say goodbye to the little part of it that reminds you of the person. The best technique I’ve used that helps me do this is to just remember that the item itself was not the gift. In fact, the real gift was that special person selecting that item and presenting it to you, with the intention of showing you they cared. That should be the special memory, and that actually has little to do with the specific memento that they chose.

My foot is so swollen from the RA right now that sometimes it is painful to walk. People keep telling me I should get on disability but in all honesty I feel more excited than ever to get things done for myself. I know I can heal my disease, though I’m not sure how long it will take. I know I’ll keep trying to do it by creating a stress-free (or stress-minimized) environment for my mind and body to exist in. Even if I don’t heal my RA, I am happy to take this journey and am looking forward to seeing the results that come about.

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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?