I Trust

Most often, letting go is simple but yet it’s quite difficult. Letting go of physical and emotional ties can be scary and bring up fear and doubt. We hold on to the familiar comfort of what we know (or think we know), because it is easier than breaking the routine and changing. But what’s on the other side of that?

Today’s yoga theme was trust. During my meditation, I reflected on how I trust my body, I trust myself, I trust God, and I trust the universe. I trust.

When in doubt, remember, you are never alone. Trust.

Love and light,
Mary

What I Learned from Deactivating Facebook for One Year

What I Learned from Deactivating Facebook for One Year

14 months ago, I deactivated my Facebook account and completely deleted my professional page as well. I also deleted some other social media accounts and refused to use others. You can read about why here: Why I deactivated Facebook and how you can too, if you want to.

Now that over a year has past, I was recently inspired to rebrand my website and start creating more, but with even more intention and authenticity – newer content that can continue to serve others while simultaneously awakening my own spirit by trying new things and exuding more of my personality by way of peppering my humor into my writings and videos. So Sprout and Blossom evolved into Mary Blossoms (like cherry blossoms, get it?). ::thank you. thank you::

Copy of Mary Blossoms 2

With that said, I am so happy that I did take a 14-month hiatus from Facebook, but my decision to reactivate my account and create a new Mary Blossoms page, was primarily so I can continue to stay current in my field (I teach digital media courses) and so I can reconnect in that special superficial way (snide remarks are fun) to the people who I enjoy having in my circle. Facebook is also a great sort of rolodex for contacts and quick, local info. You know, if I want to find out the best place to get a smoothie, I know I can get 50 opinions in 50 seconds. How incredibly helpful for combating decision fatigue.

Facebook has its benefits, and it certainly has its drawbacks. But now I know I will certainly be more mindful with how I use the platform and keep in mind its utility.

So without any further ado, here it is…

WHAT I LEARNED FROM DEACTIVATING FACEBOOK FOR ONE YEAR:

  1. No one will remember your birthday.
    I have to say, it was probably the saddest birthday of my adult life. (I’m kidding.) Some people remembered my birthday, but that’s only because it happens to fall on the anniversary date of a national tragedy. Even so, my birthday was certainly a lot quieter. It was very sweet of the close family and friends who remembered, despite my Facebook absence. But a small part of me missed getting 150 notifications, half of them from people who I don’t know. Nothing says birthday bliss like reading the same generic messages from strangers over and over again. Am I right?
  2. You will not remember anyone’s birthday.
    I realized how bad I actually am at recalling important dates. My friend Ilene was like Rain Man. You could tell her any date in the past and she could actually tell you the day of the week it fell on. Me, not so much. I’m lucky if I can remember what day of the week it is. And confession: Every new year is a horror for me with the year changing. For a good month and a half, I desperately expend an absurd amount of focus and energy trying to remember to write down the correct year each day. “199 …dammit!” “2016 …son of a!” Part of me thinks this could be the reason some people contract the flu in the winter. It’s too taxing.
  3. Politics and Religion: Destroying friendships since 1999
    I had the good fortune of deactivating Facebook during a heated political election, and I’m glad I did. I ended up finding out through the grapevine that friendships were disintegrating left and right and people were unnecessarily cruel to one another. Because we all know that posting overly opinionated material online converts your opposition the majority of the time. ::cough::
  4. Facebook can be a tool or a time-suck. Pick your poison.
    There is an abundance of inaccurate information that gets circulated and regurgitated online. Some of the most ridiculous, poorly researched content I have ever read was on that platform, and I am dumber for it. And then there are the time-wasters. It’s easy to get sucked into the matrix. By the way, which Saved by the Bell character are you?
  5. Most people are drunk on narcissism.
    There’s really not too much I need to say here except that when it comes to,… wait. Hold on a sec. Can you take twenty or so pictures of me posing next to this tree? The lighting is good. Make sure to get the flowers in the background though. This will make a great post. I love photos as much as I love validation.
  6. Life goes on.
    Facebook is more convenient for people to use than cultivating and nurturing a few meaningful relationships in real life. Bear with me. Since we all know 500+ people now and since anything we could ever want to know about is on Godfather Google, our brains / attention spans have only been conditioned to handle so much. It really is information overload. With that said, when I chose to get off of Facebook, I made an effort to try to reach out to close friends more. It wasn’t always reciprocated, but the experience made me realize just how much things can be superficial. I also learned what is important to me, and what is not. Cute cat photos are not important to me. But puppy photos are.

In the end, this was a useful 14-month social experiment for me. Facebook is just a tool. A tool can be used in a multitude of ways. It’s when we let a tool control our lives that it becomes destructive. I just found/find the site mostly annoying and time-wasting, but the fault was also in how I was using it. For me now, I have unsubscribed and unfollowed just about every page and lots of individuals who I really didn’t know too. I have simplified my newsfeed and am much more mindful and intentional with the relationships in my life but also the types of content I want to take in.

The beauty of it, is you can take a break from social media as an experiment any time or you can simply clean up your account a bit and unfollow and simplify, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just tired of it. Sometimes it helps to take a step back from things to view them with fresh eyes.

And yes, I will share this article on my newly revived Facebook page. Because what would any good piece of writing be unless it’s saturated in irony.

Catch you on the flip side,
Screenshot 2017-09-02 13.51.44
Screenshot 2017-09-02 14.15.59

Why I Deactivated Facebook and How You Can Too (if you want to)

Why I Deactivated Facebook and How You Can Too (if you want to)

There is nothing inherently wrong with social media websites, but for those of us who mindlessly allow our lives and minds to be sucked into a vortex of time-wasting, it might be beneficial to revisit our online behaviors and make positive changes. For me, that was Facebook.

I am currently on day 7 of a 30-day deactivation process of my personal account. If you are reading this article through my Sprout & Blossom Facebook page, my blog posts automatically post there when published. Trust me, I realize the irony of potentially reading a blog post about giving up Facebook that you saw posted on Facebook. Haha. I am still considering whether or not I will keep my Sprout & Blossom FB page. For now, it is fine.

There are many reasons why I chose to deactivate my personal Facebook account for 30 days, but here are a few of the things I have noticed about myself:

1. I felt overwhelmed by an ongoing stream of content/opinions/messages after using it.

2. Overall, I did not enjoy it, yet felt it difficult to just stay logged off.

3. It was a time-suck for me. I would end up passively reading the news feed during precious downtime when I could have been reading something to educate myself or participating in something more productive.

4. I have an abundance of watered down relationships with acquaintances. It is important to me to cultivate more meaningful relationships with my close family and friends. This means phone calls where I actually hear the person’s voice and learn more about them (not just passively see updates through a screen), taking walks, meeting for tea, and writing handwritten letters and cards (yes, snail mail. I miss the joy in that simple act of sending mail to others, and now I have more time for it).

In fact, I was so excited about getting back to handwritten cards and letters again, that I finally got myself a p.o. box. I can receive mail now in this beautiful antique p.o. box. Quite the little historical treasure. 

Sidenote: Please feel free to send me snail mail. I will be starting a new *read mail with me* segment on my sprout & blossom youtube channel where I will read letters and cards and open packages while I talk about life. I would love to hear from you!

Mailing Address:

mary harris, p.o. box 635, ocean gate, nj 08740

7-Day Progress

The first few days were a little challenging, and the ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO) makes a sneak appearance every now and then. But so far, I am much happier without my personal Facebook account. I have more time for reading, writing, and photography, and realize those are things I really enjoy. I’m ready to take on week #2.

How You Can Give It a Try:

If you face similar struggles with any type of social or digital media (it does not have to be Facebook; we all have our triggers), then here are my top suggestions for letting go or at least improving your quality of life:

1. Consider a reasonable time frame for staying offline. You can always go back.

2. Make a game out of the challenge. You can even document your experience.

3. Most people are afraid of missing out on something. The truth is, in life we always miss out on something. We cannot be everywhere all at once. We will never know everything that is going on everywhere with everyone (nor should we want to). We will miss things. But along with that, we can make more time for the more important things. This replaces the fear and anxiety.

4. Remember that in the grand scheme of things, Facebook is fairly new. It is just a website, but one with a lot of power; it has changed the ways we think, feel, and behave. It has changed our way of communicating in such a short period of time, for better and for worse. Remember back to your pre-social media days. How did you stay in touch with the ones you love? Now, more of that.

In closing, if this is something you have been contemplating, just go for it. You might be surpised what you learn about yourself.

Please comment and share: Have you ever struggled with using social media?

Godspeed. Enjoy this precious life.

Ethical Eco-Fashion & Wardrobe Minimalism 101 | Interview with Erin from My Green Closet

Ethical Eco-Fashion & Wardrobe Minimalism 101 | Interview with Erin from My Green Closet

I had the pleasure of interviewing one of my all-time favorite YouTubers, Erin from My Green Closet. I think I speak for all of Erin’s fans when I say, she is a wealth of information when it comes to ethical fashion, capsule wardrobes, minimalism, and all things fabric and style. But beyond that, she is simply a lovely person with a big heart. I am honored to know her. I hope you enjoy reading this interview.

  1. Erin, thank you for taking the time to conduct this interview. You have been so helpful to me as well as to thousands of others as we work to navigate through the issues surrounding our clothing and fashion choices. Thank you for that. For those who are not familiar with your work and your YouTube channel My Green Closet, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself? Who are you? Where are you from and where do you reside now? And anything else important or interesting about you? What is your career? Are you a full-time YouTuber, or do you also work outside of the home?

I am a freelance fashion designer, originally from Canada but currently living in Germany. When studying and working in fashion I became aware of the ethical and environmental issues in the industry; it was disturbing and heartbreaking, and completely changed the way I saw clothing and fashion. I started to learn as much as I could and became really interested in ‘slow fashion’ – focus on quality over quantity, ethical production, and trying to reduce the environmental impact of garments as much as possible. I began creating videos on YouTube just over a year ago and it has been so encouraging and rewarding to share something I’m passionate about and connect with and learn from like-minded people around the world.

ecooutfit

  1. Can you please tell us more about your personal evolution within the realm of ethical fashion, minimalism, and living an intentional life?

It started for me when I learned that a lot of issues in fashion come from mass-consumption. I realized one of the best things anyone can do is simply buy less. So I started buying less but better clothing and less stuff in general and through that I discovered capsule wardrobes and minimalism. It really resonated with me because I’ve always felt that experiences should be valued more than stuff, but it’s so easy to get caught up in shopping and wanting new things. Hearing about other people living a more mindful, minimalist life was inspiring and motivated me to declutter and remove a lot of excess in my life and then I started to feel the more psychological benefits. Around this time my husband and I also decided to move overseas to Germany so that was further incentive to reduce our possessions and focus on the things that are most important and valuable to us. 

  1. You have informed people about “fast fashion” and referenced the film The True Cost. For those who are unfamiliar with the fast fashion phenomenon, what is fast fashion and what is wrong with it?

Fast fashion is a relatively new concept and has completely changed the industry. Fashion used to have 2 or 4 seasons but now fast fashion brands like H&M and Zara and have new product in their stores each week and the clothing is sold very cheaply. The business model is designed to keep customers continuously shopping since there’s always something new and the price point is accessible to a lot of people. There are not only inherent ethical issue with producing clothing very cheaply but it’s also created a mindset that clothing is ‘disposable’. This obviously results in massive amounts of physical textile waste as well as wasting the energy and resources it took to make the item of clothing. A lot of people don’t know how incredibly polluting and labour intensive making clothing is because we are generally completely removed from the process. Unfortunately there is also the problem of a lack of transparency and information regarding fast fashion production because it’s in a lot of companies’ best interest for their customers to know as little as possible about how their clothes were made. 

  1. When it comes to making ethical decisions regarding fashion, food, and consumer/lifestyle choices, there are many layers and variables to consider. It can become all-consuming and extremely overwhelming for individuals. You recently did a video on the obstacles and possible solutions to ethical fashion excuses, which was very informative. What do you recommend to people who are struggling with making informed decisions on what to buy or how much they really need for themselves and/or their partners and families? Often times people give up because they feel as though their small choices won’t add up to make a big difference.

It can definitely be very overwhelming and frustrating trying to make conscious choices and find ethical products. I think the best thing anyone can do is ask yourself if you actually need the item, if it adds value to your life, and how long you can realistically see yourself using it; being a more thoughtful consumer and only buying things you’re actually going to use and have for a long time is a huge first step.

When shopping for ethical products I think it’s important to realize that no one is perfect, no product is going to be 100% ethical/sustainable, and it’s about trying your best. I generally tell people who are starting to think more about their purchases to do some research and figure out what their top priority is and start there, it could be vegan, fair trade, eco-friendly materials, locally made, or more. Having something more specific than ‘sustainable’ or ‘ethical’ really helps when searching for brands and products.

Finally it may not seem like it but the small choices you make really do add up. For example something simple like washing your clothing in cold instead of hot water while it doesn’t make a big difference to one load of laundry, it can make a very significant difference over time- not only saving a lot of energy but also helping extend the life of your clothes.

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  1. My blog promotes plant-based, compassionate living, holistic health, fitness, veganism, and more, but I have a wide variety of readers who are on all different types of paths of lifelong health and happiness. Two of the issues that I am most passionate about right now are the impact of our choices on the environment and on others (both human and non-human animals). With that, I have been naturally attracted to the low-waste or zero waste lifestyle as well as veganism in general. In the film Earthlings, for instance, information is shared on what really goes into leather and fur. And in the film The True Cost, the issues regarding leather, the chemicals used, how it affects the health of communities and eco systems, and poisons waterways is also discussed. So with all of that, plus the animal suffering – because after all, leather is animal skin, let’s call it what it is, people often feel stuck choosing between plastic shoes, which are also not eco-friendly in most cases, or leather shoes. For those readers who do not want to wear an animal but also do not want to contribute to plastic waste, are there options? And any shopping tips for shoes, since this seems to be a big struggle?

This is a big problem and a dilemma for a lot of people. Unfortunately there aren’t yet any really good, eco-friendly, biodegradable vegan leathers widely available, but I do hope those will come in time. There are some natural fibre shoes made from cotton or hemp and rubber or cork which can be a good option for people who want to avoid leather as well as synthetics but they are less common and generally in very limited styles. There seems to be more plant fibre options in bags than shoes. 

There definitely are better synthetic materials than others though (for example avoid products made out of PVC) and it’s important to research anything you’re planning to purchase. Buying secondhand I think is one of the best solutions, since you’re at least not supporting the initial creation of the item. Personally if I’m buying new shoes I try to buy vegan shoes made from recycled synthetic leather but this is definitely not a perfect solution as there is still a harmful chemical process involved. I think it’s good to do as much research as you can and try and find a solution that works best for you, but at the very least choose styles and quality products that will last and that you’ll use for a long time.  

erin-donkey

  1. The next concern I have heard discussed often at conferences is with wool, especially commercial wool, which is where most of our wool for clothing is coming from. There are many videos on the subject and they are extremely upsetting and graphic. Because of this, I usually opt for fabrics like cotton (recently looking for organic cotton only), bamboo, and hemp, as much as possible. What are your thoughts on wool and the unethical and inhumane issues surrounding wool? What options do people have for cruelty-free materials or avoiding wool? Do you recommend if people want sheep or alpaca wool to find a very small, local farm and meet the farmer and learn about how their animals are treated? One argument I have heard with this, is that there simply wouldn’t be enough small farmers for everyone to do this realistically either and that in lots of cases, they animals are still being used for profit, so once they get old or have “served their purpose,” they are usually sent off for slaughter. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

This again is another big dilemma and quite complex. Wool can be farmed in a terrible way and the practice of mulesing is particularly horrific. However there definitely also are farmers that wonderfully care for, respect, and love their animals. As a fibre there also isn’t anything like wool; it’s incredibly durable, insulating (even when wet), wicking, breathable, water and fire resistant, flexible, antimicrobial so it doesn’t tend to smell, and very easy to dye which limits the need for harsh chemicals. Cotton can be a substitute for some garments but often wool is replaced with synthetic fibres like acrylic or nylon which not only are unsustainable to produce but were found to shed a lot of small fibres when you wash them which go into the water system, polluting the oceans. 

Like with the dilemma of synthetic vegan leather, I really encourage people to research the issues and options available and figure out what you are more comfortable with. 

I personally think that especially with outerwear and technical active-wear wool is a better option than the current synthetic alternatives. There are some plant fibre garments in these categories which can be good for someone who wants to avoid both wool and synthetics but in general they don’t tend to perform as well or last as long, particularly with active-wear. There are wool brands like Icebreaker which have a pretty transparent supply chain (you can trace your garment to the farm the sheep is from and get more info about it) and standards for the welfare and care of the sheep (and sheep dogs) as well as guaranteeing mulesing-free wool.   

Buying wool products (or yarn) secondhand can be a very good option and is what I try to do, it gives you the benefits of wool without directly supporting the wool farming industry. It always amazes me how well wool holds up over time, often the best quality vintage pieces are made from wool. 

Finally for knitters or anyone looking to source any kind of wool, if you can I really recommend finding and visiting local farms. I have met some wonderful small-scale sheep and alpaca farmers who truly love and take amazing care of their animals. In my experience they are very willing to answer questions, show you around, and give you any information you need, plus it’s lovely to hang out with the animals. 🙂  If you are looking to buy wool I think it’s great to be able to support small local business like that. While this might not be the most practical solution or realistic on a large scale, it can be great option if it’s available to you. 

Alpaca Farm

  1. Just as with the locavore movement with food, there are people who attempt to source more of their clothing and clothing materials locally. Do you have any experience with this, and any insight you can share? Is it better to source clothing locally? Or is that almost impossible to do exclusively? Can you also discuss what fair trade is and why it’s important to consider fair trade options?

When I was getting my fashion design degree I actually tried to create my final collection from materials sourced as locally as possible, it was a really interesting experience and incredibly difficult. If you are looking for clothing that is entirely locally made and sourced (fibres, material weaving/knitting, dyes, sewing, trims, etc.) it’s next to impossible (especially if you live in a place where for example you can’t grow cotton or there is no textile industry) and very impractical for most people. However if this is something you’re really interested in I highly recommend checking if there is a Fibershed program near you, it’s a wonderful project where people source and create clothing entirely in their local region. 

Now buying clothing that is made locally from non-local materials is a lot more accessible and can be a really great way to shop more ethically and support local businesses. In general small designers will sew the garments themselves or have a small team so you don’t have to worry about unethical factory conditions, they tend to be a lot less wasteful with their materials, you can ask them questions – they are often very open about their business and supply chain. Some will even do custom work or alterations for you which means you can get a great fitting piece that you’ll have a long time, plus the garment will be more special and unique than anything from a large retailer. 

Fair trade is important when purchasing products from places or industries that are more known to have ethical issues. Fair trade certified products mean that a certain set of standards for the treatment and pay of workers has been met and is verified by the fair trade organization (there are a few different ones but 2 of the most common are Fairtrade International and the World Fair Trade Organization). 

CapsuleWardrobe

  1. Can you please share your points on minimalism and living simply, and how this can also make a difference? How much clothing do people really need, in your opinion. And at that end of the day, does fashion really matter? In other words, is it best for us to escape the idea of partially building our identities into wardrobes? Would it be more freeing and simple to just wear clothing that is ethical and not worry so much about how it looks or constantly looking to buy more?

Minimalism actually helped me enjoy fashion and style more, being conscious of my purchases allows me to have a wardrobe that I love and enjoy wearing which is such a great feeling. Buying less stuff also saves a lot of money which means I can invest in sustainable and ethical clothing that I previously couldn’t afford.   

I think the amount of clothing people ‘really’ need is individual to each person, it depends on your lifestyle, career, aesthetic, hobbies, where you live etc. It’s different for everyone. 

To me fashion does matter and is actually quite important. I get that some people think fashion is superficial and unnecessary but you can’t ignore that throughout human history clothing has been a part of communication. Whether we like it or not our brains are wired to make snap judgements of people based on their appearance and clothing is a key part of that which we have control over. I think clothing can be an incredibly powerful tool, as Orsola de Castro says in the beginning of The True Cost clothes are “our chosen skin … fundamentally a part of what we wish to communicate about ourselves”. Fashion and style is a way we can express ourselves, it can affect the way we feel, and it can also say something about what we believe in.

It probably would be simpler to just wear clothing and not worry or think about it how it looks and I’m sure for a lot of people that is a huge benefit of minimalism. But for me I enjoy the freedom to look or present myself in a certain way because not only can it be fun and creative to play with fashion but I know it directly affects my confidence and can influence how others perceive me. Being someone very passionate about sustainable fashion, I also use my clothing as a conversation starter. If I have an interesting outfit on people are more likely to comment on it or ask about it which will often result in a conversation about secondhand shopping or eco-friendly fabrics. 

I think clothing is beautiful, we wear it everyday and it’s a part of our lives. Whether intentional or not it’s a piece of personal expression, it can hold memories and become uniquely yours through patterns of wear, mending, and alterations. I honestly believe that a lot of problems around mass clothing consumption would be solved if people simply loved their clothes more- if you love your clothes you want to keep them, care for them, mend them, and pass them on to a good home. I think having an emotional connection to clothing is ultimately much more powerful in moving the fashion industry in a better direction than consumers feeling indifferent about it.

  1. You also have a YouTube channel on living a slower, more peaceful and intentional lifestyle. Can you share some information on this and your message to people on the benefits of slowing down?

I think slowing down is about finding and focusing on the things you truly enjoy and find fulfilling and being present to actually enjoy them instead of thinking about what’s next and what else is happening. Everything seems to be getting faster and it’s difficult to reduce distractions, slow down, and enjoy the process. It’s something I’m trying to explore more and on the channel I want to just share some of my thoughts and general experience with trying to find a balance of slowing down in a pretty fast-paced world. 

erin-beach

  1. Anything else you would like to share about yourself or any relating topics?

Thank you so much for your wonderful questions Mary and for including me in your blog! 

Thank you so much, Erin! You continue to be an inspiration to me, and I thank you for the beautiful content you share on YouTube.

You Can Follow Erin:
My Green Closet YouTube
A Slower Life (Erin’s other YT channel)
On Instagram: @verenaerin

Thank you for reading. Please subscribe and explore my blog for healthy living resources, recipes, and other inspiring interviews.

Committing to a Greener Lifestyle + 15 Tips for Living Low Impact

Committing to a Greener Lifestyle + 15 Tips for Living Low Impact

So You Want to Stop Wasting Resources and Money…

We’ve all heard it many times before: reduce, reuse, recycle. However, when it comes to the average modern-day person, I am not sure how much these guidelines are put into consistent action. I have always been fascinated with environmental studies and living in alignment with nature, so the topic of reducing waste and living a greener lifestyle really appeals to me. I get excited when I read about upcycling projects, composting, and reducing or eliminating plastics.

Over the years, in addition to reading books and articles on these topics, I found some documentary films that really ignited my passion for living a more environmentally conscious lifestyle. Some of these included:
Dirt the Movie
Last Call at the Oasis
No Impact Man
More Than Honey
Tapped
And the trailer to the upcoming film Island Earth
For a full list of documentaries I recommend, please visit my Wellness Resources page.

I recently learned about a young woman named Lauren Singer who lives a zero waste lifestyle in NYC. The contents of her 3-years worth of trash fit into a mason jar. After watching some of Lauren’s videos and reading her blog Trash is for Tossers, I was both inspired and impressed. Some might argue that this is possible for Lauren simply because she is a single person who lives in a city with easy access to bulk bins and outdoor markets. Perhaps. However, she still offers feasible ideas for many. And through Lauren’s writings, I discovered her inspiration was Bea Johnson, a wife and mother of two, who lives a zero waste lifestyle in California, and is the creator of Zero Waste Home.

Although I find these people very inspiring, and I light up with excitement whenever I read a low impact or zero waste article, I do not think it has to be an all-or-nothing venture, at least not for me (at least, not right now). There are many obstacles to living 100% of anything for me. I don’t like the extremism of living any which way; I tend to stick with things when I do my absolute best, and my best is never perfect. I have to be realistic with myself. One obstacle I have personally discovered is that I do not live near any stores that offer bulk bin shopping, but luckily I have a couple of options near where I work. Another obstacle is that I can see how avoiding all packaging would be quite the challenge for most consumers, me included. However, there are many other small steps I am doing to transition to a greener lifestyle, and perhaps some of these suggestions will help you too.

What I’m Doing to Live A More Earth-Conscious Lifestyle + Ideas for You:

1. Make Your Own Products
I currently make some of my own bath and body products as well as household cleaners. For the cleaners, I use ingredients such as fresh lemons, white vinegar, baking soda, and essential oils. Other items you can make yourself include toothpaste, mouthwash, body butters, facial toner, natural deodorant, and the list goes on.

2. Stop Buying Excess and Bringing Waste into the Home
This goes hand-in-hand with living a simple life and minimalism. It starts with reducing the future waste we bring into our homes in the first place. I try to avoid impulse buys as much as possible. Before I buy something new that I think I need, I will ask myself if I can make it, find it second-hand, or borrow it. Sometimes new is the best option, and sometimes it’s not.

3. Eliminate paper products and disposables.
This is a tough one, but there are some great options to try.

The Kitchen: I do buy an eco-friendly brand of recycled paper towels, but I try to use them sparingly. I keep them under my sink for cleanup emergencies. Since they are not on the countertop, we go through one roll of paper towels every 2-4 weeks. It would be great to reduce that even more. I now keep a basket of tea towels on top of my kitchen table for quick grab and go cleaning and use at meal time. I use glass storage containers and mason jars for the majority of my food storage. I avoid plastics, styrofoam, and disposable items with packaging when possible. Paper dishes and plastic utensils are totally out. Use ceramic and rewash your items. This saves money too. You can use a bamboo dish brush instead of sponges to clean your dishes, and opt for eco-friendly dish soap.

The Bathroom: I currently use organic cotton disposable feminine hygiene products, but I plan on trying a non-disposable option soon. Some options worth looking into are menstrual cups and organic cotton panty liners and pads like GladRags or Moon Pads. Instead of throwaway cotton rounds for facial toner, you can buy reusable organic cotton rounds. I also recommend fabric shower curtain liners, because the plastic varieties are horrible for human health and the environment. Another better option in the bathroom is natural, toilet paper made from recycled paper. Regarding razors, you can try a safety razor or the Preserve brand. Bamboo toothbrushes are compostable and also pretty fantastic. You can also buy a wooden and bamboo toilet brush, instead of a plastic variety. I like to make or buy natural, handcrafted bar soaps in bulk to avoid unnecessary packaging and help the waterways.

4. Cancel mail subscriptions, and register for a do not mail registry.
I have done this, and it helps minimize paper mail waste quite a bit. However, I sill find this to be a challenge, as we receive mail I never wanted. I wonder if I can return to sender with a note to not mail in the future.

5. Skip the disposable plastic bottles and filter your own water.
We use a Berkey countertop stainless steel water filtration system with added fluoride filters. I suggest reading up on the company as I highly recommend it, as well as other filter options to find something that is best for you. I then pack water in an Eco-Canteen or glass bottle with a lid. I save so much money this way. Even when I travel, I bring my Berkey to-go travel bottle and an eco canteen.

6. Bring your drinks, lunch and utensils to work and outings.
Use a reusable lunch bag and stainless steel, glass, cotton, or hemp storage options to pack your lunchtime goodies. Are you a coffee or tea drinker? Make your own at home and bring it in a reusable to-go mug or thermos. Not only does bringing your own lunch (and snacks) everyday save lots of money, but it’s better for your health because then you know the exact ingredients you are consuming, and reduces waste by way of plastic throwaway containers. Bamboo utensils, a stainless steel, or glass straw, and reusable water bottle are all good to keep on hand in your lunch kit and car.

7. Compost plant-based food scraps and other items.
I keep a large bowl in the refrigerator to prevent flies and any smell. I fill the bowl throughout the day with food scraps and dump it into my garden compost pile at the end of the day or early in the morning. This is a great way to bring nutrients back to the soil, helping the earth, the garden, and our environment by reducing waste that ends up in landfills. Some things you can compost include: fruit and veg scraps, dryer lint and dust bunnies, cooked grains, coffee grounds, paper or wood matches, flowers, tea bags and tea grounds, and much more.

8. Reuse cooled cooking water to water plants.
There’s no use wasting perfectly good plant water by dumping it down the sink.

9. Eat Seasonally, and Support Organic and Local Farmers.
The locovore (eating local food, usually within a 150 mile radius from where you live) movement is quite interesting and can be earth-friendly. It is a good idea to start paying attention to where your food is being shipped or imported from and when produce is in season. Organic local options are best. Get to know your small, local farmers and ask them about their growing practices. You can also consider joining a CSA (community supported agriculture).

10. Conserve Water
Only 1% of the world’s water is drinkable, and if you watch any of the water films I mentioned above, you will be quite alarmed by the future of our access to clean drinking water. When it comes to going green, this is one of the most important areas to learn about. We use rain barrels to recycle water and water our plants. We use a low flow shower head and I try to take short showers most of the time. For more ideas, here are 110 Ways to Save Water.

11. Be Mindful of Energy Consumption
During the daytime, all lights stay off in my house. We use the natural sunlight and mostly energy efficient appliances. I only turn on the air conditioner when I absolutely need it. I only wash clothes in cold water. At nighttime, we leave a light on only in the room we are currently using, and we also like natural candles which create a warm and inviting ambiance to the home.

12. Plant a garden and plant bee and butterfly friendly flowers.
You don’t have to have a big back yard to enjoy the beauty of gardening. You can create a window garden, a patio garden, or a potted garden on a deck. There are thousands of gardening resources online and at your local library. Growing culinary herbs is a great place to start.

13. Use reusable fabric produce bags and grocery totes.
You can make your reusable produce bags, or purchase these from Amazon or Etsy. You can even buy reusable sandwich and snack baggies, which are great to have. I like to buy smaller bags for bulk food items like dried beans, grains, nuts, and seeds. I transfer them to mason jars or recycled glass jars with lids when I get home from the grocery store.

14. Raise children the eco-friendly way.
This could be an entire blog post on its own, but I will keep it short since this article is already quite long. Some things I am planning on doing to be a more conscious parent include: cloth diapering, using cold water to wash laundry and hanging items outside in the sun to dry, using cloth wipes, breastfeeding, using glass bottles, using a bamboo spoon and bowl for baby food, making my own baby food and storing it in glass, avoiding plastics, buying clothing secondhand, and supporting eco-friendly. nontoxic wooden toy companies.

15. Eat a plant-based or vegan diet.
Realistically, this is one of the most important steps we can take to help the planet, people, and animals. Plant-based eating helps fight against many major issues that plague our planet, including: water pollution, land degradation, climate change, and global hunger. “We collectively raise, feed, water, kill, and eat over 65 billion animals each year for food …10 times as many people as we have on the entire earth… We have developed a complex system of producing more and more animals that use more and more of our resources, while leaving a massive amount of waste, pollution, and adverse climate change in their wake. … This system…is… heavily intertwined with our culture, politics, economics, and the suppression of the reality of its effect on our planet.” -Dr. Richard Oppenlander

Things I Would Eventually Like to Do:
1. Eliminate plastic garbage pale liners.
2. Set up a solar system.
3. Bring my own container for leftovers when dining out.
4. Ask more stores to offer bulk bin natural food options and put prepared foods in my own containers.

This post is not coming from a place of elitism or impracticality, in fact, quite the contrary. I can vouch that living a simple life and investing in reusable options does save heaps of money over time. The Earth is our only home, and in a very humble way I want to do my part to help, even if just a little bit. I’m not perfect, and I am not always able to follow all of these guidelines myself, but I do my best when I can, and I am fully aware.

Mary Signature

Kitchen food scraps to compost
Kitchen food scraps to compost

Learn How to Live a Simple, Satisfying Life: Interview with Carrie LeighAnna

Learn How to Live a Simple, Satisfying Life: Interview with Carrie LeighAnna

When I began my journey to simplify my life, I had no idea that there was a small movement of people out there who were doing the same. In fact, later on, I discovered one of my now favorite YouTubers (and new friends) – Carrie LeighAnna. I found Carrie to be a genuine, honest, and kind woman; I can understand why so many people love her YouTube videos. What I like most about Carrie is that she is willing to be truthful with herself and with her viewers; in fact, she is open with the public about her goals, her challenges, and her victories. This is what makes Carrie so relatable; she doesn’t preach perfection or create a facade of perfection; she is just herself, and that’s part of what makes her so beautiful. The ideas and tips she shares are both encouraging and doable, yet they are super inspiring. If you are not familiar with her work and her message, you are in for a real treat with this interview.

1. Carrie, thank you for taking the time to participate in this interview. You live a simple life, and it seems that you work to prioritize your faith, your health, and your family above other areas of your life. This is very inspiring. For those who are not familiar with you and your YouTube channel, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself, where you are from, who you are, your interests, etc.?

I’m a 25-year-old wife, mother, YouTuber and recovering addict. I was born and raised in Kentucky, but moved 1,000 miles away to attend school in Florida where I met my husband of five years. However, just this month we’ve moved back to Kentucky to be closer to family.

I’m an old soul, I tend to go against the grain in just about every way, and I’ve never felt like I’ve really ever “fit in.” But as I’m getting older, I’m really coming to value my uniqueness, rather than feeling insecure about it.

Lastly, I’m obsessed with tiny things. Tiny houses, tiny nurseries, tiny pumpkins, tiny wardrobes, tiny flowers – they all just make my heart so happy!

2. Can you describe and list your simple wardrobe for us including your clothing, pjs, shoes, scarves, coats, etc.? Lots of people have asked me about how many undergarments to keep, so if you are willing to share that information also, if it’s not too personal, that would be great.

Just last month when I lived in Florida, my entire wardrobe consisted of a handful of little black dresses, a pair of flats, a pair of booties, a statement necklace, a set of diamond jewelry and several sweaters. I also had a pair of leggings and a maternity jacket I would wear on cooler days. That was it – less than twenty items – and it was all I ever needed. 

Since moving to Kentucky, however, I’ve had to alter things quite a bit, and I’m still working on it. So far, I’ve got three dresses, some leggings, skinnies, several nice tees, a pair of shorts, flats and I’m on the look out for a pair of sturdy boots for winter. I also have a lightweight coat, a heavy wool jacket and my original maternity jacket from my Florida wardrobe.

But here’s the catch- everything I wear is black. I’m a mommy, so stains are just a part of life – but not on black clothes! Also, Audrey Hepburn… Need I say more?

I have a small handful of workout/ painting clothes that I purchased at second hand stores for less than $10 total. And as far as undergarments go, I have just enough to wear for a week before everything needs to be washed. I purchase really nice panties and bras because it’s such a simple way for me to feel beautiful.

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3. You are a mother. How has motherhood changed you? Do you have any insight for people who are on the fence about parenthood?

Nothing in the world has made me realize how incredibly valuable and fragile life is like motherhood. The moment I locked eyes with that tiny little stranger, the world became so much bigger, so much scarier, and so much more dangerous. But right along with that, it became so much more joyful, playful, beautiful and wonderful all at the same time. When you give birth, you are literally born into a new type of human and you enter an entirely new world. It’s the craziest thing!

Though it was tempting to become “just” a mommy after she was born, I’ve realized in the last year how important it is that I take care of Carrie, and nurture and grow Carrie before I play mommy. The nice thing is, they are mutually compatible. My daughter was born into my world, and the best thing I can do for her is be a mature, growing and happy version of myself first, then welcome her into the world I’ve been living in, rather than make my life revolve exclusively around her.

4. When people say that “children are expensive” or “kids require a lot of stuff” do you agree with that? For anyone who would like to raise a child and still live a very simple lifestyle, what are your tips and suggestions?

I absolutely disagree! Babies need food, clothing, a carseat (at least in America) a quiet place to sleep and lots of love. None of that has to cost a great deal. In fact, for the average mother, all of this can be completely free. There are exceptions of course, but for the most part, babies simply do not need a lot.

Even as the child grows, the costs don’t have to be exorbitant. Living within a budget, buying gently-used items, and “doing it yourself” can all keep costs low.

5. For new Moms-to-be who want to only purchase (or ask for) necessities, what do you think the absolute essentials are to have? How many clothes, towels, cloth diapers, travel items, kits, other items are needed? Is there a way you would recommend tactfully asking for only the items listed on a registry (no extras) or cash in lieu of gifts for a celebratory shower?

My essentials were my electric breast pump, car seat, cloth diapers, and baby jammies. Everything else can be nice to have, but isn’t necessary. Our baby did sleep in a crib, but we were given a hand-me-down. And we received so many clothes and gifts at showers that we didn’t need to purchase anything more.

If you are going the cloth diaper route, I’d suggest 12 covers and inserts, minimum. This will hold you over for two days when they’re newborns and a little longer once they’re older.

Baby towels, toys and utensils are entirely unnecessary. By all means, get them if you like them, but don’t think they are a necessity. Use your adult towels on your baby. Let your infant play with a purse, a rock, and a spatula… heck, they like the boxes the toys come in more than they like the toys anyway! And teach your child to use adult utensils from the start. As the old saying goes, “Start as you would go.”

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6. Regarding mementos and sentimental items, how many do you have? This seems to be the most difficult thing for people to pare down. Have you ever regretted an item you got rid of?

From my childhood, I have nothing left. Several years into simplifying my life I set aside special items from my childhood that I wasn’t ready to release. At first, I thought I’d keep them forever. But eventually I let them all go.

There’s no rule here- hold on to what you want, but realize that it’s okay to let things go when you’re ready… just don’t watch Toy Story 3 right before doing it.

As far as motherhood is concerned, the day I found out I was pregnant, I purchased a sweet, whimsical journal and started writing to my unborn baby. Ever since then, I write a letter to her every two or three months. A few ultrasound pictures are also tucked away in the pages. This is the most precious and sentimental baby item I have, and I’ll give it to her once she becomes a mother. I don’t keep a baby journal because I’m just not a journaler. I tried, but it was always a source of guilt when I would forget to fill in all the appropriate pages. Eventually I realized I simply didn’t need that stress in my life, so I invested all my memory-making energy into the letter journal and stuck with that.

I also have a journal of notes and letters I started writing my husband shortly after we began dating. That’s my favorite sentimental item of ours, with the exception of the simple diamond jewelry my husband has given me as gifts over the years.

7. You just moved. What was that experience like for you? What is your new home environment like?

I moved to Kentucky just about a month ago and it was a lot of work, but so worth it! We sold every piece of furniture we owned rather than shipping it across the country, plus we purged all the unnecessary items from our home. At times it was a little scary realizing I didn’t own anything for a home anymore, with the exception of the carload I kept, but I knew in time I’d be filling my home again soon. And since we sold almost everything for more than we purchased it for, we had change to spare!

We are currently living in one bedroom in my parents house as we transition. We could rent if we wanted to, but my parents have generously offered to let us live with them while we save up for a hefty down payment on a house. Our hope is to move into our own place in the next year!

I’ve actually decided that since I’ll never get to live out my dream of living in a legitimate “tiny house,” that I’m going to make our current space as close to small-living as possible. The room is just a couple hundred square feet (I’m guessing), and so far I’ve managed to include a bedroom, family room, dining room, kitchen and nursery into the little space. It’s a stretch, but it’s a fun adventure, and I’m enjoying it more than words can say!

8. Are you a stay-at-home Mom? If so, what have been some of your best money-saving successes? Any tips for anyone who already avoids shopping most of the time but would really like to take their savings to the next level?

I am a stay-at-home mom. Actually, I was a stay-at-home wife before ever having kids, which is fairly uncommon these days. We’ve been able to make this work simply by staying out of debt and spending frugally. We are not perfect at sticking to our budget, but the tension and expectation is always there, so it keeps us from getting into trouble!

We read and followed Financial Guru Dave Ramsey’s principles pretty adamantly before getting married and we continue to study his material today. Honestly, that’s my number one money-saving (and money-making!) tip – read and follow all his stuff!

9. Friends and Family: This is one area of the holistic health circle that makes such an important difference in a person’s wellness. How have you managed friendships and personal relationships over the years? Do you keep things simple when it comes to friends (such as only having a couple of close friends)? Are you close with only a select handful of friends and family? Thoughts on social media?

I’ve struggled with social anxiety since elementary school. I was also raised in a highly-sheltered environment. Because of that, I’ve had a hard time making friends in my life. But the ones I have – MAN – they are the absolute best!

Relationships can be so tough to maintain. I realized the first year I went off to school that the majority of friendships from my past were going to fade away. I realized years later that that was both normal and healthy. Forgetting and letting go of good things only allows room in our lives to welcome newer, better things. I may have lost many of my closest friends from high school, but then I gained even closer friends in college, not to mention a boy I fell in love with and a child we created together!

But with that said, I believe with all my heart that every single human alive needs close friends. I have a handful of them, and I try my best to invest in those relationships as frequently as I can. Like many women, I want to do so much better. I could call more. I could visit more. I could do a lot of things more. But for now, I’m doing my best and maintaining where I can.

As far as social media is concerned, I would just caution everyone to be wary of “staying close” online. It’s simply not the same as truly being close. There’s nothing wrong with keeping up with friends, but if you’re doing that at the cost of neglecting your current relationships and others around you, you’re simply setting yourself up for some really serious isolation. 

And when it comes to family, by all means, be friends with them. Forgive them. Love them as hard as you are able. And if you can live close to them and still remain happy, do it! 

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10. Faith: You have described your faith as an important part of who you are. Do you have any words of kindness or encouragement to share with anyone who has lost their faith – faith not just in a specific religion or spiritual beliefs – but faith in anything or even faith in themselves?

My faith isn’t just a part of who I am – it is who I am. I believe in a  God who created me, knows me by name, loves me deeply, and has a plan for my life. In my lowest moments in life, I can have hope because God loves me. In my highest moments in life, I can be grateful because God has given me sweet gifts!  

As I mentioned before, I am a recovering addict. I attend regular twelve-step meetings and there is so much talk of God you’d think you were at church. But really, in those rooms there aren’t very many “believers” in the American-sense of the word. But the rooms are filled with people who have decided to give God a chance. And let me tell you- if that’s all you have to give, you have a lot to look forward to!

Regardless of your faith, or lack-there-of, you can know that you are loved. God loves you. And if you don’t think that’s real, then know that I love you (and I’m real!). Life is hard, messy, sticky and beautiful. There is nothing that love cannot fix. Don’t just wait for love to come save you, but actually seek it out. Keep yourself out of isolation. Serve someone lower than you. Eat with a homeless man. Dance in the rain on a summer day… Life is full of beauty, you just have to open your eyes to see it.

11. Anything else you would like to share with us?

I am not a fortune cookie, regardless of how my last answer just sounded. I’m actually a realist. Most things in life really don’t matter. People do. But most everything else simply does not.

Thank you, Carrie! You can learn more great tips and suggestions for living simply from Carrie’s YouTube channel. She also shares valuable information for saving money, living frugally, taking care of yourself, and raising a child.

Love is the Answer. Stop Buying Stuff.

Love is the Answer. Stop Buying Stuff.

Good day, everyone. Happy Thanksgiving to all my fellow American readers and a joyous holiday season to everyone from around the globe. I just arrived to Texas to visit family. It has been a long day of travel. After we reached our final destination, we needed to travel a bit more to find a store to get some fresh groceries.

It being a major holiday and all, our only option was a Walmart located approximately a half an hour away. It was my idea of a nightmare (Walmart + Black Friday sales = violence over flat screen TVs), but we needed sustenance. And since the store is located in a very rural area, we figured it might be moderately busy with pre-Black Friday sales, but nothing too intense. WRONG!

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When we arrived, we had no trouble entering the store at 5:15 pm. However, at second glance we realized that there were blockades set up, extra staff and security at every corner, and swarms of people standing with empty carts waiting. Lines and lines of people wrapped around the interior of the store. People with their hands on boxes of items that were still wrapped in cellophane on pallets. One lady had her arms and legs outstretched like a starfish, claiming four boxes on two different pallets. Some people said they had been there for hours waiting. Learning that made me sad. When did they spend time with their families? Did they even enjoy a Thanksgiving meal? It was only 5:30 pm for crying out loud.

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The tension in the store could be cut with a knife. People were on their phones complaining and people waiting on the seemingly never-ending lines were beyond grumpy. One woman looked in our shopping cart and said, “You picked a hell of a time to buy food.” I wish I had the energy to reply, “Thank you, Captain Obvious. We hope you enjoy saving $10 on Isotoners in exchange for three hours of your life.”

We had to practically beg to be allowed to check out. They weren’t allowing anyone to put the sales items in their carts until 6:00 pm and therefore the registers were not open yet, so we were racing against the clock to get out of there. As we checked out, I heard several Walmart employees huddled in a team formation going over scenarios and security concerns. One employee feared being threatened or physically harmed by customers. I felt badly for the employees; the evening that would soon be unfolding would surely not be pleasant.

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As we exited the store, we realized that there were people now waiting outside and there was not a single open parking spot in that entire gigantic parking lot. Thank God we made it out of there at 5:50 with 10 minutes left to spare. I lived to tell the tale.

This is the text message I sent to a friend: “The people at the local Walmart here are about to murder each other over a Homedics footbath courtesy of the factory workers in China. I never saw anything like it (other than on the news). I got out with my carrots and hummus just in the nick of time.”

The entire experience got me thinking about a hilarious yet surprisingly poignant video I had seen recently of a man in NYC, named Matthew Silver, who makes a statement (in his underwear) to people shopping: “Stop buying stuff. Love is the answer!”

Watch video

According to Matthew (aka the great performer):“My role as a clown, trickster and village idiot is to parody excessive seriousness by playing with taboos, rules, and social norms. My inspiration comes from my heart. I perform for smiles and laughter, loosening people’s armor, and opening up a portal for imagination, creativity and love.”

I’m not anti-consumerism; we all need things sometimes. However, there is a difference between a need and a want. And some wants are okay, but then most of the time we just transition into excess and waste and even stupidity. How many people can actually afford all of these holiday purchases? Afford as in, not racking up consumer credit card debt.

Since I have been on a path of simplicity and genuine happiness (and even prior to now), I have noticed that I do not enjoy shopping for stuff. Even in my teens and twenties, I never enjoyed shopping. In fact, buying things stressed me out. I didn’t need any of it, especially the hole in my wallet afterwards.

This season is a time for gratitude, love, and joy – not unnecessary stress, materialism, and obscene expenses. I will not be shopping on Black Friday. To me, I would rather snuggle up with a warm blanket and a good book, watch movies, and spend time with loved ones.

There is nothing I need that I don’t already have. I will also enjoy getting crafty this year and baking yummy treats for thoughtful gifts. I have told my family that I really don’t want anything this year. If they insist, an Amazon gift card for an ebook is perfect or an experience like a family day at the movies – even better! I’ve just realized that the further I move away from stuff, the more liberated and whole I feel.

We don’t need to spend loads of money on things in an effort to show people we love them. Our time is much more valuable. In my next blog post, I will share wholesome and thoughtful ideas of crafts and homemade gifts for loved ones. For now, embrace this joyous season – the weather change, hot cocoa, holiday music, time with friends and family. If you can, consider volunteering at a local food pantry, soup kitchen, or homeless shelter. And perhaps instead of buying more stuff this year, you can shop your house for items you can donate to those who are less fortunate. There is no need to subject yourself to unnecessary stress or go into debt this season. This is a time to share in the spirit of love, gratitude, and kindness.

So what’s the takeaway message? “Love is the answer. Stop buying stuff.”

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