Conscientious Consumerism Part 3: Self Care Through Sustainability+A Book Review

For the third installment of the “Conscientious Consumerism” series, we will explore how the process of incorporating sustainable practices can and should serve as tools to help you find more peace in a fast-paced, stuff-centric world. It shouldn’t be an overwhelming experience, but rather a journey of self discovery about what you value in life and more importantly, what you don’t. If you haven’t checked out the first and second installments, they are full of tips for sustainable swaps to help you get started.

In the wake of growing climate crisis, it’s more important than ever to be conscious of how we consume products and media. Every decision you make has an impact, and the collective power of more and more people demanding sustainable options is changing the present market. Many mainstream grocery stores now carry more varieties of plant based milks, cheeses, and meat substitutes than ever before. New and old brands alike are developing biodegradable packaging. The rising popularity of thrift stores and upcycling is creating new markets and diversifying our styles and economy. Your choices add to the collective whole and they do have the power to make an impact. You make an impact.

Madeleine Olivia is a YouTuber, activist, and expert when it comes to the process of learning how to lead a life that is more sustainable, but still functional for your unique needs. Her new book, Minimal: How To Simplify Your Life And Live Sustainably, launched on January 9, 2020. The book is a complete beginner’s guide to living a life more mindful of the how your daily choices impact the planet, and how they impact your own wellness. The 8 chapters cover topics from how to declutter your wardrobe, to the eco-impacts of food industry, to becoming a mindful traveler, to sustainable self care. Chock-full of information to help you understand the current state of the planet, and explanations for how your everyday actions really do make a difference, Madeleine answers almost every question you might have about how to start a journey into minimalism- even including worksheets and graphics to guide you along. She also writes her story through the lens of someone who has been through process, keeping the content relatable and understanding. She is consistent in reminding readers that while it is not practical for everyone to commit to everything she writes about, everyone can and should do something. Doing what you can, with what you have, until you are in a position to do better.

Minimal is a wonderful guide to understand how the process of becoming a conscientious consumer can help you bring more peace into your own life while having a more positive impact on the planet. Today, we will delve into how including mindful practices can help you to feel more connected with yourself in a world that is pushing us to move faster and faster to the next new thing.

5 ways living more mindfully of the planet also serves your best interest:

  1. More Personalization: The best part about switching to reusable products is the ability to personalize them TO THE MAX. Have fun with your sustainable swaps. Investing in some reusable bags to take shopping with you? There are so many options to find some that can serve as an expression of your personality. Get some in your favorite color. Get some with your favorite characters on them (I definitely have a Spider-Man grocery bag). Get ones with plant prints or as souvenirs after concerts. Same goes for reusable cups, straws, silverware, lunch bags, etc. When you rid yourself of the bland single use plastic, covered in branding, you can pick fun items that are one time investments. They will save you money in the long run, and allow you to have in little fun in the process of helping the planet.
  2. Taking Back Your Time: Time is the most valuable asset we have. We all have a limited amount of it to spend, but we don’t know how much that is. Life is so short. We live in a world that is pushing us to keep up with an impossible rate of change. New clothes, new food, new makeup, new movies, new books, new classes, new jobs, new, new, new. Reinvent yourself. New you, means a better you. No. It doesn’t. You are wonderful just as you are. We are, at our core, all so diverse and beautiful in our own light. You don’t need to reinvent yourself, or feel the pressure to keep up with a world that releases a new product every few seconds. Personal growth should be focused on how you feel and what actually makes you happy. Focus your energy on experiences, not things. Focus your time on what really brings you joy. The timeline society has created for us to follow is not real. Everyone’s journey through life is unique to their own stories. Very few people follow the “mainstream story” where they graduate college in 4 years, get a job, get married with 2 kids by 30, have a house, then retire at 65 after working with the same company for 40 years. Very, very few. But that is what makes life beautiful. Your life is yours to live, and eliminating the mindset that you need to keep up with the latest fads, or that buying things is what will get you to where you want to be will not only reduce your carbon footprint, but free you to enjoy your life for what it is. The beautiful story that is yours, and yours alone. Take back your time, and say no to anyone or anything that makes you feel like you are “not keeping up.” There is nothing to keep up with. There is only following your heart towards what you love.
  3. Healthier Finances: Slowing down in a world constantly pushing and shoving those to the side who don’t play their game of “keep up” can seem like a daunting task. What you will find in the long run, is that your ability to navigate what actually makes you happy as opposed to what makes big corporations happy, is quite a bit of money saved over the long term. Not only are take-out meals, new clothes, new decor, and consistent habits of purchasing detrimental to the environment, they keep us stuck in a pattern of spending money. Stuff does not fill the emptiness within us. Exploring our own feelings, experiences, and spending time with those who are important to us will. That is what matters. As you learn to question what products you actually like, and what you actually need, you will find yourself spending less money. These savings can be spent on experiences with your friends, checking something off your bucket list you couldn’t afford before, or just as some breathing room in case things get tough financially. Purchases you do make, should be viewed as investments. Asking questions like, “Will this last a long time? What kind of quality is it? Does it serve a purpose?” are all great places to start when deciding if a purchase is an investment in your future or something that will be tossed out in a year. Changing your consumption perspective from buyer to investor will help you save the planet while saving your wallet.
  4. Connecting With New People: As you delve further into your journey of conscientious consumerism, you’ll notice that there are more people than you might have thought who also care deeply about the welfare of the planet. Attending meetups for vegans, local climate protests, or shopping small can help you to meet incredible people in your area who you might have never met before. Shopping small is one way to support your local economy, and small businesses tend to have a lower carbon footprint than big business. Go into your local stores. See what they have. Talk to local artists. Follow them on social media. Get inspired by the people around you, and you might find that there is so much more wonder in your community than you could have ever dreamed. Even shopping for plant based proteins (which impact the environment significantly less than animal protein) at the regular grocery store has lead to some interesting conversations with people that turned out to become the highlight of my day. Connect with people. Come together and talk about the climate crisis. Learn about their favorite sustainable tips or brands or second hand shops nearby.
  5. Developing A More Balanced Mindset: When we start caring about the planet, the animals, plants, and other people who inhabit it, it becomes easier to care a little more about our own health. You are worthy of a space that is comfortable. A space that is clean, and safe, and brings you peace. You are worthy of being taken care of. To take care of yourself is an act of rebellion in a time that values working past the point of exhaustion. The earth is a valuable, living, interconnected web of wonders. That web includes you too. You are wonderful. The act of slowing down to take care of the planet is a radical step, but one that will help you see that you are also worthy of radical love. Leaving an extra two minutes early to give the baristas at the coffee shop time to fill your refill cup with your favorite coffee is a seemingly small, but powerful act. You have defied the rush of the day to carve out time for yourself. You’ve saved money by getting a refill price. You’ve eliminated the waste of a cup. You’ve taken the time to balance your needs and your wants. Balance. Knowing that the smallest acts add up to a greater impact on the planet, especially when done collectively, is powerful knowledge. In the same vein, small acts of self-kindness add up too. Forgive yourself more. Take back your time. See that you are a part of this planet, and therefore also worth the time and energy to develop.

The planet is in dire need of attention. While massive systemic change will be necessary for long lasting improvements, the choices we as consumers make everyday influence the decisions those who have the power to make those decisions. No act of sustainability is too small. Every item that is reused, every single use plastic avoided, every meatless Monday makes a difference.

Not everyone can walk to work. Living in a more rural area, it would be impossible for me to walk anywhere that wasn’t for the sole purpose of going for a walk. There are people who do live in places where walking or public transit is a viable option, and they can include that as part of their sustainability practices. Some people cannot go entirely plant based due to other dietary restrictions, cultural reasons, or limited access to food. Many people can limit their meat consumption to once per day, or to a few times per week. It’s all about finding the right balance for you and your life. It’s about rejecting a society that tells you your worth is based on the stuff in your home. Your worth is not defined by how you look, what you wear, or where you are. You are defined by the love that is in your heart. By the actions you take everyday. By the words you speak and the wonder you create. You are enough, just as you are.

No matter where you’re at on your sustainability journey- whether just starting today, or a 50 year enthusiast- trying your best to be your best is what matters most. Your actions matter. You matter. Every choice impacts this planet, and your power to make a difference is beyond measure.

Be sure to check out our previous articles on Conscientious Consumerism for sustainability tips and tricks.

For plant-based recipes and sustainable-living hacks head over to Madeleine Olivia’s YouTube Channel, and pick up her book Minimal: How To Simplify Your Life And Live Sustainably, for a full guide on the life and planet changing power of minimalism.

Inspiration for the Uninspired

Inspiration is all around us. It’s hidden in moments of the everyday. The golden color that glows around the flowers at sunset, the smell of rain in the city, the early morning conversations about the day to come, the view of the valley sliced in half with a set of never ending train tracks, all hidden inspiration. What inspires you is a personal and intimate experience. Sometimes elaborate works of art, complex problems of war, or stories of triumph inspire us to create. Other times, the tiniest details ignite the soul and set the mind ablaze.

While the world flourishes with lovely moments everyday, when our own lives become clouded, or we experience difficult times of pain, disinterest, or frustration, it can become near impossible to see that the tools we need to escape these ruts are scattered all around us. Whether you are looking for creative inspiration, the motivation to get work done, or to just feel inspired to embrace the warmth of life again, there are ways to seek out what you need to feel re-energized and excited about what’s to come again.

This week we examine a list of methods to find inspiration when you feel lost:

  1. Free Write: Utilize writing as a tool for catharsis. Get down what you’re feeling on paper. All of what you are feeling. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, format, just write. You can write your thoughts as a list, a stream of consciousness, an essay, however you write is okay, just do it. Write about what you’re feeling in this moment. Talk about how you are feeling stuck, why you are feeling trapped, what is it you want to overcome, and why you think you can not. Then write about how you see yourself once you are out of the rut. Where do you want to be? Visualize it. See that image in your mind and describe it in such vivid detail that if you didn’t know it hadn’t happened yet, you’d think it already had. Now you have down on paper where you are, and where you want to go. One place, one writing session, one document holding your vision and reality. Research shows that expressive writing can help to reduce stress and promote clearer thinking. Why this happens is at the moment unclear, but scientists currently think a combination of factors contribute to the freedom felt after writing your current story on paper. One of those reasons is that in writing down what’s going on that is troubling you, your brain is automatically stimulated- forced into the creative process, because you need to reconstruct the details of your life into a story format. Writing is stimulating and gets the brain working, while allowing you to express the feelings and events of your life free of judgement. You are forcing yourself to process what is happening to you, while engaging in the creative process. Free writing might just be the perfect first step you need to clarify your situation and find inspiration once again.
  2. Create a Mood Board: Another tactic to try is creating a mood board. You can do this during times when you are inspired, so it’s ready to go with ideas and feelings that evoke a sense of wonder on days when your interest dwindles. You can also create one on days when you don’t feel your best. It can be a visual method of laying out how you feel and what you want to feel when you don’t know what your next move is going to be. You can create a physical mood board if you have the time and resources to do so. Things to think about when piecing it together include: color story, texture, images, and layout. Select images that speak to you, but don’t over think anything. Look through photos you’ve taken as well as other sources for inspiration. While looking through your old photographs you might remember times that brought you joy, or peace, or love, or sadness, or hope, and inspiration might start flowing through the process of creating the board. You might find more inspiration from searching for images and pieces to include from other sources as well. You can also create a digital mood board with tools such as Canva or Pinterest. Whatever your medium, mood boards are creative tools for visual expression of where you’re at.
  3. Get Out: If you feel caught up in your head, change your physical location to help clear your mind. Go somewhere new, somewhere you don’t normally go. Change your physical routine, to change the routine of your thoughts. Find a place to walk outside that isn’t your usual spot. Or if you don’t go outside often, spend sometime outdoors. Breathe in the fresh air. Take in the landscape. Embrace a brief change of scenery. Try a new restaurant, go to a store you’ve never been in before, see a different part of town that you don’t often pass through. You don’t need to buy anything, or even like what you see, but experiencing something different from the norm of your everyday will awaken your senses.
  4. Talk it Out: Reach out to your friends and family when you are feeling unmotivated. You can ask them for help, or just talk to them about anything at all. Ask them how they are doing, how they are feeling. Find out what is new in their life. It will take your mind off whatever is weighing on you, and will help you to focus your attention onto something new. It will break your fixation from the task at hand and focus you onto something new. The break might be what you need to see how to solve your problem later on. If you end up discussing your own feelings of frustration, they might be able to offer a solution. If their ideas don’t help, at least you’ve begun the brainstorming process with a fresh set of eyes. Your friends care about you, just like you care about them. If they were feeling stuck and trapped, you would want to help them too. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
  5. Do Something Unrelated to What You Want to Accomplish: Similar to distracting your mind with conversation, distract it with another project entirely. Do something you enjoy, unrelated to what you want to accomplish and focus your attention completely on that project. You can draw, read, watch a movie, clean, listen to a podcast, ride a bike, paint your nails, play with your dog, bake a cake, anything that isn’t what you are already trying to do. When you give your mind a break from thinking about the solutions to your problems, you give it a chance to just take in what’s happening. To experience those everyday moments that are inspiring. You might think of the answer to your questions, during this time and you might not. Either way, you will feel better after taking time away to do something for yourself. You don’t have to figure everything out right now to still enjoy life. This exercise will help you to see that it’s okay to move on from something and come back to it later.
  6. Track Your Progress: Keep documentation of your progress on your projects. This can be as detailed as a fully flushed journal entry every day about what you did and how you feel about it, or as simple as a bullet list of what you accomplished to achieve your long term goal. This will help you to monitor your progress over time, examine where you have been, and determine if you are on track to get to where you want to be. It is also encouraging to see how far you have come on days you feel you have nothing to offer. You have armed yourself with a record of your work, and reassurance that you will eventually rebound to keep making progress. If today you are uninspired and don’t already have a log of your journey, start now. Think about all you’ve done to get to where you are, at write it down to look at. Then from here on out, continuously update the list. Reflection is a powerful tool to help you remember your purpose for your project, take pride in your accomplishments, and rekindle the fire in your heart.

Some days a simple “motivational quote” is enough to get us going. Some days, a few words someone said when they were having a good day isn’t enough to get us through. And that’s okay. You, and your problems, and your life, and your passions are so much more complex than a few sentences or a list of feel-good ideas. What’s important to remember when you are feeling uninspired by the world, is that emotions (good and bad) are temporary. You will get through this period of uncertainty, this deeply dug rut. Inspiration is all around us. You are an inspiration. The work you do is important. The words you speak matter. The life you are living has beauty. Even on days you feel empty, you are so full of life. The periods of darkness will end. You will find your spirit again. You can do anything, right where you’re at.

Cleaning Your Space Through Clearing Your Mind: 9 Tips To Tidy Up

Depression and anxiety manifest in many forms, and sometimes they become so draining that keeping your home clean is overwhelming and seemingly impossible. Or maybe you have physical limitations that make doing more than a few tasks a day too much. Or maybe life is just really busy right now. I’ve been battling all of these obstacles for quite some time, and as much as I wish I could be a tidy and organized person, I am just not. However, I have not given up on my mission to devise a system that works for me, so this week I have composed a list of tips to help other people who just can’t seem to get organized either.

  1. Change Your Mindset Towards Cleaning: I saw a quote a long time ago floating around on Pinterest that changed my outlook on cleaning. The essence was this- You deserve to live in a space that is clean and comfortable. You have worth and are full of love and creativity and passion and are worthy of a place that reflects your finest features. When you haven’t been able to muster up the strength to start cleaning for a while, the mess can be overwhelming to say the least. You might be thinking, “what’s the point? I won’t finish, it’s been this way so long, it doesn’t matter anyway.” It does matter, and no matter how much of your space you can sort through, it will make a difference and you are worth it.
  2. Reward Yourself Before You Begin: You read that right. You made the decision to start this task and you deserve to be rewarded for that. Something small that will help you while cleaning is probably the best idea for a treat. Maybe grab your favorite drink to sip on while you work, pick out a movie to play in the background, a new candle to burn while your cleaning instead of waiting until your done. Some positive recognition for yourself that you have decided to finally do the thing will help you want to do it again in the future, and help make the actual work not so bad.
  3. Start With One Area: If the room your working on is in a real rough state, break it down by section or task. Maybe pick everything up off the floor. Or just begin with one table. Or do the entire closet. This way if you run out of steam or have to go because of other obligations, you have a better chance of completing that smaller scale project. That sense of completion will bring pride, and if you can’t get to the rest of the room it can help serve as a positive reminder that you are capable of finishing a project and you can and will do it again. Embrace your accomplishment and allow yourself to fully feel that pride from your achievement too- don’t dwell on the rest of the room that remains. You will get there.
  4. Dedicate One Spot In Each Room To Stay Clean: If you finish only one area, or when you finish getting a room nice and tidy, designate a clean spot for yourself. Maybe it will be the dresser, or a certain part of the kitchen counter, or the night stand, or the chair, pick one spot that you will commit to keeping clean. If you walk in the door, you will not just throw down your coat in the that spot, you won’t pile the laundry that needs folding there, nothing. If you keep up with this spot and make it a habit to break the urge to allow it to go back to being a mess, eventually you can work up to more spots, then a room, then more rooms, then your home. It will be a long process, and if you break the commitment, forgive yourself and think about why. Were you tired? Were you upset? Did you just not care? Remember, you are worthy of a space that is comfortable. A space you can move in, stretch out in, breathe in. Commit to one spot and commit to yourself.
  5. Work Whenever You Have A Sparkle Of Motivation: If you feel any urge at all to start tackling the mess that’s been calling you for months, jump of it. Even if it’s an inconvenient time, do what you can in the amount of time you have to work with. If you’re getting ready for work but your bathroom is too frustrating to get ready in, and for some reason right now is your breaking point, wipe out the sink while you swish your mouth wash. Clean off the mirror before you go. These small steps, while only a piece of needs to get done, will help you to feel better about your space, and help you feel better about taking care of your space.
  6. Remove Any Barriers To Tasks That Bother You: I am a texture person, and hate the feeling of grime and dust on my skin. I also can’t touch dirty dishes that are already in a sink. If they are on the counter next to the sink, that’s fine, but once they go in, I just can’t. The thought grosses me out, the texture of the slime that forms on them is repulsive in every way. To overcome this, I use cleaning gloves, so I don’t have to feel dust or grime on my skin when I wipe off particularly dirty surfaces. Or I place my dishes next to the sink, and try to skip the sink altogether by putting them straight in the dish washer after rinsing if it is empty. Similarly, if you don’t like the noise of a vacuum, get a pair of good noise canceling headphones or earplugs to help muffle the sound while you clean. If the smell of cleaning agents bothers you, look for ones with limited to no fragrance and wear a face mask. By identifying what it is about a task that hinders you from performing it, you can figure out a way to overcome that barrier. This can be such an empowering step. You are not lazy, you are trying, and now that you have eliminated the physical reasons a chore was difficult, it will be a little easier to start doing it more often.
  7. Stop When You’ve Had Enough: Once you feel the aches in your bones creeping in, or your brain starts shutting down because you’ve been at it for too long, stop. It’s okay if you don’t finish your whole list today. If you keep pushing yourself when you’ve hit your limit, that will only cause you to need time to recover from your efforts. Do not keep going. I have an autoimmune disorder that causes a lot of joint pain, and sometimes there are okay days and sometimes there are really bad days. I don’t want to turn an okay day into a bad one because the societal norm that you must always finish what you start or you are a failure. If you push your self past your limit just to say you got it done, you might end up doing more harm than good, and you won’t be able to keep up with the room you just cleaned. You can always come back once you have had some rest and finish organizing your space. When you wrap up your work, step back to admire what you did accomplish. This positive reinforcement will help you to continue to look at cleaning as something that you do to honor yourself instead of a chore that just needs to be done.
  8. Ask For Help: This is definitely the scariest and most uncomfortable piece of advice on this list. It can be hard to open up about what happens when life just seems to hit you all at once and then everything else gets away. Then to tell other people that you haven’t been able to keep up with what is typically seen as basic daily tasks can be embarrassing. But your friends and loved ones do not want to see you sad and stuck. If you confide in a few close people who you trust and ask if they have an hour or two to help you fold some laundry or clear out a space, they can help get you farther in your efforts to get organized faster. They might also have a few tips and tricks as to how they organize their own stuff that might help you stay on top of things.
  9. Don’t Allow Negative People To Bring You Down: If you live with other people who make negative comments about where you are at in your life right now, do your best to ignore them. Keep trying to get yourself back on track, and do not allow their influence to limit you from working on getting better. If they say things like, “Wow, look who’s finally cleaning,” or “That looks nice but it won’t stay that way long,” take a breath. Then take one more. Do not engage with people like this who cannot see the power of their own words. Instead, wield the strength of your own voice, and remind yourself that you are doing this for your own benefit and no one else’s. You will do the best you can to ensure your space is clean and comfortable. If you fall behind again, you will pick it right back up. You accomplished so much by deciding to make the conscious choice to make a change, and your work is for your self care.

Some people have found cleaning as a source of relaxation and a method of coping with troubling times. Other people have just always been tidy and organized. And other people are just messy. There are many complex reasons why some people have a hard time staying on top of caring for their spaces, but there are ways to overcome the barriers that impede our journey to healing our hearts and homes.

Caring for your personal space is an extension of caring for yourself. It’s not as glamorous or peaceful as a face mask or a massage, but it is important. You could even put on a face mask while you clean and do a “quick clean,” just picking up as much as you can while you wait for it to dry. You deserve a space that makes you comfortable. A space that makes you feel safe, and welcome, and like you are at home. Sometimes you might not feel worthy, but you are. You are capable of accomplishing amazing feats, and in your clear space you might just find some clean head space to figure out those goals. No matter where you are at you can and you will do beautiful things.