The Holidays, Unplugged

I’m sure you are torn between all the sweet deals going on in stores and online to make all that Christmas/Hanukkah loot seem a bit cheaper and the whole buy-nothing-make-something movement.

I get it. Really, I do.

I’m tempted to simply jump on the give experiences not material goods wagon, but I also really want the nice backpack I asked my mom and brother to get me. So I have a solution that will be perfect for whoever reads this:

Do what makes you Happy.

If shopping for everyone on your list makes you and your wallet sob in fear, don’t. Buy cheaper things, buy group gifts for families, or hop on the buy-nothing train. If you feel stupid giving the dry ingredients for brownies in a cute mason jar or candle holders made of tuna cans and clothes pins or coupons for you babysit or wash their car for free, don’t.

As your broke and green lady, I don’t want to buy stuff. As your lazy pal, I don’t wanna make stuff.

So when I found a pricey dress my mom loved, my brother and I split it. For my extended family? They know it is expensive to fly home and are glad to see me once a year. I emphasize that I am the gift. [Insert winning smile]

My friends and I don’t do Christmas gifts unless something really catches an eye and screams your name. Then it’s cheap and it’s clear there is no expected gift in return. We treat each other by taking each other out when it’s out birthday, when we celebrate life events, when we’re a little flush with cash and buy an extra round.  That is what makes us all happy without any pressure.

If it makes you happy to one up your uncle in giving your grandma a cool gift, fine. If that January credit card bill stings through April and you’ve forgotten why by Valentine’s Day…are you really happy?

Joy to the world. Peace on Earth. You are part of this world, you are a citizen of this earth. You deserve joy and peace as well. The first year you let your consumer facade crumble a little may be scary and you may be tempted to feel disappointed in yourself. Don’t. Once you’ve lowered that artificial bar (that no one but you set up in the first place) next year will be easier. Maybe even happier.

You deserve a gift too. Why not just make yourself happy?

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Times Flies And So Will I Soon

I haven’t had much time to myself lately. Now that the weather is finally turning in the direction of fall, electricity bills will naturally start going down. I’m eating with friends at home more, mostly because these wonderful dinners happen on porches.

I’m at a point in my life where my money saving skills are starting to get extreme. I don’t think I can really write relateable material about becoming a homeless couch surfer for 1-1.5 months while I save rent money with the intent of moving around the world. I’m selling my stuff, living out of bags – as of November 1st.

Why the extreme life change? Well, I may be saving money, but it will all be spent on student loans, bills, travel, and moving. My life is heading for a massive change and I must adapt if I want it to be a successful change.

I plan to become an ESL teacher in Korea. That’s the life plan now. With no teaching experience I can only hope that I come across as intelligent, capable, and worthy of the challenge.

I’ve always wanted to travel more, experience more cultures, meet new people, see how I handle language barriers and exotic cultures. I think doing this will make it easier to relate to people so different from me. I’m looking forward to a job that also allows me to actually connect to people, to make a difference.

In my far off dreams, after EPIK, I’d love to do JET (Japan), Open Doors (Chile), and maybe see if China or Vietnam has a national program. Maybe end up in Spain one day.

This isn’t very broke (though it is helping keep me there), lazy (these applications are killer), nor green (I will be flying around the globe after all), but I wanted to share since it is currently taking up most of my time and thoughts. Back to the basic tenants of this site next week, y’all. Promise.

Enjoy the beautiful fall weather while we have it!

 

P.S. One quick update, I am back to using only diluted baking soda and diluted apple cider vinegar on my hair. I had to adjust the amount. I use roughly 2-3Tbsp of each in a quart of water. Add more by the teaspoon if it doesn’t seem very effective. I’m glad I tried again; I can go 3 days before my hair looks a bit unwashed so I only need to wash it 2 times a week. It has lightening in color and has better volume now!

I love My Mom

My mom will be in town this week, so I am struggling to think of anything but what we’ll be doing. Everything in moderation, including moderation. Therefore, this weekend I will not be living cheaply, nor will I be lazing about, though I can still make this a green-ish visit.

We will have no car, relying on public transit. I’ll still be choosing vegetarian meals. And I think it is rather green to be taking advantage of all our community offers: our City Park, a few museums, paddle boats on the lake, people watching through downtown.

I’m looking forward to eating all I want, too. I will certainly be hella broke after this whole weekend. It will be worth it. Living far from my family means I rarely get to see them and it is usually an all day travel nightmare (let’s not even mention airplane pollution).

I’m equally excited for a few days off of work. It’s been one of those weeks and is looking like it will be one of those quarters around here. You know what I’m talking about – when you are so tightly wound you feel like snapping, nothing you do seems good enough, you are eventually so worried and anxious and paralyzed that you start doing worse at work. I need a way to unwind.

Some people unwind by shopping, drinking, eating poorly, among many other vices. I often sleep. I am prone to depression and have been battling a recent bout. When I’m depressed, stressed, anxious, or generally upset I often overeat then sleep. I sleep often and too long, I shut down.

I’m grateful that my mom’s visit is timed to give me a more positive way to unwind. I love my family and am excited to share these experiences. Family will be my anti-depressant this weekend and all the fun stuff I’d let pass otherwise will be exciting to experience.

I’m committed to making lifestyle changes to benefit the earth and its inhabitants. It’s easy to forget to make small changes that benefit me first and foremost. Becoming aware of my feelings and making proactive efforts to work through them is the nicest thing I can do for myself. Lately I’ve been uptight, short, and letting it all slide. My mom’s impending visit and my increased awareness (and support of a few chosen friends) will help me make it through this.

Thank you for reading through this post. It means a lot to me and I hope you remember to put yourself first once in a while too. We both deserve it.

Life and Literary Journeys: Free!

I hit up my library on Monday after work and have spent the last three days living this wonderful routine:

Wake up, go to work, read on my lunch break, more work, go home, make dinner, clean up, throw on pj’s, grab some water, close my door, and read for hours. I even have some nice chocolate and crappy boxed wine to enjoy along my literary journey.

This is the week I put the brakes on my life and really got a better look at myself and where I am on my life journey.

I cooked dinner, made bread, drank wine, shut off my computer, and enjoyed the hell out of my me time. I’ve been reading nonfiction, young adult (I refuse to call it a guilty pleasure as I feel no guilt about that), fantasy. I have business, linguistic, and comedic books in my stacks of books.

I have three stacks of books I want to get through: library, borrowed from friends, mine I haven’t read and want to decide if I want to keep or not.

I had been feeling stuck and didn’t want to pamper myself with expensive spa treatments or pricey dinners. So I hit my personal reset button. I let a lot build, so it may take me all week of ignoring my friends and staying in. That’s not a bad thing.

Free movies, free books…library is a word that means heaven. If reading is not your tool to unwind, no problem. There are many free activities out there away from a screen to cultivate a little more personal joy in your life. Take a day to do that, I’m sure it’s been a while.

Relax. The world isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. 🙂

Take A Walk

Got a problem on your mind? Feeling angry or restless? Ate too much? Worried? Sad? Bored?

Go take a walk.

Seriously, it will help you physically and mentally more than you can imagine. An aimless after dinner stroll helps with the digestion. An afternoon saunter will get you outdoors and enjoying the summer while you can. (Didn’t you wish for it all winter? Don’t hang out on the computer.)

A quick morning walk can help you wake up and sort through your thoughts and plan your day. Maybe you can get a few errands done too.

Don’t just take your dog around the block. Fido just might appreciate a languid excursion around the park for once instead of a quick walk until he does his deed and you can turn around and hurry home.

Go enjoy today. Enjoy this moment. You have the time right now. You are alive right now.

Take a walk.

Less Stuff Is More You

“A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it….Sometimes you gotta move, gotta get a bigger house. Why? No room for your stuff anymore.”

-George Carlin

You can own less or buy less. You don’t have to go crazy, sell all earthly possessions, grow all your own food, and live out of a microhome (unless you want to). You don’t have to commit to buying nothing new for the next 365 days (unless you want to).

Remember guys, we aren’t only green, we’re green, broke, and lazy. It all comes back to taking small steps.

I suggest beginning with decluttering. You may have duplicates of things or already own, something you may think you need to buy. Don’t waste your money, use what you have. You may even find, in going through your stuff, that you have excess stuff you can get rid of. This isn’t an excuse to go on a shopping spree later. Why buy replacements for objects you never used and didn’t even remember you had?

Donate or sell stuff you don’t want or use. Toss the trash, recycle the recylables. Give a shout out on Facebook or Twitter to see if any friends want to swing by and pick up your trash and turn it into their new treasure.

Social media is a great forum for finding stuff you don’t have, but don’t want to (or can’t) buy. Buying less allows you to save money. It helps out the environment. And it may just create a more involved community or group of friends in the process. I don’t own a toaster, but I have a friend who does and rarely uses it. I asked if I could have it until she wanted it back. She rarely used it and hasn’t asked for it back even when I remind her I have it. I didn’t have to buy a toaster, this toaster is being used. And if I ever want it out of the house, I can just give it back.

A sharing economy means objects have longer, fuller lives and each person involved generally will spend far less that purchasing their own goods.

Does it work for everyone or everything? Of course not. With some trial and error and basic communication with your friends, family, and neighbors, you’ll figure out what you are willing to share or go without. You’ll know what you definitely need to buy and keep to yourself.

Be broke. Be lazy. Be green. It’s easier if you don’t do it alone.

The Basics

When is the last time you saw you nose without the aid of a mirror?

Our brains selectively ignore the fact that our nose is in our field of vision. It’s not important, and it would actually be distracting to remember to see it. It would get in the way of paying attention to our environment. We know it’s there and let it slide out of focus.

This is how bad habits stick with us for so long: we stop paying attention to them. They are part of our routines.

We don’t mean to slip into bad habits. It happens when we stop noticing. Bit by bit, our good intentions get pushed aside and the rut of our routine changes track. We just need to remember to be more mindful of ourselves and our actions.

Take a step back and look at your green routine. Assess what you are doing and how you can improve. It’s easy to become lax with the basics, those are the things we don’t dedicate much thinking to. Who thinks about cutting up 6 pack rings anymore?

The first step to a green lifestyle is not buying green, but being green. Here are some easy suggestions to make sure your current life is making your wallet and the world a little bit greener.

  • If you aren’t using it, shut it off! TVs, computers, coffee makers, lights, and so much more can be shut off when you aren’t using them.
  • Once they are off, unplug them! Phantom power can waste up to 10% of your electricity bill. Take chargers out of the outlet and plug that blender back in only when you need to use it.
  • Before you put anything in the garbage, can it go elsewhere? Composting gives back to the earth and you may be able to recycle items like batteries and light bulbs. Do your research and see what your community offers.
  • Can that ‘trash’ be repaired? Can it be used for another purpose? Get creative and maybe you won’t have to go out and buy gifts. Pinterest, guys!
  • Got a lot of stuff and not sure what to do with it all? Have a garage sale! Get some friends or neighbors involved and enjoy a Saturday outside making money and giving those goods a second life.

Help your wallet by reviewing your electricity uses. Save the earth by reviewing your garbage/recycling/composting routine. Get involved in your community by donating or having a garage sale. Learn a new skill and fix something. None of this has to cost you much and all of it can be fun.

What is your green routine?

 

What Do I Mean By ‘Green’?

“If it can’t be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled or composted, then it should be restricted, redesigned or removed from production.”
― Pete Seeger

Green is a hot term these days. Used interchangeably with ‘natural’ and often combined with ‘organic’, ‘sustainable’, and any word that can have the prefix ‘eco-‘ added in front of it, green can mean almost anything to anyone as long as you can picture a happy spot in nature while using the product being sold.

My problem with most of that is either the product seems more expensive or less effective (sometimes both). When I buy something, I often convert the amount of money it costs into how many hours I have to work to earn that much money. That helps me keep myself from mindlessly buying too much. It doesn’t work every time, but anytime I do remember to do that, I know I save money.

Don’t we all like saving money? But how to save money without being inconvenienced? If you don’t buy bathroom cleaner, how are you going to clean your bathroom? Who has time to handle dried beans? (Don’t they taste so boring when you cook them anyway?)

Never fear. My life is fun, exciting, green, and frugal. I don’t regret or resent any changes I’ve made because I keep the bigger picture in mind. I don’t mind any changes I’ve made because I’ve made them a priority. The health of the whole wide world is more important than me ordering in on a lazy evening. The best definition of ‘green’ I can come up with is this:

Green is (the act of) prioritizing the health of you, your community, and nature.

We all know eating whole, unprocessed food is better for us and the earth. We all know coating our bodies and homes in chemicals cannot be healthy for anyone. We all know that buying ‘green’ products doesn’t change how much resources are being used.

What can you do that doesn’t involve living in an off grid cabin, growing your own food, and eschewing any technological advance made since the Industrial Revolution? Small steps.

Being frugal dovetails quite well with being green. Ever notice how minimalism is often paired with green living? I don’t live like a monk, but I am mindful (though not nearly as much as a monk).

Being green means you can save green, keep the earth green, and make others green with envy at your new relaxed lifestyle.

Life isn’t a rat race because we are not rats. Life is art.

The First Step Happens Now

I get angry at all the ways I see us destroying the planet. And yet I use A/C like everyone else, order delivery, and live in a standard American house (apartment, whatever).

What can I do?

I love reading about ways to make my life more green. I enjoy Pinterest, LifeHacker, and buying ‘green’ products when I can afford them. More often than not, I know it’s expensive because of marketing. I dream of a tiny house and struggle with rent.

But is that it? Am I really helping?

I’m sure we’ve all had our doubts that we make a difference, especially after we do something we know is hard on the Earth, like enjoy a huge concert, attend a large BBQ cookout, throw a party and fill a garbage can on just one round of clean up. We feel defeated when we get excited about going through our garages and donating stuff, crafting with all the goods lying around. We never get to it, we get overwhelmed instead.

I’ve taken a new approach to being green and I’ve decided documenting my green tricks and the changes I’ve made is the best way to remember them and stay motivated. My approach is perhaps too simple for most, but over time I believe this is the most effective:

Take the smallest possible step. Then celebrate.

That’s what I do. I encourage myself to find new, easy, cheap ways to green up my life. I can’t buy fancy ‘green’ stuff. I can’t blow a paycheck at Whole Foods. I also freely admit I’m pretty darn lazy. I’d love to dedicate my life to the Sierra Club or other similar groups. And I’ll get there. But for now, in between work, sleep, friends, and more work (and now this blog!) I take my whole journey one step at a time.

It’s important to remember that while picking up one piece of litter seems useless and a waste of time, if one million people pick up one piece of litter, we have made a huge difference together. Living a community-minded life is the biggest difference you can make. It may also be the biggest step I can suggest taking. You don’t have to change your life, just change the direction you are going – one step at a time.

I hope to cover the lazy basics: petitions, Facebook likes/shares; as well as some cheap basics: cleaning solutions made with cheap stuff you have in the house already, simple and not cheap tasting meals. My greatest hope is that this inspires change in enough people that together we can start supporting each other as we take bigger and bigger steps.

Join me in making the Earth a better community for us all. Welcome.