Instead of specific New Year’s resolutions, I try to stick to general, non-specific goals for the year (ie: increase my freelance business vs. increase my salary by at least $10k). One such goal that’s been on my mind for a while is to make lifestyle changes so I produce less waste, and consume less as a whole, while making choices that are better for the health of the planet in general.
There are a few inspirations behind this. Most of my readers are aware of my obsession with saints: many of which willingly chose to leave their privileged lives and live in poverty.
No, I’m not choosing to live in poverty — but the concept of minimalism is intriguing to a person whose severe OCD makes her anxious around clutter.
When my husband and I were dealing with unemployment, I started selling some of our belongings online to try and make a little extra money. It’s funny how, when push comes to shove, the stuff you thought you “needed” is actually just that…stuff. Things that sit in your house, taking up space, gathering dust, needing to be cleaned. Stuff that we didn’t even use that much. In letting some of that go, I felt…lighter. More free.
Considering we lost our health insurance and I couldn’t renew my prescriptions, this helped ease my mind a lot.
Environmentalism is a deeply Jewish issue. It’s a Christian one as well, even though some sects choose to demonize it as nothing more than a “liberal” concern. I think of what Jesus said to the rich man who asked what he should do to inherit eternal life: give away all your possessions in order to discover true wealth, which is stored up in heaven. In the wake of the California wildfire devastation, I’ve been thinking of this more than ever.
I don’t use expressions like “God put it on my heart” very often, mostly because there’s a very fine line between God’s desires and my desires — I don’t want to confuse the two. But I can usually tell it’s God when the desire conflicts with what I want. Lately, it’s been messages like You never wear those clothes. That dress you bought thinking you would wear it to church and for holidays has actually been untouched in your closet for over six months. You should sell it or give it away.
The practical side of me thinks, But I paid money for it. I should hold on to it in case I need it. That “just in case” thinking is how I ended up hanging on to an excessive amount of “stuff” in the first place. And yet, I “needed” a fancy dress as often as my husband ended up not being able to respond to my texts because his car was upside down in a ditch.
In other words, never.
These are just a few of the changes I’ve made that I urge you to consider as we begin 2019:
Purging paper towels
I’ve removed them completely from my kitchen, and replaced them with dish rags I use to clean up spills and wipe down my counters, in addition to cloth napkins for the table instead of paper ones. I do have paper towels in my house still, though — they’re better for cleaning up cat vomit and the toilet. But otherwise, I’ve stopped using them.
Geting rid of K-cups
I love my Keurig, but I’ve switched from the one-time-use cups and bought a reusable one instead. This is better not just for the no-waste factor, but you can use whatever coffee you want. And I am that snob who only buys gourmet coffee (and grinds it fresh, just before use, with my own grinder).
In keeping with the trend of using less waste, I stopped using disposable makeup pads. I love these ones I found on Amazon. They work well and can be washed with the rest of my laundry — I put them in a mesh bag and let them air dry on the bathroom counter.
Another big one: I now use my own water bottles and coffee tumblers instead of disposable ones. I keep some in my car and kitchen pantry, so I always have one on-hand in case one is in the dishwasher. Some places will even give you a discount if you bring your own. If you forget, just ask for a ceramic mug — most coffee shops have them, including Starbucks.
I also use reusable canvas grocery bags in place of plastic ones. If I forget one, I use a paper bag from the store (which doubles as a cat toy).
I’m also trying to eat less meat. Admittedly, I’m bad at this. I love chicken, in particular. But I’ve cut down my meat meals to only 2-3 per week, and I cut out beef altogether because cow farming is one of the biggest contributors to methane gases in the atmosphere. Not only is meat expensive, but it typically comes wrapped in styrofoam, which is also bad.
If you love burgers, try Boca veggie burgers: with enough barbecue sauce and pickles, you can barely tell it’s not real meat.
Finally, I admit that I love shopping. I love buying new clothes. But in doing so, I not only spent a ton of money, I also directly support the Capitalist Machine that, more often than not, incorporates slave labor or pays workers unfair wages. So I started buying secondhand. You’d be amazed at how many designer-brand items you can find at places like Plato’s Closet, Clothes Mentor, and even your local Goodwill. I also recently discovered Poshmark, an app where I’ve not only sold a lot of my clothes, but have found name-brand stuff for super cheap.
If you do want to buy new, consider supporting independent boutiques over chains.
For more ideas, check out this lady and her adorable “superhero” kids on Instragram. If you have made some environmental changes in your life, I’d love to hear them!