Living a slower, simpler, more meaningful life

Category: One Small Change (Page 1 of 3)

One Small Change – Single Use Plastic

This week’s One Small Change is in support of Plastic Free July.  Plastic Free July is an Australian initiative that’s been running since 2012 and encourages people to avoid single use plastic for a month. Obviously there’s more to plastic than single use items, but you’ve gotta start somewhere, and this is the best place in my opinion. Single use plastic includes all those layers of packaging that come with consumables, and disposable items that we use briefly then throw away. Except that there is no away. Every single piece of plastic that has ever been created is still here on earth. Every take-away coffee cup, plastic bag, juice bottle, chip packet, yoghurt tub, straw, disposable knife, fork, spoon, plate and bowl. All that plastic is still lying about, buried in landfill, floating in our oceans, breaking down in the soil and leaching toxins into our water supply.

Once you become aware – truly aware – of the magnitude of the problem, it’s almost impossible NOT to do something about it. For a long time I knew plastic was environmentally damaging, but I was still mostly oblivious to it in my own life.  I think my awareness began with green bags at the supermarket. It was a good start but I wasn’t 100% committed.  I’d often forget and just accept a plastic bag anyway.  I can’t remember the exact turning point, but one day I left the store with a haul of plastic bags and realised the walk of shame was no longer about ‘doing the right thing’.  I had started to really care. It snowballed from there. Soon after I found I simply couldn’t buy those disposable plates for the party. I didn’t replace the colourful plastic kiddie straws when they ran out. And I started to feel awkward every time I rolled a sheet of Gladwrap over a bowl of leftovers.

Giving up plastic is a pretty huge change, and in fact, it may not be practical for you to ditch all the plastic in your life – this week, or ever. That’s why we focus on single use plastic to begin with. I first became aware of Plastic Free July from Lindsey, who writes a  blog called Treading My Own Path. She started her plastic free journey nearly 5 years ago and has heaps to share about making that change (and more) in your life.  She even has an e-Guide that you can use to get started called That’s a Wrap – The e-Guide for Plastic Free Living. Check it out if you want some really helpful tips and advice.

That's a Wrap - An e-Guide to Plastic Free Living

That’s a Wrap – An e-Guide to Plastic Free Living from Lindsey at Treading My Own Path

 

Giving up single use plastic is pretty tough once you start thinking about it. Most supermarket items are packaged in plastic, so if you’re really going to embrace the challenge you may need to completely change the way you shop.  If it all seems too much, why not just try the Big 4: Plastic water bottles, disposable coffee cups, plastic bags and straws.  If you can ditch those and stick to it, you’ll be making a great start, and an enormous difference.

But what am I going to put things in??

Don’t feel you need to go out tomorrow and buy a bunch of new stuff, but if you think plastic free living is a small change you could embrace, you may find a few new items will make your life easier.  The environmental impact of these new things is sometimes debatable and I’m not really qualified to go there. But I do think that anything we can do to change our habits is a really good start, and sometimes you need a few stepping stones along the way to the ultimate destination.  Here’s some things I own to help me avoid single use plastic (no these are not sponsored links, I just like this stuff!):

Honeybee Wraps are a gorgeous alternative to Gladwrap

Honeybee Wraps are a gorgeous alternative to Gladwrap

Your One Small Change This Week

If you’re feeling really committed, you might want to sign up for Plastic Free July.  This means that you’ll attempt to refuse all single use plastic throughout July.  If you’d just like to dip your toes in the water, pick one of the smaller challenges below and see if you can stick to it for a week:

  • Give up the Big 4: plastic water bottles, disposable coffee cups, plastic bags and straws
  • BYO water bottle and re-usable coffee cup and don’t buy any disposable drinks
  • Don’t buy any grocery items that are packaged in plastic
  • Use containers with lids (or beeswax coated cotton wraps) instead of Gladwrap
  • Carry a re-usable bag and say no to plastic bags

Of course, if you’re really keen, dive in the deep end and see how you go with refusing ALL single use plastic this week. You’ll be amazed at how much plastic is in your life and I have no doubt the experience will open your eyes to just how much of a difference you can make.

Good luck and enjoy your plastic free week!

 

One Small Change – Meal Planning

We’re pretty serious about meal planning in our family.  We have some extreme diet restrictions that make it necessary.  My stepson’s ketogenic diet for epilepsy limits him to 20g of carbs per day, so he can’t eat rice, pasta, bread, potatoes or.. really anything you might whip up for a quick and easy meal.  He’s limited to meat and certain low carb vegetables.  His brother on the other hand prefers not to eat meat. He’s not vegetarian as such (at least not yet) but he feels squeamish in the presence of anything recognisably ‘meaty’.  My husband’s bowel surgery means he can’t eat beans, chickpeas, lentils, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower or onion.  My daughter and I can eat anything, but she IS six, so ‘anything’ is more a theory than reality.  Bottom line is we need to be prepared with the right food in the house, 3 meals a day plus snacks, 7 days a week.   You can’t do that without a solid plan; in our case, a multi-coloured, triple-tiered plan that covers every meal and takes over an hour to prepare every week.

Not everyone has such complex food requirements, but that’s no reason not to embrace meal planning.  Admittedly it takes a little spontaneity out of dinnertime, but it also takes away a lot of the stress and rushing around.  Here are just a few of the brilliant outcomes from our experience:

  • We buy less food
  • We waste less food
  • We save money
  • We eat better quality food
  • We avoid ‘no food in the house’ crises
  • We eat less (no!) junky take-away
  • We shop less frequently
  • We know exactly what to shop for

If you do only one thing to simplify your life, make it this one. If you have a busy life, work and family to juggle or just need to make sure you eat well, meal planning may be your saviour.  There are so many benefits to meal planning if a slower, simpler life is your goal.   

My top tips for beginner meal planners:

  1. Leave one or two meals blank in your plan. It depends on your lifestyle, but for most people, things come up, you decide to eat out, there are leftovers, or for some reason you just don’t end up cooking.
  2. Plan for leftovers.  Make a little bit extra and freeze portions for lunches, emergencies and surprise visitors.
  3. Stretch your main ingredients across several meals – particularly meat if you’re that way inclined. For example I like to make a bolognese sauce, use it again on baked potatoes and save a bit to pep up fried rice later in the week.  Or we roast a chicken then make stock and use it for soup.
  4. Give it time. Meal planning can start out feeling tedious and time consuming, but you’ll get into the swing of things.  No matter how long it takes, the time and energy you’ll save by meal planning will absolutely pay off.

Your One Small Change This Week

If it’s not already part of your routine, try meal planning for one week.  You can make it as simple or as complicated as you like.  I’d suggest starting with just dinners, but if you’re inspired, by all means plan 3 meals a day and see how it goes. As a minimum simply write down 5 or 6 dinners that you plan to make this week and stick it on the fridge. I buy these cute little meal planner notepads from Kikki K.  I have an obsession with stationery so that just makes it fun for me.  But really, you just need a scrap of paper.  Even a post-it note will do if you’re just planning dinners.

If you’re already a meal planner from way back, take a look at the way you already plan meals and see if you can introduce some super time saving changes to reduce food waste, make extra meals for leftovers or slot in a big Sunday cook-up of meals to freeze for busy day emergencies.

plates

(image source)

One Small Change – An Intention

A slower, simpler life is as much an attitude as a lifestyle. Even within the confines of our existing commitments, a subtle shift in attitude can slow the pace of life right down.  Small changes to what we focus on and how we organise our time can make life feel so much simpler and more meaningful.  But what if you’re spending a third of your life doing something that’s neither slow, simple or meaningful?  If your work is so demanding or stressful that it unravels your best efforts at slowing down, are small changes ever going to be enough?

For many people, a slower, simpler life by definition would be a life with less – or even no – work.  And for most of us, a significant change to our work commitments is a pretty big deal.  It’s not the kind of change you’d make on a whim and it certainly doesn’t fit with the context of One Small Change!   But every big change starts with the seed of an idea.  You don’t quit your job as an accountant and embark on a new career as a flower arranger if you’ve never given flower arranging a second thought.  This week’s One Small Change is to plant that first seed for a change you’d like to make to the way you earn a living. This could be anything from an adjustment in your working hours, to a new job or a complete change in career.  There’s no need to go into details, just identify the seed of an idea and make it an intention.

When you create an intention, it lets your mental filling system know that this idea is important to you.  Important ideas get priority status.  Have you ever been in the market for a new car? Usually this starts with an intention – “I need to buy a second hand car.”  Up until this point you’ve probably paid little attention to the used car market.  Suddenly, upon setting an intention, car showrooms and used car ads are popping up everywhere.  By setting an intention to work part time, you’re entering the market for part time work.  Now when opportunities come up, you’ll recognise them and you’ll be ready to respond.

There’s a whole industry set up around intention setting, but I don’t think it needs to be complicated. What do you want?  Say it. That’s your intention. Think about your ideal work circumstances. Keep it real (its probably too late to be an olympic gymnast), but let yourself dream a little too.  Would you rather work fewer hours, have longer holidays with family, travel less or get outside more?  Is it your goal to work for a company that makes a difference or could you see yourself taking a pay cut to follow a dream? Would a better boss or an inspiring mentor make work more enjoyable?  What about starting a business or working for yourself?  If you’re not sure where to start, here are some questions to kick off the creative thinking:

  • How can I achieve my full potential?
  • Does my current work fulfil me?
  • How many hours would I like to work?
  • What is truly important to me, and how should this relate to my work life?
  • What would be possible if I earned a new qualification?
  • What could I change about my work life to better align with my values?
  • What have I sacrificed for work so far? Was it worth it?
  • Could I earn an income doing work that I love?
  • How much money do I really need?
  • Could I live with less money, get a smaller mortgage or reduce costs in any way?

seedling

Your One Small Change For This Week

This week’s One Small Change is simply to set an intention. It doesn’t have to be well defined, and you don’t have to know when or how you’re going to do it.  That will come later. Before plans and details must come dreams and ideas. For years I dreamed of working for myself. I tried once and failed, and for most of the time I had no idea what I was going to do in this imaginary self-employed life.  But self employment was my intention, and eventually I found a way.  The way I see it, everything starts with an intention!

Here are some examples of intentions:

  • I intend to work three days a week
  • I intend to have more annual leave
  • I intend to study nursing
  • I intend to start freelancing one day a week
  • I intend to reduce my mortgage by finding a smaller home
  • I intend to spend more time with my family
  • I intend to find work that makes a difference in the world

Make your intention real by writing it down or saying it out loud.  Stick it on a post-it note and tell a few people so that it takes roots in the real world.   This week you’re simply planting a seed,  It may not grow immediately. It may not grow for years.  But it won’t grow at all unless you plant it.

 

One Small Change – Lose a Little Clutter

Any conversation about living more slowly and simply is inevitably going to arrive at the topic of de-cluttering. Although we are bombarded with constant messaging to suggest otherwise, life really is simpler when you have less stuff.  A home that’s overflowing with stuff creates a sense of chaos in your physical space that translates to chaos in your mind.  Getting rid of some of that stuff will lessen the chaos and give you room to breathe.  De-cluttering alone is not going to change your life, but it’s an important first step. Creating space opens the door to new possibilities.

In recent years there’s been a lot of buzz about minimalism.  To me, minimalism is something quite different to simply getting rid of the excess stuff in your house.  I think of it this way; if de-cluttering is the first step, minimalism is where you’re headed.  It takes time to get there though.  It’s one thing to let go of the stuff you already have. It’s quite another to break the addiction to consuming more. Yes you can go through drawers and chuck out useless knick-knacks, clothes that don’t fit and toiletries you never use. But it’s a fairly pointless exercises if you just go out next week and buy more.

Minimalism is the art of living without attachment to stuff. It’s learning to let go of the culture of consumption and walk away from the cash register. We are addicted to buying things.  We often purchase things we don’t even want, just for the buzz of having something new.  But it doesn’t make us happy. In fact 99% of the stuff that is consumed in the western world is disposed of within 6 months.  We’re bombarded daily with promises of everlasting joy from the consumption of goods and every day we’re let down as our purchases fail to deliver.  When you put it that way, it really shouldn’t be that hard to let go.  Right???

So how far do we need to go with all this de-cluttering and minimalism?  We can’t get rid of all the stuff – we need it to live our lives.  Stuff aint all bad – it serves an enormous array of practical purposes. But beyond that practical, necessary stuff, how much OTHER stuff do we really  need? How many pairs of jeans? How many face creams? How many devices? How many soft toys? How many pens?  How many scarves?  But….what if you LOVE your scarf collection?  What if you derive great pleasure from all that kitsch stationery? It’s true that life is not all about practicality.  Some things deserve to be in our life simply because they are beautiful, precious or nostalgic. A favourite coat that we pull out every winter with a smile.  A book that reminds us of a special time.  A smooth stone we picked up on a walk with a loved one.  These things serve a purpose in our lives; they bring us joy.  Only let go of the items that serve no purpose or bring no joy.

This week’s One Small Change is to get rid of some stuff from your home.  Just a few things. I don’t think we can become minimalists overnight; we have a lifetime of habit to break. By gently beginning to de-clutter your life, you’ll become increasingly conscious of the stuff that serves no purposes and brings no joy.  As you discover the wide open spaces and clear bright surfaces you might feel less inclined to pile them with more stuff.  I don’t consider myself a minimalist just yet, though I might be getting close!  I’m certainly a de-clutterer, but it’s a long slow process, and the more I do, the more I realise there is to do. One thing’s for sure – it’s never too late to start 🙂

Your One Small Change This Week

Choose a shelf, cupboard, surface or drawer to de-clutter in your home. If you’re stuck for ideas, pick one of the following. Go through everything, keeping only the items that are either useful or bring you joy. If an item is useful, it deserves the honour of a permanent place in your home; find that place.  If an item brings you joy, find a special place for it; maybe somewhere you will come across it occasionally and smile.

Some suggested areas to de-clutter:

  • The dreaded top drawer
  • Your bedside table
  • That bowl or container on the kitchen bench where things are dumped
  • Your socks and jocks (yes!)
  • The cupboard with kitchen stuff you never use
  • The linen / towels cupboard

simple uncluttered

Image Source

One Small Change – Find More Time

Behind every intention to live a slower, simpler life is a desperate cry for more time.  It’s why we crave that slowness and simplicity in the first place. We somehow manage to use up all the available minutes of every day and never have enough time left for the things we truly value. Our days are filled to the brim with activity, and while we’re glad to be busy and productive and engaged, we also feel our lives would be better if we had more time.

As a society we have more opportunity than any generation that’s come before.  Most of us are safe, housed, well fed, educated, connected, productive members of society. We’re a privileged bunch, earning enough money to live comfortably and provide a future for ourselves and our families.  The opportunities available to us are limitless,  but for some reason we’ve lost the ability to prioritise time for the things we value.  Perhaps its inherent in our genes.  Nothing in our ancestry to date has prepared us for the possibility that we’d have to organise our time beyond the basic needs of survival, shelter & procreation.  Perhaps we’re simply not genetically programmed to prioritise downtime.

For the sake of sanity and peace and survival on a global scale, I think it’s a challenge we all need to rise to. Overworked, exhausted, stressed and anxious people are not good for the planet and we’re not good for each other.  We need to find time and we need to choose more wisely how to spend it.  I personally think Leunig nailed it when he penned the wise words “It is worth doing nothing and having a rest”, but even if that’s not your philosophy, we can surely agree it’s worth doing whatever is important to YOU.

Last week’s One Small Change was to spend an hour doing something you love; to try and slip into that flow where time stands still and joy emerges.  For many though, the toughest part of that challenge was simply finding a free hour. Earlier this week I stumbled across a brilliant way for us all to find more hours in our life.  Blogger Sarahdipity shared her experiences with an app called Moment. Moment is an app that automatically tracks how much time you spend on your iPhone and iPad each day.  Scared?  I was.  Without even using the app, I knew I’d find hours of ‘wasted’ time I didn’t realise I had. Is this you too?

Hands up if you’re one of those people that spends way too much time on their phone; checking emails, scrolling through social media, posting pics online? Yep, me too. When your four year old son tells you to “put down your phone mummy and look at me” you know there’s a problem  – Sarah from sarahdipity.com.au

Sarah’s post Habit, Addiction and the Challenge is well worth a read if you need more convincing. For me, it’s fascinating to consider how many hours a week we devote to a device we probably didn’t own 5 years ago. Admittedly this little wonder brick serves so many practical purposes and saves us hours and minutes every day just by making daily tasks quicker and easier to complete.  But how much of our mobile time is spent on activities that are perhaps not terribly valuable?  Let’s find out huh?  I’ve downloaded the app today in readiness for this week’s One Small Change, which is of course to track your  mobile phone usage!

Clock image from Flickr by frankieleon

Your One Small Change This Week 

If you use an iPhone, head on over and download the Moment App.  If you have another kind of phone there’s an app called QualityTime which works on Android devices, and probably others if you search around a bit.  Turn on tracking and prepare to be astonished.  I guarantee it will be an eye opener.  Once you have the data, the next step is up to you.  Are you happy with the amount of time you spend on your phone?  If you decided to change your phone habits, how much time could you divert to activities that offer more value to your life. Have a think about what your time is worth and whether this kind of change could work for you.  Good Luck, and remember to report back.

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