In honor of Earth Day on April 22, I’ve collected five ways to simplify your life. These tips will not only help the environment by reducing your carbon footprint, but also will reduce your stress and simplify your life. As an added bonus, you’ll also save money. What’s not to like?
1. BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle!)
Drink filtered tap water from your own bottle instead of buying water in plastic bottles. Simplify your life further by drinking water instead of juices and sodas. This will reduce your carbon footprint by eliminating the need for plastic bottles, cartons and tin cans. The more water you drink, the less you have to recycle, which is one less thing to do! If you like to have a bit of flavor, squeeze in a lemon or lime, or make your own tea.
When I lived in Arizona, we made “sun tea.” We filled a big glass container with water, a few tea bags and let it sit outside in the sun. After a few hours, bring in the jar, add lemon, sugar and ice. No need to boil water! Now that I’m in England, where the sun isn’t so strong, I simply boil water, pour over teabags and then add ice or put it in the fridge to cool. I like making herbal iced tea with peppermint tea bags or simply by cutting fresh mint from a pot on the patio. Simple, easy and eco-friendly.
Read more on other ways to reduce single-use plastic here.
2. Shop thrift and charity shops first.
It is tempting and easy to buy things online. But fast fashion is not only detrimental to the environment, it also is hard on the wallet. Trends may seem inexpensive but aren’t likely to last more than a season or a few washings. Why not see if you can create some cool new looks with charity shop clothing when you bring a bag of your old clothes to donate? During lockdown lots of people have had time to purge their closets. As a result, thrift shops have been inundated with donations. Now is the perfect time to find some new outfits while there are plenty of options. You’ll not only save money, but you’ll be helping the earth and helping the charity, too!
3. Make a cutting garden so you have fresh flowers.
Instead of buying flowers wrapped in plastic or shipped in from afar, why not grow your own? Simply plant some flowers in your garden that you can use to make your own floral arrangements. You can use a window box or pots if you don’t have a garden. My favorite cut flowers are dahlias and cosmos. They are easy to grow and the more you cut them, the more flowers grow back. So you can keep on cutting them for your vases all summer and into the fall. They call them, “cut and come again” flowers for this reason.
Of course, you can plant any flowers you like! I love geraniums because they flower all summer and last right until the first frost. If you have the space, you can also plant holly for making wreaths in winter, ivy for flower arrangements, hydrangeas for both fresh and dried flower arrangements or wreaths. I’ve even put in a Eucalyptus tree for adding to flower arrangements. If you have a few cut flowers and lots of greenery you can create a large bouquet. Gardening is a great stress reliever, too. So get out there and start digging!
If you don’t have a garden or outdoor patio area for pots, you could use indoor plants like spider plants or consider buying silk flowers that last for years.
4. Rotate your stuff.
Our brains are inevitably attracted to the newest shiny object whether that be a new home décor item or a new pair of shoes. Equally, we soon become accustomed to our old things and stop seeing them in our homes. They just blend into the background. Instead of giving into the urge to buy new items to spruce things up, simply box up half of your old things and store them out of sight. Just by removing objects from your visual scene, you can create a feeling of freshness and simplicity. You may decide you like it better this way and never open the boxes again. If that’s the case, you can safely take the whole box and donate it to your favorite charity. You can also try moving paintings, furniture and décor to a new location in your home to get an instant refresh without spending a penny or damaging the environment. An easy way to simplify your life!
This rotation strategy works brilliantly for children, too. In order to keep tidying up easier, my mom used this tactic to keep our pile of toys to a manageable number. She’d box up half our toys and put the box in a closet. Then, in a few months, she’d bring out the box of toys and it felt like Christmas all over again (but without the expense or the hassle)! All these old toys were suddenly fascinating once again. If you have all your things out all the time, you’ll stop enjoying them and stop seeing them.
You can deploy this same tactic for your clothing by boxing things up carefully each season and storing them safely away. You can also use the seasonal changeover as an opportunity to donate any items you no longer wear or that no longer fit.
Box up your knickknacks and decorative items each season and rotate them. This keeps your home from feeling stale as you ring in the changes of the season without damaging the planet. I’ve recently taken to using natural decorative items from the garden (such as holly, pinecones, flowers, ivy, pumpkins) instead of buying new things. Instead of going into a landfill, they go into nature’s recycling plant — the compost pile. This is easier than hauling things out of the attic.
5. Rethink your commute.
One thing we’ve learned in lockdown is that many jobs are easily done from home. So, you may be able to completely eliminate your commute. I know one of my more introverted friends is only going back to her office if absolutely essential. Although I know more extroverts are hankering to get back in the office to rub elbows with some fellow human beings, I hope we’ll never have to go back to the time-wasting stress and environmental disaster of the daily commute.
Studies have shown that any commute over 45 minutes is too long. You’ll be happier and less stressed by either moving closer to your work or taking a different job closer to home. But now you may be able to negotiate working from home and commuting in on the rare occasion and have the best of both worlds – a job you enjoy without the hassles of commuting!
When I lived in NYC everyone took the subway or bus and very few had cars. One day, after having been spit on from a departing subway train, I decided to see how long it would take to walk home instead. I was amazed to discover I could walk door to office in one hour. Although the subway took 30 minutes on a good day, I was allocating 45 minutes in case a train was late or too crowded to board. For an extra 15 minutes, I not only got an hour of exercise, but also saved myself the stress of jamming into an overcrowded train. I lost weight walking two hours a day. So, I saved money on the subway fare and from cancelling my gym membership. Walking to and from work really simplified my life. Could you cycle or walk to work? It is worth looking into especially as electric bikes make cycling long distances or up and down hills a snap!