Making time and nature a priority

My family and I have recently returned from a glorious 2-week camping vacation in Glacier National Park (http://www.nps.gov/glac/index.htm). If you have not visited, it is one to add to your bucket list.

I am desperately clinging to the feeling of hiking in the park, with no worries beyond what we had in our daypacks for lunch. But why do I need this feeling of space, of release, so badly in my daily life? How is it that I have allowed my life to become so cluttered up with activities and stress that I must constantly seek relief from it all?

Courtney Carver of Be More With Less has this to say on the subject: http://bemorewithless.com/7-ways-to-prevent-the-need-to-unwind/.

So I am asking myself: what can I let go of? How can I simplify my life further in order to allow for the spaciousness I am craving?

This will be a work in progress.

Travel experiment: no disposable cups

travel mug

I travel quite a bit for work. Recently, I realized I have a habit of using a lot of “disposable” cups while I travel. As a rule, I rarely use disposable cups at my desk and at home. I think the environmental impact of throwing away cups is ugly at best, and even using a paper cup that will be recycled means it still has to be manufactured in the first place. So, I decided to challenge myself on my most recent trip: could I possibly fly, drive and stay in hotels without using a single disposable cup? I am happy to report I succeeded! Plus, it was actually surprisingly painless. Here is what I learned:

  • I carried a travel coffee mug to use as my all-purpose cup. I took one that was not very valuable, just in case I should lose it.
  • My mug of choice had a handle which I could use to attach to my shoulder bag. I happen to have a bag with a removable strap, so I just unclipped it and slipped my (empty) mug on. I could just as easily have used a carabiner-type clip to attach my mug, though.
  • I put my mug inside my bag in public restrooms. (Ick!)
  • I washed my mug out using whatever soap was available. The only time I ran into a problem was in a restroom with no paper towels, so I just let the mug drip dry as I walked around.
  • My mug did not fit under the spout of the coffee maker in my hotel room. So I brewed the coffee into a glass and poured it into my mug.

Will I do this again? You bet! I estimate I avoided using at least 10 disposable cups (next time I will try to remember to keep count). This was really simple and it is a habit I could get into.

For my next challenge, maybe I will try to avoid using paper towels at work. I guess I could take a dish towel in and hang it on the back of my office door to dry…

My purchases so far this year

Since I pledged not to buy anything new this year unless it was absolutely essential, I have been keeping track of all of the stuff that made the cut here: https://livetobe100.wordpress.com/2014-purchases/. On the one hand, I look at the list and feel very proud that I have severely limited the amount of “stuff” coming into my life this year. In particular, the things that I have purchased are either replacement items or they are quality items that have added value to my home and life. But on the other hand (yes, there is always that “other” hand!), I still think I could buy so much less.

Through living with less and only purchasing items that are truly necessary, I am learning to set high standards for the stuff I choose to own. I feel like I am getting to a place where I choose my stuff, rather than my stuff choosing me. For example, I have pared down most of the ill-fitting or ill-suited clothes that used to cram my closet. These days, no matter what I wear or how quickly I get dressed, I am happy with my appearance. Gone are the pants with the saggy fanny, the shirts that gap at the chest, and the skirts that bind!

I have also noticed that I am spending much less time shopping. Which is fantastic because, honestly, I hate shopping. I have always hated shopping, which I used to feel guilty about admitting. I mean, what American woman does not like to shop, after all? Well, THIS one! I am learning to identify “needs” from “wants.” Even I used to hear the siren song of the sale rack of cute dresses at the mall and the lure of the “25% off” online sale. I can’t tell you how freeing it is to walk into my favorite big-box store and purchase only the 2 items that were on my list – no more losing track of time wandering the aisles gazing at all of the stuff I just don’t need! Likewise with the time I spend online (how refreshing to not waste time browsing online retailers and instead work on high-priority tasks on my list).

One more bonus in my “win” column: I am throwing away or donating my unwanted stuff like crazy! For each new item I bring into my life, I am getting rid of 3-4 things on average. Plus, it is getting much, much easier to get rid of the old stuff. I can’t believe I have been filling my life with so much junk all of these years. I guess it’s never too late to learn how to embrace simplicity.

Learning something new

tea

Last weekend, my sister educated me about the delicious tradition of brewing loose tea. I am big tea drinker – black, breakfast, green, herbal, you name it and I’ll try it – and she has been trying to get me to give loose tea a try for years. Then over the weekend, we were stuck in a car together for 16 hours driving to a family funeral (in truth, we love to travel together, it just makes us sad when the reason is a funeral). So I asked her about loose tea, really just to make conversation. Little did I know what an impressive amount of information she carries around in her head on the subject!

Thanks to my sister, I am a convert to loose-tea-drinking! But more importantly, she reminded me what fun it can be to learn something new, especially when it is unexpected and delightful. What are you learning today that is new and fun?

Vending machines – a necessary evil

I travel a lot, and no matter how well I plan (making room for fresh, healthy snacks in an airplane-sized carry-on is just not always feasible), all too often I find myself facing this for my lunch:

vending

Ugh! What’s a traveler to do? I have found that the two healthiest options available from most vending machines are a bag of nuts (not sweetened) and – yes I am going to say this! – non-flavored potato chips. Seriously. The nuts are a given, even salted and roasted (as long as you are not allergic, naturally). But the chips? My explanation for this choice is that they are often the least-processed selection and only use three ingredients: potatoes, oil and salt. They wash the potatoes, peel them, slice them, fry them, put on some salt and then package them. You can argue that the oil is not good for you, but at least I know what it is. You can even argue that the sodium is too high, but I’ve done several comparisons to the other available choices, and the chips are always one of the lowest-sodium options. Surprising yet true!

Talk to me: when life hands you a vending machine, what do you choose to eat?