37. The number that Clerks made famous. Friday was my 37th birthday, and I felt it worthwhile to check in here. So much has shifted since I shared my last post, let alone since I started this blog! I recently finished an accelerated (one year) master’s program in Education and Human Development, so although I have been silent I’ve been busy. I’ve been thinking a lot about race and privilege in education, about my own privilege, and, in turn, how privilege has impacted my choices and values. I’ve been thinking about my perpetual view of voluntary simplicity as a political choice, and reflecting on the role that privilege has played in that. At this point, I am making a deliberate choice to call it voluntary simplicity because, yes, I am privileged enough to choose a different path. However, the saying that got me started thinking about it back when I was in middle school, “Live simply so others may simply live,” still speaks to me. I have renewed my conviction that, though my path may be one crafted from a position of privilege, it is still rooted in activism and minimizing my impact on our quickly changing environment. Voluntary simplicity may not have a direct impact on societal problems, but in choosing to live simply, I have found that I have more time for things that do make a direct impact on other people’s lives. Activism needs space and time for commitment and reflection. This could easily be its own post, and I have every intention that it will be. For now, I continue to educate myself. I am working to stay aware of what’s going around me, and I am continuing to examine my own contributions and what I am bringing to the table. I know that staying silent or opting out is privilege in action. It’s also complicity. So although my focus here will continue to be on simple living, I am speaking up and speaking out in my daily conversations and my social media interactions.
That said, I have made so many changes to my daily life and routines since my daughter was born. Here are a few that have had a big impact on our family and our day to day life.
Cloth Diapers/Elimination Communication
This was the first big decision we made as a family. We got most of our diapers secondhand, found a wash routine that worked for our hard water and washing machine, and we were off. I planned to write a post about our favorite diapers a long time ago, but it was set to be long-winded and I didn’t have the energy. Then I realized that what worked for us changed over time. Over the two years that we cloth diapered, we loved fitted diapers with wool covers (especially for the newborn days and as overnight diapers), prefolds/flats pad folded in any kind of cover (pocket diapers, gDiapers, and GroVia shells included), and GroVia O.N.E.s overnight as she got older. The thing that made the biggest difference for us, though, was that we started a loose form of Elimination Communication at five weeks old. If her diaper was dry when I went to change her, I held her against my body over the toilet. If I knew she needed to poop, I held her over the toilet. And I held her over the toilet first thing when she woke in the morning and from naps. We went through fewer diapers that way, and potty training was a breeze. Eventually she stopped having wet diapers, so we stopped putting them on her.
Before I started grad school, I sold my car and bought a secondhand bike trailer. I bike to work each day, towing my daughter behind me on the days that she goes to school with me. This change has meant that we, as a family, spend less time in the car and less money on fuel. It also ensures that I’m getting a minimum of 45 minutes of cycling in five days per week. Having exercise built into my daily life means I don’t have to think about it or schedule it, but it still gets done. Plus, I love being outside and being on my bike.
This was another big change that I made a year and a half ago. I added in a few Norwex EnivroCloths to our cleaning supplies, and I decided to try out their body cloths for my whole family. This decision, which came with a bigger upfront cost than I was really comfortable with, has saved us a lot of time cleaning and significantly reduced the number of skin care products that my whole family uses.
More recently, I have started researching essential oils. Because I have a two year old, I have been focused on finding oils that can be used safely with young children. Since we started using essential oils for immune support, sleep, and to help ease colds, I haven’t bought any cold medicine for any of us. I don’t know if it’s the essential oils that are doing it as we have made other changes to support our health as well, but I enjoy using them, and I have been happy with the results I’ve noticed within myself.
Plant Based Whole Foods
Also in the health and wellness realm, we have been transitioning over to a plant based whole foods way of eating. None of us is purely vegan, but we rarely eat meat any more, and have cut our consumption of cheese, eggs, sugar, and refined foods significantly.
I didn’t start this one until after we were done diapering, but we recently transitioned over to Dropps dishwasher and laundry detergent. For $4/month, we get enough environmentally friendly laundry packs to take care of our whole household. The price per load decreases if you sign up for a subscription that covers more loads/week, but so far this is working for us quite nicely. I only use one pod per load, whereas with other detergents I often adjust the amount of detergent based on load size. The best part, though, is that they are delivered direct from the company in plastic-free, recyclable packaging. To me, that is makes up for the fact that they are not the cheapest possible option.
These are just a few of the things that have worked well for our evolving family. They have both improved our quality of life and helped us decrease our consumption. What are some changes that have worked for you or your family?