Living in Georgia has been really enlightening regarding minimalist living and being more in touch with nature.
I’m highly conscious of my body and what I put in and on it, as well as learning to read signs of anxiousness and stress before it becomes a problem. I think a lot of this is to do with simplifying everything. Learning to understand the importance of space and comfort as well as knowing how to refresh and realign perspective when everything seems a bit overwhelming.
As Morris says, “If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
Maybe it’s the time of year, seasons change and preparation for mental hibernation begins. The weather forces us to spend more time alone and inside and to face our thoughts. My autumn cleanse starts with my physical surroundings. Everything should be spacious, clean and comforting if there’s any chance of my brain feeling the same.
As I’m preparing to move to Berlin very soon, I’m quite conscious of bringing my newly-learnt skills and mentality with me to a more developed, bigger city in the hope of maintaining this holistic, Thoreau-esque thing I’ve got going on.
So here’s a list of various habits I’ve developed which not only save me money but also ensure that I’m surrounded by a relaxing and healthy environment.
• Wear extra layers when it’s cold! Do the environment (and your electric bill) a favour and resist putting the heating on until it’s truly unbearable.
• Heavy curtains and double-glazing for extra insulation. I grew up with beautiful burgandy, velvet curtains in my living room and, since replacing them, the difference in heat and light is insane. Maybe a thought if double-glazing and carpets are a bit pricey.
• Another heating trick is to prop a large clay plant pot upside down on two bricks with a single tea candle lit underneath and, in a few hours, it will heat your house just as well as any radiator!
• Only do your washing when it’s a full load and try not to have the temperature too high. Again, money-saving and environmentally friendly!
• Don’t leave lights on or water running when not being used, another obvious one but it’s easy to forget the impact it can make.
• Get a rug for extra warmth and comfort!
• Clear out any clothes you haven’t worn in the last 6 months. Charity shops and even online sales sites are perfect and so easy to use. You’ll be surprised how much space it will free up too.
• Use everything until it’s completely empty, swirl water around seemingly-empty shampoo bottles and squeeze the toothpaste dry… These products can be pretty pricey, so why not get your money’s worth?
• Search for secondhand furniture online and in charity shops – maybe more timely but you can find amazing deals!
• Use natural oils as replacement for skin and hair care. I use avocado oil on my face and hair daily and it costs significantly less than most moisturisers and skin creams, only it’s found in the food section of big supermarkets (and even cheaper online).
Avocado oil is especially effective as it has the raw ingredients that promote better skin and hair that you would find in expensive creams, but without the price tag and chemicals. Plus, if you get hungry you can get the benefits from cooking with it too. The same goes for coconut oil and nut oils but I find avocado oil the most usable at the moment!
• Minimal or no heat styling on your hair. Again, good for your bills and the environment but also the condition of your hair. I used to straighten my curls out obsessively (to little avail) and thankfully stopped as I grew to like my natural curls and could see the condition improving drastically. That, and it freed-up time, which (if you have) I recommend allowing your hair to air-dry instead of blow drying for the same reasons.
• Let your skin breathe and take breaks from wearing makeup, or gradually try and wear less and less.
• Drink obscene amounts of water. I drink 1l when I wake up every morning, before even getting out of bed. I can feel how much energy this brings straight away. Then I usually keep a bottle with me throughout the day which I refill maybe three times? So I usually drink atleast 3l per day and can notice the difference when I don’t!
• Do body weight exercises instead of paying for a gym. If the thought of spending money and being stared at by strange, sweaty people isn’t your idea of fun then I highly recommend exercising at home. I have no space, so have searched for many different ways to exercise at home using just my weight as resistance.
There’s so much on YouTube and it’s all about finding what’s interesting for you. I tend to mix it up a bit, but always try to include some yoga and HIIT. At the moment, I’m doing Yoga with Adriene’s 30 Day Yoga Challenge as well as some of Lucy Wyndham-Read’s HIIT workouts. You may find a way to multitask as you progress with it too!
• Always keep staples in your house. I’m talking rice, potato, oats, pasta or even more exotic things like buckwheat and quinoa. I guarantee you can make quick dishes from all of them if you need to think of something last minute.
• Shop at markets. Bazaars are really popular in Georgia and can be a bit exhausting but even in London you can find a few markets and haggle down the prices. I once got about 30 kiwis for £2 which I just froze for smoothies since they were quite ripe. Amazing!
• Make food up in batches for quick meals throughout the week. Soups are especially good for this and when you need to use up a lot of old ingredients quickly.
• Resist buying meat so often (or at all). It’s usually the most expensive part of a meal and isn’t the best for your health or the environment so try and cut down to once a week for white meats and once a month for reds, if you can’t cut it out completely!
• When you’re out at restaurants, try and choose the cheaper, healthier options. If you love going out for food like I do, just try and choose baked potato instead of fried for example. You don’t have to miss out!
• Share a pot of tea or dessert instead of two separate ones. It’ll bring you closer with who you’re sharing with too.
• One major thing I’ve learnt from Georgia – grow your own veg and herbs! Or atleast shop locally and seasonally, the difference in taste and quality is incredible.
• Don’t be afraid of leftovers! I’ve always been taught to never waste food, I usually just have it the next day for lunch and the flavours are even better!
• Doggy bags. Leaving good food behind to be thrown in the bin is never cool.
• Make shopping lists in advance and stick to them! It’s better that you go in knowing what you need for the week and it will make budgeting easier too.
• Never shop hungry. Go after lunch or dinner or something. I learnt this the hard way one evening in London when I ended up with two packs of cookies for dinner…
• Shop just before closing time. I worked in M&S for a while and usually about 30 minutes before closing they’d sell the food for pennies just to sell it instead of throwing it out. Most big supermarkets in the UK do this, no harm in asking your local either!
• Only carry what you need. This saves on heavy Scoliosis-inducing bags and forces you to be organised with your schedule the night before.
• Take packed lunch. Maybe it’s not a cool option (wasn’t when I was at school anyway) but you’ll be the one laughing when you have a slice of birthday cake and the others are stuck with a dollop of jelly.
• If you can do something within 10 minutes, do it immediately.
• Make a schedule! This is especially good for lessons and homework and even more so when you reach university level.
• Don’t underestimate list-making. I spent more time making lists than I did doing the actual work. It’s really good to visualise and organise your thoughts and a nice reassurance that you won’t forget something. Plus, who can deny the satisfaction of crossing things off!
• Use a pen and paper. I don’t know about you, but when I need to think creatively I have to use a pen and paper. My thoughts are more organic and the movement and process is much more relaxing.
• Take a break from screens. If you’ve got a lot to focus on, try not to be around screens a few hours before bed. You’ll sleep better too.
• Sleep more. Get an early night and don’t feel guilty about it.
• Make a reward system for when you reach mini-goals within your work. If I’m writing an essay, I break everything down into sections (usually no more than 300 words) and reward myself with a few cookies or a dance around the living room.
• Bullet points.
• Online materials. Of course you should resist from relying on the internet for everything, but there are some really useful tricks. I like to use Google Books and search for key words and read the books through preview pages. That’s really good for bibliographies. Also, Google Scholar modifies search results to only list from credited, academic sources.
• Another online trick is audiobooks played at a slightly faster tempo. You can find amazing free audiobooks out there, especially classics which you’ll most likely have to read for school or uni. Audiobooks are particularly good for multitasking as well!
• YouTube channels like The School of Life. I’m addicted to these, they’re really great for introductions to theories and people and are a good source of food for thought. Be sure to check the source though, I trust these because Alain is behind it but you should find many similar when you step into that particular internet bubble.
That’s all I can think of for now and will update if I get any more ideas. If you have any tips that work well for you then please share and I’ll update and credit you too. Enjoy!