Intention, Not Perfection

Well, first news is  we’re “normal”.

annie-spratt-89768

I’ll qualify that. I’ve been struggling with how to describe our lifestyle to others, and eventually I’ve realised the obvious. We’re normal. Our lifestyle is normal for us. And, just as in every other aspect of our lives, everyone has a different idea of what that means. We constantly compare ourselves to others, which can be quite unhealthy and unhelpful. Whether its jobs, homes, holidays or the behaviour of our little ones, it seems we can always find a way to shame others or feel bad about ourselves. But I’m not into shaming, I don’t buy into the idea that my life is “better ” or worse than anyone else and that means I’m giving myself  (and you)  permission to stop the guilt and the anxiety.

I’ve been fretting about all that plastic in my waste bins (the recyclable and the non-recyclable). I feel really guilty that I’m deliberately buying stuff that will never go “away”. It’s become something of an obsession. I can’t stop myself reading and googling about the truth behind plastic’s short term convenience over long term harm to people and the planet. Someone recommended I read Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson; she wrote a blog and now promotes her book and her lifestyle all over the world. It’s a great read, plenty of food for thought and her commitment to not bringing potential waste into her home and a refusal to throw stuff “away” is admirable. I’ve also been recommended that we go “plastic free” or “waste free”, in fact any number of lifestyle choices have been presented to me which involved, refusing, giving up and going without.

But is it achievable for me and the Mr? I don’t think so. The whole concept, of “giving up” and going without just doesn’t sit comfortably with me. I’m not a “giving up” kind of person. As a Catholic child I rebelled against Lent, choosing positive actions over weeks of self-denial. I could never give up chocolate, but I would promise to make my bed every day instead. Bea Johnson’s approach is to rethink those 3R’s we’re so familiar with (reduce, reuse recycle) and instead she advocates a 5 R’s approach. The first of which is “Refuse”.  She says we should all learn to say “No thanks”, more often. I take her point, but I prefer to reduce. Choosing to take a cotton tote bag shopping, using a washable cup for take away coffee and carrying my own water bottle I’m already choosing to refuse disposables. I think my approach is more positive. It allows for the inevitable “blips”, those trips when you just aren’t prepared. I also think that the concept of refusing is quite negative. At one point Bea Johnson talks about asking her boys to refuse candy when out trick or treating so they don’t bring waste into the house. That’s a big ask for a small boy – I’m not sure Mr T would give up his packets of crisps and chocolate bars so easily! I’m uneasy with the idea of any philosophy that invites failure. That’s why diets don’t work for me. I beat myself up every time I “fail”.

Mr T and I live an intentionally simple life, but we certainly have acquired a lot of stuff we don’t need.  I was mulling over this concept of reducing versus refusing when I opened the drawer of my dressing table. The one where I keep my beauty essentials along with all those freebies and samples that seems to accumulate almost without thought.  I like to think I buy natural beauty products, avoiding products that have been tested on animal, but  I’m wary of  companies that boast about their eco credentials. You’d think those claims would mean the packaging was easier to dispose of or recycle. However, even the organic hair serum I paid an arm and a leg for turns out to be packaged in a non-recyclable pump dispenser (and annoyingly, I can’t see how it can easily be taken apart when I get near the bottom. So unless I attack the packaging with a bread knife I’ll lose the last inch of product). And what about all those tiny sample pots and single use sachets? It always feels great to snag a freebie at the makeup counter or to be given a free sample. But my dressing table drawer is full of unopened tubes and sachets I’ll never use. Those trial sizes that come free on magazine covers or with a full size purchase always seem so exciting, but judging by my dressing table, they soon lose their appeal.  In an effort to make my morning and evening routines less complicated I’m going to think more carefully before I accept those freebies in the future. Not just because their plastic packaging can’t be recycled and won’t break down in landfill, but because accumulating stuff for the sake of it is making me uneasy. I intend to bring less free samples into the house, but I’m not going to beat myself up when the occasional trial size finds its way into my home.

I used to make my own hand salve and lip balm, and so I’m going to find that recipe and start making my own again (I have lots of tiny pots and containers thanks to all those beauty freebies). That will stop the flow of empty hand cream tubes and lip salve tubs that fill my bedroom waste basket. It’s going to be hard to stop myself asking for “nice hand cream” at Christmas – but if I intend to make more and buy less, then I won’t need any – and less trips to the beauty counter means less opportunity to dither over a free sample!

Over the next few weeks I’m going to be asking myself some hard questions and searching for answers as I figure out how I can simplify my life and lift this feeling of unease that’s affecting me so much right now.  So, if you’ve got an eco-worry; a recycling dilemma or just want to know more about living with less; just ask. I can’t promise to know the answer, but we can find out together and help each other.

I’m not going to admonish myself when my Lupus means accepting a supermarket delivery filled with fruit and veg in non-recyclable packaging. But’ I intend to plan and prepare better so those emergency deliveries aren’t needed as often by stocking my freezer. Life is about intention, not perfection.

Photo credit: Annie Spratt for Unsplash

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2 Comments

  1. There’s lots to think about here. As someone using plastic medical bags (just think about wee!) and tubing, I do worry about the disposal. Locally, it is collected by the Council and incinerated. Is this a good solution, Tracey?
    I love the little pots and sachets conundrum, as the “nice lady” at the M&S Beauty counter bestowed me with just such a collection last week. It hadn’t occurred to me that they are a blight to the Earth but, yes, of course they will be, forever. Plus, how long is the biodegradable process and is Liz E***e being as honest about her range as she claims? The product might be eco-friendly but the pots and tubes are quite sturdy.

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  2. Tracey

     /  May 16, 2017

    Hi Shirley, all good questions. I also have a bin filled with “disposable” wrappers, sachets and “gubbins” from prescriptions and there doesn’t seem to be any way of disposing of them except through the medical waste scheme (I do know that empty inhalers returned to chemists can be recycled). I think we need to start asking big questions of all retailers, as for LE; I don’t know – maybe we should ask????

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  • I’m Tracey Todhunter. I’m a freelance writer. specialising in green / ethical living – with a “sideline” in craft!

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  • Borage. I'll be freezing these flowers in ice cube trays for adding to summer Pimms & gin. 
The leaves make a fabulous "tea" to feed tomatoes (mix in a bucket of water with a handful of nettles), it doesn't smell as bad as comfrey feed and much cheaper / greener than the stuff you buy in garden centres!!
#girlgardener #edibleflowers #slowliving #foraging #permaculture #countrywisdom #mygardenrightnow Throwback . Taken on a visit to Chatsworth House in Derbyshire a couple of weeks ago. Can you read that  card? A valet to whiten your converse! Brought back memories of  whitening my Dunlop green flash in the 70's!!!
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Just mash a banana with a tablespoon of cashew nut butter, mix in a beaten egg and drop spoonfuls onto a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper. Bake at gas mark 6 for about 15 - 20 minutes (until they are brown on top & firm underneath). Serves 1 generous portion!
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