Step 2. Still reducing

As I first mentioned when started this step (i.e. Step 2), it never really finishes. Throughout years we have collected quite a number of items under the umbrella of “necessities” in our lives and getting rid of all these artificial convenience take time and dedication. In some cases it also take lots of patience and perseverance to stick with it and do not get dithered by criticism or hardships.

Other things that we are in the process of reducing are:

1. Shampoos

Shampoos are “necessities” of daily life, aren’t they? Well you do not need to wash your hair every day and in some cases every week. It obviously depend on the type of your hair and there are so many people out there that agree with this. I am in the process of reducing my washes throughout the week. Every week I try to add another day or half day to my non-wash period.

But also you don’t have to use conventional shampoo to get the job done. The way we are all conditioned to using fragrant shampoos with all these exotic aromas and empty promises of growth and smoothness and so on just shows how marketing is a powerful tool that can be misused. There is no way by using a shampoo (that last couple of minutes on your hair at best) you get the silky shine or regrowth that they entail. But we still fall for them.

Anyway, my point being look into alternatives. I can tell you about what I have experienced.:

Soap Nuts are type of berries that contain saponin, a natural detergent. The shell absorbs water and releases the saponins which circulate as a natural surfactant in the wash water, freeing dirt, grime, and oils from clothing. I tried them a while ago and they are quite cost effective. A kilo can give you up to 35 litre of liquid (boil them in water) that can be used as shampoo (you can add essential oil to add the aroma you like), detergent, hand wash and body wash. They don’t make as much foam you are use to with conventional shampoos but do the job


If you want to get best idea about essential oils there is this free e-book that you can enjoy:

 

2. Dry shampoo

I use dry shampoo to longer my non-wash period. Now I make my own but there are lot of options out there many of them organic:

The key to using dry shampoo is to brush your hair few times a day to distribute the oil in the root of your hair to the whole length and then use the dry shampoo powder and brush again to allow the powder absorb the oil in every corner of your head. This is really useful as you don’t fee like you have greasy hair but you still haven’t wash it. So you can go about your life like you normally would.

3. All cleaning agents

I talked about these products in another post, and even though we don’t use whole lot of these kinds of products we still use detergent specially if I am washing reusable nappies as they are quite fussy and I don’t want to ruin their waterproof layer with soap nut detergent or homemade detergents. Also we use dish washer soap as distinguishing is mainly my hubby’s chore and he refuses to use anything that doesn’t foam enough in his opinion (i.e. soap nut liquid). Hence we are in the process of reducing, or convincing at this stage 🙂

4. Toothpaste

So I had problems with conventional toothpaste that have SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) not because they are carcinogen or anything (there is no proof or disproof on this). It’s just they make my mouth really dry, like seriously dry, so I changed to SLS free toothpaste and bought a few of this brand:


My plan is to make my own but before that I will give a go at the tooth cleaning powder that I heard so much about and will let you know how it goes. The reason I am changing from this toothpaste is not that I don’t love it because I do. It is fantastic but it lasts me only a month or month and a half if I really be careful with the amount I put on my brush. Disclaimer, I brush at least twice a day.
So the powder that I am going with is this one, happy to get suggestions if you out there are using something totally amazing:


5. New stuff in general

I am one of those people that can’t wear second hand clothing if I don’t know where it comes from but I have no problem buying new clothing or new stuff in general off of people who do not want them. So I became an avid second hand shopper (gumtreer). In the past year, we haven’t bought anything for the house, mainly kitchenware, that was from store. All came from people that own them, either bought them or receive them as gifts. This guarantees to get what I want as I research them and purposefully look for those items. Hence no sales person can impact my decision. Also I don’t pay the premium in-store price as these items are in the second hand category I can pay a fraction of the price and get a lot of discount if I haggle and the person I am buying from is also good recipient of haggling 😉

I also started making a lot of my own clothing also made couple of dresses for my daughter. This saves a lot of money and I get the material and design that I want. I never pay for the design (or pattern in this case), either make my own quirky pattern or search for free ones on the web.

Step 2. Reduce the size (Continued- part 3)

3. Chips and Dips

Have to admit, this was difficult. I have a confession to make, my name is Sam and I was a chip addict. I had the addiction since I was in school and probably that is what led to many of my gastro problems. These problems were also the trigger to make a change in my diet and get rid of chips altogether. Goes months before I taste another one and now I pace myself, so I don’t get into the trap again. We started making our own hummus and replaced the chip with our trusty home-made bread slightly more toasted than usual. This made a great treat or snack for us and when we have company. Given hummus was my favourite dip anyway, I didn’t miss a thing at all.  As a healthy version of chip, we also considered vegetable and fruit chips but haven’t go for this one yet. I was having my eye on a fruit and vegetable dehydrator, like a one below. I will let you know if we end up getting one, let me know if you like a review of this or the bread maker that we do own and love for over three years.

4. Jam

Making our own jam. Well this one is a hit and miss, not that it is difficult to do, because it’s not. It is easy specially with our trusty bread maker. Oh Yes, it makes jam too 🙂 I told you, I am in love with it:

Right, back to jam. So jam making is easy but I am a sucker for good glass container for free. So when I see jam on sale in cute glass jars, I just get rubbery hands and buy them. I actually estimated the price of buying frozen fruit and sugar and compared it to the same amount of jam in jar from the market and it turned out to be cheaper to buy the jam and I went for it. Actually got four jars. Before you judge me, I utilise the jars for various purposes around the house and in my office. I also use them to give hand-made gifts to others.

Disclaimer: I also add a bit of pectin some time to some jams, but the price per jam is so minimal I didn’t bother mentioning.

 5. Cookies and Cakes

I might have mentioned before that I didn’t baked until I was 26, oh wait no, this was supposed to be my secret 🙁 ok between you and me, I didn’t baked until I got married.

I always wanted to, but never got to do it. So as soon as we moved to our new apartment with my hubby, we baked. It was one of those cake boxes that you buy from supermarket. The mix comes in a bag but you have to add an egg and oil the container. This is to make you feel you are actually doing the baking. This addition of egg was introduced later after few years of selling cake mix in a box after they interviewed bunch of housewives and understood that they felt guilty feeding their family cake mix cakes from a box as they thought they haven’t done enough. So they changed the recipe to eliminate the egg in the mix and ask the user to add it to the mix at the time of baking and include them in the baking process hence increasing their sense of self worth. See the power and brain of marketing.

Anyway, I digressed. So we baked and I liked it and we did this for a year or two. Until I realised, we don’t what exactly goes into this mix except the egg that I have to skilfully add. So I used my trusty cook books and started to bake the easy recipes first. I worked my way to the hard recipes eventually. And now I can follow any recipe that I find on internet. Let me know if you are interested in recipes I use and how I find them.

6. Conditioner

I think this is a girly thing so might not apply to the boys out there. But conditioner was never relevant to me. I only dyed my hair once in my life and I hated it so I never did it again and for that reason my hair didn’t get brittle or dry and I never felt the need for conditioner. So it was easy to eliminate it. This took a while, as I had bought bunch of them in bulk when they were on sale and I had to go through them before never buying again. But after that, we didn’t look back. Let me know if you have to use a conditioner, in that case I share with you a easy and quick recipe for a home made all natural conditioner that will be quite useful based on what I heard from my friends.

7. Toilet paper

This is a sensitive topic for some. Ok, let me tell you why with some cultural background. So again, I am originally Iranian and lived there most of my life. We was ourselves with water from a hose in the bathroom after going number 1 and two. Some families do dry themselves with toilet paper, but it might sock you to know that some don’t even bother. In my family we do bother  🙂

In Colombia on the other hand, like most western countries, they use toilet paper for everything. They difference between Colombia and some other western countries, for instance, Australia, is that after using toilet paper, they put it in bins, not closed bins, in massive wicker baskets that they consider bin. In Australia for example, we trow the used toilet paper down the toilet and never to be seen again.

Ok, now that you know my hubby and I came from culturally diverse background for toilet paper, you might appreciate the challenge that we had and still have in terms of replacing wasteful disposable toilet paper with reusable toilet cloths. I started this when I got pregnant as I was researching about reusable nappies and wipes and it seemed the same concept to me to use reusable toilet cloth. So I started it and by the end of that year I was exclusively using reusable cloths when I went to toilet at home.

My hubby was a different story. The idea of washing yourself with water and wiping yourself dry with a toilet cloth was strange and bizarre and unnecessary to him, still take a lot of encouragement and at the first sign of discomfort goes back.

I wash these cloths in a load of their own with high heat and 15 minutes cycles. Sometimes include reusable period pads that are rinsed or baby wipes or nappies. No complaint there.

I should probably talk to you more on the baby reusable stuff but maybe another time. Sleepy hour for me now.

Don’t forget to comment and maybe recommend the topics you want to read about. Anything zero waste and sustainability is relevant.

Step 2. Reduce the size (Continued)

4. Cleaning products

Being renters, we used to buy all sorts of cleaning products to make sure the place that we are renting is spotless especially when we first moved into a place or when we were leaving one. Cleaning is part of our everyday routine but deep cleaning was never my thing. However, in order to make sure I don’t have a mammoth task of cleaning at a end of our lease I always tried to keep the houses I rented in a as good as new (first moved in) condition. Hence, we used to buy window cleaners to clean the glass and mirror surfaces, oven cleaners for the obvious use, antibacterial wipes and antibacterial liquids to clean kitchen surfaces, shower and toilet cleaners and bunch of other chemicals that I just ceased to remember.

These all meant that not only we are stuffing our lungs with fumes and our bodies with super bugs (this is not clinically proven though), we were emptying our pockets from money and filling the premium space in our apartment, because as you all know apartments in the Melbourne city, especially in north Melbourne where we used to live are small and each square meter that you have free from stuff can help you breath and let the energy to flow (#Feng Shui).

This all back when I used to have a Facebook page[1], so when I was going through my Facebook page, I read a post that my friend had shared with me on uses of vinegar. I started to read the post and realised that there is more to this smelly water looking liquid that I thought before, AKA vinegar. That was an epiphany, I realised not only I can toss all the above mentioned cleaning products and replace them with white vinegar and water cocktail but also I can save tens of dollars month after month.

It took me a while to convert my husband as he was one of those sold to the idea of chemical cleans like no other. Although I have to agree nothing is strong as bleach but you have to decide whether you value your longs and skin more than spotless toilet or not. Plus if you clean surfaces regularly you will never need a strong bleaching action, believe me!

I mixed one part vinegar and five part water to clean surfaces, including but not limited to kitchen bench tops, stove, oven, bathroom surfaces, fridge, toilet and bath plus all mirrors and windows.

You might think, girl your house must reek of vinegar. My response is, HELL NO! The diluted vinegar does not have an overpowering smell and even the slight odour that might be sensed at the time of applying is not distinguishable after couple of minutes. Vinegar water is a perfect solution for almost all cleaning problems in the house. More on other usage of this miracle liquid in my future posts.

5. Microwavable popcorn

I am all up for good old popcorn with my favourite movie but please ditch the microwavable one, save money and packaging and buy a kilo of corns from a bulk store and pop them in a pot on your stove. You’ll thank me for it.

The argument for these microwavable popcorn can be the ease of use and the speed of preparation. But the difference between the price of this type of corn and the bulk one can easily turn the argument on its head.

6.Papers towels/tissues

Some paper towels can be used even multiple times but majority of them are disposed after only one use. In either case, using a simple rag can be your safe haven; you save money and the environment at one go.

You might use paper towels for other purposes, for all those you can utilise a more sustainable solution. For instance, make your own floor wipe with old clothing that are not useful anymore. Or design and sew your own cloth napkins instead of using disposable tissues.

7. Antibacterial Hand wash

Refer to the 6th thing to toss as the same reason applies here. These hand washes are defeating their purposes, causing resistant bacteria living among us and therefore using normal bar soap that can be bought in bulk to reduces packaging and waste is your way to go. In this way you eliminate bottles of hand wash, paying for expensive and often illusive products and still keeping hygienic household.

Another way to eliminate frequent shopping of bottled hand wash is to buy bulk. You can fill your liquid hand wash dispenser with a hand wash you bought in bulk to avoid packing but still have the ease of the use of liquid hand wash.

8. Body wash

I agree that we are increasingly using bunch of corporately produced and marketed chemicals and smear them all over our bodies’ everyday just to get by. These chemicals with their synthetic smells make us feel acceptable in the society and abandoning them seems too outrageous and even frowned upon in some communities. You have grown up believing these products make you clean like no other and nothing else can do the job. WRONG! Your body does not need them. Your body is meant to sweat to get rid of toxins and regulate its temperature. To keep the Body Odour (BO) at bay you only need to keep the bacteria away from your skin surface that feed on your sweat and create the BO. These bacteria are easily washed away with a simple body scrub (wool or cotton one, even the synthetic will do the job). As long as you clean your body with water on a daily basis you will not have BO problem and do not have to use chemical to clean or cover the smell of your body, i.e., with deodorants and so forth.

Take the challenge and go chemical free and give a couple of weeks to your body to adjust to its chemical free life (like a rehab period for your body), and you will save money and time and your sanity next time you shop.

We use bar of soap for as body wash if we feel the need to wash with something more than water and scrub. I also use Bicarb Soda to kill bacteria underarm to avoid BO. They work fine for both of us so far.

9. Antibacterial wipes

Antibacterial wipes can spread superbugs. Disinfectant wipes routinely used in hospitals may actually spread drug-resistant bacteria rather than kill the dangerous infections; most cases are associated with hospitals, nursing homes or other health care facilities. So if these wipes are defeating the sole purpose of their existence, it seems logical to get rid of them. Risking sound like a broken record, I suggest you use diluted vinegar spray and a simple rag to clean your surfaces. Especially surfaces in the kitchen that contact your foods are sensitive places that you don’t want to be covered in super-bugs. Water will clean most of the problems in the kitchen but to make sure all is clean acidity of diluted vinegar will do the job.

[1] I abstain from all social media, more on that in my future post