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Five Ways to Simplify in the New Year

Image: Min An

I don’t know about you, but the idea of making life simpler – in every way – and having less of an impact on the environment is a really tantalizing idea. Whether we innovate inside our own homes, take tips and tricks from the experts, or scour the internet for lists like these that can actually apply to our lives – there are a wide variety of ways that we can each do this. Here’s how our family will be simplifying in the new year.

Reusables

Reusable steel plates and utensils from ECOlunchbox. Image: Sandra Harris

We’re rethinking how we do food storage in our house in 2024. Baggies are some of the most versatile and easiest things to use. They can save you money (individually packaged servings of things can be far more expensive than the big bag) and allow a bit of portion control. But they create just as much waste, and plastic waste at that, as spending the extra money on the smaller bag of snacks. Instead of buying baggies and tossing them after they have been used, look in that same aisle for a reusable option. A small container, or set of containers, with a lid. Granted, still plastic, but reusable for a long time. We also send the boys’ lunches in a reusable lunch box and their water in a stainless steel bottle. Granted, you’re creating a few more dishes to wash, but trading a bit of time for less waste is a good trade. 

Utilize

Utilizing specialty items is always tempting. That appliance that helps you create the perfect coffee drink instead of regular coffee, or the fancy air fryer in addition to the regular air fryer; who doesn’t want to create like a pro. I’ll be honest, I love these kinds of things: a pizza oven, a waffle maker, a specific cleaning tool. My wife, on the other hand, cannot stand the specialty use item. She would rather utilize something else to accomplish the same task. No special crepe pan needed, no popcorn-popper to take up space in the cupboard or on the counter, no special tool, “for this one project” that doesn’t get used again. Finding ways to use what you already have not only saves money and space, it keeps “things” from piling up around your living space.

Declutter

This is absolutely related to utilizing what you currently have, and probably won’t surprise you to read that it is also one of my wife’s favorite activities. How many things do we keep in our living spaces that are minimally used, either currently or historically. Making the rounds of your home and asking if things are still worth hanging onto is a great exercise. And when the determination is no, ask a follow-up: Can this have a life for someone else? A direct gift to a friend or family member, a donation to the local second-hand store, or even just out at the end of the driveway (we’ve had lots of things disappear to a good home from the end of the drive). 

Bundle

No, this isn’t a popular insurance commercial! Although bundling, whether financially or logistically often, saves resources and time. Making lists and planning your route can help you spend less time in the car and make fewer trips. Driving to the store for that one item is sometimes necessary, but more often than not, with just a little planning, you can cut down on drive time and your overall errand time.

Unplug

Image: Jeff Ashton 

We are almost always connected. Taking a break from social media, and technology more broadly can help lower stress levels. Instead of getting on a screen (and yes, this article is on a screen and you can absolutely close this out and go outside if you want… when you finish reading) take a walk or read a book. Have a conversation with a friend or a family member about something important, or unimportant. As you take a break from screens, look around and see what might be using energy that doesn’t need to. It may be as simple as remembering to turn off some lights when you leave a room. Or maybe it could be replacing some plug lights with solar powered lights. Perhaps invest in rechargeable batteries for those things that seem to go through them quickly (our trail camera in the yard has only been usable because we recharge the batteries).

What other ways can you think of to simplify and care for the environment?

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