Low Impact Life

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Category: Low Impact Life (Page 1 of 8)

How I became a frugal weirdo

Reading a post on the Frugalwoods blog about being a frugal weirdo and loving it made me reflect on my own path and how I ended up where I am today: a frugal weirdo and proud! (spoiler: it’s very linked with being an environmentalist)

Let’s start off with the statement I’ve never been one of the “cool” girls in school. As a child I spent most my weekends on a boat in the archipelago exploring islands, playing games with my family, reading books and writing my own stories (still a dream of mine to actually finish one). I am pretty nerdy when it comes to books (don’t get me started on Harry Potter!) and have always had a strong passion for nature and animals. Being outside wether it was sailing, hiking, swimming, canoeing, skiing, skating or just playing outdoors was a natural part of my childhood. When I was little I first wanted to be a wildlife photographer and then a vet (until I realized that I have a problem dealing with blood and injured animals…). When the vet dream died I got into environmental science and the huge challenges that we as humans face today (read more here). I wrote my 9th grade project about the problem with too much nitrogen in the Baltic sea that is disturbing the ecological balance.

one cool sailor right there 😉

From there on my passion for the environment grew although I made few changes to my life at this stage (I was 16 and trying to fit in and going shopping after school was a common activity with friends). After high school I worked at a kindergarten for 6 months to save money to study one semester abroad in California. This period was marked by me being extremely frugal and having the mindset that “either I buy this now or I do something cool in California” which made me put down whatever I was going to buy. Worth mentioning is that although I have been quite a shopaholic I have always had the frugal bug. I think it has to do with me not having an extra job when studying until I was 22 which lead to me having to save and make my monthly allowance stretch very far (I must add that I had the privilege of help from my parents although I never took it for granted that I would get money from them).

Hiking in Yosemite National Park

When I was living in California I studied environmental science among other courses, all natural science focused, so my interest continued and I spent a lot of time hiking, skiing and being outdoors (the California climate makes that a bit easier than in Sweden). I watched the documentary Food, Inc and after that I became a vegetarian mostly beacuse of the horrendous situation of the industrialized production of meat.

Having to explain again and again why you don’t eat meat and bring your own food to dinners with people having to deal with depressing discussions with me about the future of the earth was definately the start to me inhabiting the weirdo box. Before this stage I had kept a lot to myself but getting more and more worried about the state of the earth I couldn’t just keep going on like it wasn’t happening.

I studied environmental science at Lund University and though my class all understood the no eating meat (I think half the class were vegetarians) and the environmental problems were old news to them everyone else I hung out with definately though that me and my friends from my class were slightly weird. I kept being frugal during my university years (most people are!) and worked with babysitting children and walking dogs for some extra money. I didn’t take out the full loan that is offered to Swedish students through the government but I have some debt to pay back. I am glad that I did take my loan so I didn’t have to work like crazy while studying (studying in Sweden is quite different compared to other countries – tuition is free, we get money every month from the government, the student loans have really low interest rates).

Graduation from Lund University

When I moved back to Stockholm at 24 I lived with my mum for a year first to write my thesis and then because I didn’t have a permanent contract at my job I couldn’t rent an apartment. This was also a frugal period since I didn’t know if I would have a job the month after and I lived at home. Although I didn’t actively track my money so a fair amount was still went to different purchases like food out, things, travel and so on.

When I started the blog about 1,5 years ago I started properly owning and loving being a weirdo. Before that I had kind of been trying to hide my weirdness (and failing) and trying to fit in somewhat. I wasn’t being true to myself and the knowledge that I was carrying about how we are treating the planet that we live on and especially how I was contributing to it. Because of that I was feeling quite a bit of despair, guilt and sorrow. Now that I am alined with my values of a Low Impact Life and a frugal lifestyle which have lead to a lot of changes in my life I feel lighter and more at peace with myself. What is even more awesome is that Mr LIL and I share the same values. He is also a frugal person that is worried about the planet. With the support of each other we are taking frugality/LIL to the next step in 2018.

The complete transformation of my bathroom cabinet

I think the bathroom cabinet is where I have come the furthest on my Low Impact/zero waste/minimalist journey and it was where I started. I think it is quite a transformation which I am so happy about! I now have full control of what goes on my skin and have reduced the environmental impact of my bathroom cabinet substantially! So what have I done?

My starting point wasn’t too bad but I had a lot of products that I “might use sometime” in another cabinet. I counted in my post here (Swedish) how many products I used frequently and the result of 20 different products suprised me since I thought I was quite minimalistic. Here they are:

Tooth paste, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, dry shampoo, deodorant, shaving cream, face wash, face cream, make up remover, hand lotion, soap, body lotion, lip balm, perfume, mascara, eye shadow, eyeliner, powder and rouge. 

If you also add less frequently used products such as sun screen, nail polish, nail polish remover, hair mask, bronzing powder, concealer, lipstick, night cream, face mask, hair oil and detangler spray I used a total of 31 products! Here are the steps that I have taken:

  1. I immediately threw out the product that had harmful ingredients (see list of chemicals to avoid in my post here).
  2. When researching potentially dangerous chemicals in beauty products I realized that 1. the industry controls itself when it comes to ingredients used and 2. that there are no regulations on labeling. I decided that the easiest way to take control and not having to stay updated on what chamicals to avoid was to make my own products or get as natural and organic products that I can find.
  3. I bought certified organic products like face cream, mascara, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and tooth paste without fluoride.
  4. I replace products with sustainable alternatives: I bought an alun stone for deodorant, natural sponge instead of tampons, a metal saftey razor, bamboo toothbrush, boar bristle wooden brush, glass nail file and reusable fabric cotton pads.
  5. Then along came coconut oil! I use it for washing my face, shaving my legs and as a hair mask together with almond oil.
  6. I also make my own face mask from bentonite clay and active charcoal and my own face cream. I use corn starch as dry schampoo.
  7. I’ve pretty much stopped using all make up except for mascara. Both because I want to let my skin breathe and that it is very hard to find organic make up that isn’t very expensive. So I’ve just gotten used to not wearing make up. I have also stopped using perfume.

So this is what my bathroom cabinet looks like now:

So the products I use now are:

tooth paste, schampoo, conditioner, shower gel, body lotion, mascara, coconut oil, corn starch, bentonite clay, active charcoal, almond oil, beeswax and aloe vera. 

Total: 13 products and quite a different list than the first one since most of them are edible. I still use make up occasionally as I mentioned above and still own nail polish though I haven’t used it in a very long time (and will probably throw them out soon). So what do I have left to do?

As soon as my body lotion is used up I will go over to using my DIY face cream for my body too. When I’ve used up my schampoo I’m going to try a schampoo bar so that I don’t have to buy plastic containers. I will try to find almond oil in a glass jar when my current one runs out. I still use my plastic razor since I wanted to use up the disposable heads (I’m on my last one now) so I will have to learn how to use the metal safety razor soon. But other than that I think that I have done everything that I set out to do. It feels very empowering to have taken control of chemical intake on at least one area. Since I’ve eliminated a lot of products and I’m making most of my other ones it is also in line with my frugality resolutions.

Taking control over my consumer impulses

Me and Mr LIL decided that because of environmental and minimalistic (and that we actually don’t need anything) reasons to skip physical presents this year  and instead asking for activity based presents. Although I have obviously gotten fewer and fewer presents over the years (last year my top present was a cast iron pot and frying pan) this year is the first year we have actively told people that we don’t want physical things. It feels really good to be alined with our values but I can still feel a twinge of my old self hanging around wanting to unwrap presents and feeling the excitement of getting new stuff.

It’s the same twinge that rears it’s head when walking by shops telling me that “I just want to see if I find something” or wanting to buy things as soon as I think of a need. Since I am on my year of not buying anything new I have taken time to actually register and stop my impluses concerning wanting and buying stuff. It is really hard at times, just last night was a great example. I have been checking second hand sites for a pair of ski poles lately but haven’t found any yet. The feeling of wanting to get them NOW overpowered me so I started looking at online stores and found some nice and cheap ski poles. I even got to the order button before my logical brain kicked in and closed down the web page. It is crazy how strong the feeling of wanting to buy new stuff is and it is for precise this reason that this year of not buying anything is so valuable. I need to learn how to be in more control of what I buy and not just following my desires in the heat of the moment. Going back again to Navy SEAL Jocko Willinck’s quote:

By buying things I don’t really need I’m taking myself away from my long term goals which are so much more important to me than for example new ski poles. This year I will have to exercise my willpower and discipline but I hope that by the end of the year I will be stronger for it. That’s why getting no physical presents is also an excercise of discipline, registering that the want of new things is there but then learning to redirect my focus to my values instead and feeling content with what I have. Like going off sugar, it really sucks in the beginning and takes a lot of mental willpower and hard work but then you get used to the new normal and don’t think about it anymore. That’s where I want to be, having new mental pathways programmed so that my first instinct isn’t to buy something.

DIY face cream

Since I want to make more of my own natural beauty products I tried making my own face cream. I found a recipe on Pinterest that I wanted to try out, although I didn’t have enough aloe vera and used almond oil instead of jojoba oil so I didn’t follow it completely. You can check out the real recipe and amounts on The Prairie Homestead. Mine turned out sightly oiliy (which could be that I didn’t use the right amount of aleo vera) but it still sunk in to my skin after a bit and made it really soft so I consider it a success! If you keep it in the fridge it will last for around 4 months. Before I was buying organic face cream that was quite expensive so making my own will both save me money and give me the satisfaction of knowing exactly what I put on my skin.

The ingredients I used: coconut oil, almond oil, bees wax and aloe vera

the finished product!

Minimalist living

I read a book on minimalism I borrowed from the library called Prylbanta. It is written by a couple who’s blog I follow (Swedish): Minimalisterna. It was good but more written to people that want to start their journey towards minimalism. There wasn’t really any new content for me personally since I’ve already done a deep dive into minimalism earlier but it served as a reminder and revival of my minimalist thoughts.

What resonated most for me from the book was the part where they describe the fact that we have so many things to have our other things in. That it is quite crazy to go out and buy more stuff so that you can organize your existing stuff instead of evaluating if you really need all the things to start with. A lot of your living space is dedicated to things that hold other things, i.e. closets, dressers, sideboards, kitchen cabinets and drawers, bathroom cabinets, tv benches, cleaning cupboards, books shelves, hallway shelves, display cabinets, cellars, attics an so much more. The purpose of most furniture sold is to hold other things. How much of your living space is actually a passive storage space for your stuff? How much do you pay for this passive use of space? You can calculate this by roughly adding the space that your larger storage systems take together and then either looking at how much you pay per month for that space if you are renting or how much you payed for that space when you bought it. It gives the perspective that the cost for our stuff isn’t just tied to the purchasing price but also the space to store them. By minimizing our stuff we reduce the need for storage systems, which in turn reduces the need of living space, which in the end reduces one of the most costly expenses that we have in our lives: our living space.

Christmas time craziness

Christmas is approaching fast and with it extreme consumerism, stress, overeating and never ending Christmas songs everywhere that slowly turn you crazy… Buying so much stuff in the form of decorations and presents for just one holiday is quite insane in my eyes. Also just the fact that all presents are wrapped in wrapping paper that is used once, torn apart and then discarded is so unbelievably wasteful. Instead of being a relaxed holiday to spend time with your family and eat good food the stress of Christmas shopping, “having to get everything ready” and the gift giving part is taking over. And then come the sales between Christmas and New Years which draw you into buying even more stuff!

This Christmas I want to move away completely from the concept of showing love and affection through buying things. Me and Mr LIL have decided that we are skipping all physical presents. Making sure people close to us know is of course vital for this to work so I have told my family members that I would rather have experiences which is more fun than things anyways! Letting go of the concept of giving physical gifts is quite hard since the norm is to give physical gifts for all occasions like birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries, dinners, valentines day and so on. I think that especially Mr LIL had a hard time wrapping his head around that I REALLY don’t want anything (not just that I say I don’t want anything and then secretly expect him to buy me something).

Except for Christmas I also have my birthday coming up (I turn 27 on the 27th of December) and our three year anniversary is tomorrow so this season really could be presents galore so it feels very good to take a step back from all that.  Me and Mr. LIL are going to Centralbadet, a relax pool and spa, and having dinner there (one of our exceptions to the no eating out resolution 🙂 ) instead of giving each other something for our anniversary.

Why second hand rocks

I got into buying things second hand to minimize my impact on the planet.  Buying brand new stuff really isn’t necessary in a world where so much stuff has already been produced and it is such a waste of the earth’s resources! What I wasn’t thinking of then is the side effect of it also being much cheaper! It really is a win-win situation! Since what you are looking for might not be available straight away it also gives the added benefit of really having to evaluate if you need X or if it was just an impulsive urge. You fall into the instant gratification trap so easily today since you practically can decide you want something, buy it within seconds and get it the next day. Having to wait for the right item to show up gives you time to think. I really like the 72 hour rule in this Frugalwoods post my foolproof method to stop impulse spending.  To wait 72 hours before buying something makes you see your need (which most times is just an unnecessary want) in a clearer light. Maybe you already have something at home that can fill the need? Can you borrow it from someone? or can you buy it second hand? Here are some examples what I have bought second hand over the years:

  • furniture – sofa, chairs, lamps, table, side board, wardrobe and so on
  • clothes – pants, tops, jacket
  • shoes – running shoes, rain boots
  • things – puzzles, school books, decorations, utensils, plates
  • electronics – iPad, mobile phone, camera

Great camera for around a third of the price

Bea Johnson and zero waste home

Last night me and Mr LIL went to listen to Bea Johnson who had come to Stockholm to give a talk about how she and her family live a zero waste life (you can read her blog here). She is one of my LIL heroes so it was really fun and interesting to hear her talk in real life.

Both me and Mr LIL got renewed inspiration to keep pushing towards minimizing our trash. Many of the things that I go through concerning things and swapping for reusable items in my Low Impact Life guide come from her book Zero waste home. It was fun that Mr LIL recognized many of the things/concepts that she was talking about because I have implemented them in our home. So now we’re going to push a bit further.

Next on the list is taking up arms with the never ending flow of leaflets/papers/magazines that come through our letterbox eventhough we have two clear signs that we don’t want advertisements… Also to make sure all our bills come electronically to our banks and not it the mail (this also saves money since you pay an extra fee for the paper bill).


Success factors for choosing to bike

I’ve noticed that there are a couple of things that I do that sets me up so that taking the bike doesn’t feel like too much of a hassle.

  • Electric bike. I have an electric bike that makes biking so much more enjoyable for me (since I don’t see it as exercise but transport)
  • Know where you’re going. If biking somewhere new always consult a map so you know how to get there, if you have a map with bike lanes even better
  • Dress for success. Since I live in Sweden dressing for the weather is crutial and also having clothes for all weather is important. Check the weather report and dress accordingly. For rain I have rain pants, rain jacket and rain boots. In winter I have ski pants, winter boots, winter jacket and proper gloves so that I don’t freeze.
  • Have the right equipment. Since Sweden is dark for most of the autumn/winter months proper lighting is needed to see and be seen. Also I wear a helmet, use winter tires along with a reflective vest for safety reasons. Also having a proper lock takes away the worry of your bike getting stolen.
  • Other tips. I also make sure to bring a small towel to dry the handles and saddle when it’s been raining. If it’s raining I also bring my mascara and quickly put it on when I arrive at the office so it doesn’t get smudged. I’ve also left work shoes at the office to switch to when I come in with rain/winter boots.

Frugality and financial independence

At this point I’ve come about half way through the first frugal month of my happiness project. I’ve spent lots of time reading about and listening to information about frugal living through books, blogs and podcasts. What I noticed is that frugality is closely related to the term financial independence (FI). This is because usually the answer to why people are frugal is connected to the long term goal of financial independence. I find the idea very interesting.

So what is financial independence?

To sum it up financial independence is about having enough income from your assets to cover your expenses so that you never have to work again. The having part is very important because it doesn’t equal that you never will work again it just says that you can choose to do whatever you want without needing the income to support you.

You don’t need to have or earn outrageous amounts of money to be able to reach financial independence. It’s rather figuring out what your yearly expenses are and then working out how much you need to become financially independent. This is usually based on the 4% rule. Mr Money Mustache has great posts on the math of early retirement here and the 4 % rule here. After figuring out how much you need – start paying off any loans and saving (usually in index funds).

What is your goal?

Why do you want to reach FI? Having a clear goal to guide you through the process of getting to FI is essential otherwise it will just feel like a sacrifice and misery. The people from the blogs below have goals like buying a homestead in the woods (they retired at the age of 32), being able to retire when their son was born (at 30) and moving to a cabin at a ski resort (age of retirement 37). You need to figure out what your dream is. What would you do if you didn’t have to work? Travel the world, move to the woods/the beach/the mountains, volunteer, be stay at home parents, start your own company or just work with something that you want without being dependent on the pay?

This is where frugality comes in

To be able to save a large percent of your income (we’re talking more than 60% usually) what naturally follows is figuring out what expenses you can eliminate/reduce and still feel like you have enough. Frugality is about finding the balance of not too much and not to little, the “just right” line.

Is buying coffee on your way to work really worth setting back your goal? (30kr x 5 days = 150 kr per week. Which is 600kr per month. 7200kr per year). Start thinking of money as life energy, because that is what it is, and figure out what is worth spending your life energy on. Focus on what you actually need not on what our materialistic society says that you need.

Here are some resources to learn more and get inspired to start thinking what do you want to do with your limited time in earth (in order of discovery):

Taking a walk in nature with Mr LIL and the LIL wolf makes me far happier than buying something


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