Updated November, 2020
There are many wonderful books and articles out there on the power of minimalism and its effect on your mental health and well-being. Joshua Becker at Becoming Minimalist describes it as “the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it.”
When I first began simplifying my personal care and cleaning products a few years ago, I was merely seeking healthier and cheaper options. But along the way, I discovered that minimising the products I use everyday also dramatically simplified my life and cleared my mind, giving me more room to thrive.
I decided I could no longer live with the city of plastic bottles in my shower, my junk pile of uni-tasking cosmetics, or the cascade of cleaning products littering my kitchen and bathroom. The clutter was overwhelming and suffocating, and made me feel frantic and overstimulated. When I ran out of something, the branded packaging urged me to buy more.
I was caught in a cycle of always acquiring, consuming, and storing…filling an imaginary void.
While I still have a ways to go, paring down my collection of products has given me room to breathe: mentally, physically, spiritually.
While I still have a ways to go, simplifying my personal care has done wonders for my mental health and wellbeing, and made living with bipolar disorder—and life in general—a whole lot easier. Using fewer, simpler, multitasking products with fewer ingredients that I rarely need to buy has freed up my mental energy, giving me more space for my projects and ideas, and a better chance to thrive. As Gretchen Rubin puts it, “outer order contributes to inner calm.”
Some of these products I make myself and are very simple and easy to assemble, but you don’t have to embark on DIY projects unless you want to—simply simplifying to a multitasking product is already a step in the right direction. One could argue that making your own products complicates an already busy life, but I disagree: the homemade products last for ages, use ingredients that are always on hand, and making them is a fun, mindful activity that I look forward to. They also reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals, greatly reduce waste, and save you heaps of money over time.
Here are over thirty products I no longer buy, and six solutions I have replaced them with. These suggestions are by no means the answer for everyone, so think of these as jumping-off points for looking into solutions that work for you:
1. Liquid castile soap (I like Dr. Bronner’s)
Replaced: hand soap, body wash, face wash, all-purpose cleaner, floor cleaner, delicate detergent for hand-washables…(I’ve just scratched the surface: there are dozens of other uses).
This plant-based, biodegradable, highly concentrated soap comes in an array of natural scents, or you can add your own essential oils. Castile soap doesn’t dry out my skin, and I love peppermint for it’s freshness and tingle! For super easy dispensing and ultimate versatility, I add a few tablespoons to a reused foaming soap dispenser and dilute with water. Done!
2. Almond oil (or another all-purpose skin product that works for you.)
Replaced: women’s facial moisturizer, men’s facial moisturizer, eye cream, face serum, body lotion, massage oil, hand cream, foot cream, rash/eczema cream, aftershave balm, makeup remover.
After using a homemade moisturizer for awhile, I switched to an even simpler solution of using sweet almond oil. It replicates our skin’s natural oils and is lightweight, unscented, non-greasy, simple, and very cost-effective. My normal skin is hydrated and dewy, and my spouse’s doesn’t break out. Everyone’s skin needs are different, so you can always start here and look into other similar simple, natural, and cost-effective options.
3. Cut-up recycled cotton t-shirts
Replaced: J cloths, paper towels, disposable facecloths, eye makeup remover pads, cotton balls, cleaning rags, dusting cloths, disposable cleaning wipes.
I reuse old t-shirts by cutting them up into different sized squares to make terrific multi-purpose cloths. They are great for removing eye makeup with a little almond oil. I’ll also dampen a cloth, add a few drops of castile soap, and wipe down the whole bathroom. I even use these gentle cloths for dusting rosin off my cello! The best part? Throw them in the laundry, and reuse! Buy nothing. I store them in a large jar under the bathroom sink for easy access.
4. Homemade deodorant (that actually works!)
Replaced: women’s standard deodorant stick, men’s standard deodorant stick, plus all of the other natural deodorant sticks I’ve tried.
I never found a natural deodorant that worked for me, but I was left with enough half-used different deodorant sticks to play dominoes. After finding this excellent recipe that works—even under stress and in the heat—I am down to one little mason jar that my spouse and I both share, and only have to make a couple times a year.
The application is different from what most of us are used to—like rubbing icing into your underarms—but it’s been effective for us for years now!
5. For those with menstrual cycles, silicone Menstrual Cup or period-proof underwear
Replaced: routine purchases of tampons and liners, or pads
I love the freedom of simply walking past the feminine care aisle at the drugstore. I don’t have to constantly buy supplies that will end up in a landfill, and I save energy and money by not purchasing, storing, and disposing of them. There is a mild learning curve with silicone cups, and period-proof underwear costs a little more, but both options are incredibly simple, effective, and sanitary.
6. Epilator Hair Remover
Replaced: razors, replacement cartridges, shaving cream, time spent on frequent shaving, prickly stubble.
This battery-powered rechargeable device is ingenious. Working as several tweezers at once, you feel it a little, but you are pretty smooth for two weeks. No more wasted time and energy keeping up with stubble! As with everything, it might not be the right option for everyone, but has simplified my personal grooming a great deal.
So there you have it: six solutions that I use to replace over thirty products. These small changes really add up, bringing inner calm in a big way and given me more room to thrive. What have you done to minimise product clutter in your life?
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