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 I was merely seeking healthier and cheaper options. But along the way I discovered that minimising the products I use everyday also dramatically cleared my mind.
I decided I could no longer live with the city of plastic bottles in my shower, my junkpile of uni-tasking cosmetics, or the cascade of cleaning products littering my kitchen and bathroom. The clutter was overwhelming, and made me feel frantic and overstimulated. When I ran out of something, the branded packaging urged me to buy more.
I was always acquiring, 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.
Simplifying my personal care has made living with bipolar disorder, and life in general, a whole lot easier. Using fewer products, with fewer ingredients, that I rarely need to buy has freed up my mental energy, giving me a better chance to thrive. As Gretchen Rubin puts it, “outer order contributes to inner calm.”
Some of these products I make myself, but simply targeting the above criteria is a step in the right direction. One could argue that making your own products complicates a busy life further, 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 things I have used to replace them:
1. Liquid Castile Soap (I like Dr. Bronner’s)
Replaced: hand soap, body wash, face wash, all-purpose cleaner, floor cleaner, delicate detergent for lingerie. (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. I like peppermint for its freshness and tingle! Check out my easy DIY foaming hand & face wash recipe.
2. Homemade Moisturizer
Replaced: women’s facial moisturizer, men’s facial moisturizer, eye cream, face serum, body lotion, hand cream, foot cream, rash/eczema cream, shaving cream, aftershave balm.
After trying several recipes I finally found a great lightweight, non-greasy, simple, cheap homemade moisturizer that smells great. My normal skin is hydrated and dewy, and my husband’s doesn’t break out. It lasts for ages, is fun to make, and you aren’t making cosmetic companies richer. Very satisfying!
3. Cut-Up Cotton T-Shirts
Replaced: J cloths, paper towels, disposable facecloths, eye makeup remover pads, cotton balls, cleaning rags, dusting cloths, disposable cleaning wipes.
I recycle old t-shirts by cutting them up into large squares to make terrific multi-purpose cloths. They are great for removing eye makeup with a little almond or coconut oil. Or dampen a cloth, add a little castile soap, and wipe down the whole bathroom. (These are also nice gentle cloths for dusting rosin off my cello!) The best part? Throw them in the laundry. Buy nothing. I store them folded 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, two additional sticks of natural deodorant.
Even before I ran out of (expensive) natural deodorant, I would buy another brand in a desperate attempt to find one that did its job. I never found it, but I was left with enough 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 husband and I share.
5. Epilator Hair Remover
Replaced: razors, replacement cartridges, daily shaving, next-day prickly stubble.
This battery-powered 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!
6. Silicone Menstrual Cup (I like The DivaCup)
Replaced: monthly purchases of tampons, pads, liners.
There is a mild learning curve, but this product is incredibly simple and effective, and far more sanitary than disposables. Think of all the tampons, pads, liners, and packaging that won’t end up in a landfill, and the energy you won’t waste purchasing, storing, and disposing of them. Make the switch to a cup!
So there you have it: the six things that I have used to replace over thirty products. These small changes have contributed to my inner calm in a big way and given me more room to thrive. What have you done to minimise the product clutter in your life?
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