Cultivating Joy: Getting Cozy

Cozy is something that I’m learning to appreciate more and more as I age. I suppose this was what I was looking for when I would frequent bars. But cultivating cozy brings with it a sense of ease and joy. Now-a-days, I don’t search for my coziness pulled up on a bar stool. Now I’m surrounding myself with family members, friends, a clean or natural setting and a few creature comforts that engage the senses.

In the following, I’ll be going over some of the ways I cultivate cozy in my life. Why it’s so important to create these spaces as a refuge to feel safe and calm and refuel, if you’re an introvert like me. Also how to foster these spaces in your life. Getting cozy is also a great way to relieve stress and cultivate intimacy with those you love. So let’s jump in by slipping into something more comfortable.

Why the Need for More Coziness

There is a terrific amount of emphasis placed on being productive in American culture. I was reading Lee Iaccoca’s autobiography where he pointed this out with an astute observation. He explains, while talking about poor time management skills, how some business men will brag about working all year without taking a vacation. This is something I know to be true from my experience, of myself and those I’ve worked with.

Though I don’t work in the business sector, working ourselves too hard seems ubiquitous in American culture. It seems that everybody I know or meet has a second job to make ends meet. This leads to increased stress levels and less overall life satisfaction. I know in my family, we speak about working six to seven days a week with a sense of pride. I myself held two jobs for the past six years until recently. All in the name of paying down my student loans more quickly.

But all of this working lead me to feeling tired, anxious and unable to partake in the things and be with the people in my life, that bring me a sense of joy. No bueno. This is why it is so important to cultivate cozy in our lives as a direct response to all the tension and stress that we place on ourselves by pushing ourselves past what is healthy. So how do we do this? How do we create space in our lives for more cozy?

The Elements of Cozy

For me, I’ve found that it’s important to find what brings you a sense of ease, and tend to that. When you find something that sparks those feelings of being relaxed, take note of it and repeat those rituals or indulge in those things, but do it sparingly. For example, I’ve always been drawn to a well lighted room. Not in the sense that it is bright, more so that it has many sources of diffused lighting. Lending a softer feeling to the room. I love the flicker of candle light and the low glow from string lights. So I’ve incorporated these into my living space. Let’s take a look at some of the elements and how I’ve put them into practice.

1. Meals

Mealtime is an important one for me. Having worked in the food industry for most of my career and the negative reinforcement I received around my food consumption/weight, not to mention never being taught how to cook for or care for my nutritional needs, I suffered an awful lot when it came to my food intake. Luckily, this is an area I spent some considerable time reparenting myself around. It started when I decided to go veg.

I went vegan first, then switched to vegetarian. I did so for the health benefits, but mostly because, and I can’t remember where I heard this o don’t quote me on this, but if you eat vegan, you will naturally maintain a low body fat to high muscle ratio. Basically I wanted to look good naked. Now my new goal is to be healthy. To value being healthy over physical attraction. This is something I’m still struggling with a little.

But since I started taking care of my nutritional needs with a focus on my health, the quality of my meals has greatly increased. The food I prepare for my meals now is better than many restaurants I go to, and I’ve really learned to love the process. It helps that I also cook professionally. But when you’re making your favorite dish, engaging your senses in the process, something magic happens. Add a few friends or family to the mix and you have time well spent in cultivating cozy.

2. Cozy Space

This is essential for me, in maintaining a healthy headspace, mentally and emotionally. For me, it helps to know that I have a space that I can go to, that evokes a sense of ease and comfort. For me, this space is my room. It’s clean, has pieces and trinkets that remind me of my personality, smells good, has all the right ambient lighting and is cozy in all the ways that bring me a sense of feeling comfort.

This is especially important for unwinding from a stressful day or just time to recharge. If you’re introverted like I am, having downtime is essential to your mental health. Life gets hectic. Why not create a space that will bring you a sense of joy and well-being, just by being in it?

In creating your own space, try looking for what brings you joy just by looking at it. I enjoy the Boho vibe myself, but spend some time looking through photos on Pinterest or Instagram. Look for the images that bring you the most of joy, and see if you can replicate that in your space to cozy it up.

3. Cleanliness

Another element of cozy for me is having a clean living space. Really any space I spend a lot of time in, it’s beneficial for me for it to be clean and well taken care of. Because when you surroundings are in disorder, your inner space can feel the same way.

But sometimes we get busy. It’s not always easy to stay on top of our daily chores and cleaning duties. I try to set aside a day to get tasks like this done. One of my days is dedicated to food shopping, cooking and cleaning. This way I know I’ve set aside the time I’ll need to get done what needs my attention, while also enjoying the benefits of a clean living space.

Try assessing your surroundings and see where your space could use a little more attention. What is the state of your surroundings and are they as clean as you would like them to be? Do you have a regular cleaning schedule? What does your space look like when it’s in its ideal state of cleanliness? Try clearing some space in your schedule to find time for your own cleaning routine. Set aside a day like I have, to create a chores list, yes from when like you were a kid, and get down and dirty with your space. It’ll yield dividends in your happiness for sure : )

4. Creature Comforts

When I sit in my chair, with some music going and a cup of herbal tea, I feel more at ease. Add the ambient lighting I spoke about above, with my essential oil diffuser going and I’m feeling pretty relaxed. These small comforts are a big part of feeling more at ease in my space. Making the over all experience a more cozy one.

Again, this is a space where you need to find what you like. What are the small things in your day to day that bring you a sense of comfort? For me, living in New England, its cold in the winters and we being thrifty Yankees, set the thermostat to 64 degrees. So on the colder days, I have a few throw blankets and an electric heater by my side to warm things up a bit. Other wise I’d be freezing in my own house!

This is also a form of self expression. What scents do you like, and fill your space with those. It’s amazing how supported you can feel in an environment that has a few of your favorite things in them. So find what you like and make a list of these things, a resources list. This way, you can come back to them when you’re in need of a little cozy.

5. Music & Podcasts

These are essential in living the cozy life. Music has, as far back as I can remember, been a source of joy for me. It’s a great feeling when you put your favorite song on and just float on the rhythm. It’s equally as satisfying when you find a new favorite song. Something you can come back to time and again. The same is true of podcasts as well.

I have a few favorite playlists for days when I’d like to spend some time getting cozy. Here’s a band I’ve been listening to lately that’s been helping me cultivate more comfort. I also enjoy listening to podcasts when the mood strikes. This American Life is one of my favorites. Hearing other peoples stories is comforting. Especially when they align with your own. It’s cathartic to hear how others are handling similar situation and all while hearing a good story 🙂

If you haven’t already, it may be worth your while to explore which songs and artists helps to support cozy and ease in your life. Who are your favorite artists, and do they bring you comfort? I used to listen to a lot of industrial music. Artists like Nine Inch Nails and Ministry were on heavy rotation. These are not relaxing bands, nor do they embody cozy. So if you’re into something a little more heavy, try switching it up to something more light and see what comes up. You never know what you may find that you enjoy.

6. Friends & Family

This is another important one for me, and I imagine most people. Having supportive family and friends around is the difference between feeling lonely and without support, and feeling belonging and a sense of comfort. This is no small thing. It’s important to feel and stay connected to those we love.

I have a list of friends and family that I get in touch with once a week. This way, I’m working to build our relationship, and foster our connection. Otherwise, months could go by and we wouldn’t talk to one another. This was the way I used to be in relationship. I would let weeks or months go by without a word, and just assume that we were still close friends. This however is not the way to foster healthy friendships.

If you’ve been neglecting your relationships as I had, maybe pick a day each week and write a list of people you’d like to keep in touch with. Then send them a text or call them and catch up. I send texts, because it’s easier to juggle more than one conversation at a time and the other person doesn’t feel pressured to respond right away. Pick a time that works for you and start connecting. Even reaching out to people you haven’t spoken to in years. You may be surprised with who gets back to you : )

Make it a Routine

And to help make it stick, try making these habits a routine. For some of the items above, like meals, cleaning and friends and family, I have some time carved out from my day each week to tend to these areas. It helps to know that I have that time and space to get things done, so that they won’t fall through the cracks.

I spent a lot of time neglecting these areas of my life in the past. So if you’re like me, there may be some fear around falling back into old ways of being. But it’s good to remember that these are only fears, and you can choose to be a different person from who you used to be.

Also, there will be times when you fall short, and don’t meet your expectations. It’s important to be forgiving of yourself in these times. We all come up short sometimes. We’re human, it happens. The important part is to remember that it’s okay. We’re not perfect.

I hope this has been of some help to those looking to cultivate more cozy in their lives. Maybe start by taking one thing from this list, or something you already do that makes you feel cozy and incorporate that into your routine. And as you get comfortable, add more things. Pretty soon you’ll be living the cozy life. Peace : ) & thanks for reading.

Image Credits: “Tea Mug Cozy” by KnitStorm is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Cultivating Joy: Areas Worth Exploring

I’d like to switch gears a little with this post, and the direction of this blog. I’ve been writing a lot about what’s difficult, but what I’m realizing now is that I’ve left out a large part of the picture. The things that bring joy. So it’s with this idea in mind that I want to begin exploring the areas in my life and in general, that make us happy. It’ll be a little different for everybody, but we all have the capacity to experience joy. I’ll still be focusing on interpersonal and introspective topics about relationships, but I thought I’d throw in some positivity to balance out some of the heavier topics.

In the next few posts, I’m not sure how many yet, I’ll be going over some areas in my life that bring me a sense of ease, peace and joy. I’ll be exploring some of what motivates me and the ways I go about finding joy in the things I do. So let’s jump in with sustainability.

The Joy Of Sustainability

This is a big one for me. I’m not sure why I derive so much joy out of recycling, or using that one plastic cup at work for 2 months straight. But the feeling is a light one. Knowing that I’m doing my part to reduce my footprint and use fewer disposable products makes me happy. Also the feeling I get when I leave the grocery store with only a few containers that are all recyclable is satisfying.

I’d like to go over some of the habits I’ve picked up that are sustainable, my point of view as to why we’re so hung up on our “disposable” world, and how to change our frames of mind about the topic. So let’s talk a little about why we’re so attracted to a disposable lifestyle. Maybe we can get to the root of our filthy habits.

Disposable Lifestyle: Why it’s so Attractive

There’s no doubt that we are attracted to beauty. It’s advertised to us every day. In the ads we watch and read, to the shows we see and the trends celebrities are setting. But when you think of sustainability, do the words “cool” or “sexy” come to mind? They don’t for me. And let’s face it, there is nothing sexy about sitting in a fast food restaurant shoveling a most likely unhealthy meal into your mouth with a plastic spoon. But what if we made that the new sexy?

I’m joking, kinda. As I’m sitting in my room typing this post, next to me on my side table is a spoon rest that I saved from the garbage, with a plastic spoon in it. I use it to stir my tea when I bring a cup up stairs. At first, the sight of the plastic spoon felt trashy. I didn’t like the idea of having something disposable sitting at the ready to be used again. For me, I like the well polished look of a beautifully designed environment. But what changed my opinion about the spoon on my table are two very important people in my life.

Conviction is the New Sexy

I work as a baker at a local bakery. The owner of the bakery is one of the most driven, dedicated and practical people I’ve ever met. She works fifteen hour days and knows all of her regulars names and what’s happening in their lives. And she is also passionate about recycling.

I started working with her when they opened their business about two years ago. One of the things I remember from our first interactions was, that she used a disposable plastic cup for her coffee. This wasn’t so remarkable at first, but what really stuck out was, that she used that cup for about six months. That’s pretty impressive for a disposable cup! This made me think about the ways I use disposables in my life.

The other person is my step mother. She makes and brings her lunch to work with her everyday. And with her lunch, she has been using the same plastic utensils for as long as I can remember her going to work with a lunch. This is impressive, that she can make something “disposable” last so long.

I love sustainability and it brings me a great sense of joy, that’s for sure. But how sustainable am I really? When it comes down to it, am I ready to reuse that plastic cup I purchased a drink in? Does having a piece of “trash” around me make me feel cheap because it doesn’t fit in on the cover of one of my favorite design magazines? The answer to this question used to be a resounding yes. But I’ve come to change my opinion on this matter. Let me tell you what I’ve come up with.

The More Attention We Give to Something the More Special it Becomes

One day, I forgot my water bottle at my house when I went to work. So, I grabbed a plastic cup and in step with the owner of the bakery, I reused that cup. It’s actually still in use, and waiting for me the next time I go in to work. The same is true of the spoon I have on my side table. I can’t remember why I got it, but it’s been here ever since. Waiting to stir my tea.

What’s so strange about these items is, at first they were trash to me. I didn’t like the idea of reusing a piece of garbage. It made me feel cheap, like I was worth less for using them. But the more I used these items, the fonder I grew of them. It seems so strange to me now to think that I’m actually enjoying the plastic spoon that sits on my side table. But there is no denying, that that spoon now brings me joy.

I’m happy to be using something that would have gone into the garbage otherwise and it now feels like it belongs in my surroundings. The same with the plastic cup at work. Knowing that I’m reusing something that still has life left in it brings me joy. It also has my name with a little smiley face next to it, Adam : ). This also brings me joy : ) So my boss’s and step mother’s conviction for recycling has given me a new perspective on what I find to fit in with my image of beauty.

Tips & Hacks for Getting the Most Out of Your Garbage

I’d like to go over some of the habits I’ve picked up in the area of living a more sustainable life. Most of these suggestions aren’t new ones. But maybe they are if you’re still in the frame of mind that single use plastic is garbage. The suggestions below focus on how to get the longest life from the items we use daily, making our habits a little more sustainable and maybe even creating some joy along the way : )

1 .Public Transit & Walking

Due to some early childhood trauma, I have a condition where I dissociate on occasion. It started happening about seven years ago, and since I haven’t been able to drive. So, I walk. I walk or I take public transportation. Luckily for me, I live in a suburb of Boston. So the public transit system is first class. At first, I disliked taking the T, as it’s referred to in Mass. But the more I use it, the more appreciative I am of it.

I also have had to walk a lot of places as well. I used to be pretty sedentary in my former life. Now, I don’t think twice about walking somewhere that’s two miles away. I enjoy the exercise I’m getting and feel good about lessening my carbon footprint. This is a win, win in my book.

What I’ve come to realize is, that even when I’m able to drive again, I think I’ll still be using public transportation and walking a lot of the time. It’s reliable, it’s keeping me in shape and I’m doing my part to keep emissions down. Sure, the convenience of having a car is nice, but maybe we can switch out some of our normal driving routine to public transportation instead. Or carpool with friends and coworkers. Cars are nice to have, but they are not always necessity.

2. Reusing Single Use Items & Replacing Them with More Permanent Solutions

I’ve already written about the cup and spoon I’m currently reusing, but there are also other things we can reuse. For example, I always bring my reusable shopping bags to the store with me. But I also get and use paper grocery bags once every so often to use as trash bags in my room. I like them because they are recyclable and compostable.

The other side to the reusable single use plastics coin is, replacing disposable options with more permanent solutions. One that would help immensely is, switching to a water bottle instead of disposable plastic bottles. The bottle is a one time purchase, most places are happy to fill your bottle and you won’t be creating tons of waste. The same is true of portable coffee mugs. Brew your own or ask your barista to make your morning cup in your mug for you. Other swap outs include, woolen drier balls instead of drier sheets, making your own bandanas and handkerchiefs, if you use them, from old T-shirts. Here’s a link to The Good Trade and an article on making more sustainable swaps if you’re looking for more inspo.

3. Refusing Single Use Items

This one was a new concept for me. I was already concerned with reducing my plastic consumption, but what I was overlooking was, that you can refuse items as well. For example, when I’m out getting an iced tea, I will often times refuse the straw they offer. I don’t use one at home and it’s only when I’m given one that I feel compelled to use them. This is a no brainer now, but it took some time to come to this understanding.

Other items we can refuse are lids for cups if you’re eating in. Only take the napkins you need or use a handkerchief you’ve made yourself. Bring your own containers to the grocery store when buying bulk goods. Carry a backpack or tote with you when you go shopping for non-food items, so you don’t have to use the bag from the shop. Here’s a list of what’s polluting our oceans so you can steer clear of these top items.

4. Gardening & Composting

This is another tasty option to cultivate some joy. Especially if you love fresh food as much as I do. Starting a garden is a great way to cut back on food miles and eat fresher produce. You’ll also bee saving hundreds of dollars on veg. Not to mention how beautiful a vegetable garden is while it’s in full bloom. And if you don’t have a yard, not to worry. There are usually community gardens located in urban areas that allow access to land where you can grow your own. Usually for a small annual fee.

And if you do have the space, composting your kitchen scraps is a great way to recycle food waste. All while building your soil and adding extra nutrients to your harvest. another win for the planet. And if you really want to compost, but don’t have the space, there are companies that collect food scraps like garbage collection, to compost off site.

5. Visit Your Library

Your local library has so many resources, that it’s amazing more people don’t utilize it. You can loan books for sure, but also barrow movies, music, and there’s usually something going on that’s community focused too. Some libraries give tours of their facilities. Scheduling one may yield other hidden secrets that are just waiting for you to discover.

Remember it’s About What Brings You Joy

It seems funny to correlate joy with something as mundane as recycling. But if you enjoy the natural world, then taking care of it should definitely bring a sense of happiness. I know I feel better when my surrounding environment is at its best. So try working some of these sustainable habits into your daily routine. And hopefully, you’ll find a little joy along the way : ) Peace & thanks for reading : )

Image Credits: “joy” by Ganesh K S is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Living Frugal: How to Get the Most From What You Have

Frugal living is something I’ve gone over before in this blog. Hailing from New England, being frugal is one of our defining characteristics. I’m not sure where we picked up this trait, the thrifty Yankee, but it’s true of most of the people I know. So in todays post, I’d like to go over some of the ways I practice being frugal and the benefits it’s had in my life. But first, why be frugal?

The Goal for Living Frugally

Why am I choosing to live the frugal life? The main reason is, because I had poor money management skills when I was in early adulthood. Without any guidance in handling my budget, I was constantly broke and living paycheck to paycheck. I had no plan for retirement and I didn’t have any career goals. I hadn’t really given my future any thought, asides from working to make a pay check. This was an unsustainable way of living. And one that got me in just about 130K in debt.

Without a plan on how I was going to support myself in retirement, I was banking on social security to pay for all of my expenses. And on top of that, I didn’t have any idea on what my expenses were going to look like. I was clueless when it came to planning for my future. But things started to change around the time I decided to pay off my debt. Both credit cards and student loans and start living on a budget.

Planning for My Future

When I started looking at my future with more serious intent, I also found Dave Ramsey, and his baby steps to getting out of debt and saving for retirement. This was a God send, because I had absolutely no idea, or direction on what I needed and where to go for help.

Through Dave, I learned how to pay off my debt, how to plan for emergencies by having an emergency fund and also how to start paying into retirement. So I’ll be ready and able to pay the bills when I stop working. All things that weren’t on my radar not to long ago.

Currently, I’m in the middle of switching jobs. This is a little scary. Starting out somewhere completely new. But I’m also excited for the change. Partially because the place I’m planning to work for has a 401k option, with a match. This is the first time I’ll be working for a place that matches, but I wouldn’t have even known to take advantage of this benefit, if I hadn’t put the work into understanding my financial goals for my future. Getting a match on a 401k is equivalent to getting a raise for paying into your future. So along with other lifestyle changes, paying into retirement is a fundamental part of my planning : )

Living the Good Life

I know it seems counterintuitive, to live under my means in order to live my best life. Usually when you think about living the good life, images of pouring bubbly all over naked women while flying in a private jet comes to mind. But for me, living the good life means something different. Living debt free is one of it’s key elements. As is finding a loving, caring and beautiful wife. Both of which don’t cost any money. After those, everything else is just gravy.

I’d love to own my own house someday. Here’s a link to what I imagine my future bedroom might look like : ) Somewhere in the greener part of the state. Near hiking trails and a place to have a firepit with outdoor space. A place where family and friends can gather and celebrate, eat and cook or just relax. We can enjoy each other’s company, conversation and pursue what we find most interesting. This is what being frugal means for me. And this is what living a frugal life can yield. A well lived life.

So if you’re looking to cut back on your spending, but you don’t want to compromise on the quality of your life, then you’re going to want to find out what your priorities are. What brings you joy? What are the elements of your life that won’t cost much, but bring you a sense of ease, joy and peace? What are the emotional states you want to be cultivating? These are the questions that will lead you to why you want to live your best, frugal life.

Cultivating a Frugal Life

Once you’ve found your why, your dream, then it’s easy to start pairing down expenses. The best place to do this is in a budget. A lot of people will tell you that you need to start saving by cutting things out of your budget. This is true. However first, I found it helpful to track my spending. This way, I know exactly what to cut and why. I use Mint, Everydollar and a written budget for this task.

Once I began tracking my spending, I saw where my money was going. This had the added bonus of also allowing me to see what I valued. For me, I was spending up to $750 on groceries a month. And it’s no secret that I enjoy eating. But in knowing that food and eating was where the bulk of my money was going each month, I could come up with a plan to adjust without sacrificing what I loved. Let me show you how I use these tools to cultivate frugality.

Mint

Mint is a great tool for getting a handle on your spending. With Mint, you can put your banks, along with the cards that you use to make purchases, all in one place. It will automatically generate your transactions and corelate them by date. This way, you can get a view of your spending all in one place. As well as account balances and loan balances you have.

There are some small adjustments I make. For example, when I go over my transactions, to make sure I don’t miss my spending that’s auto-drafted from my accounts, I change the title of the transaction. I also categorize each transaction into the appropriate section of my budget. This way I can see each category and how much I’ve spent.

Everydollar

I use Everydollar in a similar way to Mint. The difference is, that I enter each transaction manually. This is handy for helping me catch transactions that are paid for in cash. Also I’m able to see how much I’ve spent in each category before I make the purchase. This helps to keep me on budget when I’m out. Though I could be better about this aspect. Of not going over budget.

Here is also where I make each category for my budget. It has a tally that adds up your projected income and let’s you know when you’re over budget in categories. Or how much you have left to throw at your goals. This is how I calculate how much money I can pay towards my student loans each month.

Written Budget

My written budget is something that I’ve come to enjoy making. This is where I get a chance to create my goals and track them, for sure. But it also gives my process my own personal touch. I create my categories, decide how much I’ll be spending for the month and all in a layout that is visually appealing. This may seem like an unnecessary step when you’re dealing with something as cold as numbers, but to me, it’s so much more.

For example, my food budget, the one I was struggling with for so long. By taking my time on deciding how much I’m spending, $250 now, I made the choice to set aside a small amount for my self care meals, now that I’m at a more reasonable monthly allotment. I also plan my meals more diligently. With my budget in mind, while I’m choosing my meals for the up coming month, I’m not cutting back on the variety of dishes I’m making for myself. Only the amount I’m spending. I know exactly how many potatoes I need when I go shopping. So no more extra produce waiting to get tossed into the compost when they don’t get used.

Prioritize

So not only am I spending less in my budget, I’ve also found which items bring me the most joy. Cooking being my number one. I’m now planning my meals more intentionally, while also setting aside some funds specifically so I can enjoy some of what I value the most. This is how I’m able to reign in my budget and also set my priorities on what’s important. Here’s a link to Minimalist Baker’s suggestions for budget friendly meals if you also value food and you’re looking for some inspo.

Other Areas for the Frugal Minded

Once you find what you want to spend your money on and focus on what brings you the most joy, it’s not so difficult in finding other areas to save. One that I’ll be tackling soon is how I run my household. Mostly when it comes to cleaning supplies and the elements that really make my house feel like a home. You can save a bunch of money in these areas. But it all depends on how much time you’re willing to spend to do so. Let’s take a look at some of what I’m planning to get into.

DIY Cleaning Supplies

I’ve wanted to make my own cleaners for a while. I can’t remember where I heard this, so don’t quote me, but I remember that a majority of the cleaners we use, we’re mostly paying for the water content in the cleaner. For example, most liquid laundry detergents are something like 80% water. Again, I’m not 100% on this so don’t quote me. But it seems like we can do better than buying a jug of mostly water to clean our belongings. Here is a list of a few of the detergents/cleaners I plan on making.

Laundry Detergent

Speaking of laundry detergent, this is the first cleaner I want to start making. The ingredient are basic, washing soda, Borax and 100% castile soap. I believe the measurements are 2 cups each soda and borax to one cup grated castile bar soap. You can get roughly 6 cups from a box each of soda and Borax, 12 cups total, which costs roughly 12$. And three bars of castile soap costs about 9$. The recipe I’m using suggests to use between one and two tablespoons per load. So if we split the difference and use 1.5 tablespoons for a moderate sized load, that’s 180 loads for 15$. A comparable name brand gets 64 loads for close to 16$ and a less expensive brand gets about 150 loads for just under 15$.

It may not seem like much, but if you add up the amount of laundry you do over a life’s time, you can save a bunch. You’re saving about three dollars a bottle on the cheap stuff, and ten dollars on the name brand detergent. Also, you can customize your detergent too. By adding essential oils to make your laundry, feel more cozy. More you. Here’s the recipe to the detergent I’m using for my calculations.

All-Purpose Cleaner

This one is especially cheap and easy to make. All you need is an opaque spray bottle, some hydrogen peroxide and a few essential oils. The recipe, also from DIY Natural, contains four ingredients and costs just around two dollars to make.

First, you’ll need an opaque spray bottle. This is because hydrogen peroxide loses its cleaning and sterilizing powers when exposed to sunlight. Once you have the spray bottle at the ready, you’ll need 3% hydrogen peroxide, 16 ounces, 1/2 teaspoon of lemon essential oil, 1/2 teaspoon of lavender essential oil and 1/8 teaspoon of peppermint essential oil. Pour all the ingredients into the spray bottle and shake to combine. That’s it. Easy peasy.

There’s research that suggests that some essential oils act as antimicrobial and as disinfectants. All the more reason to add these guys into the mix. And you can change the scent of your cleaner to correspond with the seasons. Or maybe you have a fave scent. A few of my favorites are, geranium, rose and jasmine and balsam fir. This is a chance for you to do you. Because after all, it’s your world, we’re just living in it ; )

Frugal Round Up

I’ve written other posts on saving money on this blog. But this is the first time I’ve attempted to adapt saving money and being frugal as a lifestyle. Also while emphasizing that just because you’re saving money, doesn’t mean you’re giving up what’s important to you. Something that’s helped me to find what really matters to me is, I don’t listen to advertisements anymore.

My family is in the habit of muting the TV when commercials come on. I didn’t realize how much of an effect this had on me until one day while I was watching a show, no one was around to mute the commercials and I found myself glued to the screen. Sucked in by the lights and ridiculous ploys for attention that have been researched and weaponized to make you want to spend your money. It makes me feel a bit uneasy to think of the experience now. But if you watch a lot of TV, you’re probably desensitized to the phenomenon. So try muting the commercials for a month, install an ad blocker on your devises and see how you feel. The worst thing that could happen is you spend less money and feel better about what you already have. Win, win.

I’ll be posting more on frugal living as I cultivate more frugal habits. Also, another great source for living the frugal life is another blog, The Frugalwoods. So check them out if you have the chance. I hope I’ve helped some of you on your frugal journey a bit and if you have any tips about living the good, frugal life, let me know in the comments section below. And, as always, peace & thanks for reading : )

Image Credits: “Good Life” by dollen is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

Creating a Safe & Calm Place

I was reading a book a while ago. It was about reparenting and in one of the chapters, it suggested creating a safe space. A place where you can go in your mind to feel safe, at ease. I’ve done work like this before, but what I realized was, that I didn’t have one. Everywhere I went, I felt as though I had to preform, never make a mistake. Always be at my best, preforming or feeling as though I was a guest. There was never a feeling of fostering ease to any of the places I could feel relaxed in. So I decided to change that.

Creating a Safe, Calm & Cozy Space for Yourself

After reading the chapter in the book, I scanned my life for what seemed like the safest place to be. And to my surprise, it was my bedroom. I wondered why this was the case, as I’m not particularly fond of the room. But for me, it checks all the right boxes.

It’s cozy. I have a few well placed textiles and trinkets, lending it a sense of my personality. It’s well lighted, as in it has all the right ambient lighting I enjoy. A few candles, some Christmas string lights and a diffuser that also has a low light function. The aforementioned diffuser that has any number of my favorite scents diffusing. It’s clean, comfortable and not too crowded. AKA, jut right for relaxing.

The Elements of Cozy

So this is where I started. I went about creating the place that would bring me the feelings of comfort and safety. But first, I needed to define what this meant for me. When I first started out on my journey to cozy, my safe and calm place was a section of the A.T. on Mt Killington, VT. There was a shelter I stayed in that had stunning views draped in mists and vibrantly green ferns and moss. Here was definitely a high point in my hiking in and around New England.

Section of the A.T. on Mt. Killington VT

But all I have of this place is a photo I seldom look at. Though I’ve made some plans to have this photo printed and framed to keep in my new safe and cozy space, it isn’t something that I can easily call on or see myself in and a part of. Something I feel is an important part of feeling safe. And that’s where my planning began. How do I want my safe and cozy place to look. What are the elements of safe and cozy.

Elements of Safe & Cozy: Aesthetics

I appreciate good design and always have. Often I’ll find myself on Pinterest, picking out the the element of the house I someday want to build. I also spent a semester in architecture school pursuing design, when I thought that was a viable career path for myself. Design is something that has always been important to me. Especially with my surroundings.

So in my safe and cozy space, I want it to look a certain way. Inviting. A place that would make me feel more at ease just by virtue of being in and around it. To this end I’ve collected a few things that give it a sense of comfort for me. One example is of an afghan my grandmother knitted more than 30 years ago. It’s multi colored and comfy and made from “granny Squares”. Also my space is surrounded with small trinkets that brings me joy.

A skull painted with colorful chilies I picked up in Mexico. A mug with my first initial on it with a sphere of petrified wood resting on top. Pieces of driftwood I’ve collected and a jar of sea glass that was gifted to me. And some Tibetan prayer flags hang from my wall, making my space more me, more cozy.

Elements of Safe & Cozy: Plants

I also have a verity of green little friends that adorn my room. I started collecting jade plants about eight years ago and was inspired by a friend who had a jade plant that he was in awe of. You can propagate these plants fairly simply from cuttings and I was seeing a lot of jade plants in the places I would visit day to day. One at the library, one at an insurance agency I would walk by. So I started collecting clippings from them.

I also went in search of air purifying plants that I could bring into my environment that would give it a boost of fresh, purified air. Snake plants soon joined the party, aloes and ferns as well.

The plants in general have helped to keep my room a bit more humid. But due to the latest additions, my ferns, I’ve been running a humidifier on a low level to keep the environment more suited to my plants. This helps to keep the atmosphere a little more comfortable for humans as well. Especially in the winter months. It also helps to make the room feel more alive. Something lush and inviting. The way a greenhouse feels in the early spring; fresh and green.

Elements of Safe & Cozy: Lighting

As I’ve said above, lighting is something that is of particular importance to me. I’m not entirely sure what it is about a perfectly lighted room. It could be the soft way the light welcomes you to whatever task you are encapsulated in. Like sipping a cup of herbal tea by candle light. Or how a set of old Christmas string lights lend a sense of interest to something ordinary. Like the bright green chair and bamboo shelf that holds my ferns, all draped in a set of string lights.

Candles are something that have been important to me since I was in my early teens. They lend a softness to the room and have a timeless feel to them. I burn beeswax candles now due to their ability to clean the air of negatively charged ions. But the soft flickering light definitely invites an atmosphere of cozy and safe.

Also in the book on creating a safe space, they suggested watching a video of a fireplace online. I was skeptical at first, but decided to give it a go and was surprised at how relaxing it was. The sound of the crackling wood, mixed with the ambient flickering of the flames was calming. Cozy.

Elements of Safe & Cozy: Scent

This is another important aspect of my surroundings feeling safe and comfortable. I used to burn incense. A lot of incense. I started when I was in high school. Thinking back, living next to Salem MA, The Witch City, was a big influence in my incense burning ways. I also had a girlfriend in high school who loved burning Nag Champa and I used to wear a lot of patchouli oil as well. Dirty hippy, check.

I don’t burn incense so much anymore, but I do use an oil diffuser to create a relaxing atmosphere when I’m ready to wind down. I have a few favorite scents that I keep on hand. Geranium, citronella, lavender, jasmine… There are more to be sure, but these are on pretty heavy rotation. Being surrounded by a comforting scent is a kin to being emersed in a hot bath. And for me, sometimes leaves me just as refreshed.

There’s also something elemental about steeping your environment in a smell that brings you peace. For me, it’s like the feeling of smelling a campfire on your clothes. It’s a reminder that pops up when you’re not expecting it that lulls you into a sense of feeling at ease. A soothing surprise. Something I’m sure we could all use a bit more of.

Elements of Safe & Cozy: Victuals

For me, there are few things that bring up the atmosphere of cozy as a cup of herbal tea and a well cooked meal. Maybe a glass of lemonade : ) There’s something about the tea itself, where it comes from and how it’s processed that makes the experience not only soothing, by sipping the freshly brewed cup, but also interesting. An experience.

I often brew a cup of tea before bed and relax for a while before sleep. For example, a few days ago I brewed a cup of watermelon, lime, basil and cracked pepper tea. It tasted like a quiet summer evening and is quickly becoming one of my favorite teas.

Also I’ve come to enjoy a special self-care meal at the end of my week. It’s a way for me to show myself that, I’m taking care of my nutritional needs and I’m doing it by carefully selecting meals that I know I’ll enjoy. And the entire process is relaxing. From prepping and preparing the meal to when I partake. Usually surrounded by candles, my diffuser and the other elements, the word wellness is manifest for me.

Elements of Safe & Cozy: Cleanliness

And there’s one element that brings the entire package together for me. Clean surroundings. When I say clean, I mean free of dirt, but also clutter. Organized, but not so much so that it feels sterile. The plants and their earthiness helps to give the environment a sense of clean but naturally so. Balance.

Being organized for me is something that makes me feel at ease, but it’s not something that came easily. My family cleaned a lot when I was younger. We still do and are good at it. But in my twenties I had gotten to the point of not caring for myself or my environment. One of my first apartments was so bad that it had trash drifts!

But even when I was living in this environment, I still took pleasure on the days I would clean every aspect of that apartment. I’m sure my roommates appreciated it too. But living in an orderly space lends to it a sense knowing what to expect. Things have a home which makes me feel more at home. It also makes me feel less apt to get up and clean. Which I enjoy, but I also value my down time as well.

Finding Your Elements

I believe this is what the Danes are referring to when they practice Hygge. And it is something that is important and often times overlooked. Or in my case, the 20 something version of myself would have had some machismo outlook on the idea of “pampering myself” thinking I was being “self-indulgent”. I was also raised on action movies where the mark of being a man was based on how brutally you could sacrifice yourself for the greater good. No bueno.

We need these places. Places where we can feel safe, comfortable and without reserve. Living as though you’re constantly on edge and stressed, asides from having health consequences, also pulls the joy out of life. If you don’t have a safe and calm place to go to, then we’re really free floating in place where fear and anxiety can come to visit at will. And finding your place, one that brings you peace and safety is important to keep these feelings at bay.

So make your space. Find your own elements and tailor it to your liking. Maybe you find peace and ease while you’re on your yoga mat. Or maybe there’s a spot in a park or forest that you’re drawn to. Whatever your elements are and wherever your space is, make sure you take the time to steep yourself in them. Because they will bring you peace.

And there is also something gratifying about building these spaces yourself. As I’m typing, I’m sitting in my room with all of the above mentioned elements, including some others as well. Such as music (which could be a post all its own) and I’m definitely feeling relaxed, cozy and safe. And I bring this place with me wherever I go.

Take Your Place With You

For example, while I was at work today I was imagining relaxing at the end of the day and enjoying doing my tasks in my peaceful setting. Just the idea of being in my cozy space brought me a sense of calm in the moments of dis-ease that came during the day. And this is the benefit of creating this space, because you are also creating a little peace of mind as well.

So if you’ve struggled in the past with relaxing or feeling safe, start your own safe, calm and cozy space. Start small if you have to, but keep going back to it. Because eventually, when you take the effort to care for yourself, you will learn to trust in yourself. And when you trust yourself, then you can learn to feel safe and love yourself : ) Take good care, peace & thanks for reading : )

Image Credits: “Misty Mountain” by Shek Graham is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

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