Tips for Simple Living

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Working with BFJN I’ve explored ways to live simply as a form of discipleship, and I think reducing our waste, or even rethinking what qualifies as waste is one way to simplify our lives and walk with God. As the people I’ve lived with during college and my family both know, I really appreciate trash in a strange way. I’m one to rescue useful things from the garbage pile to extend their life. I’ll blame this on spending time with my great Aunt Nancy and my grandparents in Virginia who survived the Great Depression and physically couldn’t come to terms with throwing anything away. That’s how kids grew up then; they didn’t have much so they kept everything and found additional value and uses for it. I don’t think I’m as bad as they were saving hair for stuffing pillows or storing margarine tubs by the hundreds in the attic, but I’m close. Here are just a few simple living/waste-reducing tips from my family from when people recognized a deeper value to the few resources they were blessed with.

  • Save empty milk cartons and other food containers for planting seeds. Planter’s peanut containers are the best planters simply for the pun of it. Start sunflower seeds in a sunflower seeds jar, or a cucumber plant in an empty pickle jar—it’s classy. Two liter soda bottles actually make wonderful miniature greenhouses if you cut them in half.
  • Wash plastic sandwich bags to reuse or even use Tupperware® to pack your lunch or store leftovers because it’s easier to wash. Empty re-sealable food packaging or carry-out containers are also good. You can now find even more durable glass containers with lids which are microwave and dishwasher safe.
  • Crumpled up newspaper stuffed into your shoes overnight will take out the smell and even dry them when wet. Warning: Don’t smell the newspaper after it’s spent the night in your shoes!
  • Newspaper is also a good for cleaning windows and mirrors especially with vinegar. Use vinegar or a vinegar & water mixture instead of Windex® and wipe it up with the newspaper. It won’t leave streaks like a rag and it smells better. The newspaper can still be recycled after it dries.

These things may seem pretty basic to you. If so try these two challenges that require a little more time and patience.

  • Save the watermelon rind on your next watermelon and make watermelon rind pickles. It greatly reduces the weight of your compost or trash bin on watermelon day and makes a tasty snack. There are recipes all over the internet and in several cookbooks. Here is one I’ve tried—just go easy on the cloves.
  • Save your used animal fat, grease, and cooking oil to make soap. Use caution, when handling lye! The Mother Earth News Do It Yourself page or The Soapmaker’s Companion, a book by Susan Miller Cavitch are excellent resources. On a side note: Biodiesel fuel could also be made from used cooking oil with lye.

For additional creative resources on simplicity I’d recommend the Mother Earth News website or the Foxfire book series. Or stay tuned on this blog for more simple living ideas and reflections from BFJN!

In a small way, these simple changes add value and purpose to junk. Not only is this economic discipleship in generating savings that turn into gifts, but some of these things made out of junk may even be gifts to share with our neighbors. At the same time, rescuing and repurposing trash gives us the opportunity to reflect on all of the rescuing and saving God does in our lives, and how He repurposes us for something better! Let’s treat the gifts of our resources the same way.

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