I haven't followed the status quo thinking regarding finances because for a long time. It seems to me like the deck is stacked against you if you follow the road that's been laid out. Then the road is re-routed and the net cut away, with you left dragging a mountain of debt around for decades. I'm not a Christian but I know for a fact the Bible says "The borrower is a slave to the lender".
I just came across this new alternative building method for earth-sheltered homes. And it's pretty impressive. According to the website, the materials used, polyester fibers and PET resins, are non-toxic. If this is true, this new technology may surpass Reynold's earthship idea... well, at least in durability. Reynold's recycling and indoor garden ideas are still #1 in my book.
There are many ways to travel on a budget. One such way is to drive to your destination. Driving is especially cost-effective if you are traveling with 2 or more people. One, you can share expenses… something you wouldn’t do if you were flying. And two, if you’re vacationing with your partner and/or children, driving will save you from having to buy 2 or more airplane tickets. The best part about driving is the sense of freedom and adventure you get as one scene after another passes by.
If you are planning a road trip, here are few tips on how to keep costs down…
- Use interstate highways. Interstate highways in America are great for two reasons. One: they are faster than local streets and will therefor save you tons of gas money when driving long distances. Two: they provide drivers rest-areas that have clean restrooms, picnic tables, and vending machines. Some rest areas also offer nature trails, BBQ grills, gazebos, mini-museums, and automated windshield rinses. If you use smaller highways or local roads, you will be forced to stop at convenience stores and restaurants for restroom breaks. Some establishments require or encourage a purchase in exchange for the use of their restrooms.
- Visit state welcome centers and town visitor information centers. These stops are a fun way to grab a car break. The centers are usually big, clean, and air-conditioned with a lot more amenities than regular rest-areas. Depending on the center, you can find free maps, tourist brochures, coupon booklets, staffed information desks, WiFi service, microwaves, indoor sitting areas, media rooms, and exhibits. You’ll also find restrooms and a larger choice of vending machines. If you plan to travel throughout that state, I recommend picking up a free map of the state and of various cities within that state as well as hotel/motel coupon books and tourist brochures.
- Pack food. Bring whole meals that can be eaten along the way. This will keep you from spending unnecessary money at a convenience store or restaurant. Stopping 3 times a day to buy food will add up. I recommend packing food in a cooler and stopping at various locations throughout the day to picnic. This way you can relax, digest your food, cool down your vehicle, diminish the chance of food-related mishaps, and spend time enjoying your road trip. Breathe in country air, take a short stroll, find something to laugh about… Why not begin your vacation on the road.
- Pack snacks. Resisting a bag of chips or sweets can be very difficult even for health food nuts on a long road trip. So, just in case you have a weak moment, stock up on snacks and sodas ahead of time at your local grocery store or warehouse club. Vending machines are notorious for overpricing their goods. If you don’t eat them on your way up, don’t forgot your return trip.
- Plan your route. To save yourself time, gas, and aggravation, plan your route ahead of time carefully. Even if you have a GPS, bring a map and detailed directions. Compare your directions to a map before leaving. Sometimes, directions on internet sites differ from what you’ll see on map. And sometimes, GPS systems breakdown. Jotting down key intersections and businesses also helps. For example, writing: “Turn right on Flanger Road. Pass King Street. Pass KFC on right. Go 5 streets. Pass Walmart on left. Two streets after Tucker Ave, make a left onto Toledo Lane” is much more useful than: “Right on Flanger Road. Left on Toledo Lane.”
- Choose public highways over private, and free highways over toll. When planning out your route, pay attention to toll highways. Private highways usually come at a cost. However, over the past few years, states around the US have either implemented toll systems or increased toll fees on public highways to build state revenue. In some cases, you are better off paying the requested amount. But if you find that you can get to your destination in the same amount of time and with a similar amount of mileage without taking a pricey toll highway, go for it. If you go this route, make sure to plan this carefully. And if paying tolls is not an issue, I still recommend you research toll prices, so that you won’t be hit by surprised with $12.00 toll fees. Toll fees can quickly add up.
- Purchase inexpensive gas. You can save yourself a bit of money, if you stay on the look-out for cheaper gas. Gas prices can change from one highway exit to the next and from one state to the next. But remember to be reasonable. Don’t wait until the last minute to compare prices. While driving in the country, you’ll find that several exits don’t have gas stations or open gas stations at night. In trying to get a better price, you may run out of gas.
- Rest when you feel tired or drowsy. Resting when your body tells you will save your life, the life of others, and your vehicle.
- Fix your vehicle before leaving. Get your vehicle checked by a reputable mechanic no more than a month before you leave. If you are going on a long road trip, get your tires and brakes checked, have an oil change and top-off all fluids. Replace whatever needs to be replaced. Having your vehicle breakdown in an unfamiliar area will be stressful, may require a tow-truck, and will cost you more money to fix.
- Rest your vehicle often when driving in high temperatures. Driving in hot weather can accelerate tire rubber deterioration which can lead to a tire burst. When a tire burst occurs at a high driving speed, it can cause a roll-over, collision and other accidents.
- Plan free sleep-overs. A long road trip can cost 2 to 4 times more if nightly hotel stays are added. Fortunately, if you want to travel on a budget, the US does offer several options…
- Use interstate highway rest-areas for sleeping. If you are doing a long road trip, stopping at different rest-areas along the way to sleep can save you hundreds of dollars in hotel costs. Most interstate highway rest-areas allow drivers to sleep up to one night. But make sure this is permitted before doing so. Also, make sure you are in a safe area. Many rest-areas have patrolling security. But if you are uncomfortable or suspect dangerous activity, leave immediately. If you are driving an RV, sleeping over in rest-areas will save you RV resort and campground costs until you reach your destination. Please remember to show rest-area courtesy when sleeping in your RV.
- Sleep-over in a free camp site. If you already own a tent and/or sleeping bag, stop at a free campsite and sleep under the stars. Not only will this save you money, it will also be a memorable experience. Waking up to the sounds of nature and view of trees can be a wondrous thing. Check out Freecampsites.net for a list of free campsites in the US and Canada. When going this route, please remember to verify that camping at your chosen site is permitted. Use good judgement. If the campsite does not look or feel safe, leave immediately. If you are driving an RV, check out this site for a list of free campgrounds in the US: FreeCampgrounds.com. Also, if you drive an RV, many Walmarts outside large cities allow free overnight docking.
- Couch surf. Couch surfing is very interesting in that it offers travelers from around the world couches to sleep on free, around the world. It’s a way to unite travelers and make it possible for anyone to travel and meet diverse people. This a great option not only for your road trip, but also for when you reach your destination. If you want more information on this program, please check out this site: CouchSurfing.org.
- Make reservations. If camping out in your vehicle or on the ground is not your thing, you can also save money by making hotel reservations a few weeks ahead of time. All you need to do is look at a map and calculate how long it will take you to get from one city to another. You can plan your nightly stops this way.
Wishing you a safe and happy journey!!!
I am finally putting up my photo blog link, something I promised to do a few weeks ago. Sorry it has taken me so long, but I wanted it to be just right. And today, I finally got it to that desired point.
The plog is based on simplicity, healthy eating, exercise, outdoor activities, beautiful landscapes, traveling, and enjoying life with the ones you love. I created it for the times I don’t want to read long essays but still want inspiration. So, if you ever find yourself in the same mood, please visit my plog.
I’ve collected all types of images, recipes, quotes and short videos from around the internet. From snow-capped mountains to hula-hoop dancing on the beach, you’ll find the plog pretty diverse. Here is the link: Simple and Natural Living. For easier access, I’ve also put a link under the page name, PHOTO BLOG, which can be found at the top of this blog, underneath the title.
I’m back with some great gift ideas for friends and family. This list started out as a quick search for a mother’s day gift and turned into this long list of possibilities. I couldn’t believe how many wonderful green, natural and holistic gifts the internet had to offer. And of course, if you are not into buying products on-line or are looking for inexpensive ways to gift, a few of these ideas can be created at home. Seriously, I’m learning, the possibilities are endless. You can use recycled items, shop at your local farmer’s market, add in some yard-sale purchases, or even make a one-stop shop at your local thrift store. The sky is the limit. All that’s needed is some creativity. So, let’s begin…
An organic vegetable, fruit, or herb seeds gift set… If you want to get creative, you can mix in some organic fruits with your seed packets. Need some ideas, check out Territorial Seed Company. This website has a gift basket with 16 vegetable seeds specifically chosen for their compact growth habit — perfect for urban dwellers and small property owners. There’s also Bambeco. They have 3 prettily packaged seed gift sets: Herbal Tea Garden Kit, Herbs for Wine Lovers Garden Kit, and Gourmet Salad Garden Kit. Before gifting seeds, make sure you consider what the giftee likes. Nothing worse than getting a packet of carrot seeds when you can’t stand the taste of carrots. Also consider the giftee’s location and garden size.
- A potted flower or plant… This is a very simple and easy gift to give. You can buy a new flower or gift one of your prized flowers, packaged in a beautiful pot or urn.
- A fruit, nut, and seed gift basket… This idea is easy to buy and easy to make. All it requires is a trip to your local grocery store and some closet rummaging for a basket. If you want to go exotic, you may have to shop at an organic, health food store like Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s or an international food market. These types of stores have a better selection of fruits, nuts and seeds. And remember, you can always buy fresh and organic on-line. This gift is great for healthy eaters, vegetarians and vegans. It’s also great for those who like to experiment. Not everyone has had the opportunity to try hulled sunflower, lotus, pumpkin, and melon seeds, nor chestnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts and walnuts. You can even add a bottle of wine or coconut water and a large scarf or shawl to give your basket that special look. You may want to throw in a nut cracker if you are gifting nuts still in their shell.
- Home-made jam(s)… While traveling through Mora Valley in northern New Mexico last year, I happened upon this colorful weathered sign on the side of the road with red and black letters. And I thought: why not… A few minutes later, there I was, standing on a porch, in the middle of this incredibly beautiful valley of trees in autumn splendor, tasting, one-by-one, different versions of Grandma Joan’s Choke Cherry Jelly. What an experience! If I could, I’d packaged it up and gift it to all of my loved ones and friends. But unfortunately, I can’t. So instead I like making gift baskets with home-made jams bought in a store. I know, it’s not the same. But if you like making home-made jam, then next time you’re in the kitchen, elbow deep in boiling fruit, save a jar or two. You never know. It could be your next gift.
- A book on composting… Anyone who is into growing their own food and flowers will love it. You can even throw in a mini composter for the small, first-time gardener. Although the practice is an old one, composting has become a new rage. Now, all sorts of small and cute composting bins exist for the chic gardener.
- An organic gardening gift set… This can be a small gift or a really big one. It’s up to you. It can include items like basic gardening tools, gardening gloves, organic seeds, organic gardening books, gift certificates to gardening stores, organic lifestyle and/or gardening magazines, biodegradable flowering pots, natural soap, hand brush, watering can, gardener basket, water bottle, or a gardening journal.
A picnic kit… This kit can include a mini cutting board, cloth napkins, durable and reusable plates, glasses and utensils, cheese knife, picnic blanket, food container, corkscrew, picnic cooler tote, a picnic hamper/basket which can also double as gift wrapping. Amazon has a great collection for sale. If you want to give a gift that keeps on giving, add in some typical picnic munchies like potato chips, fruits, bread, crackers, cheese, and dried meats.
- A rain barrel… This gift is for the water-conscious gardener. The rain barrel captures rainwater to use in the garden. These barrels come in all sorts of shapes and colors. I personally like the terracotta urn look.
- A gift certificate to an organic or green store… This is the easiest way to go. Easy to purchase, easy to mail or carry… It’s just plain easy.
- A set of organic essential oils… You can also add natural oils like sweet almond, jojoba, apricot kernel, coconut, and sunflower oil to the gift set. Essential oils and natural oils can be mixed together to create aromatic body and massage oil. This gift is perfect for people who are interested in aromatherapy, home-made beauty products and soaps, and massage therapy. While you’re at it, throw in a book on aromatherapy, massage therapy, or how to make perfumes, lotions, and soaps at home. Essential oils are fun gifts because they can be used in all sorts of ways.
- Plant a tree in someone’s honor… This is a great gift for a tree lover and a great way to impress an environmentalist. I mean seriously, who can fault someone for planting a tree??? You can even plant the tree from the comfort of your own home with websites like Trees for a Change. They will handle the planting and then send “a gift card and envelope with your personal message and an explanation of the gift” to whoever you choose.
An organic window sill garden box… These boxes are designed to fit on window sills, allowing easy access to fresh herbs when cooking and making salads or sandwiches. Interested? Then, check out Eco Express’ Organic MicroGreen Windowsill Garden. But nothing says you have to go with a box. Window sill pots come in many shapes and sizes. Have you seen the ones in a mini tin can with a ring-pull? It looks like a small soda can. The first time I saw one, I mistook it for a can of fruit juice. Imagine my surprise…
- A set of reusable, washable shopping bags… These bags are sold everywhere, even at Wal-Mart. But only a few places sell cute, individual-looking ones. One such place is Zazzle.com. Here you can find all sorts of customizable bags and totes. While you’re at it, submit a design or two to their website and earn some money. Amazon also offers cute sets in various colors. And your local thrift store always has a surprise or two buried in a corner. If you’re lucky, you’ll find at least three to make a fun, mix-match set.
- A green clean gift set… This is a great idea for someone you know very well who has expressed interest in cleaning with green products. Otherwise, this gift idea could go awry. This gift set can include organic, natural and/or eco-friendly dishwashing soap, surface cleanser, botanical disinfectants, hand soap, hand lotion, wipe cloths, sponges. You can also add a candle or box of incense sticks to add beauty.
- A fruit and cheese gift hamper… You can make this gift yourself easily. Buy or recycle from your closet a small basket or picnic hamper and fill it up with an assortment of cheeses and fruits. You can also add home-made jam or chutney, herb crackers, dry salami, chips, chocolate bars, and wine for fun. Looking for a way to add beauty and color to your home-made packaging… try using a colorful scarf to line your basket. You can also wrap a few pieces with small color-coordinated scarves or fabric.
An organic or natural traveling gift set… This gift is perfect for the person continuously on the road. It can include soaps, lotions, lip balms, bath salts, hand sanitizer, towelettes, as well as a wash cloth or loofah, first aid kit, eye mask, make-up brush set, toiletry/cosmetic bag, and ear plugs. This is great for the summer and winter holidays. Remember to shop for travel size bottles. For a sleek look, check out Body Politic’s Belmondo Organic, Natural Travel and Gift Set from Canada. It includes five Belmondo organic natural skin care products in airplane-friendly sizes complete with an organic cotton carrying case. And for $7.99, check out Ecotools’ Green, Clean, Go Travel Set on Amazon. It includes body wash, body lotion, body scrub, hand cream, and a nail brush. One percent of sales is donated to environmental organizations.
- A solar backpack… This is a great gift for people that enjoy off-the-grid adventures and outdoor activities like camping, hiking, and fishing.
- Organic compost gift tea bags … This may sound awful as a gift… Manure??? But for a small-time farmer this could be cool and interesting. Don’t believe me? Then, check out My Plant Tea. Their little tea bags filled with manure are surprisingly cute.
A yoga gift set… Got a friend who’s in love with yoga or a cousin who wants to give it a try? Well, this would be a wonderful gift idea. And the great thing about it is you have a ton of options. Your gift set can include a deck of yoga cards, yoga mat, yoga mat carrier, yoga dvd, yoga book, yoga and/or meditation music, yoga magazine, yoga sandals, yoga blanket, meditation beads, candles for meditation and relaxation, incense sticks, no slip yoga socks, herbal caffeine-free teas, yoga mat wash, stainless steel water bottle, gift certificate to a local yoga school, hypoallergenic microfiber or yoga towel, yoga tote, or yoga mat bag. If you know the recipient well, you can also add yoga clothing, scarves, and hats. Gaiam, Share Yoga, Khataland are three websites that offer yoga gift sets.
- A soy candle gift set… If you’ve researched candles recently, then you probably know there’s a lot of literature on the toxins mainstream candles containing paraffin produce. I don’t want to go into details here. So, I’ll just say that according to reports, soy candles are natural and non-toxic. They also burn longer and cleaner, producing less black soot. Their only problem is their higher cost. So, they are always a lovely and much appreciated gift to give.
- Recycled glass wind chimes… These are beautiful and melodic gifts to give. Just make sure the recipient likes wind chime music because they can be a noisy treat. Great thing is if you have a kiln, bottle cutter, fishing wire, calcium carbonate, and some recycled glass bottles laying around, you can make the gift yourself. Check out Mother Earth News for instructions.
A tea gift set… I got this idea from a gift my aunt received from her employer during the winter holidays. I thought it was the cutest thing. All you need is a medium-sized container (a box, basket, tote, gift bag) and an assortment of teas (in boxes or bags). You can buy the teas from a store or use tea herbs growing in your backyard. If you want to go grander, you can add elevator music and typical western tea-party fare, such as scones, cucumber sandwiches, biscuits, Madeleine cookies, clotted cream, and fruit preserves. You can also give a book on Afternoon Tea. If the Afternoon Tea party theme doesn’t fit the giftee, don’t forget you can also go eastern with a Japanese tea ceremony gift set, a chai starter kit, or a Moroccan tea set. Check out Mighty Leaf for a Moroccan Tea set that includes loose Marrakesh mint green tea, Moroccan tea glasses, and a glass teapot. There’s seriously a lot of options in this category. Remember when gifting tea, it is wise to learn what type of teas the recipient drinks. For example, I rarely drink caffeinated teas for health reasons. Two companies with superbe tasting caffeine-free teas are Yogi and Teeccino (caffeine-free tea that tastes like coffee).
- A quilted hammock… I’ve always wanted a hammock. So, I’m adding it to the list solely for that reason. Hahaha!!!
Well, there’s my list. I hope it gave you at least one great idea for your next gift purchase. Happy gifting!!!
*Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any of the stores listed above. I did not receive payment from any store in relation to this article. I do not recommend any of the products listed above except for Grandma Joan’s Choke Cherry Jelly, Teeccino, and Yogi teas. All products names and images were provided solely for ideas and inspiration. And lastly, I am not responsible for direct, indirect, incidental or consequential damages resulting from any defect, error or failure to perform.
Extreme simplicity, also known as minimalism, isn’t the path for everyone. It takes determination, strong will and understanding. What is it you want to accomplish? If you are doing it because it sounds cool, you probably won’t last long. If you are doing it because you want a change, you see a need, or you want a realization that can only come from simplifying your life, then you’ve come to the right spot.
The 9 ideas listed below are meant as food for thought. They may look impossible, but I can assure you, they are possible. Right now, there are people all around the world pursuing a minimalist lifestyle. Will you be the next?
- Donate all the TVs in your home to family, friends, or charity organizations. When you need to watch a TV show, you can do so on your computer or on a computer at the library.
- Donate your computer. Remember most libraries offer computers with MS Word and internet access, free-of-charge if you have a library card. There’s also Kinko’s.
- Give up your car. Instead of driving, you can walk, ride your bike, take public transportation or hitch a ride with someone you trust.
- Harvest your own food. With the right research and planning, a tiny garden can be grown just about anywhere–on your roof, in a sun-room, on the balcony, in your backyard, along a large window…
- Disassociate from all people who habitually bring chaos, anger and sadness into your life. As you would declutter your pantry, so can you, your phone book. People, like spoiled food, can become toxic.
- Donate or throw away everything you have not used in 6 months.
- Pare your wardrobe down to 10 items.
- Own only 100 items. Pick 100 items that will make you happy, that you must have, and donate the rest. This is decluttering to the extreme. Everything that can be weighed is included in this list: home, computer, stove, washing machine, shirt, pant, underwear, cup, plate, frying pan. Don’t worry, it’s possible. Want to know how, check out this article about Andrew Hyde who owns only 15 items–Extreme Minimalism: Andrew Hyde and the 15-Item Lifestyle.
- 8 Extreme Simple Lifestyle Choices: Food for Thought
- 10 Ways to Nurture Simple and Nature-loving Kids
- 4 Tips for Conscious Spending
- The Essence of Simplicity
- 11 Tips for a Car-free Lifestyle
- 7 Suggestions for a Simple Lifestyle
The French are great at throwing simple picnic gatherings. In Paris, it’s not uncommon to see groups of people lay out along the Seine, in front of the Eiffel Tower, at the Square du Vert-Galant, behind the Cathédrale de Notre-Dame, or in Bois de Vincennes. With a baguette, wedge of cheese and drink in front of them, they enjoy the simple pleasures of good food, great company and beautiful scenery.
I, personally, love simple picnics on the beach. And there’s nothing like an impromptu picnic on a road trip. Many interstate highways in America have rest-areas with lots of trees and picnic tables. Some even have mini museums, short walking trails, and bbq grills. So, it’s fun to stop at these rest-areas on a breezy day and relax with a loaf of bread, spinach leaves, fruits, nuts, seeds and a bottled drink.
When I want to do something different, I picnic with a theme in mind. One theme: The French Way.
Here’s what you’ll need to do a French-themed picnic:
- Picnic hamper, basket and/or bag
- Baguette. Baguettes are best when bought within a few hours of eating. They have a short shelf-life, turning hard and stale quickly. If you are into variety, you can pack an assortment of French breads: wholemeal breads (pain complet or pain aux céréales), rye bread (pain de seigle), sourdough bread (pain au levain), sweet bread (brioche), bread spiced with nuts (pain aux noix). There’s also, bâtard, pain de campagne, ficelle, fougasse, and croissant.
- Small selection of French charcuterie (saucisson, french salami, pâté)
- Small selection of French cheeses (camembert, brie, roquefort, boursin, reblochon, munster, chèvre, tomme de savoie, cantal)
- Small selection of fresh fruits, washed (apple, pear, berries, olives).
- Durable and re-useable wine glasses, plates, and utensils
- French rice salads such as Niçoise salad
- Bottle of good wine or grape juice
- Cutting board and knife
- Cloth napkins
- Fun companion(s)
- And finally, a beautiful location
You can add more French foods to your picnic basket like petit fours, crêpes, quiches, and chilled champagne. Or you can go with less. What’s important: stress-free fun! Happy picnicking!!!
1. ReGift. There are many regift horror stories floating around out there. So, if you hesitate with this option, it is understandable. But consider this: Regifting does not mean you should give dusty, dirty, broken, or rancid items to others. The key to regifting is to give with respect and thought of the other. The same way you would hate to receive ill-flavoured chocolates is the same way others would feel. When you are regifting, consider that person’s interests. I once received used books on earth-sheltered homes and I absolutely loved them. Why? Because I have an interest in earth-sheltered homes. My friend’s gift to me showed that he actually listened while I talked. And he thought of who I am instead of who he wanted me to be.
So, if you receive a gift you cannot use, why not give it to someone who can? This saves you money and time. It’s conscious spending at its best. If you were to throw away the gift, the energy used to get it to you [growing the ingredients, shipping the ingredients to the manufacture, manufacturing the finished product, shipping the finished product to a store, someone driving to the store to buy the product, and someone driving so that you can receive your gift] would be wasted.
2. Go with Shopping Lists. Let’s face it, temptation is everywhere — on the TV and internet, in the stores and the houses we visit, and even on the street. There will always be something more beautiful or more advanced than what you already have. Accept this. And the next time you enter a store, on-line or off-line, enter with a detailed shopping list and a sincere intention to stick to it. It’s the best way to control impulse purchases.
3. Go for Quality. There’s nothing more aggravating than a product that only lasts a day or one use. So consider the quality of a product as much as the price when you are shopping. Sometimes, investing in products that last a lifetime is more efficient than buying products that continuously have to be replaced.
3. Go Green. If you are going to spend, why not spend in a way that helps save the planet? There are many ways do this.
- Buy eco-friendly products like compact fluorescent light bulbs, rechargeable batteries, reusable shopping bags, nontoxic biodegradable cleaners, organic bedding materials, solar lighting and heating, recycled furniture, low flush toilets, solar-powered ovens, and indoor / outdoor clothesline. Some of these products also make great gifts. For example, you can buy a 100% organic cotton sheet set as your next house-warming gift.
- Install a geo exchange system into your home or business. GeoExchange technology uses the earth’s renewable energy, just below the surface, to heat or cool a home or other building, and to help provide domestic hot water. These systems are so good that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has said they are the most energy-efficient, environmentally clean, and cost-effective space conditioning systems available today. (www.geoexchange.org)
- Purchase carbon offsets through Carbon Fund and Trees for the Future. The basic idea is to balance out your impact (carbon footprint) on the environment by purchasing carbon offsets which fund clean energy projects, like wind farms that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon offsets are about taking responsibility for the damaged environment we help create every day.
Getting your children to understand and enjoy simple or minimal living is not an easy feat, especially in today’s consumerist environment. However, it is possible. And one way to get there is to give your children projects and presentations to do. This method requires that your children research ideas and then, process them. Instead of forcing your children to agree with your opinions, you are educating them.
I remember when I was a kid, my mom used to come up with creative ideas that my brother, cousins, and I could do to make sure we did not spend the entire summer in unintelligent activity. One summer she paid us several cents for each book we read and wrote a report on. Of course we all were excited at the prospect of making money. It meant more ice cream from the ice cream truck. Unfortunately, it did not last long. I had a cousin who was a speed reader and he quickly divested my mom of her extra money. But the dye was set. That summer, I learned to love reading and I have continued to love it to this day.
My mom’s idea was an ingenious way to get us kids reading when we would have rather been playing. And this is my inspiration for this article. I welcome you to tweak my mom’s idea even more, so that it best fits you, your children and your situation. For example, you do not need to pay your kids money to do projects. You can offer them a different incentive, like a picnic, skating in the park, a day at the beach or their favorite home-cooked meal.
The point is: there are many ways to go about this teaching method. Be creative. Think outside the box. And most importantly, have fun. Laugh! Smile! Bring fun back into learning.
(If you are a minimalist, change “simple living” to “minimal living”. )
1. What does simple living mean to you? Ask your children to research what simple living means and then write a short essay on it. If you haven’t simplified your life yet, this is a great way to introduce your children to the idea.
2. What are the different ways a parent can live simply? This can be a fun and thought-provoking project for both parents and kids. Your kids will enjoy following you around and critiquing you. This will allow them to feel like they too, have a say in this life-changing decision. And parents… You will get to hear not only your kids opinions on you, but also on what simple living means from a kid’s point-of-view. This can be a powerful exercise because kids do say the darndest thing.
3. What are the different ways kids can live simply? This is another powerful exercise for your children. Have your children create an illustrative presentation on this topic. It can be as simple as gluing pictures to a board or as difficult as a PowerPoint presentation. The point here is to get your children to understand simple living from personal and practical perspective.
4. How does simple living affect the environment? This topic is important for tying simple living to green living. It can be presented as an essay, a speech, an informative short film, or a PowerPoint presentation. If you have older children, I recommend that the presentation be done digitally. This will add one more educational tool to the mix.
5. In what ways does and should simple living affect life at home? This is an easy topic. It will require some research and processing from your children. But the presentation can be as simple as a conversation with you.
6. What benefits do parents receive from simple living? This topic will force your children to think from a parent’s point-of-view. You can make the project even more interesting by turning it into parent-child role reversal exercise. There’s a lot of opportunity for laughter with this one.
7. What benefits do children receive from simple living? Let’s face it: we all want to know what’s in it for us. And kids are not an exception. With this project, your kids will need to interview you. The interview should be about what you think a simple lifestyle would mean for your kids, what you think will be different, and what you think will remain the same.
8. Name and describe simple living concepts. This project can be as basic as outlining general beliefs of people who practice a simple lifestyle. Or it can be as complex as collecting stories of what simple practitioners are doing around the world to make a positive difference. Interviews can be included in the presentation. And if you choose this topic for an older kid, a short docu-film would be a creative and inspirational way to present this information.
9. Name the advantages and disadvantages to simple living. This essay topic would be a great way to teach your children both sides to a movement. As we all know, there are advantages and disadvantages to every decision. Seeing both sides from a child’s point-of-view can also be educational for you.
10. If God were to talk to you, what would he or she say about simple living? This idea is inspired by the book, Conversations with God. If you do not believe in God, you can substitute “God” with “Universal Consciousness” or “your high-self”. The point is to get your children to think from an above or 3rd person perspective. For those that are open to this type of research, you’ll find that this is a freer method of thinking and learning. All the things that influence your opinion on Earth can be forgotten for that short moment. Toys no longer matter, nor do trips to the playground. This is a great way to begin teaching your children how to think outside of the box, from a higher-self standpoint and unbiasedly. You can present this topic in a variety of ways – as an essay, short video, play, fictional book, song…
11. If Mother Earth were to talk to you, what would she say about simple living? This is similar to the topic above. And like the topic above, you can present this in a variety of ways. I recommend something visual since Mother Earth is so beautiful. This would be the perfect opportunity to take your children on a field trip outdoors. You can even have them take photos of the various moments that inspired them throughout the day. These photos can be added to their presentation or essay.
12. How is green living related to simple living? What do these two movements have in common? This is a great way to get your children to tie the two movements together in their heads.
13. Draw and design a house that fits the concepts of simple or green living — exterior and/or interior. This is a creative project for kids interested in design, architecture, engineering, or construction. The older the kid, the more you should expect from him. This can be a very detailed and innovative project. For example, you can request a 3-D mock-up, house plan, brochure, video commercial, and/or informational booklet. At the end of the presentation, you should be allowed to ask questions on key elements. Who knows, this project may inspire the answer to our country’s architectural woes.
14. Design a clothing line that fits the concepts of simple living. This can be really fun. So, tell your children to be crazy and create something that will make them smile.
15. Write a letter to a congressman about simple living. If you want to teach your children about their role in politics, this is a great way to start. Who knows, this letter may inspire your congressman to make a positive difference or it may inspire your own children to become politicians in the future.
16. Create and design new technologies that can help the environment, like an alternative to solar and wind power. This project is perfect for creative kids who are interested in engineering, computer technology, and futuristic concepts. There’s nothing like getting your child to think like an inventor early on.
17. Design programs and solutions that can be implemented by businesses, governments or the public to foster interest in simple living. This can be as basic as naming 5 solutions in an essay format. Or it can be as detailed as writing a business proposal which would include a mission statement and sections on values, overall issues, goals, strategies to reach those goals and financial planning. This topic would be a wonderful way to introduce your children to entrepreneurship.
18. Create and design a video game based off of the concepts of simple, green, or organic living. This topic is for the kids that eat and sleep video games. It’s a great way to tie something they really love to do to something that’s educational in nature.
19. Create a play that discusses simple living under a genre (suspense, mystery, drama, romance or inspirational). This can be an entertaining way for the whole family to spend time together. A lot of bonding can happen during a project like this.
20. Write a short book or story that discusses simple living under a genre (suspense, mystery, romance or inspirational). This is straightforward. If you have young tots who can read and write sentences, keep in mind they too can tackle this project.
21. Develop a new philosophy and movement that focuses on healing the environment. This topic strays away from simple living, but at the same time it can emphasize the need for more simplicity on earth. This can be presented in an essay or professional proposal format.
22. Develop a new philosophy and movement that focuses on personal well-being. Like the topic above, this presentation has the potential to be very thought-provoking and inspirational.
If you want to share an idea or story with us, please do so by leaving a comment below.
Revised: May 22, 2013