Think Simple Now — a moment of clarity

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4 Easy Tips for Living Light

Photo by Holly Lay
Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. ~Arthur Ashe

Several years ago, my good friend and I shared an apartment. We both just started our first “real jobs” and weren’t making a ton of money. We took turns cooking dinner, and we came up with a plan to use everything in our fridge before we went grocery shopping.

We didn’t waste food and saved serious cash at a time when we needed to most. It also forced us to be ridiculously creative.

Apples and tofu were the only thing in the fridge? Check out the pantry. We’ve got some walnuts, honey and a lone red onion. Suddenly we went from scrounging to gourmet cooking.

We called this using what you have, and we applied it all over the place. I just used it while shopping yesterday.

Anyone looking to live light and declutter their lives can use the concept. People who are looking to save money will love it. In fact, I’m pretty sure everyone can appreciate the ways you can use what you have. Here’s how:

1. Know Thyself

One of the most amazing things I’ve discovered is how often we overlook what we already own. My friend moved overseas recently and was emptying out her cupboards. She was shocked to find that she’d purchased things more than once. Here were two jars of honey, three bottles of ketchup and more Italian seasoning than you could shake a fist at.

When I decided to move across the country, I knew I needed to use up everything I could. I couldn’t believe the amount of shampoo I had. It took me months to use it all, even after I started using it to wash my clothes.

We all have our weaknesses when it comes to this. Most of us buy more than we need of something, whether it be towels, dishes or jam. I’m a sucker for army green cargo pants. I think I had four pairs at one point.

Open your eyes and look around your home with this knowledge. See what you have a lot of and keep a mental note. And when you’re out shopping, remember: You don’t need any more!

Now the first question I ask myself is: Do I own some version of this already? It took me awhile to train me away from the cargo pants, but my closet is cleaner and my wardrobe doesn’t look like I’m preparing for a safari.

2. Accept All Substitutes

This is when you start to get creative. I do this all the time in the kitchen. Say my recipe calls for chicken broth, and I forgot to defrost it. I just grab the jar of instant veggie broth and voila!

Or I need tomato sauce and there’s none to be found? Don’t go to the store. Add some water to the can of tomato paste. Good enough for who it’s for, I always say. It’s kind of fun to see how long I can go without making a run for groceries.

This can apply for non-food stuffs as well. I wanted to buy a fine strainer to rinse quinoa and lentils and such in. I was at the kitchenware store and realized I had basically the same thing at home — I just hadn’t thought to use it for straining. So I left and saved 10 bucks.

The Internet is a great way to see if you can use something you already have. Just Google whatever you need and add “substitute” or “DIY” to the end of your search. You’ll be connected to all sorts of brave and innovative souls who have dared to use what they have and share their knowledge.

That’s how I learned that I can make a decorative bulletin board with stuff I already owned rather than buying a $30 one at the store. It’s personalized, fun, saves me money and eliminates the random clutter I’ve had hanging around.

Once you get into this groove, you’ll be amazed at how often you don’t need to go anywhere or buy anything to get what you want.

3. It’s Not Just About the Household

Remember that most of us live in a community, and most communities have resources that belong to all of us. The library is one of my favorite places to visit for things I communally have.

My husband and I have been working through the IMDb Top 250 by reserving movies at our local library. We’ve seen more movies now than if we’d just stuck to our traditional renting structure.

The same goes for all of the random books we’ve taken home and read or not read because we decided we didn’t like them. We don’t feel bad returning something we know someone else will enjoy.

Start taking advantage of community space. For your next gathering, set up a spot in a park for the afternoon. No need to worry about entertaining your friends’ kids or cleaning up before everyone arrives.

Once you open your mind to the idea of sharing within your community, you’ll see that much like your already full kitchen cabinets, there is a lot you didn’t know you had.

4. Get Ready to Receive

For the past few days I’ve been feeling a little under the weather, and I’m trying to train for a race. I know I needed some cardio, but all I could muster up the energy for was a little yoga.

Guess what came into my inbox that day? A free four-day cardio yoga class that I could do online, at home, whenever I wanted.

This happens all the time. If you want or need something, you just need to open your mind to the blessings of the Universe. Perhaps it isn’t exactly what you wanted, but hey! Accept all substitutes, right?

We’re surrounded by everything we need. It’s just about opening our eyes and seeing things in a different light. It’s about using what we have.

Do you have any tips for using what you have and living light? How do you get creative with your wants and needs?


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About the author

Rebecca is a fierce optimist who believes in the power of making life happen. Magic and creativity are her latest pursuits, along with exploring her new home, Germany. Read her blog, follow her on Facebook and Twitter for her latest enthusiastic (and sometimes witty) remarks. Check out her new book, Change is Easy & Other Novel Concepts: Short Essays on Changing Your Life, One Step at a Time.

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