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Clutter Costs Us Money And It Could Be Harming Your Health

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Photo: Julia Saltzman

Oftentimes, clutter takes on a persona of its own. First, you form an emotional bond with your things, and the fact that they continue to pile up doesn’t seem like a big deal. Then after a while, your clutter starts to accumulate, requiring more and more space until—in some cases—it takes center stage and you agree to move some of it into a temperature-controlled room at a self-storage facility, which you can only visit on its terms. Clutter is such a diva!

Self-storage facilities are widely popular these days, with an estimated 54,000 facilities in the United States feeding into a $32.7 billion industry. I believe that while storage units can be necessary in some extreme cases, they are unnecessary more often than not. So before you put down your credit card, consider how much you can save financially, mentally, and emotionally by not storing your things.

1. Financial burden.

The self-storage game is changing. They will pick up, store, and create a personalized digital inventory database—but it will cost you. Their storage units range from $89 up to $8,000 a month. Employing a self-storage unit temporarily can be helpful during a move or a renovation. But over time, it becomes a very a costly investment that never provides a return. Can you imagine the vacations or experiences you could have had by saving $100 per month over the course of a year? Instead of spending money to keep things “just in case,” consider selling or consigning large-ticket items like furniture and electronics for cold hard cash or donating them for a tax write-off.

2. Mental anxiety.

Clutter is mentally taxing. Whether we are conscious of it or not, our things hold energy, and energy affects us deeply. Looking for more proof? A study out of UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives and Families (CELF) found a link between high cortisol (stress hormone) levels in female homeowners and a high density of household objects. Additionally, the brain is only able to process a certain amount of visual information before the other senses kick into overdrive, compensating vision. When we find ourselves in a room piled high with stuff, our capacity to think clearly begins to wane. Many people use self-storage as a Band-Aid solution—a way to move clutter from one home to another. But similar to that nagging feeling you get when you’re forgetting something, you’ll know that the underlying issues remain, undressed and just sitting elsewhere.

3. Emotional strain.

Clutter emotionally stunts people. Emotionally charged possessions can weigh heavily on a heart to the point of debilitation. When does clutter become too much? Do you own your belongings, or do your belongings own you?

Learning to release our attachments and let go of physical excess is incredibly freeing and empowering. If you must keep a physical reminder of the items you are willing to release, I suggest taking photos and keeping a journal. Your footprint is much smaller using this method, and you are creating a living history in the process.

Your belongings don’t need to have jurisdiction over your life, nor do you need to make special accommodations for them. You have the power to sever emotional ties to your things. Surround yourself with things that bring you joy—and let everything else go.

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Little Things Can Make All The Difference

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 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people…” Galatians 6:10

We’ve all heard of the butterfly effect; the idea that small causes can have large effects.

One powerful example of the “butterfly effect” is drawn from a true story that has had far reaching effects for all of mankind.

One day in the countryside of Scotland, a poor farmer was toiling in his field when suddenly he heard a cry for help. Startled, he recognized someone was in trouble and the plea was coming from a nearby bog. Immediately he dropped what he was doing and ran to the source of the plea. When he located the voice calling for help, he stumbled upon a terrified boy up to his waist in black muck, screaming and sinking deeper and deeper into the bog as each minute passed.

The farmer calmly retrieved ropes from nearby, pulled the boy out of the bog and saved his life.

The next day, an elegantly dressed nobleman arrived at the farmers small and simple home. When the nobleman stepped out of his carriage, he introduced himself as the father of the boy the farmer had saved.

Emotionally, the nobleman thanked the farmer and asked to repay the farmer for saving his son’s life. The farmer waved off the offer and informed the nobleman he could not accept payment for doing what was right.   

At that moment, the nobleman asked if the farmer had a son in which the farmer replied he did. Subsequently, the nobleman insisted he provide the farmers son an education on par with that he would provide his own son. Upon leaving the farmers house, the nobleman told the farmer, “if the lad is anything like his father, he’ll no doubt grow to be a man we both will be proud of.”

The nobleman’s prediction concerning the farmers son proved to be prophetic.

True to the nobleman’s word, the farmers son attended the best schools in the world and eventually graduated from St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London. More importantly, he went on to become known throughout the world as the noted Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of Penicillin.

Years afterward, the same nobleman’s son who was saved from the bog was stricken with pneumonia.

What saved his life this time?

Penicillin.

The name of the nobleman?

Lord Randolph Churchill.

His son’s name?

Sir Winston Churchill.

 

It’s easy to get into the mindset of, “My life makes no difference” or “What impact do I have on the world? I’m just one person. No one notices me.” But what can we learn from this story? Little things can have a huge impact. Here is a partial list of things that the Bible says we should do for one another:

  • watch over one another
  • pray for one another
  • be friendly and hospitable
  • be patient with one another
  • bear with other’s faults and weaknesses
  • forgive one another
  • comfort one another
  • build up and encourage others
  • be happy for people when they are blessed
  • believe the best of one another
  • meet people’s needs

Love has many ways it can be seen. These are all simple things we can do if we are willing to take the time to do them. A kind word, a smile or a helping hand can go a long way and you never know what impact you may be having on someone’s life.

God wants us to be a blessing to others, and even the little things can mean a lot. Begin to look for opportunities to be a blessing and God will use those blessings to further His kingdom.

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DIY Indoor Mason Jar Herb Garden

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With just a few supplies and a few minutes, you can plant your favorite herbs in a jar. You’ll quickly grow a kitchen herb garden that’s as hardworking as it is pretty.

Supplies for Your DIY Herb Garden

You’ll need:

  • Mason jars/glass jars
  • Fresh herb plants or seeds
  • Potting mix
  • Pebbles
  • Chalkboard or other labels

Step 1

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Line the bottom of your jars with pebbles. This will ensure proper drainage and prevent the roots from becoming waterlogged.

Step 2

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Add potting mix to your jars, making sure you leave room for the plants.

Step 3

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Place your herbs into the jars, taking special care to ensure the herb plants aren’t overcrowding the container.

Step 4

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Using chalk labels or any other label, write down the name of each plant and affix. While this step isn’t essential, it may save you from grabbing cilantro instead of parsley!

Step 5

Display your jar herb garden! There’s no limit to the options—try mason jar hangers or a vintage milk carrier that lets you move seamlessly from windowsill to sink for easy watering.

Caring for Your Mason Jar Herb Garden

With a few simple tips, your DIY indoor herb garden will help you add flavor and interest to your recipes for seasons to come:

  • Don’t overwater. If the leaves begin to yellow, scale back. Frequent small waterings will help keep your herbs happy.
  • Prune regularly. Cutting leaves from the top of your herb plants on a regular basis will help promote a fuller, healthier plant, and keep limbs from becoming too leggy.
  • …but don’t cut too much at once. Aim to never remove more than a third of the plant at any given time, or it may struggle to rebound.
  • Cut correctly. When harvesting your herbs, be careful not to tear the stems. Use your fingers or a kitchen scissors to make a clean break.
  • Provide ample light. Most herbs love sun.
  • Keep it hot. If you live in a colder climate, don’t let your herbs touch a frozen window, and watch for signs of distress if they’re placed in a windowsill during the winter months.
  • Repot any bigger plants. If you’re doing it right, your herb plants will eventually outgrow their mason jar homes. When the roots reach the bottom and begin to become impacted, move the plant to a larger container on your porch or patio and replace.
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Want To Clean The Air In Your Home? Do These 5 Things

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Photo: Stocksy

If staying inside makes you feel restless, tired, or unhappy, there’s a chance your indoor air quality might be to blame. The Environmental Protection Agency has defined “sick building syndrome” as the result of inadequate ventilation, chemicals, and biological contaminants that can affect your physical comfort, concentration, and energy levels.

Try tossing these things from your home and see if it solves the problem-

1. Household cleaners made with synthetic ingredients

Common ingredients in household cleaners like aerosols, all-purpose cleaners, and detergents include VOCs (volatile organic compounds) like benzene, formaldehyde, tetrafluoroethylene (aerosols), phenols, ammonia, and propylene glycol.

According to the New York State Department of Health, when these VOCs enter the body, they can cause damage to tissue and organs. Additionally, short-term exposure to high levels of some VOCs can cause headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness, drowsiness, nausea, and eye and respiratory irritation. If you want a clean home and body, avoid cleaning products with these chemicals and consider switching to natural alternatives.

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Photo: Stocksy

2. Petroleum-based scented candles and incense

Filling your home with different aromas can create an inviting environment and cozy mood. However, a study by the EPA found many risks associated with burning candles and incense. When heated, products with petroleum, additives for color, and synthetic fragrances can release potentially harmful chemicals such as acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, and acrolein. Candle wicks can also contain lead in some cases, and almost all of them produce soot and other fine carbon particles that can affect the respiratory system.

Knowing this shouldn’t stop you from filling your home with pleasing scents. Instead, look for products made with natural essential oils like peppermint, ginger, or frankincense. Or better yet, make your own candles!

3. Dusty furniture, curtains, and floors

What exactly is dust? It can be a host of things, like soil, pollen, insect waste, pet dander, and even human skin. In fact, human skin is thought to make up 80 percent of all dust in our homes. When inhaled, dust can irritate the tissue in the lungs and bronchial tubes. Dust and dust mites are also the primary cause of allergic reactions. Dust mites thrive inside the home because skin cells contain proteins that are their primary source of food. When these microscopic insects eat, they release an enzyme to make the protein in skin cells more easy to digest. Contact with these enzymes can result in mild symptoms such as a runny nose or sneezing, or in more severe cases, congestion, facial pressure, or a severe asthma attack.

Hundreds of thousands of dust mites can live in bedding, mattresses, furniture, carpets, curtains, and other fabrics. To reduce the risk of exposure to dust mites, create a weekly cleaning schedule that includes among other things, dusting furniture, curtains, and floors every week and more often if you have pets!

 

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Photo: Stocksy

4. Carpets and rugs that don’t wear a “green” label

Environmentally friendly carpets can greatly reduce your exposure to air toxins. One study evaluating the “new carpet smell” found that certain carpets emit chemicals like formaldehyde, vinyl acetate, and isooctane. Over time, these chemicals escape into the air. In some cases, vacuuming or using professional cleaning equipment might not even be enough to suck them up.

If you’re looking for a carpet that is made with fewer chemicals, the Carpet and Rug Institute created a certification program called Green Label Plus that tests carpets for benzene, chloroform, formaldehyde, phenol, and many other potentially harmful compounds. When shopping for carpets, simply ask to see products that have Green Label Plus certification and always looks for ones made without synthetic fibers. Opt for cotton, bamboo and other natural fibers.

5. Air filters older than 90 days

Consider your heating and cooling systems the lungs of your home. When air is inhaled through the return air vent, it enters the heating and cooling system before being exhaled through vents or registers. Just like our nasal passages have mechanisms to trap allergens before they reach our lungs, our homes use air filters to stop pollen, dust mites, and more from reaching the heating and cooling systems. And since we breathe what the home breathes, we need air filters to help reduce the number of allergens found in the air.

Air filters use woven fibers that allow air molecules to pass through but trap microscopic particles such as pollen, mold spores, pet dander, dust mites, and other allergens. Over time, as these particles fill the gaps in the filter material, airflow will diminish and the filter will be less effective at improving air quality. You can prevent this by replacing air filters every 90 days. You may need to replace them sooner if you have pets, use your stove and oven often, or experience frequent allergies.

What can you add to your home to clean out the air?

We spend a lot of time indoors: about 90 percent of the day. As research has found, levels of indoor air pollution can be two to five times higher than outdoor air. Indoor pollution can be the result of everything we have already outlined above and a few other sources such as pets, things kids track indoors, cooking, and more.

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Photo: Stocksy

While you definitely want kids, pets, and food in your life, the best way to deal with your remaining indoor air-quality problem is to add plants around the home that absorb harmful chemicals over time. You should also open your windows at least twice a month to allow fresher outdoor air to replace the stale indoor air. To make this process more effective, set your thermostat to the “fan” setting to speed up the circulation of air to other areas of the home. During the winter or summer months, this step might sound unpleasant, but the difference it can make might make the brief discomfort of hot or cold air worth it.

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8 Ways To Simplify Your Life and Live Minimally

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Life can be crazy sometimes. We juggle jobs, paying bills, planning for the future, reaching our dreams and all the other little things that we deal with everyday.

Wouldn’t it be nice to simplify things? And I don’t mean making huge life changes, but small changes can sometimes make a big difference with our daily stress.

Living simple can make you happier, feel more in control of life, and helps you to enjoy the small things. Simple living means different things to all of us, but in general it means getting rid of the extra noise in our life so that you can have more time to enjoy what you love.

The suggestions below are just basic guidelines and won’t be for everyone. Just do what you think is best for your life and try to get rid of things that aren’t important to you.

Tips to simplify your life

 

1. Automate your finances

There are a lot of things you can have automated. Your paychecks can be direct deposited, your bills can be on auto-pay, you can even having recurring monthly transfers to your savings account so you can start working on building up that emergency fund. The point is, make life easier by making sure your bills are paid on time every month.

2. Don’t just organize, declutter and downsize!

Being unorganized can waste a ton of our time, causes stress and sometimes late fees if you can’t find that bill you’ve been meaning to pay (see number 1). But don’t just organize- declutter and downsize! A lot of us make the mistake that we need to go to the store and buy fancy organizational supplies to get our lives in order, but in reality, we’re just organizing clutter. Take time to go through the things you own and decide what you really need and love.

Decluttering and downsizing will-

  • Save time cleaning. The less stuff you have, the less there is to clean.
  • Save time on maintenance. Not owning as much means less time spent on maintaining and repairing those items.
  • Saves money. You don’t need as big of a home to hold all your stuff which means, less utility bills, less insurance costs, less money spent on repairs.

3. Put reminders in your phone or on a calendar

Make life easier by not trying to remember when your next appointment is, when a bill is due or what you needed to buy at the grocery store. It only takes a minute to put a reminder in your phone or on a calendar. Setup reminders for things like-

  • to do lists
  • work tasks that need to get done
  • bill due dates
  • errands that need to be done
  • appointments
  • medicine that needs to be taken

4. Become debt free

Whether it’s credit card debt, student loans, cars, mortgage or any other debt you’ve created, paying it off will free you from the stress of having those things hanging over your head every month. Debt causes a ton of stress. So get serious once and for all and decide to take control of your financial life. Make a budget and learn to live on less every month. Stick to a grocery budget, stop buying all the “little” things like your daily Starbucks coffee that add up quickly, stop online shopping when you’re bored, shop with a purpose. Only buy what you need and learn to look for sales and coupons before purchasing things.

You’ll be surprised how much money you can save by watching where every dollar you spend every month goes. There are a lot of things that you can cut out of your life to get you to the financial goal of being debt free. It’s worth the sacrifice now to have freedom from debt!

5. Spend less time on social media

The average person spends many hours a week on various social media sites. Between Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest and all the other sites, it can be quite easy to waste away your day.

Plus it has been shown in many studies that social media can have a negative impact on your mental health. We see the fabulous lives that everyone else is posting online from vacations in exotic lands, exciting jobs, weddings, babies, and we tend to get jealous thinking that everyone else gets to live these fabulous lives that we don’t get to live. Step back, take a break and realize that we’re only seeing a small portion of their lives. They have bad days too and we can’t compare ourselves to them. But if it’s affecting your mental health, it’s ok to walk away from social media whether temporarily or permanently. Trust me, you won’t miss it.

6. Watch less tv

There is such a thing as too much tv. The average person watches 35 hours of tv a week. Imagine what you could be doing with that time! Even better, get rid of cable all together which not only will save you money but will help you break the tv habit. So get outside, read that book you’ve been meaning to get to, learn a new hobby. You may find something new that you love to do!

7. Downsize your closet

The less clothing choices you have, the less decision fatigue you will get trying to figure out what to wear. Go through everything you own and be brutal. Keep only what you love and what fits you well and get rid of everything else. You can also make some extra cash selling what you don’t keep!

8. Find free things to do to entertain yourself

You don’t have to spend money to have fun. If you’re trying to get out of debt or just trying to not spend as much money every month, there’s plenty of activities you can do to keep busy that don’t cost money. Get books and movies from the library, go to a museum on their free days, get outside and have a picnic or go for a walk. Your city will usually have a guide online of free things to do every weekend too!

 

These are just a few tips on how to simplify your life. Do you have any tips for what you do to live simpler? I’d love to hear!