I’m now on Pinterest!

I recently made a new Pinterest account for my blog and I wanted to share it with you all – click here to follow me.

I use the account to pin ideas for my future home, well-being and health tips, organisation tips, cleaning tips, food and drink ideas and so on.

I’m a big lover of Pinterest and I hope you’ll join me over there!

Happy pinning!

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Using it up: Going zero waste beyond packaging

I wanted to talk about something today regarding going zero waste. The focus of the zero waste movement so far has been about making no rubbish which has to go to landfill as well as producing fewer items for recycling. But recently I have been thinking about expanding the meaning of zero waste in my life.

The Chain of Waste

If I purchase a book, that book will have arrived at the bookstore in a large cardboard box along with either paper filler, bubble wrap, or plastic fillers to prevent damage; sometimes plastic wrap is also used. If I purchase an item of clothing in a store it will have arrived in store shrink wrapped in plastic which is removed before the item goes out on sale. If I purchase loose fruit and vegetables the trays used to transport that to a supermarket are still covered with large plastic liners. Whenever we purchase anything there is a whole trail of waste created right from the raw materials being mined, logged or manufactured all the way through to how that item reaches the store in order for us to purchase that item.

Therefore in order to further the zero waste lifestyle I feel that we must look at not only how much packaging we take home with us, but also consider how much waste was likely created for its production – after all, if we follow zero (home) waste, then we could purchase 100 items of clothing and recycle all 100 cardboard price tickets, and call this an ecological act.

I think when we consider the amount of waste created in order for a product to reach us, then we owe it to our wallets and to the environment to make sure that we use the items we purchase. After all if we buy 100 items but only use 2 then the resources and money required for those other items are being wasted.

A Culture of Hauls and Stashes

Being in many groups on Facebook for various hobbies over the years I have seen the rise in doing hauls, stashes and excessive buying grow in increasing popularity. There’s nothing wrong with a haul now and then but often I saw people buying far more of one particular type of item than what I could see them feasibly using in a lifetime – and that’s if they even decide to keep doing that same hobby for the next fifty or more years!
I used to be jealous, but now I reflected and I wonder how can you be jealous of people who buy things they will never use? If we don’t use something, what is the point in owning it? I don’t believe there is any joy to be gained in items that just sit and gather dust year after year, if anything the need to clean those items, maintain them, arrange them and so on just makes me long for the simple life! I’ve also seen a really ungrateful attitude with some people doing hauls – in one I watched as the poster opened box after box throwing the contents carelessly to one side!

My challenge to you

If you’re reading this blog I’m guessing it’s because you have either an interest in zero waste or minimalism, so here is my challenge to you for the following year – please let me know how you get on, I would love to hear your stories!

How many of us have books, DVD’s, clothes, various hobby paraphernalia lying around at home which never sees the light of day? I think everyone does to some degree so I’m challenging you to look around your home and ask yourself what you can prevent be wasted in your home. What books haven’t you read? What movies have you bought and never watched? Could you finish an old project you began? If you no longer have the same enthusiasm for a hobby anymore, could you pass on the related items on while they are still in good condition to prevent them being wasted? If you still enjoy your hobby what would it be like to have only one project at a time and stick with it until completion? Here’s a couple of key questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you have items in your home being wasted through lack of use?
  • Could you make a commitment to using those items up before purchasing new ones?
  • If you no longer wish to use the item, can you donate it to a charity or friend who will use it?

My commitment

Of course I am not going to challenge you to something I am not prepared to do myself so here’s a couple of plans I have for 2018 with regards to not wasting items.

  • For a while now I have seen my interest in sewing decline with no renewal so I am planning to keep only the threads I need to finish my 2 current projects and selling the rest to someone who will use them.
  • I also have a pile of maybe 15 books which are currently unread so in 2018 I will be working my way through the pile and donating the books afterwards.
  • For several months I have been working my way through my stack of notebooks and paper and am pleased to say I’ve finish several since I stopped buying. I’m hoping to get down to owning only 1 notebook in 2018 instead of 20 half-finished ones! (As a small side note I recycle all the paper I use.)

Let me know how you get on in the comments below!

Why I wouldn’t want to be (super) rich

Recently the EuroMillions Lottery jackpot reached a colossal £119 million which would have made the winner one of the top 1000 richest people in the UK. Since I don’t have the disposable income to play year-round at every game, I usually only play when the jackpot is unusually big for a bit of entertainment (and the desire to quit minimum-wage work but, I digress). I began playing about 2 weeks ago when the jackpot was around £80 million or so until it was won last night by a player in Switzerland.

For the couple of weeks I played it gave me a lot of time to read about what actually happens when you win the lottery, and think about what would really happen if I did win. It gave me a lot to reflect upon so here’s my list of why I wouldn’t want to win such a large amount of money.

  1. Being set for life is a myth – In the USA it’s reported that around 70% of big lottery winners either spend or lose all their winnings within 5 years and many even go bankrupt. Like many others I believed that a lottery win would set you up for life and that only the odd person mismanaged their winnings and ended up worse off – so I was surprised to see that this isn’t the case for the majority of winners.
  2. You would need a whole team of advisors – When you win really big it’s advisable to get a team of people around you who can help you such as a financial adviser, accountant and so on. I don’t know about you but I enjoy managing my own money and budget, and the thought of suddenly having to find others to help me manage my wealth would be stressful! How would I know who was worth their salt and who to trust?
  3. You might be at an increased risk of burglary – As part of my research I spent a lot of time looking at how large the homes of the rich are – and it’s difficult to see how you could be aware of such a large space. When you live in a relatively small-medium house it’s easier to hear unusual noises, the breaking of glass and so on that would indicate if someone entered your home without your knowledge. Sure, you can hire security but that hasn’t stopped many high-profile celebrities from being broken in to and burgled including Simon Cowell, Kanye West, Rihanna and Mariah Carey – all people I would expect to have security you can’t get past.
  4. You will be at increased risk of kidnapping and murder – I read online (Sorry I can’t find the source again) that those who win large sums of money are statistically 2-3 times more likely to be murdered. Other lottery winners have reported seeing strangers in their gardens watching their children for unknown purposes.
  5. The fear of losing it all – The higher we fly the higher we have to fall, and especially if we go from one extreme to another the challenges of adjustment would be very difficult, whether that’s poor to rich or rich to poor, or even poor to rich to poor again. Even if you win a large sum of money you might still spent time worrying – about what you would do if you became one of those 70% of people who lose all their money.
  6. You might be hated by a lot of people – As income inequality rises and more and more people are using food banks in the UK, criticism of the super rich has grown. Some super rich people now fear revolution or an uprising due to the increasing gap and dissatisfaction felt by those who go hungry while others have gold toilet seats.
  7. You will be expected to buy and do particular things because you are rich – It’s kind of considered a given that if any of us were to win a significant amount of money that we would buy ourselves a designer wardrobe, luxury cars and so on. But for those of us who have never dreamed of having a designer wardrobe the expectation that we should want those things might be difficult to reconcile. Although I’ve occasionally seen a designer item which has caught my eye, by and large I don’t lust after that all-designer wardrobe with $20,000 handbags. If I could afford to shop at NEXT I would be a very happy! As for spending a quarter of a million dollars on a car? No chance, I’m not sure what car I would buy since they are of little interest to me, but I most likely wouldn’t want to spend beyond £10-20,000 if I won the lottery – as long as it had four doors, heating and was a reasonable colour I’d be happy! Those who opt not to purchase luxury goods are sometimes criticised as wasting their opportunity to do so and told they should give that money to someone else who will go buy those designer items since ‘you don’t know how to spend it’.
  8. The need to have a continuous stable income in order to support your new lifestyle – Once you start living an expensive lifestyle there is pressure to continue finding the income to do so, and whilst a big lottery win can give you a lavish lifestyle even lottery winnings have their limits, particularly when they are only spent and never used to generate future income whether via education or investment. Take for example the standard desire of wanting a mansion – even if that alone only took up a small amount of your winnings, the costs of running that mansion could soon eat up the rest of your winnings – some of the huge houses I looked at were costing their owners $74,000 a month just to run them and maintain them. That’s three quarters of a million a year just on housing costs, before you’ve even factored in the rest of your lifestyle costs. Similarly for those who work their way up, people can feel pressured to continue maintaining a particular lifestyle or keep up with peers even if it doesn’t make them happy.
  9. People will want money from you – Lottery winners who go public have reported receiving thousands of letters begging for money and no longer been able to visit local places they used to love because of people hounding them for money. Of course you could try to only tell a few close friends but the more people you tell the greater the risk of someone letting the cat out of the bag, which is what happened to one man who planned to stay anonymous – until his girlfriend let it slip. People wanting money from lottery winners has been the cause of many a relationship, whether friends, family or romantic to come to an end.
  10. You might lose sight of who you are – Although I try hard to be a good person and generally think I wouldn’t become a raging jerk if I succeeded financially or won the lottery, there’s no telling until you get there. What if one day I found myself uttering ‘Don’t you know who I am?’ or what if I became a control freak like the woman who dropped her blueberries over a balcony and made a team of hotel staff spend hours searching for them? Until we get that kind of money there’s really no telling.
  11. You might lose your ability to connect and sympathise with others – Sure rich people still have problems but if they are careful with their money there is a whole host of things that they never have to worry about that the rest of us do – how will they stay warm, eat, bathe or live in general from day to day. When something goes wrong you have the bank balance to fall back on and what could be a major problem for someone with very little income like their car breaking down would be a mere inconvenience for the rich. This can lead to people being totally out of touch with the lives of those less fortunate and then hateful towards those people, but the good news is this isn’t always the case and there are rich people out there who manage to maintain an understanding and sympathy towards those less fortunate.
  12. Privacy – In many states in the USA you have no choice but to go public with your winnings. And in the UK if you go public or someone else lets that secret out for you then you might find yourself and your choices in the national papers as many other lottery winners have done in the past. Your past might also be scrutinised a lot more carefully than if you hadn’t won, so if you plan to play this is something to take into consideration.
  13. You might feel like your life is meaningless – I’ve seen some people whose businesses and careers took off only to see them endlessly talking about what they bought, what products they liked, what they are decluttering and it strikes me that their whole life and purpose seems to revolve around… shopping. Don’t get me wrong there’s nothing wrong with shopping, almost all of us enjoy it, but when your whole life revolves around buying new stuff I imagine it must be difficult to feel any long-term deep satisfaction with your life and connection with your life’s purpose. There’s more to life than just… stuff.
    This does in part depend upon the kind of person you are – if you focus on buying items with your money and winnings you are probably more likely to feel dissatisfied than if you focused on what money can do for you in terms of experiences, education, adventures and enterprises. Many lottery winners, high-earners and celebrities have fallen into a depression over their feelings of life being meaningless for them. The good news is that your wealth can give you the opportunity to explore what a meaningful life would look like to you – and chase it.
  14. It probably won’t make you happy – Statistically it’s been shown that an income of around £70,000 a year is the peak point for happiness and well-being in terms of wealth and that after that people don’t get any happier. As a society where money is concerned we tend to think that we can’t have enough of it and the more money we have, the happier we will be. Clearly this isn’t the case – perhaps we should all be dreaming of 70k a year jobs instead of lottery numbers?

And with all that said, I wouldn’t mind my current situation to improve a bit but I think having £100+ million would potentially be more stress than it’s worth! What do you think? Is there an amount of money where you would be happy and comfortable and any more just wouldn’t have any effect or would actually have the opposite effect? Share with me in the comments below!

Sources

http://www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2016/01/why_do_70_percent_of_lottery_w.html

https://www.ft.com/content/208627f2-d1d0-11e6-9341-7393bb2e1b51

https://www.thedailybeast.com/lotto-death-curse

Reflecting on two years smoke-free

I first began smoking out of curiosity.

When I was growing up my grandma was in poor health but when I reached my mid-teens she became housebound. She developed emphysema, then COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), and then one day I walked into her bedroom and her medical notes were pasted to the wall where they read ‘lung failure’.

About ten years ago she was admitted to hospital on Christmas Eve and we were told to say our goodbyes. We had a priest come and bless her. I was awake for more than 24 hours and finally went home on Christmas Day, completely exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally. After that I thought she would never smoke again. She lived for another five years after this and continued to smoke through many, many more similar hospital admissions.

I don’t know why she continued to smoke – they say it wouldn’t have cured the damage she had already done but to me that’s like saying you’ve got one broken leg so why not have two? They are probably right that her condition wouldn’t have improved – but it could have stabilised and been managed at emphysema instead of lung failure. Instead she continued to decline and struggle to breathe for the remaining five years of her life, and yes, it was horrific to watch.

So I was curious – what could possibly make someone want to continue smoking when it was making you so ill? I can only imagine that not being able to breathe is terrifying, but not being able to breathe for years? Unimaginable.

When I tried my first cigarettes I was totally unimpressed. I thought it was pretty disgusting and nothing to be addicted to. I didn’t get it at all. Later I tried again with menthols and found something I could smoke. So I smoked menthols for a few years, putting up with the headaches, sickness, nausea, feeling out of breath, shaky, and general feeling of unwell-ness that came with being a smoker. Then I met my partner and he didn’t like me smoking, so I quit. After that I only smoked on and off – when I stressed, upset or abroad where cigarettes were very cheap compared to the now skyrocketing prices of the UK due to laws designed to deter smokers (they work). But I didn’t really quit altogether per say, I always liked to know it was there – if I wanted it, but mostly I didn’t bother. I guess it just kind of tapered off until recently I was wondering how long it had been since I had smoked and realised that it was coming up to two years.

I only really gained an understanding when after many, many years of being eating disordered I desperately wanted to quit and to change but found myself unable no matter how I came at the problem. Finally, I understood how you could continue to smoke whilst being unable to breathe – and then I gained a greater sense of compassion, empathy and understanding – a sort of closeness to her, if you like.

Do I miss it? Yes and no. Some days I really crave it, whilst others I can’t imagine ever craving a cigarette ever again. Mostly when I walk behind smokers and breathe in that second-hand smoke – and it’s not cheating – I feel nostalgia for memories of people and a time now long gone.

How Vitamin D changed my life

Disclaimer: Unlike iron deficiency anaemia, I was never diagnosed with Vitamin D deficiency but instead was prescribed vitamin D by my GP for a different reason, which so happened to heal my fatigue. I wanted to share my experience in the hopes that it might help others struggling with fatigue. If you think you might be deficient in vitamin D you should consult with your doctor.

In autumn 2015 I was prescribed calcium by my doctor to help protect my bones from osteoporosis. Unfortunately for me I made the mistake of not mentioning to my GP during consultation that I struggle to swallow almost any kind of tablet and that large tablets would be an impossibility for me – so when I opened my prescription and saw the bullet-size pills, I filed the tablets in a draw and ignored them for a few months.

As winter came round I got ill with a severe chest infection which required three separate rounds of antibiotics – the last ones strong antibiotics – and steroids to clear. By the time I recovered I had lost 10lbs and was feeling pretty run down. So I wasn’t too surprised that I felt exhausted. Over several weeks though my exhaustion did not improve with any amount of rest. Sleeping 12-14 hours a day had become the norm, along with struggling to wake up myself up – I started semi-waking, falling asleep, semi-waking, and then falling asleep again over and over before finally properly waking. I would lay for hours needing to go to the bathroom falling in and out of sleep because I couldn’t summon the energy to move.

I knew something wasn’t right. By this point I had already begun taking my iron deficiency more seriously and felt that there must be something else wrong to make me feel this tired. It also felt different from the kind of tiredness I get when I’m low on iron – when I’m low on iron I feel breathless, like my chest is being squeezed tight and all my muscles ache constantly – the general feeling is that you can’t get enough air, or enough blood pumping around your limbs, even though your heart is beating like crazy and you’re having palpitations.

This was more like a zombie, comatose feeling where I could barely rouse myself, I never felt truly awake, it was just like living in a permanent fog. I remember lying in my bed at this point feeling like it was an effort to hold my phone and even dropped it on a couple of occasions because it was ‘too heavy’.It’s hard to explain our put into words, but the two feel qualitatively different.

Since I was feeling pretty run down at this time I decided I would start taking better care of myself in general – including finding a more accessible form of the calcium I had been prescribed. As I was then living quite a distance from my GP I did some research online as to what other forms of calcium and vitamin D I could ask for that might be easier for me to take. Unfortunately my research came up with no suitable options available on prescription so instead I began looking at over the counter options I could potentially purchase myself. Luckily I found several options available at Boots.

I can’t remember how I dragged myself to the city centre and back, but somehow or another I did, and within a few days of taking my new calcium tablets, the foggy exhaustion which left me struggling to wake up – and stay awake – began to lift. Puzzled at why calcium would have that affect, having never heard of any link between calcium and fatigue, I did some research into what my doctor had prescribed which turned out to be calcium and vitamin D, and it was at this point that I found out about the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency. The constant fatigue, low immune system, muscle weakness, fogginess now made a lot more sense.

I spoke with my GP and asked if the dose and type of tablets I had gotten over the counter would be a suitable replacement for the prescription she had given me and she confirmed that they were and how many of them I should take to make up an equivalent dose. She also confirmed for me that there were no easier to take tablets available on the NHS and we therefore agreed that if I struggled to take the originals, the best thing to do would be for me to continue purchasing them on my own. We also discussed about the vitamin D and she agreed that if I found it helpful I should continue taking it.

I also did more research and found out that due to our location, around 98% of people living in my area of the country were vitamin D deficient in the winter since we are far too north on the earth’s latitude to produce any. I imagine the sheer cold even in summer leads to a majority of people covering up even in summer – I know I tried to put away my winter coat in late June, almost July and found myself regretting it. Also, contrary to my previous belief, milk in my country is not fortified with vitamin D. I had seen milk listed as being a source of vitamin D so often that I didn’t think I needed to worry about it at all.

From then on I made sure to take my calcium and vitamin D everyday, and my fatigue cleared and I began to feel more normal. I felt that I had found a piece of the puzzle in why my health was so poor. But after a while on the vitamin D I began to suffer from insomnia, at which point some further research revealed that I needed to take it in the morning rather than in the evening. Occasionally when I have been taking my vitamin D very frequently I will still get the insomnia but now I recognise it I taper down the vitamin D for a short while before continuing as normal. Such is life, we learn along the journey. Other than this minor hitch I haven’t had any other side-effects from taking the vitamin D, unless you count more energy and feeling more refreshed!

Looking back I also realise now I had some of the other symptoms of having low vitamin D levels that I had raised with my doctor, like bone pain in my legs which was unexplained. Although I’m fair skinned (Type I) I still had several risk factors – I was a student so I spent the majority of my time indoors; if I went abroad I wore factor 30 or 50 as I due to my skin type I am at high-risk for skin cancer; I had been living in the far north of the UK for several years now. We lived so far north that as a community we would joke we didn’t know what that weird shape was in the sky whenever the sun came out for it’s annual one-day visit.

The combination of iron and vitamin D has been a life-changer in terms of my fatigue, tiredness, breathlessness, aches, pains and bone pain. I only wish I had known about both sooner so that I hadn’t spent so much time exhausted and wondering how on earth I was going to make it through another day.

Since I found out about vitamin D the Scottish government has agreed with the Scientific Advisory Commission on Nutrition (SACN) to advise Scots to take a vitamin D supplement at least during the autumn and winter months, if not all year round. After feeling like a bit of a mad woman for talking about this with family and friends it’s good to know I’m not wrong! Hopefully this will also mean greater awareness for GPs when they have patients presenting with fatigue and aches and pains.

Do you take vitamin D? Or do you recognise that constant feeling of fatigue, aches and pains that doesn’t go away with rest? Share with me in the comments below.

References

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-36856176