conscious living – a (kind of) plan

When I moved from my old blog in September last year, I planned that this one would be a celebration of cheerful living – ‘a healthy mix of simple living, frugal living, ordinary-and-extraordinary living’. I think I’d like to add conscious living to that mix.

I’ve always been a bit of an environmentalist at heart, but that’s meant different things for me at different times. When I was a teenager I stopped eating meat, distressed at factory farming conditions. For several years I was vegan, until I slowly moved to the other side of the ‘flying soya beans from the other side of the world vs locally produced dairy’ debate (and, I’ll confess, I was lured by a sticky toffee pudding – I never said I was a purist). I still don’t eat meat – but that’s more out of habit than anything else right now.

At university, I was a member of People and Planet, a national student group, and we campaigned about the unethical investment of the university pension scheme, animal rights, and third world debt, among other things (I seem to remember tying a chain of large cardboard chain links all the way around the library at one point).

The trouble is, I was never much of a campaigner. I’m too frightened of getting into trouble. It’s no use quavering in your boots and hiding round the corner when you’re meant to be part of a continuous circle of people surrounding the treasury in protest, as I found out. And asking people for signatures on petitions is all very well, unless you’re too much of a gibbering wreck to retort if they start arguing with you.

The thing about me and campaigning is, I’m never convinced I’m right. I mean, I often am convinced inside that I’m doing the right thing, I’m just not very good at arguing my case and standing my ground with other people. Which is why this blog post is getting so long and rambly.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that, at some point, my ethical credentials slipped a little. Things became part of my life that probably wouldn’t be there if I consciously designed my life from scratch. I’m not saying they’ll go (I’m not designing life from scratch, after all), but I’d feel happier knowing I’d thought about them a bit more.

I’d like to take a good long look at my life and the choices I’ve made, and see which of them I’m not entirely comfortable with. I’d like to own the choices I’ve made. I’d like to live a little more consciously.

I’m not going to describe this as ethical living, or green living, or simple living – sometimes giving things a label gives the impression that there’s a ‘right’ action, and, as I said, I’m never entirely convinced about that. I just want to look at the things that I do, and think about how I’d *like* to be doing them, and make a few changes if I can.

There’s a few things I’d like to do more of, like cycling, buying local food, getting to know the local area better, doing some voluntary work. There’s plenty I do already, like composting, growing a little bit of food, buying second hand instead of buying new. And there’s some things i’d like to do a little less of, like driving short distances, and buying processed food.

I want this to be cheerful, not guilt-ridden. This will be a *fun* exploration, not a structured analysis. I can’t promise I’m going to be methodical about it (in fact, I can promise you I won’t be). What I write won’t necessarily be well-researched, and you may not agree with what I choose.

It feels kind of weird putting myself out there a bit more in a space I usually reserve for waffling about tea and cake and knitting. I promise there’ll still be plenty of that too!

So, here’s the plan. Over the next year or so I’m going to have an entirely non-methodical look at different bits of life – the usual stuff – waste, energy, transport, food, toiletries, that kind of thing. If you’re lucky, I’ll even tell you about the ongoing washable sanitary towels experiment. I’m not going to assign an area per month or anything so organised. I’ll write about it when I’ve done something interesting that’s worthy of a few photos.

On the third weekend of every month (because this is the third weekend, if you don’t count January 1st, which I’m not), I’ll pop back and let you know what I’ve found out, and what I’ve changed, in the past few weeks.

Anyone fancy joining me?

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11 Responses to conscious living – a (kind of) plan

  1. cheri says:

    Gosh, having spent the last couple of hours playing cupboard tetris in order to cram two households into one and complaining like mad about the amount of stuff in there I decided to take a break and check my emails. Up pops your cheery living and a post that has stopped my in my tracks, literally. Like you I was always a person who thought about things when I was younger, why should I do this, what does that mean to people? And I even protested and campaigned. I was at Greenham Common dont you know, but I also was a big scaredy cat terrified of getting into trouble. I guess the art of campaigning is being absolutely certain of your convictions and that can only come with full knowledge and facts that you are confident in debating. So I think that your experiment is perfect. You care, you want to make a difference but you want to do it quietly and steadily and who says that you have to be out on the streets protesting or campaigning? I say that I will watch this experiment with interest and look forward to your posts. You always make me think about things differently. Oh and I am sorry I ramble too.

    • Ooh you were at Greenham Common? I need to learn more about all that as I don’t know squat about it really and I now live really close and visit it occasionally. I am similarly scared of taking a stand in a physical way (do have the odd rant on lj/fb) so I am very impressed by ‘proper’ protesting! 🙂

  2. Thanks Cheri, that comment means a lot 🙂

    I’m never absolutely certain of what I’m doing! I’m already pretty happy with many things I do, but just want to have a more clear think about some of the other things. Glad I’ve made you think a bit differently too 🙂

    (and never apologise for rambling!
    xx

  3. Robyn says:

    Oh wow – this is really interesting! I’ll say straight out that I am NOT a campaigner as such, but I do already have interests in the direction you’re thinking about. Those interests mostly seem to be on the food side of the subject – free range, ethical meat, food miles etc. We’ve already made strides in this direction over the past few years. Waste I find frustrating – I hear of other people managing to produce no more than a small carrier bag per fortnight, yet as usual our kitchen bin is bulging at the end of each week, yet we buy very little over-packaged stuff. My pet hate in the supermarket s seeing people pick up bananas and then pop them into a plastic bag before placing them in the trolley – for goodness sake, they each come in their very own little protective jacket!

    I’ll follow this with interest – I probably won’t join in as such, but what I will do is bounce off your posts on the subject in order to reflect from my own perspective – maybe even over on my own bloig, if that’s OK!

  4. Of course Robyn! There isn’t anything to ‘join in’ really, thinking about it 🙂 But of course reflect on your own blog (or here!), always good to have another perspective, and it’s nice to bounce off what you read about other people’s lives 🙂

    It’s funny, none of this stuff is new to me, I just feel like I’ve lost my way a little over the last few years, I have a car now after vowing I never would, I eat a *lot* of dairy after swearing off it forever, I’ve got back into the habit of getting plastic bags at the supermarket (usually through being disorganised!), I’ve stopped doing voluntary work… None of this is necessarily *bad* as such, it’s just I feel like things have happened without me really thinking about them, and I want to at least feel like I’ve made choices about things.

    I’m hoping I’ll find that there’s actually lots I do that I’m happy with that just comes naturally (buying stuff second hand, for example), but we’ll see!

  5. Maria says:

    I can also relate to being too much of a scaredy cat to campaign very vociferously/effectively. Even when I think I am right, I don’t necessarily want a very big argument with someone who believes the complete opposite.

    I think I might take your post as a prompt to think about a few things more consciously too… I have ‘slipped’ on some things I used to take more seriously too (eating local, driving….)

  6. Jan says:

    I *love* the concept of conscious living – which of course still involves cake and knitting! My blog was supposed to be all serious and researched, but its kind of wandered away from that, though I still like that sometimes – its much more in the direction that you’re saying, you know – this is my life, this is what I did, how conscious was that decision, was it helpful, did I enjoy it?

    I’m loving that last photo especially, the one with the plants sheltered by the wall – thats what I’d like to achieve 🙂

  7. Rachel says:

    Sounds like a fantastic approach, and I’ll be watching with interest as I’m doing a lot of thinking about similar thing – like Robyn mine is mostly around the food side of things but other bits too!

    Had to giggle at the “if you’re lucky..” bit but that is very interesting as well (if you ever want to read some very indepth discussion around that area, erm, so to speak, have a look at http://www.selfsufficientish.com/forum and search for ‘mooncup’!)

    Oh and I think it’s fine not to be absolutely certain, the fact that you’ve considered things and know you’re not certain is the important thing 😉

  8. Ooh, you lovely lot!

    Maria, I would love it if you used this as a prompt to think a little more about your choices. It’s so easy to drift, especially if your circumstances change in life and you make temporary decisions, which then become permanent ones… I’d love to hear how you get on.

    Jan, I must pop back over to your blog! I think it’s hard to do the ‘serious research’ stuff without also thinking about how things make you *feel*. Those plants are in our local community garden, one of them is a fig! I’d love my garden to look like that too!

    Rachel – I’ve actually read probably more than is healthy about reusable sanitary wear (and I will confess to also owning a mooncup…) 🙂 I’ve been meaning to do that post for probably a couple of years now, but never quite got brave enough… we’ll see!

    I always think it’s better to be certain that you don’t know everything, rather than being certain that you *do* 🙂

  9. Fay says:

    Now as always I enjoyed your blog Jenni – and I’m with you on being ‘conscious’ without possible campaigning. I’m a wreck! And, it wouldn’t do for me to wibble on about things I don’t really know much about – but like the others on here and reading your gorgeous blog I really ‘intend’ to try and live well and with a bit of moral fibre about me and my choices. I want to feel I can justify them, feel like I’ve thought about them and give the ‘right’ way of doing things a go. Whatever that means to each person, I’m sure that is different too. I think the way information develops we can’t ever know everything, you’re so right, but we can strive to find the right answer for each of us. Bravo to you. I’d happily join in, my blog (well intentioned to be about gardening and sustainable(ish) living up in Orkney, is very much lead by what pops into my head at any given moment. I like the diversity of your thinking. And, well we can all be serious can’t we, but I like your way of being serious without lecturing – and being fun. Life should be fun after all and you do that very cheerfully. For which I salute you. Hooray for the serious stuff mixed with the cake and pottering, tis what life should be all about, balance and a free heart. Hugs (Ps I know my rambling is a bit, well, um rambly, but I know you’ll get what I’m saying, I hope!) xx

  10. I do indeed get what you’re saying lovely Fay! You are an inspiration young lady, I love your mix of pottering and cheeriness and plants and growing stuff and recycling and fun. I can only hope to be as thoughtful and inspirational as you – I salute you back!

    Bravo indeed for being serious while also being cheery – life wouldn’t be quite right without that! (hope you catch my tomato post – in homage to your frozen cannon balls!)

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