What a Crazy Week with Coronavirus (and cute kittens)

Last updated on March 28, 2024.

Adorable black and white kittenAll kitten images in this article are from the Kitten Academy.1

This has been a crazy week! I’ve been working on part 2 of my article about the packaging industry, but I wanted to pause and write about the recent turmoil. Coronavirus has turned everyone’s lives upside down across the globe. The constant news updates, travel bans, canceled trips, closures of schools and organizations, and cancellations of classes, conferences, and appointments.

Besides sympathy for those hit by the virus and the fear of contracting it, our daily lives have changed for an undefined amount of time. Everything has been canceled for the next 2-3 weeks, but it could go on far longer than that. We really don’t know what’s going to happen, because this is unprecedented. There are so many things to worry about and it’s all a bit much at once.

Adorable black and white kitten

Adorable Kittens from Kitten Academy

I thought I’d feature cute images of kittens in this post to make people feel happy and warm, even if just for a few minutes. My office mate and I often livestream the kittens in our office from Kitten Academy’s youtube and they’re a nice break between tasks. Those who stop by our office notice the kittens and almost always comment or ask about them. A few will sit and watch them while chatting with us.

Adorable black and white kitten

Now, I feel the kittens are really important. The campus I work on is closed but we still have to go to work. We are supposed to mostly confine ourselves to our offices. So my office mate and I will at least have each other to talk to, and the kittens will brighten our day a little.

Which brings me to you, dear readers. The next few weeks or months may be very trying. So let me ask:

Do you have kittens in your life?Adorable black and white kitten

What I’m really asking is, what do you have in your life that is solid, constant, warm, happy, and brings you joy? Is it a person, your family, or a pet? Reading a good book next to the fireplace? Long walks in nature? Finding time to finish that sewing project, or jigsaw puzzle, or finally learning how to make vegan cinnamon rolls from scratch? Spending more time with your spouse? Perhaps additional time to write, or do yoga. Maybe you want time to simply throw a ball with your child in the backyard. Or perhaps it’s finding time for a (cat)nap. We should use this time to focus our energies on those things…and just slow down.

For me, it’s all of those. But the thing that brings me the most joy is having more time with my son. I’ve already gotten to spend some extra outdoor time with him, doing nothing but play and exploration. We chased bubbles and played in the mud, and it was awesome!

Inspiration and Positivity still abound

All of the bloggers I follow have published positive posts this week, and I found them inspiring and full of hope. We will get through this! Here are a few of my favorite reads from this week:

14 Achievable Tasks to Help Declutter Your Home While Stuck Inside by Joshua Becker. While he provides tips on how to stay productive if you’re homebound, he also writes that now’s a really good time to focus on being less busy. I couldn’t agree with this notion more, especially for myself. I have not yet managed to minimalize the tasks in my life.

“Spending a few extra hours or days over the coming weeks at home with family may be just what we need as a society.” 

Weekend Favorites: the comparison trap, broken news and comfort music by Courtney Carver. She writes about the heartbreaking decision to cancel her book tour that just started. She acknowledges that while it was something really special, it will be special again. “We are going to get through this together,” she writes so positively.

“What a year this week has been.”

Let’s Talk About the Coronavirus by Joshua Fields Millburn of The Minimalists, who have postponed their current tour. Millburn encourages us to be mindful of our activities and behavior so that we limit the spread of the virus, but also to not panic. We will get through this.

“We never look in the rearview and wish we would have panicked more.”

Take a Break from Breaking News by Courtney Carver. While this article does not specifically reference coronavirus, it does have a positive message to take a break from the constant stream of news. We can catch up at set times so that our minds are not inundated with negative information all day long. Frankly, the frequent updates related to coronavirus are more than we can process at once.

“In the morning, don’t rush out of bed. Take in the birdsong. Brew a pot of coffee.”

Mel Robbins On How To Stay Centered With Coronavirus Anxiety Swirling on Youtube. In this video, she talks a lot about fear and anxiety and how to overcome those feelings.

“This moment is an opportunity for growth, even if it doesn’t feel like one right now. How about we go through these next weeks or months and help one another stay centered in our strength and our spirit.”

Social distancing doesn’t have to doom your weekends. We have ideas from CNN. This article offers a lot of positive, great ideas about how to spend time alone or with others virtually during this quarantine period.

“Social distancing doesn’t mean your weekend is doomed. You just have to get a little creative.”

The Dos and Don’ts of ‘Social Distancing’ from The Atlantic. This is the best article I’ve read yet that describes what to do in our real, everyday lives.

Adorable black and white kittens

Thanks for reading, please subscribe! Leave me a comment below about how you’re using new found time at home. Stay positive and strong!

 

Footnote:

You Don’t Need a New Year to Reach for Your Goals

Last updated on March 10, 2024.
Black and white photograph of the beach.
Photo by Marie Cullis.

Happy New Year!

Many of us get caught up in setting New Year’s resolutions that come from good intentions but get lost in the mix of daily life. We get back to work, get the kids back in school, and the extracurricular activities pick back up. For many people, the credit card bills roll in as well, like a hangover from Christmas. Then maybe working additional hours to pay those bills adds to the inability to work toward those resolutions.

I gave up New Year’s resolutions a few years ago. I heard someone say they didn’t set New Year’s resolutions because they didn’t need a certain date to set goals, and I loved the idea so much that I immediately adopted it! If I decide I want or need to do something, I need to do it right away. I don’t want to wait for someday anymore.

“Someday is not a day of the week.” —Joshua Fields Millburn

You don’t need a new year to have a clean slate. Permit yourself to start over now. Allow yourself to start working toward your goals now. Don’t wait until next week, next month, or next year. Let your heart guide you, and live your best life now.

Black and white photograph of a tree branch with a single dead leaf.
Photo by Bea Sz. on Unsplash.

But how do you start?

Your goals should come from your heart.

What do you really want? I’m not asking what you should be doing, because we all know what we “should” be doing, right? Focus less on the things you think you should change and more on the things you love and desire for your life. What can you remove from your life that isn’t adding value?

“Don’t tie your success to the results. When you are hyper-focused on the end of the goal…you discount everything that unfolds along the way. There is great opportunity for growth and joy long before you reach the end. What’s more successful than that?” -Courtney Carver, Be More With Less

Black and white photograph of a snow covered creek.
Photo by Tono Graphy on Unsplash.

Start small.

James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, says that we need to start with small behaviors and habits to achieve bigger goals. New behaviors create a lifestyle change, and our outcomes come from that – not the goals themselves. Start small! He wrote, “New goals don’t deliver new results. New lifestyles do. And a lifestyle is not an outcome, it is a process. For this reason, all of your energy should go into building better rituals, not chasing better results.”1

“Make it so easy you can’t say no.” -Leo Babauta2

Let Go of Guilt.

I’ve written this in other articles: let go of guilt. Feeling bad that you didn’t accomplish something or haven’t been putting in enough effort toward a goal won’t motivate you. It just keeps you down.

“You’re not gonna feel like doing what you have to do all the time. That’s the truth and it makes you human. Don’t beat yourself up for leaning into the lazy space now and then. Just don’t claim that space as your new identity. You have places to go and goals to crush.” -Mel Robbins3

Black and white photograph of trees growing in a lake.
Photo by Dave on Unsplash.

My non-New Year’s Resolutions

I want to continue to spend as much time with my little boy as I can. He makes me laugh and feel joy and I want to maximize this.

I plan to continue working on my health by creating individual small habits (per James Clear) centered around diet, fitness, and mindfulness.

I want to spend more time writing and I will continue my quest to find alternatives to using disposable items, plastic items, striving for zero waste, and living minimally.

I am continuing to work on building my self-confidence and I’m still learning how to say no. I’ve just downloaded Sarah Knight’s newest publication on audiobook, F*ck No!: How to Stop Saying Yes When You Can’t, You Shouldn’t, or You Just Don’t Want To. I also follow Mel Robbins on social media.

That is by no means an exhaustive list. They’re just the ones that spilled out of my heart without me thinking too hard about it. Listen to your inner voice for those – that’s where the good stuff is.

Thanks for reading, please share and subscribe!

 

Footnotes:

Healthy options to replace toxic fabric softener and dryer sheets

Last updated on January 28, 2024.

Selection of fabric softeners at the supermarket on shelves.
There are so many choices for fabric softeners and dryer sheets. But many contain toxic chemicals. Photo by Marie Cullis.

I was an avid user of dryer sheets for most of my adult life until around 2015. I liked that they removed static electricity, I thought my clothes felt soft, and I loved the way they smelled!

But then I found out how dangerous they are to our health. My mother mentioned it to me several times, so I began reading about the ingredients. I discovered that dryer sheets and fabric softeners contain hormone-disrupting phthalates, chemicals that damage the reproductive system, and compounds that trigger asthma. I just wanted clean-smelling laundry!

Toxic chemicals and ingredients

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), “fabric softeners and heat-activated dryer sheets pack a powerful combination of chemicals that can harm your health, damage the environment and pollute the air, both inside and outside your home.”1 Fabric softeners are designed to stay in your clothes for a long time, so chemicals can seep out gradually and be inhaled or absorbed directly through the skin.2 Notice how the scent lingers on your clothing?

I learned that “fragrance,” a common ingredient in products ranging from shampoo to laundry detergent to baby products, is a term that refers to a range of chemicals. The EWG explains what this term means:

“The word “fragrance” or “parfum” on the product label represents an undisclosed mixture of various scent chemicals and ingredients used as fragrance dispersants such as diethyl phthalate. Fragrance mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system.”3

Bounce dryer sheets were my household's choice for dryer sheets for many years.
Bounce dryer sheets were my household’s choice for dryer sheets for many years.

I used Bounce dryer sheets for more than 15 years. EWG rated these dryer sheets with a D, almost the lowest rating they use.4 The top-scoring factors were poor disclosure of ingredients; the product may contain ingredients with the potential for respiratory effects; the product can cause acute aquatic toxicity; and possible nervous system effects. EWG noted that “fragrance” was their biggest ingredient problem. Again, note that these problems are not only from scented products. Bounce’s Free & Gentle (free of dyes and perfumes) only scored a C on EWG’s Healthy Cleaning Guide.5

Selection of fabric softeners at the supermarket on shelves.
Photo by Marie Cullis.

Dryer sheets create extra waste

Additionally, fabric dryer sheets are harmful to the environment because they are designed to be single-use disposable items. They are not made of anything remotely biodegradable, and as litter, they remain in the environment indefinitely. There are many ways to re-purpose them, in fact, I used to reuse them for dusting. Unfortunately, I was exposing myself and my home to the chemicals a second time, and they still had to be thrown away. Like many other types of waste, they end up in rivers and oceans. I’ve certainly picked them up myself during litter clean-ups. I even found a dryer sheet woven into a bird’s nest in my own yard.

Used dryer sheet woven into a bird's nest.
Used dryer sheet woven into a bird’s nest. Photo by Marie Cullis.
Bird's nest with sticks, moss, plastic items, and dryer sheets woven in.
Dryer sheet pieces (and other plastics) woven into a bird’s nest. Photo by Marie Cullis.

“These sheets…made from plastic polyester material, are coated with synthetic fragrances, contain estrogen-mimicking chemicals, as well as fatty acids that coat the clothing and reduce static.” -Sandra Ann Harris, Say Goodbye To Plastic: A Survival Guide For Plastic-Free Living

White clothing articles hanging on a line outdoors, green grass and mountains in background, laundry blowing in the breeze.
Image by Willi Heidelbach from Pixabay.

So what’s the solution?

If you are worried about toxic chemicals harming yourself or your family, stop using them immediately. The EWG recommends skipping fabric softeners altogether.6 There are many alternatives – and they are usually zero waste!

Your clothes don’t need to smell perfumed. They will smell clean just from being washed.

Distilled white vinegar

Add a half cup of distilled white vinegar to your washing machine during the rinse cycle (or put it in the machine’s rinse dispenser ahead of time). The smell does not linger on clothes. This works especially well if you are line-drying your clothes. (I’ve read that you should not mix vinegar with bleach, so always be aware of what you are mixing.)

Line or Air drying

Line drying is the most eco-friendly solution. I have several drying racks and a short clothesline outside that I use weekly for some items. You can install a longer clothesline or umbrella-style dryer outside. This makes doing laundry weather-dependent, but there would also be a reduction in your electric bill. Additionally, the sun can remove bad smells from items because ultraviolet rays kill bacteria that cause the smell.

Sophie Benson, author of Sustainable Wardrobe, wrote that drying your clothes in the dryer eventually ruins the fabric. “Just 20 cycles of tumble drying can reduce the strength of fabric by 50%, compromising the durability and longevity of your clothes.” Avoiding the dryer is also best for the environment. “Air drying is also the best choice for the environment; by choosing air drying over tumble drying, you can save 36 kilograms (80 pounds) of carbon each month. Academic researchers have also found that tumble drying can release as many microfibres into the air as washing releases into waterways.”7

“Air-drying clothes reduces the average household’s carbon footprint by 2,400 pounds per year.” -National Geographic8

Line drying is an eco-friendly and healthy option for drying your laundry. Photo by Wolfgang Eckert on Pixabay.
Line drying is an eco-friendly and healthy option for drying your laundry. Photo by Wolfgang Eckert on Pixabay.

You can also invest in drying racks that you can use indoors and outdoors. I personally own three!

Drying rack, wood and white, in a gray painted room, window in background, white front loading washing machine in background, one striped shirt on drying rack.

Wool dryer balls

I use wool dryer balls for everything that I put in the dryer. These are either solid balls of felted wool or felted wool wrapped around a fiber core. They naturally soften laundry and reduce static. The balls also lift and separate clothes in the dryer, shortening drying time and saving energy. You can find them online or at some stores, just be sure you buy quality ones that are 100% wool and have good reviews.

wool dryer balls

Don’t over-dry

Static is caused by over-drying, plain and simple. Static especially happens when drying synthetic clothing, such as polyester, because they dry faster than cotton. If you don’t over-dry your clothes in the dryer, you shouldn’t have static.

Photo by Andy Fitzsimon on Unsplash.
Photo by Andy Fitzsimon on Unsplash.

I hope you found this helpful! Do you have a different method that I didn’t mention here? Leave me a comment below, I’d love to hear from you! As always, thank you for reading.

This post does not contain any affiliate links.

 

Additional Resources:

Article, “Skip the most toxic fabric softeners,” by Samara Geller, EWG.com, August 16, 2022.

Video, “Laundry Tips to Take Care of Your Capsule Wardrobe,” Be More With Less, accessed May 2, 2023.

Article, How Dryers Destroy Clothes: We Delve into the Research,” Reviewed, updated October 10, 2019.

Footnotes: