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#littleBIGthings / Life's Blessings

How the Pandemic Made Me Besties With Mother Earth

Plant greenery

For years I’ve been telling people that Little Things Travel is about appreciating the little things at home and around the world. The whole “at home” part was really put to the test in 2020. When I said “at home” I was mostly referring to local road trips, or exploring your own city. I wasn’t exactly thinking about adventuring to the grocery store or to take out the trash. But here we are, coming up on a year of living through a pandemic and lengthy quarantines, and I had to find out if I really appreciated the little things at home.

Turns out, there was a lot to appreciate at home! In fact, it grounded me in more ways than one. I thought 2020 was going to be the year of travel, but it turns out it was the year of sprucing up my green thumb!

So what little things have I been appreciating this year? Quite a few, most of which likely wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for a global pandemic bringing the world (and travel) to an abrupt halt. I’ve been creating in new ways, taking a step back from the busy schedules of the “before,” and leaning into my amplified love of Mother Earth. I know it has been quiet here without the normal travel content, so here is a peek into some of the little things I’ve been appreciating during my time at home.

The summer garden that turned into an indoor plant oasis

While the world was shutting down, I was able to bring life to this empty section of our yard, and there is something beautiful about that. In a year where everything seems turned upside down, I found peace and refuge in this little corner of happiness.

At the end of the season, I entered into the world of propagation and fell in love with plants all over again. For those unfamiliar, I basically took my adult plants and made new baby plants from them. Basil, rosemary, mint, pothos, snake, you name it. My indoor oasis as I call it is a work in progress growing greener by the day.

As a new gardener and rapidly expanding plant mom, I learned from the best of the best. If you are also developing a green thumb, be sure to connect with my plant people that I’ve been admiring from afar. Shoutout to We Sow We Grow for hosting the We Sow We Grow Summit that was jam packed with more tips than I even knew were possible.

@naturally.aesthete who saved my garden from more than one unfriendly pest with this simple DIY repellant:

@soulsistaplants for this quick tip to keep my plants looking their best:

@thequeer_jungalow for teaching me how to make the most out of using my aloe plants:

And of course @natashanicholes for her infinite wisdom via her sex in the garden series.

Exploring sustainable product swaps around the house

Spending all this time in the garden and tending to my plants led me to start thinking about the products I was using in my house and how I might be able to make some easy swaps that were more friendly to the earth those plants thrive in. It’s still a work in progress, but here are some easy changes I’ve made this year:

  • Swapping my regular dish sponges filled with microplastics for this compostable plant-based loofah scrubber (I’ll admit, I thought I was going to hate it but I love it even more than the old ones).
  • Buying (or upcycling) glass instead of plastic containers, like these Essos glass jars with wood lids that I used for my homemade dried pasta storage.
  • Using stainless steel straws instead of disposable ones (which also come in handy if you’re trying to create your own DIY rack for drying said pasta). If you can’t stand the metal on your teeth, give these silicone-tipped straws a try. I also love these copper mini straws, perfect for short drinks.
  • I already didn’t really buy a whole lot of new clothes before, but now if I need anything my go-to shop is thredUP, the world’s largest online thrift store and consignment shop full of deeply discounted gently used items.
  • Using reusable silicone storage bags and phasing out disposable plastic Ziplock bags.
  • I’ve always loved my silicone baking mats instead of tinfoil or parchment paper.
  • Skipping the plastic produce bags at the grocery store and bringing along my own reusable, washable produce bags.

Experimenting with upcycling

With no end in sight to the pandemic, I knew the growing season was coming to a close and my garden would soon be consumed by Chicago’s winter. That meant it was time to find a new hobby!

I starting tinkering with various craft projects in between home remodeling projects, in particular those that involved repurposing mainly candles, jars, and glass bottles, plus some other miscellaneous items here and there.

A few of my favorites are these succulent arrangements and this cute rope-wrapped vase that I have for sale in my Etsy shop.

Composting food scraps and limiting food waste

I got into the habit this year of nourishing the environment for my plants by composting and reducing waste in my kitchen with this under-the-sink compost bin. It’s amazing how much of what we throw away is actually compostable! Planning ahead has also helped me a ton to reduce waste, so I am only buying what I plan to make that week.

This is certainly one of the least travel-related posts I’ve written. But looking back over this list I realized, they may be more related than I thought. At a time when I was limited to my own four walls (and a yard that I am immensely grateful for, especially this year), it was Mother Earth who I was drawn to.

As someone who was constantly on the go, typically not at home for more than two or three weeks in a row, all of the above forced me to slow down. These things all take time, patience, and even some trial-and-error.

Has 2020 been challenging? Terrifying? Stressful? Devastating? Absolutely. But I’ve also grown in ways I couldn’t have imagined a year ago. And I’m now besties with Mother Earth 🙂 Here’s to a 2021 that ends better than it started. Keep your head up, wear a mask, and always remember that the little things matter.

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