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3 Monumental Areas of Change on My Natural Living Journey

One of the things that we’ve talked about a lot here at Simple Organic, is baby steps. We see ourselves as on a journey, always moving farther along the natural living spectrum.

As I was pondering the changes I’ve made in my own life, I realized that certain steps stand out as having made more of a positive impact than others on my daily life.

Here are the most impactful changes I’ve made toward a greener, more natural life for myself and my family.

Personal Care

This was the first step I took towards a greener lifestyle, and it has remained one of the most important to me. The products I put on my body, and on the family members’ bodies have been simplified drastically over the years. I’ve gone from someone with a conventional collection of bottles galore to some simple standards.

Within this category, I have done a lot of baby stepping, but a few changes have been the most monumental:

  • The Oil Cleansing Method— I can’t say enough good things about the OCM. I love how it feels, how well it works and have no proof, but I imagine that rubbing oil on my face a few times a week can’t hurt in the preventing wrinkles realm.
  • Makeup— In high school, I think I had an eyeliner in every color. I would dig through my Mary-Poppins-esque makeup bag to find just the right hue to match my outfit. I still like makeup, but I have a simple collection of mineral makeup that I stick to now, and to be honest, I don’t even wear it everyday– probably half the time, even less in the summer.
  • Sunscreen— For someone who spends a lot of time in the sun and water, this category was a big one. Every year I feel like I’m learning more and more about the ingredients in my personal care products, and specifically in my sunscreen. I now look for products that are mostly Zinc, with Titanium Dioxide-based products as a runner-up in safety and effectiveness. Even in the summer, I rarely use sunscreen before 10am or after about 4pm.
  • Cloth Diapers— I’m not a 100% cloth diaperer, but I feel like every cloth diaper I use saves the landfill from something particularly yucky and not very biodegradable. Cloth diapering has also served as a gateway of sorts to more and more natural parenting steps… And, the more I’ve done it, the more I’ve grown to love the look of a fluffy baby bum.


I wouldn’t call myself a gardener yet, but I’m definitely a composter. Between that and recycling, our amount of trash is significantly lower that what it could be.

We’re no waste-free family, but it’s amazing how much of our waste is actually compostable. I’ve tried my hand at vermicomposting (with worms) and now have a stackable composter in our yard. I can’t wait to see how our compost finishes up so we can we use it on our future garden.

I learned so much when I interviewed my good friend and master composter last year for our Compost Q&A series, and I feel confident now about filling that bin up with all sorts of “junk.”

Food, Not Food-Like Substances

My family is still a ways away from being completely “real food”…  I’ve yet to try some some of the staples, like lacto-fermenting, sprouting grains or water kefir. But I’m really happy with where we are in this category.

In the last couple of years we have transitioned to eating whole fat dairy, lots of types of natural sweeteners (and very little refined white sugar), more and more whole wheat flour, new grains (and some soaking), more variety of produce (thanks to our CSA), free range chicken and eggs, grass-fed meat when possible, healthy fats like coconut oil, EVOO and butter, and maybe most importantly, much less processed food.

I’ve learned to make some of our “staples” from scratch (bread, yogurt, granola bars, ice cream), and while I don’t do all of these regularly, I enjoy having the skills in my arsenal. 😉

These three areas have been foundational in my natural living journey, spurring me along as I’ve explored more homemade alternatives and natural remedies. I still have lots to learn, but looking back, I can be thankful for the monumental changes I’ve made, knowing how beneficial they’ve been to my family and me, and the environment.

What are the most monumental changes you’ve made in your natural living journey?

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  1. Jeanette

    One of the first steps I took, was in the feminine hygiene department, when I switched from tampons and disposable pads to a Mooncup. A few years later I bought some cloth pads as well, and then eventually started sewing them myself – and my, what a difference! No more stress of not having enough pads/tampons at the right time, or any other potential catastrophes. And so much more comfortable too! 🙂

    • Nicole

      That was a big change for me, too! (I think I forgot about it because I’m still postpartum and haven’t had to think about it for quite a while!)

  2. Katrina

    Moving to mostly “real” food has been the biggest change for me. I’d still like to incorporate more whole wheat, more grains in general – but I’ve definitely made strides.

    Even with my professional experience with natural personal care, I haven’t been able to move away from conventional shampoo, conditioner, and styling. I have super curly hair, and it really misbehaves!

    • Nicole

      Have you tried no ‘poo? I’ve heard it works well with curly hair.

      • chrissy

        I have curly hair too, and before I started no poo I hated my hair. It was so frizzy and uncontrollable, I either had a ponytail or I straightened it. I cannot say enough about how much I LOVE no poo. I have been doing it for almost 2 years, and now I always wear my hair down.

  3. Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

    This is a great roundup–and I have a very specific question: could you point me in the right direction for specific sunscreen products? I’d love to go greener in this area but I’ve struggled finding something that’s safe, effective, and tolerable for my sensitive skin. (Thank you so much for reminding me of this in February, and not when I’m desperate for sunscreen in June!)

    • Nicole

      For quite sometime I’ve used, and loved CA Baby sunscreen, but last summer I discovered All-Terrain – they have a great spray sunscreen that is Zinc-based and has no Titanium Dioxide (and a Zinc-based cream as well). I used to think TD was a good ingredient, but many products don’t specify if they use nanoparticles or not (including CA Baby) which is a little concerning.

      I also use Zinka on my lips when I surf or when in the hot sun for a long time. It’s probably not the safest because it’s definitely fragranced but that’s a risk I take so I don’t get cold sores. 😉

  4. Lori

    I would love to know which brand of sunscreen you use for yourself and your kids.

    • Nicole

      Hi Lori,
      See my comment above on sunscreen. 😉

  5. Becky @ Sowing Little Seeds

    I used cloth diapers and wipe for a few months but when my husband in the Air Force had to leave for 3 months and I went to stay with my sister it was just too hard to keep up. I did however keep the cloth wipes. Once I came back home I was cleaning out the closet of all the receiving blankets and decided to just cut them up for wipes. We have been using them for 18 months. I also am moving more and more toward REAL food. I still can’t resist a Little Debbie snack cake every now and again but for the main part of our diet it is real, preservative free food.

    What sunscreen do you use? I have 4 young children and would love not slathering them with chemicals when the sun comes out.

    • Nicole

      Hi Becky,
      See above where I answered about sunscreen.

      I have another friend, who loves her cloth wipes but doesn’t use cloth diapers. It’s all about what works for each family, and I really believe every little bit of effort makes a difference!

  6. Rachel

    We’ve been taking baby steps over the past 4-5 years, incorporating a small change or two here and there. We no longer use disposable napkins/paper towels, only cloth (one of our very first changes!) We cloth diaper & use cloth wipes on our boys. I use a Diva cup/cloth pads. And we’ve been taking baby steps toward more local/organic foods (& we’re planning on getting chickens in the next few weeks…can’t get much more local than that!!) Our lifestyle is far from mainstream and I’m sure most people at we know in real life think we’re extreme but we’ve just made small changes over the years. Baby steps add up to a lifestyle change!

    • Nicole

      Ditching the disposables– napkins, paper towels, diapers, wipes, and tampons– has been huge in my life too!
      You’re so right at how baby steps really make a big difference in our lifestyles.

  7. Kara E.

    My biggest changes have been in food and cleaning products. I feel really good about that.

  8. Suzita @

    This post gets me thinking. Thanks for writing it!

    In our family composting has also had a huge effect on reducing our weekly garbage load, and it was easier than I expected. Also walking, taking the bus, and biking more to places we need to go has made a big difference in lifestyle and finances. Our kids are becoming more comfortable with our local bus system, and with hopping on their bikes to do errands. Using cloth napkins daily, and cooking and baking from scratch (with the kids) on the weekend are two more big ones in our house. We probably cook/bake 3-4 items each weekend. This helps teach the kids to cook from scratch and prepare us for the week ahead.

    Like some of the other commenters, I’d love to hear more about what sunscreen your family uses. We’ve been moving toward sun-protection clothing in our family, but one can’t use this for every situation.

    • Nicole

      Hi Suzita. That is so cool that you avoid driving so much. My husband was just telling me how he wishes the bus system was better around here for his commute. He rides a bike to work 1-2 days a week but would love to have alternative transportation for the other days!
      As for sunscreen, I answered the question in another comment above; I hope that helps!

  9. Katie

    Great post! 🙂

    I’ve switched to using organic castile soap on my face and body (and comes delivered in a cloth baggie), instead of the commercial brands where I’d have at least 4 different plastic containers for.

    We also use cloth napkins instead of paper, and keep the paper towels under the sink so it’s harder to use. My boyfriend isn’t quite ready to part with those just yet.

    I’d love to use cloth maxi pads, but can’t quite get around the fact that I’d have to rinse and wash them after use. Will sit on that one a bit longer…

    Vinegar and baking soda are the only cleaning products we use.

    It’s amazing how going natural can actually save you money in the long run!!!


    • Nicole

      I keep paper towels under the sink, too. That “out of sight, out of mantra” really seems to be true there and I basically only use them for bacon!

      I wrote a post last year I believe on a natural “time of the month” that you might find helpful:

      • Katie

        Ha!! That’s the reason my boyfriend doesn’t want to give paper towels up – bacon!! 🙂 Too funny.

        Thanks for the link. 🙂 I’m going to check it out now.

  10. Jocelyn

    Love this post!
    Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by all that I’m NOT doing natural, but your post has reminded me that it is all about steps. Baby steps. I need to look at what the next step I should take is and not every little thing that I want to change all atI one time. My lifestyle has already changed significantly, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it’ll continue to change and reading your great posts!

    • Nicole

      Keep focusing on what you ARE doing, Jocelyn. I’m sure you’re making more of impact on yourself and your environment that you even realize! 😉

  11. Sleeping Mom

    I’ve been avoiding “food-like substances” for a while now, from my earlier readings of Michael Pollan, Marion Nestle and Eric Schlosser and so far have never regretted it!

    I could still use some help with beauty and bath products. So far I’ve purchased greener shampoo and condition as well as facial cleaner and toner from a Trader Joe’s-like store nearby. I figured these have less chemicals than their grocery-store counterparts. I want to start purchasing makeup from them too, although I’m still hesitant because I’m a makeup snob sometimes!

    • Nicole

      I recently reviewed Mineral Fusion makeup and that’s what I’ve been using for the last few months, and really like it. If you check our archives– the personal care/beauty category– you should find a lot of great articles that might inspire you even more! 🙂

  12. Steph

    I too would like to know what kind of sunscreen you use.

    • Nicole

      Hi Steph!
      See my above comment on sunscreen. 🙂

  13. Heather :) :) :)

    I haven’t ventured into composting yet…but the other two…have been big changes in my life, as well 🙂 🙂 🙂 I’m going to check out the link to the oil cleansing method!!! Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather 🙂

  14. Laura Black

    It’s so motivating to read articles like this one. My goal for this year was to be more self-sustaining in the garden. I don’t have much of a green thumb, but it’s getting there. I just planted some organic herbs and some organic tomatos. My husband and I have also increased our composting this year and hope to move towards more solar energy. Another area I am working on this year is recycling. Our area is not very current on recycling trends, so it takes extra effort to take our recyclables to the local recycling center. Every step towards a greener lifestyle is a step in the right direction.

    • Nicole

      Sounds like you are headed in the right direction, Laura! 🙂

  15. Rachel

    I would love to know your thoughts on bug repellant. We unfortunately live in a part of town is covered in mosquitoes. We either wear repellant or cannot go outside. The natural repellantsI have tried do not work. I hate spraying repellant on my family but I have no choice!

  16. Heidi

    Thank you for the encouragement! I especially appreciate what you admit to *not* doing, yet anyway. It can be do overwhelming to read some blogs who seem to have arrived on their journey. I needed the reminder that it is a journey and every step counts…and after thinking for a moment, we do more than I thought and it’s working for us. 🙂

  17. Jen Charles

    Nicole, I love being reminded of the baby step concept. I’m feeling compelled to “up the anty” at home. My family eats a lot of whole foods, but not local. I make a lot of things from scratch, but we rely on staples like bread and tortillas from the store. Lot’s to work towards.
    I used to make our own bread, but haven’t in year. This weekend – I’m getting back at it~!

  18. Alissa

    What a great reminder on the cumulative baby steps. I’ve had two experiences recently that helped me remember how far we’ve come on our journey.
    1. I had an old friend email me, asking questions about cloth diapers. Funny to be someone that others consider “in the know.”
    2. We’re in the midst of moving, so we decided to use paper napkins and pull out the stash of party paper plates for the two days in transition. My 4-year old kept complaining, “But I don’t like paper napkins!” I love that he doesn’t remember when we used to use paper all day every day.

    I’ll have to try stashing the paper towels under the sink in the new house!

  19. Kika@embracingimperfection

    I am a big, huge believer in the power of baby steps. I can’t say that any particular category of change stands out more than another – they all blend into each other. We’ve made huge changes, tiny step by tiny step, over our almost 18 years of marriage (with my spearheading most of it). There is some ebb and flow to things in my life, though. For instance, after about a year and a half of using a diva cup and homemade deodorant, I reverted back to store-bought but still green-ish products. These just weren’t working well for me. I hated this at first but prefer, now, to accept this ebb/flow and focus on the changes that do work well and continue to move forward.

  20. Emily

    These are some really great tips. I have wondered about sunscreen and what ingredients we should be avoiding.. Great post!

  21. Manda

    I think realizing what’s in the food we eat started the momentum to go green. That started gardening which turned in essential oils, home made laundry detergent & cleaners. While I always wish we could do more, I feel there is a good medium on things. We are slowly, but surely moving to more local, green food! And I hope to start composting this year. As the husband & I try to figure out what’s next, it’s nice to see how you & others have gotten to where you are.

  22. Stephanie L

    We started to move to a more natural way of living in December. I make all of our cleaning products out of baking soda, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, soap, citric acid and EOs. We use natural soaps/shampoo bars, I make our deodorant and toothpaste, I wear mineral makeup and don’t wear much nail polish anymore. We are moving towards a whole foods diet (trying water kefir this month), we don’t each much processed food at all anymore. The one area I have a HUGE question about is the OCM. I tried it and it made me break out so badly. I am acne-prone. I used EVOO and Castor Oil. I really want it to work, because the first two days my skin was amazing. AMAZING. But then it started to break out so badly that new zits are still coming up. 🙁 What do you suggest?

    • Nicole

      Hi Stephanie,
      Have you tried playing around with the ration at all? I think on the original how-to post Tsh talks about that.
      I also add a few drops of tea tree oil as that seems to help my skin and it works as a natural astringent. Good luck!! 🙂

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