May I just say that I love, love, love this gust post from fellow blogger Katie? When I read it, I laughed and nodded and completely, totally related. Why, you ask? Because this is exactly how I began my own natural living journey, over 6 years ago. Small steps, changing things little by little, knowing that I was still clinging to some things that were not the best, but believing that each change I made was for the better. This, my friends, is the concept of baby steps in action!

I am new to the natural living phenomenon. I still participate actively in a host of what, I'm sure, are entirely unhealthy and artificial activities. Just today, I highlighted my hair. I use swiffer cloths, I like the smell of fabric softener, my babies use sunscreen and I don't get enough exercise. I have about 15 pounds of college/baby weight left to shed and I have a counter top cleaner that is probably made of every harmful ingredient you can imagine. I unashamedly love coffee and I don't make sure it is organic. The list goes on and on, my friends. I made (and ate) jello last week. That's right, jello! I'm sure there isn't a less natural substance on earth. I mean, it jiggles for Pete's sake!

It's not that I'm not convinced that there is a better option. I know there are better options. It's that I'm overwhelmed with information. What's worse, I'm often paralyzed. And perhaps a little rebellious. I have limited time and resources. I'm sure you can relate. I'd be hard pressed to find one person out there who can't think of one thing they could be doing to be a better steward of their time, their finances or their home. I can personally think of a plethora of things I wish I were doing to be a better steward.

However, I've also recently discovered that the first step is so important. I can choose to be immobilized, or I can make small changes now. I probably won't ever be an entirely natural person. I am overwhelmed when I think of how enormously I would have to change in order to address every component of natural living. However, there are several steps my husband and I have implemented in the past few years that have really added up.

I am working very slowly to make small changes that last. I never make the changes out of a feeling of guilt, because those are the changes that doesn't last, and none of the changes were made simultaneously. Most of these took place over the course of the last two years. For those of you that are fellow novices to natural living, here are some of the first, easy steps we have taken to take better care of our bodies, and our wallet while we were at it. I cannot emphasize enough that we have taken these steps gradually so they don't impact our lives or inconvenience us in a major way.

  • We became convinced several years ago that the birth control pill was having a negative impact on my health. We have since switched to the diaphragm and charting, which I really like. Again, there may be more advanced people out there who don't think it's the healthiest way to go. However, I'm certain that it is healthier than hormones and it wasn't a hard change to make, once we learned how to use it. I also love knowing what is going on with my body, by charting. I purchased the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler and it was an enormous help in feeling comfortable with a form of birth control aside from the pill.
  • We started a garden. It is small, it has the same form of mildew that Stephanie mentioned with her squash and we've made a huge number of mistakes, but my daughter's baby food came from our very own organic garden this summer. Otherwise, I try to avoid packaged baby foods and just mash up frozen veggies or regular whole foods for both girls. This is a typical concoction that we called a banana split:  Breakfast cereal in bowlHealthy breakfast ingredients
  • I breastfed my girls.
  • We got rid of anything hydrogenated. We switched from margarine to Smart Balance. Since my family tends to have heart issues, I was convinced that this was crucial to my health.
  • I am currently working to cut out any artificial sweeteners. This mostly means cutting out diet sodas. When I get a carbonation craving (which I'm sure is another issue!) I drink sparkling water with a natural lemon-lime flavor.
  • We recently began cloth diapering. This was a big step for us, but finances motivated it and I really love it now. I use all the convenient gadgets, so I can't claim to be a crunchy granola mom, but it's still so much better all around. If you are new to it, I recommend finding someone in your area who can help you find the best form for you. I use little snappies to hold the diaper in place, a washable diaper bag so I can just throw the entire load in the washer without smelling it very much, and flushable biodegradable liners. I am just not that into scrubbing poop out of diapers, and that was the deal breaker for my husband. And let's be honest, for me too. Here are all the gadgets it took for me to jump on board:                                    Cloth diaper supplies
  • I am experimenting with some natural cleaners. I have been using vinegar and water to mop my floors and switched from Swiffer Wet Jet to a washable mop head. This is an area that I can see going completely natural in the future, but I'm not quite there yet.
  • I make sure to reuse our plastic grocery bags instead of throwing them away. My local grocery store gives me 5 cents for every bag I bring back. This is another area that I'm sure I could switch in the future, but right now I can't see shelling out money for cloth bags.
  • We are using more whole grains. I still have a bag of all-purpose flour, but it is unbleached. I make bread from half whole wheat. I have tried, and liked, whole wheat graham flour and whole white wheat. I can see switching entirely to whole wheat in the future, but we are working on adjusting our taste buds slowly.
  • I've stopped buy paper towels in favor of rags. I'm not sure why I resisted this one for so long – it was easy. And I've calculated that it saves us at least $40/year on the very cheapest paper towels out there.

Most natural living people are so far advanced beyond the things I've mentioned, but I'd venture a guess that they didn't just go radical one day. Whether it is the steps I've taken, or different ones that you are convinced you want to take, each little step adds value to your lifestyle and your wallet.

Katie Nuelsen is a 28-year-old stay-at-home mom in the Cincinnati area. She went from work in the corporate world to being a home economist and loves it. Katie's husband Eric is a video editor and they have two little girls, 2 ½ and 1.