The Mindful Mom Blographer
Minnesota millennial and popular blogger Laura Durenberger has anxiety. A few years ago, she discovered a key way to manage her anxiety was through reducing: mindful and intentional living, minimalism, and zero-waste living. Eco is Sexy caught up with Laura to hear about her road to zero waste, eco-anxiety, and how we can similarly use zero-waste living as a tool to accomplish other things in our lives.
Eco is Sexy: Please introduce yourself in a few sentences.
Laura: I’m Laura – a mom, self-described Harry Potter nerd, musical lover, cat lady, and wife. Oh, and a proud Minnesotan! I’ve dealt with anxiety my whole life, but really started learning how to manage it a year or two ago – long story short – through reducing.
I started decluttering four years ago, and since then have given away over 140 large boxes of stuff, and sold countless more.
My zero-waste journey started almost two years ago, and since then my family and I have reduced our waste by an average of 45 pounds of trash a week (yes, we physically weighed it).
Through decluttering and zero-waste living, I have discovered that these two lifestyle changes helped me get into an overall mindset of reducing, which continues to flow into other areas of my life.
Through this reduction, I’ve been able to live a much more intentional life and made time to really focus on supporting my mind and body to help manage my anxiety.
Eco is Sexy: What would you do to accomplish your one-year zero waste goals in the next two weeks, if you had to?
Laura: My goal for 2019 was to expand my zero-waste efforts beyond my home and into my community. So far, I’ve done the following:
- contacted companies and asked/encouraged them to incorporate more sustainable practices;
- inquired and learned about the environmental initiatives of the city I live in. This included contacting my local representatives and chatting with them about environmental goals for the city;
- partnered with local organizations in their community environmental efforts;
- expanded my vegetable garden to grow enough produce to be able to share within my community.
I’m fortunate that I have the time to be able to do all this. Not everyone does. I personally believe that in order to make a substantial impact on climate change, we need to work to make zero-waste reducing efforts available for everyone, because right now, they’re not. There are a lot of inequalities when it comes to this topic, but that’s for another post.
To answer the question, my main goal doesn’t have a concrete “ending,” so I would just continue to do what I have been doing, but maybe escalate it a little more!
Eco is Sexy: Let’s talk about mental clutter. A Harvard study found that people are much happier when they are fully present for the activity that they are engaged in rather than off thinking about something else. Many of us are busy, distracted, and frequently trying to do multiple things at once. Can you talk about how zero-waste living has helped decrease your mental clutter? What specific changes had the biggest impact for you?
Laura: When it comes to mental clutter, many people are surprised to hear that zero-waste living helped me reduce it overall. In short, it has to do with two things: the overall mindset of reduction, and eco-anxiety.
As I mentioned above, reducing clutter and waste (physical items) helped me see the benefits of reducing. I noticed tangible results and all the benefits reducing provides such as more time and energy for things and people I love, saves money, etc.
Here’s a quick example. Think of all the little tasks you do regularly over time such as shopping trips for paper goods (napkins, paper towels), toiletries (menstrual products, shower items), etc. While these little shopping trips may not seem like a lot, when you add them all together, it can really add up. This is your time and energy we’re talking about here!
Switching to reusable products eliminated the need for all those trips (or orders online) and thus saved me time, mental clutter (I don’t enjoy shopping all that much), and money (another potential source of anxiety and mental clutter). This is just one specific example, but you get the idea.
After getting rid of the physical items, the reduction mindset was established which allowed me to have the confidence to reduce things such as commitments that didn’t have any meaning to me, toxic people, and more. Doing this second wave of reducing freed up even more mental space for items that actually had meaning to me.
It also allowed me to easily incorporate mindfulness, intentional living, meditation, etc. which in turn helped me manage the anxiety I was experiencing. When I tried these types of lifestyle changes before reducing, I found it was really easy to get overwhelmed because I simply had too much going on in my head!
The other one I mentioned – eco-anxiety – has to do with anxiety and stress over the future of our climate and planet. Working to reduce my waste helped (and continues to help) me feel like I was making a difference in the climate crisis, which was helpful in reducing my eco-anxiety because it gave me back a sense of control.
Does this mean that my anxiety (regular and eco) are gone for good? No. But I have created a life where I have the ability to take time to support my mind and body for good mental and physical health, which helps me manage my anxiety at a level that I’ve never been able to do before.
Eco is Sexy: In the last year, what beliefs, behaviors, or habits have most positively impacted your life?
Laura: Adopting the mindset of reduction has made a huge impact in my life as mentioned above. But there are other ways these lifestyle changes have benefited my life as well.
Minimalism (reduction of physical and mental things) and zero-waste living are pretty similar in nature, and I’ve really honed in on those lifestyles. By doing so, I’ve never felt so connected to my neighborhood and community.
I’ve never felt so grateful for all the abundance I have (by getting rid of all the excess, I am left with things I truly love!). I’ve never felt so compelled to share resources and things within my community. It’s a wonderful feeling!
Here is a specific example. When I expanded my garden this year (more on that below) to incorporate more vegetables, I wanted to keep the expansion as low-waste and as cost effective as possible. I reached out to friends and family to see if anyone had any pots and other supplies they were looking to get rid of that I could take off their hands.
For things that my family and friends didn’t have, I utilized local online resources and groups. I was able to find all the pots, some plants, and other gardening supplies for free from people in my community.
In turn, I’ve been giving back when I can by offering free items and plants to those in my neighborhood. Not only have I been saving on excess emissions and resources from buying new supplies, but I’ve also saved potential items from a landfill, and created local connections. I will continue to give back as much as I can because I truly believe this is a great way to fight the climate crisis.
Eco is Sexy: What is your favorite failure – the failure that set you up for later success?
Laura: This is honestly such a hard question for me. I feel that every failure I’ve experienced has been crucial for learning and growing, and that I wouldn’t be where I am or who I am without them. I don’t think I can pick a favorite! They’ve all had a place in my life.
Eco is Sexy: What is your most recommended or gifted book?
Laura: This is a tough question, too! Right now there are two. The first is Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, and The Chemistry of Calm by Henry Emmons MD.
I love Braiding Sweetgrass because it is a beautiful book about our relationship with nature and how we can use science to deepen that relationship. I’ve always been “green,” but this book taught me to look at nature in a whole new light.
The Chemistry of Calm is the best book I’ve ever read about anxiety. The book was an amazing resource to help me understand what was happening in my brain during times of anxiety. The book also provides some great resources on things you can do physically (things to potentially eat/avoid to support your body and mind) and mentally (mindfulness, meditation, etc.) to manage anxiety.
Eco is Sexy: What’s the best part of the next thing you’re doing?
Laura: This may sound incredibly boring, but we’re in prime gardening season here in Minnesota right now. I’ve been obsessively tending to my flowers and vegetables (in a good way – I love it). I am hoping to get a big enough yield to feed us through summer/fall, preserve some for the cold months, and share our yields with neighbors, family, and friends. I’ve got a large raised bed in my backyard with vegetables and a huge raspberry patch, and 40+ pots on my front deck with more vegetables and herbs, and I’m still trying to expand. It’s a lot of work, but I love it. And just a quick note: I live in an urban area; we have a small, typical city-sized lot. Check out books on urban and square foot gardening for tips if you think you aren’t able to have a garden because of space limitations.
Working in my garden is a form of meditation for me. I love sitting and relaxing in it, and I love watching my son soak up all that is summer. It seems like such a short time in my state, so we’ve got to take advantage of it as much as we can.
One final note: gardening is not only a great way to build community, but it’s also a great way to reduce emissions and resources that go into store-bought produce. If you are able, I’d highly recommend it!
Eco is Sexy: You’ve said you love mantras. What’s your favorite?
Laura: I have a series of mantras that I repeat when I need to bring my thoughts back to the present (instead of filled with anxiety and focusing on the past/future):
- I am calm
- I am creative
- I am open to receive
- I am healthy in mind
- I am healthy in body
- I am healthy in soul
- I am grateful
Repeating that over and over helps to remind me that I am OK in whatever situation I’m in.
The great thing about mantras is that they can be whatever you want! Find a phrase or word that has meaning for you, and say it often.
Eco is Sexy: Where can people find you online?
Laura: I’d love to connect! Here is where I can be found: