3 very specific things I listen to before bed

I'm just going to come out and be honest: This post might not be very useful to you and it probably won't miraculously help you to have better sleep.

If I was a decent lifestyle blogger who wanted to make this post SEO friendly and clickable, I'd be saying something here about how I used to struggle with falling to sleep until these "5 SUPER simple tips" cured me. But, my sleep deprived friends, this ain't a post like that. There are plenty of those already on the Internet and I don't think that I have anything particularly revolutionary to add, so let me quickly summaries the general gist of a lot of them for you here:

1. Don't use your phone an hour before bed. Blue light is the devil.
2. Learn some sort of yogic breathing technique to piss off your partner with.
3. Buy a £50 sleep spray.
4. Drink some lemon water because apparently that helps with literally every ailment known to man.

Now onto the totally self-indulgent and ultra specific bit.

I'm just as perpetually tired as you are. I also like to drink a big ol' cup of coffee as soon as I wake up. But it just so happens that I've found some things that I like to listen to before bed and that, occasionally, actually help to move the sleep process along. When I do finally shake myself out of the Twitter-Instagram-Whatsapp-Repeat cycle at bedtime, I usually plug in my headphones and put on something that's not too over stimulating but is stimulating enough to distract me from my thoughts. I've always liked to listen to something whilst lying in bed (when I was little I had a bright yellow tape player that I used to play Spot's Magical Christmas all year round), but I think I've truly got it sussed over the last few months. I've figured out what kinds of sounds relax me and whose voices I find soothing.

Cruelty Free Cleaning on a Budget

When I made a vow to myself a couple of years ago to only buy cruelty free products, I didn't realise how far reaching that promise would be. I thought it would mean looking for a bunny symbol when I bought mascara and getting on with my day. I never even considered for a second that it would influence something so unglamourous as cleaning my loo!

The sad truth is that the vast majority of conventional, household cleaning products are tested on animals in some capacity. Whilst a ban was created in the UK in 2015 to stop companies testing the "finished" cleaning products on animals, that doesn't (and most likely hasn't) stopped them testing the ingredients under certain circumstances. So, for anyone looking to live a cruelty free life, it's still important to check the labels.

Over the past few years I've seen the rise in brands that are embracing the "cruelty free", "vegan" and "eco-friendly" labels. And that's great. Accessibility is so important. However, a lot of those products are considerably more expensive than their conventional alternatives. So, whilst you might be able to find them in the shop, their prices don't exactly mean that they're accessible to everyone. And, as a student and now a freelancer, I know just how tempting it is to ignore your morals for a few minutes so that you can buy the cheapest washing up liquid! Trust me, I've been there. I have the cleaning cupboard to prove it.

Fortunately after many a shopping trip I've figured out the best, cheapest and kindest cleaning products for anyone who wants a sparkling home on a budget. I thought I would save you the energy (and the streaky surfaces!) by sharing some of my favourite bargain CF brands and products with you.

Starting my Zero Waste Kitchen: The things I own and the things I want to own

If I'm being completely honest, when I started living away from home the last thing on my mind was having a sustainable kitchen. My thought process was less "let me see how I can invest in life long pieces that are as harmless as possible to the planet and the people that made them" and more "holy shit I have to buy literally everything a person needs to survive! Give me all of the cheap plastic  please and thank you!" Ikea, B&Ms and Pound Land truly were my saviours. They meant that I was able to stock up on the tonnes of kitchen stapels without having to remortgage a house I didn't own and without having to worry that anything got broken when my flatmates came in from a night out.

However, as you might have seen over on my Instagram this weekend that I've recently moved into my own little space with my boyfriend. Yep, that's right my friends, we have a whole fridge to ourselves. We have amounts of storage that Student Beth could only dream of! And that also means that I've finally been able to take the plunge and invest in some of the Zero-Waste Kitchen essentials that I've converted on many a pinning session.

Starting my zero-waste kitchen will definitely be a journey. Since a lot of sustainable things are more expensive than their less ethical alternatives, it's going to be a case of slowly but surely accumulating what I want. I've already bought a few things and I've certainly got a few things on a wishlist waiting for me.

So, in the hopes that this will inspire you to make some simple swaps in your kitchen, or to give you an idea of where to start in making it less wasteful, I thought I'd share those things I already own and those things I want to own in transitioning to zero waste.

Defining "success" after university

I've now entered a stage of my life where grades simply don't exist. After 17 years of homework and tests and exams and bands and marks and grades, it's all over. Since graduating I've been filled with a mix of pure joy and sheer dread at the fact that I no longer exist within the realms of academia. On the one hand, I'm beyond excited to never have to refresh Turnitin again. On the other, where will I get my validation from now?

As is the case with most new graduates, I've felt like I've been living life in limbo.

There are about a million reasons for this: I no longer have a pre-made schedule of lectures and seminars, I no longer live with the people I've seen on a daily basis for three years straight and I've gone from working 100 mph on a dissertation to suddenly being stood still with no real goal. The overarching question has been, "well, what the hell am I going to do with my life now?" Without the strict markers of success that education provides you (we're taught to believe that the higher the grade we get, the more successful we are as students), I just didn't know what to head towards.

I needed someone or something to tell me what to do everyday. And what's the best way to have our expectations (read: limitations) set for us? Listen to society! So, that's just what I did. I fell back into society's expectations like they were a snugly comfort blanket and I wrapped myself up in that shit. My need for structure meant that it was out with grade boundaries and in with "respected job, lots of money, nice car, huge house, perfect family". I started looking for jobs as soon as I graduated, caring more about how much cash they would provide me with, how quickly I could get them and whether they would impress anyone.

I know. It was a very "off brand" period of my life.

The 5 charity shop finds I've worn to death this summer

For me, summer has always been synonymous with getting a whole new wardrobe. I don't know whether it's the warm weather and higher levels of serotonin going to my head, or its the "new season, new you" pressure from just about every ad campaign ever, but I historically welcomed summer in with a big ol' trip to Primark. I'd fill several baskets like a giddy child (in fact, I was a giddy child when this ritual began) with vest tops and shorts and every other badly made and brightly coloured item of clothing that fell into the "S/S" category. I'm not even sure it mattered if I liked the clothes that much. Or if they fit. I just needed to have a wardrobe rebirth.

However, as you'll know if you've frequented this corner of the internet before, I'm on a journey to becoming a more ethical consumer. In regards to clothes that means two things:

1. I'm trying to shop less.

2. When I am shopping for clothes I'm trying to do so from sources that aren't as damaging to the planet or as harmful to people.

So, when July rolled around this year I knew that I needed to shift my summer shopping habits. I had to talk myself out of a trip to Primark on several occasions. One time I even went in, but I somehow manage to emerge with only a pair of multi-coloured tassel earrings to show for it. I don't think that's bad going.

Instead of buying a whole new wardrobe, I've fuelled my shopping habits with trips to charity shops and then tried to embrace the clothes that I already own. Apart from those tassel earrings, it's been a massive success. In particular there are 5 items of clothing (a mix of recent purchases and old faithfuls, all from charity shops) that I've worn again and again and that I can't see leaving my wardrobe any time soon. Yay for slowly unlearning what every fast fashion retailer has taught me since I was old enough to receive pocket money: That feeling good means constantly buying brand new.

Tips for traveling on your period

For the past three years, I've spent a month every summer in Greece with my boyfriend's family. It's taught me many things: Firstly, how to communicate with 2 memorised phrases and elaborate hand gestures. Secondly, that ouzo is never a good idea. And, thirdly, how to deal with my period whilst on holiday. In fact, I like to consider myself a bit of an expert on that last one.

I have a relatively regular cycle of around 30 days (trust me, I track it religiously!), so it's inevitable that at some point on a four week adventure I will get my period. Sure, it's a pain in the uterus, but it's something a lot of us will have to deal with at some point in our lives. If you know that you're due on whilst away and you don't like the idea of delaying it with a pill, it's not the end of the world. Don't stress, my period-having friends. I've got your back. After my fair share of swimming costume leakages and grumpily sitting by the pool whilst everyone else had fun, I think I've cracked it. All you need is a bit of forward planning and to make sure that your suitcase is fully stocked with the essentials.

Why it's okay that I failed at Plastic Free July

When I first started Plastic Free July, I knew that it wasn't going to be easy. Anyone taking a walk through a supermarket can see that we have a serious reliance on single use plastics. As a society we value convenience above almost everything else, including our beautiful planet. So, I fully understood that I was going to have to make some serious habit shifts to be able to get through the whole of the month. In fact, I was even prepared for some slip ups along the way.

However, what I wasn't prepared for was just how many times I would slip up. I knew it wouldn't be easy, but I certainly didn't expect it to be so hard. 

Technically, I completely failed. As hard as I tried and as much I learnt throughout the month, I definitely wasn't completely "plastic free". Or even nearly plastic free, for that matter. I bought more items than I can count wrapped in the stuff and I felt horribly guilty every single time. I found it all pretty disheartening. For a minute there I felt like I needed to be stripped of my eco warrior card. 

However, after reflecting on the whole experience - successes, failures and all - I've decided that I did a pretty bloody good job. I think it's easy to get wrapped up (no pun intended) in being the perfect zero-waster when you see people online who can literally fit a year's rubbish into a mason jar. But it's a process. Yes, I failed at being plastic free in July, but that's okay. Here's why.