How to Actually Use the Internet to ‘Keep It Simple’


Okay.  So, we all know the Internet.  Technically claiming its origins in the 70’s, the World Wide Web was created in 1989.  A mere 28 years later, we have what feels like boundless knowledge, repeated garbage, niche blogs, and approximately 100 billion people giving their opinion of this thing and the next.

How in the world am I suggesting that using the internet will help make your life simpler?

Well, I’m not talking about keeping yourself safe from those late-night YouTube holes where you accidentally find yourself watching bell choirs until 2am for no particular reason other than you’re oddly riveted by the fact that you can watch 100 bell choir players ringing bells in theme to Phantom of the Opera around the world in China.  (By the way, who knew bell choirs could be so fascinating?)

I’m talking about simplifying your life financially and materially.  Let’s harness this internet monster for good!  No more shopping sprees and ordering ten things you don’t need to your house on Amazon Prime.  (Though, hey, I do love Amazon Prime.)  I’m talking about reducing, reusing, and contributing.  Promote community and reduction of waste, slice chunks out of your budget, and reconnect with the fellow humans who live in your neighborhood.

The power of the internet.

The internet is a method of communication, among many other things.  Not only can you shop for unicorn slippers at four in the morning, but you can also see who in your community might be giving away free unicorn slippers!

My favorite and most used site is called The Buy Nothing Project.  Let that sink in for a moment–that beautiful name!  What might that imply?  To not need to buy anything?

My personal experience with The Buy Nothing Project has been phenomenal.  I have received many things over the years, including but not limited to a bathroom scale, jewelry, a chair, and a few books.  I have given away a violin, a printer, and some throw pillows.

They sometimes include “curb alerts” where good Samaritans alert the community to something someone has put to the curb for garbage pickup, that another person might wholly want and be able to use!

On the Buy Nothing website they list deeds and gifts they’ve witnessed around the country, declaring they’ve “seen it all.”  Deeds included rides to the doctor, giving out food, childcare, or land to bury a beloved pet, and gifts of all kinds that have outfitted new teachers’ classrooms or college kids moving into their first home.

To locate a group near you, visit their website.  The community uses Facebook, allowing users to see mutual friends and members of their community through a more transparent lens, increasing safety and a sense of community.  The idea is to recycle items and reuse things others no longer need while also building a network of support and giving spirit.  A full list of FAQ’s can be found on their website.

Another classic is

This site claims to be changing the world one gift at a time.  The idea is similar to the Buy Nothing group, where community members simply no longer need an item and want to pass it along to someone else who might be able to get some use out of it.  Hooray for preventing items from going in the garbage?

This is how Freecycle Network describes their purpose:

Welcome! The Freecycle Network™ is made up of 5,314 groups with 9,158,870 members around the world, and next door to you. It’s a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns and neighborhoods. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by local volunteers (them’s good people). Membership is free. To sign up, find your community by entering it into the search box above or by clicking on ‘Browse Groups’ above the search box. Have fun!

For FAQ’s and more information, you can head on over to their website and locate a group near you.

Ladies and gentlemen, the mac daddy of internet giveaway sites: Craigslist.

So, Craigslist has its pros and cons.  Sure, there is a “free” section, and there are some intriguing posts, but it’s important to remember safety first and foremost.  That being said, it is a larger and more well-known venue for dumping unwanted items.  There are some great finds!

Why on earth do I keep talking about keeping stuff out of the garbage?  How does that simplify your life?

We all have to live on this planet, and if we fill it up with junk, it won’t be usable for anyone.  It won’t be a nice place for our children to live, either.  The EPA estimated in 2013 that Americans created 254 million tons of trash, recycling about 87 million tons of that–a recycling rate of about 34.3%.  Our oceans are filling with trash and we are killing the animals and plant life that existed here before us.

We all spend huge portions of our paychecks on material goods we don’t really need, and that society tells us we want.  Then when we struggle financially, hardworking families laden with debt, we wonder why.  I’m not saying that “stuff” is the cause of poverty, or that it is a weakness of character when people do pursue such purchases, but I think it’s worth identifying the strategies we can use to fight back against this dominant worldview message.

Bringing the community together is important.  It doesn’t feel that way, in the day and age of texting and blogs and constant communication, but it matters.

One final internet gem I believe is designed to simplify your endeavors to be a peaceful, plant-based delightful and tolerant community member: Cruelty-free Kitty.

Because we’re saying HELL NO to animal testing!  If you don’t care about animals and animal-testing, you can skip this part.  But you shouldn’t!  It’s not hard to make the change, and I’m trying to demonstrate how straightforward it can be.  I know that there are medications and other forms of testing that some people believe we can’t live without, but I refuse to believe that the testing of cosmetics is one of those exceptions.  To learn more about animal testing and why it’s bad, check out this article.

It can be hard to read the the tiny words on a package, searching for a symbol that indicates a product has not been tested on animals.  It can also be difficult to understand what the different levels mean, or what brands ARE actually cruelty-free but don’t say so on the bottle.  Enter Cruelty-Free Kitty!  This website lists all the brands you can find in your local Sephora or other make-up situation, and helps you sort out which ones you should aim for, and which ones test their products on animals.

Okay, fellow simplicity-seekers of the internet–how do you use the internet to simplify your life, financially and environmentally?