Meet the woman who is using her MS to help save the planet

Meet the woman who is using her MS to help save the plane

MS hit the headlines recently after it emerged that actress Selma Blair has the condition. Reports revealed the 46-year-old has struggled with symptoms that include falling over, dropping things, foggy memory, and numbness in her left side for at least 15-years.

Multiple Sclerosis, which affects the central nervous system, is one Amanda Jones, from Nottinghamshire, is all too familiar with. The 50-something mum-of-two was diagnosed in 2010.

“Initially, it all felt very overwhelming, hopeless and was a very scary time,” she tells Relax Ya Self To Health. “But in true ‘Amanda’ style,  I hit the research button, and luckily found the Overcoming MS website.

“It’s a healthy lifestyle programme for people with MS, and adopting it has slowed the progress of the disease right down. My MS was very aggressive before, fuelled I think from the stressful life I led.  I now eat a plant-based diet, keep my vitamin D3 levels healthy, and have simplified my life to keep my stress levels as low as I can.”

In fact, Amanda’s approach to destressing and simplifying her life – mainly through decluttering and responsible purchasing – has made her an Instagram sensation. Her Small Sustainable Steps account, which carries the tagline, “What I’m doing might be a drop in the ocean but at least my drop will be clean”, has become a hit with more than 26,000 followers thanks to her helpful, informative posts.

Relax Ya Self To Health caught up with Amanda to find out how the platform has helped her cope with MS and is inspiring others to lead a plastic-free, low waste lifestyle. 

Meet the woman who is using her MS to help save the planet

PICTURE CREDIT: SMALL SUSTAINABLE STEPS

Amanda, please tell us a bit about yourself…

I live in Nottinghamshire with my husband, and our two teenage girls. My husband and I are both in our fifties. I took early retirement six years ago. I used to work with vulnerable children and families, it was great but very stressful. When I finished I was in a leadership role. Last year my husband took redundancy. He is now studying music production at university. You could say, we are living the life we love.

What were your MS symptoms?

I’d had the symptoms for well over 20 years. I temporarily lost my sight when my baby was just three weeks old and the use of my right side for a while – it’s still weak. I also had an episode lasting several weeks, where I had mini epileptic seizures, about 350 a day. It was a very difficult time.

How does MS affect your daily life?

It’s a bit like having a brain that short-circuits constantly. I never know what’s going to happen next. Sometimes I feel so fatigued, that even getting out of bed is difficult. I manage my fatigue by not over-committing to anything, and to rest as much as possible. Sometimes my body just won’t do what my brain is telling it. My mobility is one of the areas most affected. Not being able to go for long walks in the countryside, like I used to, is still a difficult concept for me. I’m a passionate gardener, it’s important for my mental health. I was finding it very difficult to continue, so we decided to adapt my garden, in order for me to carry on. I had paths laid and raised beds built. This has meant that I can carry on gardening. We are now in the process of adapting our home, in order to future proof it, if needs arise. MS affects every part of my life.

Meet the woman who is using her MS to help save the planet

PICTURE CREDIT: SMALL SUSTAINABLE STEPS

When did you discover Instagram and how has this helped you on your healing journey?

I’ve had an Instagram account now for several years. In that time [the content] it has changed and adapted, reflecting the changes I’ve made to my lifestyle. Initially, it helped me deal with the loss of my mother to Alzheimer’s and having to leave my much-loved career through illness and deteriorating mobility. I expressed how I managed my grief (both for losing mum and walking) through my kitchen garden. It’s been a very creative, and cathartic thing for me to do.

When did you realise you needed to simplify your life?

The need to simplify my life came from a particularly difficult episode. A few years ago, I was caring for someone who was very ill. It meant I was getting no sleep – being chronically fatigued anyway, this was a dangerous situation. One night, when I crawled into bed, I was convinced, I would die. I felt so ill and stressed, my heart would surely stop. I did a mental check in my head of all the wonderful women in my life who would be there for my daughters. I thought about my husband and how he would cope. I thought about our finances – yes they’d be okay. Then I panicked. I thought about all the stuff I had accumulated in my 50 years. I panicked, even more, when I realised how my husband never puts anything away. I imagined my girls grieving for me, and the house in utter chaos, with piles of stuff and boxes everywhere. Needless to say, I was still here the next morning

At what moment did you realise that clutter was stressing you out?

The next day I had a lightbulb moment. I couldn’t change a lot of the stresses in my life and I haven’t – they are still there, ebbing and flowing – but I could change my physical environment and all the ‘stuff’ which was making me feel overwhelmed. When everyone left for the day, I made myself a strong coffee, opened one of my cupboards and dived in. Within half an hour I had got rid of five carrier bags worth of stuff. Looking back, I can’t even remember what it was, that’s how important was!

 

Meet the woman who is using her MS to help save the plane

PICTURE CREDIT: SMALL SUSTAINABLE STEPS

Tell us about Small Sustainable Steps

Small Sustainable Steps emerged last year when I started to talk more about the small sustainable steps I was taking to simplify my life. The community has grown so much since then. Every day I’m inspired by the people who drop by.

What advice would you give to those who want to de-stress, reduce clutter and lead a simple life?

In order to change, you need to know why. Your why gives you the conviction and then it becomes easier. I’ve let go of so much…duplicates of things, stuff we never used, stuff that was still in its packaging. Even sentimental items have gone, it’s not always been easy, but with each thing I let go of, I felt the burden of my stuff lift. The guilt, too, of buying things I never needed. Once I started to declutter, it became a regular part of my life. With my energy levels being so low, I’ve only ever done this in very small bursts, hence why it has taken three years to get to a level I’m happy with. There are many different approaches to decluttering, for me, however, just targeting a small area for 15 minutes a day was all I could manage.

Meet the woman who is using MS to help save the planet

PICTURE CREDIT: SMALL SUSTAINABLE STEPS

How has decluttering transformed your life?

Over the last few years, I have got rid of over 70% of the contents of our house. Everything now has a place or is either useful or loved. We buy quality over quantity, and we practice intentional consumerism. We don’t make impulsive purchases anymore. We now only purchase things that we need or things that we know we would love for many years to come. We now have more disposable income because we buy less. This has allowed us to make bolder decisions – my husband decided to take redundancy and go to university. We could not have done this, without changing our mindset, away from physical possessions to life experiences.

How has decluttering reduced your stress levels?

We now have a much bigger house, even though we have not extended, because we got rid of so much furniture that stored the stuff, we didn’t need. I personally feel less stress, by living this way. I no longer feel overwhelmed by my physical environment. It is now much easier to look after our home. I think decluttering the house, and changing my mindset, also naturally evolved into adopting a low waste lifestyle. Having MS means that everything I do in life needs to be as easy as possible. I couldn’t do this if the changes were complicated.

Meet the woman who is using her MS to help save the planet

PICTURE CREDIT: SMALL SUSTAINABLE STEPS

Your low waste and sustainable living tips are truly inspiring. Can you tell us a little more about your approach?

Low waste for me doesn’t mean zero waste. My family still produces waste, however, over the last two years, we have reduced this by two thirds. We’ve made a concerted effort to reduce the plastic that we consume. We get our meat, fish, dairy, from the deli counter in the supermarket, using our own containers. We rarely buy processed meals, which cuts down on the packaging. We don’t buy crisps, biscuits, or cakes very often and we bake twice a week. We get most of our vegetables from the market, again because there’s less packaging. We don’t buy disposable items anymore – no wipes, tissues, or bottled water.

As well as stress reduction, a low waste lifestyle has also saved you money? Can you tell us more

Yes, we pay a fraction, of what we did on cleaning and washing products, by making our own from cheap ingredients like vinegar.  We have drastically, cut down on our plastic consumption, just by taking these small steps. For anyone wanting to start this journey, of simplifying their life, my advice would be to start small. Change one thing, and then go from there. That way you will create the life you love without being overwhelmed by the changes you’re making.

Meet the woman who is using her MS to help save the plane

PICTURE CREDIT: SMALL SUSTAINABLE STEPS

Thanks, Amanda for taking the time to share your story with Relax Ya Self To health. To check out Amanda’s brilliant Small Sustainable Steps Instagram account click here.

 

 

 

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