year of living minimally

The Year of Living Minimally: Week Eleven

Last week’s post was inspired by a quote, and so is this week’s. A man at a racial justice or families belong together rally was asked if he really thinks protesting can change the country. He said “I don’t protest to change my country. I protest so my country doesn’t change me.” This really stuck with me for obvious reasons, but without opening a political can of worms, let’s apply it to the environment and my project.

I used to love taking time to upcycle, DIY home projects, try and fail at different zero waste ventures, and more. But once I had a kid, I valued my time more than any other impact my actions might make. I ordered as much as I could from Amazon because I could buy and receive without leaving the house – I didn’t think about the implications of shipping a few items via plane or truck. Instead of trying to find a way to recycle, upcycle, or donate items, I would just throw them away because I wanted to get rid of them NOW.

I know a lot of that is instant gratification and being impatient, and I know I have issues with both of those things. I always have, and the internet has not made it any easier. But I am trying to get back to the mindset I had when it was just me. Strangely enough, that was when I blogged all the time, worked full time, and made more money than I needed to live on. I didn’t have much to do in my free time (#hermit) so I researched zero waste and made my own products and experimented a lot.

Lately, despite everything else that has happened in my life, I have been looking back at that brief period with happiness. I know I had problems at that point in my life, but this small aspect of my life made me happy, and it is something I can easily get back – and now I can include my son.

He already loves helping in the yard and garden. He “helps” hang clothes on the clothesline. Those are both things I didn’t have the ability to do when I was renting that smaller place. So now, though I own my own home and have a kid and therefore have different bills and worries, I also have more ways to explore my impact on the environment.

That quote also has me re-assessing what I buy, and why, and what my alternatives are. I am going to sound like a total nerd, but I am starting to research most things in my life. Plastic waste is so massive, and it’s easy for me to cut down on disposable straws but what about yogurt? My son can eat two cups a day, which makes a lot of plastic to recycle. Or uppcycle, as we have been lately – those cups are a great size for seed starters. But would it be better to buy one large container or yogurt? Is that really less plastic? Are there yogurt brands that package their product in cardboard, like a milk carton? If so, even if it is more expensive, it would be worth it to me to buy that. Because I am protesting with my money, and even if buying a different yogurt doesn’t stop the other yogurt companies from using plastic, I am still staying true to myself. I am “protesting” with my money to stay true to myself, while hoping to make a change in someone else, or something larger.

money, reading, shopping

Spending with Calypso

In his latest book Calypso, David Sedaris has a quote that stuck with me.

Disclaimer: David Sedaris is probably my favorite author. Top three if not number one. So much of Calypso made me laugh, and think, and compare to my own life. He is humorous, but he is also very thoughtful and reflective.

The quote that got me isn’t really funny, and it has probably been said by countless other people, but I had never heard it and it struck a chord with me.

“I’m not just a vehicle for my wallet!”

He says this in a short piece about how people, especially retail clerks, airline workers, hotel staff, etc, ask the same generic questions to everyone all day long, and don’t really listen to the answer.

Of course this is necessary – you want to seem friendly to your customers but you do it all day every day and can’t push yourself to get to know someone, nor do you have time to have more than a limited interaction. But Sedaris talks about the random questions he asks to start a conversation, and how they usually fall flat with these people.

He is quite quirky.

This quote made me think about buying things in person. You can still be upsold online, with ads like “Based on your viewing history, you might like:” or “People who bought what you just bought also bought:”. But it’s impersonal online anyway. In a store, especially drugstores, clerks try to sell you whatever little trinket they have next to the cash register, or ask you to donate to the charity of the week. (Not knocking charities, but I like to donate directly to them and don’t like being guilted about being stingy with my dollar at the drugstore.) Bigger stores ask you to sign up for their membership card or buy a warranty. Whether you do or not is your business, but the Sedaris quote made me think of all that differently. Honestly, I’m still thinking about it… I know spending your money is a way to “vote” so to speak, and that idea really tangles with this quote in my mind. I like it.

(All that being said, this was shortly after a piece where Sedaris describes buying countless ill-fitting, ugly, overpriced clothes just because he likes going shopping and buying things, so I guess we can take the quote with a grain of salt! I just like pulling it out to think over on its own.)

home life

Homemade Pillows

When I worked at the public library, I held a teen program for making no-sew pillows. We used the iron-on hem tape, an iron, and scraps of material you can buy bundled together. We stuffed them from a big bag of fluff. Some teens ironed their pillows together as-is, some tried to fold in the raw edges and hide them, and some (ok, one, ha!) forgot to flip their material so the bright side would show once it was stuffed. It was a fun program and it inspired me to go back to the store and buy more supplies to make my own pillows. I picked single scraps of material though, matching together complimentary patterns and colors.

Let’s let a year go by…

Here we are in the present, with me cleaning my house and trying to wrap up loose ends. I find this material, hem tape, and stuffing. When I mention the pillows to my mom, she mentions that she would be happy to sew them while using her machine for other stuff anyway, and she also has some pillow forms she doesn’t need. Cue me finding t-shirts I don’t wear anymore and won’t fit into my t-shirt quilt (more on THAT later), but that I still want to keep.

We ended up making 9 pillows. And when I say we, I mean most definitely my talented mother. She can do way more than sew in a straight line, but that skill was very necessary for this project and that skill is one I do not possess (insert vague reference about the t-shirt quilt because ME TRYING TO SEW is why that quilt isn’t a thing yet).

My favorite is from a shirt that was super tight on me and made from really thin material. So while I loved the message, I wasn’t a fan of wearing the shirt. But it makes the perfect pillow for my reading corner!

pillow2

Continue reading “Homemade Pillows”

year of living minimally

The Year of Living Minimally: Week Ten

Conversations with two different friends about furniture and this great quote Martha Reynolds shared about WHY you own things being more important than what you own inspired me this week.

One friend is trying to find the perfect furniture to invest in to put in her rental space – but buying furniture is expensive. My other friend has owned her house a few years but has only bought 3 pieces of furniture – the rest are hand-me-downs and garage sale finds.

That made me take stock of my own furniture. Most of my furniture has been hand-me-downs from my brother and/or his friends; when they moved, they’d ask if anyone needed X or Y, and I would usually take it to upgrade the X or Y I had gotten from someone else’s move the year before!

When I rented a small duplex, I searched for a nice tall kitchen table and chairs to fit in a little space off the kitchen. I found one better than I could have imagined, and it’s the table I still have today. Once I bought my house, I searched for the perfect couch. I bought it about a month after I moved in, and slept on it or an air mattress until I bought a bed. When my husband moved in, I bought a larger dresser for all of our clothes and moved my old dresser to the baby’s room. Besides baby furniture and IKEA-ish bookshelves, those are the only furniture items I’ve bought new. I have gotten rid of the baby things and am trying to get rid of the large dresser, now that my stuff all tucks away in my closet.

The computer/TV is on a small desk my dad had when he was a kid. He kept it and I used it as a desk when I was younger, and it moved with me time and time again. My old DVD shelves looked like they matched and stood on either side of the desk like it was a nice piece of “real” furniture. When I got rid of a lot of DVDs and used something else for storage, I got rid of the shelves but kept the desk. It’s nice and simple and the perfect size; I can sit at it as a desk when I need to, or have it be a TV stand when my kid is watching a show.

I have a “card catalog” CD storage system that my mom bought me for my first apartment. It has moved with me everywhere, no exception. It is probably my favorite piece of furniture. When I got rid of most of my CDs, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I could do with it, because there was no way I could get rid of it. Luckily, I found that DVDs fit in longways, the opposite of CDs, so what’s left of my CD collection is in the top row, and the rest of the drawers are full of DVDs. Practical, out-of-sight storage, and I get to keep my favorite furniture piece.

Then there are bookshelves. A lot of bookshelves… but I am about to get rid of one big one! I might be way too excited about that, but it will make my “office” space look a lot bigger, and will free up some wall space so I can hang some art I’ve been wanting to display.

Do I sit at the kitchen table much? No. Nor do I use the 4 chairs there. I don’t sit in my armchair or glider much, and have considered getting rid of both. And that cute little recliner that I couldn’t resist buying for my kid when he was 2… he doesn’t sit there much. But I also think that I could move these chairs into different spaces and they would get more use. The kitchen table will get more use once school starts and we have a stricter routine and eat dinner together at the table every night instead of staggered due to the other tasks I have to get done.

My main focus for a long time was getting rid of the smaller items, like clothes, books, CDs, DVDs. Now that I’ve done that, I can focus on getting rid of the bigger things that housed those items. The reason WHY I needed them isn’t an issue anymore – because there isn’t anything to put on or in them. I have made sure I can keep the sentimental items and have them stay useful, but everything else is up for grabs. I will move some around and see if it gets used, but if not – it’s gone.

money, shopping

Boxy Girls

I saw a commercial on TV while visiting a friend, and it stuck with me. And disgusted me a bit.

Or a lot.

Have you heard of Boxy Girls? (It’s an awful name I know, but clicking that link is SFW.)

These are dolls that come with 4 boxes of accessories for you to “unbox” with them.

Screen Shot 2018-06-11 at 5.33.56 PM

I know unboxing is a huge YouTube thing, and I’ve seen kids watch videos of other kids (or adults, yikes!) unboxing toys and getting excited about adding a bunch of plastic to their collections.

I don’t mean to be all down on people’s hobbies, but the whole concept of unboxing seems so heavily focused on consumerism and having more More MORE! And it’s disgusting. Why do you have to buy so much? What satisfaction do you get from recording these unboxings? What satisfaction do people get from watching these unboxings? I’ve tried, and have to stop when we hit the 2 minute mark and all I’ve seen is the box from all possible angles. JUST OPEN IT!

I understand being excited to open something. Hell, I got excited to open my monthly Subscribe & Save boxes, and they were just things like dish soap or cleaning products. But I never felt the compulsion to record these and make it like some great reveal meant to inspire envy in others. Now there is a toy you can buy (and unbox! since it’s “As Seen on TV”) and then unbox her boxes! Wait – would you record your unboxing of the doll, then record HER recording HER unboxing of the accessories? So meta.

If you want to watch unboxings on YouTube, why don’t you give Dylan Marron some views and exercise your brain?

food, fun, holidays, home life, natural living

4th of July

Happy 4th of July, American friends! How are you celebrating this holiday?

I love having a cookout on the 4th, or going to one. This is such a social holiday to me; Thanksgiving and Christmas of course naturally mean a lot of family is getting together, but it always feels a little more formal – even though my family is pretty casual! I love the 4th because it’s all about eating and being together and waiting for darkness so you can have fun with sparklers and fireworks!

Do you use disposable plates and utensils for the 4th of July?

plates

It’s logical since you’re eating outside and don’t want to risk your regular dishes breaking – or being too heavy if you’re balancing it on your lap. I have hosted a few “dinner parties” with friends eating inside, and then I always use my own dishes and cups because it’s more formal. But outside events are more casual so you want to accommodate your guests while still being conscious of the environment.

Using disposables is so easy because you can throw away all the napkins and recycle the cups, plates, and utensils – depending on your city’s recycling policy. But I still feel like it’s creating so much waste – and a lot of plates can’t be recycled, if they’re coated with that weird filmy plastic.

There are companies that sell biodegradable party supplies, which is something to look into. I don’t often host anymore, usually just attend others. But I could still stock up on these supplies and offer to bring the plates and utensils as my contribution to the party!

This tableware collection in particular looks great to have on hand for parties – I love the idea of just being able to toss the “trash” on your compost pile! Have you ever tried biodegradable products? What do you use when you host parties?

year of living minimally

The Year of Living Minimally: Week Nine

This week was better than the last, overall, but there was some back and forth.

+/- I cooked healthy dinners, but still got sick in the middle of the week. I get a summer cold every year but I always forget, so I’m always moderately outraged when I get sick – “how could this happen to me?!” It was especially frustrating because I ate junk food the week before, then started eating healthy, THEN got sick. I think someone is telling me to not eat my vegetables…

+/- I saved money in some areas of my life, and spent money in other areas… Besides eating out once, the purchases weren’t frivolous, so I guess that’s mostly a positive.

+/- I feel like I have been taking advantage of my free time. I have been reading, but it’s productive reading because they are books I need to read for review or work. I haven’t been taking advantage of using that time to write my book or curriculum, though, which is what I really need to do to meet some deadlines… and because both are related to paychecks! Yikes.

A definite positive is that I have been washing dishes fairly regularly – almost every night, except the night my sickness hit hard. I like getting it done and getting it out of the way so it’s not hanging over my head. It makes the kitchen look nicer and cleaner, of course, and it’s quick and easy to wash up while I’m cooking dinner or after I make our lunches in the morning.

Cleaning the house and getting rid of things have taken a backseat lately. I still have a pile of stuff that will be donated eventually, or once I have a chance to add more, but really my focus right now is my mindset and my routines. It might sound stupid since I’m a grown up and should easily adjust to changes, but it takes me awhile to get used to new routines. The calendar year has brought a lot of job, family, house, and child care changes. It’s taken me some time to adjust to each, and then something else will change. And my summer schedule is different than my school year schedule will be in a few months, so even this is temporary and I am trying to just simplify my life enough to make these changes easier to adjust to, if that makes any sense. I’m not sure it even makes sense to me, but I am trying to make it all work and provide the most stability I can for my son, so that’s my focus right now.