home life

Using What We Have

It seems like a simple solution, but it took awhile for me to think of it.

Use what we have.

I’ve always stocked up on things. Keep extra toilet paper in the cabinet. Extra toothpaste in the medicine cabinet, right next to the extra toothbrushes, because of course you can never buy just one toothbrush, right? (Oh trust me, we will talk about toothbrushes.)

When I lived in a 450 sq ft apartment, I stopped stocking up on everything. (Except toilet paper. ALWAYS have extra toilet paper.) I didn’t have much room for storage, so I started living smarter. I bought groceries weekly, because I didn’t have a standard fridge in my small kitchen. I kept just one of everything I needed on hand, and when I ran out, I added it to the list and picked it up on my weekly store visit.

It’s pretty easy to live this way when you’re single. You know what you use, what you need, and you can drop by the store on your way home from work to grab one thing.

When you have a family, though, it’s harder. You have multiple people using things, and you might not even get to it until it’s already rolled up with every drop squeezed out (I’m looking at you, toothpaste). At the risk of sounding like a martyr, it’s usually women who keep stock of household goods. Sometimes another member of the household will alert me that we’re low on something. “Add it to the list,” I say, because I don’t want to have to remember one more thing, even if I just need to remember it long enough to add to the list myself. If you notice it, say it out loud, fine – but it’s your responsibility to add it to the list.

The downside of this is that I am the one who buys the goods, and I am the one who puts them away, and I am the one who restocks them from our supply. It’s not that no one else knows where I store stuff – I show and tell them – it’s just that… I do it. So sometimes a product is added to the shopping list, when actually we have two more in the storage basket in the bathroom. Which means we just buy more at the store.

This most often happens in the kitchen, but that will have to be its own separate post. Our kitchen problem is one I’m already trying to solve, so I’ll have a lot to say on that.

The point is, we have stuff. We have plenty of stuff. And even though we’re technically out of toothpaste right now, we have those little travel tubes that work just fine. Yes, they were stored away for when we travel, but let’s be honest – that hasn’t happened in quite some time, so they next time we’re packing, we can just pick up some tubes if we need them. Better yet, we’ll just take our own big ol’ tube and save the hassle and the waste.

I have been using all my old shampoos and body sprays. When I was younger, I frequented Bath and Body Works and would always fall for the “Buy 2, Get 1” body sprays. So many scents, so much left over. It takes a long time to use a bottle of body spray. But I’m using them now, and it’s something I don’t have to buy, and it makes me feel productive to be using them up. We’re doing that all over the house with various products. It’s a small step, for sure, but it’s something we can do while we make big changes, too.

home life

It’s All an Experiment

This isn’t actually the beginning. This started years ago, when I lived alone in a cute duplex. I had just started a recycling program at my graphic design job – meaning I put out a box and asked coworkers to dump in their drafts, rejected designs, and old papers. I took this box home every week and loaded up my small personal recycling bin.

At the same time, I started washing my hair with baking soda and vinegar. I bought clothes from thrift stores. I was obsessed with zero waste blogs, and tried to have no more than one small bag of trash each week.

When my graphic design company closed, I decided to majorly downsize instead of start a big job hunt. I put my stuff in storage and traveled for six months. I carried one backpack and my camera bag. It was exhilarating to live such a simple life.

I had to come back to real life, of course. I moved into a 480 square foot apartment and got rid of most of my belongings, both out of necessity (such a small space!) and desire (going from one backpack to a whole “house” was a huge change!). A year later, I moved into a two bedroom house. I didn’t buy much more furniture, so it was still a very minimal space.

Then I met my husband, and he moved in, and we had custody of his son every other weekend, and during summers. Then we had our own son. Things accumulated. I try to purge every so often, donating my stuff and kids’ stuff to a local organization that freely gives things to families in need, but more stuff shows up somehow.

My husband is finally on board with minimizing our lives. It’s a long story, and his to tell; I hope he will – this blog is for the family! I will go into more details with my story as well. I just wanted to get started, or re-started, as the case may be. We are trying to cut down on belongings, trying to stop consuming so much, trying to be more conscious about how and why we spend. We are trying to rely more on ourselves and local artisans and businesses. We are trying to lessen our impact on the world. We are trying – it’s all an experiment.