Tuesday, October 12, 2010


 October is a crazy month for us. The Man travels all month long, only returning home on the weekends, and the occasional mid-week stop to reload the truck and take off again.

 It's also a busy month for us birthday-wise. Boy 2's birthday is the 19th, Girl 2's birthday is the 22nd, and the Man's birthday is the 24th.

Then of course there is Halloween...the costumes and such associated with that (and all the room parent things), the end of football season, ect. etc. etc. Most of which I do solo, because like I said, the Man is out of town all month.

So in order to calm things down and work toward a minimalist lifestyle, I decided to throw a giant party.


I'm actually looking forward to it, I love a good party, and I love party planning. But time is getting away from me. One thing I'm realizing is, throwing a party that doesn't generate unreal amounts of waste is difficult. For example, I'm pretty sure we don't own enough plates. We can use paper...but I'm going to feel awful about it. Same thing with cups. I suppose we could ask people to bring their own from home, but that seems ridiculous.

I'm looking into making the decorations myself from things I have around the house. That's less expensive, and it means I don't buy a bunch of paper or plastic junk that will just get tossed after the party. I'm pretty excited about some of the ideas out there, especially some that tips4green collected.

I think this will be our last big event before we calm down and slow ourselves for winter. The kids' football is ending, one of our volunteering gigs is ending, the Man will be back in town...it's a good time to simplify. So this will be our fall version of Mardi Gras. While we won't be hibernating, I'm really looking forward to slipping in to a calmer, more family-focused time of year.

Ice cream floor picnics are the best.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


So, I've stashed the soap box under the bed for another day. I'm going to focus on reusing. I sort of adore this "R", because while reusing often means buying something you can use over & over to replace disposables (like rags instead of paper towels, or using cloth grocery bags) it also means repurposing. Which equals crafting. Which equals bliss and glee. Blgee. Gliss.

Shopping bags/purses made of tank tops. Check it:

They still look like shirts...but they're totally functional as bags. 

I posted some earlier attempts at reusable sandwich bags, and while they worked, they didn't hold up well with repeated washings. Even though I air-dried, there was some fabric shrinkage, and the mylar liners became wrinkly crinkly. The bags are still totally functional, they just aren't as pretty as they once were.

This is the new version:

A sandwich wrap


It's a place mat. 

I love these. I have a bunch of old sheets and things to repurpose into bags, and I have vinyl lining to make clean-up easier. And these are washable in the laundry, rather than top shelf of the dish washer. 

Here's another:

I successfully sewed Velcro for the first time ever...that's pretty rad. And I'm loving the idea of keeping germs off my PBJ and crumbs outta my keyboard. 

I'm thinking of demolishing old hoodies into new and amazing things...beware...it has started. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

RRR matey

Last Wednesday we only had one bag of trash go out in the weekly pick-up can. 7 people. 1 dog. 7 days. 1 bag of trash.


However, we have a preponderance of recycling to go out this week. While I feel much better about the amount of waste headed out trapped in plastic bags, taking up landfill space, I'm a bit bothered by the overall waste we're putting out. Because recycling still is waste, just less so. It takes energy to transport, energy to process, energy to transform...and all of that takes money too. City money that might be better spent elsewhere...if I cut down our overall output of packaging.

So a reality check. The 3 R's:

They aren't in that order randomly.


I've done some of this with turning the lights off, using a clothes line, switching to cloth diapers (which also has a reuse element to it), putting in vinyl windows to reduce our heating & a/c use. I've also done a bit of this with buying in bulk, reducing packaging. We've also reduced our driving time by moving near everything we do. We used to fill the gas tank every 6-7 days. I filled it today. The last time we put gas in the van was September 10th. 25 days ago. That is phenomenal. I was hoping to make it 4 weeks, but we were just a bit short of that. Still...25 days on a tank of gas...

Now, I'm going to do something I don't often do:

Reducing means buying less. Buying things, consuming, is antithetical to a green lifestyle. Always. Doing without is the greenest option. We all have a number of things we just have to have. We have to eat. We need shelter and clothing. And when we make those purchases, we need to make them as wisely as possible to do the least amount of consumption, the least damage we can. But consumerism kills the planet. 

I may be shooting myself in the foot with this next bit, but it's heavy on my mind. (Oy! What a metaphor mishmash I've created. Soap boxes and foot shooting and mind weights, oh my!) "Green giveaways" are NOT living up to the pursuit of sustainability. I'm following a slew of blogs right now to learn as much as I can about living the most eco-friendly lifestyle possible. There are parents around the globe trying their hardest to be good stewards of the planet we are leaving our children, and I truly appreciate the work they are doing. So many of these blogs are offering giveaways. Eco-toys, eco-books, eco-make-up. And I get it. Money is tough. I'd love to help my family with my writing, and I know that sponsorship is a huge deal, as is getting free things for your family. And I'll admit I've entered a couple of giveaways trying to get cloth diapers for Girl 2. Those things are expensive, and we really can't afford many. 

But I think I have to stop. It's hypocritical. Because shipping one cloth diaper across the country is a waste. Shipping a box of wooden blocks from NYC to Idaho is a waste. Buying local is reducing. Buying less...that's even better. Asking, "What can I buy so that I'm more Earth-friendly?" is like asking, "What can I eat so that I lose weight?"  Both are fair questions, to a point. But really we should ask, "Can I cut this out? Do I really need this?" Endless acquisition is toxic.

Junk Lady from Henson's "Labyrinth"

 Minimalism is really the only true path to sustainability. That's hard for me to say. I like stuff. I want things. I hate my cell phone. I want a new one. I want new clothes, books, a bike...My computer is slow, I'd like an iPad...or even a laptop. I have five children! I'm hardly the picture of minimalism. Just the other day I posted my pages and pages of to-dos...not a minimalist lifestyle. I need to work harder to pare away the crap. 

Every single choice we make affects someone on this planet. That sounds overblown, but it isn't. What I buy affects the economy and jobs. It affects wildlife and plant life. It affects the people who see me with my new acquisition. It affects my children. Some things are small, and not a huge deal, others are significant. But every purchase/action has an effect. We talk about purchasing power, but in a capitalist society it's easy to overlook the power of putting your wallet back in your pocket.

There are two more "R's" to discuss... but I'm feeling a bit like I've shouted in church. Reusing and Recycling can wait for another day.

Monday, October 4, 2010


This week a window installer came out and replaced all our ancient aluminum windows with vinyl energy star windows. This, like everything else that has gone on with the house, was a bit of an ordeal. The tests showed that we have lead paint a few layers down, so we had to go into full on hazmat lock down in every room he worked in. There were wacky tents set up around every window. I felt like E.T. with pneumonia...

Anyway. I'd post pictures, but they're windows. What I can't take a picture of is how I can't feel the air conditioner when I stand near the windows in the back. Or how warm the girls' room is now that there is no draft pouring in around the window frames. I'm so glad we had them put in before winter.

While the installer was working, all the furniture in the house was in the living room. This meant no computer, no Netflix, no internet. Life slowed down to a crawl. I didn't read a glut of articles on my Google Reader. I didn't chat, blog, or even work (that part was kind of lame...money is nice). I did read two books...my first two all year. I did the Jumble & the crossword every day. I played blocks, trains, and Little People with the girls. I started a writing a story I've been stewing on for months. I took a nap. It was incredibly restful.

There's something cleansing about being still. I didn't "get anything done", but I realized that my life has become focused on production. It's all about lists and to-dos, and what I can accomplish. And all that's great. But I think I might institute a monthly day of stillness...as a starter. Weekly seems like too much. I'd like to take one day out of every 30 and just...breathe.