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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Trashy Trash Trash

I've been thinking about trash.

Moving to a small apartment with a small garbage can has made me very aware of what I throw away. Having to walk the garbage bag down 3 flights of stairs, then down another to the basement, out the back door...and a short walk to the ally makes me not want to make much trash! We usually fill up one small garbage bag a week...but even that seems like so much! I'm still trying to figure out where I could take my food scraps to reduce that even further. One of my goals during The Compact is to buy groceries/food with little to no packaging. This drastically reduces the amount of trash one produces. I'm amazed by how much trash we can throw away just by ordering take-out one night! Wow.

A movie that is closely related to this topic is "The Gleaners and I" (thanks Ali!). I just finished watching this quirky little French film about modern day gleaners and urban scavengers. It was incredibly interesting to me...I've always been curious about the lives of experienced dumpster divers and people who live completely off of the trash that others create. The movie goes far beyond that and delves into the world of found object art and into the lives of those making a difference in their neighborhoods. I can't say enough about this movie...I think everyone should see it.

The Compact has me on the lookout for items that I can re-use or use in a different way. In my research about these things, I came across some fun Flickr groups dealing with this topic:
ReUSE Project
Tips for Recycling and Reusing
Trashion Nation

There are also some great sites dealing specifically with re-fashioning items of clothing:
Wardrobe Refashion
Wardrobe Refashion (Flickr)
Little Brown Dress ::: Recycling Project

And more sites discussing found object (trash) art:
Art from Trash

Books to check out:
Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash
Stuff: The Secret Lives of Everyday Things

Today, when you throw something away...ask yourself if it could be recycled, re-used, or given to someone who needs it (Freecycle!). In a disposable may feel weird at first, but it does the earth GOOD!

Photo credit: D'Arcy Norman

Monday, October 30, 2006

One Day in October

It was a beautiful fall day today...possibly the last of the season. Even though the wind was blowing, it was a balmy 70 degrees. Perfect weather for a leisurely walk. We live in the best walking neighborhood in Des Moines...there is something new and unique to see with every step. Come walk with us...and see why we love it!

Sunday, October 29, 2006


This weekend marks the last Farmer's Market in Des Moines for this year. There will be two more "winter markets" indoors, but the REAL farmer's market is over. This makes me sad because I LOVE the Farmer's Market. I love the people watching, the food, the atmosphere. I have created many rich memories with friends and family walking the streets of downtown. I am giddy with excitement when I think of one of my favorite rituals... getting my soy caramel latte from Java Joe's. Java Joe's is a local establishment that has a great vibe. Their baristas are fun and diverse...there are always tattoos to check out and dreads to behold.

Getting my coffee on Saturday mornings is one ritual in my life that brings me happiness. My tea ritual, my bedtime rituals...they are all part of who I am. I believe that rituals are so bring order, to bring comfort, to bring expectant joy. Rituals are especially important for children, and we strive to have them in our family. Family dinners, reading familiar books, having nightly rituals. At the same time, we enjoy being free-spirited and take part in spur-of-the-moment activities. Ritual does not mean a loss of spontaneity in your life. Ritual is life!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Finding Your Tribe

Fellowship. Community. Support. All of these words bring to mind warm and cozy feelings. In the stay-at-home mom "world", there is nothing more important than getting connected to a group of like-minded friends who you can converse with, laugh with, and love. I have been so fortunate to find this type of friendship. It all started when we moved to town and I attended my first La Leche League meeting. I met new people and had a great time. Not too long after that, I was invited to one of their homes for a "cloth diaper party". Basically a playdate...and we talked about diapering our babes. After that meeting, we had a huge increase in the number of "natural parenting" groups in town. I started a babywearing group, my friend Sarah started a cloth diapering group, the Holistic Moms Network started meeting, the Attachment Parenting group was growing..and POOF! A community of like-minded families rallied around each other and we started our own little tribe. We have meetings of some sort nearly every week, as well as a weekly playgroup. Several of us get together in each others homes as well to chat and let the kids play. And it was during one of these playdates that a couple of us started talking about the importance of community, especially with mothers of young children. When you get together with other moms, you realize that you're not the only one who has a messy house. You're not the only one who get burned out. You're not alone in your frustration with your 2 year old. When you can talk through these things with others who have been through it, your load becomes lighter. It's also reassuring to know that I'm not the only one who is obsessive about organic foods and non-plastic / non-commercial toys for my child.
Here is a great article detailing the process of helping out in each others' homes...and building your own tribe. Put some hot water on for tea and invite another mama over today!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Paper or Plastic?

Neither! Because...

1. Both use up valuable natural resources for a single-use, disposable product
2. Both have negative impacts on wildlife and pollute our environment
3. Both create significant toxic by-products during their lifecycles
4. Neither is effectively recycled

If you've ever tried to decide which one was better for the environment, look no further. Read this great info from Reusable Bags and switch to cloth today. Someday in the near future, you might just save a lot of money by doing so. Ireland, and many other countries are already implementing taxes on plastic bags...and the U.S. isn't far behind.

I know that a lot of people will argue that they use the plastic bags at home for various purposes (I do this as well right now). Even though it's better than throwing them straight in the trash, it's still better to just avoid them altogether. Honestly, what did people do before we had those annoying bags? I'm going to begin phasing mine out and not get any more.

I have blogged about my cloth bags in the past...and this is your friendly reminder to start using cloth today!

Recycling is Fun

When we first moved into our new apartment, I wasn't exactly sure how I was going to set up my "recycling center". It took me a few days, but I found a solution that works great. This slick little drawer system fits perfectly in my hall closet (no, it doesn't sit in the middle of my kitchen as shown in the photo). It can comfortably hold about a month's worth of recycling. I have a separate basket for newspaper/office paper.

I didn't realize how wonderful curbside recycling really was...until now! When we lived in the house, I had 2 huge bins in the basement that I could throw stuff into. Every 2 weeks I would set it out, and poof! The recycling fairies would come and take it away. Now, I have to carry these drawers down 3 flights of stairs to my car and drive it to the metro recycling center (about 5 minutes away) where I hand sort it and throw it into the appropriate containers. It's too bad I don't have one of these nice reverse vending machines in my neighborhood. However, it does give me a great opportunity to talk to Bella about recycling while we're driving there.

If you're reading this and you aren't a recycler...give some thought to the following:
  1. Recycling conserves our valuable natural resources.
  2. Recycling saves energy.
  3. Recycling saves clean air and clean water.
  4. Recycling saves landfill space.
  5. Recycling can save money and create jobs.
  • Americans throw away 44 million newspapers everyday. That i’s the same as dumping 500,000 trees into landfills each week
  • Paper products make up the largest part (approximately 40 percent) of our trash.
  • Paper products use up at least 35 percent of the world's annual commercial wood harvest.
  • People in the U.S. throw away enough aluminum every three months to rebuild our entire commercial air fleet.
  • Americans throw away enough glass bottles and jars every two weeks to fill the 1.350-foot towers of the former World Trade Center.
Recycling is much more than just tin cans and newspapers. Recycling just means "to use again" or "to adapt to a new form or function". We live in a disposable-obsessed culture...and we tend to think we can only use things one time. There are many things around the house that can be re-used. I recycle my tin foil. I recycle plastic bags (check out this cool contraption). I recycle the envelopes/packaging that people send me. I recycle jars in my kitchen and use them for food storage. I wear recycled clothing.

Whenever you recycle, you are not just saving that item from being thrown away. You are saving all the resources involved in making a brand new item from scratch. For example, recycling aluminum saves 95% of the energy used to make the material from scratch. That means you can make 20 cans out of recycled material with the same amount of energy it takes to make one can out of new material.

One of the greatest things ever invented is a recycling network called Freecycle. Freecycle's mission is to keep stuff out of the landfills. See if your town has'll love it.

You may be overwhelmed and not know where to start with recycling. Call your local recycling center and find out if they provide curbside recycling in your area. Most will provide free bins. Then, start with just one item. Then move to other items. Cereal boxes, cans, plastic bottles, glass containers...there are so many things that you can keep out of your trash by recycling. Start today...every little bit helps.

Find this information and more fun facts about recycling here.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


It's been 2 weeks since we committed to the Compact, and the topic of contentment has really been on my mind. It's no wonder that so many of us struggle with it. As a nation, there is discontentment around every turn. We are constantly looking for a bigger house, a better car, a more exciting job...we are told every day by advertisers that we NEED all of those things...or we will be LESS than everyone else. Less successful. Less pretty. Less desirable. Have you ever paid close attention to those feelings that are created when you are looking at advertising or at something in a store? They are not happy thoughts. Thoughts of wanting, needing...the feeling that you are somehow deprived of the true joy in life if you don't act now. When I go into a store, I am now acutely aware of those feelings...because I cannot act upon them. I look at an item, and then I stop and examine the thoughts running through my head. Pretty crazy stuff.

I've been trying to eliminate all sources of advertising in our lives over the last year or so...and it's been an eye-opening experiment. I knew that the obvious offender was the TV. But the others are not so easily detected. What about advertisements in magazines? What about the magazines themselves? Looking through magazines like Country Home, Real Simple, and others...I see so many things that I WANT. Oh the goodies! What about magazines like Health or Self? Looking at the women in those magazines will only create discontentment with your body. Now take a look in your mailbox...Crate and Barrel...J.Crew. More WANTS. Look in your email inbox. You will see passionate pleas for your to open their message. Sales! Buy now...before it's too late! The Sunday newspaper sales ads...full of STUFF to buy. Billboards that scream at you as you drive. And the most stealthy method of all...your friends. When you go to their house and see that they have something that is sooooo cool, you want it too. Even if you don't need it. I experienced this just yesterday. I was at a girlfriend's house. She has a rug that I was looking at buying a couple months ago, but decided against it. And even though I have a perfectly great rug now... for a moment, I thought that I needed that same rug because she had it.

As silly as it sounds, and as "strong" as you think you might's so easy to get sucked in by all of these things. You may not act on your "wanting" impulses right away, but it's those feelings that just pile on top of one another, creating discontentment and desire, and pretty soon you're buying a McMansion and filling it with goodies from Pottery Barn.

The mall is another temple of wants that I try to avoid at all costs. The term "window shopping" is really quite silly. They should just call it "driving myself crazy by making myself want things I can't afford". And now they don't just make malls, they make "Lifestyle Centers". Made specially for you to MAINTAIN your lifestyle. They make it hard to leave...with the food, coffee, playgrounds, lakes, trails, movies, colleges (yes, in a mall), you do just want to LIVE there.

For me, contentment is clearly a spiritual issue. In the past, whenever I have gone on a spending binge, it has been during a spiritual dry spell. I also tend to spend a lot more when Matt on a trip and I am lonely. I spend to fill a void in my feel "happy". That void should be filled with my relationship with Christ, not with stuff. But for some reason, buying stuff (even just a fancy coffee) changes my reality at that moment, but it's a temporary fix.

I like what Joyce Meyers has to say about this topic:
Contentment is a decision to be happy with what you already have. One dictionary defines the word content as "rest or quietness of the mind in the present condition; satisfaction which holds the mind in peace, restraining complaining, opposition, or further desire, and often implying a moderate degree of happiness."

We usually learn to be content by living discontented lives for a long time and then finally saying: "Lord, I don't want to live this way any longer. Getting this thing or having that thing is not worth it.

"I don't want to be miserable anymore. Just give me what You want me to have because unless You want me to have it, I don't want it.

"From now on I'm not going to compare myself with anyone else. I'm not going to be jealous or envious of anyone. I don't want what anyone else has. Lord, I want only what You want me to have."

The 2 things that really stick out to me:
  • She says that contentment is a DECISION. It does not come naturally. Don't beat yourself up if it's a struggle for you...but you can overcome it.
  • "Restraining complaining, opposition, or further desire". Further desire. Sometimes my whole mind is one big desire. I desire to be this, I desire to have this, I desire to be in another place, I desire a bigger or smaller this or that. To be content is to STOP all of those feeling that roam around your brain taking away energy. Energy that could be spent on the NOW. Enjoying your life for what it truly is. It's energy that could be spent getting to know Jesus better.
Here are some verses that speak about contentment. I am going to meditate on these verses and memorize them throughout this year as we take part in the Compact.
Not that I am implying that I was in any personal want, for I have learned how to be content (satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or disquieted) in whatever state I am.

I know how to be abased and live humbly in straitened circumstances, and I know also how to enjoy plenty and live in abundance. I have learned in any and all circumstances the secret of facing every situation, whether well-fed or going hungry, having a sufficiency and enough to spare or going without and being in want.

I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ's sufficiency.

Philippians 4:11-13

Don't be obsessed with getting more material things. Be relaxed with what you have. Since God assured us, "I'll never let you down, never walk off and leave you," we can boldly quote,

God is there, ready to help;
I'm fearless no matter what.
Who or what can get to me?
Heb. 13:5, The Message

Better is little with the reverent, worshipful fear of the Lord than great and rich treasure and trouble with it.
Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fatted ox and hatred with it.
Proverbs 15-16-17

Though the fig tree does not blossom and there is no fruit on the vines, [though] the product of the olive fails and the fields yield no food, though the flock is cut off from the fold and there are no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the [victorious] God of my salvation.

The Lord God is my Strength, my personal bravery, and my invincible army; He makes my feet like hinds' feet and will make me to walk [not to stand still in terror, but to walk] and make [spiritual] progress upon my high places [of trouble, suffering, or responsibility]!
Habakkuk 3:17-19

Wow. Such a complex topic...I feel as if I have hardly touched the surface. But everyday that I resist the urge to buy stuff, I get a little more content with what I already have. Baby steps. Thank you Jesus for being patient with me!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

What's YOUR Footprint?

No, not your shoe size. Your ecological footprint. I've taken the footprint quiz before...but Jessica's blog reminded me how much I love to try to lower my score. Right now, my footprint is at 5 acres. In comparison, the average footprint in the U.S. is 24 acres. Worldwide, there are enough resources for each person to have 4.5 acres.

So that puts me .5 over my "allotted" acres and now I must REDUCE so I can stop using up more than my share of the resources! Here are some other changes that I would like to make:
  • Eat a completely vegan diet. I have eaten a vegetarian diet for a little over 2 years now, but have gone back and forth between vegan and vegetarian. For those of you that don't know, a vegan is someone who eats no animal products at all (no milk, eggs, butter, etc.)
  • Walk more. This is a little harder in the wintry cold and ice...especially because our neighborhood is very hilly! I will implement this more in the summer. It's so easy because we are within walking distance to everything.
  • I have always wanted to use public transportation more. However, Des Moines has a really poor system. I have contacted the metro transit authority with route questions, etc. and I want to try it soon! I am definitely not used to riding the bus, so it will be an experience. It takes more time and planning, but I love the idea of it. Much more relaxing than driving myself. There is a possibility that we will park the bus this winter and become a one-car family again, so the bus may be a necessity!
  • Focus on buying only package-free foods and less processed foods. Right now our only "processed foods" are chips, bread, almond milk, and cereal. I'm not counting condiments. I would like to start making my own bread again, make my own almond milk more consistently, my own granola, and my own chips. Does anyone know of any good tortilla chip recipes!?
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle... I am learning more about this everyday. I am actively reducing my belongings and I am reducing the amount coming in (The Compact). I am re-using plastic bags, jars, clothes, I use cloth everything in our household, and I recycle everything that is allowed.
  • I would like to be even more conscious of my energy and water consumption.
There will always be something to "work on" when you're living green...but that's what makes life fun!

Photo credit: Flickr/

Kids and Commercialism

Tonight I spoke at our local chapter of Holistic Moms Network about "Parenting in a Commerical Culture". We had a great turnout and a lively discussion about the challenges facing parents in a culture where advertisers are actively fighting for your child's mind. Much of the conversation centered around television viewing and the merchandising of cartoon characters. It was clear that everyone felt the pressure to conform to mainstream culture, but that they were taking steps to push against it. I am very fortunate to have such mindful and intelligent mamas to bounce ideas off of and turn to for support.

Here are some action tips on this topic from the New American Dream*:
  • Get rid of the TV.
  • Expose kids to other media - surrealist films, conceptual art exhibits (carefully selected), gatherings of interesting adult friends with non-mainstream stories to tell.
  • Remove the logos from clothes, theirs and yours. Talk with kids about why you're doing this. Suggest to kids to design their own, personal logos.
  • See a wonderful passage on commercialism and consumerism by Brian Swimme
  • Parents who resist consumerism for themselves are the ones who teach their children to resist it.
  • Teach children to be doers and creators rather than shoppers and buyers.
  • Supply them with sidewalk chalk, old cardboard boxes and other makings of creative play.
  • Grow your own food. Involve the kids. Teach your child of the connections within the natural world. Experience their beauty together. Talk about where things come from, who made them, what they are made of.
  • Teach by example and conviction a set of values that allow kids to make their own choices.
  • Teach kids empathy for others. Instead of buying toys, suggest they spend the money bringing some groceries to the local food bank.
*I used a handout from New American Dream that was full of great resources, websites, etc. They are a really neat grassroots organiziation on a mission. Check them out!


I love Ecolips lip balm. It is the BEST out there, hands down. And believe me, I've tried them all. Imagine my utter glee when I found out that a friend of mine is friends with the owners! She told me one day..."I have tons that I can give you when you need it". Oh the joy! So I filed that little piece of info away until today.

I had been meaning to get lip balm for several weeks, but kept putting it off because I didn't want to spend money on it. Then I remembered my friend, gave her a call, and voila! I have new goodies for my chapped lips. And even though it would have been "allowed" on the Compact (under the health exception), it was great to get it for free!

They are environmentally friendly, organic, local (for me)...pretty much fabulous all around. They have a really great story and get rave reviews in the press. Check them out and get your own today!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Thrifty Thrifty

I love thrift stores. I try not to frequent them if I'm not looking for something specific because I can get sucked into the mindset of "I don't need it...but it's so can I NOT buy this!?" But today I went in search of a few things...and found some goodies. I was delightfully surprised to find that everything was 40% off because they are moving their store around the corner. Yay!

I'm starting a Flickr set to document my thrift store finds. There are descriptions on each photo with prices, etc. I will only document going forward...even though it would be fun to take photos of everything in my house that is thrifted. It could take days!

What has been your BEST thrift store find?

Monday, October 16, 2006


Capoeira. A few months ago I would have said..."capo what?" But thanks to my friend Rebecca, I've learned about the interesting new world of Brazilian dance and martial arts. Rebecca and her husband, Mauro, run the Des Moines capoeira group, which originated in Sao Paulo, Brazil in the 1970's. I have attended 3 of their "events" (most recently, The World Food Festival) and have thoroughly enjoyed learning about a new culture and new form of expression. I've always been fascinated by other cultures and would love to travel to Brazil some day.

Capoeira first came about in Brazil, where slaves from several different African cultures were thrown together. The slaves combined fighting, music, and dance elements of their cultures and came up with what is now called Capoeira.

African slaves developed their own fighting style to protect themselves from white slave owners, but hid their training by making it look like a ritualistic dance-game.
It was practiced by Brazilian slaves up until they were freed in the 1888, at which point Capoeira became the fighting style of criminals. Capoeira gangs would have their own turf, where they controlled the criminal activities. Capoeira at that time incorporated less ritual and music and involved the use of weapons such as knives and clubs. In the early 20th century, the first Capoeira academies were opened, and Capoeira went from being the art of outlaws to being declared Brazil's national sport.
They also teach Afro-Brazilian dance, which is delightful to watch as well. There is so much energy...the music made by the drums and other instruments is amazing. Check out some more photos here. Hear music and learn more here.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Secret Life of Stuff

Last year I discovered a delightful, but disturbing, little book...called Stuff: The Secret Lives of Everyday Things (by John Ryan and Alan Thein Durning).

The book goes "behind the scenes" of your "stuff". Where did it come from? Who made it? What type of working conditions did they have? What components went into making that item? What kind of environmental impact did it have? It's an eye-opener to see how complicated and wasteful making "stuff" really is. The different items it examines: coffee, newspaper, t-shirt, shoes, bike, car, computer, hamburger, french fries, and cola.

Here are some excerpts from the intro:
"Made in Taiwan". I'd seen thousands of such stickers in my life without ever giving them a second thought. Taiwan. Taiwan. Not just a word on a sticker. It's an island. A country. A real place with real people across an ocean from me. Suddenly, the overloaded shelves around me looked different. I was stripped of the illusion that stuff comes from stores and is carted away by garbage trucks: everything on those shelves came from a real place on Earth and will go to some other place when I'm done with it. Everything had a history -- a trail of causes and effects--and a future. Everything had a life, of sorts. If you tried very hard, you could put a "Made in __________" sticker on each car wax bottle, speaker component, or old magazine on those shelves.

I started wondering where the things in my life come from. As coffee beans, newspapers, and soda cans make their way toward me, what wakes do they leave behind, rippling outward across the world? And what had to happen for millions of people like me to go about our ordinary business...using lots of stuff?

What happens around the world to support a day in the life of a North American is surprising, dramatic, and even disturbing. Multiplied by the billion members of the world's consumer societies, it adds up to stresses greater than the world can withstand. The first step toward solving any problem is recognizing it. I've started by looking at the things in my life in a new way and learning what I can about their secret lives.

One of the reasons why the Compact is so appealing to me, is that it forces me to find new avenues of acquiring things. I am becoming more creative and more patient as I search for an item that I need. When you buy something used or someone gives you a used are helping to stop the need for NEW resources to be tapped to replace that item you bought from the store.

A great example of this from the book is the chapter on the life of a T-shirt. If I went to the mall to buy a new t-shirt (instead of the thrift store), the following resources would be used (paraphrased from p. 20-25):
  • Oil: the polyester in the shirt started as a few tablespoons of petroleum (they go on to talk about all the effects of oil drilling, environmental concerns, etc.)
  • Cotton: to get the 2 oz. of cotton needed for the t-shirt, 14 square feet of cropland in Mississippi were harvested. The soil was first fumigated with aldicarb, one of the most toxic pesticides applied in the U.S. The cotton seeds were also dipped in fungicide.
  • Dyes: Regulated by the EPA as hazardous substances.
  • Sewing: the fabric was shipped to Honduras. Honduran women cut and sewed it into a T-shirt and earned 30 cents an hour. After it was completed, the box of t-shirts went to Baltimore, by train to San Francisco, and by truck to Seattle. It was unpacked on a department store shelf under a 150-watt floodlamp. That's where I found it. I bought it because I liked the earth-tone color. And I brought it home by car in a bag of low-density polyethylene from Louisiana.
  • Laundry: I spilled coffee on myself and had to change...and I threw the other one into the laundry chute. Later I washed it in water heated to 140 degrees by natural gas flames. Boxed powder detergent and chlorine bleach from a high-density polyethylene bottle removed the coffee from the fabric. The coffee, detergent, and bleach washed into Seattle's sewer system. An electric dryer evaporated the water from my shirt. The greatest environmental impacts associated with my T-shirt arose in my own laundry room: washing and drying the shirt just ONCE demanded 1/10 the energy as manufacturing it in the first place.
What can one person do to make a change in this process? Well, let me tell you. Little things make a big difference. In the case of the t-shirt, you can...
  1. Buy USED or vintage clothing.
  2. Wash only full loads of laundry.
  3. Use warm instead of hot water when you can.
  4. Wear your clothes more than once before washing.
  5. Look for organic cotton apparel.
  6. Encourage others to do the same.
If anything, I hope this has encouraged you to THINK about the secret life of your stuff.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Can You Smell the Knowledge?

Books. Aren't they wonderful? So much knowledge. So much excitement. I love them. It's no surprise then, that I love the library. We are within walking distance of the brand new Central Library in Des Moines. It's huge and fabulous. It even has one of my favorite local bakery/cafes located inside...and a Starbucks right outside the doors. It also has a great selection of new releases and other DVD's that you can rent for $1/week. Kids DVD's are 50 cents. And that's not all. They have a really cool kids section with all kinds of goodies. Almost the entire building is there is lots of light and you can watch all the happenings of downtown as you browse the titles.

Right outside, there is a small "stream" that Bella loves to play in. We spent many days there this summer...going to the library, grabbing lunch and a coffee and enjoying life. I get giddy walking in the doors...just thinking of the things I could learn. I love leaving the library with 10 books in my arms. In my mind, I'm thinking...
"LOOK everyone! I got these for FREE!
They are letting me take them home for 2 weeks...isn't that GREAT?"
It's even better now that we're Compacting...I kind of "feel" like I'm shopping. But I don't have to spend money! I've also been taking full advantage of the ability to "hold" items by ordering them online (they will go pull the books and have them waiting for you) and ordering from interlibrary loan.

Here is my current list:

Books Checked Out From the Library Right Now:
Learning All the Time
How Children Fail
Playful Parenting
Loving Your Child Is Not Enough: Positive Discipline That Works
The Successful Child

Books I Want to Read:
Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith
Photocraft: Cool Things To Do With the Pictures You Love
What Kids Really Want That Money Can't Buy
Small Urban Interiors: 500 Solutions for Living
Living Large in Small Spaces: Expressing Personal Style in 100 to 1,000 Square Feet
Small Spaces: Making the Most of the Space You Have
Where Women Create: Inspiring Work Spaces of Extraordinary Women
Voices From the Farm: Adventures in Community Living
Memoirs of an Ex-Hippie: Seven Years in the Counterculture
Superbia: 31 Ways to Create Sustainable Neighborhoods
Healthy at 100

The Bible
The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical
Blue Like Jazz: Non-Religious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality
The Power of a Praying Wife
Material World
Women in the Material World
Through Painted Deserts
Disease-Proof Your Child: Feeding Kids Right
Hungry Planet
Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
Your Money or Your Life
The Total Money Makeover
Diet for a New America
Food Revolution
How To Go Further: A Guide to Simple, Organic Living
The Better World Handbook
A Woman's High Calling
How to Survive Without a Salary: Learning How to Live the Conserver Lifestyle
Back From the Land
Culture Jam
Radical Simplicity
Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Handy Dandy Drying Rack

This is a common sight in our living room. We've started to air dry our clothes. This handy dandy drying rack holds smaller items, jeans, Bella's clothes, etc. and we hang shirts on hangers and hang them on the shower rod. You could also use a retractable line like this. Or one of these beauties. By hanging our clothes to dry, I am accomplishing several things:
  • Our clothes last longer when they aren't dried in a dryer. Less shrinking, fading, etc. Dryers break down elastics, distort the shape of clothing, and they eat socks! Because the clothes last longer, you don't need to buy them as often...thus saving money and time.
  • Less energy consumption...the dryer is one of the worst.
  • Saving money ... $1.00 a load.
  • Eliminating static cling
  • Cutting down on ironing
  • It causes me to realize how many clothes we actually own and makes me want to downsize our wardrobe even more. It's a more purposeful I take each item, one by one, and straighten it, hang it, dry it, and take it off.
Stop using your dryer today!


My neighborhood graffiti artists...they are quite the activist bunch. They must have known I was starting the Compact and wanted to give me some encouragement.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Let the Compacting Begin

The empty shopping cart. Symbolic of my first day of The Compact. I wrote about it last week, but never got around to starting it. So this is it...I'm really doing it this time. I'm actually really excited to explore and conquer my tendencies to want, want, want things all the time.

My first "compact moment" came today as I was heading home. We had a birthday party to go to tonight for one of Bella's friends who was turning 2. I decided to stop and get a balloon for her. I also wanted to buy a couple plants to go in some cute little pots I have at the apt. And then I remembered...
"I started the Compact today...what am I thinking?!"
So instead of going into the store and spending money on a balloon, 2 plants, and inevitably more (because I was hungry and would have bought snacks and who knows what else too)...we continued on home. When we got there, Bella and I made an adorable homemade card together to bring to her friend, and I am going to see if I can find some plants on my local Freecycle. Whew! I passed my first test.

With that one little decision, Bella and I were able to spend time creating something together. She learned that it's ok (and BETTER!) to make a homemade gift for someone. And I saved myself at least $25.00. Wow!

Now for the rules. I tend to get very strict with myself whenever I commit to something like the point of making myself crazy. So I will try not to be so hardcore that it causes me unnecessary trauma...but committed enough to make a difference. So, here is what I will do:

  1. I will not buy any NEW items for one year.
  2. I will only buy items that I NEED.
  3. I will not buy any convenience foods when grocery shopping with the exception of bread and chips. I will strive to eat in season, buying as local as possible. I will bring cloth grocery bags to the store, and I will create a weekly menu/grocery list EVERY week.
  4. I will not go out to eat at a restaurant if I have the option of eating at home.

EXCEPTION: I will allow printing of photos. Photography is one of the things I love, and to take that away would greatly decrease my quality of life...which is not what the Compact is about.

My Goals:
  1. To gain perspective and learn contentment.
  2. To be a mindful consumer and live lighter on the earth.
  3. To become more patient and learn to plan ahead as I borrow, barter, buy used, re-use, and recycle.
  4. To payoff the remainder of our student loan debt.

Thanks to Chelee for getting me started on my rule list!

Here is the "Compact Pledge":
In light of the destructive effects of personal greed, we pledge to curb our purchases, cease frivolous buying, and choose to simplify our lives. Excepting only those things needed for work and the health and safety of our families, we pledge not to buy new. Further more, we will actively seek to pass on possessions we no longer want to those who are in need. In doing so, we hope to educate both friends and family about the corrosive effects of being in a constant state of want, nurture in ourselves the uplifting state of giving, thus reducing the load on the environment and creating a more sensible path for our lives. For these reasons, we join the Compact.

- Aaron Highe at the SF site (paraphrased)

Here's to the journey! Who is with me?

Photo: Eva Marieville | Flickr

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Volkswagen Madness

We experienced our FIRST Volkswagen show yesterday. The Bi-State VW Club hosted it at Oktoberfest in Johnston. We washed and shined up the bus and had a great time talking with other VW owners. The best part? We won a "Best of the Bunch" award! What fun. Here is the whole set for all you VW lovers out there.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Tale of a Garage Sale

This was the last one. We've had 3 garage sales this year and I don't ever want to accumulate enough STUFF to necessitate a garage sale ever again. It's not that we didn't make any money. We did...probably over $1000 for all 3 sales. I just don't really enjoy the preparation process... pricing things makes me crazy, the sitting and waiting for people, the packing it all up. I can think of 100 better things to do with my time. My plan is to donate, eBay, gift, or Craigslist in small amounts so I don't have to have a "big one" again.

I am not saying I won't GO to garage sales. I love going to them. It's amazing what you can find. My friend Natalie and her sisters are professional garage sale extrordinaires. Amazing. I love the hunt...especially if I have something to hunt for. The thrill of finding that long awaited item is beyond compare. Of course, if you go with a friend who has the same taste as better be ready to race to the driveway!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Not So Big

Last night, I listened to a lecture titled "Not So Big Steps Toward a More Sustainable Community" given by Sarah Susanka, author of "The Not So Big House" and other related books. It was put on by the Center on Sustainable Communities, a new group in Des Moines that is doing some great things. I have read several of her books in the past, and I was so excited to see that she was going to be speaking.

Here are some of the highlights from her talk:

*Reproportioning...we shouldn't be so focused on square footage. You just need to find the right size for YOU/YOUR FAMILY. It's usually about 1/3 less than you "think" you need. The feeling of home has nothing to do with square should be quality, not quanitity.

*Building bigger and bigger homes is just kind of "expected" in our society. When you make more money, you should buy a bigger house. Status comes with the size of your house. What we really need to start doing is building smarter. Take the money you would have spent making it bigger than you need, and put it into green/sustainable design and give your house beautiful, unique features.

*We have no language/words in the real estate business for "small = better". We only talk about cathedral ceiling, spacious, 3 car garage, etc. We need to re-create the language so there isn't such a negative stigma to being smaller. We also don't have a model for knowing when enough is enough.

*It's important to create/decorate your home so you are inspired everyday. If you don't want to paint your walls, for fear of lowering the re-sale value...that's silly! PAINT THE WALLS! Whatever color will make you the happiest! Don't keep looking to the next place you'll fully in the space you are in NOW.

*"Kids understand implicitly the pleasures of a cozy nook. Adults can learn something from our children as we go about designing our homes." I loved this topic, because I could totally relate. When you were a child, did you have a special place you went to where you felt safe and cozy? I did...I had a little cubby under the stairs where I would hold "secret" meetings and set up my toys. I was so happy in that space. I'm still like that today...I love a nice, cozy nook to "hide" away from the world in.

*New Urbanism...building for community and liveability.

*Have spacial awareness...don't forget the 3rd dimension. She talked a lot about adding different ceiling heights, and other architectural details. But I feel like you can do this in an apt. as using hanging lamps, mobiles, etc. to create that 3rd dimension.

*Paul Ray and the Cultural interesting concept. I really connect with all of their ideals...I'll have to research this one more.

All in all, it was a great night. Even though much of the audience was made up of builders, architects, people who own homes or are building (and I am none of the above)...I really enjoyed it. She has a great sense of creating "home" and the importance of creating a home that you love and can't wait to come back to every day.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Blissfully Happy

The stats:

From 1667 square feet TO 478 square feet
From 3 bedrooms TO 1 bedroom.
From a table that could seat 8 TO a table that seats 3.
From a 2-story house TO a 3rd floor walk-up.
From 5 closets TO 2 closets.
From $230 a month utility bill to $21 a month.
From a large, adorable, high mortgage house TO a little, adorable, cheap apartment.

We are blissfully happy in our new apartment. The smallness. The ease. The togetherness. We love it. We have gotten rid of so much WEIGHT this last year. Debt, belongings, household responsibilites. Every time I walk up 3 flights of stairs, I am reminded of our choices and how happy I am about it. Even with a 27 lb. toddler on my back. Now that's happy. Another great thing is that Matt is completely on the same page and loves it as much as I do.

Things I LOVE about living smaller:
*Everything has a place.
*It forces me to be creative with our use of space.
*I donate things regularly to clear more space.
*I don't have to wonder where Bella is.
*I don't have to yell downstairs to Matt.
*I only have things that I love around me.
*I feel light and free.
*I am not overwhelmed with housework.
*I have a smaller ecological footprint.

Things I LOVE about our apartment:
*The sound of the wind through the trees outside our windows.
*The feel of community. I have great neighbors.
*Old brick building = great sound barrier.
*Brand new laundry machines in a bright basement.
*Everything is bright.
*We are so close to everything.
*It's a beautiful historic neighborhood...great for going on walks.
*It's so fast to the freeway.
*It takes less time to get to my parent's house on the other side of town.

Ok, c'mon can't love EVERYTHING!'re right, there are a few things that I wish were different.
*I can't paint the walls.
*Sometimes if people are smoking outside, you can smell it upstairs.
*My shower needs more water pressure.
*There isn't an easy recycling option.

That's it. I pretty much love it. I even love the on street parking. Don't mind it a bit. It's fun...and I never have to park more than a 1/2 block away.

I've created a little photo tour for you. There are lots of notes on the photos. you just have to "mouse over" the image to get them to appear. You can also leave comments (hint hint...I love comments). SO...come on up to the third floor and have a cup of tea with me!
The Compact Blog Ring
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