Going waste free

January 17, 2018

We have gone down to a smaller trash can in our house in order to help reduce our wasteful habits. There is so many things that contribute to waste that all of us take for granted every day. I am having the hardest time cutting the habit of buying milk and cheeses in some sort of plastic. The local food co-op here sells milk in glass jars, but the cap on top is made of plastic. So either that goes into the recycle bin, or I find another way to reuse it. I hate plastic. It's one of the many things, including Styrofoam, that I honestly can't find a reason why it even exists. In the 1800s, and even the early 1900s, there wasn't plastic-there wasn't even tape. People will argue and say that plastic has helped a lot, but there has to be another way before depending on plastic. Plastic and Styrofoam are not for the environment. Period.

Our smaller trash can has been a change for us. The first week was embarrassing, to say the least. 
The poor can was stuffed to the brim with things that couldn't be recycled. Meaning, it was all waste headed straight for the landfill. I had a thought of, maybe some of that could go into the recycling: The plastic takeout container, the paper coffee cup, the plastic spoon from some random stop for ice cream. Unfortunately, that thought came as the big blue garbage truck was dropping the can back on our green-ish lawn. How upsetting. And how stupid we had been bringing those wasteful items into our home in the first place. So from that point on we have made it our mission. A pact, so to speak, to reduce our waste. 

I'd like to say we have another theme for the blog, like a Waste-free Wednesday, or something just as catching, but the thing is, I want to be waste-free every day of the week. Waste-free Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, etc. You get the point. My only issue is, in order to go completely waste-free there are certain things we have to make a decision on and we just aren't there yet. I love milk, and I love cheese. I love dairy anything, but until we can find a way to get around the plastics issue with buying those items we have to accept the fact that this isn't the 1800s, or even the 1900s and some plastic has to go to the recycle bin after we consume it. 

Here is a working list of items we've stopped using and their replacements. Maybe this list can help you go waste-free too:

1. Paper towels-Cloth napkins
2. Plastic-wrapped toilet paper-Paper wrapped version.(Cardboard rolls get used for seed starts in spring)
3. Paper cups-Say no to disposable and use your own. All you have to do is ask.
4. Take out containers-Bring our own reusable containers instead.
5. Plastic bottles, cans, glass bottles-We recycle everything, if it can't be recycled, we don't buy it, or use it.
*One more item that might get a nose snub is the reusable cloth pads. I've been using them for several years now while supplementing the cotton/plastic pads. This year I hope to be less dependent on the cotton/plastic ones and rely on the cloth ones more. The ones I like are from here.

It's no easy task going waste-free and those around you that aren't going waste-free might make it more challenging, but don't lose sight of what your goal is. It's so easy to get into a routine and lose track of what bad habits we've let ourselves get into. Start like we have and make five simple changes and when those become routine, add a few more. Making simple changes is what it's about. 

What constitutes a small space?

January 15, 2018

I recently picked up this magazine.

Not really big on bringing unnecessary paper waste into our home, but I figured I would be using this magazine for awhile and gaining some sort of grounding into a future home. Well, needless to say, this magazine ended up in the recycle after a few short days of thumbing through the pages.

No home in this magazine rang true for a small, downsized, or even tiny home to me. I'm not sure where these homeowners lived before "downsizing," but there is one in the magazine that's over 3,000 square feet. That's twice the size of the home we currently live, which sits at a little more than 1,000 square feet and we're always saying that it's too much space for us.

The above photo is reposted from Truilia.com

The Mr. and I recently looked at a cabin in Philomath, Oregon, that sat at 400 square feet. The little cabin had such a great history, but the problem with it was the fact that it was used as a hunting cabin in the 1800s and didn't have any sort of insulation. We figured if we purchased the cabin and added insulation that it would take away from the square footage. If the cabin had been insulated already and stood at 400 square feet we would have purchased it.

After looking at the cabin and getting a tour of the inside we realized that we need wanted more space for our lifestyle. We figure about 600 square feet, or even 800. According to the Downsize magazine, the home we live in currently is considered a small home. I'm not sure where the size for small homes got misconstrued, but it seems like houses are getting bigger and bigger and people are filling them up with more and more things. Things they don't need, or really want in the long run.

The photo above is from Downsize magazine

My parents built a three-story home over 30 years ago with a basement, main floor, and third floor. There is also an area we called, "cubbyholes." These cubbyholes were tiny rooms connecting the bedrooms with a small crawlspace. Both upstairs bedrooms had two cubbyhole rooms. It's sort of like a hidden, secret passage. All of my friends thought they were the coolest thing and we would use them sort of like indoor forts. The cubbyholes now house most of our childhood memories. My parents built a house that accommodated their growing family.  As I was growing up I never thought of my parent's house as a big home. My childhood home was just that, our home. When my sister, my brother, and I moved out and left the nest, my parents built onto their home a two-car garage with a loft bedroom above it. My parent's home is beautiful and it will always be my childhood refuge, but speaking of space, it's just the two of them now. It's a lot of space for two people.

The photo above is from Downsize magazine

When The Mr. and I decided to minimize and downsize our possessions there was one constant in the wake of letting go of things we had purchased-It was the fact that we would never go back to how we lived before. We have looked and scoured over pages of books and magazines, and clicked through websites on the internet to gain a perspective of what we actually need compared to what we want. We all know the basic needs for living: Food, water, shelter, and clothing. It's weird to me that clothing would be on the list of basic needs. If you think about it, technically, we don't "need" clothing. If you lived in the forest with no surrounding people we could technically live naked. I mean, there are shows based on being naked in the forest. But anyway, our basic needs of food, water, shelter, and  clothing have subcategories. Food would include, food we've grown and groceries we buy. Water would include, the actual water supply to our shelter, or delivery/purchase of water. Our shelter would include, electricity, gas, heat, shingles, inspection costs, material to build shelter, etc.-You get the point. Clothing would include, things we wear daily, warm coats in the winter, shoes, etc. Let's also throw in hygiene products so that we can take proper care of our body-Toothbrush, hairbrush, soaps, oils, etc. Now with the basic needs listed everything else is a want, or so we should begin to think of it as a want.

If you begin to think everything is either a "basic need" versus "basic want" you see how much you can truly live without. The problem with this thought process is, most people have lived so long in the "want" category that they can't see the "needs" anymore. And that's where minimal living comes. It's just a matter of changing the thought process and practicing it.

Telling my sister that we were minimizing our belongings and she replied with, "I could never do that. I have too much crap." It shocked me to hear her say this. I wanted to correct her, but I remembered that it took us years to get where we are now. But the process to getting here was hard at first. It is easier now, but we have to practice this process every day. If you start letting go of small things once a week it becomes and easier process over time. We had the thought process of  "10 more things" every week and we started to realizing how liberating the process really was. It felt good. Not only were we changing our lifestyle, but we were also donating a lot of good, usable items, that other people would actually want. We will always be buying something: Food, clothing, gifts, etc., so it's not a complete stopping of purchases, it's a reorganizing of those purchases. We are not done in our minimizing, but we are in a place where we feel comfortable with what we have and there is nothing in our home now that doesn't deserved a place. Each week is still the process of, "10 more things."

If you need tips on getting started in this process check out my minimizing tips here.