Friday, October 27, 2006

A visit to Cindy's Porch

How often do we go out and buy something, then later realize that we either don't really need it or already have the same (or similar) item at home?

I've found a great website whose principles totally fit into the Compacting lifestyle. At Cindy's Porch, the three cardinal rules for "rediscovering" your money are:

  1. DO instead of BUY If you can open your mind to how you can DO something, instead of BUY something, you will be opening the door to treasures you never knew existed. You will rediscover the joys of family time, quiet time, nature, your pets, and yourself.
  2. SHOP at home FIRST OK, you have tried to apply the first rule. And you have concluded that you can't simply DO it and will actually have to BUY something. Time for the second rule: SHOP at home FIRST. Take a look in your cupboards, your freezer, your fridge, your cleaning supply stash, the basement, and the garage. I bet you already have whatever it is you want to buy (that's how we all end up with too many candles, ketchup, bottles of shampoo, and extension cords LOL). If you don't have exactly what you need, see if you can substitute. Is it a one time only need? Check and see if you can borrow from a neighbor.
  3. PROCRASTINATE You have made it past Rule 1. Then you applied Rule 2, and no, you cannot shop at home first. You have to go to a store. Time for the third rule: procrastination. You have heard that procrastination is a bad thing right? Wrong! At least not when you are planning on spending money. Procrastination does two things. Either you will find out that you actually didn't need it in the first place, or you will find exactly what you want at exactly the price you are willing to pay.

Cindy has got lots of ideas about how to go about saving money, living simply & frugally, without feeling "deprived". There are lots of seasonal and holiday ideas, as well as the constant reminders to "do instead of buy" and "shop at home first". You can also print out different types of lists, pantry inventory sheets, meal plans, etc.

I highly recommend you take a visit over to Cindy's Porch, have a cup of tea, and get great ideas to incorporate into your life as well.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Just a little whining today...

I'm sorry I haven't posted in a few days...just been going through a difficult time recently. One bright spot though...when you don't have enough money to even pay the electricity bill or buy fresh food, you have no trouble at all sicking to The Compact! :)

Here's looking forward to brighter days!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Life is Good

Yesterday, I had such a nice day. I dropped the kids off at Sunday school and wasn't sure what to do with my 3 hours I had free. I thought about going to the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, but didn't want to spend the money. Besides, it was a beautiful day. I thought about walking around, looking at the beautiful old houses uptown, but my ankle is still healing and I don't want to push it. So, I ended up at our central park and decided to sit and read. As I parked and walked across the park, I noticed the koi pond. So I stopped and watched the fish for awhile. The only people there were a couple of older gentleman enjoying the morning. I found a bench in the sun and just sat for awhile. There was a slight breeze, the sky was bright blue, some church bells were ringing in the distance.

My mom called and I told her where I was. A little later, she showed up to join me. We sat for a while, talked a little, read a little. When it was time for me to leave and pick up the kids, we both commented on how much we needed this. It has honestly been a long time since I've spent any time in the sunshine, since I've felt the breeze. My days are normally filled with driving and work, so the only fresh air I get is from the car to the apartment, from the car to the office.

This was something very simple, free, and of tremendous value. I left feeling rejuvenated, more alive, and I will now make sure to incorporate a little time to sit or walk in the sunshine every day and just soak it up!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

My Ecological Footprint

Thanks to Jessica for pointing me to's Footprint Quiz.

According to the site, there are 4.5 biologically productive acres for each person on the planet and they offer a quiz to find out what your particular footprint is. I found from the quiz that I am using 7 acres. A large part of that is in the transportation area, which I wrote about earlier. I know that I need to do something about this aspect of our lives....I'm just stuck on what to do at the moment.

So, if everyone lived like me, we would need 1. 5 planets. I suppose my 7 acres is better than the average in the U.S. of 24 acres per person(!!!!), but it is something that I still need improve so I can get down to at least my share of 4.5 acres.

Some of Earth Day's suggestions on how to improve your footprint:
  • Eat less meat: A plant-based diet generally requires less land, energy, and other resources. Crop-based food requires an average of 0.78 global hectares per ton of food, compared to 2.1 global hectares required to produce one ton of animal-based food. See our Frequently Asked Questions for more information on this topic (and others!).
  • Drive a fuel-efficient vehicle and reduce the amount that you drive-walk, cycle, carpool, or use public transportation instead.
  • Avoid purchasing disposable items with lots of packaging. Re-use items when possible, and always recycle items that are recyclable.
  • Compost kitchen waste: Garbage that is not contaminated with degradable (biological) waste can be more easily recycled and sorted, and doesn't produce methane gases (a significant greenhouse gas contributor) when stored in a landfill.
  • Plant native and drought-tolerant plants in dry regions to reduce water use.
  • Be a conscientious consumerlearn about sustainability-friendly products here, courtesy of The Center for a New American Dream. Also, for a teenage perspective on “buying different,” click here.
  • Visit the GreenMarketplace, an online green shopping center, for all sorts of environmentally friendly products.
  • Share magazines and catalogs by donating them to hospitals, clinics and doctors’ offices or by creating an informal program in which you rotate magazines and catalogs among your neighbors.
  • Save trees by freeing yourself from junk mail, in three basic steps! Also courtesy of The Center for a New American Dream.
  • Reuse and recycle packing materials. You can recycle materials like packing “peanuts”—simply call 1-800-828-2214 for the Plastic Loose Fill Council’s “Peanut Hotline” and they’ll tell you the nearest recycling location.
  • Start a conversation by asking your friends about their social and ecological concerns.
  • Encourage your friends to visit and make their own lifestyle changes using the Take Action Calculator as a guide.
  • Recruit some friends to get involved with you in local and global movements for social change. To find an Earth Day event or Earth Day network group in your own area, click here. For a list of other interesting nonprofit organizations that welcome volunteers in your area, try or

The humble, powerful table

For the longest time, its grieved me that so many families eat dinner on the run. It seems that most people I know do not sit down at the table for dinner as a family, much less for breakfast or lunch. In fact, according to research, only 40% of American families eat together even 2 or 3 times per week! Dinner is something to eat as you drive through somewhere on the way to somewhere else, or else is some convenience food that you warm up at home and then eat in front of the computer or TV or scattered in various rooms. Even before I decided to really simplify my life, this is one thing that was so important to me. Dinner is the time for the family to get together, enjoy good food and good conversation, and just be together.

So imagine how delighted I was to read about just this thing in a book called Morning Sun on a White Piano by Dr. Robin R. Meyers. Here is an excerpt:

For most of human history, people have scattered to make a living, and then huddled around a table to have a life. Through joy and sorrow they sat together--sometimes silently, sometimes with animated voices and boisterous laughter. But the making of a meal and the ritual of the table was the glue that stuck them together. Anyone who wishes to simplify her life, and to make sacramental moments out of ordinary time, cannot possibly ignore the finction of the table as both an anchor and a conduit.

October 24th is Take Back Your Time Day. The theme this year is Let's Get Back to the Table.
Take Back Your Time is an initiative to challenge the epidemic of overwork, over-scheduling and time famine that now threatens our health, our families relationships, our communities and our environment.

Some books about taking back your time and the importance of putting family and friends first.
If you need some recipes ideas or other suggestions on how to reincorporate this ancient ritual in your home, the site Together for Dinner provides lots of ideas.

I hope you have a lovely dinner!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

"You'd lose your head if it weren't attached"

I am constantly being told that. I am also constantly losing things. Now, I think that part of it is due simply to the amount of clutter in our apartment. 5 people in a little 2 bedroom apartment, along with a clutter problem, is a recipe for losing things.

But I think my problem is much more than that. Because I also lose things at work and other areas. My problem has more to do with the fact that, for years, I've gone through life on auto-pilot. Days and weeks pass by and seem to be a blur. I get up, do morning stuff, drive the kids to their schools, go to work, do errands, etc. But I don't really do any of it in a mindful, deliberate way. When I cook, I am also thinking about what I need to do the next day or trying to fix or clean something at the same time. When I am carrying something, I get distracted by something else, then set down the item and forget all about it (until I need it and have no idea where I left it). My mind is never on what I'm doing at the moment. I realized this morning that, if this continues, I may one day be an old woman and have absolutely no idea how I spent my life. Sad, huh? So, one of my goals is to live deliberately, to concentrate on what I'm doing, no matter how mundane the task or action. I want to evaluate what I decide to do with my time and then pay attention to how I'm spending that time. I don't want to be on auto-pilot anymore.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I have not lived.” - Henry David Thoroeau in Walden
Well, I may not be able to move to the woods (as much as I'd love to), but I also don't think that is necessary. If we simplify our life, get rid of extraneous junk, and concentrate and that which is truly important and that which brings us joy, and learn to live in the moment, we will be living deliberately. We will be aware of ourselves and our surroundings, we will take note of the texture of the things we touch, the smell of the odors around, the colors of the flowers and creatures we encounter. Then we won't look back and wonder where our life has gone.
“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.” - Thoroeau

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Compact

If you haven't yet heard of The Compact, you may want to check into it. It was started by a group of people in San Francisco whose aims were:

1) to go beyond recycling in trying to counteract the negative global environmental and socioeconomic impacts of U.S. consumer culture, to resist global corporatism, and to support local businesses, farms, etc. -- a step, we hope, inherits the revolutionary impulse of the Mayflower Compact
2) to reduce clutter and waste in our homes (as in trash Compact-er)
3) to simplify our lives (as in Calm-pact)

The main rules are:
  • First principle - don't buy new products of any kind (from stores, web sites, etc.)
  • Second principle - borrow or buy used.
  • A few exceptions - using the "fair and reasonable person" standard -- i.e., you'll know in your heart when you're rationalizing a violation:
    • food, drink, and necessary medicine (no elective treatments like Viagra or Botox)
    • necessary cleaning products, but not equipment (don't go out and buy the Dyson Animal, for example).
    • socks and underwear (utilitarian--non-couture or ornamental)

  • Some articles about The Compact:
    Some resources to help with compacting:
    Thank you to Jenny for providing most of the material for this post!

    More than enough

    There is very little that we actually need. That kind of sounds funny to me because just a couple of months ago, you could always hear me saying "I need to buy this" or "we need this for the kitchen" or "I need to get the kids some new clothes". I've definitely gone through a change these past few weeks.

    So, as of today, I will officially begin the compacting journey. DH and I talked about it and he has agreed to commit himself as well.

    Here is what we'll be doing:

    • Buy only what is truly needed
    • Buy nothing new, except for health & safety items
    • Borrow or barter before buying used
    • Prepare healthy, simple meals at home every day
    • Will completely eliminate processed foods and white sugar, white flour, etc
    • Will eat foods in their proper season and buy locally as much as possible
    • Use only cloth for napkins, "paper" towels, toilet tissue and feminine needs
    • Get rid of all clutter in our home and keep only what we truly need or find beautiful, always giving away whatever no longer brings us enjoy
    • Will seek free and simple family activities to bring us enjoyment
    • Unplug any appliances not in use and eliminate as many appliances as possible.
    • Learn to grow things like herbs and some vegetables in containers

    Exception: I will allow for printing of photos, but only ones I've carefully chosen and have a particular use for. I will allow for limited tickets to events such as festivals or museums.

    Tuesday, October 10, 2006

    The Organic Myth?

    Pastoral ideals are getting trampled as organic food goes mass market

    Wow! I have been trying to switch over to organic for as much food as I'm able to get. But this article is certainly eye-opening and not at all how I pictured the organic scene.

    I suppose that the answer is to buy local, from people you can get to know and trust. But what if you don't find organic produce locally?

    This is all so frustrating!

    There's got to be a way...

    I read posts and blog entries about people living in a small space and making it beautiful, comfy, cozy. I get inspired, then, when I look at our apartment, I literally start to cry.

    We are two adults and three children (13, 11, 8) in a small two bedroom apartment. All the kids are in one room and we are in the other. And all our stuff is just....there. I can't figure out how to make it pretty. I'm in the process of decluttering, which definitely helps, but I still can't figure out cute and functional ways to store the remaining stuff. I have no creativity in this area and its just getting me down. Is it just something you're either born with or you're not (the ability to make some living space into a simple, lovely home)?

    There's got to be a way to do this, but I can't seem to figure out how!

    Friday, October 06, 2006

    Consumerism and traffic

    Today as I drove to pick up the kids from school, I did some thinking in traffic on the freeway. I was completely surrounded by tractor-trailers. They are always there, but usually I only peripherally notice them. Today they had my full attention. I felt the rumble as one would drive past me. I watched the black smoke come out as they drove. I slowed down as one would merge in front of me, then change lanes because I did not want my little car in between two of those big semis.

    I was thinking about what those trucks haul. I'm sure a huge majority is just cargo to take to the stuff-marts, waiting for people to show up, buy junk they don't need, take it to their overstuffed homes, then perhaps one day end up at the landfill. What a waste! All the way around! And I have been more than guilty of participating in this cycle. But now, thinking about how nice it would be if everyone could be satisfied with just a little less. If only people would put less importance on their "stuff" and more importance on their relationships and on time to just sit and BE. How sad that those trucks, causing traffic and polluting our air, our hauling stuff that people will have to move around, clean, store, protect, apologize for, argue over. I don't pretend to think that all of it is useless junk, but I'm sure quite a bit of it is. That is really depressing.

    Thursday, October 05, 2006

    The Library is just waaaay too expensive for me!

    Over the summer, I let the kids take out a bunch of books, and I took out quite a few as well. I guess we got lazy about returning them (and keeping them in one spot). So, back in July or August, we gathered up all the books (or so we thought) and returned them. There was one DVD (Great National Parks of America) that we couldn't find. Since I'm a wuss when it comes to talking to people I wrote a letter stating that we had lost it and that I would be more than happy to buy a new one. We dropped the books off and I figured I'd pay the late fee another time. So now that I'm getting into simplicity and more natural living, I decided to pay the fee and check some books out (since I'm trying not to purchase anything that I don't absolutely need).

    Boy, was I surprised to see that my fine right now is $264.35!!! I am being charged $70.00 for one DVD that was returned and only costs maybe $20.00 new. And I am being charged $100.00 for the National Parks DVD!!!! Then, there are 3 books which they claim were not returned, but I'm pretty sure were returned with everything else. I wrote to the library to say that I admit its my fault and need to pay the late fees and replacement fee, but that this was excessive and there is no way I can pay it. I was told to contact the Circulation Supervisor, and I felt so embarassed talking to her. Anyway, she said that they will search for the books they still show out. I was transferred to AudioVisual, who told me that I must pay $57.00 for the DVD that I lost ($25.00 to replace it, $10 processing fee, and $22.00 late fee). I am so in tears right now.

    Well, they found one book in the shelves that they had claimed was not returned, but did not find the other two. She put something in the system that stops fines from continuing to accrue and gives me 90 days to find the books. If they are not found, I will have to pay to replace the book, the processing fee, and the late fee. I will scour this place again, but I am so sure they were returned. Anyway, I ended up paying $124.64 for the other late fees and replacement cost of the DVD. I thought about just leaving it and not going back to the library. But, again, since I want to stop buying books, I really want to use the library more frequently (and carefully).

    This is what I checked out today, after paying the fine:
    Clean House, Clean Planet by Karen Logan

    For Packrats Only: How to clean up, clear out and dejunk your life forever by Don Aslett

    The Circle of Simplicity: Return to the Good Life by Cecile Andrews

    The Simple Living Guide: A Sourcebook for Less Stressful, More Joyful Living
    by Janet Luhrs

    So far, I've only read a little of the Simple Living Guide, and it totally speaks to my spirit, to what I've been struggling with and needed to connect to. This book may, at some point, become one that I will end up purchasing for myself. But for now, I will be content with just checking it out from the library (and if I do buy it, it will be purchased used). Now, I need to come up with a system to make sure that library books are never lost and are always returned on time!

    Here goes...

    Am I even brave enough to do this?

    I'll give this blogging thing a shot.I've been thinking a lot the past few days about 'simplicity'. My mind and soul are craving a more 'simple' existence. I'm so fed up with my years of materialism and consumerism...buying junk I don't need and ending up with a lot of waste and feeling suffocated in my own home.

    I am committed to not buying (or aquiring in other means) junk like I've been doing. But right now, I have to figure out what to do with what I've already got. Our apartment has stuff everywhere. And I want a clean, modern looking home, one in which I can feel relaxed, uncluttered, and productive.

    Last night I started reading a book about clutter by Don Aslett. I've only read a few pages, but what I read really inspired me and made me realize how much I am a slave to my junk and that it really doesn't bring me any pleasure. I will keep reading and hopefully I'll get up the will do get it out of our apartment (and my mind).