The Year of Living Minimally – Week Thirty

Living minimally leads to a better environment. Makes sense, right? Less waste.

Here are a few tips that you might already have incorporated into your lives, but if not, they’re easy fixes to clear clutter and help the planet.

No more plastic bags. Some communities have stopped using them – bravo! – and I’m sure you have a few of them in your car. But don’t just use your cloth or recycled-material shopping bags in the grocery store. Take them everywhere (CVS, Target, etc.). If you have plastic bags, there are places where you can recycle them.

Cloth napkins. They don’t have to be this fancy. I picked up a dozen cotton napkins online about two years ago. They’ve stood up well, and with just two of us, we have enough.

Ditch the plastic straw! Most of the time, I get them at restaurants, but I’ve started asking not to have a straw. I do have this lovely glass straw at home, and it’s easy enough to take with me. According to The Last Plastic Straw, 500 million straws are used and discarded every day in the United States alone. That’s 175 billion straws a year, filtering into landfills and littering our waterways and oceans.

And look! It comes with a teeny-tiny brush for cleaning, and its own little bag. Mine is from Glass Dharma – they make great gifts!

These are just three ideas. There are plenty of ways you can reduce the stuff in your house AND make a small difference around you. The landfills and oceans are full of plastic, so whatever positive changes you make today, you do for your children and grandchildren.


The Year of Living Minimally – Week Twenty-seven

How many square feet do you need? Do you have empty rooms in your home, bedrooms of children who have long since moved out? Three bathrooms for two people? And what the heck is a ‘bonus room’??!

Maybe you like extra room. But maybe you exist very well in a small space, especially if you live alone.

We Americans have been taught to believe that more is better. A big house is a symbol of success (even if you can’t afford to furnish it). But The Tiny House movement focuses on living in a much smaller area. It’s not for everyone, I know. Perhaps I’d embrace it if I was single, but I know that two people in a tight spot can be trouble.

My first apartment was a studio, meaning there was just one room. It contained my bed, a two-seat sofa, and a table with two chairs. It worked just fine, but as I moved to other apartments, I always opted for bigger.

My husband and I lived in a three-bedroom house, and now we live in a two-bedroom condo. The extra bedroom has become a repository – my books, his guitars, an elliptical machine we don’t use (but should). If we stay here, my goal is to clear out enough stuff to set up my office there. I’d rather put the space to use.

Could you downsize from your current living arrangements?

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Twenty-four

It’s the first week of a new year, and I imagine some of you have resolved to clean out your clutter. Right? Yay! I’m your greatest fan.

Today is Thursday, and I’m watching a blizzard out my window. It’s a day for soup and books and movies and naps. Winter in New England can be harsh, but sometimes it’s a blessing – we’re forced to stop. Stop running in circles, driving aimlessly, buying things you don’t need (yes, milk, bread, and toilet paper are okay). Read, chat, watch a movie or play a board game with your kids. Snuggle with your partner, or your pet. Stare out the window and be thankful for warmth and food. Tomorrow we can head outside and play in the snow!

So I’m not decluttering today. I’m enjoying time with my husband and our little dog. I’ve got soup simmering on the stove and flashlights in case we lose power (fingers crossed we don’t). If you’ve made a resolution to get rid of your excesses, great. Remember, you’ve got an entire year to work on it!

If you must be out today (thank you to police, fire, rescue, Hospice workers), stay safe. If you have to shovel, go slow and take breaks. And if you live in a warm climate, well, look at what you’re missing.

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Twenty-four

Happy year-end! That’s correct, let’s all celebrate the end of 2017. I’m going to be hopeful about 2018, because it has to be better, right?

So…if you received gifts this month, great! Here’s an idea – for each new thing you brought into your home, can you choose something to recycle/donate/toss? I’ll bet you can.

How about your year-end cleanup? Monetary and non-monetary donations to charities are big at year-end. Do you have clothes to donate? Do you have leftover shipping boxes? Here’s a cool way to put them together for a greater good.

I’ve been seeing the things in my house with a new attitude, one I hope stays with me forever. Remember back when I packed up dresses and heels and dropped them in the church’s bin? Well, I knew I wasn’t finished with clothes donations. This week, I ventured back into my closet and filled two bags with slacks (pants, trousers). I had nine pairs of black pants. Now, I can practically live in black pants, but I didn’t need nine pairs! Two is what I kept. I did the same with gray, navy, khaki.

And this is the way I view things now. Read a book and pass it along. Watch a DVD and send it off to a friend. Or donate! The library, the senior center, the after-school program.

When your ‘stuff’ seems overwhelming, start small. My first post was about cleaning out the utensil and junk drawers in the kitchen. Or maybe just clear out your sock drawer!

Here’s to a new year. I’ll raise a cup o’ kindness – to all of you.

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Twenty-three

As I slog toward my halfway point in this year-long project, this week I can report, happily, that my workspace looks much better than it did. I forced myself to clean up this space, because last week I said I would! (I should watch what I say, right?)

I refused to take any before pictures, but imagine the space you see above cluttered with papers. Oh, I knew where everything was! One thing I realized was that I had scraps of paper everywhere – words, phrases, snippets of conversation I’d overheard – things I wanted to keep for future writing. So I took a few hours and typed them into a desktop folder called “Snippets.” Yeah.

The floor (carpet) similarly was covered with papers – accordion folders of previous years’ tax stuff (ugh), photos, insurance policies. Look, I’m confessing here! This area was in rough shape. The filing cabinet is now being used appropriately. I can find what I need.

Oh, and I filled four paper bags with recyclable papers. I shredded what needed to be shredded.

It’s a happier place today!

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Twenty-one

How are you holding up? ‘Tis the season for stressing out. Well, not me. I’m not going to do it.

Not this year.

Here’s our ‘tree.’ My Christmas cactus didn’t bloom this year (it’s fickle that way), but I adorned it with little fairy lights and nestled one ornament in it – a sweet ceramic dove inscribed with Jim’s dad’s name. Jim received it from the funeral home that held a lovely memorial service for all the family members who’d lost loved ones this year. It seems fitting to keep things simple this year. We’d scaled way back on our decorations before this year, but the little tree and the strands of lights will sleep in their bins for a bit longer.

I’ve minimized my shopping, too. Give experiences, time, things that can be consumed. How about taking a friend to the movies? Lunch? Coffee? If you’re a couple, decide on a getaway, or home improvement. I know some parents work with their children to donate gently used toys and games before Santa brings more – what a great idea!

Jim did mention a couple of books, and he’ll get them. Remember I donated a few boxes of books earlier this year? That was to make room for more books (haha). My sisters and brother-in-law will be able to eat and/or drink their gifts.

Honestly, we have everything we need. Do you?

For more insights about gift-giving, check out The Minimalists’ post onĀ gift-giving

The Year of Living Minimally – Week Twenty

I cannot post a photo of the garage. It looks pretty much the same as it did two weeks ago, only with a few more items (yes, I’m screaming inside my head). But on the plus side, it looks like we have a buyer for Jim’s father’s house, which is good (and a relief as we head towards winter). Jim brought home the ladder, step stool, wet/dry vac, and hand truck that were in his dad’s garage. So, I’ll get to the garage at a later date.

This week, in the midst of holiday parties and social events, I got to thinking about how this minimalist endeavor should pertain to eating. Yes, if you know me, you know about my lifetime struggle.

Joshua Fields Millburn writes all about the minimalist’s approach to food here. Now, some of his practices might work for you, and some may not, but I like the idea of food as fuel rather than food as entertainment. I like the idea of ridding myself of as much junky food as possible (yes, even the beloved Swiss chocolate).

Given all the stress of the past two months, I’m surprised my weight isn’t higher, because I am a stress eater. And thankfully, my lab results were good – cholesterol, sugar, blood pressure all normal. But I can do better with what goes into my body.

And we all know that portion sizes in the US are outrageous. Giant cups of soda and coffee, a slice of cake served on a dinner plate and enough for the table to share. Even our plates have changed. Check it out:

The plate on top is from my husband’s mother’s good china (what do we do with this service for eight???) The plate measures 10 1/2″ across, but the actual food part measures only 7″ across. The plate on the bottom is from our everyday dishes (Crate and Barrel, 1994). The plate still measures 10 1/2″ across, but the food part is practically the entire plate.

Anyway, you know this already, right? I do, too. I just forget sometimes. I’m going to try and be more mindful – and minimal – about my eating.