Friday, December 9, 2011

Less Stuff = More Happines

This video sure does make you think. 

I am never this happy while moving!

That's that I have been doing a lot recently, thinking. Thinking about the things I have in my home. What is all this stuff I have? When did I acquire all of it? Do I even use or wear it? How much money have I spent on stuff that lives in boxes or sits around collecting dust? It is scary to think about- but is something that needs to be looked at closely. Over the years I moved almost 20 times (between shuttling back and forth to college, to jobs out of state and back again), and I am only 27 years old. Each and every time I've moved I have gone through the process of getting rid of stuff. I go through my DVD's, my closet, my books, my kitchen and all the other random stuff in between. I have also gone through phases of getting rid of clothing and other stuff I don't need. This has happened a lot. And times, I will go through my closet and fill a trash bag with clothing I don't want. The next month, I do it again. And on a day when I can't seem to find room for my clean laundry I do it yet again. Each and every time I felt like I got rid of a lot, and yet I always seemed to have the same amount of stuff.  Sound familiar to anyone? I would be flabbergasted to learn that I was the only person in America who has gone through/is going through this!

You cannot tell me that this woman looks happy.
How could that happen to me? How could someone get rid of so much stuff and over time, end up with the same amount? I wish I could say it magically appeared, but that would be a lie. Well, for one, I was a slight "shopping addict". Over time, I have almost recovered from the disease. Almost recovered, but not entirely (I do get the yearning to go buy things every now and then). I bought so much stuff- DVDs at Blockbuster (4 for $20), cute holiday candle-holders or decorations (that were always on a super-sale), and clothes (even though I am not the least bit "trendy" or "fashion forward". I made excuses for why I needed an item- I could never admit that I just plain wanted it. It didn't help that I worked at a sporting goods store for many years (where I got a discount and first dibs on new "fashions", markdowns or the clearance rack). I always say that with the amount of athletic clothing I had, I should be an Olympic Athlete (which I clearly am not)! Shopping was also such a great experience for me, or so I thought. I loved going to the store and picking out things. It fell so great to fill my shopping basket, paying for it with own money (or in my case, own shiny credit card) and bringing it home. Once I got home though, I realized that all those things in the bag didn't actually make me happy - it made me feel empty and a little depressed. Especially when I got my credit card bill.

CC bills and my over-stuffed living space made me feel like this!
I used shopping as a band-aid when I had a bad day or when I was bored. I liked to shop when I was having a good day and even more when I was having a bad day. In the end though - I ended up with a house, dorm room, or apartment overflowing with stuff. Stuff I didn't need, and sometimes didn't even want. Stuff that was made overseas and traveled thousands of miles to get to my house, that took natural resources to make (and ship) and would probably end up in the landfill one day. Now, I didn't really change my view on shopping and consumption until fairly recently. It really started when I started working at my current job. Working in the solid waste management sector you learn a lot about the problem of trash and over-consumption in America. I mean, it wasn't that I never thought about the environment, I did. I grew up recycling and composting and saving every single piece of wrapping paper, tissue paper and gift from birthdays and Christmas. But I guess I never really realized the problem - that every family in the US is not like my family. Now everyone uses reusable water bottles or coffee mugs. Not everyone takes their lunch to school/work in reusable lunch bags in tupperware and with metal utensils. I realized that my adult self had turned into the problem. I was an over-consumer. And this over-consumption had not only resulted in significant credit debt, but also, all of this stuff I had  didn't make me happy - it made me frustrated, because it was everywhere I turned.

I have filled plenty of bags like this recently!
So how have I changed over the past year? Well, for one, I am actively not buying things unless I really need them, being careful to avoid single-serve packaging and items, getting rid of things in my home that I don't need or want, and walking the talk. I can't expect school children to recycle, compost and reduce waste just because I say so. They should know that we are doing this side by side and are all working together toward a common goal. What also motivated me to work harder to simplify my life was Tropical Storm Irene. After the storm hit Vermont this fall, I immediately knew that I could help people. I had a closet full of clothes (most of which I hadn't worn in 6 months or more), and plenty of other household items I could donate. My house was overflowing with stuff and there were Vermonters out there who had just lost everything. So, with this as my motivation I have been working hard to look at what I owe and think about what I really need and want in life.

I would love to work less so I could spend time with my pups!

I recently visited the Cliffs of Moher on a trip to Ireland!

I love hiking and spending time outside- and would rather do that then fill my home with unnecessary stuff!
What do I want in life? To travel, to spend time with my friends and family, to get outside, to start a veggie garden and grow my own food. The less stuff I buy, the more money I can save. With no credit card debt from unnecessary purchases I can save money to go out see the world or to buy my own home with some land. If I can make do with a smaller living space, I may save money on rent or utilities. In turn I may be able to work less and spend more time doing the things I enjoy with the people I love - instead of worrying about my paycheck.

Picture Credits:
Moving -
Sad Shopper -
Sad Little Girl -

Sunday, November 20, 2011

How Many Tote Bags is Too Many?

The reusable tote bag; a wonderful invention, which in the "old days" was just a regular bag. But with the birth of plastic and paper bags, the cloth bag was brushed aside, as many sensible items had been when disposable items exploded onto the market. But with the wave of "green living" washing over the US, the reusable cloth bag has made somewhat of a comeback. I don't think though that it’s the right type of comeback. For one - the cloth bag never disappeared, they have been in existence and been used for what seems like ever. These days reusable tote bags are more than just a sensible item to own (and use), they have become like many things, a fad. It has become a fashion statement and trendy - although not trendy enough for everyone to use instead of using plastic or paper bags.
My tote-bags!
Picture from:
I can’t say that I have not fallen victim of buying an extra tote bag because it was cute – I definitely have. But, recently I have begun to re-evaluate not only the amount of stuff I have, but what I own and have bought over the years. I am finding that I have a lot of stuff that is just that, stuff- it has not meaning. I want my home to be filled with meaningful things- pictures of friends and family, my Grandfather’s paintings and my Uncle’s wooden duck decoys. I want antiques that my parents collected and copies of my favorite books. What I don’t want is clutter. I don’t want decorative candle holders that cost $1 and were made in China. I want more room in my home friends, family and dogs! So, in taking a look at what I have in my home I looked also at my reusable tote bag collection. And wow – over the years I have acquired quite a collection. I know I didn’t buy all of them- many were free- and everyone knows that it’s very hard to say no to anything free.
Well, all in all I found out that I probably have at least 25 reusable bags. Twenty-five! Seriously – who needs that many tote bags? Although some I have purchased, others I got for free or were given as gifts. I know that some of them I do use for groceries and some for knitting projects, and others are good to have around just in case. But I really realized that I did not need all twenty-five. So, I decided to donate a good handful of them. I am still hoping to further reduce the number I own. I may choose to donate more or re-gift a few. No matter how I choose to reduce the number I own, the one thing I am promising to do – not buy anymore or fall into the trap of the free tote bag. Because, although these bags are reusable, natural resources are still needed to make them and some of these great, trendy reusable bags are made over-seas and sent to the US – using non-renewable natural resources every step of the way. This pledge I am making is just one more step I can make to help and protect the fragile earth we live on. 
More bags - it's never-ending!
 Can you pledge to stop using paper and plastic bags? Can you also pledge to only own a reasonable number of tote bags? If you took this pledge and asked one or two friends to make this pledge also - together we could make a difference.  
P.S. - If you need a tote bag or two, I may be able to help you out!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Green Thing

I received the story below in an email recently and it made me think....

The Green Thing

In the line at the store, the cashier told the older woman that she should bring her own grocery bag because plastic bags weren't good for the environment.

The woman apologized to him and explained, "We didn't have the green thing back in my day."

The clerk responded, "That's our problem today. The former generation did not care enough to save our environment."

He was right, that generation didn't have the green thing in its day.

Back then, they returned their milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled.

But they didn't have the green thing back in that customer's day.

In her day, they walked up stairs, because they didn't have an escalator in every store and office building. They walked to the grocery store and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every
 time they had to go two blocks.

But she was right. They didn't have the green thing in her day.

Back then, they washed the baby's diapers because they didn't have the throw-away kind. They dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts - wind and solar power really did dry the clothes. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

But that old lady is right, they didn't have the green thing back in her day.

Back then, they had one TV, or radio, in the house - not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief, not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen, they blended and stirred by hand because they didn't have electric machines to do everything for you.

When they packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, they used a wadded up old newspaper to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

Back then, they didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. They used a push mower that ran on human power. They exercised by working so they didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

But she's right, they didn't have the green thing back then.

They drank from a fountain when they were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time they had a drink of water. They refilled their writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and they replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But they didn't have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or rode the school bus instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. They had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And they didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.

But isn't it sad the current generation laments how wasteful the old folks were just because they didn't have the green thing back then?

~Author Unknown~

As I was saying... I started to think that if we (as humans) are going to attempt to slow or stop global climate change and improve our environment, "being green" can't be a new trend, it needs to be a way of life. I struggle with this on a daily basis. At stores I have to nicely refuse plastic bags and hold my tongue whenever they ask if I am sure I don't want my meat in plastic or do I want my apples in a separate bag so they don't get bruised. At friend's bridal or baby showers I feel as though I have to defend myself when others ask why I am saving wrapping paper, why not throw it away. It makes me think, before wrapping paper existed, what were presents wrapped it? Well, I am guessing it was extra pieces of cloth that were then reused for rags or somewhere else in the household, or they may not have been wrapped at all. And yes, it feels good when friends tell me that I am doing a good thing and that there need to be more people like me. But, what is "like me"?

I know that there are thousands of new items that make life "more convenient" because you use it and throw it away (I would rather work a little harder make things for myself, fix them for myself and clean them with some good old elbow grease). Out of sight, out of mind. But that mindset is so ignorant and wrong it isn't funny. There is no out of sight out of mind- there is trash on the roadsides, "stuff" filling our homes and landfills bursting at the seams. The trash we created it, it's ours, and we need to take responsibility for it. I guess it would be good if more people were "like me" - but how do we change peoples attitudes and viewpoints about consumerism and waste? I guess the only thing I can do is be myself and keeping uttering the age old phrase, "the best things in life aren't things".

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Box of Corks!
Over the past year or so I have started collecting beer bottle caps and corks and more recently milk jug and bottle caps. They are great for crafting, and unfortunately not recyclable - just doing my part to reduce waste! With all this rain we've been having I took advantage and had a craft day today. I have always wanted to make my own cork boards. Although I have a few store-bought ones around, they will make great addition to the house as functional items, decoration or as gifts.

 Last week I went to my new favorite store - the ReStore in downtown Barre, VT. It is a re-sale store that is completely filled with donated items. There I picked up a bunch of old picture frames- many of which didn't have backing or glass and honestly looked -pretty shabby. I also looked around and found a big box of corks. I know I already had a bunch - but who can pass up a box of them for $3! I also picked up some craft paint to paint the frames with. What's better? I walked out with a big box of corks, 4 small bottles of craft paint and 6 frames for $9.00! Needless to say I plan to be a frequent shopper!

Frames from ReStore all painted!

The day that I actually went shopping it was a beautiful sunny day. I took the opportunity to set up the painting portion of my project on the front porch. What better way to craft than relaxing on the porch in the May sun! I took advantage and painted 3 frames and left them out to dry.

After getting side-tracked the past few days, I picked up the corks today and started working. Using cardboard boxes I cut out and glued on backing for each frame. My next task was to place all the corks in the frame. This turned out to be a little harder than I thought. Not all corks are the same size. Each one was a fun puzzle, especially since I love things to be symmetrical! Once I had the corks in a pattern I liked, I glued each one individually.

Finished products!
Large Frame!

Medium Frame- avocado green!
What I got - 3 pretty awesome cork boards. I am excited to hang at least one in the house and either sell the other two or give them away as gifts! I did paint a fourth frame this afternoon and plan on gluing a few broken ones this week and making a few more cork boards in the near future. I might even try to make a wreath! Enjoy!

The little frame!

3 frames all ready to be hung up, sold or given as gifts!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Old Calendars... New Envelopes

 As I was doing some spring cleaning this past weekend I came across a bunch of old wildlife calendars. I really have no idea how I acquired all of them, but I did. Although I really don't need any of them (some were from 2006!) I hated to part with them - I don't know what it is about baby animals.. so cute! So, I decided to find a new use for them. I decided to take a stab at making my own envelopes.

 I gathered the supplies I thought I would need: pen, scissors, ruler, glue stick. I also grabbed a few old envelopes to use as a template. After carefully unfolding an old envelope I decided to make a stiffer more durable "template". I decided to dig into the recycling bin and found a cereal box. I traced the envelope onto the cardboard and cut it out.

The next step was to cut out the new envelopes. I took apart each calendar and made a stack of pictures. I laid the template down on the "calendar" side and lined it up so the picture would be on the outside of the envelope, traced it, then cut it out. I continued this process until I had a good stack of new envelope pieces. I took the ruler and folded down the sides - making a nice sharp line. Using the glue stick I glued down the sides. 

I love the way some of them look. I don't plan on using these as mailing envelopes, but instead as gift tags and for gifts that are hand delivered. This was a fun and easy craft  that will help me to add a personal touch to gifts while reusing a material that would otherwise be discarded (although I would most definitely recycle them!).

Baby Animal Envelopes!!!!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day!

Amicalola State Park, GA
I am so excited that the sun is shining on this Earth Day. Aside from getting outside to enjoy the day and getting some yard work done, I am also reflecting on my like and the impact I have on the earth. I believe that I am doing an excellent job at recycling, composting and trying to reduce waste and buy responsibly. I know I am not perfect and today am making a pledge.

Cloudland Canyon State Park, GA
Although I own and use my reusable water bottles and coffee mugs - I don't always to remember to bring them with my. Today I pledge to only use my reusable water bottles and travel coffee mug. If I forget my coffee mug, then I will not get coffee. I pledge to keep an extra reusable water bottle in the car in case I forget. At this point in my life there is no reason to be using paper or styrofoam coffee cups or buying plastic waster bottles.

Wind Turbines, ME
As for transportation - I pledge to only drive my car when I really need to (and pledge to carpool as much as possible). Even though I own a clean diesel vehicle, it still pollutes the air. As the weather gets warmer I pledge to ride my bike to work at least 3 days a week. This will help me reduce emissions, save money and be a healthier person.

I pledge to go to my local co-op and become a member. With proper budgeting I know that my husband and I can buy more local organic foods and buy in bulk. I am looking forward to starting an organic garden with some friends in a few weeks. I would much rather get down and dirty in a garden then spend time washing the pesticides and chemicals off my fruits and vegetables. I also plan to buy more local meats and support local farmers.

I know that I can be a better more responsible person, both for myself and for mother earth. This is the only planet we have and I want all the natural beauty to be around for my children.

My husband and I on top of Camel's Hump, VT

Happy Earth Day!

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Chair

The dog chair.
 When my husband and I first moved to the Montpelier area several years ago we started to collect and scavenge for furniture for our apartment. Much our stuff was "borrowed" from my parents house. Others were picked up on the side of the road or given to us by friends. One lovely piece we acquired was an old green chair. It was very tattered, but comfortable. Initially I covered it with a blanket and hoped that no one would take a close look at it.

 We got our first dog, Devin, after we moved into a bigger place a little farther outside of Montpelier. I take the blame for letting her jump up and sleep on the couch and bed. Her favorite piece of furniture though, that ugly green chair. I am guessing it's her favorite because she can sit (or stand) on it and look out the window.

Odin our new puppy!
I never really thought about fixing the chair until we had a new pup join the family. We picked up Odin from a local boarding kennel (that adopts out dogs) this past week. Although he is adorable and crate - trained, he has a knack for picking up things (that are not his) as well as romping around  the small living room. The moment I knew I had to do something about this chair was when I came around the corner and saw him attempting to eat the stuffing and pick at the strings of upholstery hanging off.
All patched up!

Devin and Odin lounging  

During a lazy day yesterday I figured I would tackle patching the massive holes. I grabbed a bit of scrap fabric I had and went to work. Now that the job is finished, I am loving the look of it. It's only a chair for the dog - no need to be beautiful. I plan to continue to patch the chair, as the dogs toe nails continue to pierce the already worn fabric.