I’ve been watching with pride and curiosity as my amazing friend, Chrissy Storlie, tries to eliminate trash from her life. I’m thrilled she agreed to write a guest post for Enough on her process. Enjoy!
It started as a clichéd New Year’s resolution, which I had vowed to give up years ago, but my motivation to make this change happened just before the holidays. The gimmick of a resolution made sense this year. The resolution started as an effort to eliminate waste, it turned into a desire to simplify areas of my life. To be honest, the gut check moment was while I was watching a kids show, with my nearly three year old, about an ocean adventure. The movie made explicit references to the amount of waste and ecological toll humans have on the ocean. It’s amazing what finally tips you over the edge to make a change. Quite some time before this, I had perused blogs about minimalism, consumerism, simple living, whole foods, gardening, capsule wardrobes, zero waste living, but had never put it all together. I considered myself to have certain intentionality about my family’s lifestyle choices such as where and how we spent our time and money, and what values we prioritized with daily decisions. To be honest though, when days were rushed or I found myself overwhelmed, convenience could easily win over my good intentions. It hit me during the wonderful ocean adventure that my actions needed consistency. Not only for my own feeling of accomplishment or fulfillment, but for the purpose of my role as a mother. I felt good about my previous effort, but now I have two sets of eyes, watching me all the time, and I want my example to be a good one!
Once I made the decision, it felt like an urgent and pressing need that needed to be addressed. I made a plan, a concrete plan. With specific daily actions and goals I wanted to accomplish to get into a consistent pattern. My first step was to determine what were the priorities in my life that I felt like I was neglecting. Where did I feel trapped? To my surprise, I felt like I wasn’t doing too bad making time for family and friends, which is where I want my time to be spent. The more I thought about it, the more I came to realize the time I spent with the important people in my life tended to be rushed more than leisurely. Now, I’m not sure if that’s because I have two small children that are quite busy and carry a sense of chaos, or if I hadn’t created enough time to nurture these relationships the way I would hope to.
This led me to my next step, creating more time for myself and my priorities. I feel incredibly blessed that I was able drop hours from my work week to be home a couple more days a week with the wee ones. Also, I decided to make routines and patterns for myself to eliminate time wasted on things that aren’t important to me. Like time spent managing stuff, material things, junk that’s lying around and cluttering our house and our life. This is where my day to day decisions are being most impacted. I have found new routines and am forming new habits to address this.
The tangible part of this endeavor started with going room by room, closet by closet, and removing excess. In all honesty, I’m sure I could go through a second round and eliminate just as much. Everything has a learning curve. It’s amazing the emotion one can invest in the tiniest of trinkets. I reminded myself, several times through this process, how wasteful it is to store things that I don’t have a place for, but don’t want to give up in the event I found a place. The reality is that there will never be a place for something that has been sitting in my attic for 5 years. I made myself recognize that someone else could use these items and appreciate them, which I certainly wasn’t doing, letting them collect dust in a box. Don’t be selfish. I did keep several keepsakes from my past. I must say that the freedom from clutter is incredibly gratifying.
Now that I had reduced the amount of stuff in our house, I made plans to eliminate waste production from our house, as much as possible. Did you know there are families that produce a mason jar worth of trash in a year? That is downright inspiring. My family and I will never be them, but it makes me realize there are so many things we CAN do to significantly reduce our trash production. Here are some examples of routines we have started to reduce what goes in our trash bins:
-Use reusable bags when shopping. Every time. I leave them in my trunk now so I never forget them. We also use reusable mesh bags for produce and bulk items to avoid collecting the thin plastic bags.
-We make coffee at home, instead of quickly and conveniently stopping for a coffee on the way into work. If I get coffee from a coffee shop, I always use a travel mug. If I don’t have a travel mug with me, I don’t stop for coffee.
-Shop in bulk, either from actual bulk bins when possible (while using reusable mesh bags), or larger quantities to avoid excess packaging. I buy loose produce whenever possible versus packaged produce.
-DIY options: this includes cleaners (think vinegar and dish soap), salad dressing, etc.
-We have limited the amount of take-out we get.
-Use cloth diapers more regularly. Our daycare provider won’t use them, but we make sure to when we are home.
-Shop consignment, buy used.
There are so many opportunities throughout the day to cut back on the amount of waste you produce. I read an article several years ago that I still vividly remember. The author challenged the readers to imagine that for one day, anything you would normally throw into the garbage, you had to instead secure to your body. Imagine having your days’ worth of trash attached to you for the day. Eeeek.
I had all the precursors in place to transform into a simpler version of my life; I look forward to the fluidity of this transformation. The old version wasn’t a bad one, but one filled with traps. I feel freer to experience all of the beautiful things in my life, at a bit more leisurely of a pace. I’ve determined that my simplicity is a moral principle of material moderation and thoughtful ordering of my priorities, something I can teach my kids. I’m so glad to have made this New Year’s Resolution.