Half Way

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Today marks the sixth month of this crazy purge thing I got myself into. When I began, I believed – which is my overly optimistic nature – that I could knock it out in a month and drop the mic. But, like all things I think I can accomplish quickly, I was wrong. At six months, I feel a little more than half way, maybe.

To remind myself of the actual plan, I had to go back to the beginning. January 1, 2017.

MY PLAN:

1. Catalog every item in my home.

Ok, I can explain. I inherited a whole 2 bedroom apartment that had been stuffed to the ceiling with books, crafting items and furniture. I let go of the cataloging, but plan to do a final count when I’m done with the stuff shuffle.

2. Purge what is no longer useful or meaningful.

This I have done. I have piled items high at work for people to paw through and take; made no less than 20 trips to Good Will with no fewer than 50 boxes of things; thrown more into the trash than I ever want to do for the rest of forever; nearly 15 pounds of ‘very important papers’ have been shredded; the two-body recycle bin continues to fill; and… I’m still at it.

3.Eat clean 90% of the time.

Can we talk about something else? Actually the Whole 30 is on deck for July.

4. Reduce my carbon footprint any way I can.

I haven’t been able to even think about this yet. I am very mindful when I purchase things not to succumb to plastic. And I did buy a composter, which is still sitting in parts on my patio table. Baby steps. I am hoping that by year’s end with my mind and space clear, I can devote thoughtful time to this one.

5. Create a mammoth spreadsheet of my stuff.

Started. Abandoned. Please see 1.

6. Ask myself, with everything I do or bring into my home, “Is this the best choice for me, the planet, my home?” “Do I need it?”

Not much other than food is coming into my home right now. And I feel like I need it.

7. Reduce my trash and recycles to next to nothing.

Please see 4.

There were many things that happened in the first six months of this year that could have so easily derailed me, but didn’t. Not completely. This tells me how important this project is to me. This commitment to a lighter, freer lifestyle oddly takes Herculean effort at times.

All in all, I am satisfied with my progress thus far. As I wrap up the purge of physical stuff (see, there’s that overly optimistic, or possibly delusional Pollyanna again) I am moving into digital purge and body purge. I thought I could sort of toggle between them all, you know, knock it all out at once, but too much focus is necessary for each area.

I am not putting pressure on the next six months though, rather I am continuing forward with purpose. I’m being the tortoise rather than the over-excitable-wear-myself-out-over-thinking-procrastinating-with-other-important-not-important-things hare.

Slow and steady wins the race.

 

The Dump

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Larry and I were recently at our county’s Central Transfer Station – that’s a fancy name for dump. Larry had been before, but I had never had the pleasure. When we drove in, we stopped at the guardgate and were happily directed to the “tunnel, all the way to the right.”

It wasn’t as obvious as it sounded.

We accidentally drove down the wrong tunnel. There are three tunnels, the one on the far right was our intended destination to drop off old paint cans, chemicals and a few electronics as we continue to purge, but somehow we drove down the center lane. It was creepy. There was a giant dump truck open on the top, and it was receiving trash from a trap door, the size of a car, above it. It felt like we were on secret property, like we might get caught and questioned in this smelly, putrefying place lit sickly green by fluorescent bulbs. But no one paid any attention to us. We drove out as if we were getting away with something, quickly but calmly.

Once outside, there were people moving things from here to there, county vehicles and random pavilions and no one paid any attention to us. A left turn would take us back to our starting point so we could try this again.

IMG_7586On our second try we found the correct tunnel. It was fastidious – for a dump. There were giant signs for each type of contaminant and pallets beneath them neatly stacked with items homeowners, just like us, had placed in rows. To the right there were what looked like huge walk-in freezers each with its own warning: Flammable, Poison, Corrosive, Oxidizer. When there was no obvious place for electronics, I hailed an official looking person and he pointed further down the line. There, a large old TV was placed nearly in the way with nothing but static and the letters TVs painted on the screen in bright red.

My imagination melded Poltergeist with Ghost Whisperer and I saw the letters written in the blood of a dead man from inside the screen as a clue to his demise. Imagination is not always helpful.

The gentleman overseeing this part of the operation was neatly dressed in something like a mechanic may wear. He was affable and chatting with someone else in this trash tomb. There seemed to be a sense of pride in his work and the place was pretty immaculate – at least in this area – but still it had a stench.

I don’t ever want to go back there. But, if I am a responsible homeowner I will. I don’t expect us to have any more chemicals, but there will be paint cans and electronics and I will not add toxic waste to an already overtaxed landfill.

Do you ever fly? Have you flown over any mountains, in particular over the western United States where they are mostly scrubby and bare? You can really see how they came to be. I’m always mesmerized by the way Mother Earth has shaped (and continues to shape) herself. It’s plain to see how the mountains grew, pushed up and together by shifting plates and how they were shaped by wind and water. It’s so obvious. And beautiful.

Then flying over farmland, especially in the north-east, the earth is blanketed with a patchwork quilt of crops from small farms. Rows neatly planted, some dark green, others brown, but all planted with care. I’m always amazed by the neatness of it all.

But then there are the bodies of unrealistic milky green-blue water and endless crops of the same thing. There are landfills will tiny chimneys placed every so often, very strategically, to allow all the gasses from trash to escape so they don’t explode, I’m guessing. There are rows of buildings that house livestock and waterways cut into the landscape for irrigation where nothing is supposed to grow and to move toxic waste to, where?

I often wonder if it hurts. Mother Earth that is. What does it feel like to have so much foreign matter inserted subcutaneously? And the weird water, does that burn? Are the fields of frankencrops like eczema? Do the islands of plastic in the oceans feel like digestive blockages? Or tumors?

What have we done? And how can we do better?

This field trip was eye-opening. It’s not that I don’t know there is a copious amount of trash out there, I pass two landfills on my way south to visit friends, but that I am contributing to this at all makes me very sad. We’re recyclers (and soon to be composters) but that’s not enough. We have to be more mindful on the front end, about what we bring in. Just the other day I opted for two containers of cut up watermelon instead of the wedge I normally by. They were a bogo and less expensive for the same amount of watermelon. BUT, now I have two plastic containers that I will throw in the recycle bin and hope they make it somewhere to be melted and used again, when I could have tossed a rind back into nature.

It’s catching these things, being present while making buying decisions, that is the work. I have what I have and now that we’re digging in and purging in earnest, it’s helpful to see where we were awake and mindful and what we need to work on.

The lessons and process continues.

Purge Surge

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The hubs and I went on a little road trip. It was just on the other side of 24 hours and a little over two hours away. But it created space. Head space and physical distance.

It’s true that wherever you go there you are, but just a short jaunt away for an overnight can dramatically shift perspective. You take your issues, prejudices, preferences and attitude with you, but not all your stuff. And stuff is something we’ve been working on greatly reducing.

Well, I have.

My husband flirts with hoarding, he calls it collecting, but tomato, tomahto I say. I keep him and his accumulation of stuff contained to the dining room and most of the garage. I have put up curtains on the opening to the dining room so I can close them and pretend there’s something magical behind them rather than the glut of books and paper that actually are. I also insist on parking in the garage so that keeps the clutter somewhat in check there.

But lately these two spaces seem to be overwhelming him, swallowing him. What was once his safe haven has become the bane of his existence.

Somehow, some where between home, the west coast of Florida and back home again he began to see what I was seeing and everything shifted.

We have a few antique spaces between us. He deals mostly in paper, I lean toward dark, primitive wood and creamy white things. I have one shelf in the garage where I keep “back stock”, he has those other two rooms. And sometimes things slip into the living room or a box is placed in the guest room “just for now.”

By the time we got home he couldn’t wait to tear through the garage and box things up for Good Will, recycle cardboard that seems to be breeding and drop well-intentioned craft project supplies off at the nearby artist studio. So far he has filled our enormous recycle bin (you could easily fit three bodies in there), a good portion of the trash can and dispersed a car load of things to new and grateful recipients.

And suddenly I can breathe better, he has more energy and those rooms seem a tiny bit brighter.

The trick, of course, is maintenance. Not bringing more in, not holding onto things just in case. Part of his shift in perspective is due to yoga. Not so much the postures, although he does do those, but more the philosophy that I’ve been sharing with him – in particular the Yamas and Niyamas – kind of the ten commandments of yoga.

There are pages and pages and pages that could be filled with the wisdom of these 10 tenets, but for now, I’ll share just the one that seemed to cause his head to tilt in that dog-just-heard-a-whistle-no-one-else-can-hear kind of way.

Asteya – non-stealing. It means exactly what it sounds like, don’t take other people’s stuff, but it has more meat on it than that. We steal time from others by being perpetually late (it’s not just how you are, unless how you are is rude, and I bet you’re not really). We steal joy from others by complaining or casting aspersions on their happy news. We steal the spotlight or thunder from others by sharing their news to others before they have a chance. We steal peace from others by talking incessantly, gossiping or intentionally creating conflict. Read: drama.

You get the picture.

In addition, when we take things we don’t really need and when we hold onto things because we might need them one day, we are robbing others of the opportunity to use what we’re squirreling away. There is a saxophone sitting in my garage and it has been there for 17 years. It has been unplayed for over thirty. Surely some young kid could totally benefit from a used or donated instrument.

It may have been that last statement that pushed the purge into action. Hoarder, pack rat or squirrel, whatever he is, above all else he is kind and he cares about the joy and artistry of others. I’m sure the sax will find its way to a new appreciative owner.

It’s just day one of the big push, but it is impressive and it is inspiring me back into action.

 

 

Naked Soap

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Now that I’ve counted and culled the bathrooms and linen closet it’s time to consider what’s left.

If I am truly using this exercise to be more  conscious of my purchases and choices then I need to spend some time contemplating what I’ve discovered.

As far as the above mentioned spaces are concerned I’ve identified three categories:

  1. Items used, that get used up – toilet paper, make-up, shampoo, etc.
  2. Decorative items – art work, decorative containers, superfluous things
  3. Items used on a continuous basis – towels, rugs, robes

I want to take my time to think about all three of these, but it’s that first one that is the most worrisome. Are there better choices? For me, for the environment? The answer is almost always yes.

Let’s look at some of these things up close and personal:

Nail polish remover. I would not need nail polish remover if I did not paint my toenails. I would not need nail polish either. And really probably not cotton balls. The only other reason I use cotton balls is to apply witch hazel on bug bites.

Soap. I have been transitioning from body wash and pump-style hand soap to bar soap recently. I have so many handmade soaps that I’ve been using for decoration that it seems silly to be buying plastic that will likely not get recycled when I can use something that will disintegrate with use over time. On a side note, I can also purchase this bar soap without any packaging which reduces waste even more.

A note to those concerned with bacteria and using the same bar of soap as someone else to wash your hands: in the nicest way possible, get over it. It’s soap, the more you use it, the cleaner your hands will get. We have created over-sensitive immune systems with all our anti-bacterial craziness. It has its place, but the general home bathroom isn’t it. Be brave. Unless you’re a doctor, then please sterilize your hands. And warm them up too, please.

Toothpaste. I’m not ready to make my own toothpaste.

First Aid. I feel justified in keeping the hydrogen peroxide, alcohol and witch hazel on hand. They last a long time.

Waste I know I will produce:

  • Toothbrushes – would electric be better? Are there compostable types?
  • Make-up containers – to be fair I use three items plus lip balm, I’m pretty low maintenance
  • Toilet paper – sorry, not sorry, gonna keep using this
  • Shampoo bottles – surely there is another option, refillable somewhere?
  • Razors – Larry does have an old fashioned one, I however do not
  • Lotion bottles – as with the shampoo, there may be great alternatives to uncover
  • Deodorant containers – crystal? Cream? Investigating

I can keep it to that and investigate other options. I can do better. In the investigation, ingredients and business practices will be taken into consideration. I love buying products from people I know. I have a face cream, lip balm and soap from various friends. I know there are good companies out there with sustainable practices and I intend to find them. I’ll be sure to share.

Speaking of friends, I have one who is a Zero Waste advocate. A serious one. She has built a whole non-profit business around it. I so admire the work she is doing and has done and she continues to inspire the choices I make. She is a big part of the inspiration behind this year long project. She has tons of suggestions on her site if you’re working on minimizing your stuff.

The second group of items is easier to work with. I don’t need any of them, they are there by preference. Some will stay, some will go. I’ll use Marie Kondo’s method of holding each item and asking myself if I love it. In the bathrooms, there are maybe a dozen of these items tops and most of them were purchased at vintage shops or given to me as gifts.

The third item in the list could use a little attention. For some reason, I have quite a few hand towels. I think I will replace those with washcloths in each bathroom, that just seems more practical. The hand towels can go to Good Will or better yet, a veterinary clinic.

The towels and rugs I use I’ve had a long time and feel pretty good about those choices. All cotton, soft and durable, when they wear out they’ll go the way of the hand towels.

All in all I feel pretty good about my progress. More investigation is called for into those items that are in containers that I keep purchasing. There are some great mindful companies out there using innovative packaging with exceptional products inside. I intend to find them and share.

Keeping the nail polish for now…It’s Florida, by feet rarely hibernate inside shoes. And I’m on the hunt for a biodegradable toothbrush option. I’m sure there’s one out there.

[Photo was taken at Lucky’s Market, my new obsession. Naked soap, miles of bulk foods and affordable organic veggies.]