Archive for the ‘Cut the Crap’ Category

I totted up my numbers for the Riot so far this month and overall they aren’t so bad.  Except for consumer spending, but that’s getting ready for summer and, of course, making sure I have a pair of shoes I can live in until I can cram my toe into a toed shoe.  You know, important stuff.  Ok, so that is a huge excuse, but we needed a few more things to complete projects from our Recycled Crafts book, which will significantly reduce our trash numbers.  Already has, I should say, as we have saved every last plastic bottle, bottle cap, glass jar, and aluminum take-out tray.

I’m a bit concerned about our electric numbers.  I have to keep reminding myself that electric balances out over the year, so even though it looks like we’re way over, we really aren’t.  Still, I’m looking forward to losing the daily trips to school for Lucy and doing more around home.  We should end up cutting down from 20-25 kWh/week transit to closer to 6.  This week will tell us how we’re apt to look for a while.  It’ll be tough again when Lucy’s summer classes start, but it’s only twice a week instead of five times at least.

Food is, well, terrible.  Despite the start of CSA season, we’re coming in at just over 30% local, 12% bulk, 56% wet.  Our first meat/egg/dairy delivery will be on the 24th so that week should tell us if it’s going to make a significant dent in our wet totals.  I also need desperately to start hitting the Greenmarket again, and working in a biweekly trip to the bulk store.  I just don’t want food shopping to turn into a full-time job, you know?  I’m shooting for getting local to 50% for this next week, and I’m hoping the rest will naturally fall into place after that.

Trash and recycling, interestingly enough, are both really good for this past week.  Much lower than they have been, and I do think it’s in large part due to saving stuff for projects.  I’ve been cleaning out old files, though, and I fear our recycling will be high this week coming up, but it’s worth it to get more clutter cleared out.   I came across some old photos of the apartment from when we moved in, and it was marked how much less stuff we had then than we do now.  Everything out!  I wanna get back to a reasonable level of crap.

And incomp0letely unrelated to reductions or crap or anything else eco, my son has begun pushing himself up onto his knees and rocking back and forth.  It is thrilling and terrifying in that way only parenting can be.

And the other night?  C was walking him around the apartment while I scarfed down food, and he pushed himself back from C’s shoulder, looked for and made eye contact with me, and said…


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Buy Nothing: Ordinarily on a day like this–rainy Sunday where I was up before the sun with calamity and chaos, that is–I would do my damnedest to justify buying something.  And the temptation is here, trust me.  I have gotten thisclose to ordering some used books for Lucy.  The thing is, as soon as the house emerges from the pall of sick, I’m getting us signed up for a library card (I signed up online last year but managed to not activate the card within the, what, 90 day window I had) and it is totally ludicrous to buy books when it will be quicker to check them out of the library.

I don’t even need to analyze why I have such a strong desire to shop–it’s a gray day, I was up early with poop and nosebleeds and coughing children, the apartment is trashed from focusing on the kids yesterday and sitting on my butt with C watching The Departed last night and I’d rather feel like I’m doing something nice for my family by buying something for us than by getting back on track with the clutter, I kept Chico home from the museum on Friday and I feel like I missed out on my weekly treat.  If I don’t get myself into a project and off of the computer, my wonderful brain will come up with some justification for making a purchase.

Decluttering:  It looks like the Cut the Crap challenge is ending this week.  Which means I have fallen quite short of my personal goals, mostly because my efforts totally petered out last week.  I’ve gotten a lot done, though, and in the areas I used to dread the most.  I have sent out 2 boxes of books, 4-5 of toys, 2 bags of clothes, a huge box of cloth diapering stuff and baby stuff, 2 boxes of gifts that sat in my foyer from before Christmas, the baby swing.  Going later in May will be the co-sleeper and bouncy chair, infant car seat and car seat carrier plus likely another bag of kids clothes, a bag of curtains that are barely used, and all of my size 5 shoes since I my feet grew while pregnant.  There is a box (half full, I’m still working on it) of random picture frames and throw pillows and other ‘decorative objects.’  I have sorted through all of our spice racks and moved them off of the counter.  Lucy’s desk is sorted into inboxes–drawings to finish, blank paper, notebooks, and drawings to give away.  Markers are with markers, crayons with crayons, and pencils with pencils.  There is a workspace.  I went through my file drawer and took everything out of envelopes, unfolded it so it takes up less space, and got rid of all unnecessary paperwork, including sorting through the warranty/manual folder and removing anything we don’t need or no longer own.  And most remarkably, I cleared an entire shelf in Lucy’s closet, unpacking toys Chico will use in the next 6 months and putting them in a basket where we can reach them.  Lucy bagged up some of her stuffed animals to donate.  And I threw in some of my old ones as well.  I ate through some of our less practical and older stored food–a little can of mixed veggies, another of peaches and the boil-in-bag rice we got when Lucy was Chico’s age.  We mixed 2 half-empty boxes of pasta together for dinner one night and discovered 2 opened bags of dried lentils which we fit into the lentil canister.  Now I need to make a pot of soup to use up some of the tomato paste and  the little carton of veggie stock.  Then we’ll have room to store some more practical foods.

There is a lot still to do, most notably my closet, C’s and the hall closet.  I’m hoping to get to my closet tomorrow, though.  It’s a big PITA to empty everything out when so much is going back in, but I need to get it back to keepsies on one side, givesies on the other 🙂

I’m about half of the way through the box of crap from the final junk drawer and would like to have it finished today so that I can get Lucy’s living room toys separated from Chico’s.  Blah blah blah laundry, dishes, trash, recycling, water seedlings, water more seedlings, there are more seedlings  to water.

Growing Challenge: Sometimes I look at the table and wonder why the hell I thought it would be a good idea to grow so many things.  Mostly I’m excited, but it’s a lot of stuff.  Only the chives, parsley, onions and lavender haven’t germinated.  I remember last year being somewhere between freaked out and excited at the prospect of growing food on the balcony; this is a similar feeling but not nearly as dire.  I think it helped that we grew marigolds from seed last year so I knew I could do it.  I have this total fear of getting the seedlings planted and having them all die.  I try to tell myself it’s all about learning how to be more self-sufficient and I can always buy plants if these fail, but I hate when things don’t work out.  Honestly, the goal really is to grow some of our own food, not to become a master gardener person.  Still I have this fantasy of a balcony full of pots overflowing with veggies.  And seed saving.  I’m really into the idea of seed saving.

Riot For Austerity: I have been bad and haven’t tracked anything but spending and I can estimate food.  I’m going to use March’s numbers for everything else, and then May will be the big push to have a 90% reduction month in as many areas as possible.  I’ll even guesstimate water usage and we’ll use our old natural gas bills from the old apartment to estimate that just for accuracy’s sake.  I’m still hoping to get to the greenmarket in May.  If nothing else, I’d love to get us switched from plastic milk bottles to refillable glass.  It’s just tough carrying a full bag while wearing Chico, but I think I can do it once a week.  We’ve also finally cut out almost all packaged frozen foods, and since finding Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese, I can honestly say I can live without dairy.  I’m not ready to give up poultry or fish yet, though.  Also, I still need Fresh Direct for laundry detergent for now, but this week’s order is the last for a while.  That’s several fewer cardboard boxes a week, which translates to 3-4 lbs if they aren’t reused.  After the big changes of last year, we’re back to baby steps.  I’d like to cut out paper towels even though most end up in the worm bin.  I’m toying with the idea of a second worm bin because we’ve so many worms and so many food scraps–we could have one fallow while the other was in use.  I air dried sheets last week for the first time, proving it can be done pretty easily.  Mostly I want to get our food to mostly local and bulk, because it’s getting more important than ever.  The other ‘mostly’ is consumer spending, but I’m working on that.  The thing I’ve enjoyed most about Rioting is how much it has made me think, whether it’s as simple as doing dishes and hanging laundry making me take time to slow down or as complex as isolating the ways in which I convince myself to buy things I could do without or get used.

And so we come full circle.  Don’t buy things you don’t need; get rid of the things you already bought that you don’t need; if you don’t buy things you don’t need, you won’t throw as much away.  Know where your things come from, be it food or goods, and know why they’ve come to you.  The key word for me when I started last year was ‘mindful.’  I think I have become more mindful in the past year, and I think I have also been able to let myself shut off my  mind a little bit more than before.  This is the best part.

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I was awakened by a little man stroking my cheek and making cooey noises on one side and a big girl on the other asking to cuddle with her brother.  I gave her my place in bed and headed to the kitchen to make a pot of coffee and pack lunch.   The kitchen is littered with the remnants of last night’s dinner, the living room with baby toys and Lucy’s breakfast, and her room is, well, trashed.  Normally these things would have me set right on edge and growling at everyone, but for some reason, today it is ok.  Do you know why?

Because underneath yesterday’s detritus lying around?  Clear and clean.  On each surface I have cleared I can tell you exactly when each item was taken out and left there, and why.  I know it will only take me a few minutes to get everything put away because I know where it all goes.  This.totally.rocks.

Last night I took the night off.  I sat on the couch with Chico and watched part of the Cubs game, the Mary Tyler Moore show, and some other crap.  I nuked a Boca fake chicken patty for dinner and drank Sprite.  I lounged, I vegged, and I had a little whine about how much I’ve been doing and how I want to be done.  It’s funny, though, because I really don’t think I want to be done.  I just needed to have an itty bitty pity party.  So I thought about why this may be happening, and I realized why.  My MIL has been after me since last month to pick out some clothes for her to get the kids for summer.  My SIL had picked out a bunch for her kids (they live in Florida and are already in summer stuff) so she wanted to keep things even.  Which is incredibly sweet, but as I’ve written, I’d planned on getting stuff for Chico at Goodwill  (we do get SPF stuff for Lucy because she’s super-pale like I am.)  Anyway, I chose an SPF outfit for Lucy and another for Chico.  And then I picked out some shorts for Lucy, and a few outfits for Chico.   And then I thought nothing of it.  This was a pre-planned purchase, most of the clothes were organic cotton, and all will be handed down to my SIL when the kids have outgrown them.

The thing is, though, I do feel guilty.  Even though everything will be passed along, Lucy doesn’t need new shorts to get grubby, and Chico is through sizes every two months.  My SIL is getting new clothes for her kids on top of the hand-me-downs so there is still an inherent manufacturing cost to the environment.  This whole exercise is just a way to justify buying new stuff, and now I feel really guilty about it.  I was had I tells ya!

So now that I have figured this out I’m feeling much less like it’s a total losing battle.  I just have to  remember to look at purchases from all angles rather than straight on.  Sigh.  I have to remind myself that I’ve still done incredibly well on the Buy Nothing Challenge in comparison to what I would have spent.  When you take shopping off the table as a time-filling activity, you’re forced to come up with other things to do and those things are so much more rewarding!  Not to mention that when you aren’t bringing new stuff into a space, it’s easier to look at what you already have and determine if you really want to keep it.

I started looking at my bookcases over the weekend after realizing that they had collected things I wasn’t really in love with.  Like my use of passive voice there?  It was the bookcase’s fault, not mine!  Anyway, I have some pictures I framed and threw up on a shelf that commemorate things I’m not so fond of–one was taken during a particularly trying period in my childhood and another is of my father (holy baggage) that I had put up because I felt like I should have a picture of him displayed.  Those are coming down.  I have two framed pictures of Lucy’s sonogram in the foyer, one large and one small.  The little one is coming down as well.   I have several baby pictures of Lucy up, but none of Chico.  One photo of the two of them should do nicely.  The shot glass my ex-boss brought me from Mexico?  Don’t need it.  The bottle of linen water?   Will I ever use it or is it just pretty?  I barely even look at the shelves anymore, and if I really loved my displays I would.

And the one extra thing I’m doing today?  Still no idea.  It’ll come to me.  Maybe Lucy and I will have an electricity-free hour tonight.  Maybe I’ll get after C to hook up the Smart Strips.  And maybe we’ll do a little more ‘letting it mellow’ for good measure.  We may even eat dinner out on the balcony if it isn’t too chilly.  And maybe we’ll do that one thing again tomorrow, and it might become a habit, and in a month it may seem as though we’ve always been doing it.  That’s how it happens, you know.

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First and foremost, I did not buy anything last week!  Huzzah!

On the cleaning front–the balcony is almost finished.  It doesn’t look as fantastic as I’d like because there are still a ton of empty pots all over the place while we see how many seedlings we get.  Still, the rug is swept, the new oilcloth is on the table, and the trash is gone.  Lucy and I worked for several hours yesterday, and boy does it feel good to be thisclose to being done.  Tomorrow will be picture post day.

On the clutter clearing front–Lucy’s closet is sorted.  I have an entire empty shelf in there now, and the last big tasks are returning book jackets to their books and putting away the last few things (craft stuff, a blow-up baseball bat and the manual for the co-sleeper.)  I have a new box of baby stuff started.

Hey, speaking of baby stuff.  My MIL bought a bunch of Avent bottles while I was in the hospital despite my specific instructions that we were not using anything with BPA.  I finally cleared them out of the kitchen on Thursday, but I’m not sure what to do with them.  I don’t want to donate them and risk exposing another baby to BPA, but I don’t want to store them in hopes somebody someday organizes a recall.  Any suggestions?

As of today we have one strawberry sprout (teeny) and a bunch of basil sprouting.  This is ridiculously exciting.  I can’t wait for everything to be big enough to plant!  And, of course, to eat!  Exclamation Point!

And last, today we are tackling Lucy’s desk.  I’ll have to get a before picture because it is exactly what you’d expect the desk of a very creative preschooler to be–buried under 2 feet of drawings and workbooks and other sundry nonsense.  We sorted through her stuffed animals last week and she designated a handful to be donated, so afterwards I went to Bat Conservation International and let her pick out a bat to adopt.  When I told her we were going to sort through her desk and get it organized, she asked me if we could go back and give more money to help the bats.   I am so proud.  Instead, though, we’re going to donate to the shelter where we got Bean.  One of the best things about not shopping is that when I want to treat Lucy, I’m not even tempted to go pick something up that will I will likely end up tripping over every morning.  And donating just feels good.  I’m so thankful Lucy is learning that it feels as good to help others as it does to get something new.

Please send good clearing/organizing vibes–after Lucy’s desk and the last bits of the kitchen (pantry-not-used-for-food cleaning and cabinet-used-as-pantry eating through the less practical stored items so that we can fit in the practical ones (which should actually happen today) it’s on to my closet and the hall storage closet.  The upside is that I’ll be able to get to my sewing machine to take it for repair.  The downside is all of the other stuff in there–holiday decorations mostly, and some baskets and then wrapping and shipping materials like gift boxes, packing peanuts and bubble wrap, gift bags.  I’m going to have to pull everything out and sort, and I’m both dreading and totally excited at the prospect.  I do these closets twice a year but they always get loaded back up with crap.  I’m hoping this time they’ll stay clear.  It’s been much easier  to keep my other spaces clear and organized this time around so hopefully this track record extends to the closets.

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Chile’s new area of the Cut the Crap challenge is the kitchen.  Now, I had a good clear-out of my kitchen in October so I’m ok on cabinet space.  What I am not ok on is counter space.  I give you exhibits A and B:

These are my counters.  All both of them.  This is what I’m currently working on–cleaning, organizing, getting rid of.  Thus far I have hung a wall-mounted spice rack and dumped/washed out more expired spice jars than I care to admit.  The glass ones will be reused, plastics go to Lucy for pretend cooking.  I am attempting to eat through the foods in the pantry-cabinet (our real pantry is makeshift cleaning product/cat litter/fancy stuff storage plus a towering pile of plastic take-out containers I’m slowly finding reuses for.  Towering.  Seriously.

I’m hoping to finish today, if el hombre Chico cooperates.  Last night Lucy made him laugh so hard and for so long that he collapsed in tears and passed out without even nursing for 2 hours.  It was heartwarming up to the meltdown, after which I found myself instantly transported back to those days of early infancy when I found myself incapable of soothing him.  Still, it was so worth it to see my kids cracking each other up while I watched from the kitchen.

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I did take Chico to the museum yesterday, and he did enjoy the Jasper Johns exhibit. In fact, he squealed at the first painting, whipped his head around to look at several others, and finally lost it close to the end and had to be whisked to the Courbet exhibit to nurse. Vigorously. He was pretty cranky for a bit, but settled down in time to come home. The downtown 6 wasn’t running so we hoofed it 14 blocks to the F. I could barely stand upright by the time we got home but miraculously, am fine this morning. Which is good because today is another outing.

After that, it’s back home to make necklaces for Lucy’s friends, who are having a birthday party tomorrow. I’ll have to face down my phone-terror again to find out the details. And then I have to launder a batch of diapers so that they are dry tomorrow. And then my MIL is dropping off Lucy’s old Exersaucer for Chico. There is a large pile of dishes in the sink from dinner Thursday and last night. There is baby detritus strewn about the living room. I have not decluttered, nor cleaned, a single item since Thursday. And, frankly, I’m feeling a bit down about it. I like momentum, and I like forward movement. I get very angry with myself when I feel like I’ve been slacking, even though intellectually I know it’s important for me to get out of the house and for the baby to be exposed to new things to look at (I’m not, despite how I may sound, turning into one of those NYC parents who think my 5 month old needs exposure to great works of art and music to get into a proper school; I just like looking at art and taking the baby places with Lucy.)

Sigh. I wish I could believe myself when I say that the house will always look torn up because we have 2 kids, 2 cats, and other shit to do but I still cringe every morning when I walk out and see stuff everywhere.

With that, I’m off to get things picked up and figure out what I’m going to wear. And Lucy. And Chico who has no pants that fit because he won’t stop going through a clothing size every two months. Goodwill on Monday if it’s the last thing I do!


On a side note, I walked Chico through the Museum store yesterday and came to a realization. There is a lot in there that I really like, that is attractive, and I would probably have bought a couple of little things for Lucy a month ago. In light of the Buy Nothing challenge, though, I was able to really think about why I would buy something. Sure, I like getting new things for Lucy because I love her and I love to feed her mind. But we are drowning in ‘educational’ toys. There are many really cool things at the museum store, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I want them in my house. This last part is such a huge deal because for years I have been picking up things for Lucy and then wondering why we have so much crap lying around. And I always blamed it on other people buying so many gifts for her because hello? I’m her mom. I get to buy stuff. It’s not the workbooks I bought her, it’s the ones her grandmother sent home with her. It’s not the picnic set I bought, it’s the one she got from school. Its not the million and a half stuffed animals her father and I have picked out for her, it’s the six rabbits my grandmother sent up because they were so cute together.

I had a talk with the MIL about not buying and Affluenza and decluttering on Thursday, and interestingly enough, she’s also going through a getting rid of period. She’s recognized that she has also contributed to the amount of stuff we have around here and is not bringing anything by. It’s a huge thing for her since, like me, she likes to show she cares by gifting. It’s tougher than it should be to recognize that the best gift is always an experience shared. It’s fun to get gifts and all, but memories are nicer.

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5 boxes, 3 shopping bags, 1 swing, 1 Boppy, 1 playmat gone!  All gone!

Started tackling the back filing and managed to get a cat litter box full of old utility bills and C’s employment info from his last job cleaned out and ready to be torn up for worms.

Planted onion, serrano and jalapeno seeds.

Took kids to playground with MIL.

Ate yummy-delicious lentil and potato curry slop courtesy of C.

A good day.

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