Saturday, October 19, 2013

The zero-waste home?

I just got a library book called "Zero Waste Home," written by a woman who was able to reduce the amount of waste her family produces so much that she literally doesn't keep a trash can in the house anymore. She does have receptacles for composting and recycling, but she tries to minimize both by eating every possible scrap of food and not letting any waste at all get through the front door.

Everybody should be required to read this book, if only so they can stop thinking of me as extreme.

I can't see going to the lengths recommended (like bringing a mason jar to the butcher shop and asking to have your meat put directly into it), but it really is interesting, and I think there are some things I will try. Meanwhile, reading this has reactivated my (briefly disheartened) decluttering drive, so I've spent much of the morning going through old art supplies and adding more things to the donate pile heap mountain.

And adding to the trash, of course. This will be the second week in a row that our normally-not-even-a-quarter-full trash can has been filled to the brim. Real nice zero-waste home we've been running.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Walk-in closet of horrors

I asked Dex if he wanted to start getting rid of some junk from his room to help me get ahead on the October minimalism game. He said yes, and now we're not only ahead—we're completely done. And then some. I'm just not sure how I'll recover from the experience.

See, when Dex was younger, he was both a major creative force and a major packrat. He saved everything he ever made and most everything he ever touched. (At one point M.H. started tearing up toilet paper tubes before putting them in the trash, because otherwise Dex would dig them out and hide them in his dresser drawers.) That little packrat has swung violently in the non-sentimental direction, but we'd never really dealt with all the stuff—we just moved it from Virginia to Montana and took advantage of the fact that his bedroom has a walk-in closet.

Anyway, it was pretty easy to come up with 14+15+16+17…+31 items to part with, but it was absolutely wrenching to figure out what to do with all the drawings and stories and comics and letters and photos and inventions and…stuff. He didn't want any of it, so I had to make some tough decisions about what to save and what to let go—and some then tough decisions about where to store them, because now I guess they're my problem. I saved a lot, but I'm not even going to list some of the stuff I didn't save, because my mother might have a heart attack. In fact, I need to re-forget-all-about-it ASAP, or I might have a heart attack with her.

And that's not even the worst of it. See, we gave a lot of things to charity, and we recycled a lot of drawn-on paper (horrible in its own way), but the worst thing was the incredible amount of waste represented by the mound of broken and unusable toys we didn't want and couldn't donate. It was sickening to think about all the money spent and all the plastics and crap that will end up in a landfill because we didn't take good enough care of things, or lost too many pieces, or just had so many toys that we forgot all about them until it was too late. Ugh.

There's one more "worst" thing: Because Dex took care of the vast majority of this little game, it means we still haven't really scratched the surface in decluttering the rest of the house, let alone gotten into minimalism. I'm seriously considering starting all over again in November, if I decide my heart can take it.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

I just need to ________?

I got to the end of editing the first book for Happy, and it's a quiet time for Grumpy, and I've had about a week and a half completely off. You'd think I'd have been delighted to have this unexpected break, but the stupid reality is that after working such long, long days for weeks on end, I tend to come out the other side as an empty shell of a human being, with no ideas, purpose, interests, or ambition. I sort of forget what it is I like to do in my spare time—or if I know intellectually what it is I like to do, it doesn't matter because I don't actually want to do it anymore. All I feel like doing is working, but there is no more work, so I end up just staring at my computer trying to make some appear.

I realize this sounds pretty bleak. I avoided writing about it, while in the empty-shell stage, for that reason.

Then a few days ago I started getting all interested in this book I'd heard about (about creating a household that produces next to no landfill waste—more on that later), and I started debating with M.H. about the pros and cons of composting, and I started making up Paleo bread recipes again, and I finished reading a novel, and I realized…I came back! I don't quite understand this empty-shell phenomenon, but it seems to happen every time I have to transition from "all the work" to "no work," so maybe I need to find some way to deal with it or head it off or something.

By the way, if you're thinking to yourself, "You dummy, you just need to _________," then please chime in and help me out here. (Unless you filled in the blank with "not work such long hours." That's off the table if I want to be a freelancer.)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Hard and easy

Okay, so controlled food reintroductions…hard. First I reintroduced white potatoes, which didn't seem to have any negative effect on me, then I reintroduced dairy, which upset my stomach, and then (sticking with tradition) I reintroduced way too much pizza and felt awful. I don't know why, but eating bread seems to dry me out horribly. I woke up the morning after the pizza with my mouth feeling like I'd just spent three weeks in the desert eating sand, and it was almost just as bad the following night. I am trying to rehydrate, but I just can't seem to get enough liquid into my body.

Meanwhile (delightful surprise), the minimalism game is easy—and fun! It's only October 6, but we haven't even had to break a sweat in getting rid of things. Yesterday I just asked Dex to open a random drawer and pull out five things we didn't need (he chose a lone chopstick, some iPod packaging, an old DVD, an ancient digital camera, and a bottle of "invisible ink"). Just glancing at our bookshelves, the toy room, the kids' rooms, and the kitchen tells me this isn't even going to get challenging for a while.

I guess it will get challenging at the point when it actually becomes about minimalism, rather than just decluttering.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A minimalism game

Well, we made it through another Whole30. I think I got a bit skinnier despite eating approximately 3,000 apples over the course of the month (there was a free ad…and a tree…and a Paleo apple crisp recipe—you would have done the same thing). But overall I was right in predicting it would be easy and boring. Now I'm going to try to be smart and reintroduce "forbidden" foods to my diet one at a time, starting with white potatoes. That has the potential to be less easy and boring, and might actually yield more useful information than my usual system of eating a ton of pizza and then feeling awful.

So besides diet experimentation, what's the plan for October? My family's going to play a minimalism game. On October 1, we're going to get rid of one material possession. On October 2, we're going to get rid of two. And so on, as long as possible. The possession can be sold, donated, gifted, or trashed. I'm going to be pretty lenient about what counts as a "possession"—an emptied-out file folder, a dried-out marker, a pair of too-small kid jeans with holes in them, or an old cardboard box that goes from the garage floor to the recycling bin would each count as one. I'm also going to be lenient about when the possession actually has to leave the house. If it's put in the trunk of the car to be donated to Goodwill on October 31, that counts.

I don't have high hopes that we'll make it through the entire month, since we already had a garage sale this summer and I've been in a slow process of getting rid of old clothes and stuff for quite some time. But I think it will be kind of fun, and I've already informed the kids that they're playing, too, so if anyone accidentally cleans his room in the process of meeting his quota, that will be a bonus.