It’s hard to believe that just one year (and several days) ago I took the first step towards changing my life for the better. I made the decision to cut away at the BS in my life, reduce our waste, simplify and personally take a step back from the consumerist lifestyle as much as possible. I wanted a life better for the planet and for ourselves. After rushing around all last weekend checking off the last bit of decluttering and deep cleaning, the final hours of 2017 were spent basking in the accomplishments and progress we made as a household over the year.
Part of the reason you are just now reading this is because so much happened over a period of 12 months, that I didn’t know how best to approach it. How to you wrap up something so grand? In one year I created my own blog, cut out the majority of disposable materials from our lives, started composting and growing our own vegetables (when before I could barely keep a plant alive), gave three local presentations, started weekly grocery tours and one zero waste community group, had one yard sale, watched tons of documentaries, traveled to Montreal, Boston, Florida and more, achieving everything I’d set out to do! I grew as a person and had a whole lot of fun in the process. To sum it up, it was pretty perfect. From the very first farmer’s market visit to the last newspaper wrapped secondhand present, this year was one for the books!
Now for a better look at those resolutions…
One entire year passed without bringing any new clothes into my life! No sweaters, no pants, no dresses, no jewelry, no socks, no shoes (other than the one allowed exception of tennis shoes), no purses, no sunglasses. Nothing free or bought. Nothing given or swapped. Nothing, not even underwear! That’s why I’ve decided to refer to it a closet fast. 😉 And I will tell you what – it felt good not buying anything new. Because you know what? I didn’t need to!! I had plenty of stuff in my closet. I had more than plenty because even though I spent the entire year eliminating clothes instead of bringing them in, I still didn’t wear everything in my closet. By learning how to extend time between washings this year I’m hoping to keep the clothes I have around for longer only making swaps with secondhand (or ethically produced) items when I feel the need.
For the things I used regularly but were maybe starting to wear out or didn’t fit the best (like shorts), I made do. I even got through the year with the same old worn out pair of sunglasses that I inherited from my husband when he switched to prescription frames. My biggest fear was that teenie would break them or I’d lose them sometime over the year because I only had two pairs to work with (after weeding out the ones I wouldn’t be caught dead in) but somehow managed to hold on to them both the whole time. Now the year is over, instead of buying new I’m going to see if any glasses place around town can switch the lenses out in the frames for fresh ones!
Buy Less & Choose Used When Possible
While there was still some consumption (mostly of products that would be helpful in reducing waste or replacing outgrown items by teenie) every purchase was given a lot of thought and consideration before brought into our home. Many purchases swapped out plastic items that had been in use for some time or were a simple luck of the moment secondhand snatch and grab with items I knew we’d want down the road (i.e., a sled, kite, real child sized guitar). There were products that were purchased new but the number was few enough that they can be listed out: some crafting supplies, a couple Pyrex lids to replace those that had broken, 2 drawer handles, 1 eye primer, 2 eye shadows, 1 mascara, 1 pair of tennis shoes, a few stainless insulated cups, 2 stainless water bottles, toddler life jacket, some additional cloth diaper inserts, baby toilet, toilet seat with insert, wide mouth funnel, mason jar lids & several Christmas gifts. The majority of purchases however were used! Thrift stores and yard sales became my new Target. Speaking of Target, I only stepped foot inside one on three or so occasions this year: once for diapers, once to see if they had yogurt, and once for mason jar lids. Each time it was weird, like walking around an old school campus or visiting a former workplace…you get the idea. Same goes for the mall, having only made a few purchases the entire year (the above mentioned makeup and a bath bomb for my nephew for Christmas). Any other time I was there it was strictly to partake in their kid friendly amenities.
Throw Away Less
When starting the year my goal was to reduce our household’s garbage and become less consumed by stuff. Never did I think that we would have reduced our waste as much as we did. I had seen the zero waste gals with their mason jars containing a years worth of garbage and remember thinking, “that’s crazy, there’s no way we’ll ever get to that level.” But the more I learned, the more I realized how possible it actually is. Once you recognize your sources of garbage, find alternative ways to either obtain them or omit them all together and introduce a composting system to take care of anything that can’t be recycled, it’s really doable. So doable that we’ve been able to move our regular sized trashcan out of the house, currently using an old 32 oz yogurt container in its place for the small pieces of trash that we tend to acquire. Since we aren’t completely vegetarian or vegan we still have the occasional bones or plastic to deal with for instance from chicken or cheese. Because of this we have some weeks where we only fill the yogurt container but there are also weeks where we might have to overflow to a standard plastic shopping bag. As we continue to finish using up products within the home that are packaged in plastic, this also contributes to these sorts of occurrences. I haven’t bought trash bags in I don’t know how long and still have an unfinished box under my sink that I’ve yet to decide what to do with. I was holding onto it in case we couldn’t maintain the yogurt container streak but seeing as its been over 4 months I may end up giving them away. Or maybe not so as not to jinx it! 😉
Food waste, which was a major problem, has drastically improved over the last year. I’ve been much better about not adding more stock when there is plenty that needs to be eaten up first while finding fun ways to make the most use of the foods we buy, such as stews, smoothies and bakes.
Give New Life Through Repurposing & Upcycling
Food jars turned into storage systems or vases, packaging paper into wrapping, an old t-shirt into gift bags, a lone sock into a cooize…all these flips helped to keep potential end-game materials out of the landfill while also eliminating the demand for something new.
Waste Less Time
An unwritten objective I had for the year in addition to all else was to declutter & simplify our household. I wanted to spend fewer precious minutes of time on reorganizing and for clean-up to be quicker and easier. With less stuff to manage, there’s less to have to put away. Fewer items on the ground make for a quicker cleanup and same for furniture surfaces.
I can’t even tell you how many donations were made to thrift stores this year. If I had actually taken the time to collect the tax sheets we probably would have an amazing deduction this year. While we could have taken the time to sell most of our stuff past the yard sale we had earlier this year, it would have delayed the process of getting everything out of our space. So we simply wrote it all off as a sunk cost and let it go. Sentimental hoarding has been one of my biggest hurdles right there along with holding on to things because they were expensive or a “nice” brand. The more I’ve re-examined the importance of the things I own (like whether they bring me joy or benefit) the easier it has become to let stuff go.
Though I haven’t had the chance to look at any numbers as to how much was saved over this last year by me not shopping for clothes, buying less and directing my purchases mostly towards the secondhand market, you better bet I’ll let you know once I tally everything up.
I’m not sure if buying bulk and switching to organic/locally grown necessarily saved us any money but I will tell you what it has saved: unnecessary and questionable ingredients. By switching to a nearly package free, seasonal, locally grown lifestyle, we’re eating better than ever. Eating a healthy variety of foods was not a problem before cutting back on our waste but there were still plenty of processed and packaged foods in our diet whether it be crackers, bread, tortillas, pre-shredded cheese, breakfast burritos, breakfast waffles. While organic and/or whole wheat, they may have been better than their non-organic counterparts but nothing beats the most basic ingredients that come with eating food fresh and made from scratch.
I totally get the warm feelies whenever I look back at all the moments shared alongside my teenie one this year. The changes we made and experiences we had were exactly what I needed as a mother and an individual. For the first time since her birth two years ago I feel control over my life again. For so long I was bogged down from constant disorganization and chaos. Since paring down, its starting to feel a lot easier to stay on top of things around our home, even with a little person whose sole mission in life is to undo it all, lol.
My husband majorly came through this year, blowing me away with the level of involvement and support he provided throughout the process. Never did he cease to amaze me with great ideas when I wasn’t sure how to repurpose or make something work. He helped build our garden beds (along with our brother-in-law) and was always there to lend a drill or other power tool to help. While he did not share in the closet fast with me, he purchased fewer items over the entire year, trying to make ones that were better whether it was refurbished technology or better quality.
Now that the holidays are over and much of the changes we’ve made over the last year are pretty routine, I’ll be starting to share more about our new lifestyle!! There are also lots of things from last year that I never got the chance to write about because of time (getting things done keeps one rather busy) so stay tuned for all sorts of updates over the next couple of months!
Thanks again for following along on my journey through 2017. I know 2018 is going to be just as exciting and fulfilling as there is a lot I still want to improve on with regards to waste within our home. I’m totally ready to go more full scale in the garden this spring (if I can get my rear in gear and start planning) so plan to see a lot of prep work ahead with that.
I hope your new year is off to a great and motivated start. Just remember with anything you want to tackle, the right mindset and taking things one step at a time really go a long way towards successfully making things happen!
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