not a to-do list.
~Erica Neal (a lovely read)
Living is a creative process
not a to-do list.
~Erica Neal (a lovely read)
Finding satisfaction is probably one of my main topics around here. I'm sorry if it is repetitive...I just haven't mastered it yet. Satisfaction...that feeling of enough-ness...it is so elusive for me. Sometimes I grasp it...but then like sand through my fingers...it can be hard to hold on to!
I do think I'm getting better though. Planning + noticing "enough" are habits which I am trying to be conscious of + to cultivate. We could call this "satisfaction training".
I've spent plenty of years doing the exact opposite. I didn't mean to...and that's probably the problem. I unknowingly enrolled myself in "wanty training". Strolling the shops, just for fun...perusing magazines, just for inspiration...pinning images on pinterest, just for later...cruising instagram, just to keep up. It's all just wanty training. I'm pretty wanty buff.
In years past, when I saw shopping as the best entertainment, I'd just always be on the lookout for something cute. I never really stopped shopping. If shopping is entertainment, it is always better when a purchase is involved. We all know about the high that comes from purchasing...but what about the remorse + guilt that come slightly after that? I know all about that too. Now that I'm in satisfaction training, however, it usually feels better to come home empty handed...for real! I know that I already have enough...+ frankly, more would often just feel like too much. Yuck.
In my wardrobe, I find one of the habits that helps me glimpse satisfaction is to decide when the time for shopping is over. The process I employ in order to reach this point involves:
-choosing to have less (so important!!)
-organizing seasons (warm, cold, + transition, for me)
-assessing what worked + didn't work at the end of each season
-revisiting that assessment at the beginning of the next corresponding season + reassessing what is left to work with
-making a list of items to look for
-thrifting, sewing, + browsing
-calling it good (i.e. enough...satisfaction)...shopping break!
That last one is truly the key. Looking at the season's pieces altogether and deciding that I have enough...that is the point at which I can take a huge, deep breath + let it go. No more buying necessary. I have enough!!! (my mind can scream triumphantly!) What liberation! What glorious freedom!
In our diet we address enough by plating food first rather than eating "family style" (with serving bowls/platters heaped with sides + main dishes). This allows us to see that our plates contain enough, before we start eating. It also allows us to savor what we have instead of gulping it down in order to beat others to second helpings. Sweets are my weakness...so I'm still training in that category. Setting some guidelines about what + how often is enough...+ sticking to that works well...when I stick to that. :)
In our home, the feeling of enough might result from something along these lines: last Saturday I rearranged our living room furniture...and then dusted + rearranged the bookshelf bits. I like it. Then why do I immediately wonder what I could add or substitute to make things better? Why am I always searching for better? Yikes!
Today, (admittedly, after cruising my pinterest board + a couple home websites) I looked around. I took in each piece...the vintage butterfly chair that I've always wanted...the carmelly leather of Mr. Tribe's chair...the vintage woven stools that I scored on craigslist...the couch that I love. And I caught that fleeting glimpse of satisfaction. My living room is good! It is not perfect, but it is so, so good!
I wanted to write it here...put it into words...think it through...recognize it...+ name it...enough! I wish I knew that these feelings were mine to keep forever...that they would never leave...but I'm in training...and that's OK. I'm getting stronger all the time.
Summer satisfaction actions:
-no more clothes (except the ones that I've planned + already have materials to make)
-no more home stuff
-ice cream...just not every day :)
-notice, name, + revel in enough
Sunday lunch around here needs to be quick, nutritious, zero-waste, + delicious. We come home from church hungry + during the school year need to scoot off to symphony practice. Some of our go-to's are refrigerator oats or banana bread made in the morning before church...or this meal that can be whipped up quickly when we get home.
This weekend, on Saturday, we bought a couple of bulk rolls at the grocery store (keeping them fresh by putting them + the cloth bag we bought them in into a reused plastic bag and leaving them on the counter). I took a jar of chickpeas out of the freezer that evening. When we got home from church on Sunday, Julia popped out to the garden to cut some chives + pick some snap peas, while I blended the hummus + cut up the other vegetables.
This is a tasty, satisfying meal that could work as a quick (or portable) meal any day of the week. Substitute whatever is in season or in the fridge (I love in-season apples with hummus). Road trip...picnic...packed lunch...yum. :)
No matter how much I try not to waste edible food, I always end up with some food scraps...orange peels, coffee grounds, potato eyes, + radish tops. When food waste ends up in the landfill, it will be dumped into enormous plastic bags along with all of the other waste. It is sealed and doesn't really disintegrate. The organic matter that does decompose in this oxygen deprived environment gives off methane gas which contributes to climate change.
The miracle of composting is that what goes in as waste comes out as fertile soil that will nourish new crops of food! I never get over how amazing a design that is. Anyone who grows anything will know (or can learn) what an enormous difference compost makes to the growth of those plants.
There are lots of ways to compost. I've offered a more detailed look at how we compost in our backyard here. All it took was a few discarded pallets + some wire. We simply collect our compost + dump it on the pile about once a week. A scoop of dry leaves is added + it all gets stirred around about once a month. These last steps keep the pile oxygenated + ensure a decreased level of methane release.
A less conspicuous backyard composter could involve this pot or this cone. I don't think that purchasing worms is really necessary (they will inevitably find your outdoor heap), but this little worm composter is pretty cute + might be just the thing for an apartment balcony.
If home composting is not your thing, search for spots to add your compost to someone else's heap. Many farmer's markets offer a spot to contribute compost. A farm in our city welcomes compost drop-off. Our Whole Foods Market also collects compost in their cafe section, so we often take compostable bits there that we would rather not add to our smaller heap.
So what can be composted?
-peels, tops, leaves, pits, shells
-spent plants (not weeds)
-food soiled paper
-finger nails + hair
-grass clippings, twigs
-dryer lint (if only natural fibers are dried)
-vacuum lint (again...no plastic bits)
-fruits + vegetables
-yarn, twine, natural fibers
Paper + cardboard + natural fiber (cotton, linen, wool, silk, hemp) can be composted, but...my practice is that if something can be recycled, I will do that rather than composting. I try to avoid having things to recycle (because it takes resources like power + water + often more virgin material to make something new out of the used)...but if I end up with something that can save virgin resources, I will recycle it. (Fabric can be recycled into things like insulation + carpet padding by taking it to Goodwill. Some brands are now recycling cotton into new tees.)
What not to compost:
-yard waste that contains pesticide
These items will attract pests or contain harmful substances that we would not want in our soil.
That's it. Not a big deal in terms of getting it done (once we figure out how to do it + make it a habit)...a big deal in terms of the environment!
This morning, while getting ready, I realized that I'm not really using a lot of the things in my bathroom drawer during the summer months. It reminded me of my closet and the winter pieces that get tucked away for a while. I decided to think through what I'm really using right now along with my preferences.
I realize that this type of post is totally subjective...each of us has our own needs + preferences and different skin + hair types. As with most things that show up in this space, I just write about what we do...with a thought toward the possibility that it may inspire someone else to take a closer look at their own practices. As individuals, we often feel like we have to do something because that is the way it is done. I think it's important to challenge those ideas + to think through whether we want to be a part of the have-to's...or whether we want to be part of the alternative. Anyway...
Here's what I'm doing right now:
Prep for the day ::
-deodorant (that weirdly shaped white thing up there) :)
-brush teeth with bamboo toothbrush + Tom's toothpaste
-let hair air dry
-put it up into topknot with hairbands x2 + bobby pins x2
-tiny bit of hairspray
-wash face with bulk soap
-brush teeth with bamboo toothbrush + Tom's
-cut my own hair
Summer changes ::
-Finally figured out the deodorant thing + am using the crystal deodorant year round! Up until now, I've used the crystal on all except the hottest days. I think the breakthrough smell I experienced was probably due to the use of antiperspirant the preceding day(s). Now as long as I put the crystal on before I start to sweat and don't deviate, it works. Trust...that's the key! :) Mine is still this one...I've had it for years. Next time I'll buy one that doesn't come in a plastic container.
-I'm not wearing make-up because my morning walk gives me a tiny bit of color + I like a fresh face best.
-Heat + humidity + all the water I drink allows my own oils to negate the need for moisturizer during the summer months.
I know that there are still some not quite zero-waste items involved here. I've addressed these before, but again...
-Contitioner- I've tried the bulk ones + they do not work for my fine/thin hair. The container of mine is made from recycled plastic. I try to make this last + recycle the container.
-Preserve razor- The handle is made from recycled plastic + I can recycle it when it dies. I only replace the head about once every 12-18 months.
-Tom's toothpaste- We've had a few dental issues + I'm not totally confident about letting go of toothpaste. Those toothpaste tubes plague my conscience though...so I'm going to get the nerve to ask my very picky hygienist for her thoughts on baking soda only at my next appointment...promise.
-Hairspray- I try to use as little as possible so it lasts + lasts...and then I recycle the bottle. I tried the lemon juice recipe, but it did not work for me.
Now I'm off to clean that drawer + put back only the summer necessities. It feels lighter.
Clothing used to be so prized that it would be stolen right off dead bodies. The soldiers crucifying Jesus cast lots for His clothes...not because it was deemed holy, but because it was cloth.
In the book Farmer Boy, Laura Ingalls Wilder writes of Almanzo's mother weaving cloth for a suit of clothing she would sew. The Wilders struck me as decidedly more wealthy than the Ingalls, because the Wilders were able to own that weaving device. Imagine how prized that suit would be, for the one who wore it would surely know of the time and effort it took to keep the sheep alive, shear them, comb and clean the wool, spin it into fiber, weave it into cloth, and sew it into the garment that fit and kept the body warm.
Fabric no longer holds such value in our minds, but maybe it should. Cotton is a thirsty crop. Tencel, rayon, and viscose require trees. Polyester guzzles oil. Fabric ends up in the landfill by the ton...because we can always get more...right? But new materials need to be mined, clearcut, planted, watered and harvested constantly. Each of these endeavors not only requires natural resources, but creates pollution through manufacturing, dying, transport, and disposal.
While focusing on sewing additions to my fair wardrobe this year, it's been interesting to note how much clothing can be made out of what I already have. Clockwise from top left: A seldom worn top that I loved too much to let go became a top that I wear once a week now (another Bantam). Scraps leftover from other projects, a worn garment + a worn tea towel became a little jacket. A cover for our fireplace became a pair of pajamas. Two existing garments + the scraps left over from their making became a new jacket.
Scraps leftover from previous projects or worn garments could be used to purposefully sew a well put together top or dress. Sewing meets zero-waste. Obviously, this is not a new principle...people have been creating clothing + quilts out of their scraps + used cloth for probably all of time. I'm simply rediscovering this save-it-from-the-landfill...and maybe even the thrift store (where they often are not sold)...way of thinking. It's been interesting to reinvent pieces of fabric whose previous shapes no longer appeal.
Once pieces in the wardrobe or linen closet are past their presentable or desirable state...reinvent them. They might end up becoming part of a whole new favorite!
Since we've been at this zero-waste thing for a few years, a lot of our practices have become second nature. I love that! It just becomes what we do. This knowledge encourages me to always be searching for the next practice to add.
I fully understand, as well, that taking the first steps can seem quite daunting. So I thought I'd try to highlight a few everyday practices here...for beginners...or as reminders to those of us who sometimes forget...or want to take the next step. Because, sometimes I stop and notice that I've started doing something again that I thought I'd overcome. Sometimes a habit just creeps back in, without my notice.
So here are some little practices that can make a huge collective difference! Please feel free to make suggestions or ask questions along the way! We're all in this together (as high school musical would say...or sing)! :)
#01 :: Let's eat the food we buy...even those flabby carrots. Wash them, (no need to peel them), cut off the ends, slice, + add to soups or stir fry. Roast them along with some other root vegetables. This applies to most vegetables.
Add overripe fruit to smoothies.
Stick brown bananas in the freezer + blend them later into banana ice-cream or banana bread.
Toast bread ends or dried out bits in the oven to make bruschetta, croutons, or breadcrumbs.
Make a big batch of iced-tea with that not-favorite tea. Add lemon, honey, +/or mint.
Cold brew that not-favorite coffee + mix with lots of ice + milk.
Don't buy more of something until the other one is used up.
Take a look into the cupboards and pull out all the things that need to be used up. Make some cookies and add all the last bits of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit...or combine them and add them to your granola in the mornings. Plan some meals around using up the last bits of things...and maybe make a note not to replace the things that are hard to use up.
If food really goes bad...compost, if possible. Reconsider the necessity of repurchasing.
Obviously buying only what we will eat is the front end necessity here. A menu coordinated shopping list helps me so much in this area. Having everything where I will see it helps as well. It's hard to remember to use something hidden behind eight half-used bottles of dressing. :)
What are your tricks for using up overlooked food?
My current stack includes ::
The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning (love)
The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier (thank you, Julie!)
Sunday Suppers by Karen Mordechai
Space Works by C. Clifton-Mogg, J. Simmons, R. Tanqueray, R. Winward
Come then, my beloved,
my lovely one, come.
For see, winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.
Flowers are appearing on the earth
the season of glad songs has come,
The cooing of the turtledove
is heard in our land.
The fig tree is forming its first figs
and the blossoming vines give out
Come then, my beloved,
my lovely one, come.
Song of Solomon 2:10-13
on a journey toward zero-waste, simplicity, + compassion :: daring to choose fair one choice at a time