July 1, 2009

Buy Nothing New mid-year report

Yesterday I realized that I'm exactly halfway through my year of following The Compact. As I looked at a couple of my first posts, I couldn't believe how differently things have gone from what I expected when I embarked upon this journey. The woman who set off on a panicked shopping spree for the perfect pair of jeans hardly seems like the same person. But then again, I believe all of us embody contradictions and try on many different selves in one lifetime, and sometimes in one day. Time to cue up the song "I'm Every Woman."

It's true a girl's gotta have her jeans. But mainly I notice that I was sort of digging in for the deprivation, and looking forward to a challenge. I was definitely more focused on what I'd be giving up than on what I'd be gaining from my experience. And that's been my favorite discovery so far: that I've gained so much that I never even knew I wanted.

So here's a partial list of things I've done/what's changed in my first six months:

I've not been to a mall. Don't get me wrong: I was a big catalog shopper, so I probably only went to a mall 3 or 4 times a year, but I haven't been even once in the last six months. I DO NOT miss that.

I've started line-drying the laundry. This is much easier than I thought it would be, and it makes me feel good about our energy usage. As a bonus, my husband bought a new energy efficient washer and dryer so when we DO use the dryer, I don't have to feel terrible about how much energy we're wasting.

I've started making my own granola. It's easy, delicious, and smells heavenly while it's baking. I used to spend $7.50 every few weeks for my favorite brand. I now like my own brand better. Perhaps I should market it?

Also started making my own mayo. I never would have believed this would happen. Again, it's so easy, tastes better, and most importantly, is much healthier than whatever they put in the commercial stuff.

We've started receiving a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) delivery. I didn't even know what that was back in January, and I've never been good about getting to a Farmer's Market. It feels great to know we're eating healthier food and supporting the local farmers. The food tastes delicious and I'm becoming a better cook. And my husband is eating more fruit and vegetables.

We're receiving fewer catalogs. I had become a big catalog junkie, so not only were we getting a lot of catalogs, I spent a lot of time looking through them, wanting the items I saw, ordering from them, setting them aside to order from later, and returning half of what I'd ordered. I'm probably saving a couple of hours every week just from giving up the catalog habit.

I've been making handmade cards. I love to make them from color copies of old photos. My dad made a point of telling me how much he loved his Father's Day card and how much better it was than a store-bought card.

I've decluttered a few closets and rooms of the house. This one is definitely a work-in-progress, but the best part is that I'm on the lookout that nothing coming in turn into next year's clutter. I'm not buying anything new, but any gifts or anything that comes into the house must go through a screening process so that it doesn't get stuck in a box or a closet, to be gone through in another few years. My biggest decluttering success so far is when I sold my girlhood saddle for $200(!).

I've started an herb garden, and planted two tomato plants and a lemon tree. It's so much fun to have our own herbs (the garden was given to me as a gift), and to look forward to tomatoes and lemons in the future.

I've started paying attention to our food waste. We're throwing away much less food, which is good for the environment and saves money to boot.

I've had an article published in The Simple Living Network newsletter, and another one coming out this month. Writing is one of my passions so this has been a fabulous bonus.

I've found a network of like-minded people for inspiration and support from the Compact yahoo group and simple living blogs. This is probably my favorite unintended consequence of joining The Compact. I thought it would be fun to track my progress by writing a blog, but I never knew how fun it would be to share ideas with so many people. It's the perfect home for an information junkie/conversationalist/type A person like myself.

Those are just a few of the things that have changed, and I've been very lucky to have such a supportive husband. Over the next six months, I'm going to start composting, give up commercial cleansers, and hopefully do a lot more decluttering. But I'm looking forward to the things I'm NOT planning or expecting most of all.

Of course, I have had a few slip-ups (all confessed to on this blog!), and we're still using too many paper towels, and my showers are still way too long. But I'm sticking with my baby steps motto, because so far it's been working pretty well.

What about you? Are you on a simple living journey? Please share your wins, setbacks, questions and unexpected bonuses in the Comments section.


Kelly said...

Hi Angela,
If you are looking to compost, I followed the guidelines in a post by The Frugal Girl. She also links to another post with instructions. In fact, it was a random google search a few weeks ago for how to compost that led me to her blog, then yours, and several others. Now I am obsessed and check in every few days. Thanks for keeping simple living top of mind.

Angela said...

Kelly- Thanks! I am actually doing a post tomorrow about composting, and The Frugal Girl's instructions are going to be one of the first places I start. Her system looks very easy and realistic to me- I don't want to get intimidated, and I'm mainly interested in keeping the rotten food out of the landfill. So glad you found my blog!

calimama @ compactbydesign said...

Angela, congratulations on doing so much in such a short period of time!

I think it's the unexpected journeys in life that make the trip worthwhile. Keep up the great work as it's obviously been working for you and is an inspiration to many others - myself included!

Jill said...

Hey that's so great, Angela - you have made some incredible changes! It's not easy to make many of these changes in today's world - the urge to spend is everywhere. I struggle, as you know, with my boys always trying to keep up with everyone else. I love that we can use these occasions as learning opportunities, but in reality, it just isn't that simple. Anyhow - what have I done recently to make a change? I switched from ecologically safe dishwashing soap to plain old castile soap and lavender oil. I love how it feels on my hands, and the smell is out of this world (I happen to be in love with lavender).

Betsy Talbot said...

Angela, what a great experience! As we continue to downsize and declutter our lives (cable TV was the latest casualty), I've been amazed at what has happened.

We started doing this to get used to the idea of living with less while we traveled, but it has actually opened us up to so much MORE. We talk more, spend more time together, and notice things we didn't before.

We aren't following the Compact, but we have made some significant changes in our lives and I recommend anyone to try it - even for a month - to see the benefit.

And you don't have to be a "socks-n-sandals, granola-eating hippie" (my brother's definition) to appreciate this. I still function as a normal person in society even without brand-new clothes and shopping trips with my friends. No one even notices!

And YAY for no shopping mall trips!

Non Consumer Girl said...

Hi Angela,
Wow - you have achieved so much in 6 months!
All of these things make a huge difference.
As you mentioned in an earlier post, it is not so much about deprivation, but abundance that you are finding in your changed lifestyle.
Great work!

WilliamB said...

You can take away my long hot showers when you drag them from my cold, dead hands! (But I'm still saving the water that runs while I'm waiting for the water to get hot.)

Do you eat yogurt? Making your own is super easy, even easier than composting.

Angela said...

Thanks everyone for your support and encouragement- the interaction is what keeps me writing. I love to get comments.

William B.- I DID try making yogurt a few weeks back. I didn't like it, but my neighbor ate it all and said it was good. I think I'm very picky about plain yogurt- I never ate it until a few years ago when I found one at Trader Joe's I love. It's probably made from pure cream- I don't even want to know... I might try making yogurt one more time. Do you have any easy method?

Nick said...

For you internal debate over that new clothes washing machine, be sure to look at the big picture. The new front-loading horizontal drum washing machines not only use less water, they then spin the clothes SO FAST that they come out almost dry!

Then just put those 'almost dry clothes' on a wooden clothes drying rack like this one that is set up under a ceiling fan and you will have saved a ton of energy by not using the clothes dryer at all.