Friday, November 9, 2012

Using What We Have : Renewing with Paint

I have been wanting to change things up in our family room.  There are toys everywhere still, even after purging the toy closet.  The kids need places to put things away to.  I also wanted the room to be a place of inspiration, somewhere they would want to play.  We looked into purchasing some organizing units over a period of several years, but they were not quite what we wanted and pricey.

I finally realized that I already had the unit that I wanted.  However, it was currently in use in the basement.  It had been 'temporarily' placed there when we moved in. "Just until we found the time to repaint it and place it", in the meantime it housed all of my old college texts and binders, children's books, adult books and magazines, emergency water, extra juice, Candles, LOTS of household cleaners,

We removed everything, weeding a good 100 magazines, 50 books, and other sundries from the shelves and getting them out of our house, mostly they found new homes, some old notes were recycled.  We moved all the cleaners to another locked cabinet, and the soaps went to another shelving unit.

Finally, we were able to move the unit outside for painting.  First we primed, then we painted.  So happy to have some bright white shelves for displaying our children's creations, we quickly moved them into the family room.   Only, we found they made the rest of the room look tired and dingy.  so we took them back out and proceeded to paint the previously yellow room white.  All was well, we were using Low VOC Glidden.  Then we ran out of paint, 2 of the 4 walls still needed one more coat, so we went and bought some more paint.  All was well, until we woke the next morning.  The 2 walls we used the new can of paint on were all 'droopy' it was terrible.  Turns out Glidden just switched to NO VOC paint, great for the Earth, but something was obviously wrong with this particular can.  We brought it back, but they did not come sand down our walls for us :(

It has taken 2 weeks, but the room is finally repainted, we fixed most of the damage.  But upon re-installing the shelving we found the primer had not properly adhered :(  it was coming of in large peels!!!
So we are scraping the new paint off.  We will have to sand down the old paint, super hardy paint!!  it has been on there for 50 years! and in decent shape except for the the fact that is a VERY yellowed cream color.  Even after scraping off the new paint it still looked great.  My husband was lamenting that we could not obtain a similiar paint in white.  Of course it was all the VOC's in the old paint that made it hold up so well.

In some ways it makes me wonder, if we looked at the true cost of producing and disposing of paint, containers, brushes, all of the transportation and energy involved in its production, would it be better to used the harsher chemicals and paint something every 50 years?  Or reduce VOC's and paint it every 2 years?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Does This Make Life Simpler??

Or Do I really need this?

For Halloween my mother gave me this kitchen gadget!  Yay something new to try, and i was very intrigued, until I opened it and saw how many pieces there were.  And i thought, "wait, what is wrong with the shell it came in?"

I had never seen (or maybe just did not notice them...). But have seen them in the 3 stores i have been in since!  Guess everybody needs them.

The idea is that you 'simply' crack the egg into the Eggies and then boil that, so that you don't have to peel of the egg shell.  BUT. You have 4 parts per egg boiled to clean!  The set comes with enough to boil 6 'eggs'

Their saving grace is that they are top rack dishwasher safe.  Thing is that I wish i just had two top racks!  So I cannot use them tonight after all,  but will have to see if i am still in the mood to hard boil eggs tomorrow.  Then i have to see if i have a place to store one more setof kitchen gadgets!!!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Simply Reducing versus Minimalism

I have always been inspired by those who were blogging about becoming minimalist   At the same time though I have always been leary of them.  I found myself wondering if they were really minimalists, or even truly headed there. I always found myself pondering the task, and while I was inspired, not sure that it was a destination I was willing to arrive at.

I have continued to try to work towards reducing the stuff around me.  Hoping to log my efforts I started this blog.  When I found that it is really just a journal for me, as no one else can find it to view, my ambition dwindled to just a few posts now and again.

In purging my emails i came across a reference to a blog I have been inspired by from time to time.  I was at first dissappointed to see this post  I was afraid she was just going to discontinue happens... Instead she discusses her choice to continue writing The Minimalist Mom though consenting that perhaps she is not truly a minimalist, rather a minimizer.  

She also refers to other co-bloggers who have abandoned their minimalist blogs/websites and started up new ones that center on .....simplification!  So, guess I was ahead of the curve there, but I really should have grabbed the Simplify website instead of starting a blog, then maybe these people would have been reading my thoughts.  On the flip side, i can enjoy reading theirs :)

Monday, August 27, 2012


Well we took some time off, and spent a bit of it away from the house since April.  I suppose that is one way to deal with it....though its a slap in the face when  you get back.  We need a house elf.

We have made some changes that are good.  And while we have brought some new items into the house, not as many as in the past.  we used to go away and come back with loads of stuff, that often hung around unused, would finally be put 'somewhere'.  Generally nothing left when something came in, so there is the accumulation.

 At Disney this spring we did succumb to some trinkets.  Of course having spent so much on that trip it was easier not to be tempted to overbuy (spend). As our biggest 'souvenir' this summer we brought home shower curtain rods! Yup, that is right. The rods are great, we got a great deal, and they are super useful.  They are curved to give is more space in the shower.  It really was like getting a new bathroom.  The feel is that different (of course we had repainted them in the spring).

We did get rid of lots of incidentals along our way.  i.e. outgrown and worn out shoes, sandals and bathing suits.  We also cleaned out the camper a bit. And tossed some stuff to make more room, which when there are 5 people sharing less than 240 sq.ft.  you have to wander why we would have ANYthing that we don't NEED.  like the old mattress pad that was used for moving stuff.  I have no idea why it was in there, but we chucked it, as it was in rough shape and not donatable.  I went to our attic over the summer and found a 30 gallon bin on old moving blankets.  They have been there for 6 years, since we moved in.

The line must be drawn somewhere.  And even that 1 it worth the space in my mind and garage?  IF my house were perfectly clean and i had a place for everything, then the bin of moving blankets would not bother me.  But as i am struggling every day that i am here to organize, does it make sense?  could i chuck them-or donate to a shelter?  then move something that i am more attached to up there?  what about all of the stuff that i have already decided needs to go but am waiting for a tag sale, and consignment sale?  is it worth it?  and all of the boxes that i am keeping for warranty (or the lego boxes that i keeping for my son?

So much more to contemplate on this journey.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Responsible Purging: Recycle, Reduce, Reuse, Refuse

I really, really want to pare down the house.  Would love to live in a minimalist house- at least my fantasy-self thinks she would.  I wonder, from past experience, would I sabotage?  Would the space I see in magazines and have at hotels leave me feeling empty.  In the past I have filled it back up - with different stuff.  At least it was newer stuff that I can say better suited my current self, but what of all of the stuff that has finally been displaced?

Here is where I am trying to go with this post, really.  I see the blogs and videos of decluttering, where so much is thrown in the trash.  I understand that you should not donate or give away trash.  But so often that is not the case, rather it is just the easiest, quickest answer.  I know some people have truly hoarded actual trash, and there is no place for that but the skip.  For many it is not trash, we just keep to much 'good' stuff.  Perfectly good, usable stuff.  That is the reason we kept it right?!

When we finally see the light, while it may be easiest to throw it in a landfill, where those resources are lost for eons perhaps.  I feel it is my penance for collecting it in the first place to find it a proper home, where it can actually be used!  While I don't need 50 towels,  someone else may have actual need for some of towels I am no longer housing. And even if those towels are shabby, they can be used by an animal shelter!

Be Responsible, allow for the reuse of things you no longer need.  Not only will you directly help those who receive your discarded items, but the entire planet (really, I know it sounds cheesy, but it's true!!!) will benefit from your generosity.  Remember, if it is not worth selling but still in good condition, donate it.  I just keep a   bag hanging just inside the door in the garage, so I can quickly grab an item as I find them and toss them in as I go.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Consumerism Capitalizes on Children's Desire for Productive Play

Boondoggle (project), term for a scheme that wastes time and money
And for sharing.  I just learned about the word Boondoggle!  A good word to describe unnecessary, wasteful, or fraudulant projects.  Boy sounds like a word that could often be applied tot the work that my children bring home.  The Scouts make what they call Boon Doggles  out of gimp, plastic cord, and this is an exceptional example of such work.  It is a braided piece, without much use, except decoration if you are 'into' 'that look'.  The take many, many hours to braid, and somehow it holds their attention.  My daughter has finished hers after about six months of hours of work off and on.  Now, what to do with it!  That is just it... there is NOTHING to do with it!  More Waste, to landfill.

I would really like to work with the children on making better use of their time.  I see great value in their play.  But consumerism has capitalized on children's natural inclination to be 'productiv'/  Children want to produce things and have meaningful work.  It is a conundrum.  There are oodles of 'kits' for children at the stores.  Often thse can be easily given as a gift, and the child will enjy the independence of doing this prepackaged wore.  However, should we be teaching our children that these projects are meaningful work?

Now I am sure that there are instances where these kits are spot on for certain situations.  We have not found that to be so for us.  For instance, my daughter recieved a kit for making a hanging decoration, and it was not cheap inexpensive.  When complete, after an hour or two of time,  it was some shiny silver paper with her name on it, linked together with some plastic clips...perhaps we could hang it over her the end she voted it to the landfill...

Now, she did have fun making it.  But then it was wasteful, and I could tell it bothered her to dispose of it.  She did not want it, but it was her work, a gift from a friend, and she has an awareness that trash does not just disappear.  We have always pointed that out to the children. Every time we pass the landfill, we remind them.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Recycling Crayola Markers

I am working on getting a LOT of stuff gone through in hopes of making a serious dent in the quantity of stuff in our house.  While working on an ongoing project, during which I found several boxes of unopened Crayola Markers.  We have a great marker holder from Lake and Shore and we love it,  I think we are outgrowing it.

Will joyfully refilling it I began to muse at how wasteful markers are  :(  They always go in the trash, so we will be using up our stash, and buying no more.  After all I biked 6 miles with a backpack full of glass jars so that i would not need to use packaging to buy bulk foods at our local Whole Foods...

The used up markers sat on the counter while I procrastinated on throwing them in the trash, feeling guilty.  I decided to just check Crayola's website.  Guess what!?  They are #5 recycles!!!  This is not that recyclable, but it is recyclable in most communities.  There is a disclaimer here though, the nibs and ink reservoirs are not recyclable, so they would have to be removed first.  Crayola suggests recycling the caps, but has a disclaimer as to removing the nib and reservoir--please use this link to view the full disclosure and discussion.  Reader assumes all liabilities for their choices and actions.

I used the needle nose pliers to remove the nib, took about 2 seconds and then those did not open enough to get around that nub at the other end.  I grabbed the wire cutters and just used those to grab that nub and pull it out.  I was then able to take a pencil and poke the reservoir out of the tube. Please do this at your own discretion, reader must use his own judgement  before trying, and note that as Crayola warns,  you should probably just put it in the land fill.  I am only saying this is what I did and will do with the  rest of the markers we have left.  Oh, and don't let the kids find the reservoirs  ;)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Here Have Some STUFF

I can see stuff everywhere in yet don't know which direction to go.  On those days I tried to just pick just 1 thing. 1 thing to do. 1 thing to organize. Or 1 thing to get rid of. yesterday was one on those days. I picked 1 thing to get rid of for starters. I sometimes write things down at night but it's too late for me actually do them, but I wanna make sure that I don't forget. On a day when I'm stuck, I can consult my little notebook and choose 1 simple thing to do.

 I also like to list crazy big projects that probably won't get done, but well, I guess it's another form of purging, I'm purging my mind .

 So, a quick check of the book, and I see a good idea to get rid of an extra waffle iron. "No", you're thinking, "how do you have an extra waffle iron?"  Well, I had 1 for the house and 1 for our camper. For a long time the 1 the camper got so much use it was amazing,  as well as the 1 in the house .  Then we bought a griddle. The griddle was so handy, we used it all the time, so instead of making waffles we found ourself making pancakes and the little waffle iron never came out.  Somewhere along the way, we completely forgot about the waffle iron. That is until I was considering this whole minimalist thing, in racking my brain for easy things to get rid of I remembered this now unused item.

 I have a friend who to taught me how to make almond flour waffles, as I am trying to reduce the amount of wheat I am eating. Today she came to visit, and I happen to mention "do you need a waffle iron?".  She replied that indeed she did, she felt that hers was on its way out. And so that was 1 item released from my stuff, and a gift to a worthy friend!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Reducing my Stash

I have a LOT of material for sewing.  Too much. So I slated some to leave and then decided not to because it was too much to decide.  Then very suddenly decided to just pull a 'good amount' off of the shelves.  About 17 bolts of fabric left.

Funny the shelves are still full looking.  Obviously there has to be more space there than before...
I don't think I will miss it.  Wonder how many pounds that was? A Lot, my husband was a dear and carried it all for (for the second time, the first being into the house).  I hope it all finds a use.  I often wonder how much of the stuff i give to others who want it just ends up in a landfill eventually.  Well, I have done my best, I was a good steward, kept it in good usable condition and passed it on.

Here is a major plus, I had about 25 requests for my 2 gallons of ceiling paint after posting it on Freecycle!  But coordinating a pick up was amazingly difficult, with people asking me to drive 45 minutes to drop it off?!  Well when the woman came for the cloth I offered it up as an extra freebie and she snapped it up for her brother.  Once something is slated to go, I just hate having it hang around.

Things they purged from the drawer to 
make it easier to access 
While making lunch the children were asked to review their tableware drawer.  The necessity of this drawer is waning.  It was the one where we kept non-breakable dishes for the kids to open and play with when they were toddlers.  We do still have the occasional toddler in the house, but I don't think that merits a whole drawer in the prime real estate area.  The kids however, are sort of possessive of the space.  It is easier for them and their friend to get to this than it is to get to the cabinets, which they have to drag a stool over for.  .

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Composting Slippers : Shoe Clean Out

Shoe Cubbies after Reducing
We had too many shoes by the door!  An understatement, considering my dh built me a shoe cubby with 5 slots for each of us.  Once again I forgot to take a before picture.

We found 4 pairs of summer shoes, that we put in a bin in the closet.  Then we found 1 pair of boots with a busted zipper, they were pretty used looking, so while they were probably repairable, but I do not have the funds to repair, and they were on the cusp of being outgrown.  If I had donated them they would throw them away.  So with some angst I did dispose of them.  I thought of offering on freecycle, however, it is unlikely that someone would be willing to put the $ into having them repaired.  I have tried selling new, unworn children's Ecco shoes for $15 and had no luck!  I would snap them up if I had a child that size, but people around here must feel that it is too much, and people willing to pay for quality just buy them new for $80 I guess. Also, I am in the process of trying to give away 2 gallons of good ceiling paint.  I have had at least 10 inquiries, but the pick up coordination is truly discouraging.

These are the shoes that left, except the Mary Janes, they were repaired
I repaired two of the pairs of shoes my older daughter outgrew so my younger can wear them.  The Wool slippers are from the wool of local sheep.  I had spun it into yarn and used Kool-Aid to dye it.  My son had worn a hole in the toe.  My daughter asked me to repair for her, but she has 3 pairs of usable slippers.  So I chose to compost these!!!

The little Ecco hiking boots will hopefully find some happy feet to take hiking.  My husband asked how I made it look so tidy!  My take-away from this is that I intend to buy no more slippers with plastic soles, I intend to make them compostable, wool slippers each year for Christmas.

Now if only I could find a place to recycle the incandescent bulbs that were here when we bought the house and are suddenly burning out all together.  It seems that locally I can only recycle the CFLs.  We are changing over to CFLs as the old ones burn out, and these can be recycled at Lowe's, Target, Home Depot, or Whole Foods, etc.

If you are trying to locate a place to recycle locally Earth911 is a great place to start.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Purging Kitchen Utensil Drawer

Utensils before
So I was browsing my posts this morning, and had a thought about my Making Space! post.  I realized that the project was started due to the utensil drawer being jam packed, yet I only removed the one slider press from the drawer.  I have admit, that did the trick.  I have been able to use the drawer without an real issues, it now shuts.

It occurs to me in reflection, a definite bonus of keeping this blog, that the drawer could stand a good going-through.  As I sit thinking of it though, I am telling myself that everything else belongs there.  And that I do use it all...sort of.  Even the cork screw, there is a story there.

We have disposed of at least 3 cork screws in our married life.  We would be doing a clean-out and be on a roll, then we come across the corkscrew and say "oh, that can be donated!"  Then a month down the road, someone would bring a bottle of wine to dinner, or we would come up with some other utilitarian use for a corkscrew.  Now, life has always provided a means, and we have been able to procure a new corkscrew. There was no need to feel regret over the decision to let go of it.  Yet, I feel like buying the new corkscrew is wasteful, and inconvenient.

It is this sort of situation that leaves one feeling like we should just hold onto anything that is useful, as we may need it one day.  Balancing seems to be the answer.  We need to balance the amount of things that we keep with the amount of space we have.  Karen Kingston states in one of her books that we need to believe that life will provide what we need...yet there are many starving people in our maybe these are just really words said, not believed--for valid reason!  Of course this is all the more reason to know that we do not need all the 'stuff', and to consider our real needs.

In balancing it is necessary to consider the priority of the space we have and the items we choose to keep.  If you won so many things that you cannot find them when you need them...Then you are wasting the space, and your time looking,  perhaps keeping them from going to a home where they will be used rather than that other person creating demand for another item from 'overseas', and in the end how many times have you replaced the item, just to then add it to the storage where the duplicate is already lost?

Coming back to the question at hand, the corkscrew.

  1. PRIORITY OF SPACE  the corkscrew is in the utensil drawer, prime real estate, for items that should be used everday--or at least weakly, at worst once a month.  The corkscrew fits none of those.  I think we have used it 2 times in the 6 years we have lived here.  And there are other things that we do use that belong here.  Having more space in the drawer would make access to used items much easier.
  2. PRIORITY OF ITEM:  it is used, but very infrequently.  If I were moving overseas I would not bring it, or even think of it.
  3. IS THERE AN ALTERNATIVE?:  While i have needed it, is there something else I could use, or even a duplicate?  Actually, while writing I have come up with the perfect solution.  We have a jackknife somewhere that has a corkscrew.  The plan is to write the task of finding the knife down, and not worry about it.  When I come across the knife, we will find it an appropriate home and donate our LAST corkscrew!  
 And now that I have worked this through I believe that I will be able to apply it to other items that cross my path, at least I hope so :)  And maybe that jackknife (when i find it) will stand in for at least a few other things too!

I have now made a difference in the drawer although the picture does it no justice.  Look how you can actually see the bottom of the drawer!  Some utensils I had duplicates for.   Isn't the mouse grater fun,  I kept hem, but the smaller hand held grater and the turn-handle grater both left.  I kept the large hole grater, as we use it most often.  I love the idea of the hand-crank beaters, but they are so hard to use the kids really cannot do it, and neither can I.  Since i have the electric mixer, there is no need to keep an unused utensil for idealism!  This reminds me, i have an electric hand-mixer under the counter that i never use...

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Blogging Progress

So this blog is still not showing up on the google search :(  But it is still keeping me motivated, and slightly accountable.  I am having fun logging my progress.  Also, my husband (aka my only reader at this point) is actually reading the posts and staying interested!  This is seriously impressive.  After I had finished the first 8 posts he asked what i was reading, and I simply handed over the PC.  He read them all, commenting, 'good point" and "well-written"  and such here and there.  Of course, I thought he might just be doing it for my sake.  Obviously he knew it was my writing, right?!  Nope.
He got to the post about the quilt book project and was amazed someone else had done it.  Then he saw the picture of the quilt and told me after he thought I must have submitted the photo.  At this point I explained that it was my blog he was reading.

So he has been surprisingly supportive.  I thought he might think that I was wasting time that I should be using to get the house under control.  However, that does not mean he remembered to put bacon grease in the jar at first.  Nope, he wasted napkins...oh, well.  When we run out, I will not replace them.  Then as he is searching for napkins, I can hope that he will remember the jar and determine that to be the easier route.

Now, anyone for the scent of eucalyptus?  I was given the most beautiful jar of hand cream a while back.  I want the jar, but every time I or someone else uses it I get the worst headache.  I hate to waste it, and yet I really want to reuse the jar for a cream that I can use.  If I don't come up with a solution in a week, I am donating it jar and all.

Update: my husband has shared the blog with a coworker!

Weight Out

I thought that i had pulblished this a few days ago,  it went to draft, so this was done a few days ago :)
I sold a table!  My husband thinks I should keep track of all of the pounds of things leaving.  That was after he carried this mammoth table up from the kids play area so that i could sell it.  He made a good point, but I wouldn't even know how to weigh something that large!!

This table just attracted clutter.  The idea was for the kids to use it for their lego projects, thus keeping the Legos off of the floor.  Well they still preferred to play on the floor and the table just filled with clutter.  So out it goes, and we are happier with the space.

We also passed on stewardship of some Legos and a vintage Capsela-which was built once and then left in the closet.

Fast-forward to several days later.  We have an unexpected home day.  I am thrilled to have everyone together to make some changes.  Unfortunately we squander time doing many routine chores that very much need doing.  Suddenly, I remember a 'doable' project that I need them for, we will clean off the kids bookcases in their room.

First know that we do not play in the bedrooms, the primary function of this room is sleeping and secondary is dressing.  However we do have 2 bookcases in there, as reading is done before bed or at rest times.  The top of the bookcases are used to showcase 'special' items that cannot be left in the public areas of our home.  Of course I forgot the before photo, my apologies.  However, we have the photo of the bin of stuff and an after photo of the shelves!  The bin weighed 31 pounds!!!!!  That was 31 pounds of stuff that everyone was happy to have out :) 

Funny thing is, that while we thought we would remove a few things, we had no idea there was THAT much!  It didn't look too bad.  None of it has been missed.  The kids played for hours in there after, and I noticed a VERY different feel to the space, much more inviting. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

" Mommy, what do you do all day while we're at school?"My Day in Photos

Back in January as my kids were heading back to school after the break, they had asked me, "what do you do all day while we are at school?" Of course I sighed and told them, "I play with your toys all day!"

 Well, as I sent them off to school each day and dug into my daily task of digging out, I often thought of their question. I pondered,what did I do all day? How come, if I spend all of my time cleaning, it is never actually clean? I could tell that my husband also wondered. What does she do all day, of course there were things that he knew I did and that he was appreciative of. However, surely that must not take me ALL day. And! how come it is only fleetingly clean?

 I had already decided that indeed, there was too much. It was my resolution to figure out how to keep a clean house. My husband had long been saying it was a matter of too much stuff--although never really implementing a reduction effort. I had been working towards this goal of reducing and taking pictures to log my efforts--which were not immediately evident in looking at my surroundings. It was a way to make my work tangible after the stuff was gone, I could look at the pictures and say, "wow, I got rid of all that" even if the house was not in perfect order I had a record of my work. My husband kept poking fun at me with my pictures, when he would see me whip out my phone to take a picture of something I had decided to get rid of. He kept saying, "what are you going to do? write a blog? you should write a blog."

 After a particularly hairy night with the fam, I decided that I would not only take pictures of what was gotten rid of, but everything that I did! Of course this cut my efficiency way down. However, I was motivated to actually finish project. i.e. rather than putting some of the items on the counter away and then being distracted by the laundry , I finished the counter and washed it and took the photo. I then texted my husband with each accomplishment in real time. Ironically, I had done less actual work than an average day. Yet my husband kept texting back appreciative words of encouragement. When he arrived home, he was soooo impressed with all the work done.

 For the kids, I was just intending to sit down and show them the photos and tell them about what I did all day while they were at school. As I sat down for a glass of water and to check my e-mail before going out to the bus, I had the idea to make a slide show for them. The result is below. They thought it was great.

My Kind of Clutter and the ICE Age

If i had to categorize my kind of clutter, I would say it is of the 'I might need it one day variety.'  And you see I actually, almost convince myself that it is not really clutter, you've never heard this before....*drum roll here* is useful!!!!  Yup that is right, it is all good helpful stuff.

Pictures are helpful here for me.  I can snap a shot and then look at it as if it were a photo in a magazine.  Then let loose, and tell myself what I really see.  10 tubes of toothpaste.  Useful? yes....but it doesn't leave the space any less cluttered, especially sitting next to 10 new toothbrushes.
Now, and here is my excuse, my MIL is not very involved in our lives.  One thing she does do is make sure her son and grand children are clean!  If you can buy it at the drugstore, I am sure we have more than enough (we really do go through the toilet paper regularly--and THANK YOU! if ever she should find this blog, although I doubt that, as she she is not much for the internet and I can't find this blog when I google it with the exact phrases I have used to write it!)  At any rate, I hate to say "no" to anything she does do, because we are afraid that will be the last thing she ever does....but we are working on a way to let her know.

The other ironic thing is that a lot of the things she brings, we either use minimally or not at all, as they just don't fit our lifestyle.  In the meantime, I stash all of this perfectly good, useful stuff away. Because, say there is a natural disaster, and we cannot procure our usual supplies, these would all be swell!  Or we might have company in need.  And more than once I have told my husband, well we have the space, so what does it hurt to store it so that we don't have to spend money we don't have buying it at some future point...

only, I think we are running out of space.  AND I cannot keep things as orderly as I would like (isn't that well-put!?)

Sabretooth Crampon

By the way stop by my house if we hit the Ice Age, I have some crampons and Plastic boots--I have been down my dominant hand for 3.5 years now, so NO I have not been ice climbing or mountaineering lately, but I might need them one day, right?  Maybe this is "I didn't get enough use out of it" crap?  Or is it my two-handed fantasy junk?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Why the Clutter Out Box Works for Kids

We keep a little green plastic box under the kids art table.  The kids can throw any unused items in it at any time.  This works for them.

Yes, our Clutter Out Box is a Lego Bin!! so appropriate
Why It Works 
They don't have to ask where to put it or bring it to the garage, where I keep the outgoing items.  They know that if they put it in they never have to put it away again.  The item will sit there for a fair bit in case of any regrets either by themselves or by siblings.  This has not happened though, rather they have found that once an item is placed in the bin, they know they can live without it, and without even missing it.  It give me a chance to see what they decided to fling, in case it was an odd part to something of ours, or a toy set. 

 I also, sort items from the bin.  sometimes they don't want to throw away an art project, but no donation center would do anything but throw it away, and they don't need our trash.  Also, this gives me a chance to think on the waste we create, and have our children create.  I have been working toward not having the children spend their time, and our money, on projects that are just going to end up in the trash!  School is another thing....sooooo much waste.

As I am writing my daughter is sitting next to me working on a project kit she received for her birthday.  This is a better one.  she is making a headband-so it is something useful.  It looks to be of reasonable quality, and I think that it will be a useful item that will make her happy to know she made.  Still there is an awful lot of packing to dispose of.  Awareness is the first step.

  She is saying, "how do you type so fast, it clicks like every five seconds.  It is such a happy computer.  That computer is enjoying you."  Hmmm, interesting, the computer is happy to click?  Or is it happy because it has my attention?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Making Space!

I tackled another kitchen cabinet!  I went to get the cork screw this morning (to pull a rubber stopper from the cod liver oil)  and realized somehow our utensil drawer had become jam packed.  One look and I knew there were at least a few things that did not belong there.  Right on top was my husband's slider press.  Silly, yes, perhaps...he could use his hands to shape, and not this tool. BUT it makes him tremendously happy (just like the Legos my kids do not need), and he does use it frequently.  So for now it stays.  This is a process that everyone needs to be happy going through.

I figured i would just find it a new home, JUST?!  I could find no happy home.  Something had to go!  At first glance I saw nothing obvious to leave.  In fact, I thought I had done a pretty good job maintaining the kitchen stuff.  Not so.  I found this cabinet, and i set to work :)

I found a great Vitamix on vacation last year, and so the Osterizer has sat dormant ever since.  For Now--those fateful words, this will go to the camper and take the recently vacated place of the waffle maker.  We did really enjoy having smoothies while on vacation-they are simple, quick and nutritious.  Not sure if this one is up to the task, but if I am using it, and it drives me crazy I will be motivated to get rid of it.  Then I will just take our Vitamix with us, a bit of a hassle, but worth it.  I also found a new Oster lid that doesn't even fit this model!  I set it aside for a friend who has one that it might fit.

I gave the Brita Filter to my grandparents, I hope it turns out useful to them.  We have been using the more expensive fridge filter because it is there, saves space, and saves spills, also we drink a LOT more water that way.  Not sure about the waste issue with the filters....wonder if they could be recycled?  Or at least backwashed for reuse.  They do last a long time, and make a huge difference in our water taste.  At any rate I no longer needed the pitcher.

The 4 brown bowls are now in the donate box.  I do have a friend that has a similar set, but not sure if I will get them to her, which ever happens first is where they will go.  I also have a table cloth that makes me think of that same friend, and so I grabbed it out of my linen closet and threw it in with the dishes, it will either finally make it to her or not with the dishes---oh, it would make a good skirt though....

I would love to get rid of the Parafin Spa for hand wax....but the kids and their friends love it.  I recently refilled it--i know it is not a good step in waste reduction to use this product--but I bought the wax a year ago.  I will donate when this wax is all used up.  Maybe it will at least keep someone else from buying a new unit.  For the moment we will enjoy this gift from my grandparents (my grandfather's therapist thought it would help him with the pain in his hands, but he did not like it).

Well it felt like a lot more when I was doing it...but still I cleared off one whole shelf's worth of things in the process of finding a place for a 2"x4" by 2" tall slider press!!!

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Twist on Heirloom Guilt

I would like to think of one task to do tomorrow.  One 'doable' task.  See I am always thinking of lovely, grandiose ideas that take lots of planning and materials, and importantly discussions with my more cautious half.  Oh, and i tend to stack several large scale ideas together....i am sabotaging my efforts, yes?!  I make it so big it is impossible, and then i do nothing.

I am thinking that i could reasonably hope to reduce the clutter in my house by saying farewell to my late grandmother's old plant stand.  She used it for years, and it served her well.  However, she was living alone in 1600 +sqft.  and i have little more than that with 5 people.  A friend recently tripped over it, and had no qualms telling me it really had to go (she is also older and lives in a 2300+ sq. ft. house with just her husband).  Even before she said something i knew it didn't work.

That is why it started it's life in the garage.  Eventually it was moved to our small storage space above the garage.  Then, I was trying to make room up there, and came to my senses....sort of.  If I was going to keep it, it had to be useful...which I construed to 'put to use.'  I hauled it out, gave it a paint job, and set out to find some plants to set on it (it has never been full, I love plants, but outside).  I never did find a place that it 'fit'.  We just don't seem to have any extra space, and the whole endeavor has been wasteful.

Why?  Why am I keeping it?  Am I really sentimental over a plant stand?  Honestly, it is heirloom guilt, but not in the traditional sense.  There is a twist here.  If it was the association with my grandmother at issue, I would have taken a picture years ago.  No.  It is the guilt I feel when my mother realizes (and she will) that it is missing.  More than that it will be dealing with her over it, so I guess it is more like anxiety...not good.  It will go tomorrow...

But wait! there is more.  You see she has NO space left.  If I tell her i am getting rid of it she will want it back-and then i feel guilty to adding to the worthless things she is keeping (there is no way she could use it, hence  worthless).  My father will blame me for her bringing one more thing home.  Now if I don't tell her it is going and just get rid of it, she will be upset that I offed and 'heirloom.'  And no, there is no one else to pawn it off on--I only get the stuff that no one else would take, I am last in line.

UPDATE:  I talked to her and she agreed I could release this item!!!  It is gone!!!!!

Not Going Gandhi

For Christmas we received a new toaster oven.  Our old one was fine, but the giver felt it looked, well, used.  The minimalist producer of trash in me was not happy.  And the toaster sat in the living room for almost 2 months in its box.  I asked if we could return it, dh thought not for a myriad of reasons.

I reasoned we could please the giver and use the new one.  The old one could find a new home with someone who needed it.  I have to confess I considered keeping it, to cook the kids modelling projects in.  That clay always says it should be kept separate from your food prep areas.  Thing is I don't trust that clay.  We have had it in a shoe box since we bought a 'few' packages back in college for some projects.  We did break it out the other day for our sons school project.  Please note that 4 months after project completion the whole thing has ended up in a landfill!

One look at our storage area proved there was no space for it.  I put the new box on the counter and told my dh the plan. We discussed it and he thought the toaster oven for his work place could improve his lunch choices, so it was decided. 3 days later it was still there and my dh took it upon himself to swap it out and took it to work.

At first I was immensely pleased at the action.  Then I noticed the little dent in the corner, sorry, it bothered me, my old one was not dented!  I did not use it that day. The following day I was over the dent and we began using the toaster oven.  It was terrible, there was no 'toast' button, so the kids had to turn the dial to start it for reheating their pancakes, etc.  The dial was so stiff that a tremendous amount of effort had to be put into it and then the dial went way to far, but was near impossible to turn back.  They had to stand there and watch it cook, when done take it out, and then unplug it.

Of course, with all of the things that they have on their mind (legos, dolls, play , ................getting ready for school), I knew it was just a matter of time before they forgot something and start a fire.  I called dh, and explained the problem.  He agreed that he would bring the old toaster back.  He was not pleased, it felt awkward to take it back even though we fully intended to switch it out with a new one. Several days later he had made the switch.

We learned something for the hassle.  First, if possible do not replace something that works for something 'new'.  It is wasteful of money and time, and you are promoted use of resources to produce something that is not truly needed.  Second, if you do replace something, give yourself a buffer period to be sure you made the right choice before sending out the old.  We often do this with the box of new products too, keep them for a few weeks--but we really are reducing the number of occurrences of new in our home.  Luckily in this case, we hadn't donated it and were able to remedy the situation without further purchases

We had made a similar mistake a few years ago. Every time that I use our tiny shop vac I wish that i had kept the rigid hose extender that went with it.  Upon receiving the new vacuum I promptly marched down the stairs and brought the old one to the curb.  I had even taken the time to write a not to would be takers there was a crack that needed repair.  THEN I went and used the new one, which had only flexible hose, and nowhere to hold on!  by the time I got to the curb it was gone :(

I know for a Blog about Simply Reducing there is a lot about purchasing in this post.  Remember I am on a Journey, and hope to get there.  And I simply want to reduce my waste, not go Ghandi.  Also, you can tell how much thought I give to new things--at least sometimes, and that is a step in the right direction.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Simply Reduce Diet

The real, real beginning of this blog, what got me thinking and moving in the direction of change, was our diets.  My husband and children have an allergy to corn.  Yeah, corn, and living in the US that pretty much translates to; my family is allergic to processed, prepared foods.  Tough yes, but a blessing.  We have eaten much better than we might have ever otherwise.

When you start trying to figure out something like a corn allergy you think it is mind-boggling.  That is until it leads to the question of what 'should' we be eating, and then your brain really starts going to mush!  There are so many conflicting theories and data out there.  Raw? Vegan? Vegetarian? Grain-Free, Bean-free, gluten-free, Phytic acid, Paleo, high-protein, no carb .....oh, my! Guess we'd better stick to air and water--oh, wait that is too polluted!

I have always been fascinated at the variation of food that humans ingest.  I did some biological research on an NSF scholarship, and if I fed those tiny little critters (you couldn't even see them) even a few grains of the wrong food you could kill them--they didn't just adapt for a while!  Humans have had such a varied diet throughout history.  Researches tell us one thing based on this high carb diet here, and the opposite of this group who ate no carbs. How can we make heads or tails of conflicting information.

I don't currently have any specific links (feel free to post them in the comments) about such studies.  Now that I am writing this blog, I will have a place to put them when I do come across them.

Across the board, from what research I have seen, wide-spread obesity is a relatively new trend.  So maybe we should change our approach.  Maybe not look at what they were doing right, but what we are doing that they did not.  And maybe, these specific diets that cut out food groups entirely are the opposite of what we need.  After all, is it not the variation of our food that allowed our species to thrive as it has?

My theory is that we NEED the variation.  What we should reduce are the processed foods and the preservatives that are inhibiting our bodies natural processes.  So grains that are made into highly processed and preserved foods should probably not represent the bulk of our diet.  But it is also perhaps not necessary, or even perhaps healthy to cut our grains out all together, just simply reduce them to make room for other nutrients.

The Simply Reduce processed foods, preservatives, refined sugar product, pesticides, genetically modified, antibiotic-laden foods Diet!  Completely doable!  You won't fail, because it's allowed, your goal is to simply reduce, one choice at a time.

Failure to Reduce : Legos My Nemesis and Obsession?

While on and off efforts to reduce the ' house load ' have preoccupied me, I have alternately collected Legos for my son.  He loves them.  They make him happy.  I want him to be happy...and quiet (sometimes)...he is amazingly creative with them (and often quiet).

Today he built his sister a little Lego kitchen!  It was so sweet---I should grab a photo of that.  While he was doing that she was pretending to be a dentist-washing his mouth with a (pretend) mystery medicine that was dispensed from an elephant, but that didn't seem at all strange to big brother.

I know that more is not always better.  There is too much of a good thing.  I think we might be drowning in Legos. BUT we are happy doing it, mostly.

We have one room that was the music and study room that is now mostly the lego train room.  The desks moved to the dining room, because, well there just was not room for them in that room, what with the train tracks and associated city.  The family room, or toy room, has now been completely inundated with the Legos too (but they are out of the kitchen and dining room).  We tried having them in the cellar play area.  However, we found that unsupervised King Kong was visiting and destroying.  This left a very frustrated boy and very messy legos that would then scatter and end up destroyed as they were ground into the cement floor.

Oh, and my husband and i have spent more nights than I want to admit sorting and building Legos.  Some because it needs to be done, but mostly because we enjoy it.  Strange, but we prefer to say going to the movies most nights.

Wooden Lego Sorting Station
We have been through many iterations of Lego Organization.  We do like the paper sorting Cart with multi-colored drawers.  We have 2 of those.  There was a nice wooden sorting station, we liked it because it was very easy to access.  It was a good station when our collection was a more reasonable size, so i think that we will be selling it ($10 in pocket is better than something that is not working for us right now....but then i think maybe i could use it somewhere else...).

Organizing carts we now are using...
In another post I may become brave enough to walk around and actually take pictures of all the Lego stashes we have....perhaps laying it all out on the same page will motivate me to do something about them...I know, I know, I need to reduce.

Perhaps I should ask my son his opinion, after all from what I have seen posted out there, I am going against the grain with my post about involving the children in minimizing our belongings...

Refuse and Worth : A discussion

Google "refuse"
and this is what you get:


Indicate or show that one is not willing to do something.
Matter thrown away or rejected as worthless; trash.
verb.  decline - deny - reject - repudiate - disallow - repulse
noun.  trash - garbage - rubbish - waste - litter - offal

Is it not interesting? We need to refuse refuse!!  That is we need to Just Say No to worthless items!

If we don't accept things that we don't need, that add no 'worth' and are hence 'worthless', to our lives and our homes we simplify our lives.  We save our money and keep our houses cleaner.

I think that the only confusing part of this concept is the term 'worthless.'

How are we going to define worthless.  Here in lies the trap!  Watch a hoarding show like this one on You tube, A Hoarding Documentary
Just watch the first bit of documentary and you will quickly understand on the far end of the spectrum how everything can seemingly have worth to certain people.  The on of the first items discussed by one hoarder is a pair of  "perfectly good trousers.  the only problem is this one tear..."  He and his wife disagree, she would throw them away, as they are useless.  He argues they have worth, just sew up the tear and they could be worn again many times.

I agree they could have been worn!  If they had been patched and worn that would have been wonderful!  keep them out of landfill, reduce resources used to produce and transport new pants, and saves some money!  But once they have been replaced, and then squirreled off some place to take up space, they no longer have that value.  They are worthless, and worse more resources are being used to house that item!

I know, we hate land-filling....but....perhaps we could all buy cotton and wool and compost worn out clothes.  Recall that even 100 years ago natural fiber were made into clothes, and when too worn for wearing quilts would be made from the remnants!  Check out the quilt my son recently made from his outgrown shirts that could not be passed on,  and some salvaged material from the 70's.  We opted for a meaningful keepsake, with many uses instead of investing many hours into another disposable project for his latest book report.

Now you can see by the documentary gentleman's house that he has applied his 'worth' theory to many, many, many items, and they have filled his home.  So perhaps if we can teach ourselves more definitive theory of 'worth,'
we could find balance in order to simplify our lives.  For me something has worth only if I am going to use it, if it is currently serving a purpose in my life.  The most obvious use is utilitarian--something i use frequently in some way.  Other purposes could be happiness, but here again the waters get murky.  Many will claim the stuff makes them 'happy'  of course that is another long post! For me, if seeing an item makes me happy, and that is it, I don't actually use it, then I take a picture and gleefully let go!  I know that picture is there for me should i wish to enjoy it, and now get to have my space too!

Declutter with Kids : A Strategy : Cleaning Out the Toy Closet

Declutter with the kids, not for them.

In talking to a neighbor mom just a few days ago I was reminded of the wisdom in this.  She had  Freecycled1 a bunch of her child's stuffed animals a few years ago.  He still brings it up to her, "do you remember when you got rid of my stuffed animals?!"  By simply asking them to make the choice you are giving them control.  You are telling them you trust and value their Judgment, a word on that later, and teaching them to make decisions. And do you know that feeling of success you get when you make that decision while clearing some space? You are sharing that feeling of success!

All those valuable, positive emotions verses the negative emotions you would feel if someone came in and just got rid of your stuff.  You might feel someone tricked you, pulled out the rug while you were not looking.
An overall feeling of loss, loss of trust, loss of control, loss off stuff.  That all equates to wanting to hold on to stuff to stay in control.

We are in this state of purging right now.  It is spring, and there is also a motivating consignment sale for children's paraphernalia.  I have taken the road of asking for the children's input. There are pros and cons of including your family in decluttering.


  • done as a family, promotes working together
  • values the child's input
  • teach valuable life lessons 
  • promotes trust
  • motivations to 'get it done' while everyone is there
  • takes some decision-making weight off of your shoulders


  • you have to wait until everyone is home, and sometimes, cannot finish before someone has to leave, for me this is probably the biggest sticking point
  • everyone has to agree on what goes and what stays
I suppose my choice is obvious, please comment if I have missed any salient points and I will add them.  Below I will try to outline what strategies I have utilized in decluttering with the children, first I will list the strategy, and then I will expound upon them.

  1. let them see you decluttering areas that do not involve their things to set a good example, be sure you 'seem' to be having fun!  And show them the difference you have made.
  2. Set a time
  3. Explain what your objective is 
  4. Help them set a goal
  5. Keep it positive and fun,
  6. try to refrain from imposing your choice

1.  Let them see you decluttering areas that do not involve their things to set a good example, be sure you 'seem' to be having fun!  And show them the difference you have made.  This is modelling the behavior you want to see, and getting important things done.  It is hypocritical to ask them to keep their things to a reasonable, tidy quantity if you are not doing the same.  The reasons they should do it are the same that you should.

This modelling was the impetus behind my emptying the cabinet over the fridge, see this post

2.  It will be very important to set a time to tackle a specific area, as you will want to be sure everyone is home.  We have to schedule around work, sports, social and school events.

3.  Explain what you want to achieve and why.  This can be tricky with children, who might just think that if the toys don't fit in the closet, why not just keep them in the laundry baskets, it seems to work just fine...
So you might need to convince them, selling points would be explaining if they no longer have some of the items, they will never have to pick them up again!  Making room for new things, and room to play, as well as having a tidy house to have friends over.

I recently allowed the children to watch a short clip on Youtube as to what could happen to a house if everyone in it chose to keep everything and never put things away.
We watched How Clean is Your House-Blame The Kids

I was nervous letting them see it.  We don't watch much TV in our house in the first place.  On top of that was the thought that they could maybe take away the idea that I should be the one doing everything, although they already have that idea, who knows where they got it.  When it comes to their things though, I think they very much want to have a say, but as far as the day to day chores go they would be quite pleased to have me do it all.  Overall I think it really inspired them to want to keep a clean home, and importantly to reduce the amount of stuff they have to take care.

In the future, should the need for further motivation arise, I will show them The Story of Stuff
It is a great video about stuff and what its true cost is.  I will probably introduce this to them either for an Earth Day Project or when I get to the point where I am asking them to start Refusing Stuff.

4.  Help them set a goal.

So they will know that there is going to be an achievement, they can succeed.  We just cleaned out the toy closet.  So the goal was to reduce the amount of toys to a 'reasonable number' and so that the door would shut!  We had been discussing what a reasonable number of dressing up outfits would be and first decided 2 each, after all you can only wear one at a time.  Then once we removed them all from the closet and tried to make decision, they wanted 5 each.  But there was concern if they would all fit in an organized manner. So 3 was agreed, but in the end there were 4 each.  As the goal was to reduce, and we had a huge bag leaving, and to have it be organized, they all fit more than comfortably.  So a compromise had been reached and the goal achieved.  It is good to model this flexibility and reasoning, we ask it of them all the time, when suddenly they are at the bank on the way to a birthday party.

5.  Try to keep it Positive and Fun.
This activity will be what you make it.  Every moment of childhood is precious.  With that in mind, it is useful to have an adult partner in this activity, so if you become frustrated they can bolster the positivity while you regain perspective.  This happened with shelves of games, they were on the top three shelves and then shoved in on top of things on the other shelves.  So we knew we had to reduce.  But how to agree?!

Make it a game.  We made it a voting game. Everybody had a say, "put your finger on your nose if you want to give this game away!"  Inevitably there were times when the vote was decided.  Often-times though, the odd man our would see the dissension and simply change their vote-yes, a little peer pressure.  But what good is a game if no one wants to play it with you? Sometimes we weighted voting power.  If someone had a special attachment to an item even though everyone else wanted it to go  (often when it was a specific child's toy, when most toys are 'for sharing') it was put in the 'Thinking Pile.'  If there is enough space they ultimately make the decision to keep or not.  Interestingly, they often had decided that they didn't really want it, they just didn't want other making the decision to get rid of something that was specifically theirs.

We brought humor to the table by asking, "if you want to keep this game (a known favorite) pat your head while touching your nose....all right and rub your belly too!"  It was great fun watching them try to rub their bellies with their feet!

6.  Try to refrain from imposing your choices.  This can be hard.  And really, isn't it our job to guide our children's decisions?

I wanted to empower my children, to let them feel in control of their surrounds by involving them.  Their choices are often not what we would choose.  There is a bit of balance involved in this act.  If I know that they are not going to use it I will try to help them see this, so that they are still making the choice.  I have found that an effective way to do this is keep having them look at the pile of games and ask, "if I was going to play 1 game with you right now, which one would you choose?  Not this one? If I was going to play another, which would it be?"  This worked.

daughter posing at MOM's Tree house for sale photo
There are some instances when they tell you they are done with a toy that you are not ready for them to be done with.  Perhaps it is a toy you love, or spent a lot of money on, you have to let them let go.  I know, it's hard.  We just sold this tree house, I was so sad , i had been hanging on to it, unplayed with for months, even thought they kept telling me they were done.

 I loved it.  I liked looking at it, arranging the furniture.  All visiting children were drawn to it, but not mine, they were done.  Other parents always complimented it...
Now that it is gone they don't miss it and they have taken some old toys out of the closet and set them up in its place.
This set up was played with more in 1 day than with that tree house had been played with in months.

Here is the outcome of our efforts!  Now we can put away some of the things that formerly did not fit!  Look at all that space.  I wish I had taken a before picture, there was no space, literally packed.

We got rid of a big bag of costumes
and stacks of games - about 20 of them, along with some other miscellaneous things.  some Instruments and infant toys (we were keeping them 'for company').

1.  Freecycle is a great Yahoo Group where you can connect with locals to give away useful items that are not worth selling.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Get Rid of It

The Get Rid of It tab at the top is a photo library where i will be posting pictures of things.  Certainly not all of them, I know I have already missed boatloads--when you are in the mood to fling, sometimes you don't want to slow down for photos.  Other times, it seems like such a herculean effort to clean out and part with items that you want to memorialize your success and share it.
stuff that was on loan that is ready to go back with its owner
and a few Christmas present that were found on top of the Piano...

I will try to post a picture and the thinking behind why it left our home.  Sometimes i will add where it is going and/or why.  I hate to waste, and hate to send things to the landfill...

"Put it in the 'get rid of its'!"  That is how it was phrased by my mother.  I still think this, but in practice we have been using a green Lego bin in the kids area where they can simply put anything they no longer want to have to clean up.

Right now I in the middle of a real purge, I will have another post on that in the near future.  For the first time the kids have really been involved--and i think that they are enjoying it.

I also, added an About Page, so you can understand what I am presently trying to accomplish with my blog.  First and foremost, this has to be something that I want to do, as I am not sure that anyone else (save my poor husband, who almost chided me into writing a blog by joking i should write a blog because what else would i do with my photos of stuff i am getting rid of) will ever read this.

Happy I am to try.

Is this a sustainable practice time will tell...will I run out of things to get rid of, run out of other things to reduce and simplify?  At this point I don't think so, but it is nice to believe that it might be possible to 100 percent achieve this goal.  

Bacon Grease Enlightenment

Two posts in one day, wow! off to a crazy start, but wanted to update on what i have accomplished.

I have finished the cabinet and will have to take a new photo.  Some paper goods went down to easily accessed storage, but not my prime kitchen space.  Some went out to our camper...maybe i will use it when we are not 'hooked-up' ; but to be honest, I usually have enough reusable dishware to just use it while we are on the road and stack it in the dish pan until we get to water--and if I know we are having several meals, a couple of gallons of water will wash the dishes--there is just plain no excuse for me to waste trees and energy! And that is why I ended up with thousands of disposables.

I have also just put away my first ever bacon 'drippings.'  With dreams of seriously reducing our waste, this was an effort.  Before we had kids i had one small grocery bag every 2 weeks or so...

My husband was very skeptical when told that soap could be made from it, not sure he wanted to smell like bacon.  I saw this idea on Zero Waste Home  a very inspiring site I came across a few days ago and spent last night reading.  Sorry that is not a direct link to the bacon comment--although it was really just mentioned that the grease was saved for soap, rather than thrown in the trash.  The recipe is rather simple and like the soap-making at Old Sturbridge Village where the fat is mixed with a lye and water mixture.
 After a quick search on bacon grease while it was cooling, an amazing number of uses for bacon were revealed--such as pie crust.  This site convinced him it was worthwhile

He was onboard, as we have been talking about simplifying our foods by reducing the amount of processed foods we eat, especially the scary stuff like "shortening," preservatives, and L-cysteine (human hair found in bread--seen yesterday in a Yahoo article-don't have that link handy). 
bacon drippings

It is not much bacon grease, and we don't eat too much of it, so one cooking foray should use it up.  Should i amass enough to actually make soap, I will be sure to post both the adventure and the outcome here.  If this is something you have experience with, please comment, I'd love to hear.