So far I think Year of Less Consumption is going pretty well. I'm still sticking with it 15 days into the year, which is pretty good by New Year's Resolution standards.
Let me break this update up by the Year of Less Consumption Guiding Principles.
Principle 1: Choose reusable over disposable whenever reasonable and/or tolerable.
Well, first off, I am learning there are many practices that are more reasonable/tolerable than I previously thought. For example, I had previously shied away from any practice that generated additional laundry, such as using cloth napkins, dishtowels/rags instead of paper towels, or a cloth bag for my sweaty gym clothes. But it turns out that, since I'm already doing a large load of laundry every single day anyway, it's not that big of a deal to throw in a few flimsy cloth napkins.
I'd also like to say that a surprising BFF in my quest for reusable-ness has been the dishwasher. It turns out you can use the dishwasher to wash a lot of stuff that you might otherwise consider disgusting enough to throw out. For example, I disinfected our travel toothbrushes and their travel toothbrush containers so they would be ready for another trip. I ran a gloppy hand soap dispenser through the dishwasher on the top rack so it would be clean enough to refill instead of replace. And I've washed all manner of commercial food containers (plastic containers for yogurt, sour cream, and lunch meat; various jars) to use as storage for leftovers, which has also helped me cut back on Ziploc bag usage.
I've also established a plastic storage container for different little odds and ends that I can use for gift wrapping. This is a picture of my first gift wrapped with items from the gift wrap box:
The bag is a paper bag they put wine bottles in at Target. The string is DIY baker's twine made using this tutorial, although I could only find nylon thread so it came out ugly. I made the Angry Birds gift tag by cutting up the birthday party invitation, and I punched the tiny hole with a hole-punch I bought secondhand at an estate sale. Also, as part of my commitment to emphasize experiences over material goods, the gift itself is a McDonald's gift card. (It was for a 5-year-old.) It wasn't the most cutely-wrapped gift at the party, but damn if that thing didn't pack an eco-friendly power punch!
Principle 2: Consumable goods are not restricted, but choice of product should emphasize frugality and eco-friendliness.
I don't really have that much to say about this one, since it pretty much just covers stuff I was already doing before. So, yes, we have continued to buy food and toiletries, and we have tried to buy the big container over several smaller ones, as well as to buy stuff using coupons and/or on sale. Boring.
Principle 3: Second-hand is preferred.
So, it turns out that, despite all my talk about less consumption, I still have a really strong desire to buy stuff. I don't want to make an attempt to totally squelch that desire because, as I've said before, I much prefer rewarding myself with stuff over rewarding myself with food. But, keeping in mind the Second-hand is preferred principle, I have decided to reward myself with second-hand stuff whenever possible.
Enter ... estate sales! I get weekly emails about estate sales in my area. Most of them start on Fridays, which is good because Nathan now goes to school on Fridays, and so I have some time to myself.
The fun thing about shopping at estate sales is that you get an interesting experience in addition to some fun acquisitions. Like, first of all, the thrill of the hunt is always fun, and it's also fun to score some great deals, but I also find that estate sales are like little miniature museums.
Like, this past Friday I went to two estate sales, and I found interesting relics at both. At the first one I found two little books of old Disney World attraction tickets, leftover from the era where you needed a separate ticket for each ride, rather than the all-inclusive general admission tickets they have been selling since approximately 1983. Also they had a little booklet called "Souvenir of Our Wedding," which was a little fill-in keepsake with the bride/groom's names, the date, and location. What I found curious about that (other than the fact that nobody in the family wanted it) was that it was filled out in pencil. Was a person's wedding not occasion enough to use ink? Did they only use pencil when they figured the marriage wouldn't last?
That house also had a copy of every Christmas card the family sent out since the 1960s, carefully labeled with the year, and a box of letters dating back to the 1950s.
The second house had some old toys, and I learned that Barbie's little sister Skipper had a friend named Scooter in the 1960s.
Want to see what I bought?
This purse, which I call my "old lady purse" and actually smells like old lady perfume inside:
This gorgeous, never-been-used embroidered tablecloth, which had an old-ish looking price tag of $75 that was pinned on with a straight pin (I'd say it was from the mid-80s if I had to guess) and I got in a set with matching napkins for $4.
The flowers were birthday gifts from Nathan (left) and Bill (right).
Close-up of the detail:
Like I said, the tablecloth came with matching napkins, pictured here with the assortment of other napkins I picked up between the two estate sales:
Again, it's an eco-friendly power punch, because not only do cloth napkins constitute reusable goods, but I got them secondhand! The light pink linen ones need to be ironed, but, well, I think we all know I'm not going to do that.
Also, the second estate sale was a goldmine for the Department 56 Snow Village miniatures that my mom collects.
I got her an ice cream parlor:
And a Christmas Cadillac:
I don't even collect these things, but damn if that isn't the cutest thing I ever saw.
(Also, in the interests of accuracy, I should note that I went back on Saturday for half-price day at the estate sale and scored her an awesome miniature streetcar that runs on a track, still sealed in the package. Again, I don't even collect these things, but that score was really exciting for me.)
I don't know how I feel about going to estate sales and acquiring more belongings that I really don't need, because I kind of feel like I'm not exactly in the spirit of Year of Less Consumption. But I did say secondhand was okay, and technically I'm not contributing anything extra to a landfill, or to the air pollution/unfair labor practices from the manufacture of these products.
Principle 4: Emphasize experiences over material goods.
I have already talked about our experience at Discover the Dinosaurs, as well as my experience getting purple hair. Another experience we had was ice skating:
Given our limited success with ice skating, I didn't hold out high hopes for our second winter recreational activity, sledding. But the boy LOVED IT.
The final Year of Less Consumption Guiding Principle, All of the above should be followed according to individual comfort level, is kind of too boring to discuss. You don't really care about the ever-evolving list of activities with which I am comfortable. Also, I don't really want to get into this topic because I will end up ragging on some members of my household, who don't really seem to be all that comfortable with any of this stuff.
So I guess that's it for now.