Living Lightly

Susan Vogt on living more simply but abundantly

Browsing Posts published by Susan Vogt

My last blog talked about “The Beauty of Empty” and how helpful it is to empty out a space to start the pruning process. Now it’s time to start with myself (and my husband).

Days 365+115 Susan's Refilled closetDays 365+115 Susan's Empty closetSince my first round of pruning our clothes closet in 2010, I’ve slowly been passing clothes on that I seldom wear, but I never actually emptied it out. This time I took my own advice and started from ground zero. The first photo shows the left half of our closet with all my suits, skirts, pants, dresses, and blouses removed.

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I found 7 items I’m willing to give away and 3 maybes:
3 dresses (1 elegant and 2 serviceable)
3 skirts
1 cultural outfit from Indonesia; nice but not many opportunities to wear it.

Then I put everything else back. I feel better.

Then I turned to my husband… When I give talks, often someone will say, “I’m fine with giving stuff away, but my spouse or kids are the problem.” My usual response is “Invite others, but do your own thing. Convincing/cajoling others to join you can strain your relationship.” BUT, I had noticed that our clothes would have more room to “breathe” if Jim would also prune his half of the closet. He resisted, quoting me back to myself. He’d do it when HE was ready. Days 365+115 pinball machine

Ever the politician, however, he offered me a deal. He would go through his half of the closet IF I would refurbish his old toy pinball machine that he had as a child. I took it as a challenge, spent some time fussing with it, and, with the help of the friendly staff at our corner hardware store, met his request.

Being an honest fellow, Jim dutifully went through his clothes and chose to give away some of his stuff. He decided that some clothes were not good enough to give away so he threw away (or I made rags out of) some other things. I moved his rarely used robe to the guest bedroom in case a modest guest wanted to use it to get to the shower on another floor.

Days 365+115 Jim's Throw AwayDays 365+115 Jim's Give AwayThrow Aways:        Give Aways:
2 pairs of shorts     7 polo shirts
1 pair of jeans        9 dress shirts
2 sweatshirts          hiking boots
4 T-shirts

Stuff-nothingJanuary 1: As we begin a new year, our hearts turn to resolutions but our practical sides often resist – at least after a feeble try at exercising more, eating healthier, becoming more prayerful, etc. In an effort to serve you better and clear my own life of clutter, I keep up with what professional organizers recommend and what other simple living bloggers have to say on the subject. One common practice is to START WITH EMPTY.

By this I mean focus on one space – a drawer, a closet, a desk, a shelf, etc. Then go through the following process:

  1. Choose a time and a time limit. Maybe you want to do this today, every day, once a week or once a month. It could be 15 minutes, an hour, a half day – whatever seems doable to you without feeling burdensome.
  2. Take everything out of the space. This has the double purpose of helping you see what you have and allows for easier cleaning.
  3. Clean the space if necessary. This can feel rewarding, even if you end up putting absolutely everything back that you took out.
  4. Review the contents of the drawer, closet, shelf. See last Lent’s series on A-Drawer-A-Day for inspiration.  Separate into the categories of:Days 365+69k ADAD Keep Wait GA Move
    *KEEP – These are the items that are essential or bring you real joy.
    *GIVE AWAY, aka RECYCLE – This is the hardest part because now, or in the near future, you need to figure out where to take it.
    *THROW AWAY
    *WAIT and MOVE are optional extra categories.
  5. Put back the KEEP items. Put the GIVE AWAY or RECYCLE items in a container in an inconvenient place that will motivate you to actually take them to the person, store, recycling bin etc. (For example, next to the front door.)Days 365+69k ADAD Recycle Throw Away
  6. Put the WAIT items in a container that is out of the way. If after several months, a year, or whatever you haven’t missed the item, let it go. Sometimes your mind or heart needs this time to be ready to let go of sentimental items. Say good-by with reverent intentionality.
  7. Move the MOVE items immediately to their more logical home.
  8. Stop. You could of course go on to declutter another space if you still have time, but this process works best if you end with a feeling of accomplishment rather than fatigue or frustration because you’ve just crowded the rest of your day’s schedule. Crowding time can be just as stressful as hanging on to too much stuff.

The deeper side of emptying
As virtuous as it may be to empty and clean one’s physical space, there is a deeper level of emptying that you may choose to pursue. It is a spiritual emptying which involves clearing your mind and your being or unnecessary worries, stress, and self-importance. Spiritual guides call this kenosis (self-emptying).

This is a lifelong effort but is usually aided by ongoing prayer, meditation, often with the help of a faith community or spiritual coach. Yoga or Buddhist practices help some people. For me, it helps to take time in the morning for quiet and prayer. Being part of a faith community helps me check my ego lest I get too full of myself. The beauty of emptying oneself applies on many levels.

Start today. Today may just be the resolution and a plan for when the first time will be. Are you in?

PS: It occurs to me that “The Beauty of Empty” is a first world topic. People who are truly empty of food, shelter, or other necessities do not find beauty in their destitution and suffering. It’s a sobering realization that I can afford to let go of stuff.

December 31: As the year comes to a close, it seems like a natural time to give away the things I’ve been collecting in my “Giveaway Bin.” The month of December, however, has also been a busy time for me. (What a surprise 😉 ) So, I did what any committed but lazy declutterer would do. I took the easy way out. Ideally, I would have found good homes for the kitchen and clothes items, but when Viet Vets called and asked if I had any items to donate, I quickly said yes since all I have to do is put my stuff on our porch on the allotted day. My 3 months or so of items included:

Days 365+113 misc.Kitchen:                                            Clothes:
1 cutting board                                  1 pair of pants
2 iron skillets                                     2 shirts
1 salad bowl set                                 2 belts
1 salt shaker                                      2 pairs of slippers
1 nut cracker

Miscellaneous:

salad bowl set, salt shaker, nut cracker, skillets, cutting board, measuring spoons

salad bowl set, salt shaker, nut cracker, skillets, cutting board, measuring spoons

1 digital photo screen                        1 train case
2 vases                                             1 necklace
1 hair dryer                                       2 Kleenex packets
sewing patterns                                 1 Purell hand sanitizer
nail clippers                                        4 cloth napkins
4 books

Some of these things hopefully will be useful to immigrants or others setting up a home. Other items I realize are pretty petty or dated. This, however, was a circumstance of not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. Sometimes that’s better than not doing anything and I just have to let go of the guilt.

PS: Please forgive the lousy blurred photo. I’m chalking it up to letting go of perfection.

Days 365+112 booksAs our 44 year marriage evolved, we realized that my husband, Jim, enjoyed cooking and I didn’t. This fits us well in sort of a “Jack Sprat could eat no fat; his wife could eat no lean” way. As our marriage progressed so did our accumulation of cookbooks. I dared not complain because, after all, I was happily not doing much cooking. Internally, however, I found myself annoyed at how much space cookbooks were taking up in our kitchen. It wouldn’t be so bad if Jim used them all but our diabetic son moved out over 20 years ago. Did we still need a diabetic cookbook? Did we really need cooking with kids and camping cookbooks anymore?

Besides, not only had our marriage evolved but so has technology. Jim now gets most of his recipes from the internet and our daughter keeps updating the “Vogt Family Cookbook” with recipes each Christmas. The marital compromise was that we would give away half of our 36 cookbooks. We also selected 9 other books that were nice but we knew we’d never read again. This barely makes a dent in our overall book collection but it’s progress.

While we were busy slimming down our book collection, the book gods were working in the other direction. One of our friends was struggling with wondering why bad things kept happening to him – a relatively good Jewish person. Obviously I had to get him, When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Rabbi Harold Kushner. I assuaged my conscience by taking my 27 used books to our local half-price bookstore thinking it would be a zero sum game – pricewise. I lost, but I still felt good about unloading the books.

However, last night my husband found a cookbook at a Friends-of-the-Library sale. Well, 27 out, 1 in. Could be worse.

What criteria do you use for keeping or letting go of books?

Days 365+111 Advent wreath.Traditionally the time leading up to Christmas is a time of shopping. It is also the time that my own nuclear family again faces the question of how we are going to celebrate the holidays and what will we do about gift giving. In the past we have ranged from buying a gift for everyone, to drawing names, to our “Nothing New Christmas.”

Perhaps it is a function of getting older, but lately I’ve found myself feeling even more accosted by the persistent radio, TV, and newspaper ads urging me to buy more stuff to make the holidays memorable. I ignore the ads but I think it weighs down our culture and raises unnecessary expectations of what will make me happy. I can’t singlehandedly change the marketing industry. (Hey, they’re only doing their job so they can make money to buy their own Christmas gifts – or perhaps just pay the rent.) Sometimes, however, humor can impact our attitudes and clear our minds more easily than sermons. I offer you Jerry Seinfeld’s 5 minute sketch, There’s Too Many Things.

I’m not saying don’t buy anything or don’t try to please your family, but this might put it in perspective. Some things are just impulse or duty gifts that quickly become clutter. Consider how you might bring joy to others during this month (sing, dance, read and talk together, or other creative activities).

On New Year’s Day I’ll suggest some strategies for clearing whatever clutter you may have accumulated – despite your best efforts.

 

Days 365+85 Thank you cardAs we approach the season of Thanksgiving and Gift Giving, my mind turns to how to be generous. What is truly helpful vs. what  just adds to another’s clutter, feeds an addiction, or stresses the environment. First, let me say that it is possible to overthink this generosity thing. At its core generosity is about letting go of money or stuff that I don’t need in order to help another person. It is a manifestation of Love. Still, there are six thorny challenges plus one reminder that I’d like to pose to you.

1. PANHANDLERS
BeggarOne practice I decided to do last year during Lent was to give $20 to a corner panhandler each time I drove by. Fine idea, but what to do when Lent was over? Do I still give? My previous $20 donations were a stretch for me. Do I give less? Do I take a different route? I wasn’t sure.

One son said he never carries cash so it wouldn’t be an issue for him. I asked participants at a Living Lightly workshop. They suggested buying a stash of coupons for a nearby fast-food restaurant or keeping some non-perishable food like granola bars in the car. I’m well aware that giving cash can be abused since some people may use the money for alcohol or drugs, so giving food directly made sense. Still, my goal was not just to be efficient but to stretch my own attitude of generosity and not to pre-judge.

My own family has different approaches to this. When one son lived in Indonesia for a year, his policy was to give to anyone who asked since he figured he had an income and the street beggars usually didn’t. When our daughter did Peace Corps in Mali for several years she did the opposite. She said that giving to beggars reinforced their assumption that all white people had money to spare. Since she lived among the poor and on a low income she didn’t want to encourage that attitude. My husband always gives. I seldom do. I’m trying to change my practice, mostly to enlarge my heart.

2. CHARITIES
I addressed my criteria for giving to charities in my last blog, Inheriting and Investing Money. In summary:

  1. Tithe (Give at least 10% away.)
  2. Give to causes that I am personally involved with.
  3. Choose causes in which my relatively small contribution can make a difference.

3. GIFT-GIVING at CHRISTMAS:
Yes, too much focus can be put on gift-giving at Christmas time. Still, it’s nice to know that someone is thinking about you and trying to decide what you might like as a treat. One year our family decided to buy nothing new for each other.  It was a challenge. It was humorous. Read  about it here. I’ve also collected a number of ideas for Frugal Gifts for Family and Friends.  Maybe some of them will fit you.

Days 365+110 Bling

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4. TRINKETS & BLING
Have you ever been to a conference, wanted to take a small gift to a host, won a white elephant gift that you can’t use? We all pick up trinkets and bling here and there and sometimes pass them on to others. I don’t want to be ungrateful or a miser but I really don’t need one more key chain, shirt with a logo on it, or other memorabilia type trinkets. It seems to me that things that are consumable (food) or useful (pens or water bottles), would be more appreciated and make less clutter in our lives than another plaque.Days 203- Extra campaigning

5. BELL RINGERS
Give to anyone who comes to the door asking for a donation or selling something – especially kids. Been there. Done that.
Addendum 12-12-15: I’ve just been scammed. A couple days ago an older teen came to the door selling packaged cookies for Holmes H.S. He said the requested donation was $10. I was in a hurry so, in the spirit of buying from any youth who comes to the door, I said yes. Besides several of our kids graduated from this school.
Later, my husband asked how I knew he was from Holmes and why did I pay with cash. Hmmm. I called the high school and they said they did not have such a fundraising drive going on and besides they always have an order form for goods. I then called our neighborhood communicator and asked her to send an email blast to the neighbors about this. Then I called the police to alert them to watch for this kid walking the neighborhood.
Solutions:
a. If in doubt, pay with a check. (A scammer will not accept a check because it identifies him/her. If it’s made to the school, they won’t be able to cash it.)
b. Don’t be in a hurry.
Question:
Although this was a rip-off, still the fellow apparently needed money. Was there a better way to respond to his need that wouldn’t reinforce lying? One neighbor suggested offering him some household chores to earn money.
PS:  The cookies were stale and unappealing.

6. HOW MUCH?
When it comes to material things, it’s hard to know how much is enough and how much is too much? I don’t consider myself wealthy but then it often depends on whom I am comparing myself to. To avoid kidding myself or being a tightwad I’ve found that rubbing shoulders with the have nots keeps me honest. Frequent contact with those who have less material goods than I do keeps me from always measuring myself against the wealthy and feeling I’m poor by comparison.

+ ATTITUDE
Be grateful. The gospel about the rich young man (Mark 10:17-27) continues to make me squirm. BUT, I try to focus on the wonderful gifts – many free like nature, people, and art – that are around me. Wallowing in guilt does not glorify God. Give thanks.

dollar signAfter my mother died last spring my brothers and I inherited some tangible household items and memorabilia along with some money, mostly in the form of stocks. In hindsight, deciding what to do with the physical items was relatively easy. I swapped out some of our more raggedy furniture for the nicer and memory laden items from mom. (See Finding Good Homes #3  and #4.)  I found respectable new homes for the other items. (See Homes for Inherited Stuff #5 )

The money part is much more complicated. For one it takes awhile to settle an estate and I’m not very astute at handling finances. Mostly I knew that I now had a lot more virtual money – not cash in the bank but stocks in a cloud somewhere. In order to be good stewards, my husband and I decided to consult a financial adviser. After clarifying our values within ourselves and with our adviser, we realized that we didn’t need all the extra money to meet our daily or projected needs. It seemed only right and fair to share our bounty with those who needed it more. This was an easy decision because it flowed from our faith and values. The hard part was facing the question, How much should we give away and to whom?

HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH TO GIVE AWAY?Days 112 Extra - Question mark
I know myself well enough to know that I’m frugal by nature. (That is probably an understatement.) I knew that I would have to face the downside of that trait and not be a cheapskate. I wanted some outside source to tell me how much. One answer comes easily to people of Judea-Christian heritage – Give away the traditional tithe or 10%. Thank you to the Bible. While this is not a perfect solution since 10% of a wealthy person’s income is not nearly as painful as 10% of a poor person’s income – thus the graduated income tax – still, it is a start. Awareness of the Widow’s Mite (see Luke 21:2-3) saves me from taking undue pride.

WHO TO GIVE OUR MONEY TO?
We decided to apply the criteria we use for most of our annual donations:

  1. Days 365+109 First ShiftGive to a cause that we are personally invested in. Thus we gave some seed money to First Shift Justice Project and the Marianist Lay Communities we are part of. Since we know these causes intimately, we know the money will be well used for the good of society and extends our own volunteer commitments.
  2. Choose a cause that our relatively small contribution can make a difference. While there are many worthy national and international causes, many people already are donating to cure various diseases and world hunger. This is good, but our donations won’t be game-changers for these organizations.
  3. Make stocks count. A new criteria for us was in the area of stocks. Although we wanted to be responsible investors, we did not feel compelled to make the maximum return on stocks. Previously we had invested in socially responsible funds. But now we learned about yet another strategy – Impact Investing. (Click here and here to learn more.) We decided to put a percentage of our stocks into one or two organizations that may or may not bring the highest financial return, BUT it would make a significant impact on the viability of a cause that we support. We’re still researching which particular organizations to allocate this pot of money to. Mostly, we remember that we are privileged to even own stocks.

BOTTOM LINE:
It’s hard to be rich – at least in the sense of being generously rich. (Tweet that). Trying to decide what causes to give money to takes a lot of research. Charity Navigator is another helpful source to check legitimate charities. See also a program by Gene Gardner called Donating With Confidence on my website.

Days 365+20 DC garbage cansRecycling is good. Right? Well, sort of. Of course it is better to recycle stuff than not to, but remember those other ecology Rs – Reduce and Reuse?

This all came to mind recently as my city changed its trash collection company. They used to accept all plastics #1 – #7 but now only accept plastic bottles that have a smaller neck than the body. After many calls to the city and the new recycling company, I started to understand the complexity of the recycling system and how there has to be a way for recycling companies to make a profit from collecting our plastics. If there is no buyer for certain plastics, a for profit company won’t take it. Glass, cans, and paper continue to be profitable, but those pesky plastics are often the problem. All of this caused me to remember that as good as recycling is, it’s even better to “pre-cycle” – buy as few things as possible that are throw-aways.

Reduce: Avoid buying stuff in plastic containers whenever possible. Avoid using products that create hazardous waste.

Reuse: Use reusable water bottles. Repair clothes, shoes, household items when possible.

BUT, what to do when reduce/reuse won’t work. Here my experience this past weekend may be food for thought.Days 365+108 hazardous recycling 2Days 365+108 Hazardous recycling trunk

  1. Hazardous Waste: This was the weekend that my community collects hazardous waste. For 6 months we’ve been collecting broken electronics, lightbulbs, toner cartridges, batteries, and a broken printer. It took a special trip to the collection center but I feel virtuous.
  2. Days 365+108 Bell peppers

    Just a few of the peppers

    Too Many Peppers: My garden was a mixed blessing this summer. My beans did well; not so much the tomatoes. The bell peppers were slow to mature. BUT, all of a sudden it was the day before the first frost was forecast so I checked my sleepy peppers. Wow! I guess I had overlooked them because I picked 53 in different stages of development. Way too many for Jim and I to eat. So, I took a walk around the neighborhood and found new homes for 40 of them. I’m not sure which of the Rs covers sharing, but it felt even better than disposing of the hazardous waste.

Now back to dealing with those ornery plastics. I was near Whole Foods today so I took my #1-#7 plastics there. Normally I wouldn’t make the trip figuring that the gas and time outweighs the benefit.

Trying to do the right thing can be pretty complicated. It’s often a matter of weighing the time to do research, the bother of spending effort to do something extra, or the inconvenience of doing without an item. It’s hard to be responsible. What are the trade-offs you make?

CZVS Schauerman photo croppedFollowing my mother’s death last spring, I was blessed with inheriting quite a few lovely items. This presented me with a mini dilemma. Here I am trying to prune my home of extra possessions but I want to honor the memory of my mother. By including some of her household items in my decor I am reminded of her presence. Following are 5 insights that evolved as I tried to decide what to keep and what to give away:

  1. Honoring a loved one: Eventually I came to peace with the realization that my mother did not reside in these physical items. They are reminders of her but the real honor is holding her memory in my heart, remembering her twinkling eyes, and her love of crossword puzzles.
  2. Visual reminders. Still, seeing a special piece of furniture reminds me of her and her good taste. Thus I kept 2 lovely chairs and tables which replaced raggedy chairs and worn tables that had “un-graced” our home for awhile. (See end of Finding Good Homes #4) This felt good because it was consistent with my “one in-one out” criterion.
  3. Saving for posterity. Personally I don’t do silver (too much hassle to keep clean). However, my mother had some nice silver pieces and I knew my daughter would like them. I’m saving a few pieces for her until she returns to live in the USA.
  4. Passing stuff on. I didn’t need more sheets, towels, blankets, and clothes so these were easy decisions to pass on to our local Catholic Worker House and Mary Magdalene Center (a place for homeless people to get showers and clothes). (See Challenge #4)
  5. Click to enlarge

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    Too good for Goodwill. I don’t like the idea that poor people should not have nice or fancy things. That seems judgmental and classist. Still, my mom had 14 pairs of elegant fine leather gloves, a Pieta sculpture from Rome, and some fireplace irons. I don’t need any of these things but it seemed like they would also not be very useful to people who frequent thrift stores. (I also frequent thrift stores but wouldn’t be looking for these items either.) In the past I’ve taken these kinds of articles to an upscale consignment shop (Legacies) in Cincinnati. Proceeds go to a local cancer support community. Before I could get to Legacies, however, I found more personal homes for:

    • The Pieta sculpture – A group of Marianist volunteers had just come to town to work in low income schools. They accepted the sculpture as a focal point for prayer in their common home.Days 365+107 fireplace irons
    • Fireplace irons – A repair person was in our home today. On a whim I asked if he had a fireplace? Would he like the irons? Yes. Success.

The gloves (many of them never worn) I’ll take to Legacies.

How do you honor your deceased loved ones?
What do you do with inherited items besides just adding them to your household?

Now on to the really hard core homeless items. My top 3 are

  1. Mattresses. (I never did find any place that would take a mattress so I re-purposed the baby crib rails and metal as garden supports and put the mattress on the floor for visiting kids.) See mattress posts here and here.
  2. Items that are not appropriate for a thrift store. (fancy gloves, fireplace irons, exclusive religious sculptures. I’ll deal with expensive inherited items like these in my upcoming post, “What to do with inherited treasures?
  3. Trophies. This is today’s challenge. I dealt with trophies almost 5 years ago. Click here to see post. The embarrassing thing is that I still found 13 trophies and 12 plaques stored away in a corner of the house. I finally decided to seriously research what to do with them since I didn’t need them, didn’t plan on being super crafty and turn them into coat pegs or other projects, but I also didn’t want them to just go into a landfill.

Here’s what didn’t work (so you don’t have to waste your time):Days 365+106 trophies

  • I called all 5 of the Trophy stores in the greater Cincinnati area. None of them were interested in old trophies.
  • I googled “What to do with old trophies” and several variations of this search. I came up with 5 promising websites: Total Awards & Promotions (temporarily closed), TC-retrophy (not now), Earth 911 (the search function gave me a local contact, Pro-Recyclers. Since it was close, I drove there. It no longer exists), and Lamb Awards (I got a live person at this site based in Maryland. You mail your trophies to them and they turn them into new trophies. You pay the shipping. The only problem is that they only accept trophies during the summer. Since it’s now September, I didn’t want to wait till June.

Trophy Solution:
On the way home from Pro Recyclers, I had to pass the grade school near our home. I know that one of the recommendations I offered 5 years ago was to donate trophies to schools, scout troops, etc. but I never did it. I decided what the heck, I’ve got these trophies ready to go, why not at least stop and ask. Victory! A teacher said, “Yes, sure we can use them for art projects, whatever.” You may not be so lucky, but it’s worth a couple calls.

When all else fails – the Curb Side SolutionDays 365+106 chairs on curb cropped
Since I inherited two lovely chairs from my mother, I had two comfortable but a bit worn chairs that I no longer needed. I didn’t have a vehicle big enough to take them to a thrift shop so I defaulted to the old standby – put them out the afternoon before garbage collection day and hope someone picks them up. It worked. I also inherited two end tables so I put them out the following week. It worked again. Glad that there are scavengers around who are willing to make my life easier.

IT HELPS TO BE CONNECTED. By this I mean that sometimes giving stuff to the usual places (Goodwill, St. Vincent de Paul, Salvation Army, Lupus, Viet Vets – GSVPSALVV for short 😉 ) seems like a bad match. It helps to have personal links to potential “good homes.” For example:

Days 365+105 Finding Homes-carpet squares SFDSChallenge #1 – Carpet Samples. Several decades ago I collected about 20 carpet samples. They worked well as a temporary carpet for an attic room. Eventually we got real carpeting and then used them as mats for small children. (They helped define their sitting space.). For about 20 years they’ve been just gathering dust. Then, hurrah, a need arose! Our Children’s Ministry at church was looking for alternative seating for the kids. Voila! – the carpet samples. I vacuumed them and took them to church.

Challenge #2 – Bling. I go to a lot of meetings. Often I get bling in the form of little trinkets like magnets, key chains, pens. There are only so many pens or key chains I need so I have developed what I call the “Trinket Basket.” This is handy for visiting kids to go through and move some of the “clutter” from my house to theirs. The parents have not yet complained, perhaps because a new bling feels like a treasure to a young child and can amuse them for awhile – until they pass it on or lose it.

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Challenge #3 – Specialized Bling. Since many of these meetings are with religious groups, however, the give aways tend to be pretty specific to the religious order I’m connected with (holy cards, medals, pins, etc.) These aren’t really kid friendly trinkets but I hadn’t found anyone who wanted 50 Fr. Chaminade medals or holy cards…until I talked with some teachers, many at a local Marianist school. Aha! They could use them in religion class to teach about the Marianist heritage. The rosaries went to another Marianist group. It’s a small thing, but it’s nice to know they have a second life somewhere.

Challenge #4 – Sheets & Towels. When helping to clean out my mother’s home after her death, I  noticed many extra sheets Days 365+105 Finding Homes-towelsDays 365+105 Finding Homes-sheets & blanketand towels. Now these are items that are usually easy to take to the usual GSVPSALVV places, BUT, I had a better plan. Because I volunteer with our local Catholic Worker House and also a place called Mary Magdalene House (which provides showers and washes clothes for homeless people), I personally knew places that could use bedding and towels. Giving stuff away should not solely be for the purpose of self-satisfaction, but it’s nice when there’s a personal connection.

The point? Be alert for good homes that you are already connected with such as:

  • Church programs
  • Schools, teachers
  • Neighborhood children
  • Scout troops
  • Organizations that serve the poor. Of course this assumes that you make rubbing shoulders with those in need part of your ordinary life so you can see the need.

Days 365+104 Misc clothes shoes, paintingWhile pruning the clutter of Too Much Information from my life these last few months has been good, other items have been collecting dust. When I’m ready to let go of miscellaneous stuff around the house I put them in a bin and wait for a time to take them to Goodwill, St. Vincent de Paul, or have one of the pick-up services (Viet Vets, Lupus Foundation, etc.) stop by. That time has come. See past posts for more ideas.

The current crop includes: 3 shoes, 2 pairs of pants, , 2 T-shirts, , 5 sets of earrings 5 hangers a pair of shorts, a skirt, a night gown, a sweater, a slip, a scarf, a purse, gloves, a painting, a table runner, a decorative soup bowl, and a wine goblet.

Days 365+105 Tube TVA bigger and harder item to give away was a large old tube TV. The usual places wouldn’t take it. I’d have to lug it to a electronics store and pay a fee to even recycle it. Our annual community recycling date was past. Besides, it worked! I hated to just junk it. Salvation Army came to the rescue on this one. They send a truck to your door accompanied by 2 people with strong backs. Success.

Often the hardest part of giving stuff away is finding the right place. Please share any tips on where you take difficult items, for example, a mattress.

 

Days 112 Extra - Question markToo Much Information can come in many forms – paper, TV/radio, e-mails, social media, phones, and bad news. As much as conscientious people want to be informed, still collectively it can create mental clutter. The solution is not to become ignorant, but rather to differentiate the important from the trivial or distracting. Having now spent 10 weeks analyzing my own consumption of information, I offer you the following insights:

1.  DECIDE WHAT’S IMPORTANT.
Just as clearing out tangible things from your life require assessment of what’s really necessary, so too clearing mental clutter requires assessing how important is the news, when is it repetitive, and how much time it takes?
A Strategy: Log your news diet for a week.

  • How much time do you average a day consuming info from newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, email, and social media?
  • Rank your life priorities (family time, job, direct interaction with friends, spiritual fulfillment, volunteer work…). Outside of sleep and job, how much time each day do you devote to your priorities? How much time is left?
  • How does your news consumption time compare with what’s most important in your life? The rule of thumb I’m coming to myself is that if my news consumption is more than 10% (2½ hours) of my day, it’s probably too much.
  • If most of the news is trivial or passing, cut it back more.

The 10% rule is arbitrary and will vary depending on whether you are in the active parenting stage of life, retired, media is your job, etc. Still I liked the cleanness of the number 10 and it coincides with the biblical standard of tithing 10% of one’s income. 😕

2.  TRIM LESS IMPORTANT MEDIA

  • Unsubscribe from little read newspapers, junk mail, email bulletins, sales calls.
  • Organize your email. This can be tedious but if you don’t already have a system for filtering and putting things in logical folders, do it now. It will save you time in the future.
  • Get control of Facebook and other social media. I’m tempted to say “Cancel Facebook” since it can be a time hog. BUT, I get too much good information about my far flung family, friends who I don’t see much, and causes that I care about to go cold turkey. Instead I skim and delete purely social posts and retain articles I want to read later for when I’m on hold.

3.  CONSUME NEWS WHILE DOING MINDLESS ACTIVITIES
Since I can’t bring myself to actually skip listening to NPR or an interesting podcast I multitask while walking, folding laundry, traveling.

4.  USE WAITING TIME
Waiting time can also be a time to multitask. For example, waiting on hold for tech support is a time to check Facebook, waiting at a doctor’s office is a time to read the newspaper, waiting in line at a store can be a time to chat with your child (or embarrass your teen). Still these might also be times to consider NOT being “productive” in the traditional sense. Sometimes I try to take this time to pray for the person in front of me in line or for the people in the cars around me.

5.  BEYOND “WAITING TIME” – BREATHE, PAUSE, MEDITATE
As much as I like to maximize my use of time, we Type A personalities, might consider just doing nothing. Sometimes solitude is what I need in the midst of noise, busyness, and crowds. Sometimes the decision to just sit or stand mindfully is the way to handle Too Much Information. Let the pressure go and remember point #1 – What’s important.

For more detail on TMI, see my posts on paper, TV/radio, computers, phones, and bad news.

Days 365+102 bad newsWithin the category of Too Much Information there are the subcategories of good news, bad news, and irrelevant news.

GOOD NEWS: Although you would think that there could never be too much good news, even good news can create mental clutter. For example, how many birthdays, anniversaries, and friends’ awards do you need to acknowledge? My own rule of thumb is if they are close relatives or friends, Yes, I try to celebrate with them. If not, I’m happy for them but don’t feel compelled to do anything more.  Click on my TMI-Computers post and scroll down to the SOCIAL MEDIA part for more.

BAD NEWS: This is the primary culprit of TMI since bad news is not only mental clutter, it’s also depressing. There will always be natural disasters, wars, and  tragedies. Some of these are alarms which awaken us to changes that need to be made in our personal lives and in the world. This is “good” bad news, if we can use it that way. But too often bad news is just a repetitive litany of ills that we can’t do anything about – except feel bad. Some options that occur to me are:

  1. Limit exposure to excessive bad news. Although some bad news can be motivating, the news media tend to grab onto a captivating story and keep repeating it without any significant new information. Be selective about the radio/TV/news feeds that you listen to and turn them off when it starts to get repetitive. Sometimes a “News Fast” is required. Turn off all your gadgets, designate a “News Fast Friend” and ask him/her to inform you if a resolution happens or if something requires your direct attention.
  2. Pray the headlines. The secret weapon of spiritual people is that we always have prayer. It may feel inadequate or far removed, but intentionally using the headlines as a prompt for prayer can turn a depressing situation over to someone who can do something about it. It’s a way of letting go and letting God.
  3. Don’t just pray. Do something. As good as prayer is, sometimes the answer to prayer is to do something proactive to address the problem. Make peace with a neighbor if you can’t orchestrate world peace. Send money to a relief agency if you can’t rebuild houses after a hurricane. Sign a petition if you can’t change the government. At least recycle if you can’t singlehandedly prevent climate change. Doing something, no matter how small helps the feeling of helplessness. Joining with others, multiplies your effort.
  4. Force the bad news out. When the above is not enough, try forcing the bad news out of mind and sight by substitution. If feeling depressed, say to yourself something like, “That’s a bummer/terrible/a tragedy.” Sometimes you just have to cry. Then focus on something you are grateful for such as having food, a friend, health, pleasant weather, sleep… If one of these items is your tragedy, keep searching for something to be grateful for. Another substitution is to do some physical work, perhaps a chore you’ve been avoiding. If you’re already a Type A, overcommitted person, perhaps it’s time to take a break and substitute something fun or funny.

IRRELEVANT NEWS – Skip it. Ignore it – unless you need a mindless escape for a short time.

How do you deal with bad news? What has been most helpful?

Phones are a handy, nay essential, means of getting information and connecting with those we love. Can there be too much of a good thing? Explore with me the pros and cons of the different kinds of phone use – their cost in time and money.

Days 365+101 Landline croppedLANDLINES: The phone rings at dinner time. I can almost guarantee that it’s a solicitation. For example:

  • Charity call. My response – “Yes you have a worthy cause but we have already allocated all of our donations for this year.”
  • Political call during campaign season (which has become all but 6 months of a 4 year cycle) – See above
  • Offers to increase my safety as a senior citizen or to protect me from burglaries. My response – Hang up. (I used to wait till I got a live person in order to ask them to take me off their list, but they disconnect as soon as I start this spiel.)
  • Offers for a “free” cruise – Hang up. (See above)
  • Offers to reduce my credit card interest payments etc. – Hang up (See above)

Yes, I know about the “Do not call” service and have used it but it only prohibits sales calls. You still may receive political, charitable, debt collection, and informational calls, plus telephone surveys. Still, we have a landline because my husband and I both work at home. Having 2 lines is a convenience and part of our internet package.

Days 365+101 TracFone croppedCELL PHONES: Until recently I only had a basic cell phone. This was fine for phone calls, text messages, and marginally passable photos. BUT, I would see colleagues and family using smart phones to check email while at a meeting, on the road, or well,… anywhere. They used it as a GPS, a daily lectionary, and could answer interesting trivia on a moment’s notice. I was impressed but I’m a late adopter and I figured I’d just wait. My TracFone gave me enough annual minutes for about $100. Besides, I didn’t get any solicitation calls.

Days 365+101 smart phone croppedSMART PHONES: However, my kids kept telling me that I should probably “adopt” a smart phone soon since the learning curve was about to increase exponentially and it might be hard to adjust later. This was sweetened by them doing the research for me and giving me a usable hand-me-down smart phone. I’ve been using it for about 6 weeks now to test whether it’s worth continuing. What I’ve learned from my experiment so far:

Pros:

  1. Upon the advice of one son I went with TING,  a low cost provider with excellent tech support (He knew my needs.). It looks like it will generally cost me about $170 – $200 annually. It’s more than my basic cell phone but it does a lot more. Of course the data amount is small but I try to use Wi-Fi connections most of the time.
  2. It’s unlocked so I can buy a sim card when traveling in a foreign country.
  3. I can use “waiting time” and travel time to check emails.
  4. It syncs with my computer for Gmail, contacts, photos, and Dropbox.
  5. It makes phone calls.

Cons:

  1. It’s not very usable for serious emailing and computer work – but then I didn’t expect it to be.
  2. I can see how this could become addictive. I might be tempted to check my phone in social situations which detracts from being present to other humans I am with. I hope I can balance personal presence with internet availability.
  3. It’s possible that my hunger for more data may bump me into getting an unlimited plan which would be more convenient but more expensive.

BOTTOM LINE:
The jury’s still out. I think using technology this way will facilitate my connecting with others, make me more productive, and make my life easier. Let’s hope it doesn’t just complicate life and interfere with being human.

I welcome your comments on the pros and cons of your own experiences with phones.

Note: If this post is Too Much Information for you right now, just wait. In several weeks I’ll do a summary of my TMI series. For those who would like to tame their computer time or have helpful strategies to share, read on.

Days 365+100 TMI computer 4Spending/wasting too much time on the computer is probably my biggest challenge in terms of TMI. Since I am a writer and work at home, it’s not unusual for me to sit in front of my computer up to 10 hours a day. I am boss of my own time and happy doing what I do so this is not a problem, EXCEPT that I also like to be efficient. I take breaks (naps, walks, eat, do hobbies and chores) when I feel like it so I’m not glued to the computer. I have meetings, do workshops, spend time with my husband, travel, and sleep. I enjoy my life but it has been an ongoing compulsion of mine to decrease wasted time on the computer to make room for productive and meaningful time. So…in the interest of saving you all some time, I’ve spent several weeks researching how I use my computer time and analyzing how I might reduce some of the info clutter that beams at me from this device.

Your computer use, family circumstances, and personality might be drastically different from mine, but consider this a step to evaluating your own situation.

Following are the usual ways I use my computer:

Days 365+31 gmailEMAIL: On average I receive 42 emails a day. I only pay attention to about half of these. This is due to the beauty of Gmail’s tabs and filtering system. I glance at the social and promotional tabs maybe once a day and most of them can be quickly deleted. (Caveat: I also send out thousands of emails a week which often go into other’s “Promotion” tab. You can delete all but mine.) 🙂 Because of my stage in life (empty nest) my incoming primary email roughly falls into 1/3 work, 1/3 volunteer commitments, and 1/3 personal.

Time wasters:

  • Email replies “to all” that really only need to go to one person. Solution: I don’t do it myself.
  • Too many newsletters from causes, organizations, or businesses. Because I’m politically active I receive a lot of newsletters, many of them repetitive or asking for money. Solutions: I unsubscribe to most. I sign any petition that I agree with but never send money or inflict them on others. I skim the few newsletters and causes I care about and file those I want to keep in folders. The Gmail Promotions tab keeps them out of my sight.
  • Not being able to find a past email or address. Solution: Gmail has a good search function.

Time savers:

  • A good filing system. I have folders with subfolders for the primary categories of email I want to save. I program most of my emails to automatically go to the correct folder after I read it. I have Gmail set up to auto file or auto trash certain emails.
  • I try to keep my list of active emails few enough that I don’t have to scroll. On my monitor that means under 25. If it gets longer, I’ve got too much information and too much to do.
  • If it takes under a minute, I deal with it right away so I can file it or delete it. Anything from a relative gets priority.

WRITING: I write newsletters, blogs, articles, books, and update my website on my computer. I don’t know any shortcuts to make the actual writing more efficient.

Time waster:

  • Where I waste time is with technology that I don’t understand well enough. I spend some time contacting Constant Contact tech support. (Actually the time waster is the time I spend before I contact tech support trying to figure out the problem myself.) My current headache is trying to figure out how to put my Dreamweaver website on my laptop so I can make changes when traveling. Solution: Resign myself to only editing my website while at home.

Time savers:

  • Again having a good filing system helps me find past work.
  • Having Carbonite back-up my files relieves panic.
  • Being able to work on my laptop while traveling makes it possible for me to keep up with work commitments when traveling.
  • Having a son who lives close by to advise me on computer glitches is a blessing.

Days 365 + FacebookSOCIAL MEDIA: U.S. adults spend an average of 40 minutes a day on Facebook; less on Tumbler, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Snapchat, Ello, and Linked In – in that order. I was heartened, therefore, when I timed my own usage at 20 minutes a day, almost all on FB.

Time wasters:

  • Frequently updated photos, pictures of food, parties at bars that I’m not at, and birthday wishes. Lest you call me a birthday Grinch, let me explain. Perhaps it is just my personality quirk but I’m not a big fan of wishing people Happy Birthday on FB. I celebrate my relatives’ birthdays and the milestone birthdays of friends. Other than that birthdays aren’t a big deal to me. If they are to you, fine. I just wish I didn’t have to scroll through gobs of birthday wishes on FB. In my sample week I counted 263 birthday wishes. (Gratefully, many of them were for the same 6 people so they were grouped together meaning there were only 44 separate posts.) Solution: I don’t want to hide most of these people, so I quickly delete the birthday wishes and suck it up. Please don’t wish me happy birthday on FB.

Maybe yes, maybe no:

  • Trips, brain teasers, and Upworthy. If a friend has gone on an interesting trip and posts a few key photos that’s fine. I occasionally will try one of the brain teasers for fun. Upworthy has been a learning experience for me. If you are not familiar with it, it has tantalizing headlines for human interest stories. Some of them are very uplifting. Some are pleasant but not substantive. The problem is that there are too many. Solution: From clicking on many Upworthy stories I’ve learned to differentiate between those worth clicking on and those that will disappoint. You’ll have to figure it out for yourself.

My personal FB protocols:

  • Sometimes I’ve just finished a computer task and want a little diversion before I plunge into my next task. Often I’m just on hold. This is a good time to check FB. Sometimes I check StatCounter to see my website and blog stats.  7 Facebook Habits You Should Adopt.
  • With rare exceptions, my FB rule for the universe would be: “No more than one post per person per day.” Generally I do 2 automatic posts a week (Marriage Moments & Parenting Pointers), and 2 automatic newsletter posts a month (Gifts & Tasks and this blog). Occasionally my personal life is interesting enough that I might do a personal post – maybe once a quarter. Mostly I communicate by email and an annual family letter.

LOOKING UP INFO: Usually the internet is a time saver since it is quicker than looking through books, calling the library or stores, or asking friends. I do a lot of Google searching.

FAMILY COMMUNICATION: Since only one of our 4 children lives in town, we use Skype and Google HangOut to communicate regularly. This is definitely NOT a waste of time since our children live in Washington DC, Kenya, and Singapore.

NEWS: As noted earlier, we get several print newspapers and listen to NPR on the radio. Still FB and online news articles help with occasional late breaking news or articles.

RECREATION: As you have probably figured out I am mostly task-oriented when on the computer. I don’t play games. I browse FB as a break between other tasks. I watch Survivor online and an occasional YouTube video or movie.

Well, this is way too long a blog post. I welcome comments from those who have been able to streamline their incoming communication without living in a cave.

UPDATE: After having recently received many kind but automated birthday wishes, I pass on the following Facebook fix. Facebook is required to verify your age, but you can hide it from the public. Here’s how:

  1. Go to your Home Page.
  2. Click either About or Update Info.
  3. Click Contact & Basic Info.
  4. Scroll to Birthday.
  5. Hover your mouse to the far right until you see the lock icon & Edit.
  6. Click the Edit triangle and choose “Only Me.
  7. Click “Save Changes.”

Days 365+99 TMI radioAs a result of my previous blog about TMI, a friend commented that he no longer “did news.” I said that I could understand not getting a daily newspaper and not watching TV, “But not even the radio! Do you catch up on news through the internet?” He explained that if it’s important he finds out about it from friends. Even radio takes time he said, and “I have so little free time that I would rather spend it some other way.” This got me to thinking how I spend TV and radio time.

TV: This one is pretty easy since I hardly ever watch TV. I have two shows that I like: Charlie Rose and Survivor. I often watch Charlie Rose at bedtime for in depth interviews. Survivor is my guilty pleasure since I like strategy but it only runs twice a year and I usually watch it online. (Now that The Colbert Report and The Daily Show are no longer on, I’m freed of those addictions. But I also watched them online and only when convenient.) I make exceptions for the Olympics and elections.

RADIO: Now this is the challenge. I am addicted to NPR for news. It’s good news. Well, maybe not good, in the sense of uplifting, but it is basically fair and unbiased. (I’ll cover “too much bad news” in a few weeks.) It covers important stuff. So, how do I deal with the time issue?

  • Multitask – As I reflected on when I listen to NPR I realized that it was usually while I was doing something else like dressing in the morning, exercising, eating breakfast, driving, doing dishes, and gardening. I know, I know, I’ve read the research about how multitasking doesn’t save that much time since each task may take a little longer. Most of the tasks I double up on though don’t take much brain power. When I have a lack of “free time” it usually has to do with having said “Yes” to too many commitments. That’s a different challenge.
  • Turn it off – Even though I tend to be a news junkie, I also want to interact mindfully with the people around me. People always trump news – well, almost always. I also realize that I need doses of quiet and solitude. NPR conveniently provides this through pledge drives and repeating the morning and evening news. I just turn off the repeats and read the paper. If my head is too full of news – good or bad – I just turn it off. I have plenty of compelling things I want to do each day, that limiting my radio time to multi-tasking is usually plenty.

Do you put limits on TV or radio time? How do you manage these media?

Days 365+54 NewspaperThe other day I had a doctor’s appointment. My custom is to take the morning paper with me to appointments since there is always some waiting time and this is a good way to spend it. The doctor saw me and said, “I didn’t know anyone read paper papers anymore.” So, how much news do we consume and is it healthy for us?

This is the first of a series of posts on taming the amount of information that comes into our homes and minds. Too Much Information (TMI) is becoming a burden. I want to be informed about family and friends, political issues, causes that I believe in, and generally what’s happening in the world, BUT it can be a time hog. I’ve been evaluating how I consume information and how it sometimes interferes with being present to people close to me and robs me of time. Consider the following kinds of information:

  1. Paper – newspapers, magazines, catalogues, junk mail, books
  2. Audio/Visual Media – radio, TV, movies, videos,
  3. Electronic Communication – email, social media
  4. Phone – solicitations, cell phone limits, smart phones
  5. Being Weighed Down by Too Much Bad News – wars, natural disasters, tragedies

Let’s start with paper because I think that’s the most tangible and easiest to tame.

NEWSPAPERS:
Days 365+100 TMI trading news at doorWe get 2 daily national newspapers (New York Times & Wall Street Journal) and 2 biweekly religious newspapers (one national and one local). I admit that this is already too much to read. I read the front page, op-ed page, and perhaps another article or two in the NYT. Our daughter writes for the WSJ so I read anything she writes and compare headlines with the NYT.
A Step Forward: The one newspaper strategy that I’m most proud of is our daily newspaper swap. Several years ago we decided to discontinue the local daily paper but we still wanted to know basic local news. Our neighbor agreed to bring us the daily local paper after they’ve read it and we give them the NYT. Everybody wins.

MAGAZINES
Days 365+98 TMI New YorkerWe get 5 monthly magazines (2 of these I read pretty thoroughly – often in the bathtub). I skim 1. The others are primarily of interest to Jim.
A Step Forward: We used to get more magazines but cancelled most since we were getting enough news through the newspapers and radio. After skimming the New Yorker (It’s too long to read everything and I’m still trying to figure out many of the cartoons) we give it to a librarian friend for her school.

CATALOGS
We used to get 15 catalogs (5 garden, 5 professional, and 5 clothing/household). Some were duplicates.
A Step Forward: I used Catalog Choice to reduce our catalogs to 6 since I can get most of the info I need online. Catalog Choice was pretty easy to use but it didn’t list one of the seed catalogs so I had to email the company directly. I like LLBean and didn’t want to drop this catalog but I was getting more than one a season plus sales and Christmas. When I called them, I was pleased to find out that they will reduce your catalogs to your specifications.

JUNK MAIL:
This includes preapproved credit offers, solicitations, campaign literature, and ways to save me money.
A Step Forward: I can’t stop campaign literature (Heck, I’m often the one going door to door distributing it.) but here are several ways to reduce (not eliminate) the others.

  • Direct Mail Association (DMAchoice) maintains a “do not mail” file of Mail Preference Service registrants. Members are required to remove the listed names from their rosters of prospective customers. I found it a bit overwhelming to try to choose among the many options so I ended up asking to be deleted from all the categories. I did this 3 months ago. (It sometimes takes up to 3 months to take effect.) So far I’m not aware of missing anything important. I haven’t noticed much reduction in my junk mail but then I didn’t get much anyway. No harm. Little gain.
  • Pre-approved credit offers. The Federal Trade Commission explains the practice of prescreened credit and insurance offers and refers to
    Opt-Out Prescreen (888) 567-8688 as the primary reference. I was about use this service but noticed that Opt-Out Prescreen asks for personal information including your home telephone number, Social Security number, and date of birth. Although the information  is said to be confidential, I became suspicious. After checking several websites including Snopes, it seems to be legit. Still, I think I’ll put up with this mail. Identity theft is just too prevalent.

BOOKS
As wonderful as books have been in my life, I don’t take the time to read many anymore. Mostly I’m an article reader. I get most of my books from the library. I’ve pruned many books from our bookshelves over the years. What’s left are mostly for reference and historical purposes. Read How Giving Away 1,000 Books Made Me Love Reading Again for inspiration.

Please add your tips and experiences.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Is there a statute of limitations for hanging on to maternity clothes? The biblical stories of Sara or Elizabeth notwithstanding, I’m long past a possible pregnancy myself. I did think, however, that perhaps some day our daughter or daughter-in-law might want these clothes. I’ve finally resigned myself to letting go. What helped me make the decision was a person who needed them now.

A young college student colleague revealed that she unexpectedly became pregnant. Finally, I realized these clothes were not doing anyone any good stored in my closet. I gave her 9 tops, 3 dresses, 3 shorts, and 2 pairs of slacks. Not all of these items are probably equally useful since I’ve noticed that the style of maternity wear has evolved. The goal for many pregnant women no longer seems to be to hide one’s “baby bump” but rather to just be comfortable. Progress? Probably. What took me so long to accept the obvious? Sentimentality? Inertia? Stupidity? Forgetting I had them? Who knows.

Lesson: Another’s need can awaken generosity.

Full disclosure: I’m still saving my wedding dress even though after 44 years of marriage I have no intention of needing it again. Sometimes sentiment wins.

Days 365+96 Uber recycling earthApril 22 is Earth Day. This reminds me of the importance of decreasing our carbon footprint by the familiar formula: reduce, reuse, recycle. Many families, including us:

Typical recycling:

  • Put paper, cans, glass, plastic bottles, anything with a triangle (Δ), into our city’s curbside recycling service
  • Compost vegetables and yard waste
  • Take reusable cloth bags to the grocery and other stores
  • Take hazardous waste to the once a year collection point
  • Pre-cycle by reducing the packaging that comes into our home

Go the extra mile:

bags eligible for terracycling

bags eligible for terracycling

  • Drive a hybrid car and walk/bike when possible
  • Terracycle stuff
  • Pick up recyclables when walking
  • Take metal, electronics, plastic bags, etc. to appropriate collection places
  • More often than not try to repair and reuse items and decrease our energy consumption.
  • We exchange newspapers with our neighbor.

BUT… I recently discovered my husband doing what I’d call “Ǚber Recycling.”

Days 365+96 Uber recycling OJ can1. It started with a simple orange juice concentrate can. I usually just put the white plastic top strip and metal lid in recycling. But then I discovered that my husband carefully separates the cardboard like container to release the bottom lid also. The film lined cardboard goes in the garbage. The top AND bottom lids go into recycling

2. Later I noticed Jim fiddling with an old teapot since he had just received a new one for his birthday. He wanted to recycle the metal but that meant removing the plastic parts. It took a bit of effort. Was it worth it? If you figure the cost of his time, I don’t know, but it certainly qualified as an Ǚber Recycling effort.
Days 365+96 Uber recycling kettle-2   Days 365+96 Uber recycling kettle1Days 365+96 Uber recycling kettle-1

Days 365+96 Uber recycling sheets3. Not to be outdone, I decided I would Ǚber Recycle something. Even though it was a cold winter day, I decided to hang our sheets out to dry. I usually hang sheets in the Spring, Summer, and Fall – but never in Winter. I wasn’t sure if the sheets would dry or harden? Of course in prehistoric times (like 75 years ago when electric dryers were not common) or in cultures where line drying is common even today, this would not be remarkable. It did take a little longer, but I’m here to tell you that it worked.

Two Questions to think about:
1. Sometimes we have to balance the trouble it takes to recycle vs available time. Have you ever pondered whether it was worth recycling a given object?
2. Do you have any creative recycling tricks or hints you’ve learned? Please share.