Eco-Frugality Minimalism, Flannel Rag Rug, and Dutch Oven Bread
Eco-Frugality Minimalism, Flannel Rag Rug, and Dutch Oven Bread
Why I Care
As I tell you on my About page, my two adult kids are my biggest inspiration, both in starting this blog and in my life in general. My daughter (“Smash”, to me) has spent the last couple of years on a personal journey. She has simplified her life, both in terms of possessions, and beliefs and habits. Completely vegan now, Smash has downsized and downsized again the items in her kitchen — sometimes too much so. Her fridge and cupboards look sparse, but it’s only because she buys only what she will eat. She wastes almost nothing. In her beautiful home, she’s pared down to keep only those things that she really loves and are truly useful or meaningful to her.
Smash used to spend every weekend hanging out with friends. Now she finds a more quiet joy in hikes in her favorite nearby park. A few weekends ago, she even donated her TV and all of her DVDs. She chooses instead to spend her time reading or doing yoga. While I don’t think I’d stay married very long if I donated our TV, Smash has inspired me to take a hard look at my life. To take steps toward a more minimalist lifestyle.
What I Learned
First, in part because of the research I did for my earlier post on ocean plastic, I am increasingly aware of the toll on the planet that I, personally, have made and it makes me sick. I ache with the thought of all the plastic material I have used and discarded in my lifetime. While I’ve been an an avid reduce-reuse-recycle’er for quite a while now, I know I can do better.
I grew up in a typical American home where we desired, obtained, and discarded things. Where the garbage collectors came every week and took away a few bags worth of trash. I’ve always been into yard sales and second hand goods but I thought because of that it was okay that I used, then re-donated things in my life. I thought I was being responsible by donating rather than discarding things I didn’t want or need anymore. We know better now, that many of the things we donate end up in landfills or are shipped to other areas in the world to litter their landscape.
As I was doing research for this post, I had a momentary vision that shocked the hell out of me. I saw in my head a mountain of discarded material that I had caused in my lifetime. I pictured the pile in my front yard, where everyone could see how irresponsible I have been. A mountain of used and discarded cans, bottles, clothing, shoes, TVs, furniture, wasted food, computers, books, bags and purses, linens and shampoo bottles, coffee mugs, DVDs and much more. It makes me so ashamed.
I’m ashamed that five decades into life on this planet, it’s only now that I begin to realize how much my typical American lifestyle has cost. I am ashamed of my contribution to the landfills and the toxicity I have added to the earth. But I cannot go back in time and correct it. I can only vow to do better, to be better. One thing is clear:
I realize now that I am responsible for the entire life cycle of every physical thing I choose to bring into my home.
In order to even think about pursuing a more minimalist lifestyle, I thought hard about what I feel good about – and what I don’t – in my life as it is now. I agree with so many others that minimalism isn’t just about owning fewer things, it’s about choosing to own only those things that are important to you. It’s about clearing away the clutter of things you’ve collected just because you liked it them in the moment you acquired them. Through simplifying possessions, I’m aiming, too, to simplify the clutter in my mind that comes from dusting, moving around, caring for those things that I don’t really need.
In our 100+ year old farmhouse, there is 33 years of a marriage’s accumulation of stuff. Empty nesters now, we keep the house tidy, but it’s never as clean and organized as I would prefer. That stresses me out. Daily. That leads me to minimalist desire number one:
Simplify every room. Acquire only what we absolutely need or truly love and plan for its disposal or reuse at the end of its useful life.
Repurpose or find new homes for the things we don’t need.
Of course, there are many other facets to living a minimalist lifestyle. Food and meal planning are one other area to simplify. I am so fortunate to have access to a year-round Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). I can count on a weekly boatload of fresh, organic vegetables. I know I can do better at having a host of recipe ideas on standby, since I never know from week to week what will be coming in my CSA basket.
Also complicating our meal planning is that while I am nearly completely vegan now, hubby is a true carnivore. We mostly cook for ourselves since little we eat is in common and we work different hours. That leads me to minimalist desire number two:
Simplify meals with staple ingredients and easy recipes. Aim for zero food waste to save money and the planet.
With family scattered around the country now, hubby and I are finding more reasons to travel every year. While we’ve never much been into expensive toys or hobbies, it’s even more important now to save our money to be able to travel. That leads me to reason number three for pursuing a minimalist lifestyle: Save money for experiences, not things.
Well Begun is Almost Done
Since starting the research for this post, I have made tremendous progress in our home. I only have one room left to tackle — the attic. Every drawer, every cabinet, every closet has been sorted through and many are empty now. I’ve thinned out my clothes by about 75%. Only those things I truly like and that fit are left. I’ve saved only one set of cotton sheets, and one set of flannel sheets for each bed. (I live in Michigan where flannel sheets are a must for winter nights!) My greatest challenge was my craft room, but I was ruthless in keeping only those things that I absolutely will use.
Trying also to reduce my plastic footprint, I’ve recycled or donated all plastic food storage containers. I’ve hauled dusty canning jars up from the basement to wash and use for leftovers and storage. I saved only those towels and washcloths we really need. I’m going to make un-paper towels out of the rest with a cotton bed sheet I saved.
The results of just this progress so far is amazing: I feel like a huge weight has been lifted. There’s less to dust and clean, fewer towels to wash, less in the fridge to empty for cleaning. I don’t say “uggggghhh” every time I pass by my craft room. I feel like I’ve been given the one thing I’ve truly wanted for years — more time!
Later this month, I’ll show you how we continue to connect with the theme of eco-frugality minimalism by repurposing some of those things that we’ve cleaned out of our home. There’s no better way to save money than to make something useful out of things you already have!
One of the things most Americans have way too much of is clothing. While I was ruthless in paring down my closet, hubby hasn’t entirely embraced my efforts. But I was able to pry a few things away from him. There were a few flannel shirts in his closet that we both know he’ll never wear. I was able to convince him that I could make something useful out of them, so he gave them up to me.
In my next post, I will show you how I transformed a blue plaid flannel shirt into something useful — a small rag rug to put under our dogs’ bowls. You’ll need a shirt or two or a pair of jeans to make the rug yourself. So start looking through your own closet and get ready! You’ll also need a small swatch of rug canvas. Check at second hand stores as latch-hook rug kits are often donated. And finally you’ll need a crochet or a rug hook, which is basically a small crochet hook, usually with a shorter handle.
Later, I’ll share with you an easy recipe for some whole grain bread that’s easy to make and requires only a mixing bowl and a dutch oven. I’ve donated a lot of kitchen items, but saved my set of glass mixing bowls and my beloved cast iron dutch oven. A dutch oven (or any large pot with a lid that can go in the oven) is so very useful and serves multiple purposes in making soups, stews, and bread!
Finally, later I’ll share with you some more concrete steps you can take to pursue a more minimalist lifestyle. Between Smash and me, we’ve learned a lot about how to take stock of those things in your life. It’s important to identify what is most important to you. I’ll share with you some of the things I’ve learned in this journey.