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Breakthrough

After helping with the flood clean-up efforts the boy says to me “I’m going to become a minimalist!”

This is after months of disinterest while I have been steadily purging my possessions and trying to focus on those things that are most important to me. He said to me only a few weeks ago, “don’t you think you are going too far with this minimalist thing?”

But the floods have changed things. So many people have lost their homes and had to flee with what possessions they had time to grab and space to carry. What was left has been covered in floodwaters and toxic mud. It’s gross, it stinks and it’s full of bacteria and contaminants. The boy came home from the clean-up exhausted, nostrils filled with the stench of decay, his clothes caked in toxic mud.

He has seen firsthand the destructive force of nature and how easily our possessions can be destroyed. He doesn’t want to have to go through that same experience with our stuff.

Perhaps now we’ll be able to embrace minimalism together.

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Bokashi

I went and did it today. I bought a bokashi. After discovering them online recently I couldn’t resist buying one.

Bokashi

I expect that it will reduce our waste considerably as much of it is compostable. Up until now the vegetable peels and table scraps have been reluctantly thrown in the bin as we live in a first-floor apartment, without the luxury of a courtyard. Now though I can put them in my new Bokashi.

Call me an enviro-nerd but I am super excited by this!

New Feature: Step Lightly

Free Grungy Happy Urban Acid Pop Green Sneakers on Asphalt Creative Commons

Some rights reserved by D. Sharon Pruitt

Step Lightly is a new feature segment designed to provide you with brief, informative articles about consumer products. The articles will discuss ingredients, methods of production and distribution, as well as highlighting natural/greener/ethical/non-toxic alternatives. Let me know what particular products you want to hear about in the comments section.

Look out for the first article next Thursday!

Living in CHAOS

According to FlyLady, CHAOS stands for Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome and for the past 18 months I have been living in an almost constant state of CHAOS. Reading minimalist blogs like, Rowdy Kittens, Becoming Minimalist and Miss Minimalist has become a regular escapism and I dream of pairing my possessions down to 100 things.  Apartment Therapy provides a constant source of inspiration but it doesn’t get my house clean.

To begin with I realise I need to start small.

Day One: Go Shine your Sink

Clean Kitchen Sink

This is how my kitchen sink has looked for almost a week now. I’m finding that not only is it so much nicer to have a clean kitchen, it’s also giving me the energy and motivation to get cleaning around the rest of the house.

Calculating my Environmental Footprint

Before I start to try and reduce our family’s environmental footprint (and the associated costs) I think it’s about time I actually looked at where we are and take a snap shot, if you will. With some help from One Earth to Live who has posted some Carbon Footprint Calculators on her site I’m sitting down to work out where we stand currently and where we can possibly improve.

Travel

We have two four-cylinder cars. One is four years old and the other is five years. Each car is filled between once a fortnight and once a month, depending on how often we are driving. My husband’s car is usually only used for work which is a 15-30 minute drive but an hour by train. Personally, I’d prefer my husband home for that extra hour each day. My car is used for general errands and for weekend trips. There are often days where I don’t go anywhere though.

My car current mileage: 55588 km
Approximate 12 months mileage: 5672 km

Husband’s car current mileage: 38793 km
Approximate 12 months mileage: 6740 km

Home

We live in a two-bedroom apartment. It has a south facing balcony which, in the southern hemisphere, means we don’t get much direct sun. It means growing fruit and vegetables on the balcony could be a challenge, especially because we have resident possums who have managed to destroy almost everything I’ve tried to grow so far. Lucky for us our climate means that we don’t need heating or cooling for most of the year.

Electricity

Here’s our last 12 months of electricity usage per quarter:

  • Oct 2009: 1302.5 kWh
  • Jan 2010: 1333 kWh
  • Jul 2010: 1082 kWh
  • Oct 2010: 1112.6 kWh
  • Average:  1207.5 kWh

Given that we had a baby in September I would like to at least keep this stable and possibly reduce it. Between the first and last bill there was a 15% decrease.

Water

Here’s our last 12 months water usage per quarter:

  • Feb 2010: 27 kL
  • May 2010: 29 kL
  • Aug 2010: 27 kL
  • Nov 2010: 25 kL
  • Average: 27 kL

Given that we had a baby in September and are using cloth nappies, which need washing I would be surprised if we can keep this at the same level. Between the first and last bill there was a 7% decrease. Note: the water is actually averaged out between all the units in the complex so our bill is also reliant on the water usage of our neighbours.

Food

We are meat eaters. I try and shop once a fortnight and organise mean plans to reduce wastage. We buy fresh fruit and vegetables from the local markets each week. At the moment we don’t buy organic and we still shop at the supermarket which is walking distance from home.

Goods

We try to limit the amount of consumer goods we buy. My husband buys computer games and downloads them online rather than buying the physical copy at the games shop. I have eliminated my book-buying and go to the local library instead, which is also in walking distance. In fact lately we have been getting rid of far more goods than we have replaced. Freecycle and eBay are our tools of choice.

Waste

We throw out about the equivalent of one shopping bag a day, a lot of this is compostable waste but living in an apartment I hadn’t found a suitable solution to this until I stumbled Bokashi. I am considering buying a unit to trial. It would be really great if I could find a second-hand one but might have to resort to purchasing new. We also throw out about the same in recycling each day.

The Results
Carbon Footprint calculated our household output as: 10.54 metric tons of CO2

Carbon Footprint

Live Clean calculated it at: 6.95 metric tons of CO2

WWF calculated that it would take 2.3 planets to sustain our lifestyle if everyone lived as we do.
WWF Footprint results
By the looks of it we aren’t doing too badly compared to other households in similar countries but we are still using far more resources than the earth can sustain. In the future I’ll be exploring ways we can further reduce our usage. But for now I would be really interested in what other people use in terms of water, electricity and car mileage.

The Path to Minimalism

One major component of minimalist living is living with less in the home. Less clothes, less toys, less kitchen gadgets, less stuff, less clutter. For the past two years there has been a steady stream of stuff leaving our front door and storage unit ever since my husband and I moved in together. The first room that really felt the pinch of decluttering was the kitchen. We gave several boxes of kitchen supplies to charity. Then all the old computer parts and CRT monitors went to a computer recycler. We’ve had success using ebay and, more recently, freecycle to get rid of various bits and pieces. I’ve gifted costume jewellery, shoes and clothes to teenage cousins who always appreciate the new accessories. The filing box has experienced a major cull and I was able to reduce our filing boxes from 6 to 3.

In July this year we cancelled the lease on our storage unit. That was a major relief as the cost had been steadily rising, we paid $195 in the final month for the luxury of storing our junk out of sight and out of mind. We wouldn’t have even recouped a quarter of what we spent on storage when we sold the items on ebay. My big lesson in this was to get rid of things earlier and not pay for storage in the future.

While our house is still not clutter free it has certainly improved. We consider it a work in progress and congratulate each other with every clean up effort and with every effort I feel more at home and relaxed. What was once his bachelor pad has become our family home.

Other people who have made this journey:

A Merry Minimalist Christmas

This year’s Christmas didn’t turn out exactly as planned. We were supposed to fly north to visit my family for the holiday season but my fear of flying combined with the current weather conditions has meant that instead of having Christmas with the extended family, my husband and I have celebrated Christmas at home with our little one.

As we had planned on having Christmas away we had not decorated the house. In fact, a few months ago I sold our Christmas tree and decorations on ebay in a fit of decluttering. The house is also a mess because we are still in the middle of a big decluttering project so there’s a big pile of stuff we are getting rid of in the middle of the family room. Things were looking pretty bleak but I managed to put together some simple, homemade paper chains to hang from the ceiling and a tiny little christmas tree made out of computer paper, painted green. Our Christmas day was a very simple affair filled with small pleasures like ham, eggs and fresh bread for breakfast, an afternoon drive up to the local lookout, text messages and Skype calls to family and friends and a restful nap in the middle of the day.

It was a gentle reminder that Christmas ought not be about the presents, tinsel and store bought cheer but about the important things in life. Family, friends, good food and making sure to do something you enjoy each day.

It’s not just me, other people enjoy minimalist Christmases too: