Book Review – Zero Waste Home

Yesterday I was driving behind a van that had one of those stick figure families on the rear window. The father was golfing, the kids were doing ballet and soccer and the mother was shopping. Unless she is a professional shopper, I can’t imagine why she would want her character portrayed with shopping bags.

I had just finished reading Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson, and the thought of shopping as hobby is the absolute antithesis of the Zero Waste Movement, which Johnson adheres to.

While I often talk about consuming less and simplifying, I felt like a complete planet-destroyer after reading the book. I agree that it’s important for us to tread gently on the planet; however, some of the solutions she proposes will seem absolutely bizarre to many people. Purchasing used clothes at thrift or consignment shops? Sure. Unraveling silk thread from a used shirt, to use as dental floss? Not so much. In her description of how her family has been successful, she appears overzealous and patronizing instead of encouraging.

Johnson claims that her family creates less than a gallon of garbage a year. They achieve that feat by refusing packaging, reusing objects, recycling when necessary and composting. Most people will not be able (or willing) to reduce their trash so drastically; however, there may be some steps you can take to reduce your footprint.

In The Zero-Waste Lifestyle, Amy Korst takes a more accessible approach to reducing garbage. [Full disclosure: I had this book on hold at the library and grabbed Johnson’s book off the shelf, thinking they were written by the same person.] Korst’s project started as a one-year experiment, which she and her husband decided to continue. She also is more realistic about the challenges of living without producing trash.

Although trying to eliminate all the packaging in your life may not be practical, the first step you can take is to refuse things you don’t need. Don’t pick up paper you won’t read – sure, it can be recycled, but why waste the resources? Don’t accept free samples of things you won’t use – they’ll end up getting trashed. Finally, don’t take home things you don’t need, like pens from a trade show.

I never really thought about where the toilet paper goes after it leaves my home’s pipes. Now that I’ve been made aware, though, I cannot see myself forgoing toilet paper.

Do you live a zero-waste life? What can you do to create a little less trash?

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random acts of kindness

It’s Random Acts of Kindness Week!

I’ve never heard of it, either, but it’s a good time to declutter and donate things you don’t need that someone else could use.

Do you regularly perform random acts of kindness or is it helpful to have a reminder?

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what are you collecting?

I think I’ve developed an early case of spring fever. I’m in a clearing-out-the-spaces, let-the-sun-shine-in mood. When I get this way, I have to face all the stuff I’ve been holding on to and evaluate whether it’s earning its keep.

Mr. Potato Head? Sorry, the kids have moved on.

Dishes I want to sell on craigslist? No takers, you’re getting donated.

Barbie collection that’s just attracting dust? Not so fast (imagine the sound of tires screeching).

I have narrowed down my many collections to just a few special ones. I love seashells and have them displayed in a lamp and a jar. I love quilts and I have four that I use. I love making stuff and I’ve been thinning the buildup of craft supplies.

And I still love my Barbies. Not just any Barbies, mind you, but the ones with the fancy costumes. No one plays with them; they stand in their boxes, looking ornamental – or forlorn – depending on your viewpoint.

I have sold or donated about half of the collection. The hard part has been resisting the temptation to add more. Whenever I see one in an exquisite design, I remind myself that I have enough and that if I really feel that I have to have another, I need to let go of one I already have. That’s tough, given that I really like the ones I have.

Want to learn more about why people collect stuff and why it’s hard to let go? Take a look at page 80 in The Clutter Book: When You Can’t Let Go. Do you have a collection that’s special to you?

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get organized month – weather edition

It’s snowing in the Washington, DC suburbs. Not much, just a light covering of the white stuff.

If it snows where you live, do you know where your snow shovel is? Could you get to it quickly or would you need to dig it out from its storage spot before you even think about digging out of the snow?

Being organized is simply about having what you need, when you need it. Make sure the tools you need are easy to get to and easy to put away. Because you don’t want to encounter that shovel when you’re hunting for the picnic basket this summer, do you?

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product review – shelf dividers

It’s Get Organized Month and the stores are highlighting all the great stuff they have that will (finally!) get you organized.

Hold on. No product is going to get you organized. In fact, lots of organizing products end up adding to clutter.

Tools that help you sort and manage your stuff, however, can be useful. I like these shelf dividers because they allow you to make good use of often-wasted space. There is one type for wire shelves and one for wood shelves. You can corral stacks of clothing or hold handbags upright between the dividers. They’re also useful to separate binders or contain floppy paperback books on a shelf.

Before you buy anything, including so-called organizing tools, make sure you really need it and have a place for it. Photos of perfectly designed closets and storage areas can seduce you into buying things you won’t use.

Have you ever succumbed to the appeal of a product you saw in a magazine or catalog? Did you make use of it or did it end up in the “well, it seemed like a great idea” pile?

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get organized month

January is Get Organized Month, sponsored by the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO).

According to a NAPO public survey, more than 80% of people believe that if they were more organized, their quality of life would improve.

What does organized mean, though? To some people, it might mean having every surface clear. Others might believe that being organized means labeling every basket, bin, drawer and shelf.

Being organized, to me, is simply being able to find what you need, when you need it. That means designating places to put things, putting them back after using them and not having so much stuff that you have to excavate each time in order to reach the one thing you want.

Consider letting go of anything that isn’t serving you well. Find places to keep things near where you use them. Group like items together. These are some basic principles of organizing.

You can use the same principles for organizing your clothes, papers, photos and memorabilia, your car, pantry and refrigerator, your ideas and your time. The principles apply to electronic organizing, too.

Today I sent my 2007 electronic records to my computer’s recycling bin. My anti-virus software even allowed me “shred” it. Just as in the physical world, having lots of room on your hard drive doesn’t mean you need to fill it.

All during January, I will be providing tips on facebook to help you move forward with your organizing goals. Share your success stories or frustrations and get motivated to achieve.

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productivity break

Take a break from productivity if you have the day off from work tomorrow. Unplug from your devices and relax.

If you celebrate Christmas, I hope you are able to enjoy time with those you care about.

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