Happy [Belated] Birthday to my Blog πŸ₯³

Happy [Belated] Birthday to my Blog πŸ₯³

On May 28th, this blog turned 1 – on the same day that I turned 32. This past year has been the most transformative that I have experienced in my adult life. This blog has been a place for me to share how my family and I have changed our views, values, and lifestyle in favor of simplicity and authenticity.

Maya Angelou once said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

This has become my life’s motto. And this past year has been all about learning more so I know better, so I can do better.

So, in honor of the blog’s first birthday, I wanted to recap all the changes [to our lifestyle and also our perspective] that my family and I have been working on over the past year.

Minimalism

The changes we have made started with an interest in minimalism. I had grown tired of chasing the “American dream” of wealth and success, which seemed to equate to bigger homes and fancier cars and more stuff, while meaningful relationships, time with family, concern for the less fortunate and other social/environmental causes are ignored. I was anxious for a simpler, more intentional life. I was wanting our life to be about a greater purpose than satisfying our own desires for more.

So, minimalism taught us to purge what we own down to things that are essential or truly appreciated AND to refuse all the excess that society is constantly telling us we “need.” We played the 30-day minimalism game and between Brett and I, removed 930 items from our home.

Mindful Consumerism

My interest in minimalism lead me to Cait Flanders’ book, The Year of Less, which was so impactful that after reading it, I started this blog to document all the ways I intended to end my own mindless consumption.

I began asking myself whether I really needed something before buying it. I continued to purge our stuff without replacing any of it. I committed to first do without, then use what I have, then buy used – and only when all else failed, to buy new.

Slow Fashion

Around this time, I watched the documentary, The True Cost, which describes the fast fashion industry and how the American demand for cheaper and faster clothing is wreaking havoc around the world. I couldn’t believe that I had never considered the wastefulness of my own clothing habits before or how harmful my “take and toss” mentality truly was to the environment and to people around the world.

As a working middle class American, I had always prioritized buying cheap clothing as a way to “manage my money wisely” and thought of myself as some sort of martyr for never buying expensive brands and always shopping the clearance rack in the service of frugality.

Wow, I was so wrong. I am happy to say that I have finally learned to appreciate my belongings enough to spend what they are worth – and I now care enough about my fellow humans, no matter how far away they live, to pay whatever it costs to protect their rights.

Zero Waste

From there, I stumbled upon the zero waste movement, which I had never heard of previously. On a whim I picked up the book, Zero Waste, by Shia Su from the library. I had no idea how significantly this book would change my life.

This book gave me confidence to reduce my waste [it really is so easy!] and opened my eyes to yet another sad side affect of our constant consumption: waste.

Seriously, the waste problem in America is huge. I don’t know why more people aren’t concerned.

So I started trying to reduce my family’s waste. We began recycling, composting, and bulk shopping. This became a passion [bordering on obsession] for me that led to so many other important changes for my family like eliminating processed foods, making most of our food from scratch, and purchasing our first CSA share. It has been a process, and we still are not storing our trash in a mason jar [that is not a realistic goal for us anyway], but we have made HUGE improvements. We only take out one 4 gallon trash bag per week and we have even reduced the amount that we recycle significantly, needing trash and recycling pick up only monthly [or even possibly quarterly] now.

Ethical Shopping

Next, I committed to ethical shopping by supporting brands that are concerned about sustainability and fair, ethical treatment of all members within the supply chain [animals included].

This one is tougher because it is hard to know whether a company is ethical or not and requires research which requires time, but it’s not so bad because we don’t buy very many things, so purchases can be thoughtfully and intentionally made with our values in mind.

Yes, I am boycotting Wendy’s. Yes, I pay more for Fair Trade coffee and chocolate and bananas. Yes, I adore Patagonia.

Simple Living

Then I began to focus on eliminating some of the distractions that caused me to always feel like I never had enough time. We moved our only television into the lower level. I started using the “screen time” feature on my iPhone to limit my time on certain apps. I turned off all notifications on my phone. ALL of them. If you call me and I don’t physically have my phone in my hand, I won’t know it until I actually open my phone app…which I do every couple days. I’m harder to reach, but by responding to texts and calls and emails on my own time, I am no longer a slave to my phone.

The kids and I began spending more time outside after I read the inspiring book, There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather, by Linda Γ…keson McGurk.

We started having a Monday movie night with the kids as their only screen time for the week. I simplified my cleaning routine to improve efficiency so I don’t have to spend a lot of time cleaning. We purged A TON of toys [with the kids’ help], which cut back on the chaos of living with three toddlers.

I also read Slow by Brooke McAlary which was full of inspiration for living a more intentional and less frantic life.

Giving Back to the World

Last, but most importantly, we rearranged our finances to prioritize giving to charities that we believe are doing good around the world. I wish I could be the one doing the good myself, but at this stage in my life, I am chasing toddlers all day and working part-time, so I am prioritizing what I can do, which is give money to those who will use it to help people. I look forward to volunteering regularly and giving back in other ways in the future, as I believe that this is one of our most important purposes on this earth – not to merely look out for our own interests and our family’s well-being, but to care for the less fortunate and fight for a better world.

But, more on that another day.

I am looking forward to improving in all of these areas and more over the next year.

Karis

April Clothing Donation

April Clothing Donation

April was the final month of my year-long commitment to donate twenty-six items of clothing from my wardrobe each month.

Here are the results for the year:

Clothing items donated: 323 (gave some extra a few times)

Clothing items acquired: 5 (2 gifts, 1 work uniform, 2 race shirts)

Clothing items purchased: 0 (bought no clothes at all – not for me or my kids. My husband did buy some clothes for work and bought me one of the above mentioned gifts)

[The shopping ban officially ends at the end of May on my 32nd birthday, but I’ll talk more about that then.]

The conclusion of this challenge [or experiment or whatever you want to call it] has come at the perfect time – right before I give birth to my fourth and final baby. So, on one hand, I am still holding on to some larger sizes that I will be able to permanently get rid of as soon as I shrink out of them AND a wealth of maternity clothes that I am anxious to find a good home for – possibly with a local pregnancy center. But, on the other hand, it has allowed me to clear out my wardrobe before the newborn craziness begins and my priorities switch once again to meeting the constant needs of the baby. Couldn’t have timed it better if I tried, quite honestly.

Soon I’ll be sharing my favorite ethical clothing brands that I plan to support in he future – in the absence of used clothing options.

πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»

What are your favorite ethical clothing brands?

Karis

January Clothing Donation

January Clothing Donation

Three notable things happened this month regarding my clothing ban:

1. We sold our bedroom set and moved all of our clothing into our closets.

I have these six drawers [still hanging around from my college days] which contain all the clothes that currently fit [all seasons] and a top shelf that holds all of the clothes that I can’t fit into while pregnant but that I will [hopefully] fit into again someday. I also have some hanging dresses/skirts/cardigans [maternity and regular].

This feels like a big accomplishment – and also makes our bedroom feel MUCH larger in the absence of the huge sleigh bed with storage, two full dressers, and two excessively large nightstands, which of course we thought we needed when we got married.

My, how we’ve changed. Now, our bed is on the floor, two plastic storage bins serve as nightstands, and we have a laundry basket against the wall. That’s it.

[Well, we also currently have a huge collection of items headed to charity along one wall.]

2. Brett bought me a sweater.

I mean, look at this thing! It is basically a Snuggie that I can wear out of the house without ridicule! Would you say no to this level of comfort???

This is the first new piece of clothing I have bought [indirectly] since last May. I’ve received a new work uniform, two race shirts for the Chicago Marathon, and a dress that was a Christmas present, but this is the first piece of clothing to come from our money.

I kinda feel badly about it. [But only kinda.] It was new and it was from Express. Neither would be my preference. But it’s so soft and so comfy and I have worn it literally every day since I got it.

And I technically didn’t buy it…

As penance, I’m giving away an extra ten items from my wardrobe this month for a total of 36.

Hey, I never said I was perfect.

3. I mended some clothes instead of tossing them.

By “mended” I mean I used a travel sewing kit to [very poorly and by hand] stitch a few holes and tears in a couple of clothing pieces that I would like to wear again. A year ago, I would have tossed these and just bought a replacement. [I wouldn’t have even recycled them! Egad!]

Now I’m wondering whether I should try to fix my socks with holes…

[googling “how to darn socks”]

Additional thoughts…

We are in the middle of the “polar vortex” here in Chicagoland with temperatures in the -20s, which has me thinking of all the less fortunate people in my community without warm clothes, without winter coats and hats, and everyone living on the streets who hopefully found somewhere warm to stay today.

It made me think, Why should everyone in my family have multiple coats, hats, and pairs of gloves when there are people in my own community who have none?

So, I am going to give all of our extra winter gear to local shelters who are providing safety and warmth for the less fortunate in my town. We only need one winter coat. And the extra coat that just sits in the closet most of the time might make a big difference to someone this winter.

If you are as privileged as I am to always have a warm place to sleep and lots of warm clothes and several warm coats, I hope you’ll consider doing the same.

Karis

November & December Clothing Donation

November & December Clothing Donation

Last month I didn’t gather the required 26 wardrobe pieces for donation mostly because I wasn’t doing much of anything in November due to debilitating morning sickness [and a general feeling of laziness]. So this month I have a pile of 52 clothing items from my closet that will be donated or recycled [depending on their condition].

I’ve now gotten rid of 208 pieces of clothing that I don’t need. I started with 486, which means I have almost cut my wardrobe in half.

And, after 8 months, I still have not bought a single item of clothing for myself. [I did buy a pair of socks for each of my kids’ Christmas stockings…]

In a few more months I plan to move all of my remaining clothes into my closet drawers and get rid of my ginormous dresser altogether, which will make our room feel so much bigger [and also provide a space for our pet, Petunia the Python, to live].

Cheers.

[I was up til 1am binging the entire Body Guard series on Netflix last night. Between that and The Great British Baking Show, I find myself using great British words like gobsmacked, bloke, dodgy, and – best of all – cheers! πŸ₯‚]

Karis

October Clothing Donation

October Clothing Donation

October marks the halfway point in my clothing ban. In the past six months, I haven’t purchased a single item of clothing [though I did acquire two new shirts for the marathon which were included with my entry – one from the race and one from the charity I ran with] and I have donated 156 items from my wardrobe to local charities.

We’ve also been through round one of decluttering our home. I’ve been through the entire house now and gotten rid of the surface level clutter – the easy stuff. But I know there are many rounds ahead. I’ve already been through three rounds on my book collection and two rounds on the toys and six rounds on my tank top collection – and I know there is still a lot more to free myself from in the future.

This month, since it is now fall and definitely, without a doubt, past tank top weather, I am donating every tank top that I did not wear all summer long. I probably mentioned before that tank tops are apparently my favorite piece of clothing because I used to own 57 pieces [!!!] – the biggest line item in my clothing inventory last May. I’ve weaned it down now to twenty, but really, I don’t need more than seven [for crying out loud].

So, it may be a few more rounds for the tank tops.

I also began setting aside everything I thought about wearing, but chose not to for whatever reason. Throughout the month there were several times when I put something on and stood in front of the mirror and had to ask myself if I actually wanted to wear it – or worse, asked my husband whether it was ok to wear. Each time, I immediately put it in the donate pile. If I’m wasting time wondering if I like it or if it fits or if it’s flattering … then, no. Buh-bye.

I am also getting rid of some socks and tights and underwear that I know I will never wear.

This process of weaning down my wardrobe has been very effective. Each month I have to make slightly tougher choices…but only slightly. I’m still working through a lot of excess.

So, don’t worry if you feel like you could never cut down your wardrobe. Just start with one thing. Just put one thing in the donate pile. Do it in waves. First get rid of all the easy stuff. Then come back and re-examine. Then get rid of the emotional stuff. Then come back again … and again until you’ve got only stuff you love and feel good about and actually need.

I’ve read in several books that a clean sweep is the best way to declutter. Collect everything of like type in your entire home and then after examining each individual thing, narrow it down to your favorite, say, 10% and get rid of the rest. But, for me, I have found that doing it in waves is more practical and much easier.

It’s hard to slash your belongings by 90% overnight. I don’t doubt that it’s possible, but I don’t think I could do it that way. I prefer to gradually free myself from belongings and then examine myself and realize that the more I let go, the less I need the stuff that remains, and then I cycle through again. In this way, I’m changing myself and not just the amount of stuff I own.

I am continually learning how little I need in this life to be happy and fulfilled – especially when it comes to clothing.

Karis

DIY Birthday Cards / Decluttering my craft supplies

DIY Birthday Cards / Decluttering my craft supplies

Turns out, I am a paper hoarder.

😱

I have been saving craft paper, scrapbooking paper, card stock, envelopes, even two HUGE rolls of brown paper, for the better part of my life. Seriously. I’ve had a lot of this stuff since grade school when I first picked up a scrapbooking hobby. Since then, I have collected SO MUCH PAPER.

I’ve been avoiding going through my craft stuff because I knew it was going to be tough. BUT I have learned an important thing about myself: scrapbooking is no longer a hobby of mine. Truthfully, it hasn’t been for years now, but I still kind of always felt that it was. I think it was Marie Kondo who said in her well-known book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, that decluttering often means letting go of who you once were so you can fully live as the person you have become. [I’m very loosely paraphrasing here because I don’t have the book in front of me.] When I heard that, [I listened to the audiobook while training for my marathon], it was like a lightbulb went off. It’s okay if I don’t scrapbook anymore. I don’t have to feel like all that time and money was wasted because I enjoyed it for the time that I did it and now I need to let it go and move on.

So I donated a lot of paper and my cricut machine and twelve or so cricut cartridges and pretty much all my other scrapping materials. I only kept paper and tools for making cards – a useful hobby that I still enjoy.

And now I’ve initiated a “use it up” challenge. No buying cards or notebooks or ANY PAPER [other than maybe coloring books for the kids] until I’ve used up the rest of my stash, which I reduced to fit into this one case.

[This is down from six filing drawers and three shelves in my craft cabinet.]

So, I’ve started making birthday cards for family and friends.

As you can tell, I’m not a perfectionist.

I made these three while painting with my kids. I even used the kids’ painting sets. Super simple and easy. I do have a set of birthday stamps which come in super handy for making cards. And since I send a card to everyone in our immediate families each year – I figure I have enough paper to last me…about the next 10 years. πŸ‘πŸ»

Karis

September Clothing Donation

September Clothing Donation

This month I’m giving away several sweaters and what’s left of my business casual pieces: some cardigans, skirts, blouses, and dress pants. I had been hanging on to these things “just in case” [which is by far my most frequent excuse for hoarding things I never use, by the way].

For most of these clothes the excuses were: “just in case I go back to work in an office” [BUT I have been so spoiled by working in the fitness world for the last five years that I never want to work for a company that requires this dress code again] and “just in case I visit a church that expects people to dress up” [BUT I know that I’ll never conform to a church dress code again either].

I still have a few nice dresses that I really like for hot dates with my husband or weddings or special occasions [or maybe that aforementioned visit to a church] that I would actually enjoy dressing up for.

But here is one “just in case” I’m not ready to let go of yet: I’m keeping one black mini-skirt just in case my husband takes me out dancing like back in the day.

Hint, hint, Babe. πŸ˜‰

Karis