January Shopping Audit [and the Minimalism Game]

January Shopping Audit [and the Minimalism Game]

One of my 2020 goals is to focus on minimalism. In the past two years we have made great progress toward living a [nearly] zero waste lifestyle, but now I want to circle back and focus on cutting out unnecessary spending and eliminate all the clutter from our home and our life.

My new motto:

So, as a part of that goal, I am tracking all of our spending for the entire year and will share it with you monthly. I am not promising to stop spend money altogether but I am tracking it so that we can see where we need to improve.

Just as it is helpful to do a “trash audit” at the start of a zero waste journey, a “shopping audit” is helpful if I am trying to stop bringing junk into my home.

January Shopping Audit

Some clarifications before I begin: My audit only includes physical items [not doctor co-pays, museum entry fees, and school activity costs] and does NOT include consumables, which include food, pet food, toilet paper, and salt blocks for our water softener.

[Toiletries and laundry supplies are consumables, but I am going to share those purchases because I am trying to reduce our waste – and spending – in these areas.]

What We Bought:

So here is everything we bought this month:

Bracelet for Brett for $35 – For Christmas, I gave my partner a leather bracelet with our kids’ names engraved on little beads but the bracelet didn’t fit [oh the joys of shopping on Amazon]. So he used his Christmas money to buy a new bracelet for the beads.

Seven used puzzles for $7 – my partner and I have started doing puzzles together instead of spending all of our alone time watching Netflix.

Medications for the kids for $20 – We ran out of children’s Tylenol [and this is a necessity when you have four kids under six] and my daughter got an infection and needed an expensive OTC cream.

Used ballet slippers for $2 – My daughter outgrew her ballet slippers for ballet class to the point where she couldn’t even put them on without being in pain, so we needed to get her a bigger pair. [We donated the old pair to her dance class instructor].

Toiletries for $20 – Brett bought another shampoo bar from Lush for $9 and also needed more deodorant and hair cream.

Total spent: $84

Over budget: $0

What We Are Going to Do With It:

The most important reason to stop bringing stuff into the home is that eventually I will [most likely] have to get rid of it. I mean, nothing lasts forever. So, I don’t want to bring anything into my home that I won’t be able to responsibly dispose of when I am done with it.

I’d like to think that Brett will keep the bracelet forever, but that is unrealistic. When he no longer wants to wear it, we will have to throw away the beads and donate the bracelet. Looking back on it, this was not the wisest gift choice on my part. In the future I will give him experience gifts like a brewery tour or something like that.

The ballet slippers and puzzles we will donate or give away to anyone who would like them. We actually only do a puzzle once, so we will be getting rid of them as we finish them. Maybe we can find a friend to swap with so that we all get new puzzles.

The medicine and toiletries will be consumed and then the bottles will be recycled. I haven’t found a way to eliminate the plastic medicine bottles from our lives – sometimes we just need medicine and I am okay with this exception to our zero waste rule until there is a better way.

The Minimalism Game

This month, I played the 30-Day Minimalism Game [which you can read about here].

If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you’ve probably already seen all the stuff that I got rid of – over 500 items!

Day 1-9

Day 10-18

Day 19-27

Day 28-31 [combined into two photos]

Through this process I learned so much about being responsible for where something goes when I am done with it. I tried SO HARD to not have anything go into the trash. I listed stuff for free on OfferUp. I researched how to recycle unusual things. I even went back and forth with Contigo to try to figure out how to responsibly get rid of the kids’ chewed up water bottles [hint: there is no good way so I will never buy bottles like this again].

In a perfect world every manufacturer would be responsible for the product it is creating – either taking it back to be recycled into new products, or at the very least providing helpful information about how to best recycle a product. In a perfect world, companies wouldn’t be allowed to mass produce plastic crap that will still be on this earth when my great great great grandkids are here without at the very least having a plan for the end of its life. But, I can only do my best to avoid products like these. If I cannot responsibly rehome an item, if it cannot be recycled or repurposed or reused, then I simply should not be buying it.

Thankfully, nowadays, there are so many wonderful, easy [even FREE] alternatives for the typical plastic crap.

This month, only a handful of items [the lids to those plastic water bottles, a bag of plastic junk, and some expired vitamins] went into the trash. Everything else was donated or given to friends or recycled or repurposed.

What’s Next

For the rest of the year, I will be getting rid of 30 items from the house each month and continuing to report our shopping habits monthly.



My First Clothing Purchase in 19 Months [Clothing Ban Update]

My First Clothing Purchase in 19 Months [Clothing Ban Update]

After 19 months without buying any clothes, I have finally made my first purchase.

I’ll tell you what I bought and why I bought it, but first…

Some background.

In May of 2018, I started this blog with a promise to not buy ANY clothing for a full year and to donate 26 items from my current wardrobe each month.

I had just finished reading the book The Year of Less by Cait Flanders and knew instantly that I had to change the way I consumed everything – starting with my clothes.

As someone who has never really been that concerned with clothes or fashion, I was shocked to discover that I had WAY TOO MUCH clothing in my closet [and dresser and storage] – 486 pieces in total. I had so much clothes that even after the year was up, I still had more than enough, so I made a new commitment to purchase clothing only when it was needed.

Seven months went by and I still didn’t need any clothes. By this time, I was so used to not buying clothes that I insisted my current stuff [socks with holes so big they barely stay on, and underwear so stretched out from pregnancy that they barely stay on as well] was “perfectly sufficient.”

My partner rolled his eyes.

Then, on Christmas morning, he gave me a gift card for a brand that I have already given a rave review in my post My Favorite Ethical Clothing Brands so that I could buy some much needed intimates.

My First Clothing Purchase

That very day, I placed an order for some new panties and a bra at Naja.co, ending my 19 month hiatus from buying clothes. But this purchase was different than any clothing purchase I have made in my entire life.

After a year and a half of reading and educating myself, reflecting on my values and ultimately setting my requirements for new clothes going forward – I made a purchase that I feel really good about.

The purchase was necessary. Undergarments are an obvious necessity – though I don’t need a big selection. Seven pairs of underwear, two comfy bras, and a selection of good sports bras are all I really need. I’m done buying clothing [or anything else for that matter] to make myself feel better [aka retail therapy]. I’m not going to buy clothing because I am out and see an advertisement that makes me want something that I don’t actually need. I’m not going to buy clothes just because they are cute or stylish or CHEAP. I am only buying clothes when I need them.

The purchase had to be new. I have a commitment to buying used whenever possible. For obvious reasons, intimates are not available used. So, I had no choice but to buy new.

As a reminder, here is the “Buyerarchy of Needs” by Sara Lazarovic.

(c) Sarah Lazarovic

The company is ethical and eco-conscious. If I have no choice but to buy new, then I want to purchase clothing that is made ethically and sustainably – meaning a company that prioritizes taking care of EVERY PERSON in its supply chain and making a concerted effort to protect the environment. The clothing industry is taxing on the environment no matter how it is done [but, obviously, so is just plain living], but some companies are trying to do a better job. The heart of the company is what I care about most.

[You can read more about Naja in my blog post My Favorite Ethical Clothing Brands or by visiting Naja.co.]

When I buy something, I am essentially casting my vote for that business. I cannot say that I want companies to treat their garment workers fairly if I am not willing to stop buying from the companies that don’t.

And this leads to the final and [for me] biggest difference in my shopping habits.

The cost didn’t matter. I spent $100 for three pairs of underwear and a comfy day bra. In my previous life, I would have NEVER spent $100 on four items of clothing so small they were shipped to me in a manila envelope. I would have called this “highway robbery.” I would have said, “Why would I pay that price when I can go to Target and get a pack of five panties for $9.99?!”

Wow, have I changed.

Now I am buying based on my values – not the cost. [And of course, now I can afford to spend more money because I don’t buy more than what I actually need.]

How can I expect a company to pay a fair price for the cotton and a fair price to the garment worker and a fair price to the store employees if I am unwilling to pay a fair price for the item? Seriously, I cannot even go buy the material to make a pair of cotton panties [let alone pay myself for actually making them – which of course is a skill I absolutely do not have] for as cheap as I can buy them. How can I expect my clothing to be cheaper than the cost of the material??

We, the consumers, are the heart of this problem – even more so than the companies taking advantage of desperate and impoverished workers around the world. We have to be the ones to say that we care enough to pay MORE. Being cheap is not a virtue if it’s hurting people, and just because we don’t see the hurt doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. We live in such a global economy now that we can no longer turn a blind eye to the suffering that is literally caused by OUR demand for cheaper and cheaper goods.

The companies also have a responsibility to do the right and decent thing – I’m not letting them off the hook entirely. But we have the power to make changes by changing how we shop.

This change simply MUST HAPPEN.

[I’ve mentioned it A MILLION TIMES, but if you want more info, watch the documentary, The True Cost – or read Overdressed by Elizabeth L. Cline or Wardrobe Crisis by Clare Press.]

So, now what?

The results of my clothing ban have been amazing. I am so happy that I made this change [and I’m not just saying that]. Besides supporting ethical and sustainable brands, there are other practical benefits of a minimalist wardrobe.

1. I love everything in my closet. Never again will I put on a shirt and then remember how the seam always irritates my armpit or how the top is just a little too snug or how the material is kind of itchy or whatever the problem was that caused me to never wear it. I’ve gotten rid of all that stuff. Now I only have pieces I love. They fit great. They look great. Some are even so worn that they have holes, but I love them so much I wouldn’t think of parting with them. Imagine having a wardrobe full of clothes like that. I also love them because they fit my “style” [or do they fit my style because I love them?]


Which brings me to the next thing I love about my minimal wardrobe.

2. All of my clothes are MY style. The world of fashion is all about style: what is trending, what’s hitting the runways, what’s everyone going to be wearing next season, etc. I have taken all of the work out of being stylish by simply wearing my own style. And, quite frankly, I don’t care if anyone else likes it. Most people don’t even know what their style is because they are trying to be “in style” whatever that style may happen to be at the moment, rather than dressing for themselves. Wear whatever YOU want. Don’t let anyone else tell you what you should and shouldn’t wear. If you don’t know what your style is, get rid of every piece of clothing that you don’t absolutely love, and look at what is left. THAT is your unique style, and going forward you can bypass any other type of clothing that someone else or a clever ad tries to tell you you should be wearing. Wear your style. And wear it with pride.

My personal style is SUPER casual, mostly sporty, always comfy. I like to wear a fancy [read: sexy] cocktail dress on very rare and special occasions. I love long, flowing dresses in the summer. I love long, slouchy sweaters in the winter. I like neutral colors. My favorite shirt is actually a blue and white checked flannel button-down that I stole from my partner’s closet. So apparently my style also includes menswear. So what?

I wear what I like and I like what I wear.

3. Getting dressed is a breeze. With not as many choices, it is very easy to get dressed for any occasion. It’s also super easy to pack. Over the holidays, I went on two short trips to visit family. I literally packed in three minutes and I only needed half a duffle bag for three nights. I only own one nice sweater and two pairs of jeans, so I don’t have to choose between a bunch of options. And since I love it all [see #1] and it’s all my style [see #2], then it doesn’t really matter what I choose.

4. I take better care of my stuff. My clothes have a greater value to me than they ever did before – partially because I love them so much and also because I don’t buy new stuff so I need my current clothes to last. I have completely erased the “take and toss” mentality that our society has toward clothing and replaced it with a “wear, take care, mend and repair” attitude. [I just made that up!]

5. My clothes take up less space. When I started the clothing ban, my husband and I each had a dresser and a closet full of clothes AND additional bins of clothing in the shed. Today, all of my clothes fit in my closet. And folks, I don’t have a walk-in closet. A walk-in closet for me would totally be overkill. [Side note: have you seen those families on HGTV who use the whole spare bedroom as their closet?!?!] The benefit of a smaller wardrobe is the same benefit as having fewer of anything – fewer things to take care of, less space needed to store it, less money spent to pay for the space to store it, more money to spend on things that matter like family, experiences, giving, etc.

2020 Is My Year of Less

It’s probably not a surprise that I won’t be shopping for unnecessary clothing ever again, but this year I am extending my values to all other purchases.

I have already started the 30-Day Minimalism Game this month to kickstart my year of less. I am not promising to never buy anything – but I am committing to purchase only things that we need [excluding gifts and things for the kids, of course] AND to remove unnecessary items from my home [at least 30 per month]. I will post a monthly update of what I have gotten rid of and what new things we have purchased [excluding consumables, which right now are only food and toilet paper]. I’m going to keep my zero waste goals in mind as well, which makes this tough because I can’t just throw everything I don’t want into the rubbish bin.

But I am very excited. If this year of less goes as well as my clothing ban did – it’s going to be a great year.



30 Day Minimalism Game: Days 24 – 30

30 Day Minimalism Game: Days 24 – 30

Well, we did it!

Between the two of us, Brett and I got rid of [more than] 930 belongings in the month of June – and we didn’t even get started on the second story of our shed OR the kids toys!

Since we had an unexpected trip to Kentucky the last few days of June, we combined the last few days into a couple photos.

We needed 387 items for last week, but we ended up getting rid of 499, which brings our grand total for the month to 1,042 items gone!

This month, I’m doing the #MinsGame again, but with the kids’ stuff!

I CAN’T WAIT! [Which is good because it starts today.]


Recycling Pens & Markers

Recycling Pens & Markers

When we moved into this house [18 months ago], I brought with me every writing utensil that was in our last home and I was super proud of myself for gathering them all into this one organized [and even labeled] plastic container.

My goodness, how things have changed.

Anyway, today was the day to go through this EXCESSIVE amount of pens, pencils, markers and highlighters and PURGE!

First, I needed to determine how many of them actually still work.

The vast majority still have plenty of life in them. The ones on the lid [a grand total of 58] are empty and headed for recycling.

Of the ones that work, I have chosen to keep these:

The sharpies and colorful pens are for craft and art projects – which have been the only reasons I have reached for this container in the past year.

Everything else is getting donated.

The grand total came to 109 utensils to donate and 58 to recycle.

Sad thing about recycling, though, is that I need five pounds [or roughly 350 pieces] in order to mail them in to TerraCycle…so, anyone got some empty pens they are looking get rid of? Realistically, I will probably have to find a place that collects them because it will probably take me the rest of my life to use 300 more pens.

[As a side note, if you work for a big company that is not currently recycling their pens – you should encourage them to start. More info in recycling pens RecycleNation.com.]

As for the ones that are still good, I’m going to donate to the gym I work at which is run by the park district [they seem to ALWAYS be short on pens], or to a school maybe, or to PenGuyArt.com, or …well, I’m open to suggestions.

Anyone need some pens?


30 Day Minimalism Game: Days 17 – 23

30 Day Minimalism Game: Days 17 – 23

Well, this is definitely getting harder.

We fell behind for a day or two [so I guess we technically “lost”] but we just kept right on going, sometimes reaching into the organizers in our closet and just grabbing handfuls of hotel shampoo bottles we’ve apparently been hoarding for years in order to reach our quota [which at one point was a total of 66 items] for the day.

Tip for you aspiring gamers – DON’T FALL BEHIND! The numbers get overwhelming really quickly.

Also, the game has basically turned into a joint effort to reach our collective goal each day since Brett doesn’t have the time to find all these items. That means that today I am finding 40 things to accompany the 8 that Brett picked out before leaving for work this morning.

I’ve learned more interesting things about donating foreign coins and recycling half used bottles of lotion. We also are up to six different organizations who are [hopefully] benefiting from our purge.

I did throw away a small bag of little things that can’t be recycled and couldn’t be sold in a thrift shop or even reused. Sad, but it had to be done.

And the greatest challenge is yet to come because not only do we have a whopping 378 items left to go before we reach the end of this madness…but we are leaving town on Wednesday so we have to get rid of them all in the next THREE DAYS.

Heaven help us.


30 Day Minimalism Game: Days 10 – 16

30 Day Minimalism Game: Days 10 – 16

So far, Brett and I have rid our home of 272 unnecessary belongings. Thanks to regular trips to various donation drop offs and a few trips to friends’ homes, we have actually removed most of these things from our home already. It feels great.

Here are the photos from this past week.

Finding things to get rid of is still easy. My house is literally full of unnecessary stuff. And I haven’t even gotten started on the kids’ toys yet!

Truthfully, I have never been very attached to my belongings and I’m not very sentimental about “stuff,” so it is probably easier for me than the average person. In fact, when we moved into this house, I threw out my wedding dress without even a second thought. Why keep a dress that I will never wear again?

In an effort to keep an open mind, I recently picked up this book at the library: The Things that Matter by Nate Berkus.

It’s my nature to question everything – especially my own ideas – and though I feel strongly that minimalism is key to a happy and meaningful life, I do want to understand the importance people place on their possessions [since I apparently missed this gene]. I’m already reading a lot of books about minimalism and waste reduction, but when I saw this book I realized that there is another side of my belongings to consider.

This book reads like an autobiography but subtly shows how a collection of things – even mundane and seemingly meaningless things – can serve the purpose of connecting us to people and places that we love.

[I should mention that this book isn’t saying anything about how many or what kinds of possessions one should or shouldn’t own. It isn’t against minimalism in any way, nor is it for it. It is just stories about lives and the possessions that accompany them.]

It doesn’t change my perspective on minimalism or make me suddenly want to hang on to my middle school artwork, but it does give me a broader perspective. When I bring things into my home, I want them to be purposeful, yes, but maybe it’s okay if they are just plain beautiful or meaningful to me.

I don’t know if I’ll find many things like that, but it’s good to keep an open mind. 😁


30 Day Minimalism Game: Days 3 – 9

30 Day Minimalism Game: Days 3 – 9

Well, we made it through the first week of the Minimalism Game. Even though I know it is supposed to get harder as the days progress, I feel like it is actually getting easier to find things to toss. Now everywhere I look I am seeing things we don’t need or use.

The hardest part has actually been figuring out how to get rid of all this stuff responsibly.

The worlds of minimalism and zero waste overlap in a lot of ways, but this process has made it tough for me to please both of these internal desires. Both care about the environment, but have different primary goals. Reducing what you own to a minimum and only buying what is absolutely necessary creates very little waste and purchasing everything waste-free often ends up being very minimal, out of necessity. BUT the process to get from where I currently am [or was] – a wasteful hoarder – to where I want to be – a waste-free minimalist – is creating a lot of trash.

The minimalist in me says “GET RID OF IT,” while the eco-friendly hippie in me chants “REUSE, REPURPOSE, RECYCLE.” [I imagine these two internal personas as little angels, one on each of my shoulders, shouting into my ears.] Every time I select something to get rid of, the hippie says “Maybe you could use that in some other creative way.” And then the minimalist says “You know you won’t use it, so just let it go.” And then the hippie says, “But you don’t want that to end up in a landfill, do you?” And the minimalist says, “You don’t want to carry that around with you for the rest of your life just so it doesn’t end up in a landfill, do you?”

Do you see my struggle?

So, what do I do?

Well, I’m trying to compromise. I have to get rid of the excess, AND I have to do it in the most responsible way that I possibly can. And that takes some time. Some stuff may end up in a landfill. I feel badly about it, but I can’t redeem every bad purchase or every superfluous possession. Something will inevitably have to go in the trash. But for everything that can be repurposed or given away or donated or recycled, that’s what I will do – even if it takes me a little longer. We are supposed to be getting rid of the stuff each night, but, honestly, that doesn’t feel responsible to me. I have to take the time to appropriately dispose of all this stuff. I have to do research to find out how and where and what to do with some of these things. I have to think about whether I should repurpose old t-shirts into dust rags or whether that would just be making more clutter. I have to ask friends and family members if they could put some of these things to good use. But some things I just have to let go.

Like, for instance, Brett’s senior picture proofs – all 75 of them.

These can’t be donated or recycled or even burned and even though I wouldn’t ordinarily want to get rid of old photos, I do not want to hang on to 75 photos of Brett’s 17-year-old self.

[We did read about a way to reuse old photos as game pieces by cutting the heads out and placing them in binder clips, which is hilarious and brilliant, but won’t help me reduce my clutter.]

So, into the trash they went. [And they take up quite a bit of space in our new small trash can.]

All except two, which I use as bookmarks now – partially because he is nicer on the eyes than the Bed Bath and Beyond coupon I had been using and partially because I like to laugh at his baggy clothes.

Anyway, here are the photos from this past week of the game.

On the plus side, the house is already looking better, and we’ve still got three weeks to go!


30 Day Minimalism Game: Days 1 & 2

30 Day Minimalism Game: Days 1 & 2

Starting yesterday, Brett and I are playing the 30-Day Minimalism Game.

The game is played by each person getting rid of one item the first day, two items the second day, three items the third day, … you get the idea. Whoever is able to make it the furthest in the challenge wins – though the only thing at stake is bragging rights – and whoever makes it to the full 30 days will have rid themselves of 465 unnecessary possessions. If Brett and I both complete all 30 days, then we will have gotten rid of 930 items from our home in one month – a great start on the road to minimalism!

Truthfully, we probably won’t make it that far because Brett is doing this reluctantly to begin with and already on day one he tried to get rid of our baby monitor [that was currently in use] and my brand new running shoes. I’m not sure he understands the point of the exercise. Regardless, I’m going to have to set some guidelines [if you ever saw Brett and I play a game together, you would understand why written rules are an absolute necessity].

The 30-Day Minimalism Game Rules:

#1: No tossing the other’s personal belongings [but kids’ toys and things we share are free game].

#2: No tossing things that we are actually currently using and serve a good purpose.

#3: No tearing a piece of paper into however many pieces and trying to count that as your day’s quota.

#4: I can’t toss clothes unless they are in addition to my 26 items already getting donated each month.

#5: Items must be donated, recycled, or given away to friends/family [in other words, not trash]. Things bound for the trash should just be thrown in the trash and not counted for the game.

I’ll be posting our donation items periodically throughout the month so as not to drive everyone crazy by posting every single day.

So, on day 1, I chose to rehome our beautiful bassinet, which I love. But it is too big for our space and won’t get any use until I have another baby – which may never happen. So it might as well hold another little baby rather than serving as a second laundry basket in my bedroom. I am hoping to find someone I know who would like it and use it [please let me know if you are interested!], but if I can’t I will donate it to a local Crisis Pregnancy Center.

Brett chose the kid’s old race track which has been replaced by a “new-to-us” track [Thanks, Aunt Mary!].

Our day two choices weren’t as exciting. But, as always, if you see something you want/need, let me know! Free to a good home. Otherwise, it is all being donated.

I can already tell that this is going to be an eye-opening endeavor…