farewell to November


A few nights ago, I was wide awake at midnight because my internal clock was off track. Setting the alarm for the first time in nearly a week signaled the end of sleeping late and staying up late with the kids. We had some great family meals, watched movies, and took a much-needed break from routine over Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is the calm before the storm, the last peaceful moment before the frenzied rush of the coming weeks. Christmas is at the doorstep ringing the bell. It desperately wanted in last weekend, and I usually usher Thanksgiving out quickly to accommodate.

I’ll admit that Christmas took over a few hours on Black Friday with some online shopping. Gifts are an inevitable part of the holidays, and I always hope to have them bought early so I can avoid last-minute shopping trips.

Christmas is an exciting time, but the world tends to move too fast for me and I have a hard time keeping pace in December. Each year I have new hope that the season won’t be as hectic as the year before and all the holiday preparations will get done in time to relax and enjoy the activities that make this a wonderful time of the year. But no matter how early I start preparing it’s never enough, so I have to wonder if my expectations for this season are unrealistic.

After practicing some minimal habits throughout the year, I’m starting to have a different view of some of our holiday traditions. My usual planning, shopping, decorating, baking, and gift wrapping are a lot to fit in to a schedule that nearly doubles with events during the month. It’s time to consider the purpose behind our traditions and if they need to be changed up a bit.

We send photo cards to friends and relatives each year, but it’s done in more of a mass productive manner than the way I’m sure the tradition was originally intended. I’ve considered eliminating this tradition in favor of a more environmentally conscious and personalized greeting, but am reluctant because I enjoy receiving cards from friends. Perhaps personalized emails with photo attachments will be my new tradition if time permits.

Each gift I give this season will be done more consciously. This year, there are more experiences on our wish lists than before. Gifts will be given because they evoke joy or make life better in some way. I’ll try to avoid giving gifts that were bought because they were a great deal I couldn’t pass up, or because I feel obligated to give something out of a false sense of expectation. Who knows, maybe others feel the same way and wonder why we exchange gifts at all when the act of spending time together is really enough!

As far as decorating, my daughter and I have set up the nativity scene and hung stockings, but other decorations will wait for a week or so. Our artificial pre-lit Christmas tree has been a source of aggravation with branches that take a long time to separate and fluff and sections that won’t stay lit.

I’ve researched Christmas tree alternatives on Pinterest, as well as what type of tree is best for the environment. There are many different opinions on this, but I decided to get a real tree and gave away our artificial one so there’s no turning back now! The great thing about getting a real tree is that it might die if bought too early, so it graciously gives Thanksgiving its due time.

I’m willing to accept that some traditions can’t be changed overnight. Small changes to our holiday traditions just might start new ones that are more meaningful to us, like having time to bake and deliver cookies to friends, make ornaments with the kids, or do something spontaneous to celebrate the holiday.

My husband and son have a tradition of watching The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy over several nights in December. Sometimes they convince me to sit and watch with them, but I’m always distracted by my long to-do list. A calmer state of mind will allow me to be more present, which is worth changing some traditions.

As we say goodbye to November, not rushing through Thanksgiving has set the pace for a less hectic holiday for my family. I plan to let go of some of my former expectations of a perfect Christmas and lighten up on myself.

Things don’t have to be done perfectly, and in fact, some things don’t have to be done at all. The things I choose to do this holiday will hopefully be more meaningful because of it.

Do you have a plan for making the holidays less stressful by changing some traditions that don’t really fit your lifestyle anymore? If so, I wish you luck and would love to hear about your progress!

5 scary things about becoming minimal


Although minimalism is gaining popularity, it still feels like a huge leap away in my world. I’m nowhere near living the minimal lifestyle that I admire in some of the books and blogs I read, but to go much further than I am now, I would have to make some changes that might be uncomfortable.

Here are some of the things that scare me about becoming minimal:

1. I won’t fit in

I’ve always felt socially awkward, but peer pressure doesn’t impact me like it used to and I like being different most of the time, so I’m not sure why fitting in with those around me matters at this point in my life as I make changes from the norm. But it does.

The last thing I want is to remove myself from the people around us. Family and friends are important to me, so I want to be careful about excluding myself from traditions that don’t always agree with what I’m trying to achieve. I’ve participated in many holiday gift exchanges to avoid looking like a Scrooge and bought fundraising items I didn’t need for the sake of being supportive. I know there are other ways to nurture these relationships, so that should be my focus instead.

Also, the more I recycle, the harder it is to watch recyclables be thrown away. I sometimes sneak two-liter bottles out of the garbage after a potluck or take disposable containers home from fast food restaurants to recycle. I’ve taken my own container to the donut shop to avoid coming home with a greasy box that can’t be recycled. This embarrasses my family and sometimes me depending on how brave I feel at the moment.

So how do I stay true to my beliefs without being considered rude or strange? I’m not sure yet but I realize I’m not being true to myself each time I go along with something just to blend in, so maybe that’s a start.

2. My kids won’t fit in

Nothing makes you more aware of all your quirky habits than parenthood. There are measurable milestones at every stage of your child’s life that make you question if your household is normal. I think everyone can relate to feeling left out, but it’s definitely a feeling we try to protect our kids from.

It’s easy to believe that fitting in requires stuff, like the right kind of clothes, the latest electronics, or the season’s hottest toys. Kids tend to want what their friends have, so efforts to instill minimal habits can be met with a lot of resistance at almost any age.

I try to encourage minimal habits by example and give my kids freedom to make their own choices when possible, at least in theory. It’s easier said than done! Imposing my idealistic view of how things should be is a certain guarantee that the opposite will happen, especially with my daughter : ) The goal is to not make my kids resentful of a lifestyle I want to encourage.

Gradual changes are working best with my family for now. If I made major changes to how we celebrate Christmas for example, it would be too different from how everyone around us celebrates and would make a joyful occasion stressful.

Subtle shifts from our current traditions will hopefully be rewarding enough to help us break free from old habits that no longer make sense. For instance, I hope an idea will hit for a really good Christmas tree alternative before December. This tradition has lost its appeal to me, but I’ll still do it for the kids.

3. I won’t have what I need

Next to the water heater in my garage sits a cute picnic basket packed with plastic cups, plates, and silverware. It was a wedding shower gift and has accompanied us on three moves, been stored in several different closets, and has never been used. It’s too big to fit on the garage shelves and I know we don’t need it, but as soon as I get rid of it, that picnic opportunity I’ve waited 20 years for will present itself.

It’s not just the picnic basket, it’s also two bicycles that sit in disrepair, gardening supplies from completed projects, special bakeware for recipes that I’ve made only once, and many other things that rarely if ever get used. I’m definitely not a hoarder, but I’m tight and the thought of spending money again on something I already bought but got rid of keeps this unused stuff around.

Maybe as I get my nerve up to get rid of the stuff we don’t really need, I will have time to take that picnic because I won’t be spending my spare time trying to maintain and shuffle all our stuff around.

4. I will get bored

If I don’t have anything to buy, store, maintain, or clean, then what on earth am I gonna do? Funny thought I know but getting to this extreme point is impossible because we need to have some degree of stuff after all. I’ve never been much of an outdoor person either because taking care of stuff has kept me inside for so long.

But seriously, the fear of being bored keeps me from parting with a lot of stuff like a large collection of movies, books, and board games for our family. There needs to be supplies at the ready to start a project in the off chance I get some free time because I feel like I’m not being productive if I’m not working on something.

I’m so accustomed to being occupied that I have a hard time relaxing when free time finally comes. Sitting still is something that I have bragged about not being able to do, which is silly when I think about it.

It seems impossible to have a hobby or do an activity that doesn’t require a bunch of supplies or equipment. Years of conditioning from the world in which we live has given me a strong desire for a lot of stuff. On the other hand, years of tending to and being distracted by all this stuff has also given me a strong urge to see what life would be like without wanting, needing, or having so much of it.

5. I won’t attract abundance

I believe in the law of attraction, and like anyone else, want to experience the finer things in life. My absolute favorite book is The Secret of the Ages: In Seven Volumes (Complete) by Robert Collier. I’ve read it every fall for five years now because it resets my attitude and makes me feel like anything is possible.

So if I start thinking minimally, will I limit the flow of abundance in my life? I know that what I really need is to shift my focus from attracting things I want to attracting experiences I want. This is challenging when I’m bombarded by opposing messages on a daily basis.

The idea of attracting abundance can work for things like good health, relationships, and experiences just as much as it can mean attracting physical objects. It’s fine for me to want material things too as long as I don’t let them weigh me down.

I am so conditioned to want things though, and I’m starting to see that if I want to attract amazing experiences, there’s no room for them if I’m surrounded by too much stuff. If I limit the amount of stuff in my life, I’ll hopefully save enough money to live in Maui one day and it will make my move a lot easier!

After my husband and I left our jobs to become entrepreneurs, we realized that good things often wait for you on the other side of your comfort zone. It was a risky move, and eight years later, neither one of us regret it. So all fears aside, I’m ready to take the plunge and see what’s on the other side of all my stuff.

How about you? Can you relate to some of these fears? Is your desire to become minimal strong enough to shake things up a bit and leave the security of old thoughts and traditions to see what this new lifestyle has in store for you? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!


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rolling versus folding – does it matter?


Can one trivial detail in how you store your clothes really make your life better? It absolutely can!

I wasn’t a believer that rolling versus folding was better until I tried it on my husband and son’s t-shirt drawers. These overstuffed drawers that get ransacked several times a day seemed hopeless.

I’ve suggested the one-in-one-out rule to try and limit the amount of shirts, but it seems every event is commemorated by a t-shirt and sentimental value keeps most of them around for years. We’ve had to replace the drawer brackets on our dresser a few times due to the weight of these packed drawers.

After folding clothes so long for my family and my husband’s pro-shop, I can fold just about anything quickly and neatly. Not the coolest skill I know, but if I was ever thrown in a huge pit of clothes and had to fold to climb my way out, I’d be at the top in about five minutes.

I’m pretty set in my ways and not willing to change something I do well. But my stubborn side has some reason to it because who wants to fold clothes over and over again, no matter how well you do it!

That was the problem with the t-shirt drawers. Each time I tried to put a clean stack of neatly folded shirts in, I had to cram them on top of a pile of pilfered shirts or re-fold the stuff already in the drawer. This wouldn’t bother most people, but I assume you like things organized if you’re reading this post and it would bother you too.

I first gave rolling clothes a try after seeing my sister-in-law fit more in suitcases that way. It worked great! I only did it when we traveled and loved how neat the clothes were packed. It was a definite space saver.


The only problem was that the clothes didn’t stay neatly rolled too long in the suitcases. Plus, rolling clothes took one more step than folding them, so it was something I tolerated when packing for the benefit of extra space, but wasn’t willing to do at home.

After reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo, I decided to revisit the idea of rolling clothes and tackle the t-shirt drawers. Life changing indeed!

The amount of extra space in the drawers was more than I thought it would be. Not that this served as an invitation for the boys to get more shirts, but they agreed it was easier for them to pick what they wanted to wear because more shirts were visible when rolled as opposed to folded. I also talked them in to getting rid of a few shirts in the process.


Now for the real test: would the shirts withstand the vigorous daily rummaging and stay rolled? One month later, I’m happy to say yes! I think the key is that it’s easier for them to find what they want without having to look through stacks of shirts. Plus, the shirts aren’t mixed in with other clothes as they are in the suitcases so they’re easier to find.

I’ve also rolled blue jeans, shorts, and pants and it has easily doubled the space in these drawers. Some things like pajamas, gym shorts, or bulky cargo shorts don’t roll too well so I stick with folding.

For the extra time it takes to roll, I really don’t notice much difference. As Marie Kondo says, it’s kind of enjoyable. I’m not bothered by it because the benefit is worth it.

As far as making my life better, opening those drawers no longer prompts me to curse and I don’t have to re-fold t-shirts just to fit clean ones in. Now that a foundation is in place for the drawers to stay organized, I might just allow everyone to put their own laundry away, which is a huge step for this Type-A gal!

What challenges do you have with clothes storage? Not enough space, too much stuff, lack of time or ideas on how to organize? Have you figured out an innovative way to tackle some of these issues? I’d love to hear from you!

This post was shared at the following link party:

Talk of the Town

Thriving on Thursdays


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5 ways to minimize toy clutter



It starts before birth when you begin to amass a bundle of toys from friends and relatives to welcome that new bundle of joy into your life. You quickly find out that kids and stuff go hand in hand.

This is especially true in the toddler years when kids are developing identities and the concept of “mine” is discovered. At this age, explaining the value of a minimal lifestyle and telling your children they can’t have something they want is like walking through a tantrum minefield.

The best line of defense is to keep stuff you don’t want or need from coming home with you in the first place. Having two kids past those toy-crazed toddler years, I’ve learned some practical ways to keep toy clutter to a minimum without making my kids hate me.

My daughter loves telling people that her mom’s a minimalist and won’t let her keep things, but one look in my kids’ closets would assure you that they aren’t deprived of toys.

Most of these tips are actually lessons learned from years of toy overload due to holiday and birthday traditions, and the fact that we’ve formed sentimental attachments to some of these toys.

Had I embraced a minimal lifestyle earlier, here are some things I would have done different.

1. Graciously avoid gift overload

Big birthday parties are a sure way to rack up a bunch of toys at once, which can overwhelm your kids and storage space. You don’t have to go all Mommy Dearest on your kids and make them donate the gifts to charity after the party. Strategic planning can help avoid excessive gifts.

Birthdays are a big deal at our house. We’ve had our share of fun celebrations with a lot of guests. In hindsight, one large party for each child would have been enough. Now we celebrate with a smaller family party including dinner and decorations, and save friend get-togethers for another time when gifts aren’t a factor.

If you have large parties, there are so many creative gift alternatives to suggest to guests that there are even websites to help you do this! Links to sites and articles on this topic are listed below. These ideas can work at Christmas as well, when gift giving and receiving tend to go overboard.

2. Just say no to kid’s meal toys

Little things add up over time, and if your child gets attached to toys, you’ll find yourself buying storage bins just to corral all these “free” toys. In my experience, kid’s meal toys are landfill bound because they usually can’t be recycled and are hard to resell.

Plus, does eating a greasy fast food meal really deserve a prize? It seems like a confusing message to send kids. My solution is to order an adult combo meal that’s easy to split between my kids, or order the smaller portion items from the value meal.

If only a kid’s meal will do, I either refuse the toy, or if I lose my nerve, ask my child to make sure she wants the toy before we unwrap it so we can give it back if not. You can guess how many times that’s happened, but it has worked occasionally.

3. Ask not, want not

Rethink the idea of a trip to the toy store being a family outing. It’s a fun place until you explain that we’re just looking today and plan to leave the store empty handed.

Save yourself some embarrassment and bad-parent guilt that is gonna happen when you drag your screaming kid out the door. Instead, make holiday or birthday wish lists by browsing toy stores online, and then go alone to make the purchase.

I’m not saying you should never take your child to a toy store, but when you do, have a goal in mind and make sure everyone is clear on the outcome of the visit.

If your child is used to getting a toy as a shopping day reward, reconsider this tradition because it’s usually not a well thought-out purchase. Try to reward with experiences instead of toys, like a quick stop at the playground or a carousel ride.

4. Apply the in-and-out rule

By containing similar toys in bins, you place boundaries on toy overflow. My daughter loves stuffed animals but knows that if she wants a new one, she needs to pick an old one to donate because the storage tote that contains them is literally stuffed.

This sounds harsh, but the result benefits her. It helps her keep only her favorite toys and creates uncluttered space in her room where she can do cartwheels or spread out crafts and board games when friends come over.


An added bonus is if like toys have their own storage bins, cleanup is easy and even young kids can take care of their own mess. Avoid the temptation to add more storage bins as toys accumulate. Keep a strict limit on what’s reasonable for your storage space and know that your life will be much easier with less stuff to sort and shift around.

5. Opt for “real” toys that develop talents

Our daughter was skilled at destroying things as a toddler, so we would have never willingly handed her a real camera. Several years later, we got a new camera and gave her the old one. It has entertained her for hours as she makes stop-motion movies with her dolls inspired by ones she’s seen on YouTube.


Some of the best “toys” our kids have ever had are the real thing rather than the play version. More often, they stand the test of time and are likely to last through their childhood and beyond. Although more expensive than the play versions, we keep guitars and a ukulele within easy reach and they get picked up and played several times a day.

The most popular toy by far at our house has been a costume bin. Old Halloween costumes and party favors such as hats, bandanas, and feather boas get added to this bin. It rarely goes unopened during a playdate and the kids use it for all sorts of creative play.

Kids crave real-world play. Taking the time to show them how to properly use something and take care of it will pay off with the discovery and development of your child’s talents.

By simply avoiding some of the pitfalls that result in unsolicited toys, you are taking conscious control of what comes into your home. This accomplishment alone will make a big difference in the amount of toy clutter you have.

Carry that consciousness one step further to make sure the toys in your home deserve the space they take up by inspiring or bringing joy to your child.

Do you have an idea on avoiding toy clutter without being at odds with your child? If so, I’d love to hear from you!

Helpful Websites

Creative gift alternatives


Helps you avoid gift overload by requesting donations in which part of the money collected goes to a charity your child chooses, and the other part to you to buy the gift your child wants.


This is a registry service where you create a wish list requesting “gifts” that reflect your lifestyle and values, such as homemade gifts, donations to charity, experiences, or even secondhand goods.


Read about a family’s approach to making birthday parties a celebration of experiences and friends rather than gifts, and get innovative ideas for gift alternatives.

This post is linked up to the Frugal Crafty Home Blog Hop at:


watermelon granita


Is it possible for watermelon to be any more refreshing and sweet in the hot month of August? I didn’t think so until I had it in a granita!

This recipe requires a few simple ingredients and its easy prep will actually cool you off in the kitchen.

What you’ll need…

Small seedless watermelon
2 cups water
1-1/2 cups sugar
Juice of one lime


Make simple syrup by mixing the water and sugar in a saucepan. Stir over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.

Remove the syrup from the heat. Add lime juice so the flavor can steep, and allow the mixture to cool for half an hour.


Cut the melon in half and scoop it from the rind into a mixing bowl.


An ice cream scoop makes this step a breeze. Don’t spend too much time trying to remove the white seeds. The blender takes care of them : )


Pour the cooled syrup over the melon and blend together until smooth. I prefer a hand blender for this step. It does just as well as a regular blender and is much easier to clean.


Pour the melon mixture into a 9” x 13” pan and place uncovered in the freezer.


Check the consistency of the granita after a couple of hours and break up frozen areas with a fork.

Save yourself some aggravation and scrape the granita in the freezer until it is complete. I removed it the first time and the granita wasn’t nearly as frozen as I anticipated, so I had a big sticky spill on the freezer and floor to clean.


Check back in another hour and scrape again with a fork. Then scrape the granita every half hour or so until it develops the consistency of Italian ice. I scraped a total of five times. The sides of the dish froze quickly and needed the most scraping.

There you have it, a simple yet elegant dessert that will make your summer even sweeter! The great thing about a granita is that the recipe works with other fruits. I’d love to hear your favorite variations.

This post was shared at the following link party:

Moonlight and Mason Jars Link Party

upcycled vanity chair


A family heirloom got some glam with this upcycled chair.

My daughter and I were enamored with the luxurious fur stools we saw in Pottery Barn catalogs, and she needed a chair for her new vanity.

Then, my creativity was sparked when I spotted my grandmother’s old sewing chair at a family yard sale.


The chair made me smile and it was a perfect size for the vanity. Giving it a Pottery Barn makeover was undoubtedly the next step!

Finding the right fabric to pull off the look was a challenge. I searched fabric stores and got close, but nothing measured up to the fabulous fluff we wanted.

Then it hit me…why not use a rug! I was lucky enough to find one with thin suede backing and an ivory color matching the vanity.


What you’ll need…

Faux fur fabric or rug (at least 5” larger than the seat on each side)
Poly foam chair pad (we used 3” thickness)
Staple gun and heavy duty staples
Needle nose pliers and screwdriver
Small paint roller and sponge-tip paint brush
Paint to match faux fur
Foam sanding block and vacuum cleaner


Unscrew the hinges from the back of the chair that hold the seat in place.

Remove the old fabric and cushion from the seat. Needle nose pliers make it easier to pull the old staples out.


Sand the old finish off the chair. I used a foam block sander, which worked better than sandpaper on the corners and contoured surfaces.


After sanding, use the brush attachment to vacuum all the dust off the chair.


Paint the larger areas of the chair using a small paint roller. Then apply paint to the hard-to-reach areas with the sponge brush. I repurposed a fast food container for the paint tray.


In hindsight, the paint job would have gone much quicker by applying a coat of primer first. But I got anxious to start, so it took several coats of paint to cover the chair. I used up leftover paint from my daughter’s room or would have really regretted skipping this step.


Now for the fun part…upholstering the seat! The original cushion was in bad shape, so I got a new thicker one and cut it to fit the seat. Keep in mind that the thicker the cushion, the harder the new seat is to reattach to the chair. We went a little wild, but the thickness gives it that over-the-top look.


Martha Stewart has a fast and easy tutorial on how to upholster an antique chair and a link is included below. It’ll give you confidence when it comes to mitering the corners, and shows that the process really is as easy as it looks.

For fabric this thick, I used a ton of staples to hold it in place.


Fold the corners similar to wrapping a gift, making sure to flip the seat over and check that the corners look good before stapling the fabric in place.

Once the upholstery is done, reattach the hardware that holds the seat in place. This is tricky with the thicker fabric, but it was still easy enough that I didn’t have to get my husband’s help. Attach the finished seat to the chair.



We ended up with a preserved family keepsake, an insanely fluffy chair, and a very happy daughter. I think upcycling old furniture might become my new hobby!

Thanks for reading and I’d love to hear about your furniture upcycling experience in the comments below.

Helpful Links



This post was shared at the following link parties:

Frugal Crafty Home Blog Hop

Two Uses Tuesday Link Party

Inspire Me Wednesday Linky Party

From Dream to Reality Link Party

fridge cucumbers


The end of summer provokes a hoarding instinct in me. I want to gather the things I love about it and preserve them to take full advantage of a season that’s over way too soon.

I can’t make time stand still, but I can preserve some vegetables for the days ahead when produce looks less than desirable at the grocery.


Cucumbers are my favorite and I always want a good stock for the fall. These fridge pickles are based on the classic cucumber and onion recipe, with a few variations that give them extra flavor. They will stay crisp in your fridge for a couple of months.

Pickling cucumbers are at their peak in late August. Select smaller ones that are dark green with lots of bumps. They have fewer seeds and will be firm for preserving.

What you’ll need…

Three quart-size Mason jars with lids
18-20 pickling cucumbers
Four cups white vinegar
Four cups sugar
One small white onion, diced
3 tablespoons dried dill


Place the cucumbers in a colander and rinse thoroughly.

Most cucumber and onion recipes have you remove the peel. I keep the peel on for the crunch and added health benefits. Cucumber peels are loaded with vitamins and are a great source of fiber. Plus, cucumbers from the farmer’s market are likely un-waxed.


Prepare the liquid for the jars with equal parts vinegar and sugar. Mix them together in a pot and heat until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the pot from the heat and allow the mixture to cool.


Remove the ends of each cucumber and thinly slice. A mandolin slicer makes short work of this task and keeps the thickness of each slice consistent.


Place the cucumber slices in a mixing bowl. Add the diced onion and dried dill to the cucumbers and mix well. You could use fresh dill, but I prefer the flavor of dried with this recipe. Add the cucumber mixture to Mason jars with a spoon, filling the jars to the top.


Pour the cooled vinegar mixture into the jars. If there is not enough liquid to fill the jars, you can add water.


Store the cucumbers in the fridge and enjoy any time you’re in the mood for a sweet and savory reminder of summer!

the bagless project


I’m on a personal mission to stop using plastic shopping bags. For the last few years, “the bagless project” of mine has been way more difficult than I thought.

Yes, these bags are convenient and recycling them is easy, but the energy and pollution that go with making and recycling them can be spared if you refuse them.

Plastic bags do not biodegrade in the landfill, and according to the US Environmental Protection Agency’s website, only around 14 percent of this type of plastic gets recycled. Future generations will have to come up with crafty ways to re-purpose billions of these bags if we don’t make a change.

I’m amazed at how difficult it is to walk out of a store without a handful of plastic bags. I think it has become such an ingrained habit for consumers and clerks that no thought goes into whether your purchase actually needs a bag.

I’ve bought a single bag of apples before and had it stuffed in another bag at checkout, or a gallon of milk which has a container all its own. Sometimes, I’ve left the store with a small, single item in a plastic bag because I wasn’t quick enough to refuse it.

When you start refusing bags, prepare yourself for some surprising reactions.

I’ve had clerks tell me the funniest things when I request no bag. Here are some of the responses:

“It will hurt my feelings if you don’t let me wrap it for you.”

“You might get caught by security because they’ll think you’re shoplifting.”

“We want you to carry our bag because you’re advertising for us.”

The main response is “are you sure?” Sometimes I’m given the bag anyway and told it’s okay because they’re recyclable. On a more positive note, some clerks have thanked me when I refused a bag.

It’s easy to stop using plastic bags for shopping at the mall or grocery; just carry reusable canvas or nylon bags with you and refuse the store’s bags. Sounds simple right? Remembering to bring them is a real challenge.

The best advice to get in the habit of bringing your own bags is to store them in the trunk of your car. I have certain bags I use for different stores. The green bags are used exclusively for groceries to reduce the risk of food contamination. I use a nicer tote bag for trips to the mall.

bagless-project-2When I forget to bring reusable bags, I try to fit as much as possible into only one or two paper or plastic bags. Most of the time, I don’t take a bag at all and carry out the items. This has led to spilled groceries and funny looks on occasion, but it’s just incentive to remember my own bags next time.

At a few local stores, I’m known as the “bag-less lady.” I’m cool with that, but some clerks seem a little annoyed at my efforts.

There are times when bag refusal is socially awkward and causes aggravation.

This hasn’t been the case in larger cities, but sometimes is in my hometown. A clerk once told me that pay raises were based on how quickly they filled bags, and plastic ones were easiest to fill, so I can understand their resistance to different bags.

I’ve found it’s best to go through the self-check aisles when possible and become a regular at the stores you like. My husband and I now get compliments from grocery staff for our bagging efficiency.

When you can’t self-check, help the clerk bag your items, and avoid rationalizing your bag refusal because it may seem condescending or preachy.

Surprisingly, the farmers’ market is the place I rack up the most plastic bags when I go unprepared. If I don’t speak up, each different fruit or vegetable is placed in a separate bag and I leave feeling like the environmental benefit of shopping local and organic have been negated.

Reusable produce bags are a great solution and you can make your own from old sheets or purchase mesh produce bags online. Amazon carries bags that have the tare weight printed on a tag so the cashier can subtract this from the total weight of the produce.

I have to admit I haven’t made it to this level yet. I’m not brave enough to hold up the checkout line to get assistance subtracting the weight of my produce bags. Until I can meet that step with less resistance, I sometimes reuse plastic produce bags if they are clean and untorn. I just place them inside my folded reusable bags after emptying the groceries so I’ll have them on the next trip.

bagless-project-3The good news is that bag bans are being implemented around the world and in several American cities, predominately along the west coast. Some cities have ordinances that pass a tax on to shoppers at checkout to discourage the mindless use of these bags.

There’s no doubt that regulations on plastic bags spark debate. When legislation has been proposed, arguments arise about job loss in the plastic industry, as well as the economic impact of consumers preferring to shop in neighboring cities without bag bans.

A Google search can quickly confirm that there is nothing good about plastic bags environmentally. So when the issue seems overwhelming and your city is light years from a ban, start being the change you want to see.

Empty your reusable bags after a shopping trip and put them back in your car for their next use. Rock that stylish tote at the farmer’s market or mall and set a new trend. It’s trés chic to leave the store with a baguette and fresh produce sticking out the top of a reusable bag. Plastic bags are so last century!

If you have any suggestions for avoiding plastic bags at the store, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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Simply Natural Saturdays

conscious consumption


“Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” was a slogan used by Americans in the 1940s to conserve for the war effort.

My grandmother was the absolute queen of this! My sister and I were fascinated by the multi-colored bar of soap in her bathroom, which was made from bits of melted and molded leftover soap.

Not a bit of food went to waste in her house. She made fantastic vegetable soup, but each batch was different depending on the leftovers used to make it.

Wisdom from this era is trending again. With some conscious effort, you can reduce your product consumption by using every last bit of the products you buy. You’ll save money and give the planet a little help too.

Here are a few tips to help you squeeze the most out of things you buy, and make you aware of things you might use that you don’t really need and can live better without.

Out squeeze used-up tubes


Cut tubes of lotion, shampoo, and toothpaste in half when they are close to empty. You’ll get a few more applications than throwing them away when more can’t be squeezed out. Make the cut diagonally on the tube so it’s easier to use up both ends.

An added bonus is that some plastic tubes can be recycled after this because you can rinse them. Just check the recycling number on the tube to make sure it is accepted at your facility.

Dilute that last bit

You’d be surprised at how many more uses this one easy habit will give you from your products. When liquid laundry detergent and fabric softener bottles are almost empty, stretch them for a few more loads by adding some water and shaking.

This also saves water when you rinse the bottles for recycling because they are seriously empty. Make a habit of doing this to shampoo and body wash bottles as well. This gives me validation to buy the good stuff because I’ll use every drop! It also works for salad dressing. Add a little milk to almost-empty creamy dressings, or oil to vinaigrette dressings to use up that last hard-to-get bit.

Make the most of makeup


A small makeup brush will get you a lot more uses out of the bottom of lipstick and liquid eye makeup tubes. When lipstick gets too low to apply, use it as blush. Just a small bit each day from the same used-up tube has lasted a full year and kept me from buying blush.

Avoid produce waste

Before heading to the grocery to restock, take stock of what needs to be used in your pantry or fridge and plan your menu accordingly. Soups, salads, and stir-fry are great ways use up leftover produce.

Make use of your freezer to avoid waste. Not all produce freezes well, but some freezes better when prepared with an end in mind. Some websites let you to type in the ingredients you have on hand, and will match them with recipes. Check the recommended sites at the end of this post to find the best way to salvage what you have.

Un-foil baked potatoes


Skip wrapping potatoes in aluminum foil when baking. This allows the skin to get crispy, which is my favorite part because it tastes like a homemade potato chip.

Clean the potato with a vegetable brush, then puncture the skin several times with a fork. Rub olive oil and sea salt on the potato and bake on a rimmed baking sheet at 400°. I usually bake six at a time for one hour.

Electricity is a consumable product as well, and minor changes in your routine can help conserve it. Appliances that heat up are huge energy hogs. Preheating the oven is often unnecessary. Likewise, turning off the oven several minutes before the timer goes off allows enough heat to finish cooking most recipes.

When it comes to buying stuff, I much prefer quality over quantity and buying less often helps me do that. These are just a few tips that I’ve found on my journey to a more minimal lifestyle.

Please check back as I will add more to this post, and feel free to share any tips you have in the comments.

Helpful Links

Avoid produce waste

www.designmom.com/2013/05/living-well-11-secrets-to-properly-freezing-produce/ Living Well: 11 Secrets of Properly Freezing Produce by Gabrielle Blair

Enter ingredients to find recipes