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The first week of our “28 Days to a Gently Sustainable Home: Use It Up!” will focus on using what we already possess.
Can I ask you a question?
Can you imagine what your life would be like if you weren’t able to separate yourself from anything until you had completely “Used It Up”?
But first, let’s define “Use Up”…
To exhaust of strength or useful properties.
Synonyms include: Absorb, consume, burn, deplete, devour, drain, exhaust, expend.
Back to the question: What would you life be like if you truly “used up” everything that you currently own?
Better question: What would your household spending look like if you truly “used up” everything you currently own?
I’ll admit that this is a very “counter-cultural” question, but bear with me. Let’s consider….
What if you didn’t buy any new books until you had read every book you already own? Twice?
How much less money would you spend if you wore every shoe and piece of clothing until you had completely exhausted it’s usefulness? After repairing it several times? (My husband re-soles his dress shoes several times before letting them go).
What would your grocery bill look like if you committed to eating/preserving every morsel of food that you already have, before it went bad? What if you swore off paper napkins and paper towels?
What if you kept your current car until you had 300K miles on it? And maintained it meticulously so that it would last that long?!
The point that I’m trying to drive home (pun intended) is this…
Most of our spending decisions aren’t because we need something…
It’s because we WANT something.
Most of us are perpetual consumers who are chronically discontent with what we have.
Yes, it’s hard to hear.
Aside from our discontentment, living in this digital age makes it incredibly easy to consume. One or two clicks on a phone app, and your purchase is on it’s way!
So, just how do we overcome this consumer-driven lifestyle?
I have a few suggestions.
First of all, let’s just STOP. Stop all discretionary spending for a period of time. One week is good start.
Next, take some time to look at each room of your home. Start in the kitchen, then continue through each room in your home and take inventory. If your home is like most Americans, you’ve got cabinets and closets full of things you don’t use.
We’ll just cover the two most wasteful rooms today: The kitchen and the bathroom.
Most American kitchens are extremely wasteful.
Americans waste 40% of the food that is grown for us. Forty percent!!
Can you imagine what would happen if we all started eating everything in our refrigerators on a regular basis?
What systems, if any, do you have in place to make sure that older food gets eaten before newer food does? What happens when you have leftover food from a meal? How is leftover food from a meal eaten out dealt with?
Most of us don’t have these kinds of systems set up. The good news is that it’s fairly simple to do!
Next, buy less food. Only purchase what you can finish in a weeks time. Otherwise, the “newest” food simply pushes the “older” food to the back of the frig, and is rarely consumed at that point.
Meal planning isn’t difficult or time consuming, it’s simply making a decision about what you’ll be eating for a period of time.
Typically, I plan just dinners for a month at a time. I use a simple 30-day calendar and chart out the same 14 meals to be served 2x during the month.
The cool thing about meal planning this way is that I can double the recipe the first time I serve it, and freeze the second portion for the other meal later in the month.
For those times when food waste is unavoidable, at least compost it, or find someone who can.
Making your kitchen “paper-free” is such a simple process! This decision will not only save you a lot of money, but it’s also sustainable! Swap out paper towels for kitchen towels and make yourself some cloth napkins.
Ditch the paper plates, except for cook-outs and other special occasions.
How far will you go to make sure you use up every drop of something?
The bathroom can be another wasteful place, with all the plastic bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body wash! Tubes of toothpaste are usually discarded with at least another week’s worth of toothpaste inside. Razors are tossed long before they are truly dull (did you know you can re-sharpen disposable razors?)
Personally, I gave up disposable razors a long time ago for a safety razor, I LOVE that little thing! Totally worth the money and far cheaper long term.
Can I encourage you to try bar soap instead of body wash? Bar soap costs so much less money, and is far less wasteful.
There are also other options for washing your hair these days, like shampoo bar soap, as well as the “No-Poo” method.
What about toilet paper? Could you save money by using a “family cloth”? Even if you just use it for #1, you’ll save a lot of money.
No-waste feminine care options include a menstrual cup and cloth feminine napkins. I’ve used both over the years and been very pleased! Pay once and you’re good to go for many years.
These suggestions might cost a little more money up front, but over time, you’ll find yourself spending far less money at the store. You’ll also create a sustainable home rather than being a consumer-driven home!
So, how do you keep motivated with a steady stream of ideas and other like-minded people? Want a place where you can bounce your ideas off other folks? Check out Gently Sustainable on Facebook!