The Fourth R

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The last of the grapes I ate the other day. I am pretty sure those are the last grapes I am going to have for a very long time due to scarcity and price gouging.

We all know the three R’s. We grew up with reading, writing and arithmetic. Today, the three R’s are typically reduce, reuse, recycle. To the three modern R’s, there is a fourth R in our COVID-19 world, ration.

At first blush, there does not seem to be much difference between reduce and ration. They both indicate a decrease of some kind. However, when I sat down and thought about it, I realized that the difference between the two concepts is macro and micro.

When I think of reduce, I think of concepts like minimalism. Minimalism typically involves reducing the total number of items in your home. It also involved purchasing less things. Not only are you bringing less items into your home, but you are paring down items that are in your home so that overall, you have less. This is on the macro scale.

When I think of ration, I think on the micro scale. We take the items that we have and use less of them. We are not reducing – getting rid of the item – because it is an essential item. However, we are using less of that essential item so that it lasts longer.

The reason why I am focusing on rationing during this period of time is that I am trying to reduce my expenses. Mass layoffs are real now, people.

If we can make what we have last longer, then that is less money we have to spend in replenishing essential items. We are also leaving essential items on the shelf for someone else to have in this time of scarcity.

It is not just about toilet paper anymore. People are hoarding all types of things. If you run out of an item, you may not be able to get another one, either in-store or online.

Items that I have had difficulty obtaining include: feminine hygiene products (this is a REAL problem, people – bigger than toilet paper), fresh foods, pet products, and canned goods.

I did not realize how wasteful I am as a person until I started thinking of this idea of rationing. I am trying to reduce my water, gas, and electric bills. I am trying to reduce how often I use things inside my house to delay when I need to purchase more.

Some ways I am trying to be more mindful:

  • I am now actually paying attention to how much laundry soap I am using. Those little lines inside the cap mean something. Laundry soap is one of the “specialty items” I have to get due to my multiple food allergies. Most commercial laundry soap contains almond oil, which means my clothes could send me into anaphylactic shock if I did not have “special” laundry soap. I am trying to be conservative with how much of my “specialty” laundry soap I am using since it is now almost impossible to obtain.
  • To that end, I am trying to wear clothing items more than once before washing. I am also getting more uses out of items such as towels before washing them.
  • Toilet paper. Yes, I am now counting sheets of toilet paper used. Look, toilet paper scarcity was a real problem in my childhood. This situation is not helping.
  • I am using my crock pot more. This week, I have used it every other day. I am literally using all of the fresh food in my house. I am not throwing anything away. If something looks like it is starting to go bad before I can “use” it, I am throwing it in the crock pot with anything I can to make a soup, stew, whatever just so I do not “lose” that item.
  • I made chicken breast with vegetables in my crock pot. It was the best piece of chicken I have ever had in my entire life. I will not bake or grill chicken again. Any time I have chicken in the future, I am going to cook it in the crock pot. Crock pot chicken is amazing.
  • My dish soap is also a “specialty” item due to multiple food allergies. I am very conscious of how much dish soap I am putting in the sink to wash dishes now.
  • I am unplugging everything when I am not actively using it. This includes the microwave and coffee pot. If they are unplugged, they are not drawing power.
  • Since I got my pixie haircut a year or so ago, I use less soap and shampoo. Again, all my soap and shampoo are specialty allergy-friendly items that come from one company in California. I am serious that if this goes on much longer and I cannot get a haircut, I may shave my head.
  • Kitty litter and trash bags. I use trash bags to line my cat pans for easier clean up. I am trying to reduce both the amount of kitty litter I use and the trash bags I am using for liners by scooping their cat pans more often. My trash hauler requires us to use 13-gallon clear trash bags, and those are difficult to obtain right now, both in-person and online. 

Anyone have any other suggestions for rationing or ways to reduce expenses when stuck at home?

Stay safe and well. 

Isolation Log: Covid Date 2.a.20

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Jolene playing in the empty laundry basket

Welcome to Upstate New York where we have coronavirus in a snowstorm!

That’s right, folks. We are under a winter weather advisory for 6 inches of snow with sleet and freezing rain. I bet all the kids were hoping for a snow day … oh, that’s right, they already get to stay home. Except they still have to go to school – online! 

Muahahaha.

I have been working from home today. I work in my kitchen, where I have the best lighting and electrical outlets. I also have the best windows to sit here and watch the snow while the cats like to bird watch. The snow is coming down fast. 

Today it was announced that New York is the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States. New York State has 20x more cases than any other state in the country.

New York is Ground Zero. Again. That’s ok, we are used to being Ground Zero. Our Governor is doing a stellar job right now. 

In positive news …

I am feeling okay. I have decided that it is in the best interest of my mental health to stop listening to the radio. My sources of news are primarily radio and newspaper. For now, I am reading my newspaper and watching the Governor’s daily briefing. Watching the Governor makes me feel better in this scary time. I like that he gives daily updates. He makes me feel safe. No matter your politics, you have to agree that our Governor has really stepped up to the plate in dealing with this crisis.

I am using my CD player more since I am no longer listening to the radio. I cannot stand for the house to be silent. I have to have music. I am having a great time revisiting some CDs that I have not had the chance to listen to in awhile. Music makes me happy.

The cats are completely oblivious to what is going on. I’m sure they think I am just on a 3-day weekend or Christmas break or something. I am so thankful for every single day I get to be home with them. I’m glad they are oblivious. It’s my job as mom to take care of them. I don’t want them to know what is going on or how bad it is. 

I had a great 3 mile run outdoors yesterday. I am holding steady at 3 miles. I am pretty sure that my entire 2020 running season is going to be forfeited to the coronavirus. Right now it’s all about survival. I need those 3 miles to keep my sanity.

I am hoping that it will warm up and rain or something in the next few days here so that I can continue running outside. I went to the mailbox today, and not only was there quite a few inches of snow, but it is very slippery. I can’t run in this. 

If worst come to worst, I may start running laps around the first floor of my home with my Garmin. Any guesses on how many laps will make a mile? I’m guessing 1,378 laps. I’ll let you know if I get desperate and do that. 

I do have a daily schedule so that I still have a routine. I have a designated time each day for outside time. Sunshine is good for the soul.

This weekend, I may be working on some of my minimalist home projects. I am still trying to empty a room upstairs. While I am not physically able to remove items from my home right now, I can at least box items that are ready to leave when I can get rid of them.

In my Bible, I am currently reading the book of Psalms and the book of Revelation. They make me feel better.

Last fall, my book club read a novel called The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. One of the characters talked about how they had to burn books for warmth during WWII. She said that she left her Bible for last, and that when she did have to burn the Bible for warmth, the two books that she decided to burn were Job and Revelation.

I do not think that we are going to be that desperate where we have to burn books for warmth. We may have to use them for toilet paper … come on people, SHARE! 

I doubt we will have to use books for toilet paper, but if it does get to that point and my Bible is the “last book standing,” I can tell you right now, that I will not be using the book of Revelation. I will be using the book of Numbers. I still don’t get that one.

Be warm, safe and well. 

 

Five Dollar Challenge

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Simon enjoys cuddle time during covid isolation

The world is hurting right now. Maybe COVID-19 has not hit your area yet and you are going about your daily life still. I was too, up until the past week or so. I live in Upstate New York, and we are under a stay-at-home order. While staying at home is a relief, I will admit that I am also completely terrified. I am scared not only for me, my family, and my friends, but also for the world. Life will never be the same again after this.

Someone on the radio recently said that the coronavirus is this generation’s 9/11. Let me tell you right now, I was in New York City on September 11, 2001. I was 22 years old. This is nothing like 911. This is worse.

In the middle of the pain, we are seeing acts of kindness. They are small, but they serve to instill hope in the world that humans may be an okay link on the food chain after all. 

In NYS, there is mass unemployment that has now surpassed recession levels and is escalating at a level we have not seen since the Great Depression. It sure looks like history repeats itself every 100 years, doesn’t it?

I am extremely fortunate that I still have a job. I am still getting paid. It is extremely tenuous how long that will last. I work at a very small, local non-profit that employs about 10 staff. I am scared of losing my job and not being able to pay the bills. I completely understand why people were jumping off of buildings in 1929. I am very fortunate in that I have three furballs depending on me to keep me grounded and sane.

In this very scary time, we don’t have a dime to give. I get it. I really do.

But I am still going to issue the Five Dollar Challenge.

As I said, I work at a tiny non-profit that has about 10 staff. If every person in America right now were to donate $5 to a local non-profit, it may mean the difference between that agency being able to give their employees just one more paycheck. 

No one has money right now. I get it. But $5 is not much. Hey, we are under a stay-at-home order. It’s not like you can go to a coffee shop right now. Take that $5 you would have spent on a latte and donate it to a local non-profit in your area.

Local money stays local. Help your neighbors. You do not even have to leave your home. 

Even with all businesses in NYS mandated closed, many are working remotely. So if you don’t know how to give, call one of your local non-profits and ask if they have a way to donate online or if you can mail a check.

Don’t forget your local animal shelters. Animal shelters are still open and caring for homeless pets right now. In fact, if you are under a stay-at-home order, this is the perfect time to adopt and get a new family member acclimated to your home. Call the shelter ahead to ask how they are handling adoptions during this trying time. 

As much as we are all buying toilet paper and cleaning supplies right now, remember that shelters need those items every single day. If you are ordering supplies online, try to place an order for the shelter too. 

I get how hard it is to donate right now. But we all have $5. We are only going to get through this by working together. Given that I am one of a few very privileged people to still be employed right now, I am going to give $5 to a local non-profit every single time I am able to get paid. I am going to take the dime I do have and make it scream.

I will totally admit that I did give $5 today, but I did not give to a local agency. I donated $5 to my favorite radio show. They are worth way more than $5. I would give $5,000 if I could. I wanted to show them that I appreciate them still being on the air and providing me with a distraction from the stress of the news. But from here on out, I will give my $5 to a local non-profit agency within 10 miles of my home only.

We are all stuck at home and ordering things online. Amazon is very popular. Well, have you ever heard of Amazon Smile? Amazon Smile is a completely different web site from the regular Amazon. You have to type in Amazon Smile. You can use your Amazon account to choose a non-profit. Every time you buy something from Amazon, they donate a portion of your purchase to your chosen non-profit. 

Local non-profits are on Amazon Smile. In fact, I just switched my Amazon Smile account for the donation money to go to my employer. I’m happy they are still paying me. Non-profits need our help now more than ever. 

If you are stuck at home and looking for something to do or a way to help, google non-profits in your town. Keeping your $5 donation local helps to be sure that someone can get one more paycheck to provide for their family. 

I can promise that when we all come through the other side of this that your local non-profits will pay you back. We provide valuable services to the community. Some agencies may even decide to have a community party when we do not have to isolate or social distance anymore.

$5 may not seem like a lot, but to someone else it can mean the world. If you are still getting a paycheck right now, consider joining the $5 Challenge. 

Keep it local. The only way we are going to get through this is together. 

Will you join me in donating $5 to a local non-profit in your own community? 

Consider Amazon Smile. You are ordering online anyway, so why not have a portion of your purchase go to an agency in your community? Only certified 501C3 non-profits make the list for Amazon Smile, so your money is going to good.

Five dollars, friends. Let’s do this! 

 

Isolation Log: Covid Date 1.b.20

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Jolene watching an old football game with me that was playing on Pluto TV.

New York State is under a stay-at-home order. As someone in the “vulnerable” population, I currently fall under Matilda’s Law.

There is a lot of sadness in the world right now. Kenny Rogers died. He was an icon of my youth. At this difficult time, I am grasping at things from my childhood in an effort to remember simpler times. So while Kenny Rogers’ death may not be a huge deal under normal circumstances, it is magnified by everything else going on too.

I announced to my coworkers earlier this week:

“The world is officially ending. Tom Brady has left the Patriots.” I don’t usually address politics or other confrontational topics on this blog, but I am a huge Patriots fan, and this bit of news this week has completely blown my mind. 

I have been in a state of shock all week. 

Listening to the radio this week: “Now it’s time for sports … wait, everything is canceled.”

When I turned 41 a few weeks ago, I was kind of excited. I like to see what sports figures wear the number that goes with my age. 41 is worn by the Red Sox’ Chris Sale. Chris is having Tommy John surgery this year, which takes him out for the season. With Covid, there may not be a baseball season, so this is the perfect time for him to have surgery. It’s ok. 

On a positive note, there have been some things to stand up and cheer about.

This morning, I was able to listen to my favorite radio program, Only A Game. Sports may be canceled, but my favorite sports program still has a lot to teach me. Only A Game makes life feel normal because I can still go about my typical Saturday routine.

I do not have cable, so I cannot imagine what is going on at ESPN right now, since they are 24/7sports. My favorite program, Only A Game, has still delivered. They have not let me down. Thanks so much to everyone running that show for giving me a beautiful gift right now in keeping the program “normal.”

With the NHL season canceled, if you were to add up all of the points in the League right now, the Boston Bruins would win the Stanley Cup. They are my favorite team and won the Cup for me in 2011 as my graduation present when I finally finished my bachelors degree after 15 years of struggle. 

As a teaser, Only A Game is going to talk about how the 1918 Spanish Flu effected hockey in next week’s episode. At least I know if we awarded the Cup now, it would go to the Bruins.

Another highlight of my week was the live concert Dropkick Murphys gave to the world. I saw DKM in concert when they first came out in the 1990s. I never dreamed to be able to see them in Boston on St. Patty’s Day due to how fast their concerts sell out. This year, due to covid, they livestreamed the concert to the world, and it was beautiful. Of all the horrible things this health crisis is doing, that concert was a rose in a barren landscape.

The Shedd Aquarium in Chicago released a video this week of penguins free roaming the aquarium due to lack of visitors. There are many museums, aquariums and other places offering virtual tours right now. 

I do not want to spend all of my time online. I do not like being online in general. It’s nice to know that it is there in case I need it.

I have heard a lot from my online MS support group this week. We are all in the vulnerable group, so we are trying to keep each other’s spirits up. 

This weekend I plan to pretend everything is normal and try to decompress from what is actually happening. I tend to stay at home on weekends anyway, unless I am outside for a run, so that part is status quo. Sometimes we need to unplug from all the horrible things going on around us.

In NY, we are all staying home, and so far, I am okay. 

How are you doing? 

Isolation Log: Covid Date 1.a.20

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Jude watching James Bond with me during covid isolation

A car alarm pierces the silence of the night. Everyone has been off the streets and in their house for hours. In fact, many vehicles have been parked all day. When I look out the window to see why the car alarm has been going off for 12 minutes, I see two kids next to the vehicle in question. They are head-banging and jumping up and down. 

They have been out of school for less than a week and this is how they decide to have fun. I have already gone to bed for the night. I have to work in the morning. This was an unpleasant way to be woken from sleep.

It has been a very long year this week.

All of my health providers called to cancel my appointments this week. I cannot see the neurologist, the physical therapist, or my masseuse. Even my hair salon is closed. My back-up plan for when my hair drives me wild is to shave my head. Desperate times call for desperate measures. I’ll keep you updated on whether that ends up happening or not.

The only physician who not only wanted to see me this week but actually insisted on seeing me was the primary doctor. I could not figure out why. No one else wants to see me, claiming I am “high risk.” I do not understand why.

When I did go to see the primary doctor, she sat me down for almost an hour to talk to me and now I understand why no one else wants to see me and I am so “high risk.”

Apparently, the MS is in my spine. Your spinal cord controls breathing. I am high risk for any illness. Even a cold will make me more sick than the average person. Covid would be lethal for me. I was told to stop going to the grocery store and the pharmacy – those are high risk areas for me. The doctor helped me to come up with a plan that will hopefully keep me stocked with food and medication to be completely isolated during this time.

I am encouraged to be outside in fresh air as much as possible. I need to keep running so that I can keep moving, especially since I no longer have access to either physical therapy or massage to help me.

I go to work and I come home. That is it.

The libraries are all closed. This past Tuesday we had our last book club. I checked out 14 items from the library (books and DVDs) that I am allowed to keep until May 1 while the libraries are closed. I came home with an entire reusable bag of library items – my version of “tp hoarding.”

Of all the stupid things, I cried Tuesday night after the library closed for an indefinite period of time. The library is my lifeline. I always have something checked out of the library. I constantly inter-library loan. I know the librarians at 6 area libraries all by name and they know me. Libraries were a safe place for me during the times in my life when I was homeless. They are a safe place to take a nap. 

Yes, I have enough books and DVDs in my house to keep me occupied. It’s just the idea that the libraries are closed. It breaks my heart. I guess this is an example of a first-world problem.

I am very grateful that people have been calling and checking on me to be sure I am okay. I am okay for now. But there will come a time in the next few weeks when I will need to have help. It is very hard for me to ask for help. 

I tend to be isolated to a degree in life to begin with due to my severe food allergies. The interactions I enjoyed by going to the gym, the library, and the coffee shop are now gone. 

Back and forth from work to home and nothing else. 

I will keep you updated as the isolation continues. Of course, I had to choose a Star Trek reference for my posts. This is covid date 1.a.20, meaning week 1, day a of this week (first blog post of the week) and year 2020. 

This will get worse before it gets better. But we are all in this together. Be safe and healthy. 

 

The Toilet Paper Chronicles, Part 2

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We all know from the Toilet Paper Chronicles, Part 1, that people who have experienced homelessness or scarcity in life typically fall into one of two camps. You either end up as a minimalist or as  hoarder. For me, I am mostly a minimalist, but have a tendency to hoard toilet paper. I know what it is like to have to go without toilet paper for long periods of time. 

I was very surprised when I went to the grocery store this week and all of the toilet paper was gone. The shelves were bare. Now, I have enough toilet paper at home already to last me a few weeks. Yet I found the lack of toilet paper on store shelves to be downright alarming.

I still do not completely understand – why are people hoarding toilet paper? 

There were three things on my grocery list this week that I was unable to obtain because the shelf was empty. One of those items is a can of pineapple chunks. When I stood in the canned goods aisle, there was plenty of food on the shelves. The only hole in the entire row was the pineapple area. There was not a single can of pineapple at the grocery store. 

What gives? Why are people hoarding pineapple of all things? Don’t you want peaches or green beans or something? Why pineapple? I just wanted one can for a ham dish I am making this week. It does not make sense for me to buy an entire pineapple for one person, so I figured one can of pineapple chunks would be sufficient. Now, I can live without that can of pineapple. I am just amazed at what people are hoarding during this health crisis.

Emergency preparedness officials have been telling us for years that we should be prepared to shelter in place in the event of an emergency for 7-10 days. This would be for a snowstorm, hurricane, some sort of crisis. If the current health scare is requiring people to shelter in place for 14 days, then we should not need much extra to go from a 7-10 day supply to a 14 day supply.

The problem is, most people, myself included, never prepared to shelter in place for 7-10 days to begin with. Quite honestly, my home emergency kit was only stocked for us to shelter in place for 3-5 days, which is the average length of time we are typically home bound due to snowstorms in central New York. 

With multiple food allergies, I thought I was ahead of the game being prepped for 5 days in case the specialty items I need become hard to obtain in an emergency. 

That said, the second item on my grocery list that I was unable to obtain this week is flour. With duhring disease, I can’t just have “flour.” I use a special 1:1 gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free flour. There was none on the shelf.

I can live without flour. I was going to make some apple muffins. I have plenty of other things to eat without muffins. I was just surprised there was no flour. Now, if I did not have multiple food allergies, I would have been able to get a sack of traditional flour with no problems. 

However, in an emergency, living life with multiple food allergies is even more challenging when all of my specialty items are gone and I am physically unable to eat what is there unless I have a death wish.

Luckily, I have enough food to accommodate my food allergies. I can always order online if need be.

Which brings me to the next point – this health scare is highlighting people who have and people who have not. There are some people who need to shelter in place for 14 days. Yet these people are in the comfort of their homes, with electricity and running water. You can order food and other supplies to be delivered to your door. However, this means that there are people out there who are still working and unable to shelter in place because they are delivering supplies to your home.

Just something to think about how interdependent we are as a society.

This brings me back to toilet paper. Not only are all the shelves bare. But when I just checked Amazon, you cannot even order toilet paper online. It is out of stock.

I guess people are going to find out what it was like for me growing up with no toilet paper. When you scrimp to save a quarter to buy a roll or go without. Of course, a roll of toilet paper today is generally $1. I’ve heard that with the empty store shelves, some people are selling toilet paper for $20 a roll.

There are alternatives to toilet paper. I am going to start hanging onto my newspapers instead of recycling them. Is it ideal? No, but in a pinch, newspapers make great toilet paper. It’s better than nothing. I do not anticipate having to use the newspaper, but with my childhood history of toilet paper scarcity, lack of toilet paper is what makes me the most antsy. I’m sure I will be fine. 

I wonder if we go into a hardware store if all of the bidet toilet seats will be gone as well? Bidets are an alternative to toilet paper. I’ve never used one and the idea does freak me out a little, but I hear they are popular in Europe. Maybe it’s time for the bidet to catch on here. 

Being able to stock up on supplies is an economic privilege. There are many people on fixed incomes who are unable to buy an extra week or two of groceries. Sure, they may buy an extra can or item here or there. But if you have been to the store this week and come out with a full cart, consider yourself privileged. If you have 2 packages of toilet paper in your house, think of people who are going just for their weekly groceries hoping to buy a few rolls. We need to be sure that we are taking care of everyone in this health crisis.

For every person buying enough toilet paper to last a year right now, there is someone going without because they can only afford to buy one 4-roll package per month, and that package just ran out.

I will say that I am glad I made the transition back to cloth handkerchiefs and to microfiber cleaning cloths. I do not need to buy facial tissue or paper towels.

But if you see me next in the hardware store buying a bidet seat, you’ll all know why.  

 

Minimalist Cleaning

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The easiest way to clean as a minimalist would be to live in as small of a space as possible with as few belongings as possible. Is this feasible? I’m sure there are people doing it, but it is definitely not for me. Everyone’s version, journey and definition of minimalism is different according to what works for them and their family.

Even though I live in a large house that is challenging for me, I like the idea of open space. I live with three indoor only cats, and they have plenty of room to play or just to be alone from each other. I have a great big world to be in, but for my cats, this house is their world. So we have a large house with a few things. My goal is always to maximize open spaces. 

So far, on my minimalist journey, I have been doing a decent job of paring down items so that I only have what I need and things that I may not necessarily need, but enrich my life and make me happy. Over the past year or so, I have written about my transition to handkerchiefs to reduce the amount of facial tissues I purchase. I have also made the transition to cloth napkins. I can tell you right now, that I have not bought a single paper napkin since. 

I have significantly reduced my paper towel use, saving paper towels for only the most unsavory of cleaning jobs. An example is that I use paper towels to wipe out the cat pan after having soaked it in hot water with a little bit of vinegar. By my estimate, I have reduced my paper towel usage to about four rolls per year. Actually, I think it is slightly over three rolls, but I rounded up to four. 

I have been using cotton cleaning cloths for dusting and washing windows. I do also use disinfectant cleaning wipes for some areas. 

Cleaning is not my favorite activity. Is it your’s? If so, why? I try to spend as little time cleaning as possible while still living in a clean, organized and sanitary home. I feel that I have more valuable things to do with my time like being with the people I love doing things I enjoy.

My next step in trying to minimize my cleaning is going to be the introduction of microfiber cloths. I recently had to dispose of an empty can of Pledge and discovered that is a difficult thing to dispose of in my area. I also dislike dusting and cleaning windows. I realized that one of the cleaning cloths I have been using is a microfiber cloth. I did not think anything of it. 

I decided to google microfiber cleaning cloths to learn more about them. The one that I have been using seems to be less effective. I have had it about 2 years and was thinking it was time to buy a new one. So it piqued my curiosity to research cleaning cloths. I had bought the microfiber cloth to reduce my paper towel usage.

Researching microfiber cloths was eye opening. I learned that while it is okay that I have been using the microfiber cloth with windex, that windex is not technically necessary. If I had two microfiber cloths, I could use one slightly damp and one dry to achieve the same effect. Or, I could simply just use one and go around wiping absolutely everything in sight with no cleaners whatsoever.

This is definitely a game-changing idea. I have a set of cleaning supplies upstairs. I have a set of cleaning supplies downstairs. We all know I have challenges with stairs. By having a complete set of cleaning supplies on each floor of the house, then I am not having to haul things up and down on a regular basis. 

If I can reduce my usage of cleaning supplies, not only will I save money but also time. I can just go around wiping everything with a cloth.

Since my one microfiber cloth needs to be replaced, I have actually ordered a package of multiple microfiber cloths in a set of three colors. This way, when they arrive, I can have one color for the bathroom, one color for the kitchen, and the third for windows, dusting, and everything else. 

I will let you know how things go once I make the full transition to microfiber cleaning cloths. I am currently waiting for my order to arrive. Do any of you use microfiber cloths for cleaning? Does it simplify your cleaning routine? 

 The introduction of microfiber cloths carries with it the same challenges as the introduction of handkerchiefs and paper napkins. The initial outlay of money for these items can be hard for working class people. However, if you can afford the initial payment to purchase these items, it will save money in the long run because you will be purchasing less disposable paper products. 

Thus, the reason why it has taken me a few years to make the transitions to handkerchiefs, paper napkins and microfiber cleaning cloths. 

I am definitely seeing cost savings in that I am purchasing zero paper napkins, significantly less paper towels, and significantly less paper facial tissue. Let’s hope that the switch to microfiber will save me not only money, but time as well. 

Do you have any other minimalist cleaning tips to offer? Or time savers? My greatest nemesis is mopping. Personally, I would rather vacuum than sweep or mop. But you cannot have carpeting everywhere. Any mopping or floor cleaning hacks? 

Four Years Without Facebook

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It has now been four years since I completely deleted my Facebook account, and I have no regrets. Every so often, there will be a story on the news of how people will try to go a year or without Facebook as an experiment. Or, you will hear tips on how to decrease your usage, such as putting an app on your phone that will only allow you to browse for so many minutes a day.

One of the biggest obstacles to overcome when living without Facebook is the fear of missing out, or FOMO. I will admit, that I have had maybe one or two instances of FOMO over the past year or so. However, when I sit there and seriously think about whether I want to rejoin Facebook, the negatives of the social media platform far outweigh the positives for me. 

Most of what I want to know I can find in other ways. I listen to the radio and read the newspaper. I live in an extremely rural community, where over half of our population physically lacks internet access, so I am not missing anything by not being online.

If there is something I want to see “on Facebook,” most pages have a public setting and I can still see them. Examples are businesses. Without a Facebook, I cannot interact with the pages. However, one of my biggest complaints about Facebook is the sheer number of people who just lurk without doing anything. So by not having an account and viewing public pages without interacting, I guess I am just doing the same as everyone else.

For people with whom I used to interact with on Facebook, I now communicate by either text message or written letters. Yes, there is still such a thing as putting a stamp on a letter and putting it in those blue boxes you see in places. There is also such a thing as printing a few select photos of importance. You can mail them to your friends and they can put them on their refrigerator with a magnet. Old school or ground breaking? 

The one or two times when I felt like I was missing out in the past year did not have to do with news or existing friends. Living in a rural area tends to be lonely and I would like to meet people. So sometimes I do get FOMO, thinking that if I was online I could meet new people.

However, I can tell you that after one very disastrous attempt with a dating app that meeting new people online is horrid. First, there is this thing called catfishing, where people you meet on the internet are not real. That is a scary thing. Second, many of the people that I would meet on the internet are far away. It’s not like we can get together for a cup of coffee or tea. I do like pen pals, but it is also nice to be able to see people in person every once in while.

Loneliness in a rural area is an age-old problem that has yet to be solved. Most people just move to a city to meet more people and be less lonely. Unfortunately, that is not an option for me, so I need to focus on my family and the people I do have around me. This is where I live, and m ability to travel has been curtailed by my disability, so this is where I am.

I definitely do not miss Facebook drama. 

I have enough drama in real life being a home owner. I do not need online drama to add to it.

In the novel I am reading for book club this month, there is a comment about people being so in tune with their phone screens and computer screens that they fail to notice real life that is going on around them. Then, when their screens break, people die from an overload of life.

I can definitely tell you, that I have a full life. I may be lonely, but I have plenty of things to do that keep me busy. There is a difference between being alone and being lonely. I do not need to add online drama to my already full plate.

However the concept that people would die from an overload of life if their screens break is an interesting one. People are so used to the fake world they create online that they no longer have the skills to deal with real life in person. This may be why people lack job skills and we see more violence. People no longer have the skills to navigate life because they are stuck in a fake online world.

Four years after Facebook, I still have no regrets. I live in the moment, experiencing my life and my emotions fully. I am fully present for my family and the people in my life. I am not distracted by phone notifications and do not sit for hours in front of a little screen while there are so many things to be experienced around me.

Some people experiment going without Facebook for a year. For me, it has now been four years. I do not anticipate going back. It is such a waste of my time and creates more stress than it does help.

What about you? Do you live without Facebook? Do you find any positives in it? 

Introducing Jolene

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Jude, Simon and I are happy to announce the arrival of Jolene! In over 20 years of being a cat mom, Jolene is my first girl, so she got my baby name. Jude has my boy name.

I have been wanting a dog for the past 3-4 years, but was not able to have a dog in my apartment. Since moving into the house, I started visiting the shelter about once a month to try to connect with a dog to adopt. I have been on the approved adopter list for about 6 months. As we know by my experience last spring in Dog Gone Down, I definitely can not handle a larger dog. Yet I was still visiting the shelter hoping to find either a smaller dog, or an older, more calm one. 

Each time I visit the shelter, I spend a few hours visiting all of the animals. I have been reading to and playing with cats to help socialize them. If they are more friendly, they are more likely to be adopted. In over 20 years as a cat mom, I have never wanted a third cat. I have been fine with two.

This month, I went to the shelter specifically to visit a 15 pound dog that I thought I could handle. I really liked him. He was hesitant about me, which is completely understandable in a shelter situation. There was another person there to visit the same dog. As soon as the other person came into the room, the dog got all excited and jumped into the person’s lap. That dog chose his family. It was not me, and that was okay. I was just glad to see that he would be adopted and have a happy ending.

I then proceeded to visit with the cats, as I usually do. There are three rooms of cats. After the first room, I went into the second room. Way in the corner was this little orange cat begging for attention. I typically avoid orange cats. Kip was orange, and I was so upset after he died, that I have difficulty sometimes interacting with other orange cats without getting upset. They just remind me of Kip.

Well, this little 6 pound wonder was a girl, which in some ways made it different. I am able to mentally separate her from Kip because even though she is orange, she is a girl. It is extremely rare for an orange cat to be female. Over 80% of orange cats are male, which has something to do with the genetics for orange fur.

As soon as I took this little girl out of the cage for some attention, she immediately crawled up my shoulder, hugged me, and would not let go. She chose me.

This 5 year old wonder had been dumped last summer with a box full of kittens. She was a wonderful mother. Of course, kittens get adopted because they are cute and fluffy. The moms are often left in the shelters un-adopted, as they are typically older. 

This girl loved me and reacted to me in a way that cats rarely do. Keep in mind, I have made numerous visits to the shelter to socialize cats. None of them reacted to me the way she did.

I never wanted a third cat, but you know, I was looking at getting a dog, which would have been a third pet. Did it matter if it was a dog or a cat? She had chosen me.

Jolene came home a few weeks ago and has been fitting right in. She is the Queen of the castle, Jude is the man of the house, and Simon will always be my baby. Jolene is so tiny – she is 6 pounds, whereas the boys are 10 pounds each.

Jolene has of course been spayed and also had dental work done. I found out that she has some genetic disorder that causes all of her teeth to rot from the inside out. Apparently, when she was dumped with her kittens last summer, she was already missing half of her teeth. She had to have 8 infected teeth extracted right before adoption. She currently has 5 teeth left. She will probably be a toothless cat and is special needs in that she needs to be soft food only. But, hey, that’s genetics. She is the most loving and precious cat ever.

She gets along well with the boys and is so smart. She is constantly learning from them and is already getting used to our home routine. I still have to keep her separate when I am not home for her own safety. She is still healing from her surgeries and needs time to heal. 

I am definitely not getting a dog now. There is no way I can handle a fourth pet. Having three right now, is a little juggling act, but definitely do-able. Jolene is the perfect addition to our little family. I just could not say no when she chose me.

Sometimes love just finds you – and it is wonderful.

Return to Minimalism

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As the snow flies, life seems to slow down. My fall was busy preparing for winter. I had put minimalism on hold. Since winter equates to being stuck inside the house, I have the opportunity to return to my minimalism journey again. I had put things on hold briefly trying to get settled into the house for the past year and half.

Everyone’s minimalist journey looks different and may change over time. My current location on this journey is that I am trying to get as much of my belongings on the first floor of my house as possible, as I have difficulty doing stairs. In the upstairs of my house is the bathroom and the spare bedroom. Aside from those two spaces, my goal is to have everything downstairs on the first floor so that it is easily accessible to me.

I currently have one closet of items upstairs to go through to achieve this goal. I have about 3 boxes of items to leave the house and go to donation centers as soon as the weather clears. It amazes me that no matter how much I remove and donate, I still come up with more items to leave the house each year.

Of course, the number of items coming into the house has decreased, so that is helpful. There is no area in the house that feels particularly cluttered or overwhelming. I am trying to make things as easy for myself as possible.

Even though the house is about twice as large as my former apartment, square footage wise, most of the largese is on the second floor of the house. The first floor of the house is in fact 100 square feet smaller than the apartment we previously occupied. So I am technically trying to get rid of 100 square feet worth of stuff in order to fit everything on the first floor. Of course, some of that 100 square feet of stuff is in the spare bedroom on the second floor. I just need to be sure that it actually is set up as a spare bedroom and that there is not anything in there that I need on a daily basis. 

Typically, when I go about minimalism, I do one room or one area at a time. For example, I recently went through the closet in the spare bedroom. I emptied the entire closet, then I only put things back in there that I knew I was keeping and would not need on a daily basis. The closet in the spare bedroom now contains the Christmas tree and Christmas box, the summer/camping boxes, and the upstairs vacuum cleaner. 

My goal this winter is to get the closet in the third bedroom up there completely empty. That could mean that the items in that closet completely leave or it could mean that the items in that closet find a place somewhere else in the house. Once I achieve the goal of emptying that closet, then I will work on the downstairs of the house one room at a time. The downstairs is my main living area.

Downsizing the upstairs is practical in that I cannot do the stairs well to get up there. If I have so many things that I need to have daily items upstairs, then I have way too many items. Everything needs to be downstairs with me, so I need to make it work down here. If my upstairs is relatively empty, then I do not have to worry about going up the stairs to take care of anything. If something ever happens to me, then it is less for other people to have to deal with as well.

For me, minimalism has practical applications in that I am using it to enhance my functioning. Having clear floor space downstairs is an accessibility issue for me. I need the space to be able to get around and the cats need space to play.

Do you have minimalism goals for the winter? This seems to be the time of year I work more on inside projects and save the outside projects for better weather. 

Stay warm.