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. 

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? 

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.

That Thing Won’t Make It Better

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Go ahead, you deserve it. That message is pervasive in advertising in a litany of various incantations. Want to look and feel younger? Get the sports car. Want to feel attractive? Buy this dress. Bad day at work? You deserve ice cream. Good news? Time to treat yourself.

We all fall prey at some point or another to the allure that we deserve this thing or that buying an item is a reward. However, once the item is bought, the excitement wears off and we are on to find the next quick fix. This is how our homes become cluttered and our wallets become empty.

I admit that I fall prey to this phenomenon myself. It’s even harder now that I am a homeowner. It is challenging to differentiate sometimes between buying something “for the house” and buying something for me. 

For example, this past winter, I bought a new comforter for the spare bedroom. Was that for the house or for me? I put comforter for the spare bedroom under the category of “house” because I do not personally use that room. However, this Christmas, I am looking to purchase a new comforter for my bed to replace my 22 year old comforter, and I put that under the category of “for me” as opposed to for the house. I also have a tendency to prioritize house things over items that are just for me.

The bottom line is, that thing won’t make it better.

I currently have a perfectly fine 22 year old comforter. It does not need to be replaced. I take it to the laundry-mat every so often to wash it in the big machines and sew places where it needs mending. I may want a new comforter, but I do not need one. The only thing that a new comforter is going to do is temporarily increase my level of happiness and make my wallet a little lighter.

I actually want to buy a new comforter right now. I don’t want to wait for Christmas. The summer colors and patterns are available, and I like them more than the winter colors and patterns. I’m sure I can work up reasons inside my head to justify the purchase. I deprive myself of even small pleasures to focus all my resources on the house. I have had some majorly bad news. The comforter I want is currently on sale. I can come up with reasons to buy it now.

The thing is, buying it now won’t make anything better. Instead of spending money on a comforter, I need to take that money and buy paint to paint the woodwork around my house windows. I have work that needs to be done on the car. I should get more money into my savings account before making a major purchase. I struggle with grocery money with multiple food allergies.

I have plenty of reasons why it is better to wait to buy a comforter sometime in the future instead of buying it now. In fact, buying the comforter now will not only NOT make things better, it would make things worse. I would be behind on other items I need to purchase for home maintenance this summer. 

Many times I think we purchase items based on emotion. I deserve a treat. In the long run, a thing won’t help. Treats are nice occasionally. However, in today’s society it seems treats have become an every day thing.

Maybe if we want to treat ourselves, we should choose treats that aren’t things. Go for a walk. Meet a friend for coffee. Take a child to the movies. Those are the types of things that will make it better. You will have the memories of spending quality time with someone to keep coming back to over and over again.

One of my new goals for this summer is to practice saying “yes” more. As a minimalist, I have gotten really good at saying “no” in an effort to slow down my life and make it more manageable. While I still do not want to be overbooked, over-scheduled, or worn out, I think that saying yes to more experiences will make life better for me in a way that things just can’t.

You deserve time with friends. You deserve time with family. You deserve to see the sunset over the lake. You deserve to see the sunrise on the hood of a car parked near a beach. These are experiences we typically do not see advertised in the media, but are the treats that really will make it better. 

That thing won’t make it better because things come and go. People come and go too, which is why we need to spend time with them while we are here on this Earth. The next time you think “go ahead, you deserve it,” think about what you are saying yes to. Ignore the car, the dress, or the perfume. Say yes to the birthday party, the bonfire, the hike through the woods. That thing won’t make it better. Time with people will. 

Points of Privilege

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Note: This post is in the same series as The Toilet Paper Chronicles and Cowboys & Hankies. They can each be read independently, but if you would like more on the same topic, click the links.

Studies have shown that homelessness can cause anxiety and that people typically end up on one end of the spectrum or the other. The one end of the spectrum is hoarding. The other end of the spectrum is minimalism.

Hoarding makes sense on multiple levels. When you live in poverty, you often do not have the money or resources to be able to dispose of trash or other items. There is also a sense of urgency in procuring things and holding onto them “in case you need them.” Some people go from having absolutely nothing to wanting all the things.

I have a family member who falls into this category. Their house is quite literally filled with wall to wall, floor to ceiling stuff. It is all very clean and well maintained. They are constantly buying even more things. Their basement, attic and garage are all full to the brim. I refuse to go to this person’s house because it is too anxiety provoking for me.

Then, there is a smaller group that falls into minimalism. That is the group into which I fall. When I was homeless, it was very stressful trying to hold onto and keep track of your things, even if all that you had in the world was only enough for a paper grocery bag (yes, I lived like that at one time). I personally experience extreme anxiety when I am surrounded by a lot of things. I do not like being responsible for things. The things I do have, I keep nice. Too many things that I have to keep nice, maintain, and dispose of just drives me nuts.

There are points of privilege and points of loss in everyone’s life. For some, minimalism is a necessity. Like when I was homeless and everything fit into a paper grocery bag – that type of minimalism is a necessity. That is all the stuff you have in the world.

Then there is the form of minimalism in which I now engage that I feel is a privilege. It all comes down to economics, economics, economics.

Going in the same vein as The Toilet Paper Chronicles and Cowboys & Hankies, I did recently decide to order a set of ladies’ handkerchiefs from a maker on etsy. I have been doing quite well with the $4 handkerchiefs I had purchased at Walmart, but was having difficulty making 6 of them last a week until the next load of laundry.

I purchased a set of 10 beautifully handmade ladies’ handkerchiefs in a bunch of fun designs from etsy. These ones are also flannel cotton and much softer on my nose than the Walmart ones. In fact, the ones from etsy feel like heaven on my nose.

I realized this weekend that the fact that I had $20 to spend on cloth handkerchiefs is in itself a privilege. It is a good investment. With the money I am saving on paper facial tissues, the cloth hankies will pay for themselves in about 2-3 months.

However, it is that initial layout of cash that most people don’t have. As with the toilet paper scenario, with facial tissue, it feels cheaper to shell out $1 for a box of tissues when in fact that $1 is more expensive. It is that balancing act of having to live on a small finite amount of money.

I have the added benefit of the fact that I have room in the house to store a stack of (now 16) cloth handkerchiefs. I also have a washer and dryer to launder them on-site without having to trek to the laundromat. Someone living on the streets with all their belongings in a paper grocery sack or a back pack does not have any of these privileges.

I also recently decided that I want to try to use less paper towels. Paper towels are something I have to buy and spend money on. I am trying to decrease expenses. Sometimes, to decrease expenses, you have to have an initial outlay of cash and it can take months or years to see the benefits of your purchase.

In an effort to try to decrease my paper towel usage, I purchased microfiber cloths that I am using when I wash the windows. After I use a microfiber cloth, I can put it through the wash and it comes out clean again for reuse.  Now, the only thing I am using traditional paper towels for are cleaning the cat pan or anything else that is really gross. I just can’t bring myself to use cloth to clean really gross things.

My next task will be switching from paper napkins to cloth napkins, but that one may take a little bit. I am looking to buy cloth napkins from the same maker on etsy who made my cloth hankies.

Sometimes, when I think of minimalism, I ask myself: “What do I really need to survive?”

This is the extreme form of minimalism where people try to have fewer than 100 belongings or whatever can fit into a back pack. This form of minimalism works for some people. That’s great, but that’s not me.

Some people are forced into that type of minimalism by life circumstance.

For me minimalism is what do I need to survive plus what gives meaning to my life. Minimalism is not just about taking away, it is about what adds beauty to my existence here on Earth.

Of course, I try not to have frivolous things. But, I do. I’m sure we all do. Even if you live out of a back pack, I am sure you have even just one item that probably is not completely necessary to your survival, but is meaningful to you.

When I visit friends who have fewer things, I envy them. I get so overwhelmed being in this big house. I did not want a house this big, but this was the one that met all the requirements for the low income housing program I was in and I needed a way to keep my family together. So, here we are. One person and two cats rattling around in a huge space. The cats love it, of course.

I constantly look around thinking “do I really need that?” Do I want to clean that?

Then I realize that some of those people I envy live that way not by choice but by necessity. I am fortunate in that I have many privileges. But still, I think, I can get by with just a little bit less.

Even though I am on the minimalist spectrum after my homeless experiences, I do have some hoarding tendencies. As previously discussed, toilet paper is probably the biggest hoarding tendency I have. I always buy the  jumbo packs because they work out to be cheaper, and tend to get another one when there are 4-6 rolls left because I am so paranoid about going without after the childhood I had.

I still think there are things I can declutter on this minimalist journey. Sometimes, you reach a plateau. That’s ok. Right now, I think I’m taking a break from decluttering for a month or two. Mostly because it’s summer. When the weather is nice, I like to be outdoors as much as I can. Who wants to be stuck inside cleaning or decluttering?

For me, minimalism is a choice. I have over 1600 square feet that I could fill with stuff, but I purposefully choose not to do that. For me, minimalism is a point of privilege. I have the resources to take things I don’t want and dispose of them, recycle them, or donate them. I have a vehicle that I can use to take things out of my house as much as some people use their vehicle to buy things to haul to their home.

I have the convenience of an on site washer and dryer to be able to keep things clean and buy cloth items that can be reused so that my consumable expenses decrease.

What are the points of privilege in your life and how does that effect your minimalism journey?

A Minimalist in Bear Country

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Bear country means extra gear to handle the risks. As a minimalist, I managed to keep the gear down to a dull roar while still planning for the probability of bears. The Adirondacks are well known for bears, and there are certain times and certain years when a bear sighting is more probable than others.

There have been years, like this year, when the bear warnings are so high, that you are required to sign legal waivers to be in the Adirondacks knowing the risks of encountering bears. There are also pretty strict rules to follow for bear safety and to decrease the chance of a run-in with a bear.

One of the options for minimizing the chance of bear contact is to keep all food, including coolers, in a car trunk. Bears are smart. Even if the food is in the car in the passenger area, the bears will see and smell the food and break into a vehicle to get it. Trunks are a safer choice for food storage while in bear country.

A few years ago I had bought a new cooler for camping. The new cooler I purchased is one that is designed to withstand high heat, up to 90 degrees for up to 3 days and still stay cold. The other attractive feature of this cooler is that it has a drain spout at the bottom for me to be able to drain the water from the cooler as the ice melts. This alleviates the impossible balancing act of trying to dump out water while retaining ice and food.

When I had bought the cooler, I threw it in the backseat of the car and brought it home. This year was very exciting because it would be my first trip and opportunity to use the new cooler. Imagine my dismay when I discovered that this super awesome cooler is too tall to fit into my trunk. It fits into my backseat just fine, but this thing is too large for the trunk. So I was unable to take my fancy new cooler on this trip. It will have to wait for when I go on a camping trip that is not in bear country. The cooler will be fine in the back seat while camping if I go to a place and a time when there are no bear warnings.

Given the requirement that all food and coolers should be in the trunk when under a bear warning, I ended up taking a different cooler entirely. This is one instance in which I am happy I had not yet decluttered the “old” cooler when I bought the awesome new one. It is obvious that I am going to need to keep both coolers and then make a judgement call on which one to use based on where I am going and when.

Other options available when camping in bear country to minimize attracting bears to your camp site include: stringing the cooler on rope in the air between two trees. For me, this is way too challenging. If I’m going to string anything between two trees, it would be a hammock, and I would be in the hammock, so forget the cooler between the trees deal.

Some campgrounds have “bear lockers,” which are designated areas where food is locked so that bears cannot get to it. Bear lockers are usually in an area well away from where campsites are located, so that if bears are attracted to the lockers, they are less likely to hang around people’s tents. The camp site where I was at did have bear lockers available, but the bear warning was not high enough at the time to require their use. You could use them if you chose to use them, but they were not required.

Being under a bear warning effected the way I packed for my vacation.

Another safety tip when camping in bear country is that any clothing that is worn while cooking or eating should be taken off before you go into your tent for the night and the clothing should also be put in the trunk of the car. This includes clothing that you wore at your campfire, even if you did not use your campfire for cooking purposes. In my situation, I use my campfire for cooking purposes, pretty close to 100% of the time.

Given the clothing parameters for bear safety, this means that I actually have two pairs of “camp pants.” Camp pants are what I wear when I decide I am “in my site” for the evening – tending the fire, cooking, roasting marshmallows, etc. They go in the trunk of the car once I have put my pajamas on and am “in the tent” for the night. Since my camping trips are typically 2 night/3 day events, two pairs of camp pants works well for me.

Having “camp pants” for bear safety means that I end up packing more luggage for camping than I would when I go on vacation in a city. For example, when I was in Chicago a few years ago, I made it through my entire trip with only a backpack for luggage. This included even having a dressier outfit for an event I attended. For camping, I have to take the small duffel bag due to the “extras” needed for bear safety.

In addition to camp pants, I also pack two hoodies when camping, as I usually wear a hoodie when tending the fire. It typically gets down around 40 degrees at night when I go camping.

This way the hoodie can also go in the trunk when I am in the tent for the night. By using a new pair of camp pants and a new hoodie for the second night of camping, it prevents saturation of smells compared to using the same outfit for meals. Any way to dissipate smells so as not to attract a bear works for me. If I was not in bear country, then I would only take one pair of camp pants and one hoodie and I would wear them more than once.

Of course, you can take all of the proper precautions and still encounter a bear. I did have that experience a few years ago. In 20 years of camping, I have only ever physically encountered a bear once. I’m not sure who was more scared – me or the bear. Luckily, he ran away, so I did not have a negative bear experience.

Even with all the “extras” required for bear country, I happily noticed that I have effectively decreased the amount of gear I need for camping over the years. It used to be that the car was so stuffed full of gear that I could barely see out the back window.

Since I have started my minimizing journey, I have not only downsized my camping gear, but gotten more efficient at packing and at choosing what needs to be packed for a successful trip. Not only was I more than able to see out the back window of the car last week, but when I arrived, this is what the set up looked like:

The tent held my sleeping bag, pillow, and small duffel. The truck was full of food, cooler, and wood that I picked up at a stand about 5 miles away on the way into camp. The backseat of the car was completely empty, while the front seats held items such as camp chair, stereo, toiletry bucket, etc.

Just the fact that my car was not jam packed full of gear was amazing. I was not lacking or in need of anything. I am still in the process of playing with my camping checklist to see if there is anything more I can minimize, but for the moment I am in a pretty good place.

The one thing I always seem to over pack on while camping is food, and I consider this to be a good thing. When you go off in the middle of nowhere with no cell service, and the nearest town is a good 40 miles away, you need to have food. I always splurge and pack the good stuff for food when I am camping.

As I was packing to go on my trip, I was amazed at how full my freezer and refrigerator both were. It’s been a few years since I have had that much food in the house. It was all because I was preparing to go camping. Thus, the need for the fancy new cooler that is too big for the trunk. I’m trying to minimize the need to leave camp for ice. That way I can spend more time hiking and less time driving into town to refill the cooler.

Just because you are heading into bear country as a minimalist, does not mean you have to scrimp on safety. I plan for safety first. If that means extra gear, then so be it. I’’ll save the backpacking for the cities. A small duffel works for bear country.

Changes Coming

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Hello there, Readers. We are coming up on the 4 year anniversary of this blog, and I have decided to make some subtle changes that you will hopefully enjoy. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately to be sure that this space is still meeting my needs and yours. I’ve been thinking about where we have been and where we are going.

Most things are staying the same. When I started this blog, the first thing that came out of my mouth was that all photos would be my own. There are no stock photos on this site. Every picture from the cover photo to what appears with a post is my own original photography. Sometimes, you get the good stuff. If you look through the archives, 2015 was a good photography year for me. Lately, it has been just pictures of my cats or whatever randomness is around me, as my health has curtailed my ability to chase after stellar shots.

Original photography will continue to be a top priority. I am hoping to get some great landscape shots again this summer for us all to enjoy.

Kind of inline with this goal of focusing on photography, I visited this blog from the anonymity of a public google search recently. I was dismayed to see ads sprinkled liberally throughout the post. The really alarming part was that the ads were photos of worms or intestines or something that was not aesthetically pleasing. One of the new changes that is coming is that I plan to upgrade this site to remove the ads. You’re welcome.

Although, I do ask that you please be patient with me in this process, as sometimes it take me a bit to figure things out. Kind of like back in the day when you would get posts with sideways pictures, no pictures, or the picture at the bottom. I have a learning curve.

I also thought about content. This started as a minimalism blog. Yes, you get minimalism. You also get blogs about running, cats, and whatever rambles through my brain. It’s my blog. Get over it. You can read if you want to.

I was thinking about re-branding to more strongly align to a particular theme and then decided to scratch that notion. This blog is my creative outlet. As long as I tag posts with the appropriate theme, people will find me. If I’m just writing into the abyss, that’s okay too.

The biggest change you are going to see will be a slightly new domain name. In keeping with the spirit of original content, and experimenting with google searches, I discovered that these three little words, Rewind Real Slow, most frequently pops up a music video. I do not want to be using a phrase that is already part of someone else’s artwork, so the name of this blog is most likely changing to Rewind Live Slow.

When I was contemplating nomenclature and (re)branding, I went through many ideas. I decided to stay as close to my original notion as humanly possible, since this is working for me. However, I have to be sure that my domain name is unique, so there will be a slight change. The spirit is the same. Hopefully the new website will be aesthetically pleasing.

I figured I would let you all know since I have followers, I am not sure if the technology will keep you or if I lose you when I make these changes. I really appreciate the people who follow me and take the time to read my words, so I want to give you a heads up in case I screw up the programming and accidentally lose you.

In a nutshell, the blog will be renamed Rewind Live Slow with accompanying domain name, and will hopefully appear as a web site without ads. We are still trying to create a life you don’t need to escape. The goal is always to be able to focus on the important things in life – the people you love and the things you like to do.

Please be patient with me and stay tuned. Thank you for reading. I appreciate you.

Cowboys & Hankies

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A stack of six white hankies on top of a rolled hand towel and beach towel.

Everyone has their own reasons for undertaking the journey of minimalism. Some people want more time with their family. Some people want to lower their carbon footprint and be more environmentally friendly. Others are looking for ways to improve their health after a life changing diagnosis. For some people, all of the above are reasons for getting into minimalism. For others, it’s something completely different.

One of the side effects that typically happen in minimalist journeys is the desire to reduce the use of disposables, specifically paper products. We replace paper towels with cleaning rags. We actually use our dishware and cutlery instead of buying paper plates and plastic forks.

Some paper products are kind of necessary. Toilet paper is necessary. We all know from The Toilet Paper Chronicles, that tp has, in fact, defined my life. There are some that have found ways to go without toilet paper. I am so not going there. Too gross. Plus, my identity. The Toilet Paper Chronicles may need a sequel one day. I digress.

Tissues. Have we ever thought about tissues? This is another area that has the potential to hold the ew factor. However, it’s not as bad as you think.

What ever did we do before the invention of kleenex?

Kleenex is a relatively new paper product that has come on the scene within the past 100 years. Prior to that, everyone used handkerchiefs. With hankies, come the stereotypes of southern belles dropping their painstakingly embroidered linens to get the attention of some passing gentleman. Handkerchiefs conjure up images of cowboys, who stereotypically wore the red paisley kind to display their outlaw status.

For me, it was relatively simple. My grandfather always carried hankies. I was one of 13 grand kids. With so many of us running around, it was rare that grandpa would share a hankie with any of us “snot nosed kids,” but when he did, you felt special. Grandpa’s hankies were always super soft and felt like a feather on your nose compared to the scratchy paper tissues that grandma would bring home from the five and dime.

My grandfather had the stereotypical cowboy hankies. They were paisley. He had them in both red and blue, although I remember the blue most often.

With the improvement of technology, commercially produced tissues have improved. In my childhood, tissues were always rough on your nose. You knew when someone was sick because the tissues would rub your nose raw. Compare this to a cotton handkerchief, which is much softer and does not product the same effect. Cotton handkerchiefs get better with time and use, while paper tissues are a one time thing.

First there was kleenex, now there are puffs. There are other brands as well. If you look at the production trajectory of paper tissues, the goal seems to be to make them softer to use. Not only has the paper gotten softer, but they now also add things like aloe and lotion. Lotion, by the way, is lethal for someone with nut allergies because it contains almond oil.

Due to the lotion issue, tissues are something I always carry with me. I don’t want to be stuck someplace where I’m having to grab a tissue from someone else, and have it contain lotion that all of a sudden precipitates the need for an epi pen and a trip to the hospital. I understand the reasoning for adding lotion to tissues, but can’t the world be accessible for everyone and we just skip the almond oil?

I’m one of those people where my nose runs all the time. It especially runs when the temperature changes. For example, when I come inside from the cold outside, my nose will run due to the temperature change. It is clear snot. I use a tissue, and my nose is done running until I encounter another temperature change (when I go back outside, it runs again). The challenge is that in some buildings, the HVAC system is so screwy, it almost feels like one part of the building is a different temperature zone than another. This can cause my nose to run simply by walking to other areas of a building. It’s annoying.

When I was re-evaluating my budget recently. Where does all my money go? I noticed that I happen to spend a lot of money on tissues. I have tissues at work, in my car, on all floors of my house, in my purse, and in almost all of my pockets.

I specifically use pockets for tissues. This means that every time I do laundry and clean out my pockets, I am constantly pulling out tissues to throw away. We have all had those times when we have done laundry, missed a tissue in the pocket, then all the clothes come out with little white cotton specks on them. It takes forever to get tissue pieces off a load of clothing with those rolling tape things. When it happens to an entire load of laundry, that really sucks.

I have decided to try to go back to the “old days” of my grandparents and return to the use of handkerchiefs. There are makers on Etsy, one of my favorite web sites, that make some really nicely patterned and sewn ladies’ handkerchiefs. Before I make that big of an investment, I want to be sure I can actually make the transition from tissues to handkerchiefs without any issues.

I bought a small box of 6 handkerchiefs in the men’s department at Walmart for $4. Unfortunately, they are not the paisley cowboy hankies of my youth. These are plain white. For a trial run, that’s okay. If I make the switch long term, then I definitely want to order hankies from Etsy because I have other cloths that are white and it is a little confusing right now.

In order to get the paisley cowboy hankies of my youth, you could simply buy a bandanna and use it as a hankie. In my experience, today’s bandannas are scratchy no matter how many times you wash them. When you buy a cloth product specifically intended for use as a hankie, it tends to be softer and more gentle on your nose.

Of course, I washed the hankies before use. While they are not as soft as I would like, they are still softer than paper tissues. The softness I remember from my grandpa’s hankies will come with time as I use the hankies and they are washed more.

For the ew factor – first of all, it’s clear snot. Get over it, people. We have paper tissues shoved into every pocket, purse and crevice, what difference does it make if it is a paper tissue or a cloth hankie? The hankie goes in the wash and comes out clean.

If you have multiple people in your household and decide to transition your entire family to hankies, then I would recommend color coding everyone. If everyone has their own color of hankie, then that gets rid of the ew factor of accidentally using someone else’s hankie.

Right now, I have 6 hankies, so I am using one per day. That is enough. I don’t even use the whole thing. Like I said, my nose will run briefly with temperature changes and then stop.

I still have paper tissues in my house for visitors. I have paper tissues at work. However, I have started to carry a hankie in my pocket for my own personal use.

The ew factor decreases if you keep in mind that key point – hankies are for someone’s personal use. Of course, personal boundaries are a little blurred if you have children, but that’s life. How many times did your mom lick her finger to fix your hair or clean a smudge from your face when you were small?

An advantage of using hankies is that if one accidentally gets left in your pocket, you won’t have to deal with little pieces of cotton paper all over your clothes. A hankie is a cloth – if it gets left in a pocket and goes through the wash, it comes out clean. No harm, no fowl.

The benefit of hankies is that I am decreasing my carbon footprint by producing less waste. How many times has your wastebasket been full of just tissues? Yes, I have to wash the hankies, but they are small. It doesn’t take up much space to wash a week’s worth of hankies in with my laundry. In fact, I would say that a week’s worth of hankies is probably about the equivalent of adding two wash clothes to the laundry as far as space goes.

Before we had automation, factories and the growth of the disposable economy, everyone used handkerchiefs. For cowboys, they were versatile. We probably don’t even think of using a hankie to blow your nose, because when we see cowboys in movies, they use them as a fashion statement. They also use them to keep dust out of their face. However, the intended purpose is to blow your nose.

For me, hankies, remind me of my grandfather. They remind me of a time before he had to use a wheelchair when he was still well and would go for long walks on the farm. He would check on all the animals and just walk the land at night to assess what would need to be done the next day. He had a blue paisley hankie that he would use to wipe the sweat from his brow in the middle of a hard, hot day in the saddle. My grandfather and his hankie was the picture of a true cowboy working the land, tending the animals, and loving his family.

Where ever you are on your journey to minimalism, I invite you to at least entertain the idea of the return to the handkerchief. You may not be able to get over the ew factor, and that’s okay. Hey, I live alone, so it’s easier for me. Consider color coding if you have multiple people going for hankies.

For me, in these first few weeks of hankie use, it seems worth it. My nose is a lot happier because the hankie is softer than paper tissues. My wallet is happier because I did not have to purchase paper tissues this month – and I was purchasing economy packs either monthly or bimonthly. The garbage man is happier because I am producing less trash, which means that the bags he’s lifting out of my trash can to put in his truck are lighter too.

While I have been good at throwing the hankie in the clothes hamper at the end of the day, I did have one accidentally go through the wash because it was in the pouch of my sweatshirt. The hankie came out clean and there were not any little white pieces of paper on my clothes. It was great.

I will formally evaluate my hankie situation after a few more weeks. At this time, I am thinking I will go on Etsy and order hankies from a maker. This way I can have a color or pattern so that it is clear it is a hankie and I do not have to think too hard about what is a hankie, what is a cloth napkin and what is a cleaning cloth when I am folding and putting away laundry. I will continue to keep paper tissues in my house and office for guests. Since I am not using the paper tissues, maybe the box will last me a year instead of just a month.

If you want to be a cowboy, find the red paisley handkerchiefs.

Be a rebel. Use a hankie.

 

Three Years After Facebook

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One of my friends whom I have known for almost twenty years lost her house in a fire a few weeks ago. This is someone with whom I also worked at two different places of employment. At one job, she was my supervisor, at another job, I was her’s. Even though we no longer work together, we have remained friends through the years and many different life events.

My friend was fortunate in that she, her husband, and all three of their dogs were able to escape the fire safely. The house, however, is a complete loss taking multiple fire departments over 12 hours to battle the blaze. The fire made both local and regional news channels at stations 60 miles away.

I spent some time over the weekend talking with my friend trying to figure out how to best help her. I can’t imagine what it is like to lose absolutely everything. Many people think that minimalism is some cold-hearted philosophy that centers around getting rid of everything and having empty rooms.

While I do have empty rooms, minimalism is not about getting rid of everything. Minimalism is about surrounding yourself with what you truly love and focusing on who matters in life. I simply cannot imagine losing everything like that. What I have in my house is only what I love and what brings me happiness.

During this conversation with my friend, one of the comments she made stuck with me.

She said that she was glad I had reached out to her because she had been thinking about how my Christmas card and letters were next to her chair.

Since deleting my Facebook account three years ago come the first week of February, I have been focusing more on being present in my relationships. I want the people in my life to know that they matter to me by receiving my complete attention when I am with them. I don’t want to miss out on the important moments in life because I am too busy scrolling through a social media feed or trying to get the right photo to post online.

This blog is my only form of social media. I have no Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram, no LinkedIn, nothing.

Three years after deleting my Facebook account, I still have no regrets. I could not be happier with my choice.

Back to my friend … this person is one that I try to send a card to either monthly or every few months. There are a few people in my life that I write to on a regular basis to keep in touch since I am no longer on Facebook.

I do not often get a response from the people I write. That’s fine. Life is busy between work, kids, and life. I totally get that.

What really touched me about my friend’s comment was the knowledge that she actually reads my cards I send every so often. Not only that, but she seems to look forward to them.

She lost absolutely everything in her home and one of her (I’m sure many) thoughts was, “oh, your letters were right next to my chair.” I’m sure her thought stemmed more from remembering her house and the familiarity of it than from my actual letters.

I told her I would send her another card. I did. I tried to keep it light with little to no house stuff. I’m pretty sure one of my last cards was full of first-time homeowner news (like my lawn mower adventures last fall) and I’m sure that’s the last thing she wants to hear about right now.

Now, if I had been on Facebook, I would have known about the fire a lot sooner than I did. Apparently, she posted it to Facebook about an hour into the blaze.

I truly don’t understand how people can have the emotional strength to not only live their life, but actively report on their own personal tragedy while it is happening. It’s not a judgement, it’s just an observation of something that I no longer understand.

When I had a Facebook, I remember doing the same thing. Every inane thought and one-liner to major life events was documented online. For me, social media made everything become more dramatic that it needed to be. It’s like jumping up and down in the middle of the street screaming “look at me!”

I, personally, am so happy to have the drama removed from my life. I have enough drama at work. I don’t need drama in the virtual realm as well.

Three years post-Facebook, and I don’t miss it at all. I still get the weird looks and comments of “you should be on Facebook.” I don’t think so. Sure, I may miss out on things by not being online. It takes me a bit longer to learn things when my news sources are the paper (yes, paper) newspaper and the radio. However, I still keep in touch with the important people in my life and know what is going on with them.

I treasure my relationships more because I actually put forth effort into maintaining them. It’s one thing to mindlessly scroll through your phone pushing the “like” button or typing “I’m so sorry” giving virtual support and quite another thing to actually pick up the phone and ask someone “How are you? How can I help?” and then physically, emotionally and spiritually help them.

Community is what happens in real life. Who is going to be there for you when there is no wifi?

Recently, I have heard that some people are choosing to delete Facebook due to the privacy drama going on. Drama is still drama. It has been there since the beginning of Facebook. It’s just a question of what kind of drama you are willing to put up with and how much of it. Apparently, people have a lower tolerance for privacy drama than for emotional drama.

I’ve spoken with some people who rely on social media for information, and no matter what happens will not delete their accounts. That’s fine. To each their own.

There is a certain fear of missing out (FOMO). For some people, FOMO is real. They will not get rid of social media due to FOMO. For me, I can say that when I was on Facebook, there was no FOMO. I did miss out. Big time. I missed out on important things in my life and I missed out on people who were right in front of me due to my preoccupation with social media.

Three years post-Facebook, I don’t feel as though I am missing out on anything. I am present for the important people in my life. For those of you who stay on social media due to FOMO, think about what you may be missing in real life by using social media.

Social media does have it’s merits. As someone who lives in a rural area, I can see how social media would be helpful for people who feel isolated. Just keep in mind are you using social media to connect, or are you isolating the people around you in real life by using social media?

Social media use is a personal decision for everyone. I’m just here to tell you that if you are thinking about deleting social media, you are not alone. I have done it and am much happier for it.

Every so often, you will hear about a social media experiment where someone agrees to go off social media for a year or so, sometimes to get some money. There are articles on the internet about going a year without Facebook. In fact, I did a blog post about it. Part of the reason why I did a follow-up post in year two and now in year three is to show that leaving social media is sustainable.

It is not only sustainable, but my stress levels have decreased and my happiness has increased since leaving social media.

While it may have taken me a little bit longer to find out about my friend’s situation without social media, once I found out, that does not change my reaction to what happened. Without social media occupying my time, I actually have time to respond to my friend in a caring way beyond just a comment on a post. I have time to be there for someone in real life who needs a friend. Isn’t that what life is supposed to be about?

Three years after Facebook. I have no regrets.