Wardrobe By Number

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“Be Kind:” One of the new shirts I obtained to replace the threadbare ones.

Many minimalists have some sort of magic number for either their clothing or total items owned. You hear of people with 100 possessions, 37 clothing items, etc. I have always said that minimalism is not so much a numbers game as it is being content with only having what you need or have space to store. There are times when I do enjoy playing by numbers, but I had yet to apply a numbers concept to my clothing. 

For my wardrobe, instead of going by set numbers, I have always gone by space available. I use one closet for my clothing and I do not want the closet to be stuffed to capacity. I have a four drawer dresser, and as long as everything fits in the assigned drawer without being crowded, I do not count number of items.

I do laundry one day a week. As long as I have enough clothing to get through the week until laundry day, I do not count the number of clothes I have. When I was a child, laundry was a once a month thing and it was a huge production.

As a child, your clothes were always in garbage bags. There was no dresser and no closet to store clothes. You had a garbage bag of clean clothes and a garbage bag of dirty clothes. Laundry was not done until you were literally out of clothes and were not able to get dressed tomorrow without wearing something for the 5th time or just being naked. 

I remember being dropped off at the laundry mat with several garbage bags of laundry and a $20 bill to obtain quarters. Laundry could take an entire Saturday. It was a chore to be endured. Frequently, clothes were worn multiple times no matter how dirty they were because we just did not have the money for quarters to do laundry. 

As an adult, I do laundry once a week. I am currently very privileged and have both a washer and dryer in my house. Theoretically, I can do laundry whenever I want. I could do laundry every single day if I wanted. I do not want to spend my life doing laundry and I do not want to get in the habit of being dependent on the luxury of having a washer and dryer. Laundry once a week is reasonable and sufficient. 

Last year, I went through and updated all of my underclothes. For the first time in 5 or more years, I updated my bras, underwear and socks. I am very glad I did that before the pandemic hit. As every single item in life is either scarce, hard to get, or expensive, I am grateful that I have new and clean underclothes. That is one less item I have to worry about obtaining. 

This year, as we are quarantined and I am home more, I have noticed that many of my tee-shirts are becoming threadbare and see-through. They have deteriorated to the point where they cannot even be donated. They can be used as rags, but they are no longer suitable to be worn. Two tee-shirts in particular are surprising. I had bought them just last summer at a rather high-end store. The fact that they only lasted a year is very disappointing.

Normally, I would not notice the threadbare tee-shirt issue, as I only wear tee-shirts two days a week. Five days a week I would be in the office in my business casual wear. Since business casual attire is expensive, I have not been wearing it while working from home. I am “preserving” it for when we are able to return to the office and I have to wear business casual attire again.

So, I have been living in shorts and tee-shirts this summer. The threadbare tee-shirt situation is forcing me to take a new look at my wardrobe and it’s requirements. While I have previously focused my wardrobe on available space, I am now looking at my wardrobe by numbers. Maybe it is pandemic related, and I am trying to exert some sort of control by doing wardrobe by numbers. Who knows? There is some comfort in knowing exactly how much you have and that what you have is enough. 

Here is what I have determined is going to work for me for wardrobe by numbers. My formula is based on the premise that laundry is done once a week, on the same day each week. For me, laundry day is Monday right now. 

Given that every Monday is laundry day, that means I need at least 8 outfits to make it a week from one laundry day to the next. Yes, there are 7 days in a week. But you don’t really want to do laundry while naked, so you need an 8th outfit to wear on laundry day. If you want flexibility in your schedule, then you need more than 8 outfits. You may need 10. 

For example, if you are not able to stick to a strict schedule where every Monday is laundry day, then you need more than 8 outfits. Say one Monday you are really busy, and can’t do laundry until Tuesday or Wednesday. Well then, you better have more than 8 outfits or expect to wear things multiple times.

I am going to take advantage of the luxury of in-home washer and dryer and go with 8 outfits. If I had to use the laundry mat, then I may go with 10 or 12 outfits. For me, 8 will work.

Here is how my formula is going to be put in action:

For my business casual work clothes, I am actually not touching them right now. I am just letting them be until it is time to wear them again. The formula that I have devised for them when the time comes is as follows: 

8 tops

4 bottoms

2 sweaters / cardigans / extra warmth layer

For work clothes, this formula is actually a little excessive, as work clothes are not worn everyday. They are worn 5 days a week. As far as bottoms go, since I work in an office environment that is not overly messy, I am okay with wearing a pair of pants twice before washing.

Some people will suggest when minimizing your wardrobe that you should do away with the distinction between “work clothes” and “home clothes.” To do this, it is recommended to dress up your “home clothes” a little, and dress down your “work clothes” a little so that you have one wardrobe kind of in the middle and whatever you wear is fine for work or home. If this works for you, fine. It does not work for me.

I prefer to have two separate wardrobes. The reason why is that I find office attire to be extremely uncomfortable. If I had a job where I could choose the dress code or that did not have a dress code, I would not pick business casual. I do not want to wear “work clothes” any longer than I absolutely have to. As soon as I come home from work, I change because my office wear is so uncomfortable. 

Some people will argue that if that is the case, I should purchase more comfortable office wear. That is an oxymoron. Comfortable office wear does not exist. My preferred standard uniform is something like shorts and a tee-shirt or jeans and a hoodie. I digress.

For my “home clothes,” I have the following formula to see me through 7 days of working from home:

8 tops

4 bottoms

6 extra warmth layer

For summer, my 4 bottoms is 4 pairs of shorts. For cooler weather, my 4 bottoms is 2 pairs of jeans and 2 pairs of yoga pants. So, I do have seasonal elements to my wardrobe. I plan on wearing each “bottom” twice before washing. 

For tops, I do have tank tops for summer. I am pretty sure there are 4 of them. For the 6 extra warmth layers, I have 4 flannels shirts, and at least 2 hoodies. When the weather is cooler, I like to layer things on top of my tee-shirt. Tee-shirts are the first layer that is worn pretty much year round, so those get a lot of use. 

For tops, I prefer to wear them once and then wash them. Especially in summer, when weather is hot and we are sweaty, I do not like to wear a shirt twice. That just feels gross.

I am applying the same concept to my pajamas. Even though I am now wearing pajamas twice before washing and could get away with 4 nightshirts, I already have 8 nightshirts, so I will use what I have. I am not going to get rid of nightshirts just to get down to a certain number. However, this means that as nightshirts wear out, I will not replace them. If one night shirt wears out and leaves me with 7 nightshirts, I am not going to replace that night shirt. I will wait until I get down to 4 or 5 nightshirts before replacing one.

I currently have 4 bottoms for my night wear as well. That keeps with my current formula of 4 bottoms. There are other aspects of my wardrobe that are slightly “over number” right now as well. For example, I have one storage tote labelled “winter,” This storage tote holds all my sweatshirts, sweaters, and other “extra warmth layers” for winter. I am not sure how many extra layers are in there. The winter box may be another situation where, instead of getting rid of items, I simply do not replace things that wear out. 

My wardrobe formula is currently acting as a minimum threshold. My available space idea is a maximum threshold for clothing. The reason why I decided to come up with numbers for the minimum threshold is that I am looking at replacing at least 4 threadbare tee-shirts in my wardrobe. So I seriously began to question if I really need to replace them.

The answer is yes. Now that I am home in quarantine, I do need to replace those tee-shirts. Tee-shirts are my base layer year round. However, given that I spent $20-$30 apiece on two tee-shirts at a high end store last summer that barely lasted a year, I do not want to make another worthless investment in my wardrobe like that again.

This year, I opted to replace those tee-shirts with some more affordable options, each below $10. Time will tell if the tee-shirts I purchased for less than $10 each last longer than the ones I bought for $20-$30. If I have learned anything, it’s that just because something is expensive, does not mean it is good quality. 

The only aspect of my wardrobe this does not apply to is my running wardrobe. That has its own set of rules and is a post for another day. 

In general, my wardrobe goal is 8 tops, 4 bottoms, and 2-6 extra warmth layers to allow for seasonal fluctuations. This works for me with doing laundry once a week. While some categories may be above those numbers, I am not going to get rid of items just yet. I am simply not going to worry about replacing things that wear out. 

This gives me one less thing to worry about while giving me the illusion of being “in control” of something in the middle of the pandemic. 

How do you organize clothes? Do you use available space or wardrobe by numbers? 

 

Bathroom Minimalism

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Simon is cleaning Jolene’s ear, while she cuddles with one of her “babies.”

A few years ago, I focused on kitchen minimalism when I was still in the apartment. It definitely made the move from the apartment to the house easier. I have no regrets over anything that I got rid of from the kitchen. I have everything I need for everything I make to eat. I seem to use all of the kitchen items in my cupboards on a regular basis.

Since I recently made the switch to cloth baby wipes to conserve toilet paper for the pandemic, I decided to do a little bathroom minimalism. Many bathrooms tend to be overflowing with items either in the shower or on the back of the toilet. If you have cupboards in the bathroom, we often forget what is there.

I do not get to use my bathroom much, as it is difficult for me to use the stairs. I have a commode I use downstairs. But at least once a week, I do make it upstairs, at least to clean up there. Actually, I do make it upstairs every few days to shower. Even though I could technically use the sprayer on my kitchen sink downstairs to “shower,” that is not preferred unless I am having a day when I cannot do the stairs at all. In that case, I typically go without the shower. I digress.

Here is my process for bathroom minimalism.

Mouth & Eyes

My toothbrush and contact stuff / glasses are downstairs in one of my kitchen cupboards closest to the sink. I have two reasons for this.

First, it is difficult for me to do the stairs, so it is easier for me to have my toothbrush and glasses on the first floor where I spend most of my time.

Second, even when I was in the apartment and there were no stairs involved, I kept my toothbrush and glasses in a cupboard near the kitchen sink. I heard that there are many germs in the bathroom – flushing toilets, etc and it is not good for your toothbrush to be in that environment. Also, I heard it is best for your toothbrush to be able to dry completely between uses. 

Therefore, I keep my toothbrush and glasses in the kitchen, not in the bathroom. I keep them in a cupboard near the sink so that they are not cluttering up my sink area and are out of sight.

The shower

Many times, people have very cluttered showers. There are lots of shampoos, conditioners, soaps, etc in there. For me, this makes it harder to clean the shower because I have to move all of those things for a proper cleaning. I try to have only what I need in the shower.

So, what’s in my shower? Here are the details – my shower has sliding doors, so on the door outside the shower hangs a hand towel and the bath mat. I have a vertical grab bar to help me get into and out of the tub/shower without falling (this was a frequent occurrence before the grab bar was installed). The grab bar also helps me to safely get out of the bathtub if I actually take a bath. 

Once inside the shower, I have a non-skid mat on the bottom of the tub that helps me to not fall down. I have a little rubber thing over the drain that allows the water to drain but catches hair so the drain does not clog. 

On the little soap shelf, I have the plug for the tub in case I want to take a bath. Next to that is a rubber frog (like a rubber ducky, but a rubber frog) for bath tub use.

On the bathtub ledge, is the pump shampoo / body wash. There is only one company I have found in the United States that makes toiletry products without all of my allergens. Therefore, I can only order bath products from this one company. Luckily, their shampoo is also a body wash. It works wonderfully. One item in my shower washes my entire body. 

On the bathtub ledge is also my allergy friendly conditioner, which I use for shave cream. There is no allergy friendly shave cream, so my work around to that is to use conditioner. Next to that is my Billie razor, which is one of my favorite products ever.

That’s it. That’s all I have inside my shower. No caddy. No over the spout hanger. No products lining the wall falling down all the time. That is everything in my shower. I have two bottles of product, a razor, a rubber frog, the tub plug, bathmat, and drain catcher. 

When I am in the shower and the bath mat is on the floor in preparation for me to exit, my bath towel hangs on the outside shower rail, so it is close to grab.

Bathroom sink and medicine cabinet

There is no cabinet underneath my bathroom sink. I do have a medicine cabinet above the sink. Sitting on the side of my bathroom sink is one pump bottle of my allergy friendly hand soap. That’s it. What else do you need on the side of the sink to wash your hands? The hand towel is conveniently hanging on the outside of the shower door.

The following items are in my medicine cabinet: razor cartridges, band-aids, neosporin, small manicure set (nail clippers, tweezers, etc). 

There is nothing else in my medicine cabinet. I have heard that heat and humidity found in bathrooms is not good for medications, such as tylenol. Due to this, all of my medication is downstairs in one of my kitchen cupboards. I have a shoebox of medication downstairs. Every 6 months, I go through the shoebox and pull out any cough syrup or anything expired to take to the medication disposal events in my county. I do not keep medication in my medicine cabinet.

Toilet area

Many homes have lots of things on top of their toilet. Items are either directly on top of the toilet, or on a rack or shelf above the toilet. I have no rack or shelves above my toilet.

My toilet has grab bars on both sides that help me to sit down and stand up. The only thing on the back of my toilet is a box of paper facial tissues. That’s it. If for some reason, I need to take the lid off the back of the toilet, I do not want to have to deal with “cleaning it off.” I have one box of tissues on the back of my toilet. 

However, now that I am using cloth baby wipes for pee, I have a basket of clean baby wipes on one side of the toilet, and a bucket for used baby wipes on the other side of the toilet. I also have a small wastebasket next to the toilet. That is all.

Open Floor Space

I am blessed with a large bathroom. In a corner of the bathroom, I have a chair so I can sit down to get dressed. This helps me so that I do not fall. Above the chair are three hooks on the wall. On the hooks, I hang my towel post-shower, and my pajamas. Sometimes there will also be a hoodie sweatshirt or flannel shirt on one of the hooks in case I am cold. 

Next to the chair, I have a little stand with my “toiletry tray” on top of it.

These are the items in my toiletry tray: 

Flashlight (I have a flashlight on every floor for emergency purposes)

Bottle of perfume

Allergy friendly body lotion

Deodorant

Half pint size mason jar filled with Q-tips that has a reusable plastic lid

Vaseline

Those are pretty much all of the items I need post-shower. I try to make myself as low maintenance as possible.

Bathroom Storage

I do have a closet and two cupboards in my bathroom. The closet contains all my clothes and the cleaning supplies for the bathroom.

In the two cupboards above the closet, are my winter blankets, my hair clippers, extra towels, wash clothes, feminine hygiene items. 

I also have all the back-ups for my allergy friendly items in bathroom storage. I typically order two of each item so I have one to use and one for back-up. It takes 1-2 weeks for me to receive items when I place an order. I also like to place a big order when I do order so that I get free shipping. So there is an extra allergy-friendly shampoo, allergy-friendly lotion, allergy-friendly hand soap, etc in my storage cupboard. Really, what else do you need to store in a bathroom? 

Technically, the winter blankets should probably be stored elsewhere, but I have so much storage space in my bathroom, that I decided to take advantage of it.

How many towels?

A few years ago, when I went through my bathroom, I had downsized my towels, hand towels, etc.

When I moved to the house, I had to buy all new towels, as the bad water the last 4 months I was in the apartment dyed all my towels this funny blue color and I could not get it out.

I have three towels, four hand towels, and about 8 washcloths. I am one person, so this works for me. All of my towels are beach towels, so they are multi-purpose. I love using beach towels as everyday towels because they are bigger and I can cover my whole body with them. Plus, the beach towels feel more plush and luxurious than normal bath towels. I typically use about two towels a week. I figure I have a third towel in the unlikely event I have company. 

The third towel can also actually go to the beach as a beach towel. I have plenty of towels for one person. I rarely have company. 

Conclusion

Of course, everyone’s bathroom space is different. I am fortunate in that I have a large bathroom that allows me to move around safely and can accommodate extra items like grab bars and a chair to help me. 

Everyone’s bathroom routine looks different. I try to keep mine as simple as possible. I’m sure that for most people, their shampoo and body wash are two completely different items. For me, the one company that makes my allergy friendly stuff has a shampoo/body wash combo (and that’s the only way it comes), so that is what I use. Thankfully, even though it is one company, I do have choices in my shampoo. For example, I can choose tea tree oil, unscented, lavender, etc. So while I may have one shampoo/body wash choice, at least I have multiple options. 

If you are still in quarantine, maybe take some time to look at what is in your shower. Do you really need all that stuff? Only have what you need, and not only will you shower more safely, but it will be easier to clean. 

The First Rule of Minimalism

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Jude decided to sit in the fabric box.

One of the first rules of minimalism is to put like items together. By putting like items together, you can rid yourself of duplicates and make an accurate determination of just what you have and what you need.

Maybe it’s because I have a challenge doing stairs, but I do have duplicates in my house. There are items I have on the first floor that I also have on the second floor. For example, I have a vacuum cleaner on the first floor and I have a vacuum cleaner on the second floor. I have a hard enough time doing stairs without falling when it is just me on them, forget trying to carry a vacuum cleaner up and down steps. In this instance, having the duplicates makes sense for my level of functioning.

There are times when duplicates do not make sense and that is when we minimize. Early in my journey, I remember going through my kitchen cupboards and putting every single coffee mug on the kitchen counter. I happen to really enjoy glassware. 

When I put all of the like items together, I discovered I had something like 38 coffee mugs for one person! I could use a different mug every day of the month and not have to do dishes. That is entirely gross and also unnecessary. I paired down the coffee mugs so that now I have 8. 

This weekend I was working on the upstairs of my house. The goal is to make the upstairs as empty as possible. I spend 95% of my time downstairs, as stairs are a challenge for me. If I can reduce the amount of stuff on the second floor, then everything will be on the first floor where it is accessible to me. 

While working upstairs, I happened to remember that the first rule of minimalism is putting like items together. This is helpful in identifying duplicates and being able to rid yourself of too many items.  I also discovered that putting like items together is helpful in this time of pandemic to remind us of how much we have and to be grateful for it.

Everyone is having meltdown right now about not having enough supplies. Some people are hoarding. Last week, I was down to two rolls of toilet paper when I received a shipment of 12 rolls, bringing my total up to 14. 

When I started to put like items together upstairs last weekend, I suddenly remembered that there was also a roll of toilet paper in with my camping gear. I got it out and put it in the pile of 14. Then, I discovered that way in the back of the bathroom cupboard was 4 individually wrapped rolls of emergency toilet paper. 

First, I would not have been able to access those 4 rolls if I was having a bad balance day because I had to stand on a chair to reach them. Second, I took the 4 forgotten rolls and added them to the pile of toilet paper and I now have a grand total of 19 rolls! I officially have enough toilet paper to last at least until the end of the year, if not longer. I also relocated the toilet paper to a place that is easier for me to reach so I do not have to stand on a chair and am fully aware of exactly how much I have.

Because this house is so large, I kind of have things spread out everywhere. Going back to the first tenet of minimalism has been helpful in getting me to identify and reduce clutter. When you put everything together and see how much you have, it is easier to get rid of. I am going to continue to work on reducing the items upstairs by either boxing them to leave or rehoming them someplace downstairs where I can use it. 

Remember when looking to reduce the clutter that is in your home – start with just one item. Make sure that item has a place. Only keep however much of it you need.

Are your items spread out all over your house too? They probably are! Houses are meant to be lived in and life is messy! Take an hour during quarantine and identify an item you want to minimize – whether that is coffee mugs, sweatshirts or something else. Gather all of that item in one place and reduce. You will be glad you did! 

 

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.