Is it Just a Welcome Mat?

There are people who describe themselves as over thinkers (you know who you are LA) and I am guilty of that at times so that I go into analysis/paralysis. I am an intelligent adult that has to make many decisions each day, but when recently I decided that my house needed two new welcome mats I started in on the overthinking thing. I don’t know if I am afraid that someone else won’t like them or think they were not needed, too much money, ugly or all of the above. When is a welcome mat just that a welcome mat?

I wanted a good looking one that did its job and was environmentally friendly, is that so hard? I saw one that was bright and made out of recycled flip flops, that covered one of my requirements but it looked a little too beachy for my suburban farmhouse.

I like the coir ones with a cute print or saying on them so I found a few but the colors were not just right and the sayings were stupid. I mean really who cares what it says, you are wiping your feet on it? They are the first thing your guest sees before stepping into your house and I feel it should start things off on the right foot (no pun intended, but pretty good) so my taste is on display for all to see and I do not want to be found wanting. See what I mean! Who cares what anyone thinks about my taste in doormats, do I judge people by theirs, the answer would be no.

I think I am trying so hard to make sure I spend my money thoughtfully that I can’t make a decision. This is ridiculous. I will go out and get them this week and stop putting it off until I find the perfect one as really is there a perfect doormat? Well that is just a little trip through my mind to enjoy with a glass of wine, just be thankful it is a short trip and you don’t have to step inside because after all I don’t have the right doormat!

brown and black welcome bulletin board

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Posted in decor, perfectionism, shopping, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Recycling and Zero Waste

My town has a pretty good recycling program but, recently they have changed a few things to go along with the state universal recycling list and this has caused me to do a bit of a trash audit. I am always looking at ways to reduce my waste and I felt I was doing well, but now I have some items that I can no longer put in our single stream recycling bins. I can go to the recycling center with some items and I am going to have to make more of an effort to do just that. Paper bags filled with shredded paper will have to be saved up for that trip. I also have to get a sticker from the town so that I can do that.

photo of pile of ripped carton

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I am sure there have been things that I have put in the bin that were not correct and it probably screwed up the load but I am usually very careful. I know recycling is really the last resort and we should be using items that can be used over again, buying things that have little or no packaging and being thoughtful about what we throw away. Since I am the person that does the bulk of the shopping in this house I am responsible for what we throw away also and it is not easy. I heard quite a few comments from people who read the new lists who said that it was getting too hard and they were not going to bother, this frustrates me but I can also understand them. People need things to be easy to understand and implement otherwise they will go the easy route, this is human nature.

My husband takes lunch to work as do I and I use glass containers to send leftovers so they can be reheated and cloth sandwich wraps. He has gone along with this because I make his lunch but left to his own devices he would use a plastic bag or a plastic container with leftovers. I am dragging him along with me on this trip and at times he just pays no attention.

My supermarket collects the plastic bags that stores use even if I use my own we always seem to have plenty of them, they seem to arrive unbidden. They will also take bread bags and some of the plastic used to package things. I am happy that at least I can get rid of those that way.

I don’t know if the items that won’t be accepted in my bin will be accepted at the recycling center and if not now my trash will increase. Most of the increase will be in plastic and this is so maddening because everything is packaged in plastic! The black Chinese food containers are no longer allowed and this might be a problem for us as my husband loves Chinese food. I am going to keep a copy of my list with me until I memorize it so that I can limit or do away with buying things that use that type of plastic. I know the limits of the process but just knowing that doesn’t make it easier to accept. We need to stop using stuff that we can get rid of in a responsible way.

I would love to say that people can go the zero waste route, but it is just not feasible. Most areas do not have markets that sell in bulk, I mean Whole Foods does but they have you use a plastic container! I buy my fruits and veggies loose in my reusable bags but if I want to buy Organic in my market they are wrapped in PLASTIC! Does it make sense for me to drive to 2 or 3 different places to do my shopping and spend more money and use more gas or just accept there will be some things that I will have to throw out because they can’t be recycled? I do not have a big family to feed as it is just the two of us now as the kids are grown so food co-ops are not really feasible, though I can begin to frequent our local community gardens and I do but around here that is seasonal. There are times when it feels like I am spitting into the wind.

I will continue to do my best to run a zero waste (or a 30% waste) home and urging people to do the same. I have written to companies whose products I use to ask them to use less plastic, or even better to use recycled products in their packaging (to close the loop) and stores that I shop in to use less packaging, but it really takes all of us that share this planet to take care of it, so even if we can’t do zero waste we can keep trying our best and do what we can. Don’t give into the feeling that it is a waste of time or just too difficult, those attitudes are not an option. Living everyday should mean that we can continue to live everyday for generations.

Posted in environment, laziness, organic, plastic free, recycle, supermarkets, Uncategorized, Zero Waste | Leave a comment

College Freshmen Information

I know it’s early but since high school graduations are done and graduates and their parents are thinking about college and all that needs to be done I thought this would be a good time for a few hints. There will be a lot of information coming your way and it can be a bit overwhelming. Doctor’s appointments, housing, roommates, loans, scholarships etc. It  can be extremely hard to keep it all straight even when you are super organized.

architecture building campus college

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This bit of advice is really only for first timers. You don’t need to buy everything on  the list that so many stores “helpfully” print out for you. You will have a tendency to think like an adult not a college kid and look at certain items as silly and others as extremely important. It is not a one size fit all kind of list. So here goes:

  1. Bed Risers: Added storage for under the bed as well as height will be needed. I used a rubbermaid container under my son’s bed for extra food and drinks in order to keep it contained.
  2. Laundry bag: Helpful if it is mesh. Really you don’t want anything that holds too much as they will wait too long to do laundry.
  3. Flip flops: Showers are questionable, need I say more!
  4. 2 Sets of sheets: One for on the bed one in the laundry, please don’t be surprised if they are not changed in the first semester.
  5. Towels: This has more to do with your particular child (girls use more at one time) Maybe your kid uses a hand towel, a bath towel and a washcloth, but not mine, and they really don’t have places to hang them to dry, so I stuck with 1 big bath sheet and two bath towels.

    towels bath bathroom

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  6. Printer paper, ink cartridges, printer and the appropriate cords: I know they say they can use the library printer or everything will be submitted on-line, but things arise at 2:00 in the morning. The campus bookstore will have that merchandise but it will be costly, very costly.
  7. Comforter: The beds are usually xl twins but I bought full size comforters as the extra length is good for covering up what is underneath the bed.
  8. A throw: These are great for sitting around playing video games, reading in the common room or hanging out with friends
  9. Something from home:Even boys will want something from home as a comfort especially for the first month.
  10. A clip on lamp: They will not sit at their desk to do they homework they will do this scrunched up on their beds and will need lighting.
  11. Power Strips: I found the ones that bend are very useful, more than one as you really don’t know how many plugs there will be or where they are.
  12. Tools:A small tool kit will come in handy containing a screwdriver of each type, a set of allen wrenches, a hammer, pliers, duct tape, 3m poster hanging strips, also 3m hooks for hanging up towels, robes and jackets etc. and a flashlight. Rechargeable batteries as well as a charger.

    tool set on plank

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  13. Eating Utensils: Mug, bowl, fork, spoon, knife small plate and glass. They don’t just eat in the dining hall.

There will be more that your particular student needs/wants but the amount of items you find on the lists given to you contain a lot more items that never get used. Big items like fridges, microwaves and televisions should be worked out with roommates.

I found those space bags were great for packing clothes, could fit a lot more in the car and they were easier on move in days. I will be writing another blog on move in day closer to the time.

Your kids will want to pick out their own towels, comforter, throw, even eating utensils. Boys will want to have input also even if you think they don’t. It is strange the things that they will choose and if the quality is good it is fine to let them choose. It will be their first home away from home.

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Tower Hill Botanical Garden

Yesterday was a day that I wait for all year. A Botanical Garden of which I am a member holds a plant sale as a fund raiser. It has a well curated grouping of plants grown and tended by them and a vendor area. Members are allowed in 2 hours before general public. The public still has to pay the entry fee but they have access to the entire site not just the plant sale. I noticed on the website after the fact that people were angry because “they had to pay to get in to spend money”. This is a non-profit organization that does a lot of good things but oh well. If you are ever in Massachusetts and have some time this facility is worth the trip, also has a wonderful cafe with great food and beautiful views.

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“ruin of a folly” in the woodland trails

I arrived at 8:20 and got in line to wait until the gates open to the plant sales area. There were about 20 to 25 people in front of me and there was about 30 to 35 when we finally got in as there was one couple whose friends came later and jumped into line with them. I find gardeners are a patient bunch so although it was almost 80 degrees we were all patiently waiting.

I have said before that I am having to rework my garden because the amount of sun I have is less and less so I went straight for the well labeled shade area and got some coral bells, a painted fern and a hosta, these were all healthy, robust plants, put those in a fenced in “holding area” and went in search for some cherry tomato plants that I can put in pots. There were some different varieties that I wanted to try. Picking up my other plants for the detention area I ambled over to the registers Produced my credit card and brought them all to my car before I went to the vendor area. I like to buy plants through the botanical garden because of how they use the money. I don’t get to this place as often as I would like but it is a balm to my soul when I do.

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Edging along lawn garden

The vendor nurseries, plant societies and craftsmen are great, bought 3 more hosta, 2 ferns and a daylily called “Bob Marley” which was locally cultivated, a bright deep orange with a bit of red in it’s throat. I am looking forward to this splash of color. All of the people were friendly, talkative, joking just enjoying the day. I am sure they like coming to this plant sale as it is very well run and almost all were doing a brisk business.

I went into the gift shop which was giving members a discount. I was looking for a new pair of pruners because mine were down for the count and were having a tough time cutting anything (I had them for years and they were cheap) so it was time for a nice pair, also found a beeswax wrap that was smaller than the one I have for my homemade bread and a Gardener’s journal. I used to have one and found it very helpful in planning, remembering, and learning from mistakes. I decided that it was time to start the practice again. All in all a pretty good morning. I had finished all of this, 3 trips to the car, browsing around the gardens and a trip to the bathroom all before the public was starting their shopping. If I had someone with me it would have taken longer as we would be looking for different things, would have been nice to have company, but would not consider not going.

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Daylily that I had purchased in previous trip

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Supermarket Musings

Lately I have been really assessing my food shopping habits. Have I been stuck in a rut, always buying the same things at the same place, could I do better? As you can tell I have a deep life! I have not really figured out many changes to improve things but along the way I have made a few observations, here goes:

  • If packaged hot dogs are usually eight to a package why do New England style rolls only come six in a package? Do we here in New England only buy loose hot dogs at the deli? I would like to think we are not wasteful and throw out the extra hot dogs or is it a way for the purveyors of the meat in a tube to get us to buy more rolls and then we have extra rolls so we buy more hot dogs, is this a kickback situation with the roll makers? Someone needs to look into this.
  • Why is the lighting different in the organic/gluten free aisles of the store? Do people that buy these items have light sensitivity issues? There are 2 aisles in my store that has the refrigerated and packaged organic products and there the lighting is softer, a little dimmer. Maybe they don’t want us to see the prices clearly as this is the more expensive section. It is odd to walk into the next aisle and get hit with the glare of the regular florescent lighting in the rest of the store. It has to be a retail tactic I am not familiar with as the local Whole Foods store has the same lighting as the two aisles in my store.
  • I try to buy organic produce from my store when I can, but I have a problem with buying organic when it is wrapped in plastic. I want 1 organic cucumber not 2 that are placed in a tray and wrapped in plastic, this goes against all that I am trying to do. Do they not want the organic produce which is in a different area mingling with the regular produce, do they think people are going to try to get the organic at a lower price by mixing it with the others? I might be thinking too much about it, but really just let me buy my produce individually!
  • I work retail and have for 45 years and I have watched the changes that have been implemented and the worst of all so far is the self checkout. Hire cashiers. I don’t want to go into a store and do it all myself. Again at the supermarket they have self checkout as well as hand-held scanners where you scan as you go and put it into your bag then at the end you go up to a special register, load the scanner in the dock and then pay. You cannot tell me that they do not lose money on that because quite a few people are not scanning everything in their bags. They wrap up organic produce but can’t hire cashiers. Are people willing to go through their entire day without human contact?

    photo of black flat screen monitor

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  • Yogurt has become so mainstream that it takes up about 25 feet in the refrigerated food section and it is mostly Greek. This has been so gradual that I hadn’t noticed. It used to be the food of the fringe.
  • The section for chicken is larger than most other food except for seafood which has always had it’s own case and area. I can tell you that I am heartily sick of chicken, but I am not a steak person and fish (wild caught) can be very expensive.
  • Parents that need to food shop with their children always seem to either be in a hurry or they are wandering blindly through forgetting their lists and at times their children.
  • Dads can be convinced by their children to buy almost anything by saying “that’s what mom buys” unable to remember what mom buys they go with the suggestions even though it sounds shady.

These are just a few things I have noticed, unfortunately I have not solved my food shopping issues but at least the farmers markets are open and I can get my loose organic vegetables with no plastic!

apple business fruit local

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Posted in everyday life, habits, natural products, plastic free, shopping, supermarkets, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Clean Air Starts at Home

My husband has asthma, though not life threatening it can be scary. I have been trying for years to naturally clean the air in his environment. I have learned a few things along the way.

  • Air purifiers differ greatly- I purchased one for him with the help of a friend for his office which had a distinct mildew smell, that I was sure could not be healthy for him or anyone really. He is an equipment manager at a college and people have a tendency to drop used wet, sweaty uniforms and equipment in his office if they can’t get a hold of him or get into the laundry room. My friend researched it for me and ordered it, it was a joint gift. There were quite a few choices and this was one item I didn’t feel we could go cheap. There were some that just concentrated on smells, pet smells etc. I needed mold spores to be taken out, moisture as well as smells, we found one, but now the big problem-getting him to use it and let me know when the filter needed to be changed. I can only do just so much.
  • Cleaning products that don’t require a gas mask are not that difficult to find-I tried a few homemade products for cleaning but we have very hard water so some didn’t work as well as expected. I have found a few manufacturers that make good products with natural and plant based ingredients and surprise they work! Seriously people unless you have a serious medical condition that requires you to bleach everything you come into contact with, it is not needed to chemical bomb your house and the air you breathe. Celadon Road, Seventh Generation and Poofy Organics to name a few are great, do the job and are easy to get. Do your research to find what works for you.DSCN0307
  • Home furnishings can add chemicals to the air- I replaced the wall to wall carpeting in my master bedroom, hallway and stairs awhile back and while it looks nice I regret it because the smell was so laden with chemicals that I had to keep the windows open for days with fans pulling the air outside. I didn’t have the money to put hardwood floors down but will in the future. Area rugs can be a problem also, all of my area rugs are wool or cotton so I am ok on that score. Upholstered furniture is usually treated, and the inner foam is adding to the problem. I am having slipcovers made and I washed and ironed 20 yards of cotton/linen/rayon fabric before handing it over to the person who is doing the construction. I am currently airing out some curtains I purchased for a guest room, although I may wash them to get out the sizing they put on the fabric when it is manufactured.
  • I cannot control all the air we breathe-We live in a small suburban town west of Boston, Massachusetts and our air is pretty clean. The town has a limited idle law although I am sure not enforced. There are at least 5 drive-thru establishments in a half mile area, these make me crazy! Get out of your car! I know if you are handicapped, have mobility issues or small children these can be a godsend but I have watched people wait in their cars while I have gone in and out of the same place and they have hardly moved in the line. We all have to breathe this air do what you can to not add to the problem. I drive a hybrid car that usually shuts off when I am idling in traffic and I don’t go to the drive thru, are we really that lazy?

While I am not a scientist and am not working in the government or industry I can at least make a positive step in my home as well as my community by thinking about my actions and how it affects the air I breathe as well as my neighbors. Start in your home and you will notice the difference. Living everyday should not be an effort to breathe.

photography of factory

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Posted in air pollution, chemicals, environment, everyday life, habits, natural products, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

3 Simple Truths for the Consumer

In my quest to live a more intentional, greener, less wasteful and overall simpler life I have discovered some simple truths:

  1. Buy quality– If you buy high quality items they last. Yes they may cost more in the moment but you will not have to replace them. This also leads to becoming a more thoughtful consumer, really investigating all possibilities and not being subject to impulse purchases. If you think you are going to live with something for a long time then you put more time and effort into your decision and the thought process is a bit more involved. There are reasons that there are antiques and vintage items around, because they are well made out of good quality materials most of the time. That side table you bought at Target because you thought it was cute and reasonable will not be around to become vintage never mind antique. You have heard of fast fashion well it doesn’t just exist in the clothing industry, we have turned into a disposable society, where items we buy are not expected to last. Your cell phone will start having problems after your 2 year contract is up and maybe even before.My son just bought a new car(his first brand new one that he bought himself), he puts between 350 to 500 miles a week on his car because of his job, so he wanted a reliable car, the one he was getting rid of had 250,000 miles on it and was still running well, but he felt that something big was going to go so now was the time. He wanted the same maker and model he had because it had proven to him that it was reliable, we shopped around and he found a new one that fit the bill. A good quality car that is well taken care of will last.
  2. Maintenance is key– See above. Seriously if you take care of your belongings they do not need to be replaced. I have a great tailor(don’t sew), a great cobbler and a wonderful mechanic. I rely on their expertise to do the things I cannot. That is not to say that I don’t take care of my things, I do. I wash my clothing in cold water, hang dry some, clean my home, maintain my yard and do small repairs. I would like to replace all the toilets in the house but they are all working fine so even though I want low flow dual/flush toilets they will have to wait. I am not going to add 3 porcelain thrones to the landfill. I have replaced appliances when they broke down not just cause I wanted something new and I have maintained them so they have lasted longer than expected. It always amuses me when you have a warranty for a product that lasts a year because really that is how long people keep things. I wish I could find more places that repaired small items instead of just trashing them.
  3. Enjoy what you have– People always seem to be thinking about what they don’t have or what they “need” to make everything perfect. I have some wonderful pieces of furniture that are very well made and classic, yes they need a little sprucing up (enter my friend who is making me slipcovers) but they are just as comfortable today as the day I purchased them over 35 years ago. I am slipcovering them so they will again be part of our living room, on the other hand I purchased a chair and ottoman that has already begun to show wear after a year because I didn’t look closely enough at how it was made. I will have to pay soon to have it re-upholstered to make it so it doesn’t look so shabby. I went through my wardrobe at the change of seasons to see if I needed anything and I realized that I go back to the same items again and again. So I wear the same outfit frequently, who cares. I enjoy the clothes and they look good and are comfortable so am I. I can change the look of an outfit buy swapping jewelry which I do very often. I realized I don’t need much so I purchased a few things from Pact Clothing that are organic and free trade cotton, fit beautifully and are super soft and comfortable. I heartily recommend them, just click the link.

I hope people can get back to the time when shopping was not a hobby and you did so when you needed something and you had researched the item in question. Let’s think about what we are spending our hard earned money on, maintain these things, enjoy what we have so we have time to enjoy eachother and stop to think before we throw things away.

scrap metal trash litter scrapyard

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