I know it is the most important imperative in the well-known triplet “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”, but in our consumer driven world it is also often the most difficult to practice.
Husby and I often reminisce about living in Tanzania. One of the things that I loved was the lack of pressure to have more stuff. The cultural differences and terrible transportation options that came with living in a rural mountain village made it pretty easy to say no thanks to bringing anything other than the bare necessities home. This practice toward minimalism has stuck with both of us now that we’re back living in the States, but we certainly haven’t achieved it in its full expression.
But with the goal of reducing our impact firmly in place, we do have a few areas where we feel like we are succeeding.
We currently live in a modest, one bedroom apartment. It certainly wouldn’t be considered small by NYC standards, but it’s not a giant space either. Because of this, many of our rooms serve multiple functions. Our office area shares a room with our dining area, and our “nursery” minus the bassinet occupies a corner of our living room. And the new baby shares a bedroom with us. Our lease will be up soon, and we will be moving when it is, but we hope to be able to find another modest, one bedroom apartment when we do. Our old apartment also features two tiny closets – not much storage at all. To help us stash out of season things away, we have a few of those large storage bins serving double duty. One poses as a coffee table and two stacked on top of each other are just the right height for plants to enjoy our windows.
We live in a pretty walkable neighborhood. There is a grocery store just a couple blocks away and plenty of restaurants and boutiques within spitting distance. I can even walk to my hair salon and my CrossFit gym. Husby is a big fan of walking, so we also frequently walk the couple miles downtown and to the riverfront. Because of this we are able to maintain a single car household even when both of us work outside the home.
I’ve written before about how we reduce our electricity use, and about Husby’s obsession with unplugging electronics that are not in use to reduce phantom loads. Additionally we hang dry our laundry. When Husby had to do some traveling this past winter, he often chose to take the Megabus rather than renting a car or flying to his destinations.
Certainly this is the hardest area for us to work on reducing, but also the area that provides the most opportunity. We work hard to reduce the amount of packaging we bring home. That means that we bring cloth bags with us to the grocery store, as well as bring our own refillable containers with us to stock up on bulk goods. We buy items that we use consistently and frequently in bulk – like buying our liquid soap by the gallon. We also are working to choose quality over quantity. Saving our pennies for higher quality clothing, furniture, and cookware to ensure that it lasts longer, and stretching the life of what we already have in the meantime.
One thing that helps me to focus on reducing the amount of stuff that we have is to constantly have a “to donate” pile. We’ve been making frequent trips to the Goodwill to drop off goods that we no longer have any use for. Keeping a donation pile going reminds me to constantly edit my possessions and work towards reducing the accumulation of possessions in the first place.
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