March: Less Lion, More Lamb

Ok, this metaphor is inherently flawed. Lions are cool (I wore a tutu on my head for some months as a child because I was a male lion), endangered, beautiful big kitties. W likes to hold WV up and pretend he’s Simba. Lambs (and their adult counterparts SHEEEP!), on the other hand (as opposed to cows, and definitely lions), wreak havoc on the root structure of grasses by cropping them too close and killing them. This has lead to anthropogenically intensified erosion in New Zealand (for example), causing the rivers there to be some of the most sediment laden in the world (intrinsic to the topic of my Ph.D. dissertation). However, for the purposes of maintaining the Marchified metaphor, I shall equate lions with destruction and lambs with tender do-gooding. We know the truth.

March was all about reevaluating our home life and reducing or removing certain things from it that are wasteful, not economical, or generally make us cranky. I wanted to make some changes that would be easy for us, as W is pretty much ensconced in his office either working or finishing his thesis and doesn’t have much time to get down and dirty with other creative projects and family extracurriculars. So, my three lambs:

1. We went paper-towel-less. I’ll pause here, while you get in a good eye roll.

Now I’ll brag about how AWESOME being free of paper towels has been (and we’re not going back). For starters, I hated using paper towels. And running out of them. So wasteful of trees and money. I always felt bad when reaching for one to dry my hands (but I still did it, even though we have plenty of kitchen hand towels) – and ended up with a soggy lump of wet-but-clean paper towels waiting to be used for a real mess later. Good for cleaning up WV’s squash eyebrows, true.

cloth paper towelQuestion: Do you know what cloth “paper” towels clean up better? Answer: Everything! From the mess at lunch on the chopping block to WV’s chin to the wet rails of the sink after washing dishes. They are more absorbent (seen here drying washed spinach), they are reusable, they are better for the earth and our family! C’mon, I’ve got to believe you have a few towels you can cut up from bygone room mates and relationships. Join me in cutting them up and wiping up messes! I put them in a small muslin bag and hung it on our paper towel rack. I took our small bedroom trash bin, since we never use it, and put it behind the kitchen trash, and that’s what I’ve been throwing the used towels into for laundering as a bunch. They don’t look terribly pretty, I’ll give ya that, but then again, neither does an expanse of land devoid of trees – and is a paper towel’s role supposed to be aesthetics? My mom totally agreed it was a good idea, when she visited and pointed out that, in the same vein, she uses cloth dish rags around the kitchen. It’s always good when your mom approves. Gave me a much needed boost of confidence.

2. Shoes are banished from the inside of the house.

details (2)If you know me, you know I LOVE shoes. Once in a while, I’ll put on my wedding shoes (at right, *le sigh*) and think to myself, gah, how did I wear these and when can I again?!? I wish there were things I could wear nice shoes to more often. I get giddy just thinking about the insanely expensive shoe parade that is Sex and the City (see #3; a girl has to have a vice, ya know). These days I rotate between my all purpose crunchy mama Toms, all purpose weary cowgirl boots and treading-on-air Mizuno running shoes that I’m breaking in and trying to keep clean (a much-needed gift from my MIL).

But, finally, after a long-standing “let’s take our shoes off once we come inside” fairly unenforced policy, we’ve relegated our everyday shoes to the vestibule. We’d tracked in enough grime and crud…I was tired of constant sweeping up, and the mess o’ shoes by the front door would slowly migrate to the kitchen and living room (cray-cray, I know, but W has way more shoes than I do). More importantly, if you think about it (I did. A lot.) where have the soles of your shoes been?!? They keep your feet from touching the floor of a public restroom (and any other non-home floors); but if you wear them inside and then take them off, you are essentially spreading the germs of the public restroom to your feet…then you get in bed…ok, gross. I’m done with shoes in the house. Socks, slippers and bare feet are welcome, but we are adopting the cultural traditions of Japan, and many other countries, when it comes to shoes. Perhaps I’ll chance upon a nice wire rack to organize them. Further impetus is that WV is about to crawl. The floors need to be clean. Period.

3. “Hey wait, I can use that!” and “Hey wait, I can use that!”

I got to using more food and household items in non-traditional ways I hadn’t before.
These included (you decide if the emphasis is on “use” or “that”):

→ Saving the bones from a roast chicken to make yummy bone broth, thereby eeking a lot more value out of that expensive organic bird. This “lamb” is more like the proverbial Native American buffalo.
→ Cleaning the bathroom with baking soda and vinegar, thereby avoiding harsh chemicals and all that is intrinsic with their use.
→ Finding yummy recipes to use the pulp leftover from our juicing endeavors. That just makes sense. Since I’m prone to buying multiple 5-lb bags of carrots: Carrot Banana Bunt Cake with Cream Cheese Icing.

I’ve enjoyed browsing through the Year of Living Less blog, even though it is defunct. It gets me thinking. We all have our limits, though – while I admire purposeful simplifications I won’t dread out my hair to live without a comb (there was a time in high school I had wanted to…ah well, opportunity missed) or reduce our towel stockpile to the number of people in the house! But I’m really happy about our March’s worth of intentional living. I’m committed to observing my household with a keen eye for what can be replaced with less expensive, safer, and/or more sustainable options (not surprising, how it’s almost always all three), and will keep in mind what I change and find for further posts. I’m taking cues from family, friends, and frustrations. Another thing I’m going to give up is straws. Yes, I love straws, but W pointed out that they are wasteful pieces of plastic and, well, he’s right. Maybe I can get a glass straw? That sounds like a bad idea.

So tell me, what have you changed, repurposed or cooked in your household lately? What are your March “lambs?” Looking forward to hearing and getting some good ideas from ya’ll…

PS: W defends his MS thesis in early April and will be back to blogging thereafter. Send him happy math thoughts!!!

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