Thursday, November 29, 2012

Baby Steps to Living More Simply

Over the past few years I've been slowly redesigning the way I move through life. The first change I made was to get more exercise. Agreeing to do a sprint tri with a friend springboarded me into action. Since then I have completed several sprint tri's, several century rides, a cross country cycling tour, and lots of shorter mileage rides. I feel more fit now than I ever was in my teens and twenties. The second change I made was to bring home less work. Rethinking how I respond to student papers and implementing a new procedure involving more one-on-one time with each student made less take-home work a reality. As such, my evenings are now spent with my family, doing activities we all enjoy. The third change I made was to drive less and use my bike more for transportation. The first year didn't go so well. As soon as the temps dropped below 45 the bike went up on the hooks in the garage. I kept at it, though, and now I'm completely comfortable using my bike to go wherever I need to in whatever weather the day offers up. The change I am working on now is sustainability: reducing, reusing, recycling.

The whole idea of sustainability has been nagging at me for awhile. For years I agonized over the amount of trash we were putting on the curb every week. I kept thinking if every family of five was generating as much landfill garbage as we were, the earth was in a world of hurt. There had to be a better way to deal with items we were throwing away. My first step to reducing how much we were contributing to the landfill was to set up a compost box to throw all meal scraps into. I wanted to garden, so what better way to build up an organic foundation than to create my very own dirt? I then bought containers into which we put our cans, glass, cardboard, and paper products instead of throwing them in the trash. Simply doing the composting and recycling cut back on our curbside trash by more than 50%. Seeing this made me start reconsidering other aspects of my life.

Like clothes.

For many years, I operated on the idea that new was better. Even very recently--I began searching for a stylish raincoat I could wear for my cycling commute. I had settled on buying a very expensive ($399 expensive!) coat made in Great Britain. I was on the web page, ready to choose the purple coat, when thankfully the sane part of my brain shouted, "Back away from the computer! Don't you dare buy that coat!" I didn't buy that coat. Instead, I made a promise to myself that I would keep looking until I found one right here where I live, at one of the thrift stores, giving it new life. Staying local. Living sustainably. Looking back at all the new items I just had to have, I realize how silly this mentality was. New isn't necessarily better. It is, however, more expensive. And wasteful. When I think about all the money I could have saved by shopping at thrift stores . . .. (Insert eye roll here.) So now I'm on a mission to see what treasures I can find on the cheap. Within the last week alone, I found a $14 red wool coat that I have learned will keep me warm even when the temps are in the mid teens, and a $5 pair of casual black leather shoes in excellent condition (Franco Sarto--originally $70). Spending less than $20 for two great items makes me feel giddy, something paying full price for new products never did (well, except for when I bought Sweetness--she was totally worth every penny I paid).

Living more simply hasn't been easy. In many ways, I just wasn't ready to make the changes though I knew the changes would positively impact my life. Not allowing naysayers to sway me was also a challenge along the way. Still is. But I like where I am, doing my small part.


Cathy said...

You know I love this post. There are several clothing items I've been wishing for but I am waiting until I find them at a thrift store ;). Until then I will make do with what I have.

I am also reducing by going through the items in our home regularly and donating what we are not using. It feels pretty awesome to see less clutter around the house. Cory is into it too! This morning I went to throw away an empty coffee bean bag and he said, " wait, can we use that for something? ". Hahahaha

JK said...

Yay, Cory! I almost threw out a couple of paper towel tubes this morning, but now they are being turned into something I almost bought the other day. Every time I save money by spending an hour or two reworking what I already have is a good day. :)