So how, exactly, do I learn how to “walk the talk”? If I’m brutally honest with myself, I already have all of the tools and knowledge I need to at least get started with my challenge. I’ve just been lazy and/or taken the easy way out. For example, I have probably fifteen reusable grocery totes. They are different sizes from different stores, but they are all on the back shelf in my pantry. Inevitably I will think of them about ten minutes out of my driveway, but decide it’s too much trouble to go back and get them. As a result my pantry has been overrun with The Plastic Bag Monster. Currently The Monster’s sole purpose is to terrify my cat since I cannot seem to find a fitting use for the bags. So what does this tell me? Lazy + grocery shopping + unbeatable Plastic Bag Monster = Kitten Night Terrors. Seriously, this monster is the reason cats tear through the house at 2am claws a-blazing. But I digress. Let’s get to the rules.
1. I cannot buy anything new.*
Over the summer a friend of mine posted these recipes for lemonade. In the dog days of summer, they really appealed to me, and I decided I simply had to try them. I read them over, ran to the store to get various ingredients, and also picked up these new items: juicer, glass pitcher, fine strainer. When I got home I discovered that hidden in the depths of my kitchen cabinet were two heat resistant pitchers and a juicer. It didn’t even occur to me to look for the items first. (I think this may have been the night I decided I needed to change some things.) Not only did I already have two of the three things I bought, but the next day my mother informed me that she found all of those things in the local thrift stores. Between thrift stores, craigslist, ebay, and even the option to buy used on amazon, there is no reason I should have to buy anything “new.” This includes gifts.
*This rule does not apply to: food, unmentionables, or toiletries/beauty products.
2. Groceries must be purchased as locally as possible, and carried with reusable grocery totes.
I live in an area surrounded by farms, and we have a huge farmer’s market here. Local farmers bring fresh vegetables, fruits, milk, cheeses, grass-fed beef, eggs, and free range chicken. Local fisherman bring their fresh catches. All of these people in an indoor, year round facility. I have never been there. The most locally I have bought groceries since November has been the “local produce” section at Wegman’s. So from now on I start at the farmer’s market. I know I won’t be able to get everything there, but I believe I can get the majority of my regular grocery purchases there. I am also putting my grocery totes in my car. They’ll live there from now on.
3. All Leftovers must be used.
I suck at eating leftovers. Whether it’s left over from a meal I cooked or take-home from a meal in a restaurant I didn’t finish, the food inevitably sits forgotten in my fridge until I get around to cleaning it out. By that point it’s usually starting to resemble a 3rd grade science project and then I lament how wasteful I am. The same goes for fresh herbs purchased for recipes, and usually about half of the lettuce I purchase. If I buy it, I have to use it. Once it’s cooked, I have to eat it.
4. All toiletries must be cruelty free.
I can’t lie, this rule scares me. I’m a firm believer in skin care. I love experimenting with the new colors of make up and nail polish that come out every season. My fine, straight hair requires products if I hope to have any volume or style throughout the day. Seriously, I cannot get enough of beauty products. Of course, when you’re as addicted to beauty products as I am and living on a budget, you end up with a large stock of drug store make up. Anything quality is top of the line, but I always hit the drug store first to figure out color combinations. I anticipate unloading a large portion of my product collection.
5. I cannot buy toiletries whenever I want.
Most toiletries come packaged, which means waste. Buying toiletries as often as I do is wasteful, especially when I realize how many colors I buy, use once, hate, and then completely disregard. Skin and hair care products can be replaced as needed (because, hygiene) but make up can only be purchased at the season changes, and only if I don’t already own the colors.
6. All necessary “new” purchases must be local if possible.
It’s not easy to find local shops here, but they do exist. Hardware stores, clothing boutiques, local grocers – they all exist. We even have plenty of local vineyards, many of which produce wonderful local wines. I haven’t found a locally owned beauty shop yet, but I’m excited to see what types of resources I can find.
7. Anything that’s the result of an “Experience Gathering” must not be used for myself.
I’m not sure about your area, but a real trend here is the Experience Party. Origami Owl bridal showers, Pampered Chef birthdays, even “Color Me Mine” is considered a celebratory event. I’ve determined that in my efforts to not buy anything “new” I cannot offend the people I care about by refusing to attend or participate in these events. But never more than $40.00, and never anything intended for myself.
8. Reevaluate all of my charitable donations.
I need to make sure all the organizations I donate to use donations responsibly. Some of them are local, some of them are national, but I only know one of them intimately. Some fairly simple research should help me determine which ones I will continue to donate to, and possibly help me discover some new ones that may be more worthy of support.
9. Learn how to garden.
This skill has evaded me for years. Partially because I’m convinced I have a black thumb. Mostly because I’ve never found digging in the dirt appealing. Fresh-off-the-vine tomatoes, going in my backyard to get fresh herbs – that is appealing to me. I actually do own gardening tools. I think it’s time I learned how to use them
10. Enjoy this!
I’m sure this year will be challenging. I’m sure there will be times when I don’t keep all the rules. I love a good challenge. My hope is that by the end of this year I will have experienced more new things, gained new skills, and be generally have had a lot of fun trying to live up to this whole thing.