Just over a year ago, I became a first-time-homeowner. That may not sound like a spiritual experience … but, I assure you, it is.
My most recent confirmation of this began last month, when I declared war on clutter.
After moving into my new (old) house – which required cleaning out at least two storage units and the attic of my parents house – I discovered that I was up to my ears in clutter.
My first attempt was to try to manage the clutter.
Clutter refuses to be managed.
I engaged in attempt after failed attempt. Finally, the time came to launch an all-out assault against the clutter.
I gave away furniture and linens and kitchen items and clothes. I recycled and organized and discarded. I spent a portion of each of the 28 days of February working my way through boxes and drawers and closets.
I would love to say that I’ve finished (we all know better than that, don’t we?) but the extraordinary thing about this project is not the completion of it … it’s the reflection that occurred along the way.
Like an archaeologist, I sifted through the remains of my previous lives: piecing together histories, wondering at riddles, and trying to understand someone who lived a (seemingly) long time ago.
Like an anthropologist, I used the evidence in front of me to trace the development of someone I (almost) don’t recognize: the child who hid, the girl who obeyed, the woman who sought.
The experience was both strange and profound.
After a month of clearing clutter, I have recently found myself sneaking quiet moments with seed catalogs, planning this year’s garden. This yearning points me toward a timeless truth: once space is cleared, things begin to germinate and grow.
Though the season of Lent doesn’t start until next week, I’ve already been on a journey through the wilderness. (I guess you could say that I’m a bit out of sync with the liturgical calendar.)
Lent is the time when we engage in disciplines that help us clear away the clutter and cultivate space for God to be at work in us, the time when we take a closer look at who we are and who we’ve been along the way.
Lent, too, is a strange and profound experience: one that can easily be minimized by convincing ourselves that the focus of the season is on giving up soda or chocolate.
Instead … clear the clutter; make space; wonder; investigate;examine; remember. Give yourself the time to listen for the quickening of seeds within you that God is germinating.
Yesterday, I issued my Clutter Buster 28 Challenge and I’m looking forward to the results of that challenge much more so than the actual work of the challenge.
Today, I’m still pondering the Clutter Buster 28 Challenge and I’m intrigued by Dave who began his 100 Thing Challenge more than 2 years ago.
In short, Dave owns only 100 personal items.
Now, there are a few rules and exclusions (and you can see more information at 100 Thing Challenge) but for the most part, Dave has pared down the stuff he owns to the bare minimum.
To be clear: I do not feel called to go quite as far as Dave. But I have decided to honor the spirit of Dave’s challenge. During my 28 Days of Organization (better known as Clutter Buster 28), I intend to get rid of at least 100 things (preferably by giving away, but possibly by recycling or throwing away). As I said, it’s not how Dave chose to do it; but it’s a start.
Feel ready to get a start on your spring cleaning? Or just tired of the clutter that’s built up over the long, cold winter? I’m looking for companions in this journey through February. Post a comment to join in or just to encourage me!
I suppose the title of this blog could be read to mean two different things: either I’m going to give you two ways to pamper your pooch this Christmas OR I have two dogs and they are both quite content. I like to think that both are accurate. (See photo at left for my happy – and quirky – dogs!)
If you’ve got quirky and lovable dogs at home, then check out these ideas for your pets:
Yes, this craft is actually for a chair, in the style of those great old bean-bag chairs. (Can you actually call those things “chairs”?) But it occurs to me that this project would be a great way to use old t-shirts, while saving money by avoiding those fancy dog beds with hefty price tags.
Yes, it really sounds like spoiling your pup, doesn’t it? But when you think of all the ingredients in those commercial treats AND the cost of those darn things … it almost seems like a no-brainer! Click the link above for an enormous list of doggie treat recipes.
Tomorrow: 1 Thing You Probably Didn’t Know.
See you then.
7: Use real ribbon. I’ve found that using real ribbon is the natural first step in moving toward an entirely reusable wrapping system. Start with real ribbon as you use up the wrapping paper that you already have in the cupboard. Don’t buy new wrapping paper. If you run out …
6: … use something else around the house that is handy: the comics section of the newspaper, brown paper grocery bags, newsprint paper, etc. You can even use pages from catalogs, junk mail, or flyers and posters to wrap things.
5: If you’re starting with a blank canvas, such as a brown grocery bag, let the kids help decorate with stamps, markers, or whatever else you’ve got lying around the house. My sister-in-law even sacrificed old nail-polish once to let my nephew create some wrapping paper. (It was so cute, I still have it hanging on the wall in my house.)
4: Reuse! Save everything you can (the wrapping paper, the bows, etc.) and gently save them for next year. Americans produce something like 4 million tons of waste during the holiday season alone. So let’s try to reduce that number! If you can’t reuse … RECYCLE! Take a few extra moments and separate out the recyclables from your holiday trash. When wrapping, use as little tape as possible so that you’re more likely to be able to reuse more of the paper.
3: If you do have to buy wrapping paper, buy stuff that will be easy to recycle. Don’t buy the paper with foil decorations on it. Skip the stuff that’s got a glossy finish. Go for something that your recycling center will take. AND read the labels to find a paper that is high in recycled content.
2: Start shopping for fabric at the after-Christmas sales. Next year, you’ll be reusing old wrapping paper … and beginning to wrap gifts in fabric (the ULTIMATE reusable gift wrap). Keep your eye out all year for things that will make nice wraps: scarves, sheets, tablecloths or other items found at estate sales, flea markets or clearance sales. Before you know it, you’ll have an inexpensive collection of fabric that can be used again and again!
1: Make the wrapping part of the gift. Is part of the gift a new pair of gloves or mittens? Use them to decorate the package. Giving edible goodies? Choose a nice Christmas tin to put them in. Is wine the gift you’re giving? Choose a lovely (real) ribbon that brings out a color from the label and put a festive bow around the neck of the bottle.
Tomorrow: 6 Edible Gifts
See you then.
10: The Christmas lights! First, don’t use as many. Second, use lights that use less energy (LED).
9: Choose your tree wisely. The best choice is to purchase a tree that can be replanted or to rent a tree, which is replanted after the holiday season. If you can’t do a live tree, make sure real trees get recycled.
8: Choose a half-dozen or so items that you do not need or rarely use and pass them on to thrift store or a shelter for those who are homeless or those who are abused, etc. Help children choose 3 items that they can share.
7: Don’t buy new Christmas decorations. Tinsel and ornaments use too much of our natural resources in production and transportation. Make your own holiday decor: popcorn garland (or popcorn balls), gingerbread or sugar cookie ornaments, or use cookie cutters to make shapes out of rice krispie treats. Add some color with other edibles: candy canes or chocolates wrapped in holiday colors. Or buy used or vintage ornaments.
6: Recycle the Christmas cards you receive. Make a Christmas collage that can be framed and brought out each year with the other decorations. Or donate them to a pre-school or daycare to use for Christmas crafts.
5: Set up recycle bins at your holiday parties.
4: Take care when you wrap. Use fabric and real ribbon when possible (and save to reuse). If you’re still using paper wrap, save as much of it as you can. (You can even refresh the creases with a cool iron.) Save and reuse packing materials. If you can’t reuse the boxes, then see that they get recycled. If you attend a gathering of extended family, volunteer to take the recyclables.
3: Take the family out and plant a tree. An unimaginable number of trees are cut at this time every year. Do your best to offset that number by planting a tree, even if your Christmas tree isn’t one of the ones that’s been cut this year.
2: In all the decorating, don’t forget our animal friends. Make edible holiday decorations for some of your outdoor trees and be a source of food for our feathered friends.
1: Encourage the green choices of others. Give books (“The Sustainable Kitchen”), reusable shopping bags, and other items that nurture “green” choices in others.
Tomorrow: 9 Bargain Gifts.
See you then.
Well, let’s get to it, shall we?
11. If it truly is the thought that counts, then give thoughtful and meaningful gifts that have lower price tags for both your wallet and the environment. Offer coupons for childcare or petcare or lawncare or household work or a car wash. Give a gift that shows the person that you’re thinking about their needs.
10. Give gifts that make use of services instead of products: a massage, a manicure or pedicure, piano lessons, French lessons, cooking lessons. Better yet, give in the name of your recipient to organizations like Heifer Project International; they’ll receive the gift of knowing that somewhere in the world, a family’s life is richer and healthier and more secure because of them.
9. Give the gift of an experience: a theatre production, a concert, a museum visit, an ice-skating adventure. Either give tickets so they can go and take someone; or go with them and let your gift be the gift of time spent together with you.
8. Give antiques or heirlooms or treasured personal items: your grandfather’s watch, your great-grandmother’s brooch, a crystal vase that your parents brought home from their trip to Ireland. Not only is this a wonderful way of recycling, but it is also a way to make your gift a meaningful one.
7. Grow your gifts. Give several lovely little pots of different herbs, or one beautiful, larger pot with several kinds of herbs in it. You could combine plants of oregano, basil and thyme for an “Italian Seasoning” herb blend. Consider the recipient and then choose plants accordingly.
6. Christmas is one of the best times to give edible gifts. Edible gifts are such a treat that we who receive them come to look forward to them from year to year, allowing them to become part of our own holiday traditions. I still firmly believe that every Christmas holiday season should include my Aunt Trudy’s peanut butter fudge and Sally’s extraordinary divinity. They are treasured parts of my Christmas tradition. But don’t worry if you can’t master these difficult delicacies. Every December issue of home-keeping magazines, as well as the Internet, is full of recipes for cookies, cakes, candies and other delights that are easy to make. A little research and you’re all set. But don’t limit yourself to sweets: make homemade salsa or humas or other savory gifts.
5. Consider buying gifts that are made from recycled materials: purses made from candy wrappers, earrings made from reclaimed glass. There are as many gifts to choose from as there are things to be recycled. Check around and find artisans who work with recycled items; not only are you reducing your total Christmas footprint, but you’re helping do reduce waste in landfills.
4. Buy local. Shop local craft fairs or find local crafters and artisans: woodcrafters, potters, metalworkers, etc. If an item has been made locally, then it doesn’t have to be shipped, which means it doesn’t have as large an ecological price tag. Plus it supports local industry.
3. Every time I unpack my winter clothes, I see the scarf Kathy made for me and I think of her with affection. Do you knit? Crochet? Work with beads? Make jewelry? Make candles? Sew? Write poetry? Then give a one-of-a-kind gift that tells the recipient that this was made especially for them.
2. Give gifts of the bounty of the harvest: local delicacies like honey or maple syrup, or something from your summer garden that you’ve preserved (dried, canned, frozen): tomatoes, peppers, garlic, fruit, etc.
1. Regift. There. I said it. I know there are some who might look down on this idea, but this is a wonderful way to recycle. Why clutter up your living space with things that (while well-intended) are not something that you are inclined to use. Why not regift them, and provide them a good home to someone who will enjoy them? After all, isn’t that what the original giver intended? Just make sure you are a thoughtful regifter, doing your best to insure that the original giver does not wind up with wounded feelings in the process.
Whatever you choose to give, consider the method of production, the method of purchase and the method of delivery. Buying something for a friend far away? Maybe it’s better to buy online and spend a few extra dollars for gift wrap, instead of having the item shipped to you only so you can turn around and ship it again. Think about your gift-giving choices – and their implications – this season.
Hope you discovered some good ideas. Tomorrow, we’ll have 10 Green Ideas. See you then.
The Christmas tree question is one that always seems to have too many facets to get a proper handle on it. Real? Artificial? Cut one? Buy one? Sheesh! Who’s to know what the best practice is, in terms of sustainability and (yes, it’s a factor) enjoyment?
In researching the question this year, I’ve discovered that the opinions stated online (and there are ever-so-many of them!) are just as diverse as my own questions about the issue. I am currently better informed than I have ever been … and yet, there is still no easy answer on this question.
So, I’ll pass along what I’ve learned. But I’ll leave the decision about which practice is “best” for you to decide for yourself.
12. Artificial tree “pro”: they are reusable from year to year.
11. Artificial tree “con”: they are often made of petroleum products, waste natural resources in their manufacture and shipping, and eventually end up in landfills.
10. Real tree “pro”: they’re a renewable resource grown on tree farms that are replanted regularly, can be chipped into mulch, and contribute to the health of the environment while growing.
9. Real tree “con”: unless you’re planning on going to a local tree farm to get yours, the ones that are shipped into the grocery or retail stores are, like fake trees, using natural resources in the shipping of them.
8. Artificial tree “pro”: no needles shedding, no watering, no chance of pesticides.
7. Artificial tree “con”: not biodegradable and usually not recyclable.
6. Real tree “pro”: they smell so good! They just make the whole house smell like Christmas!
5. Real tree “con”: if you don’t go to the farm yourself, you can’t know for sure where and how they’re being cut down, or the answers to other questions about sustainability practices.
4. Artificial tree “pro”: if you shop at rummage sales or estate sales, you can recycle artificial trees by buying one that might otherwise end up in a landfill. I have often seen trees at these type of sales that are still in very good shape and could be used for a number of years.
3. Artificial tree “con”: let’s face it … they just aren’t the same kind of sensory experience that real trees are.
2. Real tree “pro”: now you can buy living Christmas trees that you can replant, potted Christmas trees that can be planted once they outgrow the pot, and you can even rent Christmas trees! (Renting means you pay for the tree, then after the season, the company picks it up and plants it for you.)
1. Real tree “con”: if you don’t consciously recycle them, they will also end up in a landfill. More than half of the live Christmas trees sold each year wind up in a landfill.
This year, my tree is an artificial one that I inherited when my grandmother passed away. I think it’s currently the most sustainable choice for me, since I am keeping it out of a landfill for a few more years. Maybe by the time that it needs to be replaced, we’ll have a better option for recycling artificial trees.
But I fully intend to go back to real trees eventually. I like the idea of having a potted tree that will eventually be transplanted.
Hope these points help clarify rather than confuse the issue! Tomorrow, we’ll be taking our green concerns and looking for ways to be both creative and eco-friendly in our gift choices: 11 Eco-friendly Gifts.
See you then!