Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Reducing Plastic Bags: Why it's worth it!

Once again I feel I need to write about garbage. 

I am quite opposed to the use of plastic grocery bags. It looks like there will soon be  a charge for them here in Portland if our wonderful new mayor, Sam Adams has his way. I backed him on this before he was elected and perhaps now we will start living up to our green reputation!

Here's something that happened to me in a local supermarket just yesterday. I was in line and when the checker asked me if plastic was okay, I said, "Oh no, I have my own bag."
The woman in front of me turned as she was leaving and said, " Now I suppose the green police are going to get me."

Taken aback, I replied, " Oh, I just don't like them accumulating in my cupboards."

Ignoring me, she turned back to the checker and said, " No, I really mean it."

So here I am, trying to sell this woman on using her own bags, (which is in my nature,) instead of being insulted by her accusatory remark about me, a perfect stranger. Heaven forbid, she think I am the green police! 

So,  for any of my readers that are into minimalism, but not going green, here are some reasons why reducing your use of plastic bags is worth it.
1. They junk up our cupboards.
2. They can carry bacteria from whatever food, such as produce was in them.
3. They fill up your garbage can, costing you money.
4. They litter our highways (which is ugly), because they don't break down as fast as paper would.
5. They harm wild animals. You're in favor of animals right? Like the Animal Planet, right?

Here is one reason why the "Green Police" would like you to curtail your use of this vile product. It is a quote from Chrissie Hynde,
" It's ruining the Earth so knock it off, you're screwing it up for the rest of us!"

I hope you'll all check out two of my favorite anti-plastic sites by two great authors:

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Simple Cleaning Solution

Got a messy house? You can painlessly clean it over time by doing it during commercials. Here's how: When you're watching TV in the evening just get up during the commercials and do one thing or part of one thing at a time. Here are some examples: load the dishwasher, wash pots and pans, vacuum a room, dust a room, put in a load of laundry, etc. If you do this every night, you'll see your house start to turn around. While you watch TV you can fold laundry or clean out a drawer. Of course, If you get your family members to help your house will be cleaner sooner!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Minimalist House Cleaning: Company's Coming Triage

When company's coming, it's an emergency clean up you'll need. You may not have time to do the greatest job on the whole house but here are some tricks. First, contain your guests to the main floor of your house. This may not work if they've never been to your house because they may want a tour. If that is the case, they at least won't be looking into your closets. This is triage....ready?
Start at the top of the house with a laundry basket - no you're not going to do laundry because you don't have time. Shove the laundry into the closet and close the door along with any other clutter you find. Then dust, vacuum, put the garbage and snack dishes into the laundry basket and move to the next room. When you reach the kitchen load the dishwasher, wash the floor and take out the trash. Go to the store and get some flowers and easy food. You can get some ideas on my earlier post Minimalist Entertaining: Horsdeorves.

Of course, this sort of clean won't last long so hopefully your guests' visit won't either! My next post will be about painless ways to keep your house together on a daily basis.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Moving to Portland, Oregon?

If you're planning a move to Portland, Oregon check out this beautiful home lovingly restored by my family's construction company!

Check out our company's web site:

Occasionally I have to do my job..... Thanks friends! The Minimalist

Monday, July 7, 2008

Minimalist's Backyard - Taming the Mess!

If you haven't tamed your backyard yet due to bad weather, floods, etc. I's not too late. Here are some tips to get you started.

1. Good Design:
First of all, a good design aimed at low maintenance will really help. Decks are great because they can cover a large area, are great for entertaining and most importantly, let the rain water absorb and the earth breathe. Avoid lawns. They are the highest maintenance item in a yard and waste water. If you have one rip it up and replace it with bark or gravel paths through beautiful perennials.

2. Trees:
The best trees are ones that don't drop leaves. Basically pine trees. We plant Leland Cedar on all of our properties due to their quick growth and low maintenance. They can turn a yard with no privacy to a very private one in about three years. The squirrels, birds and cats love them too! Routing the water from your downspouts to your trees really helps relieve the storm drains and here in Portland, we get a discount on our water bill for doing so.

3. Privacy:
Trees don't always solve every privacy problem. When they don't, you can use trellises with vines. I recommend either potato vines or honeysuckle. Star jasmine is also great but takes longer to grow. Clamatis usually dies out in the winter. There are some non deciduous ones but they grow more slowly.

4. Flowers:
To save money and time I grow perennials. That means if you don't have too bad a winter, they come back each year. If you put a cold frame or plastic to keep the frost off them, they'll have a better chance depending upon where you live. Buying a few showy hanging plants each spring really makes you look like a super gardner too!

5. Vegetables:
My vegetable garden is completely grown in containers. They're just ones that trees came in and misc ones I've picked up. I do this because I hate to weed.

6. Watering:
I have two drip systems with a timers. I created them myself. They cost around $150 to do the front and back yards. and I am sure I have saved much more than that on my water bill and in plants saved. It was fun to put together too. It's just a hose with off shoots of little hoses to each plant that I want to get water instead of watering an entire area which encourages weeds. I even have it routed up to my hanging plants!

7. Compost:
I have a compost bin that is open on the bottom so the worms can come up. I just put my kitchen scraps and yard debris in it so I don't have to take them out to the curb. Less work for me! To read more about composting you can read: Minimalist Composting: Why It's Worth It

8. Weeds:
You're gonna have them. I don't let them get me down. I just go out a couple of mornings a week for about ten minutes in my clogs and halter top with a shovel and get my frustrations out. Then I throw them into the compost bin and reward myself by picking some flowers, herbs and vegetables.

Happy gardening!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Self Taught Artist Part 3

If you're wondering about why I am interviewing an artist for my Minimalistic Lifestyle blog, it because this particular artist not only lives such lifestyle but her art is created from found objects she finds at the local dump in rural Vermont. Talk about sustainability!

The Minimalist:
What do you feel is most important about "found art" and how we relate to what we're told is no longer useful?

Self Taught Artist:

Interesting question. Honestly, what is important (to me) about found art is that it is abundant and usually free. That is important because I have to watch my money. It gets me out of the house and out of my head. It frees me up from trying to make art like everyone else. I'm not a trained artist, I can't pretend I know what I am doing. Found objects compliment my way of being an artist in that everything is open to interpretation. It doesn't have to “be” or “mean” anything. It is very freeing and challenging to work with objects that aren't SUPPOSED to be used this way or that way. As far as 'how we relate to what were told is no longer useful' ~
I believe that seems to be challenged and changing rapidly. If anything the opposite seems to be happening yes? EVERYTHING is useful now. It is like some human life game, find the garbage and make it useful. Who can do it first. Who can do it fast. I'm not really into the environmental aspect of it, there is just a part of me that enjoys finding use for things that aren't obvious. I am aware of all the waste, there is a parallel line right next to the whole green living thing, and that line is about just being resourceful for the sake of not living a 'leaky life'. Letting things clutter, wasting your energy or the planet's energy isn't efficient on so many levels regardless of if there IS enough oil or air. It is satisfying to not need the ac blasting and to FEEL. We are always trying to feel something other than what we feel. If it is hot you want to cool off. If it is cold you want to heat up. We spend so much time trying to feel or not feel that we aren't even living.

I find my life works better if I have less to do and worry about. Less to keep up, less to clean. The less you have to deal with the easier it is to deal with yourself. I don't want to be distracted from living my life. So many things can do that. Too much sleep, food, alcohol, running around, buying, doing. I'm earnestly searching for a way to live my best life. Keeping it simple. Not buying into the 'American dream'. Peeling off all those layers that society and life foists upon you to the point of being one fat stinky onion. Who are we once you let go of what you are told to think/do/be? What if you didn't know about race/religion/politics/ what if you didn't have all that music in your head....what if you were born and raised without so much want and need? Without judgment and comparisons?

Friday, July 4, 2008

Minimalistic 4th of July

As I write this it is not yet 8:00 Am and I'm thinking there are lots of folks stressing about entertaining today. It's easy. It's all in the set up. Here are my tips:

1. Keep food simple. Grab some potato salad and fruit salad from the deli, put them in a bowl with some sprigs of mint, set the bowls atop  baking dishes filled with ice.

2. BBQ - not you! Some one whose job is to only do that. Do not allow this person in your kitchen. They may make a mess. Marinade what they'll be cooking ahead of time, then figure out in advance what they'll need, and put it on a tray ready to go.

3. Put all beverages into a bucket with ice with an opener near by. Open up some chips, dips,  and nuts and put them in  bowls spread around your entertaining area.

4. Use your regular plates and silverware. Have a large basket or plastic container for people to stow them in when they're done. Make sure you have a bag for garbage and one for recycling. Label all of these containers to let guests know where to put things.

5. Serve everything on a buffet table in the shade.

6. After dinner bring out individual ice cream bars for dessert. Usually, only the kids will want them anyway.

Speaking of kids:

1. Buy bubbles and water pistols. That should keep them busy. I won't address the fireworks issue, except to say avoid them if you can. An activity like Bocci ball is a fun game for kids and adults as well. When we lived in the country, I once had a neighbor bring her horse over and gave rides to the kids. That was really great!

2. Keep the kids outdoors and your dog indoors. Never trust other people's kids with your dog! Dogs hate fireworks anyway and can run off.

3. To make sure small kids don't wander off, lock your backyard gate up high and ask your guests to re-lock it if they go out. 

4. Try to pay a teenager to entertain your guests' kids.

If you set everything up this way, your only job at your party is to see that people are having a good time. Make sure people have a beverage, introduce people to each other, etc.

Have a safe and happy 4th!

Next Entry: Third installment of my interview with The Self Taught Artist.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Story of an Artist Part Two

This is a continuation of my conversation with a woman , The Self Taught Artist who gave up most of her possessions to go where ever life took her and ended up being an artist.

The Minimalist:
What things were important enough to keep?

Self Taught Artist:

The things I took with me were: camping gear, some pencils and paper, two little bags of clothes, and some personal papers. I have a small car so the camping stuff filled it up. I have to laugh, I actually took a small space heater because I thought I would be spending winter in a cold place and wanted to not be using much heat. What was I thinking?

So now, four years later all I kept from that storage closet was: a small cone shaped 'touch' lamp, some nice clothes (which don't fit who I am anymore so I took them to the dump,) a back massager, my computer stuff, a few computer books, and that's about it.

I should also ad that getting rid of stuff and going on the road changed my life as much as becoming an artist did. You learn you need less. to this day I use the same one glass, one, bowl...when you camp and live on the road less is better.

When I spent that winter in MN and got an apartment I had nothing and it allowed me to focus on what was important. I’m guilty still of bringing too much with me when i go somewhere, but in comparison it’s nothing and I always get it and laugh that I brought more than I could use/want/need. The paring down of STUFF is something to always be mindful of, because it isn't about the stuff. If you let it, that stuff becomes your master, all too happy to cloud your vision.

The Minimalist:
When you camped across the country, were you by yourself? Was your boyfriend with you?

I left alone, I didn't have a boyfriend. I met Tod when I landed in Vermont.

The Minimalist:
Did you make some interesting friends along the way?

Self Taught Artist:

I have to say I met the nicest people on the road: fellow campers, travelers, women who were also artists, (I wasn't but wanted to be) and massage therapists. Some I met while camping, others while holed up in a motel to rest for a week, and some I got to know while living in Minnesota for a winter. I've kept in touch with a handful and they are the beginning point when I look back at my life. They are the people who know me now, who I am, and they seem to accept and embrace me.

Part three in my next entry.