Monday, January 31, 2011

Surviving the winter, the eco-mami way

For those of us in the DC area, we dodged quite a few storms while the Southeast and Northeast got slammed with snow for the past few months.  Unfortunately, our luck ended this week and I've had kids with cabin-fever.  No, it's nothing like "snowpocalypse" from last year, where we had about 2 weeks of cancelled school, (at least that's what it felt like).  However, it's been bad nonetheless.  A teacher workday and 3 snow days and the week's to-do list went out the window before I even got started.

But like a good boy scout, you must be prepared.  I've managed to occupy them with things like building forts, doing schoolwork (sometimes computer games so they don't realize they're doing homework), playing out in the snow, or making crafts.  As hard as it may seem, it IS possible to keep them busy without just turning on the TV.  Don't get me wrong, I still turned it on between some of these activities, but not for hours on end.

Some more ideas for staying busy while you're snowed in or if it's too cold to play outside:

  • Cooking together: My kids love to help me bake goodies or make dinner.  (And you can teach them math without them realizing it).
  • Scrapbooking: Maybe it's not a gender neutral thing, but my daughter loves it. 
  • Board games: The kids just got a bunch of games over the holidays so that kept us quite busy.
  • Stock up: not just on groceries.  Head to the library before the storm hits and get a bunch of books and movies for both you and the kids.  

Obviously, I haven't had much time to do things that I need to be doing, such as continuing my purging mission, but I figure that crap isn't going anywhere.  So I'm taking this time to enjoy my kids, let them have fun on their own or with me, and the rest of the stuff on my list will be there when they go back to school.

How is any of this eco-friendly?
Less TV wastes less energy.  Making crafts with recycled materials is less wasteful.  Making our own snacks is better since it requires no packaging (which means less waste).  And hopefully these activities will be passed on to my children's children when they look back on how we survived yet another snowstorm.

Stay warm, everyone!

Monday, January 24, 2011

The eco-papi challenge

As much as I have tried, I just can't convert my husband into becoming as environmental as I would like him to be.  No amount of begging, bargaining, or nagging has made him concerned enough to take his reusable bags to the grocery store (and I have them stored in his car for his convenience).  Instead of getting too frustrated, I see it as a challenge that if I can convert him then I can convert ANYone.

Leaving the lights on is something seemingly simple that he could change.  Unfortunately, it's still a bad habit of his so I'm thinking of installing those automated lights that only turn on when triggered by motion.  Maybe that'll save me some time by not having to follow him all over the house turning the lights off.  And will help with the power bill too. :)

Another eco-unfriendly habit he has is idling in the driveway every night when he comes home because he's usually on the phone for work.  (The phone is hooked into his car's speaker system and sometimes when he turns off the car it hangs up the call).  Idling is a big pet peeve of mine since it wastes gas, pollutes the air, and wastes natural resources.

I'll give him credit on at least trying to recycle.  Right now he errs on the side of caution and throws everything into the recycling bin.  Of course, not everything is recyclable but at least he's not throwing everything in the trash.  I guess it can be confusing knowing what exactly is recyclable and what isn't.  I'm always looking for the magic triangle underneath packaging to see if the number is accepted in my local landfill (which is usually just #1 and #2).

Thankfully, there are a few things he doesn't have much choice on when it comes to living green.  Since I do most of the cleaning, grocery shopping, and cooking, he has to eat what I make, use the products that I have in the house, while not changing a single thing about his daily routine.

He's not completely hopeless.  I guess as long as there's one participating member of the household that's willing to go green, that's enough to make a little positive impact on the planet.  One day in the future I hope to blog about his miraculous transformation into eco-papi, but until that day I'll do enough for the both of us.  It's better than nothing, right?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Purging: Part 2

So you want to get rid of your stuff but don't know how to go about it in an eco-friendly way?
Here are a few suggestions on what to do with the things you no longer want in your home.
Last week I mentioned a few ways to get rid of your clutter in order to simplify your surroundings.  

A quick recap:
- Scan as many papers as you can (& don't forget to backup the computer)
- A place for everything, everything in it's place
- Go through your kids belongings every few months to weed out the toys & clothes no longer used
- Designate a spot to put things to sell, donate, consign, or give away (freecycle)
- Recycle what you can
- If you have a lot of personal papers no longer needed, take to a shredding event in your community

Here are 5 more tips on how to declutter & get rid of your stuff:

Tip #1: Pick a "home" for the stuff & make sure it fits in it.
One of the most useful tips on those hoarders/organizational shows is to pick a container for your stuff (it's new home) and make it a goal to fit everything in that place.  The example one show used was a house overrun with toys.   Their solution was to condense to only what could fit in one bin.

Tip #2: Get rid of something before bringing something else in
As an incentive not to build clutter in the future, that same couple was told to make sure they got rid of something before they brought something else in.  That's another GREAT tip, which could be applied to the closet, the kitchen, the bookcase, or any other room in your house.

Tip #3: Baby steps
You can't expect to declutter your house, or even one room, in a day.  But if you do a little bit (15 minutes) a day it will progress.  Before you know it you'll have cleared out a space and wonder why you didn't do it before.  It seemed to be a daunting task for me to get rid of the papers and papers and papers that I had in almost every room in the house, but I'm chipping away at it and feel great after a day's worth of purging.

Tip #4: Give yourself some distance
Every school year when the kids get out of school, I go through their papers and instantly throw out the things I don't want to keep.  However, as time goes by, I wonder why I kept most of the stuff to begin with.  The longer you wait to get rid of the stuff, the less you'll keep.

Tip #5: Make a photo book
For your children's artwork and some school projects that you want to keep, you could scan them into your computer and make a photo book.  Sites like Shutterfly or Snapfish are great places to get these things made, often at discounted prices if you become a member.  This is definitely on my to-do list once I condense the piles and piles of stuff I want to keep.  You can keep those drawings without adding to the amount of crap you already have in your house.  Lovely!

Some more suggestions on where to take the stuff you don't want:
Books: Library or used book store
Toys & baby items: Church, daycare, preschool, some high schools
Clothes: Planet Aid bins, consignment, yard sale, thrift store, homeless shelter
And everything else: consignment, homeless shelter, ebay/craig's list, freecycle

I've been purging for about a week now and it is mentally exhausting.  But with the goal of having a simplified and clutter-free home, it's worth every minute.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Declutter and simplify!

Maybe I've been watching too many hoarders shows on cable TV or maybe I'm just sick of looking at the clutter in my house these days, but I'm on a purging mission.

Since I moved in with my husband 14 years ago, we've moved 11 times.  Out of those places we lived in each place less than 3 years, with the exception of our townhouse where we lived for 4 years.  I have moved the same crap from house to house for 14 years. So now, since this is the last house we'll live in til we retire (I hope!), I am taking it upon myself to finally purge of this shhhtuff.

It's a very liberating experience, and I've always wanted to live more simply.  I have what the organizational experts call "memory clutter", and LOTS of it.  I keep ticket stubs, theater programs, and city maps of places I've been.  Mainly it's because I have the worst memory and would forget about these events otherwise.

But on the other hand, I'm very type-A and believe in "a place for everything, and everything in it's place". I also believe in the technique of getting rid of something if you bring in something new.  I go through the kids toys, books, and clothes as often as I can (once every 2 months or so) and have a designated spot in my storage room where I'll either sell the stuff (in a yard sale or consignment sale), or I'll donate it.  My husband gave me a scanner for Christmas which has me scanning recipes, articles and, hopefully soon, receipts so I can have less mounds of paper in my life.

Knowing the stuff isn't going into a landfill is the most gratifying thing for me.  And getting it out of my house is the best feeling in the world.  Breathing a little easier without stressing about this junk in my life is the best reward, and not a bad way to start out the new year.

Hope you can purge and de-clutter your space in order to live more simply.  Remember to recycle the papers you get rid of and back up any files you put into your computer.  Also, get a shredder to dispose of personal documents or take your stuff to a community shredding event.

Happy purging!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Need a resolution? Take the eco-mami challenge

The holidays are over and it's time to look forward to the new year.  Most people make resolutions to lose weight, save money, and live a healthier lifestyle.  If you take the eco-mami challenge you could knock all of these out at once!  When you learn to live green it'll amaze you how much better you'll feel about your body, your budget, and your planet.

Here are 5 simple steps to get you started.  And if you're new to this blog, look at my previous posts for more ideas.  

Step 1:  Recycle.
So easy, a 2 yr old can do it.  Plastic, cardboard, paper, cereal boxes, aluminum, glass. It's all recyclable and less to go in the landfill.  Bonus: less to put in your garbage means less trash bags, which will save you money.
Step 2:  Eat less meat.
I'm not vegetarian but I try to eat one meat-less meal at least once a week.  Bonus: buying less meat will cost you less at the grocery store, and is much healthier for your body.
Step 3:  Reduce.
Buy less disposable things, such as one-use items like juice-boxes and buy in bulk instead.  Be more aware of the waste in product packaging.  Bonus: it will save you money, guaranteed.
Step 4:  Reuse.
Use reusable water bottles, mugs, lunch bags, and tupperware.  Get a filtered water pitcher instead of buying bottled water.  Bonus:  this will also save you money, guaranteed.  After buying these things once it will pay for itself ten-fold before you know it.
Step 5:  Clean green.
Go the non-toxic route in cleaning your house.  See my previous post about green cleaning for recipes on making your own cleaners.  Or buy non-toxic products such as Method or Seventh Generation.  Bonus:  this will save you LOTS of money and is much better for your health.  

These five simple steps will get you on your way to live green, save you money, and will improve your health.  Not a bad way to start 2011.  Happy New Year!!!