Confessions of a food-waste hoarder

I hate to waste food but, inevitably, it happens. Despite meal planning like a pro, things don’t always work out as planned.

I know I am not alone in this. In New Zealand, where I live, the average family wastes around $563 worth of food every year. In the United States, for a family of four, its around $1600 worth of food each year. It’s pretty shocking.

Food waste, food waste friday
New Zealand’s Food Waste.
Image credit: WasteMINZ

I feel terrible about throwing away what was perfectly good food. And so I don’t – I hoard it. Half empty bottles of salad dressing languish at the back of my fridge until they are a year out of date. A little container of unused canned tomatoes sits growing mold. You get the picture – it’s not pretty. Eventually something smells and I can’t ignore it anymore, and out it all goes.

Well that was until now. I am owning-up to my food waste. I’m starting out with a clean fridge and a new approach. As part of Food Waste Friday, I will report in each fortnight on my food waste.

Food waste, Food Waste Friday
Inside my fridge – 19 June 2015

Am I the only person who hoards their food waste? What’s your best tip to reduce the amount of food you waste?

Help! I’m hoarding for the environment – the Minimalist Game days 8 to 14

It’s the end of Week 2 of the Minimalist Game and I’m already reaping the benefits of less stuff. I’ve also come to an important realisation – I’ve been hoarding for the environment.

Hoarding for the environment

Most of the items that I got rid of this week were either:

  • once useful stuff I no longer require or is at the end of its life (eg. old baby bottles, broken safety latches)
  • potentially useful stuff that is too good to waste and might be useful someday but that I don’t think anyone else would want (eg. piles of plastic cutlery and paper napkins that come with takeout, used plastic bags).

Essentially, now it is rubbish, trash, garbage. Easy to let go of? Umm, well, no.

The guilt from Week 1 resurfaced. I have been trying to deny my wasteful ways by keeping stuff packed away in cupboards and drawers.

During the week, I stumbled across this article – Are you hoarding for the environment?  Yes, yes I am. Or I was. I’ve written before about how I’ve always had strong environment values but they’ve waned in the last couple of years. The decluttering process has highlighted to me that I still have these values and renewed my motivation to take action.

I’ve decided to note the areas of waste that make me most ashamed and work out baby steps towards addressing them. I found some reusable mesh produce bags in the pantry and I have already put them into action at the supermarket.

Benefits showing already

I am already reaping the benefits of decluttering. This came home to me with a simple occurrence – my pre-schooler ripped a book. I located the book tape within 30 seconds and he was happily reading again in five minutes.

There was no big sigh from me at the prospect of wading through packed drawers searching for tape, no putting the book on a pile for another day, no feeling guilty, frustrated or overwhelmed, and no buying another roll because I couldn’t find what I was looking for.

Fixing the book was no big deal. Two weeks prior, the sad fact is, it would’ve been an ordeal. Seeing these benefits in everyday life has given me great motivation to continue.

Next steps

So what is next? This week my husband commented that what I was doing and calling minimalism looked a lot like what he called spring-cleaning.

In many ways he is right. Although from what I’ve said above, what could look like mere rubbish to someone else actually held meaning to me.

My reasons for playing the Minimalist Game were beyond spring-cleaning. I do want to move onto some of the bigger items around the house and that is on my agenda for Week 3.

Week 2 Tally

Day 8 – 1 breast pump, 4 bottle lids, 4 teats (yes – I can’t count!)

Day 9 – 1 sippy cup, 1 bottle lid, 2 bottles, 2 broken safety clips, 3 teats

Day 10 – 1 toilet lid lock, 1 battery cover, 1 tube, 2 plastic keys, 5 medicine teats

Day 11 – 1 clip, 1 plastic key, 1 highlighter, 2 pieces of a piping set, 3 syringes, 3 plastic bottles I’d been keeping for crafts

Day 12 – 1 broken food cover, 1 broken safety lock, 1 pencil, 1 pen lid, 7 pens

Day 13 – 1 plastic tablecloth, 1 potato spiral maker, 1 tray, 1 bag of plastic cutlery, 1 pile of paper napkins, 1 set of cookie cutters (rusted), 1 empty box, 2 bags of plastic bags, 3 reusable shopping bags

Day 14 – 1 metal jug, 1 ceramic tile, 1 set of salt and pepper shakers, 2 glasses, 8 coffee mugs

I’m posting daily pictures of my progress on Twitter. You can find me under @AmyMoreTime.

Are you hoarding for the environment? Do you sometimes feel that minimalism is a bit at odds with your other values? How do you reconcile that?

Minimalist fundraising – rejecting raffles and accepting donations

I attended a community fundraiser this morning supporting the Red Cross’s work to help the people of Nepal recover from a series of devastating earthquakes. It was fun event, full of community spirit.

Minimalist fundraising

The fundraising featured the usual raffles and auctions. Being in the throes of the Minimalist Game, I viewed the tables of prizes through a different lens. Now, don’t get me wrong, the prizes were lovely, tasteful and good quality. But it was also stuff I don’t need and don’t really want, stuff that would just sit around my house for a few years before I moved it on.

My usual approach is to buy raffle tickets no matter the prize, but now I really don’t want to win! I don’t want to bring the stuff into my house. What to do? On the spot I formulated some quick strategies , which I thought I’d share.

  1. Don’t buy, just give

I steered away from the raffle table and towards a donation box, where I gave the money I would have spent on raffle tickets.

If approached by a raffle seller, I would have felt comfortable saying something like, “Thanks, but no thanks. I am weaning myself raffles! Where can I make a donation?”.

  1. Take the experience option, but be discerning

I still participated in the silent auctions, but I only bid on experience prizes. Even then I was selective. I only bid on experiences that I’d actually like to do. For me, it was family passes to local nature attractions. A voucher for a beauty salon would be wasted on me, although if you saw my fingernails you might disagree. You see, one of the things I appreciate more and more about clutter is that it’s as much mental as it is physical. An unused voucher for a nail treatment sitting in my purse would weigh on my mind just as much as a physical object stashed in my spare room. I’d just feel bad for not making the time to use it.

I was really fortunate today – it was a friendly and pressure-free environment with many options for giving. I could easily participate without compromising my burgeoning minimalist values. I’m sure future fundraising situations will not be this easy, but I came away this morning feeling great.

Do you struggle to maintain your minimalist stance in the face of social obligations? What are your tips for “low stuff” fundraising?

The week of the Wii – The Minimalist Game days 1 to 7

Week One of the Minimalist Game is in the bag – 28 items successfully out of the house and out of my life. The pace of my de-cluttering this week actually slowed compared to pre-game, but it was still a challenge.

Letting go – the guilt of waste

Twelve out of the 28 items that left the house this week were all parts of a Nintendo Wii game console, its games and accessories. It had been sitting in its box, untouched, since we moved into our current home three years ago.

It should be easy to let go of, right? I haven’t used it and I’m not going to miss it, but it was still difficult. I haven’t been hanging onto it just in case; I’ve been hanging onto it out of guilt. You see, normally I don’t go in for frivolous consumer electronics.

An inner voice chastised me – “What were you thinking spending good money tying up precious natural resources on something totally unnecessary which becomes obsolete almost immediately and is near impossible to dispose of responsibly? You should know better”.

At the time, buying the Wii was a guilty pleasure, but the pleasure is now gone and I was just left with the guilt. I’d been holding on to it in some vain hope that its use would be revived, my guilt assuaged. But it’s been three years, so it’s time to get real. Stepping back, the reality is that I created this waste the day I bought the Wii and hanging on to it wasn’t going to change that. The only difference I could make was what I did about it now.

So I did it – out the door it went. Quickly, before I changed my mind.

Getting rid – to sell or to give?

So I made the decision to get the Wii out of the house – but how? It’s pretty much obsolete, but in great condition and it wasn’t cheap. Part of me thought it should have some residual value and I should attempt to recoup some of its cost.

Stories of the money friends and family have made flogging unwanted stuff on online auction sites rang in my ears. I did some market research, but older Wiis aren’t in hot demand. Maybe I could get $20–50 for it on a Facebook buy’n’sell group. But what happens if it turns out it doesn’t work or some of the bits aren’t there?

What to do? I talked to my husband – “It’s your decision, but personally, if it’s worth less than $100, I give it away. Selling isn’t worth the hassle”. Right that was it, decision made. I listed it on a local free/swap group and a happy dad picked it up at the end of the day to take home to some soon to be very happy kids. It all happened very quickly and I was embarrassingly excited.

I caught the bug, flung open the kitchen cupboards and it was on – Day 30, bring it!

This week I learnt:

  • Feeling guilty about past purchases doesn’t achieve anything – you’ve got to move on and that’s much easier to do without the offending stuff sitting round as a constant reminder
  • Hanging on to stuff you are never going to use to avoid waste is just denial. The reality is, the waste was created the moment you bought it – deal with it (and remember this the next time you’re out shopping).

Week 1 Tally

Day 1 – 1 Wii console

Day 2 – 2 Wii controllers

Day 3 – 3 Wii games

Day 4 – 4 Wii controllers

Day 5 – 1 Wii balance board, 1 Wii fitness accessory, 3 broken pens

Day 6 – 1 plastic container, 1 bowl, 1 plate, 1 food processor accessory for a food processor I don’t own, 1 decorative garlic/ginger grater, 1 George Foreman Grill fork type accessory

Day 7 – 1 empty baby monitor box with instruction manuals, 2 empty packets, 1 broken bottle brush, 1 sippy cup lid, 1 breast pump part, 1 medical gauze

I’m posting daily pictures of my progress on Twitter. You can find me under @AmyMoreTime.

Confessions of a supermarket environmentalist

I’ve been pretty environmentally conscious since my teens – I was getting books out of the library on climate change for causal reading back when it was still called the greenhouse effect.

In the last few years I have become so overwhelmed by the scale of the problem and frustrated by greenwashing and green consumerism that I’ve almost given up trying.

These days I’d describe myself as a “supermarket environmentalist”. This description is a total contradiction in some ways, but sums up my desire to make the best everyday choices I can easily accommodate in a mainstream lifestyle.

My biggest tip is make a shopping list and stick to it. Only buy what you are going to use – and be realistic.

We all have good intentions, but putting fresh fruit and veggies in your shopping trolley doesn’t make you any healthier. You actually have to eat them! Instead, try popping some frozen fruit and veggies in your trolley to supplement the fresh. If you are doing a good job and getting through your 5+ a day there will be some on hand in the freezer. If not, there is less waste and food ready for a better week next week.

If you are after some eco-inspiration, I recommend a couple of blogs. What I really like about them is they are more action than aspiration. The bloggers are not buying their way to a “greener” lifestyle but sharing a wealth of practical advice about everyday experiences.

So be sure to check out:

Playing The Minimalism Game

This month I am doing it – I am playing The Minimalism Game.

The Minimalism Game

If you’re not familiar with The Minimalism Game, it’s a month-long challenge to get rid of your excess stuff. On Day 1, out goes one thing; on Day 2, out goes two things and on and on until Day 30, when out goes 30 things. That’s 564 things in total if you keep going for the whole month. You can find out more about the game on The Minimalists website.

But why?

Why am I doing this? Hmmmm, I suspect from around Day 15 that’s a question I will be asking myself quite a bit! In a nutshell, I’m messy, my husband’s tidy and we live in a small house – it works better with less stuff.

We’ve been living in our current home for three years this month and lately I’ve noticed that I spend quite a bit of time rummaging through stuff to find other stuff. I know we have stuff that we haven’t touched in the last three years. Our spare room has become a dumping ground and recently was so packed that at one point I could only stand in the doorway. I have made some great progress in there but I’ve only done the easy stuff. I need to do the hard stuff and so I am playing The Minimalist Game for motivation.

What I want to achieve

For me, it’s not really about the numbers, but at the same time it’s all about the numbers.

I want to attack some clutter hot spots: the spare room, my desk, the pantry and what my husband calls “The Pile” next to my bedside table. Whether I need to get rid of 200 or 500 or 1000 things to achieve that is beside the point.

But at the same time, getting rid of 564 things in a month is really going to test my relationship with stuff. There is definitely a bit of hoarder in me. I find it hard to throw stuff away and I want to understand a bit more about why. It will be this understanding, rather than the total of the number of things I have managed to get rid of that will be the real success for me.

I’ll post weekly updates throughout the month, so if you want to join in, just keep a tally of how you are doing and post your progress below.

Updates

The week of the Wii – The Minimalist Game Days 1 to 7

Help I’m hoarding for the environment – The Minimalist Game Days 8 to 14

The cost of free stuff – The Minimalist Game Days 15 to 21

Be the change – The Minimalist Game Days 22 to 30

Do you have an inner hoarder or are you more of a minimalist? What are your clutter hot spots?

Staying home and remaining sane

I’ve been both a working mum and a stay at home mum and they each have their difficulties. I’m fortunate that I have a choice and I’m happy with the choices I’ve made. That’s not to say that I love every minute.

The challenge

Right now I am a stay at home mum. One of my motivations to leave work was to stop the rushing and have time to enjoy life, rather than just survive. One of my biggest challenges now is that I have all the time in the world, but often not much control over how I spend it.

The rhythm of my day is driven (if not dictated) by my little one. He is my constant companion and, at times, a fairly demanding one. This is what it is and that is how it’s going to be. I accept that, but I also acknowledge that it can be draining.

Staying sane

What I’ve learnt as a parent is that, even control freaks like me have to let go a bit. Everyone tells you that, but it really is true. Even with your best efforts you can’t make every day a good day. From my experience trying to will just leave you exhausted and probably some combination of demoralised, frustrated and grumpy – if not just plain angry.

However you can set yourself up for better days – the best possible day come what may. I’ve found two things that really help me set myself up for better days. I feel that I can recommend these things as:

  • I am not naturally inclined to do either of them, but have consciously adopted them with effort.
  • I’ve gone through phases with and without them and with is definitely better.
  • They don’t cost anything and you can do them however you want.

Both are simple, but not always easy! So what are they?

  1.  Get up before your kids

Even if it is only five minutes earlier (although I find a bit longer than that better), get up before your kids. I am a big fan of sleep and I’ve never been an early riser. However, a bit of quiet time to myself in the mornings to do whatever I want is invaluable. It lets me wake up slowly and peacefully, without a little one under my feet. I may be at the mercy of my child’s nap times and meal times and other needs and wants, but when I start the day with control of the time that I wake and get up it is always a better day.

  1. Exercise

Some kind of intentional movement just to get the body moving, heart pumping and lungs working, it doesn’t have to be much. It doesn’t have to be a big deal – just find somewhere to fit something into your day. I always thought I didn’t like exercise, but actually, once I started exercising regularly, I found I really do – mostly for the way it makes me feel after I have done it. The trick is finding something that you enjoy and is not a chore. My favourite is workout videos on YouTube – there is such a variety it’s almost impossible not to find something you like. Plus no-one can see me!

 I offer these tips in the spirit of helpfulness, as things that work for me. The last thing I want to do is add to your list of “shoulds”. If you are struggling with long days and lack of control over your time, hopefully this will provide some inspiration to help you find the things that work for you in setting yourself up for better days.

Do you sometimes struggle with long days with the kids? What helps you set yourself up for a good day?