Just wanted to note that the images accompanying this post are from our weekend discovery of a local community farm project on the campus at the Claremont Colleges. And the mud home is a student project (I believe) and my dream home. I know, a mud hut, sounds weird, huh?
I have been thinking a bit about this year and the financial world that is coming down on us. NPR reports daily on the upheaval of our economy, our system, our lives. It has made me pause on a daily basis to think and evaluate what we as a family are doing in this upcoming year to prepare, or better say, brace ourselves for the immanent changes.
Since the day I got pregnant, and I mean literally, we have been on a single income with supplements from my occasional forays into work. We did not feel a huge impact when we 'lost' my income as we had scaled way back before I stopped working. Now, we also exist in a fairly unique situation as we live with not only multiple generations, but with multiple sources of incomes. We have a safety net that many do not live with, and that helps us through harder times and insures that there is always food on the table and a roof over our heads. Tim and I both make/made fairly modest incomes, enough to allow us to live without a lot of worries, but not to live with a lot of luxuries. I am starting to really appreciate what living moderately means, especially as we try to balance and make sense of what we should do as we watch our country's fabric shift and tear quite a bit.
Many years ago I read a book that changed my life. It is titled Ishmael and is the fable of a gorilla that has sat as anthropologist to human kind, observing, theorizing and then passing it on to a student who happens to be a human. It is not a book for everyone, but for me it crystallized almost everything I have felt as I grew up, but was unable to formulate. The 'story' is of our culture, our consumer culture...and of course, it's impact on the world. Like I said, not for everyone, but a lightening bolt for me. So, it changed a lot in our lives, Tim and I have used the story as a barometer of sorts. It is very relevant today as we go forward into what could be the biggest mess we have seen in our lives.
This is not a dire post, rather I mean it as a place to set down in writing what goals I have for myself and family as we try out a leaner way of life, a life with less and with more due to taking less. A life where we find personal sustainability that extends past buying 'organic' or leaving less of a footprint by bringing home products claiming to be good for the world. And the life is starting to look like it is mostly about bringing home less overall.
So, to start, things we are already doing:
1) Farmer's market : We have been going steadily for a year for both produce and companionship. We do not just buy, we speak to the people, get to know them a bit and give our favorite one man band a few dollars while the boys dance to his guitar/harmonica and marvel at his expertise. We are re-connecting with a community that I had forgotten existed. And our dollars go back to our area, our home.
2) Less packaging : I am almost at 100% with taking only what we buy out of stores, no bags, no extra baggies, less less less.
3) Buy used : The boys rarely have 'new' clothes or toys, we use the local children's resale and receive a lot from friends. I never turn away an offer of stuff, rather I go through it, sort and choose, and then regive/donate what we cannot use. I have never felt stigmatized by this, growing up with a 8 children household taught me the value of reuse.
4) Shop less : I curtail urges to go to Target for 'just one thing' or to browse the internet too often as I find the ease of clicking through to Paypal is just too too easy. Instead, we hit the park or the trail and I marvel at all that is there already.
Things I want to do:
1) This is big for me...I want to do a SLOW month. This is the pledge to avoid buying anything that is not essential for food/work. So, milk, yes. Joann's fabric bin, no.
2) Divorce myself from Joann's : Speaking of buying. I have to be honest and say though I broke up with Target, I struck up a relationship with Joann's with a vengeance. And buying fabric for clothes for us and the boys sounds so justified. Until I consider where the fabric came from and how it was made and it then looks as bad as the $1 polos I bought for the boys at the Old Navy sale. So, Joann, I love you but I think we have to break up too. Or at least take a break.
3) Use what we have : By this I mean crafting supplies stacked, paper piled, and jars/containers/bottles reused. I think of Tim's GPs that save everything. They are a product of the tail end of the Depression and remember when glass was precious, when plastic did not rule. I marveled the other day at our yogurt container, lid and all, thinking of how to re-use it.
4) Make more : Speaking of yogurt, I have a yogurt maker, yet to be used. So, things like that, making food, growing food, finding out what is seasonal, sustainable and delicious that we can grow in our backyard. And I want to get a pair of chicks for the yard, they would provide fresh eggs and be great insect eaters. As long as Mishka does not get them.
5) Save what we do not spend : Not spend what we save by doing the above. Tricksy, that part.
6) Educate myself regarding my local homeschooling community : I am becoming more and more convinced that I am going to pursue homeschooling the boys. It came up when I first had them, then I reconnected with a very dear person who invited me t see how she home schooled her youngest. And lest you think it cripples children, a majority of her circle have gone on to college, one is at NYU and currently performing on Broadway. At 20. So, I am weighing the options, wanting to know more, and getting really excited about it. This blog has some great insights into HS. You might read her a bit for her wit too.
So, these are not terrible concrete. It is not like I wrote down numbers and figures, these are guidelines for me and mine to try to follow as we walk with our fellow Americans that are trying to see what the light looks likes at the end of this tunnel. I think it looks totally different than any of us can even imagine.
I do not think this will be in any way easy for me, I know I am more plugged into consumption than I realize. But this is a great way to learn how to unplug. Won't you join me in some small way if you can? You could do the pledge of the Slow Month (or try), reuse or buy used, find your local farm/farm store.
And if you get a chance, pick up Ishmael. You might just like it and join us.