Reduce and Make Do

6 May

I harbor a secret desire to be one of those people who chucks the shackling trappings of the 21st century and gets “back to basics.”  I long to simplify my life and reduce my carbon footprint, all while losing ten pounds, effortlessly, in the process.

I read tiny house blogs like they’re pornography (actually, in my opinion, they’re much better than pornography), and dream of downsizing from 3,000 square feet to 300.  Of course, my books alone would require more than 300 square feet, to say nothing of a husband, three children, a dog, a cat, 4 sets of dishes and 37 pairs of shoes.

Isn’t it Cute? Photo by Marc Hyman from the blog

I dream about moving to a farm, a la Barbara Kingsolver, who, with her family, traded a comfortable, suburban life for a year of living off the land, an experience she detailed in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  Unfortunately, I have neither Kingsolver’s can-do, all-in-it-together family nor her steady income from a stream of bestseller novels.  Instead, I have a husband who already loves his job (which is not farming), a daughter who plans to list “shopping” as an after-school activity on her college resume, a college-age son who has made it abundantly clear that he doesn’t really live with us any more, and another son who does live with us but who expects to be thanked every time he puts a dirty dish into the dishwasher.  The only thing any of them reliably “can-do” is lie in bed cuddled up with a glowing computer.

Sometimes I fantasize about getting back to the earth right here in Westchester.  We could plow the whole back yard under, I think, and plant a giant vegetable garden, and I could give up the car and ride my bike everywhere!  And get chickens!  And composting toilets! Then we could harness the heat from the composting toilets to power our electricity!

It’s somewhere around this point in the fantasy that I remember that I don’t own a bicycle.

But still, a girl can always dream.

So this month, I’ve decided to practice “Reduce and Make Do”

I want to reduce the time I spend shopping, the money I spend, and the amount of crap I purchase.  And I want to make do with what I have, which, frankly, is way more than enough.

When I first told to Peter that I wanted to spend the month not spending money, he launched a fusillade of questions at me: “Are you still going to buy gas for the car? Isn’t that spending money?  And we made plans to go out to dinner with my cousin in May – do we have to cancel those?  What about groceries?  What happens if you run out of shampoo?”

I had to acknowledge that I wouldn’t be able to reduce my spending and consumption to zero.  But I want to aim for zero, and see how close I can get.

So, yes, I’ll purchase gas for the car.  And, no, we won’t cancel plans with friends.  But I want to limit the shopping to once-a-week groceries and other true necessities.  Maybe, if I run out of shampoo, I’ll use my daughter’s.  Or one of the several dozen travel shampoos that seem to be breeding in the bathroom vanity drawer.

Or maybe I can make my own shampoo…out of lye and ashes from the fireplace!

A girl can always dream.


3 Responses to “Reduce and Make Do”

  1. Louis Greenzweig May 10, 2012 at 9:32 pm #

    Cathleen, It is 2012. To reduce your carbon footprint is noble but… just by having three kids you are over subscribed. Do you like hot and cold running water in your home as well a flush toilet(s) and and a kitchen for cooking. If you answered yes to any or all of these it may be very difficult to reduce your carbon footprint significantly. Using your car less will make a small dent but it is very difficult to make a major impact. Hybrid vehicles that use electricity cost more to produce and the batteries are made with toxic materials. Recycle, reuse, etc. Best of luck in your aspirations..keep on dreaming.

  2. Maggie May 14, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

    I appreciate the mention but I am not listing shopping as an after school activity. Also, my shampoo is not up for grabs

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