Every January is met with hopes and resolutions to be better, more prosperous, happier… after watching the world scramble during a pandemic (and spending a lot of time reading about previous pandemics) my “zen of living smaller” approach to this new year is just this: “Waste Less“.
I will count this new year as successful if I can just do that one thing – to waste less.
What will I waste less of?
Time – mostly the time spent worrying about things I have no control over;
Food – I will challenge myself to be more creative with what I have in the pantry;
Trash and Garbage – (if you are wondering what the difference is – in my mind trash is anything that cannot be composted) make sure that I compost what I can when I can and diligently separate recyclables from the regular trash;
Opportunity – I will take the plunge when opportunities arise after reasonable risk assessment, instead of sitting in analysis paralysis.
If I can accomplish even a little of “Waste Less” – I will count this year successful. I have a long To Do list for 2021 – things I want to write, things I want to paint, a new business I want to establish and grow (curious? go see it at http://www.shadowgirlcoffee.com ) and another round of decluttering and reorganizing plus I think I want to paint the interior of our home and I need to get this year’s garden started.
In the meantime, I vow to write more here…and to bake more bread (a comfort food in our home). Hope your 2021 is filled with what you need and some of what you want.
Did you know that you can “make” greek style yogurt by simply buying regular unflavored yogurt (usually under $5 for a huge 32 ounce container) and draining the whey from it.
I use cheese cloth and a strainer in a bowl, putting the regular unflavored yogurt in the cheese cloth in the strainer and in the bowl, and let it sit overnight in the fridge. I save the whey (the liquid) to use in baking.
The remaining yogurt is rich and thick (like the Greek Yogurt you buy in individual containers!) and ready for your jams, or toppings or fresh fruit or whatever toppings you like.
If you leave the yogurt to drain a little longer, you wind up with a sort of farmer’s cheese (like cream cheese but with a tang to it). I will do this when I want a cheesy spread for crackers of toasted bread.
You can add a variety of flavorings, like roasted garlic or chopped chives – if you like savory; or cinnamon if you like sweet.
I use the whey when I make no-knead bread or when I am making waffles or pancakes.
Save your money, put in a teeny bit of effort and still enjoy healthy yogurt (in all its forms).
If you are sheltering in place or just trying to maintain social distance, now is a good time to review your emergency plans.
What? You don’t have an emergency plan?
Whether you live on a fault line, in a blizzard prone area or flood zone, or in an area that gets hurricanes and/or tornadoes – in otherwords wherever you live – you should have an emergency plan.
Figuring out where you will go, should the order to evacuate be issued. You should identify at least two alternatives: one that you know how to get to if you have to walk; and your first choice if your transportation is usable.
Figuring out how you will get there (what if you cannot use your car? no buses?)
Figuring out what to bring. This will depend on what you (and your family and pets) can carry. At the very least you should have your identification in something that is waterproof. If you can have a “bug out” back pack ready to go, all the better – make sure you put copies of all your important documents and prescriptions in a waterproof container in the bag.
For example, I have a foldable wagon that I will use if I have to walk with my pets to evacuate. I have a carrier for the cat, and the dog has a back pack that he will wear to carry some stuff too. I’ll have my backpack and then additional water and food in the wagon with the cat in her carrier.
If we need to evacuate and can use the car, all of that except the cat and dog, will go in the trunk. Dog in the back seat, cat up front with me. Hubby in his car filled with his stuff and our extra food/water. We know where we will meet up and caravan out to our safe spot.
When figuring out what to bring with you, make sure you roll any of your clothes into a plastic sealable bag in your backpack – you’ll use those plastic bags for a variety of things should you have to go to a shelter. The added benefit is that if it is raining, you will have dry clothes at the end of the trip. 🙂
Also now is a good time to review your other emergency plans. If you have a family, have a few fire drills… so everyone remembers what to do. And has some practice.
Double check the smoke alarms and the carbon dioxide alarm. Take this time to also unplug unused appliances and check the water taps for leaks.
One of the greatest challenges we have as a planet, is to divest ourselves of our dependence on oil. And it is naive to think that we can simply stop drilling and transfer our energy needs to solar and wind, and other alternative sources of energy – because oil is much, much more than an energy source.
Oil and its byproducts are used in so many other ways that it can boggle the mind! In an article from Earth Science Week, meant to be used as a classroom study guide we see this alarming statistic:
“…an April 2007 nationwide online survey revealed that 72 percent of the American public does not know that conventional plastic is made from petroleum products, primarily oil.”
A while ago I wrote a scifi/speculative fiction story “Not With A Bang But With A Whimper”. The premise? What if, in trying to rid the world of plastics, someone weaponized plastic eating bacteria and it got lose?
There is, in fact, research being done on bacteria that will eat plastic as a means to reduce the plastic pollution that is ubiquitous now. You can read about this in these articles:
But what can we do to reduce plastics and our dependence on oil, over and above its use as fuel?
Well that is where we come to the tangled web. Because petroleum (oil) is used currently in over 6000 products, many of which you probably wouldn’t ever guess. We all know our homes are rife with plastics – combs, glasses, upholstery, the jar of petroleum jelly that sits in most medicine cabinets, utensils, clothing and more.
But did you realize that it is also in: aspirin, shampoo, deodorant, glue, ink, dyes, candles, crayons, soft contact lenses, detergents, antiseptics, rubbing alcohol, perfumes and anesthetics?
There is a more comprehensive list of the “everyday” items at WHGBETC.com , though by no means a complete list. Just take a moment to think about how many of these items are in your homes, vehicles, and workplaces.
Now think of what you would have to do or find to replace these items with something that is not made of or with petroleum products. Not so easy, is it?
We cannot simply quit buying plastic bottles of water, and think we’ve done our part in reducing the amount of plastic in the world.
The bottom line is that education, awareness, and actively looking for alternatives to the plastics we use, will bring us farther along to the goal of less dependence on oil. And yes, it will cost us more in the short term, but in the larger picture we will be leaving less of a mess for our children and their children. That is an investment I am willing to make.
On November 11th, 2019, Rob Greenfield will have successfully lived an entire year on foods he either grew himself or foraged himself. 100 % of what went into his mouth had to have been grown by him or personally harvested/foraged by him. No gifts of food, no bin diving, and no food purchases of any kind except seeds or seedlings.
Think about that a moment.
That includes small things we take for granted like salt, pepper, and oil. For all the details on his self-imposed definitions of foraging and growing his own foods read his Food Freedom Rules.
He took a year to prepare for this venture, including moving to Orlando, Florida where he could grow food year round, living in a tiny home parked in a friend’s yard. And setting up three hives of rescued bees (for more information on where he got the rescued bees click on this link to see a video about Dennis, the Bee Guy).
He will, of course, have a book out next year sharing the details of his experiences over the year of being completely responsible for his food production.
“When I went into this project, there was no failing,” says Greenfield. “I wanted to see if it was possible to step away from our globalized, industrialized food system today, to step away from restaurants and grocery stores. I’ve never met anyone who has done it in a modern society, so I didn’t know if it was possible because we are so far removed from our most basic resources.”
Mr. Greenfield is no stranger to sustainability experiments. As the self-proclaimed “adventurer, environmental activist, humanitarian, and dude making a difference (…) dedicated to leading the way to a more sustainable and just world.” Some of you reading this may remember him from “The Food Waste Fiasco” campaign – or his TED talk about that.
Personally, I have been interested in this topic of self-sufficiency with regards to food for a long time and for a number of reasons.
Some were purely selfish, I live in an earthquake prone area (I lived in Northern California during the Loma Prieta quake in 1989) and I go hiking a lot (which means I could potentially get lost one of these days) so I pay attention to plants that grow wild and are edible in my area, just in case.
Some of my reasons are more global – sustainable practices benefit the world at large, the climate, and help to manage limited resources. In many places in the world, this approach to living is the only approach there is; to live on what you yourself have grown or foraged.
And, we, in the United States have grown very far removed from the source of all of the products we consume, whether they are edibles or other product types. I think this distance from the source of our foods is a part of the reason that there has been such an interest in Prepping; Homesteading and Off Grid living. We have a subculture of self-sufficiency.
And so, I challenge you to a short exercise, consider it a thought experiment. I won’t make this an apocalyptic scenario, just a series of questions.
If you had to find a source of water within walking distance of where you live (even if it might require purification), could you?
If you had to forage for food (plants, fruits, berries, leaves), do you know what is edible in your neighborhood and when it is in season?
If you had to find a source of naturally occurring salt or a source of salt that you could personally process in order to use, could you?
In consideration of our easy access to these things normally, imagine what would happen if suddenly we could not turn on the faucet and have clean water; go to the grocery store and purchase fruits and vegetables or buy a container of salt.
Not everyone lives with access to a yard, but you may have access to a community garden (or you might organize one). You might have a balcony or a roof top where you can grow some of your own foods. You probably have a Farmer’s Market, where you can purchase foods grown locally.
We don’t need to make as drastic a change as Rob Greenfield, but we can make small changes to our consumption. And maybe if enough of us make small changes, it will amount to a big change in our collective use of resources.
For more information on foraging edible plants in North America check out these books:
Independent journalist Matt Charnock, on Medium’s The Bold Italic partnered with ABC-7 to do this video.
I’m sharing it here, because I am hopeful that there will be more legal tiny home communities opening up in California and elsewhere. The more we share this information, the more people will be asking their local zoning folks to accommodate tiny homes!
Living smaller is a choice. And being on a fixed income, such as for older people on Social Security with little retirement/savings – it is a necessity.
Many older people are now considering the option of having roommates or homesharing. Our culture has, for decades, encouraged individuals to be independent until starting their own families…so this is a difficult shift for many people and may feel like “going backward”. Especially as they have become used to their solitude, privacy, and routines.
Yet the financial reality is, that if you are in a big home with many bedrooms, it is a burden to care for and pay for. Even if you are lucky enough to have paid off your mortgage – utilities and taxes continue to climb, while your income is fixed.
And if you do not own property, rents continue to rise, as well as healthcare costs. While your income stays the same.
It is a “no-brainer” to look for roommates in your age group when finances are fixed. And there are some applications out there such as Silver Nest at www.silvernest.com and Senior Home Shares at www.seniorhomeshares.com. But they are not yet well-known.
And of course, sharing a place is not for everyone – there are many considerations – such as:
Do you have pets?
Does the home-owner or apartment renter have pets?
What happens when you want to have visitors?
What about family?
What happens if there is a medical emergency?
What happens if the person you are renting from – dies?
What happens in the event of a natural catastrophe (earthquake, fire, etc)?
What happens if there is a burglary?
Plus is it truly a “roommate” arrangement with shared responsibilities or are you simply renting a room?
While you answer those questions for yourself, there are upsides to shared living for seniors: Companionship and Safety.
You may not think you need to have someone to say “good morning” to, but it is good for your health to interact amiably with another human being; and if you have a roommate, and you have a medical emergency – there is someone there who can call for help. And surprisingly for some, having a roommate, ensures a few more years of independence.
So if you are on a fixed income, and thinking of living smaller to help make your dollars stretch a little further, consider a roommate.
Once every couple of years I do an article on Freecycle.org (established in 2003)- like this one I did on Narrative.org : https://www.narrative.org/post/the-freecycle-network-tm – and while I know that not everyone who tries to use this service has had a stellar experience, those bad experiences are the result of other users, not the service itself.
Their mission: “Freecycle aims to keep items out of landfills by providing an internet listings service to help people give unwanted items to someone else for free in their own community. Keeping stuff out of landfills helps build a sustainable future, is good for the environment and builds local and world communities.”
Since researching it again for my Narrative article, I noticed that the City I recently moved to had a post saying they were looking for moderators. I am currently a moderator-in-training for the Moreno Valley group. If you browse the groups available, you will find that there are groups all over the United States and all over the world from Albania to Zimbabwe.
When you join one (or more) of the groups, the Moderator will send you a welcome email with all the rules and how-to’s. Very simple, and easy to use – if you have something you no longer need that is clean and safe – you can post it as an “Offer” if you need something – you can post it as a “Wanted”.
The rules specify the no-nos and they make perfect sense for safety and liability reasons. And the Moderators job is to make sure that those simple rules are adhered to, and to help publicize the service.
I support anything that keeps usable items out of the trash – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – and this is one of the ways we can all do that, while helping others.
A quick suggestion to you, gentle reader: If you know of a non-profit that looks for donations of goods (for example: old towels for animal rescues) – share Freecycle.org with them. It is one more way for them to get their message out and ask for the items they need.
If you follow my blog, you are probably wondering about the nep-5 wallet and the links for cryptocurrency, and for those who have not already invested in Bitcoins, or looked into cryptocurrencies – I believe it will be a boon to you in your search for making a living while living your life.
Many people who are pursuing downsizing, do so because they are searching for ways to make the most of the salaries they are receiving, while keeping debt at bay. Some people pursue tiny living, in order to speed up paying off debts in the hopes of “getting out from under” the massive debts that seem to pervade our society. And once someone has “gone smaller” they seek ways to provide alternate incomes in case they are “downsized” at work, or when seeking to work less and live more.
Cryptocurrency has been around for awhile. Like many technologies, early adopters were more technically educated and could get their heads around shifting and expanding their definition of money.
After all, money is a symbol that we use to barter for goods and services. The days when that money had actual gold and/or silver to back up the stated value of the currency have passed away. (If you don’t believe me look at old money versus newly printed money. Example: a 1935 E series One Dollar Bill “silver certificate” is currently being sold for $299 dollars on Etsy.com).
Once the concept of cryptocurrency became well understood by the technologists of the world, many other cryptocurrencies were being created, and today there are as many (or more) cryptocurrencies out there as there are paper currencies.
What are some of the advantages of cryptocurrencies?
They are faster to send and receive, and have lower (and sometimes no) extra fees to handle. So things like “remittances” being sent from one country to family in another country, can more easily be done with smaller amounts of money.
Developers who create games, can establish an economy that is based on pennies (or fractional amounts of whatever currency) and still make money, because there are not those heavy bank fees to contend with.
“Tipping” and “Donating” can happen worldwide, because the currency is easy to transport in the internet and easy to convert.
Some disadvantages are:
You need to establish a wallet or wallets, virtually, to receive and send from; and the “key” to these is often a long string of characters, making it hard to remember and to secure. For example, if you keep your wallet on your computer and your computer crashes – boom, no money. You need to keep a copy of the wallet on a usb stick (also known as a thumb drive, or jump drive), in case – which means remembering to back things up regularly.
Also, not all wallets work for all currencies, so you may wind up with a few wallets.
The process of buying, transferring, and spending cryptocurrency; while it is “simple” is not EASY, and you must truly pay attention to the details, and be focused on what you are doing. Because if you transfer currency to a wallet that is not compatible, you will (usually) lose that currency. It is like putting your money in your pocket but your pants don’t actually have a pocket, so the money falls to the ground wherever you happen to be…
The fact is there are growing numbers of ways to make cryptocurrency on the internet, from connecting your blog to a browser that allows “tipping” in the form a the BAT cryptocurrency (Brave which also allows you to keep those intrusive popups and video autoplays that eat up your bandwidth) to sites that allow you to earn cryptocurrency with your original content (Narrative, Publish0x, Steemit) and the variety of mining sites (CryptoTab – a chrome compatible browser that mines Bitcoins while you browse) and faucets (sites that let you “collect” bitcoins during time intervals in the hopes that you will spend time playing games or looking at their advertisements). I am certain, as people become more comfortable with cryptocurrencies, we will see even more ingenious ways to make money with them.
And of course, there is the old fashioned approach, as well – which is investing in cryptocurrencies. A site like Coinbase, allows you to invest and also keep your currency in the coinbase wallets. It doesn’t handle all currencies, but it does have some of the major players – plus while it lasts – they have instructional videos to teach about the various currencies, and once you have registered an account with them, you can go through the videos and earn some of the currency they are teaching you about.
If you are already making a living, or at least a side hustle that pays in cryptocurrency – please share you experiences!
If you have questions, ask them, and I’ll try to get you the answer.
Cryptocurrency is the next evolution in “money” – here’s hoping you have good experiences with it.