Trashy trash

I’ve finally come to terms with how an international change in recycling policy is affecting the way materials are being handled locally — or not being handled, which is closer to the truth.

You can read my posts about this HERE and HERE if you need a more thorough recap, but the Reader’s Digest condensed version is simply that all recycling in our county is going straight to the landfill because we don’t have a Plan B when it comes to transforming our recyclables into usable products. Our Plan A has always been to toss everything in one bin, ship that sucker to Portland and let their material recycling facilities sort it out for us, then send it on to China.

China is no longer accepting recyclables with more than .5 contamination rates, and our facilities can’t get down to that level (because people are idiots, basically, myself included). Moreover, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality hasn’t quite figured out what to do about it all yet. Ergo, all recyclables in our county are trashed, although we’re supposed to keep recycling as usual for now.

(Partly because they don’t want us to get out of the habit, but mostly because if we start tossing things in the garbage, trash rates are going to go up and people are going to rebel.)

Anyway, all of that is just to say that I’ve decided that, until “they” figure out what our next step is, I have to take the bull by the horns and do what I can to limit our family’s trash output. The good news is that we have lots of great habits in place because of my zero waste Simple Year. The bad news is that I have let some items back into our lives with the idea that they come in recyclable packages, so while not great, it’s not terrible, either.

Well, now it IS terrible. Hello, Johanna’s favorite yogurt!

During my weekly grocery trip on Saturday, I did my best to reduce the amount of trash filling my cart — that’s how I look at the food I purchase now, since most of its packaging IS trash. This means there’s a new hierarchy of purchases. I did my usual spin around the produce aisle, got my shampoo, conditioner and dish soap in bulk (not zero waste for the store, but trash-free for me in my own containers), as well as bulk items like dried cranberries and maple syrup (I know, STUPID LUCKY).

Because I can sort out cardboard and tin cans to take directly to our transfer station — those things will be recycled as long as they are clean and prepped properly, i.e. flattened and label free — I figure those are “bye” items on the ol’ grocery list. I didn’t have much of that this time, though, as fate would have it. What did make it into my cart that I hate, but can’t figure out a way around: I just tested positive for a wheat/gluten allergy (and corn, peanuts, cane and maple sugar, yeast, nightshades — damn the luck, tomatoes are my life! — and lactose, but not dairy, because my jerk of a stomach likes to be ironic). I purchased a package of spelt tortillas and a loaf of gluten-free bread (which is … well, gross, but not as gross as I expected).*

I have to live on something besides coffee and chocolate (apparently my gut is okay with those, I must be getting rewarded for good behavior), so these are now my own bye items (along with Eric’s cereal and bread, and Johanna’s potato chips).

I came to the conclusion long ago that zero waste isn’t possible, but minimal waste is, and now thanks to policies beyond my control, I have greater motivation to put what I know into practice. And I still think that individual responsibility is the way to go, even when policies get sorted out. That’s the goal, I suppose: To do what we can in the confines of our own situations.

*P.S., in case anyone is worried: These foods affect my stomach to varying degrees ranging from twingey to full-on death (or it just feels like I’m dying). This is in addition to my longstanding artificial preservatives/colors/flavors allergy. But I will not stop breathing. So that’s a plus.



The weather is gorgeous today (um, Monday, when I wrote this), and Abby is home for Spring Break, and Johanna is super spunky, and Eric is giggling, and the cats are big balls of purr. So basically everything is perfect in Trishaville. At least for this moment.

Things were not so perfect last week. My jerk of a stomach decided to be extra jerky, and I ended up taking Friday off from work. That was not an easy choice to make. We are a small staff, so anyone not available — let alone on a deadline day — is a true hardship. But after powering through on Thursday, I knew I needed time to just get my act together.

What helped me decide was this quote from my Nourished Planner:

“We find ourselves saying yes to an unending list of obligations intended to make other people’s lives easier rather than saying no to make time for achieving our own goals and finding time for ourselves.”

It was a good lesson to say yes to myself and see that the world did not end. I was able to get my act together, and this week will be better because of it. Good job, me!

Hell yeah!, if you will.


Lately I’ve been scheduling fun stuff onto my to-do list instead of just chores. Because chores are BORING. And also because when you’re looking at your planner and all you see is a never-ending compilation of stuff you don’t find any joy in doing, it’s kind of deflating. THIS is all I get to look forward to? Laundry and dinner and cleaning my kitchen?

You have got to be kidding me.

I’ve decided that one or two chores a night when I get home from work is plenty, and the rest of my time is better spent doing whatever the heck I want. Because at the end of the day, what do I care about more: Having a spotless kitchen, or hanging out with my family? No dust on my hardwood floor, or cuddling up in a quilt and reading? Worrying about the clutter on my computer desk, or writing?

Some decisions make themselves.

Also, why am I only thinking of this now? Am I really that dense? (Apparently.)

This week, I’m going to try a new coffee shop, read Blood by Blood (I read Wolf by Wolf last week and loved it, thanks Abby for the recommendation), and hang out with my girls as much as possible.

The rest will sort itself out. Um, probably.


P.S. Links are just so you know what I’m talking about. Don’t buy anything!

Marching forth

I’ve had some unintentional minimalist projects going on recently — unintentional just because I didn’t realize they were minimalist projects until I was knee-deep — and, tangent, I’ve also been trying to figure out why I’m so drawn to projects in the first place. I think maybe it’s part fear of total quiet, part wanting to be a better person, and part boredom. My life isn’t that exciting, ergo, I try to make it more exciting, that kind of thing. Better projects than drama, I guess.

Tech fast

My goal last week of going tech light went fine — but not perfectly. I had an IBS attack Tuesday night, and that’s an anxiety trigger. I brought my iPod to work Wednesday with the thing on airplane mode just so I had the option of listening to music if I needed the distraction. (Another tangent: I haven’t had an IBS attack forever, so that, at least, is a positive.) By Thursday I was feeling mostly better, but I decided that what I really wanted to do was be able to Snapchat Abby at will, and I did. What I took away from all of this is that airplane mode is a great way to keep from being distracted by notification beeps — as is leaving it in my bag instead of placing it my desk.

This week, I plan to continue with the airplane mode and set specific social media times for reading Thoughts of Dog on Twitter and checking to see what’s new over on Instagram. This way I can control the distractions and not the other way around.

Decluttering round IV

It’s been a few years since I did my last go-through of the house (or, specifically, my stuff  — it’s my fight, everyone else can decide what’s theirs), and this month I’ve started making my way around the house again. I am giving myself until June to get this done — that’s when the annual church rummage sale happens. And I need a fixed deadline to stay motivated.

I’m also taking my own advice and being ruthless when it comes to deciding what can be passed along and what is trash. I don’t like throwing things away. But there is a fine line between what is worth something and what is not, and I feel like taking responsibility for my own garbage is key to this whole process. Plus donating trash to a church rummage sale strikes me as a jerk move.

I don’t expect we’ll have as much to donate as in years’ past — minimalism in action! — but it’s always surprising how much stuff we do have to donate. Part of that is having kids, I suppose, and part of that is that humans are consumers by nature.

Ah, well.

Recycling update

This week I plan to write a recycling update for the newspaper, and to that end I got in touch with my garbage contact again (poor guy, I’m sure he’s sick of me). To recap: Everything in our county is being landfilled if it’s comingled recycling, but I wanted to know if there was anything that people could separate out themselves (ahem) and bring directly to the transfer station in order to keep it out of the landfill. And there is! But only corrugated cardboard and tin cans. Hey, better than nothing. Eric and I now have a designated bin in our recycling closet for those two items. Everything else we’re recycling as usual — because that’s the advice of the county.

Eric said last night that he heard that one of the Portland counties is no longer accepting any recyclables. I haven’t had time to find that story yet, but I’m not really surprised. It’s a bleak outlook here in Oregon as far as all this goes.

Social calendar

It’s funny how, when you send thoughts out into the universe, the universe responds. One of my goals for the year was to connect more with friends, and it seems like since I went on my coffee date a couple of Thursdays ago, all I’ve been is social.

I’m seeing people I know in coffee shops (I mean, I spend a lot of time in coffee shops, dates or not). I went to a school board meeting because I was interested in the topic (school safety measures). I’m selling concessions for fundraisers. I’m going to basketball games.

It’s actually been fun, even if it’s also been exhausting. But I’m finding the more social I am, the better focused I become when get home — that I am motivated to carve out time for myself and my family. I’m not getting more done because who wants to clean the kitchen when you roll in at 9 p.m.? But there is time to cuddle Jo on the couch, text Abby and chat with Eric, and write in my journal.

P.S. I wrote this March 4 — thus the header. (Oh, words. So hilarious.) I attempted a post last Friday, but when I sat down and I found myself quoting Beck lyrics, I decided to do us all a favor and just … not. Which also is minimalist, I suppose. (It’s all in the spin.)

Tech light

“…When I’m out, I want to be out in the world. If you’re looking at your phone, you’re not in the world, so you don’t get either … I just look around at this — and I’m an anthropologist, and I’m interested in human behavior — and I look at the behavior, like literally, the physical behavior with people with smartphones and … it looks anti-social and unhappy and anxious, and I don’t want to look like that, and I don’t want to feel like how I think those people feel.” — Sebastian Junger

I came across this quote over the weekend, during a lazy Saturday morning where I had nothing better to do than click links and read blog posts and see what was out there in the wide world of the internet.

And here’s this article about this guy (link below) who doesn’t have a smartphone and who has never wanted one. He just wants to live his life and be present in the moment.


Don’t be jealous.

This instantly struck me because, while it’s true I have the dumbest dumb phone in the universe, I do have an iPad, an iPod, and an iPod Mini (for office use), and I am a junkie on those things — especially the iPod:

If I’m waiting for my coffee at the coffee shop, I’ll pull out my iPod and scroll around.

If I am sitting down at home, my first instinct is to grab the iPad and see what’s up.

If I’m at work, I leave my iPod on my desk so I can see if Abby has sent me a Snapchat or to check home emails … or pull out the iPad Mini, which just happens to have a lot of my personal accounts loaded up.

There’s no “mindful consumerism” with these devices. I want to check them, so I do. Whenever the urge strikes. Which is more often than I care to admit.

I’ve never once thought how this makes me look — never mind how it makes me feel. I’ve written “learn to sit without a device” on my weekly to-do lists forever, but never actually succeed in even making a foothold with that. I’ve trimmed my friends’ list and the pages I follow, but that has done nothing to address the issue of how much time I spend on my devices.

Reading the above, I couldn’t help but ponder my addiction to the screen. How does it make me feel? (Guilty.) How does it look? (Definitely antisocial. And maybe slightly pathetic).

Um …

I don’t know where this leaves me, internet friends. No, that’s not true, I know exactly where it leaves me: Between knowing I can change my behaviors with tech and the stark fact that I do not want to. If I did, I’d have already done it. It’s not like I’ve never read an article before about this particular topic.

Damn it. Enlightenment is highly overrated.

Okay, fine, I’m going to try something different this week: To leave my iPod at home, since that’s the device I struggle with the most. (Oh, bloody hell, I can’t believe I actually said that.) I’m sort of afraid it will make me more anxious not to have that as a self-soothing device (let’s call a spade a spade), especially when I’m out in the world and at a loose end, waiting for something.


Hey, anyone else struggle with this, or have you actually managed to break your screen addiction? TELL ME HOW YOU DID IT. Please.

P.S. Sebastian Junger is a journalist, author and filmmaker (according to Wikipedia; I’m not going to pretend I’d heard of the guy before, sorry Sebastian, that’s on me, I don’t get out much), and if you want to read the story behind that quote — or the blog post behind it, I guess — click HERE.

Lofty goals part II

February isn’t over yet, so technically I still have time to get through my February goals, but eh, this is what I want to write about today, so write about it I will. Rule Number One, you guys: Just let the words do what they want. They will anyway.


The boys aren’t QUITE as excited about the Olympics as Eric and I are.

What I thought would be the easiest to accomplish, but has actually been the hardest, has been to never be without a book. Well, the Olympics are on, and who knew, but I am a winter sports expert! Even for sports I only watch every four years! So that’s been eating up my evenings, all this critiquing and clapping. And crossing my fingers for the kids doing the super crazy events like freestyle skiing. Good heavens.

I have, however, finished one novel and am now reading “Dreams from My Father” in real book form (I’m a Kindle fanatic, but Abby got it from Powells this summer and it’s been on my list, so). I’m maybe two-thirds of the way through and am finding it an eyeopening read.

The pantry/freezer clean out is moving along, although slowly. I decided that instead of trying to tackle our standing freezer, which is a nightmare, I would sort out the fridge freezer, which is smaller (and just as packed). That has worked out really well. We’re using up odds and ends, and because that space is more organized now, I’ve been able to move a few items in from the big freezer — so the big freezer is becoming less crowded by default.


I scrubbed this mother OUT.

One sad, sad tale to share: I have a ton of fresh lemon juice in the freezer, so I decided to make Lemon Custard Cakes, which are truly lovely. But when I went to open my container of lemon juice, I realized it was actually lime. Well, what could happen, right? Disaster, that’s what. We ended up tossing them because … they were gross. I was so sad that I didn’t just stick that lime juice back in the freezer and grab lemon and make the recipe the right way. Ah, well.

Other items on my list: I was going to establish an evening routine, but I inadvertently started a morning routine instead. Eric always gets up first and showers, and then I hop in while he eats breakfast, enjoying those extra 15 minutes of sleep. But this month, I’ve been getting up with him and pulling out the yoga mat. Even 10 minutes on that thing helps my dumb long limbs feel so much better, and it sets a nice tone for the day. I’ve also been consistently taking walking breaks at work — we live in a hilly town, and I was noticing the other day that while I was out of breath, I wasn’t that out of breath, so I think progress is being made.

Oh, and for whatever reason, the cats are obsessed with my mat. Ever heard of goat yoga? I’ve got cat yoga. Bean is the worst — he has absolutely no concept of personal space. Nor does he seem to worry that his life is at risk because I’m not very graceful.


Wednesday’s Mount Hood view. I know, I’m stupidly lucky.

My proudest achievement? I actually asked a girlfriend for coffee — we met up yesterday afternoon (have to take furlough, might as well do something with that time). And I’ve got a dinner date planned with another girlfriend for Monday. I get credit for the coffee date because that was all me, but my friend led the charge on the dinner date. This is more social activity in the span of four days than I’ve had all month.

What was I saying about pacing myself again? 😉

The only other thing I feel compelled to report is that we’ve had the mildest winter ever this year, but a snowstorm hit Tuesday night and it’s lingering. School two hours late, Johanna’s basketball games canceled, but everything else is business as usual. It’s much easier to take, incidentally, when you haven’t been snowed in for three months, like we were last year. It’s even kind of pretty.

P.S. Links are just to show you what I’m talking about. DON’T BUY ANYTHING!

Recycling update with a side of depression

I wrote at the end of September about how a new Chinese recycling policy, effective Jan. 1, was already affecting recycling in the United States. We’re now seven weeks into the actual changeover, and I’ve been wondering: Is it as bad as everyone thought it would be all those months ago?

The short answer: Yes.

China is refusing shipments of recycling that contain a small level of contaminants — less than 1 percent — and no MRF (material recovery facility) can sort co-mingled recyclables to that level, no matter how slowly machines are run. Most of Oregon’s recycling is co-mingled, meaning you toss everything into one bin and let the MRFs sort the glass from the plastic, the tin from the cardboard, etc.

Anyway, long story short, all recyclables in our county are now being landfilled. I asked my source if people should just start tossing everything in the trash to save the department the hassle, and he said definitely not, because people are used to recycling, which means they’re used to lower trash rates, and more trash equals higher bills. And he doesn’t want to get blamed for something that’s not his fault.

Well, I can’t blame him for that.

But he didn’t really have an update for me because no policy changes have yet been put into place. It’s taking a long time to come up with a Plan B. Mostly because our state’s DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) is still trying to sort out what to do.

One problem: Do you go to a reduced recycling program, a la the 1980s (everything sorted and sorted again; glass, tin, cardboard, paper and plastic containers like milk jugs and shampoo bottles — the stuff with necks smaller than bodies — only)? What about the recyclers who take, say, sorted plastic — do you put them out of business? What about the MRFs already running?

Another problem: People are used to recycling everything here. Do you let them recycle as normal, landfill it all and hope the policies eventually change? Do you try to train them to sort on their end and take this stuff to various outposts that accept the various pieces? Will people even do that?

For the record, I don’t blame China for instituting a stricter recycling policy. I mean, this is stuff the U.S. itself won’t take, how can we blame them for not wanting it either? I do wonder why we were sold the idea that co-mingling is the way to go as far as recycling is concerned. Are we that lazy? Were they trying to bump numbers and wanted to make it easier? No idea. And that’s the depressing end to this post — no one has figured that out yet, or what steps we should take to solve this crisis. (Yeah, I really do think it’s a crisis.)

My conclusion now is the same conclusion I came to in September: That it’s really up to us as individuals to take responsibility for our waste, and avoid what we can. I don’t know what else I can offer until our county comes up with its own policy changes.

Anything to report from your own communities? New policies? Limited collection? Continuing on as usual? I’m curious.

Decluttering 101: Further reading

I had plenty of issues when I first started decluttering my house and going down the road to minimalism. Here are some of my favorite posts from that time period. It’s actually good for me to go through them and see how far I’ve really come. Sometimes I forget.

HERE is my first post on the subject.

Learning a few lessons about my tendencies to hold onto stuff HERE.

A chance meeting with an elderly woman gave me a new perspective HERE.

Kid struggles HERE!

Coming to terms with the minimalist label HERE.

When selling stuff meant a fun family evening HERE.

When my minimalistic tendencies caused a riot HERE. P.S. Everyone is on board now.

Frustrating frustrations HERE.

And feeling okay about my minimalist title at the office HERE.

P.S. Looking at photos of my tiny children make me very nostalgic. I think starting minimalism when they were so young was helpful — it took a bit of work, but they do not associate things with happiness and are ruthless at culling their own belongings; they don’t have the emotional attachments to work through like I did. So that’s a plus.