When good reusables go bad

Here’s a problem I didn’t see coming: Some of the items I bought to replace disposables are beginning to wear out.

Uh, so now what?

My biggest concern: My reusable menstrual pads. I’ve got a fairly minimal set (six liners, six regular, three heavy) and they have been in constant rotation since I made the switch over two years ago. Some of the fabric is beginning to show holes, but the real issue is the snap closures on the “wings” that are starting to literally tear off.

Not gonna post photos to show what I’m talking about. We’re close, you guys, but we’re not THAT close. Here’s a photo of our precious Beanie instead:

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He’s a sweet little guy.

My sewing skills are only so-so (sew-sew? HA HA HA. Sorry, I need more coffee), but I think I could fix the tears on the pads, either by running another seam around the whole ordeal or cutting a new top piece to cover. But I have no idea how to fix a snap. The material is tearing away from the snap itself, so adding a patch isn’t going to help.

Anyway, I’m just pondering my options at this point. I guess the easiest thing to do would be to order individual pads in the sizes of the ones that are showing the most wear. I just don’t know if I want to do that. I had it in my mind that when I bought these pads, they would be what I used until the end of my cycle (I don’t know, I planned on hitting menopause early, I guess), and it takes me a ridiculously long time to retrench when things don’t go as planned.

Another item that’s starting to show signs of giving up: The pump on one of my foaming soap dispensers. I bought three of these plastic things years and years ago — before I was an aspiring zero waster, but maybe not long after I found minimalism, so we’ll say in the 3-5 year range — and again, I thought this would be a relationship to last forever. I’ve got one in the girls’ bathroom, one in ours, and one in the kitchen, and I love how they make my bulk castile last.

I CAN show a photo of this part. See how the one pump makes a watery mess while the other makes a nice foam ball?

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Probably the most thrilling photo I’ve posted to date.

This isn’t really much of an issue at this point because watery soap, who cares?, but I’m wondering if this is a precursor to this thing eventually breaking completely. Soap pumps can’t be recycled, so while the container can, replacing it will mean buying a new one. I mean, $3 or whatever, not a problem, but again the thing is that I wanted this to be the last soap dispenser I purchased and that’s not happening.

Anyone else struggling with good reusables gone bad? What’s your solution? Do we just toss and feel good that we’re only adding one item to the landfill instead of a thousand over the lifespan of that product? Or do we try to keep it creeping along?

P.S. Pearl is feeling left out, so here’s a photo of that gorgeous girl too:

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Pearly has a new favorite water dish.

Huh, who’d have thought my week wouldn’t have gone as planned?

So on Tuesday I was all, I’m totally taking this week off! And then I promptly went to a farm stand and bought raspberries and pickling cucumbers. And cherries are ripe, and our orchardist neighbors have been letting us pick. And then Abby brought home a kitten.

Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

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How do you say no to raspberries?

The thing about canning and freezing and whatnot is that when the produce is ripe, you kind of have to go for it. It’s true that I didn’t have to visit that farm stand — that was poor planning on my part — but I was excited to find both raspberries and cukes because A) Raspberry jam is my favorite and 2) I didn’t make pickles last year and Eric has still not forgiven me for that. ūüėČ

So I made a double batch of raspberry jam, and had plans to tackle the pickles next. Only I got sidetracked (I know, shocking!) by cherries. I dried a batch to see how that worked — I make a homemade granola bar every week and I thought that might be a fun addition — and then I canned six pints of whole cherries for my sweet little grandma, who’s 93 and totally into that kind of thing (and who hasn’t forgiven me for not making pickles last year, either). P.S. I called Grammie to tell her about the cherries, and she was so excited. “But don’t work too hard,” she cautioned. Oh, Grammie. It’s like we’ve never met.

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Cherries!

Cherry jam was also on my list — that’s the cornerstone of my holiday gift giving (because no one makes cherry jam, so it’s weird enough to be considered exotic or, at the very least, sort of special).

Um, but then …

I missed a series of texts and then a phone call from Abby earlier this week, and when we finally caught up, she started telling me about how this kitten was found in the parking lot at work and he almost got run over and they needed to find him a home and his name is Bean and he’s a ginger cat and he’s her son. For obvious reasons, she called me, not her father. Duh.

So I’m like, well, if he’s your son, I guess we need to bring him home, and she’s like, oh good, because she’d already sent the kitten home with her boyfriend to catsit until she got off of work. That is faith.

And you guys … Bean is amazing. For one thing, I don’t have to bottle feed this one because he’s somewhere in the 6-8 week category. For another, he’s got the sweetest little face. He’s a little skittish, understandably (parking lot! Scary cars!), but he gets better every day. Today he was jumping up on the couch so he could rub noses with both of the girls. Everyone loves him, except maybe Pearl. Eric wasn’t so sure about this plan either at first, but he was outnumbered.

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I love this little guy.

Anyway, though, typical Abby: Johanna was going to pick out a kitten and name it herself  once Abby left for college, but then Abby takes care of all that for her ahead of time.

Oh, and no, I have no idea why Abby thought “Bean” was a good name. We keep slipping and calling him Bear. Who we’d call Skilly. I don’t know, we’ve had a lot of cats lately. The fact that this one is also a boy makes me nervous — we haven’t had good luck with boys — but …¬†Well, here we go again is what I’m saying.

I guess what I’m also saying is that, while I didn’t have a lot of chances to sit on the deck and read this week, as was my plan, I did have plenty of time to cuddle with a purring machine. I’ve missed that.

Oh, and pickles MUST BE MADE today. Tonight. That’s Eric’s and my big date. We really know how to party.

P.P.S. My birthday was the best day ever. Iced coffee, they sang to me at work (had lettuce in my teeth from lunch, whatever), had a relaxing dinner with Eric and the girls, and the fam made me some lovely cards with some lovely words. I was going to buy a new book for my Kindle to top it all off, but I couldn’t decide what to get. Anyone read¬†Carve the Mark? I’m leaning towards it but haven’t yet committed.

Maybe I’ll get book time next week?

Happy birthday to me plus some updates or whatever

My birthday is tomorrow — I’ll be 45, you guys, which just astounds me (it wasn’t so long ago 25 seemed old) — and when I sketched out my loose plan for this week, I decided that what I really wanted was to enjoy my last days of 44 and my first days of 45, and not worry about my to-do list so much.¬†So basically rock it old school and have a birthday week is what I’m saying.

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Throw back to Abby’s 12th birthday, pre-minimalism from the looks of my kitchen.

I’ve got some awesome stuff planned: Reflexology on Monday, acupuncture on Friday, a girls’ night on Tuesday, and my little family party Wednesday. (It’s just occurred to me Thursday has been left out of the mix. Maybe coffee and reading on the deck after dinner?)

I’ve also got some NOT awesome stuff planned because I’m an adult and for some reason I’m in charge of things like laundry, plus I have a job where your mistakes are very public. (Wrote an article about a business closing, thought they sold, they’re just leasing, oops, there’s a phone call I need to make. Thank heavens everyone commenting on the story online is so forgiving! ūüėČ )

You know what’s fantastic about the 40s, incidentally? What you want becomes crystal clear, and you have the experiences and lessons behind you to make things happen. Or not, if you so choose. You’re through with the “searching” and the “finding” and you’re just going for it. It’s like I’ve lost that part of my brain with the filter — I am all in, or maybe all out.

I probably come off as unhinged half the time, but the good news is that I am,¬†so whatever, let’s move on.

*

So once upon a time, like last Wednesday, Abby was at work and in need of snacks. I’d just picked Johanna up from my parents’ — she had a tennis camp all week and they were awesome about ferrying her to and fro — so we hit the store at around 5:30 p.m., which, incidentally, is a terrible time to go grocery shopping. (Um, because Everyone In The World is off work and at the store too.)

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This stuff is like crack.

After wandering the aisles rather aimlessly, I finally decided on some all-natural fruit leather for Abs. All wrapped in plastic. Then I let Johanna get some barbecued-flavor Pop Chips because they were on sale and she has needs. I also picked up some eggs — cardboard — a chocolate bar — paper and foil, and¬†slave-labor free and fair trade. It’s like I’d be ruining the world if I didn’t buy this chocolate. You’re welcome, world!

So we’re trying to find a checkout line that doesn’t have 58,000 people already in it. Johanna informed me we only had 8 items and could get into the express lane, which didn’t look very express, but we hop in. I get the guy who’s usually in customer service and tares my jars. So we’re talking about how it’s a little busy and suddenly he’s like, hey, are you the zero waste family? And I was like, um, yes? Although wow, look at this stuff, I’m not doing so well today.¬†How ironic that he pointed out my zero waste tendencies on a day when I was not.

The end.

Oh, wait, no, Abby was very appreciative of her fruit leather, although she only got four because Johanna snitched the cherry-flavored one.

Now it’s the end.

*

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Eating an authentic Oregon pioneer lunch of pizza with the works.

We went to a picnic on Saturday — Sons and Daughters of Oregon Pioneers — and I packed plates, silverware and napkins for us to use even though paper and plastic equivalents were being furnished. I don’t mind paper, per se, because that’s technically biodegradable, except in a landfill nothing biodegrades because it’s not supposed to. And plastic will be around forever. So anyway, that’s why I brought our own tableware.

I got one comment: That’s really smart. Another new best friend to add to the pile. Also, Pro Tip, when you bring your own, you bypass the line for the plates et al and can head straight for the food. I mean, I can’t really eat at potlucks (thanks, jerky stomach!) but I was looking forward to the salad and cherries we’d brought. The girls weren’t complaining, either. Eric is more patient and waited for the older people to go through. Ah, well. It’s no secret he’s a better person than I am.

Really the end.

Puppies and unicorns

I don’t know if you’ve noticed ūüėČ but I’ve been pretty cranky lately. My mother says it’s because Abby is leaving in six weeks (whaaaaaat?!) and that’s making me reevaluate my life. Thus the shopping for new clothes, the unsubscribing from blogs and the new perspective on minimalism and zero waste. Huh. That’s kind of awesome that she figured it out for me because I wasn’t really in the mood for that much self-reflection. But yeah. That makes sense, I guess.

Anyway, as a treat, or maybe because I’m afraid there’s only so much cranky you guys will put up with, here’s a few (thousand) photos of things that are making me really happy right now. “Puppies and unicorns,” if you will. Although I’d also like to point out while this may make my life look rather perfect, my kitchen is a mess (I don’t WANT to unload the dishwasher!), Pearl has so many burrs in her tail that I’m not even sure what to do about that, and what is that funky smell wafting through the window?

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Iced coffee and my Kindle, and reading on the deck.

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Having Mount Hood as a neighbor.

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Basil plants and the promise of pesto.

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Naps on the hammock. (Although that mole hill is pissing me off.)

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Rustic birdhouses and lots of chirping.

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My very (very) organic lettuce that we can’t give away fast enough.

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Picking blueberries with the fam.

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How Pearly follows me around in the yard. (And how good dill smells.)

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Being able to open the doors and windows.

Now that THAT is out of my system … more crankiness for Tuesday, probably. (I mean, I can only stand to be so good.)

Opting out

I thought this post would be easy to write, but it turns out I’m having trouble getting my thoughts together and the words aren’t willing to help me out today for whatever reason. They’re fickle, those words, but the good news is that I can fight through writers block like nobody’s business. (Thanks, newspaper gig!) They just might not be coherent is all.

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I don’t have art for this post, so here’s a picture of Pearl and her best friend Fancy Rat.

So here’s the issue: I’m a minimalist, and I love being a minimalist. I love that my house is calm and orderly, that what we have around us is stuff we enjoy. I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned along the way — that decluttering takes time, that this is more about the journey than the destination, and speaking of that journey, it’s never over — and I’m beyond thankful that we are blessed financially so I can get rid of anything I want and not have to face any consequences later should I need that thing again.

(Not that THAT has happened. Just that it could. And it’s true, I think, that embracing a minimalist lifestyle is easier when you’re choosing it rather than having it forced upon you by your circumstances.)

I’m also pleased that my family has embraced minimalism — in varying degrees — and that my girls have learned that stuff does not equal happiness, or love, or worth. It’s so easy for them to shed items they no longer want (I’m a little jealous, to be honest. That took me a while to learn). Bringing stuff in is another matter … they’re not as strict about that as I am (Eric included), but I’m not fussed. Or, I should say, I’m no longer fussed. I’ve accepted that we are all on our own journeys.

Which brings me to the crux of this thing: I am tired of the Minimalist movement. I’m tired of reading about the 30 minimalist items every kitchen should have, or how removing the unnecessary makes room for what’s most important, or how I should quit my job to “follow my passion.” (Can I just say right now I HATE the word “passion”? I HATE IT. I am passionate about hating the word passion.)

Maybe it’s just because I’ve been doing this for so long. Maybe it’s just that I’m coming off a really intense Simple Year¬†project and I’m tired. Maybe I’ve just gotten to a different place. I don’t know.

But I do know that I’ve been unsubscribing from a lot of popular Minimalism websites and pages lately.

I am grateful, again, for the help that these pages gave me when I was starting out. I’m thankful that I had resources to help guide me when I felt like I was fumbling around in the dark. It was like having a huge support network even though in real life, no one else knew what I was talking about. Even though¬†I didn’t know what I was talking about.

The truth of the matter is: I’m a minimalist, but I still struggle with time management. I’m a minimalist, but sometimes my house is a wreck. I’m a minimalist, but my kids bring home useless shit that makes me wonder what the hell they were thinking. I’m a minimalist, but sometimes I just want a new t-shirt. I’m a minimalist, but I have a full-time job that sometimes I don’t want to go to, but mostly I can’t imagine NOT. ¬†I’m a minimalist, but I’m totally going to let Johanna get a kitten when Abby goes off to college. I’m a minimalist, but sometimes my husband doesn’t completely understand. I’m a minimalist, but I can’t just toss all of my belongings in a backpack and take off on a three-month trip. (Also, I’m a homebody, so the thought of a three-month trip makes gives me major anxiety.) I’m a minimalist, but sometimes I’m unhappy.

I’m a minimalist, but my life is not magazine perfect, or glamorous, or even all that interesting. I do not have it all figured out. And trying to achieve that dream is exhausting.

Actually, it’s not even my dream, it’s just that when you’re bombarded with those kinds of messages all the time, you start to believe them. (That’s Advertising 101. Create a need, and then fill it.) I don’t need to read all the time about how if I just embrace this one aspect of minimalism my life is going to be perfect, or about the tools or classes I need to buy to get there. The message is that what I’m doing is never enough.

Minimalism isn’t some yellow brick road you follow to happiness, enlightenment or wealth. It’s not quick, it’s not easy, and it’s not a gimmick. Maybe my beef with the movement is the promise that it’s all puppies and unicorns.

It’s just not. And I’m tired of hearing that it is. I’d rather read posts by people who are still ¬†figuring it out, sharing what’s worked for them and talking about the harder parts. THAT I can get behind.

Anyway, I’ve decided I’m opting out of “the movement” and opting in to just living my life as a real person in the real world. I’ll always be a minimalist — I like how my life is. I’m just going “minimalist” instead of “Minimalism” now.

Strawberry jam

Once upon a time, like two summers in a row, I failed to procure strawberries and therefore also failed to make strawberry jam.

You’d think that wouldn’t be the end of the world, but strawberry jam is Eric’s favorite. He understood why I didn’t get around to it, but that didn’t stop him from lamenting the fact, either.

Because I am a kind and generous soul, and also because I can really take a hint, I made it my mission in life to find strawberries last weekend and make jam.

And mission accomplished, so there you go.

I think the strawberry jam gods were on my side, to be honest, because I thought I would have to stop by any number of farm stands on Saturday in order to find someone who not only sold them, but also had them in stock — they go fast around here. But instead, all I had to do was show up at the farmers’ market downtown, and there they were: Sold in the very first booth, boxes upon boxes, by a kid (well, he was under 30, anyway) who grew them locally. I quickly plopped down my $27.50 for a flat and felt more than a little smug to see that I had beat the crowd — I had quite the line behind me by the time my transaction was complete.

Um, karma, etc.: I forgot to get pectin and sugar and lemon juice during my weekly shopping trip, so I had to go back and face the hoards. Ah, well.

Anyway, Sunday was jam day. I found my recipe, measured my sugar, stemmed and roughly chopped my berries, and then waited for my jars to get out of the dishwasher to commence with the rest of the ordeal. Because math is hard, I underestimated the number of jars I would need.

But still! I made a double batch — I was not messing around this time — and now have seven pints and five half-pints of red lusciousness in my pantry.

Um, and then a partially full quart jar to hold the rest:

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Ugly. Foamy. Eaten by the spoonful by the fam.

So Eric is terribly in love with me at the moment is what I’m saying.

Oh, semi-related tangent: I was cleaning the stove and counters, wondering how in the world I managed to get jam everywhere (rhetorical question, really) when Johanna pointed out a spot on the ceiling.

Behind me. Like, that is a mystery.

The berries were super ripe, so I put another two pints in the freezer — not really a personal fan of frozen strawberries, but the girls like them — and another two pints for us to just eat.¬†It turns out I could have made a triple batch, but the girls are so excited about the fresh berries.

The season is fleeting, so what the heck.