My promise to you

I am trying VERY hard to read what looks like a potentially useful blog entry about eliminating plastic products from a household. There are many good reasons for buying less plastic and using better materials.

I found the blog in question through a link from Pinterest. And I want to read it. I really do. But like 99 percent of the other blogs I’ve found through Pinterest links, this one has so many plug-ins and pop-ups and animated ads and obnoxious, memory- and bandwidth-eating nonsense that I can’t get the damned thing to load so I can read it.

With that in mind, I am making a promise to you here and now: If I ever decide to monetize this blog, I will NEVER put ads, offers, promotions, subscription requests or other useless crap on here that interferes with your ability to read the posts you came here to see.

To that end, I would like to extract a promise from you: If you ever find something on here that causes a page to load slowly, keeps you from being able to scroll down to read a whole post, locks up your browser, commandeers your phone, automatically opens the App Store, or does anything else besides sit there quietly, minding its own business, PLEASE tell me so I can remove it. (Any ads you see on here right now are put here by WordPress itself, and I don’t have any control of them or get any cut of the action. That’s how they keep the service free for users, which is fine, but if any of the stuff they’re posting causes you a problem, please screencap it and let me know what’s going on so I can raise hell about it — or, if need be, bite the bullet and switch to a self-hosted site so I can control the minutiae.)

I can’t think of anything that irritates me more than having to force-quit my browser because some stupid plug-in on somebody’s blog locked it up, and that seems to happen every time I click on a blog somebody linked from Pinterest. It’s infuriating, and I don’t ever want to subject my readers to that level of frustration.


Tiny Tuesday: Pants hanger

These multi-pair trouser hangers save a LOT of space in the closet.
These multi-pair trouser hangers save a LOT of space in the closet.

There’s nothing exciting or magical about this week’s Tiny Tuesday tip, but again, this preparation for life in a tiny house at some point in the future is a gradual process, and I’m documenting the journey bit by bit, partly for my own records, and partly to help others who might be dreaming small, too, and aren’t sure where to start. Every cubic foot of space I save now is a cubic foot I don’t have to build (and thus a cubic foot I don’t have to heat and cool) a few years from now.

With that in mind, I present my current favorite space-saving tool: five-item hangers.

These cost about $10 to $15 at most retailers and are a godsend in a small closet where space is at a premium. I have two, but in looking at them in preparation for this post, I realized I only need one, because half the items currently hanging on them are at least two sizes too big. Guess we’ll be making a Goodwill run this week.

They’re designed for slacks, but I’ve also used them to store long skirts, maxi dresses, and even the occasional sweater. Very handy, and well worth the price to reclaim about three hangers’ worth of space. It’s kind of hard to tell from the picture, but I alternate sides with the garments, so the legs of one pair of slacks drape to the front of the hanger, and the legs of the next one up drape to the back, which I find saves space and makes it easier to get items off the hanger.

If you’re dreaming of a tiny house and don’t know where to start planning, jump in here. Clean out your closet, jettison everything you don’t use, and reward yourself with a relatively inexpensive tool to help organize what remains. You can also search the “Tiny Tuesday” tag to find other ideas for embracing a minimalist lifestyle.


Tiny Tuesday: Space bags

I bought my first set of space bags at a drugstore about 17 years ago, when we lived in an apartment with limited storage, and I needed a compact way to store coats and sweaters during the summer.

The bags were huge, required a vacuum hose to use, and tore easily. They did, however, hold a lot of clothes and fit neatly under the bed, so I didn’t get too wound up about having to patch one and throw out another that tore while I was trying to figure out how to use them.

Space bags have come a long way in the last 17 years. I don’t recommend the off-brand, which are still awkward to use and prone to tear, but the Ziploc brand work fine, and the company has developed a second variety that I really like: travel space bags, which have a little one-way valve at the bottom that allows you to fill the bags about two-thirds of the way up, zip them shut, and then fold or roll down the top, pressing on the items inside to force out as much air as possible out through the valve at the bottom — no vacuum required.

Travel space bags are among my favorite tools for organizing small spaces.
Travel space bags are among my favorite tools for organizing small spaces.

They’re not quite as airtight and won’t flatten down quite as much as the ones that require a vacuum to use, but they’re great for vacation (I assume you don’t travel with a vacuum cleaner and hose attachments) and even better for storing my surplus T-shirts on the top shelf of our bedroom closet so I’ve got replacements on hand when one wears out or gets stained. If you’re creating a capsule wardrobe, they’re also a nice way to store items you aren’t quite ready to get rid of altogether but are pretty sure you don’t really need.

Space bags can be pricey, and the travel kind aren’t always available when I need them, but I found a cheap alternative in the food-storage aisle at Target: plain old 2.5-gallon Ziploc bags.

Big storage bags: the poor man's space bag.
Big storage bags: the poor man’s space bag.
Press down on the bag with one hand to keep the air out while you use your free hand to seal it. Or to take a picture of it. Whatever.
Press down on the bag with one hand to keep the air out while you use your free hand to seal it. Or to take a picture of it. Whatever.

Fill ’em halfway, zip ’em most of the way shut — leaving about a quarter-inch gap at the end for air to escape — and fold or roll ’em up, starting at the bottom and pressing out as much air as you can before you zip them the rest of the way shut. They don’t compress quite as much as space bags, but they’re cheap, hold several T-shirts, and work pretty well in a pinch to keep items organized in a relatively compact manner on a closet shelf or in a backpack.


Disclaimer: Ziploc didn’t give me anything to write this review. I just found these products handy and thought somebody else might, too. Nobody ever gives me anything to get me to blog about it. I’m not popular enough for that. Poop.

Sunday Self-Care: Jonathan Livingston Seagull


“Look with your understanding, find out what you already know, and you’ll see the way to fly.”
— Richard Bach

As longtime readers of this blog know, the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull has had a profound impact on my life — so I was pretty excited a few weeks ago when I became aware that Richard Bach had released a revised, expanded edition.

Bach claims he wrote the novel in four parts but initially published only three. If this is true, this fourth part — published in 2013, more than 40 years after the first three were released — is downright prophetic.

Without giving away too many details, I’ll say that Bach delves into the tendency of worshipers to become so focused on dogma, tradition, and remaining firmly ensconced in their own comfort zone that they miss the underlying message of their chosen faith.

I’ve been increasingly frustrated with the Christian Establishment in recent years, for this very reason. Too many faith leaders seem to conflate spiritual truths with cultural traditions — or worse yet, political expediency.

In 2012, after watching error in the form of politics infiltrate the absolute last place I expected to find such nonsense, I walked away from organized religion altogether and tried, with varying degrees of success, to maintain my faith and my connection to God on my own.

Absent the structure and accountability a church provides, I found it slow going, though perhaps not as slow as it might have been had I been hampered by increasingly uncomfortable conflicts with people who seemed less interested in facilitating my spiritual growth than policing it.

Throughout my life, Jonathan Livingston Seagull has been my touchstone. The first edition of the book feels like an allegory for my own spiritual journey, and I tend to reread it whenever I find myself at a crossroads. It’s never disappointed me.

I suspect it’s not a coincidence, then, that I learned of the expanded edition around the same time I began visiting a local church that seems more inclusive and open-minded than some of the congregations to which I’ve belonged in the past.

My broken wings finally seem to be healing — and just as I’m attempting another flight, lo and behold, here’s Jonathan, as relevant now as he was the first time I encountered him 30-odd years ago, offering a new chapter that mirrors my experiences as well as the first three always have.

I don’t know yet whether I’ll join this church I’ve been test-driving. I’m still carrying baggage from the last go-’round, and I don’t trust as easily or commit as quickly as I did a decade ago. But even if I don’t, it’s reassuring to know, after all these years, that I’m still not flying alone.


Eco-Saturday: Safety razor

About a year and a half ago, I posted some rather pointed observations concerning the hair-removal industry’s environmental impact. If you want to read it, click here, but the tl;dr version is that razor companies create a financial disincentive for people to make environmentally responsible choices, and even the best modern options use an unconscionable amount of plastic.

I wasn’t quite willing to give up smooth legs, but I decided there had to be a better way, so I bought myself an old-fashioned safety razor for $20 and learned to use it.

A year and a half later, I haven’t severed my Achilles tendon in the shower, and I can’t say my legs are any more prone to razor burn than they’ve ever been; if anything, I do less damage because using a safety razor requires me to slow down and pay attention to what I’m doing, which invariably results in fewer injuries.

The pros:

1. Minimal waste. Instead of throwing away a big plastic cartridge or an entire razor every time a blade gets dull, I’m just throwing out a single blade (which could be recycled if I could find somebody willing to take a potential biohazard), and the packaging — which consists of a small cardboard box and tiny paper envelopes like you see above — is completely recyclable.

2. Minimal expense. Instead of paying the better end of $20 for five cartridges, I can buy 100 double-edged blades for the same money. I don’t necessarily recommend this right off the bat (you’re better off buying a sampler pack from Amazon so you can try several brands first), but once you’ve found your brand, you’re looking at 20 cents to replace a blade instead of $4. That’s like getting your razor to buy you a cappuccino every time the blade gets dull.

3. Durability. Reusable plastic razors are good for about a year. Meanwhile, I’ve heard of guys using safety razors they inherited from their great-grandfathers.

The cons:

1. The term “safety” is relative. Safety razors were so named because they were substantially safer than straight razors. Slip while shaving with a straight razor, and you could sever an artery. Slip with a safety razor, and you’ll end up with a cut about a millimeter deep. You’ll bleed, but you won’t bleed out. Avoiding bloodshed altogether takes a bit more patience, skill, and attention to technique than that Venus you’ve been using, but don’t let that scare you off; I am hopelessly clumsy, and I’ve cut myself maybe a half-dozen times in the past 18 months. The trick is to read the directions, watch an instructional video or two on YouTube, and take your time.

2. Time. It takes at least five to 10 minutes longer to shave with a safety razor than with whatever you’re accustomed to using now, so plan for that.

Given all that, after 18 months, I’ve come to the conclusion that safety razors are like stick shifts: Once you get used to having one as your daily driver, it just feels awkward and uncomfortable to use anything else.


Sustainability on a shoestring