Zero Waste Day 1

I did not personally generate that much waste, that I then had to think about reusing, but I did start thinking about how much paper we waste at work - even though it's recycled, it's still waste. Seriously, stop printing emails already! 

Okay, now I feel better. 

 Damn cup

Damn cup

Somewhat related: Once when I was writing fiction more often and printing it out so I could edit printed copies (I swear it's different than looking at it on a screen), I brought home a ton of paper from old manuals so I could print on the backside. At one point my demand for used paper outpaced my personal supply. 

What I did end up with was one of these little paper sample cups. I was involved with two of them, but the first one was disposed of by someone else before I could hide it, for reuse or at least a photo. It's food-grade paper, so it could be either recycled or composted, and it's not even dirty. It contained a dry (but tasty) scone for about thirty minutes. 

Ideas I had for reusing it: seed cup for seedlings next year, catch-all for anything... Honestly, I don't have a lot of ideas for this guy. I thought about putting it on the table, see what the cats would do with it. Feed it to the dog. I'm probably going to compost it. 

 Compost? No?

Compost? No?

REUSE FAIL.

The other thing I have on my hands today is a waxed paper bag that contained those almond cookies our Chinese delivery place gives us for free. Sometimes I don't even eat them, which is super wasteful, but I ate them today. Now I have a cute-but-useless bag on my hands. I'm not sure if I can compost it or not, but I think I'll try. I'll let you know how that works out in a few years, when it reaches the bottom of the compost bin. 

REUSE FAIL

Interestingly enough, sometimes whole potatoes make it all the way through the compost cycle, pretty much untouched by the heat, worms, etc. Whole potatoes come out the other side. What does it mean???

 Reusable drinking straws, in use and in action

Reusable drinking straws, in use and in action

On a positive note, I thought of another reusable thing we have that I don't think everyone has - reusable drinking straws. 

We have stainless steel ones and Pyrex glass ones. I got the Pyrex ones first and loved them. They break on occasion, and when that happens you can mail them into the manufacture and get a free replacement, but I never did that. Then I bought the stainless ones so I could be more comfortable taking them out of the house (usually in a smoothie) and now they're my favorite. The straight ones are about a thousand times more useful than the bent ones, in case you wondered. 

I've always made a habit of chewing on plastic drinking straws, biting them flat and drinking through them like that, so I wondered how I would like these when I first tried them. Turns out it's the biting I like, not the results, and you can bite and chew on these as much as you want without anything happening. No one even has to know, because there is no physical evidence of your chewing tendencies.  

The straws come with a long, thin brush for cleaning the inside, in case you were wondering. They don't get gross at all. 

 Swamp Thing and his damn little plastic cup

Swamp Thing and his damn little plastic cup

In the interest of being totally honest, I do have one more thing - a small plastic sample cup. I actually brought it home yesterday, with a marimo in it. A friend gave me the marimo in a little glass jar, which we somehow dropped on the floor instead of passing off like we intended. So we put the marimo, which is an adorable little green algae ball that looks like moss, and which I named Swamp Thing, in a plastic cup, where he lived until I could get a replacement glass jar. Which I got today. Which puts the plastic cup up for reuse. 

I'm going to wash the plastic cup and put it in the bin with the paper towels and other party supplies, but I'm conflicted about it. Maybe it could have a second life as a jello shot container. But I really don't want to start collecting things I may or may not use at some point. Ugh, maybe I'll put it in the recycling. 

This is hard. 

2.1: Household Challenge - Zero Waste Week

The first challenge of the second year of 52 Small Challenges is going to be a household one! It's a week late because I skipped a week over the summer. Somehow that seemed better than cutting the first year off at challenge #51, because "52" is actually in the blog name, and "one year" is not. :)

I'm going to participate in Zero Waste Week. It's officially a UK thing, but it can be done anywhere, including here. This is the first year I've joined in, and the theme this year is "Reuse." 

According to Bea at Zero Waste Home (the ultimate authority on such matters)  there are 5 R's of Zero Waste

  1. Refuse - don't get it in the first place (plastic bags, I'm looking at you!)
  2. Reduce - get fewer things/learn to need fewer things
  3. Reuse - THIS YEAR'S CHALLENGE - give something a second (or third, or fourth) life
  4. Recycle - Yay, recycling dumpsters
  5. Rot - Compost is fun!

While I already reuse lots of things (shopping bags, water bottles, etc.), I know I have room to improve in this area. For example, I read today that a Nathalie at Imperfectly Frugal reuses the plastic bags inside cereal boxes for freezing meat. Whereas I just throw those away or add them to the plastic bag recycling, depending on whether or not I think that will work. 

My goal this week will be to document what I already reuse while trying to find ways to reuse more. If I can't figure out how to reuse something, I'll look for an alternative. 

What I Already Reuse

 Our napkins - we have to keep this in a cabinet or it becomes a litter box. Damn cats. 

Our napkins - we have to keep this in a cabinet or it becomes a litter box. Damn cats. 

Cloth instead of kitchen paper products: I gave up some things many consider "normal" years ago - paper napkins and paper towels. I keep some in a box in the basement for when we have parties, but otherwise, we use cloth. We have a box of cloth napkins in the kitchen (helpful tip: black napkins are great, because they don't show stains) that we draw from. I was them with the rest of the household laundry. I recently decluttered the box, because it was too full. And all the napkins came from garage and estate sales. They're easy to find used, because people aren't using them. Maybe too easy to find, sometimes. 

 Drawer of towels - yes, I do like them better standing up. 

Drawer of towels - yes, I do like them better standing up. 

And we have a big drawer of towels that we use for everything from drying dishes to cleaning up spills. I even use these to clean up cat puke, which was maybe the most difficult transition to make, but I made it. Cat puke is gross no matter what you clean it up with, as it turns out. I pick it up, shake the towel off over the toilet, and throw it in the laundry. So our kitchen towels aren't anywhere near spotless, although I do have a few favorites I tend to not use for anything that might stain them. And I do keep a box of true rags in the laundry room for greasy or especially gross cleanups. And I want to say that, once or twice, I've cleaned up something so nasty I threw away the towel, but that doesn't happen often. 

Interesting side note - my brother also uses dish towels instead of paper towels, but we didn't learn it from our parents. I'm not sure how we ended up on the same page here... Maybe one of us started it and the other copied???

 Reusable tissues!

Reusable tissues!

We still use toilet paper and paper tissues, but this week, I'm going to try not to use so many tissues (I'm not messing with toilet paper, not yet, anyhow). I got out my small stash of handkerchiefs, which I keep on hand for hiking, and put them on my desk. So far, I've saved two tissues - or reused a handkerchief a couple times, depending on how you look at it. Until we started hiking regularly, I wasn't familiar with how many uses one can get out of a single handkerchief, and it's more than you'd think. Also, paper tissues and hiking are more frustrating than useful. 

 The current bag-drying method interferes with my drinking. :(

The current bag-drying method interferes with my drinking. :(

Plastic bags: I wash and dry a lot (but not all) of our plastic bags. The main thing that keeps me from being better about this is lack of a good way to dry them. Small bags can be hung upside down over almost anything, including the knives in the knife block, but larger bags need more breathing room. I could buy a bag dryer like this for less than twenty bucks, but when I look at them, it seems like it'd be so easy to make one. But I haven't made one. 

Er, as it turns out... While looking for a link to what I was thinking I could make, which involved dowel rods, a board, wood glue and paint, I ran across this one, which calls for a jar, chopsticks, and something in the jar to hold the chopsticks up. They use pretty glass pebbles, but you could use rice, gravel, whatever. So, yeah, I'm making that.  

Shopping bags: I have a stash of reusable bags, which I use most of the time, but not always. Someone in the house (he knows who he is!) is terrible about taking whatever bags they give him at the grocery store. He once came home with a bottle of vodka in a paper liquor bag inside a double-bagged plastic bag. And that was all he bought! As a result, we have a pretty big stash of plastic bags at all times, it seems. I take them to the store for recycling, and sometimes we reuse them for dog poop pickup - I'm not really sure if reuse (which would land them in a landfill, ultimately) or recycling (where I think their usefulness is limited) is better. It'd be easier if they just didn't come home at all!

Water bottles: If you live in St. Louis, Missouri and you're buying single-use plastic bottles of water, you're wasting money and resources. We have great water. And at work, my company filters and chills that already great water, and I can fill up my reusable stainless steel water bottle over and over, at no cost to myself. At home, I drink tap water. When I travel, I take an empty water bottle and refill it wherever I am. While I know our tap water is especially good here, I drink tap water wherever I go. So far, it's been fine. 

 Dryer balls and homemade detergent. 

Dryer balls and homemade detergent. 

Dryer sheets: A lot of our laundry (certainly all my clothing) is line-dried, but when I do put something in the dryer, it goes in with felted wool dryer balls instead of dryer sheets. I bought mine on Etsy and they are something like these. I recently started making my own powdered laundry detergent, too, using this recipe, which doesn't involve any ingredients that come packaged in plastic, so I'm happy about that. 

 Recycling center with embarrassingly large bag of plastic bags on the right. 

Recycling center with embarrassingly large bag of plastic bags on the right. 

It's not reusing, but of course we recycle - gotta love the single-stream recycling dumpsters in our city! It doesn't get much easier than that. I have two recycling bags that hang on the wall (keeping cat food cans out of the dog's reach) that I've had forever - so long the handles are basically held on with staples. But they work and I can throw them in the washer when they get dirty. It's much easier to carry bags out to the dumpster than a bin, too. 

Compost: And we have compost, which is kinda of reusing, just in a different form. I have a can on the counter (no liner) that fills over the course of the week (and sometimes over the course of an hour, depending on what we're making), and a black bin at the far end of the walkway by the garage. Basically it's in a narrow walkway between our garage and the neighbor's privacy fence, on the back edge of our property, by the alley. We put yard waste in the compost, too, except for weeds. If you compost weeds, you end up distributing the seeds at a later date. Then every spring, Eric shovels out the good, finished compost from the bottom of the bin and mixes it with the dirt from the previous summer's potted plants and we reuse that for the new plants. 

What I Know of that I Waste

Small sample cups: I work in a grocery store where there are samples. I eat and drink some of those samples pretty much every day I'm there. I wish I'd saved every cup for a week as a baseline, but I didn't. This week I'm going to try to use as few as possible and save any I do use. 

Various sheets of paper: I keep a stash of used printer paper and print on the blank side, but I just don't have that much use for scrap note paper, so most of our paper trash (hello, junk mail!) goes straight into recycling. I wonder if I should consider composting more of it? 

Shipping boxes: When we get a package, I usually save the packing material if it's bubble wrap and recycle the box. Every once in a while, I reuse the box, but honestly, I just don't want a bunch of cardboard sitting around. I guess my challenge here would be figuring out ways to order fewer things/buy things locally. 

And I'm sure there are a gazillion more things I waste over the course of a week, but I can't think of what they might be right now. 

Other Things to Think About: 

You can also follow J. Money at Budgets are Sexy because he has started experimenting with a "Zero Waste Lifestyle," an idea popularized (kind of?) by Bea at Zero Waste Home.

You can read more about J. Money's progress in this post, which also includes cute pet pigs and the benefits of early rising. :) Bea has a book out, too: Zero Waste Home. I don't have it - yet - but J. Money seems to be enjoying it. 

Costs and Savings: One subject that comes to mind reading J. Money's posts is that, at least initially, attempting a zero waste lifestyle can cost some money. Things we have bought include: counter compost bucket (our bin was free from a neighbor), dryer balls, cloth napkins and extra dishrags, the jar I'm keeping my laundry detergent in, recycling bags... and it looks like I narrowly escaped buying a drying rack for plastic baggies. :) 

On the other hand, we haven't bought paper towels or napkins in over a decade. Same with dryer sheets. Even with part-time plastic bag washing, we're reusing some of them and avoiding having to repurchase them. So we're saving some money, too. 

Of course, it's not all about the money saved or spent. It's also about learning to be less wasteful, distancing myself from society's constant obsession with germs and bacteria, and being a bit more mindful of keeping the earth in good working order. No doubt it makes little difference if I use a paper towel, but over time, those paper towels add up - not just to a lot of waste, but to more packaging being produce both to package and ship them, transportation costs to get them to the store, then to my house from the store - and it all costs money!

Reuse and Minimalism

Just a quick note on one conflict I find myself facing when I'm thinking about whether I can reuse something - keeping things around "just in case" can easily lead to stashes of things, whether they're jars, cardboard boxes, or plastic bags, that become clutter. I guess the answer to this problem lies in the first two R's: Refuse and Reduce. Which I don't think I'm doing a great job with, at least not right now. 

Whatever the reason one attempts to move toward a zero-waste lifestyle, I think it will be interesting to look at what I do this week that generates waste, what I can reuse, and what I can't. 

Do you try to avoid adding to the trash pile? If you have any tips or ideas, I'd love to hear them!

 

 

First Friday Links - Lots o' Money-Related Stuff!

 Leaf suspended in mid-air on a recent hike on the Lewis & Clark trails in St. Charles. No suspension was visible to the naked eye and we appreciated its surreal appearance too much to "break" the illusion. If it was an illusion at all...

Leaf suspended in mid-air on a recent hike on the Lewis & Clark trails in St. Charles. No suspension was visible to the naked eye and we appreciated its surreal appearance too much to "break" the illusion. If it was an illusion at all...

This is the first monthly links post, but it's been over a month since I last posted - actually it's been since the end of May, when I went on vacation - and I've found lots of good stuff for you to check out. 

So as to not overwhelm you, this time around I've decided to share only bookmarks related to money, frugality and spending - also known as some of my favorite topics these days, along with frugality and minimalism. 

First off, if you have any investments at all and you are paying attention to what the stock market is doing, you should read Stock Market Meltdown Implications for Everyone, by Financial Samurai.  His response is the most reasonable of those I've read, and most inline with what I think. And, in case you're wondering, I had been sitting on some cash waiting for a market correction before I opened and funded a Roth IRA. Which I did, and then the market dropped some more. But that's okay, because I'm going to keep adding to it regularly. 

If you're less optimistic, you might enjoy reading The Big Bad Bear Case from NorthmanTrader. 

Rich People Like to Read, according to Business Insider. In particular, they like to read non-fiction books that will improve their chances of being successful. I like to read novels, which is, I guess, a very middle class thing to do. But I'm not stopping. 

25 things I learned selling my life possessions (a lesson in minimalism) 

Frugal Rules saved $100 per month by switching to Cricket Wireless, which I think is what we're going to do, as soon as Eric's phone is off contract. In the meantime, we changed over to Verizon's new contract-less system and chopped $40 off our bill, which is better than nothing. 

Becoming a Saver is a deceptively subtle title for what may be one of the best single blog posts on how to move toward spending less and saving more. It gives detailed instructions on what steps you should take if you want to save more of your income and have the option of retiring early. What really stood out for me was the idea that when you're cutting spending, you should always be a little uncomfortable. Cut until you're uncomfortable, wait until you get used to it, then cut again. I love that. 

Here's Sam's post, Why I Kept a Frugal Food Budget.  Unlike Sam, I intend to keep going with my frugal food budget and maybe even cut if further, if I can. 

File under "places I'm not yet ready to go": Cait at Blonde on a Budget is embarking on her second year-long shopping ban and here are the rules. At some point, I might be ready to do this, but not just yet. 

And if you want to compare yourself to others, you can find a list of blogger's self-reported net worths at Rockstar Finance. Also, if you were only going to subscribe to one personal finance email, make it Rockstar Finance. Every weekday J. sends out one post with links to three of the best recent finance-related blog posts. 

 

 

 

Mental Health/Running Update

 This is a picture of a slug eating a mushroom next to an acorn. It has nothing to do with anything. 

This is a picture of a slug eating a mushroom next to an acorn. It has nothing to do with anything. 

With something like starting a running habit, obviously one week isn't enough to see real results. But I can say with confidence that simply starting again made me feel better. 

I feel good about having a plan and following it. I feel good about doing something good for myself. And I feel good about the effect running has on my weight. It's the only thing I know that I can successfully pull off that eventually leads to weight loss. 

My goal is to get three runs in every week. The first week, I did that with no problem. This week, I didn't run until today (Friday), which means I'll have to run the next two days, also, if I want to meet my goal. But even if I only get one of those runs, I'll be happy that I didn't quit entirely. 

Although I had reservations about using running as a mental health challenge, I'm now convinced that it's perfectly acceptable, and maybe even better than a lot of the other options. 

Week 51: Mental Health & Running

Update: Eat from the Pantry

I'm happy to report that I've made progress! Other than that moment of weakness yesterday during which we ordered Chinese carryout, my part of which will provide me with three meals, I've  eaten only things from the house. My meals have largely consisted of leftovers wrapped up in tortillas, smoothies, and cereal. I ran out of cereal yesterday, though, so I might have to branch out a little. 

 Current fridge on the left; recent fridge pics on the right

Current fridge on the left; recent fridge pics on the right

The volume of food in the fridge has gone down slightly, but the freezer and pantry look pretty much the same. Which tells me something that lasts longer than a week might be in order, if I truly want to make my way through everything.  

It's nearly impossible to tell from the photos, but those large containers on the right side of the top shelf are full of leftover juice we squeezed for cocktails. I'm slowly working them into smoothies. They take up a lot of room, but still taste great. 

All that's missing from the pantry is the cereal and a box of Pop Tarts, as far as I can tell. And my recent straightening revealed that I am now hoarding salsas. 

All I've gotten out of the freezer is some frozen fruit, but I think I added in equal measure. 

And somehow I've managed to gain weight this week. I guess I'm talented at getting a lot of calories wrapped up inside a tortilla. 

The one thing I can say that is certainly a positive is that this was a very inexpensive week for groceries. I spent nothing on food. I might try to keep this up for another week, or indefinitely (until I see real progress) or, at the very least, until Eric catches on. 

Week 52: Diet - Eat from the Pantry

Next Challenge: Eat from the Pantry

My challenge this week is to eat from the pantry. 

In other words, I hope to spend $0 on groceries this week. As I've mentioned before, there's a lot of food already here at the house. I went to Costco last week and stocked up on frozen fruit and veggies, so I don't need fresh fruits for smoothies. We also have a bunch of leftover taco fixings from a gathering we hosted last weekend. I'm pretty sure there's even a pizza or two in the freezer. 

So I'm not going to starve. Hopefully what will happen is I'll clear some room in the kitchen. And then NOT fill it back up with more stuff. 

I've been thinking about a few competing theories on food storage:

  • Buy as you eat: Buy food for the day, daily. The benefits of this include not needing space to store a bunch of excess food, knowing what you're in the mood for at the time of shopping, not cluttering up your space with foods you think you should eat but don't feel like eating, limiting food waste, etc. 
  • Stockpile: Then there's the "the world is going to end" philosophy of having a large supply of food at hand. Anyone who has the time to manage a backstock of food impresses me. But the word "manage" is important. If you're not managing the stock, eating the old food and moving in new food, it's not that great. I don't have time to manage even the small stash of food we have now, and thus it continues to grow. 
  • Meal planning: And there's the option where you have a definite plan for what you're going to eat for the next week, you buy what's needed for those things, and you eat them. I'm not there yet. 

Frugality favors buying in bulk and buying when things are on sale. It also favors cooking from scratch. Being busy favors having easy (usually more expensive) foods on hand, ready to go. 

I'd like to aim for something in the middle. It's nice to have a few things on hand to grab as easy meals. I've already downgraded my pizza consumption from delivery to frozen. We tried making our own, but that requires planning, and lots of times when I want pizza, it isn't planned. 

And while I don't want to buy small quantities of things we eat all the time when I could save money by buying in bulk, I also don't want to have a cabinet full of things we're not eating. I recently pulled out a jar of pickled beets and started eating them. They've been in the cabinet for at least two years. Pickled beets are one of my favorite foods, yet somehow they continued to sit there. That's the kind of thing I'd like to avoid. 

In the interest of decluttering, I thought about going through the cabinet and throwing out anything that had been there for at least a year. But in the interest of not wasting food, I can't do that. I did recently donate some shelf-stable beverages I decided we obviously weren't going to drink. I don't know how effective that is (do the donated beverages actually go to someone who wants/needs them?), but it seemed better than dumping them down the drain. 

The option that ended up making the most sense to me was to eat as much of what we have as we can before buying new things. Perhaps after clearing some things out, I'll have a better idea what to keep on hand and what to avoid. 

I might even consider trying a Capsule Kitchen challenge at some point. Similar to the capsule wardrobe, you choose 33 items and eat those items for three months. Condiments, like accessories, don't count. Maybe I'll do that some time. I'll let you know. 

I took some before pics, to show you what we have going into this, and I'll post "after" pics at the end of the week. 

 Pantry, fridge and freezer, all pretty full. 

Pantry, fridge and freezer, all pretty full. 

One Year Review - 52 Weeks of Challenges!

Happy First Birthday, Blog!

The first "52 Small Challenges" post went up exactly one year ago today, on September 1, 2014. At that time I had very little blogging experience, no idea how it was going to go, and high hopes of turning this into something big. 

One year later, I have considerably more blogging experience (but still no idea how to create a graph that I can add to a post, or how to get a birthday hat onto the cat in my logo), some idea how it's going to go (slowly), and high hopes - well, let's just say they've been tempered by experience. 

But I kept it up for a whole year! I'm pretty excited about that. 

Challenges with Challenges

It turns out the biggest challenge of all is not coming up with ideas, motivation, or things to write about. The biggest challenge is time.

Everything that goes into this - planning, executing, and documenting each challenge with words and photos, putting together the posts, general blog maintenance - takes time. That's true of everything in life, I guess, but especially true of blogging. What happens behind the scenes to make even a short post takes a lot more time than you'd think. More than I realized, anyhow. 

When I find the time, it's time well spent. I love sharing what I'm doing and hearing from  readers. I don't have a huge following by any means, so it's always a pleasant surprise to find out someone I know has been reading the blog. And when I see strangers commenting or liking the posts on Facebook, it feels great. 

But it's still difficult to find time to put it all together. I'm more impressed than ever by bloggers who work full-time jobs, maintain households or businesses on the side, and still find time to post every day. This is mostly unrelated, but travel bloggers in particular impress me. I've yet to write a single travel-related review, let alone a meaningful post while actually traveling. But others do it all the time!

Year Two Plans

Going into the second year, I plan to make a couple changes. First of all, I'm getting rid of the "social challenge" category I hated so much, and substituting a "personal choice" category. Anything goes those weeks, including a duplication of another category. Basically, whatever I feel like doing that week, I can do it. Hopefully this will allow me to continue to explore things that don't fit somewhere else, such as not wearing makeup, while avoiding things I'm simply not inclined to do, such as personal social challenges

I experimented for a while with some weekly extras (links, frugal things and Food Waste Fridays), that ended up being too much to do every single week. But I still really like the ideas behind all those things, so I've decided to make them monthly. I might even come up with a fourth regular post, so I'm posting something like that every Friday. First Friday of the month will be links, second Friday will be frugal things, etc. And it'll be a month-long compilation at the time I publish it, so hopefully full of good stuff. But not too much food waste. 

Other Thoughts

The longer challenges (1% savings challenge, capsule wardrobe) although I've posted irregularly at best about them, have been fun, too. In a sea of short challenges, it's nice to have something that continues on, that I don't have to think (or write) about every day. 

The second biggest challenge has been the challenges themselves. I do a lot of things for seven days that I'd like to keep up for many more, but it's so hard to make that happen. First of all, a lot of my spare time is taken up by the current challenge. Second of all... actually, maybe that's it. 

On another blog, I read someone's comment that they hate the word "challenge." The comment-writer was sick of push-up challenges, personal challenges, challenges in general. For a minute, I felt bad for thinking about challenges all the time. But after further thought, I realized I get a lot out of these challenges, and if I'm helping someone else, maybe even just one person, explore more options, then I'm happy with that.

Because for me, that's what it's really about - exploring the world around me. Seeing what else might be done, how else I might go about this "living" thing. And along the way, sharing what works for me, what doesn't, what you I might do, what it turns out I can't do...

Besides, what option do we have? Keep doing the same old things, forever? Or try new things, whether we call them challenges or not? I guess it's obvious what I'd choose. 

regret nothing.jpg

Year in Review

Looking back at the challenges I've undertaken (you can see them all in the index), I can pretty easily tell you what seems to be sticking. 

  • I've stuck with this breathing technique for exercise, which I started using for running and now use any time I feel out-of-breath, whether I'm hiking or climbing stairs. Sometimes I even use it when I'm walking, if I'm with a fast walker or the terrain is hilly. Seriously, I swear by it. If I develop amnesia and forget about it, I think I will feel something important is missing from my life. 
  • I continue to declutter. I've decluttered nearly every space in the house (including the kitchen, basement and officeholiday supplies, laundry room, our book collection, the attic, my wardrobe and the basement, again. And there's been more, but I haven't blogged about it. Other than Eric's half of the garage, I can't think of an area that hasn't been decluttered at least once. There is still work to do, but I find the thought of having less clutter so pleasing, I can think about it to calm my mind if I'm worried about something else. 
  • The $400 food budget and 1% Savings Challenge continue on. It's nice to see our grocery expenses come down and our savings grow. 
  • I am maybe ever-so-slightly more mindful than I was before. 
  • Smoothies happen about three times a week and I tend to feel better on days when I drink them. 
  • The social media fast has had a lasting effect on my social media consumption. I mostly lost my appetite for it, although I still peruse it from time to time.  
  • And the No Makeup Challenge was wildly successful. Entire makeup-less weeks go by. ENTIRE WEEKS. It's crazy. 

There were many things I tried and liked, but didn't stick with, including all the "exercise every day" challenges, but especially Janathon and 20,000 steps, and all the meditation weeks, 

Some were one-offs, such as caulking the bathroom. I'm not doing that again, hopefully ever. 

Others weren't exactly completed, including freezer cleanup and a lot of the creative challenges. 

There were a few I tried but hated, such as all of the diet ones (just kidding) (not entirely). Hate is a strong word, but I do find them very difficult to stick with. 

And then there were some surprises. My biggest successes (social media and no makeup) came from my least-favorite social category, as did one of my most-read posts, which was this one about Scotland and Ireland). 

Conclusion

In the end, I think it's worth it. I tried a lot of things and found a few that stuck and continue to enrich my life, including some I don't think I would have tried if it weren't for the blog. Having a social/exposure element keeps me motivated most of the time. 

Hopefully you'll stick around for another year of challenges! While I'm going to try to come up with new things, I'm sure I'll revisit some older challenges, too. As always, I'm open to suggestions for new challenges. Let's see what another year brings...

Bathroom Update

You may recall from my exciting week of caulking that we didn't caulk the bathtub, mainly because I didn't realize how bad it was until after we'd caulked everything else, at which point we were sick to death of caulking. Well, we recovered and it's finally finished. It looks a lot better and seems to be functioning well, as we haven't had any leaks. 

 Before and after - we cleaned up a lot of the surrounding grout (and the tub itself) when we did this project. Next up: new fixtures. :)

Before and after - we cleaned up a lot of the surrounding grout (and the tub itself) when we did this project. Next up: new fixtures. :)

I also declutted the bathroom closet - again. I find that I can go back over the same area and find more things to get rid of each time. Also, if you don't keep an eye on newly-cleared space, it has a tendency to fill back up. And yeah, everyone in the world can fold towels better than I can. I'm okay with that. Did I tell you I shove an entire set of sheets into one pillowcase and call it a day? Yep, I sure do. 

 Closet: before and after, top and bottom

Closet: before and after, top and bottom

 Stuff that went downstairs on the left, and stuff that went away on the right. And my toes, which I kept.

Stuff that went downstairs on the left, and stuff that went away on the right. And my toes, which I kept.

Some of the stuff in the closet went away completely, either into the trash or donated to the thrift store (I found three curling irons - if you know me at all, you know there is no point to my having three curling irons). Extras, both cleaning supplies and personal care products, went downstairs. I think I've mentioned my hoarding of personal care products before, but I'm making progress! It's all organized in a cabinet in the laundry room and that's where I'm shopping from. I haven't bought anything from the store if there's something in the cabinet that works.

Last but not least, we finally replaced the broken mirror on our medicine cabinet! I broke one of the two sliding mirrors, oh, more than a year ago, and we've been living with one door ever since. It wasn't the end of the world, because we still had half a mirror, but it was ugly. You could see half of the insides of the cabinet at all times, and it led to recurring "we should really fix that" thoughts - every time I went in the bathroom. And that gets old. I guess a little bit over a year was about all I could take. 

 Two doors! Also it's quite difficult to take a picture of a mirrored cabinet without taking a selfie. Just sayin.' Toes in the last pic, fingers in this one. 

Two doors! Also it's quite difficult to take a picture of a mirrored cabinet without taking a selfie. Just sayin.' Toes in the last pic, fingers in this one. 

So Eric took the remaining door to a nearby glass place and a few days later, we had two doors again! The days of no mirrors were interesting. The cabinet looked really naked without any doors. And with no mirrors in the bathroom, I didn't really have a good idea what I looked like for a couple days, and I did weird things, such as staring into the cabinet while I brushed my teeth or washed my face, as if I could see a reflection. But I couldn't. But I kept looking. 

When Eric took the old door into the glass place, they noticed that "1963" was stamped on the back, so I assume that's when our medicine cabinet was made. We've considered replacing it more than once since we bought the house, but now I feel like it's a collector's item of sorts. Also, the opening in the wall is an odd size, so replacing wouldn't be all that simple or easy. 

You might think we'd be all done with the bathroom, but there are still a couple little things. The fixtures in the tub are ugly, and the drain closure is missing so it's not possible to take a bath. There is a grout-less gap in the floor between the tiles and the threshold, and it's been like that for a while. Little things, for sure, but we are getting much closer to being finished with the bathroom. 

Follow the evolution of the bathroom - Week Twenty-six: Household - Bathroom Caulking and Cleaning

  1. Caulking Update #1
  2. Caulking Update #2
  3. Caulking Complete
  4. Bathroom Update

$400 Food Budget: May-July

It's been a while since I've posted an update on my food budget, but that's been for no particular reason. Sam at Frugaling, who inspired our monthly goal of $400, decided to end his monthly reporting on food expenses, a decision he discusses here. Not reporting for a few months didn't seem to help or hurt what we actually spent, but it's impossible to say for sure. 

What We Spent

If you just look at grocery expenses, we handily stayed below $400 every month, coming in at $302 in May, $384 in June and $264 in July. Not too bad, and really good in July. I don't think there was ever a point where we felt deprived on the grocery front. We took a lot of lunches to work, ate good food, bought what we wanted and felt satisfied with the lower amount. 

BUT - we also went out to eat. In May, we spent $36 on Chinese carryout, which is not a big deal, but in retrospect, it seems like Chinese carryout should be cheaper. I think we both got appetizers and entrees. In June, we spent a whopping $306 at restaurants. The bulk of this was spent in Chicago, where we went for my company's employee party, and where we ate out for every meal. Although the party itself is free for us, the surrounding activities certainly add up! And in July, we spent $112, which covered three restaurant meals.

 A few of the meals I had at restaurants over the last few months: a burger at Stacked in St. Louis, German food in Hermann, Missouri, and a pizza in Chicago (I know, it's not even Chicago-style).

A few of the meals I had at restaurants over the last few months: a burger at Stacked in St. Louis, German food in Hermann, Missouri, and a pizza in Chicago (I know, it's not even Chicago-style).

None of this includes the meals we ate as part of gifts/experiences, which you might recall we're trying to do more of - so if we took you out for your birthday, that entire expense fell under "gifts," not dining out. Also, meals eaten out on vacation went into the vacation budget. These expenses could be accounted for differently, but I find doing it this way allows me to make clear decisions on total cost - how much does a week-long vacation spent camping cost? A trip to the wineries for Mother's Day? Separating out parts of those experiences feels like getting a skewed picture. 

I think I mentioned this before, but earlier this year I started tracking our caffeine-related purchases (soda, coffee and tea) separately, and for the three months we're looking at, those came to $10, $29 and $40. I might stop doing this, if the numbers continue to stay low. 

Total food expenses: 

  • May: $347.39
  • June: $718.67
  • July: $415.91

First, the positives: In 2014, Eric and I spent a whopping $11,374 on food, or $947.83 a month. So far in 2015, we have spent $4,021, or $502.63 per month (if we don't spend any more money in August, which is possible, but unlikely). That's a savings of $445.20 a month! Which is a huge difference. Obviously, that adds up over time. 

Dining Out

The nice thing about tracking expenses is that the data is there if you want to look at it. And the data shows a big drop in grocery expenses in the last half of 2014, which was when I first started thinking about cutting back. It took us until 2015 to decide to cut back on dining out. 

And although we've cut way back on our dining out expenses, it still seems like we're spending a lot when we do go out. I've been back and forth on how much we want to cut back in this category. I addressed this issue a little in my 1% Savings Challenge Update.

Sometimes going out to eat serves an important social function. It's easy to get together over a meal, especially with new friends. Before you know someone well enough to hash out diet restrictions, pet allergies, etc., it can be much easier to meet at a restaurant. Other times, it's fast and easy. We met Eric's dad and brother at a sandwich shop for lunch on a workday a couple weeks ago. If we hadn't been able to purchase a meal out, we would have skipped that altogether. 

Other times, dining out is a luxury that we definitely could skip. Did we really need to eat at four restaurants in Chicago, over two days? Here's how it happens. The party is one night. We take the train to Chicago as early as possible the day of, and come back as late as possible the next day. This leaves lots of time during which we have to eat. We are with friends so we all eat out together. Obviously, one option is to shorten the trip and just go for the party. Which sounds less fun. I find I have a lot of resistance to ideas that sound less fun, at least initially. 

Another option is to spend less when we do eat out. This is an area we've done a lousy job of exploring. I'd go so far as to say we haven't really tried at all. When we go out, we order what we want, almost regardless of price (I say this because if we truly ordered regardless of price, Eric would eat a lot more seafood). We get as many drinks as we want. We don't share. 

We use gift certificates when we have them, and we try to pick less expensive restaurants when we can, but these things are easier to do at home than while traveling. In July, we lucked into happy hour pricing on one outing, and shared cheap appetizers. Generally, though, we don't go out of our way to save when we dine out. 

So maybe that's the next layer of this challenge. Start figuring out what we can go without when we eat at restaurants, without feeling too much of a pinch. The idea of skipping beers and drinking water instead makes me sad now, but what if the trade-off was stopping at the liquor store and buying a six-pack on the way home? I think, unless we were at a brewery, I might go for that trade.

What I'm learning here is that I don't want to completely eliminate dining out. We want to be able to go out to eat sometimes, but I don't want to spend a fortune on it. So the next step is figuring out how we can do it for less. 

Food Budget Posts:

New Challenge: Mental Health/Running

 Cellar tour at Stone Hill Winery in Hermann, Missouri

Cellar tour at Stone Hill Winery in Hermann, Missouri

Just when you thought I had it together and could keep up with my challenges... I was derailed by a weekend packed full of social activities. 

We did some fun things: our friends Jean & Kama got married and we hosted a little post-wedding party at our house, then we took the train to Hermann, Missouri and drank some wine (okay, maybe lots of wine). And then there was work, of course. And not much blogging.

Yesterday, I realized I had failed to set up a new challenge. I meant to do it as soon as I got home, but then I also meant to start running again, and only one of those two things happened. 

 Congratulations, Jean & Kama!

Congratulations, Jean & Kama!

So today I decided running is an activity that supports good mental health, because it actually is. I guess walking or any other activity is, too, but running is especially good for me. It doesn't matter what kind of mood I'm in, if I go running, I feel better when I'm done. And I don't mean only because I stopped running. 

How running continually falls out my life, I don't really know, but right now, I'm happy to have it back in. And when I say "running" at this stage of the game, what I really mean is I've started a run/walk program. This week, I'm running 1 minute then walking 2, alternating until I hit 20 minutes. Today and yesterday I walked a little on top of that - and got over 20,000 steps today!

Last time I tried to start running again, I didn't follow any sort of plan for building up and my left knee promptly developed a pain that didn't go away quickly enough for my liking. So this time, it's back to my tried-and-true method for getting into running. It's so gradual, I hardly notice I'm building up, but it's never led to an injury. 

And when I finally do get built back up into a regular running routine, this time I'm going to try really hard to keep it simple. I don't want to start signing up for tough races, doing longer runs, or worrying about speed. I want to develop some sort of baseline amount of running that doesn't lead to me dropping it altogether. If I can accomplish that, it really will be good for my mental health. 

Week 51: Mental Health & Running

Capsule Wardrobe Update: Halfway Through!

At the end of June, I decided to try to a capsule wardrobe. Six weeks later, how's it working out? 

It's GREAT! I'm not kidding or being sarcastic. I couldn't be more happy with my capsule wardrobe. I. LOVE. IT. 

I'd read about how much others liked their limited wardrobes, but even when I started this, I wasn't sure it was for me. I've never had much fashion sense, almost always opting for comfortable, low-maintenance clothing, and I was pretty sure limiting my wardrobe would lead to me dressing even worse than I already was.

But the opposite has turned out to be true, as far as I can tell. I'm way less stressed about how I'm dressed, no matter the occasion. The clothing items I kept as part of my capsule are my best things, the shirts and pants and skirts I always wanted to reach for anyhow, when I wasn't distracted by the other things in my closet. And that's the main point, I guess - my closet is no longer distracting. I have what I need and that's about it. I have several options in terms of how dressed up I want to be, but once that's decided, I have very few choices to make. 

Yes, there are a couple items of clothing I'll probably replace when I build my fall capsule. I don't have a good t-shirt to go with my black skirts, and I want to get a better quality pair of black flats. Otherwise, I've been very happy with my choices. All the junk is gone!

Besides those two minor things I want to replace/acquire, the results of having a tiny wardrobe have amazed me. 

I do one load of laundry about every five days. This includes work, casual and exercise clothing. Household laundry is separate, but that's not much, either. Ironing my seven work shirts happens more often, because I iron them all at once as I always did, but takes a quarter of the time - making the task much less formidable when it comes around. 

All my clothing fits in my part of the closet. I used to have a long shelf, two sections of hanging clothes, coats in the hall closet, four drawers in a lingerie chest, and two drawers in a regular chest. Now I have three small baskets on my closet shelf (one for workout gear, one for underthings, and one for swimwear), two stacks of bottoms (one for work, one for home), and everything else hangs on one short section of closet rod, except for one long dress. 

 All my clothing!

All my clothing!

I'd completely forgotten that my clothing doesn't have to take up so much space. I didn't remember when I started this, but I can now recall a time when I hung up all my shirts, including knits. Then came a time when some of them were on the hangers so long, they got those awkward bumps on the shoulders, so I started folding them and keeping them in a pile. And at one point, I had so many work shirts hanging in the closet, I put my pants on shelves in order to free up more hangers. And I had so many technical shirts from races, I had to dedicate an entire drawer to summer workout gear - and a second to winter workout gear. 

Now everything is in one place! And it's not that big of a place! I still wander all over when I get dressed, because I'm not used to everything all together in the closet, but I assume I'll get over that.

And when I reach for something, it's easy to find what I want. I only kept the socks I like, so when I want a pair of socks, I can get them in the dark. Blindfolded. Imagine - a pair of socks I'm happy with, selected in the dark in five seconds. It's that easy. 

I'm looking forward to two things: building my fall capsule and taking that opportunity to get rid of the "extra" summer clothing I put up in the attic, you know, in case this capsule thing didn't work out. 

And I'm not even dreading the shopping I'll have to do to replace the items of clothing that need replacing, because now I know exactly what I want. I've made a couple purchases already - I replaced the white purse that goes with my fancier summer dress, because the old one was looking grubby, and I replaced my belt and my work shoes, but other than that, I haven't had to do any clothing shopping since I started this challenge.

Limiting the options in my closet has made it easy to see what I actually need, rather than what I think I need. Instead of the many wardrobe challenges I had in the past, now I have a couple easy-to-resolve wardrobe challenges. 

And somehow - certainly not by forcefully yanking all his clothes from the closet and making him go through them - I've got Eric signed on for a capsule wardrobe, too. He got rid of a garbage bag full of things, took all his winter stuff upstairs, and put his remaining clothing back in the closet, where it now takes up only one shelf. He still has a full basket of dirty clothes in the basement, so until those are clean and back in the closet, I wouldn't say he's truly got his capsule together, but he's well on the way. 

 All his clothes on the bed on the left and, on the right, what went back in the closet (top shelf). He took his "around the house" and workout clothes to the chest-of-drawers. 

All his clothes on the bed on the left and, on the right, what went back in the closet (top shelf). He took his "around the house" and workout clothes to the chest-of-drawers. 

Decluttering the Basement: The Bar

I'm going to start off with a picture of the bar area looking all pretty and nice. 

The bar is one of my favorite areas of the house, for obvious reasons, which I'm sure you can figure out, and for less-obvious reasons, which I will tell you about. 

 Used to a a workbench, made from scrap wood, which is in itself kind of neat. 

Used to a a workbench, made from scrap wood, which is in itself kind of neat. 

The bar itself used to be a workbench in the corner. One night, when I was drinking in the basement with a friend, it occurred to us that we could pull the workbench out from the corner, turn it around, and it would be a bar! We were about half-right, and thankfully, Eric did some work and made it so. The workbench had to be raised to bar height, and it needed a top, rail and sides. You can clearly see its workbench origins from the inside. 

With the exception of the bar top and rail (which we had custom-made - it's nearly impossible to find something used that will work as well) and the lights, we acquired most everything second hand. The last thing the bar "needs" is a foot rail, but that falls into the same category as the top rail - hard to find used and expensive to buy new. 

 Inside the liquor cabinet - we took out two shelves and all the dividers, leaving the remaining shelves, including the one that had our old apartment number (301). 

Inside the liquor cabinet - we took out two shelves and all the dividers, leaving the remaining shelves, including the one that had our old apartment number (301). 

The large mirror in the back came from a salon Eric's mom used to own. The dark wood cabinet behind the bar, which serves as our liquor cabinet, is the old mail cabinet from The Embassy apartment building we used to live in (they were throwing it away!). The wood floor came from Eric's mom's old house. The tin ceiling was salvaged from a old south city bar Eric's brother gutted (same ceiling we have in our kitchen, if you've seen that) (not to mention, rescued from the trash). We found the wood that covers the outside of the bar next to an abandoned house. 

We got both wine racks in the alley, and the lamp in the back corner. All the bar stools came from garage sales and the alley. At one point we had a working kegerator (RIP), which we got second-hand. I still hold out hope that it can be fixed. So we also had pitchers and mugs, which we got second-hand. And which I don't consider clutter, because hopefully we'll need them again someday. 

 Found under the bar: Fancy box I bought at an antique mall when I was in college (with two decks of plastic playing cards inside! A steal!) and my awesome yin-yang incense burner. 

Found under the bar: Fancy box I bought at an antique mall when I was in college (with two decks of plastic playing cards inside! A steal!) and my awesome yin-yang incense burner. 

Like all good bar owners, we've filled our bar with memorabilia. This is a practice that can easily lead to clutter, but also sparks fond memories and good conversation ("Hey, check it out! Eric's grandma was really great at bowling!"). 

The wall to the right, which you can't see in the pictures, contains some Cardinal's memorabilia, too, which I believe is a legal requirement for bars in St. Louis. We've got a Falstaff mirror that hung in my parents' basement bar when I was a kid, and a chalkboard my brother gave us (for writing down what kind of beer we had on tap - sigh). We have a string of metal Budweiser horses Eric had when he was a kid, which are pretty neat. 

I could go on and on, but I'm not going to, so if you want to hear about the rest, you'll have to come over and see it. And have a beer. 

I guess what I'm really getting at here, and what you may have already figured out, is that I didn't get rid of a ton of stuff from the bar area. I kicked out about a dozen glasses we've never used, and one bag of miscellaneous stuff, such as plastic beer steins from Oktoberfest and Mardi Gras beads. I moved some paint cans out, but as of right now, they don't have a permanent home, so we'll see where they end up. 

 I ended up with lots of empty space. The cabinet was salvaged from the alley. And it all looks better with those curtains down. 

I ended up with lots of empty space. The cabinet was salvaged from the alley. And it all looks better with those curtains down. 

What I did do was a lot of was cleaning. I shop-vacced (I guess that's not a real word?) (but I use it all the time) everything behind the bar, then I wiped things down with soapy water, then I swept, then I mopped. Let me tell you, it was pretty grubby! I don't recall ever wiping down the shelves under the bar, and the dirt I found there would indicate my memory is not failing me. But it's clean now, or as clean as you can make an old workbench without repainting it. 

Here's the back corner, with the non-working kegerator. You can see the metal horses up in the top right corner. And the gold snake lamp, maybe one of the best things I've ever found in a alley (although I know Eric disagrees). 

So I kinda decluttered the bar, but mostly I cleaned. And I hope the resulting tour of the bar area was as fun for you as it was for me. :)

Week 50: Household - Declutter the Bar Area

Basement Decluttering Part 1: Everything except the bar

A couple weeks ago I decided to clean up the basement. I can't even remember why now. Perhaps because it was a wreck. How the basement becomes a wreck is never all that clear, either, but that's definitely the state it tends toward. 

So this is what I started with: 

 Basement before 

Basement before 

And this is what I ended up with: 

 Basement after

Basement after

 The donation pile grows...

The donation pile grows...

The bulk of the stuff piled on and around the table down there was beer brewing and bottling supplies. They've since moved to the room under the front porch, which Eric cleaned out last weekend. That room is the darkest, dampest room in the house, so it tends to get really gross, really fast. Then we ignore it for a long time. 

But it's all cleaned out now, and Eric fixed some of the drainage issues that led to it being wet, so we'll see how it goes, keeping bottles and dry supplies down there. It might now work for grain storage, but for now, the part of the basement we use as living space looks a lot better!

I also removed some excess furniture from the couch arrangement, and got rid of some cushions. For the cushions I kept, I took the covers off and washed them. And I wiped everything down, swept and mopped the floors (twice now). 

 Garage bound! I think...

Garage bound! I think...

It's an ongoing process, because every time I declutter one space, I unearth things that need to go somewhere else, but where exactly? Trash and items to donate are easy, but I have a tougher time making decisions about Eric's stuff. I could haul everything out to the garage, but then it would be a pile in the garage, because I don't know where things really should go. So I leave it for him, and sometimes it moves on, and sometimes it doesn't. 

Despite the ongoing-ness of this whole decluttering process, I continue to believe there will be an end point. Obviously, the end does not come after one, or even two, rounds of decluttering. But surely at some point we'll be out of stuff to declutter? Everything in the house will be things we use. Most everything. I really hope so, anyhow. 

Bonus Laundry Room Update

Just for the hell of it, I took some pictures of the laundry room, as it is today. I decluttered the laundry room back in January and I haven't done anything special to maintain it, other than the occasional cleaning. So how's it holding up? 

Here's what it looked like when I finished decluttering: 

 Laundry room after decluttering in January

Laundry room after decluttering in January

And what it looks like today, with no special treatment: 

 Laundry room eight months later

Laundry room eight months later

The shelves are a little messier, and you can see some actual laundry. But overall, it's held up pretty well. And I can't think of a single thing I regret removing from the space. 

When I read about other people's decluttering and organizational projects, I always wonder how they hold up. How functional is it? What changes? This one was quite successful for me, so there you have it. 

Week 50: Household - Declutter the Bar Area

20,000 Steps: Success!

I may be a few days late, but I wanted to share my success with meeting my goal of 20,000 steps a day last week. 

On day 7, Eric and I took the dog for a walk. We also ran a couple errands on foot that we would have otherwise done by car, so we saved a little gas while getting some exercise. It was a bit too hot out for poor Hazel. She had to take four breaks. As you can see in the pictures below, she likes to rest in shady areas near the curb. 

 Hazel resting in various shady places. Toward the end, she was apparently so sick of walking, she refused to look at me. :)

Hazel resting in various shady places. Toward the end, she was apparently so sick of walking, she refused to look at me. :)

I went to work with about 9,000 steps and easily got the rest before the end of my shift. 

Getting 20,000 steps a day for seven days in a row was challenging, but doable. I took more walks than usual. I took fewer shortcuts than usual. I picked parking spaces further from the door when I went out. The nice thing about trying to get steps, as opposed to running more miles, for example, is that you can get them anywhere, in any quantity, and it adds up. 

Eric has continued the challenge into this week, with 20k step days every day so far! He paces at work and walks on his lunch break every day. He also reports that he's lost weight. I, on the other hand, have gained weight, and although according to the scale it is muscle weight, as my body fat percentage has dropped at the same time, I am skeptical. 

I don't know if I'll continue aiming for 20k forever, but this week taught me that I can do more than I think I can. This, if I remember right, is basically the lesson I've taken from every exercise challenge. The real challenge comes in figuring out how to balance everything. There's time to exercise, if I make that my priority, or time to write, to meditate, to make smoothies - but not enough time for everything at once. As soon as I figure out how to make more time, I'll let you know. 

Week 49: Exercise - 20,000 Steps

Next Household Challenge: Declutter the Bar Area

 Messy and dark!

Messy and dark!

We have one last frontier in decluttering - the bar area downstairs. 

First of all, I'm amazed that we have decluttered so much stuff and regained so much space! I've been over many areas twice now and every time, I find more stuff that can go. We've gotten rid of everything from books to furniture. 

 Darker and messier behind those curtains!

Darker and messier behind those curtains!

But I've never touched the bar area. For starters, it's dark down there. We don't have good lighting for cleaning, which is fine, since what we do down there is usually drinking. Any time we find something even vaguely related to drinking, we haul it down there. The bar area is full of glasses and party supplies and who knows what else. 

If I had to guess, I'd say there's a bunch of stuff down there we don't need and can live without. I'll let you know how it goes!

Week 50: Household - Declutter the Bar Area

20,000 Steps: Days 4-6

 Water pool with fun sculptures in the middle of Francis Park

Water pool with fun sculptures in the middle of Francis Park

I woke up on days 4-6 feeling great! My legs weren't nearly as tired as I thought they might be. 

Day 4

A day off work!

I walked Hazel around Francis Park in the morning, about four miles. I had a doctor's appointment in the afternoon, which I was almost late for thanks to having the time wrong in my mind. Nothing like rushing out of the house, smoothie in hand, with wet hair! Actually, I leave the house with wet hair all the time in the summer, but I like for it to be a choice. 

After my doctor's appointment, I went with my friend Sam and her dog, June, to walk on Grant's Trail. We started at the beginning of the trail, near Interstate 55 and Union Rd., and walked to where the trail crosses under 55 and back again, about 5 miles. 

Grant's Trail is nice and flat. It's popular with bicyclists, and it goes right by my MIL's house. Sam and I hatched a plan to walk the whole length in segments. Next week we'll start where we left off this week. And I conceived of an even bigger plan to try to walk all the greenways in St. Louis. Greenways are one of the neatest things ever, if you ask me. I love them. 

 June looking goofy with grass on her nose. 

June looking goofy with grass on her nose. 

Day 5

Second day off work! Another doctor's appointment in the morning, which I dragged Eric along to, then we went hiking in Weldon Springs Conservation Area, which is north of the Missouri River near O'Fallon, Missouri. 

We did two trails - Lewis and Clark. Clark comes first, a five-mile loop of well-packed and well-maintained trail. Lewis is a three-mile loop that connects to the middle of Clark. We did both, for just under 8 miles. We saw lots of wildlife, as the trails are near the Missouri River, including a doe and her fawn, an itty bitty snake, many frogs, and butterflies. I took pictures on the "real" camera (a point-and-shoot, but theoretically better than my phone), so of course they're still there, and I can't share any of them. 

Day 6

Back to work. :( Eric and I went on a 3 1/2 mile walk around Francis Park, then I went to work. I had about 9,000 steps when I went to work and I came home with just under 21,000.

Yesterday was the first day I overtook Eric for the number one spot on my Fitbit friends list! This morning, though, I'm back to number two. I don't have too high of hopes about regaining first place, since Sunday is not traditionally a big day for me at work. And Eric is going with me to run some errands (on foot) this morning, so we'll be even when I leave. 

So one more day of high steps and I will have met my challenge!

Week 49: Exercise - 20,000 Steps

20,000 Steps: Day 3

 Des Peres City Park

Des Peres City Park

Finally, a good step day at work! When I got home, I was already close to 17,000, so it only took a short dog walk to get me over 20k. 

On my lunch break, I walked at Des Peres City Park, which is near my work. The park is pretty, with a small lake and fountain, a fishing area, tennis courts, and a one-mile walking path, which I went around once. The park was very busy! On a beautiful morning like we had yesterday, I guess that's to be expected. 

At the end of the day, I was pretty beat. I took a long nap, then didn't do much the rest of the evening. In a normal week, I have one, maybe two, days where I get above 20,000 steps. I never have three in a row! But I think it's something I could adapt to. 

Week 49: Exercise - 20,000 Steps

 

20,000 Steps: Day 2

I had 19,828 steps as I started to type this. It's difficult to make it to bed with fewer than 200 steps, what with having to turns lights on, lights off, getting water, fixing the sheets, going to the bathroom, going again just in case, letting cats out, letting cats in, giving the dog her treat, convincing her she already had a treat, etc, so I was confident I'd hit 20,000, but I don't want to mislead you into thinking I had it at that moment. Because I didn't. However, all the hard work is done!

 Carondolet park stuff, trees and clouds (my faves!), and dog and human shadows on green water. 

Carondolet park stuff, trees and clouds (my faves!), and dog and human shadows on green water. 

When I arrived home from work today, I had a whopping 9,000 steps. De-press-ing. If I'd walked before work like I did Monday, I'd have been at 13,000, but I didn't because it was dark outside and I'm chicken. Or smart. Whatever. Either way, staying inside doesn't get me many steps. My Tuesdays are usually more active, but I had way more down time than I anticipated today. But the goal stays the same!

 Hazel might need a day off. 

Hazel might need a day off. 

I went on a 4 mile- plus walk and I feel pretty much fine. The dog, however - not so much. I think she's going to have to take a day off tomorrow. 

Alas - I'm in fourth place on the Fitbit scoreboard. The usual suspects are in 1 & 2, but Eric has passed me and claimed third place. I'm in fourth. Based on his rapidly increasing step balance, he is walking home from work. Or has taken up running. Or is making his coworkers really nervous with his pacing. 

Also, my friend Brian, of crazy-list-of-goals fame, has gone hiking for three hours a day every day for the last week or so. If he can do that, I cannot fail. 

So even if I don't make it to the top of the charts, I've still walked 20,000 steps (20,018 now, after various wanderings since I began this post) for two days in a row, and I'm fairly confident I can keep that up for the next five days. I'll keep you posted. 

 Alfie cannot be bothered. Not by a picture. Not by me. Not by you. 

Alfie cannot be bothered. Not by a picture. Not by me. Not by you. 

20,000 Steps: Day 1

Monday is usually my lowest step day. My responsibilities at work on Mondays (which fall in the middle of my work week) don't have me moving around much, I'm tired from closing the night before, and I have to go to bed early so I can be in early the next day. I tend to not do much on Mondays. 

 Pictures from my afternoon walk: Looking south over River des Peres, trees at the base of "cemetery hill," and the trail (with fluffy clouds) on the west side of River des Peres. 

Pictures from my afternoon walk: Looking south over River des Peres, trees at the base of "cemetery hill," and the trail (with fluffy clouds) on the west side of River des Peres. 

Yesterday, however, I did a lot! I took Hazel on her regular dog-walk before I went to work, so I had about 4,000 steps when I got there. By the time I got back home, I was up to 11,000. That may seem like a lot (hey, I was over halfway!), but in order to get to 20,000, I needed a four-and-a-half-mile walk. 

And I did it! Hazel was rather worn out, but I didn't mind it too much. And I came home to find Eric trying to get to 20,000 steps inside the house (he got most of the way there at work and only needed another 1500 or so). 

All in all, it wasn't bad. Walking after work wasn't as bad as I thought it might be. There were a lot more people on the trail than I usually see. I saw a large (maybe 30?) group of serious runners, several bicyclists, and other dog-walkers. I'm usually on the trail near my house in the middle of the day and there aren't many people out there then. After work is a whole different story. 

I thought about walking on my lunch break today, because it's dark out and I can't walk before work, but I have a business lunch scheduled. So whatever I don't get at work today, I'll be walking for this afternoon. I'm kind of looking forward to it, to tell you the truth.

And with 91,712 steps for the past 7 days, I'm third on the Fitbit leaderboard for the week, right behind two friends who are often at the top. Eric is right behind me in fourth place, with 90,000 miles. 

Week 49: Exercise - 20,000 Steps