Zero waste = Chores (Break the rules like an artist)

Surprise, I’m still here! I’ve taken some time off from blogging, and will undoubtedly write only sporadically over the next few months. My zero-wasting journey coincides with my motherhood journey and it makes for a hard balance! As I’m expecting #2, I’ve taken a step back from this blog and my devotion to (gulp, I’ll just say it) ever-reducing my waste footprint. I have *somewhat* fallen off the proverbial wagon. As much as I want to blame it on the busy-ness of parenthood and full-time work, I can’t. I actually think that would be a disservice to the zero waste effort, as it takes away from the lesson I’ve learned and will share here. Not only is it HARD to reduce waste, but I’m finding that it takes time to figure out the best, most sustainable system for one’s individual lifestyle and household or office. I don’t think waste reduction is always one-size-fits-all. Let me explain…

I’ve been attempting to institute zero waste systems without having first completely set up my household. There has been a lot of work to do to get my home organized after a move last summer (with a 6 month-old at the time). It usually takes quite a bit of time to get a home fully organized, but after a year I was still getting nowhere. I was at a stand still. I finally realized I couldn’t work on nesting and organizing because I was constantly maintaining the systems I was using to avoid waste; there was no time for anything else. Constantly washing diapers, making baby food, washing one of three categories of rags, mixing cleaning solutions, soaking beans, etc., etc.–all of this on top of the usual household chores (well, and working full-time, of course). I hadn’t streamlined my living space, so doing all of this was particularly burdensome. I desperately needed to free up time for nesting, and, not to mention, I burned out on my waste avoiding efforts. 

The short of it is: I gave myself permission to step back from the zero-waste grind and focus on priming my house and myself to institute systems that work. The ideal systems shouldn’t zap my energy or be unsustainable, like they previously had been. This is where I’ve been over the last several months, working on getting my house in order. I’ve checked out library books about decluttering, homekeeping, cleaning, minimalism, and design. I devoured these resources figuring out the perfect way to set up my home, made a plan, and implemented it step-by-step. I hadn’t before realized how interrelated zero-wasting is to homekeeping, and I’ve put a particular emphasis on learning how to clean. Zero-wasting actually IS homekeeping, we just don’t have our Martha Stewart yet to wrap it up in a neat, pretty package for us to consume (side note: I freaking love Martha). The hardest realization in all of this: zero waste = chores. I hate chores and I’ve avoided chores my whole life. Even when I’ve done chores, I haven’t admitted to myself that they are chores. I needed an attitude adjustment; a new way of thinking in order to get the work done.

One way of thinking about it (my preferred way) is that you have to first know the rules before you can break them. HH the Dalai Lama said “Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.” Pablo Picasso said “Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist.” I’ve been studying my own effectiveness at homekeeping–what I need to do to have an operational and clean home and lifestyle and when/how I’m most effective at doing those chores. I’m establishing rules for myself, my house, and my lifestyle. Once those rules are fully established, I can tackle the areas where I need to minimize waste in an organized, informed, and sustainable way (in the sense that I can sustain the system). 

None of this is to say I’m tossing trash bags into the garbage left and right. But, I will confess to exactly where I’ve temporarily had to adjust my routine away from zero waste: 

– Instead of cloth diapers, I have used disposable diapers over the last 3 months. 

– Instead of cleaning toilets with homemade sanitizing wipes, I’ve used Clorox wipes.

– Instead of attempting to minimize trash from food containers, I have disregarded food-container waste in the name of convenience. 

However, I have instituted a new compost system of my own instead of relying on my husband to deal with our food waste. Previously, I would end up throwing food scraps in the garbage in the name of getting the kitchen clean (because his schedule did not always permit him to promptly take out the compost). I have now acquired my own cute little stainless steel compost bin for the counter top and a large bin in the backyard. This is a major improvement on my old system because I am able to maintain it on my own time.

For me, zero waste is an art that I am perfecting in my own way. As I improve upon my systems I will continue to share them here. I’ve just been doing a lot of homework lately, and will continue to do so for a little while. Please be patient with me, and, to the extent you are on your own winding zero-waste journey, with yourself. 

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