About Us

We don't actually advocate going without socks! We are two sisters with a common goal: 2011 is our year to step away from cultural messages that try to force us to define ourselves as consumers. To that end, we are committed to spend this year buying only what we need, and to buying used items whenever possible.

We decided to use this forum to document our experiences, share successes and challenges, and support each other in our efforts.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Underestimating Kids

Dear Leslie,

This afternoon I was reading what the Green Smoothie Girl had to say about how to get your kids to eat healthy food. She was emphatic about the fact that we allow our kids a smorgasbord of options when what they really need is to know that the expectation is for them to eat what they are served whether they like it or not. Period. They may kick and scream until they know that we aren't going to bend, but then they will eat what they are given, picky eater or not. Last night Hannah and Micah gobbled down their vegan lasagna packed with eggplant, mushrooms, zucchini and kale. Micah didn't want it but he ate it without complaining after he knew I wasn't going to cave and give him the cornbread he wanted.

One of the things I was dreading when we started this project was shopping with the kids or going places where they might see fun things to buy and having to endure the whining and pleading for me to buy them things. It turns out that they only do that when they think there's a chance I'll say yes. Since we've explained what we're doing, peace has come to our shopping experiences. It is lovely. I know they still want things, but they don't usually ask because they know what the answer will be. If they do ask, I don't have to have to decide if I should or should not indulge them. I simply say, "no", and that's that. No begging, just peace. Ahhhh! I can think of many areas that we could apply this principle to!

A few weeks ago during the plague of viruses that swept through our home, I decided to do a little home schooling and showed Hannah the video on the Story of Stuff website. It's not geared specifically towards kids but it has good graphics and simply explains the flow of consumption from extraction of resources to disposal. Hannah loved it - wants to share it with her class and even asked to watch it again the other day. She brings up things all the time that she has questions about.

Hannah loved that we were able to trade in Micah's mitt and cleats in at Play it Again Sports (locations throughout the country, you can sell them your stuff and buy used or new with credit). She doesn't mind buying clothes second hand and she is really into it because she understands why. I think that so often we underestimate not only our kids capacity to learn and understand, but we underestimate what values we teach on a daily basis. They absorb everything, including our consumption habits.

Thrift store shopping update: Getting easier and I actually like it!



Friday, March 18, 2011


Dear Amy,

I want to make it clear up front that I'm not knocking anyone's specific traditions. But after our conversation yesterday I've been giving it some thought, and I think this is another area where we should think about needs rather than wants. This "need" thing is pervasive!!

Traditions are good. It's been shown in studies that families with traditions are stronger and more bonded. I'm all for them. And I'm not even going to touch Christmas or birthdays or other big traditions here. Those are sacred cows and what you do with them is your business. What I'm going to suggest is that simplifying some of our traditions might be a good idea. Also, we need to think about what we're trying to achieve with our traditions. That might help.

When we hear about a cute/fun/clever/educational idea that someone else does with their family, we often feel like that might be a good thing to do for/with our family on a regular basis for the rest of our lives (because that's what a tradition is). Maybe, and maybe not. According to this (short--please read) article, family traditions "bring a sense of belonging, familiarity, and routine to family members," which helps them feel secure and bonded.

So maybe it's time to take a look at our traditions and see what we can throw out that isn't achieving this goal, and what we should keep. Here are a few ideas I had that might help:
  • Is this something we can keep up day after day or year after year? Is it sustainable? Can I gather my family together every single day for prayer? Yes! Can I take them all on a vacation to Tahiti every winter? No.
  • How much does this tradition cost? This includes both time and money. Am I going to be able to spend the time I need to spend on making it work when I have small children running around or have to care for a sick/elderly parent? What if I'm short on funds? I'll feel obligated to keep the tradition going and may overspend.
  • Does the tradition fit with our family values? I don't color my food green on St. Patrick's Day because I don't like to use food coloring. We don't celebrate Halloween because I don't feel like it fits with our personal religious beliefs. I feel okay about throwing some of those traditions out that are sometimes sacred to other families, because if I were to try and celebrate them, I wouldn't be being true to myself. My family humors me and goes along with it, knowing we'll do something else fun instead.
  • What is the desired outcome of this tradition? It's okay if it's just fun, but it should also have some sort of point in terms of helping family members feel secure and bonded. These results may not be measurable now or even in ten years. But we should be able to look into our crystal balls and see something along the lines of a bonding experience when we plan our activities.
That said, I think it's a good idea for us to take stock and scale down if necessary. Some of us may need to scale up. That's okay too.

And while I don't think we should kill off Santa or the Tooth Fairy, we should maybe invite mythical beings to join our family traditions a little less often. First of all, it makes our kids bond with those "people" instead of with us. Second, it makes our kids' friends wonder why they aren't being visited, and practically forces their families to participate in all manner of traditions they may not be equipped to, or even want to. This defeats the purpose of promoting family bonding for other people. I think it's okay for the kids to know that we hid the eggs. It doesn't take away the magic of waking up to a treasure hunt. But it does mean that the kids need to give mom, dad, grandpa, or whomever a hug and thank you at some point. Talk about bonding!

I know I just started this huge "around the world" thing, but let me be clear: that's a project, not a tradition. I hope it will bear similar fruits, but I'm in a position to do that project now, and I don't have to keep it going forever. Also, I've given myself permission to take it slow and take breaks if necessary. Also, I'm trying to keep it simple. Bret wanted costumes for the whole family. I nixed that idea.

By the way, our Irish food was delicious last night. Almost everyone got in on the accent fun, and the movie ("Far and Away") was delightful, as always. And that was it. I think our kids will always remember these celebrations fondly, and all it took was me fixing dinner, which I probably would have done anyway, and taking a vote on a DVD before I slipped it in and pushed play.

And now I'm off to prepare for our big First Day of Spring tradition! Just kidding. Maybe I'll put a new wreath on the door or something.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

For Your Viewing Discomfort

Dear Amy,

I don't think I talked you down from buying the throw pillows. I think I just asked if you really needed them, which guilted you out of buying them. This question has worked well for us at the thrift store in recent weeks. It makes us think about things, and yes, we too have often left the store with non-buyer's remorse. But rarely do I think back more than a few days and even remember what it was I wanted so badly at the time. Even more rarely do I find myself continuing to wish I had it. Once in a while I do, but a little wanting never hurt anyone.

At your suggestion I watched "No Impact Man," which gave me some things to think about. Since I was sick and didn't feel like getting up off the couch (unrelated to movie), I followed that movie up with "WalMart: The High Cost of Low Price." This gave me even more to think about. It might seem like these two movies don't have anything to do with each other, but I think they were a perfect combination. And here are a couple of my thoughts:
  1. We have got to become more aware of what we are spending our money on. Where does it come from? What is the cost of getting it to us--in human suffering, in environmental impact, (and of least importance) in dollars and cents? We choose to turn a blind eye, and I think that will come back to bite us.
  2. We must learn to do without if it means that others will be or have been hurt in order to get us what we want--that means strawberries out of season as well as the 99 cent sweatshirt.
  3. We can take a stand, even if it won't make a measurable difference. No one cares that I don't shop at WalMart, but I plant seeds when I tell people I don't. My weekly landfill contributions aren't going to destroy the environment compared to what I saw them throwing away every single day at the hospital when Mother was there, but it's something I can do, and the fact that I'm careful about what I throw away means I also plant seeds. When I tell people I compost, they ask questions. They think, maybe only for a second, but they think, about doing something differently. That's got to be of value.
And since I'm promoting media today, if you'd prefer to read, here's an interesting article on spending from a recent Newsweek issue.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Define "need"

Dear Leslie,

A few days ago you experienced (via phone) my first big thrift store experience with me! I was thrilled with my purchase of 6 pairs of pants and 6 shirts for the kids which totaled $27. Not only did I love that receipt, but it was so much easier than I thought it would be. But while browsing, you stopped me from buying the really cute throw pillows ($4 each) that match my living room perfectly and would replace my shabby ones that Honey has been secretly removing the stuffing from because I didn't "need" them. I have to admit that I have regretted not buying those pillows. You, after all, got a cashmere sweater! Can't I have two throw pillows?

Sunday I heard this quote by President Monson, "Avoid the philosophy and excuse that yesterday’s luxuries have become today’s necessities. They aren’t necessities unless we ourselves make them such. " I think it's interesting that 150 years ago Thoreau had a similar idea in his book, Walden (on my list to read again this year). "Simplify, simplify. Instead of three meals a day, if it be necessary eat but one; instead of a hundred dishes, five; and reduce other things in proportion." If they could reduce 150 years ago, just think how many things we have today that aren't necessities.

I've been thinking a lot about defining need and I think I'd like to have a discussion about ways to know if we need something or not. Need can be a shifty thing, so it's helpful to me if I have criteria to base my decisions on. I also think that everyone has different things that they need. Obviously someone who has a career has to have a different wardrobe than I do. People who entertain in their homes for business purposes might need to have a different set up than we do. So the question is, what is sufficient for my needs? Here's some ideas of questions to ask myself and things to do before buying something.

1. If it's for my wardrobe:
  • First, figure out what clothes are sufficient for my needs. How many pants, skirts, etc. do I need to look presentable? Get rid of the excess.
  • Am I replacing an item that is worn out and beyond use or am I just adding another piece?
  • Do I really need to replace the worn out item?
  • Can I survive (literally) without it?
  • If I do really need it, make sure I find what I love, that it fits correctly and is something I will really wear.
  • Stay away from trendy fashions.

2. If it's for the home:
  • Is the item just for aesthetics or will greatly improve the functionality of our home?
  • Do I need the item to ensure that my home doesn't structurally deteriorate?
  • Can I cook for my family without it or does feeding them rely on the item?
  • Do we need it to stay warm?
  • Can I entertain guests in a simply furnished home? (Yes)
3. Can I borrow or rent the item if I'm not going to be using it regularly?

4. Wait and think about it before lumping it into the "need" category.

5. Make a list of needs before shopping. No purchasing unless the item is on the list.

6. Remember the actual definition of need: something you have to have in order to survive, vs. want: something you would like to have, it might be good, but not necessary for survival.

I'd like to hear your ideas about this! I think it will be much easier to have firm guidelines in place.


P.S. Thanks for talking me down. I didn't need those throw pillows.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Killing Time

Dear Amy,

So what do you do when you're more than half an hour away from home, with a couple of hours to kill, and you can't go shopping?

I suggested the library, but Taylor vetoed that. It wasn't too cold outside--about 36 degrees, so I suppose we could have gone on a walk, but didn't want to. There weren't any museums near by.

Taylor suggested we just walk around in some stores and look at stuff, but don't buy. I am opposed to that, because every time I do, I find out that I really need stuff I never even knew about.

This is just clearly one more strategy of The Man to get us to empty our pockets into his coffers.

In the end, we went to a couple of stores. I bought some sale yarn that I will be needing, and some cheap measuring cups and spoons to replenish my ever-dwindling supply (where do those things even go, anyway?). Not a disaster, but it made me think about how much of our community is only set up for spending money, and not for spending valuable time.

Must take this to the table next time I'm asked to sit on a city planning commission.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Oh, it's like butter!

Dear Amy,

Is it possible that some needs don't become needs until we know about them? Because before today I never would have said I needed a 100% cashmere sweater. Apparently I have never worn something entirely made of cashmere before. I found one at Savers for $3.50. At first I just stroked it on the hanger for a while. Then I tried it on, and almost started weeping right there in the dressing room. Honestly, I considered pulling the price tag off so I could pay for it without removing it from my body.

I know I can justify everything because it's used, it was half off (actually almost free because I had a $3 off coupon), and I don't have a lot of sweaters and it's 9 degrees here every morning, but really I just want to say that I now know I have a very deep need for cashmere.

I am going to sleep with my new sweater, I think. It is like butter, only not greasy.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Some Good Finds

Dear Leslie,

The past few days have been quite eventful. It's finally cold here and a sweater is no longer sufficient for Hannah so we went shopping Friday. We went to a small local thrift store that had two racks of children's clothes, nicely divided by color. Not overwhelming and the nice thing was it took 5 minutes to look through the stuff and we were done. Nothing. So I opted for convenience and we checked out the children's consignment store down the street. They actually had 4 pairs of 7 slim jeans, one of which Hannah liked, but sadly they felt "weird". We did find a very nice jacket that felt "good" and paid too much for it, but she was warm for our 32 degree day today. I'm thinking consignment stores are a little pricey used goods and only for special occasions.

Saturday, we decided to see what the mice and ants have been so excited about in the garage. Turns out, chicken broth in little cartons. Who knew? We cleared the whole garage out and now it is a sparkling thing of beauty. We got rid of a whole van full of stuff and jam packed our garbage and recycling cans. Plus, I found a purse that Micah threw up on that I chucked out there a couple of years ago. In it I found $3 cash, a $3 coupon to our local book store that now sells used books and a nice watch that Kalani bought me for Valentines day when we first got married. Grand total: over $300 worth of goods! That reminds me of the time in high school when I cleaned my room and found $60. It really pays to keep things clean.

Today, on a wild goose chase (to find a DI trailer) that my Verizon navigation sent me on, I got a flat tire. Fortunately, I made it off the freeway and slid right into a gas station. A nice young man, whose New Year's resolution was to help people in need whenever he could, helped me change the tire. Unfortunately, my New Year's resolution added some extra work to that task since we had to unload all the junk, but everything ended up nicely.

So here's the BIG find. I decided to drop off my donations to the Goodwill and found my new hangout. All in a row, Goodwill, Salvation Army and "Thrift Shop". There's the volume I need to find those 7 slims! Probably will be overwhelming, but I will save all the money I just spent on my new tire.