Wrapping Up, Part 1

The No Stuff Experiment officially ended when I purchased a crepe pan on January 3, 2012. My new pan, a 10.2-inch De Buyer, is awesome and has already seen good use. So far, I’ve tested two of the four crepe recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, as well as two of the numerous crepe filling ideas therein. And once I tire of crepes—which, let’s face it, probably won’t happen—I can use the pan for omelets, frittatas, pancakes, and the like.

Other than the crepe pan, which I bought in a flurry of post-vacation excitement, my purchases have been pretty tame. I bought underwear, socks, and hose to replace the pairs I wore out (or destroyed) in 2011. The new socks, in particular, brought me joy I didn’t expect; walking to work on that little extra cushion where bare threads used to be is downright delightful. I bought parchment paper to make halibut en papillote, and when I couldn’t find a suitable reusable alternative, I caved and bought (organic) cotton balls. (Happily, this’ll be the last time for the cotton balls; a little additional Internet hunting unearthed this alternative.)

And, finally, I’ve been buying gear for triathlon training. I have registered for two triathlons in Reston this summer, and so, earlier this month, I borrowed The Triathlete’s Training Bible from the library (along with A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen—a great cookbook). I had already been planning to replace my running shoes, which I buy every six months, and my swimsuit, which is wearing uncomfortably thin in the gluteal region. But, inspired by the advice in the Training Bible, I also invested in a couple of multisport extras: a reflective vest for running and biking in the dark early morning hours and a pair of fins to make swimming drills more bearable (for both me and my lane-mates).

Now that I write it all out, this seems like a lot of shopping. And all I can say in my defense is, thanks to the Experiment, I am a more thoughtful consumer than I once was. For one, I’ve stopped carrying my credit card, and based on the advice in Your Money or Your Life, I’ve ditched my budget in favor of a careful record of daily expenses. If I don’t have money for a purchase in my bank account, I don’t buy it. So, for example, I won’t be buying that $1,000+ power meter the Training Bible recommends unless I can find a heavily discounted used version on Craigslist and a local bike mechanic to install it on the cheap.

For two, I shop with a list—a meticulously edited list of immediate needs based on what I now know I prefer not to live without—and more importantly, I stick to it. The list keeps me from going into a store for hose and coming out with hose plus three new shirts, a sweater, and a pair of pants. Impulsive shopping has been a problem for me in the past—and given the crepe pan purchase, I’m thinking it might still be. However, I’m not as drawn to the fashion on store racks these days, especially after successfully and happily spending twelve days in France cycling through the same three or four outfits, so I think I’ll be better this year about keeping impulses in check.

For three, when I shop, I look for more sustainable or equitable options for each item on my list. This means buying or borrowing used goods whenever possible; buying recycled, repurposed, reusable, local, fair trade, and/or organic, if used isn’t an option; and buying industrial new as a last resort. Duh.

But enough about shopping, buying, and spending money and resources. Let’s talk about what I’m planning to continue going without:

Aluminum foil, plastic baggies, and plastic wrap. I’m done with this stuff—or at least, I’m going to avoid investing my hard-earned money in it. Without my asking, my mom decided to start setting aside aluminum foil scraps for me, and over the year, I also collected a few scraps of my own from takeout meals and the like. I use the scraps on the rare occasions when I can’t find a foil alternative, and this works for me. It’s enough.

Next time I run out of plastic baggies—which should be a few months away, thanks to the small donation Mom gave me over the holidays—I will replace them with Lunchskins. I’m not sure these reusable bags will help with December’s cookie-freezing dilemma, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

On the plastic wrap front, I recently received a pair of silicone lids from some family friends that have greatly reduced my need for the stuff. I actually use the lids far more often than I ever used plastic wrap; they are extremely handy.

Oh, and as an aside, we still have a few kitchen trash bags in the box from June, and I’m hoping to keep our trash bag use to a minimum again this year.

Physical books, DVDs, and CDs. I haven’t bought a CD in a few years, thanks primarily to iTunes—and now Pandora and Amazon and all the other online music purveyors. My home VHS and DVD libraries have never been that big, but starting this year, if for some reason I want to own a movie, I plan to download it. No big deal.

The more difficult transition in the physical media category will be to ebooks. My husband and I were both English majors; he studied linguistics for ten years and I found a career in book publishing. Clearly we are big readers and even bigger book lovers. But, at the end of last year, both Channing and I decided it was time to embrace a book-lite lifestyle. I put a handful of free ebooks on my iPad for the trip to France, and after Channing finished the second installment of Twilight (his new favorite book series) our last night in Nice, I passed the iPad to him. He was halfway through Jane Eyre by the time we landed at Dulles.

So I think we are ready for the ebooks. I know we’re ready to unload more of our current library. Since we’ve returned from overseas, we’ve emptied an entire bookcase and sold our discards to the local used bookshop for a cool $50 (thanks for the tip, Sarah!). Now we’re only one bookcase shy of freeing up kitchen space for a butcher’s block and some much-needed counter space.

Pouf bath sponges. I had to toss my pouf early in 2011 because it was falling apart and grody. I have since been using a washcloth—and wondering why I ever switched to poufs in the first place. I can throw my washcloth in the laundry every week so it’s always clean, and I probably won’t have to replace it for years. Poufs, in contrast, lose their shape after only a few showers and need to be replaced every few months. It’s a no-brainer.

New furniture. Of the items on this short list, this one is sure to be the toughest. Finding new furniture that suits both my husband and me is a chore; finding used furniture that we both like will probably be close to impossible. Still, Channing’s agreed to shop used first for the several items on our furniture wish list. We’re looking to buy a butcher’s block, couch, coffee table, and dining room table. If you have any leads, let me know.

More wrap-up posts to come…