Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Michelle Millet: Family discovers that less is more

From page A13 | March 16, 2014 |

Recently, my family has taken on the challenge of reducing the amount of waste we are responsible for generating. We decided to undertake this challenge in small, incremental steps, in an attempt to make the seemingly monumental task of living a zero-waste lifestyle a little less daunting and little more feasible.

A common theme I found when reading about others’ attempts at minimizing their waste was a decision to simplify their lives by reducing the amount of “stuff” they owned.

To live more simply, I realized that my family needed to do two things: first, reduce what we already own, and second, reduce the number of new things we bring into our home.

This month, we decided to focus on reducing what we already own and set out on a mission to “declutter” our house by following these two steps: identify what possessions are most important and useful to us, and eliminating everything else.

Needless to say, both of these guidelines are easier said than followed. Everything we own has some importance, or we wouldn’t own it, right? Plus, deciding what to eliminate is hard, as it comes with some anxiety over “what if I want to use that someday?”

To break ourselves in slowly, we decided to start with duplicate items and evaluate whether it is necessary to own more than one of any particular object.

For instance, do we really need three staplers? Are we ever going to need to use more than one stapler at a time? Why do I have five different hair brushes? Will I really need three different-size colanders, or will one medium-size colander meet our food drainage needs?

When I noticed that my kids’ closets and drawers were so full it was sometimes hard to put clothes away I wondered, does a 7-year-old boy need 20-plus short-sleeve T-shirts? And how many pairs of leggings does a 9-year-old girl really require?

As we started to remove duplicate items in our house, we began reaping the benefits of having less stuff cluttering our lives. We started to find things more easily, there was more space to put things away and there were fewer items lying around that needed to be put away.

Do we need it?

Inspired, we decided to evaluate the need for items in our house that we hardly ever used.

Do I really need a curling iron if I can’t remember the last time I used it? What about all those DVDs of movies we never watch or the board games we never play anymore? At 7 and 9, they kids have pretty much outgrown Candyland, so why do we still own a regular version as well as a Dora the Explorer one?

Yes, it was fun to make fondue that one time five years ago, but does the slim chance that we will use the fondue pot again one day justify the space it takes up in our crowded cupboard?

We soon became aware of all the little things that are cluttering up our house and our lives as well. We realized we had far more pens, pencils, crayons, paper clips, hair ties and nail clippers than one family of four can use at one time, or even over a long period of time, and that basically most of these items are just taking up space.

As I started the decluttering process, I realized that my desire to reuse — combined with my discovery of Pinterest pages filled with do-it-yourself project ideas on ways to “up-cycle” what some consider garbage into new products — was getting in the way of reducing the amount of clutter in my house.

I took a good, hard look at the six months of newspapers I had collected and asked myself, Am I really going to find the time to spin enough yarn, from this paper, using the homemade spindle I bought on Etsy, to make the ecofriendly doormat I discovered on Pinterest?

Am I ever going to actually make pencil holders from the floppy disks we no longer have use for, and, more importantly, do we really need another pencil holder?

With the other more pressing and important demands on my time, like making sure my daughter is keeping up with her school work — think fourth-grade mission project — and helping my first-grader with his reading, was I really going to find the time to get the sewing machine, which has been sitting in my closet unused for more than 10 years, up and running, to sew shopping bags out of my kids’ stained and worn-out T-shirts?

The realistic answer was no. So I decided to reduce my up-cycling projects to one at time, and let go of the unfinished and unstarted ones I had planned.

Lots of donations

After determining what items we were ready to eliminate from our lives, we needed to decide the best way to go about doing this.

Things that were still in good shape could be donated, which allowed us to share these already-consumed items with others, lowering the demand for resources to be spent on making new things.

My favorite place to donate in Davis is the SPCA, not only because it supports a great cause, but because it makes dropping off items very convenient. I just drive up to the donation station at the back of the store on Third Street downtown, where I’m greeted by a friendly staff member who helps me unload my donations.

Not everything we decided to give away was appropriate or convenient to bring to the SPCA. For these items, I turned to Freecycle — a sort of free version of Craiglist — whose official mission is “to build a worldwide gifting movement that reduces waste, saves precious resources and eases the burden on our landfills while enabling our members to benefit from the strength of a larger community.”

Freecycle allowed us to find homes for the used, but still perfectly good, shipping boxes that we accumulated over the holidays, and the 200-plus plus gently used file folders that had somehow found their way into our closets. Objects that would have been recycled or tossed in the garbage were now going to be reused for their original purpose.

We also found homes for larger, hard-to-transport objects, like the stepping stones we pulled our of back yard last summer and the garden fountain that we inherited when we bought our house more than seven years ago but never used.

As for the six months of newspapers that were never fated to become a doormat, they went into the recycling bin. And the stained, worn-out shirts? Well, regrettably, they are headed for the landfill.

So, while our recycling and garbage containers were a little more full this month, we hope that by adopting a simpler way of life, by sharing what we no longer need with others and only purchasing what we need and will use, that in the long run our efforts will lead to a more sustainable way of life for ourselves and our community.

— Michelle Millet is a Davis resident with a degree in wildlife and fisheries conservation biology from UC Davis. She’s the mom of two kids, ages 7 and 9. Follow her blog at http://zerowasteindavis.org or contact her at [email protected]



Michelle Millet

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .


    Coroner confirms West Davis deaths were murder-suicide

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Special playground dedication slated

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A1

    Solo crash kills Woodland man, 22

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

    Officials say Iran nuke talks will continue in new phase

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Police: Missing athlete died on freeway

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    French eye cockpit entry rules

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Bob Dunning: Wrap your head around our MRAP need

    By Bob Dunning | From Page: A2

    ‘Old Autos’ at Hattie Weber Museum

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Davis tops list of best schools for the buck

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A4

    Lenten giving project highlights climate justice

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4 | Gallery

    DCCNS plans open house April 8

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Parent-child open house previews new Waldorf classes

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Summer garden alert!

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Davis FFA and ag students host plant sale

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A4

    Poker tourney benefits DMTC

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Camp Shakespeare begins Saturday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Neighbors invited to adopt Willow Creek Park

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

    Yolo animal shelter seeks donations

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A5Comments are off for this post

    RSVP for Gerber Young Community Leader reception

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Pence Gallery recruiting volunteers

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Move over, Muggles

    By Wayne Tilcock | From Page: A5

    Tour de Cluck has selected its coops

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5 | Gallery

    CBH hosts Passover Community Potluck Seder

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    City extends nomination period for Huynh Awards

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

    Parenting class meets Tuesdays

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

    Meeting examines Northstar Pond priorities

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

    Pets of the week

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7 | Gallery



    Maybe he loves the outdoors …

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

    Why can’t we be friends?

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

    A California comeback for gerrymandering?

    By Tom Elias | From Page: A8

    César Chávez’s peaceful civil disobedience forged a great legacy

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

    A conversation about power

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8



    Over the years, The Show has been a reach for Davis

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    UC Davis opens hopeful spring football camp

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    A very palpable hit

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    UCD roundup: Sleiffer seals Aggie tennis victory over Montana

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Grizzlies beat Kings to end three-game skid

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B10 | Gallery

    Snubbed Temple, returning Stanford highlight NIT semis

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B10





    30 years of dance in Davis with Pamela Trokanski

    By Chloe Lessard | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Hear some April Fool’s night jazz

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

    Dance the night away at house party

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

    ‘A Year with Frog and Toad’ a delightful family show

    By Bev Sykes | From Page: A9 | Gallery

    Mischief to play at Picnic in the Park

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9 | Gallery

    Yolo Mambo will play at winery

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

    Thursday Live! plans a blues party

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

    Jane Lynch performance rescheduled to August

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A9 | Gallery







    Comics: Tuesday, March 31, 2015 (set 1)

    By Creator | From Page: B5

    Comics: Tuesday, March 31, 2015 (set 2)

    By Creator | From Page: B7