February 2, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

1) No buying of clothes for the whole year
This includes socks, underwear, and shoes. Whatever we need, we will sew ourselves, preferably from fabric already in my stash. I thought this would be more exciting if we got rid of our electric machines and moved to exclusive use of an antique treadle machine or hand work. So my mom is going to become custodian of Becky's mom's nice 80's vintage Kenmore sewing machine, which I've been sewing on for the past 11 years, and a friend of Becky's will get my serger. In reality, this is less kooky than it sounds because we all have enough clothes to last a year sitting in our drawers. Plus our kids get a lot of second or third hand clothes from their cousins, which is still fair game under this system. But I want to take the opportunity to ramp up the amount of sewing done in the house, and simultaneously up the quality of sewing work done and start dressing better. Sounding a little like wishful thinking at this point, but we'll see how it goes!

2) Bake all our own bread
We eat something like 6-8 loaves a month. I bake the equivalent of ~4 normally, so upping the baking shouldn't be too hard. The trick will be in making whole grain bread my family is willing to eat, and managing the schedule so that we always have bread but it doesn't sit around long enough to get stale or moldy.

3) Cut back on spending and consuming
Try to only bring ingredients or raw materials when possible. When contemplating a purchase, ask whether we really need that thing or not. Can it be had used instead of new? If it is a replacement, can the old one be fixed instead of replaced?

These last few months, we have been reading the Little House series to our eldest daughter Violet. She loves it, and is begging to read it every night. These books are excellent, and if you have not read them I can definitely recommend them even to adults. They offer extremely detailed and technical descriptions of how things were done and made in mid 19th century rural America, and I am surprised no one suggested seriously to me that I read them when I was young; boys are really missing out by not reading these books!

The story is true and based on the recollections of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and it's really kind of shocking how different life and people were then. Reading about what Ma and Pa could accomplish on any given day makes me feel like a complete pampered slacker. Reading the books has made my wife Becky and I feel like we want to do more for ourselves and to cut back on consumption.

We are not ordinarily moved to proclaim new year's resolutions. After all, if you want to do something or change your life somehow, just do it. It is well known that after a few months that the number of resolvers sticking to their new plans is extremely small, so its dubious that charting a new course at new years brings any special benefits. However, it seemed as good a time as any to try to implement some mildly challenging life changes.

Becky's idea of what we resolved is that for the next year we won't buy anything that is not a raw material. Obviously this is impractical at some level of recursion, but we do want to draw the line a bit further back than previously. We did have a goal for containing expenditures, but that is compromised already by all the babysitting we had to buy when Becky recently broke her ankle. Still, we will try to cut back or eliminate hiring of other people to do things for us.

I told my work colleagues about our resolutions. My co-worker Bill Stebler said "Oh yeah? Well MY resolution is to replace my pillow with tacks!!"

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