Posts Tagged ‘solidarity’

Stuff Diet in Review

From September 17, 2008 until September 17, 2009, Robert and I decided to go on a self-entitled “Stuff Diet.” Here is a quick overview of what that “diet” entailed (taken straight from the document) and some of our reflections on how we did.

The Stuff Diet Explained

Our Intent: An attempt to exercise our preferential option for the poor by recognizing the role of consumerism in our lives, our participation in it, and our attachment to it. This is our attempt at lessening that attachment.

Actions Involved: 

  • Restrict purchases of new items
  • Avoid products from corporations that do not have an ethical focus or operate locally
  • Simplify our living space by recycling, selling, or donating items that we don’t use or use and feel called to share with others
  • Anything purchased outside of textbooks and/or food needs (and items necessary for safety), to be discussed with the other person before purchase
  • Develop a budget that allows us to: (1) live within our means; (2) save money to pay down debt, and (3) donate to worthy causes
  • Take inventory of our entire home, identifying items that can be sold at a garage sale, donated, etc.
  • Commit to taking an inventory of at least one room a month
  • Limit eating out to special occasions (family birthday, etc)
  • Require a one day waiting period on all purchases (other than food, household necessities, or time-critical items)

Category Specifics


  • purchase locally produced food
  • make weekly menu/shopping list to avoid over-shopping
  • waste as little as possible
  • clean out pantry of things not used/unusable
  • donate unnecessary cans in pantry
  • once all donate-able items are gone, buy 1 food item per shopping trip for food donation


  • No new clothes purchases with the following exceptions:
  • underwear
  • socks
  • walking shoes
  • clothes bought with gift cards (see below)
  • necessary clothing items, as appropriate (worn out belt, etc.)
    • Thrift shop/fair trade/ethically produced clothes may be an exception if discussed with other and 1 day rule applied
    • Material for sewing clothes okay


  • No new CDs/DVDs
  • No new downloads unless they are free and legal
  • No new magazine subscriptions/cancel unused ones
  • No non-educational software for computer unless health related
  • If we are going out for a celebration, commit to sharing a plate
  • No movies except for celebration/invitation purposes


  • No new electronics except to maintain functionality of current computers
  • Only new tools allowed are ones that are necessary to continue to sew clothes


  • Textbooks for classes okay
  • Textbooks that supplement course load okay
  • Educational software okay
  • School supplies okay provided they are not available in any form at home


  • No new cosmetics except to replace used up or unusable cosmetics
  • Any new purchases should be cruelty-free where possible


  • Trips okay under following circumstances:
    • special occasions (Congress)
    • visiting family or friends
    • school
    • spiritual nourishment


  • No restriction on prescribed drugs or vitamins
  • Commitment to go to doctor when necessary—no skimping here
  • Cat health included in allowances
  • Gym membership okay unless deemed otherwise by mutual agreement
  • No new fitness purchases

The Stuff Diet in Review

Overall, I think we did very well for a first-shot, sustained crack at something like this. One year is a long time! Although we weren’t able to do everything exactly as we had hoped, we did a heck of a lot better than if we hadn’t decided to undertake the Stuff Diet in the first place.

Not being able to buy new clothes whenever I wanted was a surprisingly hard experience for me. I didn’t realize how often I bought new clothes. Certainly not every weekend or anything, but I definitely was used to getting a new outfit or two every couple of months. More than once I had to recognize that I wanted it but didn’t need it; furthermore, it caused me to take stock and appreciate the clothes I would come home to.

Speaking of clothes, I was surprised to realize that I, like most Americans, was only wearing about a quarter of the clothes in my closet on any consistent basis. The clothes I wore, I wore a lot, and about 1/3 of my other clothes were usually “specialized” types of clothes, meaning, only for a particular season (I had a lot of jackets), or for a special occasion (I had a lot of dresses). Since my knee surgery, I didn’t wear high heels as much anymore, yet I had plenty of them in my closet. So after several trips to the Good Will and lots of honest closet scrutiny, I finally got to a place where I could say I wore most of my clothes, most of the time. Still, every time I go back to reconsider if I could take more to the Good Will, I find at least 4 or 5 pieces that I’m holding for silly reasons, so this is a constant process.

We didn’t do so well with the inventory taking, although we did do some of the house. We did the living room and the kitchen as well as our guest bedroom–I suppose that covers about half our stuff, because it leaves our bedroom, the office, and any common areas or yard stuff. Inventorying was an interesting thing, because I wrote down every single thing in the room. Every. Single. Thing. Then, on the right hand side, I had written columns about how much we want the item (on a scale of 1 – 10) and how much we need it (same scale). When we inventoried our kitchen, we ended up taking 12 boxes to the Good Will that day. So it was an important exercise, one I hope to continue.

As far as food, we followed our argeement in ways that were certainly unexpected to us. We joined a CSA, began to develop relationships at farmer’s markets, and became very good at planning our meals to reduce waste. The one thing we didn’t do very well was to buy an item with each shopping trip to donate to our church’s food pantry. We cleaned out our own pantry and donated a lot from there, but it didn’t really become a conscious part of our food shopping. It’s something we’ve both talked about and are going to try to work on as we move forward.

Electronics, health, and trips more or less followed our agreement. We did probably eat out more than we anticipated, but we started sharing a plate almost every time. This has had side benefits as well; it just feels more intimate! So in addition to appreciating the dish together and collaborating on what to choose, we also truly share the meal. It was a beautiful aspect of the agreement.

I’m going to wrap up, because it’s time to head into class. Suffice it to say the Stuff Diet was enlightening and challenging, and we are working on how to move forward with what we have learned in continuing a lifestyle of more simplicity and consciousness.


Deepening Relationships


Today we spent the day volunteering with the horses at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. It was physically demanding–15,000 steps on my pedometer at 4:30pm–and deeply rewarding. We learned of the passing of some of our old horse friends, and were introduced to some of the newbies to Best Friends. We spent time with those we had connected with before as well as those whom we’d never met. We mucked, groomed, watered, fed, socialized. We cherished every moment.

We felt a palpable consistency with the theme of deepening relationships in our lives. We’ve worked so hard to build relationships with the farmers of our food and to be in solidarity with the unseen laborers who make our very household possible. But this was a new expansiveness, one that we began to touch on during our visit in March and now is beginning to deepen.

The earth is the Lord’s, and all it holds–Scripture reminds us of this. We are all in relationship with other co-inhabitants, other co-creatures. By spending time amongst the glory of the earth (so obvious in Southern Utah) and with such a wide variety of creatures large and small, we are more intimately knowing our creator. All things reflect God in one way or another. Today, we were privy to God’s majesty, God’s sensitivity, and God’s controlled strength, all through our time with the horses.

Grooming is quite an intimate experience, and I felt blessed to be able to be so close to such powerful creatures.  It was a good day.

The August Experiment


As August comes to a close, it’s time to reflect on our one month experiment of going through the month of August with only one car. This has been part of our deepening commitment to simplicity, sustainability, and solidarity–and the challenge was to figure out a way to live in Los Angeles and simplify down to only one vehicle between us.

I think this month has been full of both unexpected delight as well as expected challenges.  Certainly it wasn’t always convenient to only have one car, especially when we needed to go in two different directions at the same time. In some ways, August was an easier month to undertake this challenge, because I haven’t started the Fall quarter yet and didn’t have to be 30 miles away at any given time. But, on days when I had to run errands, or go to tutor my brother 40 miles away, we definitely had to figure out what to do.

Our solutions were a mixture of coordinating schedules, reconfiguring the order of when to do things (sometimes to a time of greater inconvenience, but that was part of the challenge), walking, and riding our bikes. My husband and I both wrote about our biking adventures, which can be found here (his) and here (mine).  About halfway through the month we realized that if I dropped him off and work and picked him up, I could use the car to do errands during the day if I needed to. Sure, this took a little bit of timing and planning, but all in all, I think it worked out just fine.

One of the greatest benefits to this experiment was a feeling of unity with my husband. It wasn’t always convenient, and sometimes it felt like a pain in the butt. But we worked together on this commitment, and I really liked dropping him off at work and picking him up. I was able to see him off to the very last moment and be the first one to greet him at the end of the day. I felt honored and blessed to be able to have just a few more minutes of my day with him. In addition, I felt that putting ourselves in solidarity with families that must face these circumstances involuntarily also put us in closer solidarity with one another. I appreciated that we were in it together…it deepened my respect for him and for his character. It was just one more example of the things I love about him.

I also was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed riding my bike. It slowed me down, it made me conscious of the earth and my body. It made me value the work that it takes to get me from one place to another–work I often take for granted.  It was yet another unforeseen blessing.

I have a feeling that, just like with the Stuff Diet, when our personal challenge is over that we may very well carry the lessons learned and habits formed into our “regular” goings-on. It seems to be part of a constant awakening to what we want and what we really need; what conveniences we become used to and, in the process, what mini-blessings we miss out on. On September 1, I hope to take my husband to work, even though our challenge will be officially over. Not because I have to, but because I want to. In this, I suppose we also continue our practice of sustainability…because it helps to sustain and nourish our marriage as well. Who would have guessed?


Over the past year, I’ve found that one of the most profound practices of solidarity has come from making my own clothes. Today I made myself a shirt:


So I’m not Donna Karan or anything…I mean, it’s certainly simple. But it’s the work of my hands and I’m proud of it.  Here’s a skirt I’m working on:


And one of the most important part of this experience is that I was thinking about how people all over the world are laboring to make us blouses just like this, and that it isn’t by choice or an act of enjoyment. Their next meal may depend on how fast they do it and how accurate the stitches are.

This is a simple act of solidarity…and tonight I hold in my heart all those who labor unjustly, and who cannot take joy in the work of their own hands.

P.S…We’re coming up on the one year anniversary of my husband’s and my one year “Stuff Diet”…stay tuned in the coming weeks for our personal reflections on the successful and not-as-successful aspects of our commitment, and what we learned from our experience (and where we’ll go from here!).