Monday, December 12, 2011

5 Tips For Making The Best Out of What You Have and Living Sustainable Now

Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Tracey Davis of Control the Chaos.

Hey there, I'm Tracey.  I write over at Control the Chaos, a blog about real simplicity, real food, and real living.  I'm thrilled to be guest posting today, because Andrea and I are on the same page about a lot of things.  In fact, the more I read at Frugally Sustainable, the more I think to myself (and sometimes say out loud) "Yes!  Exactly!"

Except...the thing is....

Here's my house:

And here's my yard:

You see, I live in a row house.  In the Netherlands.  I moved here from a high rise apartment in Tokyo.  We have been blessed that my husband's job has taken us all over the world, seeing new places and learning new cultures.  But we don't always have the luxury of a sprawling house and yard with a huge vegetable garden.  We dream of someday homesteading full time.

But for the time being, we just have to make do.

So we did.  It started small; I didn't want to worry about my children getting into dangerous chemicals.  I switched all our random cleaning products for the basics:  baking soda, vinegar, borax.  When I encountered success, I was emboldened to branch into the laundry detergent business.  And then bread making.  Holy easy!  And all of this was in our Tokyo apartment.  By the time we arrived in Holland, I thought I was in heaven with that patch of bricks for the kids to play.

In the Netherlands, I am happy that I can easily find fresh eggs and milk at a local farm. Every town has a weekly outdoor market year round, where I can buy local produce.  In fact, it's a law here that all produce must be marked with its country of origin.  But the issues I run into are mostly space related.  We have no grass.  I can span my kitchen with my outstretched arms, and it didn't even come with a real oven.

The point is, very few of us have the ideal situation for living a sustainable lifestyle.  But if we wait for that to happen, we might be waiting a very long time.  Like forever.

Here are the best and easiest 5 ways we have added sustainability to our current environment:

  1. Save our stuff:  upcycle.  Stop the stuff in, garbage out cycle.  Hunt around the house to fill needs before heading to the store.  A few of our recent endeavors include cereal boxes made into mail sorters, plastic milk jugs to hold laundry detergent, and fabric scraps for ribbon.
  2. Ditch the disposables:  paper towels and napkins, be gone!  Long ago we started cutting up old t-shirts for rags, and we've never missed those paper towels.  I bought twelve nice cloth napkins for dinner, and not only does it cut down on waste, it makes the table look nice for guests.
  3. Hang it out to dry:  put up a clothes line.  If I can manage to tie a string between two fence posts in my tiny back garden in the rain soaked Netherlands, I'm sure you could find a spot, too.  Between two trees, maybe?  A hook under the eaves?  It doesn't have to hold three loads at a time, it could just be a way to decrease the demand on your dryer.  We hang stuff all over our radiators in the winter if it is raining outside - maybe you could fit a line in your bathroom or guest room.
  4. Use our footprint:  plan the space.  It's chic to talk about decreasing our carbon footprint, but I think it's also important to make intelligent use of what we have.  Because we have no grass, we started a container garden.  It's an ideal situation for us because we easily moved it indoors once the weather turned cold, and now I have spinach and lettuce growing year round (thanks to Frugally Sustainable for that fantastic idea!).  Next year we have plans to increase our growing area by using about one square meter of ground around an ornamental bush that isn't being used for anything else.  So far we've managed to grow herbs, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, and spinach, all in containers.
  5. Be the change:  take matters into your own hands.  In an ideal world, canned food wouldn't have BPA, high fructose corn syrup wouldn't be added to everything, and we wouldn't have to worry about our kids getting too much fluoride.  Unfortunately, we cannot afford to wait for that ideal world, and ultimately we have to take responsibility for ourselves.  The time for change is now, and the person to do it is me.  And you.

Many of us do not have all that we think we need to live a sustainable lifestyle. Be encouraged today! No matter what you have, use it...every bit of it! How are you using what you have and turning your home into a unit of production? 

Be sure to pay a visit to Tracey over at her blog Control the Chaos and check out her facebook page as well!

See this post and a host of others like it here: Homestead Barn Hop, Made By You, Just Something I Whipped Up, Homemaker Monday, Savvy HomeMade Monday, Mangia Monday, More The Merrier, Inspire Me Monday, Cure for the Common Monday, Make Something Monday, Calling All Crafters, Tip Me Tuesday, New Nostalgia, Handmade Tuesday, Teach Me Tuesday, Frugal Tuesday Tip, Terrific Under $10, Rasing Homemakers, The Mommy Club, Crafty Sasse, Simple Lives, Your Green Resource, Mine For The Making, Show Off Your Stuff, Frugal Friday, Freaky Friday, Farm Girl Friday, SNS 112, Weekend Bloggy Reading, Nifty Thrifty Things


At December 12, 2011 at 7:46 AM , Blogger Myrrh said...

With all the information out there and all the articles and posts by people doing amazing and incredible things, it can be hard to remember that they all had to start somewhere - where they were!

Thank you for the reminder that doing what we can do right now is not only important but that it makes a difference!

The longer we live here (in our first home together) the more little things we add that make a difference both economically and ecologically. The first year we did some canning, the second we added raised garden beds (and did more canning!), now we've added some chickens in the back yard and make our own laundry detergent. Each little piece really adds up to the previous year's additions.

We never did many changes at once but now that it's been almost three years we can look back and see the big changes.

At December 12, 2011 at 8:53 AM , Blogger Ciara Kay said...

Thanks so much for the guest post! It's SO important to remember that the movement towards sustainability should not be dependent on location or resources; I can and should start now with what I have, where I am.

This post was very inspiring with some great suggestions! Thank you!

At December 12, 2011 at 9:13 AM , Blogger Jessica said...

That is neat what you are doing. Making the best of your situation, it's what we can do that matters, and that we do it!

We are pretty frugal around here, my husband is self employed and at times there isn't enough work. Any how we have 8 mouths to feed, it's my job to stretch the dollar.

We have started mending work boots (DH is a contractor) I had a leather sewing awl, and my handy mother showed me how to restitch boots.

We use a lot of Tearmender. It's very hard to patch children's jeans on the sewing machine and Tearmender takes so little time and lasts longer that the child needs them! I even patch DH jeans this way too, if I am pressed for time.

We use these bowl covering things that look like a shower caps instead of seran wrap. They are rewashable. Also I reuse my freezer bags and wash them out. Tin foil is terrible, and not in my house, we figure someway around those kinds of things.

These are a few small things and it's part of our lifestyle to do them. Sure it may take more time in some cases, but really must we always rush through life! My dishwasher died a few months ago, we felt that is was a extravagance in the first place, so we opted out of a new one. Now the time I take washing dishes is when I can think thru my day: to make the wisest decisions and caculate the cost of my actions....this is frugal, being in a rush is so wasteful.

At December 12, 2011 at 10:00 AM , Blogger April said...

we've done little things..we don't have a microwave or dishwasher, Im replacing some of the electical small appliances with manual ones(can opener, hand crank food proccessor, etc, we unplug things when not in use, my gardening skills are seriously lacking so I shop the farmer's market and a couple year round farmer supplied stores, we buy second hand as much as possible, upcycle, recycle.

At December 12, 2011 at 10:39 AM , Anonymous Shiloh said...

Ooh, I'm seeing some good ideas here. We use lots of rags, and no paper towels. I make my own laundry soap, but I have completely overlooked Borax as a house cleaner. I need to check into that. Thank you so much!

At December 12, 2011 at 12:25 PM , Anonymous Stacy Makes Cents said...

:-) It's always nice to hear from like-minded people. I am in a similar situation - I currently live in a townhouse with a paved "back yard." :-) We hope to move next year, and then I will branch out from just being frugal inside my home. I was very blessed to be raised by a frugal mother, so I've always lived this way.
Thanks for sharing your pictures and your tips. They're great!

At December 12, 2011 at 2:36 PM , Blogger Jess said...

I have started hanging clothes to dry on hangers over our shower curtain rod-its easy, and out of the way since there is not not much space in our home. I cant put everything up there, but it does help with reducing the need for the dryer.

I keep getting such great ideas from these posts, and I need to try to start implementing more of them, although slowly.

At December 12, 2011 at 9:02 PM , Blogger Kelly said...

Great tips :)

At December 12, 2011 at 9:39 PM , Blogger Shannon@FoxHollowCottage said...

With over 450 links at the Tip Junkie, I bypassed all the decor stuff! Something made me click this. Wonderful post. Gave me some great ideas of a few things we can change. THANKS ;) Shannon in the USA

At December 13, 2011 at 6:53 AM , Anonymous Barb @ A Life in Balance said...

Great post! I've read a few posts on your blog and didn't realize that you live in the Netherlands.

Thank you for the reminder to bloom where we are and use what we have instead of wishing for something that isn't possible.

At December 13, 2011 at 6:58 AM , Anonymous Andrea @ Frugally Sustainable said...

@Barb Oh! I'm sorry for the confusion:) I live here in Arizona. My friend Tracey over at Control the Chaos wrote this post for Frugally Sustainable. It's Tracey who lives in the Netherlands. Pretty neat huh?

At December 14, 2011 at 2:14 PM , Blogger marissa said...

this is great I'd love you to add it to my What We Wore and Made link party over at

At December 16, 2011 at 1:28 PM , Anonymous Andrea @ The Greenbacks Gal said...

We totally need to remember that all our small steps add up!


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