How Many clothes Does One Need?

Now that I have ended my challenge, I am faced with two sets of wardrobes. The combined total of all the clothing I have may be closer to three of four wardrobes.  But how do I decide what to keep, what to save in case there are leaner times, and what do I get rid of. I don’t get rid of things easily. If I really don’t like something or know I have no use for it, it is easier. When I am unsure, or I like it but have several, then things get harder.

So I need a plan. I need to decide exactly how many pants, skirts, shirts, blouses, sweater, jackets, and coats to keep. Do any of you out there subscribe to the system where each time you buy a new item, an equivalent item has to go? If you do, then how do you get to the starting place where you decide you have enough?

Having enough will be different for each of us. I think there are three things that dictate how much clothing to own. What we do for a living, how big our closets are and weather. Here in Florida we wear shorts 6-12 months of the year. Up North I’m guessing it is more like 3 months. So I would want more pairs of them. I don’t often pack my shorts away for the winter, but I do pack my winter things away for the summer. What do you do when the seasons change?

So now that I am bringing my clothes down from the attic and looking through them I am noticing my reactions. There actually have been few items that I have said, “Oh wow! I can’t wait to wear that again.” Mostly it has been, “Oh yeah, I remember that.”  The two shirts that I had been missing were my cotton and wool river driver shirts.  I have been happy to see some things and will definitely keep those.

I have my MIL visiting again. This has delayed me in getting all the boxes down and sorting through everything. Had to get the house cleaned up first. In the next few weeks I will be sorting, packing and donating.

So how many of each item of clothing do you have?


An End to Only Wearing Garbage

On February 1st of 2008 I pledged to only wear clothing that came from the trash. Most of my clothes have come from a single dumpster that is located behind a thrift store.  A few have come from curbside “recycling” and a few I have found along the road while walking. The only things I wore that were not from the trash were underwear, socks and shoes. I am not completely opposed to wearing them from the trash, it is just difficult to find what you need in the right size.  Several pairs of socks, several bras and a pair of slippers did find their way to me. The rest I bought new or already had. Shoes generally come from thrift stores except for good walking shoes.

I have been very faithful to the challenge. The only times that I have worn items not from the trash have been minimal. I have a goretex raincoat that is 14 years old that I wore a couple times since I did not locate a dumpster equivalent. I wore a long sleeved shirt of a friends because I was cold and lazy. After much haranguing, I went to my car and got my own. The only other thing I can think of is wearing hats I previously owned. I found a few baseball caps that were acceptable enough to wear, but I didn’t stick to just trash ones.

So here is my confession of sorts. I recently forgot part of my challenge. I vowed to buy no clothing for myself for the entire year. So I am confessing that I have bought three articles of clothing, but with the honest intention of not wearing them until after Feb 1st. One blouse I bought at a garage sale, a T shirt and a Patagonia synchilla pullover were purchased at my local Salvation army. I did not buy anything new! This has really been remarkable since in a typical year I would probably buy 3-6 items a month at thrift stores and atleast one new item. Whether I needed them or not! I also did not accept any clothing and was not given any clothing as gifts from anyone.

I really had a fun time with this challenge. Had I not had a source of abundant castoffs, it would not have been as easy or as fun. I had lots of people comment on how nicely I dressed. I did make a point to dress nicely when I could. I intend on keeping many of the “new” clothes I acquired over the past year. Now my BIG problem is figuring out what I will keep from the old wardrobe and what I will keep from the “new” one. I now have so many more clothes than I need and it will be hard to get rid of things.

I definitely am done wearing ONLY garbage, but I will continue to wear garbage whenever I like.

Still Going

I am still around. I am still wearing only dumpster clothing. I have one month to go!

I bet most of you figured I gave up on my challenge long ago. Well surprise. I just got tired of keeping up with the blog is all it was.  I am looking forward to the end of my challenge though.  There are clothes from my previous wardrobe that I miss. I can’t wait to bring the clothes down and see what I missed and what I didn’t. I expect to keep clothing from both sets and get rid of some from both sets. I may even buy some new things. Well new to me at least. I think I may do a year of only buying thrift next, but I don’t know for sure if I will make it a committed challenge.

I am hoping to simplify my clothing. I want to come up with an idea of how much of each type of item I really need. How many pair of pants do you own? Do you wear them all? How many do you think a person needs? It has some to do with preference, like whether or not you even wear pants. I prefer pants to skirts and really only wear skirts to church or out when dressing up. So how many do I really need? These are questions I will be thinking about in the next few weeks. Then I will be donating a lot of clothes hopefully.

An Entire Year of Rioting for Austerity

I have had so much fun being a part of The Riot for Austerity/ 90% reduction project. The project started last June 1st and our family joined in July. Sharon Astyk and her friend Miranda were discussing George Monbiot’s book “Heat”, where he discusses the need for industrialized nations to reduce their emissions by 94%. They wondered what a life would be like lived that way, since Chinese peasants seem to be the standard for low impact living. So they challenged each other to reduce there consumption and emissions by 90%, which makes accounting easier than 94%. They did this on their blogs and what do you know, other people decided to give it a try as well. So they ended up being amazed that over 1000 people were interested in joining them. Before March 2007, I had never read a blog. I’m not sure I even knew what one was. I started by reading No Impact Man by Colin Beavin. His blog linked to Sharon’s and The Riot, and that is what got me where I am today.

So today I am revealing what a year of rioting figures look like in our household. When doing the numbers, we figure up how we compare to the rest of the country in terms of consumption of resources. We are a family of four, living in the USA,  so our numbers are compared to the average American or average American household. Figures can be represented as a reduction of average use or as a percent of average. I’ll list both so as not to confuse anyone. There are seven categories for this project.

Gasoline:  The average American uses 500 gallons of gas per year. So  a typical family of four would use 2000 gallons a year. I break that down to 166.67 gallons a month. We used 230.72 gallons over a year. That is 19.2 gal/month and is 11.5% of average or an 88.5% reduction . And as reported previously, this does not include airline trips taken in November or any other time. So to be completely honest about the whole deal I am figuring up what these flights actually cost in terms of fuel use. I did a bit of research and found that according to one source a long haul flight gets 30mpg/person. Another site helped me figure out how many miles from home to Honolulu. 9,650 miles divided by 30mpg gives me 321gallons per person and with four of us equates to burning 1,287 gallons of gas for our vacation. A vacation I might add was planned and paid for 8 months before the riot began. Then in October my husband took my son to visit his Aunt and Grandmother. That adds another 198 gallons. Then in February our daughter flew to Indianapolis with my mother to go to a wedding and that adds another 73.4 gallons. So the grand total is really 1789.12 gallons. And that my friend brings us way down, or way up to 90% of average use or a 10% reduction.

Electric: The average household uses 900 kwh/month or close to 11,000/year. We used 4983kwh over a year. That is 415.25kwh/month so our usage is 46% of average or a 54% reduction. Many people doing the riot have the option of buying green energy. Wind and hydro give you an additional 75% reduction and solar gives you 50%. We pay for 750kwh of green energy each month, only ours is 5% wind and solar combined and the other 95% is landfill gas. I was never able to figure out what further reduction we should get. If in fact I could get a 50% reduction that would bring our electric use down to 23% of average or a 77% reduction. If it was more of a 25% reduction then it would look more like 35% of average or 65% reduction. 

Therms:  The average household uses 83.3 therms of natural gas per month or 1000 therms over the season,  much of it is used for heating. We have used no gas heat this past year, but did heat water and cook with gas. We used 112 therms over the year or 9.3/month. That equates to 11.2% of average or an 88.8% reduction. Having purchased a solar water heater, our future outlook is 4-6 therms per month or about 60 therms per year. This would be 6% of average or a 94% reduction.

Garbage:  The average person creates 4.5 pounds of garbage per day. A typical family of four would then produce 540 pounds of garbage per month or a staggering 6,480 pounds per year. We created 157.5 pounds of trash and 402 pounds of recyclables during the past 11 months that I have been weighing ALL our garbage. Recyclables count 80% of trash so the 402 pounds becomes 321.6 pounds. Adding the two together gives us a garbage total of 479.1 pounds for the time period or 43.5 pounds per month. That gives us 8% of average or a 92% reduction.

Water: The average person uses 100 gallons of water per day. That is 400 gallons per day for a family of four and 12 Kgallons a month. Over the past 12 months we have used 26 kgallons of water. According to the Riot rules, water for irrigation of food is not counted. We had a drought during our growing season and are estimating we used 6kgal to water the garden. That leaves us with 20kgal to account for. That would mean we used about 1.7 kgal/month which is 14% of average or an 86% reduction.

Consumer Goods. The average American household spends $10,000 a year or $833 a month. We easily spent the average amount of money since we purchased quite a few high ticket sustainability items such as a solar water heater, two low flow toilets, a pressure canner, a water filter, a new freezer oh yes and new windows. Having recently moved into a new/older house we have many things to upgrade and certainly not just for cosmetic reasons. A new roof is in our future as well as some new flooring. Not calculated.

Food: Food is a difficult thing to measure. Do you measure by weight, serving or by dollars spent. I never did any of these things because I could not keep track to that degree. So I can only say that our family went from eating a diet of mostly processed foods to one of few processed foods. We mostly buy fruits and veggies that are local and in season or pick directly from our garden. I have been buying much of our food from bulk bins and cooking dried beans and grains from scratch. The ideal that we have been shooting for according to Riot guidelines is to eat at least 70% of your diet from local and organic sources. Then 25% of your diet can come from bulk, dry goods like beans and grains, also loose tea or fair trade coffee. Then wet goods like conventionally grown meat, fruits and veggies, oils and milk should only make up about 5% of your diet. This last category is what makes up the larger portion of the average American diet. We started out at least at average and have ended up making it to 35% local/organic, 50% bulk, and 15% wet, conventional. This is the category we need the most work in. Getting enough local food is hard in a society that doesn’t value it. 

I enjoy calculating our numbers, heck I even enjoyed weighing all the trash. It was just so satisfying to see the difference you could make. Why don’t you try some of the easier things. To make things even easier, there is a calculator on the Riot site that will figure things up for you. You don’t have to join the Riot, just become aware of how much of our planet’s finite resources you are using.   

The best advice I can give anyone in how to make a difference to our planet is USE LESS. Use less of EVERYTHING.             

June Riot Update

Riot for Austerity/ 90% reduction project started last June 1st and our family joined in July. For those who started when the project began, the year has come to maturity. I had not planned on keeping data for another month, but since I did, I figured I would post it. I am pretty sure this will be my last update.

We are a  family of four, living in the USA,  so our numbers are compared to the average American or average American household. There are seven categories as follows. 

Gasoline: We purchased 20.1 gallons in June. The average American uses 500 gallons of gas per year. So  a typical family of four would use 2000. I break that down to 166.67 gallons a month. Our use of 20.1 gal was 12% of average.  

Electric: We used 456 Kwh from  June 12 to July 14 . The average household uses 900 kwh/month so our usage is 50.6% of average. We have started using the air conditioner full time and even though it is not set as high as last year, we are using less energy because we bought new windows last October. Our usage one year ago however was 884 Kwh for the same month.

Therms: We used 6 therms of natural gas from  June 12 to July 14. Our usage is 7% of average. We are only using natural gas to cook with currently. The average household uses 83.3 therms per month or 1000 therms over the season, much of it is used for heating. 

Garbage: We created 4 1/2 pounds of trash and 8 1/2 pounds of recyclables in June. We are at 2% of average.  The average person creates 4.5 pounds of garbage per day. A typical family of four would then produce 540 pounds of garbage per month. We have the smallest garbage can the city provides and we could go a whole month before our can was full. I put our trash out every two weeks. 

Water: We used 1 kilogallons from June 12 to July 14. It went down from 6!  I have not had to water our garden since it started raining June 1st.  The average person uses 100 gallons of water per day. That is 400 gallons per day for a family of four or 12 Kgal a month. Our 1 Kgal is 8% of average. Glad to be back to normal.

Consumer Goods-I dropped the ball on tracking this. I think I spent quite a bit less in this area, mostly because we did not need any more toilets. We did spend some money on chicken wire to build our chicken coop. I know we bought a  few more things, but no where near $833 the average family spends per month. 

Food: I think we did really well this month for food choices. I think our purchases ended up with local at 35%, bulk category at 50% and I think the wet, conventional, processed food is down to 15%. I have been to the farmers market almost every Saturday and am eating out of the garden as well.

Now that I have a years worth of information, I am going to do a year end summary, to show how our family fared over the course of a year. I said that last month, but have better numbers for this June than last, so will use this years. It isn’t cheating since we didn’t start the Riot till July anyway.

Independance Days Update for June

I have been lazy about posting my Independance updates. I have only done one prior to this. This is my update for about the past month or more. I don’t think I have the mental energy to update every week. What have you guys been up to?

PLANTED- Rattlesnake pole beans(94)

HARVESTED- lots of tomatoes, 4 veg marrow, one EGG, 14 lbs potatoes, black eyed peas.

PRESERVED- Froze 4 lbs blueberries, Canned blueberry jam and whole blueberries. Made 3 pints sauerkraut, 3 pints watermelon preserves. 2 pints dilly beans.

STORED- 10 more jars of organic peanut butter(purchased for $1 each), 7 bags of rice 5lbs each, granola, pinto beans, couscous, 4 bottles lemon juice, sugar, coconut milk, 18- 1lb boxes pasta(buy one get one free), canning salt and 4 jars salsa.

PREPARED-working on chicken coop, purchased more emergency supplies like first aid kit, got hurricane box together and stored. Bought more canning jars and lids.

MANAGED-reorganised pantry to fit everything in.

COOKED-Peanutty Asian Coleslaw and potato salad

LOCAL-talked about food storage with 2 other people locally

REDUCE WASTE-preserved watermelon rind, eating weeds from garden

NEW SKILL-nothing yet

May riot update

I seem to have messed up my original post. I’ll try to fix it when I have time.

Independance Days

Recently I decided to join a challenge created  by Sharon Astyk who is one of the founders of the Riot for Austerity. Her challenge is called “Independance Days Challenge”. I almost wasn’t going to do it, but I find myself trying to keep up with the Joneses. These are Joneses from a very different sort of neighborhood.

Basically the challenge is all about increasing your personal independance from market society. There are ten things to work on during the week and you are supposed to do atleast one everyday. Now looking at things that way makes it look easier. Here are the ten things.

1. plant something 2. harvest something 3. Preserve something  4. store something  5. prepare something  6. Manage something  7. cook something new.  8. work on local food systems  9. reduce waste               and 10. learn a new skill

So this week so far, I have

1. It rained last fri so I Planted 16 pineapple tomatillos, 4 reg tomatillos, 2 pimento peppers

2. Harvested several cherry tomatoes, several small tomatoes, yellow squash, vegetable marrow, green beans and a pound of potatoes.

3. Preserved quart and pint of veg marrow pickles, and a quart and pint of Daikon radish kraut. Took all tomatoes from last year or older out of the freezer and made 6 pints spaghetti sauce.

4. stored 2 extra bottles vinegar, 3 extra bottles soybean oil(organic at $1 each!), 3 extra jars peanut butter I also went to 3 thrift stores and bought 11 canning jars, two 8 packs of candles, 2 pair of shoes for my son, four still in package pillow cases and kitchen curtains. Purchased case of pints and case of quarts, lids and rings, emergency candles and a mantle for my Alladin lamp.

5. prepared, well I bought salt to make more pickles, researched sites to buy a pressure canner and then bought the canner.

6. managed-I went through all the non-canning jars and paired them up with lids, organised panty

7. cooked something new- Made salsa fresca

8   local food – discussed gardening with a new friend                   

9. reduced waste- brought home 3 bags and two boxes from the dumpster, mostly clothes

10. learned a new skill- canned spaghetti sauce for the first time

Crunchy Chicken: Buy Nothing Challenge

Crunchy Chicken: Buy Nothing Challenge

Buy Nothing Challenge - April 2008




One of my favorite blogs is Crunchy Chicken. She has some really interesting challenges. We finished up the Freeze your buns challenge and now she is doing a buy nothing challenge. Since starting my challenge of not buying any clothing for a year, a month of buying nothing seems doable. We are allowed to buy food and other necessities like toilet paper, toothpaste and shampoo (if people still think they are necessary). Garden items and preplanned purchases are exempt. The month long challenge started on April 1st, but I was too busy shopping to post about it. Ha Ha.

I’ve actually been very busy getting my garden put in and I will post about that at a later time. So I really have not had time to buy much. I was even successful at deferring a purchase to my dear old mom. (HI mom) My daughter decided to sew a top and shorts for a 4-H project and she needed fabric. So my mom bought it. (Thanks Mom).

I do have purchases I want to make, namely a pressure canner and more jars. Really not to much else I want.

Anyone else up for not buying anything for the month of April? I’d even exempt the whole first week if you start today. You can sign up with Crunchy at her website or with me, or just do it on your own. Let me know if you want to participate.

What I wore

This is a follow up to my post What to wear. My husband was given a five year pin for working for the same company, for you guessed it, 5 years. There was a dinner party planned for all the people getting pins for various numbers of years. You were supposed to dress up for this occasion and the invitation even said semi-formal or business attire. Due to my challenge, I needed to find something to wear from the garbage. Well I think I did pretty well in my selection. This is what I chose to wear.

img_0465.jpg  Click to enlarge

It was very warm outside last Thursday, so I did not want to wear the velvet jacket, but I still wanted some sort of cover-up. While looking for something else, I found this lace jacket that I knew I had but could not find. So I wore it to the event and brought the other jacket for warmth once inside. I never needed the warmer one.

After we arrived and had our picture taken and got drinks, the director from my husbands company called us over. She told my husband that she had a job for him. She thought he should be in charge of organising a bike to work day on Earth Day. I chimed in with “What about walking, busing or carpooling?”. Then she said I should be the co-chair on the project.

After we were seated at a table with four other people and had started eating our dinner, my husband brought up the Earth Day car-less idea. The others at the table were interested in how you could set up a carpooling project so people could find other people who lived near them. If we can figure out a system, we can use it at our church as well. We also discussed cloth grocery bags and how to remember to take them with you.

This was the first event with my husbands company that I actually enjoyed. We had to leave early so I was unable to ask about leftover food, but the Salvation Army was right next door so hopefully they have something worked out with them.

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