A Twin Cities reuse option for fabric, yarn, textile tools

Zeeda Magnuson fabric art

Fabric art by Zeeda Magnuson on display at the Textile Center.

I happen to live near a non-profit organization called the Textile Center. The center displays works of fiber art in its gallery, rents studio space, offers classes, and sells books, supplies, and finished work.

And that’s where I went to unload a sweater hand knit just for me. Because it had been made with heavy wool yarn, it fit me like a boat anchor, and because it had been hand knit just for me, I could not simply put it in a bag for Goodwill. I thought someone at the Textile Center might be interested in unweaving and reusing the yarn, and instead a young knitter said she would take the sweater and wear it.

The knitter also told me about the Textile Center’s biggest fundraiser: each spring they collect donations of fabric, yarn, and notions, and books and tools for making fiber works, then sell them at deeply discounted prices.

If you’re in the Twin Cities and want to find a good home for unused materials−or if you’re looking for some good deals on materials−mark your calendar!

15th Annual Textile Center sale in Minneapolis  — Saturday, April 11, 2016

Donations will be accepted from 10am-7pm on Thursday, April 11 at the University of Minnesota ReUse Center warehouse in Minneapolis.

Pausing before choosing

When we’re overwhelmed, most of us cope by putting some of our choices on auto-pilot and by making quick decisions on other things. In my experience, it’s incredibly easy to end up in a situation that looks like that of most people around us but doesn’t feel right at all (wait a minute, I never wanted to be a property manager! how did I get so out of shape? where did all this stuff come from?).

It doesn’t have to be that way.

If you’re looking for a tool to help you make decisions differently, check out this list published by Twin Cities blogger Anthony Ongaro of 20 questions you can ask yourself to live more intentionally. Here’s a sample:

  • Will this get us closer to our lifestyle goals?
  • Will this create more or less demands on our time and energy?
  • Will this contribute to potential costs or financial burdens in the future?
  • Will this matter to us in 10 years?



Financial documents—keep or toss?

Last week I taught a class on simplifying, and a common goal was clearing stacks of papers off the dining room table. Special angst was reserved for “financial documents,” which tend to stick around because they need review and/or filing. Or do they? It quickly became clear that none of us felt completely confident about what documents should be kept and which should be shredded.

Thanks to my friend Lisa for pointing out this short list from Real Simple magazine of what to save and for how long. I’ve added my own version below.  Continue reading

We get to choose

Today was TBS (throwback Sunday). On a gorgeous summer afternoon, my husband and I were sweating and dodging cobwebs in a stinking basement, trying to make sense of stuff. Our stuff.

If you’ve been reading this blog from the beginning, you may be scratching your head. Didn’t I proclaim a while back that I was now in the “maintenance phase” of reducing our stuff? Well, yes. And the best explanation I can offer for this last unaddressed storage area is “out of sight out of mind.” We are finally dealing with it because, thankfully, we have a deadline imposed on us.

It’s probably good to have a throwback day. To feel resentful about having to deal with stuff. To feel guilty about what we are putting in the trash and into the Goodwill pipeline (will anyone want a single wine glass from a vineyard they’ve never visited? a sand-caked Frisbee?). To feel ashamed that our prosperity has allowed us to acquire so much stuff—the cost of which, in many cases, has been subsidized by people working in other parts of the world—that we can’t wait to give it away or throw it away.

In case I’ve bummed you out, I’ll hurry up to the good part:  stuff comes into our lives because of choices we make, and it is fully within our power—each of us—to make different choices.

Today and tomorrow, I will choose less.

Simplifying at Home class—June 23

This is for folks in the Twin Cities.

If you’d like to spend part of an evening making a concrete plan to reduce your stuff—with the support, encouragement, and ideas of others working toward the same goal—please join me for Simplifying at Home: Living Better, a class I’m offering through St. Paul Community Education.

Tuesday, June 23
6:30 – 8:30 pm
1780 W. 7th St., St. Paul
Click here to register

How fun would it be for me to get to meet some of you local readers?! Come to the class!


Coming up against the limits of simplifying

I’ve written almost nothing on this blog since January, and it’s not because I gave up on simplifying. In fact, I was working extra hard to apply the principles of simplifying to living better, and failing.

In part because of things going on at work this spring, I fell into a hole with all kinds of painful feelings: frustration, anxiety, resentment, disillusionment, and fear that others were judging me negatively. Also self-pity. I not only felt those feelings, I embraced and settled in with them. I let them ruin conversations and precious sleep. I let my behavior become perversely self-indulgent (you think I’m crabby? well let me tell you, I deserve to be crabby).

And then I made a decision to regularly get eight hours of sleep and I was able to climb out of the hole. I also stopped struggling to make simplifying become an answer to those feelings or a protection against ever falling into another hole. (Why did I think simplifying could be The Answer? I think it had to do with writing this blog and needing something worthwhile to say.)

Now, more than before, I see two phases of simplifying—and that’s all.

Phase I: expend much energy reducing stuff and forming new habits; this phase is task-oriented with visible and relatively quick rewards (now I can park in my garage! wow—sure feels great to no longer have X cluttering up my life!)

Phase II: maintain new habits; apply new awareness about personal choices and use mental and emotional energy, time and physical space freed from dealing with stuff to pursue dreams, work on living in alignment with values, engage in self development, and face problems (sheesh, that sounds like grown-up life)

I think simplifying can deliver us to Phase II, but it isn’t sufficient on its own to help us continue living better. For that we need what people have relied on forever, things like personal resiliency, faith or spirituality, mindfulness, and support from friends and family.

If you’re looking for some recommended reading on these topics, here are a few things I’ve recently found useful.

Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement, and Peace by meditation teacher and author Sharon Salzberg (this is a follow-up to her previous New York Times bestselling book Real Happiness)

How to Find Success Late in Life, by entrepreneur Jason Altucher (a short post published on LinkedIn)

Expert tips for resilience, published in a June 1, 2015 article in Time magazine

  1. Develop a core set of beliefs that nothing can shake.
  2. Try to find meaning in whatever stressful or traumatic thing has happened.
  3. Try to maintain a positive outlook.
  4. Take cues from someone who is especially resilient.
  5. Don’t run from things that scare you: face them.
  6. Be quick to reach out for support when things go haywire.
  7. Learn new things as often as you can.
  8. Find an exercise regimen you’ll stick to.
  9. Don’t beat yourself up or dwell on the past.
  10. Recognize what makes you uniquely strong—and own it.


Recycling (it’s complicated)

Sometimes problems are so far-reaching and entrenched and involve so many moving parts that you cannot, or should not, try to understand and address the problems all at once or you will very quickly feel completely overwhelmed and hopeless and likely give up.

That’s what I told myself yesterday as I left a presentation on creating a zero waste home. While our household has taken some really good steps to reduce our waste, there is so much more we could and should be doing—including things we didn’t even know we could be doing.

Here are some things I learned related to recycling:

  • some community recycling programs opt to accept all plastics—even ones that are going to be pulled out for landfill/incineration—because it reduces the amount of community education needed and potentially results in greater collection of plastics that actually can be recycled (my city recycling program explains why they chose the greater education approach)
  • my city accepts plastic bottle caps only if they are attached to their plastic bottles; if the caps are loose, the sorting equipment doesn’t recognize them for what they are and they get pulled out for landfill/incineration; paper milk and juice cartons get recycled as paper, so the plastic caps must be removed and put in the trash
  • metal bottle caps cannot be recycled at this time; funneling your supply to artists—perhaps via freecycle.org or ArtScraps if you’re in the Twin Cities—is one way to give the caps a second use
  • the U.S. organization USAgain (pronounced “use again”) accepts clean clothing and rags at drop off bins; textiles that can’t be resold (typically in overseas markets) are repurposed when possible into things like carpet padding (read more)
  • hard plastic—commonly used in point-of-sale packaging for things like electronics—cannot be recycled; in general, if a piece of plastic does not have a number on it, it cannot be recycled and will go to landfill/incineration
  • black plastic, which I see in certain microwave meals I have been buying, cannot be recycled
  • the packaging used for Capri Sun drink pouches—and all those convenience pouches of puree intended for babies/toddlers (my son loved them)—is made of layers of aluminum and plastic that cannot be separated and is in no way recyclable; there’s a campaign called Make It Take It to pressure the industry leader, Kraft Foods, to change the packaging so that consumers can get the products they like without also causing so much environmental damage
  • a handy way to calculate the cost of plastic packaging—raw materials, processing, manufacturing, shipping, recycling when possible—is to multiply the cost of the item in your hand by 70

And here are some things I learned about organics composting:

  • lint from a clothes dryer is compostable, but ideally we would only use lint that comes from drying a load of cotton fabrics (scientists have discovered that fish in the Great Lakes have ingested all kinds of microfibers that likely come from the synthetic fabrics we clean in our washing machines—if you’re like me, that fact is so ominous and potentially hope-shattering that you’re going to save it to process later)
  • paper designed to hold food—microwave food trays, paper drink cups, carryout boxes—is coated with a thin layer of plastic unless the packaging explicitly states otherwise; this paper may be accepted by commercial organics composting facilities with the understanding that some plastic is being added to the compost

My advice to myself and to you is to pick ONE thing that you can change starting today. For me, it means no more palak paneer microwave meals that come in black plastic.

What one thing are you going to do starting today?

* * *

A good resource if you really want to dig into plastics is myplasticfreelife.com.

You can find many resources about zero waste, including the aspirational zerowastehome.com.