OMG So I’m Totally Back Off Milk Now: Forks Over Knives

September 7, 2011 § 2 Comments

The Great Vegan Experiment of 2011 continues… If you’ve kept up, you know I have been experimenting with a vegan diet. It has been a very positive experience overall, but when I was faced with the decision to keep using processed vegan foods that had to travel long distances and using local organic dairy products, I thought it might be best to consider the overall carbon footprint and stay local.

But then I watched Forks Over Knives last night on Netflix. As a result of what we learned in that 90 minutes, George and I are now both equally committed to kicking the dairy habit. This was a turning point to say the least. George liked his milk.

It turns out that there is vast, overwhelming, conclusive and irrefutable evidence that meat- and dairy-based diets contribute almost exclusively to a whole host of nasty cancers and heart problems. What these two doctors are saying is that — far more than chemical exposure, pollution or any other environmental factors — a meat-filled, cheese-laden, processed food-loving diet makes us sick. Period. I won’t spoil the ending for you. Watch it yourself and see if you ever again find yourself at the receiving end of a carton full of skim (or a spoonful of rocky road or a skewer stacked with beef).

When I hit the Whole Foods today I bought two cartons of Rice Milk and two small Straus half-n-halfs for George’s coffee (I don’t want him to go into shock). And I tossed in a bag of Daiya shredded vegan cheddar for burrito night. The rest of my cart was filled with fresh veggies, whole grains and beans from the bulk section. Ingredients for our week’s dinners cost $95. Our health remains priceless.


What We’re Watching: Hoarders

July 1, 2011 § 3 Comments

I’m not ashamed to admit that I have a grim fascination with A&E TV’s Hoarders.

When I was a teenager, and long before I became a Type A cleaning tornado, I was inclined to hoard. My room went beyond messyland, straight through slobbytown and clear into hoarderville. Dishes and plates were stacked under the bed. Clothes formed mountain ranges. Heavy items toppled out of the closets any time I attempted to open them. I couldn’t organize or let go of anything. My space and my life were total chaos.

(My arrival at a boarding school where unclean rooms weren’t tolerated was the only thing that eventually snapped me out of it.)

I realize now that my hoarding was the result of an undiagnosed adolescent depression and anxiety disorder. And that’s part of what fascinates me about watching this show.

Every week a team of experts converges on the house of a hoarder and helps them to face their fears about letting things go while simultaneously clearing out the clutter. I’m not going to sugarcoat it — there’s some truly filthy, unsanitary and straight-up horrifying stuff happening in some of these homes.  Holes in the wall gnawed by goats, rotting food, overflowing trash… But I feel compelled to watch in order to understand how this could happen to any of us or the people we love. It’s not that uncommon.

The lonely, the disenfranchised, the disabled and the elderly seem to be at particular risk for hoarding. Many of the people on the show are compulsive shoppers who spend money they don’t have on things they certainly don’t need in order to mask the pain of an unresolved trauma. Watching their dramas unfold is a painful reminder to me that I cannot fill any emptiness I may be feeling with more and more stuff. (And — not to make light — watching Hoarders always compels me to go clean something right now, so it’s very motivating.)

Not all of these shows have happy endings, but I encourage you to watch at least one. It’s important to witness what happens when our rabid consumer culture, our society that encourages separateness and our belief that stuff equals happiness all combine to create an unbearable extreme.

Hoarders airs on A&E TV on Monday nights. Past episodes stream for free on Netflix, and you can watch the new episodes on their website at

Got a Case of the Mondays? Here’s a Little Minimalist Humor.

May 16, 2011 § 1 Comment

When de-cluttering, decompressing, deciding, designing and all the other details that come along with building a minimalist life, it’s easy to lose sight of how funny just all this stuff actually is.

When I get the I-don’t-shop-anymore blues, I love to pop over to Molly Erdman’s to see what shenanigans Gary and Elaine are up to. Molly pulls photos from popular catalogs and captions them in a way that just makes catalog photo styling seem a lot less good. I mean, have you actually looked at some of this stuff? Thank goodness Molly Erdman does, because she is making me laugh on a daily basis.

Although it obstructed the view, the time had finally come for Gary and Elaine to install a fence to combat pillow erosion.

And if I really need a chuckle after a long, hard day of planning my next junk drawer cleanse , I watch this video created by the minimalist blogger Don Swanberg at I think I might be a little late to the viral party on this one, but I don’t care — it’s hilarious.

And finally, here’s a little girl who has embraced recycling in a manner that’s all her own. Ok. I don’t know if we can really call it recycling, or minimalist for that matter (except her outfit is pretty minimal…), but this made me laugh so hard I nearly peed my pants.

What’s making you laugh these days?

What We’re Watching: Waste Land

May 5, 2011 § 7 Comments

As a Type A de-clutterer (and recycler and, lately, refuser) I’m drawn to movies, books, blogs and news stories about trash. I find the amount of materials we use and discard not only staggering, but I find our reactions – or lack of reactions – to the waste we create absolutely fascinating. Why did it take so long for it to occur to me that the things I threw out had to go somewhere and that there were people who had to deal with it? Not to mention the overwhelming environmental impact of just one person’s unwanted, disposable junk. My feeling of disgusted awe at the our mountains of garbage has been reinforced now that I’ve watched a film called Waste Land.

Waste Land is an Academy-Award nominated documentary that tells the true story of the residents and workers at the world’s largest garbage dump in Rio de Janeiro, known as Jardim Gramacho. Famed Brazilian artist Vik Muniz leaves his home and studio in Brooklyn and returns to Brazil to create a piece featuring the people of Jardim Gramacho to bring awareness not only to the struggles of the workers who rely on the dump to live, but also to the need for reduced waste and sustainable recycling programs.

Artist Vik Muniz at Jardim Gramacho, the Earth's largest dump.

The workers themselves have organized into an association that works to pressure the government to support them in their frontline quest to create a recycling solution. While they struggle to get the attention of the Brazilian government, they are also quietly building libraries from books found in the trash, feeding each other with food they find in the dump and caring for one another when they are sick or injured on the job.

It’s an extraordinary story that culminates in an artistic triumph that not only makes me feel hopeful for the people of Jardim Garmacho, but also that the urgent message of reducing waste will be heard worldwide. Its message has resonated with me and my family, and we’re more committed than ever to our path of simplicity.

Waste Land is a “watch it now” on Netflix, and I’m sure you can request a copy from your local library.

Have you seen Waste Land? How did the story impact you?

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