In justification

I have a pinguecula, which is a “non-malignant, slow-growing proliferations of conjunctival connective tissue in the eye.” I only recently discovered this, and my eye doctor says it’s caused by UV exposure. I have blue eyes, and used to be really lazy about wearing sunglasses, so this makes sense to me.

Also? I’m in Vermont this weekend, and I forgot my sunglasses in New York.

In justification I’d tell you: the Smith sunglasses I wear for skiing (and running) were purchased in 2004, they’re scratched up, and they’re running at a cost-per-wear of under a penny these days. Also they have no protection on the side and are very narrow, so a lot of light comes in over the top. In justification I’d tell you: this is bad for my pinguecula!

In reality: I bought new sunglasses today when I was buying a new fleece for my son. (Justification there: I forgot his, and tried to squeeze him into a 2T fleece that reached his elbows and prevented him from articulating his shoulders, and it was 20°F and he needed a fleece to ski.)

You know what’s worse than a woman with perfectionistic tendencies who thinks life might be fixed by buying things to make her life perfect? A a woman with perfectionistic tendencies who decides not to buy anything for 2012! And then buys something! And is filled with anxiety about having failed already when it’s only February 3!

About two hours after I bought the stupid sunglasses, the clouds moved in and it began to snow.

Beds then desks then what?

Spring is in the air, and with it, my urge to get our house cleaned up and organized. My daughter Minna is two-and-a-half and beyond ready to move out of her crib. We bought bunk beds so the kids could share a room and we could reclaim our tiny office. I didn’t feel too conflicted buying bunk beds because Minna needs a bed.

But now with our office back, further organizing thoughts have struck. If we move our bed into the small office, we can turn our much larger bedroom into a nice big office! With rooms for all our books! With nice sunny space for productive work! And with that, suddenly, we need a desk, for I’ve been using my husband’s desk as a desk/sewing table for years. But if we have a bigger office, he’d like a dedicated desk of his own.

My friend Christie suggested (I *think* she was joking) converting Minna’s crib into my new desk. If only I had the skills and tools to do that! Even then, not sure it’s possible with the materials at hand. My initial thought was to buy a cheap desk at IKEA, but as part of Make It Do and conscious consumption, I don’t want to buy cheap products that will need replacing in a few years. If I buy a desk, I want something that I’ll use for the next twenty years, if not the rest of my life.

I don’t know if a new desk counts as something for me, or our household, or if that matters. I’m mulling this one over while we wait for the bunk beds to be delivered.

Compost ahoy!

I broke down and bought a compost bin. I’ve wanted to get one since we moved into our current house and never managed to find one that was just right. I’m terrified of attracting horrible giant NYC rats. And we have limited space. But I found a small one that rotates, the same a friend uses in her NYC yard, rat-free.

I’m excited to be able to produce less waste and to use our compost in our small garden. It will be great not having to buy compost, and being more sustainable in our daily lives. I’m also looking forward to teaching my kids about composting, and learning how to do it together as a family.

Did I break my rules? I don’t think so. I’d say it’s household purchase, not personal. And it’s a long-term investment in something that’s better in the end for everyone. Still, now buying anything makes me feel all weird and funny. I guess that’s progress?

Mother of all updates

Three months?! Three months since a post?! Oh goodness. No time for excuses. A mega-update and we’ll get this train back on track.

(And welcome if you’re just here now from the Etsy blog or the New Yorker…)

On clothes: The husband jeans have been a great success and until it got too warm for jeans, I wore them almost every day. The Remains of the Duvet dress took over after the heat got to me. Without too much detail, I’ll just say with minimal undergarments, the air flows beautifully through the dress, keeping me cool and dowdy-looking as I take my kids around New York.

On buying: I’ve bought some stuff. I’d meant to update about that, but a tiny sense of failure held me back. I bought a tank top and a t-shirt at H&M. I bought the most amazing red sandals for 50% off at Anthropolgie. I seriously have worn them almost every day since I bought them. They’re all leather with leather soles, I LOVE them. They’re probably the best sandals I’ve ever bought. No regrets there! I bought a larger day pack. The justification? I needed an easy way to carry lots of gear and hold two little hands adventuring through NYC. I bought a couple MP3 albums. And I bought trekking poles and gators because…

On the woods: I went climbing in July in Wyoming. My small group (a NOLS alumni expedition) summited Gannett Peak, Wyoming’s highest at 13,809’. I rented all the gear I could but poles and gators were purchase-only, and I needed them for our climb. Since most in our group were 40 years+, we went as lightweight as possible with gear. Talk about making do: being in the woods for two weeks and going minimal refined my awareness of just how little I need. A bed is nice. So is toilet paper. But need it? Nope. (Still trying to get photos and a narrative of the trip posted, that’s another post.)

On food: I’ve been on Nantucket since early August and feel like the hyper-local cooking I’ve been doing complements Make It Do. I made sea salt with my kids by evaporating water we brought home from the beach. We use it to garnish local farm tomatoes, and we top them with basil from growing on our deck. We picked wild beach plums and made jelly. We’ve picked a zillion wild blackberries and are making jelly with those soon. We’re eating local corn and local fish. It’s deeply satisfying to use what’s closest to us. It’s also easy, fresh, and delicious.

On support: I received a wonderful email in April from John B. One piece of it has stuck with me. He wrote, “I am not saying it is OK to shop…but if there are just a few items you need and especially if they represent tools that might help with the overall goal, don’t be too hard on yourself about strict compliance.  Allow yourself an exception from time to time without feeling you have failed.” He suggested picking a rate of compliance (85% or so) and sticking to that. That’s basically what I was doing, and his email encouraged me to continue with that. Thanks John B!

On budget analysis: I’m behind on reviewing my spending for Q2, and probably won’t have time for that till fall. I might just combine Q2 and Q3 review in one. Curious to see how I’m doing. Feel like I’m doing really well. We’ll see what the data say.

On the future: I’m still chugging along. I can’t say I love not buying stuff. Especially when I’m in New York, I continue to find it very challenging. With cooler weather and back-to-school on the near horizon, I’m fantasizing about new jeans and wooly sweaters. And winter gear! I’d suspected my Gore-Tex ski pants (c. 2005) were no longer waterproof. This was confirmed sitting on a glacier in a very cold rain in Wyoming. I might get new pants. The rest I’ll probably get over when I open that box of cold-weather clothing that’s been stored away since June. That’s always like Christmas for me, sweaters I’d forgotten, some pants I love but haven’t seen in months. It all seems new.

The reality is I’m two-thirds through the project. What will the final four months bring? And more importantly, what happens on January 1, 2013? I’ll strive for more frequent updates and to answer those questions.


In 2012, I'm not going to buy anything except what I've used up or worn out. For all else, I'll make do with what I already own or I'll do without. I've come up with some guidelines. Update: for 2013 I'm going to continue along, but not as strictly.


I'm Meg Hourihan. I live in New York City but was raised in Massachusetts. I blame my Yankee-ness for this crazy idea. Read more about me and this project.


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