She's A Real Nowhere Ma'am

by Katy on August 25, 2008 · 6 comments

I used to feel guilty when evening would roll around, and I’d realize that the walk onto the front porch for the morning paper was the farthest we’d ventured from the house.

No longer is this the case.

My favorite days tend to be those where we hang out in our pajamas until the clocks reaches far into the P.M. portion of the day. Breakfast becomes brunch, and there’s no hurries, no worries.

I’m desperately trying to ignore the impending school year, the unwelcome morning rituals that involve my reluctant transformation into a drill sergeant. 

“Have you brushed your teeth yet?! Let’s go, go, go!”

These lazy days are extremely frugal, queen of green. When you go nowhere, there’s no money spent, no gasoline combusted. 

And yes, school starts in nine days. But until then, we’ll be hanging out at the house, drawing pictures, playing Scrabble and lounging in our PJ’s. 

So those of you who measure your days with how much got accomplished, I say to each her own. But I’ll be the one oohing and aahing over her sons’ drawings, and reading library books in the comfort of my living room. Who knows? I might even pencil in a nap.

Give it a try, it’s fabulous.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”


Buy No Food Challenge — An Update

by Katy on August 24, 2008 · 12 comments



Disgusted by the sheer volume of food in my refrigerator, I declaired a Buy No Food Challenge for my family on August 17th.

I climbed up on my Non-Consumer soapbox (bought used, of course) and proclaimed:

“I will buy no food until we eat up the bizarrely massive amounts that already grace my refrigerator!”

(You’ll just have to imagine the forefinger I shoved high into the air.)

It’s been a full week, so I thought I’d share how we’re doing.

It’s important to know, this week was complicated with addition of my childless friend Kathy. Her welcome visit was not greeted with to-die-for gourmet meals, but the jarring pronouncement that we would all be working to eat up leftovers and already purchased foodstuffs. Oddly, Kathy ate out with old family friends more often than not.


Meals throughout the week consisted of:

Incorporating my nephew’s restaurant leftovers into an entire meal for three of us. (Eggs got added to diner hash browns.)

One evening was everyone eats a different leftover. (A great way, it turns out to eat up those small amounts.)

Most of our meals were perfectly fine, but apparently somewhat forgettable. We all ate well, and nobody got food poisoning.

I did spring for a pepperoni pizza at The Bagdad Theater last night. I was treating the kids, plus a friend to a dinnertime second-run showing of Kung-Fu Panda. (See? I am not all about deprivation.)

It does seem like we’ve hardly made a dent in the groceries. I’m amazed how food simply shows up at my house. Kathy bought lovely snacks for her play on Tuesday, and we became the recipients of all the extra tasty treats. Not that I’m complaining though. The expensive cookies, cheeses and crackers were a zero burden within a twelve hour period. (urp!)

I did end up making one late night trip for milk, which I had already said I would keep buying. (Plus toilet paper.) It was very relaxing to know all I had to do was head straight for the dairy section, without the whole what else should I buy? dilemma that makes Safeway trips normally last so long. (My son is building a toilet paper tube robot, and oddly we’re suddenly going through an insanely large amount of t.p. Hmm. . . )

If we, (ahem. . . husband plus kids) were willing to be a bit more flexible about what dinner food is, we could probably go another week or two. But I feel good that we went an entire week without grocery shopping. This may not be a huge accomplishment for other families, but for us it was something to be proud of. Keep in mind that we didn’t deliberately stock up for this experiment.

Alas, my husband bought ice-cream and a marionberry pie for our Saturday dessert night. So I guess our challenge has officially ended. However, I am going to continue to work hard to eat up what’s still lingering about in the fridge.

Now if I can only do a Waste No Toilet Paper challenge. (Please send your toilet paper tubes to Katy, c/o The Non-Consumer Advocate.)

For more information about the issues of food waste, make sure to check out Jonathan Bloom’s Wasted Food website.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”





Today marks the 100th blog entry on The Non-Consumer Advocate. 

So in the tradition of television, it’s time for a show of flashbacks. A best of, if you will.

(The special effects department is suspiciously absent, so you’ll just have to imagine the wiggly lines across the screen.)

I remember it as if it were yesterday. . .

Okay, maybe I should have had someone else choose the best of, (as I seem to have picked 13 — my lucky number).

Thank you to all my readers. I welcome all voices, even the dissenting ones.

If you’re enjoying a daily read, please feel free to treat yourself to a free subscription:

Subscribe to Thenonconsumeradvocate’s Weblog by Email

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”




      At the suggestion of my friend Kathy, I had written a blog about where the furniture in my living room came from. Kathy, an old high school chum is visiting me from Vermont, and had noticed how tours I give of my house sound a little something like this:

“Oh, you like my couch? I got it for $125 from a vintage shop. My dining room chairs? They’re from a 1920’s Carnegie library. I got 11 of them for $75!”

Everything is used, and everything has a story. So I dutifully wrote up a blog with the information about how I furnished my living room cheaply and without stepping into a furniture store. You can read it here.

I received this reply (among others) in the comments section:

I admire your blog, and efforts to inform others in this regard. But I find it unfortunate that this still reeks of the traditional. That is, it still maintains a sort of Norman-Rockwell-ish facade. I mean, why do we need a frickin’ couch — and especially one that’s all big and poofy like that? Because that’s what everyone else has in their “living” rooms?? Have you ever asked yourself why it has to look like a room in a magazine…and sooo similar to so many other living rooms?

Maybe I’m radical in my thinking, heh, but I personally don’t like to own anything that I can’t move by myself — and in a hurry. The world is changing, we might wanna consider that our Norman-Rockwell days are over. Thankfully. You might say, but I like it THIS way. Then ask yourself why you like it that traditional way? Because you’ve seen it like that so much in the commercials? In others people’s homes (who’ve seen all the commercials)?

Why not open your highly creative mind a bit, and truly create your OWN design of a “green” room(s)? 🙂 It can still be artful and beautiful, comfortable and functional… And not nauseatingly “traditional” spurred from capitalistic brainwashing/controlling.


Hmm. . . should I approve this message? (I do moderate the comments)  Yes. But I will do so with a proper response. So here it is:


Thank you very much for your comments. I appreciate the time it took for you to comment on my blog.

I’ll take a few moments to reply to your points.

“Why do we need a frickin’ couch?”

I choose to have a couch, because I like to sit down in my living room. And if the mood strikes, I also like to lie down. I believe that the quality of an antique couch far surpasses that quality of any of the currently manufactured  furniture in my price range. This couch has lasted 70+ years, and is still in excellent shape. I expect it to last for many more decades to come.

Given a choice, I would have an antique couch over a newly manufactured one made from sustainable forestry practices and organic hemp/bamboo fabric. One already exists, the other would have to be freshly made from materials needing to be shipped from afar. 

“Ask yourself why you like it that traditional way? Because you’ve seen it like that so much in the commercials?”

Is my living room traditional?


I like it because it is extremely comfortable and relaxing to me. The furniture is placed in a manner conducive to good conversations. This is important to me, as I enjoy having friends, family and neighbors over for a nice strong cups of tea. And yes, I like the aesthetics of traditional furniture in my 94-year-old craftsman bungalow.

I don’t actually watch much broadcast television. Although there a few shows that I do enjoy. (Lost!)  I end up watching some commercials, but don’t feel that my purchasing choices are influenced by them. 

I am curious which commercials you are referring to? I have not personally noticed TV living rooms that are furnished with antiques.

Please note that there’s not actually a television in my living room.

“Maybe I’m radical in my thinking, heh, but I personally don’t like to own anything that I can’t move by myself — and in a hurry.”

I own my home and have been in the same fulfilling job as a labor and delivery RN for 13 years. I have 10 and 12-year-old sons, who would get rather discombobulated to suddenly have us move “in a hurry.” 

It sounds like you are happy with a life of few possessions and the freedom to move about easily. Everybody gets to live the life that works best for them. Having tolerance for other’s life choices is something I work to teach my children. 

And lastly, I wish to respond to:

“Why not open your highly creative mind a bit, and truly create your OWN design of a “green” room(s)? 🙂 It can still be artful and beautiful, comfortable and functional… And not nauseatingly “traditional” spurred from capitalistic brainwashing/controlling.

Thank you for writing that I have a “highly creative mind.” I am sorry that you feel the need to view my living room as “nauseating.” 

However, since I am part of The Compact, (buy nothing new) I am unsure how I have undergone “capitalistic brainwashing/controlling.” I have written extensively about choosing a “Non-Consumer Lifestyle.” (Cause you see. .  I am The Non-Consumer Advocate.

Thank you again for your comment. I must go now and place my kitchen colander, (second hand and lined with reused aluminum foil, of course) on my head to fight the capitalistic brainwashing.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”


Slip Up? No Worries.

by Katy on August 21, 2008 · 3 comments



It’s easy to make declarative statements.

“I am only going to eat small amounts of healthy, locally grown food from now on.”

Or, “I will get up with the sun to practice two hours of yoga each and every morning.”

Or, “I will never buy anything new again!”

Or, “I will stop eating out.”

Is it realistic to think that life is can be this black and white?

Of course not.

And whenever I’ve tried to be this strict with myself, it’s been a setup for failure.

We’re all human beings with complicated lives and priorities beyond our ideals. 

I took my sons and two of their friends swimming the other day. We already have a summer pass, so there was going to be no money spent. (My favorite kind of outing!)

The plan had been to drive them home afterwards, but I realized that I was starving. And if I, who had sat poolside was hungry, I knew the boys must be ravenous. I didn’t want to bring the guest boys home hungry, (that’s just tacky) so I brought everyone to a locally owned artisan pizza joint not too far from the pool.

Did I say, “what the heck? I’m suddenly spending all this money on restaurant food, I might as well go the whole hog?”

No. We each got a sizable slice of cheese pizza, and a nice glass of water to drink.

This got me thinking. When I have tried to watch my weight, I’m always very good until I’m presented with donuts (or something similar) and my happy to rationalize mindset goes a little something like this. “I’ve already eaten something I shouldn’t, I might as well forget even trying to eat well for the rest of today.” And then I start on a donut-fest. 

I think many people feel that living a life of frugality is an all or nothing deal. You’re either virtuous or weak-willed. Really, a slip-up here and there is a normal part of life as a normal person. It doesn’t mean that all is lost and you might as well give up.

It’s okay to treat yourself here and there. But it doesn’t mean you should give up a life of frugality.

So don’t despair, fellow Non-Consumers. You will slip up, but that’s okay.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”


A Tour Of The Non-Consumer Living Room

by Katy on August 20, 2008 · 13 comments




Think that being a Non-Consumer means living in a yurt with curbside furniture finds?

Think again.

Everything in my living room was bought second hand for much, much less than if I’d gone to any furniture store. And frankly, it’s superior quality, and because it’s antique it will never go out of style.

The couch was bought for $125 from a vintage furniture shop. It had great fabric in excellent condition, which I’m guessing has survived 70 years (or so) and should last a great deal longer.

The desk was bought for $15 at my local Goodwill thrift shop. I call it my Jane Austen desk. (It’s where I pen my angry letters to Mr. Darcy.)

The rug is a place holder, it will do until I come across what I actually want. It was free from my mother. It’s acrylic, which I don’t like. (Make it do!)

The green velvet arm chair was sitting all raggedy on my mother’s porch. It had been offered to me, and I kept declining. That is, until I saw a similar (but not as ornate) chair for $1800 in a local store. I had it recovered.

The coffee table was bought for $125 on Because the front of the couch has a convex curve, I craved a round coffee table. I knew that I wanted an antique cut down pedestal table. I just didn’t want to cut one down myself. (I’ve got enough projects on hand already, thank you!) I kept an eye out for awhile before finding this one, but when I did see it, it was exactly what I was looking for.

The alabaster lamp was $15 at an estate sale. The lampshade was a couple bucks at Goodwill.

The red velvet Morris chair was a splurge at $250 on craigslist. I will have it forever.

All the doo-dads were a couple bucks here, a couple bucks there.

You get the gist.

It may sound like a lot of work, but it really wasn’t. All I do is keep my eyes open.

And I don’t have to worry about how to decorate the round walls of a yurt.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”




Allison asked this question in response to A Reason For Non-Consumers To Celebrate:

“I’m curious how you handle birthday gifts throughout the year — especially for kids’ classmates and others who aren’t necessarily aware of the compact.   I was comfortable doing this for my kids when they were young (e.g. giving recycled toys for Christmas), but feel like it’s tougher now…”

Good question Allison.

When I give a gift, I have three priorities:

  • First, to not spend too much money. 
  • Second, to not slip up from The Compact (only buy used).
  • Third, to give a gift that is thoughtful and would be welcome in the recipient’s life.



Sound like a tall order? Well yes, it is. But it’s actually extremely do-able.

The trick is to plan ahead. Birthday parties and gifts are a given, and should not come as any great surprise.

So, always buy your gifts ahead of time.

I do almost all of my shopping at area Goodwill thrift shops. But this doesn’t mean that I am stocking up on a bunch of worn out junk. I only buy like-new items. 

I often come across games and toys that are still in their original packaging. If it’s something I think would make a good gift, I buy it and set it aside. Now I’m set for when those inevitable birthday invitations start rolling in.

For example, my ten-year-old son was invited to a sleepover birthday party last week. Did I rush off to Target and plunk down twenty bucks on some random toy?

No way, fellow Non-Consumers.

I brought out my bag of perfectly new (actually used) toys and let my son shop for a toy he thought the birthday boy would like. (He chose a Quip-It interactive DVD game still in its shrink wrap. $37.95 new, $3 at Goodwill — tee hee.)

Boom. Problem solved. No fuss, no muss. 

Another tried and true staple for child gift giving is books. I buy never-been-read juvenile fiction, (usually Newbery award winner types) for 49 cents apiece throughout the year. Then I let my sons pick out five or so for the birthday kid. Add an homemade card and voila, you’ve got a great package for one lucky kid.

There is no reason anyone need know you’re giving used gifts, (unless you think the person would appreciate it). And there’s certainly no need to feel bad. I think I actually give better gifts because I’m buying ahead and can give it more thought.

Don’t forget that by buying used, you’re casting your vote against the negative impact of our consumer culture. When something is bought brand new, another item in manufactured to replace what you just brought home. But when a used item is bought, there is no message sent to the factory to churn out more stuff. And frankly, this world has got enough stuff.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”


August 19th is a Great Night For “The Boycott”

Jump to Comments 

My high school partner-in-crime Kathy Blume is bringing her highly acclaimed play, The Boycott  to Portland, Oregon.

For free!

Tuesday, August 19th at 7 P.M.

at “The Little Church”

The Boycott tells the story of the First Lady of the US launching a nationwide sex strike to combat global warming, and has been performed everywhere from Anchorage to Oxford. 
It’s hard to find humor in global warming but Kathryn Blume manages to do it in “The Boycott.” She engages, in an entertaining way, that tough question of “how can what I do make a difference to a global problem?” And critically, she makes us come out of our denial and confront this planet’s climate crisis with a sense of optimism and hope. 
                 – Peter Lehner, Executive Director, Natural Resources Defense Council 
What Blume reveals is just how much creativity, humor, and pathos it will take to move us beyond the global warming message and toward embodying the artistic license needed to do something about it.
                 – Orion Magazine
For more information, folks can visit The Boycott
“This is smart, clever, funny, entertaining theatre that makes political activism appealingly cool while unabashedly striving to make it part of the everyday fabric of life again.” –

“The Boycott is a magical experience: at times hilarious, at times heart-wrenching, and at all points absolutely necessary.” – Charlotte Citizen

So if you like live theater and enjoy a free night out, come join us.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”


P.S. It’s not for the kiddos!


Some Great Websites To Check Out

by Katy on August 18, 2008 · 1 comment



Like to goof around on the computer?

Yeah, me too. (Although I try to curtail this habit, as it leads to N.D.W.S. [Non-dish washing syndrome]).

A number of sites have caught my eye lately, and I thought I would share them with you. “Ideal Bite offers bite-sized ideas for light green living.” “The Simple Dollar is for those of us who need both cents and sense: people fighting debt and bad spending habits while building a financially secure future and still affording a latte or two.” “We exist to tell the untold stories, spotlight trends before they become trendy, and engage the apathetic. We’re fiercely independent in our coverage; we throw brickbats when they’re needed and bestow kudos when they’re warranted. And while we take our work seriously, we don’t take ourselves seriously, because of the many things this planet is running out of, sanctimonious tree-huggers ain’t one of them.”

Virtual  Bubble Wrap Because sometimes you just need to let off a little steam, without the guilt of unnecessary plastic usage.

Tell us about your favorite websites in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it up, make it do or do without.”

{ 1 comment }

My "Buy No Food Challenge"

by Katy on August 17, 2008 · 8 comments

One of my personal pet peeves is food wastage. I’ve written  a number of times about my own family’s tendency to let perfectly good food go to waste. We’ve certainly gotten better, but are still far from perfect.

Somehow, after a two week visit from my sister and her kids, (which peaked today with a fourth birthday party for my niece.) my refrigerator is somehow ridiculously crammed with food. New groceries, leftovers, staples. Name it and it’s in my fridge. It looks like the day after Thanksgiving. No joke.

It’s not even rotten stuff. (Except for some frighteningly odorous broccoli soup that will be refrigerated until garbage day.) It’s all perfectly good, there’s just way too much food.

So I’m issuing a personal challenge to see how long my family can go before we have to grocery shop again. (Except milk, gotta’ have milk for my tea.)

I’m thinking we can go at least two weeks. Easy. Maybe even three. 

Food wastage is a huge world-wide problem, all the way from source to consumers. When so many people are living without, to let perfectly good food spoil is unacceptable.

Jonathan Bloom nicely covers the issues surrounding food wastage in detail on his website:

I’ll let you know how my Buy No Food Challenge is going. I may be serving some strange meals in a week or so, (stinky broccoli soup flambe anyone?) but if it clears out the fridge, it’ll be worth it. 

Katy Wolk-Stanley

Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”