Challenge Updates

by Katy on January 15, 2012 · 25 comments

52 Weeks, 52 Letters Challenge

I started this challenge last year, with full intention of mailing out my 52 letters. Alas . . . life and a susceptibility to distraction brought this down to a twenty-something letters challenge, which I’m actually okay with.

I sat down to write a couple of thank you notes the other day, and realized that I would like to continue this challenge into 2012.

Even though I got a paper cut on my lip from licking an envelope! (I think the personal sacrifice makes it all the more impressive.)

Waste No Food Challenge

This challenge goes all the way back to May of 2008, and will never end, as keeping an eye on eating up leftovers is a full time project.

Just yesterday I:

  • Served two bowls of leftover split pea soup with ham to myself and the Japanese exchange teacher who moved in with us. The ham was the last of a “free turkey or ham” that I get from my employer every December. We ate it for dinner, we ate it in sandwiches, and finally we ate it in soup. (Whew . . . ) I transferred the last of the soup into a smaller see-through container, which will help to ensure I do not forget to eat and serve this rather delicious ham-tastic soup.
  • Cut up three starting-to-be-mealy apples to make a small apple crisp. Needless to say, it was delicious.
  • Made sushi for dinner. Unfortunately, there was a rather large amount of cut up avocado, canned salmon, cut up cucumber and crab leftover at the end. So I walked down to the store, bought an extra pack of nori sheets and cranked up the rice cooker up for another batch. I then assembled a rather huge batch of sushi for the fridge. Excellent grab-and-go food that will not get wasted.

Found Change Challenge

This challenge is easy, as all I need to do is drop all my found change into a jar throughout the year. My plan is to spend it on something fun in the end. So far I’ve collected $3.80, as well as a Canadian penny and a mysterious African coin.

This challenge really plays to the embarrassingly nerdy thrill that I get whenever I find money.

Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do or Do Without Challenge

I haven’t really done much with this challenge this year. I do have a cupboard filled with mostly eaten boxes of cereal that should be attended to.

How about you, are you challenging yourself this year? Please share your progress in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Erin January 15, 2012 at 11:06 am

2011 was my year of decluttering, 2012 will be my year of not acquiring – I am committing to not buying any clothing for myself (or my kids!) this year. Also, in the spirit of “use it up,” I will continue to work through was appears to be a two year stockpile of bubble bath. Who knew one could get so hung up on buying soap?

Good luck with all of your challenges, and all the best for 2012!


Abby January 15, 2012 at 11:47 am

The most satisfying challenge I gave myself this year is to remove from my house at least 5 items every day that will not be replaced. Extra clothes hangers count. An empty milk jug doesn’t because I will bring more milk into the house.
I’m keeping a journal of the items to stay accountable. Some days it’s really small stuff like extra pencils that I take to school. I’ve separated myself from big stuff too, like our old bedroom tv. Fortunately I am blessed with some neighborood hoarders because anything I take to the curb is gone as soon as it gets dark.
Just halfway into the month I’m seeing a lot more space in the house. Today my husband found how much fun it is to find stuff we haven’t touched in years and helped me purge. It is going to get a lot harder to find 5 things every day. I would love to make this a year-long challenge, but I will need to assess where I am at the end of the month.


Laura's Last Ditch--Adventures in Thrift Land January 15, 2012 at 12:56 pm

We’ve done lots of purging, and it does harder and harder, which I suppose is a good thing.


Pollyanna January 16, 2012 at 5:51 am

I love this idea! I am really trying to declutter so I enjoy my home more. My plan was to do 30 minutes of tackling something in this theme every day (“usual” clean up doesn’t count – it has to be over and above). I save too much, so the idea of actually getting stuff out the door never to return! Thanks for sharing.


Abby January 16, 2012 at 7:21 am

Hi Polyanna, the journal I’m keeping is helping me tremendously with the challenge. I’m not usually someone who keeps a journal, but making myself write down the 5 things that are out of the house every day is making me stick to it. My weekdays are really hectic, so Monday-Friday I handle simple stuff like taking supplies to school or tossing duplicates of things I already have. Why did I have two pie-serving-spatula-thingies? Seriously. I save big stuff for the weekends like curbing the TVs we had in the basement or selling totes of books at a neighborhood used book store.

My motivation for this project was spending two days at my parents’ house at Christmas. Their house is filled with stuff, even though it looks tidy on the surface. Every closet and drawer is just filled with stuff. I saw piles of newspaper clippings and Christmas cards addressed to my grandmother who passed away in 2001. I felt like the walls were closing in on me, and since have gone bonkers making sure the same doesn’t happen to me in 30 years.

My dad was pleading with me to take anything I wanted, but I was too scared of my future self to do it. I admit now that I regret not snagging a beautiful hardback guide to essential oils and a plastic bag full of barely used embroidery thread. But would have I touched those more than once? I don’t know.

Pardon me for rambling. I will now commence Operation Stop Talking.


Laurie Bennett January 15, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Katy, good question. Challenge is better than a resolution. I like challenges (I’m competitive). So, my first challenge is to use fewer single use items (napkins, straws, silverware provided with to-go food, etc) and replace them with multi use items or don’t use them at all. Second challenge – to purcahse as few items new (outside of food and toilet paper) as possible – basically, follow the motto of this site. I thought we were going to be ok with this year’s budget, but a $6,000 bill at Christmas was unexpected, and will fall into 2012. So, non-consumerism for me! My home is very clutter free, but I did a whole house clean after the holidays, and did find a few things to pass on… so challenge is to get those listed on ebay/craig’s list and sold before the end of January. And, finish the scrapbook I’m doing by then too. Thanks!


CelebrantSays January 15, 2012 at 1:12 pm

I’m challenging myself to purge just one item a day, which will encourage me to finally open the boxes of stuff we have stored in cupboards and under beds.
I’m not keeping a journal, like Abby mentioned, but I have added the purge to my daily chores, so no shuteye until it’s done! I find it so enjoyable, it hasn’t actually been a chore yet.


Thrifty Household January 15, 2012 at 1:15 pm

We’re trying to reduce the amount if plastic packaging that ends up in our bin. So far we’ve been buying all fruit and veg from the local greengrocer so there’s no plastic packaging involved, refusing all free plastic bags wherever possible & generally trying hard to avoid plastic coated anything…It’s quite hard though!


Jane January 15, 2012 at 1:43 pm

I recently joined (Their tagline: “send a postcard and receive a postcard back from a random person somewhere in the world!”) I just mailed my first 5 postcards the other day, and they are heading to China, Taiwan, Russia, Finland, & Germany. It’s fun for me and I think it will be a neat way to teach geography to my daughter.

Anyway, I think you would like it. Check it out!


Megan January 15, 2012 at 2:11 pm

I am really considering the compact. This is hard because with a 3 yo, and a newborn- I purchase for them. They are really hard to plan for and sometimes need things NOW, and I can’t just get lucky at goodwill…

I am cloth diapering and breastfeeding, which should make a huge impact on garbage and cost- not to mention the time shopping for these items. I live 20 minutes from the nearest store.

When I put it down in writing I think I will exclude items for the kids, but when possible I’d like to stick to the not buying new. They already wear hand me down clothes, and little bro is using big bro’s cast off pack and play, blankets, tub , etc. My budget already reflects pretty much no new purchases for me.

Any ideas on how to work this?


Rebecca January 16, 2012 at 7:40 am

With kids that little, it is easy to plan ahead, I rarely find that I need things immediately, and if so I often have something stored for them. You get a feel for how fast your kids grow, and hit second hand stores on a regular basis to look for a few good condition pieces each time, setting them aside for the boys to grow into. I go to a second hand place two times a week, different stores each time. Winter coats, boots, snowpants, jammies, all can be found secondhand, you just need to look ahead. I have a 7 and 6 yr old boys, and a 3 yr old girl. I have already looked through their “stash” of bigger clothes for spring and summer, and have a general idea of what they will need for the summer and what sizes. I pick up “new” good condition shoes at goodwill, often unworn, in larger sizes so they always have a pair waiting when their old ones get small.

You can do the same with toys, bedding etc.

It can take some time to get a feel for how your kids are growing, and occasionally you will mis judge and have items that are too small or big on the season they need them.

I get comments all the time on how cute and well dressed my kids are, people are shocked when I tell them that 90% of their clothes and shoes are second hand. Buy looking a season or two ahead you get to be selective about what pieces you buy and purchase the nicest ones.

good luck


Bauunny January 15, 2012 at 3:30 pm

My challenge this year (which I started last year and pretty much abandoned during the holidays) is to pull together all of our important papers in a way that makes them easily accessible in an emergency and also assemble a “just in case” file for our kids ( or someone other than my husband and I). Some things are easy – marriage license, safety deposit box key, will, medical power of attorney – but other things are more time consuming like lists of insurance policies, bank accounts and credit cards. Lots of things I don’t enjoy thinking about – like end of life wishes. However, having recently dealt with the passing of an elderly loved one, the need to leave a trail and a path forward is prominent in my mind. Decluttering plays in to it too – because not only do we need to know where this stuff is – there is always the possibility that someone else will need to easily find it. I look at it as a ” gift” to my kids. As I sort through papers and “stuff”, thinking about that makes it a bit easier to part with excess and things that are sentimentally marginal. The saying “if you don’t deal with your stuff, someone else WILL” is oh so true.


Pam January 15, 2012 at 5:53 pm

I find that a great way to use up leftover cereal is to add it during the last ten minutes of baking to granola. Gives a nice variation in the crunch. Moved this year from a 3500 square foot old victorian to a 1200 square foot ranch – need I say more?


Megg January 15, 2012 at 8:15 pm

I’m going to do the 52 letter challenge again! This time I’m going to keep track, to see how well I do (I’m not stressing if I don’t get to 52 letters, I just want to know how many letters I do send).


kathleen January 15, 2012 at 8:17 pm

I’m with you again on the 52 letters in 52 weeks challenge. I completed it last year. Yea me! and thank YOU for the inspiration!


Shelley January 16, 2012 at 2:03 am

I’m content with 12 letters a year – I write hundreds of emails of course, but the specific 12 (used to be letters, now emails) are to my Mom’s cousin in her 90s. She has only ever written me back once, because it’s very hard for her, but I know she enjoys my letters. She now lives, after the death of her husband, with her daughter, who has email and the daughter prints them off for Mona to read. Joanne says she often goes in to Mona’s room and finds her re-reading my letters. One a month, every month. It’s my penance for not writing to my favourite aunt when I could have; also my pleasure to please a very nice old lady.


Elaine in Ark January 16, 2012 at 10:06 am

Shelley, some day when you’re a nice old lady, someone will send you letters & cards, just to cheer you up! You’ll be able to look back and remember when you did that for someone.

What goes around, comes around. When you send kindness out there, it comes back to you when you least expect it, and need it the most.


Sass January 16, 2012 at 4:03 am

I get the same nerdy thrill when finding change just lying on the ground! Last weekend I found .35 on one trip to the grocery store and it made my day!


Pollyanna January 16, 2012 at 6:03 am

Found Change — I have found only two pennies so far this year. I will need to work on this because I: (a) don’t get out enough; (b) need my eyes checked; or (c) don’t adequately scan for opportunities … probably (c) is the answer, or (d) all of the above!


psmflowerlady/Tammy January 16, 2012 at 6:51 am

One year, I took my 2 kids and my niece on vacation and we used that year’s change, divided into thirds for the kids to have as souvenier $. It was nice because it kept them from constant asking – they knew what they had to spend and I think they all actually came home with some leftover. My challenge this year is to pay off a large credit card bill I have been carrying for far too long. My plan is to budget and use cash to control my spending. This also involves NO fast food, cooking from scratch and carrying lunch/coffee from home. The carrying lunch thing also helps on the no food waste, but I’ve got a ways to go on that one. Still, that’s why they call it a challenge, right?


amber January 16, 2012 at 7:19 am

My new years goal was to become more thrifty. I am aready pretty thifty but, I want to take it to the next level. I have already called our phone company. I was able to lower our home phone and internet $30 each month.

I plan on calling different garbage collection companies and make sure I have the lowest garbage pick up. Right now I am paying $42 after tax for 3 months (weekly pick up).

Katy- I’m excited to see how much change you find this year. You already have a great start.


Susannah January 16, 2012 at 7:59 am

For 2012, I am continuing the decluttering and organizing that I started in earnest last year. I have written down in a dedicated small notebooks a list of “Hot Spots” – a cabinet, drawers, areas of a room etc. I tried to note all this clutter zones in a way that I can tackle one without it being too huge, i.e. areas in a room instead of a whole room. I love to check off items so this works well for me.
I won’t buy any clothes this year, unless I need underwear. I have so many clothes that it is silly. I could wear the same clothes until I die, I swear.
I want to replace a big portion of the plastic in my life. I will be looking for Weck jars and other glass or ceramic containers to store food in. I have to get up the courage to ask the deli worker to put my cheese in my own bag that I bring. Silly to feel odd about that but I do.
I will be using up all the unread books in the house (of which there are many many many) and I have let my magazine subscriptions lapse. (Oh my New Yorker, how I will miss you!) But more books will be read and since I am in my third year of listing each book read, I will have the pleasure of reading more this year than the last two.
Katy, I love your blog! Thanks for writing and always keeping the bar high.


Elaine in Ark January 16, 2012 at 10:13 am

Last year was unoficially my declutter year, and I did a really good job with that! This year, my first goal is to do grocery shopping every two weeks, then once a month. This has less to do with being more frugal and everything to do with the fact that I hate to go grocery shopping. So for a few months, I’ll go every other week, then just once a month (exception is for produce). Just think – only going to the grocery store 12 times a year instead of 52 times!

I’m also stocking up in anticipation of losing my job. I expected it last year, and it didn’t happen, but I have no doubt that it will happen. And I’m going to have plenty of toilet paper in my linen closet.


Jinger January 16, 2012 at 1:12 pm

My challenge, that started today, is to reduce the amount of boxes and packages that food comes in. I guess that means buying mostly fresh and from the bulk bins now. Thanks for the challenge reminder.


Cate January 17, 2012 at 6:26 am

Katy, I just wanted to tell you that I love that photo…so gorgeous! And I think of you whenever I pick up change from the ground.


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