What Are Your Five Things?

by Katy on June 8, 2009 · 29 comments


The Compact, (buy nothing new) Yahoo group I’m part of has an interesting thread going right now about “What are the three things you’ve done to compact lately?” I find it extremely interesting to read, and it makes me wonder the same thing from the Non-Consumer Advocate community. Which begs the question:

What are the five things you’ve done to be a Non-Consumer lately?

Here’s my list:

  1. When my thirteen-year-old informed me that he needed to buy a $10 band T-shirt to march in the Jr. Rose Festival parade, I had him ask his teacher if there was one he could borrow. This son is extremely style conscious and would never wear this shirt again. This not only saves us $10, but also avoids adding more useless stuff to our house.
  2. I agreed to be the speaker for a lecture series at my son’s old elementary school  this Fall. I will speaking on “Choosing a Non-Consumer Lifestyle for you and your Family.” My first instinct was “Ack, no!!!!!” But I am taking a note from fellow Portland blogger J.D. Roth over at Get Rich Slowly, and not saying no to opportunities just because they scare the crap out of me. (I’ll be announcing this free Portland event when the time gets closer.)
  3. I took my kids to a library returning volunteer orientation yesterday. We have been volunteering for the Summer Reading Program over the past four years, and it’s been a great experience. Both my kids are shy with strangers and this opportunity forces them to interact with library patrons in a safe environment. Plus it gives us a chance to give something back to our wonderful library.
  4. I held my long awaited garage sale last week, which not only gave me $400 to add to our savings account, but also provided lots of great second hand goods for others. I only did a one day sale, and am continuing to glean the excess from our home for another sale in a few weeks. There is simply nothing better than an event that declutters, makes money and provides for others. Ahh . . . the trifecta.
  5. I have continued with the daily non-consumer habits that define my lifestyle. I hang dry my laundry, get all my books and movies from the library, dress in second hand clothing, cook from scratch, figure out free and almost free ways to landscape and garden, find free entertainment for my sons, drive minimally, obsessively check the Coinstar machine, (which has been oddly prolific lately) and oh yeah . . . write my daily blog.

Please share your five things list in the comments section below. (Yes, I’m asking five not three because I’m greedy, pure and simple.)

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Angela June 8, 2009 at 10:48 am

Love the “trifecta”- taking the win/win up a notch! What could be better than those 3 things? Ah, it makes the heart race.

Congratulations on accepting the speaking event. I recently stood to ask a question at a lecture, and was surprised to find my heart beating because I’m not that shy of a person. I think the key is to keep the focus off yourself and on the information you have to offer. It’s great to get over your fears, for yourself and also because you’ll be turning some people on to the lifestyle.

My 5 things (off the top of my head):
1. Started hanging out laundry in our backyard
2. Encouraged husband to shop for refrigerator on Craig’s list rather than buying new (he’s not doing Compact, but very supportive and changing his habits too)
3. Planted 2 tomato plants (for a non-gardener, that’s a big deal)
4. Made a crockpot full of rice pudding last night- will save not only tons of $, but all those little plastic containers they come in
5. Continue writing my blog about the joys of a non-consumer lifestyle!


Tara Morrison June 8, 2009 at 3:04 pm

Good Luck on speaking engagement if it is as entertaining as your blog I am sure it will be a hit.

My five things of late:
1. cloth diapering child as much as physically possible…we cant seem to get this guy through the night in one (I have had success with my other two, he just seems to have an enormous bladder)
2. Hanging laundry out when ever possible.
3. Making just about everything we eat from scratch ( including bread and yogurt and Popsicles)
4. Kids are out of school so very little driving. I usually go three days with out using the car. This helps on not buying as well.
5. Something I am constantly doing is stain removal…this extends the life of our clothes or makes it possible for me to consign them when my kids out grow them.
6. I am adding this because we too are avid readers and library patrons and love to involve ourselves in all the free summer events our library and town offer!


Kiwi Chick June 8, 2009 at 3:18 pm

1. Cooked a huge pot of spicy pumpkin soup and froze mealsize portions.
2. Was low on vegetables for dinner so had a look at our garden (it’s winter here) and found a nice little cabbage. Yum!
3. Cooked a whole chicken in the slow cooker for dinner (I’m a beginner when it comes to using my slow cooker so this was quite momentous for me).
4. Picked the last of the fejoias which overhang from the neighbours tree (free fruit).
5. Took the outer cabbage leaves and pumpkin peel round to a friend for their rabbit (my compost bin is full to the brim currently so was good that these things weren’t wasted).

Obviously this weekend we need to dig out the bottom of our compost and dig it through the garden to give us more composting space.


Jinger June 8, 2009 at 3:30 pm

1. Haircut with coupon for $6.95.
2. Free outdoor symphony concerts every Sunday evening.
3. Making new pillow shams from a gorgeous all cotton shower curtain.
4. Baking my own granola bars.
5.Living a resort style life at home with many lovely swimming pools to choose from every day and a view of the woods, meadow and walking trail from my porch.


Meg from FruWiki June 8, 2009 at 3:42 pm

1. Eating weeds from my yard instead of poisoning them and/or spending money to buy organic dandelion leaves from the grocery store (yes, they really sell them there).

2. Enjoying homemade from scratch (though microwaved, lol) chocolate cake made with eggs from our backyard hens. (If you’re interested in the recipe, we base it on the following but usually use carob powder & Nesquick instead of cocoa powder, and add nuts: http://alladither.typepad.com/halfassedkitchen/2008/10/five-minute-chocolate-cake-yes-really.html)

3. Watching DVDs from the library with my hubby.

4. Hang drying my clothes to save energy and ensure that they last longer.

5. Going for nightly neighborhood walks with my husband instead of paying for a gym membership.


Kristie-ND June 8, 2009 at 5:10 pm

Good luck with your speaking engagement!

New to this, so baby steps, but, so far:

1. Needed a pair of shoes and a container for my kitchen. Instead of buying new FIRST, I stopped by both of the local thrift stores in my town and at one store, found the shoes I needed, just need to take some shoe polish to the scuffs for 1.50(brand name shoes at that!) At the other store, I found the container I needed, but instead of an ugly, but serviceable plastic container, I found a beautiful depression era looking glass canister that not only meets my needs, but is pretty enough to leave out vs shoved in the pantry…even found a bundt cake pan for 99 cents. Always wanted one, but never enough to pay for it!LOL! I can deal with this price 🙂

2. I was about to buy 2 books, but remembered to check and see if I could check out the audiobook version from my libraries online audiobook program. I could, so I am able to see if they are books I really would like to own. Couldn’t find another, but ILL the book vs buying it new.

3. looked through my libraries free magazine pile, and found several mags that I might have bought. Never remember the magazine table when I check the book exchange rack.

That’s it so far. As I said, I am a newbie to changing my mindset. I have become a smarter shopper though, and if I can’t find what I need used, I have been thinking more about what I really need new, and whether I can buy one thing that can serve many uses.


Sierra June 8, 2009 at 5:33 pm

Here are five small things:

1. bought a used bike for my 15-year-old for $20, then freecycled new tires, brakes, lights and a helmet to make it street-worthy.

2. signed said 15-year-old up for a whole summer’s worth of camps and classes on which I spent a total of $1.

3. biking for all my local errands and visits.

4. planted a vegetable garden.

5. accompanied a friend’s 9-year-old on a shopping trip and talked to her about The Compact, and why and how I do it.


Cherry-Lee Ward June 8, 2009 at 7:10 pm

Love your blog – thanks so much for dedicating your time and energy to it!

Here are my 5 –

1) Big summer garden in progress
2) Using a no lather shampoo Deva Girl – No Poo. All natural and so good for hair it only needs cutting once or twice a year!
3) Took my daughter to a $4 class at a CSA close to home on the weekend. We made bath salts, salve, soap and mosquito spray to bring home! Really nice products as well.
4) Class inspired us to make teacher presents for 11 teachers (counting specialists) with less than $5 of Epsom Salts, fabric from old clothes, and products on hand and in the garden We had enough left over for a month full of delightful baths x 4 of us.
5) Have a friend with a bag of hand me downs for my youngest – just waiting for a time to connect without one of us making a trip.


Emily June 8, 2009 at 7:51 pm

I’m still very much a consumer, but I’m trying to change my wasteful ways and am encouraged every day by this blog. Here are a few things I’ve done lately:
1. Borrowed movies from the library rather than renting from our neighborhood video store.
2. Bummed a ride with another parent to a school field trip to save on gas and reduce our carbon footprint.
3. Roasted a whole chicken and planned for a week of leftovers, including chicken soup, chicken salad and chicken pizza.
4. Packed lunches for our day at the beach rather than going out to eat. (Full disclosure: We went out to dinner on the way home.)
5. Asked Katy to be a speaker for our elementary school lecture series next year (oops, they’re “community conversations,” not “lectures”) to save the school some much needed money and encourage others to embrace the nonconsumer lifestyle. Thank you for saying yes!!!!


Sandy June 8, 2009 at 8:35 pm

I am going to list my latest and greatest five non- consumer habits. I am not officially doing the compact. I just am trying to return to my roots and get out of the spending cycle.

1. Made burritos from scratch for quick heat and eat snacks.
2. Made my own popsicles and popcorn.
3. Started writing down my expenses. All of them. Even candy and slurpees. Hmm…
4. Got a free sample of personal lubricant in the mail.
5. Made a pair of cut off shorts from jeans.


Jessica Wolk-Stanley June 8, 2009 at 8:49 pm

I’m not an official card-carrying member of the Compact, but I usually can avoid purchasing new.

1. Yesterday my 4-year-old daughter (that is her hand in Katy’s photo) and I planted radishes from seeds that our librarian had leftover from an activity.

2. I knit socks from a thrift store sweater I unraveled.

3. I helped my son with a school project, using a wooden bowl that mysteriously appeared on our stairs, full of paperclips (um, thanks Compact Fairy, I guess), some free fabric I found a while back, and garage sale twine and legos. All that stuff made a boat, by the way.

4. I made cookies for my grad student husband to take to school and share, rather than buying cookies, as he originally requested. I used some of my recently purchased 50 pounds of whole wheat flour that only cost $18 or so…pretty cheap!

5. I used bath water to water plants (I like to wait for it to cool first).


Louise June 8, 2009 at 10:02 pm

1. Take showers and put on clean clothes only every other day. This cuts our water usage and laundry in half. My skin and hair are happier, too!

2. The only shoes that work for my bad feet are Merrell mocs. I bought my last three pairs used from eBay.

3. Carry baggies in my purse for leftovers from restaurants. That way I can refuse the styrofoam “to go” containers.

4. Just got back from a trip from Seattle to San Jose. Used public transit for all legs of the trip, no rental car. (We don’t own a car.)

5. Use, wash, and reuse microfiber towels for cleaning. Just water and microfiber cleans just about anything, no need for chemicals. Elbow grease FTW!


Alicia June 9, 2009 at 2:35 am

So I’ll bite… what’s with the Coinstar? All of your top 5 make sense to me but this. I am just starting to research the non-consumer lifestyle but so far:

1. Borrow all books from library.
2. Read magazines at library. ( Did I mention I LOVE the library? Free internet, movies, activities!)
3. Walked/jogged for *free* exercise.
4. Trying to learn to cook at home from library books: “Cooking for Dummies” anyone?
5. Refusing to buy new summer clothes.

Take care!



Heidi June 9, 2009 at 5:30 am

1. Snagged a DVD player off of Freecycle last week. Hubby needed to buy a cable for $9 and it works great. We’ve been enjoying library DVD movies. The lady who I got it from, last year I gave her my daughter’s outgrown Darth Vader Halloween costume, also via Freecycle. The lady was so happy to not have to buy a new one for her son, who had his heart set on being Darth Vader for Halloween. So when she posted the DVD player and I asked for it, she gave it to me right away. A great swap!

2. We put a few buckets on the back deck to catch rain water for the few tomato plants that we are growing in plastic tubs out front.

3. My kids lunchboxes are so gross I will need to throw them out, the linings are cracking and I can’t clean them well. Instead of buying new ones, I’ve been experimenting with making my own drawstring backpacks with cotton fabric I already had. I’m using the weekly 40% off coupons for Michael’s to buy cord for the drawstrings. My kids are thrilled with them. I’ve also been making my own reusable sandwich wraps. I am hoping to never again spend money on plastic wrap or baggies!

4. I am a medical transcriptionist and work from home and just got a new job. It’s all digital (thank you, internet) – no commuting cost, no fancy wardrobe, and I make my own hours. My kids have been home sick with flu and I don’t miss a beat. No childcare costs, and I keep on working, just head over to the couch every so often to check a temperature or freshen a wet cloth for a forehead.

5. For a summer activity, I just signed my kids up for swim classes (Red Cross certified instructors) and an arts-n-crafts program at our local pond. Total cost – $10 for a 5-week session. My 13 year old will probably be too old for the arts-n-crafts, but we’re going to see if she can be a helper for the teacher, and she can use that time for leadership hours for a Girl Scout award she is working on.

And I have to add a #6 – I am anxiously waiting for my local farmer’s market to open!! Can’t beat local produce!


Jenn Baron June 9, 2009 at 7:36 am

I just love this blog and all the wonderful input from its readers!! For me the things I’ve been focusing on are:

1. If a need arises, I think long and hard about what I already have that would get the job done and I feel so great when I’ve been creative, resourceful and met a need.

2. I check out 99.9% of my books from the library with the exception of Jen Lancaster’s new one. The wait was really long and I will follow the “pass it on” rule so others can enjoy it.

3. My Palm Pilot “died” a few weeks ago and I refused, for a number of reasons, to purchase another. Even the used ones were expensive. I went old-school and purchased a paper calendar for $7.99 which didn’t take effect until July. For whatever reason I fired up the Palm Pilot hoping that the tech gods would smile on me and it is now fine and dandy and I returned the paper calendar. Love that!

4. Make chai latte at home. I refuse to pay $5 for one beverage at the coffee shop when I can buy 3 containers of concentrate at Costco for $7.89 which lasts me 3 weeks!

5. I love Katy’s moto and I have come to a place where I am living it especially the “use it up.” I have been so surprised at how long it has been since I’ve had to buy more lotions, candles and hair products because I am using every drop or speck that is in my home before I even think of replacing it. If you add on another rule, “the law of half” and try using half of what you normally use, you really get your money’s worth.



GLM June 9, 2009 at 10:03 am

Actually, it doesn’t beg the question at all.

Begging the question is when you don’t answer the question at hand. It’s like answering “what time is it?” with “it’s raining.”


penelope June 9, 2009 at 6:49 pm

1. turn off the lights/tv when not in use
2. started reading your blog and similar blogs like this
3. go to the sale rack as much as i can
4. starting to recycling
5.i eat less portion at dinner


mari June 10, 2009 at 1:07 am

the big five
1.hanging out clothes when possible
2.brown bagging at work
3.collecting recipies from magazines from library
4.recycle /compost everything I can
5.making cleaning products from scratch


Jennifer June 10, 2009 at 7:53 am

We went to the library this week to borrow books instead of buying them.

I found a used dehydrator, now I don’t have to order a new one.

We had leftovers for dinner last night, eating no new food for a meal.

My husband has been riding his bike to work, not consuming gasoline.

Opted not to buy the used upright freezer we found, because it was very old and sucked energy. I would rather not consume that much energy.

Great Thread!


Karen June 10, 2009 at 6:06 pm

Great thread!

1. Planted a medium size garden this year. Last year was just a tomato plant.
2. Don’t have a compost pile yet, but give all my veggie scraps to neighbor who has chickens and loves the extra bonus in their diet.
3. Check out ALL our books from the library.
4. Walk and weed for exercise instead of a gym.
5. Have “leftover day” where we eat up all the small bits of meals from the week instead of waiting til they get hairy and green and throwing them out.


BarbS June 18, 2009 at 7:41 am

I recently hosted a large-scale family celebration, which required much planning. Meeting family and community expectations, while maintaining our own values, required some creativity. Here are some examples…

1) I designed the invitations myself, bought the paper from a friend in the business, and had them printed by another friend at a discount. RSVPs were entirely by e-mail, which saved both paper and postage.

2) Lunch following the ceremony was required. Much work and planning went into this, as all the food had to be strictly kosher. A combination of food from a kosher caterer and some we bought with the kosher signs on it worked out well. The food (buffet-style) was served by friends and volunteers rather than hiring the caterer to do so.

3) Centerpieces for 20 tables (YIKES!) were requested. These were made them from groceries (all bought on sale), which will be donated to the local food pantry. They were dressed up with ribbon scored at a garage sale and dried flowers borrowed from a friend.

4) Suit for my 13-year old was handed down from his cousin, and amazingly didn’t even need alterations. Shoes were his regular black merrills, carefully cleaned for the occasion (rather than expensive dress-up shoes which he will never wear again). His tallit (required for the ceremony) was handed down from his father, which was much more meaningful (and far less expensive) than a new one.

5) I ended up buying a new dress, as I simply could not find anything appropriate used. 🙁 But the dress is high quality, bought at TJ-MAXX for reasonable cost, can be worn for many types of events, and will get a lot of use.

6) The following day, we hosted a picnic-style brunch in our yard. The entertainment was frisbee, badmitten, bocci (sorry Katy, I couldn’t find a croquet set to borrow) and of course conversation. The tables and chairs were all borrowed and much of the food was pot-luck-style. Miraculously, it didn’t rain during the party (though it did rain before and after).

Not totally compact-y, but moving in that direction.


WilliamB June 25, 2009 at 6:52 pm

Coming late to the game, I have a frugal, green, quick one to offer:

1. Used a clothes brush on work pants, instead of taking them to the cleaner. Mine is actually a brush for suede shoes, about the size of a nail brush. I don’t remember what I paid for it but it has lasted over 10 years and looks to last 20 more. It probably saves me dry cleaning at least one garment per week.

Lessee, any others that no one has mentioned?…

2. Used old milk jugs to save the water that runs before it gets hot. I save about a gallon a day, which goes to the house plants, the water filter, or in times of drought, the sensitive yard plants. It used to go into the washing machine but now I have a front loader. It doesn’t save me a lot of money but it saves a lot of water.


Tonya July 9, 2009 at 10:32 am

1) hubby built a compost bin and we are on our way!!!

2) planted veggies this year for the first time- only have squash (big surprise), but that’s better than nothing

3) recycled kids clothes to another mommy, got more clothes passed on to us too!

4) switching to cleaning rags (mostly- some jobs are still too gross and can only be tackled by a paper towel) made from hubby’s worn out terrycloth bathrobe

5) cut off an old dress to make a new, cute top!


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