HI, I’M MARIAH!

Welcome! I’m glad to e-meet you!

I’m an occasionally overwhelmed wife, mom, former government employee, current content writer, and BA + MPA. I’m also on a roller coaster ride toward minimalism, simple living, writing, personal finance, and zero waste.

I live in the Southeastern United States with my husband, young children, and several fur babies. This is a newish site, but I’ve been writing all my life and started my first site in 2008. My previous site was about movies and entertainment at A Space Blogyssey. I recently retired that site in June 2017 so I could start a new chapter in my life–“Fat Change.”

MINIMALISM | SIMPLE LIVING

I remember moving into our “new to us” home in 2009. We moved from a 1,400 square foot home to a 2,200 sq foot home. Mind you, 2,200 sq feet is smaller than the average American home (which is 2,500 sq feet), but it was huge to us. When we first moved in we couldn’t furnish the entire 4-bedroom house. We just didn’t have enough belongings.

Oh how things can change when you like to shop.

After a couple of years of filling up our house with things (we really didn’t need), the walls started closing in on us again. The house felt small, cramped, and “too lived in.”

Surely, we needed to upgrade to a bigger house?

But au contraire. Did we really? I felt in my bones that 2,200 square feet was enough. In 1970 the average American home was 1,500 square feet, yet the average American family was bigger then. Now the average American home is over 2,500 square feet. A good portion of the housing market is between 3,000 to 4,000 square feet. How did the average American family come to need this much space? …Along with a two or three-car garage stuffed to the gills and a 15 x 20 storage unit for good measure. Was this extra square footage for them or for their stuff? 

In a quest to organize my life I purchased every “organizing” contraption I could get my hands on, but nothing worked. I didn’t understand that I was only adding “more stuff” to an already stuffed house. The answer was somewhere else, but it eluded me. In addition to the Minimalism documentary on Netflix (which as become very popular), I would also recommend you watch “A Cluttered Life,” which is a study conducted by the University of California.

According to the study, “contemporary U.S. households have more possessions per household than any society in global history. Hyper consumerism is evident in many spaces.”

The study looked at the cortisol levels in women who lived in cluttered homes. What the researchers found was not surprising. Women (in particular) who live in excessively cluttered spaces had higher stress levels. The levels of consumerism that exists in American households is startling. The researchers determined that despite the size of the home, most Americans use their home space similarly. It didn’t matter how big your house was. The majority of your families spend their time in the kitchen and family room. People in those big beautiful homes rarely if ever used all of the rooms in their house.

<img src="american-house-how-we-use-space.jpg" alt="How Americans use space in homes">
A Cluttered Life: Middle-Class Abundance from the University of California Television (UCTV). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AhSNsBs2Y0

What I have come to understand is that the “stuff” I own doesn’t matter. In fact, most of it is an impediment to a happy life. What matters most is TIME. You, me, and everyone else on this planet have a finite number of hours and minutes to spend our time. Why should we spend our precious moments worrying about “stuff” or cleaning “stuff” we don’t need or use. What’s the point? I would much rather spend that time focused on things I actually enjoy doing.

After years (heck decades) of being an unwitting consumerist, I invited a friend over to help me organize a room. This was exactly what I needed. My friend wasn’t attached to my stuff like I was. She could look at my stuff with brutal detachment.

Thus began my journey into minimalism in 2012. You can see the beginnings of my journey on Pinterest. What I learned through this first session of “organization” was that it wasn’t about “organization.” It was about GETTING RID OF STUFF YOU DON’T USE, NEED, OR ENJOY. It’s about not playing the WHAT IF game. “What if I need that one day? What if someone else needs it? What if I can’t find that again?”

Eventually, those WHAT IFs were replaced with the big one. “WHAT IF MY LIFE COULD BE SIMPLER AND CLUTTER FREE?”

ZERO WASTE

I have always been an avid recycler and lover of nature. Long before Al Gore came on the scene, in 1988 I did an experiment on the greenhouse effect as a young elementary student. This was back in the day when parents DID NOT help us kids with school projects. I had an aquarium, dirt, plants, and an Encyclopedia Britannica. I had to figure out how to recreate the greenhouse effect in a closed-loop system. My teachers loved the project and I won 3rd prize. This single scient project set my path toward environmentalism. It’s amazing what one event in your life can do.

I’m also a Christian who fervently believes that God has called us to be good stewards of his creation. When I got my own apartment in college I recycled everything that could be recycled. When I got married and purchased a house with my husband, I had the same mentality. When I moved from the midwest to the southeast, there wasn’t a recycling program in our city. Each week we had to pack up our recycling and take it to a grocery store that had recycling bins. Since there wasn’t an easy way to recycle, I figured that most people in our area probably just threw recycling materials in the trash. “At least I was doing my part,” I believed.

After several years of doing it the hard way, the city finally got a recycling program. It became much easier to recycle. Again, I thought I was doing my part. The average person throws away about 4.4 pounds of garbage per day. Yet the United States only diverts 35% of municipal solid waste through recycling, yard waste, and food waste composting. About 52.6% of municipal solid waste is landfilled annually. Clearly I was doing better than most, but was I really?

In 2015, I saw Laura Ling’s interview with Lauren Singer from Trash is for Tossers. Lauren was able to fit all of her trash into one mason jar. I was enthralled. Lauren lived what has been coined a zero-waste lifestyle. I should say zero “household” waste because the zero waste movement is somewhat of a misnomer.

Even the heartiest zero wasters produce waste upstream and most zero wasters still recycle.

There are some aspects of zero waste living that seem unrealistic to me. Every society (from ancient times to now) has had some form of waste. Even the horse and buggy was a waste producer. At the dawn of the 20th century (before cars) there was a severe horse manure problem. Of course horse manure does not produce 400+ parts per million of carbon emissions in the atmosphere.

Lauren herself admits that she recycles. According to her website, she defines “zero waste” as not sending anything to the landfill. If you purchase a product from a store–that store uses some form of packaging. Admittedly zero wasters are decreasing their overall packaging waste, but they are essentially leaving their packaging waste at the store. That’s the reason the original zero waste guru, Bea Johnson does not subscribe to the “trash jar.” I have also come across situations when it’s extremely uneconomical to purchase zero waste options.

THIS DOES NOT NEGATE THE WONDERFUL IDEA OF PRODUCING LESS WASTE. The Zero Waste movement has inspired me to lower my waste stream. Why just recycle when I can REFUSE, REUSE, REDUCE, OR REPAIR? I am not going to be eliminating my toilet paper anytime soon, but we could all learn to adopt a less wasteful lifestyle. I have made multiple zero waste switchouts to become less wasteful and use less plastic. Plastic cannot be absorbed back into the environment for hundreds and/or thousands of years. That’s a sobering fact.

I will eventually write posts on all of the changes I have made, but here is a sampling:

  • Composting
  • Menstrual cups
  • Straight razor
  • No more plastic water bottles (I use a steel water bottle with tap water)
  • Cloth grocery bags
  • Disposable coffee cups & plastic tops (Now I make my own coffee in a reusable steel coffee tumbler).
  • Dryer balls instead of dryer sheets
  • Milk in glass bottles
  • Reusable juice boxes (for my daughter)
  • Less pre-packaged foods
  • Cloth towels, napkins, and handkerchiefs
  • Making my own cleaning, beauty, and household supplies
  • Staying away from products in plastic
  • No straws
  • Bamboo toothbrush (I still have several plastic toothbrushes to use, but I will replace with bamboo)

If millions of people switched out one or two products it could make a huge environmental difference.

If you’d like to join me on this journey please subscribe for updates, tutorials, real talk, and new ideas.