Reduce. Recycle. Reuse. and Make a Table
In 2013 I hiked 700 miles of the Appalachian Trail trail and the entire length of the Long Trail with my dog Mabel. During that same year Mabel was treated for cancer, I partnered up with Andrew to build MassBliss, and met my now girlfriend and partner Julie A.K.A. Sherpa. 2014 was an equally amazing year as I moved to Massachusetts, MassBliss kicked off Breathing Booth and Stack of Fives, and Julie and I started dating. Our relationship grew and after a few months we decided to find a place together in 2015.
Fast forward to March, Julie and I found a place right in downtown Portland, ME and we love it. Portland has such a vibrant and exciting community and Maine is one of the most beautiful places in the world. This is such a supportive city for young environmentally conscious couples. We have curbside recycling pickup and compost pickup! The micro-brew bar scene is outstanding and there is art and culture everywhere we go.
When we were planning the move we knew we would have very little furniture and household items but we were excited to start fresh. I gave away most of my belongings and furniture and only kept the essentials when I decided to move to Massachusetts in 2014 and Julie had very few things after hiking the A.T. and working in Outdoor Education in West Virginia. I realized in 2014 that I had an opportunity to be really intentional about the things that I bring into my life and by releasing many of the things I had acquired, I was gaining the freedom and flexibility of traveling light. I really wanted the next phase of my live to be about deliberate inclusion.
When we moved to Portland a year later, the two of us had very few household items Andrew was very generous and gave us his couch, coffee table, and an area rug for us to take which have proved very useful. Other than what he gave us, some books, clothes, camping gear, a couple of dressers, a set of silverware, and some tools, we were starting over. We needed kitchen utensils, a dining room table, chairs to sit in, plates to eat off of, and food to put in the cupboards.
I am taking this opportunity to see each item that we bring in as a piece of art and a reflection of my personal values. Mainly to be conscious of the impact of my purchases or acquisitions. I try to ask myself these questions before making a purchase or acquisition:
- Can I live comfortably without it? If the answer is yes, then I probably don’t really need it. That doesn’t mean I won’t get it, I just want to consider if this is something that is meant to be a pleasant addition rather than a near-necessity. I say near-necessity because food, shelter, and peace are the only real necessities I can think of.
- Is it beautiful? I want to own things that are beautiful in some aspect. Maybe its only beauty is its excellent function. I just believe that if I focus on keeping things that are beautiful close at hand, I will constantly be reminded of the beauty in life.
- Is it new? I love new things, but I am seeing less and less of a value in buying new durable goods. I also think that the newer the item, the more responsibility we have as humans to understand the impact of it’s creation. For example, if I buy a new table that was built at a plant dumping toxic waste into a stream then I am directly or in-directly responsible for the damage to our shared environment. If I buy the same table 10 years later, after it has been discarded at a thrift store. I am perhaps preventing future waste by not encouraging increased present production.
- Can I make it? Recently I became inspired to create new usable things from old and discarded materials. My dad has been renovating our 107 year old home in Mercersburg, PA. In the process he has removed many oak 2×4’s from the walls of the house. I found these when visiting and have since used them to build a dining-room table. The last thing I want to do is have a bunch of unfinished projects floating around the house, but I am inspired to find new ways to be both creative and bring useful things into our new home.