Helping a Parent Enter a Nursing Home

Family. The holidays are all about family. And this year we can actually get together with family and friends, such a wonderful change from last year!

As we celebrate family traditions – or create new ones – the time spent with loved ones can provide us with an opportunity to observe the older members. How are they doing? Could they benefit from more help at home or is it time to think about a nursing home.

This month we have the privilege of a guest post from Millie Jones, creator of the website SeniorWellness.

Millie Jones created SeniorWellness as a way to inspire older generations – including her own – to embrace their wellness throughout their golden years. Her goal for the site is that it will help people of all ages feel young at heart. Millie’s favorite activity is playing with her grandkids but she can be found writing, taking photos (film not digital, of course), and putting both those skills to use via scrapbooking. 

Today Millie offers helpful tips and many resources if you have a parent who needs to enter a nursing home.

Assisting a parent who needs the services offered by a nursing home can be a difficult process. You must assess the benefits and drawbacks of any community you consider.

Looking for a Nursing Home

Nursing homes vary wildly in quality and condition. Be thorough when reading reviews, tour several nursing homes, and meet with caregivers and other staff members. Following are some important steps to take:

  • Assess the cost. Make sure your parent can realistically afford to pay the monthly fees and related expenses.
  • Evaluate the staff-to-resident ratio. More caregivers in comparison to the number of residents typically lead to a higher quality of care.
  • Visit the community. Care providers can say anything online, and reviews may be unreliable. Visiting the community is the only way to assess the quality of life for yourself.
  • Ask about the amenities. The amenities available at a nursing home, such as the types of common rooms, therapy programs, and events and activities, have a profound effect on residents’ enjoyment of the community.

Paying for Care

The cost of nursing home care often catches families by surprise. Depending on the specific services the parent needs, rental prices can range drastically from month to month. Assistance is available, however, so assess federal and state programs to evaluate your options.

Consider Selling Your Parents’ Home

Many seniors run into problems financing nursing home care due to the cost. Selling a primary residence or other property can be a way to come up with the money necessary for long-term care. Before listing a home, make sure it’s ready to sell and likely to command a worthwhile price.

  • Update the home. Often, seniors have older homes that need fixtures, surfaces, and appliances replaced to appeal to more buyers.
  • Repair damage. Fix broken appliances and damaged infrastructure, replace broken windows and leaky pipes, and correct potential safety hazards before listing the property for best results.
  • Compromise if necessary. Getting into a nursing home may be time-sensitive, so consider the lowest amount you’re willing to accept for the property.

Helping the Other Parent Adjust

While one parent is preparing to enter a nursing home, the other must make important life changes as well. They may want to downsize if the home they shared with their significant other now feels too large or if it’s become hard for them to navigate. Some continuing care facilities include companion suites where both parties can keep living with each other while one receives the care they need.

Consider Their Feelings

Moving into a nursing home is a big decision and can be highly stressful for everyone involved. Be patient with a parent who says they’re not ready. Parents moving into nursing homes often feel they’ve lost a significant degree of independence and may become sad about losing their home or regular routines. Many nursing homes have therapy programs and psychiatrists available to help residents who become anxious or depressed in the new settings.

Make Sure They’re Happy

Once you’ve handled the financial aspects and dealt with the personal challenges of entering a nursing home, keep an eye on the parent in the nursing home. Their needs may evolve over time, so consider all your options, including switching facilities, as necessary.

Thank you, Millie.

Happy Holidays to all.

Linda Hetzer is an editor and author of books on home designcrafts, and food, and coauthor of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home.

Was Anything Accomplished at COP26?

Last week COP26, the annual UN-sponsored climate change conference ended in Glasgow. Was anything accomplished?

“Infuriating and disappointing” was the reaction of the youth climate activist organization FridaysForFuture Scotland. “They even succeeded in watering down the blah, blah, blah which is quite an achievement,” was the sardonic response of Greta Thunberg, the 18-year-old founder of #FridaysForFuture.

Young people all around the world have really had it with the inaction, and the irresponsibility of world “leaders” to lead, and to treat the climate crisis as the crisis it is. They are, after all, the ones that will have to live with the consequences of decisions made by the people in power. They are the ones that are worried, not unreasonably, about what kind of world it will be if and when they have children. They have done their homework and they know what those consequences are more than likely to be: they are likely to be catastrophic, and indeed in much of the world they already are.

I became more aware of this youth climate action movement through a book published this year: it is called Stone Soup for a Sustainable World: Life-Changing Stories of Young Heroes. This book showcases the incredibly innovative, impressive, and most of all energetic work that young people all around the world are doing, and the results they are having in tackling the massive environmental problems we are facing. And despite the severity of those problems, this is a book that inspires hope, and provides a myriad of ways for others to join in this work, and help make a difference.

Young people were at COP26 in large numbers, and that is perhaps the most important thing that happened there. In Glasgow, dedicated young climate activists coming from around the world had the chance to meet each other, draw strength from each other, and let us know what really did–and did not–happen at the conference. They are not giving up. They are working together to keep pressure on the powers that be. And they need our help in growing and strengthening this movement.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I must say that one of the things I am most grateful for this year is that young people are not sitting down and being quiet about climate change, or giving up on the chances for humans to survive on this beautiful planet. They are standing up, they are speaking out. They are demanding meaningful, substantive change. They are demanding, and are devoting themselves to #ClimateActionNow. We should all be grateful for this.

If you want to learn more about what youth around the world are doing, and how you can help, #FridaysForFuture is one good place to start.

This video features a few of the young climate activists who were in Glasgow sharing their thoughts about it. It’s six minutes, well worth your time. Even if you can only listen to the first couple of minutes, please do it. These kids deserve to be heard.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Janet Hulstrand is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher. She is coauthor of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home and author of  Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You. 

Q&A with Eve Schaub: On Zero Garbage

Photo by Stephen Schaub

When Eve O. Schaub decides to write about a problem, she enters into the research with gusto, and in a very personal–and empirical–way. This deep-dive approach has led to the publication of her two books: Year of No Sugar and Year of No Clutter, the latter of which she discussed with me in this post. She is currently working on her next book–Year of No Garbage, to be published in the fall of 2022. She recently took the time to answer my questions about this very challenging–and laudable–project. Thank you, Eve! Janet Hulstrand

Janet: You recently published a really interesting article in Hyperallergic titled “Fun Facts I Learned from a Year of Producing No Garbage.” Of course our readers may want to read the whole article; there’s a lot of valuable information in there. But maybe to entice them, can you tell us one or two of the most important facts you learned in that year? 

Eve: Well, I’m afraid the news isn’t good. The biggest take-away I had from our Year of No Garbage is that most of the things folks are doing in the name of recycling and environmentalism are, at best, a meaningless drop in the bucket, and, at worst, actually harmful. The key problem is that right now the manufacturing and recycling industries don’t see any profit in recycling, or in being more environmentally friendly, so instead they pretend to be recycling and pretend to be environmentally friendly. Which is another way to say that they are lying to us.

Janet: What is the most important thing you’ve learned in your Year of No Garbage? And the most important piece of advice you have to share with our readers about trying to achieve (or even greatly minimize) the harmful kinds and amount of garbage we create?

Eve: Without a doubt the most important thing I’ve learned is the truly horrific harmfulness of plastic. No one wants to talk about this, but regardless of what your recycling provider is telling you, any plastic with a recycling number other than a #1 or a #2 is not getting recycled. 91% of plastic never gets recycled.

So what happens to it? Well, it can go to the landfill where it will never degrade. Instead, it will slowly emit toxic chemicals over the next several hundred years, ultimately leaching into our groundwater and the environment. Or, it goes to an incinerator where burning it creates toxic ash and releases carcinogenic gas into the air we breathe. Or, it gets dumped in our environment, showing up in one of the seven giant plastic garbage patches we have in our oceans, or dumped on the landscapes of impoverished nations which lack the infrastructure to deal with it.

The important thing to know is that, while plastic as trash is horrible, it’s not even the whole story. From the moment of its production, which uses fossil fuels and fracking, to the polluting nature of the plastic refining process, to the disposal of these products at their end of life, every step of the plastic process is bad for people and bad for the planet.

Finally, because plastic is so very durable, it’s a problem that never goes away. Scientists are finding microplastics in our bottled water, and in our food. We all have plastics in our bodies; we all eat a credit card’s worth of plastic a week. They’re finding microplastics in our poop and in the placenta of human babies and in the air we breathe.

Janet: What are some of the myths, or perhaps simply bits of misinformation floating around about recycling? And what about composting? 

Eve: Ever since China stopped taking our recyclable plastics in 2018, nothing except recycling numbers #1 and #2 are getting recycled. Many garbage services and communities accept all numbered plastics, from #1 through #7, but this is a deception. There’s simply no market for these materials, and therefore no financial incentive to recycle them. Period.

Another deception is compostables. Many people have encountered “compostable” single use products at their local coffee shop or in the aisles of their supermarket, as a more expensive but eco-friendly alternative to regular disposable products. They look and feel like plastic, but the materials come from plants. People buy these thinking “Hey, I’m doing something good for the environment,” and that’s commendable. Unfortunately most of these products are not actually compostable. If you put them in a home compost pile and come back a year later they will still be there and look exactly the same: like garbage.

Instead they are “industrially compostable” which means they require very specific conditions of pressure and temperature to allow them to degrade. So how do I dispose of my industrially compostable take-out plastic cup? Do I… put it in recycling, where it will contaminate anything actually recyclable? Or do I… put it in the trash, where it will be landfilled in conditions so airtight that it will never break down at all?

Compostables are one of those examples of where people are trying to do the right thing, but because of false advertising and the rampant confusion around these issues, end up doing something just as bad or worse. A recyclable #1 or #2 cup is better than one of these non-compostable-compostables. At least then it’s got a fighting chance to be recycled!

Of course, the best case of all is bring your own reusable cup- but even the most die-hard conscientious of us is going to be caught cup-less sometimes.

Janet: This kind of an activity–like a Year of No Sugar, or a Year of No Clutter, of necessity involves a whole family, right? Any words of advice, wisdom, or perspective about how to convince members of a family that these efforts are, well, worth the effort? Or just strategies for making it less tedious, maybe even kinda fun? 

Eve: Throughout all three of our family projects, No Sugar, No Clutter, and No Garbage, it has always been a family endeavor, and that has always been one of the most appealing aspects to me. It always feels so much more meaningful and allows us to have multiple perspectives on a problem. It also virtually guarantees that there will be drama- which is great from a writer’s perspective, although not so great from a parent’s perspective!

My advice on taking on any big family project is: first, everyone must go into the family endeavor as an equal partner and feel listened to and respected. Second, don’t be a totalitarian–recognize that there will be mistakes and misunderstandings and even downright I was not supposed to do this and I did, so now what? In any project, no matter how ambitious, you have to leave room for people to be human.

Eve chronicled her family’s Year of No Garbage through a series of both blog and Instagram posts.

Janet: What do zero garbage and downsizing/decluttering have to do with each other? 

Eve: I think one thing that people who are “Keepers” have in common with zero wasters is that we hate the idea of waste and we see potential everywhere, in everything. We hate the idea of something not being realized to its fullest- there’s a loss in that which we find distressing. For Zero Waste folks it’s primarily focused on the waste of resources and the environmental impact of a throw-away society, whereas for Keepers I think the issue is often more personal and emotional.

Of course, for anyone who’s ever watched an episode of a decluttering show knows, the typical advice for getting rid of too much stuff is to put lots of bags by the curb. Certainly, during my last project, Year of No Clutter, I did throw some things in the garbage, but in my book I talk quite a bit about wanting to find good homes for all this perfectly good stuff.

Doing a Year of No Garbage was like taking that enterprise to another level. Not only did I have to find homes for all the perfectly good things, I also had to find homes for things most folks call “garbage”: all the things we’re used to sending to the landfill without a thought. But what is “garbage”? Garbage is anything we are done with, but that doesn’t mean no one else wants it. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. It’s just a matter of perspective.

So I came up with a mantra: wherever an object made me want to despair, I’d look at it and say, “Someone, somewhere, wants this.” Then it became my job to find that person.

Janet: What is the most effective thing we can do as individuals to minimize the amount of harmful garbage ending up in our landfills, and in our oceans? What do we need to be doing collectively? And how do we manage to really DO it? What are the first steps?

Eve: Most people won’t wake up one day like we did and say HELLO! HENCEFORTH I SHALL BE ZERO WASTE! and that’s good because it’s probably the worst-ever way to go about it. Rather, taking it one step at a time, trying one thing at a time seems to be the best way to make it stick. Even though our Year of No Garbage is officially over I’m still trying new things out, seeing what works for me. I never thought I’d get to the point where I’d use a bidet, but you know what? Since we bought one this year I actually love it. I buy half as much toilet paper now and that makes me unreasonably proud of my bathroom habits.

One practical tip I recommend is doing a garbage audit. What this means is take apart a bag of your garbage and take an inventory: what do you have more of than you thought? Are there recyclables in there that got missed? If there are lot of food scraps maybe consider making a compost pile. Maybe you use more aluminum foil than you thought and could try using containers for leftovers instead.

One day as I was sorting through our recycling I realized that we went through a bazillion aluminum cans of seltzer every week. Sure, the aluminum cans are recyclable, but even better would be not to have those cans or use that energy at all, and so as a result we bought a Soda Stream. Now we save money AND I make fewer trips to the basement to sort recycling.

Janet: During this year were you able to keep from being discouraged? Any words to keep us all from becoming discouraged also, and instead galvanize us into some kind of productive action? 

Eve: Our Year of No Garbage also happened to be the year 2020, which has been politely described as a raging dumpster fire of a year. For us this meant that the year did not play out at all the way we expected. For one thing, legitimate measures to protect health and safety during the pandemic also meant that as a society we were all using more disposables and plastic than ever before: our supermarket banned reusable bags, restaurants did only take-out, even at our beloved farmer’s market, they started putting all the produce in plastic bags!! Of course, those measures were understandable at the time, but it was disheartening.

There was a moment, a few months in, when my husband and I looked at each other and said “So? Do we keep doing this?” I mean, when the world is falling apart around you, sometimes it feels silly–or maybe even offensive–to keep on washing your cereal bags and obsessing over what to do with used staples. We decided to keep going, in part because the world doesn’t always cooperate with your plans and that’s just reality. The time is never going to be perfect to confront the difficult problems of garbage and plastic.

I’m so glad we did. It gave us something meaningful to do during a difficult time, and forced us to find new solutions on the fly. Also, the pandemic shutdown provided an amazing demonstration of what people can do when they all work together, and that gave me hope for solving the existential crisis that disposable plastic on our planet represents.

There were–and continue to be–many moments where I think that the problem of garbage, the problem of global warming, the problem of the environment, is all just too much. The manufacturing industry is just too powerful, and they’ve got us running in circles trying to recycle and remember our reusable bags, meanwhile they’re quietly ramping up plastics production to quadruple in the next 25 years. That’s four times as much disposable plastic as we have now — still not getting recycled. And if this happens, emissions from the plastic lifecycle will equal 50 times the annual emissions of all the coal power plants in the United States.

But I never remain discouraged for long because I know from experience that all this can change on a dime, if enough people actually have the facts. That’s what happened for us with sugar. One minute people were like “Why are you avoiding sugar, again?” and the next they were sending me pictures saying “LOOK HOW MUCH SUGAR IS IN THIS!?! ARE THEY TRYING TO KILL PEOPLE???”

The very best thing we can do is be informed, and to act on that information. Understand that perfection is literally impossible, so instead just try to focus on doing one good thing. And then another. If we know how very bad plastic is, try not to buy it. Don’t buy the greeting card wrapped in plastic, buy the other one. Know that every plastic bag you say “no thanks” to, is a victory. Take note of how it’s pretty much impossible to buy so many products today without plastic wrapping and wonder: What did we used to do before plastic? Could we try that again?

Janet Hulstrand is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher. She is coauthor of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home and author of  Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You.  Eve Schaub is author of Year of No Sugar, Year of No Clutter, and the upcoming Year of No Garbage. You can learn about her adventures and books at https://eveschaub.com/

Letting Go

My mother at her wedding in 1944

This is not the post I was planning to write ay this time. And it’s certainly not a post I want to write but it’s a story that needs to be told.

We had a flood.

Hurricane Ida, which devastated parts of New Orleans, headed north and merged with a front to wreak havoc in the Northeast. In New York City, subways were shut down overnight, the first time since Hurricane Sandy in 2012, due to flash flooding.

As a result of a somewhat freaky turn of events, we had a flood coming in from our neighbor’s terrace and apartment. The force of the water overwhelmed her terrace, came flooding through her apartment and out into the hallway. The water came through the wall we share with her apartment, which is our bedroom, dressing room, and my closet, and it continued into our linen closet. What a mess.

In my closet, I had my mother’s and my aunt’s wedding dresses. The flood damaged the hem of my mother’s dress and completely ruined the long train on my aunt’s dress. What did I do with the dresses? After they dried out, I took them to fabric recycling.

Don’t judge me, at least not yet. I had done due diligence on the 1940s dresses years ago, trying to donate them to the local historical society in the area where they got married. The woman said everyone wants to donate vintage wedding dresses and they only want it if you have things that go with it. Well, I had everything because my mother saved everything: the engagement announcement in the newspaper, the wedding announcement, the wedding invitation, even the place cards for my grandparents. More than just a dress, there was a story there. The woman seemed interested but never got back to me. As the dresses were drying out, I researched to see if I could find someone who made new dresses out of parts of old ones, and I couldn’t find anyone.

I decided to let the dresses go. Was that hard? Yes, but it was also a relief. Did I feel okay after donating personal items with such a profound family history? Yes and no. The practical side of me wishes someone could have used the fabric to create something new. (I still hope someone creative trolls the fabric recycling warehouse and finds them.) The sentimental side of me is at peace with my decision. I have to clean up the apartment to make it safe for my family and that is more important than saving sentimental items.

My husband’s decision was to let go of two antiques items that belonged to his parents. They were both in the living room and not affected by the flood, but it was time to part with them. One was a small end table and matching chair that he put on Craigslist and sold right away. The second is a Hitchcock style chair that he will list soon.

We are letting go of these items and we are content with our decision. (Why did we have these items for so long? Well, that’s a topic for another post.)

We’re just happy to be letting go. As Maya Angelou said, “We need much less than we think we need.”

Linda Hetzer is an editor and author of books on home designcrafts, and food, and coauthor of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home.

What We Part With Beyond our Stuff

The other day a friend of mine told me that she was not going to go to a knitting weekend on an island in Maine that she had attended for years. She would usually fly to Maine and a friend would drive the two of them on the 2 to 3 hour trip to the island. Her friend told her she no longer drives for such an extended time

My friend went through some of the common steps of mourning the loss of this gathering. At first a bit of denial: It didn’t really matter that she wasn’t going. There wasn’t much anger but there was bargaining: She would arrange another trip to see the friends she usually sees when she’s in Maine. Maybe a bit of depression: She realized that if she didn’t go this year that she would probably not go again and she had to come to terms with that loss. And finally, acceptance: Her friend’s life had changed, her life had changed, and this is where they are now.

What she was losing was not stuff or things or something you could touch but she was parting with companionship, a communal activity, and the chance to be with friends.

Other friends of mine seem to be living through similar experiences. One friend is getting her lake house ready to sell. She is older than me and a very independent widow who had always driven to the house by herself. It was getting difficult now and the house needed some repairs after a flood. Another friend is selling her beach house. Her life has changed after the pandemic and this seems a necessary step.

 Although these women are getting rid of their stuff, things that had accumulated in their vacation homes over the years, what they are parting with is a way of life, the opportunity to spend time in their favorite place to relax, a place where they welcomed generations of their families.

When we were cleaning out our storage room, I remember my husband contemplating his fly-fishing equipment. It was not the stuff, the waders and nets and fishing rods, he was reluctant to give away, it was the loss of a favorite activity. With his back issues it was no longer possible to have such an active lifestyle. He was giving up a part of his former life.

How have you dealt with a change in lifestyle? What positive changes have you made that you would like to share with us?

Linda Hetzer is an editor and author of books on home designcrafts, and food, and coauthor of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home.

Eco-Friendly Travel Tips

Now that things seem to be slowly getting back to normal, at least for the time being, people are starting to travel again. Of course one of the silver linings of the pandemic is that we’ve had a chance to think about the pros and cons of travel–especially (but not only) international travel. And also about more eco-friendly ways to travel, whether internationally or domestically.

Sustainable Travel International has some great general tips, everything from choosing off-the-beaten-track destinations rather than pressing into crowded “bucket list” ones that in some cases are being “loved to death”–to slowing down the pace, and choosing more eco-friendly choices for getting around, such as trains, buses, and bicycles–or even walking.

And when it comes to packing, the professional hobo has some great tips about how to choose eco-friendly products for your travels.

I’d like to add a word about souvenirs. Way before anyone was thinking as much about sustainability as we all are now, I found the whole “must-do” of buying souvenirs to bring back for family, coworkers, and friends after a trip to be one of the most unpleasant parts of travel. This is not because I am a selfish person (at least I don’t think it is). It is mostly because I really really really do not enjoy shopping of any kind. (Except shopping for books.) So, for me, the idea of having to spend precious time when in an exciting and interesting new place trying to sift through the junk and find something that a) I could afford to bring home; b) could be easily packed and carried, and didn’t take up too much space; and c) wasn’t going to just add to the meaningless clutter in someone’s home was really just not very fun.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person to have ever felt this way. (Haters of Shopping, Unite!!) Therefore, I propose that in the interest of not only the psychological relief for shopping-haters to have that burden lifted from them, but also to give everyone more time to meaningfully explore the places we are visiting, and less clutter to be added to our already overstuffed homes, maybe we ditch this habit. Or at least make it feel less like an obligation?

Wouldn’t it be better to spend the time we spend shopping doing some of the things proposed by Sustainable Travel International, for example? Like spending time with locals learning how to cook local dishes? Or going on hikes or tours led by local people?

Even I would never say that finding special gifts for people while traveling is something I dislike. It is more the idea that there is an obligation to spend time looking for gifts for a whole list of people that has a way of turning something that should be pleasurable into a chore. Seeing something that spontaneously says to me “Oh wouldn’t this be nice to bring home for x, y, or z? Or for the whole office?” is quite another matter.

In the interest of sustainability, and in minimizing the buildup of clutter, those who do not hate shopping, who maybe even enjoy it, might want to consider my sister’s post-downsizing-our-parents’-home rule for buying gifts. “From now on, I’m only getting people things that can be USED UP!” she proclaimed once we had finally emptied our parents’ home of a lifetime worth of accumulated objects, many of them meaningless objects that definitely added to the clutter in our home.

If we think about sustainability (and the prevention of increasing clutter) as we shop for gifts, whether at home or abroad, we can still continue to support the people whose livelihoods depend on selling souvenirs. So, think consumable items (that can cross borders): local jams and jellies, fair-trade coffee or chocolate, sachets, soaps, and of course postcards, which provide opportunities for returning travelers to share stories with their friends and families about the things they have seen and done in their travels.

Here’s wishing everyone safe, enjoyable, interesting, and sustainable travels, wherever (and whenever!) you may roam…

Janet Hulstrand is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher. She is coauthor of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home and author of  Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You. 

Heartwood and Shtisel: Writing a Letter to your Heirs

In Shtisel, a limited series from Israel, a main character writes letters to her unborn child, thinking she may not be around to see the child grow. (Spoiler alert: She does survive.)

In Heartwood: The Art of Living with the End in Mind, the author Barbara Becker tells of one of her patients in hospice who, too tired for anything lengthy, writes a simple letter to her grandson telling him she loves him and is proud of him.

These acts of writing simple, heartfelt letters really resonated with me, perhaps because we are awaiting the birth of the next generation in my family. I thought back to the numerous times we wrote in this blog about writing a letter or communicating in some other way with our loved ones.

In this post, we wrote about a woman who left the corporate world to create a company that helps people write Legacy Letters to their loved ones so the writer can, in her words, “expresses his/her life wisdom, love and life values with a loved one with the intention that it serve as a future guide, inspiration and support.” 

Another way to makes things easier for your loved ones is to create a list of all important things, practical things, you want them to know and where to find important papers and documents. Getting your house in order is an act of love.

Another way to communicate love is to tell family stories. In this post we share the power of telling our children the story of their birth. I remember sharing the stories with my kids because the events of the day and day before were so memorable. Here’s to telling that story.

We can also write down our family stories, a wonderful gift. Both of my kids wrote about family members for a school assignment and remember today how interesting the stories were.

And we can investigate our genealogy, either online through genealogy websites or by talking with family members. A cousin gave me the family history of my grandfather’s family going back to the 1600s and it is such a cherished gift, one I plan to leave with my children.

May we always honor and celebrate the story of our families.

Linda Hetzer is an editor and author of books on home designcrafts, and food, and coauthor of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home.

Sustainable Clothing 101: Getting Started

My Norwegian sweater, c. 1970s, meets the “use things longer” goal of sustainable fashion.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about a new and welcome trend in clothing; sustainability. And I promised to explore this topic a bit more in future posts.

This month’s post will provide you with additional information about what is meant by sustainability in clothing; and this Good Housekeeping article is a good place to start. It explains not only what is meant by the concept of sustainability in fashion in simple, easy-to-understand language (for example: “…the main goal is to buy less and use things longer”). But it also gives lots of good information about why this is important: and good sources for sustainable fashion, some of which will also be included in this post.

When we hear the words “reuse” and “clothing” together, many of us may think first of all (and perhaps only) of buying clothing in garage sales and/or thrift stores, and indeed that is one way to do it. But in recent years many additional options have been created: and some of them provide ways not only to get cheap clothing to knock around the house in, or to wear doing yardwork–or even to find good bargains on clothing that is certainly good enough for school or work, or even fancy occasions–but is just not brand new.

But now there are also online sources for buying fine fashion that is not brand new, which is both more affordable, and more environmentally friendly. Two such sources are Poshmark, and Rebag. These two companies offer not only ways to buy fashion items, but to sell them as well. ThredUp is another online source to buy and sell used clothing.

The Good Trade is a resource for those who would like to learn more about sustainability, why it is important, and what each of us can do about it. And for those who would like to take a “deep dive” into this topic, Adam Minter’s book, Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale is a very interesting, and illuminating, read.


Janet Hulstrand
 is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher. She is coauthor of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home and author of Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You

Spring Cleaning 2021

After spending so much time in our homes this past year, spring, the season of renewal, feels so welcome. And what better way to renew our souls than to sweep through our house and get rid of our clutter, physically and metaphorically.

This spring I’ve had my daughters some home, sometimes together, sometimes one at a time (they live nearby and all of us are vaccinated) to go through the closets, dresser drawers, and underbed storage in their room.

We are very fortunate to have multiple places to donate our stuff and that means I have separate areas, separate places in my home right now, each one with shopping bags designated for a different place. Here’s what I have.

Fabric recycling. Once a week, the city has a designated spot for fabric recycling so I have bags of underwear and T-shirts washed a few times too many and any clothes with holes in them. Yesterday I brought over a couple of bags and have a couple more ready to go.

Local thrift store. We have a thrift store that uses the money made in its store to fund programs for AIDS patients. All usable clothing, dresses, shoes, handbags, and household items are bagged up and ready to be dropped off.

A teen shelter. A friend of mine is a doctor who volunteers her time to a shelter for runaway teens (or, unfortunately, teens who have been kicked out of their homes). For her I gather jeans, shorts, T-shirts, sneakers, and other teen-appropriate clothing.

Prom dresses. One of my daughters has a friend who collects prom dresses for girls in need and I have a bag with special occasion dresses.

Here are some links to previous spring cleaning posts where we have talked about places to donate and/or recycle our stuff.

Clothing

Shoes

Electronics

Musical instruments

Books

Happy Spring Cleaning!

Linda Hetzer is an editor and author of books on home designcrafts, and food, and coauthor of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home.

Sustainable Clothing: A Welcome Trend

Normally I am not a person who is all that interested in fashion. (This is kind of an understatement.) In fact I am perfectly capable of wearing the same favorite garments for many years (yes, many!) without even an ounce of shame. (Why anyone should feel shame over such a thing will, I think, be the topic of a future post.)

Exhibit A is the photo you see above, of a favorite Hanna Andersson nightgown I’ve been wearing (well, not all the time of course) since the early 1990s. Yes, of course, it’s a bit the “worse for wear” (and now we can all see exactly what that phrase means). But it is still quite comfortable, warm and cozy in the winter (if it’s not too cold) and not too hot in the summer either. Exhibit B is a handmade wool sweater that a friend of mine brought home for me after a trip to Norway in the late 1970s. It was secondhand then. I’ve worn it, and worn it, and worn it some more, and the only thing wrong with it now is a little bit of fraying around the bottom of the sleeves. Those Scandinavians know how to make good quality clothing that lasts, which means that they also know about the value of sustainability.

Which is the real topic of today’s post. That is, it is about a fashion trend that has got even me really excited. It is called sustainable clothing, and the concept seems to be really picking up steam, which is a good thing for people whose budgets are not equal to keeping up with all the latest trends in fashion (or who are just kind of bored by fashion); and people who hate shopping; and it is an even better thing for the planet we live on.

What does it have to with the planet? Well, actually, a lot. Adam Minter has written about this in his very interesting book, Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale. This is not light reading, but it is very interesting, and actually, although it is a very well-documented, seriously researched study, it is also quite readable as the author takes us along with him on his explorations in places as far-flung as Tokyo, Ghana, and his home state of Minnesota, among many other exotic locations. Along with learning a lot about how and why the clothes we choose to buy, and what we choose to do with them when we’re done wearing them indeed has quite an effect on our planet, along the way, through his anecdotes we meet a variety of interesting characters.

There is much more to say about this topic, and I believe I will be doing so in future posts, so stay tuned. But for today I want to leave you with a fairly recent news story that I find absolutely charming, about a middle school art teacher who decided she was going to wear the same dress for 100 days. And rather than try to tell you why she did this, or why I found it charming, why not take a look at this five-minute clip for the whole story. I think you might find it charming also.


Janet Hulstrand
 is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher. She is coauthor of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home and author of Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You


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