Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Ides of March

I've been thinking a lot about kids and compacting and how it makes so much sense, financially and environmentally (because there is so much STUFF – often plastic – that new parents think they "need" for babies), but also as a tool for teaching our kids about consuming. There seems to be a lot of built-in pressure around becoming a parent and undue emphasis on the accoutrements of having a baby. How often have you heard: "do you have everything for the baby?" Lara and I didn't feel compelled to decorate a nursery before our daughter was born and I know that some people thought that was weird. But really, what do they need when they're infants? Sleepers, diapers, blankets, breast milk, and love. That's it.

When our daughter was born, we were given or loaned everything we needed. The only things we had to purchase new were cloth diapers and receiving blankets, and later – a stroller, shoes, and winter boots. The rest was given to us by our community of friends and most of it was second hand and of course barely used. This includes larger items like a baby swing, baby carriers (front, back, and sling!), and a portable crib/playpen that we actually share with another couple in this group.

Our daughter has just gotten to an age where she's starting to outgrow most of the great clothes we were given, so last weekend we went off to Frenchy's. We got some amazing good quality clothes for about ten bucks and walked away wondering how anyone can afford or would want to do anything else. Why buy something new for a little person who's going to outgrow it in 6 months when you can buy something that's only been worn probably a handful of times? For those of you who don't know Frenchy's, you can read about our little treasure in the New Yorker.

So, anyway, I've been thinking about all of this and then I found the blog of the Australian Compacters and found that they've been thinking along these lines as well. Check it out - (March 9 entry). Which reminds me to tell you that there are some great blogs being written by other Compacter groups and you can link to them from the original San Francisco blog (see our links). They include a comprehensive list of other Compacter groups operating all over the world (but mostly in the US).

And that also reminds me that I wanted to list a favourite site of mine – – it's astrology based, but the creator (Eric Francis) has some insightful and profound comments about the state of our world. And another site that I recently found is called Generosity Incorporated (
- a group of women trying to make a difference in the publishing world. Click on "About Us" and then Philosophy. And lastly, which is one woman's journey to get the rest of us to help heal the earth for one hour this coming July. Read "The Story" first - fascinating stuff.

In the compacting arena, things that we're seeking just keep falling into our hands: a cast iron frying pan from wonderful fellow Compacter Margot; our daughter's first wooden puzzles and a stool for her to reach the bathroom sink; and a clock radio. The last two things came from friends we met up with at a dance. We told them what we were doing and they instantly said: "What do you need? We've got everything in our basement!" And they do.

I wanted to just briefly touch on one other way that I feel like our family is "compacting." We don't own a car. We live centrally, so most things are within walking distance, but occasionally we rent a car to go to the beach or do a huge grocery shop. What we're finding more and more is that our community is incredibly generous with their cars. We have two friends that give us their car when they go out of town; another one that loans us her car when we need to go to the airport or run quick errands; and other friends who sometimes let us use their second car for the weekend. Again, this seems so obvious. Why do we all need to have our OWN vehicle? Why can't more of us share what we have?

Luckily, we live in a community that does.

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