Posts tagged: simplicity

Opt Out of Your Phone Books

By , June 20, 2008 9:51 am

You probably already knew that you could opt out of catalogs, but did you know that you can also opt out of receiving phone books?

Thanks so much to Hettie of Celtic Mommy for emailing me this link:

I am an active CatalogChoice participant, but the phone book thing is going to be harder for me to adopt. I am old-fashioned I guess, and for some reason I like having my local phone numbers all there in a book in my desk drawer.

However I do live in a small area and my single phonebook (white and yellow pages combined) is only about an inch thick! If I was in New York City, or LA where my phone books weighed more than my oldest child, I would be ever so eager to rid myself of them forever!

But do we really need to have numerous phone books dumped at our door several times per year? I would prefer to call and ask for a book every year or two…or better yet, get used to finding my information paperlessly, online.

Of course phone books are a great source of advertising revenue for phone companies and other private companies that compile directories, so they won’t easily cease distribution. That is why if this cause is important to you, then help spread the word that such an option is available.

Here are some facts (according to YellowPagesGoesGreen):

To produce 500 million books:

  • 19 million trees need to be harvested
  • 1.6 billion pounds of paper are wasted
  • 7.2 million barrels of oil are misspent in their processing (not including the wasted gas used for their delivery to your doorstep)
  • 268,000 cubic yards of landfill are taken up
  • 3.2 billion kilowatt hours of electricity are squandered

Be sure to check out the YellowPagesGoesGreen links page too.

I am off to sign up now to opt out of my little phone book and begin changing my habits to a paper-free phone life!

A Holiday Linky Assortment (Christmas/Holidays Unplugged)

By , November 27, 2007 12:19 am

It is 10:00 PM and I have just single-handedly put four children to bed not long ago (one extra is here tonight). I have a few blog post ideas circulating in my head, but no energy to do a good job on them. So instead…I give you some useful Holiday-related links:

Here are some good ones left in my comments from my blog friend Andree-Meeyauw (I think she was surfing on my behalf as a form of procrastination, but I am grateful! Thank you Andree!):

++Thanksgiving Comes First post from Bostonscapes Daily Photo: “If you’d like ‘the holiday season’ to regain the meaning it once had, then let ‘them’ know how you feel. The Internet is a very powerful tool, take advantage of it.” Use your blog to help speak out against commercial Christmas greed.

++New American Dream: A really interesting site that I have to explore further. Has a good section on Simplifying the Holidays with a very worthwhile downloadable brochure., a New Zealand site, has some quick tips for Simplifying Christmas, instructions for making a Snowman Advent Calendar, and lots of other Christmas articles that I have not yet explored.

++The Simple Living Network, a website devoted to promoting voluntary simplicity, has a section of books to buy about simplifying holidays and celebrations (mostly Christmas, including Unplug The Christmas Machine but also weddings, and one interesting-sounding book on many holidays).

My amazing, super-organized blog friend Heather of Celtic Mommy, the guest author of Help! I Love Doing it All, But How Can I Find Time to Do it? , offered lots of great links, but these are good general simplifying links:

++Cruising Through the Holidays from FlyLady: Tons of advice from organizing to “clutter-free” gifts, to preparing and packing for travel…I have not had a chance to look at it all, but it looks good!

++Organized Christmas: For you organized people out there who think you aren’t organized enough. Printable lists, a six-week organizing plan, an eighteen-week holiday “Grand Plan”…you get the idea. Stress for us Type 1 Slackers, bliss for the Type 2 Organizers. The site also has some printable gifts, gift tags, and crafts that are quite interesting. Easy homemade gift idea: Journal prompts (for adults or children) in a jar anyone?

Finally, some sites that I can recommend:

++The Toymaker: GORGEOUS printable toys, cards, and gifts that kids could print out and assemble as holiday gifts.

++My Unplugged Toy Store list: I know there are others out there and I keep adding as I find them. These stores offer simple, high-quality toys that never require batteries. The only additional item needed is your child’s imagination. Many of them also specify where a toy was made if you are avoiding Chinese-made toys this year.

++My Unplugged Book Store list: No junky, commercially tied-in books in these stores. (Again, I am always adding new links as I come across them…but they must meet my standards in order to make the list!)

I am sure that I could come up with more, but I am tired so I wish you all good night!

Read all the Christmas/Holidays Unplugged posts here.

Commercialism in Your Mailbox? (Christmas/Holidays Unplugged)

By , November 24, 2007 11:25 pm

I get (a conservative estimate) 1,095 catalogs/year…my husband (at our other home and on fewer mailing lists) says he probably gets about 300 catalogs/year. We get about 1,395 catalogs/year. Let’s conservatively round up to 1,500 for the ease of calculation and to include any Holiday excess that we may have. I calculate that MY FAMILY ALONE, is responsible for the death of 4.2 trees per year. How do I figure that? Read on.

This time of year is catalog time of year. One of the many commercial aspects of Christmas that I find depressing is heaving a 100 pound stack of catalogs out of my mailbox every day, piling them in a wagon, and hauling them off to the recycle bin. OK, I exaggerate slightly, but 19 BILLION catalogs are sent each year in the US, and at this time of year, it feels like every single one of them passes through my mailbox (that equals 53 million trees by the way, in case you were wondering). Do the math like I did, how many trees do you unknowingly kill per year?

Now to the real point of my post. Heard on NPR yesterday: There is a new website which allows you to opt out of catalogs that you don’t want, yet still keep the ones you like!

I could go to Direct Marketing Association, theoretically opt out of everything, and then see how that reduces my catalog intake. But I confess that there are some catalogs that I actually LIKE to receive. Plus, living in the boonies forces one to engage in some degree of catalog and internet shopping.

Usually these days I choose quick and easy internet shopping, but there are some catalogs I like to slowly peruse “in person.” Just like real books for example (in case you were considering it, please don’t buy me a new Amazon Kindle for Christmas).

The solution for semi-catalog lovers like me? The Catalog Choice website ( … make sure you spell it right, if you add a “ue” to the end of “catalog” then you’ll get a shopping site which is not the idea here). Here you can opt out of catalogs that you don’t want.

The site also allows you to enter a Customer Number from the back of a catalog to be sure you get rid of it, or you can enter different names and addresses (for example if you get the same catalog as: T. Brown, Teresa Brown, Sam Brown (your partner?), and Lysander Wojtasik (the former resident at your address), then you can opt out of them all.

There is a chance that you could be put back on the mailing list if you buy from the company etc. But if you request an opt out and after 10 weeks you still receive a catalog, then you can report that as an infraction.

Apparently even some major retailers are supporting this endeavor. It costs them an average of $0.80 to send a catalog. I imagine that they’d love to have you gone if you really have no intention of buying from them.

From the NPR story, I learned that this project is supported by several nature organizations including the National Wildlife Fund.

Give it a try, you’ll be helping save trees as well as your own holiday sanity, what could be better!

Listen to NPR story: The Greening of the Holiday Catalog (3 minutes 32 seconds).

ADDENDUM: Please visit Jules at Her post Minimize the Clutter Before it Comes into Your Home has lots of great ideas!

Read all the Christmas/Holidays Unplugged posts here.

Thanks to and photographer solrac_gi_2nd for this photo.

“Help! Holiday Prep Makes Me Miserable!!” – Holiday Prep, Part 2 of 3 (Christmas/Holidays Unplugged)

By , November 20, 2007 8:17 pm

If this photo depicts the extent of your holiday decorating ambitions, then please read on…


The votes are in!

Am I, Mom Unplugged, a Type 1 “Holiday Slacker” or Type 2 “Holiday Overachiever?” Three of you think I am a Type 2 and two of you voted Type 1.

I am really extremely flattered that the majority of you think I am Type 2…but the real answer? I am so NOT a Type 2!!

I am the biggest Type 1 Holiday Slacker around. That old wreath and dusty artificial tree example? That is me. Except I actually put up TWO wreaths every year thank you very much! (Actually it is only because I have to since I have a double front door.)

So today’s post is for any other slacker-types out there.

If you are a Holiday Slacker and you are comfortable with your level of activity (or lack thereof), then that is great and perhaps you should be writing this post instead of me!

However, most of us who really do dislike all the Holiday fuss and preparation feel somewhat compelled to put on a brave face and make an effort anyhow, sometimes making ourselves miserable in the process.

So how can we change our lot and either manage to happily do more than we would like to, or come to terms with the fact that we are not going to do much? I don’t really know the answer to that, but I can put forth some suggestions. If you have any others, please feel free to leave them in the comments.

My best advice is to think about why you feel compelled to bake, decorate, and generally overachieve despite not really wanting to:

1) Is it because you think your family expects it?

Why not talk to your family and/or spouse about what they want out of Christmas. You may think they want the Perfect Holiday House, but perhaps all they really want is a Perfectly Happy Holiday You. If you are silently hating every minute that you spend accomplishing your required holiday tasks (or tasks that YOU perceive to be required), how positive and joyful can you really be with your family?

If your family does indeed want more than just an artificial tree and dusty old wreath, then have them help too. Why should you be the one to do it all? Christmas is a family time and even if your spouse would rather watch football and your teens would rather hang out with their friends, make them the deal that decorating and baking will occur only with their help.

If it is really that important to them, then they’ll probably be willing to join in. Once they do, they will probably even enjoy it (although those teens might be too cool to admit that to you). You will almost certainly enjoy it more too if you no longer feel that you are shouldering the holiday burden alone. You might even have fun!

2) You want to create a “magical Christmas” for your children?

There is a good chapter in Unplug the Christmas Machine: A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back into the Season entitled “The Four Things Children Really Want for Christmas” (read my post about this great book here). I’ll let you read the book for all the details, but basically kids want family time for Christmas. If you are rushing about madly trying to “do it all,” then you probably aren’t going to have time / energy or be much in the mood for family time with the kids.

It is the simple memories that stick with kids. Think back to your own childhood holidays. Hopefully you can dig up at least a few happy memories. What are they? Do you remember exactly what presents you got or how well the house was decorated? Probably not.

You might remember going with your Dad to cut a tree, or baking cookies with your Mom, or sitting in your pajamas on a parent’s lap and reading The Night Before Christmas. Or maybe one year you all got snowed in and played board games while eating peanut butter sandwiches. Or perhaps one year you had a “camp out ” in the living room under the Christmas tree.

Don’t get sucked into Hallmark’s vision of a “magical Christmas.” In reality, a “magical Christmas” for children doesn’t require much apart from some time and attention from Mom and Dad.

3) You read women’s magazines or watch Martha Stewart and feel that commercial and social pressure to do it all?

Think realistically. Do you know how many months of work of full-time artists and professional designers it must take to create those magazine “perfect Holiday” decors? Neither do I, but I suspect that it is a ton. If you LIKE to do that stuff then please, by all means do it and have fun. But if you have read this far in my post, you are probably like me and do not enjoy it. So don’t bother. You’ll never be able to achieve that result and you’ll only make yourself (and your family) miserable trying. Enough said.

(And next year, please simply take those December issues out of the mailbox and put them straight into the recycle bin!)

4) Was / is your mother a Holiday overachiever or underachiever?

My mother didn’t much care for Christmas prep either and I guess I am following happily in her footsteps. So for those of you who have Holiday overachieving mothers, I can see that you might feel compelled (either consciously or not) to live up to her seemingly impossible standard.

If your mother was a Holiday underachiever and you desperately wish to be different from your mother, then perhaps that is the source of your drive to “do it all” even though deep down inside, it is not really what you want to do.

My guest blogger for tomorrow’s post, a Type 2 writing about Type 2 organizational issues, begins her post by attributing her stellar organizational abilities to her mother’s lack of organization! Whether we like it or not, mothers influence us in many unforeseen and complicated ways.

I will not attempt any deep psychoanalysis here, but by acknowledging that our urge to unwillingly overdo it as stemming from a feeling of “needing” to be like or not like our mothers, perhaps that is the first step towards accepting that we should just be who we are and do what we really want or don’t want and get off the Holiday Hamster Wheel!


Next post: for the Type 2 Holiday Achievers out there who actually LIKE doing this stuff – tips on how to sequence and organize all that wonderful Holiday prep so you can really “do it all” and still enjoy yourself. The post will be written by a Master Holiday Organizer (hint…it is not me).

Read all the Christmas/Holidays Unplugged posts by clicking here.

Thank you to and photographer messa for this sweet photo of Diego.

Holiday Prep – Part 1 of 3 (Christmas/Holidays Unplugged)

By , November 17, 2007 10:18 pm

It seems to me with regards to Holiday prep, that there are two types of people:

1) Type 1 dislikes all the pressure to decorate, bake, and generally make everything “perfect.” Some of these people are OK with that and accept the fact that their only Christmas decorations might be a wreath and a dusty old artificial tree pulled down from the attic…or perhaps nothing at all. However I suspect that many of these reluctant types often begrudgingly try to keep up anyhow, succumbing to guilt…or family, social and commercial pressure to “create the perfect holiday.” While this might lead to the appearance of a “nice” Christmas for everyone else in the family, it leaves Mom feeling grouchy and tired (and yes, it is usually Mom not Dad who undertakes the Holiday prep).

2) Type 2 genuinely loves to “do it all.” These people decorate their home inside and out, bake cookies, pies, cakes, gingerbread houses etc. etc. They might shop for months for the perfect gift, or perhaps craft most of their holiday gifts by hand. Although they enjoy the whole “Holiday Process,” Type 2 also often has a big problem: how to accomplish all that they want to accomplish and still have time to enjoy the Holiday themselves.

So where am I going with this? My next Christmas/Holidays Unplugged post will offer helpful (I hope!) hints for dealing with the issues faced by my “type.” The following post will be by a guest blogger of the other school of thought, offering suggestions and hints geared towards those particular problems.

OK readers, how well do you know Mom Unplugged? Am I a “Type 1” or “Type 2?”

Photo courtesy of and photographer Jared Tolla.

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