The Anyway Project: Down to Brass Tacks

Sharon November 9th, 2010

First of all, in response to reader suggestion, I’ve changed the names of the categories. People rightly felt “domestic economy” and “household economy” were too confusing, and reader Apple Jack Creek suggested we change “domestic economy” to “domestic infrastructure.” Claire also suggested that “Farm and Subsistence” was too specific to my case, and that we should just go to “Subsistence” there. I don’t think I quite agree, although I am taking the word “farm” out since not everyone has one, and replacing it with “cottage industry.” Not everyone will have a cottage economy emerge from their activities here, but I do I hope that some people will, and want a way of differentiating between purely subsistence activities and those that generate income in the form of barter, community currency or plain old money.

The new categories for the Anyway Project are:

Domestic Infrastructure - these are the realities of home life, including making your home work better with less, getting organized, dealing with domestic life, etc…

Household Economy: Financial goals, making ends meet, saving, barter etc…

Resource Consumption : in which we use less of stuff, and strive to live in a way that has an actual future.

Cottage Industry and Subsistence:: The things we do that prevent us from needing to buy things, and the things we produce that go out into the world and provide for others. Not everyone will do both, but it is worth encouraging.

Family and Community: Pretty much what it sounds like. How do we enable those to take the place of collapsing infrastructure?

Outside Work: Finding a balance, doing good work, serving the larger community as much as we can, within our need to make a living.

Time and Happiness: Those things without which there’s really no point.

So what am I trying to do in the course of November? What should you try and do in the near term? My goal is to set one or two goals in each category for each month (I’ll do this by the first each month) and go forward. Since I’m getting us started late this month, I’ll try not to overreach. Ok, that’s probably not realistic ;-) .

Domestic Infrastructure: My goals are finish moving the food storage out of the walk-in closet it has badly overflowed and into the spare guest room, where now people will have the pleasure of sleeping surrounded by jars and buckets (this, however, is one of a couple of guest rooms. I’m also moving around the space my office is in, but can’t really finish that until I get a door for said office. So my goal is to put the door on and move the furniture. Beyond that, I hope to get the firewood stacked and some of it moved into the house and get some more garden beds built before winter. That’s probably as much as I can accomplish (and maybe more). If I have time, however, I did make a list of 25 free or cheap projects I could do to improve our quality of life that I’d like to take a stab at.

Household economy: We have several times in the past tracked our expenses, but haven’t done it in a couple of years. So go back to tracking every penny we spend. I think realistically, the most I can hope for this month is to figure out where all the money goes (we know basically but I’d like a closer analysis) and make a plan for shifting our expenses starting next month.

Resource Consumption: This we’ve been tracking all along, so I pretty much know where the problems are. My goal is to drop our electrical usage by 5% over our present use, something I’m sure I can accomplish simply by staying off the computer a little more and by the normal shift to cookstove cooking away from our stove. The major problem will be our mileage – they’ve crept up with kid activities and my travel, and they aren’t immediately fixable, although they will go down after next month, since I won’t be travelling as much. So figuring out where we can cut there is the next project.

Cottage Industry and Subsistence: I need to find out if I can get an inspection that will allow me to produce small scale jams and other food from our spare apartment kitchen – there are permits for this in NY, but I am not sure if we’ll qualify. In the meantime, lots and lots of farm planning for the spring, and garden planning in general. I want to reduce our input costs and increase our outputs – some boring tax research is also required. My goal is to have a plan set out for the farm by the end of the month – a month by month schedule of what we’re producing and what I need to do to accomplish that.

Family and Community: Eric and I are committed to trying to be part of two more outside our home events every month than we had been doing – evening events are tough for us, with almost no babysitting and the fact that we’re usually really tired by the end of the day. But the fact is, human relationships happen at night, so we’re trying bring some new folks to the farm and also go out more. Oddly, this seems like the most overwhelming one – I can handle my finances or declutter my house, but when it comes to actually getting organized to do something at 8pm, I find myself struggling!

Outside Work: I have several times tried to get my outside workload down by insisting I work and check emal only 3 days a week. In principle, this seems doable. In practice, I’ve never pulled it off – but if I’m to accomplish as much as I want to, I can’t do it in front of the computer all the time. I’ve been trying to help get my ASPO commitment stabilized with more hands to do the work, and that seems like it is settling down. My biggest, perhaps most difficult to achieve goal is this – that I will work at the computer *only* on Monday mornings, and all day Tuesdays and Thursdays – and that includes everything I do online – on all other days, the computer will stay *off.* I’m hoping to pull this off by December 1 – and stick to the commitment.

Time and Happiness: I think honestly, accomplishing the above will get me both. I’ll let you know how I do.

So what are your plans and goals? You can post them here or link to your blog and we can talk about it. Let us know what you are struggling with, and what you’ve accomplished. Spread the word – get a lot of people involved. It should be fun – and we can all use a little support!

And the badges, btw, are coming!

25 Responses to “The Anyway Project: Down to Brass Tacks”

  1. Karen says:

    Oh, I do like this challenge! Here’s my November commitment list:
    Domestic Infrastructure –
    clear floor space so the radiant floor heating will actually work.
    set up office/handwork space to keep projects contained.
    get refrigerator and stove switched so the fridge isn’t right next to the woodstove.

    Household Economy:
    Update checkbook and set up Quicken for my Mac.
    Set budget for the holidays.
    Inventory the pantry.

    Resource Consumption:
    Reduce numbers of books and amount of clothing as the first decluttering step.
    Set up an tracking system so I don’t overbuy above.

    Cottage Industry and Subsistence::
    E-bay/craigslist/PBS the unwanted items from above.
    Finish a knitting project.

    Family and Community:
    Pass it on; What goes around comes around. Don’t forget to share the unwanted goods from the decluttering.
    Learn cribbage with the kids.

    Outside Work:
    Finish up EBT project for the farmers’ market.
    Set up clear work schedule, so as not to get dragged away from homeschooling.
    Evaluate the possibilities of a 2011 market garden.

    Time and Happiness:
    Music & theater experiences for the family.
    Friday walks & adventures; enjoy what’s around us.

  2. Tara says:

    I completely agree with your statement about social/community commitments feeling very overwhelming. I really have to force myself to see people outside my home because it seems like I always have plenty to keep me busy, and I too am tired at the end of the day. We live out in the hinter-boonies, though, so it’s easy to become isolated if I don’t get out!

  3. Mary Ellen says:

    Could you share your 25 projects to better improve the quality of your life?

    I’m anxious to get started on the plan. Even living alone I still need to plan.

    Thanks for all you do.

  4. et says:

    What about health, education, music, art?

  5. Sharon says:

    ET, can I do those tomorrow – I’m really tired
    right now ;-) .

    What about them?

    Sharon

  6. Kevin says:

    Domestic Infrastructure – complete re-siding work on the N and E walls (we discovered in Sept that the NE corner of the house was rotten right down to the sill plates, and had to get some help to fix that: we’re now making good and replacing the rotten siding), new weatherstripping and thresholds on exterior doors, and replace plastic film on the windows as needed. Some gets left on all year if we don’t need to open those windows. We might be able to get to rebuilding the pantry too, but maybe not.

    Household Economy: Follow up loose ends in transferring all our household bills over to a joint account, rearranging my partner’s retirement savings.

    Resource Consumption: We have to replace our vehicle – make sure that the replacement has better gas mileage than the current one, and continue to not use it whenever possible. Continue to reduce our electrical usage (we reduced by 11% last year). Work on reducing the amount of plastic that comes into the house.

    Cottage Industry and Subsistence: Start growing windowsill sprouts again. Eat our stored potatoes and other veg often enough that we get through them before they get uneatable in the spring! Finish the quilt I’m making.

    Family and Community: Work on bringing our Transition activities to our neighborhood. Invite neighbors over for potlucks. Research sharing a vehicle between several households.

    Outside Work: Continue leading our Transition initiative – with a focus on broadening our base so I’m not carrying so much of the load and heading towards burnout :( . Chair Seedy Saturday organizing committee. Work on websites for Farmers Institute and Agricultural Association.

    Time and Happiness: Help my daughter move out of our basement into her own place. This will greatly improve my primary relationship :) . Do NOT take on any more event organizing projects (just finished three in a month) or other new projects. Arrange more music for our Early Music group.

    To et, around health, education, music, art… I think folks who prioritize these will slot them in under the other headings eg time and happiness. But a separate heading might not come amiss.

  7. Evey says:

    I am motivated to get going along with everyone else. DH says he will contribute also.

    The Theory of Anyway Project
    November goals so far-
    - Domestic Infrastructure-get files straight, clean out white cubbies, organize armoire shelves, clean and set-up laundry/storage area,
    - Resource Consumption-caulk and paint laundry room windows/walls, plastic over LR windows, foam tape on attic access pull-down door
    - Farm and Subsistence- sort and store potatoes & sweet potatoes, defrost freezer and make space for venison, check temp/humidity in cold cellar twice a week as weather changes, winterize cold hardy veggies in both gardens before next freeze
    - Family and Community- at least weekly contact with SIL & Sister. Email G., N., Paul & Daniel
    - Outside Work-School year- only accept sub positions that I feel confident I can do a good job at,
    - Time, Health, and Happiness- walk ½ hour during prep time if teaching, walk road ½ hour days home, cuddle more

  8. Jen says:

    DI – My 2 goals for Nov. are to clean my bedroom closet and build the shed (pre-fab purchased 3 months ago.). My bedroom closet has all the boxes of old clothes that I have saved up to make window quilts (see RC) but they are in the back and completely non-accessible at the time.

    HE – I’m going to enlist Thaxiss for help with this one. We really need to get our spending under control. The first step is to track exactly where we spend all our money. The 2nd goal for this is to increase our savings by $50 this month. Not much, but it all helps.

    RC – Goal 1 is to make window quilts for the 5 west facing windows we have. Goal 2 is to put plastic on the windows before I put up the quilts. We get most of our cold winds in my neck of the woods from the north and west. We have no north windows, so priority is the west ones.

    CIS – This one is harder. I’m not up to considering a CI right now, my life is pretty stressful and I need to reduce stress right now. And for S, it’s almost winter, so there’s just not as much to do. So goals are to get 1 new garden bed built before winter hits, going to have to be this week, as I’m out of town for work next week and then it will probably be too cold after that. Plant 2 pots of herb seeds that I could grow in the house this winter. I’ve only ever done annuals outside, so getting a good herb setup is a long term goal as well.

    FC – Only going to do one for this for now. I’m going to sign up for one class or event in our new community. The event class doesn’t have to be in Nov, I just have to get signed up in Nov.

    OW – I work..a lot. Too much sometimes and it is high stress, but my job pays most of our bills. The goal is week after next to only work 40 hours. I have commitments that make it impossible for this week and next.

    TH – This section will be self-care for me. I realize that most of the sections involve self-care to some degree, but I tend to let self-care go. I start going to relaxation/stress reduction sessions tomorrow, they are once a week. I have done this before and it helps immensely. It’s all stuff I can do on my own, but I just don’t.

  9. Full list posted on blog.

    Just wanted to say .. Jen, if you’re putting plastic on the windows, unless you have leaky window frames (which do need the plastic over the entire window area) , you might consider bubble wrap. Reuseable for at least several years (mine are on year 3 with no noticeable deterioration) and easier than the frame / blow dry kind. Just a thought. :)

    I was gonna make window quilts – then I discovered bubble wrap. That, plus the heavy cotton duck curtains (floor to ceiling – that part is important) made enough of a dent that I took the one window quilt I did make down, and have it as a spare bed quilt now. :)

    See ideas at builditsolar.com if you need detail.

  10. Well, over here in the middle of spring if I don’t get myself organised real soon I may find myself in a real pickle.

    http://belindas-simple-life.blogspot.com/2010/11/project-of-anyway.html

    Kind Regards
    Belinda

  11. Sharon says:

    Mary Ellen, I will post them, but I admit, I’m not totally sure that all of them will be projects that someone else would want to do – some of them are probably too specific to my situation. But I’ll put them up!

    Sharon

  12. Like Tara, I’m right there with you on outside social commitments seeming monumental and overwhelming. I see the value in them that you point out, but they always are the first things cut or given up when my life gets crazy, and it always does. I’d also love to see your list of 25 free or cheap projects.

    Frankly, I don’t think I’m ready to commit to your Anyway project this month. I’m just getting to the point where I feel like I’m treading water with all the various homesteading projects instead of sinking. Perhaps your project is exactly what’s needed then, even though I’m not ready for it. I love the idea of it, and I think I’ll jump in early next year.

  13. Mary Ellen says:

    Thanks! I see someone else would like them too. Guess I just need something more to spark me into action! You and Kathy Harrison have become my “best friends!” Living alone in a small town where most don’t know what “sistainability” means, I don’t have many to relate too. You both inspire me with all you do–young kids, farm, write books. Wow!

  14. Claire says:

    I like the names of the categories a lot better now – easier to understand what each is about at a glance.

    My first goal for November is to finish up with a couple of things that I’d already planned before the Anyway Project started. The other goal is to finalize the targets for each category, make sure the DH is OK with whatever will be his part in each, and get them written down. Then I can start breaking them down into doable chunks for each month.

  15. Sara & Daryl: rural Alabama says:

    This has been a huge impact in out lives already. We have hope again!
    Thank you Sharon!

    Domestic Infrastructure:
    Initiate house renovation project: replace failing 30 year hot water solar panels with modern collectors that should last 60 years, expand Solar PV system, replace aging shingled roof with raised metal roof for water collection, and utilize extra area beneath for storage space. Sara will develop plan for both of us for regular meals and house cleaning. Sara will sort & file her piles of farming literature on back porch.

    Household Economy: Sara will keep checkbook in order.

    Resource Consumption:
    We will sell other car to neighbors for $1, in exchange for occasional use in the future which will eliminate our insurance and maintenance costs. We will: make a decision about keeping and paying annual rent on a large propane tank that we now use only for the cook stove. We will put up the wads of green tomatoes, eggplant, and hot peppers and make soup out of stuff in fridge, root cellar, and cabinet.
    Cottage Industry and Subsistence:
    Both of us: Review this year’s garden plan and make next year’s garden plan. Daryl: Install and evaluate high efficiency ceiling fan for recommendation for clients. Sara: Make cayenne pepper tincture for barter, begin next year’s farm & medicinal herb plan, disc market garden fields (done) and sow Austrian Winter Peas for cover crop.

    Family and Community:
    Both: Complete and file burial papers with local Burial Society. Together: Invite a member/couple from our intentional community over for a meal and go out one evening this month.

    Outside Work:
    Daryl: Bring business accounting up-to-date. Sara: Organize Wellness Nurse job paperwork and time sheet reporting.

    Time, Health and Happiness:
    Daryl: work to regain health so that time can be more productive and happier. Sara: recommit to both walking everyday & Feldenkris exercises.

    I hope I can accomplish all that I/we have set out to do. The accountability part of this is very important to me. I may have to downsize in December; time will tell me that.

  16. Sara & Daryl: rural Alabama says:

    one more thing under Cottage Industry and Subsistence:
    Sara will collect and mail in soil samples for fields, orchards, and our garden areas, for evaluation by the state extension service.

  17. Hi Sharon,
    This is starting right in time for me! After working on pieces of the puzzle, it will be good to work on “the whole”. Thank you! And I’m very impressed by the thought everyone has put into their goals. Here’s the quick version for mine. I’ve posted the details on my blog.

    DI: Setting up a mini-pantry for food storage, organization

    HE: revive my budget system

    RC: reduce driving. plastic and window quilts on drafty bay window

    CI & S: explore cottage industry possibilities. find outlet for my accumulated vintage items.

    F & C: research events held through public libraries and schools

    OW: find ways to improve workflow/workload

    T & H: return to regular exercise program. possibly try yoga for relaxation.

  18. Robin says:

    I’d like to see the list of 25 projects, as well.

    Here’s my notion for November:

    DI:
    Make all our bread again. Will need a bread machine for this. I’ll keep an eye out at the thrift stores.
    Declutter kids’ room and pack away books that the older one is finished with and the youngers won’t use for a few years. Unlike last time, I will make a list of what is in each box to make them easy to find later.

    HE:
    Save some money each month. $20 a month is possible, I think. It’s a start.
    Aside from looking for the bread machine and a few other things on my shopping list for the holidays, stay away from the thrift stores.

    RC:
    Walk more now that we have moved to town.
    Produce less trash. Begin shredding and composting paper.

    CI and S:
    Learn to make mayo from our eggs.
    Get better at making pasta.

    F & C:
    Keep in touch with my dearest far-away friends.
    Find something to help the homeschool program with.

    OW:
    Learn to use the computer program my husband uses for photographic image processing so that I can take some of the load off his shoulders.

    T & H: Keep it up. I have been doing a lot better at self-care lately.

  19. [...] Full reference (Copyright acknowledge) This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. ← Preparing Your Home for the Holidays: Kitchen | Declutter My Life Fast Declutter Your Life: sometimes we just have to say no. → [...]

  20. Ali says:

    Ok, here’s my list for November. Really looking forward to this challenge.

    Domestic Infrastructure:
    Clean up and finish household filing.
    Set up new files for upcoming new year.
    Sort through items (clothing/housewares/toys) for charity box.
    Do a good cleaning in basement family room area, storage area and prep storage area.

    Household economy:
    Begin working on new budget for next year
    Start monthly donation for new charity.

    Resource consumption:
    Put bubble wrap on windows for winter.
    Make more insulating window panels.
    Attempt making additional insulating cover for spa for winter.

    Cottage industry/subsistence:
    Continue with animal husbandry (chickens, cows, rabbits)
    Sell eggs/rabbits
    Research growing alternative feeds rather than relying on purchasing feeds
    Glean neighbors field for leftover corn.

    Family/Community:
    Attempt to lay groundwork for possible barter with neighbors

    Outside work:
    I work at home, need to attempt to set a more deliberate schedule so that I do not feel so pressured by the end of the week, always playing catch-up. Definitely need to focus more. Reevaluate work schedule and possibly change hours.

    Time/Happiness:
    Set aside 30 minutes personal time with hubby daily, when not involved in work activities together, to reconnect.
    Exercise 20 minutes 4 times a week.
    Set aside 30 minutes of personal time daily just for me.

    Hope I can get it all accomplished. Seems like more of a short-term list for November, maybe in December can get to more long-term goals, life direction changes, etc.

  21. [...] of the Anyway Project – now with slightly altered category names. According to Sharon Astyk, the re-jigged categories [...]

  22. msbetterhome says:

    We’ve just moved house this week, so I am keeping my goals modest this month. But I think just accomplishing these few things will be a great start for me:

    Domestic Infrastructure: Unpack! Dispose of or re-gift anything that I don’t need, love or use.

    Household Economy: Establish online access to mortgage account, work out our new ‘joint account’ system. Set up insurance through my superannuation fund.

    Resource Consumption: Source and order rainwater tanks.

    Cottage Industry and Subsistence: Build no-dig veggie beds.

    Family and Community: Have a minor house warming (nothing spectacular, no stress).

    Outside Work: Make sure I have a written position description for new role (2011- onwards) by 21 December.

    Time and Happiness: Re-join the pool/gym at work and find time actually GO at least twice a week.

  23. KC says:

    The group energy of this project is helping me to move forward on many household projects (large and small). I have started to go through the house (inside and out) and make mindmaps of what needs to be done. With that in mind — when I have a little free time , I know what to do and I jump at the opportunity to do a small part of some project – such as 5 minutes to reorganize a drawer. During the past 2 years- garden work (planting, mulching, bed building, harvesting, food preservation and storage) has occupied much of my free time. I love to garden, but I am beginning to find all of this somewhat exhausting. I wish to use this project to examine our needs and create a garden/preservation plan that is more efficient.

    Domestic Infrastructure:
    complete storage of sweet potatoes and potatoes
    continue with mindmaps of household organization

    Household Economy:
    barter with K
    examine and register for household budgeting class

    Resource Consumption:
    make progress with window coverings (bubble wrap?, window quilts?)
    Do something with green tomatoes (pickles) and all those peppers (roast and freeze)

    Cottage Industry and Subsistence:
    Winterize fall plantings – install hoops, find plastic, install row covers
    complete plantings of garlic and nettle

    Family and Community:
    call B. 1 x wk
    make donation for S’s birthday gift

    Outside Work:
    contact presenters via phone and email about grant opportunities
    begin website design work

    Time, Health and Happiness:
    go to meditation rock and/or sky gazing: minimum 2 x wk
    tea space: minimum 1 x wk (outdoors if possible)

  24. carol says:

    The Keese family in Charlottesville are in.

    One thing – I am finding it incredibly helpful to have a destination or goal particularly with so many moving parts to everything. More like Riot, but this feels more like Independence Days. Both are awesome and have been really important in my thinking – so if WLR doesn’t have an end point in time I may just create one to help all these line up more organically around something (the “Design” part of Whole Life Redesign)

    Domestic Infrastructure:
    Reorganizing my pantry and kitchen to shift to a longer-term food storage model, cooking with basics and whole grains, root cellaring, using bulk and canning vegetables meats on a regular basis. To do that, we’re converting the unused space under our front porch and against our brick foundation into a root cellar for potatoes, apples, carrots, etc. Also purchased an old hutch-thing (a “baker’s chest”) that can provide at-hand storage of bulk items like flour, sugar, leavenings, spices, grains. Aiming to pull all of my food out of where it is and move it around next weekend. Right before I have 12 people for Thanksgiving.

    Household Economy:
    We are getting an extra pay-out for unused paid time off this month (and we have a three-paycheck December), so are biting the bullet and eliminating consumer debt on credit cards. Also telling family we do not want to participate in the Holiday Craziness of More Stuff we Don’t Need. So that will save some money and be more in line with our values

    Resource Consumption:
    Have turned thermostat WAY down and ran an energy study on our home (just an online one but very good, with lots of variables and a breakdown of all our actual costs over a year). We are at the very lowest end of comparable houses with comparable appliances, but of course we want to get it even lower. Will wrap our hot water heater, and am now only washing laundry in cold water (not sure why it took me so long).

    Cottage Industry and Subsistence:
    Hmmm. Bought two old house/cookbooks from late 1800′s that list many of the ways to clean/fix/care for everything from children to furniture, so hoping to replace most of the cleaning agents in my cupboards with things I know are safer for everyone and planet and lessen the need to go out and buy stuff we can make ourselves simply. Making plans to better manage our 4 acres of mostly wood, so that we harvest and use the wood around us more efficiently. This year was also a first for a fall garden, which is looking great right now with Kale, Cabbage, Broccoli, lettuce under cover.

    Family and Community:
    Try not to go crazy or argue with all the relatives coming in for Thanksgiving (be nice. be nice. be nice…). My sister in law lives with us already; talk to her more about this project.

    Outside Work:
    we both work demanding jobs on the outside… doing the best we can to keep them to re-invest in increasing our self-sufficiency and decreasing our consumption and carbon footprint. Also volunteering to create an awareness campaign for son’s youth orchestra – a world-class organization that provides full orchestra opportunity to young people and which is really struggling.

    Time, Health and Happiness:
    Become more observant, incorporate prayer and blessings into my day as much as incorporate other WLR principles. Must lose some weight, but want to do it by practicing WLR – eat less, drink more water, mostly plants/not too much, move more, eat whole foods. Get up and walk every day with dog before work; will make me healthier and dog happier

  25. Susan in NJ says:

    Domestic Infrastructure – Get the kitchen side of composting under control with a system both of us will use; resolve the latest leaking toilet situation at least temporarily (possibly the result of the cold house); clean, set up and finish stocking the winter vegetable and apple storage areas; replace the broken outside clothesline with something that doesn’t deteriorate to breakage every year – any suggestions anyone???

    Household Economy – Make a decision on a changing insurance issue; work on updating accounts and setting up a filing system for documentation.

    Resource Consumption – Hang curtains/window coverings for winter and remove window A/Cs; work on organizing hardware/household repair items so we can find what we need when we need it without buying more

    Cottage Industry and Subsistence – Clean up the yard and garden beds for winter; set up inside winter plant areas.

    Family and Community – Work on developing better long distance strategies for helping my mother. Reclaim the dining room so we can have people over for dinner.

    Outside Work – As self-employed professionals, our outside work tends to also be our inside work. Get various offices ready for videoconferencing. Doing all the other things on this list will help with our other ongoing issue which is letting household stuff slide while we work intensively on deadline projects at the last minute.

    Time and Happiness – Go swimming at least twice a week.

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