Letting Go of Honey Hill Farm

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Our daughter was born here. It’s a 300-year-old beautifully renovated farm that is a testament to the impermeability of time, weather, and wear on a well-loved home. Our babies lived the first years of their lives swinging in their car seats from the 1705 beams, crawling on the wide pine floor boards, and sledding down through the apple orchard out behind the barn. The hill was where we kept bees and in our first year there 100 pounds of clover honey was harvested from three hives perched beyond the white pine. We sold the golden elixir on our porch to neighbors we met over time. It was an idyllic place to live, but alas it’s now time to let it go.


The truth is, we haven’t lived there for the past 10 years.

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Due to a need to move to the Pacific Northwest for work, we left our beloved New England farm and family 10 years ago, just before the market crashed. When housing prices plummeted, we knew we had to hold on to the home, and rent it out, to wait until the situation stabilized. In 3 months’ time, if all goes as planned, our farm will change hands, and become an experiential preschool for families who want to bring their children in close contact with the Earth.

Essex from street 2

Although we moved our primary “stuff” from the farm years ago, we’ve had to slowly get rid of the last bits and pieces that comprise a final vacating of a property.

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These are the kinds of items most people simply throw away, too hurried to mindfully find new stewards for their still-useful items.

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We travelled back to New England last summer to take 3 days to gift our stuff to members of our former community. I connected with the admin of the local Buy Nothing group and she let me temporarily join the group to post our remaining possessions to neighbors.

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Everything disappeared in a matter of hours. Paint, farm tools, antiques, old hardware, large work benches and potting tables were hauled off the property by people happy to come in their cars and trucks to reuse what we couldn’t fathom carting across the country to our home in the Northwest.

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We’re essentially masterminding a zero waste move.

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Here are our best simple tips for a low impact move for anyone trying to reduce their waste when moving out of one property and into another:

  1. Create recycle/reuse waste streams in boxes for easy-to-recycle/reuse items: i) Regular commingled recycling (plastic bottles, glass and paper); ii) Plastic bags (to recycle at grocery stores); iii) Metal (to recycle in a metal recycling facility); iv) Office supplies (pencils, pens, paper clips, etc to give to a teacher or an office somewhere); v) Batteries (take them to your nearest battery recycling facility.)
  2. Don’t buy new boxes. Ask for them on your Buy Nothing group or get them from your nearest liquor store.
  3. Create collections to give away: It’s easier to commingle all of your hardware, or garden supplies, paint supplies, pet supplies, music, etc together to give to neighbors as collections of like-items rather than randomly giving away each item individually.
  4. Don’t buy paper for wrapping fragile items: Use newspaper (ask for it in your Buy Nothing group) or plastic bags, bubble wrap, and styrofoam that you’re planning on recycling,  or napkins, t-shirts, clothing to wrap around your glasses and fragile items for shipping. It saves money and waste.
  5. Even old paint can be reused: Before taking your remaining household hazardous waste to your hazardous waste facility, do check with neighbors to see if they’ll use it. We had people come to pick up our interior and exterior paint for their own projects.

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What additional broad-strokes tips can you add to this list?

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We’ll dearly miss our Essex home on the marshes. © Liesl Clark

Stop Friending Spammers

When an unknown person “friends” you on Facebook, do you accept their virtual friendship, without knowing who they are? For the past month, every day I’ve received about 5 new friend requests on Facebook from spammers. What’s disturbing is that many of them are friends of my real-world friends. Corporations and sponsoring organizations are ever-increasing the pressure they put on employees, sponsored athletes, independent filmmakers, freelance writers, and content producers to garner as many “friends” and followers as possible in social media. This encouragement to use social media as a platform to reach a broader audience means that spammers are easily getting in the door, and posting their unwanted advertising for more unwanted plastic crap. Or worse yet, they’re identity thieves looking for your financial information, or fake news spreaders, doing all they can to alter reality.

The irony is that this corporate push for employees to have a big social media footprint allows scammers to push the very products that are in competition with the corporations my inadvertent spam-supporting friends work for. Do you see where I’m going with this?

Let’s do our best to make sure we’re only friending real people who have real profiles. I’ve seen athletes and aspiring public figures approaching the coveted 5,000 friends mark,  yet at least a fifth of those so-called friends are spammers. In a culture that already has too much commercialization in our everyday lives, couldn’t we be more proactive in reporting the scammers and saying “no” to their friend requests, which only serve to boost their ability to spam unwanted advertising all over Facebook and other social media platforms?

*Go through your friends list and be sure the people you’re friends with are real people.

*Spammers often don’t bother to put a banner photo on their page.

*Spammers often have a male or female profile photo but their gender is marked as the opposite. This is a sure sign of a spammer.

*You’ll see pretty pictures of girls in their profile pictures.

*Hit the message button, and you’ll see what groups they’re in and your mutual connections. If you know this person is a spammer, take an extra step and let your mutual friends know he/she is a spammer, too.

*If a spammer is trying to friend you, you can friend them and then look at their profile for a few minutes to determine if you really want to be their friend. If not, unfriend them. And, if you think they’re a spammer, when you decline their friendship, there’s an option to mark them as spam. Do the right thing and call them out. Facebook will thank you.

Here are a few examples of my prospective “friends” that are sitting in my friend request queue this week. Meet Liam:

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As you can see, Liam loves Oakley sunglasses. But more importantly, you’ll see he’s friends with 7 of my very real friends. Note, too, that he doesn’t have a cover photo.

And here’s Mark:

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Mark with no cover photo only has 13 friends, and his understanding of his gender is all confused. You can see he/she updated her/his profile photo on January 28th.

Alina, too, is unclear whether she’s a he. If I want to see posts on Alina’s timeline, Facebook tells me I’ll have to accept his friend request.

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And then there’s the very attractive Detweiler Roy Robert. He, too, just opened his Facebook account and quickly replaced his male mug with these attractive images of porn star, Kelsey Hess. (I only know that because I did a Google Image search of this cover photo and found several articles about spammers stealing her photos.)

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It’s no surprise that 97% of Detweiler’s 45 friends are male, and that he has joined some of the largest Facebook groups around (with over 8,000 and 9,000 members.)

If you’d like to know how to identify a scammer, like Detweiler, on Facebook, here are some further pro tips I’ve received from admins who regularly monitor groups with large numbers of members:

How to Identify Spammers:

1)  Very little normal social networking activity.

2)  New account.

3) Often there’s a lack of a cover photo (the long banner photo at the top of a personal Facebook account.)

4) Large number of Group memberships. Spammers typically are members of 100’s of groups all which have high membership like a thousand or more members. They also tend to be members of groups that start with the same letter of the alphabet and bear no relation to one another. They use apps to quickly join those groups. Our Buy Nothing local gift economies are increasingly getting requests to join from such scammers.

5) Fake profile picture, (for example, a pretty young female.) Simply do a Google Image search of their cover image or profile photo. Spammers steal photos from catalogues and other websites.

6) Gender confusion. Name is female but the pronoun associated with it is male and vice versa.

How to Report a Spammer:

Go to their account and report the account. Or, hit “Delete Request” and then hit the button “Mark as Spam.”

What are typical Spammers Spamming?

1) Sunglasses – often with a pretty young woman profile picture, the account usually belongs to a male.  You’ll find many are from Asian locations, but lately there have been more African spammers.

2)  Shoe sellers – Similar to Sunglass sellers.

3)  Low airfare sellers.

4) Money lenders – Often 45-55 year old man profiles, from Begium/France etc., wanting to “help end poverty” and such with easy to get low interest loans.  These scammers are known to steal personal/financial information.

This last category of scammers is of most concern. Let’s do our best to report spammers to Facebook. They manually review every report. And if you don’t mind, and you’re a Facebook friend of mine, can I let you know when I’ve received a friend request from one of your fake lovelies? I’d welcome it if you did the same for me.



New Year’s Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (Re)Solutions

New Year's Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Re(Solutions) Bring Simplicity and Joy. Photo © Liesl Clark

New Year’s Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (Re)Solutions Bring Simplicity and Joy. Photo © Liesl Clark

In the New Year, I believe many of us have dreams of simplicity, homes de-cluttered and made minimal yet functional. Can this be achieved in a sustainable manner? Yes!

Sustainably reducing our junk brings a sense of freedom and joy, and I can tell you from experience that it’s entirely attainable, without trashing the environment. The key is to take simple steps toward offloading your excess items. As a byproduct, you’ll find real pleasure in seeing the value in your things and the joy they can bring others, rather than just tossing them into the landfill.

Here are 9 of our favorite New Year’s (Re)Solutions to help you reduce the stuff weighing you down:

I suggest you take a week to truly de-clutter and reduce.

STEP ONE: Each day of the week choose one room to focus on, so you don’t wear yourself out on day one. Do a decluttering pass through the room, carrying a box which will hold the items you’re ready to offload.

STEP TWO: Can any of your unwanted stuff be reused? Join your local Buy Nothing group, a gift economy where people share what they have with their neighbors. Keeping our stuff in our local materials economy is one of the greatest gifts you can give your own community, connecting you to the people around you and helping us all to reduce our consumption. See if there’s a group near you or ask the founders team to start a group in your area if you’re willing to be a local admin.

You can then post each of your items in your group. Don’t be shy! Your stuff is another person’s treasure. People give cement blocks away in our group, sticks, even used bubble wrap, extra pans of homemade lasagna, chicken feed, and unwanted jewelry. There’s no such thing as “trash” in our groups as you may find an artist who could use your discarded item or a small business owner who needs bubble wrap for packaging their items for shipping. If you don’t have a Buy Nothing group in our area, then move on to step 3.

STEP THREE: Have a few spare boxes ready to hold your leftover unwanted and unused items in your garage, basement, attic or spare room where you can then separate the pile into distinct categories:

1) Stuff to Donate to an Animal Shelter: Do you have old blankets, towels, or extra pens and pencils hanging about? You’d be surprised to learn what items most animal shelters could use. Here’s a typical wish list for a local shelter.

To find an animal shelter near you, click to The Humane Society‘s website where they have links to the best resources for locating local animal shelters. All you need to do is input your zip code to find a local shelter. Most have a wish list online, but you can call to find out their specific needs.

2) Stuff to Donate to a Charity That Will Come and Pick Things Up: There’s nothing better than people who come to you and take away your unwanted stuff. Donationtown has a website where you can input your zip code a find a charity that will come to your home and pick reusable household items up. But if you have a local charity, like GoodWill where you can drop off your items, that’s another great option.

Are you seeing the forest through the trees? Ridding of your excess stuff sustainably isn't so hard. Photo © Liesl Clark

Are you seeing the forest through the trees? Ridding of your excess stuff, sustainably, isn’t so hard. Photo © Liesl Clark

3) Electronics Recycling: Take stock of your e-waste — your electronics that no longer work or that you haven’t used in a year or 2, and take them to Best Buy! Best Buy is one of North America’s top e-waste recyclers and you can easily find one near you. This task is a simple one: load up a cart with your old TV, computers, vacuum cleaner, and wheel it through the front door and there will be a place by the front door to leave your electronics for recycling. Done.

You Can Recycle 3 Electronic Items Per Visit to Best Buy

You Can Recycle 3 Electronic Items Per Visit to Best Buy

4) Metals can go to a nearby scrap metal facility: We save our metals in a special box to be taken periodically to our scrap metal bin found at the local transfer station. Metals of all types have value and can be repurposed into new items made of metal. Saving things that are primarily made of metal can benefit your scrap metal facility greatly and keep those precious materials out of the landfill and in our materials economy for years to come.

5) Do you have a cupboard filled with plastic containers? Reduce it by half and you probably won’t miss what you’ve removed. Save your favorite ones for storing dry goods in and then go through your jars and do the same thing. If you have extra lids, recycle them. Or if you’re missing lids, recycle the jars or containers themselves. The new year is a time to take stock and simplify! I reduced my jars by half and passed the good ones with lids on to our local senior center that collects them for projects. Check with your senior center to see if they can use them or post your jars on your Buy Nothing group. Someone will have a use for them.

6) If you’re trying to reduce old stockpiled boxes of random stuff, make a pledge to go through one box at a time. Give yourself time to go through it and separate the items into recyclable items and those that can be given away and reused. I try to remind myself that we’re stewards of our stuff on this planet and our job is to, at the end of your stuff’s usefulness to you, dispense with it responsibly.

Stockpiled Boxes in the Attic: Emptying Them Out One Per Week is Do-able.

Stockpiled Boxes in the Attic: Emptying Them Out One at a Time, Even One a Day Makes the Task Do-able.

7) If you have old family photos you want to reduce, you can always check with family members to see if they want them. By scanning them digitally, you can save them on a small thumb drive and then you have the photo paper waste to think of. There are some great ideas out there for photo reuse, like turning them into tile coasters or donating them to a scrap art store. Remember, your old family photos do have potential value, especially for your family’s future generations.

8) Books: If there were ever an easy item to help you get rid of, it’s books! Most libraries want your books as do many non-profits worldwide.  We have a local “Books and Beer” get-together every few months in our Buy Nothing group where we can meet neighbors and share our books.

9) Make a promise to yourself to be mindful of what you acquire. Promise that all new things going into your home this year will be used and loved extensively, not squirreled away in yet another box to be offloaded at the end of the year. If you don’t take my advice, you might want to listen to a slightly different perspective on reducing. It all results in the same thing, however, less waste and less unnecessary clutter in your life for stepping out into a new year.

There is an elegance to beginnings and endings of years. Make yours a stuff-free one by following our simple steps. Photo © Liesl Clark

There is an elegance to beginnings and endings of years. Make yours a stuff-free one by following our simple steps. Photo© Liesl Clark

Stop Junk Mail With PaperKarma

Be mindful of your paper karma. This one's worth reducing. Photo © Liesl Clark

Be mindful of your paper karma. This one’s worth reducing. Photo © Liesl Clark

According to some estimates, the average US household receives 850 unsolicited pieces of mail each year. Our household was once way over that average, and for years I tried to reduce it. I can say, two and a half years after subscribing to PaperKarma, that our junk mail is now GREATLY reduced! PaperKarma is my personal junk mail pitbull, chasing that unwanted paper advertising away, nipping at the heals of those bold solicitors, telling them to remove me, forever, from their memory banks.

Here’s a picture of one month’s-worth of junk mail, two years ago, sitting on my desk:

One month of junk mail -- unsolicited. Photo © Liesl Clark

One month of junk mail — unsolicited. Photo © Liesl Clark

Today, that pile is about a quarter as high.

Enter PaperKarma.

As a Buddhist, I admit I was immediately drawn to the app.

I’m on every do-not-send-list I could possibly sign up for through the Direct Marketing Association, and I’ve diligently kept up with Catalog Choice in getting rid of unwanted (that means all) catalogs, but I still find that I have to call companies in-person to request no more catalogs around Christmas-time. My last ditch effort was to try the mobile app called PaperKarma.

PaperKarma, a free app that'll reduce your junk mail for you.

PaperKarma, a free app that’ll reduce your junk mail for you.

This app, named “The Catalog Killer” by Entrepreneur Magazine is FUN! Imagine receiving an unwanted piece of mail, taking a picture of it, hitting a button and seeing all future solicitations from said company (eventually) disappear forever. That’s what PaperKarma offers. And I can tell you from experience that they follow through with their promise. Since I started reducing my own paper karma we’re definitely receiving less junk mail. Some days we even receive, gasp, no mail. A few pieces of unwanted mail keep trickling in, but they’re ones we haven’t reported to PaperKarma yet. So I diligently send a quick picture to the PaperKarma bot that gracefully sends a notice to the offender to make sure they, ahem, TAKE ME OFF THEIR MAILING LIST.

PaperKarma is like having a mail (not male) secretary who handles something that’s offensive to you which you have scant time to deal with. I feel like the CEO of my mailbox domain every time I get a notice from PaperKarma saying they’ve successfully reached one of those corporations I didn’t ask to be targeted by. This is what apps were meant to be: our behind-the-scenes-clean-up-our-messes-while-defending-our-ideals-and-hence-saving-the-environment-type of digital enterprise. PaperKarma is also local, i.e. they’re Seattle-based and we’re just a hop on a ferry away, so I feel like we’re supporting a local enterprise that has huge national environmental impact.


If you have a smartphone, download PaperKarma — it’s free. If “karma,” like “samsara,” is an action or deed that brings light upon the cyclical reality of cause-and-effect, PaperKarma’s bots are truly karmic. Join me in looking forward to getting a rare piece of junk mail, just to experience the sweet pleasure of being a tattle-tale, reporting that offender to PaperKarma’s database that’ll set in motion the cause-and-effect of requesting to be removed from unwanted mailing lists. Federal law says companies must comply if such a request is made. And if they don’t, PaperKarma will check in with you to see who’s not listening and follow through on your behalf. Your personal paper-chasing lawyer, getting it done. It’s joyful, this process, and will save hundreds and thousands of trees as well as carbon in the delivery of your unwanted mail and wasted marketing brain cells on people like you and me.