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Let's talk about these pants for a moment, shall we? I am wearing these pants in nearly every social media photo. I am wearing them nearly every day in real life. They are my favorite pants that started as my least favorite pants. 

Just some no name jeans I thrifted during the height of changing rooms not existing and rather than returning them (you know, like a normal human might) I tailored them to fit better and adorned them with smile patches to divert attention away from my not-so-great tailoring. A story I tell nearly every human who continues to comment on my pants after the initial inevitable compliment (they really are a conversation starter) including my eye doctor this past month.

"So you took your favorite pants and made them even better," an intrigued Dr. B replied as we were chatting about said clothing item.

"Actually quite the opposite!" I bantered as a spewed off my spiel.

"This feels like a metaphor for a new way to look at life." The words nonchalantly rolled off his tongue as my mind was just beginning to blow.

My mind actually blew when I got in the car and realized HE IS SO RIGHT. I love these pants not only because keeping them saved me an awkward social interaction and added a little nostalgia to my wardrobe, but these pants are a METAPHOR.

Deep to my core I am looking at the things myself and others deem as trash, trying to find the potential and the beauty they hold. Trying to polish the turd of an ill-fitting pair of jeans or give a musty sleeping bag a better life than death in a dusty basement.

And what an accomplishment it is to turn one person's crap into something you truly give a crap about.

(This post is not at all sponsored by Zen Eye Care. But they truly are the best.)

I love that I get to breathe new life in to old stuff, that their stories get to live on and that we get to add our own stories on top of the ones that were already there. The stories that come with the making of the thing and the stories that come with the wearing of it. I don't care if you can't see it, you can feel it. And you'll never get that with things that have been heartlessly manufactured for the masses.

I just finished turning a sleeping bag I found in the basement of an estate sale into a jacket and there are so many stories that came along with the creating. Sometimes they're just for my own personal growth and sometimes they feel like they're worth telling. This one is about some string and a string of traits I acquired from my mom. The little quirks that we lovingly poked fun of behind her back have become some of the most prominent things I notice myself haphazardly adopting. A sense of resourcefulness being at the top of the list.

My mom was always great at making do with what she had. She could come up with a crafty solution to nearly any problem. She'd save shoe boxes for organization bins or an empty cereal bag to crush croutons for a batch of meatloaf. Digging through her craft supplies earlier this month I found a collection of magazine clippings that served as her archaic Pinterest board.

This week I was reminded why I hold onto things (namely, craft supplies) because you never know when the right moment will come along when you need a very specific shade of royal blue cording that you bought in 2018 for a very different, very specific project. Although this time around you'll need it to finish off a jacket in January of 2024. A very specific royal blue cord that I gifted (read: lended to) my husband for some other very specific man project.

The aforementioned very specific project circa 2018

When the coat was near completion I knew it needed something more. Specifically a drawstring. And being a near facsimile of my mother I knew in my bones that I already had something somewhere that would work. And it's amazing how the Rolodex of textiles and supplies I've ever seen or touched my lifetime spins around as I scrounge through every draw, nook and cranny to figure out what it is.

Lo and behold, as I reached into my drawer of various ropes and trims from projects past I realized my inventory was off- that I did indeed purchase the very shade of royal blue some years ago and I vaguely remember instructing my dear husband to scrounge through this drawer when he was in need of the exact diameter of said royal blue cord for some oddly specific chainsaw milling tool (this is a whole other story). Upon further interrogation (but more realistically a quick phone call) the exact location of this infamous blue cord was secured some mere 20 footsteps from it's original home (why can they not just put it back where it belongs? Yet another dilemma for another time).

Of course what was left was nearly the exact amount I needed thus successfully completing the circle that is the string story. I can see my mom smiling about it all. And whether or not she's the one who actually orchestrated it all I may never know. But perhaps it's what I'll tell myself for now.

We are so far from from being a zero waste household it's laughable. But I'm constantly trying to remind myself that all the little actions can add up.

Here are 5 unexpected sustainable swaps I've adapted (sometimes and sometimes not 🙃). Sharing here in case it inspires you to sometimes or sometimes not adopt in your own home!

1. Refill cleaning supplies and toiletries

We are so used to getting in our car, walking into a store, buying what we need in pre-packaged form and toting it home in a flimsy plastic bag. When we get home the plastic bag goes in the trash and when we're done with whatever we just bought, the receptacle it came in goes in the trash, too.

Once my eyes were opened to how wasteful this is, it's hard to unsee it. BUT THERE IS ANOTHER WAY!

From laundry soap to shampoo, dog treats to tea tree oil- a lot of everyday items are available to be refilled in your OWN container instead of relying on the brands we're buying from to provide them for us. I love visiting our local refill store to stock up on soap, lotion and other necessities!

Shameless plug (and all the love) to my favorite refill shop in Duluth- Ren Market!

2. Wash your plastic shower curtain liner

Every time I share this tip on social media, someone's mind is blown. To be honest, it blows my mind every time, too.

Pop your plastic shower curtain liner in the washing machine with a few towels (this is key!), wash on a regular cycle with warm water and regular detergent and be amazed at how clean it looks!

3. Buy nothing/freecycle groups

Find your local buy nothing or freecycle group on Facebook for an easy way to acquire and get rid of stuff at no cost!

This is a great way to re-home items you no longer use and be sure that they will continue to live on (did you know- a lot of what's donated to thrift stores and charity shops ultimately gets trashed?). Whether you're on the giving or receiving end, being in a buy nothing group sure has its benefits.

4. Recycle your old undies and socks without solemates

Retold Recycling will take your holey undies or socks without a mate (please just give them a wash first)!

Purchase a single mailer bag or splurge on a subscription. Once it arrives, stuff it with stuff (they also take other textiles you're not sure what to do with) and send it back to be recycled!

They also accept these hard to consciously get rid of items:

Old towels

The underwear that lives in the wayyy back of the drawer

Stained sheets

The dog's raggedy blanket

Fabric face masks

The bridesmaid dress you never shortened and wore again

(Full disclosure: I begged them to give me an affiliate link because I was so excited about their services! Use code CARLI10 for 10% off).

5. Make do and mend

Join me as I get my Clothing Repair Clinic back up and running!

I'll be bringing my sewing machine and supplies to Ren Market the last Sunday of the month starting in January for the foreseeable future! I'll repair your rips, tears, re-sew fallen hems or fix your busted backpack straps while you shop.

BONUS: kill 2 birds with one stone (I'm looking at suggestion number 1 😏)! Ren Market is my FAVORITE refill store! So much love for this little shop in Lincoln Park.

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