Bringing the Riot Home

First of all I want to make one thing perfectly clear. My kids have hit a little bit of a stride lately. I find my mothering job getting– not easy by any stretch, the 4yo has re-entered screaming fit territory– but easier. Enough that I sometimes catch myself feeling kind of… bored. The immediacy of survival mode, which usurped me for some year and a half, has abated. I need a project.

The Riot found me at just the right moment. I wanted it, needed it. I needed a way to reinvest myself, to assess where I am at with this punk housewife gig and determine how to proceed. A bi-yearly review if you will. I love nothing, nothing so much as devising a system, and a system for a 6-month household economy audit sounded perfect. As is perhaps always the case with us humans, I had the desire first and then found an explanation.

I don’t know that this fundamentally self-serving motive undermines my project, so long as we keep it in perspective. I have a very active (hampster wheel) brainy brain, I have to use it for something. Why not optimizing the efficiency and ethics of my household?

But let’s just bear in mind that this project is for anyone else who feels similarly available, ready to tackle something new. Not for those of you who are already working at capacity and battling burn-out (that means you Dixie…) Also note that if my own household slips back down into survival mode, all bets are off babe.

That said, there won’t be any contracts for this Quiet Riot. No rules except those you choose for your own family, no catchy emblems for your sidebar, no number competitions. I encourage anyone who feels they have just a little bit of time, energy and desire to throw it in the hat! If want to sign yourself up, in your own mind or here in the comments, that’s fine. Verbalized commitment is a huge help-mate. But if even committing puts you off, or as some of you said in the last comments, you are already at work on a Quiet Riot of your own, you can just dip in here and there over the next 6 months. Take what works.

It’s worth mentioning that spousal involvement is optional in this most basic of challenges. At our house, this sort of thing is all me. My Man is patently not the type of person who enjoys saving receipts or making rules for himself. Correspondingly I am not the type of person who enjoys guilt tripping, nagging, pressuring or any other kind of spousal manipulation. I read on someone’s blog that she was ‘quite over following her family around the house reminding them to turn off the lights.’ I’m not interested in even starting. I already battle martyrdom at the dinner table, and that’s perfectly enough.

I have taken a look into our bills already, and I can tell you, it is not encouraging. Which is revealing. Here I am, doing what I consider quite a bit, given my circumstances, and still barely managing to keep my consumption to 80% of the American average. The big Riot’s goal of 10% is truly outrageous. Like I said in my first post, I think that’s awesome. I love outrageous. They will be able to make a very real political statement with 10%. Nevertheless, I do think that goal is only achievable for people who

  1. have already started on the path (ie: are already operating at a lower consumption rate, going from 50% to 10% is quite a bit different than 90% to 10%)
  2. own their own home
  3. have the monetary resources necessary to buy new energy saving appliances
  4. have either no small kids, or family support nearby to help with childcare

Of course, on one hand, it’s just a line-up of excuses. If My Man and I really believe in change, maybe we should move to Spokane where grandparents could provide that childcare and we could own acreage in a hospitable climate for farming. I won’t say we haven’t thought about it. But, we’re not moving to Spokane. When we finish here in New Orleans, we’ll be moving (quite gleefully!) back to Alaska, where we own our own home in a walking friendly town, with abundant wild fish, game and firewood resources, but no grandparents, laughable farming conditions, and a jet flight away from anywhere else.

[In Spokane we would have help with childcare and great farming possibilities but My Man would have to commute at least one hour per day to get to work. Which is the eternal rural vs. urban debate. Unless you are prepared to largely extricate yourself from your culture/community, rural living = driving.]

But back to the task at hand! Haven’t I already defended myself against imagined attacks on my soft-core riot? Time to quit bitching and get to work!

After my audit I’ll set some goals. I’m not sure if I will set percentage reduction goals. I know that can be useful, but it seems like one of those ‘rules made for breaking’ things. I won’t drive to my friend’s house across town, forcing her to drive to me instead, so I can meet my gas goal? Or do I just quit seeing them altogether and lose out on one of my best friends who coincidentally has two kids, just the ages of mine, who are not in “school” like everyone else, who my kids equally adore? No, not an option.

I’m thinking my goals will be more of the general ‘try harder’ and specific project kind. Establish better habits for turning lights and computers off, something I’d gotten much too lax about. Put more concentrated effort into garden efficiency and production. Stop buying crap cheese (my last industrial dairy hold-out) and start buying the good stuff from the farmer’s market, at (gulp) $12/pound. Turn my kids’ little plastic pool into a DIY fountain, so that I don’t have to make them stop playing with running water (one of the great joys in the world!) but can recapture at least most of it– our water bill is truly outrageous.

I want to spend each month focusing on two of the big Riot’s categories. I’ll list out the ways I am already working towards lowering our consumption, offer up ideas, links and resources and tackle special projects. My calendar will look something like this–

September. Home economy/consumption audit. Identify weakest links and highest return projects. Goal setting.

October. Electricity, Heating Fuel and Water. Get those good habits going! Weatherize (for me this is against heat, yes still in October, but for y’all this would be against cold) Make the kids’ fountain.

November. Food and Cooking Fuel. This is the biggest month for me. From gardening to grocery shopping to cooking, there’s a lot to think about. I want to start this month out with an Austerity Fast, cutting my luxury foods out completely (except coffee, god help me!) for two weeks. I don’t expect that anyone else will want to do this, but I have a terrible sweet/fat tooth and indulge much more than I ought to. Cookies after lunch and ice cream after the kids go to bed? Every day. Add in a trip or two/week to the bakery for chocolate croissants. Ahem.

December. Take a break. For others this might be a perfect time to tackle the Stuff and Waste categories, but I already have enough stomach-clenching angst at Christmas. I do my best, and that’s that. I’m not willing to give up family or make everyone else’s holiday miserable just to impress my ideals.

January. Here’s where I will take on Stuff and Waste, after those damning holidays. A month long Stuff fast. Also, prepare yourselves for some shit talking and finally, finally! I swear to you, I will write a tutorial for the waxed cloth produce bags I made two years ago.

February. Transportation. This one is relatively easy for me, as I’ve explained before, we are set up for foot power. I do drive, once or twice a week, and I’m not likely to give up those two trips (see ‘friend’ caveat above). But there’s always room to shave a little off, surely. I’ll finish out the Riot with a special focus on how to keep up doing things the hard way, when everyone around you does them the easy way.

Even if you don’t want to participate directly, don’t think you get let off the hook! I’ll expect advice and tips from all of you every month as well. Cough it up, folks!

12 thoughts on “Bringing the Riot Home

  1. When I said ‘up the stakes’, I meant make sure the timers on our electrical appliances are actually on & working (appliances that can, go off completely from 11pm to 6am), cut back the oven usage, kids TV watching & gas heating (it’s Spring here, easy enough & already started!)… just stuff like that! No major changes or challenges here… it’s about to be gardening time, chooks soon and I got plenty of lazing about in a hammock reading a book planned too!

    Good luck, esp. with that Austerity Fast!!

  2. This is fantastic. I love the Astyk-lite plan. Because I have a nasty tendency to go…ahem…overboard, and am already at the crazy-eyes stage, I’m going to pass on the Quiet Riot. (Catch ya next year?) But I look forward to the updates and inspiration.

  3. First off, let me just say that things have been a bit chaotic here, and my computer time has been limited to 5 minute bursts, for reasons I’m sure you can understand. So I’ve only been able to read the first couple of paragraphs of your post, but just wanted to say: Really? The end of “survival mode” as you put it, is not only possible, but relatively near? I love good news!

    1. It does get easier. And then harder. Then easier, harder, easier and so on and so forth. But for me, so far, that first year with two was mind blowing. I felt dead inside by the end of many a day. Not exagerating. Dead. As in non-existent. My man stopped asking how our day was.
      I have had a post on my mind about this for awhile. Will break it out soon for you m’dear.

  4. $12 a pound for cheese? I can’t get past that. That is good? What makes it worth $12 a pound? The good local made cheeses are 4.50-6.00 a pound here for your basics, cheddar, colby, mozzarella, Swiss, brick, Muesnser. Aged is always more, specialty more. We only have a fraction of the cheese factories left that we used to but I can still choose from 5-6 different brands right at the grocer and never have to buy the store brand or the Krapt kind. Yeah Wisconsin!!!

    1. Go away from me with you $5/lb cheese. god damn you. Nothing great about it at all except that it’s from a relatively local small farm. Tastes fine, plain cheddar. Nothing special, not organic. Just the only stuff available.

  5. Cool! I’m looking forward to hearing about the kiddie pool/fountain project. My son loves playing with running water and I am constantly feeling guilty about it!

  6. I have trouble with cheese, too– it is not quite that expensive here, but it is still pretty expensive. I have successfully made ricotta and (on one occasion, mozzarella… although the other time I tried that it didn’t work so well). I want to make cheddar, but I need to get the basics down a bit better first.
    We will join in, I think– not sure exactly how our goals are going to go, but I think that will become more clear when I start doing the audits.

  7. I’m going to do an ultra-mini quiet riot, composed of the following half-dozen tasks:

    1) Turning off the fans at night for the remainder of summer (I’m in N.O. too so that’s a couple of months)
    2) Install an outlet strip where we can easily access it (i.e. turn it off) into which all our computer and cell phone chargers will be plugged
    3) Build a table and bench for my toddler out of salvaged wood (instead of making the Ikea purchase I had recently resigned myself to)
    4) Make some bean bags for my toddler (ok, maybe that doesn’t really count as a riot at all but I just want to anyway)
    5) Decrease my processed food consumption (which has beens stealthily increasing through the hot summer months)
    6) Work extra hard at getting my fall garden started early and staying productive through the cooler, darker months

    You mentioned recently something about doing things the hard way when everyone around you is doing them the easy way. This is an issue for me. I am constantly weighing the value of my actions, I always have. And it’s funny, depending on your point of view, values can be drastically different. Some people are blessed with a point of view, a love, a mission, a yearning from early on. Others have to struggle to find it or make it.
    Anyway, thanks for having yours, and sharing it.

    1. I hear ya. Do I buy the solar oven now from, now from the local dealer, keep looking for a used one, or make a DIY? each has so many implications….money, time, resources used, etc. Etc.

  8. -our biggie is fuel consumption for trips to kids’ activities and town, so we are hoping to consolidate driving trips more often by planning ahead, also planning ahead helps increase chance of biking for short trips – to pick up milk or get M to bus stop
    -i also want to use a solar oven for bi-weekly bread as well as other baking to reduce propane

    these are the things that I want to do so that the other folks in my family will be more likely to join in without knowing it:
    -keep fruits / veggies ready to use in fridge (clean and chop, etc. so throwing into the pan or bowl is easy since I am frequently not the one preparing meals)
    -organize rechargeable battery center
    -organize recycle center
    -plan meals / find recipes that include local bounty

    i like the idea of taking a month for particular issues, but don’t know that it makes sense for us, having just moved off grid where we are still learning to deal with all solar, catchment water, pee bucket fertilizer/ poop bucket humanure compost, and eating farm food. I hope all those things off-set the serious amount of driving we do here compared to where we lived before.

    the thing is, none of those things are ones i wasn’t planning on, or already doing anyway. that’s missing the point, isn’t it??

  9. CJ – why #3 and #4 on your list of who the regular riot is good for? Just curious. I know Sharon has four young kids, one with special needs, and is becoming a foster parent. Also she’s not Miss Buy New Appliances.

    For the record, I love your Quiet Riot idea. But I am going for the big Riot. I agree with #1 on your list. Number 2… I think could be subjective, depending on your landlord/options/etc. But I have littles and no spare money for appliances. Not trying to apply any pressure… just curious as to your thought process. ;)

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