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The Though Kitchen - Dedicated to Stirring the Pot

The Slow Move: Downsizing Wisely

Posted by Eugénie | June 25th, 2007 | Filed under Design, Personal Reflection, Positive Change

Picture 6.pngYou’ve heard of Slow Food, so why not Slow Move?

When Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini spoke in Portland recently, he said bluntly, “Mangiamo merde,” (We eat sh*t). I’m thoroughly convinced that we as a culture live with a lot of merde, too.

So why not be conscientious nesters in the same way that Slow Foodies are thoughtful gastronomists? The principles are the same (to simplify, to make informed decisions that support local and regional economies) and the practice (to be mindful, to enjoy the process) is equally fulfilling.

I recently moved from a two-story house into a 400-square foot studio. It was an exercise in downsizing wisely, and in peddling stuff: old stuff, new stuff, cheap stuff, valuable stuff…ultimately, just way too much stuff. It was also a hassle, and tempted was I ” many times ” to tackle the move as quickly and painlessly as possible.

But what a missed opportunity that would have been — not to mention wasteful. Instead, I employed Slow Move tactics. On the giving end, I identified local organizations that would continue the lives of my unneeded items (see S.C.R.A.P., the School and Community Reuse Action Project, the Raphael House, and the William Temple House). On the receiving end, I befriended local business owners whose expertise could shape my new place wisely (ReBuilding Center, Whole 9 Yards, and Pistils Nursery).

0525_bikemove_141x121.jpgIn the end, it was a journey through Portland’s local economy, the result of which has infused my new place with an air of mindful, minimalist, collective creativity. It is a good reminder to continue to strive to chuck the Big Box, regardless of whether it’s full of fry guys and cheeseburgers, home improvement items, or bed linens galore. As Petrini might remind us, these big boxes are really just full of merde.

And on the subject of moving, check out this truly Slow Move. Inspiration for us all.

Images courtesy Clarence Eckerson

16 Responses to “The Slow Move: Downsizing Wisely”

  • June 26, 2007 at 12:40 pm | Cynthia says

    Another way to look at is “upsizing wisely” instead of “downsizing wisely”. Why not gather things in a slow, deliberate way to begin with? Then in theory, no “merde” gets into anyone’s lives! I suppose we don’t all think that deeply when we begin the long road to merde accumulation!

  • June 26, 2007 at 7:02 pm | eugenie says


    That’s a very good point. By upsizing wisely, you have less to downsize, later. I’ll keep that in mind, now that I’ve more or less cleaned my slate.

    Speaking of the long road to merde accumulation, a new IKEA will be opening in Portland later this summer. There are a lot of urban myths around this company – that they use prison labor, on one hand, or that they source their wood sustainably, on the other. I’ve no idea what’s true and what’s not. Given its general hipness, IKEA seems to get away with a lot more than, say, some of the Walton enterprises. Does anyone know any factual information about IKEA’s business practices? Are there any good web resources? They’re playing a very central role in urban upsizing in the U.S., these days, and I’m feeling very uninformed.

    Isaac – thanks for the book tip. You hit the right target. I’ll check it out. And in general, you can send Nau comments to customercare@nau.com.


  • July 10, 2007 at 11:13 am | Anthony S. Knox says


    I don’t know anything about IKEA. Based on your reply to Cythia, neither do you, (“I’ve no idea what’s true and what’s not.”), but you imply that you have knowledge of at least some of IKEA’s business practices that are either illegal or unethical (“…IKEA seems to get away with a lot…”).

    The overall tone of your response is that while you ask for “factual information” about IKEA, you’re really looking for dirt that you might use, in some way, to make it difficult for IKEA to do business here in Portland, thus depriving her citizens of at least one option that they might otherwise freely choose. Why should their options be restricted in this way?

    Saying, for example, that IKEA is “playing a very central role in urban upsizing in the U.S.” is simply another way of saying that people are freely choosing to buy their goods. Is that wrong, in your view?

    (For the record, everything I own will, literally, fit in my car…and I’m trying to get rid of the car. My aversion to material goods, however, is more aesthetic than moral, so I never feel the need to try and create a world in which everyone is just like me. There’s no accounting for taste.)

    Anthony Knox

  • July 10, 2007 at 11:20 am | Anthony S. Knox says


    One more thing…

    I can’t help but remark on the irony of an email, subject line “Freedoms of the Season”, that brought me here. You folks at Nau and I must have different definitions of “freedom”.

    Is this really a “thought kitchen”, or a vegan restaurant?

    Anthony Knox

  • July 10, 2007 at 12:08 pm | Otis says

    Hmmm…Anthony, I’m curious what your last comment means? What’s the irony you see? I’m glad our email encouraged you to come check out our site. But, we’re far from vegans. That is, we try hard not to be slaves to a single approach to thinking. I, for one, happen to think all non-religious vegetarianism is suspect. But, I’ll fight for the privilege of everyone to eat healthy food, meat and produce alike.

    We’re trying to encourage dialog, and dissent, in a variety of forms. So, thanks for adding to both of those.

    I’ll let Eugenie respond about IKEA.

    Thanks for visiting.

  • July 10, 2007 at 12:31 pm | eugenie says

    Goodness, Anthony, there’s certainly no mean-spirited undertone in my hope to learn more about IKEA. I’m not about to get on anyone’s case for shopping there. On the contrary, it’s actually a business that I’d like to support, especially after learning more about its history (I’ve been doing some homework – the Wikipedia entry is a good place to start).

    IKEA’s concepts of democratic design, attempting streamlined, sustainable solutions to large-scale manufacturing in an era of human population boom – this is good stuff, the kind of stuff we eat up here at Nau (along with other healthy and not-so-healthy vegan and non-vegan treats). But I can’t help wondering how they’re able to make their prices so so so low. That, alone, is at the root of my question.

    Yes, people are indeed free to choose what they buy and from where, but there’s no question that some choices come with far greater consequences to our planet and to our people than others. The more informed we can be as consumers, and the more often that we can act on those informed decisions, the better off we’ll be. I can’t help but believe in that.

    Glad you got riled up enough to send word my way. That’s what this Kitchen place is all about.


  • July 10, 2007 at 3:58 pm | nathan says

    IKEA’s prices are as low as their standards for a lot of material sources – but according to the Corporate IKEA website, this will change, soon. It seems that IKEA has been in the crosshairs of many studies, from labor practices to material sourcing – and with good reason.

    Addressing these pressures, IKEA has raised the sourcing bar to include 30% of all wood materials to be FSC-certified by 2009, which is pretty impressive. These sorts of changes are thanks to the economic force of the conscious consumer, something we should all be proud of.

    Voting with our dollars for the change we want to see in this mass-produced world is actually really powerful. If you care about forests, only buy furniture with FSC-certified materials. Or have it built by a craftsman and pass it on to your kids. Or buy antiques.

    Having just experienced an excruciating research cycle to find a new mattress, I am a super-Slow Mover. It took my wife and I about 2 years to Upsize Wisely and finally purchase our new healthy mattress. Sure, I huffed 2 more years of formaldehyde nastiness in my sleep, but I’m going to sleep well tonight – the delivery came today! Hopefully this mattress lives up to its 20-year warranty…

    Sleep tight, slow movers!


  • July 10, 2007 at 4:07 pm | eugenie says

    leave it to the big brother to have all of the answers (or some of them, anyway). thank you, Nathan!

  • July 14, 2007 at 11:16 am | mandy says

    Hey Nathan,

    What was the healthy mattress you decided to buy? I’ve been looking into the options for these, and it seems like the good choices (for the environment and health) are terribly expensive. Just curious what you found.

  • July 15, 2007 at 11:19 am | Nathan says


    after a LOT of research, we decided on a natural latex mattress, made from the sap of the latex tree. We decided that a renewable, natural source was much better than going with a mattress that uses steel and wood in addition to the cotton or wool innards. Our model is an 8″ firm natural latex with an organic cotton case. It is firm without being hard (like some spring mattresses) and sleep has been VERY restful.

    We found a place in Boulder, CO called foamsource.com that gave us a great deal on free shipping (we live in Telluride, where shipping costs extra, it seems). They had a good price compared with a lot of other brands, and the shipping deal was the icing on the cake. The really cool thing about the shipping process is that a latex mattress, having no steel or framing within, can be vacuum-packed into a tidy bundle and rolled up to fit into a box about the size of a dishwasher! When I sliced into the plastic wrapping it actually inflated to its full size, which was really cool – remember the sponge dinosaurs that used to grow in water? It was that cool.

    With a 20-year warranty and the comfort of no longer breathing the gases of space-age fire-retardants, I’m a happy camper. The total price was about $1300, which calcs out to about 35 cents a night for ten years – worth it in my mind. There’s no telling how expensive the toxins from conventional mattress will become…

    Good luck to you, Mandy!


  • July 21, 2007 at 4:12 pm | Jeff says

    That’s great you got all your junk to fit in your studio! I’ve been trying to do that since I seem to move about every year or year and a half. I do like the Ikea furniture just because it’s easy to break down and transport in that aspect.

    Did you sell all your books? But darn my musical hobbies, those things take up way too much space. Anyone make a folding banjo?

    I’d love to see a photo of your studio.

  • August 14, 2007 at 2:54 pm | eddie says

    “happen to think all non-religious vegetarianism is suspect”

    although i dont eat any meat aside from sustainably harvested seafood, i personally believe that vegetarianism is not for everyone. some will be healthiest as a vegetarian whereas others will need meat a couple times a week. but to dismiss vegetarianism with a blanket statement/position is not what i would expect from the educated folks at Nau. You might not be aware that producing 1kg of beef results in more CO2 emissions than going for a three-hour drive while leaving all the lights on at home. Improving the meat production process would greatly reduce this impact, but for now you can reduce your footprint much more by eating less meat than by driving less, which is not to say you shouldn’t do both. Still suspicious of all non religious vegetarianism?

    IKEA’s low prices are greatly driven by the use of chinese labor, the same cost reducing “feature” incorporated into Nau’s goods. Couple that with the economies of scale they’ve achieved and you will always have the lowest price. Given, they are not as sustainable as possible, but they are moving in the right direction and for this reason they don’t deserve any merde unless you back it up with facts.

  • August 16, 2007 at 3:34 pm | Otis says

    Thanks for your comments Eddie,

    Well, the folks here at Nau are a varied bunch, and I’m just one voice. I didn’t get into the background of my point of view, but I’ll try to do it justice in a nutshell. Fist of all, your point is well taken, but it’s not really true that ANY 1kg of beef produced generates those levels of emissions. It’s clear that industrial meat (and agriculture) create huge impacts on land and water resources. If one was to choose not to eat meat for that reason alone, it’s an entirely defensible position. However, not all meat production or meat consumption are created equal, or carry such inherent negative impact. Numerous small, sustainability-focused meat producers offer products that are healthy and produced in environmentally sensitive ways. Also, turning to plant-based protein sources like soy is not an intrinsically better choice. Industrially produced soy products are far from harm-free in their production approach (water use, GMO, transport). All our choices, especially food related, carry some impact. It’s up to us to do the research and weigh the options. Drive less or eat less meat? You’re right, one should probably try a little of both.

    Traditionally, a vegetarian diet was the by-product of a socio-religious context, not one made as a lifestyle choice. You either had no meat, or you chose not to eat it because you believed certain foods were sacred (or unholy): kosher, Hindu, Muslim–there are numerous examples. As you say, different people will need different diets. But to say that eating any meat has more impact than eating no meat is an oversimplification. Where the meat comes from and how it was raised are key questions. The same ones that should be applied to all food choices, meat and produce alike. Blanket statements perhaps do an injustice to the topic being mentioned, and I should probably avoid them. But, my point of view is a byproduct of my experiences, education and interactions. Hopefully it adds depth to the conversation. If not, it would get boring around here real fast.

  • August 17, 2007 at 9:20 am | eddie says

    these statements were made with the AVERAGE cost of producing a pound of beef in mind. that is the only sane way you can establish comparisons. i thought you’d realize that it is obvious no foodstock is free from an environmental cost.

    i also didnt think i’d have to explain that yes soy has an impact, but much less than meat. the same way that, as you mentioned, some meat is sustainably harvested (less than what, 2% of the meat produced?), some soy is also produced sustainably (again a small amount). the impact of the average production method is how these comparisons are created, and until there is a fundamental shift in the way foodstock is produced these comparisons will remain true.

    “But to say that eating any meat has more impact than eating no meat is an oversimplification”

    i am not sure you’ve done your homework otis. meat is a secondary or tertiary source of energy – and almost anytime you consume from a source of energy that is farther from the base of the chain you are indeed consuming from a less efficient fuel source. the efficiency of a source of energy is inherently associated with the position of the source in the food chain. a pound of beef will always required more water than a pound of most vegetables and fruits and on top of that the cow spends energy in other tasks other than growing.

    you are obviously dabbling into a subject you know little about, so i am not going to keep coming back here to attend to a discussion of this level. grab a copy of the “ominivore’s dilemma” and maybe a couple other books and we can continue our conversation.

    ome thing you said I completely agree with: “It’s up to us to do the research and weigh the options”. i will wait for you to do yours.

  • August 17, 2007 at 11:29 am | Otis says

    Wow Eddie. I’m sorry you are so disappointed with the level of discourse here. I’d hope if we were having this exchange in person, though, that instead of asserting how little I know and how much more you do, you might be interested to figure out how I could benefit from your experience. I certainly don’t claim to know all there is to know on this broad topic, though I’m pretty certain I’ve read some of what you think I should, Pollan included.

    I’m glad you’re passionate about your points of view, especially when it comes to making informed choices about what we eat. You may be surprised to find we probably have more in common on this subject than not, though I’m now as disinclined to explore that possibility as you are to keep visiting us here. Sorry that you feel we (or at least me) are not up to your level. Thanks for your comments, and efforts to inform.

  • May 9, 2008 at 6:14 pm | 7959cf9d63ec says



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