All You Need is Less–Simple Steps to Green

Recently I was invited to participate in a blog tour and review of Madeleine Somerville’s new book, All You Need is Less.  I  am pretty familiar with the minimalist movement (and related publications) so I’ll admit that I had some preconceived notions .  

All You Need is Less Book

All You Need is Less Book

From Annie Leonard’s Story of Stuff, which advises us to use less stuff, with a systems theory, science-y core (though she does draw cartoons) to blogger Mr Money Mustache, living on $24K at year (with a rigor I can only fantasize about), I envisioned a slightly dour, albeit liberating, worldview.

What I found, was something decidedly different.  Here was a funny, almost optimistic, list of things you might actually do to go green and frugal.  Peppered with personal anecdotes and words of encouragement, I’d describe it more as Martha Stewart goes crunchy granola, than “this is the only sane way to live.”  Doesn’t that sound like fun!

With a table of contents and solid index, All You Need is Less works effectively as a reference book, or if you focus on the humor and anecdotes, an inspirational one.  The advice (and “recipes”) cover a broad range of topic areas including Home (e.g. soap scum remover, stainless steel appliance cleaner), Body (e.g. toothpaste, moisturizer), Relationships (“What to do when your partner is a soul-sucking planet killer”), Pets (e.g. stinky dog spray, litter box tips) and more.  Everything is served up with a self-deprecating wit that makes it fun and accessible.

I decided to give some of her ideas a try.

Reusable Shopping Bag

Reusable Shopping Bag

How to remember your reusable cloth grocery bags

Do you you struggle to remember your reusable bags as often as I do?  Madeleine advises, “If you forget your bags, you have to turn down the plastic stand-ins, and take your purchases without.  It’s going to suck.  A lot…  The next time you step out of your car on the way to go grocery shopping, memories of making seventeen trips to and from your door with armfuls of kale and pork chips will wash over you like a wave… and mark my words: you will remember your cloth bags.”

Okay yesterday I was just picking up two things and I didn’t bring my bags (and yes, I’d probably have forgotten anyway).  Of course, soon my arms were overflowing, and I realized the error of my ways.  Now one armful of items are manageable in a single trip out, but with two bottles of wine, I worried enough about dropping them that I broke into a light sweat (in Wisconsin, in April).  Effect achieved. 

Easiest Silver Polish

When I got married, my mother gave me the best advice ever.  Nothing about relationships but far more practical.  She warned me not to register for anything silver–the polishing could kill you.  Over the years, however, I have picked up a silver tea strainer here, a baby spoon turned sugar scoop there and the polishing bug has hit me.

Madeleine solves the problem for all of us, after a humorous description of her childhood where polishing silver meant:

“breaking out a bottle of stinky silver polish that literally had a skull and crossbones on it.  I can’t even count how many paper towels I burned through polishing that stupid silver, not to mention the brain cells I lost from inhaling the noxious fumes. (This is some I like to bring up with my parents occassionally, just so that they know I still hold them accountable for all that lost potential)” 

Silver plated spoon, self cleaning

Silver plated spoon, self cleaning

Silver “Polish” Recipe


  • glass or plastic container large enough to hold silver items
  • 4 c boiling water (or more as needed)
  • 1 T baking soda (or more as needed, keep water/soda ratio the same)
  • aluminum foil
  • tongs
  • soft cloth


  1. Line the bottom of the plastic container with aluminum foil, shiny side up
  2. Poor boiling water into the container and add baking soda
  3. Immerse the silver and wait
  4. Let silver soak a few minutes, then remove with tongs and dry 

And my results…

Silver before (left), after (right).  It works!

Silver before (left), after (right). It works!

If I have any concerns about this book, it would be around the depth of the research into some of her suggestions.  For example, in prior personal research on rain barrels, I encountered a number of credible cautions about the toxins that could wash down from a petroleum based roof.  While this might be fine for lawns, it is probably less so for your organic veggie garden, something that is never discussed.  Although in all fairness, she does warn the reader that without proper placement and adequate overflow prevention, you could flood a basement (that was a new one for me)!

Some of Madeleine’s inspiration comes from her new baby daughter, in the spirit of the classic “we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”  She explains,

“I don’t want to be that guy, the one who asks nicely to borrow something and then returns it stained and damaged, clogged with oil and bald from overuse.  Especially if I’m borrowing that thing from a baby.”

With an image like that, don’t you just have to step away from the bottled water?

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free review copy of the book for purposes of this review.

8 thoughts on “All You Need is Less–Simple Steps to Green

  1. Louise

    I “ran” into Trader Joe’s the other day for just a couple of things, yeah sure. Anyway, I “feel” your holding two Wine bottles pain although, our TJs doesn’t seek wine. Indeed a good lesson worth remembering. Thanks for sharing this reveiw with us Inger…

    1. Inger Post author

      I should really know better Louise, shouldn’t I! Glad to know it’s not just me!

  2. lena

    hi inger! sorry for my late visit..yea, you know abt that blogging mojo thing but happy to read your comment. so hv you gone back to fridays with dorie? that’s a great tip that you hv shared on the recycled bags.. i always forget that..definately not easy to carry all the things without bags..and you know, sometimes i just dont bother buying the heavier stuff like shampoo, cooking oil when i dont bring my bag.

    yeah i read abt the baking soda too but nvr tried it before…nice shiny spoon now…hehe.. i’m off to read your miso pasta post now..thx for letting me know.

    1. Inger Post author

      Welcome back Lena. I haven’t actually done Fridays with Dorie, though I’ve picked up a few of the recipes from blogs I read. I sometimes think I should join–the food always look so good! Right now I am looking for a miso soup recipe since I bought the miso paste!

  3. Sarah

    That is a great idea for remembering your shopping bag. I never leave the house without an extra bag in my purse. I have a good sterdy bag for my regular shopping, but keep an old plastic bag (which i still have a few of at home) just in case.

    And baking soda isn’t just great as a polish, but can be used to clean many things around the home.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. Inger Post author

      I love the idea of keeping a spare bag in your purse! Much less embarrassing than leaving with armfuls of merchandise!

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