Greetings from the "well-oiled machine" that is my household.
Ha! I wish. Doesn't feel like it after tonight's bedtime routine with two energetic boys. But, yes — that is how my home was described in a NZ Herald article last week.
Somehow, I was approached to comment about the fantastic plastic bag ban, and my answers on how to cope with picking up dog poo and lining my rubbish bin without the ubiquitous shopping bag impressed the reporter enough to use those words.
Almost immediately my nearest and dearest were in touch, scoffing at the choice.
Unless "well-oiled" translates to "treading water" and feeling like you're just surviving, then the reporter might have got the wrong impression …
That said, I am well ready for this plastic bag ban.
A couple of years ago I finally got into the habit of bringing reusable shopping bags to the supermarket and thought my stock of plastic bags to pick up dog poo would slowly dissipate.
But no – it's been supplemented with bread bags, rice cracker bags, and even plastic courier bags.
The lack of a bin liner is no problem either. With a compost bin for greens, a scrap bucket for chicken food, plus a dog who eats a wide range of leftovers, the inside bin doesn't get grotty very quickly at all. It only needs a quick rinse every month or so.
I have a long way to go on my plastic-free journey beyond shopping bags though, but every little change adds up.
The latest I'm trying to implement is to carry my own reusable container for buying takeaway sushi or noodles.
I saw a quote that wrapped it up: "It's pretty amazing that our society has reached a point where the effort necessary to extract oil from the ground, ship it to a refinery, turn it into plastic, shape it appropriately, truck it to a store, buy it, and bring it home is considered to be less effort than what it takes to just wash the spoon when you're done with it."
It seems to me that we need to remind ourselves that life didn't always come with a plastic throwaway wrapper.
We can look back in time for ideas of how to cope without the convenience of plastic bags.
Cane baskets or flax kete, recycled fabric bags or hardwearing polyester bags, string bags or cardboard boxes – there are many ways to carry shopping.
It's about forming new habits and practising till they stick.
Waste-free school lunches aren't so hard when lunchboxes come with little compartments. No need to wrap sandwiches when they have their own sandwich-sized space to slip into.
I occasionally make yoghurt at home and that can be spooned into a reusable container, instead of relying on single-use plastic pottles that pile up for recycling – if the recycling market picks up.
My life is often hectic, so I understand and often use short cuts myself. Modern life has set us up for taking the easy option, which often comes wrapped in plastic.
Sometimes these solutions appear cheaper in the short term, too. The one I'm not sure how to adapt from is frozen vegetables – how do we ditch that plastic from our lives without compromising on fast, affordable, healthy food?
The obvious answer of growing and eating your own veges in season doesn't work for everyone but maybe a few more Saturday morning trips to the market won't hurt, particularly for those of us whose green thumbs are still in development mode.
This approach reminds me of a great quote: "Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can."
It's by the late Arthur Ashe, a US tennis champ who was also a civil rights activist.
His quote is actually preceded by the words "To achieve greatness", but I don't think a focus on "greatness" is necessary. Let's just do a little more than we did before.
And admit that sometimes we need a push.
*Nicola Patrick is a Horizons regional councillor, works for Te Kaahui o Rauru, and is part of a new social enterprise hub, Thrive Whanganui. A mother of two boys, she has a science degree and is a Green Party member