Apr 10 2011

trash or treasure? [day 319]

There’s a lot of stuff that might be considered trash, but before you throw something away, think about the possible uses for it.  These are partially full cleaning supplies and pesticides, well, there’s also a random bottle of unopened champagne too.  Just because it’s half empty (or half full, depending on your perspective) and you don’t want it, dosen’t mean someone else can’t use it.  I list this on freecycle and it was gone in a matter of hours.  Yes, it’s my waste, but it doesn’t need to end up in a landfill or disposal center.

Before you throw things away, here’s some things to think about.

  • Repurpose. Could I repurpose this for something else?
  • Sell. Is this something that I could sell?
  • Give. Is this something I could give away?  Do I know anyone who might use this or need this?  Will a thrift store take it?  Remember, your trash might be some else’s treasure.  Put it on freecycle.  If it doesn’t go on freecycle, it might just be trash.
  • Green. What is the best environmental way to get rid of this item?  Can it be recycled?
  • Good. Is there a way to use this to bless someone else?  Can you give it to a fundraiser or charity?
  • Plan. Why did you buy this in the first place?  Have you made a plan not to buy it, or anything similar again?
  • Repurchase. If you need this item or something similar in the future, is there a smaller size or is it something you can borrow?

Yes, this is a lot to think about each time you plan to get rid of something, but if you start doing this, it will change your habits.  It will be easier to get rid of things because you will have a process and your shopping habits will change, as you will think long-term about something before you buy it.  It’s a win-win.  :)


Apr 8 2011

sharing your stuff [day 317]

I love actsofsharing.com, where you can share all your stuff with your friends.  I’ve been using this quite a bit and I think it’s great for many reasons, one of them being the organization of sharing.  How many times have you gone to lend a book or a movie to a friend, only to realize that you lent it out a while back, but you can’t remember who you lent it to?  I do that all the time.  My neighbor asked for her movie back about a week ago.  I had it, for about a year, and I had no recollection of borrowing it.

I decided if this sharing thing is going to be part of our lives, we need to have an organized system of borrowing and lending.  I decided to set up a bin for all of the small things like books and movies.  This way, I can keep up with the borrowed stuff and I have a place to make a pile of my “stuff to lend”.  This way I won’t lose anything by keeping it all in one place.

We have an Ikea plastic bin in the living room to keep everything in.  So far the system is working well.  More intentional sharing means saving money, owning less stuff and building more community.  Gotta love it.


Apr 8 2011

garage sale for good [day 316]

While in the process of ridding my house of many unused things, I received a Facebook message about a garage sale.  This is not just any garage sale, it’s a sale to help someone in need.  Here’s the info from Facebook.

We will be holding a HUGE Charity Garage Sale at Third Monday Trade Days on Highway 380 in McKinney on Friday April 15th and Saturday April 16th. ALL proceeds will go to the Bereavement Fund to assist Tami and her children with life after the loss of her husband and the children’s Father. Medical bills are mounting and Tami is about to have her 6th child this April.

Plesae consider donating your items, volunteering to help run the sale, pricing, boxing, transporting items to the sale venue and even just sending this to ALL of your friends so we can get the word out! The more the better!

The timing on this, for me personally, is a little ironic.  I sometimes gather donations to take to the thrift store or to bring to an orphanage I love, and the first thing most people say is, “I have some old clothes I can send.”   This is sale actually a great place to send those unwanted clothes, as opposed to donating them to people that need other things.  (click here to read about situational needs)   I brought them some clothing, not because I didn’t want it, but because I didn’t need it.  I purposely downsized my wardrobe by over 50%, so this clothing isn’t out-of-style stuff, it’s good stuff with life left in it.

I gave lots of other stuff that I had slotted for the thrift store and craigslist.  I can always use the money I would get from selling stuff, but I don’t need it.  This is a way to infuse good into your stuff while blessing others.  In this process, I’m helping someone in need, I’ve met some really cool people I didn’t know, I’m blessing others with some of my unused material possessions and my life is slowly becoming less stressful, as I’m getting out of the gridlock of my belongings.

These photos were taken over a week ago.  I’m sure much more has been donated by now and this isn’t even all of the stuff.  Take a look.

Continue reading


Apr 6 2011

to buy or not to buy, that is the question [day 314]

I found myself at a thrift store about a week ago, one that I haven’t visited in a long time.  I really didn’t need anything, but since I was on that side of town, I decided to check it out.  In the past, any good must be purchased, but now I apply my new shopping skills before buying anything.  Here’s a little bit of what that looks like.

  • Browse first, pick up later. I shop without picking up anything.  I look for things I like, then once I’m done, I go back and get the things I remember.  If it didn’t stick in my head, it’s not worth buying.
  • Do I need this? This question doesn’t mean I can’t have it if I don’t need it.  What it does mean is looking at the big picture.  Why do I want it?  How long will I use it?  Will I even use it more than once of twice?  What item will I get rid of to get this with my one for one model?
  • Can I repurpose something I have, borrow or trade for this? Basically I’m asking, “Is there a better way?”  Let’s take a tool for example.  Do I have something that will do the same job?  Could I borrow or rent this item?  I look at all other options.

I did something a little different on this shopping trip.  I took photos of everything I would have put in the cart or considered buying right away.  Here’s the photos.

Things I didn’t buy.

This extremely well build patio coffee table would have come home with me.  I don’t need, I would barely have space for it, but it was a screaming deal at $29.99.  I still want it just looking at the photo of it.  I love the modern style, and the way this was built, it could serve as a storm shelter.

Awesome cap, too tight for my head.  Continue reading


Apr 5 2011

function over form [day 313]

When you own a lot of stuff, especially anything with electronic parts, you’re going to have some maintenance to do.  Some will be planned, some will not.  Here’s a few things I’ve been thinking about buying if I could.

Car fuses.

I blew a fuse in my car.  It’s the fuse to the interior dome lights, but worse than that, it’s also the fuse to my garage door opener.  I don’t have any extra fuses so I’m living without these things.  It’s not so bad, as it’s teaching me to appreciate the small things in life.  I’ve never appreciated that machine that opens my garage door.  Now I use the back door instead of the garage door.  It’s less electricity, and the only time it’s a real hassle is if it’s raining or we’re bringing home groceries.

A water filter.

I would buy a water filter for my Softub.  Although yesterday, I moved the tub into its new location on the patio and now the GFCI plug isn’t working.  Gor $75 I can buy a new one, however the Softub tech isn’t even sure that’s the problem.  I’m going to take it apart and see for myself, but then what are the chances of finding a used part like that?  I’m guessing slim to none.  Not sure what I’m going to do if I can’t get it working.  I definitely will not be selling it, as I use it a lot.

A grill.

Yes, I finally got tired of fighting with my temperamental Brinkmann grill and I sold it on craigslist.  What?  You want to know what I got for it?  $60 cash.  It retailed new for $1,100, I paid $69.99 approximately 2 years ago.  In that time, the burners were replaced and the gas valve with tubing was replaced.  Even with the replacement parts, it was always a mystery as why it would work some of the time, but not all of the time.  I just got tired of fighting with it.  And yes, I sold it “as is” with a full disclosure of the issues I had with it.

As I was researching new grills (planing to buy one used), I came across this really cool looking grill.  It’s a Fuego Element, it’s designer a previous Apple product designer.  After some research, it seems as though this sexy looking grill is just not the easiest to use.  The top gets hot and it’s not attached so you have to place the hot lid somewhere when cooking.  The cast iron grates need care to prevent them from rusting.  In my efforts to downsize, this grill is super-appealing in its size.  But do I want the maintenance?

I looked at many other grills, I’ve read consumer reports on them, but I’m still unsure of my next grill purchase.  I used my old one a lot and got my money’s worth, but I want something smaller and simple.  I’m also looking at a Minden grill.  This is unique, as you can add features to it later like a side burner and ice chest.  The reviews are good, but it’s so new, there aren’t any used ones available.

I’m still deciding what to do about all of these situations.  The no shopping is making it a hassle for the small things, like the fuses, but it’s provoking some creativity in finding solutions for the big things.  I’ll keep you posted on the outcome of these situations.  I’m prioritizing function over form, but that’s easier said than done sometimes.


Apr 2 2011

what? it’s only $1,074 [day 310]

Deciding to get a pet of any kind is a big decision, not only for the responsibility associated with them, but for the expenses you will incur.  A couple of weeks ago we adopted Zuri, a 6 month-old kitten.  She’s precious and is the perfect fit for our family.  Although we adopted her from the Humane Shelter, we had to pick her up at PetSmart.

Now, adopting a pet means shopping for pet supplies.  Under the challenge rules, I can buy her food and litter, as those fall under the toiletries and groceries categories that are allowed.  I was going to need at bare minimum, a food bowl, a water bowl and a litter box with a scoop.  I was prepared to get creative.  I have bowls and lots of them.  I’m quite sure I could modify some plastic container in my garage for a litter box.  The scoop I had to ponder a little longer.  Old kitchen utensils?  Something in my garage?  After an intense thought process, I decided I would be able to make one from old coat hangers.  Yep, we were ready for a cat in every way possible.

When we went to pick up Zuri, we also picked up my friend E. because she adopted Zuri’s sister a week earlier.  As I was walking though the pet store, I had to stop and look at the senselessness of what I saw.  Gourmet canine cookies.  My kids don’t eat stuff this fancy or expensive.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to treats for pets, but this seems a bit excessive to me.  Does Fido really care if he gets the pretty little treats shaped like dog bones, dipped in colorful icing?

How about pet fashion?  Yes, Martha Stewart has come to the rescue, not only to help your pet in the fashion world, but to stylistically incorporate pets into your home.  Again, I have no problem with pet supplies, what I’m saying is this seems excessive.  Yes, a pet bed is good if they’re not sleeping in your bed.  Yes, they need bowls to eat from.  Yes, they need a toy or two.  But do they really need all this stuff?  Let’s say I bought one of everything for my new kitten.  I’ll choose middle of the line items.

My list includes such things as a UV light cat pee finder, and cat sitter DVD, a mid-sized cat scratch tower, cat repellents to tell them where they don’t belong, a bed and much more.  The total?  $1,074. And once you’ve spoiled your pet and there’s nothing new left to buy, there’s now kitty anti-depressants. Continue reading


Mar 28 2011

the affects of effects [day 306]

It starts when we’re born.  Accessories.  “My daddy is the best” and “My mom is better than your mom” on our shirts, iconic pacifiers, hair bows in more styles and colors than Baskin Robbins has flavors, complete ensembles of coordinated clothing, all in large quantities.  When did babies become fashion statements?  Aren’t they cute enough already?  I see a lot of people talking to parents with small babies and hearing more compliments about the clothing than the kid wearing them.

It continues through adolescence, expanding to toys and games.  I have boys (thank you God) that don’t care much about fashion and will probably need future therapy for their lack of stylish clothing options.  They do however have accessories.  They have Nintendo DS’s that have lots of games, a universal charger, a fancy light sabre stylus and headphones, all packed inside a custom case.  Society says, “You need more” and we respond by buying more.

Into adulthood now, and I’m not exempt from this.  I might not have a lot of fancy, trendy clothing but I do have some nice things in my house.  Most from eBay, craigslist and thrift stores, but nevertheless, lots of things.  Accessories.  I have decorative things that serve no purpose other than to sit there and look nice.  Now I’m an artist of sorts, so this is an important topic.  I love to create things, but with a purpose.  Much of my art is chaotic, but has meaning and purpose behind it.  The vase sitting on my shelf, not so much.  I’ve been sucked into the American vortex of more is better.  I created this photograph several years ago.  This has many meaning for many people, but I see it as how we become background fixtures in the sea of stuff we own.

Continue reading


Mar 28 2011

mental gymnastics [day 305]

Buy one, purge one.

I’ve been practicing my “buy one, purge one” philosophy and it’s going well.  I was hoping to photograph all of the items, however that would take a lot of time.  I am doing it though.  I don’t shop near as much as I used to.  Even though I purchased things from a thrift store, it was still buying a lot of junk I didn’t need.  Now I’m much more selective and I buy much less, especially knowing I will have to get rid of something every time I buy something.  It’s a good plan and it’s not been a struggle at all.

I bought 2 pairs of shoes, a pair of jeans and a pair of swim trunks at the thrift store a few weeks ago.  I needed a pair of dress shoes that were comfortable.  I found just the right pair and I bought another pair that were on sale for $2.00.  I came home and got rid of 2 pairs of shoes.  The jeans, girl’s size 16, fit me, but a little snug.  I bought them with the intention of wearing them if I could, but if not, using them to repair some of my other jeans.  The boys needed a pair of swim trunks, as they’ve been fighting over the one pair they have.  I actually got rid of a lot of clothing, not just 2 pieces.  I’ll be blogging that soon.

Just a few days ago, I bought some throw pillows for my patio swing.  I’ve been wanting some because I love the swing this time of year and I like to lay on it and read.  Considering I got the swing for free from a friend and the cushions free from a dumpster, spending a few bucks at a thrift store on pillows seemed okay.  They’re the same fabric as my patio chairs and are from Pottery Barn, so they cost someone a lot of money.  I plan to dye or paint the unbleached cotton cushions.  So what am I getting rid of?  My colorful tile pot (that’s broken), some of my solar lights (a few that don’t work) and the shiny rocks (that are serving no purpose whatsoever).

Buy one, purge one is not difficult.  It’s a good feeling to know I’m not going to be accumulating more stuff when I do shop and it makes me walk away from many things I would have purchased with my old shopping habits.

Snap one, show one.

I started a quirky little habit.  I take photos of the things I considered buying, but chose not to.  I snap a photo and I show it here on my blog.  Here’s a couple of pics.  To the left are 4 square glass tables.  I thought these would be nice for my patio.  Mental gymnastics:

  • What would I get rid of?
  • Do I want to clean these?
  • Will I maintain the plants I want to put on them?
  • Where will I get the plants?  The pots?
  • Are these made for outdoor use?
  • Do I really want to spend $70?

I thought about all of that in less than a minute and easily decided against them.  Next was 2 latte mugs, the polka dot one and the orange rimmed one.  It’s rare to find oversized mugs.  Here we go again.  More mental gymnastics for he sake of consumerism.

  • Do I like these mugs?
  • Do I need these mugs?
  • What will I get rid of?
  • Do I need more dishes to wash?
  • How many cups can I use at one time?
  • How do these fit into my minimalist approach to downsizing?
  • Do they coordinate with my mismatched collection?
  • Do I really want to spend money on these?

Again, in less than a minute, I walked away from these.  I like the new habits.  They aren’t painful at all.  I haven’t quit shopping, but I’m spending my money less frequently and more wisely.  Time to kick it up another notch?  Probably so.


Mar 26 2011

grocery shopping update [day 304]

I’ve gotten a few questions on my new grocery shopping plan.  I shop more frequently, but buying less, limiting myself to 25 items or less.  You can read the story about the downsizing and new shopping plan that was published in early February 2011.  Take a look.

Here’s the before and after photos of my pantry.  The after was taken a couple of weeks ago and even has less in there today.  I don’t have photos of the refrigerator or freezer, but they are sparse as well.  Here’s some of the results or the new way of shopping.

Money savings.

I started shopping at Aldi versus Kroger, Tom Thumb, WalMart or Target.  That, coupled with the 25 items or less, has produced the following monetary results.  These amount reflect groceries, the occasional toiletry items and some wine.

February 2011: $268.95

March 2011 (so far, 1 week left): $149.89

I started this in mid January, so I didn’t look at that month.  Here’s what I spent the 2 months prior.  Continue reading


Mar 17 2011

transfer of time, from shopping to sharing [day 294]

We’re taught from little on that we should always share.  As we get a little older, we have our own stuff, but we’re still told to share on occasion.  Then we hit our teens.  I don’t think anyone told me I should share anymore at that age.  We start backing off the sharing.  Then as an adult, I guess we’re not really expected to share, although if an opportunity arises, most of the time, we will share.  If we need something, we usually just go out and buy it, resulting in ownership of a lot of stuff.  Stuff that costs money, stuff that uses resources and stuff we simply don’t need.  What if we transferred shopping time into sharing time?  What if we started to share again?

So what is sharing?

share [shair]

— n

1. a part or portion of something owned, allotted to, or contributed by a person or group

— vb  (often foll by out ) (when intr, often foll by  in )

1. to divide or apportion, esp equally

2. to join with another or others in the use of (something): can I share your umbrella?

We all have things sitting around our house that we don’t use regularly.  A few days ago, I used a drill as an example.  Could we lend our drill to a friend?  If you need a hole and you don’t have a drill, could you borrow one?  Let’s do a little exercise.

Think of 3 things you have sitting around your house, not being used or used rarely.

~

Would you be willing to lend these items to someone you know?

If you’re like me, you probably thought of more than 3 items.  What would it look like for you to lend these things out?  With current technology, this is not only possible, it’s easy.  You won’t have to wonder who you lent that book to anymore either.  You can sign up on actsofsharing.com to borrow and lend with only your friends.  Not only will it track your items, but it will also calculate how much you have saved by borrowing, how much you’ve saved your friends by lending them things and tells you how many items in total your friends have listed.  Continue reading