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 30 2011

I don’t need no stinkin’ plastic liners [day 307]

I quit using plastic garbage bags, or any type of plastic lining in my trash cans.  Why?  I just don’t see why we need to place trash in plastic bags, taking much longer for it to decompose in a landfill.  I thought back to my kids earlier diaper days and the Diaper Genie.  I had one and used it for about a week, but I never understood why it was a good idea to turn dirty diapers into plastic sausage links.  It made no sense to me whatsoever.

I have, what most people consider, a very small trash can and recycling bin in my house.  They’re so small they fit under the sink cabinet.  They’re both plastic bins, making them easy to wash and they don’t leak.  Also, the small size makes them easy for my kids to empty into the outdoor containers.

I ran out of plastic liners a few months ago.  I decided to try going linerless.  It felt a little weird at first, but soon I started to wonder why I ever used plastic liners in the first place.  They really don’t do anything other than make the trash less biodegradable.  If I have some wet trash, typically food, I can place that in another piece of trash like a plastic wrapper from another piece of food.  This new system has been good.  No issues to report.  Buying things to purposely throw away is making less and less sense to me.

Here’s a few things I’ve learned in this process and a few tips I’ve picked up in researching this topic.

Biodegradable garbage bags. These bags cost a bit more, but if you absolutely need a trash liner, this is a good way to go.

Repurpose shopping bags. Instead of buying bags, reuse the ones you get from shopping.  They’re usually not big, but just consider it a motivation to cut down on the amount of trash you produce.  Use these for the ‘wet trash’ only when needed.

Learn what can and can’t be recycled. You would be surprised at the list of what can and can’t go into the recycling bin.  Pizza boxes?  No, because they have grease on them.  Styrofoam?  Yes, they started recycling this a couple of years ago.  I’ve found that most waste can be recycled.  We fill up our recycle bin way before the trash bin.

Separate your trash into bins. Some people have a compost-type bin for food trash, separate from the regular trash.  I have a separate bin for plastic caps so I can take them to Aveda for recycling.  I don’t do composting yet, but the change in our grocery shopping habits yield way less waste and trash.

Consider composting. I’m still considering it.  :)

Repurpose you trash.  If you need a liner for something, use a bread wrapper or potato chip bag.  You’re not adding anything to the trash and you’re not spending money buying fancy plastic liners to make your trash more attractive for the garbage truck.

Use plastic washable containers. Get rid of the metal trash cans, use small plastic ones, then you won’t need liners.

If you’re not sure about this, try it for a week.  You can always go back to using liners.  If nothing else, you’re saving money on trash.

 


Feb 20 2011

what does an organized hoarder look like? [day 270]

I’ve used the term “organized hoarder” in conversations about hoarding, and it usually provokes some strange facial expressions.  These photos were take many years ago in the house of an organized hoarder.

Dining room

Guest bedroom

Continue reading


Feb 16 2011

my new minimalist challenge [day 266]

I’m not sure how many challenges one person can have going on at the same time, but I’m willing to break a world record on it.  My recent wardrobe downsize was just the beginning of downsizing my entire house.  This has not been a super easy process, but I sure learned many things that could potentially make it easier for me and easier for anyone to downsize.  Now, you have to understand something.  When I get motivated to do something, there’s no time for grass to grow under my feet.  As a friend of mine fondly labeled me a few weeks ago, “a freak of nature”, I clearly live up to that when it comes to just doing anything without hesitation.

My new challenge is this: Maintain my downsized quantity of material possessions and continue to downsize on a regular basis.

Simple.  Sounds simple, but will it be that easy?  The first part of the downsize took a lot of time and effort, but the rewards are huge!  You probably won’t believe this, as I would not have believed it myself, but an astronomical amount of stress went out with all of the material things.  For one, ownership is responsibility.  Most of the things we purchase are bought with the intention of making our lives easier or better, however living in a sea of gadgets places us in gridlock, as we desperately speed up this vicious cycle of spending more and wanting more.  There is no magic gadget that will make life easier, but there is a way to make that happen, it just takes a little bit of sweat equity and a desire to create change.

When purging things from my garage, I had 3 books on organizing.  Seriously!!??!  Here’s how I will do this new challenge.

Maintaining my downsized quantity

Simple.  Every time I buy something, I have to get rid of something.  If I come home with 3 new (used) things, 3 thing have to go.  I won’t do this with groceries, as I already have a challenge there that is working wonderfully.  Once I get to my desired allotment of stuff, this will help me maintain it.  If you plan to do this challenge, this part is good to start immediately, as your situation won’t get worse, it will stay the same until you begin your downsize process.

Continuing the reduction of material possesions

For one year, I will get rid of one item per day, in addition to the maintenance plan.  I’m haven’t reduced to the level I want to yet, and this should get me there.  Slowly, but I’m doing it so I can blog the process, recording why I still have the items and why I made the decision to give it away.  It’s also a good accountability process to blog these things.  It takes a little time, but you can do that too (for free) on WordPress.  Just take photos with your phone, write a sentence or two and post it.

Tips on downsizing

Here’s a few tips to get you started in your venture to simplify your life by owning less stuff.

  • Minimalist mindset. You have to be motivated on some level to do this.  You might not be 100% convinced that this will change your life for the better, but if you believe it even the slightest little bit, then you have enough motivation to start.  And for my friends that will say, “I can’t do it because my family won’t help, they won’t participate…”, just to it.  If they can’t beat you, they’ll have to join you.
  • Staging area. Having a staging area is hugely important.  I’m using my garage right now.  Everything goes out there into pile of where it should go.  You must quickly get it out of that area of it will start to migrate back to places where it shouldn’t.  I purge to the garage, then at least once a week, I list things on freecycle or make a trip to the thrift store.
  • Storage areas. You do need to have some empty storage space, but not too much, as you will tend to fill it back up.  As soon as I emptied the 100+ cans of paint of the 5 tier metals shelves, I gave the shelves away.  I don’t need them and I’ll just add more organized clutter to my garage.
  • Clean slate. Yes, I need to clean my slate patio, but that’s not what I’m talking about.  When you start with any given space, clear it all out of the space first, then organize it back into the space.  You’ll be motivated to get rid of more things and your time will be better spent, rather than just shuffling things around.  It’s like those little number puzzles, the ones with the frustrating little plastic tiles.  Wouldn’t it be easier to pop them all out, put 1-6 back in order and donate 7-15 to someone who would be blessed by your extra stuff?
  • Deciding what to get rid of. This seems to be the hardest part for everyone, myself included.  Ask yourself these questions when going through your stuff.  Is this an extra or a spare?  Do I need more than one of these?  Do I need this at all?  When is the last time I used it?  Could I borrow one or share this with somebody?  Does it have more than one use?  If I keep this, can I get rid of some other related  things?  Is this something I can get easily in the future if I get rid of it and find I need it?  This new mindset has helped me part with things.  I’ve been working on this slowly for 4 years, but power working it recently.  I have no regrets about the things I’ve gotten rid of.

If you do participate in this minimalist challenge in any way, please let me know how it goes.  If you do the blogging, please send me a link and I will add it to my site.  Have a happy, stress-free day!  :)


Feb 15 2011

new york city?!?!!?? [day 264]

Just sharing a pic my friend sent from her trip to New York City over new year.  If you look closely enough, there’s furniture, pallets and bags upon bags of trash.  How do we generate so much trash?  And worse yet, how is this okay, having piles of trash around us?  Yuck.


Jan 22 2011

a 25¢ lesson cost me hundreds [day 241]

Yes, I made a judgement call based on 25¢, a quarter I thought I would loose.  Listening to some bad advice, I decided not to try a new grocery store in my area, a store that opened over a year ago.  Some person (I don’t remember who) told me that the new Aldi grocery store charges 25¢ for the use of their carts.  What this yo-yo neglected to tell me is that you get your quarter back when you return the cart.  So instead of checking this out, like I normally would, I decided not to.  My 25¢ lesson?  Make my decisions based on my own research, not something someone says. Of course I will always take advice and opinions into consideration, but I should always see things for myself.  I do this with people, I should do it with everything.  Lesson learned, but not just one.  There were many great lessons from this experience that I would love to share.

What is Aldi? “ALDI is a discount grocery chain that operates over 1,000 stores in 31 states. Through a select assortment and convenient grocery shopping approach, we’re able to offer our customers the highest quality everyday items at the lowest possible prices—honest to goodness savings.” Read more about them and why they’re different at aldi.us.

So why the quarter for the cart? “At ALDI, we cut costs every way we can to keep prices low. Our shopping cart deposit system is a good example. You insert a quarter to release a cart. When you return the cart, you get your quarter back. This system cuts down on the labor of collecting carts left in the parking lot, damage to cars, and we pass the savings on to you.” I like this.  In addition, it keeps the carts from hitting the cars in the parking lot and the carts seem to be in better condition.

I decided to shop there a few days ago.  It was the closest store and I just needed 2 items.  After the great experience, I decided to go back.  This time was to shop in efforts to try some of the different brands, buying one or two of each thing we normally purchase.  After seeing first hand, the incredible savings, I decided to do a cost analysis.

Last night, my kids and I went to our local grocery store to compare prices.  It was nice to get out of the house and I forgot my phone, which was nice, as my kids and I had fun doing this.  Who would have thought?  Here’s the results.

Aldi price: $65.40

This is pre-tax.  There was only one thing that was a name brand I usually buy, Amy’s vegetarian meals.  All of the other things were Aldi or generic brands.

Name brand price: $139.51

I priced the name brand items that were comparable in size and type to get this number.  The name brands cost 113% more than the Aldi brands.  Whoa!  that got my attention!

Off brand price: $99.33

To get this number, I used the same criteria as above, but with generic  or off brand items.  There were a few things that didn’t have generic brands, so the brand name item price was inserted.  Shopping at the major grocery store for off brands cost 52% more than Aldi.  Again, wow!

I’m sure you have some of the same questions I did before going in here, so I will address them now.  I had some very unexpected shopping results, that were much more than just saving money.  I also got me thinking about my shopping habits and how I have some room for growth.  Continue reading


Dec 15 2010

dressed to shop [trashogram]

This trashogram was made from items sitting in bins in my garage, most of it purchased as props for a school photography class.  The doll, decked out in her fancy Mastercard dress, is surrounded by shoes and many other random objects that she could place in her shopping bags.  The empty Tiffany & Co. box, a vintage piece, costing $.25… empty.


Nov 23 2010

happiness is… [day 181]

I had a conversation with a friend of mine over lunch today, and he’s trying to understand the ‘black friday’ thing as much as I am.  It made me think about a book I started to read recently called Absorbing Spongebob: Ten Ways to Squeeze More Happiness Out of Life.

Honestly, I borrowed this book from the library just because I liked the title and cover.  What?!  Like you have never done that before…  If people didn’t judge books by their covers, publishers wouldn’t spend so much time and money to make them look great.  Sorry, rabbit trail, back to the story.  I started reading this book out of curiosity, but I had to put it down when the author started talking about the episode where Spongebob was playing with a leaf blower.  Anyone who actually watches Spongebob Squarepants knows that he plays with a reef blower.  If you’re going to use a metaphor or character to make your point, do your homework.  I did thumb through the book, but nothing jumped out as life changing.  Watching Spongebob is much better for happiness than reading this book.

So what is happiness and how do we get it?  If you’re looking for the answer to that question, I don’t have it, however I do have a few observations.  Happiness is not in the form of a pill.  Happiness does not come in liquid form either, although some say these help.

Happiness is sometimes difficult to find when you’re looking for it, but sneaks up on you when you least expect it.  There are many masks out there, disguising things as happiness.  Advertisements contain much information about happiness, although buying those things never really produce happiness.   Continue reading


Nov 15 2010

could you move out of your house in 6 hours? [day 172]

My initial answer to that question would be no, but not anymore, after seeing what happened to my friend yesterday.  I’m sure this question had never crossed her mind, nor did she ever think she would have to move in a matter of hours.  I got the 911 text message early.  Her house had flooded and she needed help moving things out.

I headed over, not having any idea what to expect other than some water on the floor.  And just for the record, why do these things happen only at night while you’re sleeping?  Just about every story I’ve heard like this is someone waking up to a disaster.  Is this what Santa does on the off season to help employ the elf plumbers or do evil demons travel through the water pipes at night?  I don’t know, but I find it interesting.    Continue reading


Oct 17 2010

flying by the seat of our pants [day 143]

I had an interesting conversation with a guy I met recently in our church group.  Curt lived in Hawaii for a long time, after living in Amarillo, Texas.  We were discussing the “green issues”, possibly prompted from my lack of paper plates and plastic utensils while entertaining a large group of people.  He said when living in Amarillo, he didn’t think much about recycling, as it was never a priority since there’s so much room for landfills.  In Hawaii, that’s not the case.  Space is limited and people living there need to generate the smallest amount of trash possible.

As a society, it seems like we fly by the seat of our pants with things like this, then when it becomes a huge problem, only then to we create awareness and try to fix it.  (Halloween costume?  Check.)  Another guy in our group, Marc, was asking how we can be proactive to the problem of homelessness, which was our main reason for meeting.  Keyword: proactive.  What does it look like to be proactive in environmental and humanitarian issues?  If I answered that in one blog post, it would take me all year to write it.  I’ll take a different approach.

Why am I talking about this today?

Lots of reasons.   Continue reading