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.


Mar 15 2011

creativity on the fly [day 293]

Since I’m planning on rebranding my blog, I decided not to print up business cards for SxSW.  Yesterday there was a drawing for a book from the Go Virtual session and all you had to do was drop in a business card.  I sighed after reading the sign, then put my brain to work.

I have a coffee cup cardboard sleeve I’ve been carrying with me all week.  Yes, I’m using a paper cup, reluctantly, but I thought at least I can reuse the cardboard sleeve.  Light bulb!!  I’ll write my info on the cardboard sleeve.  I make my regular cards out of recycled stuff anyway, so this is not far from what I would have anyway.  I wrote my info, I dropped it in the bag and I listened to a great session.

After the session, they did the drawing for the books.  The girl doing the drawing had no idea that was in there, but as she was choosing a card, she said, “I’m going to grab this one that feels different.”  I won my choice of the two books AND I got my paper sleeve back.  My little Ecogrip has quite a journey going here.  I think I might need to give it an itizen tag.

Sometimes easy solutions can be found for life’s little problems, all it takes is a willingness to do something.  Not bringing cards probably wasn’t my brightest plan, but they have plenty of recycling materials here and I’ve made several cards on the fly.  Less than one minute of thinking about a solution yielded many great things.  I got a new book, people got to see how repurposing works, my cardboard sleeve is getting a long life, less paper was used, something created as disposable has been used over 5 times now and I have a great story.

If you run into a small issue today, throw one minute at creating a simple solution.  :)


Mar 14 2011

I didn’t buy it, but I wanted to [day 292]

I met Guy Kawasaki yesterday at a book signing.  Not only is he an extremely talented communicator and writer, he’s just a really nice person.  Just look on Twitter, hashtag #guykawasaki, and you’ll see what I mean.  Now I’ve been thinking, it’s kind of odd to go to a book signing without a book.  Knowing that he would be at SXSW, I decided to go to the used book store to find his new book.  I knew my chances were slim to none on finding his new book Enchantment, but I thought maybe I could find one of his older books.  I’ve been following Guy for a long time on friendfeed and he always has great stuff out there.

I had to go to a few locations before I found one of his books.  I found The Art of the Start. I bought it and I was happy that I would have a book for him to sign, although I wondered what I would say to him as I asked him to sign my not-so-new book with a red half price sticker on the front.

Yesterday, I found myself in a long line of people to have my book signed.  It’s pretty safe to say that I was the only weirdo in line without a fresh-off-the-press copy of Enchantment.  Soon, it was my turn.  I proceeded to the table and quickly explained my story.  “I’m doing a year of no retail shopping, so I can’t buy your new book, even though I really want to.  I bought a used copy of one of your older books, so could you sign this one?”  First, he laughed a bit and said he wouldn’t last a week without shopping.  Then he asked where I got the book.  I told him I bought it at a used book store and showed him the bright red price tag on the front.  He then proceeded to tell me that The Art of the Start never came out in paperback.  Mine is a paperback.  Either it’s a illegitimate copy or an unmarked advanced reading copy, intended for bookstores.  Either way, he said that was the best reason he’s ever heard from anyone as to why they’re not buying his book.

He signed my book and he even allowed me to have a photo taken with him.  I have to say, if there were more people in the world like Guy, the world would be a noticeably better place.  I plan to buy his new book and I found 3 used copies on amazon.com.  If anyone should teach us about enchantment, it should be someone that understands it and lives that way.  Guy seems to get it.

If you’re interested in his new book, here’s the amazon link.  There’s 2 used ones left, the 3rd one is mine, so leave it there.  😉

Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions

I had the opportunity to just buy a new copy of his book, and I wanted to, but I didn’t.  I might be waiting a little longer to read his amazing book (prejudged from his awesome session at SXSW), but it goes to show that with a little pre-planning, you can have what you want while saving money and being good to the environment.  Thanks Guy!


Mar 5 2011

the sky is falling [day 283]

Giant, shrink-wrapped books.  They’re everywhere.  I think it rained phonebooks, although I don’t remember seeing that in my weather forecast.  Flint Lockwood must have made another machine, but this one storms phone books.  They’re on top of the mailboxes, on the sidewalks, in the grass, they’re pretty much everywhere.  They’re taking over the neighborhood.

Why do the Yellow Pages still exist?  Simple, because advertisers are still giving them money.  Let’s look at the logic here.  Are these businesses just clutching on to a past dream of advertising success, unwilling to let go?  I walk my street twice a day and nobody is bringing these books in the house.  Now the advertisers are probably paying for internet and print, so as long as they’re getting new customers, they’re probably not concerned with the details, they just want the results.  How many people still use phone books?  I’m sure there’s a small percentage and I’m all for print some for the people that want them.  But why are they mass producing them to throw them in people’s yards when 99% of them will go in the recycling bin, or worse yet, the trash?  I find it funny (the disturbing kind) that they have a dumpster specifically for phone books.   Continue reading


Feb 27 2011

give some, get none [day 277]

Yesterday, I spent the early part of the day running errands before work.  Most of them were driving the Infiniti sleigh, full of donations, to all of the required destinations for drop-off.  I started at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, dropping off my old back door, extra slate tiles and a bag of hardware.  I went inside to look for a new front door.  The style I want, the size and that fact it needs to be used is making it difficult to find one.  Yesterday I found 3, and 2 of which I liked, but I decided not to purchase one.  I don’t need it and I’ve spent a lot of money on my house lately.

Next stop was the purple thrift store in McKinney, benefiting the Samaritan Inn.  I dropped off a few bags of my stuff, a box of stuff from work and two bags from my friends.  Of course I had to go inside, but I did it with my new minimalist trajectory.  Here’s what I didn’t buy.  2 blue ceramic bowls.  I thought about buying them because we don’t use paper plates or plastic utensils, even when entertaining, so I tend to keep more of these in the house.  I have all solid colored mis-matched dishes.  I chose not to buy them, as I really don’t entertain that much and I didn’t need them.  Just saved $2.  The other thing I didn’t buy was a metal orange tray for $3.  My kids like to occasionally use a tray to eat upstairs, which I allow about 2 times a year.  We have a plastic red tray, and I didn’t need the orange tray.  No need for 2 of anything like that.  I probably don’t even need to keep the red tray.  I didn’t need anything in there, so I left without buying anything.  Time for my next stop.

I decided to go to Half Price Books since I had a pile of books I didn’t need.  I’ve sold books to them in the past and I swore I would never do it again.  For the number of books, the value of them as used books and the condition, I always felt financially raped when I left there after selling books.  I thought this time I’ll go in, sell my stuff and be prepared for any amount of money I might get.  I gave them 8 classic novels, 4 current magazines, 1 current novel, 3 cookbooks and other miscellaneous books.  23 pieces in all.

All of these are used, my best estimate is $40.00 out of pocket.  Since it was a weekend, Half Price was busy so I had to wait a little while for them to process my stuff.  That was no problem, as I wanted to look around a little bit.  I was hoping to find some books on hoarding or materialism, but to no avail.  I looked on the ‘housekeeping / organization’ shelf first.  Continue reading


Jan 1 2011

new year's resolutions [day 219]

I don’t have any resolutions for the new year.  I’m doing the no shopping challenge, I’m getting a lot of things done in my house and I’m doing most of the things I want/need to be doing.  One thing I do want to change is my cooking habits.  Cooking is not fun for me, but I’m trying to be better about cooking more and eating out less.

I upgraded my kitchen this week so I have more counter space and I bought the final piece of Le Creuset cookware to complete my collection.  Yes, all of it was used.

I found an island for my kitchen on craigslist.  I’ve been thinking about doing this for about a year now, but the island has to be on wheels and a very specific size to fit in my kitchen.  Color is no problem, as I can redesign it.  I needed something solid so I can tile the top of it.  After looking at islands, I think this one retails for around $150-$200.  I paid $60.  Here it is after the makeover.

The drawers are on the other side.  I have the tile to do the top, but I didn’t have the setting materials or grout, so I decided to do an artistic treatment and collage artwork on the top.  It’s a great thing to do to recycle and reuse books or magazines.  It’s easy to do, just use spray glue for the artwork, layer it until you’re happy with it and paint a couple coats of clear acrylic over it.  It’s very durable, as I have a bathroom floor done this way.

The next item I purchased (Merry Christmas to me) was from eBay.  It’s the final piece to my Le Creuset cookware.  I bought a steamer insert 6 years ago and the guy at the store told me it would work with a pot I already had.  It didn’t.  So this was not an impulse buy, as I’ve been planning to buy this for a while.  Why?  Let’s just say my MacGyver steamer rig didn’t work out so well.  It steamed great, but it took about 3 hours to clean up and luckily didn’t ruin my stove.  It was pricey, but it works into the no retail thing.  $188 including shipping.  This pot retails new for $315 and you can’t kill this stuff, it will be passed on to your grandkids.

I didn’t pay a lot for most of my pieces.  I got my first one at the thrift store for $4.  I got a set for free with my AMEX points.  All of the others were eBay or factory seconds, and I got their coupon calendar, so I paid next to nothing.

I guess I really didn’t need any of this stuff, but it’s all used and because I was not in a hurry, I found exactly what I wanted and for a good price.  Value might be a better word.  Happy new year.


Dec 27 2010

A post Christmas story of be longing [flashback]

This was written 4 days after Christmas last year on my blog iembracechaos.com.

What is out of the ordinary?  Choosing to help others and live differently in a way that changes life as we know it.  My kids really didn’t seem all that bothered by the lack of gifts they got from me.   They still received the mandatory 27+ gifts from my mother, gifts they will never give a second thought to once they are put away.  They were both on board with the plan of donating money to their favorite charities, but I just wasn’t so sure come Christmas, they would still feel that way.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Christmas evening, after the kids came home, we rented a few movies and enjoyed some time together.  After all, I had not seen them for almost a week.

Yesterday we ventured into the stores, only for the purpose of grocery shopping and finding a small rug for my closet floor.  No store was exempt from the typical long return lines and post-holiday sale events.  Seriously, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

I decided yesterday to clean out my closet and get rid of the mountain of unused linens.  Why do I feel the need to hang on to stuff that I will never use again?  I made the compulsory closet purge, filled up the Infiniti sleigh and headed for the thrift store.

After unloading our surplus of worldly possessions, we went treasure hunting.  No, not shopping, treasure hunting.  Shopping is buying overpriced new ‘goods’ at large chain stores.  Treasure hunting is finding something special, previously owned by someone else at a price that doesn’t break the bank.  My kids quickly made their way to the toy section, disappointed that it was mostly baby toys.  I headed for the crowded book area, my kids not far behind.

I found a Man Ray photography book for 50 cents, which in the bookstore, was probably closer to $50.  Man Ray is one of my photography inspirations, mostly for photograms.  My photogram ‘Coffee Addict’ is one of my favorites… not that I have coffee issues or anything like that.

Cole found a Star Wars picture book, which he kept directly in front of his face in the entire time we were there, miraculously not walking into anyone or anything.

As we were making our way toward the front of the store, I stopped to see if there were any jeans or sweatshirts for the boys.  I guess everyone has been doing their Christmas purge, as the racks had three times the amount they usually do.  I found this t-shirt that pretty much sums up what society is teaching our kids.  “WARNING: allergic to lame gifts.”  I wanted to buy the shirt just so I could destroy it and take it out of the clothing circulation.  I would have saved the small candy cane skull icon though, as it seems appropriate to use as a symbol of our cultural Christmas consumerism.   Continue reading


Dec 26 2010

returns [day 212]

It’s the day after Christmas, the day where everyone returns the gifts they don’t want.  I gave myself a Christmas gift yesterday, and that gift was to take a day off of blogging.  I’m a couple of days behind and will get caught up.

I did go dumpster diving on Christmas day.  It was way too cold to be doing this, so I only hit a couple of them, but I did find some interesting things.  I found one full of books, CD’s and DVD’s.  The sad part about it, is that most of this could have been placed in a recycling bin, not a trash bin.

At least if I don’t like the stuff, it’s easy to return.  :)  The fact that return lines are longer than purchasing lines, the day after Christmas, supports the theory that not only do people not need all this stuff, they don’t want most of it either.  I guess I should go diving in residential trash bins, although I hope the unwanted things make it to a thrift store.


Dec 22 2010

white elephant gifts [day 209]

As usual, I had to look up some information on this.  The white elephant gift exchange is defined on Wikipedia like this:

white elephant gift exchange is a popular holiday party game found primarily in North America. It has many variations in both the name and the game play. Generally, white elephant parties need a minimum of six participants. With a larger group, game play may be more protracted. White elephant parties have been known to result in intensely vicious and/or playful rivalries between players trying to get sought after gifts. The goal of a white elephant party is usually to entertain rather than to gain. This game is sometimes called a Yankee Swap, Chinese Gift Exchange, Dirty Santa, Thieving Secret Santa, or Parcel Pass.

I think the key phrase here is the goal, it’s to entertain rather than gain.  The term white elephant is defined as:

white elephant is an idiom for a valuable possession of which its owner cannot dispose and whose cost (particularly cost of upkeep) is out of proportion to its usefulness or worth.

Most white elephant gifts I’ve seen don’t completely fit that description, but most are useless or outdated.  Here’s a few gifts from a white elephant gift exchange I participated in about a week ago.  Continue reading


Dec 21 2010

used book and trinket gifts [day 208]

A couple of years ago, they started the “360 feedback” process at work.  I’m a fan of it if people use it correctly, but I don’t want to wait until the end of the year to get zapped for something I might have done so long ago, and can’t remember anything about it.  Good or bad, tell me now, let’s not wait and word-craft.

This year, they decided to scrap that plan and do “necessary notes”.  Write a note, good or constructively opportunistic, to the people you work with.  I like that plan.  It still takes a lot of time, but it accomplishes the same things, without the anonymous jabs.

I decided to do this, but do it differently by using repurposed books and objects.  The books contained the notes and each had a bookmark made from string, my recycled info cards and random objects found in my garage.

I thought about making a trashogram from the bookmarks, as most of these items are things I’ve found, gotten for free or found at the thrift store.  Continue reading