Apr 7 2011

fast waste [day 315]

I love pretty much any condiment, mustard, ketchup, sour cream, grape jelly, salsa… you name it.  I’ve been referred to as the condiment queen.  This is a problem to me in the world of fast food.  There’s so much plastic and paper waste associated with it.  I looked up condiment packaging and found a few eco-friendly alternatives.  For me, this brings up a bigger question.  The word “ECO” is used a lot these days.  I’m glad people are coming up with eco-friendly options that are much better for the environment, but here’s my question.

Should we just be content with using products that are a little bit better for the environment or should we be trying to scale back our use of disposable products?

I’m trying to do both.  I’m not always successful as you can see in the photo, but those were given with my meal, not upon request, but just assumed I would eat them all.  I’ve cut way back on the fast food consumption over the past year.  Meals are supposed to be a time of fellowship and relaxation.  If my lifestyle needs fast food, I need to make some changes.

My ideas were validated a few days ago by the cost of fast food.  My 2 boys and I went to Sonic.  I’m usually all over the price shopping part of eating, but this day, I decided to let them order whatever they wanted.  They both ordered modestly, as did I.  Almost $18.00 spent and the kids were still hungry.  A few days later, we went to a sit-down restaurant.  This time it was me and the kids, but we brought a friend along as well.  Including ‘good’ food for all of us, one beer and one dessert, the total was around $35, including the tip.  There’s a price for all that packaging, not to mention the nutritional value of fast food.

Also, I’m not sure why, but the magic number of napkins seems to be 6.  Why do I need 6 napkins with a sandwich?  Do I look that messy?  If they give out 5 extra napkins per person, with an average customer count of 450 a day, that’s 2,250 napkins that go in a landfill.  And that’s just napkins.

I’m not saying I will never eat fast food again (although I’m leaning in that direction), but I will be doing it even less now.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t eat fast food either.  We should all be aware of the effects of it though.  There are times where the fast food meal is not a bad idea, but doing it regularly will cost you a lot of money, aid in destroying our earth and eventually will break your heart.


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.


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 27 2011

macbook [minimalist challenge item #38]

[item] Black MacBook (broken)

[purchase info] Purchased on craigslist used

[time in my possession] Approximately 4 years

[last used] Almost 3 years ago

[difficulty level in getting rid of it] Easy

[destination] Craigslist

[info] This was a gift to my kids for Christmas, I paid for part of it and their dad paid for part of it.  It quit working after several months, and I’m pretty sure I just bought a bad laptop.  It’s better to buy used electronics from someone you know and trust.  Lesson learned.  Expensive lesson learned.


Mar 25 2011

cookie cutters gone wrong [day 302]

While in Austin last week, I went to a small coffee shop to get my morning latte.  I snapped this photo while standing in line.  I love iced cookies, but $3.65 for one cookie?!  I can get a whole meal for that at Wendy’s.  Sure, they’re hand decorated and look pretty, but if I buy it, it will be gone.  Would the non-hand decorated ones be cheaper?  They had a broken one on a small plate next to the register each morning, and each morning I had a small piece.  They were good, but I still can’t see paying that amount of money for it.

And let’s talk about the cookies next to the Easter cookies.  At first glance, I thought they were thong underwear cookies.  One of my friends said they look like a woman’s reproductive system.  They could also be skinny ghosts, birds or Texas longhorns.  Imagination cookies.  Good thing they didn’t add embellishments.


Mar 10 2011

poverty: the stress of a downward spiral [day 287]

My rent payment is $286.  My utilities are $190 this month.  I don’t own a phone, I don’t have a job and I have a baby to take care of.  My name is Iris Isaacson… but only in this temporary make-believe world.  This world I’m speaking of is a poverty simulation, a game to teach people what it’s like to live in poverty.

I participated in this event last night.  At first, I thought it seemed like a lot of work and I wasn’t sure I wanted to be there.  In the middle of it, I was thinking, “…what a chaotic game…”, but also realizing much of it was like real life.  At the end of it, I was worn out.  I couldn’t pay my bills, the ones I did pay were late, I had to pawn my jewelry, sold my camera, and after all the hardships and paying everything late, I got evicted anyway.  Here’s a description of the simulation.

The Poverty Simulation is a simulation experience developed by the Missouri Association for Community Action. During the simulation, participants pretend to be members of a low-income community attempting to survive four 15-minute weeks of poverty. The simulation relies on role playing techniques and extensive props to help participants understand the day to day challenges faced by families living in poverty.  Continue reading


Mar 4 2011

stuff is not an investment [day 282]

I had an eBay business while I was doing freelance work several years ago.  I started eBay for one simple reason.  I sell my Syquest Sparq drive and cartridges.  Back in the late 90′s, the Iomega Jaz drive was the industry standard for backing up you data.  They were great, but they cost a lot of money.  The drive was around $400 and the 1GB cartridges were $100.  I was really excited when Syquest came out the Sparq drive.  You could get the drive for half the price of a Jaz and the cartridges were 3 for $100.   I bought one the same week they came out on the market.  They were running a design contest and the prize was 50 cartridges.  Wow!  With those I could get rid of all my 3.5 disks and a lot of my cd’s.  To the drawing board!  Digital, of course.

I entered 3 designs, and here’s the one that yielded me 50 of these amazing cartridges.

Yes, by today’s design standards, it’s lame, but it got me over $1,500 in digital storage.  Sweet!  As one of my friends said back then, I had enough of these to tile a small room.  That was all great until these drive started having big time issues.  The company replaced my drive at one point, but I already knew these were not going to last.  I joined eBay, sold off my new, unopened replacement drive and all of the cartridges for just under $2,000.  Before ceasing my good eBay business, I had done over 5,000 transactions and at several points, was a power seller. Continue reading


Mar 3 2011

I’m scared… [day 281]

…of toilets.  Yes, it’s true.  I cannot bring myself to fix one of these when it breaks.  This fear stems from my childhood.

When I was about 8, we lived in a house that had 1.5 bathrooms.  My mom, being the neat freak that she was, only allowed us to use one of the bathrooms.  The other bathroom got used so rarely that the toilet water evaporated and there was always a ring around where the water had been.  You could count the rings, similar to telling the age of a tree, but there rings being measured in days, not years.  The main toilet was having problems, so my parents showed me how to fix it, just in case it happened when they weren’t home.  My, how times have changed!  Home alone.

If the toilet kept running, I was to jiggle the handle.  If that didn’t work, I was to remove the top and jiggle the little white thing.  Seemed simple enough.  Even at that age, my dad had to hide his tools because I would build stuff out of anything I could get my hands on.  So, of course, I came home from school one day, used the bathroom and the toilet kept running water.  I jiggled the handle, waited, knowing good and well that I would eventually have to remove the lid.  Yes, lid time.  I took it off, jiggled the white thing, and in seconds I had a 3 foot geiser going.

I panicked.  There were no instructions for this disaster!!!  All I could think about is how my mom was going to kill me for making a huge mess.  I quickly placed my finger over the spot where the water was coming out.  Then I thought, “Where is all this water going that I’m holding back??”  Look, I was 8 years old people.  A new panic set in at that point.  I let go, ran to the phone and called my friend next door.  She ran over to my house and found me back at the toilet, holding back the water that was probably flooding someone’s house in China.  After two young kids deliberating over something they knew nothing about, my friend ran outside to find some help.  She came back in less than five minutes with some guy she found on the street.  Again, this was a different day and age.  The man came in, turned off the water and quickly left the house.  I lived in a middle class, suburban area and I still wonder, to this day, where that man came from.   Continue reading


Feb 10 2011

the desire to get new stuff [day 260]

After having my house painted, and having everything moved, I was very careful with what I moved back into my space.  I rearranged a few things, but mostly, I purged a lot of stuff.  Unfortunately, because of the weather, it’s all sitting in my garage.  My new “minimalist” approach to my space is nice, but yesterday, I did have the desire to buy a few things.  I didn’t, and I won’t, but I thought I might share what I wanted to buy.

New lamps. I need a couple of more lamps, as my house is still a bit dark.  I wanted some hanging lamps for over my bed for reading lights.  Right now, I’m using a nice looking lamp, but one that doesn’t really fit in the space.  But it’s light, I can see and it will work for now.  I also have a matching set of lamps that were out in the garage and I decided to bring them back in the house.  The bottom is busted out of the floor lamp and I got tired of cleaning up the sand from it.  It’s in a fixed place now, still broken, but not causing me any hassle.

I will still keep looking on eBay and craigslist for one or two more lamps, but I’m in no hurry and I will only buy what I want… pre-owned.

Bedding. Mine is still in perfect condition, but I want a new color.  There.  I said it.  I had a desire to buy something I completely don’t need.  So I’m not, but the thought did cross my mind.  How many times in the past did I want new bedding and I actually went out and bought it?  How many times have I done that with other things?

Door knobs and broomsticks. Okay, so I really don’t want any broomsticks, but I do want new door knobs.  My house is 17 years old, a couple years older than my car.  After having all of my doors painted, I have no desire to put the shabby looking gold knobs back on.  As a matter of fact, I’m leaving them off until I find the ones I want to put on.  I’d rather look at the holes in the beautifully cream colored, satin finished doors than to see them with the ugly brass-gold knobs.  My house is very modern and that’s the last detail item that needs changing.  Need… probably a strong word there.  They don’t really need to be changed, but I want them to be changed.  I’m going to hold out for the brushed nickel ones, looking daily on craigslist and eBay.  I’ve found some, but they were too far to drive.  I’ll probably check the Habitat Restore too.  I’ll also make sure my old ones go to a loving home, a home that likes that style and color.

I’m not going shopping, and the funny thing is, I will probably forget about the bedding, I will get a lamp when I see one I like and I’ll probably get used to the holes while I’m looking for knobs.  By the way, the bathroom door still has a knob, so you can come visit and use the bathroom without it being an awkward situation.  ;)