Mar 23 2011

a bunch of miscellaneous stuff [minimalist challenge item #34]

[item] A large bin and huge bag of miscellaneous stuff

[purchase info] Most of this was purchased new, but on sale.  Some came from thrift stores.

[time in my possession] Many years

[last used] Over a year

[difficulty level in getting rid of it] Easy to medium

[destination] Freecycle

[info] This is a lot of random stuff… Christmas lights, toys, art supplies and office supplies.  I have several storage bins of junk that I still need to go through, but this is a good start.  These bins are like junk drawers on steroids.


Mar 15 2011

weird stuff collection [minimalist challenge item #26]

[item] Items from my weird stuff collection

[purchase info] Mostly purchased from thrift stores

[time in my possession] Approximately 3 years

[last used] 1 year ago

[difficulty level in getting rid of it] Medium

[destination] Freecycle

[info] I like my collection of weird stuff.  The vintage Humpty Dumpty came from a Gattlinburg thrift store, some of the Christmas ornaments were purchased new.  I just got tired of the clutter and having to clean and dust this stuff all the time.  I kept some pieces, but not a lot.


Feb 23 2011

candy cane pajama pants [minimalist challenge item #6]

[item] Candy cane PJ pants

[purchase info] Purchased for $2 at the thrift store

[time in my possession] 3 months

[last used] 2 weeks ago

[difficulty level in getting rid of it] Easy

[destination] Thrift store

[info] I bought these and I like them, but they don’t fit well.  Most of the thrift stores don’t have dressing rooms, but if I re-donate it, it’s still a win-win.


Feb 21 2011

where did all this stuff come from? [day 271]

I spent a few hours yesterday in my garage, again.  I’m making progress and getting rid of a lot of stuff I don’t need, or even want for that matter.  So this begs the bigger question.  Where in the world did all of this stuff come from and why do I have so much?

Space. Maybe it’s because I downsized from 3,300 to 1,780 square feet, but that was 4 years ago.  I took everything from my old house because I could, everything but the furniture.  It wasn’t my style, so I gladly left it.  The photo is of my ‘formal’ living room in the old house.  A useless room that was used once a year at Christmas time.  I loved the red walls, but I couldn’t take those.  I hated the coffee table so much, I listed it in the divorce decree as the ‘ugly coffee table’ that he could keep.

I’m realizing the I don’t need this much stuff to live or to be happy.  I don’t need to keep a lot, I don’t need to buy a lot and I don’t need to pack every inch of my house with stuff.  My neighbor saw my master bedroom closet and said it’s the smallest she’s ever seen.  It’s small, but it’s only about 1/3 filled, and that’s with the shelf I took out.  Empty space is good.  I want more of it.

Personal attachment. I don’t have many of these items.  Some would say it’s because my heart is 2 sizes too small.  It could be.  I do keep a few things.  My kids each have one plastic tote in the attic.  I place items in there that are meaningful to them like their favorite outgrown toys or art projects.  I kept one thing from my grandma, her turquoise blue double boiler pan.  Useful, and it reminds me of her cooking french toast for me when I visited.  It’s about the memories with a person, not the stuff. Continue reading


Feb 12 2011

theme your fire! [day 261]

It looks as though chimineas have become a seasonal item.  Now I really don’t understand why anyone would buy one of these, with the exception of someone like me, who likes to display holiday stuff on the wrong holidays.  Where do you store this giant, hollow chunk of clay on the off-season?  Provided there’s enough space to store him, he probably throws the plastic tarp to the side and has coffee with Mr. Pumpkinhead Chiminea and Santanea, as they wait patiently for the release of Miss Easter Rabbit.

Now I’m not sure what you think, but if this is a winter chiminea, how much use would anyone get out of it if it’s snowy and cold outside?  I have a fire pit (non-themed) and I use it about 7-8 times a year.  This is one of those items that don’t get used a lot.  If I had really thought through it, I would not have bought the fire pit.  Although it’s nice to have when I want to make s’mores, I don’t use it enough to justify owning one.

These are the changes I hope to make coming out of the challenge.  I want to really think through all purchases, large and small, making good minimalist choices and buying things I will use.  I have applied that to the used stuff I purchase and when I do get something, I use it.  My hot tub is used about 70% of the time and has great family-time value.  My freecycle lamp is fixed and now I have light in my dining room.

I hope Frosty enjoys the hot Texas weather or that he finds Karen, and she can get him on the train to the North Pole in time for the heat wave.  Oh, and Professor Hinkle, good luck getting your hat off this Frosty.


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


Jan 19 2011

the clothing experiment update [day 237]

Here’s the experiment.  I decided to reduce my wardrobe by 50%.  I also threw out a mini-challenge.  Take 25 pieces of clothing from your closet, place them in a box or plastic tote.  Put it away for a month and see if you miss any of the stuff in it.  If not, take it to the thrift store.  If so, take out the item(s) you missed.  Here are some updates.

50% reduction

I still have a long way to go on achieving a 50% wardrobe reduction.  I’m close, but I still need to purge some more stuff.  I went through my drawers and got rid of about 40% of that.  I need to make my 2nd and 3rd passes there.  I also had 2 loads of dirty laundry that were not included.  I didn’t count the pieces, but just guessing, I need to get rid of about 75-100 more pieces.  I’ll do that later in the week.

my boys did the mini challenge

I had both of my kids pull 25 clothing items out of their closets.

My youngest, 10, has some emotional attachments to his clothing, and to stuff he’s never even worn. Wow, we all start this process early. He has a lot of hand-me-downs that he intends to wear. The process was not easy for him.

My oldest, 11, is way pickier than I thought. I learned a lot about him in the process. He hates yellow and thinks it makes him look like a clown. He won’t wear anything with a collar. He had a lot of clothes in the back of his closet that were too small, and some clean laundry. I thought he had a lot of clothes, but he doesn’t because his brother, being the same size, has hoarded them all.

50 pieces of clothing is going to the resale shop.  And my boys? They feel good about it. It’s easier to keep their rooms clean.

others taking the challenge

I have gotten some great responses to the mini-challenge.  Besides the several people doing it, here’s some great feedback.   Continue reading


Jan 9 2011

are you expressing yourself or propagandistically supporting financial insanity? [flashback – day 227]

n1355929489_107613_2584Original post: January 1, 2009

About two months ago, I got a really cool pair of shoes from a friend’s teenage daughter.  She said she was not wearing them anymore, so I took them home with me.  The shoes were awesome, great colors and artwork!  As soon as I got home, I put them on and went outside to play with the boys.  We got out the sidewalk chalk… well our version of sidewalk chalk… and started the outside art process.  I drew the skull that was on my shoe.

I had seen lots of merchandise with artwork like my shoes, but I didn’t really know much about it.  Ed Hardy.  Stuff that people are paying insane amounts of money for.  $109 for a short sleeve t-shirt?!?!?!?  Are you kidding me?   Continue reading


Jan 6 2011

the green machine [day 223]

I’m really not sure exactly how much money I’ve saved doing this challenge, as I haven’t tracked it, however I know it’s a substantial amount.  I have no debt, I’m not always broke and comparing my finances to last year, I’ve spent way less.  I attribute the savings to these:

  • No retail. Buying things from eBay, craigslist, thrift stores and yard sales saves 75% or more off retail prices.
  • No impulse buys. Staying out of retail stores and practicing the 24 hour rule with my kids (day 140) works great!
  • Smart shopping. For the groceries and toiletries stuff I have to buy, I price shop shop in stores where I know the prices are generally lower.  I try and buy some generic brands and buy things with minimal packaging.
  • Usage. Will I really use this?  Is it something I’ve wanted for a while or something that just popped into my head?  If I haven’t been looking at something for a while, I wait.  If I really want or need it, it will stay in my mind.
  • Trading & sharing. I make trades with friends and share things like tools, yard equipment and things not used frequently.  This minimizes the amount of stuff I have, making cleaning and organizing much easier.
  • Counterculture. We didn’t do Christmas like the rest of society.  No Christmas bills!  It was still a very good Christmas, just different than the rest of the USA.
  • Look ahead. How long will this item last?  What’s the maintenance and upkeep cost?  Is it green?

Looking at all of this, my kids and I made a recent large item purchase.  It’s something we had in our old house and used quite a bit, all year long.  We’ve been wanting one for four years now, since we moved into this house.  The used market on the item has good availability, but difficult to find certain models.  Many are in working order, many are not.  Some require lots of extra money for set up, installation and transportation.  So what is it?  A hot tub.  Continue reading


Jan 2 2011

let's move in together [day 220]

I went to the movies on Christmas day and saw the movie How Do You Know.  I don’t do chick-flicks and the way I ended up at this movie was a text message gone wrong.  It wasn’t horrible, but it’s really just not my type of movie.

While waiting for the movie to start, after the 15 minutes of commercials, there must have been no less than 10 previews for upcoming movies.  I guess they figure if you’re at a chick-flick / relationship type movie, that you want to know all the similar movies coming out soon.  Not so much, but hey, I’m not their target audience.  And that “don’t make your own soundtrack” commercial?  My soundtrack might have been better.

I guess sex sells, as this movie, the previews and even some of the commercials were all about it.  I think the question asked in title of the movie is asking, “how do you know if you’re in love?”  I have no answer for this, and not sure I ever will, but the way they’re showing relationships is not going to answer any such question.  Maybe they were asking something else.

I talk a lot on this blog about the excess in our society, and relationships seem to be no exception.  People are entertained by all kinds of sexual situations.  I was highly disturbed to see in Toy Story 3 that Ken, who just met Barbie 10 minutes earlier, asks her to move into his dreamhouse.  She said, “yes,” after getting the okay from Mrs. Potatohead.  Does anyone else see a problem with this?  This is not what I’m teaching my kids, but it is what they’re learning in our society.   Way to go Pixar. Continue reading