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 23 2011

you can take the turnip [day 299]

A long time ago, I had a friend a that used the saying, “You can’t get blood from a turnip, but you can take the turnip.”  I never paid that much attention to it, as I really didn’t need a turnip.  Fast forward many years and here we go with the turnips again.  According to my kids, I fell off a turnip truck, however if you ask them what that means, they don’t have a clue.  I’m not sure how turnips got such a bad rap, but they seem to be associated with not-so-nice references to people.  So let’s say you take the turnip.  What will you do with it?  You could throw it in the trash, deeming it useless.  Or maybe you could cook something with it, finding a small purpose for it.

I won an iPad 2 from actsofsharing.com yesterday.  That sounds really good, right?  It is.  Did I need an iPad?  No, I didn’t, but it sure is cool to have won an iPad.  The contest they were running was to see who could get the most new friends on their sharing site in a weekend.  I decided to try and win this, not only for the iPad, but because of the greater good of what they’re doing.  Here’s their mission statement:

It’s simple. Share the things you have with those around you. Nothing new, in fact, it’s something we have all engaged in at one time or another. And yet, we haven’t even touched the potential of this basic but most necessary act. Imagine a community of people like the early church, mentioned above, who made available every item which they had in their possession, who valued their neighbors as they valued themselves. Imagine being able to access tens and hundreds of times more stuff than you yourself have in your home. Imagine, before deciding to purchase an item, the ability to borrow it and try it out for yourself? In short, what if this community mentioned in the book of Acts was made manifest today, 2,000 years later? At Acts of Sharing, we’ve been imagining the implications, and we’re incredibly excited. Sharing is nothing original, but we think it’s revolutionary. And it will change everything.

I decided to take the good a step further.  If I won this, I told my friends I would share it on AOS.  (yes, it will be listed the minute I receive it)  Okay, one more step, I also told them I would donate $500 to The Samaritan Inn, our local homeless shelter.  So let’s look at the big picture of what happened here.

  • 55 of my friends are now sharing their stuff.  Not everyone will use this site, but several of my friends are already sharing their things.
  • Those 55 friends have more friends they can share with.  This will grow the sharing community.
  • My friends and I now have an iPad to share.
  • The Samaritan Inn received a nice donation and the homeless community was helped in the process.
  • A friend of mine decided to do a similar deal with her friends, and  as she said, she shamelessly stole my plan.  I wish everyone would steal plans like this!  That encouraged me to be more competitive.  [insert evil laugh]
  • I’ve now multiplied my accessibility to stuff without buying anything new and I’ve done the same for my friends.  Continue reading

Mar 14 2011

the new sharing economy [day 291]

Do you share your stuff?  If you need a drill, do you go out and buy one or do you try to borrow one?  I mean, you just need a hole, right?  I own a drill.  My dad gave me a new DeWalt drill about 10 years ago, but that one got lost on a mission trip.  I never found it, although another older drill with a chuck key showed up unclaimed.  I took it, so that’s why I have a drill now.  I don’t really need one though.

So why don’t I need one?  Doesn’t everyone have a drill in their garage?  Let’s look at the logic.  I need a few holes, so I use the drill for approximately 4-8 minutes in a years time.  Maybe a little bit more if I have some home projects.  I could borrow one from a friend.  I could rent one when I’m doing projects.  I could share a drill.  Yes, I said share.  I could co-own a drill with some friends or I could use a sharing service.  This is really a great and upward trending process.

First, there’s itizen.com.  You can print QR codes for all of your things in order to tell stories about them, to share them and to track the life of them.  Here’s a blurb from itizen’s site:

Why we do what we do.
We want to celebrate the cool things around us — period. We are inspired by the artists, makers, and retailers who provide us with these wonderful things, and we are fascinated by how storytelling can give these things meaning and purpose. Most important, we are passionate about supporting a culture of giving and sharing that allows others to benefit from these things and share in the joy.

If you don’t have a QR code reader, there’s lots of free apps out there that can be downloaded.  You can scan it and it will bring up the info right away.  The code to the left is a legitimate code for something I’m getting rid of.  Take a look and see if you want the item.  😉

I’m really liking this concept of sharing and swapping.  I’m still researching this whole thing, but I see so many benefits.

Cost savings: Not only does it save you money buying things, but also saves money on the maintenance and storage of these things.

Environmentally friendly: Reducing consumption means less production and fewer resources used.

Manufacturer behavior change: Manufacturers will start to make products based on consumer demand.  If we want to share quality products, but we’re buying less of them, manufacturers will start making more quality items and with the needed features we desire.

Less clutter: Less stuff is less stress and less to clean.  It’s also easier to find the things you do have.

Builds community: Sharing with friends, and even people you don’t know yet if you choose to do that, is a great way to build community, especially among neighbors.  In this day and age, at least where I live, knowing your neighbors is not the norm.  My neighbors let me borrow stuff all the time, and if they need something, they ask.

Helps eliminate poverty: This process can help eliminate poverty by lowering the cost of living.  If I don’t need to buy as much and I can share with others, I can live on less.

Job shifts: Jobs become more service oriented.  This is due to a shift from consuming stuff to being consumers of services.

We are on the front end of a wonderful trend that will change the way the world functions, utilizing technology to change our distribution systems, creating a community of sharing that will better our lives.  I’m still doing a lot of homework on this, but I will be posting more on it soon.  Sharing is an old concept, but it’s finding a new life through social media.

I just bought a used iPad from a friend of mine who’s upgrading.  I’ve decided to share my iPad.  I will be using a service such as snapgoods.com or I might do a co-ownership of it.  If this intrigues you in any way, let me know your thoughts.

Would you share something you paid a lot of money for, but something that sits unused for large periods of time?


Mar 11 2011

I talk to strangers [day 289]

I was doing some blog research and ran across this t-shirt.  “I talk to strangers” is the message on the front.  I like this t-shirt and it got me thinking.  I know we’re supposed to teach this concept to our kids, but I haven’t done that.  Do we really want to live in a society where we don’t get to know each other, where there’s no sense of community and where we have a fear of meeting people?  We don’t talk to people and we wonder why loneliness creeps into our lives.  Loneliness can lead to sadness, depression and even addiction.  If you know anything about addictions, you know that people use them as an escape from reality.  Sometimes in the past when I’ve been sad or depressed, I would shop.  Yes, believe it, because I did.  Society tells us that it’s okay, even good, to spend money on frivolous stuff that we don’t need and don’t have money for in the first place.

I put a different spin on this ‘strangers’ thing with my kids.  I tell them to talk to strangers, but not strange people.  What’s the difference?  A guy in a car driving by and offering them some candy, now that’s strange, but a person that they meet at a store or just in daily life being friendly, maybe a stranger temporarily, but a possible friend.  We’ve gone over all the scenarios of what not to do to get abducted, but I don’t want my kids living in fear that the one bad person in the thousands of people is going to harm them.  I watch Criminal Minds and other similar TV shows, making it easy for me to think everyone is out to get us, but should we live in this type of fear?

I can teach my kids to be safe without teaching them to be secluded.  One way, is to help them see that there are many good people in the world.  I try to get them involved with me in local missions or take them places where they meet people.  People that might be different than us.  People that add value to our lives.  The photo is from Church Under the Bridge in Waco, Texas.  That’s Dedrick helping my son fix his shoe.  Dedrick has some sort of mental disability, but is just the kindest man and greets everyone at the church.  He wanted to lead worship, so they gave him a pink guitar (with two strings) and a mic (not hooked up with sound) and he leads worship.  Yes, he’s smoking in the photo.

One may also think it’s crazy for me to think this way.  I’ve been held at gunpoint twice in my life and I’ve had two stalkers, both needing police intervention.  I still believe people are basically good.  If I lived differently, I might have avoided these situations, but I might have also missed out on many good things and not met some really great people.

If you’re wondering how this ties in to no retail shopping, I guess it would be that there’s much more value in people than in material things.  Maybe this is a good thing to teach my kids, or maybe it’s not, but it seems be helping in building character in my kids.  And if you’ve spent any time at all with my kids, you know they’re characters!  I think they get the difference between good strange and bad strange.  Go say hi to a stranger today and see for yourself how it can add value to your life.


Feb 17 2011

dual purpose get-togethers [day 267]

Several months ago, I conducted a Photoshop training class at the church where I work.  It was something I did for fun, and for free.  All I asked is that people bring something to donate to the local food pantry or a thrift store.  The photo is of the food that was donated, however there were many more bags with housewares and clothing.

I hosted a Super Bowl party at my house a couple of weeks ago.  It was mostly our singles church group, but lots of other good friends as well.  Since I’ve been encouraging everyone to clean out their spaces and donate what they don’t need or want, I thought it would be a good idea to have them bring it, and I would get it donated.  I can’t believe how much stuff people brought!  It was cold, so I put it in my garage, adding it to a pile of coats and blankets, recently donated by a lady at church, whom I think did the same thing, collect stuff during get-togethers or locally in your neighborhood.

On your next evite or get-together, ask people to bring something to donate.  This is a great way to build community, get people thinking outside themselves, get some unwanted stuff to people who will be blessed by it, feed some hungry people and have a great time with good friends.  It’s a win-win-win-win-win?  😉

[All of the donations have been taken to the appropriate donation destinations, all of the stuff much appreciated!  My garage is quickly becoming empty and can now safely be used as an exit.]


Jan 31 2011

I don’t like to drink bubble bath [day 249]

I met with some friends at a local coffee shop a couple of days ago.  Coffee shops are good… the implied earthy feel, the aroma of fresh brewed coffee, the trendy decor, the comfortable seats, the people watching entertainment and the busy sounds of much needed liquid caffeine being altered into complex 8 word requests from the addicts.  I say all of that as I sit here drinking my one-shot, non-fat latte.  A latte I made at home for a fraction of the cost of a coffee shop latte.  Yes, I’m sitting at home, alone, looking at the mess I should be picking up, laundry I should be washing and saving money by not going to the coffee shop to blog.

Because I don’t like paper waste, I bring my own cup or mug to anyplace that will fill it, as opposed to a paper or styrofoam cup.  I brought my retro orange mug into the coffee shop, and thinking about the 2 lattes I’ve had already, I really didn’t need another.  But I also wanted to purchase something, as I’m sure they don’t appreciate me bringing in my own cup with my own drink.  (yes, I admit, I’ve done that before)  I decided to get a tea bag, as it’s probably the cheapest thing they have and I can use it a few times before it just makes hot water look dingy.  So I got a tea bag that was some sort of green tea.  “That will be $2.44…” the cashier said with a smile.  ??!!?  $2.44 for a tea bag?  I paid, irritated with myself for not looking for a price before ordering this.  I got my tea, in my retro mug and took at seat in the loft.

As I sat down and started to take a sip of my steaming hot tea, the shocking aroma of lilac stopped me immediately.  I was pretty sure I was about to drink hot bubble bath.  I took a deep breath and tried it.  It didn’t taste as horrible as it smelled, and for $2.44, I’m going to drink it.  I tell my kids not to be wasteful, so I’m gonna suck it up.  (pun intended)

I drank about 3/4 of it and spent a lot of time thinking of other uses for this tea bag.

Green tea?  Not so much.  Bubble bath?  Possibly, but it would stain my tub.  Fabric dye?  That would work, but I can’t think of anything I need to dye that color.  A drawer sachet?  I do not want my clothes smelling like that!  Air freshener?  Not a chance.  Perfume?  I could send it to my mom’s friend that used to wear vodka and lilac as perfume.  She my enjoy it.  Aroma therapy?  No, this would be like aroma torture.  Decor?  I’m creative, and even I can’t make this work as a decor item.  Any ideas?  It’s still sitting on my counter.

My idea.

I’m not opposed to spending $2.44.  I am opposed to spending that because I didn’t need anything to drink.  What if these coffee shops had a program to buy something for someone in need?  I go there, use their free wi-fi, take up table space, meet my friends there that are spending money, but my purchase is for a homeless person to have a cup of coffee or for a donation of their coffee to a local food pantry?  This could be a win-win-win.  I have a good place to meet friends, the coffee shop builds their business, someone in need gets a little help and our community is a better place.  Works in my head.  :)


Jan 16 2011

light bulb! an idea or just simply for light [day 234]

My friend that had the flood finally got to move back into her house yesterday.  As I was helping, I noticed the old bathroom light fixture sitting in the trash, with all of the old light bulbs still in it.  With the challenge, I can’t buy light bulbs, so I gladly unscrewed them all, placed them in an unwanted pink basket and brought them home.  I have 2 lamps that need bulbs.

I want to switch my bulbs over to the compact fluorescent energy saving bulbs, but that requires purchasing them.  It’s great to do this, but throwing away good bulbs seems like a bad idea to me.  I plan to switch them out as they burn out, as they are better for the environment and they use 25% of the energy of standard incandescent bulbs.

I decided to count the number of bulbs and the types that I have in my house.  Here’s the analysis.  (Whatever, it only took 5 minutes)

  • Incandescent – 43
  • Compact Fluorescent – 23
  • LED – 13
  • Halogen – 24
  • Low Watt – 8
  • Fluorescent tubes – 2

Dang!  I have a lot of lights in my house!  Only 41% of my lighting is energy efficient.  Using an energy star calculator, replacing all of the non-energy efficient bulbs in my house would cost just under $500, retail price.  The halogens would pay for themselves in 1 year in energy savings.  The incandescents will pay for themselves in 14 months.  So the big question is, do you replace them right away or do you replace them as they burn out?  Or some people might even be wondering if they should replace them at all?  What are the pros and cons here?  Let’s put these bulbs head to head and see what makes the most sense.

Pros: switching to energy efficient lighting

  • Saves money on your energy consumption. Up to 75% savings on CF’s and 90% on LED’s.
  • Much better for the environment. LED’s have no toxic materials in them and require no special disposal procedures.  CF’s help prevent the greenhouse effect and global warming.
  • Lamp life. LED’s last ten’s of thousands of hours, CF’s last approximately 6,000-15,000 hours, incandescents last approximately 750-1,250 hours, halogens last approximately 2,000 hours.  The life span of energy efficient bulbs are substantially longer than the non-energy efficient bulbs.  This makes the initial higher cost of the bulb a good value.
  • Costs. When factoring the bulb costs and the energy costs together, these save a lot of money in the long run.

Cons: switching to energy efficient lighting

  • The bulbs cost a lot more to purchase. The purchase price is higher, usually 2 to 5 times more.  The upfront cost is more, although the long term savings should be taken into consideration.
  • Lights on. CF’s take time to “warm up” and the light gets to it’s full brightness in about a minute.  For some people this is an issue, but I’ve gotten used to it.  It’s actually nice in the morning when you first wake up not to have bright lights in your face.
  • Lighting ambiance. LED’s light lacks in brightness and because of the light temperature, has a bluish hue to them.  Incandescents have a warm, yellow light.  Incandescents also have directional capabilities that the others don’t have, which is why you see a lot of halogen fixtures in stores and restaurants.  Lots of progress is being made with the energy efficient bulbs in this respect.
  • Disposal. Disposal of CF bulbs is tricky, as they contain a small amount of mercury.

For me, the pros outweigh the cons.  I will continue to replace the bulbs as they burn out with energy efficient bulbs when I can.  When the shopping challenge is over, I’ll consider replacing a portion of these that are in fixtures I use frequently.  Some of the accent lighting fixtures I don’t use often can wait.

Disposal and recycling issues. The recycling and disposal of the CF’s is still not easy.  (Jason, better late than never on this post)  Although there are many recycling programs, there aren’t many drop off places and the city recycling program doesn’t pick these up from your house.  It’s just not easy to dispose of these bulbs right now.  There are, however, two major retailers that participate in the recycling and disposal of these bulbs.  They are The Home Depot and Ikea.  Yes, it’s a little bit of work to save your bulbs and take them to the store, but you can plan it with a needed trip to that store.  Get together with you neighbors and take turns making a “bulb disposal run” each month.   Given the life span of these bulbs, it’s not a huge time sacrifice, and given the size of them, it’s not much of a space sacrifice either.  :)


Jan 5 2011

what retailers should you support? [day 222]

I found myself being irritated at the grocery store, stirring over the little yellow tags again.  (day 160… trained shopping monkeys)  Upon a very deliberate observation, I would guess 60% or more of the little yellow tags are ‘low price‘ tags and not ‘sale‘ tags.  How am I supposed to grocery shop for the best prices?  My kids have been yellow-tag-trained too, as they shop thinking anything with a yellow tag is one sale.  Isn’t marketing wonderful?

Even with the irritation, I have found a few retailers that are doing some really good things.  Competition is fierce and I think all retailers succumb to the manipulative marketing at some point or another.  Here’s a few retail stores I would support, you know, if I could shop.  😉  This is not a comprehensive list, just a few I’ve run into lately.

Lowe’s hardware store. Of any shopping I might miss, I do miss my home improvement / hardware stores.  I’m going to be a little generic here since I’m not sure how public this information is, as some companies do things under the radar to stay out of the corporate ball of red tape.  Lowe’s has not only donated the materials, but also the labor to add restrooms, showers and laundry facilities to a local homeless shelter.  Not only that, but finishing off the rooms, painting, and many other details too numerous to mention.  Need some screws?  Go to Lowe’s.

Again, probably under the radar, but not sure, Market Street grocery store donates a lot of leftover foods to shelters in the area.  There’s a lot of stores putting perfectly good food in dumpsters, but not MS.  Shopping at Market Street is a treat, as it’s a little on the pricey side for my shopping habits, however they carry foods you can’t find anywhere else.  Their cafe is also a great deal for lunch or dinner, as the prices are good, portions are big and the food is great.

Yes, Kroger.  Even though I’m not so happy about their little yellow tags, they still do good things for the community.  On day 55, I blogged about how Kroger gives away $1 million dollars a year to organizations that help people in need.  All you have to do is print their little bar code and have it scanned when you shop to support organizations in your area.

I don’t know the motivation of any of these stores, but I do know when I choose where to shop, I want to know I’m not just making some fat pockets for a few executives that don’t need more money.  I want to support businesses that strengthen the community, minimize waste, treat their employees well and participate in the good of people.  :)


Oct 31 2010

jesus wallpaper, a rollerskate & the kitchen sink [day 157]

No, this is not random, just a collection of odd things we found yesterday…

Continue reading


Oct 3 2010

charitable marketing. yes or no? [day 129]

Is charitable marketing good?  I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, as it’s a huge and fast-growing trend.  It works, but is it ethical and trustworthy?

As David Frey wrote on frugalmarketing.com, “Many savvy small businesses are affiliating themselves with charities to market their businesses. Not only is it a primary means for developing a powerful network but also it helps others in the process. People like to associate themselves with businesses that support causes, which help disadvantaged people in a meaningful way.”  And he follows that with, “Don’t think that charities are oblivious to your motivations. Most charities today understand your secondary purpose for participating in charities and are experienced at helping you receive a return on your charitable investments.”

I decided to research just a bit, as I find this concept very interesting.  Here’s 3 case studies from radically different businesses. Continue reading