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.]


Feb 14 2011

I’m the ugly neighbor [day 263]

I know my neighbors must cringe when they drive by garage when the door is open.  I’m clearly the ugly neighbor.  Since I’ve been downsizing in the cold weather, everything was pitched out into the garage, in anticipation of some warm weather to get everything to the appropriate places.  Where are those places?  Anywhere but a landfill… the thrift store, the food pantry, craigslist, and last but not least, freecycle.

I needed to not only get the stuff out, but I needed to find one specific can of paint in the vast mountains of paint cans in my garage.  Well, after pulling all the paint out onto the driveway in preparation to give it away, I could not find the one can I needed for my kitchen ceiling.  Seriously?

I didn’t count, but I know there was well over 100 cans of paint.  I got rid of 99% of what I had.  I really wanted to do something fun and creative in the process of getting it out of my garage, but I found myself in gridlock, paralyzed by the sheer amont of stuff in my garage.  There’s just no time to creatively get rid of my stuff, so I started placing all of it on the driveway and listing it on freecycle as I cleaned it out.  About 80% of the stuff is gone already, in less than a day.

I collected coats, blankets, food and miscellaneous stuff from friends an neighbors to donate to the homeless and impoverished.  All of that is in my car and will be delivered to the appropriate destinations today.  It feels like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.  Less stuff feels good.  And just so I’m not tempted to collect more junk, I gave away the shelving unit that I cleared off yesterday.  No empty shelves to refill, just nice, clean empty s p  a     c         e.   Continue reading


Feb 7 2011

downsizing the kitchen & food supply [day 256]

I’ve been doing a lot of downsizing lately.  Right before snowmageddon, I decided to clean out the kitchen, not just utensils and cabinet crap, but food.  I don’t like being wasteful, and although we waste a lot less than the average American family, I felt that we needed to make some changes.  We made some radical changes and some subtle changes, and the results are proving to be really good.  I’ll share the overall goodness of this, the process of cleaning out the kitchen and a couple of mini-challenges.

The big picture.

We haven’t died of starvation. Again, we started this a couple of weeks before the ice storm.  We have much less food in the house, but we had plenty to eat during the 4-5 days at home.  I didn’t buy extra, in fear that we would starve and have nothing to eat for a week.  I bought a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread the day before the storm hit.  We had plenty, and I was even able to feed the two painters working in my house a couple of times.

Airstream… I mean streamline. Okay, I want an Airstream, but that has nothing to do with my kitchen.  The tasks of cooking, grocery shopping and cleaning the kitchen is much easier.  Cooking is easier, as there’s less stuff to shuffle around and I know what ingredients I have on hand.  Grocery shopping is easier, again, because I have less and I know the few things I need.  Cleaning is easier too, as I have a lot of extra pantry and cabinet space.  So much extra, that I was able to move all of my pantry items into empty cabinets while the oil paint takes 5 days to dry.

Here a snack, there a snack, everywhere a snack snack. My kids will open every bag of everything we buy at the store.  We could have, and have had, a pantry overflowing with food, and yet the kids can’t find a thing to snack on.  With much less in there, this is not a problem anymore.  It’s easy to see we have two open bags of crackers or pretzels.

Waste not, want not. We are wasting very little food these days.  Not that we wasted a lot before, but it was still more than I was comfortable with.  Waste is unnecessary, and by making some small changes to lessen it allows us to save a little money, be better to our environment and enables us to help others that don’t have enough to eat.

What did we do?

Downsized the pantry. If you have a smaller house like mine, the pantry is a small closet.  The picture is my “before” picture.  I don’t have an after right now, as the oil paint is still drying.  Whether your pantry is large or small, stuff always gets hidden in the back.  My pantry wasn’t horribly unorganized, it just had too much in it and could use a little more a system of “first in, first out”.  We took everything out and carefully selected what would go back.  I had cedar balls that didn’t smell like anything anymore.  Out.  Ridiculously expired stuff?  Out.  Open bags of stale crackers and chips?  Out.

We broke down the boxes and recycled them.  We couldn’t see all of the food behind the big boxes of crackers and cereal.  The boxes take up a lot of space.  I found it best to use see-through containers and baskets as much as possible.  Most of the stuff I didn’t know I has was in these black plastic crates and could not be seen. Continue reading


Feb 2 2011

where is she? [day 251]

I still need to get rid of some of my clothing.  I downsized by 50% a few weeks ago, but there’s still a few more pieces I could part with.  I was thinking about the clothing again after a short trip I took recently.

I went house hunting last Sunday, no, not to buy one, but to look for an abandoned house.  I’m part of a photo group that goes to small towns looking for abandoned houses, vacant buildings, old vehicles or anything else that has been left to deteriorate and wither away.  We’re never disappointed.  This last trip to Krum, Texas produced an abandoned house, a school bus, a fire truck and a semi truck, among other things.  The abandoned houses are always left full of stuff, but the things that surprise me the most is the clothing and the photographs left behind.  Who leaves a house without taking these things?

Just to give you an idea, this was the living room, going into the kitchen.

These are pics of the clothing left behind.

The nightgown still hanging on the back of the door…

I always wonder what the story is, but have yet to find one.  I’m led to look at the artifacts, ponder the possibilities and create my own fictional tale.

It’s dusk, the daylight slowly fading away.  The stuffed pig is sad, waiting patiently for the missing woman that should be coming home now.  After a long bath, she will put on the flowered gown.  Where is she?  Rarely is she late.  What was that?  A sound, followed with silence.  Silence that has turned to deafness over the years.  Still waiting.  It’s dusk.  Where is she?


Jan 26 2011

recycle freecycle [day 246]

Freeycycle is the modern day dumpster diving, without having to touch a dumpster or trash can.  From the freecycle site: It’s a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by local volunteers (them’s good people). Membership is free. To sign up, find your community by entering it into the search box above or by clicking on ‘Browse Groups’ above the search box. Have fun!

I had my first free items from freecycle.org a couple of weeks ago.  Three empty 5-gallon paint buckets from Home Depot.  I really needed just one, but the others will come in handy too, as I need to get rid of most of the paint I’ve been hoarding for years.

A few days ago, I got 3 lamps from freecycle.  One of them being a really cool, ultra-modern lamp, but needing repair to the on/off switch.  I haven’t repaired the lamp yet, but I can use the electrical from one of the other lamps that was missing a shade.  This lamp was not cheap and is probably the nicest lamp I own now.  The other small lamp, also missing a shade, will be my new energy efficient light in the nook on my staircase.  I ran electrical to that a couple of months ago since there was electrical in the closet underneath the stairs.

I’ve also gotten rid of things that I don’t need anymore.  Clutter is not my friend, so this made it easy.  I had some fence boards that I had no place to store.  Someone on freecycle was getting as many fence pieces as possible so he could build a new fence.  Smart dude, as he probably saved $5k and kept a lot of wood out of the landfill.   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.


Jul 19 2010

when do you leave? [day 53]

This is a photo story from an abandoned house I visited yesterday.  Yes, sadly, trash society includes houses.  I do love to take photos in abandoned houses, as all of them have an untold story.

It’s like reading a suspenseful book, but being right there in it.

When does it become a good idea to throw away your house?

Oh, the thrill of spotting a potentially abandoned house.  They mystery begins…

What do you leave behind?  Food?

Toys?

Trash?  They must have had some kids like mine.  The trash doesn’t go out until I’ve asked at least 23 times.

Paperwork?

Photos?  This is the most surprising to me.  I have been in many of these houses and the majority of them have family photos left behind.

It makes me happy that they didn’t leave any toilet paper.  :)

Is this the end?  It’s the end of this photo story, but is it the end of throwing away houses?  No.  Many of these houses are structurally sound and with a little work, could be livable.  How could we pair up the homeless population with abandoned houses, without locking them out and calling their habitation ‘squatting’?  I know, it’s a crazy dream, but don’t all dreams start that way?