Mar 17 2011

transfer of time, from shopping to sharing [day 294]

We’re taught from little on that we should always share.  As we get a little older, we have our own stuff, but we’re still told to share on occasion.  Then we hit our teens.  I don’t think anyone told me I should share anymore at that age.  We start backing off the sharing.  Then as an adult, I guess we’re not really expected to share, although if an opportunity arises, most of the time, we will share.  If we need something, we usually just go out and buy it, resulting in ownership of a lot of stuff.  Stuff that costs money, stuff that uses resources and stuff we simply don’t need.  What if we transferred shopping time into sharing time?  What if we started to share again?

So what is sharing?

share [shair]

— n

1. a part or portion of something owned, allotted to, or contributed by a person or group

— vb  (often foll by out ) (when intr, often foll by  in )

1. to divide or apportion, esp equally

2. to join with another or others in the use of (something): can I share your umbrella?

We all have things sitting around our house that we don’t use regularly.  A few days ago, I used a drill as an example.  Could we lend our drill to a friend?  If you need a hole and you don’t have a drill, could you borrow one?  Let’s do a little exercise.

Think of 3 things you have sitting around your house, not being used or used rarely.

~

Would you be willing to lend these items to someone you know?

If you’re like me, you probably thought of more than 3 items.  What would it look like for you to lend these things out?  With current technology, this is not only possible, it’s easy.  You won’t have to wonder who you lent that book to anymore either.  You can sign up on actsofsharing.com to borrow and lend with only your friends.  Not only will it track your items, but it will also calculate how much you have saved by borrowing, how much you’ve saved your friends by lending them things and tells you how many items in total your friends have listed.  Continue reading


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


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


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


Jul 26 2010

surrounded by trash [day 60]

We had our light painting photo safari last night.  If you want to entertain a bunch of kids, give them a box of toys and some flashlights.  If you want to entertain a bunch of adults, give them the same stuff, but add a camera.

So what does this have to do with trash society?  Many things.  First, it’s a great way to have some family and friends time without spending money.  We play with toys we already have and share our cameras for those who don’t have one.  You can see all the pics from this shoot on flickr.

Second, we always find trash.  Sadly, we are surrounded by trash.  It’s so blended into our lives that sometimes we don’t even see it.

A white picket fence… the American dream?  (I took the ‘green bag’ pictured on the left)

I have this quirky feature I just discovered about myself.  I’m always looking down when I walk and I subconsciously look for stuff.  While on vacation, I found a guys wallet stuffed with cash.  I did get it back to the owner.  I found a computer cable, in the dark, on the floor at work.  I always find stuff on the ground.  I have no idea when I started this or why, but I’ll work it to my art.  Last night, I found some trash on the ground and decided to use it in a few photos:

This became a good opportunity for some ‘trash awareness’ with the kids.  We kept the little plastic mountain, probably a piece of a milk jug.

Third, we can teach the kids about art and making statements with the things around them.  We might bring props, but how do they fit into their surroundings?  The above photos are disturbingly reflective of our society and I’ve titled them ‘Protect the Plastic‘.  Kids are the future and what we teach them now will mold their core values.

There are probably many more things here, but those are the highlights.  If you would like to join in on a photo safari, join our Facebook group.

What things do you do to help lessen trash production?  This challenge of not shopping retail has helped me.  Less stuff, less impulse buys, less trash.  :)


Jul 22 2010

grocery store gives $1 million [day 55]

Grocery shopping is the only shopping I’ve done lately, and really the only shopping I’ve had any desire for.   I went to Sprouts last night, as I have a few select things I like to get there.  Tuna steaks and kabobs mostly.  Their seafood is not smelly.  😉  Also, they give a $.05 credit for each green bag you use and they replaced my broken freezer bag for free.

I mostly shop at Kroger now, as it’s reasonably priced and almost walking distance from my house.  Here’s another good reason to shop there.  Kroger donates a lot of money to food pantries through their Neighbor to Neighbor program.  Our local funds go to Frisco Family services.  Here’s a link to the form, all you have to do is print it and have them scan it every time you shop there.

http://www.friscocenter.org/clientuploads/FFS_Kroger_Letter.pdf

If you’re not in the Frisco area, there’s a URL to Kroger’s site on here to find the participating Kroger’s in your area.  This is great, as they will donate $1 million dollars annually.  Also, their Plus card give great gas discounts.

I just started this, is there anyone out there already doing this?  Are there any similar programs in other stores?  If so, please share them!  :)


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?


Jul 11 2010

the challenge: day 45 & 46 [how's it really going?]

So 45 days into this, and how’s it really going?  I think it’s going well.  Here’s a few situations and challenges I’ve run across over the past couple of weeks.

Superstores… :(

Even though I can buy groceries and toiletries in retail places, I’ve tried to avoid the superstores.  I grocery shop at Kroger, which is a chain, but there aren’t any grocery stores that are not chains.  I did recently go into Target for a few groceries and Walmart for a few toiletries.  This was not my first choice, but the person I was with chose those stores.  Again, I can go in, but I can only buy groceries or toiletries.  In both stores, I got what I needed and left.  I had no desire to look around or shop at either place.  The trip there did make me think though.  I need to find some non-chain retail places to buy groceries and toiletries.  I’ll keep you posted on that.

Oooo, I want to buy a… nevermind.

There have been a few times where I have wanted to buy something.  Once it pops into my head, I quickly dismiss it, knowing I can’t, well, have chosen not to.  I want welding equipment really bad, some miscellaneous art supplies and a leaf blower.  I don’t need them and I’ll live without them.  I have to say, I have the welding equipment in the back of my mind though and have thought that might be a purchase I could make once my year is up.  It feels very wrong to be thinking that way, but if I wait, I sure won’t be anything close to an impulse buy, right?

Contentment

I seem to appreciate the things I do have much more now.  I’m not quite sure how this happened or when, but I just feel more content.  I’m so blessed to have shelter, food and all of the things my kids and I need.  If we do want something new, we usually just forget about it and play with our old stuff.  I like this.

Services vs. stuff

I had someone tell me, “…so you’ll pay for services (referring to my lawn guy) but you won’t buy anything.”  Yes, that is true.  With a service, I’m not collecting more stuff and by using services, I’m helping keep people employed.  It’s like when my kids want something, I’d rather take them to a movie and spend the money there.  We’re doing something together and not accumulating more stuff.  I could take that money and buy them toys that will sit in the bottom of a toy bin after a week or spend it doing something as a family.

Overall, I’m glad I chose to this challenge.  :)


May 31 2010

mexico [day 3 & 4]

I’m leaving Mexico right now and what an incredible weekend.  Going to Casa Hogar Elim (and surrounding areas this time) is always incredible and I never want to leave.  Being there sheds a whole new light, well, maybe not new, but a recent light on the challenge.

I really don’t struggle with any desire to shop while in Mexico unless it’s something for the orphanage or food from the Sorriana.  I didn’t do any shopping, nor did I have a desire to.  I decided to help the ‘guys’ with the construction projects, as that’s more up my alley than cooking or shopping anyway.

Now I have as many power tools, if not more than the average guy, but I have to admit, I had some power tool envy going on.  I happened to mention that to a few of the guys, and counting the days until I could buy tools.  Finally, one of them asked, “If you’re counting down the days until you can buy stuff, why are you doing this challenge?”  I pondered that for a bit and after a period of time, I now have even more reasons for doing this and an added perspective on it.

Here’s an example of the positive change the challenge provides.  Without the challenge, I would have probably bought a grinder.  Could I use a grinder?  Yes, I actually have many uses for it.  Do I want a grinder?  Yes, I do and I have for a while.  Do I need a grinder?  No.  This challenge will not only save me money (which is not at all my intended purpose), but it will make me really think about want versus need and I will accomplish not collecting more stuff.

The second thing I thought about is the ‘new way of living in community’.  I already do this some, but now I want to be more intentional about it.  If I need to use a grinder for anything, I can borrow one.  If someone needs something I have, I can share as well.  What would it look like if we all did that?  And did it all of the time, before we ever considered going shopping and making a purchase of any kind?  I have all the tiling tools available to mankind and I frequently lend them to people so they can do work themselves and they don’t have to buy tools that would sit in the garage for years between uses, provided the tools ever get used a second time.  Bartering and sharing should be a way of life for everyone.  It would eliminate waste in most cases, saving money for things we really need and in the process, building community and building friendships.

 

Going back ‘home’ to my fancy 1780 square foot castle with indoor plumbing, electricity and beautiful furnishings, tightly nestled in among other castles with towering fences to protect our privacy… well you get the picture.  This is not easy.  I feel more comfortable in Mexico in areas where there’s no plumbing or electricity.  A place where it is dangerous to go at night, where gangs steal things and sexually assault women and kids.  A place where a home is made from leftover plywood scraps and maybe some old mattress springs.  A place where pure beauty exists.  A place where you are family even if you don’t speak the language. A place where you are welcomed and accepted.  A place where you could stay if you had no other place to go.

So you might be asking the question, “What’s so beautiful about a dangerous place with no modern conveniences, built out of junk with a few nice inhabitants?”  Simple.  It’s the people.  The people are beautiful, and a village built out of what we (in America) might consider trash, to me, is a very attractive representation of God’s love and my family through Christ.

How could you leave a place like that and want to go home, much less go shopping?