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

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 15 2011

build it and they will come… [day 232]

Yesterday I had to shop for work again.  I’m designing an interactive wall that unfortunately need some new supplies.  I was mentioning the fact that I had to go to the store in front of someone that just heard about my no retail challenge.  He asked, “So, if you shop for work, isn’t that against your challenge?  Doesn’t that give you the getting-new-stuff satisfaction?”  Okay, so I’m not sure if those were his exact words, but you get the point.  Here’s the answer to that question.

Let me start by saying that shopping is extremely frustrating and a root canal might have been a better way to spend my time.  Here’s why.

Ikea. This store is a giant maze.  I only needed one thing from there, a couple sets of Dioder multi colored lights.  I go in the exit there because I can look in the “as is” section first, and it’s the quickest way to the spot where the lights should be.  After making my way through the cold warehouse part into the marketplace, I find the display.  Sold out.  After asking about the next shipment, I find out these lights are discontinued and they’ll be replaced with a new design.  The problem?  The new sets are not available yet.  I start looking for my bread crumbs and make my way back to civilization.

Walmart. Not much to report here, just another giant superstore that takes forever to get into.  They didn’t have what I needed, which was inexpensive, decent quality, modern digital photo frames.  I needed 5 that look exactly alike.  They had some cheap, low quality ones, so on to the next store.

Lowe’s. Now, I’m all about a hardware store, if I have to shop.  I decided to take a look for LED lights, similar to Ikea’s.  Low and behold, they had them, and for the same price.  These are actually a little better, as one controller will hold more daisy chained lights.  They had just gotten these in a week prior.  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


Dec 28 2010

my kids are okay with it [day 215]

Here’s the answer to the big question, “Were your kids okay with this no retail shopping Christmas?

Yes.

I’m very proud of them.  I’m imposing some of my challenge on them, but just by the stuff I get for them.  They both work for their allowance and they are allowed to spend it retail if they choose to.  My 11 year old could care less about money or buying anything.  My 10 year old, who likes money and shopping, has had $150 in his wallet for over 2 months now.  He’s had several opportunities to spend it, and has not.

When it came to Christmas, my kids didn’t really want much.  As a matter of fact, I got a text from their dad saying he had no idea what to get them for Christmas, as every time he asked, they didn’t really give him an answer.  The one thing they both showed an interest in was an iPad.  After ignoring that for the first 20 times they said it, I thought about it.  I told them they would have to share it, but I would put some money toward it if their dad and grandma would too.  Grandma agreed, dad did not.  It was a bit of a relief, as I really didn’t want to give them a lot of money.  It would be better than them having a bunch of small stuff that will be used for about a week, then end up at the thrift store.  Anyway, no iPad in the Wissing house.

So what did my kids want?  Books.  The Bones series and some of the Pokemon series.  We shopped together on amazon.com and got everything they wanted… used.  I got a book too, Journal Junkies.  I also got them each a gift card from Gamestop, as they have used games, fitting that into my no retail plan.

When they came home from their dad’s house, where they didn’t get anything extravagant for Christmas, they were excited to come home and have Christmas at our house.  Driving home, I was thinking how disappointed they’ll be, as their friends got electronics and lots of toys, and all they’ll get is some books.  I didn’t even wrap anything, the mailer envelopes under the tree, displaying my lack of Christmas consumerism.  We got home, they opened their gifts, and guess what?  They were happy.  They spent the next hour reading, and it would have been longer if I hadn’t made them go to bed.

I don’t know if what I’m doing is good for them, but I’m doing it for the right reasons and I’m sensitive to their reactions to it.  I’m not sure what I would have done if they were disappointed, but I know I would have tried something to make it good, yet still doing what I feel is the right thing.  After seeing from my mom right before Christmas, and hearing how “ridiculous” I am for the no retail shopping challenge and for recycling, because after I’m gone, nobody will care and there won’t be any less trash in the world, I felt okay.  I’m encouraging my kids and I’m not shoving this down their throats.  Christmas will never be good for me, but hopefully it won’t be bad for my children.


Dec 1 2010

you know they're good friends when they let you dive in their trash bin [day 189]

I was at my friend’s house finishing up a painting project when I noticed she had cleaned out the garage.  Upon opening the garage door, I also noticed a truck full of junk.  Now this is an invitation for me at anyone’s house.

First, let me say that if I really did this in my garage, I could fill up 4 of these trucks… one alone with paint.  I have made so many trips to the thrift store to donate things I don’t need that I can’t even claim it all on my taxes without itemizing it, which by the way, I’m not doing.  So was there any good stuff in the truck?  Not a lot, but yes.  I got a grill pan and a 5 gallon bucket I needed.  There were a few things that could go to the thrift store.

I did rummage through a bag of small toys and a few other things.  Just to make my point clear, we all have the things I’m about to show in some trashograms, my friends here are just being good and clearing out the clutter.  My point in showing this as art is to visually show our shopping habits and thought processes when making purchases, even the small ones.  Some small changes would mean less waste and less clutter.  If we have less stuff, there’s nothing to pick up, although I would have to find something new to harass my kids with.  Here we go…

Tiny plastic things. We all love tiny plastic toys if we’re over 3 years old and they don’t pose a choking hazard.  Plastic clutter comes in the form of toys, kid’s meals, impulse items in retail stores and are advertised this time of year as stocking stuffers.

What’s under your tree?  Is it things people want or is it things that will create more clutter in your house?  I purposely shaped the beads into an infinity symbol because it seems never ending.  Forget the crayon melting machines, maybe we need to have is a plastic melting machine so we can take all the tiny plastic toys and mold them into new and useful things.  Okay, so it’s a toxic idea, but probably only in California.  Maybe I’ll use this image for my Christmas card?  Oh yeah, I don’t send cards.   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.  :)


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?