Feb 27 2011

hot oil treatments [minimalist challenge item #10]

[item] 3 tiny bottles of Macadamia hot oil hair treatments

[purchase info] A gift from a friend, part of an entire box of products

[time in my possession] Approximately 1 year

[last used] Never

[difficulty level in getting rid of it] Easy

[destination] Given to a friend

[info] I received these as a Valentine’s Day gift.  I used all of the other amazing products, but hot oil just doesn’t work well in my hair.  I found someone that could use them.


Jan 14 2011

11 rotary dial phones & 1296 gift cards [day 231]

A few years ago, in my “excessable” art show, I had a gift card rug made out of 1296 gifts cards from different stores.  The show was in July and I left the rug in the car a little too long in the heat, melting a good portion of it.

I recently used some of the gift cards in a video shoot.  I had to take them out and clean them up, as they’ve been sitting in my garage for years.  I’ve added a few to the collection, with thoughts of putting the rug back together.  Problem: no box tape and no retail shopping.  I need to get creative with the pile of cards.  I have a few ideas…

I did get creative with the pile of rotary dial phones that were used in the show.  I really had no intention of keeping them, but they’re just fun to have around.  I’ve used them for many photo shoots, video shoots and props.  Right now, they’re a permanent art fixture in my foyer.

Here’s some of the photos…

I know it’s crazy to keep all this stuff from my art show, but it’s not in a landfill and I do use it occasionally, or some of it, all the time.  I think I’ll hang on to the phones and gift cards for a while.  If I do get rid of them, I’ll make sure they go to a great home.


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 27 2010

A post Christmas story of be longing [flashback]

This was written 4 days after Christmas last year on my blog iembracechaos.com.

What is out of the ordinary?  Choosing to help others and live differently in a way that changes life as we know it.  My kids really didn’t seem all that bothered by the lack of gifts they got from me.   They still received the mandatory 27+ gifts from my mother, gifts they will never give a second thought to once they are put away.  They were both on board with the plan of donating money to their favorite charities, but I just wasn’t so sure come Christmas, they would still feel that way.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Christmas evening, after the kids came home, we rented a few movies and enjoyed some time together.  After all, I had not seen them for almost a week.

Yesterday we ventured into the stores, only for the purpose of grocery shopping and finding a small rug for my closet floor.  No store was exempt from the typical long return lines and post-holiday sale events.  Seriously, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

I decided yesterday to clean out my closet and get rid of the mountain of unused linens.  Why do I feel the need to hang on to stuff that I will never use again?  I made the compulsory closet purge, filled up the Infiniti sleigh and headed for the thrift store.

After unloading our surplus of worldly possessions, we went treasure hunting.  No, not shopping, treasure hunting.  Shopping is buying overpriced new ‘goods’ at large chain stores.  Treasure hunting is finding something special, previously owned by someone else at a price that doesn’t break the bank.  My kids quickly made their way to the toy section, disappointed that it was mostly baby toys.  I headed for the crowded book area, my kids not far behind.

I found a Man Ray photography book for 50 cents, which in the bookstore, was probably closer to $50.  Man Ray is one of my photography inspirations, mostly for photograms.  My photogram ‘Coffee Addict’ is one of my favorites… not that I have coffee issues or anything like that.

Cole found a Star Wars picture book, which he kept directly in front of his face in the entire time we were there, miraculously not walking into anyone or anything.

As we were making our way toward the front of the store, I stopped to see if there were any jeans or sweatshirts for the boys.  I guess everyone has been doing their Christmas purge, as the racks had three times the amount they usually do.  I found this t-shirt that pretty much sums up what society is teaching our kids.  “WARNING: allergic to lame gifts.”  I wanted to buy the shirt just so I could destroy it and take it out of the clothing circulation.  I would have saved the small candy cane skull icon though, as it seems appropriate to use as a symbol of our cultural Christmas consumerism.   Continue reading


Dec 26 2010

shopaholics are cute :) [day 213]

I had to go to the grocery store for a couple of things, and as I was walking through the store, I found something that seemed a little off.  Shopaholic wine glasses.  Cute, right?  Not so much.  The definition of a shopaholic is “a compulsive shopper“, also known as “compulsive shopping disorder“.  A person with CSD will buy things they don’t need, cannot pass up a deal on anything and will go into debt to support their habit.  How is it that we think this is cute and should be announced to everyone?

Would we give an alcoholic friend a shopping bag saying they’re an alcoholic?  Cute gift?  I’m pretty sure that would be a disaster.

Too much of anything, even good things, is bad.  Addictions are serious business.  There are intervention programs, rehabilitation programs and usually some life adjustments to prevent relapse.  So why is it that shopping addictions are socially acceptable and encouraged, while drug addicts, sex addicts, gambling addicts and pretty much all other addicts are supposed to kick their addiction?

This makes no sense to me.  Shopping is legal, where drugs are not.  But then again alcohol is legal.  No theory there.  Shopping supports the economy, so maybe that’s why this is okay.  If your addiction gets you in big time debt, just file bankruptcy.  It screws up your credit, but at least you don’t have to pay for most it.  Seriously?  I have a problem with this.  I’ve had debt, and I paid it all off.  I don’t do that anymore.

Shopping will give you a temporary high, just like most other addictions, but with long term affects if you really have a shopping addiction.  Shopping is not bad, but if you or  a friend have a shopping problem, don’t make fun of it, do something about it.  Happiness is not found in the bottom of a bag anymore than in the bottom of a bottle.


Dec 24 2010

twas the night before Christmas… the culturally correct version [day 211]

Let me me be perfectly honest here.  I really hate holidays.  And, I’m an equal opportunity holiday hater, I don’t like any of them.  I love Christmas, that is the true meaning of Christmas, but I hate the cultural crap that comes along with it.  I just want to skip all this and move on to the new year.  I don’t want to spend a bunch of money I don’t have, I don’t want to eat a bunch of sweets, I don’t want to do the holiday dog and pony show, I don’t want to go to holiday parties alone, I don’t want to go to them with a spouse I don’t have, I do not like it in a box, I do not like it with a fox. I do not like green trees, this sham or culture’s Christmas, mad I am.

Some people think the Grinch stole Christmas, nobody cared, so he gave it back and everyone lived happily ever after.  That’s the fictional version of the story, because you and I know darn well, that if someone stole all of the things in our house and all the gifts from under the tree, we would not all be in the street holding hands and singing.   The story would be a little different…  Here it is, in the form of “Twas the night before Christmas.” Enjoy…

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the town

Many creatures were stirring, using credit around;

The plasma tv was unloaded with care,

In hopes that the credit bill was lost in the mail;

My kids wanting toys, finances in red,

While visions of electronics danced in their heads;

Me on my laptop, looking for deals,

Wondering where I will get the next meal;  Continue reading


Dec 22 2010

white elephant gifts [day 209]

As usual, I had to look up some information on this.  The white elephant gift exchange is defined on Wikipedia like this:

white elephant gift exchange is a popular holiday party game found primarily in North America. It has many variations in both the name and the game play. Generally, white elephant parties need a minimum of six participants. With a larger group, game play may be more protracted. White elephant parties have been known to result in intensely vicious and/or playful rivalries between players trying to get sought after gifts. The goal of a white elephant party is usually to entertain rather than to gain. This game is sometimes called a Yankee Swap, Chinese Gift Exchange, Dirty Santa, Thieving Secret Santa, or Parcel Pass.

I think the key phrase here is the goal, it’s to entertain rather than gain.  The term white elephant is defined as:

white elephant is an idiom for a valuable possession of which its owner cannot dispose and whose cost (particularly cost of upkeep) is out of proportion to its usefulness or worth.

Most white elephant gifts I’ve seen don’t completely fit that description, but most are useless or outdated.  Here’s a few gifts from a white elephant gift exchange I participated in about a week ago.  Continue reading


Dec 21 2010

used book and trinket gifts [day 208]

A couple of years ago, they started the “360 feedback” process at work.  I’m a fan of it if people use it correctly, but I don’t want to wait until the end of the year to get zapped for something I might have done so long ago, and can’t remember anything about it.  Good or bad, tell me now, let’s not wait and word-craft.

This year, they decided to scrap that plan and do “necessary notes”.  Write a note, good or constructively opportunistic, to the people you work with.  I like that plan.  It still takes a lot of time, but it accomplishes the same things, without the anonymous jabs.

I decided to do this, but do it differently by using repurposed books and objects.  The books contained the notes and each had a bookmark made from string, my recycled info cards and random objects found in my garage.

I thought about making a trashogram from the bookmarks, as most of these items are things I’ve found, gotten for free or found at the thrift store.  Continue reading


Dec 19 2010

cool art made from junk mail [day 207]

I got an awesome little gift a few days ago, unexpected and very much related to trash society.  The gift?  An origami box with a photo album inside, all made with junk mail and paper stuff from the recycling bin.  Check it out…

Continue reading


Dec 16 2010

Christmas gift with shredded money [trashogram]