Feb 21 2011

where did all this stuff come from? [day 271]

I spent a few hours yesterday in my garage, again.  I’m making progress and getting rid of a lot of stuff I don’t need, or even want for that matter.  So this begs the bigger question.  Where in the world did all of this stuff come from and why do I have so much?

Space. Maybe it’s because I downsized from 3,300 to 1,780 square feet, but that was 4 years ago.  I took everything from my old house because I could, everything but the furniture.  It wasn’t my style, so I gladly left it.  The photo is of my ‘formal’ living room in the old house.  A useless room that was used once a year at Christmas time.  I loved the red walls, but I couldn’t take those.  I hated the coffee table so much, I listed it in the divorce decree as the ‘ugly coffee table’ that he could keep.

I’m realizing the I don’t need this much stuff to live or to be happy.  I don’t need to keep a lot, I don’t need to buy a lot and I don’t need to pack every inch of my house with stuff.  My neighbor saw my master bedroom closet and said it’s the smallest she’s ever seen.  It’s small, but it’s only about 1/3 filled, and that’s with the shelf I took out.  Empty space is good.  I want more of it.

Personal attachment. I don’t have many of these items.  Some would say it’s because my heart is 2 sizes too small.  It could be.  I do keep a few things.  My kids each have one plastic tote in the attic.  I place items in there that are meaningful to them like their favorite outgrown toys or art projects.  I kept one thing from my grandma, her turquoise blue double boiler pan.  Useful, and it reminds me of her cooking french toast for me when I visited.  It’s about the memories with a person, not the stuff. 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 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 8 2011

behind again… [day 225]

It’s actually day 227, so I have some catching up to do.  Post holiday busyness?  Maybe.  :)

I like this logo I found earlier today.  Big thinking.  Transform.  Inspire.  Challenge. I have so many ideas in my head!  I need to be better about recording them.  I carry a journal with me, yet I haven’t been using it lately.  I think it’s time to break it out again.

So what’s the BIG idea?  I don’t know, but there’s definitely more than one.  :)

Think BIG today.  Transform, inspire and challenge yourself.


Dec 27 2010

the story of stuff [day 214]

I have an idea.  I know, no surprise…

I stumbled upon this little video called The Story of Stuff.  It’s a little over 20 minutes long, but I watched the whole thing.  Before I get into the details here, take a look if you haven’t seen it.  If you don’t have time to watch the whole thing, skip around and take a quick look.

Although I like the overall message, I was questioning the statistics as I was watching it.  The presentation is awesome, the content easy to follow.  Again, the overall message here is a good one, but I have a few things to discuss and challenge.

The big picture of stuff. The message here is that we, as Americans, are abusing our planet, taking advantage of the disadvantaged and that we have all fallen victim to materialism.  On many levels, this is true, but some of the statistics seemed a little off to me.  After a bit of research on this video, I found they are using it in schools to teach children about materialism and “stuff”.  I’m not opposed to that at all, but this video is not just creating awareness, it’s trying to impose a guilt trip, and as Fox News stated, “Other critics have called it a “firehose of paranoia” meant to scare children into becoming environmental activists. They say the video romanticizes poverty in its attack on industrial nations and corporations.

I hope we’re teaching our kids to watch something like this and process it in a healthy way, as they should do with everything.  My kids question things, think about everything they take in, and sometimes have a viewpoint that even I haven’t thought of.  This video’s overall message is a good one, and unfortunately, it does paint an accurate “big picture” of our wasteful society.  The reason I say that, is because this video could be remade without all the statistics, showing both sides of the message about consumerism.  That’s a hint for my idea…   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 13 2010

I've saved a lot of money, but that wasn't why I did it [day 201]

I’m speaking tonight at Preston Trail Community Church, in the Financial Peace University class, about the “no retail” shopping challenge.  I didn’t start this to save money, but it did turn out to be a nice benefit.  Here’s a recap of the posts from the last 200 days that have to do with saving money and thinking differently.  Enjoy & save!!

Basic & small money saving tips

A money lesson from Barbie. [day 198] – You can learn a lot for a dummy, I mean a Barbie.  This has tips on teaching your kids about money, and even though it’s Barbie, it’s good for boys or girls.

Saving electricity [day 191] – It’s a small thing, but these add up, as my last utility bill was $52.01 on a 100% renewable energy plan, 1,780 square foot house with huge vaulted ceilings and 16 year old appliances.

White elephant gifts [trashogram] – Give it away or trade it.

Junk drawer [trashogram] – You know there’s money there and also in your couch cushions.  It’s not collecting interest, that’s dust.

Made in China [day 176] – Know the difference between cheap and frugal.

To buy or not to buy? [day 167] – Kids spending money and get a small loan, because your going to the movies and buying popcorn.

Ask the chickens [day 162] – Expiration dates and tips on not being wasteful.

Fine!  Dress me up like a fairy princess! [day 161] – Tips on thrift store clothing shopping.

Shopping tips [day 160] – We’ve been subconsciously trained by little yellow tags.  Buyer beware.  Continue reading


Nov 11 2010

addiction? maybe… [day 168]

One of my favoriet scriptures is James 4:17.

17 Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.

I have so many ideas in my head, many of which are goodwill ideas.  I know I should be doing a lot of them, so prioritization is hugely important.  I found a great place to use my creative gifts in a unique way, or to reword that, my friend Amy threw me, yet, another challenge.  ”Oh, this looks like something that’s right up your alley.”  Anything creative is right up my alley…

Here’s my new addiction.  zooppa.com Here’s what it is, from their website.  “Zooppa is the global social network for creative talent. We are the world’s largest source of user-generated advertising, committed to the vision of real people and leading brands working together.” I am entering a few of the design contests, using humanitarian type ideas for the businesses participating.  Here’s one I turned in yesterday.   Continue reading


Oct 20 2010

imadomainnamehoarder.com [day 146]

I think I’m a hoarder.  I hoard domain names.  I love to .communicate on the web! I own 25 domain names, 4 of them belong to my friends and 2 belong to my kids.  I get ideas for blogs and businesses all the time and the first thing I do is check for a domain na.me.

I do get most of these on sale and if I don’t end up doing anything with it, I don’t renew the following year.  Okay, maybe I’m not a hoarder, but I do purchase domain names without giving much thought to it.  It doesn’t cost .me too much money, but I hate to think I have a good idea, but miss the opportunity to have a great name for .it.

At least with domains, I’m not collecting a lot of stuff, physically anyway.  And I recently looked for .info on selling domain names.  Now I have a few of my un.used names for sale.  I’m always going to be on the inter.net so I need to stay .organized, .educated, create a budget and plan my purchases.  .it will .be better if I .am saving money and .using the na.mes I already have.  ;)


Oct 14 2010

toms shoes vs. bobs skechers. for real?! [day 141]

I would have loved to be in the brainstorming meeting when the Skechers people thought this was a good idea…

Exactly copying Toms Shoes, marketing program and compassion program?  Why?  The compassion part is understandable if they are wanting to make a difference.  Not if they’re just wanting to compete to make a profit.  Compassion marketing is the hot thing these days, as I blogged on a couple of weeks ago, and I’m not against it, nor am I against Skechers making money, but their motive seems shady to me.

Brainstorming meeting.

It might have gone something like this…

[marketing dude] “Toms has a great concept and they’re selling a lot of shoes.  We need a product line to compete with them.”

[design chick] “Why don’t we make some fun canvas type shoes.  We can make them in many styles and colors.”

[other marketing guru] “Yes, Toms is doing this great thing where they give a pair of shoes to someone in need for each pair someone buys.”

[everyone] Hours later…  no revolutionary ideas.  Continue reading