Mar 28 2011

the affects of effects [day 306]

It starts when we’re born.  Accessories.  “My daddy is the best” and “My mom is better than your mom” on our shirts, iconic pacifiers, hair bows in more styles and colors than Baskin Robbins has flavors, complete ensembles of coordinated clothing, all in large quantities.  When did babies become fashion statements?  Aren’t they cute enough already?  I see a lot of people talking to parents with small babies and hearing more compliments about the clothing than the kid wearing them.

It continues through adolescence, expanding to toys and games.  I have boys (thank you God) that don’t care much about fashion and will probably need future therapy for their lack of stylish clothing options.  They do however have accessories.  They have Nintendo DS’s that have lots of games, a universal charger, a fancy light sabre stylus and headphones, all packed inside a custom case.  Society says, “You need more” and we respond by buying more.

Into adulthood now, and I’m not exempt from this.  I might not have a lot of fancy, trendy clothing but I do have some nice things in my house.  Most from eBay, craigslist and thrift stores, but nevertheless, lots of things.  Accessories.  I have decorative things that serve no purpose other than to sit there and look nice.  Now I’m an artist of sorts, so this is an important topic.  I love to create things, but with a purpose.  Much of my art is chaotic, but has meaning and purpose behind it.  The vase sitting on my shelf, not so much.  I’ve been sucked into the American vortex of more is better.  I created this photograph several years ago.  This has many meaning for many people, but I see it as how we become background fixtures in the sea of stuff we own.

Continue reading


Mar 11 2011

I talk to strangers [day 289]

I was doing some blog research and ran across this t-shirt.  “I talk to strangers” is the message on the front.  I like this t-shirt and it got me thinking.  I know we’re supposed to teach this concept to our kids, but I haven’t done that.  Do we really want to live in a society where we don’t get to know each other, where there’s no sense of community and where we have a fear of meeting people?  We don’t talk to people and we wonder why loneliness creeps into our lives.  Loneliness can lead to sadness, depression and even addiction.  If you know anything about addictions, you know that people use them as an escape from reality.  Sometimes in the past when I’ve been sad or depressed, I would shop.  Yes, believe it, because I did.  Society tells us that it’s okay, even good, to spend money on frivolous stuff that we don’t need and don’t have money for in the first place.

I put a different spin on this ‘strangers’ thing with my kids.  I tell them to talk to strangers, but not strange people.  What’s the difference?  A guy in a car driving by and offering them some candy, now that’s strange, but a person that they meet at a store or just in daily life being friendly, maybe a stranger temporarily, but a possible friend.  We’ve gone over all the scenarios of what not to do to get abducted, but I don’t want my kids living in fear that the one bad person in the thousands of people is going to harm them.  I watch Criminal Minds and other similar TV shows, making it easy for me to think everyone is out to get us, but should we live in this type of fear?

I can teach my kids to be safe without teaching them to be secluded.  One way, is to help them see that there are many good people in the world.  I try to get them involved with me in local missions or take them places where they meet people.  People that might be different than us.  People that add value to our lives.  The photo is from Church Under the Bridge in Waco, Texas.  That’s Dedrick helping my son fix his shoe.  Dedrick has some sort of mental disability, but is just the kindest man and greets everyone at the church.  He wanted to lead worship, so they gave him a pink guitar (with two strings) and a mic (not hooked up with sound) and he leads worship.  Yes, he’s smoking in the photo.

One may also think it’s crazy for me to think this way.  I’ve been held at gunpoint twice in my life and I’ve had two stalkers, both needing police intervention.  I still believe people are basically good.  If I lived differently, I might have avoided these situations, but I might have also missed out on many good things and not met some really great people.

If you’re wondering how this ties in to no retail shopping, I guess it would be that there’s much more value in people than in material things.  Maybe this is a good thing to teach my kids, or maybe it’s not, but it seems be helping in building character in my kids.  And if you’ve spent any time at all with my kids, you know they’re characters!  I think they get the difference between good strange and bad strange.  Go say hi to a stranger today and see for yourself how it can add value to your life.


Feb 26 2011

the minimalist challenge update [day 275]

I have to say, I never thought I would call myself anything related to being a minimalist.  I was raised in a very materialistic home and placed a pretty high value on having stuff.   So what exactly is a minimalist?  Here’s the dictionary definition.

minimalist

[min-uh-muh-list]

–noun
1.  a person who favors a moderate approach to the achievement of a set of goals or who holds minimal expectations for the success of a program.
2.  a practitioner of minimalism in music or art.

–adjective
3.  of, pertaining to, or characteristic of minimalism.
4.  being or offering no more than what is required or essential.

Every day, within my normal routine, I’m finding a lot of material possessions that I just don’t need, want or even use.  I have a basket set up as a staging area to get these things out of my house.  Not a day has gone by, within the last week, that I haven’t placed at least one thing in there.  I open the kitchen drawer and realize I have extra hot pads, I walk by a shelf wondering why I have a cluster of too many vases on it, do I really need that stack of books… you get the picture.  I like this new mentality.  It’s that same one that keeps me from buying impulse items, shopping for no reason and buying things just because it’s a good deal.

I suppose if I look at this, applying the definition, I din’t know how many people would say I’m striving to be a minimalist.  When you look at the part that says “required or essential”, does that mean for us to live or to live in our society?  My minimalism would be considered the latter of the two.  Clearly, I don’t need a car to live, I don’t need that cute art bowl on my table to live, nor do I need the most awesome hot tub in my back yard to live.  Comparing these items to our basic necessities of food, water and moderate shelter, it’s extravagant.  When compared to a middle class family, it’s the norm.

My house is considered small in the higher income, affluent city I live in.  I’ve thought about downsizing.  I even had a nightmare about it last night.  Worse yet, it’s a recurring one.  I bought a new, bigger house about 30 minutes north of where I live.  I got a good deal on it, so I bought it with the intention of selling my current house.  In this dream, I always forget I have the new house until the 1st mortgage payment invoice shows up.  I haven’t sold my house, I’ve lost the key to the new house and I’m not even sure exactly where the new house is.  I usually wake up from this nightmare in a panic, clenching my teeth, stressed out about something that never happened.

As Madonna says, we’re living in a material world, but I don’t want to be a material girl.


Feb 23 2011

I found a psycho guy in my garage [day 273]

Before

After

This cleaning and purging job took about 4 full days.  Not bad since it’s been in there for 4 years.  Heck, I could even park my car in the garage if I wanted to.  I gave away several car loads of stuff to the thrift store and had my driveway filled, and I mean the whole thing, for freecyclers to pick up.  I still have a long way to go on the “garage minimalist” approach, but I sure have made significant progress.

Here’s the deal.  Most people, including myself, can get help or clean an area like this by themselves, but how do we maintain it?  I’ve cleaned out my garage several times and it always ends up looking like the before pictures within weeks.  The difference this time?  I got rid of a lot of stuff and I have a new minimalist outlook on this whole thing.  I might like stuff, but knowing the stress associated with it, the high cost and the gridlock factor, I can let go.  Even if it’s just a few things at a time, the process is in motion and will stay that way.

Here’s one little guy I’m keeping, as I found him in my garage this week.  He’s been hidden away for 4 years.  He’s broken and he’s part of my weird stuff collection.  He’s a vintage Kreiss Psycho Pottery piece from the 60’s.  He depicts how I feel when I’m in gridlock with too much crap in my house.  I need to prominently display him where I see him everyday, reminding my that life is not about collecting a bunch of stuff, but about the people in our lives.

Would anyone out there like to name this little guy?


Feb 16 2011

my new minimalist challenge [day 266]

I’m not sure how many challenges one person can have going on at the same time, but I’m willing to break a world record on it.  My recent wardrobe downsize was just the beginning of downsizing my entire house.  This has not been a super easy process, but I sure learned many things that could potentially make it easier for me and easier for anyone to downsize.  Now, you have to understand something.  When I get motivated to do something, there’s no time for grass to grow under my feet.  As a friend of mine fondly labeled me a few weeks ago, “a freak of nature”, I clearly live up to that when it comes to just doing anything without hesitation.

My new challenge is this: Maintain my downsized quantity of material possessions and continue to downsize on a regular basis.

Simple.  Sounds simple, but will it be that easy?  The first part of the downsize took a lot of time and effort, but the rewards are huge!  You probably won’t believe this, as I would not have believed it myself, but an astronomical amount of stress went out with all of the material things.  For one, ownership is responsibility.  Most of the things we purchase are bought with the intention of making our lives easier or better, however living in a sea of gadgets places us in gridlock, as we desperately speed up this vicious cycle of spending more and wanting more.  There is no magic gadget that will make life easier, but there is a way to make that happen, it just takes a little bit of sweat equity and a desire to create change.

When purging things from my garage, I had 3 books on organizing.  Seriously!!??!  Here’s how I will do this new challenge.

Maintaining my downsized quantity

Simple.  Every time I buy something, I have to get rid of something.  If I come home with 3 new (used) things, 3 thing have to go.  I won’t do this with groceries, as I already have a challenge there that is working wonderfully.  Once I get to my desired allotment of stuff, this will help me maintain it.  If you plan to do this challenge, this part is good to start immediately, as your situation won’t get worse, it will stay the same until you begin your downsize process.

Continuing the reduction of material possesions

For one year, I will get rid of one item per day, in addition to the maintenance plan.  I’m haven’t reduced to the level I want to yet, and this should get me there.  Slowly, but I’m doing it so I can blog the process, recording why I still have the items and why I made the decision to give it away.  It’s also a good accountability process to blog these things.  It takes a little time, but you can do that too (for free) on WordPress.  Just take photos with your phone, write a sentence or two and post it.

Tips on downsizing

Here’s a few tips to get you started in your venture to simplify your life by owning less stuff.

  • Minimalist mindset. You have to be motivated on some level to do this.  You might not be 100% convinced that this will change your life for the better, but if you believe it even the slightest little bit, then you have enough motivation to start.  And for my friends that will say, “I can’t do it because my family won’t help, they won’t participate…”, just to it.  If they can’t beat you, they’ll have to join you.
  • Staging area. Having a staging area is hugely important.  I’m using my garage right now.  Everything goes out there into pile of where it should go.  You must quickly get it out of that area of it will start to migrate back to places where it shouldn’t.  I purge to the garage, then at least once a week, I list things on freecycle or make a trip to the thrift store.
  • Storage areas. You do need to have some empty storage space, but not too much, as you will tend to fill it back up.  As soon as I emptied the 100+ cans of paint of the 5 tier metals shelves, I gave the shelves away.  I don’t need them and I’ll just add more organized clutter to my garage.
  • Clean slate. Yes, I need to clean my slate patio, but that’s not what I’m talking about.  When you start with any given space, clear it all out of the space first, then organize it back into the space.  You’ll be motivated to get rid of more things and your time will be better spent, rather than just shuffling things around.  It’s like those little number puzzles, the ones with the frustrating little plastic tiles.  Wouldn’t it be easier to pop them all out, put 1-6 back in order and donate 7-15 to someone who would be blessed by your extra stuff?
  • Deciding what to get rid of. This seems to be the hardest part for everyone, myself included.  Ask yourself these questions when going through your stuff.  Is this an extra or a spare?  Do I need more than one of these?  Do I need this at all?  When is the last time I used it?  Could I borrow one or share this with somebody?  Does it have more than one use?  If I keep this, can I get rid of some other related  things?  Is this something I can get easily in the future if I get rid of it and find I need it?  This new mindset has helped me part with things.  I’ve been working on this slowly for 4 years, but power working it recently.  I have no regrets about the things I’ve gotten rid of.

If you do participate in this minimalist challenge in any way, please let me know how it goes.  If you do the blogging, please send me a link and I will add it to my site.  Have a happy, stress-free day!  :)


Nov 22 2010

the person with the most toys, wins [day 179]

With my halfway point coming soon, and in efforts to do something fun and creative, I wanted to test out a couple of ideas I had.  As I was playing around, my dining room table completely covered with junk, a friend called me to see if I had a specific camera lens.  He was on vacation and just wanted to play around with a macro lens.  Turns out, I have a Sigma 70-300 lens with 200-300 macro capabilities.  I also have a set of three close up filters, a x1, x2 and x4.  These have been sitting in my camera bag doing absolutely nothing for about 10 years.    Continue reading


May 29 2010

questions about the challenge.

I had some questions posted on my blog from my friends about the details of the challenge.  I’m going to attempt to answer them, although I’m not sure I’ve thought of everything, you know, like the batteries.  (day 2)

The plan:

The plan is to not buy anything new, other than groceries and toiletries.  No new stuff for the house, no new clothes, no new electronics, no new toys, no new anything.  The only places we would shop would be resale shops and thrift stores.  We can buy used stuff, but only if needed.  No shopping at retail stores.  The kids and I decided Half Price Books would be okay, but only used books.

Why?

I do not want to be materialistic and I tend to justify buying stuff.  I’m not in debt, and I have the money to buy things, but I clearly don’t need more stuff.  I have seen a different world than the one where I live.  I have ventured out of the affluent bubble I live in and I can’t ignore what I’ve seen and experienced.  I’m uncomfortable with being comfortable.  I don’t want to support major superstores and mega marts.  I want to buy only what I need, when I need it and used.  I’m going to do this for an entire year.  I guess maybe I want to prove to myself that I really just don’t need so much stuff.  Food, water and shelter.  I also want to be able to have more to share.  More financial resources and more time.

Reality check!

So what happens when my kids need new clothes or shoes?  I plan to go shopping at the thrift store.  This is not a big change for me, as I buy 90% of my clothing and the boys clothing at thrift stores.  Most of my shoes have come from the thrift store, but finding shoes that are in good condition in the boys sizes isn’t going to be an easy task.

School supplies will be another challenge. I should be able to get some of them used or reuse some from last year.  I clearly didn’t think through all of this!  I did think through the important part, that part being the importance of this.  This is more of the radical, cold-turkey approach instead of just making some simple changes.  The teachers won’t be digging this explanation when it comes time to bring the brand new, pristine supplies to school.

Gifts won’t be a problem, as I can buy used books, make an art piece or donate money in someone’s name to their favorite cause.

I’m sure there are many other things I haven’t thought through.  Every day will be a reality check.  :)

What qualifies as retail?

I don’t travel much, but I do have one flight this summer.  I drive to Mexico pretty often for short-term missions.  I never really thought about the travel thing being a part of this.  I don’t travel much so I don’t think much of cutting back on it.  I always shop for the best deals on everything.  I guess there’s no such thing as a used plane ticket!  It wouldn’t get you very far if you found one.  Airlines I suppose, don’t count as retail.

The fast food thing has been on my mind a lot lately.  My kids and I went to Mooyah for my birthday last weekend.  I was so completely irritated with the large amount of paper waste in bags, cups and wrappings that it takes to eat there.  It’s not even like I had it to go.  It’s ALL made ‘to go’, doesn’t matter where you sit.  Again, ease and comfort and any cost.  And don’t get me started on the ridiculous portion sizes!  I think I’m going to add fast food places to my list of things not to do.  Restaurants without all the paper waste I will still patronize.

As for groceries, we have to eat, and yes, food is retail.  (Yes Amy, potato chips included… LOL)  My challenge excludes groceries and toiletries.  I do hope to make better choices with these purchases though, meaning containers that are better for the environment, more fresh produce and fair trade foods.  Before I buy my quarterly coffee supply, I’m going to do some research to make sure Lavazza is a fair trade coffee.

So what now?

I have a feeling I will encounter many things each day that will challenge me to be more creative in how I approach my wants and needs.  Please keep the questions coming!  We can all learn to do this together.