Feb 27 2011

give some, get none [day 277]

Yesterday, I spent the early part of the day running errands before work.  Most of them were driving the Infiniti sleigh, full of donations, to all of the required destinations for drop-off.  I started at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, dropping off my old back door, extra slate tiles and a bag of hardware.  I went inside to look for a new front door.  The style I want, the size and that fact it needs to be used is making it difficult to find one.  Yesterday I found 3, and 2 of which I liked, but I decided not to purchase one.  I don’t need it and I’ve spent a lot of money on my house lately.

Next stop was the purple thrift store in McKinney, benefiting the Samaritan Inn.  I dropped off a few bags of my stuff, a box of stuff from work and two bags from my friends.  Of course I had to go inside, but I did it with my new minimalist trajectory.  Here’s what I didn’t buy.  2 blue ceramic bowls.  I thought about buying them because we don’t use paper plates or plastic utensils, even when entertaining, so I tend to keep more of these in the house.  I have all solid colored mis-matched dishes.  I chose not to buy them, as I really don’t entertain that much and I didn’t need them.  Just saved $2.  The other thing I didn’t buy was a metal orange tray for $3.  My kids like to occasionally use a tray to eat upstairs, which I allow about 2 times a year.  We have a plastic red tray, and I didn’t need the orange tray.  No need for 2 of anything like that.  I probably don’t even need to keep the red tray.  I didn’t need anything in there, so I left without buying anything.  Time for my next stop.

I decided to go to Half Price Books since I had a pile of books I didn’t need.  I’ve sold books to them in the past and I swore I would never do it again.  For the number of books, the value of them as used books and the condition, I always felt financially raped when I left there after selling books.  I thought this time I’ll go in, sell my stuff and be prepared for any amount of money I might get.  I gave them 8 classic novels, 4 current magazines, 1 current novel, 3 cookbooks and other miscellaneous books.  23 pieces in all.

All of these are used, my best estimate is $40.00 out of pocket.  Since it was a weekend, Half Price was busy so I had to wait a little while for them to process my stuff.  That was no problem, as I wanted to look around a little bit.  I was hoping to find some books on hoarding or materialism, but to no avail.  I looked on the ‘housekeeping / organization’ shelf first.  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


Oct 4 2010

ounce for ounce, drugs might be cheaper [day 130]

Today is my oldest son’s birthday.  We had a barbecue for him last night with some of our close friends.  It was great!  So you might be curious, wanting to know what was different about his birthday with the shopping challenge.  Here they are.

Gifts.

I gave him a budget to shop on eBay for his gift from me.  It pained me to hit the “bid now” button, as the thing he wanted seemed extremely overpriced.  It’s a little Lego guy, used, and including shipping was $27.50.  Ouch!  He’s not even 2″ tall!  Ounce for ounce, I think a drug habit might be cheaper than Legos!

He got many other Lego and Star Wars sets for his birthday.  On of his friends got him a set of rechargeable batteries, because of the challenge, I can’t buy any for him.

Paper plates.

I think I might write a book about the social expectation of paper plates.  I don’t use them (see previous blog post) but there’s a cultural presumption that all parties or get togethers must have paper plates.  A few of my friends offered to go get some, then made some funny jokes about shredding and recycling them.  LOL!  Little do they know how I deal with paper towels!  I took out my roll and let them use my version of paper napkins.

I have way more dishes than most people, as I know I won’t use paper plates, and all of my dishes are mismatched.  If one breaks, I buy a replacement at the thrift store and add the broken ones to my mosaic tile bin.  It’s all good.  :)

Theme?

Cole asked for a Lego themed party.  I looked at him and right away he knew.  He said, “…oh yeah, that would be wasteful…”  He wasn’t disappointed either, it just clicked in his head that it’s not necessary and he’s just as happy without all the decorations and extra stuff.

Choices.

My kids get a birthday dinner at the place of their choice.  Of course, Gatti Town was his choice.  He also wanted donuts for his whole class.  I made him choose between the two.  He chose the donuts.  (happy dance!)  That saved me a lot of money and a bunch of silly plastic junk will not be coming home tonight.  (more happy dance…)


Aug 21 2010

paper vs. plastic paper [day 85]

Paper plates.  Can you call them that anymore?  Most of them are made from paper with plastic coatings, foam or plastic.  I choose not to use them most of the time, but going camping, I figured that’s not a bad idea.  I thought back to my girl scout days and remembered a camping trip where I had a canteen and some little metal dishes in a nylon mesh bag.  We didn’t use a bunch of disposable stuff, we ate and washed our dishes.  I don’t remember it being much of a hassle.

So off to the grocery store for food.  Just for the record, I did not buy the paper plates, as that’s not on my challenge list of acceptable things to buy.   I know they make environmentally friendly paper plates, but I didn’t see any.  I thought I would just select a small pack of paper plates with no plastic coating, lining, prints or any other special features.  My thoughts?  Simple paper shouldn’t be too bad for landfills.

So here are my choices, well, I can’t call it that, it was one choice.  A 300 count pack of paper plates.  No small packs, just the jumbo size.  We got it, figuring I could bring the extras to work or use them for art projects or something.

Paper plates are not evil. I’m blogging this for a couple of reasons, not because I have disposable plate issues.  So what are the reasons?  This is shopping in general, not just paper plates.  😉

  • The paradox of choice: we have a selection of many types, but do we have a good selection?  Is there another place to shop that might have better choices?
  • Is there an alternative to what we are buying? This might not be necessary in many cases, but it’s a good thought process.  My choice is not to use paper plates because I want to minimize my use of disposable paper, plastic and foam products.  At home, I have all mismatched dishes.  I have a lot so I can entertain and still have many plates and bowls, and if one breaks, I simply buy more at the thrift store.
  • Am I willing to go without? Sometimes no, but sometimes yes.  By thinking about it, I can make better use of my money and find creative ways to not need as much stuff.

Want to know the kicker here?  A raccoon, probably the one that ate our loaf of bread, got into the paper plates and approximately 150 of them were all over the camp site.  Raccoons are evil.  😉