Apr 10 2011

trash or treasure? [day 319]

There’s a lot of stuff that might be considered trash, but before you throw something away, think about the possible uses for it.  These are partially full cleaning supplies and pesticides, well, there’s also a random bottle of unopened champagne too.  Just because it’s half empty (or half full, depending on your perspective) and you don’t want it, dosen’t mean someone else can’t use it.  I list this on freecycle and it was gone in a matter of hours.  Yes, it’s my waste, but it doesn’t need to end up in a landfill or disposal center.

Before you throw things away, here’s some things to think about.

  • Repurpose. Could I repurpose this for something else?
  • Sell. Is this something that I could sell?
  • Give. Is this something I could give away?  Do I know anyone who might use this or need this?  Will a thrift store take it?  Remember, your trash might be some else’s treasure.  Put it on freecycle.  If it doesn’t go on freecycle, it might just be trash.
  • Green. What is the best environmental way to get rid of this item?  Can it be recycled?
  • Good. Is there a way to use this to bless someone else?  Can you give it to a fundraiser or charity?
  • Plan. Why did you buy this in the first place?  Have you made a plan not to buy it, or anything similar again?
  • Repurchase. If you need this item or something similar in the future, is there a smaller size or is it something you can borrow?

Yes, this is a lot to think about each time you plan to get rid of something, but if you start doing this, it will change your habits.  It will be easier to get rid of things because you will have a process and your shopping habits will change, as you will think long-term about something before you buy it.  It’s a win-win.  :)


Mar 28 2011

mental gymnastics [day 305]

Buy one, purge one.

I’ve been practicing my “buy one, purge one” philosophy and it’s going well.  I was hoping to photograph all of the items, however that would take a lot of time.  I am doing it though.  I don’t shop near as much as I used to.  Even though I purchased things from a thrift store, it was still buying a lot of junk I didn’t need.  Now I’m much more selective and I buy much less, especially knowing I will have to get rid of something every time I buy something.  It’s a good plan and it’s not been a struggle at all.

I bought 2 pairs of shoes, a pair of jeans and a pair of swim trunks at the thrift store a few weeks ago.  I needed a pair of dress shoes that were comfortable.  I found just the right pair and I bought another pair that were on sale for $2.00.  I came home and got rid of 2 pairs of shoes.  The jeans, girl’s size 16, fit me, but a little snug.  I bought them with the intention of wearing them if I could, but if not, using them to repair some of my other jeans.  The boys needed a pair of swim trunks, as they’ve been fighting over the one pair they have.  I actually got rid of a lot of clothing, not just 2 pieces.  I’ll be blogging that soon.

Just a few days ago, I bought some throw pillows for my patio swing.  I’ve been wanting some because I love the swing this time of year and I like to lay on it and read.  Considering I got the swing for free from a friend and the cushions free from a dumpster, spending a few bucks at a thrift store on pillows seemed okay.  They’re the same fabric as my patio chairs and are from Pottery Barn, so they cost someone a lot of money.  I plan to dye or paint the unbleached cotton cushions.  So what am I getting rid of?  My colorful tile pot (that’s broken), some of my solar lights (a few that don’t work) and the shiny rocks (that are serving no purpose whatsoever).

Buy one, purge one is not difficult.  It’s a good feeling to know I’m not going to be accumulating more stuff when I do shop and it makes me walk away from many things I would have purchased with my old shopping habits.

Snap one, show one.

I started a quirky little habit.  I take photos of the things I considered buying, but chose not to.  I snap a photo and I show it here on my blog.  Here’s a couple of pics.  To the left are 4 square glass tables.  I thought these would be nice for my patio.  Mental gymnastics:

  • What would I get rid of?
  • Do I want to clean these?
  • Will I maintain the plants I want to put on them?
  • Where will I get the plants?  The pots?
  • Are these made for outdoor use?
  • Do I really want to spend $70?

I thought about all of that in less than a minute and easily decided against them.  Next was 2 latte mugs, the polka dot one and the orange rimmed one.  It’s rare to find oversized mugs.  Here we go again.  More mental gymnastics for he sake of consumerism.

  • Do I like these mugs?
  • Do I need these mugs?
  • What will I get rid of?
  • Do I need more dishes to wash?
  • How many cups can I use at one time?
  • How do these fit into my minimalist approach to downsizing?
  • Do they coordinate with my mismatched collection?
  • Do I really want to spend money on these?

Again, in less than a minute, I walked away from these.  I like the new habits.  They aren’t painful at all.  I haven’t quit shopping, but I’m spending my money less frequently and more wisely.  Time to kick it up another notch?  Probably so.


Mar 26 2011

grocery shopping update [day 304]

I’ve gotten a few questions on my new grocery shopping plan.  I shop more frequently, but buying less, limiting myself to 25 items or less.  You can read the story about the downsizing and new shopping plan that was published in early February 2011.  Take a look.

Here’s the before and after photos of my pantry.  The after was taken a couple of weeks ago and even has less in there today.  I don’t have photos of the refrigerator or freezer, but they are sparse as well.  Here’s some of the results or the new way of shopping.

Money savings.

I started shopping at Aldi versus Kroger, Tom Thumb, WalMart or Target.  That, coupled with the 25 items or less, has produced the following monetary results.  These amount reflect groceries, the occasional toiletry items and some wine.

February 2011: $268.95

March 2011 (so far, 1 week left): $149.89

I started this in mid January, so I didn’t look at that month.  Here’s what I spent the 2 months prior.  Continue reading


Mar 26 2011

it’s alien poo out of an alien dumpster! [day 303]

Maybe I’m a mean mom, but I make my kids try new foods.  I don’t make them eat it if they don’t like it and I don’t go out of my way to get things that will gross them out.  Both of them like pistachio nuts so I thought I would make some pistachio pudding for dessert.  Here’s what happened.

Let me just defend myself here.  I have never fed my kids anything out of a dumpster.  I get food from grocery stores and I don’t know any aliens.  I don’t like food waste, so I bought just one box of pudding, however my timing on it wasn’t great.  I was going out of town the next day and since nobody liked it, it sat in my fridge for 5 days.  I guess the aliens came in peace though, as this is the shape the pudding cracked into.

Okay, so I added the little piece at the bottom between the two small lines, but it looked like a peace sign when I pulled it out, as the other 3 lines were cracked in.  So what’s the best way to avoid food waste with kids?  Here’s a few tips.

  • Small portions. When eating out, I sometimes make them share or order small quantities because we can always order more.  At home, I let them fill their own plates with the understanding that they must eat what they put on it.
  • Plan leftovers. If you go out, don’t get food that will taste bad as leftovers.  French fries are just gross as leftovers.  Order something that you or your kids will eat the next day.  At home, make extras of the foods that will keep well as leftovers and cook only what will be eaten on the right-now foods.
  • Let your kids cook. I don’t do this often enough, but if they help in the meal planning and cooking, they’re more apt to eat it.

This won’t eliminate waste, but it sure will cut it down to an extreme minimum.  It also never hurts to communicate your grocery budget to the kids and let them shop.  Keep in mind this can backfire when your 10 and 11 year-olds go to the neighbors house and tell them they’re spending way too much money on groceries, telling them everything they know about saving money when buying food.  I’ve found that works better than the ‘starving-kids-in-other-countries’ talk.  If we’re less wasteful, we’ll have more resources to help others.


Dec 16 2010

what are you getting your kids for Christmas if you can't retail shop? [day 204]

I’ve been asked a lot, “…what are you getting your kids for Christmas if you can’t shop?”  Here’s the answer you’ve all been waiting for.  I can shop, it just has to be pre-owned things, so here’s the plan.

Half Price Books. I got my kids each a gift card for $10 from Half Price Books.  They have a lot of used books to choose from, although I do allow my kids to retail shop, but only with their own money.  They love used books as much as I do.

Right after making this purchase, we got the Angel Tree list from each of their classes at school.  We always participate, but this year, we can’t buy the things on the list.  Instead of buying things on the list, I gave the cards I bought for the kids, then replaced them a week later.  Hopefully the cards might encourage the love of reading and buying things used.

Game Stop. Game Stop also carries used items, game systems, video games and accessories.  My kids both have a Nintendo DS and and an old Gameboy.  They together have an old Xbox and a Wii.  The great thing is that they enjoy the old gaming systems as much as the newer ones.  As a matter of fact, one of my friends saw my son playing with his old, beat up Gameboy and offered to give him a DS he wasn’t using.  I, of course, explained that he has one.  My kids are not technology deprived.  I don’t buy the best and newest stuff, I encourage them to use what they have.  I bought each of them gift cards with $20 on them.

Thrift store. I bought them some clothes at the thrift store.  They know their clothes come from there, and that’s the norm in our family.  This might sem a bit odd.  It’s not that I want them to not experience Christmas like their friends do, but I want them to hopefully think of it a little differently than what they learn in our culture.  Besides, they’re boys and they could care less about clothes, as long as they have some to wear.  The younger one is a little bit picky, but overall, they’re pretty easy in that department.  I got jeans, t-shirts and pajama bottoms.  I also found a camo water bottle and a school planner, both of which the kids asked for.  I also found a few cool books for them too.  Oh yeah, I also bought myself a robe.  See?  Even I’ve been culturally trained that I must have a gift under the tree.

amazon.com. There’s some specific books they both wanted, so we went online, found them used and ordered them.  Yes, they know what they’re getting, but that’s how we roll.  We don’t wrap anything either, we stick it under the tree in the box or envelope it was shipped in.  It’s more economical and environmentally friendly.

I posted a Santa Claus flashback from my blog last year and added a little bit to it this year.  It addresses some of the questions about gifts, Santa and kids, questions that most of us ponder when Christmas planning.


Oct 13 2010

gee, that will look great in my garage… [day 140]

The challenge seemed to go quickly at first, now it feels a little slower.  Things I might buy if I could, right now:

  • A gas regulator for my grill. It’s still having some issues.
  • Stain for my house. I want to stain my bright orange bricks like I did in the back.
  • Paint. For my house and for art.  I don’t need much, but I would buy a few tubes here and there when they’re on sale.
  • Camera remote. A remote shutter release for stop motion videos.

Okay, so the list isn’t very long.  I don’t miss the mall, as a matter of fact, I can’t stand the mall.  I don’t miss retail stores much either, although it would be nice to just go in there and simply buy something when needed.  The no retail shopping takes work when you need some small little item, like for a house repair or for the kids school projects.  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.