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 18 2011

heaven has a 30-day return policy [day 268]

What!??!?!  I can’t hear you, the angels are singing to loudly.  The Habitat for Humanity ReStore is heaven on earth… it’s a giant hardware building supply store, but all used stuff.  I found some of the home repair stuff I’ve been needing… okay, and one want thing.

Doorknobs. I found a few used brushed nickel doorknobs in the sea of brass knobs, and installed them on the most used doors last night.  A little goof-off and they look brand new.  I guess all the knobs won’t match, but that’s okay.  I’ll place matching ones where you can see other doors.  It’s all good.

Light fixtures. I found a replacement fixture for the laundry room light, basically to replace the one that shoots sparks when you try to replace the bulb.  Definitely a need.  I also found an outside light fixture to replace the weathered, broken one by my front door.  It still works, but it looks terrible.  As a matter of fact, terrible might be an understatement.

A new (used) door. I’ve needed a new backdoor since I moved in the house.  Either the people that lived here before me had some extreme tempers or the evil spirits were trying to exit the house, as the bottom of the door is bent outward.  The three layers of weatherstripping doesn’t even fill the gap.  And who invented the little criss cross crap on these doors?  It’s hard to paint and impossible to clean.  I will not miss this door.  I will donate it in case someone needs the glass or the criss cross plastic piece that I detest.

The Habitat ReStore had a lot of great doors.  And being the fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants person, I had no measurements for any of my doors that need replacing.  As I flipped through the rows of doors, I saw many I liked, but none that I thought would fit.  Then at the end of the aisle, I heard the angels getting a little bit louder.  There it was.  My new back door.  It looked to be the perfect size, as I visualized myself walking through it.  No criss cross crap, a few blemishes which meant a good price, clearly used and perfect.  But what if I’m wrong about the size?  No problem, as there’s a 30 day return policy.

My door is not installed yet, as it will need new hinges, but I already sanded it, my painter repaired it and painted it, so it’s ready for its new, loving home.  It will still have the ugly brass hardware, but at some point heaven will have brushed nickel.

Okay, so maybe the heaven references are a bit much, but it’s great to know that this stuff isn’t in a landfill and it’s all going to be used.  This new backdoor is not what would be considered perfect condition, but it’s 1000 times better than the one I had.  If you replace something in your house, and the old items still have some life left in them, please consider donating the items to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.  They’re doing many great things.  :)


Jan 24 2011

how many kids does it take to screw in a light bulb? [day 244]

My kids keep leaving lights on all the time.  Mostly in their rooms, but also other rooms, where I don’t have energy efficient lighting.  They weren’t always this way.  To make a point about electric costs and being wasteful, I used to charge them 25¢ each time they left a light on in the bathroom or in their bedroom.  At first, it was a nice offset to my utility bill, as they left the lights on frequently.  After a period of time, I got less money, as their habits started to change.  Over time, I stopped asking for payments, and over more time, their habits returned to forgetting to turn off lights and being wasteful again.  Time to regroup.

I could start charging them again, but I felt we needed something different.  Light bulb!!!  I had an idea.  I will educate them by showing them the utility bill, explain kilowatt hours and challenging them to a low utility bill.  If it’s lower than our projected amount, they get a fun dinner at Gattitown.  Also, because I thought they needed something tangible and a little out of pocket cost, I made them each buy 2 boxes of CF light bulbs.  This would allow me to switch out more of the bulbs we use frequently to save on energy costs.

We got the bulbs at Aldi.  They’re much cheaper there than anywhere else I could find.  You don’t have to buy yours there, but at least look to find them on sale, as many of the major retailers will run sales on them.  Aldi’s prices are half of what the other retailers charge for these.   I couldn’t find much info on this On brand off brand.  Ha!  Get it?  So far, these work as well as the other brands I have.  And I do have some of these I’ve been using for a while and they work great.

First, we replaced the 6 bulbs in the kids bathroom.  I replaced them with only 4 bulbs, and it’s still to bright, so much that the kids are complaining about it.  I’ll take one out, and that will have decreased the bathroom lighting cost overall by 87.5%.  Then I replaced all the lamp bulbs and the lights over my stove top.  I tried to replace the kitchen halogen lights, which have the standard bulb socket, however these won’t work, as the ballast on the bulb is too large to fit in the opening.  Bummer, because that would have been the biggest savings of all.

And don’t worry, I found a good home for all of the old bulbs, as they shouldn’t go to waste.  :)


Jan 16 2011

light bulb! an idea or just simply for light [day 234]

My friend that had the flood finally got to move back into her house yesterday.  As I was helping, I noticed the old bathroom light fixture sitting in the trash, with all of the old light bulbs still in it.  With the challenge, I can’t buy light bulbs, so I gladly unscrewed them all, placed them in an unwanted pink basket and brought them home.  I have 2 lamps that need bulbs.

I want to switch my bulbs over to the compact fluorescent energy saving bulbs, but that requires purchasing them.  It’s great to do this, but throwing away good bulbs seems like a bad idea to me.  I plan to switch them out as they burn out, as they are better for the environment and they use 25% of the energy of standard incandescent bulbs.

I decided to count the number of bulbs and the types that I have in my house.  Here’s the analysis.  (Whatever, it only took 5 minutes)

  • Incandescent – 43
  • Compact Fluorescent – 23
  • LED – 13
  • Halogen – 24
  • Low Watt – 8
  • Fluorescent tubes – 2

Dang!  I have a lot of lights in my house!  Only 41% of my lighting is energy efficient.  Using an energy star calculator, replacing all of the non-energy efficient bulbs in my house would cost just under $500, retail price.  The halogens would pay for themselves in 1 year in energy savings.  The incandescents will pay for themselves in 14 months.  So the big question is, do you replace them right away or do you replace them as they burn out?  Or some people might even be wondering if they should replace them at all?  What are the pros and cons here?  Let’s put these bulbs head to head and see what makes the most sense.

Pros: switching to energy efficient lighting

  • Saves money on your energy consumption. Up to 75% savings on CF’s and 90% on LED’s.
  • Much better for the environment. LED’s have no toxic materials in them and require no special disposal procedures.  CF’s help prevent the greenhouse effect and global warming.
  • Lamp life. LED’s last ten’s of thousands of hours, CF’s last approximately 6,000-15,000 hours, incandescents last approximately 750-1,250 hours, halogens last approximately 2,000 hours.  The life span of energy efficient bulbs are substantially longer than the non-energy efficient bulbs.  This makes the initial higher cost of the bulb a good value.
  • Costs. When factoring the bulb costs and the energy costs together, these save a lot of money in the long run.

Cons: switching to energy efficient lighting

  • The bulbs cost a lot more to purchase. The purchase price is higher, usually 2 to 5 times more.  The upfront cost is more, although the long term savings should be taken into consideration.
  • Lights on. CF’s take time to “warm up” and the light gets to it’s full brightness in about a minute.  For some people this is an issue, but I’ve gotten used to it.  It’s actually nice in the morning when you first wake up not to have bright lights in your face.
  • Lighting ambiance. LED’s light lacks in brightness and because of the light temperature, has a bluish hue to them.  Incandescents have a warm, yellow light.  Incandescents also have directional capabilities that the others don’t have, which is why you see a lot of halogen fixtures in stores and restaurants.  Lots of progress is being made with the energy efficient bulbs in this respect.
  • Disposal. Disposal of CF bulbs is tricky, as they contain a small amount of mercury.

For me, the pros outweigh the cons.  I will continue to replace the bulbs as they burn out with energy efficient bulbs when I can.  When the shopping challenge is over, I’ll consider replacing a portion of these that are in fixtures I use frequently.  Some of the accent lighting fixtures I don’t use often can wait.

Disposal and recycling issues. The recycling and disposal of the CF’s is still not easy.  (Jason, better late than never on this post)  Although there are many recycling programs, there aren’t many drop off places and the city recycling program doesn’t pick these up from your house.  It’s just not easy to dispose of these bulbs right now.  There are, however, two major retailers that participate in the recycling and disposal of these bulbs.  They are The Home Depot and Ikea.  Yes, it’s a little bit of work to save your bulbs and take them to the store, but you can plan it with a needed trip to that store.  Get together with you neighbors and take turns making a “bulb disposal run” each month.   Given the life span of these bulbs, it’s not a huge time sacrifice, and given the size of them, it’s not much of a space sacrifice either.  :)


Nov 28 2010

paint the town red… or just settle for painting my bathroom brown [day 186]

I’m on vacation this week, or as some might call it, a staycation.  I have a few projects to get done around the house, things I can do without spending money or shopping.  I have about 10 outlets that need replacing, as they won’t hold a plug.  I have all the stuff in the grage to do this task, and I have for about 2 years now.  I even have the black one that goes on my fireplace, nicely matching the slate tile.

What I would really like to do is finish up a few painting projects.  I can’t do this without buying paint, and I can’t buy paint, as that would be retail shopping.  The only room that really needs painting badly is my master bath.  It’s been 80% painted for the entire 4 years I’ve been in the house.  The water closet room still has the original mid 90’s southwest style wallpaper and border with popcorn ceilings.  Now I have paint, lots of paint, but not enough of any one color to do a room.  My paint is leftovers from home projects, church projects, oops paint, hand-me-down paint… you get the picture.  I also have a wall to paint in the upstairs loft room.  I guess I’ll just have to get creative!  I have enough red paint to paint the town red, but not enough other colors to do what I would like to in the house.  I’ll keep you posted.  :)