Apr 2 2011

what? it’s only $1,074 [day 310]

Deciding to get a pet of any kind is a big decision, not only for the responsibility associated with them, but for the expenses you will incur.  A couple of weeks ago we adopted Zuri, a 6 month-old kitten.  She’s precious and is the perfect fit for our family.  Although we adopted her from the Humane Shelter, we had to pick her up at PetSmart.

Now, adopting a pet means shopping for pet supplies.  Under the challenge rules, I can buy her food and litter, as those fall under the toiletries and groceries categories that are allowed.  I was going to need at bare minimum, a food bowl, a water bowl and a litter box with a scoop.  I was prepared to get creative.  I have bowls and lots of them.  I’m quite sure I could modify some plastic container in my garage for a litter box.  The scoop I had to ponder a little longer.  Old kitchen utensils?  Something in my garage?  After an intense thought process, I decided I would be able to make one from old coat hangers.  Yep, we were ready for a cat in every way possible.

When we went to pick up Zuri, we also picked up my friend E. because she adopted Zuri’s sister a week earlier.  As I was walking though the pet store, I had to stop and look at the senselessness of what I saw.  Gourmet canine cookies.  My kids don’t eat stuff this fancy or expensive.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to treats for pets, but this seems a bit excessive to me.  Does Fido really care if he gets the pretty little treats shaped like dog bones, dipped in colorful icing?

How about pet fashion?  Yes, Martha Stewart has come to the rescue, not only to help your pet in the fashion world, but to stylistically incorporate pets into your home.  Again, I have no problem with pet supplies, what I’m saying is this seems excessive.  Yes, a pet bed is good if they’re not sleeping in your bed.  Yes, they need bowls to eat from.  Yes, they need a toy or two.  But do they really need all this stuff?  Let’s say I bought one of everything for my new kitten.  I’ll choose middle of the line items.

My list includes such things as a UV light cat pee finder, and cat sitter DVD, a mid-sized cat scratch tower, cat repellents to tell them where they don’t belong, a bed and much more.  The total?  $1,074. And once you’ve spoiled your pet and there’s nothing new left to buy, there’s now kitty anti-depressants. Continue reading


Mar 10 2011

poverty: the stress of a downward spiral [day 287]

My rent payment is $286.  My utilities are $190 this month.  I don’t own a phone, I don’t have a job and I have a baby to take care of.  My name is Iris Isaacson… but only in this temporary make-believe world.  This world I’m speaking of is a poverty simulation, a game to teach people what it’s like to live in poverty.

I participated in this event last night.  At first, I thought it seemed like a lot of work and I wasn’t sure I wanted to be there.  In the middle of it, I was thinking, “…what a chaotic game…”, but also realizing much of it was like real life.  At the end of it, I was worn out.  I couldn’t pay my bills, the ones I did pay were late, I had to pawn my jewelry, sold my camera, and after all the hardships and paying everything late, I got evicted anyway.  Here’s a description of the simulation.

The Poverty Simulation is a simulation experience developed by the Missouri Association for Community Action. During the simulation, participants pretend to be members of a low-income community attempting to survive four 15-minute weeks of poverty. The simulation relies on role playing techniques and extensive props to help participants understand the day to day challenges faced by families living in poverty.  Continue reading


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 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.


Jan 19 2011

the clothing experiment update [day 237]

Here’s the experiment.  I decided to reduce my wardrobe by 50%.  I also threw out a mini-challenge.  Take 25 pieces of clothing from your closet, place them in a box or plastic tote.  Put it away for a month and see if you miss any of the stuff in it.  If not, take it to the thrift store.  If so, take out the item(s) you missed.  Here are some updates.

50% reduction

I still have a long way to go on achieving a 50% wardrobe reduction.  I’m close, but I still need to purge some more stuff.  I went through my drawers and got rid of about 40% of that.  I need to make my 2nd and 3rd passes there.  I also had 2 loads of dirty laundry that were not included.  I didn’t count the pieces, but just guessing, I need to get rid of about 75-100 more pieces.  I’ll do that later in the week.

my boys did the mini challenge

I had both of my kids pull 25 clothing items out of their closets.

My youngest, 10, has some emotional attachments to his clothing, and to stuff he’s never even worn. Wow, we all start this process early. He has a lot of hand-me-downs that he intends to wear. The process was not easy for him.

My oldest, 11, is way pickier than I thought. I learned a lot about him in the process. He hates yellow and thinks it makes him look like a clown. He won’t wear anything with a collar. He had a lot of clothes in the back of his closet that were too small, and some clean laundry. I thought he had a lot of clothes, but he doesn’t because his brother, being the same size, has hoarded them all.

50 pieces of clothing is going to the resale shop.  And my boys? They feel good about it. It’s easier to keep their rooms clean.

others taking the challenge

I have gotten some great responses to the mini-challenge.  Besides the several people doing it, here’s some great feedback.   Continue reading


Jan 5 2011

what retailers should you support? [day 222]

I found myself being irritated at the grocery store, stirring over the little yellow tags again.  (day 160… trained shopping monkeys)  Upon a very deliberate observation, I would guess 60% or more of the little yellow tags are ‘low price‘ tags and not ‘sale‘ tags.  How am I supposed to grocery shop for the best prices?  My kids have been yellow-tag-trained too, as they shop thinking anything with a yellow tag is one sale.  Isn’t marketing wonderful?

Even with the irritation, I have found a few retailers that are doing some really good things.  Competition is fierce and I think all retailers succumb to the manipulative marketing at some point or another.  Here’s a few retail stores I would support, you know, if I could shop.  😉  This is not a comprehensive list, just a few I’ve run into lately.

Lowe’s hardware store. Of any shopping I might miss, I do miss my home improvement / hardware stores.  I’m going to be a little generic here since I’m not sure how public this information is, as some companies do things under the radar to stay out of the corporate ball of red tape.  Lowe’s has not only donated the materials, but also the labor to add restrooms, showers and laundry facilities to a local homeless shelter.  Not only that, but finishing off the rooms, painting, and many other details too numerous to mention.  Need some screws?  Go to Lowe’s.

Again, probably under the radar, but not sure, Market Street grocery store donates a lot of leftover foods to shelters in the area.  There’s a lot of stores putting perfectly good food in dumpsters, but not MS.  Shopping at Market Street is a treat, as it’s a little on the pricey side for my shopping habits, however they carry foods you can’t find anywhere else.  Their cafe is also a great deal for lunch or dinner, as the prices are good, portions are big and the food is great.

Yes, Kroger.  Even though I’m not so happy about their little yellow tags, they still do good things for the community.  On day 55, I blogged about how Kroger gives away $1 million dollars a year to organizations that help people in need.  All you have to do is print their little bar code and have it scanned when you shop to support organizations in your area.

I don’t know the motivation of any of these stores, but I do know when I choose where to shop, I want to know I’m not just making some fat pockets for a few executives that don’t need more money.  I want to support businesses that strengthen the community, minimize waste, treat their employees well and participate in the good of people.  :)