Apr 5 2011

function over form [day 313]

When you own a lot of stuff, especially anything with electronic parts, you’re going to have some maintenance to do.  Some will be planned, some will not.  Here’s a few things I’ve been thinking about buying if I could.

Car fuses.

I blew a fuse in my car.  It’s the fuse to the interior dome lights, but worse than that, it’s also the fuse to my garage door opener.  I don’t have any extra fuses so I’m living without these things.  It’s not so bad, as it’s teaching me to appreciate the small things in life.  I’ve never appreciated that machine that opens my garage door.  Now I use the back door instead of the garage door.  It’s less electricity, and the only time it’s a real hassle is if it’s raining or we’re bringing home groceries.

A water filter.

I would buy a water filter for my Softub.  Although yesterday, I moved the tub into its new location on the patio and now the GFCI plug isn’t working.  Gor $75 I can buy a new one, however the Softub tech isn’t even sure that’s the problem.  I’m going to take it apart and see for myself, but then what are the chances of finding a used part like that?  I’m guessing slim to none.  Not sure what I’m going to do if I can’t get it working.  I definitely will not be selling it, as I use it a lot.

A grill.

Yes, I finally got tired of fighting with my temperamental Brinkmann grill and I sold it on craigslist.  What?  You want to know what I got for it?  $60 cash.  It retailed new for $1,100, I paid $69.99 approximately 2 years ago.  In that time, the burners were replaced and the gas valve with tubing was replaced.  Even with the replacement parts, it was always a mystery as why it would work some of the time, but not all of the time.  I just got tired of fighting with it.  And yes, I sold it “as is” with a full disclosure of the issues I had with it.

As I was researching new grills (planing to buy one used), I came across this really cool looking grill.  It’s a Fuego Element, it’s designer a previous Apple product designer.  After some research, it seems as though this sexy looking grill is just not the easiest to use.  The top gets hot and it’s not attached so you have to place the hot lid somewhere when cooking.  The cast iron grates need care to prevent them from rusting.  In my efforts to downsize, this grill is super-appealing in its size.  But do I want the maintenance?

I looked at many other grills, I’ve read consumer reports on them, but I’m still unsure of my next grill purchase.  I used my old one a lot and got my money’s worth, but I want something smaller and simple.  I’m also looking at a Minden grill.  This is unique, as you can add features to it later like a side burner and ice chest.  The reviews are good, but it’s so new, there aren’t any used ones available.

I’m still deciding what to do about all of these situations.  The no shopping is making it a hassle for the small things, like the fuses, but it’s provoking some creativity in finding solutions for the big things.  I’ll keep you posted on the outcome of these situations.  I’m prioritizing function over form, but that’s easier said than done sometimes.


Apr 4 2011

mom!! the ice cream truck!! [day 312]

I have really come to hate the taunting music played from the ice cream truck, getting louder as it gets closer to my house.  As soon as I hear the fain sounds of it, I know what’s next.  Mom!!!!!  The ice cream truck!!!!!!  My kids know I’m not a fan of the van filled with overpriced, well advertised sugar products, stopping to fill the air with carbon monoxide and invading my territory.  While I was away and had a sitter, they went to the truck.  My youngest, knowing I would not be happy about this, decided to make something good out of it.  He decide to get something that was in a container we could reuse, and he also talked all his friends into doing the same.

We use these little containers in our lunch bags.  I did not end here.  The next time the ice cream truck came by, I said, “No.”  After much deliberation, I decided to have some fun with this.  I let him go out and get some ice cream from the truck.  I think I freaked out my neighbors, but here’s what happened…

 

 

I haven’t checked at Kroger yet to see if they carry Popsicle Shots, but I’ll be checking today.  I’m all about people making a living in creative ways, and the ice cream truck driver is a good way to make some money.  It’s like fast food that comes to your house with dessert.  I never buy this for my kids, I make them use their own money.  If they feel good about the purchase, then I’ll go with it.  I don’t always say yes to the ice cream truck, but I don’t always say no.  Balance.  It’s all about balance.

 


Mar 30 2011

I don’t need no stinkin’ plastic liners [day 307]

I quit using plastic garbage bags, or any type of plastic lining in my trash cans.  Why?  I just don’t see why we need to place trash in plastic bags, taking much longer for it to decompose in a landfill.  I thought back to my kids earlier diaper days and the Diaper Genie.  I had one and used it for about a week, but I never understood why it was a good idea to turn dirty diapers into plastic sausage links.  It made no sense to me whatsoever.

I have, what most people consider, a very small trash can and recycling bin in my house.  They’re so small they fit under the sink cabinet.  They’re both plastic bins, making them easy to wash and they don’t leak.  Also, the small size makes them easy for my kids to empty into the outdoor containers.

I ran out of plastic liners a few months ago.  I decided to try going linerless.  It felt a little weird at first, but soon I started to wonder why I ever used plastic liners in the first place.  They really don’t do anything other than make the trash less biodegradable.  If I have some wet trash, typically food, I can place that in another piece of trash like a plastic wrapper from another piece of food.  This new system has been good.  No issues to report.  Buying things to purposely throw away is making less and less sense to me.

Here’s a few things I’ve learned in this process and a few tips I’ve picked up in researching this topic.

Biodegradable garbage bags. These bags cost a bit more, but if you absolutely need a trash liner, this is a good way to go.

Repurpose shopping bags. Instead of buying bags, reuse the ones you get from shopping.  They’re usually not big, but just consider it a motivation to cut down on the amount of trash you produce.  Use these for the ‘wet trash’ only when needed.

Learn what can and can’t be recycled. You would be surprised at the list of what can and can’t go into the recycling bin.  Pizza boxes?  No, because they have grease on them.  Styrofoam?  Yes, they started recycling this a couple of years ago.  I’ve found that most waste can be recycled.  We fill up our recycle bin way before the trash bin.

Separate your trash into bins. Some people have a compost-type bin for food trash, separate from the regular trash.  I have a separate bin for plastic caps so I can take them to Aveda for recycling.  I don’t do composting yet, but the change in our grocery shopping habits yield way less waste and trash.

Consider composting. I’m still considering it.  :)

Repurpose you trash.  If you need a liner for something, use a bread wrapper or potato chip bag.  You’re not adding anything to the trash and you’re not spending money buying fancy plastic liners to make your trash more attractive for the garbage truck.

Use plastic washable containers. Get rid of the metal trash cans, use small plastic ones, then you won’t need liners.

If you’re not sure about this, try it for a week.  You can always go back to using liners.  If nothing else, you’re saving money on trash.

 


Mar 19 2011

no retail shopping faq’s [day 296]

Since I’m moving toward the end of this challenge, I’ve been hearing a lot of questions.  Time for a quick FAQ’s update.  I’m going to write the answers to some of these questions in tweetable segments.

Wow.  I could never do no retail shopping.  How are you doing it?

NO RETAIL SHOPPING motivation & benefits outweigh discomfort & inconvenience. #ilovetheresults #saved$ #+time #lessstress #trashsociety

Are you going to do a big shopping spree on the day you can shop again?

NO, no shopping spree. http://trashsociety.com NO retail shopping #1year #minimalism #happy #lessstuff

Is there anything you would buy new right now if you could?

a $3 part to fix a light switch. #similarsmallitems #notavailablenew http://trashsociety.com

possibly a pair of TOMS shoes. http://wp.me/p1jNEP-Fx #oneforone #toms #good

Are you going to write a book after you finish this?

Yes. #yes http://trashsociety.com #unlessGodhasabiggerplan #book #ebooks

You’re radical.  Do you really expect others to do this?

not in the radical way as I am. many r participating on smaller levels w/ HUGE RESULTS. http://trashsociety.com #goodintheworld

How does this work with food?  Do you eat used food?

yes, I eat used food. SERIOUSLY? no, I don’t eat used food. #newfood #shopwithbetterchoices #startingagarden

I still don’t get it.

TRY IT on a small scale. #try1tinything #1smallchange #thentalktome http://trashsociety.com

These are some of the most popular questions, and at some point, I should list some of the responses I get.  I’ve had people tell me everything from it takes way too much time to do these things and I don’t care to the economy will collapse if everyone does this and nobody cares.  I don’t think I can single-handedly collapse the economy and if nobody cared I wouldn’t have a huge number of people reading my blog.  Yes, I’m radical, but through my radicalness, I’m trying to make a point that people can do some small things that will benefit them and the rest of the world.  Many thanks to all who read this stuff and make a few small changes along the way.  :)


Mar 8 2011

dumpster surfing [day 286]

I dropped off several bags at the Goodwill trailer, and the only logical exit is to drive behind the shopping center.  It’s a strip mall with a grocery store, a couple of restaurants and lots of small mom and pop type stores.  As we were driving around back to head home, I saw a bunch of clothes thrown in front of a dumpster.  I’m really not sure why the person that threw them out there didn’t place them in the dumpster, but I decided before I eve got out of the car that these needed to be used, not end up in a landfill.

Now don’t get me wrong, had any of these been my size or anything I needed, I would have taken them.  I guess instead of dumpster diving, we could call this dumpster surfing.  My son who was with me was not all that impressed that we were going to pick these up and take them back to the Goodwill trailer.  He reluctantly helped me load them in the car.  It didn’t take long, and the clothes were all in good condition.  At least they won’t be in a landfill.

I’m guessing these were rejects from the Plato’s Closet store in the strip mall.  Anyway, they found a good place.  Surfing is good.


Mar 7 2011

go to your happy place [day 284]

I have many happy places, as well as many non-happy places.  I guess we all have those lists.  Sitting in my hot tub, happy place.  Going to the mall, not a happy place.  Jumping on the trampoline, happy place.  Driving in traffic, not a happy place.  Going to the beach, happy place.  Going to a snowy place, not happy.  Some happy places are obvious, while others are not.  One of my happy places is being in an abandoned house or building.  It sounds crazy, but take a look.

This is an abandoned church up in Maine.  It was locked up tight, so no inside time here, but it was a beautiful day and many photo opportunities outside.  It’s so peaceful, yet mysterious.  I also got to spend some quality time with a great friend here.

Some of the best happy places don’t cost money, there’s no admission and can be a spontaneous thing to do.  I have a happy place with my kids.  When the weather permits twice a year, in the fall and in the spring, we sleep outside on the trampoline.   My happy place in my house is standing in front to my latte machine in the kitchen.  No, it’s not in anticipation of the steamed, frothy greatness that I’m about to drink.  It’s because there’s a small rug there to warm my feet from the cold floor and the heater vent gently blows a soft breeze of warm air, wrapping me in an invisible blanket.  I stand there every morning and count my blessings.  Occasionally, one of those little blessings will stand there with me if  he’s awake, as it’s his happy place too.

Some of the best things in life are free.  Enjoy them.  Where is your happy place?  I’m going to mine right now, you should too.


Feb 24 2011

kitchen utensils [minimalist challenge item #7]

[item] A scoop, small condiment tongs and a wooden butter brush

[purchase info] The scoop and tongs were free, paid full price for the butter brush

[time in my possession] Approximately 8 years on the tongs and brush, scoop 1 month

[last used] Tongs, years ago.  Scoop, never.  Brush, 2 months ago.

[difficulty level in getting rid of it] Easy

[destination] Thrift store

[info] I got the scoop for free in a bag of other stuff.  I simply don’t need it.  The tongs I think were marriage-acquired and not needed.  The butter brush is one of two that I have.  I’m not Rachel Ray and I clearly don’t need a back up brush.


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


Jan 17 2011

airing my dirty laundry… and clean laundry [day 235]

I promised you dirty laundry, so here it is.  There’s actually more of it, but this is my basket.  My kids have one upstairs too.  So why an I showing you this?  I have no idea, other than it seemed like a fun title for this blog post.

I was thinking a few days ago how ridiculous it is that I have as many clothes as I do.  I have a relatively small closet, at least considered small by Frisco standards.  It’s a walk-in for skinny people.  I thought, “What if I got rid of half of my clothing?”  Helping my friend move back into her house, and helping her purge clothing from her son’s outgrown wardrobe, was the final push I needed to do this.

I decided to do it.  Get rid of half of my clothes.  Going into this, I had no idea if this would be easy or difficult.  Will it feel like a sacrifice?  Let’s see…

Let’s start with my closet.  I have approximately 278 pieces of clothing in there, so I will need to purge 139 pieces.  The first pass through the closet yielded 84 pieces of clothing.  Not bad for a first pass, but still a pretty long way to go.

The second pass, which was a little bit difficult, yielded 28 pieces of clothing.  This pass felt a little bit like a sacrifice, but when I thought about it, most of this is stuff I don’t wear anymore.  This batch included my pair of mismatched shoes, as they’re too small and hurt my feet.  Sad about those, but it makes sense to pass them on.  These will go to the first person that asks for them (size 7.5), as the thrift store would pitch them in the trash thinking they need exact matches.  Continue reading


Jan 12 2011

free polypropylene [day 229]

Instead of buying ziplock plastic baggies and other plastic containers, I like to reuse containers I already have.  Instead of placing my plastic sour cream containers, margarine containers or other food containers directly into the recycling bin, I wash them and use them for other things.

  • Leftovers. These are great for leftovers.  If you want to send something home with a friend, you don’t have to worry about getting your container back.  Great for work too, if you’re like me and forget to bring the containers home.
  • Paint. Great for small amounts of touch up paints.
  • Freezer containers. Make extra food and freeze it for lunches or quick microwave meals.  (never reheat in the plastic containers)
  • Recycle containers. Use a small container to keep small lids for recycling.  Aveda will recycle all of these for you.
  • Hardware. These are great for storing nails, screws, washers and other hardware items.
  • Art supplies. These can be used for storing art supplies or used as water containers for paint brushes.
  • Toys. These are great for storing kids toys that have small parts.  They’re easy to open and close, also making them great for the car.  Less toys under the seats.
  • Pantry storage. Use these containers to store food that comes in unsealable plastic bags.  I buy rice in the large bulk bag and store it in an old pretzel container.
  • Other uses. I’m sure there are many more uses for these.  Just think what might be a good second or third use of something before recycling it.

Let me address the question you’re all waiting to add to the comments section.  “Aren’t plastic containers bad for your health?”  Yes, some of them are.  I looked up these types of containers, as pictured above, and they are made of polypropylene.  Without getting too technical, the symbol on these containers is the one pictured on the left, and there’s no proven health risks on this type.  The containers say “dishwasher safe” on the bottom.  They are doing some studies based on a 2008 study saying some of the plastic will get into your food, but nothing has been proven to this point.  This type of plastic is considered a ‘safer’ type.

There are many types of plastics out there, and here I’m only speaking of PP (polypropylene) plastic.  I usually use these containers 3 or 4 times, hand-washing them or placing them in the dishwasher with a no-heat-dry setting.  Never cook food in any type of plastic, as that does melt and can leach chemicals into your food.

I’m no plastics expert, but it’s good to do a little research on any containers you do plan to reuse.  All plastics have the symbols like the one above, making it easy to research.  Yes, it’s a pain to have to know all this stuff, but it’s the world we live in.  It’s better to educate yourself and not have to worry.  I like free storage containers, and I could eat my weight in sour cream, so I usually have a lot of them.  All of them go to good uses.  What do you use food containers for?