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 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.


Mar 14 2011

the new sharing economy [day 291]

Do you share your stuff?  If you need a drill, do you go out and buy one or do you try to borrow one?  I mean, you just need a hole, right?  I own a drill.  My dad gave me a new DeWalt drill about 10 years ago, but that one got lost on a mission trip.  I never found it, although another older drill with a chuck key showed up unclaimed.  I took it, so that’s why I have a drill now.  I don’t really need one though.

So why don’t I need one?  Doesn’t everyone have a drill in their garage?  Let’s look at the logic.  I need a few holes, so I use the drill for approximately 4-8 minutes in a years time.  Maybe a little bit more if I have some home projects.  I could borrow one from a friend.  I could rent one when I’m doing projects.  I could share a drill.  Yes, I said share.  I could co-own a drill with some friends or I could use a sharing service.  This is really a great and upward trending process.

First, there’s itizen.com.  You can print QR codes for all of your things in order to tell stories about them, to share them and to track the life of them.  Here’s a blurb from itizen’s site:

Why we do what we do.
We want to celebrate the cool things around us — period. We are inspired by the artists, makers, and retailers who provide us with these wonderful things, and we are fascinated by how storytelling can give these things meaning and purpose. Most important, we are passionate about supporting a culture of giving and sharing that allows others to benefit from these things and share in the joy.

If you don’t have a QR code reader, there’s lots of free apps out there that can be downloaded.  You can scan it and it will bring up the info right away.  The code to the left is a legitimate code for something I’m getting rid of.  Take a look and see if you want the item.  😉

I’m really liking this concept of sharing and swapping.  I’m still researching this whole thing, but I see so many benefits.

Cost savings: Not only does it save you money buying things, but also saves money on the maintenance and storage of these things.

Environmentally friendly: Reducing consumption means less production and fewer resources used.

Manufacturer behavior change: Manufacturers will start to make products based on consumer demand.  If we want to share quality products, but we’re buying less of them, manufacturers will start making more quality items and with the needed features we desire.

Less clutter: Less stuff is less stress and less to clean.  It’s also easier to find the things you do have.

Builds community: Sharing with friends, and even people you don’t know yet if you choose to do that, is a great way to build community, especially among neighbors.  In this day and age, at least where I live, knowing your neighbors is not the norm.  My neighbors let me borrow stuff all the time, and if they need something, they ask.

Helps eliminate poverty: This process can help eliminate poverty by lowering the cost of living.  If I don’t need to buy as much and I can share with others, I can live on less.

Job shifts: Jobs become more service oriented.  This is due to a shift from consuming stuff to being consumers of services.

We are on the front end of a wonderful trend that will change the way the world functions, utilizing technology to change our distribution systems, creating a community of sharing that will better our lives.  I’m still doing a lot of homework on this, but I will be posting more on it soon.  Sharing is an old concept, but it’s finding a new life through social media.

I just bought a used iPad from a friend of mine who’s upgrading.  I’ve decided to share my iPad.  I will be using a service such as snapgoods.com or I might do a co-ownership of it.  If this intrigues you in any way, let me know your thoughts.

Would you share something you paid a lot of money for, but something that sits unused for large periods of time?


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 8 2011

hoarders on craigslist [day 285]

My friend was garage sale-ing and ran across an estate sale from a hoarder house, listed on craigslist.  I had to work Saturday and Sunday, but decided to check it out after work on Sunday.  Unfortunately they had closed up shop but I snapped a few photos while making a few observations.

As we drove up, the obvious signs were the furniture pieces in the front yard.  The front door area was cluttered, and after several knocking attempts, I decided to peer into the window.  Yes, we were at the right house, as one of the windows was blocked with a large shelving unit and the other window being a small display of a very large mess.  I’m not sure how people walked around in there to shop for treasures, but I guess if you’re determined enough, you’ll find a way.

Thinking maybe they have something going on in the back of the house, we walked around to the alley of this corner lot home.  The house itself, probably circa 1950’s, was large and looked nice, yet unkempt.  As we got to the back, we realized they were probably done with the sale.  The driveway was completely clear of any junk or trash.

Disappointed, as we drove almost 20 miles to see this, I thought about how many people must go through this is there are indeed 3 million hoarders in the United States.  (statistic provided by the TV show Hoarders)  As we were leaving, the mailbox made me laugh.  Yes, I know, I have a weird, off-beat sense of humor.

Border – hoarder.  It rhymes.  I don’t know why that’s funny, but it just is.

I decided to look up the word “hoarder” on craigslist just to see how many different listings I could find.  I did this search in all 50 states from at least one city.  I found some interesting listings and I’ll share a few with you.  I’ve shortened these a bit, but tried to keep in all the good parts.  Some were really long.  I’ve also highlighted a few interesting things.

HOARDER SEEKS SWAP MEET AND THRIFT STORE OWNERS.

Having a garage sale in my backyard, by appointment only. I have a 32 year accumulation of personally handpicked items. The prices to the public are $1.00, $2.00 and $3.00; with other items ranging over $100.00. THERE ARE NO BURIED TREAUSURES HERE! No furniture, no gold or jewelry. The items are mostly “GUY STUFF”. I know the value of these items, same as you. However I am attempting to offer them to you, at a price where you can make a profit and come back as a repeat customer.
I am offering “YOU’S” an opportunity to cherry pick my estimated inventory of 2,000 pieces [which represents about 20% of all the items needed to be eliminated]. If you like something, you offer me a price, based upon what you think you can sell it for. This eliminates the potential of you having to buy any junk mixed in. FYI, there is no junk, just items you can or can not sell to your customers.

THIS IS NOT A FUND RAISER. I just simply do not understand the value in having such a ridiculous accumulation; causing me to store and periodically to reorganize it. Candidly, despite knowing that I have an item, I seldom can ever really find it in a timely manner.

Predictively the average swamp meeter will have no problem scooping up $500.00 worth of merchandise for their inventories.

Confessions of a potential hoarder..Big Back Yard Sale – $1

We have all seen the show, I opened my storage unit the other day and said I won’t go down that road :^)  Continue reading


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 20 2011

what does an organized hoarder look like? [day 270]

I’ve used the term “organized hoarder” in conversations about hoarding, and it usually provokes some strange facial expressions.  These photos were take many years ago in the house of an organized hoarder.

Dining room

Guest bedroom

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.  :)


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