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.


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 12 2011

light switch plate [minimalist challenge item #23]

[item] Framed light switch plate with artwork

[purchase info] Purchased the frame new, but on sale for $7.00 and the switch plate came with the old house

[time in my possession] Approximately 8 years

[last used] 4.5 years ago

[difficulty level in getting rid of it] Easy

[destination] Freecycle

[info] I made the switch cover using a decoupage technique with artwork from old art books.  The frame around it made it look like a mini painting.  I had a few of these, some are in my house now without the frames.

 


Mar 1 2011

knit purse & hat [minimalist challenge item #12]

[item] Brown knit purse & a pink knit skull cap

[purchase info] Purchased at thrift stores, I paid $3.00 for both

[time in my possession] Approximately 2 years

[last used] Over a year

[difficulty level in getting rid of it] Easy

[destination] Thrift store

[info] I used the brown purse once.  I’m not one of those girls that switches out purses all the time.  I have 2 left now, but I’ve been using the same one for a year and a half now.  The cap I love, but the style of it looks horrible on me.  I wore it once.  Just because you can wear something doesn’t mean you should.

 


Jan 26 2011

recycle freecycle [day 246]

Freeycycle is the modern day dumpster diving, without having to touch a dumpster or trash can.  From the freecycle site: It’s a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by local volunteers (them’s good people). Membership is free. To sign up, find your community by entering it into the search box above or by clicking on ‘Browse Groups’ above the search box. Have fun!

I had my first free items from freecycle.org a couple of weeks ago.  Three empty 5-gallon paint buckets from Home Depot.  I really needed just one, but the others will come in handy too, as I need to get rid of most of the paint I’ve been hoarding for years.

A few days ago, I got 3 lamps from freecycle.  One of them being a really cool, ultra-modern lamp, but needing repair to the on/off switch.  I haven’t repaired the lamp yet, but I can use the electrical from one of the other lamps that was missing a shade.  This lamp was not cheap and is probably the nicest lamp I own now.  The other small lamp, also missing a shade, will be my new energy efficient light in the nook on my staircase.  I ran electrical to that a couple of months ago since there was electrical in the closet underneath the stairs.

I’ve also gotten rid of things that I don’t need anymore.  Clutter is not my friend, so this made it easy.  I had some fence boards that I had no place to store.  Someone on freecycle was getting as many fence pieces as possible so he could build a new fence.  Smart dude, as he probably saved $5k and kept a lot of wood out of the landfill.   Continue reading


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.  :)


Aug 12 2010

green & clean plan [day 77]

I guess you could call it shopping.  I shopped around for renewable energy plans and solar energy systems over the past two weeks.  Here’s what I found.

My utility provider is Stream Energy.  My one year contract was up last month, so I decided to shop around.  Price was not my driving factor, it’s renewable energy.  Not partial, but 100% renewable.  After comparing the hundreds of providers on powertochoose.org, I found that Stream has a 100% renewable plan.  Since I was already with them, switching was easy to do.

Does your provider offer a renewable energy plan? If so, consider switching.  If you’re a current customer, and in a contract, in most cases they will switch you to a different plan with no penalties.

Now the CoServ thing…

I’m still at a loss of how an area that has been deregulated can have a power company like CoServ where people don’t get to choose.  Their prices are higher (during peak times) and people with this company are stuck with them.  I talked to several people that have CoServ, some like it, some don’t and some just don’t care.  So CoServ calls themselves a co-op, and I guess that stands for ‘no choice’.  Here’s some dialogue I found on the web about this issue:

Customer #1: Electricity has been deregulated in Texas. For some reason, co-ops like Coserv do not have to comply with this law. This seems not only unfair to me but also somehow illegal. Can the city do something to help out its citizens/taxpayers?

City official: I apologize for your frustrations with CoServ Electric. The City does not have jurisdiction over which utility companies opt in or out of deregulation and it is not illegal for them to not be involved in deregulation. Your first action should be to file a formal written complaint with CoServ and send copy to the City to my attention. The next step is to file a formal written complaint with the Public Utility Commission who oversees electricity in Texas. To file a complaint with the PUC you can access their website here. The following information is from the website www.powertochoose.org.

Electric cooperatives and city-owned utilities may decide whether their customers will have a choice of Retail Electric Providers. Customers should contact their electric cooperative for more information.

The City does not oversee or control which electric provider the developer contracts with. However, if the subdivision is not a gated community, and the City accepts the subdivision phase it becomes public right of way. Once there is public right of way established any other utility can operate in the right of ways.

Customer #2: I live in an area of Frisco that is co-op. Thus, I do not have a choice of utility providers.  Will this issue change in the near future? If not, is there a legal course that I could follow to obtain the “freedom to choose”?   It would seem that there would be legal grounds for me to have the same rights as other citizens of Frisco have when choosing a utility provider.

City official: You are correct that CoServ Electric is organized and recognized by the State of Texas as a co-op utility company. Several years ago when the Texas Legislature deregulated retail electric, they specifically allowed co-ops to make the choice to “opt-in” to deregulation, or continue doing business as they always have – that being controlled by an elected Board of Directors. While the City of Frisco has taken the position that all utility customers in Frisco should have the same ability to access competition, the Legislature has not yet made any changes to the law.

The City of Frisco has no jurisdiction or authority over whether or not COServ opts into deregulation. It is an issue that would need to come from the CoServ Board of Directors. Additionally, Texas Legislature could change the law to force co-ops into deregulation by a certain date.

Okay, so what I’m hearing here is that with the right legal jargon, fancy wording, typical politics and ridiculous laws, you can pretty much do whatever you want to? Seriously?  You’re free to choose… but not everywhere.   I could spend all day on this, but it’s not the point, just a frustration.  I welcome any comments on this.  I think everyone should have a right to choose, not just real estate developers and the public that happens to not fall under the co-op.  I have the freedom to shop for power, shouldn’t everyone?