Apr 6 2011

to buy or not to buy, that is the question [day 314]

I found myself at a thrift store about a week ago, one that I haven’t visited in a long time.  I really didn’t need anything, but since I was on that side of town, I decided to check it out.  In the past, any good must be purchased, but now I apply my new shopping skills before buying anything.  Here’s a little bit of what that looks like.

  • Browse first, pick up later. I shop without picking up anything.  I look for things I like, then once I’m done, I go back and get the things I remember.  If it didn’t stick in my head, it’s not worth buying.
  • Do I need this? This question doesn’t mean I can’t have it if I don’t need it.  What it does mean is looking at the big picture.  Why do I want it?  How long will I use it?  Will I even use it more than once of twice?  What item will I get rid of to get this with my one for one model?
  • Can I repurpose something I have, borrow or trade for this? Basically I’m asking, “Is there a better way?”  Let’s take a tool for example.  Do I have something that will do the same job?  Could I borrow or rent this item?  I look at all other options.

I did something a little different on this shopping trip.  I took photos of everything I would have put in the cart or considered buying right away.  Here’s the photos.

Things I didn’t buy.

This extremely well build patio coffee table would have come home with me.  I don’t need, I would barely have space for it, but it was a screaming deal at $29.99.  I still want it just looking at the photo of it.  I love the modern style, and the way this was built, it could serve as a storm shelter.

Awesome cap, too tight for my head.  Continue reading


Mar 12 2011

keep austin weird [day 290]

This is one thing I want to buy, a “Keep Austin weird” t-shirt.  I need to find a thrift store and hopefully they’ll have one.  I guess I could offer someone some money to take one off their back.  After being here for one night, I’m not sure I’m weird enough to fit in here.  I’m a dime a dozen.  Now that is weird.


Mar 11 2011

I talk to strangers [day 289]

I was doing some blog research and ran across this t-shirt.  “I talk to strangers” is the message on the front.  I like this t-shirt and it got me thinking.  I know we’re supposed to teach this concept to our kids, but I haven’t done that.  Do we really want to live in a society where we don’t get to know each other, where there’s no sense of community and where we have a fear of meeting people?  We don’t talk to people and we wonder why loneliness creeps into our lives.  Loneliness can lead to sadness, depression and even addiction.  If you know anything about addictions, you know that people use them as an escape from reality.  Sometimes in the past when I’ve been sad or depressed, I would shop.  Yes, believe it, because I did.  Society tells us that it’s okay, even good, to spend money on frivolous stuff that we don’t need and don’t have money for in the first place.

I put a different spin on this ‘strangers’ thing with my kids.  I tell them to talk to strangers, but not strange people.  What’s the difference?  A guy in a car driving by and offering them some candy, now that’s strange, but a person that they meet at a store or just in daily life being friendly, maybe a stranger temporarily, but a possible friend.  We’ve gone over all the scenarios of what not to do to get abducted, but I don’t want my kids living in fear that the one bad person in the thousands of people is going to harm them.  I watch Criminal Minds and other similar TV shows, making it easy for me to think everyone is out to get us, but should we live in this type of fear?

I can teach my kids to be safe without teaching them to be secluded.  One way, is to help them see that there are many good people in the world.  I try to get them involved with me in local missions or take them places where they meet people.  People that might be different than us.  People that add value to our lives.  The photo is from Church Under the Bridge in Waco, Texas.  That’s Dedrick helping my son fix his shoe.  Dedrick has some sort of mental disability, but is just the kindest man and greets everyone at the church.  He wanted to lead worship, so they gave him a pink guitar (with two strings) and a mic (not hooked up with sound) and he leads worship.  Yes, he’s smoking in the photo.

One may also think it’s crazy for me to think this way.  I’ve been held at gunpoint twice in my life and I’ve had two stalkers, both needing police intervention.  I still believe people are basically good.  If I lived differently, I might have avoided these situations, but I might have also missed out on many good things and not met some really great people.

If you’re wondering how this ties in to no retail shopping, I guess it would be that there’s much more value in people than in material things.  Maybe this is a good thing to teach my kids, or maybe it’s not, but it seems be helping in building character in my kids.  And if you’ve spent any time at all with my kids, you know they’re characters!  I think they get the difference between good strange and bad strange.  Go say hi to a stranger today and see for yourself how it can add value to your life.


Mar 5 2011

new t-shirt with tags [minimalist challenge item #16]

[item] Brand new with tags men’s gray Old Navy t-shirt

[purchase info] Purchased new for $7.50

[time in my possession] Approximately 2.5 years

[last used] Never

[difficulty level in getting rid of it] Easy

[destination] Given to a friend

[info] I bought this t-shirt to make a custom t-shirt for a friend.  This is the perfect example of why I should not have too much stuff.  I had no idea I even had this.  Should I make it a hand-me-down?


Mar 2 2011

a new hand-me-down [day 280]

This Children’s Place t-shirt is for sale NEW, and not a used hand-me-down, even though it says it’s a hand-me-down.  Am I missing something here?  I don’t get it.  Why would someone buy this new?  If you buy it new, your kid is walking propaganda that you’re a liar.  Also, if you’re buying new stuff, why would you want it to say that it’s a hand-me-down if it’s not?  I guess you could buy it, put it on your kid for a few minutes, wash it, then give it away?  Still not getting it.  I like the recycling and reusing message on the shirt, but really?  This should be a custom made t-shirt… on a used t-shirt.


Jan 31 2011

stripping the super bowl [day 250]

The Super Bowl XLV in 2011 will be held in Arlington, Texas.  You can tell it’s coming when you drive through the area, as it’s completely pristine, even a smart phone snapshot looks like a postcard.  I suppose there’s many benefits to hosting the Super Bowl, like maybe being able to pay for the new stadium they built on land where homes used to be or local employment opportunities, as the area will need 10,000 more strippers immediately.  The merchandise sales from the licensed Super Bowl t-shirts, hats, foam fingers, cups and other stuff to clutter our houses, and eventually our thrift stores, will be selling for top dollar, although the news stations are warning people about the counterfeit items.  A caller on a radio show asked where to buy legitimate NFL items and was told to look for the tag with the hologram saying it’s legit, but to be careful because there are major retailers that carry knock-offs.

Now I find this a bit ironic that some dude on the street getting caught with fake merchandise if going to jail, but it’s legal for the major retailers to carry the fakes.  Yeah, I feel good about this, the retailers are making more profits, illegally.  I’m not a fan of counterfeit entrepreneurs, as I’m sure there are many other things that these people will spend money on and they could be providing legitimate stuff.  It’s sad that the big retailers can do it, and that’s not a problem.

So if I buy the fake stuff at a retailer, keep my receipt and go sell that on a street corner, will that get me arrested?  Hmmm, that might be a fun experiment.  Better yet, if I get caught selling t-shirts and they try to arrest me, I’ll just take off my t-shirt, then I would be a stripper and that’s okay.  Does anyone reading this want to be my one phone call?  Ooooo, I just created fake digital merchandise!  Wait, I’ll make my own Super Bowl logo.

Surely this logo would be no problem, right?  Here’s my line of t-shirts.

Okay, so these really don’t exist, but maybe they should.  If you’re going to buy some Super Bowl merchandise, just shop wise.  Don’t spend a lot of money, buy only things you know you will wear for a long time and only support retailers that are selling licensed merchandise.  Go Packers!!!  I’m not a football fan, I’m just from Wisconsin.  :)  If you would like to use these logo logos I made, feel free to copy them and use them anywhere you like.


Jan 9 2011

are you expressing yourself or propagandistically supporting financial insanity? [flashback – day 227]

n1355929489_107613_2584Original post: January 1, 2009

About two months ago, I got a really cool pair of shoes from a friend’s teenage daughter.  She said she was not wearing them anymore, so I took them home with me.  The shoes were awesome, great colors and artwork!  As soon as I got home, I put them on and went outside to play with the boys.  We got out the sidewalk chalk… well our version of sidewalk chalk… and started the outside art process.  I drew the skull that was on my shoe.

I had seen lots of merchandise with artwork like my shoes, but I didn’t really know much about it.  Ed Hardy.  Stuff that people are paying insane amounts of money for.  $109 for a short sleeve t-shirt?!?!?!?  Are you kidding me?   Continue reading


Dec 27 2010

A post Christmas story of be longing [flashback]

This was written 4 days after Christmas last year on my blog iembracechaos.com.

What is out of the ordinary?  Choosing to help others and live differently in a way that changes life as we know it.  My kids really didn’t seem all that bothered by the lack of gifts they got from me.   They still received the mandatory 27+ gifts from my mother, gifts they will never give a second thought to once they are put away.  They were both on board with the plan of donating money to their favorite charities, but I just wasn’t so sure come Christmas, they would still feel that way.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Christmas evening, after the kids came home, we rented a few movies and enjoyed some time together.  After all, I had not seen them for almost a week.

Yesterday we ventured into the stores, only for the purpose of grocery shopping and finding a small rug for my closet floor.  No store was exempt from the typical long return lines and post-holiday sale events.  Seriously, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

I decided yesterday to clean out my closet and get rid of the mountain of unused linens.  Why do I feel the need to hang on to stuff that I will never use again?  I made the compulsory closet purge, filled up the Infiniti sleigh and headed for the thrift store.

After unloading our surplus of worldly possessions, we went treasure hunting.  No, not shopping, treasure hunting.  Shopping is buying overpriced new ‘goods’ at large chain stores.  Treasure hunting is finding something special, previously owned by someone else at a price that doesn’t break the bank.  My kids quickly made their way to the toy section, disappointed that it was mostly baby toys.  I headed for the crowded book area, my kids not far behind.

I found a Man Ray photography book for 50 cents, which in the bookstore, was probably closer to $50.  Man Ray is one of my photography inspirations, mostly for photograms.  My photogram ‘Coffee Addict’ is one of my favorites… not that I have coffee issues or anything like that.

Cole found a Star Wars picture book, which he kept directly in front of his face in the entire time we were there, miraculously not walking into anyone or anything.

As we were making our way toward the front of the store, I stopped to see if there were any jeans or sweatshirts for the boys.  I guess everyone has been doing their Christmas purge, as the racks had three times the amount they usually do.  I found this t-shirt that pretty much sums up what society is teaching our kids.  “WARNING: allergic to lame gifts.”  I wanted to buy the shirt just so I could destroy it and take it out of the clothing circulation.  I would have saved the small candy cane skull icon though, as it seems appropriate to use as a symbol of our cultural Christmas consumerism.   Continue reading


Dec 19 2010

cool art made from junk mail [day 207]

I got an awesome little gift a few days ago, unexpected and very much related to trash society.  The gift?  An origami box with a photo album inside, all made with junk mail and paper stuff from the recycling bin.  Check it out…

Continue reading


Dec 4 2010

things I just don't get [day 192]

Let me just say, before you read my list of things I don’t get, that there’s a purpose behind this list.  That purpose is something I say regularly.  Just think about what you’re buying and what you’re doing.  Your actions make a difference.  They say who you are, what you believe in and what you support.  They can help people, help the economy, help with saving resources, but they can also hurt these things as well.  Okay, so there’s a few in here just for fun too.

Luggage condoms. What exactly are we protecting the suitcase from?  If the plastic completely covered it, without wheel and handle holes, then it might make some sense.  It’s a good thing I didn’t have a paint ball gun or a big plate of spaghetti, because I would have needed to test this.  If you travel a lot and you’re worried about the condition of your luggage, it might be easier to pick up a set at the thrift store, then you don’t have to worry about the airline people destroying it.  As a matter of fact, you may want to consider one of these plastic condom outfits for yourself with the TSA “pat down” procedures now in place.

Wonder Bread shoes. I have a lot of crazy clothing, but shoes that look like a Wonder bread wrapper?  I know, to each his own…  Maybe there’s a bread maker employee who wears these to work as part of a uniform?  These shoes are made by Keds and have nothing to do with the bread company.  I get this more than I get the luggage condoms.  That’s another good reason to shop at thrift stores, there’s much to find under the category “random”.

Why any parent would buy this for their child? This t-shirt says, “1.  I want it.  2. You buy it for me.  3.  Any questions?”  I have questions.  If t-shirts are the modern day propaganda, is this what we want our kids to be saying?  I don’t want my kids growing up thinking they don’t have to work for anything, much less giving them everything they want.  I wanted to buy this shirt just to keep some kid from wearing it, although it is at the thrift store, so maybe the people shopping there see things a little differently?  Now I need to go back and see if it’s still in the rack.  When buying t-shirts for your kids, think about the message.  There’s lots of cute and funny ones available.  I hope the parents of this child are prepared to buy this kid a BMW when she turns 16…   Continue reading