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 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 17 2011

the one for one model [day 295]

Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS shoes, was a keynote speaker this year at SXSW.  Not only was it incredible to hear his story, but just to hear the magnitude of positive change his company has created in the world.  Here’s the best part.  Blake made this statement at the end of his talk.

“From this day forward, TOMS is no longer a shoe company. It’s a one-for-one company.  Our next step is meeting those needs around the world.”

Yes, TOMS is now a one-for-one company.  In June, they’re launching their next product.  You buy one, somebody in need gets one.  It’s a for profit model, and an extremely successful one.  I have to say here that I would love to go out and buy a pair of TOMS shoes.  With my one year of no retail shopping, unfortunately that’s not an option.  If I buy them used, a person in need will not get a new pair of shoes, however, even in the secondary market, good can still be done.

  • If I get them at a thrift store, that money goes to charity.
  • If I wear them, I’m marketing TOMS and this one-for-one model.
  • If I buy them used, paying less than retail, I’ve saved money that I can donate to one of my favorite charities.

How else can we apply the 1-for-1 model?

I’ve been pondering this question for a few days now.  I don’t know how anyone can hear the TOMS story and not wonder how we can all be a part of it.  TOMS is obviously onto something here.  I have a few ideas of how this could be applied in other ways to benefit TOMorrow.   Continue reading


Mar 3 2011

I’m scared… [day 281]

…of toilets.  Yes, it’s true.  I cannot bring myself to fix one of these when it breaks.  This fear stems from my childhood.

When I was about 8, we lived in a house that had 1.5 bathrooms.  My mom, being the neat freak that she was, only allowed us to use one of the bathrooms.  The other bathroom got used so rarely that the toilet water evaporated and there was always a ring around where the water had been.  You could count the rings, similar to telling the age of a tree, but there rings being measured in days, not years.  The main toilet was having problems, so my parents showed me how to fix it, just in case it happened when they weren’t home.  My, how times have changed!  Home alone.

If the toilet kept running, I was to jiggle the handle.  If that didn’t work, I was to remove the top and jiggle the little white thing.  Seemed simple enough.  Even at that age, my dad had to hide his tools because I would build stuff out of anything I could get my hands on.  So, of course, I came home from school one day, used the bathroom and the toilet kept running water.  I jiggled the handle, waited, knowing good and well that I would eventually have to remove the lid.  Yes, lid time.  I took it off, jiggled the white thing, and in seconds I had a 3 foot geiser going.

I panicked.  There were no instructions for this disaster!!!  All I could think about is how my mom was going to kill me for making a huge mess.  I quickly placed my finger over the spot where the water was coming out.  Then I thought, “Where is all this water going that I’m holding back??”  Look, I was 8 years old people.  A new panic set in at that point.  I let go, ran to the phone and called my friend next door.  She ran over to my house and found me back at the toilet, holding back the water that was probably flooding someone’s house in China.  After two young kids deliberating over something they knew nothing about, my friend ran outside to find some help.  She came back in less than five minutes with some guy she found on the street.  Again, this was a different day and age.  The man came in, turned off the water and quickly left the house.  I lived in a middle class, suburban area and I still wonder, to this day, where that man came from.   Continue reading


Jan 6 2011

the green machine [day 223]

I’m really not sure exactly how much money I’ve saved doing this challenge, as I haven’t tracked it, however I know it’s a substantial amount.  I have no debt, I’m not always broke and comparing my finances to last year, I’ve spent way less.  I attribute the savings to these:

  • No retail. Buying things from eBay, craigslist, thrift stores and yard sales saves 75% or more off retail prices.
  • No impulse buys. Staying out of retail stores and practicing the 24 hour rule with my kids (day 140) works great!
  • Smart shopping. For the groceries and toiletries stuff I have to buy, I price shop shop in stores where I know the prices are generally lower.  I try and buy some generic brands and buy things with minimal packaging.
  • Usage. Will I really use this?  Is it something I’ve wanted for a while or something that just popped into my head?  If I haven’t been looking at something for a while, I wait.  If I really want or need it, it will stay in my mind.
  • Trading & sharing. I make trades with friends and share things like tools, yard equipment and things not used frequently.  This minimizes the amount of stuff I have, making cleaning and organizing much easier.
  • Counterculture. We didn’t do Christmas like the rest of society.  No Christmas bills!  It was still a very good Christmas, just different than the rest of the USA.
  • Look ahead. How long will this item last?  What’s the maintenance and upkeep cost?  Is it green?

Looking at all of this, my kids and I made a recent large item purchase.  It’s something we had in our old house and used quite a bit, all year long.  We’ve been wanting one for four years now, since we moved into this house.  The used market on the item has good availability, but difficult to find certain models.  Many are in working order, many are not.  Some require lots of extra money for set up, installation and transportation.  So what is it?  A hot tub.  Continue reading


Jan 3 2011

I miss windex [day 221]

I cleaned my house yesterday and I really miss my bottle of Windex.  Vinegar and water is good, but it’s just not Windex.


Dec 4 2010

food glitter [day 191]

I ran out of dishwasher soap a couple of weeks ago and had to wash my dishes by hand.  In the process, I realized that I wash all my dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.  I’m sure this bizarre habit comes from my childhood of eating off gritty dishes from our dishwasher that was overloaded with food covered dishes, loaded with an expectation that the magic food removal fairy would clean them spotlessly.  I’m no rocket scientist, but I’m pretty sure these machines are not designed for such work, as I’ve never seen one that takes in lots of food without them coming out covered in food glitter.  Food glitter is gross.

I decided to wash my dishes by hand, set them in the dishwasher rack to dry, then put them away.  Without running my dishwasher, I’m saving water and electricity.  It was mostly an unnecessary step in the dishwashing process.  This doesn’t mean I won’t do it again, but I don’t need to use the dishwasher so often.  My dishes are just as clean, there’s no difference in time, but I’m being better with my resources.  :)


Nov 15 2010

could you move out of your house in 6 hours? [day 172]

My initial answer to that question would be no, but not anymore, after seeing what happened to my friend yesterday.  I’m sure this question had never crossed her mind, nor did she ever think she would have to move in a matter of hours.  I got the 911 text message early.  Her house had flooded and she needed help moving things out.

I headed over, not having any idea what to expect other than some water on the floor.  And just for the record, why do these things happen only at night while you’re sleeping?  Just about every story I’ve heard like this is someone waking up to a disaster.  Is this what Santa does on the off season to help employ the elf plumbers or do evil demons travel through the water pipes at night?  I don’t know, but I find it interesting.    Continue reading


Sep 28 2010

recovering windex addict [day 125]

Yes, in my house, if you couldn’t clean it with Windex, it wasn’t meant to be cleaned.  I’m pretty sure I had a bigger addiction to Windex than the guy on My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  All was well until I ran out of Windex one day…

I mixed vinegar and water in my old Windex bottle.  No, I didn’t cheat, there was not a drop of the magical blue liquid left in the bottle.  Time to clean.  Deep breath.  Spray.  Wipe.  Wait for evaporation.  Exhale. It worked.  Differently, but the end result was clean, non-streaked glass and mirrors.  I can also clean my granite countertops with it.  And it’s good for the environment.  And it’s cheaper.  All around good.  :)


Aug 23 2010

air, water & destructoboy [day 89]

Air

So I realized yesterday that I need to replace the air filter on my air conditioning unit.  It’s about a month past due, and quite frankly, looks like a year past due.  My house is so dusty, I don’t have dust bunnies, I have dust elephants.  I found some filters on Craigslist, not used, but not retail either.  I’m really hoping to get these, as they’re the only ones listed in my area that are the right size.  Clearly they aren’t a toiletry or food, but are necessary to keep my energy use down and keep my AC working properly.  I will keep you posted on this one.

Water

Well, Joe, my amazing destructoboy has struck again!  (photo: Joe helping with the kitchen remodel)  His career started early, as his first act of destruction was trying to hide poop in an electrical outlet.  Then he moved on to bigger and better things like melting all of the PVC pipes on the pool heater.  It didn’t take much thought to figure out who clogged the bathroom drain with toys when the Draino wouldn’t work.  He admitted it.  I’m giving it one more try at the unclogging process and then he’s paying for the plumber to come out and fix it.