Friday, January 30, 2009
Thursday, January 29, 2009
This will certainly be an adventure! Stay tuned as we continue to find freedom from our stuff, as well as kick frugality into high gear!
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
We've had to put our thinking caps on a couple of times this week, but thankfully we have managed to do everything we needed to do without having to buy anything. The first thing we had was my daughter's science fair project. I was a little concerned that her creativity would be hampered by the restriction of using only the things we had on hand. Luckily, this didn't turn out to be the case! She came up with her idea and got to work with cardboard from the garage and our containers of markers, stickers, glue, etc. We didn't have a small piece of poster board to mount her report, but she used construction paper and stickers and it looked wonderful. She presented it to the class on Tuesday and says it went very well. The second thing to come up was her teacher's birthday. I usually take her to the store and we pick out a candle or other such gift to bring the teacher on her special day. This is important to my daughter, but I'm usually cringing because I know the teacher will get 30 similar gifts and will have to figure out what to do with them all. And usually, when I pick my daughter up from school and ask if the teacher liked her gift, she'll respond with "I don't know. I guess." Well ,this time we got out the craft materials and my daughter made a picture frame with popsicle sticks and a hot glue gun, with a hanger on it crafted out of pipe cleaners. She decorated it and wrote a sweet message to the teacher. When I picked her up from school and asked how the teacher liked it, she lit up. Apparently, the teacher oohed and aahed and hung it up by her desk. My daughter was absolutely thrilled. It was probably the best gift-giving experience she's ever had, and I think it taught us both something.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Last night, I attended an annual clothing swap with a wonderful group of women. The concept is simple--everyone clears their closets of clothes and accessories they no longer wear, and brings them on hangers to the party. We arrange our clothing "store", then after sharing a meal and conversation, we all "shop"--for free!!! It serves the dual purpose of cleaning out our closets for the new year and providing something new for everyone. I went with a friend and even brought my daughter this time, since she is one of our family partners in the "nothing new for a year" pledge. I brought 25 items of clothing and 6 pairs of shoes to donate to the swap. (top photo)Most were nice and hard to let go of, but everything had a reason why I didn't wear it. Many were clothes I treated myself to after I had my son, but are now a size too big. Some were expensive clothes from my pre-kid working days, which are now a size too small. It was much easier this time to let them go, knowing someone else would have a chance to take them home and actually enjoy wearing them. It was fun to see someone choose an item I had brought and show their delight when it fit perfectly!
Friday, January 23, 2009
"Clearance" is a powerful word! I'm always sucked in by it. (that's why we have so much stuff!!) I never realized how much of a habit it was until now. I'm continually navigating away from the 90% off Christmas stuff at the grocery store, pinching myself not to click on the Ann Taylor link when they advertised 70% off and I had a coupon code. (that one still hurts) It's gotten easier NOT to click on the Gymboree and Children's Place links when they e-mail me about their HUGE SALE. I delete the Kirklands e-mails and printable coupons without looking at them now. The Bed ,Bath and Beyond coupons go straight to recycling and I just don't look at the sale ads anymore.
There's also been quite a shift in our perception of what we need. At this time last year, we "needed" a new TV because ours was so old. And a new entertainment center, because a new TV wouldn't fit in the old one. And new appliances, because ours are ugly and stainless steel is so much better. I'm certain that if Circuit City had gone out of business last year, that would have been all the encouragement we needed to replace all of these things. How could we not--all those things we "need" at clearance prices!! Well, out of everything, all we really "need" is another bottom dishwasher rack, because ours is beginning to rust. And even so, we can still use it. A good detail cleaning of our appliances will be enough to make us happy with those again. And the TV--the converter box solved that problem.
All in all, its been quite an interesting learning experience for me to get to the bottom of where our consumption habits really lie. Who would have thought that the biggest problem was actually with what we never really needed to begin with???
Thursday, January 22, 2009
So anyway, we cancelled cable and while my daughter complained for a while, we have never missed it. We can watch anything we want online, and the benefit to that is that we can watch what we want, when we want, commercial-free. My daughter has figured out how to navigate the Disney Channel and Cartoon Network online, so her life isn't as miserable as it may seem.
Even more stone age than that? We still have the huge clunker TV that my husband bought in 1990. And it still works. We have a dual VCR-DVD player, and we have LOTS of VHS tapes. We can pick up nearly anything we want to watch on VHS for about 50 cents at Half-Price Books, so we find it entertaining and useful. Not long ago, I wanted to watch something on TV and I wasn't going to be home. We came up with a brilliant idea--lets set the timer on the VCR and tape it!! WOW!!! So we did, laughing hysterically the whole time because we'd finally caught up to the technology of the 80's and 90's. (and hey, maybe around the year 2025 we'll get a DVR!)
So all this brings me around to my point today. We had to buy something retail, because we had to get a coverter box for the TV before the national switch to digital. We thought long and hard about this and tried to come up with other options. We could get cable, and that would solve the problem, but we didn't want it. We could look for a used coverter box, which we did exhaustively, but they are not really out there yet. The only ones available thru Craigslist and other non-retail outlets are new ones that people bought with their coupons and are trying to make a profit on. We didn't really feel that buying that way would further our cause. We could have gotten a used digital TV and we considered it. However, that would ultimately render the current TV useless and create waste, which again wouldn't further our cause. We could have simply quit using the TV until a used converter box came along, and this may have been the option that best fit our pledge. However, that option met with a firm "NO WAY" from everyone in the house but me. So converter box it is. One small step for man.....
Monday, January 19, 2009
I can summarize a couple of facts that impacted me the most. One fact was that the average person consumes twice what a person did 50 years ago. Most alarming is that of all the things bought, only ONE PERCENT is still in use 6 months later. Meaning 99% of stuff we buy ends up in the trash. Can we make it worse than that?? For every 1 can of trash we put by the curb, the equivelant of 70 cans of trash was discarded in making it. WOW.
Another interesting point, which mirrors my own observations these past couple of weeks, is that national happiness is declining. People work more hours and have less leisure time than 50 years ago. And according to studies, the top two things people do with their leisure time is watch TV and shop. We all know what happens when we shop--but what about when we watch TV? The average person sees more ads in one day than a person 50 years ago saw in a lifetime. And what are the ads designed to do?? Make you want to buy stuff. How do you pay for it?? Work more. And what do you do when you are exhausted from working so hard? Watch TV and shop. LOL.
I really didn't think I was in this trap because our family was frugal and we were good bargain hunters. I felt like we stayed ahead of the game, planning well and watching the deals so that we had lots of stuff for very little money. I never realized that we were in the trap. We didn't buy any less or discard any less or spend any less time on it than anyone else. I was just as stressed as anyone else. I'd never have believed it until our family made the pledge not to buy anything new, and I still can't believe the sense of relief and peace it has brought to our household. I may not be able to explain it well, but today I can understand a little better why that is.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
We finally hung the curtains in the office and other than a little straightening up and arranging the shelves, we can say we are finished! I'm so thankful that we were able to pull together those last details without buying anything new. As I mentioned in earlier posts, the paint was from freecycle, the light fixture a $5 Craigslist treasure, and the lamp in front of the window was pulled from the "broken" pile and fixed. The little kiddie table was in the attic sporting a bubblegum pink coat of paint. We all pitched in to paint and glaze it using some materials we already had in the garage. And while we won't be featured in Better Homes and Gardens, this room looks many times better than it did before!!!
I should emphasize that my husband and I are terrible gardeners. We get excited every spring and buy stuff for a garden. We always plant it too late, care for it too little and are thankful to get anything out of it at all. Really, its all been a by-product of being too busy and spending too much time outside of the home focusing on what we don't have. Now that we are focusing on what we DO have, I hope this can change!
I was pleasantly surprised to find everything I needed in one place in the garage--potting soil, pots, and seeds. I planted zucchini, yellow squash and cucumbers in some cute little terra cotta pots that my daughter had once painted and put them in the kitchen windowsill. I labelled them with a sharpie so I'd now what was what. They actually look pretty cute there! I found 2 larger plastic pots and started some cilantro and parsely in those. Our unused wrought-iron plant stand was in the corner of the garage, so I pulled it out and arranged the newly-planted items on it along with some aloe vera and other things I had scattered in various places. In all, this took half an hour. And it felt SOOO good!! We still have lettuce seeds to plant in our big terra cotta pots that currently house dead tomato plants from last summer. In our mild climate, lettuce will grow all winter as long as we move it indoors in the rare event of a freeze. Now I feel like I have breathed new life into another of our piles of "stuff"!!
Friday, January 16, 2009
Tonight, in the spirit of having the night off, we made homemade hot chocolate and had family game night. We wanted to do something we could all play, so we played charades. We made everything up ourselves and had such a ball. Even the two -year -old had fun being a cow, a dog, a dinosaur. My husband had to be Hannah Montana and I spent about 15 minutes acting out my daughter's brainchild, a "wild cow". We had a ball.
And while I will say again that this is about simplifying our lives and not necessarily about saving money, I have to share this--I opened my purse today and noticed that I still have the same $20 that's been there since New Year's Eve. I don't know why that was a surprise to me, since I haven't bought anything, but I guess I'm just not used to seeing cash hang around so long. I like it!
Thursday, January 15, 2009
I spent yesterday clearing out the--what else--STUFF in the closet of what is now the new playroom. I thought I'd need to get rid of alot of things but really, everything just had one or two small obstacles preventing it from being somewhere more useful than the closet. The clothes that the kids need to grow into could go in the attic. I just needed to rearrange a little up there so that they would fit. The clothes for me to shrink into--they can go on Craigslist for a while, then charity or Freecycle if that doesn't work. The Barbie tent--Freecycle. The 5 or 6 various broken things? Fixed 'em. The pictures that needed to be hung? Hang them. All those misc bins? Consolidated them down to one. In short, there was plenty of room in the closet for me to take half the kids toys and store them away for when the other half gets "stale", so that I can rotate them out. And there's room to spare.
Now that so much of the kids stuff has been moved into the playroom and so many of their outgrown/unworn clothes have gone to better places, THEIR closets are half empty too. It is such a relief to open up a closet and see it neat and tidy and reach in for just what I need without 10 other things falling out. I don't know why I didn't do this a long time ago!
The last thing I did for the playroom was to dig out the huge white board that someone had given us several years ago. We'd used it for a while, but found we had no place for it and its been in the garage ever since. Well, now we have the perfect wall to hang it and it is in its new spot, ready to become permanent. Here's the interesting observation: my daughter had a friend come over to play yesterday, and her friend showed up with her Nintendo DS. I can't tell you how much time my daughter has spent begging me for one. Did she play with it? NO. Did she even look at it? NO. The DS was pitched into a corner while they spent an hour playing "school" at the white board. And her friend forgot it when she left.
and lastly, when cleaning out the closet I came across my daughter's ice cream maker--a kid version she'd gotten for her birthday many years ago. I can't remember the last time we used it -- its been at least three years. Well, as luck would have it our grocery store had Horizon organic cream marked down to 99 cents. So after dinner, the kids and I had a great time making (and eating) ice cream. It was so much fun that we all wondered why we hadn't been using it all along. I suppose it was because its alot of trouble, and a mess, and I haven't wanted to deal with it. But the "new" me has alot more time on her hands to spend with the kids!!
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Today we decided to see if our 2 1/2 year old ball of fire was ready to potty train. After a long day of wet pants (and worse), tears (mostly his), a few attempts to fool me with a stuffed teddy bear and finally a potty chair hurled across the room with all his toddler might, the answer is a big fat "NO". He's not ready. Now I know. We'll try it again in a couple of months.
We brought home another Freecycle treasure today. Our glider/rocker in our son's bedroom was hardly usable. It had a squeak that constantly had to be oiled, and the other day something broke loose from the bottom and now it grinds loudly. But we weren't going to do much about it, figuring that the "baby" is 2 and any day now we should quit rocking him to sleep. But here's the thing--I love it as much as he does. After a full day with active kids, it is a blessing to have a few quiet moments to hold him before putting him down for the night. I can stop thinking about grocery lists and chores and just relax, put my face against his chubby cheek and remember that my husband and I created this life and would do anything for him. Its a wonderful way to end the day for both of us, and neither of us is ready to give it up. So we had to do something about the chair. I saw a post for this a while back--a glider/rocker without cushions--but didn't ask for it. In general, I try to wait a while before responding to posts for things like this, just to give someone who needs it more than I do a chance to ask for it. But in this case, nobody seemed to want it without the cushions so we gladly picked it up today. And it is SOO much better than the one we had!! We switched over the cushions from the old chair, and our pleasant nighttime routine will go on, better than before. Just as long as I don't mention the potty....
Monday, January 12, 2009
I always go over bills and assess our spending around the middle of the month. Today I was pleasantly surprised. Over the last two weeks, we have spent only $184. This includes gas, groceries, a trip to Incredible Pizza, and the two light fixtures we got on Craigslist. This is what we paid for. If you read the other posts, you'll see it also includes a a day at the zoo, new paint for our home office and my daughter's room, 6 adorable lunch trays from Pottery Barn, clothes for my son, and clothes for me. (my sister brought "hand-me-ups" from her trendy young neighbor--a cute pair of boots and 2 dresses!!) These are things we got for free. It also includes a playroom, an ironing board, a lamp, two beanbag chairs and the infamous roll of tape. These are things we gave back to ourselves with a little elbow grease. (I feel happiest about these!)
I sold a clothing lot on Craigslist for $120, and my husband returned some leftover flooring materials for $50 so all in all this has turned out to be a great couple of weeks for us. I've said before, and I mean it, that this isn't about money but about simplifying our lives and reducing waste. But the fringe benefit to it all IS saving money, and that's great!!
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Saturday, January 10, 2009
I finally realized that the tape had probably been put in the attic with the christmas wrapping paper. Now that was a problem. Our attic isn't easy to get to--its in the garage, which is full of--what else--stuff. And the attic is full of more stuff. Nonetheless, I enlisted my dear and very patient husband to navigate all this to find the tape. And of course, after all that, IT WASN"T THERE. My compelling argument about all the hassle we were saving quit working. I was on my own with the tape situation.
I finally found it in a random kitchen cabinet, and I'm glad I kept looking. This explains why, when I was looking for painter's tape one day, I found 7 rolls. And why we have about 30 screwdrivers. And 10 flashlights. And so on. When its so easy to buy things, it really seems to make more sense to go the store and get a new thingamajig the minute you hit the first obstacle to using the old one. And it is definitely easier, but big or small, now you have two thingamajigs.
The other biggie today--we moved the furniture out of our guest/junk room and are turning it into a playroom for the kids. Luckily, my sister's family consolidated kids into fewer bedrooms and freed up space for a guest bedroom at just the time I was planning to find a new home for our furniture. So it worked out perfectly for both families! Now I am faced with the huge task of sorting through all the--you guessed it--STUFF--left in the room. And creating a fun and inviting playroom without buying anything new. The old me would have been eyeing the Pottery Barn catalogues and shopping for shelves and bins and other fun stuff. The new me will go shopping in the attic. (and hey, maybe I'll find some more tape!)
Friday, January 9, 2009
It is warm here, close to 80 degrees, and when I dressed my littlest one in shorts and a t-shirt that hadn't been out of the drawer in a while, he looked like Richard Simmons! Time to move up to a 3T! Luckily some larger 2T clothes still fit, but I realized I needed to do something about his summer wardrobe. I put a post on Freecycle asking if anyone had some outgrown clothes in the size I needed. Luckily, someone e-mailed right away and had a bag of 3T clothes that no longer fit her little one. My hubby is going to pick it up after work, as she is located near his office. I went thru and removed 5 pairs of shorts and 15 shirts from my son's dresser and found a taker on Freecycle for those. She will pick them up tomorrow.
While I was on Freecycle I saw a post offering 6 adorable Pottery Barn retro lunch trays. The giver lived just a few blocks from me, so I picked those up and they couldn't be cuter! They will be perfect for serving meals outside, which we frequently do in warm weather. And they come just in time for a visit from my nieces tomorrow!
What am I finding a new home for today? In addition to the clothes I gave on freecycle, I have 2 boxes of books and misc to go to charity in the back of my car right now. I also collected a box of magazines, phone books and misc recyclable paper to go to the fund-raising recycle bin at my daughter's school. Lastly, I have yet more clothes and shoes culled from my daughter's room to pass on to my nieces when they visit. So I think I've made up for the lunch trays!!
Thursday, January 8, 2009
We visited the zoo for free zoo day. We brought a cooler with our snacks and lunches and enjoyed a very pleasant afternoon. I made it a point not to buy a newspaper and look over the ads for bargains. It was almost a relief!!
January 2: We resumed work on our downstairs floor. In October, we bought all the materials to put engineered hardwood downstairs, and finished all but one room. We removed the carpet and pad in this last room, and I found a new home for it on Freecycle. (http://www.freecycle.org/) When the room was empty, we decided ("we" being ME) that it would be best to go ahead and paint it. I've been secretly wishing for a warm, deep sage green in there. I put a post on freecycle asking if anyone needed to dispose of leftover paint in that color, and lo and behold we found a couple gallons of it! When we got it home, it was a little too "lime-green", so I mixed it with a rich golden brown that we had leftover in the garage. It came out PERFECT! We found all the materials we needed in the garage (some required some searching--ordinarily we'd have just bought new stuff) and painted the room. We put the floor down, and it is beautiful. I'll post pics when I figure out how to do it!
January 3: Received a check in the mail for $120 for clothes of my daughter's that I listed on Craigslist. They were nice Gymboree clothes that I got at bargain prices and took good care of.
I also brought a bag of clothes to my neices along with some workbooks and study materials my daughter no longer needs.
January 4: Bought 2 new light fixtures on Craigslist--1 for the room we just re-did and the other for the sitting area in our bedroom, where the fixture was falling apart. Paid $5 each. We got a bargain--they are very nice! Changed them out today and they look wonderful.
January 5: Took the kids to Incredible Pizza Company for the last day of Christmas break. Spent $25 on all-you-can-eat buffets for the 4 of us, and used a coupon to get a free $20 game card. It kept us busy all day. We took frequent snack breaks at the buffet, and I was able to get by without making lunch or dinner. A great day!
January 6: Back to school. My daughter needed more school supplies. Luckily, I had just gone thru the house and organized our hundreds of random pens, pencils, and misc office items so I was able to easily put my hands on everything she needed.
January 7: Grocery day. Ran into Target to look for good prices on organic meat. Normally I would scan the ends of the aisles for bargains, but didn't do it today. Saved time, money and space!
IT'S NOT ABOUT THE MONEY.
1. Like most people, we have too much stuff. We spend too much time on it. We are always shopping for it. When we aren't bringing in new stuff, we are organizing the old stuff. When we get tired of organizing it, we get rid of it. Then we get more stuff. We're tired of our lives being a monument to our stuff. We want to enjoy something else.
2. The world doesn't need any more stuff. The stores are full of it. People are going into debt for it. Ultimately, it ends up in the trash. There is too much stigma in this country regarding "used" stuff. Who knows how many people throw away a perfectly good item while someone across town is out buying the exact same thing? We don't want to be a part of this any more.
Our family would like to live more responsibly. We'd like to consume responsibly, to dispose of our old things responsibly, and ultimately reduce our carbon footprints on this earth.
OKAY, SO ITS A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE MONEY.
In this economy, who has money to throw away? I'd have to say we've always been frugal. I am a seasoned sale shopper, I enjoy finding a bargain and we have lots and lots of very nice things bought at bargain prices. I don't mind shopping garage sales and resale shops. But really, we don't need half of what we have. Regardless of what a bargain anything was, I could just as easily have done without it. So not only did I spend money on these bargains, I have spent countless dollars on bins and baskets and closet organizers and magazines and other things to control the clutter in the house. We even contemplated moving. Did this stuff really make our lives any better? Wouldn't that money have served us better in the bank??
1. For one full year, we will not buy new items from retail stores. If we really, really need or want something, we will find it used/second hand. Of course, there will be some exceptions--groceries, health and beauty items like medicines and shampoo, underwear. We will use all of what we have to the best of our ability before we consume any more of those items, though.
2. For every item we buy, we will get rid of something. And we will dispose of it responsibly.
Join us on our journey and wish us luck!