Friday, January 30, 2009

Keep doin' what I'm doin'

Well, in light of the unwelcome (but not devastating!) layoff news that I mentioned yesterday, I realize that the best thing I can do right now is to just keep doing what I'm doing. So that's what I'm doing! And here it is:

Yesterday, I saw a post on freecycle offering gift bags and gift wrap. This was wonderful timing, because when wrapping the teacher's gift this week I realized I was about out of both, and started wondering how I could be creative enough to make homemade gift wrap. Now, I realize it can be done but a large haul of someone else's unwanted giftwrap and bags really frees up alot of my time for other things...LOL. The giver lived right in my neighborhood, so I had the chance to go over and meet her. She was as thankful to get the bags out of her closet as I was to receive them! She also warned that some of the bags even still contained forgotten gifts. So things worked out well for both of us!! I won't need to even think about gift wrap again, and even have some gifts on hand now for birthday parties and such.

The next thing on the need list was diapers. They aren't neccessarily on the "do not buy" list, since they are a neccessity in our house. And I wish I had made different choices and thought more about the environment when I started diapering my son 2 1/2 years ago, but right now the situation "is what it is" until he is potty trained. (and if you read one of my previous posts about the last attempt, you'll know what a challenge that will be!!) So anyway, the best diaper deal I could find was at CVS combining a sale, coupons, and extra bucks back. On my way to CVS today, I noticed a newly-opened thrift store affiliated with a nearby church. I considered not stopping, since we don't really need much, but I decided to pop in and check it out for future reference. One of the first things I saw was a table of diapers, new in the package! I found 3 packages of diapers in my son's size, priced at $2 each. So luckily, I walked out with 3 packages for less than the lowest price I could find on ONE package at CVS. So I'm glad I stopped! And in a fit of total extravagance (LOL) I bought my daughter a cute little top for another $2.

I had wondered if any of the fulfillment from not buying anything new would be diminished by the fact that for now I HAVE to do it this way. And surprisingly, it hasn't! Its actually MORE fun!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

NOW its about the money...

Life certainly is crazy with its twists and turns. I am so, so glad my family has taken this pledge and learned so much this month about how much happier we are with living with less, because my dear, sweet, hardworking husband was laid off yesterday. In some ways this was expected and in some ways it wasn't. He is in a volatile field of work which has been hit hard in this recent economy. On the other hand, he's been gainfully employed for the last 20 years and things like this "just don't happen to us". Luckily, we've always done what you are "supposed" to do and kept a fund for living expenses set aside. Between that and our newfound freedon from stuff, we will be fine--just shaken up a bit. I have faith that everything happens for a reason, just as this blog has clearly happened for a reason, so I know everything will be okay.
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

When baby ain't happy...

Just a little twist on the old sayng--when the 2-year-old ain't happy, ain't NOBODY happy! That would be the case in our household the last couple of days. Cold and flu season is in full swing. We big people in the household have managed to ward off illness with healthy doses of vitamin C and zinc, but the little one isn't quite ready for that, so his cold hit him full force. I've been up most of the night for 3 nights in a row with a congested baby. And I don't mind a bit--there's nothing a child needs more when he's sick than to be comforted by his mother. But all this brings me to a point--I'm TIRED. And I'm not sure my post will make sense--LOL--but I'll give it a shot.
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

Lunch and shopping

One of the things I always loved to do on a Sunday after church was to go out to lunch, then shop while my husband took the kids to the mall play area. Well, lunch still works out fine but now we have to take shopping out of the equation. Or so I thought...

After organizing all my "new" clothes into the closet yesterday after the clothing swap, I made a short list of the things I'd like to have to complete my wardrobe. I'm pretty happy in general with everything in the closet right now--it all fits, I like it, everything mixes and matches well and right now I could probably find an outfit for any occasion neccessary. All that, and my very small closet is neat and organized, with space to spare! WOW! The short list of things that would make my outfits stretch further: white shirts, a pair of black pumps to wear with winter dresses, and a roomy dark brown purse for church and outings. (roomy enough for an extra diaper and snacks)

One item bumped from the "want" to the "need" list was a pair of tennis shoes for my son. We can't find one of his shoes, which has been missing for about a month, and have come to the conclusion that it fell out of the car or met another such permanent fate. Its been warm, so he's been getting by with his 2 pairs of sandals. Well, a cold front came through and his chubby little feet were cold in those sandals, so it was time to find him some shoes!!

We went to lunch today at a favorite seafood restaraunt, and it just so happens that the thrift store that benefits the Women's Shelter was on the way. So I popped in with my list, and was lucky to find 2 of the things on it, along with a bonus! I managed to find a pair of Nike tennis shoes, missing one shoelace but otherwise looking brand new, in his size for only $3.00! (I pulled laces from another pair of shoes when we got home, and they are good as new)Further searching turned up a high-quality, well-made dark brown leather purse with all the features I was looking for priced at $2.00. I also found some wrought-iron candlesticks for the mantle for 50 cents each. There were similar great bargains on toys, but after some deliberation I passed on them, because right now we just don't need to add to the toy pile. So anyway, not only did I find the shoes my son needed and 2 things I wanted, but I walked out for less than $6.50 after tax. Even my husband was excited!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Clothing Swap

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!

I returned home with 19 clothing items, 3 pairs of shoes and a pair of sunglasses. It was my goal to take home less than I brought! I was very careful this time in choosing the items. I made sure everything was a perfect fit, and that I could visualize it as part of a complete outfit using either things I already had at home or items from the swap. I was very, very lucky to find so many items that I absolutely loved and to find complete outfits, even down to the shoes! My daughter enjoyed the accessories table and came home with some cute necklaces and earrings along with a watch. Someone brought a tub of baby toys, and my daughter chose a few to bring home to the 2-year-old, and even found him an adorable Texas Longhorns jacket. And lastly, another attendee who was moving brought a box of household items that she no longer needed. One was a beautiful ceramic platter, still in the box, that matched my kitchen and another was a lovely angel statue for the garden.

All in all, we had a wonderful time. I will be busy today organizing my "new" wardrobe into my closet and will be enjoying new outfits for weeks to come. This really takes the sting out of passing up all those clothing sales this month!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Breaking old habits

When we first made the pledge to forgo retail shopping for one year, I really thought the only difficulty would be in finding the things we needed second hand. And that has proven to be true in the one instance of something we needed--a converter box--but that was quite an unusual circumstance. Other than that, we haven't actually needed anything, and of all the things we've wanted we've gotten our hands on them easily. The real challenge, surprisingly, has been reminding myself not to buy the things I don't need.
"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

Meet the Flintstones

My husband and I agree that our household is on the cutting edge of technology---- if it were still 1990!!! We are not techies. We've never been big on TV, we don't buy lots of gadgets. Some has to do with lack of interest, some is lack of time and somewhat that these things are low priority. Regardless, we manage to muddle through life in the stone ages. One thing that people are always shocked to hear is that we don't have cable. We used to have it, and we thought (as everyone else expresses to us) that there would be nothing to watch if we got rid of it. Well, about 4 years ago we sat down and realized that it cost us money every month to maintain what we considered to be a nuisance. Our daughter spent all her time begging to watch TV, and even refused playdates or interrupted dinner shouting "Spongebob is on! I have to go watch it!" Hubby and I spent hours desperately flipping through channels and hoping something "good" would finally be on. Later we'd realize we wasted 2 hours with nothing to show for it, not even entertainment or relaxation, and we could have been doing other things.
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

The story of stuff

I was asked today what exactly was "green" about not buying anything new. And I know the reasons deep down, but I struggled to put them into words. Or at least to put the full impact into words. So I realized I needed to refresh myself on this, and I'd like to share it. "The Story of Stuff" is a wonderful explanation of where stuff comes from, what happens to it and ultimately the toll it all takes. I'll warn you that its 20 minutes long and there are some comments about the government that won't be everyone's cup of tea, but if you watch it I can guarantee you'll never look at "stuff" the same way again. Check it out at

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

Finally finished with the office!

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!!!

Planting seeds

Yesterday was such a different kind of Saturday for us. We're usually going non-stop all day. Of course, it helps that its not soccer season and there weren't any birthday parties scheduled. But since there was no shopping to do and no need to go out, we had lots of time to focus on "being home". We had a leisurely breakfast, and afterward my daughter and I made a batch of cookies and also a batch of frozen homemade strawberry treats that the kids love. My husband finished up detail work on the new wood floor while I spent time in the back yard with the kids. The mild, pleasant weather put me in mind of spring, so it seemed like a good time to start some plants in pots for our spring garden.
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

Taking the day off.

My husband has every other Friday off, and today was his day off. These Fridays are usually a blur of trying to get things done--household projects and trips to Lowe's for him, trips to Target and Hobby Lobby for me, whatever errands we've had waiting to be tackled. We usually run out one at a time, leaving the other parent behind to watch the little one. Well, today was different. There was no need to go shopping, no need to go to Lowe's. We have lots of little projects going on around the house, but first and foremost we are SIMPLIFYING, so we decided to take the day off. At first my head swirled with all the things we could do--go to lunch, see a movie. Then I thought about it again--we are simplifying. So we went to the gym. Each of us usually goes to the gym, but he goes before work and I go later in the day. But its good for us, its relaxing, we enjoy it, and who couldn't stand a workout?? So we went together, and since our son is allowed two hours in the child watch (which he loves) we spent one hour exercising and the other in the hot tub. We actually got to talk without being interrupted by kids, and to talk about things that didn't involve the house or our finances. It was like a date, only better!! When we came home, completely and utterly relaxed, we had leftovers for lunch and then got the little one down for a nap. Then WE took a nap. On most days off, even if we aren't doing anything we don't feel relaxed. But today we did, through and through. You just can't buy that kind of feeling.

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

The closet is half empty

Does that make me an optimist???
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

All we could have hoped for...

Writing the previous post about my son got me thinking about my daughter as well. Alot of people have asked whether my kids are on board with the concept of not buying anything new for a year. My 2-year-old is oblivious. Nothing has changed in his world. And my daughter, surprisingly, is even more gung-ho about this than we are! She gets an allowance, but she is responsible for buying anything beyond the necessities. After a big disappointment with some Blendy Pens and one overpriced jumbo pencil that she regretted buying, she learned a good lesson. Stuff is usually not as great as it looks on the box. She has figured out that a Barbie costs $10 at the store and 50 cents at a garage sale. She has also learned than when she saves up for something, she waits for it to go on sale before she buys it. I'd say she's very responsible with her money. So the other day, she came to me and told me she'd been saving and had $50 she wanted to use for something. I cringed. I couldn't imagine what it was. And then she explained--she wanted to donate it to help save gorillas. She'd seen a special on PBS about their plight, and wanted to help. We located a charitable organization and she begged to donate to them. I gave her a week to cool her heels. I made sure she understood that this was ALL her money. What if she later wanted something else? "I don't need anything else". And she means it. She's not a trendy kid. She's goodhearted and kind, and would give the shirt off her back to help someone else. In this day and age, a kid with $50 could buy alot of fun and useless things. But she wants to donate it. So as far as wondering if she's wishing we could be out buying new things??? I'd have to say no. Not at all.

The Potty Fiasco

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

Stuff of another sort.....

A I mentioned yesterday, I needed to revive two beanbag chairs that had gone flat so that I could set up a reading area for the kids. Today I picked up freecycled styrofoam peanuts and as luck would have it, half of them had come out of a beanbag chair to begin with! The two chairs that we have, which have been in a closet for probably a year, are functional and now being used. The kids were thrilled.

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

What a difference a day makes!

As I mentioned yesterday, we are changing our spare bedroom from a guestroom to a playroom for the kids. Now I should clarify that the "guest room" was really a junk room with a bed and dresser buried somewhere underneath our layers of ---say it with me--STUFF. We frantically cleared it out every time we had guests, only to throw everything back in when they left. Time for that to stop! Now that our furniture is happily serving its intended purpose in someone else's real guest room, its time to deal with our piles of stuff and make the room functional. WITHOUT BUYING ANYTHING. To furnish the room, I pilfered shelves from the kids rooms and used the bins they already had, which made sense since I was moving their toys into this room anyway. I then went thru the bedroom decor that I bought when Pier 1 Kids went out of business. (Got an amazing deal BTW!) I'm saving it for my son's "big boy" room, but since we still have a while until he's ready, I used those things to give the room a theme and a color scheme. I managed to get a cute airplane poster on Freecycle, and reposessed a frame for it from the attic off an old poster from my first-apartment days. (why did I still have that??) I found some old cabinets we had taken down from the laundry room when we redid it, and cleaned them up to use as sort of a window seat area, with storage for games underneath. So we have a start on a fun room! There is more to do. We have a huge white board in the garage that I plan to hang at kid level on one wall to appease thier artistic urges. I want to set up a reading area with their bean bag chairs, but the chairs are flat as pancakes. Luckily, someone posted a ton of styrofoam peanuts on Freecycle and I have arranged to pick them up tomorrow, which will hopefully bring the bean bags back to life. And we need a table and chairs for their puzzles, games and etc for the other wall. I'm sure I'll figure someting out! And I still need to clean all the STUFF out of the closet and better organize their toys. But hey, its a great start and now its a room we can actually use!! For FREE!

Other breakthrough events today:

The ironing board you see in the picture has been stuck in the "open" position for months. We had been planning to get rid of it and get a new one for who knows how long but now we need to make do. My ever so patient and loving husband hammered and pulled on it (I think I may have heard something to the effect of "why the @#$& did we decide to do this, anyway) and finally fixed it. I found, under our piles of STUFF, an new cover that I bought for it who knows how long ago. So we replaced the cover, folded it up, and that's that. And my beloved is actually glad now that he did it. In fact, he was so pleased with his progress on the ironing board that he got online to see if he could find out how to fix the lamp you see turned over in the "before" picture. It is a touch lamp, which unfortunately got stuck in the "off" position when the touch function stopped working. Well, he did some tinkering and its not perfect, but it is now stuck in the "on" position. So we can put it back where it was and it will still serve its purpose. He plans to install a switch so that we don't have to plug and unplug it to turn it on and off. So that's a second thing that would surely have been in the trash if we'd gotten around to it a month ago, and I'm realizing that we did way more of that than I thought.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Tape Incident

Today I had to mail a box. No problem finding a box, there was one ready and waiting in the garage. But the packing tape... couldn't find it. I remembered using it at Christmas to wrap the last gift because we had run out of scotch tape, and it was a pretty good-sized roll. The "old" me would have simply gone out for a new roll of tape. And while I was at it, I'd have checked out all those bargains I've been hearing about. I'm sure there would have been a few deals too good to pass up. So I'd have brought more tape into the house, along with some more stuff. The new me wasn't going to do that.
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

Out with the old, in with the (sort of) new..

I never realized how much time I spent bargain hunting--reading sale ads, browsing/shopping online, etc. Now that there's no reason to pick up the Target ad or click on that Gymboree sale link, I have more time on my hands than I thought I would. I'm no longer telling the kids "Just a minute, I'm doing something!"
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

A week in the life...

Our first week as non-consumers:

January 1:
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. ( 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!


Our family has decided not to buy anything new, (as in retail, from a store) for one full year. WHY?
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.

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??

Our pledge:
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!