Archive for October, 2012

Can’t See the Forest for the Sleeves

OK maybe the title isn’t one of my better literary efforts but this is what happens after two days of trying to pack a suitcase and being unsuccessful.  The embarrassing part is that this is not my first trip to the rodeo (I did not just use that cliche.)  I had decluttered most of my wardrobe, matching outfits with jewelry etc.   It would have been a cunning and clever plan IF I had tried on everything first.  It also had another fatal flaw (see how I’m building the dramatic tension?).  I had a closet full of black pants and matched each one with a suitable top. Unfortunately I cannot bring 9 pairs of black pants with me and not all work with all the tops.  There are four variations on a yoga pant.  One is comfortable, a bit worn and the draw string really shows when under a top. The second is newer, has a more subtle waistband but a small paint stain on one leg. The third is a soft wide leg with pockets but keeps on lengthening due to the material.  The fourth is the newest but too figure fitting to wear with any shirt that doesn’t cover the bum.  Did I mention the dress pants with the faint pin strip in case I need to look businesslike, the flowing pants that would be great for the opera, the clam diggers or the two pairs of thick leggings with faux leather applique?  Of course I have two because the applique on one is on the side of the legs and the other is on the knees.

I will spare you the horrors of the toppings section ( I feel like an ice cream sundae), but I came back to the struggle between style and comfort.  What looked good was not necessarily what I could wear on the sort of multi climate zone trip I was going to take.  Unlike decluttering blouses and sweaters I found letting go of pants too hard.  My lifestyle requires clothes I can trash with my sculpting.  My textiles get lint on everything.  I have clothes for that so I don’t go out looking like I’ve rolled in an old man’s jacket pocket.

Bit by bit the pile of working clothes has grown out of control as well.  I justify that I can turn them into rugs one day but the chances are slim.

The truth is that by hanging on to all the “almost works” pants I didn’t realize that I did not have a basic black pant that was great.  The clutter of “must keep” clothing didn’t let me know what I needed.  Slowly I started matching the tops I wanted to take with the pants as they lay on the bed.  A clear winner emerged for the yoga pants that would serve for hiking and a slim pair for the boots that would walk me around Istanbul. The tops had to either go with one of these two pairs to make the cut.  I allowed myself one skirt and though I only have three, one is for summer, one is in a different colour theme and the lucky winner manages to work with three of the tops.

In the end I had a pair of city pants, country pants, and a skirt..

I learned I had no sweaters, no fleece, no raincoat and 16 camisoles.  Over the next few months I will try and refine the wardrobe into wearable outfits that mix and match and fit properly.   If I can also manage to get a cool hair style and balance my budget I will have pulled a hat trick of domestic bliss. I am reluctant to get rid of things that still fit.  It seems counter intuitive  but if I know what I really need I won’t waste money buying the wrong thing. Maybe the next time I want to get away I will be able to pack in less time than I will spend on my vacation.

Leaving you a trail of breadcrumbs out of the forest, Deb

Going back into the Closet, the Honest Truth

Fashion trends make my eye twitch.  How can you trust people who repeatedly tell you that the only way you dare leave the house is if you wear neon plaid and then a few months later tell you that you don’t dare leave the house if you wear neon plaid.  These people are unstable, undependable and are in the business of making us continually neurotic about our appearance.

I know this because as an artist I do check on the colour trends that are forecast for upcoming seasons to see if my jewelry designs work with the random insanity.  I then go and work on whatever appeals to me, generally metallics, textures, pieces of metal, sculptural elements  and pieces with a story.  I don’t go to shopping malls, read fashion magazines or have any respect for people that pay the price of a car for a purse. Whether it is $20 or $2000 a pen exploding inside of it will still ruin the lining and a moist cough drop will still sent it to the back of the closet.

OK.  So what has that got to do with anything?  We are talking about saving money. Here is my weakness.  I love to travel.  It is what I save my money for and when I am very careful I spend less traveling than living at home (almost, well sort of.)  I find really good deals on flights, accomodations and food.  So far so good but right now I am packing for a wonderful trip with my mom.  We will spend a week in Istanbul, I’ll be using airmiles Best Western cards for accomodations. Great.  We will then be doing a one week cruise from Istanbul to Athens that included free airfare and the whole thing came out cheaper than airfare (I will be so unimpressed if I find out we are really galley help on a Greek fishing boat). Double great.  I will get a chance to introduce my mom to one of the most important people in my life and many other friends, triple great, and they have all seen all of my clothes before. Oh. Ha!  I don’t care.  I’m sure they don’t remember what I wore, even though they are the same outfits I wore in several of the photos I took on my last few trips.  Yup, that one sparkly camisole, certainly made the rounds (in a nice girl way of course).  Yes I have worn these boots there three times. This coat is starting to look like Indiana Jones’ after the fight scenes.  I’m sure they won’t notice.  People in large European cities aren’t too aware of fashion right?  I don’t care about that sort of thing right?  Why is my suitcase inching away from my choices?  Why is my suitcase looking like it was on the Titanic?

All right this is petty but part of my spending before a trip involved a military campaign of getting the hair cut and coloured, feet done, makeup bought fresh, a few new tops, maybe a dress (or two if it was summer) and a bathing suit.  The bathing suit is always problematic because when I buy them I see myself rising from the waves like a spandex clad Venus on a half shell in glistening splendor.  When the photos get downloaded  I see a German opera singer squished into a salami wrapper.  There is no going back and pretending once the photos see the light of day (which they rarely do).  This year, at this time of reckoning it is time to stop avoiding the closet. As Dorothy learned in Oz, everything I really need is right in my own (closet) backyard.  Part of the fun of a trip is buying new things in the hope of being a brand new me, but until I am completely at ease with the me that didn’t suddenly lose 20 lbs. before the trip, then I’m not decluttering the most cluttered room I have, my own closet of anxieties.  Yes marketing and media have had a hand in that but intentional living gives me the freedom to wear brown if “the” trend is lilac.  I have to face my own ego and fantasy cravings and find satisfaction by returning to the closet. Now where is that neon plaid bathing suit? (Don’t visualize.)

Fair Trade

“Neither a borrower nor a lender be”.  This is one of the few lines of Shakespeare that most people can quote.  I’ve even heard it quoted as being from the bible.  It’s not and for what it’s worth neither is “God helps them who helps themselves”.  Regardless of where it is from it is something that is engrained deep into the North American psyche, but is it wisdom or anti-community?

I still remember being in grade 3 and loaning one of my Paddington Bear books to a girl in my class.  It was one of a set and came in its own decorative cardboard case.  She never gave it back.  I still remember her name.  She moved away. Every day the hole in the case reproached me and it felt bad.  Six years later this same girl appeared in my high school.  I recognized her instantly and I wanted to bolt up to her and say, “Give me back my book. You have my Paddington book. You shouldn’t have kept it.”  Needless to say it didn’t happen but I remember the shock to my system and how it felt.

In the blog “The Year of Less” one of the recent ideas was to borrow. The idea is that not everyone needs to buy every item you will ever use.  In theory we would borrow from each other and play nicely.  If you have family nearby and you are semi-functional then having communal items is a great idea.  I found myself getting anxious as I contemplated the idea of asking to borrow anything short of an egg or 1/2 cup of sugar which I knew I would quickly replace.  As for loaning, watching Judge Judy, it seems to be a sure fire way to lose friendships and incur hard feelings if anything goes wrong, damage or loss, and then trying to reconcile the bills.  It hardly seems worth it.  The problem is that we don’t need everything we have and it is a waste for us all to own our own turnip twaddlers when none of us probably twaddles on a regular basis.

I am not saying do not lend items to friends but my early experiences taught me to only lend what I could live without and which are not treasured items.  Out of print books that feature pictures of me refusing George Clooney’s proposal stay on my bookshelf.  Dresses that make me look two sizes smaller are not going on your body.  My grandmother’s handmade blanket stays by my side.  As for the other stuff what I suggest is fair trade.

I need to borrow a wheel barrow and i know the neighbors have one.  On occasion they have hired my son to mow their yard.  What I will propose is that Josh will mow their yard in exchange for the use of the wheel barrow for one day.  If that works we both win.   One of the other things I do is a book box.  On Saturdays at our local hospice thrift paperback books are .25 cents.  It is easy to grab a few.  I used to take these with me instead of library books in case they are damaged or lost. Library books stay in the home.  If I like a book, after I’ve read it it goes in the box.  When I get together with girlfriends I bring the box and they can take what they like.  They can pass them on or give them back to the thrift.  Eventually they started doing the same.  It is a habit I fell out of but I think it would be a great time to start again.

In theory I think lending and borrowing could work if you have like minded friends who are all in agreement and there is an element of fair trade.

I think that this is the sort of principle I can live with.  I’d love to hear other people’s opinions of borrowing/lending.

Thanks, Deb

Stop Working and Save Money

No don’t tell your boss he has coffee breath and a bad comb over, especially if you are self employed.

Being a stay at home mom, like thousands of other women, I’ve scrambled for ways to make extra money.  Some run home daycares but I’d rather be a bouncer at a biker bar.  Others continue on part time at their old jobs but that wasn’t  possible.  There are home parties but I couldn’t sell ice in the desert.  What did that leave?  I read through the books on at home jobs.  The typical advice seemed to be to go with my talents and passions.  Unfortunately no one was willing to pay me to watch sci. fi., eat natchos and hang out with my girlfriends.  During the early years of motherhood my husband traveled a lot as well as upgrading his education so I found I spent a lot of time alone.  As an outlet I began to sketch, refinish furniture, and make jewelry.  When I started to ask people for ideas as to how to make money I received encouragement to sell my jewelry.  “Oh did you make that? Where do you sell? Oh I love that.” I learned later that compliments don’t necessarily correlate to sales but that bit of wisdom came with experience.

I started making jewelry and selling at craft fairs.  Sometimes I made a few dollars and other times I paid the entrance fees only to have dismal turn outs and poor sales. Throughout the years I have sold baskets, earrings, pendants, sculptures and even papier mache sculptures.  The question is, did I make any money?  There is a lot to consider if you are going to try this.  Are you going to sell at fairs, through stores, or online?  The markets either charge a table rate or a commission or a mixture of both. I found the best ones are the commissions so that for the organizers to make money they have to work at advertising.  I made the mistake of doing one house sale where there were only four other sellers and a grand total of 6 customers as the rather flighty lady had neglected to advertise except by a recipe card posted at the local market.  She got her fee in advance and was happy to sit back. One of the worst I remember was a certain bead and jewelry show that had a $400 booth fee. An artist traveled from the Interior of the province, paid for gas, food and an overnight at the hotel and only made $170.  She ended up being out hundreds of dollars for the privilege of giving away her jewelry. Ouch.

To sell you need to invest in ways to display your wares, packaging, business cards, marketing material and stands.  You also have to create enough products to sell. What you do not sell can become a costly investment and leave you with a drawer full wasted materials and time.

If you are going to sell retail they will either take your work on consignment or buy it outright.  Once again if it is on consignment you tie up a portion of your inventory, and the store owner is not as invested in displaying your wares. Selling outright is the dream.  That requires a fair bit of door pounding. The other way is online either through your own website or a site like e-bay, etsy, or artfire etc. To run your own site you pay for the site design and web hosting, and have to maintain it.  You need to be continuously photographing your pieces to update the site. This all costs upfront and ongoing money. To sign up with one of the other sites costs money per post and possibly a commission per sale. The good part is that you do not need to carry excess stock. Unfortunately you do not get the impulse buyer and then you are involved in shipping and methods of payment.

You also have to consider the costs of the materials, the marketing products, the time in manufacturing and selling, and fees. Do these equate to what you can make? What about incidentals like gas, parking, food while on site, classes to learn techniques, books, and sometimes accomodations.  When I sat down and did the math I realized that between the different materials (clay, findings, clasps, chains, gold leaf) and tools (dremels, mold, textures, buffers, sanding paper, finishing)  and marketing info. like business cards, card stock for the individual pieces, bags for each item, the time, and the fees, I was giving up my evenings and weekends for little profit or to break even.

Bottom line:You have to honestly account for all of your expenses.  If you are not making a profit after your costs then you may be indulging in a hobby rather than a business.

Now I hold a couple of private sales a year or do commission work. When people ask where I sell I tell them I can’t afford to sell as it costs too much.  I will continue to do my sculpting and rug design for exhibition work and education because I love it but as far as a money maker, unless I am sure of my costs versus my profits, I am further ahead to stop working and save money.  Now where are those nachos? Oh cool, a Godzilla marathon on the Space network.

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The Return of the Pantry

Well I know that the “Eat Your Pantry” month challenge is over but I feel like I still have a long way to go before I get to where I need to be in terms of food and money.

One of my biggest indicator was that on October 1rst I went face down into ordering Chinese food delivery AFTER having already hit the drive thru at lunch.  The next day I had a bad food hangover and my body was cursing me every which way.  My wallet spit a flurry of receipts at me and the chicken legs I should have prepared were conspiring to give me food poisoning.

Clearly I have a way to go.  Some of the things that I did learn were that even if I ‘m eating from my pantry I had strong urges to fill up any of the empty spaces immediately.  I also started to slide into just eating from home rather than getting at the rest of the things in blocks of ice  at the bottom of the freezer.  One of the things I need to do to stay accountable is to write out my daily  spending totals.  Just for myself I need to see what I am spending as the sales are still a real lure for me.  I’m thinking that eight bottles of toilet duck are probably enough.

Now if I can keep my fingers off the airmiles and Save On More Points specials I can make some progress.  Well, time to make some cherry soup and plan my next few meals. I am in negotiations with the chicken. Wish me luck.