Archive for the ‘Year of Less’ Category

Don’t Wanna

There is nothing so frustrating as dealing with crossed arms, a protruding lower lip and a scowl deep as an underwater trench. There is no reasoning with it and it is exhausting.  That was me at lunch.

Yesterday as I was driving home I had a wicked urge for fried chicken. Today I woke up with my first thought being that chicken.  I would love to say that my self-discipline alone was enough to prevent the purchase but luckily I had lunch all ready to go and I knew I’d have to blog about it. 🙂 The impulses for immediate gratification didn’t go away once I decided to change my life. I was only distracted from them.  One of the best tools I have is to surround myself with the voices of others with the same goals.  I go to the veteran fighters, see what they do and try and emulate some of their moves.

One of my favourites is Mary Hunt http://www.everydaycheapskate.com/marys-perspective/quiet-the-urge-to-splurge/.  She has ongoing facebook updates with articles, books and a website.  The Year of Less blog, though no longer updated, had daily and monthly challenges and everyone seems to be buzzing about a book called “7” by Jen Hatmaker.  All these bits and pieces help when my impulses are having a temper tantrum.

One of the things I liked in the Year of Less blog is the intention to make one small change each day.  It causes me to think and deliberately pick something to improve.  Some days it has been as minimal as sorting out the junk drawer.  Today I’ve been tired and really out of sorts.  Today I think I will take a sampler of baby steps.

I will mend one shirt, reduce my wardrobe and my son’s wardrobe my one item each, and put on a five minute timer as I tackle my filing.  In honesty I still really want that fried chicken and onion nuggets but I will finish the night with a nice cup of hot cocoa and be in bed by 10.  My mom used to say that with cocoa and a good sleep things are always better in the morning. She was usually right. Thanks mom.
Do you have favourite sites you follow to encourage you and help keep you on track? Feel free to leave a comment on this post.

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

Crafters in Sheep’s Clothing

You see the rich colours and glossy pictures as the magazine sits up on the rack.  It promises tips and techniques.  You know that this will be the one to have the project that will launch a new mindstorm of creativity. One of your favourite artists has an article that showcases her newest products.

 You proudly march it up to the cash knowing that you are saving so much by being a “do it yourselfer” or have you?

You stop by the craft store and there is a demo. for  something you had thought about trying and they even have a coupon for the supplies. They offering classes to learn the technique and some of them are free! Of course you need to buy all the material from the store first.  Yes if you thought about it $50 in supplies is a little steep to learn Tiborean lattice woven ashtrays but just think, when you get home you can make dozens.  Sure you need to buy a lathe and wood curling specialized vise grips from Tibora but hey, it could happen.

I love to learn new things. Papier mache, crochet, sculpting, acrylic abstract, beading, wire work, sculpture, basketry, mosaics can all use basic materials and tools but each has an industry behind it that is constantly at you to buy more and more products to create the latest thing.  A quick tour through any arts and crafts store will have you going down endless rows of colourful, exciting, shiny papers, inks, stamps, glues, findings, yarns, patterns, stains, and every possible accessory.

Once I’d get home with my precious magazine I would find that it was primarily advertising and that the articles were primarily advertising.  The projects were designed to showcase things you don’t have and will need to purchase.  Crocheting magazines feature yarns you don’t have.  They don’t say you can’t use what you own but we all know that if you do you will are just not a serious artist and can’t expect to achieve the results promised to the faithful who have bought the “in crowd” yarn.

Lesson:  To combine a frugal lifestyle with a leaning toward handmade you need to be “clever as a serpent and wise as a dove”.  You have to see the crafting industry for what it is, an industry.  They are there to sell.  One of the beauties of the internet is that if you are discerning you can learn basic techniques.  Be aware of your own weaknesses.  A few days ago a saw a link to homemade rugs.  It got my heart racing. I immediately wanted to jump in and try it.  Sure I would need yards of a fabric I didn’t own and a backing that was suspect for durability but,… No.  I had to calm down.  Like a bar to a drinker, I need to avoid new materials and techniques while I’ve got bins of materials waiting to be transformed.  Single use materials are not a good investment.  No new workshops for now.  I’m swearing off (unless it is Maureen Carlson as the teacher. Learning from her is on my bucket list.)  I need to deal with my excess of stuff and stop looking for new distractions.

In the blog “The Year of Less” September is the month to “Eat My Pantry”.  I think October with be the month to “Craft from my Closet”.  Be careful out there gentle crafter. There are wolves  in artist’s clothing.

Sincerely, Deb

(photo was taken at Van. fan expo. and is not meant to represent this woman as anything but a really fun person)

Sept. 11th Don’t Wanna

There is nothing so frustrating as dealing with crossed arms, a protruding lower lip and a scowl deep as an underwater trench. There is no reasoning with it and it is exhausting.  That was me at lunch.

Yesterday as I was driving home I had a wicked urge for fried chicken. Today I woke up with my first thought being that chicken.  I would love to say that my self-discipline alone was enough to prevent the purchase but luckily I had lunch all ready to go and I knew I’d have to blog about it. 🙂 The impulses for immediate gratification didn’t go away once I decided to change my life. I was only distracted from them.  One of the best tools I have is to surround myself with the voices of others with the same goals.  I go to the veteran fighters, see what they do and try and emulate some of their moves.

One of my favourites is Mary Hunt http://www.everydaycheapskate.com/marys-perspective/quiet-the-urge-to-splurge/.  She has ongoing facebook updates with articles, books and a website.  The Year of Less blog had daily and monthly challenges and everyone seems to be buzzing about a book called “7” by Jen Hatmaker.  All these bits and pieces help when my impulses are having a temper tantrum.

One of the things I like in the Year of Less blog is the intention to make one small change each day.  It causes me to think and deliberately pick something to improve.  Some days it has been as minimal as sorting out the junk drawer.  Today I’ve been tired and really out of sorts.  Today I think I will take a sampler of baby steps.

I will mend one shirt, reduce my wardrobe and my son’s wardrobe my one item each, and put on a five minute timer as I tackle my filing.  In honesty I still really want that fried chicken and onion nuggets but I will finish the night with a nice cup of hot cocoa and be in bed by 10.  My mom used to say that with cocoa and a good sleep things are always better in the morning. She was usually right. Thanks mom.

Sept.10th Treasure Hunting

My uncle and aunt in Winnipeg are grand masters in saving and using everything.  My uncle used to be the treasurer for the Mennonite Central Committee and he was the best man for the job.  Though he will dispute 3 cents on a bill and not waste one pasta noodle I would never say he is cheap.  My uncle is a generous man who has helped fund many important projects and given openly to people in need. My aunt, a nurse, has worked tirelessly for others and her door is always opened in hospitality.

This morning just as I was chiding myself for overspending yesterday I had a call.  It was a friend wanting to meet for coffee.  I accepted right away. No it didn’t work into the plan of saving every penny but it did work into the plan of creating the life I want to live.  My friend has cancer and tomorrow, 9/11 she will have a difficult surgery.  Don’t get me wrong. This is a strong and wonderful woman and we would not be embracing and weeping and melodramatic. She is not her disease.  I knew with her we’d be laughing, sharing and living.  We went to a wonderful arts cafe, the Watershed in Walnut Grove and enjoyed our scones and coffees (mine was a hot cocoa with hazelnut, yum).  We talked for over two hours and hugged.  The money spent enriched my life far more than the few dollars could have ever done. his challenge is about more than just saving money. The point is destressing, decluttering, self discipline and organizing priorities.

When I was a social worker at a care home I led a caregiver support group.  All of them had a lot of stress but some held up remarkably well while others crumbled.  One of the exercises we did was to have people write down their top five priorities.  I then had them write down their top five usages of time.  For the people whose lists were very close, they had the best handle on the stress.  For the ones with almost no crossover they were depressed and scattered.  They felt incredibly frustrated.  What are your priorities? What and who do you treasure?

For many people the token list looks something like: 1. God 2. spouse 3. children 4. friends 5. recreation.   Often time usage is  1. work 2. TV 3. video games/e-mails/facebook etc. 3. shopping 4. cell phone 5. family.

Investing your time in your priorities is essential to balancing your life.  If you say you have a best friend you haven’t seen in a couple of years you need to get them on your calendar now.  As a Canadian I am here to tell you that you can’t vote on American Idol so your favourite will not be sent home if you miss this week’s episode, but your friendship may fade to nothingness if you don’t act fast.  Marriages need constant upgrading.  Even a palace will look like a dump if it isn’t maintained.  Go have fun with your spouse. Enjoy your kids rather than just letting them get caught up in the frustration of your out of control life.  It doesn’t matter if I create a cool rug if my son is feeling more and more detatched each day because his achievements go unnoticed and uncelebrated.  In a lot of ways we make our lives more complicated than we need to.

So today I took my friend for coffee and I feel completely on track with my goals.  Next time I will entertain at home.  I will strive to live my priorities.

Money spent today $10.78, avoided fast food on the way home and have dinner bubbling in the pot.  I gathered 4 cups of blackberries and now have enough for jam. Hooray!

And mom?  I love you.

Sept. 8th Sample Sized and Going Menno.

So today the challenge from The Year of Less is to pare down my knife drawer (did I really just say that?).  They were able to get it down to three knives. I know that isn’t  happening with me. Most of my knives are Henkels and were a gift from my dad, but I did have others that I happily passed on to someone who could use them.  I knew for me that there was another area that needed a good cleaning out and that was the UFOs in my bathroom (unused facial ointments), specificly the samples.

Whether they are trial sized, mailing samples, hotel shampoos and soaps or bonuses with cosmetics, they slowly pile up.  I’ve told myself I will use them for short trips but I forget about them.  I’ve put them in lovely baskets for guests but usually people bring their own things and don’t want to try the death by chocolate dental floss.  Year after year the small package of tissues decorated with dancing snowmen sits neglected.  Eight tubes of Clinique lipstick, and yet only last month I bought two more tubes of a different product and shades.

I went against every HGTV show and put all my products on the counter.  I put all the samples into a box and these are what I need to use until they are gone. I will look ridiculous blowing my nose in Frosty’s hat but the end result of a tissue is not a thing of great dignity anyways.  On the counter I will leave all the partially finished bottles of mousse, gels, hair spray, moisturizers, toners and sun screen.  These will have to be used or discarded before I use the newer stuff.  Old mascaras and eye pencils hit the garbage. Old eye shadows will be repurposed as mica powder for polymer clay projects and shower caps can be used as food covers for the fridge. Really. Then we have the other food give aways, the take-out condiments. A box of the ketchups, soy sauces, and hot sauce packets have been put on the table so that we use those up before opening new jars.  It’s not pretty but either these get used or they are just more clutter and a waste of money.

As for the food it is time to reconnect to my Mennonite roots. In most old Menno. homes there are always relishes (chutneys) at the table during meals.  No food was wasted. Things were frozen, pickled or reworked. In the past I’ve made red pepper relishes and cucumber relishes but they were not on the list today.  I had corn, red peppers, two cucumbers and some onions.  Finally in Food that Schmecks I found Magdaline’s corn relish.  I reduced the recipe to 1/3 and still ended up with 9 small jars.  Normally this is made with green peppers as well but I used what I had.  It’s time to reclaim the wisdom that got discarded in the name of convenience.  Next step?  The goal now is to collect 4 c. of blackberries to make jam for the winter. I have the polysporin already so I should be good!

As for the great “Eat Your Pantry” challenge we are ironically eating better than we have in a while.

No money spent today.  Gathered 21 little yellow plums and 1/2 c. blackberries.  I added apple to the carrot salad and made a sweet dressing. I made cheese bread as a side to the hamburgers and the left over corn on the cob finished a great lunch.  Dinner was a healthy game of Ifits.  If it is in the fridge it is fair game. Hamburger buns are buttered and broiled with garlic salt. Hamburger/rice stir fry, snap peas, salad, fried potatoes and spare ribs made for a happy little feast.  I think I like not spending money.

Sept.6th paperwork and clothing allowance

For days 2 and 3 of the Year of Less challenge you are supposed to get rid of your reliance on paper products.  Thankfully it is not too extreme and we are talking about paper towels and napkins.  While I am not committing to complete austerity it did have me rethink my use of paper dining serviettes as opposed to cloth and rags for cleaning instead of paper towel.  I decided since there are just two of us that having 14 table napkins once a week would not add much to a weekly washload.  I know these will be cheap at the thrift as people have gotten away from cloth as too much hassle.

The next challenge is to get rid of cloth. Hhm.  In simplifying our wardrobes we take the strain out of dressing.  This is something I do on a regular basis and Josh does too by insisting on growing at an alarming rate!  Who authorized that?  Like many woman I have the three wardrobes, the oversized, the fits right now but nothing goes together and the “In a few more pounds I’ll fit in and really it was a fabulous deal” clothes.  I realized in doing this that I need to zero in on the “fits me right now” clothes and see what I actually had and what made a real outfit.  It wasn’t long before I figured out that my coordinated outfits incorporated pieces from all three size groups.  What I am really wearing is rather limited.  On my last vacation I had on the same dress in almost every photo.  It was like someone just moved the backdrop while I stood in place.  My challenge for tonight (and probably tomorrow) is to take out my entire wardrobe and only put back the outfits that are seasonal, fit and are match with something.  The oversized and undersized will be boxed with dates on them.  If a year goes by and they aren’t opened then they go to the thrift sight unseen (OK in truth I’d wash them first as the thrift deserves the best we can give. The rule is to not pass on what you wouldn’t wear yourself if it fit.)

In order to facilitate this I will resort to a tempting box of butter chicken and jasmine rice for dinner. I’ll make a carrot salad with raisins and sunflower seeds on the side.  I’ll defrost some raspberries and blueberries to serve over frozen yogurt for dessert.  Simple and it will let me get back to saying, “What the heck am I doing with a sequined halter and a bubble skirt?”.

Expenses:  food  – $4.81, school fees for art -$30.  Polysporin for infected scratches from picking blackberries -$6, returned broken sunglasses and didn’t buy new ones +$11.20.

Photo from a trip to Europe. Simplifying is a good thing.

Sept.5 Eating my heart out

When I started this challenge it was really to see if I could find a way to free up some money to plan for the future.  What I didn’t expect was to deal with my whole attitude towards food.  After University there were the times where money was non-existent and you made do with whatever you could afford.  It created a feeling that making it meant that you could eat whatever you wanted whenever you wanted.  Even if it wasn’t good for you, even if it hurt you.  To not get to eat something was a punishment or failure.

I knew that decluttering my environment was one of the goals of the Year of Less but I didn’t realize I needed to declutter my thinking about food. Let the games begin!

Money spent today:  Food $3.76 – eggs and three carrots,  free-  an unexpected gift of Tollhouse cookies from my neighbour who has recently opened the first Tollhouse cookie store at Guildford mall. Thanks Tammy.

Other expenses:  $38.54 for supplies at Home Depot.  Part of living a frugal life is to preserve the things you already have and keep them in working order.  My rug hooking frame is starting to dry out and I needed paste wax.  I also am having paint peeling on the out side of my doorframes and railings. If I leave the raw wood exposed I will spend a lot more to replace it as it rots and warps.  When I was there I saw a wood stain/sealer that was a discard for tint and I picked that up for $1.  That will preserve a wood table in need of help. Yes I just bought myself more work.

Now to the pantry challenge.  I had some chicken legs and thighs, bone in, that were taking up room in the freezer. Problem? My son doesn’t like dark meat and I’m afraid of the bbq. Seriously, I know.  No problem. I’d decided to use a can of coconut milk and so with the two ingredients I finally found a great crockpot recipe. Problem?  Yes, as I prepped for the meal I couldn’t find the can.  Did I now vaguely remember giving it to a foodbank drive. Maybe.  Rats.  Normally I just would have gone to the store and bought one but I was going to honour the terms of the challenge and keep on searching.  Next the cream corn.  There were many casseroles listed. Hhm. Nope, I don’t have sour cream. Nope I don’t have creamed cheese. ( I thought I did but who knew that it hardened and went green if not used promptly).  I had saltines. Excellent or so I thought.  I opened a package that was still sealed. I popped one in my mouth just as the smell of paint thinner hit me.  There is no expiration date on the box but the chemicals released were horrible.  I will never again buy saltines based on what they evolve into. They were crisp and looked great but this was scary. Time to colour outside the lines. Tortilla chips would substitute and sauteed onions and red peppers would seal the deal. Yesterday I served cucumber slices with the dal so I needed a different taste.  I went with a rice wine vinegar and sugar mix, carrot curls and seasame seeds  for a sharp contrast to the bbq sauce chicken with pineapple, and scalloped corn casserole. Rice rounded it out and the left over cherries and plums made a great dessert.

My final project was to declutter.  Each week I take all my receipts and put the credit card ones in a box. It hold them but that is it. Out of sight out of my wallet. I decided I needed to be more organized so I created envelopes for each month that include all my receipts. This will help me track my spending and make me more accountable. OK enough for now.

Sept. 4th Pillow Talk

So today I’m taking on the first challenge of the “Year of Less”.  Ironically it is to get rid of things.  Fear makes you hold tighting on to things in case you need them.  To hoard is a natural reaction to the fear of poverty.

For those who know me that may seem like a silly worry but it is something that has been with me since my first big trip with my mom.  In May 2009 I took a European trip with my mom in honour of the trip she was supposed to have taken with my dad before he passed on.  One of the stops had us by the spice market in Istanbul.  As we crossed the plaza a hand reached up and a woman vacant eyes caught mine.

Image

What shocked me was the blueness of her eyes and her blonde hair.  A voice in my head said, “One day this will be you.”  I am not given to hearing voices so this frightened me good and proper.  It was ridiculous. I was in a secure marriage of 16 years and we’d always look out for each other.  The next month my husband told me he was leaving.

Scroll forward to today where I have a good relationship with my ex., my finances and health seem stable. Unfortunately the voice never went away and so I began gathering like the ant for winter.

Now to the challenge.  It was to get rid of throw pillows. It is an exercise in getting rid of what is not beautiful or useful.  It was to re-identify things in terms of what enhances our life and what is stale.

For me I only have one throw pillow and it goes on my bed and I find it beautiful so I had to on the hunt for my equivalent.  It was books.  Immediately my rationalization muscle started to flex.  “But books are useful. Books are beautiful.  Books tell a story about you, but.,,,,”.  I have hundreds of books and I have given away thousands.  Having a thrift store with .25 cent pocket books on Saturdays made accumulating very easy.  Regularly they were just .50 cents so it was easy to create stacks of books.  It was time.

I created my rules.  It went out if: 1.  I had had it over a year and still hadn’t read it. 2. If I’d read it but wouldn’t recommend it to a friend and 3. I’d read it and it hadn’t touched me.  It was painful to fill the donation box with these unread, unrealized adventures but I knew it was time to let go of what was stale and simplify.

Update: The good news. I spent zero dollars on food.  I came out ahead by being given cucumbers and plums by a wonderful friend Nancy. Bad news? I ended up with a $150 plumbing bill.

Tomorrow is another adventure in eating and living thoughtfully.  Let’s hope the electrical doesn’t get jealous and decide short out! 🙂