I am not a throw away girl [day 7]

rethink-good-trash-can-metal-no-symbol-tiaraI wrote this a few days ago.  It goes to the tune of Madonna’s song Material Girl.  I think I might need to do a music video with it.  :)

Not a Throw-Away Girl

Some stores discount, some stores ship stuff
I think they’re okay
If they don’t give me reusable options
I just walk away

They can bag and they can stock  
But they can’t see the light, that’s right ‘
Cause the stores without the plastic
Are always in the right, ’cause we are

Living in a disposable world
And I am not a throw away girl
You know that we are living in a disposable world
And I am not a throw away girl

Some use paper, some have bulk
And that’s all right with me
If they can’t use my glass containers
I have to let them be

Some stores try and some stores lie but
Much to my dismay, they sway!
Only stores who save their planet
Make my every day, ’cause they are

Living in a disposable world
And I am not a throw away girl
You know that we are living in a disposable world
And I am not a throw away girl

Stores may come and stores may go
And that’s all right you see
The economy will crash someday
And everyone will see, that we are

Victims of a disposable world
And I am not a throw away girl
You know that we are living in a disposable world
And I am not a throw away girl  Continue reading

the little plastic faces are taunting me…

While grocery shopping a couple of nights ago, I found myself in a quandary.  I’m a frugal shopper, although I dislike calling myself anything with the word “shopper” in it.  I’m also a bit of an activist against plastic waste.  I’m not a radical activist who stands in front of stores with a picket sign, I’m the type that is trying to set an example by doing what I think is right.  I try desperately to avoid needless plastics, and really just trying to avoid anything unnecessary, in a society of disposable excess.

I love cake.  As a matter of fact, I’ve been craving cake since my birthday in May.  I usually buy one, but I just never got around to it.  As I was looking on the sale rack, I found a box of white cupcakes with white icing.  My fav!  Wait.  What’s that on top?  Plastic rings, clearly visible through the transparent plastic box.

Look. The cute little smiley faces are taunting me.  The red ones are visual oxymorons, tiny stop signs saying go.

The cupcakes are on sale.  50% off.  The smug little plastic faces are staring at me, saying, “Plastic waste is okay.  You can buy us with no worries.  Look around.  Everyone else buys us without a second thought.  We were designed for short-term party enjoyment, and we understand that the trash dump is our next destination.  Go ahead, put us in the cart.”  Continue reading

A day without…

Tomorrow is TOMS “one day without shoes” event.  An event to create an awareness of the impact a pair of shoes can have on a child in need.  Yes, I’ll be barefoot tomorrow.  So will my son Joe, who has school tomorrow.  I’m thinking his elementary school is not going to allow him to stay barefoot for long though.  Knowing I don’t have time to leave work and bring him shoes, he’ll have a pair in his backpack.  At his age, he’s probably doing this more for the attention he’ll get for himself instead of the attention he could create for a world in need.  But that’s okay.  This is still a good learning process for him and I’m proud of him for doing it.

As for me, I get more comments about my shoes when they match as opposed to when they’re mismatched.  I’m guessing I’ll get less inquiries about my bare feet than any other people would walking around with no shoes on their feet.  So what is TOMS trying to accomplish with this?  They’re doing great work through selling shoes and I’m sure they would like to sell more shoes.  That’s not a bad thing though.  When they are selling shoes, it’s good, because many children in need are also getting shoes.  I support TOMS, maybe more than I should since I have 4 pairs.  (One of those came from Freecycle)

I know this event is to create awareness and I also know that to do that effectively, one must communicate their cause in culturally relevant ways.  I have to be honest here.  I’m struggling a little bit with all of the advertising paraphernalia that accompanies this particular cause.   I don’t want to wear the t-shirts, I don’t want to stencil this on the street and I don’t want to use the phone app.  I’m not offended at all if people want to use these tools, but I want something a little different.  I want to experience what it’s like to be without shoes.  Better yet, I want to spend my day thinking about all of the things I take for granted.  What is it like to be without?  Without shoes?  Without clean water?  Without enough food?  Without shelter?  Without my iPad?  Without my car?  Without my ____________?  There are pages of words I could use to fill in this blank.  I’m ashamed to say it, but I take all of this for granted.  Continue reading

minimalist challenge update… 88% depreciation?!

With a goal of 365 items, downsizing one item a day over a one year period, has proven to be more difficult than I imagined.  With the exception of my garage, there’s just not much left to downsize in my house.  When I open a cabinet or a drawer, thinking I might be able to find some things I’m not using anymore, I’m rarely able to find anything.  This is good, as I don’t have a lot of clutter and a lot of stuff, but on the other hand, I still have 214 items to go.

Now I still have a lot in my garage.  Way less than I had a few months ago, but still way more than I need.  The problem with that right now is the heat.  It’s too hot to clean anything out, as my garage faces west. It’s a sauna x3.

At 150 items, here’s some financial info… that makes me want to cry.  Think we don’t spend a lot on stuff we don’t need?  Take a look at this.

If I bought these 150 items right now at the store, full price, it would cost me $12,320.36.

I paid $8,523.89 for these items, mostly shopping second hand and discount stores.

I didn’t sell much, as I gave most of it away.  I have made $180.00, with an estimated potential of $1,487.00.  Best case scenario, my stuff depreciated by 88%!!  If this isn’t a reality check, I don’t know what is.

Wow.  Even I’m astonished at these numbers.  Even though I’ve had much of this stuff for many years, it’s still a disturbing snapshot of how much money I can waste.  Have you ever added up how much money you’ve spent like this?  If so, please share.

The 3 most difficult things to part with so far 

Continue reading

tomorrow is the last day! [day 364]

No, I’m not predicting the end of the world.  It’s the last day of the challenge!  It’s been a really good year.  I thought I might look back at the post from day 1.  Wow!  A lot has changed since then!!  Here’s the first post.

Day one of any long time period challenge is more of a normal time than a reality check of the radical decision you just committed to.  I decided to do this challenge very early in the morning, which is the time my monkeys are the most active.  Yeah, I should probably explain that.  My friend Steve says my thoughts are like a bunch of monkeys next to a banana tree, so we frequently refer to the monkeys in my head.  Monkeys are fun and cute, so we’ll go with it.

So I had breakfast with my kids and decided to tell them the news!  We will not be shopping retail for a year.  No new toys, no new video games, no new clothes.  After the silence, then denial, they reluctantly agreed that it was a good plan, although they thought a year was a bit excessive.  Well, with all the excess in our society, why not add a little more excess?  LOL

The ironic thing here is that I still have to shop sometimes for work, and this being the first day of the challenge, I had to go to Ikea for stage set stuff.  I had an Ikea gift card for $50 in my wallet, just to complicate things.  So off I went to shop, placing the stage items in the cart, along with a few things that I could buy with the gift card.  Well, as we all justify the stuff we absolutely need, my justification here was that I should use up the gift card since it probably will get lost or decrease in value over a year.  As I was about to check out, I put the stuff back.  I don’t NEED it and I’m not even sure I WANT it.  I was there, I had ‘Ikea’ money and everyone needs more stuff, right?  I still have the gift card and plan to give it to someone I know that is getting his first apartment and actually has a few basic needs.

I told a few people about my plans, or my challenge.  A few people thought it was a good idea and were not surprised.  (They obviously know me well and there’s not many things I can do to surprise anyone)  Others said it was cool, but they could never do it.  Let me just say here that I like to shop, but not like most people.  I hate malls and I hate spending money.  I like material things though.  There.  I said it.  I have an internal struggle with wanting simple and less fighting with a desire for more.  I was raised in a very materialistic house.  I have to call it a house, not a home, because a much higher value was placed on the material things in the house, not the people living in it.

I suppose I’m doing this to prove to myself that I don’t need a lot of stuff.  I’m also doing this for my kids to teach them about another world, a crazy different world that exists outside this wealthy, affluent bubble we live in.  A world where poverty and hunger exist because 20% of the world has 80% of the stuff, including food and water.  As Gandhi said,“There’s enough for everyone’s need, but there is not enough for everyone’s greed.”

This challenge is a very small step.  I know I have a long way to go here, but if everyone just made some really small sacrifice, our world would change in a radically wonderful way.  The monkeys are still processing all of this, along with my kids.  Off to day 2…

I had an art show several years ago called Excessable, all of the photographs depicting the excess in our society, how accessible it is and how it doesn’t fulfill us.  I’ve used some of these before in my blog posts, but today, they have more meaning to me.

Continue reading

a sign of peace [day 363]

I decided to take the day off yesterday and spend some time playing.  I haven’t been to a thrift store in a while but I needed to find some flip flops for my boys and boots for all of us.  Yes, I know it’s summer, but I’m tired of ruining shoes on my urban explorations and them when they go hunting with their dad.

I went to Half Price books to look around while waiting for the nail place to open.  What?  It’s my once-a-year pedicure.  It’s a service.  I found this while browsing the store.

Charge Large.  A board game that encourages you to borrow money to buy big and build big.  Ages 12 and up.  First of all, my kids would chew me out for buying something like this, which is good.  Second, isn’t this teaching your kids that credit is good?  And fun?  I can’t believe this even exists.  And the people that buy it, do they put it on credit?  It would seem a little wrong not to.

So I made it to the nail place, started getting my pedicure when the girl asked me, “Do you want me to do your eyebrows?”  I said, “No.”  I don’t tweeze my eyebrows and I sure don’t let anyone else do it.  I like my eyebrows.  She then asked one more time, only this time she said she could fix them.  Fix them?  I had a flashback of a Mary Kay thing I went to for a friend, with the promise that I didn’t have to put on any makeup.  I remember this complicated chart of what my eyebrows are supposed to look like.  I’m pretty sure God knew what he was doing when he made my eyebrows.  I like them, so I’m not ‘fixing’ them with tweezers, string, lasers or any other crazy methods.  If my eyebrows are so hideous that you can’t look at me, just look away.  I really don’t get most of this girl stuff, and although I do participate in a small amount of it, it just seems like a lot of work.

Then I went to the thrift store, found the flip flops, had lunch with Elizabeth, then I decided to visit the Henna Salon.  I turned really old yesterday, so the henna place was to get a tattoo.  A tat that lasts only two weeks is not much of a mid life crisis, but it was something out of the ordinary.

I went inside the Henna Salon, which is typical Frisco, with the addition of an Indian flair.  I asked about the tattoos and they were reasonably priced and it didn’t take a long time to do.  The girl said I could bring my own design or choose from one in their book.  I wasn’t prepared with my own design so I chose one from their photos.  I asked the girl if she could add a peace sign to the middle of the one I chose.  She said that would be no problem.  I sat down and she started working on my henna tattoo.  It was difficult to be still but I managed.  The tat is on the side of my left leg, so I could see her working, but not the work itself.

After a period of time, she looked up and asked if I would like a large peace sign next to the design.  She pointed to the side of it and I said, “Yes, that would be great.”  She went back to work and in a minute or so, she pointed to my leg and asked if I liked my peace sign.

I looked down expecting to find a peace sign, but I had a “P” sign.  ??!!?!?!?!?  Well, something was definitely lost in the translation here!  I now have “P” on my leg.  Actually there’s two P’s…  I wanted to burst out in laughter so I had to rush to get out of there.  I was laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe!  Good thing it’s not permanent!  So to answer the question most people are asking, no, I didn’t say anything or ask her to fix it.  I decided not to get one on my hand, as there’s no telling what that would have had on it.  As my friend said, “You wouldn’t want “P” on your hand!”

I plan to go back.  I did have someone challenge me on this being a retail purchase.  I see it as a service, tinting my skin.  I didn’t buy some object that will sit around my house, and no, the henna wasn’t used.  I keep laughing every time I look at it though.  You just need a sense of humor in life.  I think I like the “P” better than the peace sign.  My friends are using and emphasizing all “P” words and it’s just a funny story to tell.  Some other person might have been angry or asked them to fix it, but I’m personally enjoying it.  I will go back there again, but next time with my own artwork.  Oh, the possibilities!  Peace is a choice.  I’ll embrace my “P” for two weeks, and who knows, maybe I’ll ask for another “P” sign.

you can learn a lot from a dummy [day 358]

I get teased pretty often about my use of paper towels, or should I say lack of use?  Over the last year I might have used almost 4 or 5 rolls and 3 of them were in the first part of the year.  I don’t have any now.  When people come over to eat and I did have paper towels, I would tear them into smaller pieces.  Now I use cloth napkins.  I clean my house with dish towels, not paper towels.  If I’m out somewhere and I get extra napkins that I know will be throw away, I take them home.  I might go a little toward the extreme side of things, but there are ways to cut down on disposable paper products, ways that aren’t difficult or time consuming.

When I cleaned out my garage a couple of months ago, I found an individually wrapped paper towel.  I keep this in my (minimalist) junk drawer.  It freaks people out that I would even have something like this.  I don’t know where it came from, but I make jokes about it being my emergency paper towel.  Continue reading

the value of your stuff [day 357]

One of my neighbors was talking about getting rid of some planters and clay pots that have been sitting on the side of her house for a while.  She said her husband was going to throw them out if nobody wanted them.  I have no idea if that meant the trash of the thrift store, but I went and picked them up… just in case.

It’s amazing how much money is sitting around our house or garage, valued in stuff we’re not using.  My friends Jason and Carrie are going to Uganda and were collecting stuff for a yard sale fundraiser.  I had just given a lot of my stuff to another fundraiser like this, but surprisingly I still had much more to give.  Much of it will be posted on my daily-get-rid-of-one-thing blog posts.

Here’s Carrie on the Whirly Wheel I gave them.  I didn’t buy this, a friend from church gave it to me, remembering I blogged about this being one of my favorite childhood toys.  My kids an I played with it for a couple of weeks and passed it on to the fundraiser.

Here’s Jason with a lamp I’ve had sitting around the house, never being used.  Again, I didn’t buy it.  A lady from church donated it back when we had office space to use stuff like this.  It’s being passed on for a great cause!

You can read about their yard sale here.  They raised over $2,000!  I’m going to make a few more passes through the house and garage.  I’ve downsized a lot, but I still have some stuff laying around that can go.  Less stuff is less stress.  I can be much more toward the minimalist, yet keep a good balance.  :)

rethinking a good purchase [day 340]

Some would say I broke the challenge on a purchase this weekend, but if I did, it was in every effort to rethink good.  I was in Mexico, which is why I haven’t been blogging the last few days.  The internet was sporadic and I simply had something better to do… spend time with over 100 beautiful kids.  So what did I buy?   3 corn brooms and 2 padlocks.  I bought other stuff, but that fell into the approved categories of food and toiletries.

My Spanish is limited to about 25 words, so even had I wanted to explain the no shopping challenge, that would not have been possible.  These kids work so hard to keep the orphanage clean, I would have bought them a truckload of brooms if they wanted them.

The locks, although not spoken, had to be for the food pantry and cleaning supply room.  It’s just easier to maintain these when there are some controls in place.

These kids are completely amazing and they take care of each other like nothing I’ve ever seen.  I miss them terribly and I can’t wait to get back down there.  I’ll blog a little more on my shopping trip and other fun adventures down there shortly.  Shopping for necessities really doesn’t take that much thought.  We bought what they needed.  No more, no less.  So did I break my challenge rules?  Yes, no doubt, but it was the right thing to do and I feel great about it.

leftover waste [day 324]

I went out last Saturday night with a group of people to a busy restaurant.  We had a pretty large group, so we had to grab the first table we could find.  There was a table about to become available, so we stalked it, and slid into the seats at the same time the others were leaving, taking no chances on loosing this opportunity.

As I looked on the table at the multiple baskets, which should have been empty, they were not.  They were filled with food with one, maybe two bites out of it.  I heard the lady sitting there before us make the comment to her kids, “…this was not a cheap meal, so I hope you enjoyed it.  It will be a while before we can do this again.”  I’m guessing the full baskets of food were from the kids, but (a) if they’re not going to eat it, why order that much?  And (b) why didn’t they take home the leftovers?

I guess this just bothers me because I know there are people out there that would love to have this food.  More than that, it’s the waste factor that bothers me.  I tell my kids we can always order more food if we’re still hungry, but we can’t put any back.

How did this become the social norm?  At what point did we start ignoring wastefulness?  This is lost money, lost resources and a poor example for the next generation.  What would it take to create a society of people that are wise with money, care about others and want their kids to learn the same principals?  I really hope my actions are teaching my kids that this could be better and their actions can change the world.