Life, death & disposable stuff [day 13, 14 & 15]

IMG_7992As we’re driving back to the cabin in Somewhere Really Far North, Wisconsin, my son says, “Mom?  This snowy landscape looks like hell to you doesn’t it?  Most people think it’s hot, with flames.  You see it as a cold place, don’t you?”  It was the proper use of the word hell, so I’ll let that slide.  “Yes.  This is how I picture it.”

I’ve never been a fan of cold weather.  If we each picture all the things we like in heaven, why wouldn’t all the things we hate be in hell?  It would be cold and covered with snow.  Hell would have only olives to eat, individually wrapped in plastic, on a table cloth made of paper towels, and served with disposable plastic forks.  The walls would be painted beige and I would be required to live in a shopping mall.  Continue reading

Still travelling, on a sugar high [day 11]

We reached destination #2 at midnight last night.  My sister’s house in Wisconsin, where the snow is piled high.  In a few minutes, we’re leaving for destination #3: my dad’s cabin in Somewhere, Wisconsin.  I really have no idea where it is, so I’ll just call it Somewhere.

rain drivingIn our 9 hours of driving, it rained for 8.5 of it.  We couldn’t make many stops, unless we wanted to get wet and drive until the wee hours of the morning.  Here are a few of the non-disposable situations I came across.

breakfast

Breakfast

Breakfast was at First Watch, a local diner in the Kansas City area.  Nothing too eventful there, as they had regular plates and glasses.  The silverware was wrapped in paper napkins, so I didn’t use a napkin.  The food was awesome!    Continue reading

it’s hotter than… [daily good photo]

116°?!!??  I really have no idea how hot hell is, but I’m pretty sure we have to be close.  So how is this good?  I find a lot of good in this crazy hot weather.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m tired of it since it’s been over 100° for over a month now.  Okay, here’s my ‘good’ in it:

My mobile thermometer.  I’m glad my car has this temperature feature.  That might not seem like a big deal to anyone reading this, but my car is 15 years old.  I like simple ‘old-fashioned’ gadgets like this, not the complicated computers they have in all of the new cars now.  You can say I’m getting old and I like old stuff, but I love technology, so I don’t think that’s the case.  I just don’t need technology everywhere and on everything in my life.

Southern living.  I lived in Wisconsin and in Chicago, Illinois long enough to know I love living in the south.  I’d rather deal with this heat for a couple of months rather than the snow and cold.  Last time I was in Wisconsin, that little gadget said -17°.

Cool off!  Although the A/C in my car works, it’s not the coldest air ever.  And let’s not even talk about my electric bill even though I keep my thermostat set on 80°.  But we do have air conditioning.  Down in Mexico, only 8 hours away in drive time, there’s many people without this luxury.  They have hotter temperatures than we do… without anything to cool them off.  Sure, you can say, “They’re used to it…”, but really?  It’s good that I can afford, and have… air conditioning.

grass for my yard gnomes [day 328]

Anyone who knows me, knows I love my outdoor living space.  My backyard is one of the reasons I bought the house I live in.  It’s small, but it’s one of the few houses in Frisco with trees.

I’ve been fighting with my yard for 4.5 years now.  There’s so much shade, I can’t seem to grow any grass.  In Wisconsin, I had to shovel snow.  Here, I shovel mud.

My yard guys said they have a solution.  Fine fescue grass.  The price was awesome and having some grass will keep my yard from eroding, and me from being the ugly neighbor.

They seeded yesterday… right before the rain.  I hope it didn’t wash away.  My yard gnomes, Caron and Diane, really need a nice yard.  I’m starting to loose hope… having grass might not be possible.  Astroturf?  It might be in my future.

theme your fire! [day 261]

It looks as though chimineas have become a seasonal item.  Now I really don’t understand why anyone would buy one of these, with the exception of someone like me, who likes to display holiday stuff on the wrong holidays.  Where do you store this giant, hollow chunk of clay on the off-season?  Provided there’s enough space to store him, he probably throws the plastic tarp to the side and has coffee with Mr. Pumpkinhead Chiminea and Santanea, as they wait patiently for the release of Miss Easter Rabbit.

Now I’m not sure what you think, but if this is a winter chiminea, how much use would anyone get out of it if it’s snowy and cold outside?  I have a fire pit (non-themed) and I use it about 7-8 times a year.  This is one of those items that don’t get used a lot.  If I had really thought through it, I would not have bought the fire pit.  Although it’s nice to have when I want to make s’mores, I don’t use it enough to justify owning one.

These are the changes I hope to make coming out of the challenge.  I want to really think through all purchases, large and small, making good minimalist choices and buying things I will use.  I have applied that to the used stuff I purchase and when I do get something, I use it.  My hot tub is used about 70% of the time and has great family-time value.  My freecycle lamp is fixed and now I have light in my dining room.

I hope Frosty enjoys the hot Texas weather or that he finds Karen, and she can get him on the train to the North Pole in time for the heat wave.  Oh, and Professor Hinkle, good luck getting your hat off this Frosty.

downsizing the kitchen & food supply [day 256]

I’ve been doing a lot of downsizing lately.  Right before snowmageddon, I decided to clean out the kitchen, not just utensils and cabinet crap, but food.  I don’t like being wasteful, and although we waste a lot less than the average American family, I felt that we needed to make some changes.  We made some radical changes and some subtle changes, and the results are proving to be really good.  I’ll share the overall goodness of this, the process of cleaning out the kitchen and a couple of mini-challenges.

The big picture.

We haven’t died of starvation. Again, we started this a couple of weeks before the ice storm.  We have much less food in the house, but we had plenty to eat during the 4-5 days at home.  I didn’t buy extra, in fear that we would starve and have nothing to eat for a week.  I bought a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread the day before the storm hit.  We had plenty, and I was even able to feed the two painters working in my house a couple of times.

Airstream… I mean streamline. Okay, I want an Airstream, but that has nothing to do with my kitchen.  The tasks of cooking, grocery shopping and cleaning the kitchen is much easier.  Cooking is easier, as there’s less stuff to shuffle around and I know what ingredients I have on hand.  Grocery shopping is easier, again, because I have less and I know the few things I need.  Cleaning is easier too, as I have a lot of extra pantry and cabinet space.  So much extra, that I was able to move all of my pantry items into empty cabinets while the oil paint takes 5 days to dry.

Here a snack, there a snack, everywhere a snack snack. My kids will open every bag of everything we buy at the store.  We could have, and have had, a pantry overflowing with food, and yet the kids can’t find a thing to snack on.  With much less in there, this is not a problem anymore.  It’s easy to see we have two open bags of crackers or pretzels.

Waste not, want not. We are wasting very little food these days.  Not that we wasted a lot before, but it was still more than I was comfortable with.  Waste is unnecessary, and by making some small changes to lessen it allows us to save a little money, be better to our environment and enables us to help others that don’t have enough to eat.

What did we do?

Downsized the pantry. If you have a smaller house like mine, the pantry is a small closet.  The picture is my “before” picture.  I don’t have an after right now, as the oil paint is still drying.  Whether your pantry is large or small, stuff always gets hidden in the back.  My pantry wasn’t horribly unorganized, it just had too much in it and could use a little more a system of “first in, first out”.  We took everything out and carefully selected what would go back.  I had cedar balls that didn’t smell like anything anymore.  Out.  Ridiculously expired stuff?  Out.  Open bags of stale crackers and chips?  Out.

We broke down the boxes and recycled them.  We couldn’t see all of the food behind the big boxes of crackers and cereal.  The boxes take up a lot of space.  I found it best to use see-through containers and baskets as much as possible.  Most of the stuff I didn’t know I has was in these black plastic crates and could not be seen. Continue reading

hello, my name is jody and I’m a hoarder [day 252]

So this is the third day we’ve been “iced” in.  This is clearly not snow, as you can walk on top of it.  I even saw a video of a kid ice skating in the street.  My kids are bouncing off the walls and I’m so ready for this mess to go away, and them to be back in school.  I’ve been working from home most of these three days, but I’ve also spent a little time cleaning too.  It’s forced cleaning, and here’s why.

I finally hired someone to paint all of my doors and baseboards.  As much as I would like to do this myself and save the labor cost, I simply don’t have the time, or the desire, to do it.  My time will be better spent doing other things and the guy I hired really needs the work, so much that he drove here in the icy crap to work in my house.  It’s a win-win.

Having baseboards and closets painted is basically like moving.  It’s a good opportunity to not only clean everything, but to purge.  I still have way too much stuff and I need to keep downsizing.  I’m a hoarder.  Not to the extent of the people on the TV show, as those are the most extreme cases, but I’m a low level pack rat.  The few rooms I have downsized are really making me think how much stress and hassle it is to own so much stuff.  It’s simply not needed.  I listed a bunch of stuff on freecycle and it all went within a day.  I have so much more to get rid of!  Being in my house with all this stuff is making me crazy!

My garage is now the “last stop” in the process of purging.  Everything from my house is going out to the garage, from there, it will be sorted, purged then the remaining items will be organized, cleaned and brought back in.  I can honestly say, not much as come back in.

When purging and organizing you stuff, here’s a few tips that might help.  I could write a whole book on everything I’ve learned through this process, but I’ll just share a few of the major points.

Sort the mess.

Have bins or boxes set up for all of the “stuff destinations” you have planned.  You’ll stay in gridlock, shuffling things around with some basic sorting plans.  Here was my destination list:

  • freecycle
  • eBay / craigslist
  • keep
  • thrift store
  • recycling
  • trash
  • someone I know that wants this

Waste not, want not.

Keep in mind that you might not want this stuff, but that doesn’t mean someone else wouldn’t be blessed by having it.  It’s not any additional work to take things to a thrift store versus the city dump.  And freecycle?  People will come get it right from your house, you don’t even have to take it anywhere!  Less physical work and just a small amount of time on the computer listing it on freecycle.org.

What to keep, what to part with.

This is the most difficult part of the process.  My first question to myself is, “Can I easily get this again if I need it?”  Other questions might include, “When is the last time I used this?” or “Do I see a need for this in the near future?”  Go through this process.  If you’re hung up on an item, put it in the keep bin.  Once you’ve done this process once, go through it again.  I sometimes make 4 or 5 passes through my stuff.  I’ve purged a lot and so far, I’ve had no regrets of anything I gave away.

Staying organized.

Once you’ve purged a room, keep the clutter out by having an area to put things.  My garage is the “catch all” for every room.  The clutter goes out there in a designated spot, and rarely does any junk make it back into the house.  When organizing a room, don’t pack everything in, leave space for a few new things and space to stay organized.  Also, when cleaning out a room, take everything out.  Start from scratch.  It’s easier and you will be able to purge more and organize more easily.

Again, this is not a comprehensive list, but it’s a few of the biggest helpers in downsizing.  I have to say, it’s a long process, but it feels really good!