The parable of cat litter [day 3]

My goal today is to find a challenge-suitable cat litter.  There’s not enough litter left in the cat box to even cover the bottom of it.  I’ve spent the last hour and a half researching cat litter options.  Here are my findings:

non-environmental-cat-products-dumb-cat-platic-litter-searchLimited options for non-disposable or 100% biodegradable packaging.  I figure clay cat litter is a natural product anyway, but all of the added chemicals to deodorize and clump make it not so great.  I was just looking for litter I can buy in bulk, and place it in my own reusable container or 100% biodegradable packaging.  I’ll let you know how this plays out after my trip to the local pet store.

Products are designed for comfort and ease.  “Make your life easier!  Buy all of this plastic crap (pun intended), throw it away and start clean and fresh!” Seriously, a Diaper Genie for cat poop?  Yes, I’d like to keep the poop for a while and make it into plastic sausage links.  Really??!?

All-inclusive marketing.  Dumb Cat is pretty clever.  I call my cat that name all the time, but I don’t need a spray to make her dumber.  How about the  environmentally friendly plastic bags?  The polyethylene* allows us to make the bags thinner.  Thinner than not using one?  No. And I’m just picturing my kids taking that out to the trash can.  “Mom!!  I don’t how that bag broke, I was just walking it out to the trash can!”  Yeah, slinging it around and hitting his brother with it.  Bad vision!  Let’s move on.  Continue reading

The ghost of economic future

I wrote so much while doing this, that if there was a maximum blog length allowed in WordPress, I would clearly be exceeding it.  After I post my journals, which will probably take several days, I’ll open up some discussion on what I’ve learned.  Not only by my own experience with this (which is nothing remotely close to what real homeless people deal with), but topics that my homeless friends have shared with me.

If you would like to know more about helping the homeless community, please take a look at Rethink Homelessness.

Quite possibly the longest day of my life…

A journal entry from day 1 of rethinking homelessness

I’m sitting at Starbucks in a neighborhood I know well. I didn’t want to go too far since I’m worried about my gas situation. I woke up at about 6:30 a.m., well for the last time this morning before actually getting up. What a horrible night! I didn’t sleep much at all. I’m thankful for the clouds this morning as I sit here to write. If I were really homeless, this writing time would more than likely be used for job searching time.

Wow, some guy just hit a truck right in front of Starbucks. Yes, he just drove off, without a second thought. Well, he did pause and look, so maybe that was his second thought. I wrote down his licence plate number. The guy that got hit came out right after and didn’t notice anything. Oh well, back to my sleeping situation from last night.

After frequently waking up all night, daylight arrived. I slowly peeked over my seat to assess my current surroundings. Was it safe to exit the car? The coast looks clear. The car beside me is gone. Had they noticed a person sleeping in the car next to them? I got out of the car and climbed into the driver’s seat. I then noticed I had landed right next to the doggie poop park. Great. How many dog walkers saw me?  Continue reading

suburban homelessness & ethos ethics

[This post is part of Rethink Homelessness, written 5.29.12]

It occurred to me as I was typing notes from an interview with a friend who has been homeless in suburbia, I shouldn’t be doing this at home.  My friend said one of the places she frequented while homeless was Starbucks.  She kept a coffee cup to hopefully get a few free refills and to look like she had made a purchase, basically trying to “fit in.”

I drove to my local Starbucks.  Keyword: drove.  Not all homeless people in suburban cities have cars.  Now I’ve met people at Starbucks before and not made a purchase.  I’ve even gone as far as to bring my own latte in from home, of course, in my Starbucks mug. Let me finish before you judge me.  I’ve always depended on the people I’m meeting with to make the necessary purchases to absolve my guilt for freeloading on their air-conditioned space and free wi-fi.

Today I decided to buy a bottle of water.  I’m not really thirsty, but I don’t want to freeload.  I’m not meeting anyone here, so there’s no one to make the required purchase.  Why will no purchase be okay when I’m posing as a homeless person?  Will I struggle with that?  My friend did.

My Ethos water cost $1.95.  Ouch!  This will not be in my homeless person budget of no money.  Even on my normal person budget, I don’t buy bottled water, especially one that cost almost $2.  The bottle says, “Helping children get clean water.”  I’m feeling a tiny bit better about buying it.  I wonder how much of my money goes to that cause?  I looked on the bottle and found my answer.  5¢.  That’s less than 3%.  The graphics suggesting you buy this water to help thirsty children takes up at least 30% of the space on the bottle.  If it cost 30¢ a bottle to make (that’s being generous) and 5¢ is going to charitable causes (not quite as generous), the profit on this is 82%.  And just to add insult to injury, the bottle is made out of 100% new plastic.  Nothing recycled.  I’m feeing a little sick to my stomach right now.  [End rabbit trail]

So here I am with my expensive water, writing and doing my research on suburban homelessness.  Wait.  What is that on the table behind my non-recycled water bottle?  My first homeless meal!  I’m not acting as a homeless person yet, but from what I’m told, this is the treasure you spend your day seeking.  Leftovers.  In any form or fashion that doesn’t include mold.  The tiny pre-packaged portions of food contain dried fruit and a nut medley, unopened inside a much larger plastic bag.  I’m really going to have to get over my environmental mindset and boycotting all things disposable.  Oddly enough, I’m more concerned about being wasteful than eating out of trash bins.  Please don’t ask me to explain that because I doubt I could.  Continue reading

you put it where?!?

Yes, that’s a piece of art hanging on the wall outside, on my patio.  I was painting this canvas in my garage, but the 100+ temperatures warped the wood frame.  I still love the painting, and although I never finished it to my final idea, it’s now looking good in my backyard.  So, the question I get all the time, “Can you put a painting outside?  Doesn’t the paint wash off?”  The answer is no.  Here’s a few tips for putting things outside… things that maybe weren’t meant to be outside.

    • Water.  How will your item take the rain?  As for this canvas, it’s not gonna last forever outside, but I’ve had paintings like this outside for several years before they were too worn to leave up any longer.  I have standard couch cushions on my patio swing and they take a little longer to dry, but they look great.  They’ve been out there over a year.
    • Heat.  I live in hel… Texas, where it’s really hot.  Don’t put your candles outside.  Heck, your artificial plants would even melt outside here.  The sunlight will also fade your stuff, like the pillow in the photo.  It was bright orange at one point.  It’s a couch pillow.
    • Wind.  So, I had a giant Jesus painting in my backyard for about 3 years.  It was 8′ x 4′, mounted on plywood, a painting donated to our church.  Apparently, I was the only one who liked it, therefore it came to my house.  Well, it looked great, and I got a lot of comments on it, but I didn’t expect the wind to catch it.  The giant Jesus took out my grill and a couple of ceramic pots.  Anchor anything that might be taken away by the wind…

Please only apply these tips to things that are okay to loose.  Don’t put your favorite pillows or home decor items outside.  They might last several years outside, but probably not a lifetime.  Oh, and this is not an invitation to put your dad’s old recliner on your front porch.  I just don’t need the hate-mail associated with that.  😉

hippie water [minimalist challenge item #197]

[item] Stainless water bottle with peace signs

[purchase info] Purchased new at W*****t.  :0

[time in my possession] Approximately 3 years

[last used] A couple of weeks ago

[difficulty level in getting rid of it] Easy

[destination] A friend

[replacement item] None

[info] I have several water bottles.  This one was at work and a friend mentioned that her daughter would love it!  I gave it to her to give to her daughter.  I have too many of these.  I like the ones with the wide mouth since they’re easy to clean.

stainless water bottle [minimalist challenge item #162]

[item] Stainless steel water bottle

[purchase info] Purchased new at a discount store

[time in my possession] Approximately 2.5 years?

[last used] A couple of weeks ago

[difficulty level in getting rid of it] Medium

[destination] Trash

[info] I love these “green” water bottles, but they are not easy to clean.  The inside started to show spots… rust or what??  I’m not sure, but I didn’t want my kids drinking out of it anymore.  Maybe it’s best to buy the bottles with the large opening, just for cleaning purposes.

stainless water bottle [minimalist challenge item #141]

[item] Stainless painted water bottle canteen

[purchase info] Purchased new at a discount store

[time in my possession] Approximately 2.5 years

[last used] A couple of weeks ago

[difficulty level in getting rid of it] Easy

[destination] Trash

[info] I rarely throw things away, but this water bottle is probably a health hazard.  The inside looked like rust or dirt spots and all the paint was chipping off.

function over form [day 313]

When you own a lot of stuff, especially anything with electronic parts, you’re going to have some maintenance to do.  Some will be planned, some will not.  Here’s a few things I’ve been thinking about buying if I could.

Car fuses.

I blew a fuse in my car.  It’s the fuse to the interior dome lights, but worse than that, it’s also the fuse to my garage door opener.  I don’t have any extra fuses so I’m living without these things.  It’s not so bad, as it’s teaching me to appreciate the small things in life.  I’ve never appreciated that machine that opens my garage door.  Now I use the back door instead of the garage door.  It’s less electricity, and the only time it’s a real hassle is if it’s raining or we’re bringing home groceries.

A water filter.

I would buy a water filter for my Softub.  Although yesterday, I moved the tub into its new location on the patio and now the GFCI plug isn’t working.  Gor $75 I can buy a new one, however the Softub tech isn’t even sure that’s the problem.  I’m going to take it apart and see for myself, but then what are the chances of finding a used part like that?  I’m guessing slim to none.  Not sure what I’m going to do if I can’t get it working.  I definitely will not be selling it, as I use it a lot.

A grill.

Yes, I finally got tired of fighting with my temperamental Brinkmann grill and I sold it on craigslist.  What?  You want to know what I got for it?  $60 cash.  It retailed new for $1,100, I paid $69.99 approximately 2 years ago.  In that time, the burners were replaced and the gas valve with tubing was replaced.  Even with the replacement parts, it was always a mystery as why it would work some of the time, but not all of the time.  I just got tired of fighting with it.  And yes, I sold it “as is” with a full disclosure of the issues I had with it.

As I was researching new grills (planing to buy one used), I came across this really cool looking grill.  It’s a Fuego Element, it’s designer a previous Apple product designer.  After some research, it seems as though this sexy looking grill is just not the easiest to use.  The top gets hot and it’s not attached so you have to place the hot lid somewhere when cooking.  The cast iron grates need care to prevent them from rusting.  In my efforts to downsize, this grill is super-appealing in its size.  But do I want the maintenance?

I looked at many other grills, I’ve read consumer reports on them, but I’m still unsure of my next grill purchase.  I used my old one a lot and got my money’s worth, but I want something smaller and simple.  I’m also looking at a Minden grill.  This is unique, as you can add features to it later like a side burner and ice chest.  The reviews are good, but it’s so new, there aren’t any used ones available.

I’m still deciding what to do about all of these situations.  The no shopping is making it a hassle for the small things, like the fuses, but it’s provoking some creativity in finding solutions for the big things.  I’ll keep you posted on the outcome of these situations.  I’m prioritizing function over form, but that’s easier said than done sometimes.

what? it’s only $1,074 [day 310]

Deciding to get a pet of any kind is a big decision, not only for the responsibility associated with them, but for the expenses you will incur.  A couple of weeks ago we adopted Zuri, a 6 month-old kitten.  She’s precious and is the perfect fit for our family.  Although we adopted her from the Humane Shelter, we had to pick her up at PetSmart.

Now, adopting a pet means shopping for pet supplies.  Under the challenge rules, I can buy her food and litter, as those fall under the toiletries and groceries categories that are allowed.  I was going to need at bare minimum, a food bowl, a water bowl and a litter box with a scoop.  I was prepared to get creative.  I have bowls and lots of them.  I’m quite sure I could modify some plastic container in my garage for a litter box.  The scoop I had to ponder a little longer.  Old kitchen utensils?  Something in my garage?  After an intense thought process, I decided I would be able to make one from old coat hangers.  Yep, we were ready for a cat in every way possible.

When we went to pick up Zuri, we also picked up my friend E. because she adopted Zuri’s sister a week earlier.  As I was walking though the pet store, I had to stop and look at the senselessness of what I saw.  Gourmet canine cookies.  My kids don’t eat stuff this fancy or expensive.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to treats for pets, but this seems a bit excessive to me.  Does Fido really care if he gets the pretty little treats shaped like dog bones, dipped in colorful icing?

How about pet fashion?  Yes, Martha Stewart has come to the rescue, not only to help your pet in the fashion world, but to stylistically incorporate pets into your home.  Again, I have no problem with pet supplies, what I’m saying is this seems excessive.  Yes, a pet bed is good if they’re not sleeping in your bed.  Yes, they need bowls to eat from.  Yes, they need a toy or two.  But do they really need all this stuff?  Let’s say I bought one of everything for my new kitten.  I’ll choose middle of the line items.

My list includes such things as a UV light cat pee finder, and cat sitter DVD, a mid-sized cat scratch tower, cat repellents to tell them where they don’t belong, a bed and much more.  The total?  $1,074. And once you’ve spoiled your pet and there’s nothing new left to buy, there’s now kitty anti-depressants. Continue reading

the one for one model [day 295]

Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS shoes, was a keynote speaker this year at SXSW.  Not only was it incredible to hear his story, but just to hear the magnitude of positive change his company has created in the world.  Here’s the best part.  Blake made this statement at the end of his talk.

“From this day forward, TOMS is no longer a shoe company. It’s a one-for-one company.  Our next step is meeting those needs around the world.”

Yes, TOMS is now a one-for-one company.  In June, they’re launching their next product.  You buy one, somebody in need gets one.  It’s a for profit model, and an extremely successful one.  I have to say here that I would love to go out and buy a pair of TOMS shoes.  With my one year of no retail shopping, unfortunately that’s not an option.  If I buy them used, a person in need will not get a new pair of shoes, however, even in the secondary market, good can still be done.

  • If I get them at a thrift store, that money goes to charity.
  • If I wear them, I’m marketing TOMS and this one-for-one model.
  • If I buy them used, paying less than retail, I’ve saved money that I can donate to one of my favorite charities.

How else can we apply the 1-for-1 model?

I’ve been pondering this question for a few days now.  I don’t know how anyone can hear the TOMS story and not wonder how we can all be a part of it.  TOMS is obviously onto something here.  I have a few ideas of how this could be applied in other ways to benefit TOMorrow.   Continue reading