Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Idea: Use Half?

Of the three R's (reduce, reuse, recycle), recycling is definitely the most popular, but the other two are gaining momentum as people become more aware of simple ways to do them.

For reducing, one blog I read recently advocated trying to use half of your normal amount of consumable household products (sorry I don't have a link). As initial examples, they mentioned hand soap, dish soap, laundry soap, toothpaste, shampoo and household cleaners. That makes sense to me, especially if half the amount will still do an adequate job. So in the last few days, I've been trying to cut the amounts of these products since extending the life of consumables means less trips to the store to buy replacements which means simplification. The hand soap & dish soap went pretty well with half, but I'd probably have to settle for 2/3 with toothpaste and shampoo.

The other items this blog mentioned cutting by half: toilet paper & number of times you flush. Yes, I can see how cutting back toilet paper could make sense in some situations. However for flushing, the little poem on the blog "if it's pee, let it be, if it's brown, flush it down" was just a bit disgusting for me. I support conservation, but I'm not ready for that yet. Someone invented the flushable toilet for a reason.

And for a reusing idea....this pic is from a friend-
(hey, if you can get the cats to go along with the 3R's, you're on to something!!)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

simplicity vs. minimalism

In researching others' experiences in simplifying life, I've run across quite a few blags (yes, I know it's blogs but blags is much more fun to say) that advocate minimalism as the solution to all economical, social, political, relational and emotional problems. By ridding oneself of stuff & things & conquering the desire for more stuff & things, one can find everlasting peace, happiness & completeness of life since one is no longer controlled by their things and the want of more things.

While I agree with the concept of not letting things & the want of things control you, I think that equating a lack of possessions to Nirvana is hasty thinking and basically empty. Many of the blogs I've read are stories of people with huge paychecks, huge condos, huge numbers of possessions & huge amounts of credit card debt. Their conclusion that minimalism solves all ills is simply a knee-jerk reaction to the fact that they never found happiness with all their stuff. Either way, their happiness is still based on their stuff, whether having it or getting rid of it. Perhaps minimalism gives these individuals freedom from the want of things, but they still will never find the true happiness they seek since the root thought revolves around stuff.

Simplicity, on the other hand, is being able to live adequately within one's resources knowing that all our possessions do not truly belong to us at all; God owns everything. Simplicity recognizes that we do need certain items to live but none of these items will bring happiness. I had a breakthrough with this thought recently when my mind became set on acquiring a new dress for New Year's Eve because I just had to look AMAZING, even though I already have at least four dresses that could easily be worn. Fortunately, no dress I tried on at the store was the perfect fit at the perfect price. And then I realized that I was setting all my hopes for fun on the idea of a new dress instead of recognizing I'll be spending the evening enjoying the company of friends & that's what really matters. I will still hopefully look amazing wearing a dress I already own, so that's a good consolation too.

In some cases, pursuing simplicity does entail the minimalistic strategy of getting rid of stuff. For example, I need to go through my books, movies, clothes, kitchen, well everything, and decide, do I use/need this enough to pack it in a box, carry the box, lift it into a truck, drive it to grad school, carry the box again, and find a place to put it? I want moving to be uncomplicated, so getting rid of stuff might help.

In short:
  • Consumerism- your desire for stuff controls you
  • Minimalism- your desire for a lack of stuff controls you
  • Simplicity- knowing that the Someone Else who controls all the stuff should be allowed to "control" your desires

(and side rant, most of the minimalism blags advocate buying the Amazon Kindle to load all one's books on thus freeing yourself from the horrific clutches of paper literature. Very stupid idea financially. First you have to buy the Kindle for a couple hundred, then you have to rebuy all your books to load onto the Kindle for a couple more hundred & you might be able to get like $25 for all your real books at the Half Price Book Store. Why not just sell your books then go get a library card?)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Previous Uncomplication Steps: Purse & Hydration

These are a few of my everyday/everywhere items that unclutter my purse and wallet and make things easier to find (and proper recognition to my mother for giving me both organizational items!). First, the red zippy bag holds all the liquids, gels & small items that usually get lost in purses and secondly, the red plastic case holds all my not-regularly used membership/promotional cards which then frees up my wallet to hold the cards I want to regularly find easily. The red zippy bag also makes transitioning to air-travel-mode easy since all I have to do is find a plastic baggie & dump the contents.
And my beloved Nalgene. Nothing compares to the lovely feeling of hydration & knowing that I'm not using an endless supply of bottled water to achieve it. The Nalgene makes measuring water intake easy, I know I need to consume 2-3 per day & I'll feel pretty good.
So these are the regular staples of my day-to-day around & abouting. There's still room for improvement in uncomplicating my around & abouting, but it's a start!

Previous Uncomplication Steps: LASIK

Although this one was initially expensive, LASIK eye surgery has been one of the best uncomplication moves I have done so far. I had been wearing glasses/contacts since third grade & although glasses made me look smarter, about a year ago, I was ready to be rid of the daily maintenance that eye correction requires. Now, instead of having to worry about eye appointments, glasses, contacts, contact solution & all the associated issues, I have the blessing of waking up every morning with clear vision. For me, LASIK cost about what I would have paid in eye care for the next twenty years, so it was an excellent step in uncomplicating my life.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


For the last four days, I have been ready to clobber anyone singing "Let It Snow." Although I do appreciate gazing out on a flawless, white winter landscape or skiing down a powdery mountainside, I have a really hard time liking snow. I grew up with it, I spent four years of college dealing with lots of it, so I should be used to it, right?

Unfortunately, snow and I do not get along. For starters, it's cold, it's wet and it makes you cold & wet. Secondly, it causes transportation nightmares. After getting my Scion tC stuck in the driveway twice this year, I actually wished I still had my Isuzu Trooper (the car that got me through all that Nebraska snow for four years, although getting 11 mpg). I don't have the patience snow requires, and that stupid stuff made me so mad yesterday I cried. And now I know I need to go shovel my driveway again, for the fifth time in four days.

I Thess. 5:18- "In everything give thanks." I need to find the silver lining here, I don't have a choice; it's been commanded! So here goes-
  • I've burned a lot of calories shoveling
  • I met a neighbor who kindly helped get me unstuck from my driveway yesterday
  • My dad has a 4Runner so he has been able to provide transportation to Christmas events
  • The snow waters the earth
  • Actually, I guess I don't need to have justifications to give thanks. We're not commanded to find reasons to give thanks, we're just commanded to give thanks.

Well shoot. Maybe if I pray "Thank you for the snow" with every shovelful, I'll get through this next round of shovelling easier? Arg, now, not only do I still have to shovel, I have to be thankful about it. Let it snow.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

pay me for my community goodness!

This is another Facebook import from October 2009-

Minimalism is in, right? I've been on a kick to get rid of things that I don't use, wear, want or need to keep around. Fortunately, there are quite a few consignment shops in Lawrence where one can sell such things they don't use, wear, want or need to keep around. Getting rid of stuff = getting rich quick, right? Besides the aspect of additional cash, I'm pursuing an anti-materialistic lifestyle, cleansing my musty chi, & creating more margin in my house & life. I should feel so cleansed! And slightly richer!

First trip to Plato's Closet to sell a bag of clothing- "Well, these items are not currently in style, so we won't be buying anthing today."

Second trip to Plato's Closet- ditto.

So I struck out on clothes. But for two heavy bagfuls of books & DVD's, I'm sure to make $$$ at the Half Price Book Store! "I can offer you $12."

At that moment, I don't think any sense of focused chi or world peace could have calmed my inner frustration. I politely took my $12 while thinking, "Why doesn't anyone want to pay me for my goodness to the community??? I'm reducing landfill accumulation! People, I'm reducing, reusing & recycling! Pay me!"

And then the secondary thought hit- "Your clothes are many seasons past stylish, as is your DVD & book collection. Maybe if you owned better stuff, you'd be able to get more money when reselling it." But then I realized how completely stupid that thought was & decided I should be happy just getting rid of stuff. True minimalism probably includes minimizing self-righteous & entitled attitudes.

So, I took my $12 & treated myself to a falafel & hummus sandwich at the Mediterranean Market. Not only was it delicious, it was a purchase I won't have to worry about reselling someday. And I still have enough of my $12 left to buy another sandwich, but I'll have to guard against feeling self-righteous for supporting a local business...

Bottles of Beauty Goop

This is a copy of a note I wrote on Facebook, August 2008, but it's still blogworthy!

As I was packing for my trip to Colorado, I was taken aback by the number of bottles of beauty products in my bathroom, and then was shocked to realize that I’ve got more all over my house! So I started counting…

Bathroom- 47
Bedroom- 19
Purse- 6
Already packed for Colorado- 21
Linen closet- 29
Office- 4

All these put together make a grand total of 126.

126. Why do I have so many? And how much money have I spent on all of these magical products that make my hair straight, then make it curly, take the moisture out of my face, put the moisture back in my face, make my skin soft, make me smell like a girl, and generally take the edge off of my supposed natural state of “un-exfoliated wildebeest from the steaming acid lagoon of poo”?

Previously, I prided myself in being a low-maintenance kind of girl that could magically throw together a decent look without the help of a crazy amount of products. Who knows, maybe I’m still right, but that means that the average woman has MORE than 126 products strewn about her life. I might be high-maintenance.

Granted, I am not using all 126 every day, not even close. By my count, on the average day, I use 15-20, about 13% of the whole. I am including the essentials of toothpaste & deodorant, but still, why do I have 106 OTHER bottles of beauty goop just sitting around and how did I acquire them? Some are gifts, some I bought. So what beauty myths convinced me to acquire this many products? Was I afraid I didn’t have enough me-time in my life to pamper myself? Heck, I’m not married, no kids. My entire life is ME-time.

In the midst of my recently-realized high-maintenance existence, I tried to send myself on a “starving children” guilt trip. “There are ugly orphans in Africa who could use your acne cream!” Hmm. “If you aren’t going to use your eucalyptus-mint foot repair balm, give it to a nomad-child in Mongolia!” Somehow that guilt trip thing works better with leftover zucchini casserole.

I have narrowed myself down to two alternatives. I can either throw away all of the stuff I haven’t used in over a year or I can put a freeze on purchasing until I use it all up. I’m thinking I’ll pick the second option but unfortunately end up devoting a larger portion of my life to slathering myself with chemicals, not so much in an effort to look or feel better, but to use up all this stuff. Maybe I’ll end up with some beneficial side-effects, like softer, cleaner skin or I’ll finally look perfect. Right?

Ha. At least I have a great personality.

And for the one-year recount-
Bathroom- 35
Bedroom- 15
Purse- 7
Linen Closet- 23
Office- 4
Total- 84

And the current count-
Bathroom- 30
Bedroom- 15
Purse- 10
Linen Closet- 26
Office- 3
Still 84, and that's even after Christmas!

2010's First $ Project

I'm probably heading to grad school in Fall 2010, hopefully getting a graduate assistantship. While I'm excited about the prospect of grad school, or at least the prospect of getting a higher paying job because of grad school, I am not too excited about the fact that for about two years, I will need to live on one half of my current income. And I'm not doing student loans, that's just not an option for me.

This is definitely a "trial by fire" experience. It's an excellent test really: am I willing to sacrifice my lifestyle for two years so that I have the chance to improve my lifestyle in the years following?

Honestly, the idea is freaking me out. I hate having to worry about money. Certain expenses are non-negotiable like rent, utilities, car insurance and the cell bill, and because of those, the areas of my budget that get trimmed are food, clothing, entertainment & travel. I already track all my expenditures by category (yes, I'm one of those freaks in love with spreadsheets), so the left side of my brain is about ready to explode with anxiety since the new categorical numbers will be difficult to work with, I can't continue my life the way I like, and, holy crap, I'll have to change my general operating procedure!

But then I decided that my right brain should take charge of this project; it's time to get creative! I have seven months to get ready for this & I'm already well-situated to do this! I already own the "big items" like bed, dresser, & kitchen supplies so I won't be incurring additional expenses with those, I already have enough clothes & shoes, & I won't need to buy work clothes since I can go to class in jeans & a t-shirt (my preferred uniform for life), and I won't be commuting 250+ miles a week, so my gas & time between car maintenance appointments will be greatly reduced.

So how can I start preparing now? My goal for the first half of 2010 is to save as much money as possible & to start adopting some of the lifestyle habits that will be thrust upon me come August. I already try to lead a fairly simple lifestyle, but there are adjustments that I can make.
  1. Limit travel. I love travelling, whether visiting relatives or college friends or taking an adventure trip. But travelling usually involves at least $50 in gas plus money spent eating out, going out, admission to events & occasionally pet care (for my lovely dog Mabel).
  2. Limit clothing purchases. I already have enough. I should probably get rid of some actually.
  3. Prepare food that is filling & extendible. Instead of making a chicken breast which works for only one meal, cut it up and put it in a stir fry which is equally as tasty, but will provide leftovers for subsequent meals.
  4. Try to eat vegetarian a few times a week. Meat is expensive.
  5. Invite friends over for dinner or game nights instead of going out. And thinking about it, my friends probably won't mind. Saving $ is a universal interest.

It'll end up working out because it has to. I just don't really want to do this. I suppose the mental block I have is the same kind of block certain people have towards cleaning their homes, losing weight or starting an exercise program. Nothing will change until you decide to change it. No one else is going to do this for me, so it's time I accept the way things are & go forth with creative confidence that with a few adjustments, I can do this!