Archive for the ‘Home sweet home’ Category
As I go through the machinations of budgeting – writing the budget, tracking what I spend daily, reporting it weekly here – it strikes me that I spend a lot more time on the budget itself than on why I keep a budget. This isn’t necessarily a problem in itself – I do the budget anyway, because it’s habit, and I know in the back of my mind that it’s hugely important – but sometimes it’s good to remember that it’s for a purpose and it fits into a bigger plan.
Really, it’s pretty simple, though.
First, I keep a budget for the here-and-now, so that I have an emergency fund if anything unexpected happens. By keeping a budget I can live enough below my means to save money. Saving money means there’s some flexibility if anything happens. Also, when I’m used to living below my means, if something happens – like, say, a pay cut – we’re already used to living this way, so while it may be an adjustment, it’s not as much of a hardship as it could be.
The bigger thing, though, is that I have a plan – or at least some hopes – about what I can do with a stash of cash and the ability to lie frugally. I want some land. It doesn’t have to be a lot of land. It could be in the city or the country. I’m not really all that picky. But I want some land on which I can have a home, grow some food, raise some animals, and generally live life a little more on my terms.
This won’t happen immediately, I know. There are too many things up in the air right now, and too much to get sorted out first. But by living on a budget now – thinking and writing and watching and tracking – I can better prepare for this much hoped for dream, even if it is a good ways in the future right now. I’d do this anyway – living below my means is important enough anyway – but having a dream in place makes it even easier, and gives the work a real purpose.
I am my own library.
I’ve always loved reading and having books around. When I was 10 or so I had one bookshelf, crammed with books, and piles everywhere else for the ones that just wouldn’t fit.
Things aren’t really that different now, although the focus of the books has shifted.
When I started my Masters degree, I realised how hard it was to get some of the books that I needed from the library, if they even had them at all. I also realised that 3 weeks was simply not enough time for some of them. So I started buying books. Not a lot, but when I needed something, especially for my research, I tended to get it so I could have my own copy, always available, that I could do what I wanted with. This carried through to my doctorate, and I’ve been fortunate enough to receive some grant money that has allowed me to buy most of the books that I use for research, many of which are generally good, useful texts that will be handy for a wide variety of academic work in the future (Veblen, Marx, Durkheim, Weber, Baudrillard, Bourdieu, de Certeau, and Simmel, I’m looking at you).
Once I became aware of issues around food security, sustainability, and peak oil, I began to see the value in using this approach of making sure I had books on hand that would help me live the life I was increasingly wanting to lead. And so, with another bookshelf on hand, I started building up a greater selection of books on cooking, gardening, knitting, sewing, preparedness, preserving, food issues, compost, household maintenance, and most recently, raising animals.
Coupled with the fiction that I also kept around, this makes for a lot of books. Actually, for awhile I considered getting rid of some of the fiction or academic books to make a bit more room (the fiction especially was considered for the shopping block), but then I read one of Sharon’s posts that included a section about buying books and feeling that she should be the local library, and I stopped thinking that way.
While fiction may not be useful in the practical sense, it gives me some very inexpensive, reusable, and lendable entertainment. It’s an escape, a way to get away from the world for a while. Sometimes its inspirational. Sometimes its relaxing. But I appreciate having books around that I want to read, and so when I see something at the used bookstore for a few dollars that I want to have around long term, it often comes home with me. At the most recent 50 percent off sale, I came home with John Steinbeck, Eudora Welty, Dostoyevsky, Douglas Adams, John Irving, and Annie Dillard. I’m still not looking forward to moving them, and I do trim the collection here and there but, by and large, the books stay.
The building of my library has been facilitated in a few ways. My long-standing love of thrift stores has certainly helped, and I’d say the vast majority of my books have cost no more than a few dollars each. Back in my undergrad days there was a thrift store where almost every book was a quarter or less – total bliss. The annual library book sale here helps as well. Also, everyone I know knows of my love of books, and birthday and Christmas gifts are frequently gift certificates. I also do a few reward-type programs that don’t cost me anything, but that add up to a bit of book money here and there. Occasionally there’s something that I want or think is useful enough to buy new, but this is very much a rarity.
Missing from this post: photos of my book-covered coffee table, bedside, nightstand, desk, and dining room table.
I’ve never really thought of myself as someone who’s a prepper.
Someone who’s interested in food security? Yes. Someone who wants to grow their own? Certainly. Someone who wants to be prepared for an uncertain future? Absolutely. But a prepper? Not really. I don’t have anything against it, it just never really crossed my mind.
Until this week, that is.
Now, although I’ve never thought of myself as a prepper, I’ve read about prepping, and thought about prepping, and wondered if, really, I should be doing something more along the lines of prepping and getting together some stockpiles and basic tools and things for which there might be a need somewhere down the line.
I was at the thrift store this week, and I stumbled across rather a lot of inexpensive hurricane candles (likely because they are in a shade called “lemon” which, yes, is a well and truly awful bright yellow). They worked out to $1 for a box of six. I bought seven bags with four boxes in each for a grand total of 168 candles for $28. For another $5 each I also got two brass-with-glass-chimney hurricane lanterns.
They’re not the ideal solution for every issue (this is why I also have lanterns and lamp oil as well, although I should stock up on wicks, and I have my eye on a hand-cranked LED lantern), but I now know I have a supply of emergency candles with solid holders to use if something does happen and the power goes out.
I also picked up an extra pair of sturdy shoes (since apparently one of my great fears in life is not being able to find or replace solid, comfortable, fairly long-wearing footwear, which could at least partially explain my current five pairs of Doc Martens), two pizza pans, and a large binder in which to store my paper collection of things-that-I-might-need-to-know-and-have-on-hand.
Of course, now that I’ve started, I’m thinking about it more, and there’s a lot that I still want to do – so much so that thinking about it all makes me a bit nervous in terms of cost, time, and the idea of either storing stuff (which I’m working on), or finding a way to move it if I have to move at some point. More on this later, though. For now, things are a bit busy, so I won’t be getting to it all right away, but I’m considering ways in which I can relatively easily start to improve my current and future situation a bit more. Of course, suggestions are always welcome as well.
A long time ago, in a land far away…
(Really, just a few years, and pretty much right here…)
…was a girl who really, really liked cool vintage stuff.
And so she went to thrift stores and she bought lots and lots of cool vintage stuff. Glasses. Casserole dishes. Dresses. Jewelry. Furniture. Blankets. Lamps. Purses. Dishes.
Her vintage things were lovely – well made, interesting, and like nothing else that most other people would have (this girl liked things that were somewhat unique). But she felt a little silly wearing much of the clothing, since she was really more a t-shirt and jeans kind of girl. And some of the dishes had hairline cracks, so they couldn’t be heated too much. And some of the linens had holes, or stains, or were just difficult to wash spaghetti sauce out of. And some of the things that were lovely and perfect and mint, well, she was just afraid to use those, lest they get damaged.
And so, the girl wound up with an apartment full of vintage things that weren’t used, plus a whole lot of semi-equivalent items that were. And although it never came anywhere close to those scary homes that show up on Hoarders, it became more difficult to clean and manage.
As is probably very obvious, that girl is me. A love of vintage and a love of collecting combined with the need to have things around that I actually use and a general unwillingness to get rid of anything that still has use in it (even if I’m not actually using it) has made for a full apartment (and this is before we even start talking about the many, many books that live here too).
Now, I try to buy only what I need and have a specific use for. If I need something, I still usually try to look for something cool and vintage, but also something that’s sturdy and will last well and that I’ll be willing to use (in all honestly, though, in almost all cases function wins out over form these days, although I appreciate the form of the functional in a whole new way – ask me about how much I love my dutch oven, for instance). These days, that means more cast iron, stainless steel, and heavy glass than anything else.
But I do have my eye on some things that I want to buy, things that I think will be useful. They will, however, also take up space. Which means making space. Which also means going on the warpath again and getting rid of yet more stuff.
I’m trying to keep in mind other benefits too, though. Getting rid of things means it’s easier to keep this place clean. It also means more room for things that are more important, such as food, water, and tools. If I have to move, either for work or for lack of work, it will be easier and less expensive to move fewer things. More space and tidiness means I’m happier at home, which makes it more likely that I will want to spend time here, which is usually far more frugal than going out. And less stuff means more room for the projects and activities (and stuff that goes along with them) that help me be more frugal, like the seeds starting on the coffee table, and the sourdough starter, ginger beer starter, and sprouts I have in the kitchen.
This is not something that comes naturally to me at all, but it’s something that needs to be done, and something that I’ve talked about before. Although I’m currently too busy to set defined goals, I’m trying to get a few things into the donation pile each day, to tidy up here and there, and to consciously think about what I really want and need in my life.
Some weekends, I rest. I appreciate the time to sit, to read, to visit with friends, to simply take it easy and be, which is something so many of us don’t do enough of.
This weekend was productive, though, and even at its end I find myself energized and ready to take on that little bit more.
I’ve taken on a bunch of academic work, and made what will likely be huge strides towards completing my research. I’ve also tackled work for other projects that need completing, and crossed many of them off my to do list.
The biggest gains have been around home, though. I’ve managed to clean the tub, the tile, the ceiling, and the mirror in the bathroom, and to sort through some of the laundry. I’ve done all the dishes, swept the floor, cleaned under the sink, decluttered a bit, cleaned the sink, the counters, and the stove. I’ve baked bread, and now have home fries and a veggie quiche baking in the oven.
As much as I take satisfaction in rest on the weekends, especially after a long or otherwise trying week, there’s also satisfaction in productivity and in actually getting concrete things done (perhaps especially for those of us who spend much of our time living in our heads). Although I imagine I’ll be tired very shortly – especially after the pleasures of dinner – I’m pleased with what’s been done, and feel far more grounded and centered now that work has been done and the results are visible.
Walking home sometimes, I stop to look at the outside of my apartment. I live on the bottom floor, close to the ground, and the apartment opens out onto a patio and a bit of grass. To some, I imagine the patio looks cluttered, with its mismatched pots, bags of soil, crates, bike, chairs, and a table. All I see, though, is the potential.
The table is there to work on, and the pots to grow things this summer – herbs, small tomatoes, and maybe a few other plants as well, if I get really lucky. The bike’s to get around without relying on public transit or a car (not that I have one). The chairs are to sit out and enjoy some time outside.
There are currently some problems with the space. Unfortunately, the most notable are the neighbours to one side, who noisily use the space as their own, leaving tents and beer bottles and cigarette butts out wherever they want, and the neighbours above, who generously let their dogs use the balcony as a bathroom, and then sweet it all down to us.
That said, I haven’t lost hope. I still see the beauty in this place – in any place, really – where I know that change is possible, and that things can be done in a way that is productive and sustainable. I’m working to make these changes. Sometimes the work is slower than I’d like, but it’s happening, but by bit, as I try to find a better way of doing things where I am here and now.
As I continue to declutter (which I’ve realised is a complete pain without a car, since now I have 3 garbage bags full of clothes and 100 or so books along with other assorted bits and pieces that stacked around the apartment as I move them one backpack at a time to the Goodwill donation dropoff) I’ve been considering my stuff.
I have, I’ll admit, a lot of duplicates of things, which is easier to see when everything’s dragged out for sorting and relocation. As favourite things start to look worn, I have a tendency to replace them. Trouble is, the original very rarely makes it out the door because I like it, which means that I regularly wind up with multiples of things (which may or may not be in the most fantastic of condition), and because there’s a replacement, the originals rarely get the care that could fix or help them to last longer. So, in the interest of keeping my apartment clean and my wallet full(er), I’ve decided I’m going to keep the best of my things (which was the plan all along) but care for them better, so that there won’t be such an impulse to replace them, and so that they’ll last longer and serve my needs better.
Today, I’ve polished a favourite paid of clogs, oiled my butcher block (which was very long overdue), and fluffed out my down duvet so it doesn’t compress too much. I’ve scrubbed out the cast iron and will be putting it all in the oven for a good re-seasoning shortly. Up next, the wooden coffee tables are overdue for a dust and a polish, and I have some beloved shearling boots that could do with a good cleaning at the local cobbler’s.
Sadly, I know this won’t prevent things from ultimately degrading – eventually, everything fails or wears down. Because they’re used, favourite and useful things usually can’t last forever. But I’m hoping these measures – all of which are pretty inexpensive and rather easy – will prolong the life of my favourite things and, in so doing, also make it less likely that I’ll need to replace them, or wind up with a home filled with duplicates of things that could be better cared for.
Snowed in is an expression that I didn’t really understand until yesterday. We’re at somewhere around two feet of snow in this neck of the woods now, and it’s still coming. It’s sitting deep outside with many of the roads bloacked. The university cancelled classes yesterday and today, and has just announced that they’ll be closed tomorrow as well. The busses will stop running at 3 this afternoon, and won’t run tomorrow either.
For all intents and purposes, we are snowed in.
For now, this isn’t such a bad thing. The fridge and cupboards are well stocked (I see a big bean soup in my future), the apartment is sealed, and there are plenty of books to read, games to play, and various other entertainment things to do. I have papers to grade and work to do. There will be afternoons on the couch with tea and the computer, taking it relatively easy while still getting work done.
That said, this weather isn’t without its issues. We’re fine where we are, but lots of people are not. Shelters are full or filling to capacity at rapid rates. The food bank is closed. People can’t get around easily, and those with mobility issues are at even more of a disadvantage. Today may well also involve figuring out if there are any ways that I can help out a bit close to home.
With a bust schedule, I didn’t quite accomplish everything that I wanted, but I did pretty well, all told.
With my little 10×30 project, I got the requisite number of things boxed up and ready to go out for donation. There’s still a lot more to do, but a box of books and many bags of clothes later and the apartment feels a bit better. I’m looking forward to doing more, and am considering having a repeat performance this month.
For The Anyway Project, I had a few successes as well. The kitchen was cleared out further, and some clutter was removed from the apartment. We had the landlords come in and do some weatherproofing, which will hopefully make it less draughty in here.
Financially, I managed to save about 45 percent of my income this month, up from the 20 percent that I was aiming for. This won’t be possible every month, but this was a good start. I cut back even the limited shopping that I already do to accomplish this, and I’m pleased with the results.
Tracking resource consumption has been somewhat more difficult than I thought, so I’m still trying to figure this one out, and considering ways to lower it even when there isn’t an actual measure available to work from. I’m also still a bit stumped on taking on extra work, both in terms of what to do and how to fit that in right now, but I’m looking into some opportunities.
Family and community took a bit of a beating this month as I didn’t get out that much for various reasons. On the up side, though, I have been more focused on spending money locally, which I hope is helpful from a community perspective.
I’ve managed to keep outside commitments to a minimum in order to keep focusing on the most important things right now – dissertation, teaching, and job search. I have started a few of my own projects that mesh well with my values, though, so that’s a nice break at the end of the day sometimes as well.
And finally, in terms of time and happiness, I’ve been working on eating a bit better, exercising more – I walk to campus a few times a week now – and taking more time just to rest and relax.
Up next? Planning out what I want to work on for the next month. While December’s usually interrupted by holidays and a visit home, I’m considering ways that I can keep up with working through this life that I lead a bit more.
As the end of the month approaches, I’ve been trying to catch up a bit with my 10×30 progress – I figure even if the business of November hasn’t let me purge 10 items a day, by the end of the month I can at least do 30. I actually finished up a bunch of work this week so I can spend part of the weekend working through the stuff.
That said, after the first week’s 70 things, I’ve managed to get rid of another 70 articles of clothing. 30 t-shirts, 10 belts, and the rest pants, skirts, sweaters, and jackets are all on their way to the thrift store the next time I can find myself a ride. Happily or sadly, depending on how you look at it, there’s far too much for me to carry over in any reasonable time frame.
It feels good knowing that it’s out of here – I’m aiming for at least 20 percent of my wardrobe gone by the end of this – but there are still too many clothes, and there’s more to work through over the weekend. I’ve also put together a box with 24 dishes, all ready to head to Goodwill too, and there are plans to start tackling the books (which I have to admit that I dread a little bit) soon too.
In the meantime, I’ve also cut down on my consumption, so a lot less has been coming in. Trips to the bookstore have yielded a book at most, rather than a pile of them. Thrift store visits – I’ve been heading over a lot in search of Mom’s beloved dishes, which are the only gifts she wants for the holidays – have generally ended empty-handed, or with only a single item of clothing in very rare cases. I picked up a light to use to try growing some veggies indoors this winter for only a few dollars, but other than that, the consumption has been negligible (and the amount left even within my budget is proof of this.
While it’s still tough in some ways (getting rid of things still means fighting against the “I might use that someday!” battlecry), it feels good to be getting things in order again. They’re not great yet by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re getting there, and this afternoon, hopefully another garbage bag will join the donation pile, ready to go out the door.