Urban Adaptation

Sustainable urban living, rural dreams, and daily change for a homemade life.

Archive for the ‘Conscious consumption’ Category

Grateful without

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A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.  – Henry David Thoreau

While I am always grateful for what I have, more and more these days I find myself being grateful for some of the things that I don’t have.  I know for some of the people I know that this is odd.  To be grateful for what you have isn’t all that exceptional, but to be grateful for the things you don’t have – other than, say, major health issues or a heavy mortgage – isn’t all that common in my experience.

I am grateful for not having a car, a washer and dryer, a dishwasher, or a cell phone.  I’m grateful that I don’t have the financial burden of paying for or maintaining them.  Although my hope is that this will change someday, I am grateful for not having a mortgage.  I’m also grateful that I have ways to get by without them.  That I can walk, or bike, or take the bus.  That I can wash clothes in the tub, or a sink, or a bucket.  That I actually rather like sudsy water and the act of making dirty dishes clean.  That I have a landline, a laptop, and easy wireless access.  That I have an apartment now and that someday, with any luck, I will have enough saved to get that mortgage.

I am grateful without these things, certainly – I have enough in my life, certainly, and so much that is better than a few appliances and techno-gadgetry. I’m grateful for family, for friends, for food, and for shelter (and, admittedly, I’m especially grateful this afternoon for books and a guitar).  I don’t need more than what I have, and not having these things does not diminish my life in any way, or detract from my gratitude for the things that I do have.

But I am also grateful that I do not have them, which seems to me a bit of a separate thing.  I’m grateful that I’ve learned to be without them, and that being without them is simply normal, even pleasurable sometimes, and not deprivation.  I’m grateful that I’ve learned that there alternatives to what so many people seem to accept as a given, if not some inalienable right granted by the gods of credit and debt.

There are moments when I whinge and moan, as most people do, I think.  Moments when the dishes and laundry are piled too high, the grocery stores seems thousands of miles away, and it would be easier to call home on a phone in my pocket rather than one across campus.  But these moments are the exceptions, and are far from the rule.

There’s more that I would like to cut out, I think.  More that I would like to be grateful about not having.  I hope to make some of these changes soon.  But for now, I’m grateful – grateful for what I have just as much as for what I don’t.  It’s a good feeling this gratitude, especially when it works more than one way.

Written by Jenn

April 10, 2011 at 1:51 pm

How low can you go – week one

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In an effort to keep costs down, I’m continuing to track my spending and now I’m reporting it here.  Basically, I’m trying to keep my variable expenses down as much as I can right now to save for next year, when I may not be earning much.  Rent, utilities, and my one recurring research-related subscription will get added in at the end of the month for the grand total.  I’ll have to see if I can keep track of groceries, since The Boy usually pays for those.

In the first week of my how low can you go challenge, I think I did pretty well.

Friday – nothing

Saturday – nothing

Sunday – nothing

Monday – 6 books for $15 (The Road – 2; The Fiery Cross – 2; The Rodale Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening – 3; A Minnesota Doctor’s Home Remedies for Common and Uncommon Ailments – 2; Blue Covenant – 3; World Hunger: Twelve Myths – 3).

Tuesday – toilet paper for $12.

Wednesday – nothing

Thursday – nothing

Total = $27

Not bad, I suppose.  In all honesty, as I’ve said before I don’t need more books.  I consider this a birthday gift to myself, though, and I appreciate their entertainment value (in the case of the novels) and having them around for reference (home remedies and organic gardening).  Happily, the ones on water and hunger will be reimbursed as part of a research project that I’m working on.  The toilet paper was found cheaper at a local store than where I usually get it, and will last us awhile.

Next week, I’m going to be more vigilant about staying away from the bookstore (and I won’t have a birthday as my excuse).  I need to get a birthday gift for my mom, and pay for a warranty on my computer (expansive, and totally worth it, in my experience), but other than that, I’m still aiming for reducing costs.  I also have a pressing desire to do some spring cleaning, so I imagine that will keep me busy (and hyper-aware of how much stuff I have), as will all the grading I have to do.

Written by Jenn

April 8, 2011 at 3:27 pm

How low can you go?

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It’s three days into April now, but at the start of the month, I decided that this will be a month where I see how low I can get my budget to go under normal circumstances.

The goal?  To spend as little as possible while I live like I normally would.  No eating strictly from the pantry, no putting off things that I need until the next month to skew the spending lower, no making The Boy take on more than he normally would to cover for me.  So, normal life, just with less spending, whether that means buying fewer things, or spending less on the things that are necessities.

Seems simple enough, but I suppose I shall see.  I’ll update as I go with weekly spending reports.  Three days down, 27 left to go.

How low can you go?

Written by Jenn

April 3, 2011 at 4:06 pm

And then there was rice…

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When I started on this path, as it were, I had pretty much one thing on my mind (or a few things, all linked together, sort of).  I wanted a farm.  I wanted chickens and ducks and sheep and a woodstove and fireplace and a big garden and a small office filled with books that I could write from and a couch on which I could doze off every now and again when the chores were done and I could grab a few minutes to myself.

But as I read yet more about the state of the world, things started to shift.  I wanted to be sure that I could take care of myself and the people I loved where I could if I had to.  I wanted to make the space I was in suit what we needed now instead of waiting for some future that might or might not come.

In part, these changes are rooted in fear.  I think it’s disingenuous to say otherwise.  I’m concerned about keeping warm and clean and fed.  I worry that someday there won’t be water in the pipes, food in the grocery store, heat in the apartment, or money in the bank.

But I also don’t want my life ruled by fear, and so I try to see the changes that I make as empowering, even if the actions I take and the things I do are rooted at least partially in being afraid.  I try to remember that given the situation I’m being as proactive as I can be right now, and that I’m still making choices to act in ways that I think are useful and that will be helpful in the future.

Today, I bought two 8 kilo bags of rice on sale.  I noticed the sale yesterday, but didn’t have enough hands (or strength) to carry them along with the other groceries.  So today, I went back for two bags.  It took about 45 minutes to do, since I needed to take the bus part way home (they were very difficult to carry while walking), and I feel better with them parked in the kitchen.

I can see the rice as being a product of fear, and be reminded of it every time I go into the kitchen, or cook, or (to be honest) every time I trip over it, which I will, given the present state of my kitchen.  Or I can see it as something that will help me, and as a way of pushing that fear a little deeper while also using it to make changes for the long run.  Some days it’s harder than others, but I’m really working on the latter.

Written by Jenn

March 28, 2011 at 11:26 pm

Prepping

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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.

Written by Jenn

March 25, 2011 at 4:18 am

Good luck at Goodwill

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After being without a computer for a bit (three fun issues, just to add a little spice to life), I stopped by the goodwill bookstore on my way home from the repair shop where it was undergoing diagnostics.  I sometimes lament how tempting its proximity to home is, since this poor little apartment has a rather large number of books in it already, but I really, honestly love it – great selection, great people, and supporting a charity at the same time – definitely right up my alley, so to speak.

Given that the weather has suddenly become incredibly cold, and that I was already somewhat chilled from waiting for two different buses, I seriously debating stopping.  I’m pleased that I did, though.

First, I stumbled across two young adult (I think) books that I’ve been wanting to read – “I Captured the Castle” and “The Yearling“.  Next, I found a copy of “Four Season Harvest“, which deals with ways to extend the life of a garden and keep production up through the whole year.  Finally, I stumbled across “Locavore” and “The 100 Mile Diet,” both of which I’d been considering from amazon relatively recently, but had decided to hold off on.  I’m now glad that I did.

The grand total for 5 books?  $16, or quite affordable.  I’m still trying to reduce my shopping as much as possible, and get stuff out of the apartment, but I’m pleased with these books, which are either classics, or good information and inspiration for my own efforts in living and eating more sustainably.  And now, I’m going to curl up on the couch with a book, a blanket, and some tea, and have a quiet afternoon.

Written by Jenn

January 21, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Making good use

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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.

Written by Jenn

January 8, 2011 at 4:05 pm