Urban Adaptation

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

Archive for the ‘Home sweet home’ Category

Snowed in

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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.

Written by Jenn

December 7, 2010 at 2:49 pm

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November in review

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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.


10×30 update

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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.

Written by Jenn

November 26, 2010 at 8:34 am

This old apartment

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When I was young, every weekend I’d sit down with my dad and brother and watch “This Old House” and “The New Yankee Workshop”.

Writing that out, it strikes me that I was perhaps a somewhat odd child.

Oh well.  In any case, I find myself thinking back to “This Old House” especially and wishing for a place to live where I could have a bit more control over my surroundings and rebuild or change the things that aren’t working for me.  While this place is lovely in the summer – it faces north with a balcony overhead and is the bottom floor, so it’s always naturally much cooler than outside – in the winter, it’s cold.

I want to take down the walls and reinsulate with heavy wool batting.  Take down the odd enclosed pipe that makes it almost impossible to hang heavy curtains over the window.  Tear up the carpet and put down radiant heating, or a wool underpad with a thicker, warmer carpet on top.  Install warm cork floors in the kitchen.

Of course, none of these ideas are really an option right now, at least not on the scale at which I’d like to do them.  So instead, I’m making do as best I can, and trying to figure out more ways to keep the apartment a bit warmer this year.

While I abhor plastic, last year I did buy shrink film for the windows, which was helpful.  I left most of it up on the windows that don’t open through the summer, so now all we need is more tape so we can reuse them.  We also plan on hanging some vintage wool blankets as curtains as soon as we figure out how to affix them to the wall.

I’ve also got my eyes open for wool rugs.  We’d rather not buy too much or clutter the place up, especially if we have to move, but a nice wool rug might help to keep things a bit warmer here, since the carpet is thin and the floor underneath is concrete.

Sometime this week, we’ll be asking the landlord to weatherstrip the doors.  If they won’t do it, we’ll do it ourselves, I imagine, and probably try to stuff some kind of insulation in there as well.  We also plan to caulk the windows, since they seem to be one of the biggest offenders, and seal up the outside doors somehow, since they leak like sieves.

Of course, there’s always the warm clothes and lots of blankets route (which I have another post in the works on), but we’d also like for our place to be tolerably comfortable on its own, or at least not as cold and draughty as it currently is.  I’m not a person who expects the same temperature year-round, which requires lots of heat in the summer and air conditioning in the winter.  But until I have a place of my own, I would like to make as many changes as is reasonable to make this place a bit nicer for passing winters on the couch.

Written by Jenn

November 20, 2010 at 10:46 am

Posted in Home sweet home

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10×30 – week one

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While the week got off to a slow start, at the end I pulled it together and managed to get together my 10 things a day of things to purge.  Now, admittedly, I was maybe hoping for some larger things, to clear a bit more room, but for a start, vintage hat-thing, apron, quilt, 2 journals, 14 books, 18 magazines, 11 pr chopsticks, 22 whiteboard markers, 2 umbrellas, 3 sunglasses, record, and 2 sigg bottles.

I think that actually adds up to more than 70, so that’s something.  And this week, there will be more, and then more after that.  This progress thing just takes awhile, although it’s happy to see that first batch on its way out the door.

Written by Jenn

November 8, 2010 at 10:02 pm

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10×30 and The Anyway Project

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This week has not lent itself to the starting of projects like I’d imagined it would.  In addition to starting my 10×30 decluttering project and The Anyway Project, I was hoping to do some NaNoWriMo, as well as the academic-type equivalent.  I’ve done okay on the academic, but between a late-running project and utter exhaustion, the others took a back seat.

Until today.

After a sleep in until after noon, today, glory be, is the first day I’ve felt really human in awhile now.  I’ve taken the weekend off, and I’m feeling inspired and ready to go and catch up on the things that slipped by the wayside (the promise of Thai food for dinner, a rare treat, is also helping the motivation.

For The Anyway Project, Sharon’s set up seven categories that I’ve been giving some thought to:  Domestic Economy, Household Economy, Resource Consumption, Farm and Subsistence, Family and Community, Outside Work, and Time and Happiness.  While I have plans for all of them, the focus right now seems to be on domestic economy – really focusing on my home and how it can be better set up to meet my needs.  In some ways, this comes down to a lot of decluttering.  But as I get rid of things, I also want to consider if there’s anything home needs to make it more functionable or suitable (insulation comes to mind, which is another project on the books), as well as ways in which it can be better organized to work better for the ways that we use it.

Right now, I think this comes down to a few things.  First, it gets cold in here in the winter, and this is something that needs to be addressed.  We’ve started, but have a few other things to try as well.  I’d also like to make sure that there’s room for people to come over.  And, with people coming over, anything that helps up keep the place tidy enough that there isn’t a last minute scrable to clean before they arrive would also be lovely.  Finally, with a few projects in mind for this year – worm composter, more baking and cooking, and possibly some attempts at indoor growing over the winter, I need appropriate spaces, so clearing and arranging them now would be helpful.

These are just a few things – I’m sure more will come up as I actually tackle the work.  But for now, I’m off to find some things I can get rid of, tackle the dishes, and try to make this place just a bit tidier and less full by the end of the day today.

Written by Jenn

November 6, 2010 at 1:55 pm

On wanting

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I’ve never been much of a consumer in the typical sense.  Oh, I’ve wanted things – books, clothing, instruments, electronics, knicknacks, and so on – but my frugal nature and consciousness about consumption have gotten in the way (and rightly so, I think) for as long as I can remember (I should probably use this point to clarify that I have a more than adequate supply of stuff, it’s just been inexpensive thrift store stuff that doesn’t make much of an environmental burden by the time it gets to me).

In all honesty, I’m not sure that this shift into wanting and working towards a more sustainable life has left me wanting any less.  I think I’m just wanting differently.  Now, I want things that will help me be sustainable in the long run.  Things that are a means to be a means to an end rather than an end in and of themslves. Things that will last a long time.  Things that are useful and practical.  Things that allow for a bit more self-reliance.

The other day I started a wish list, a record of things to consider for the future.   It’s all things that at some point or another I’ve found myself coveting, and currently seems to be two parts things that I don’t have room for right now (or wouldn’t want to have to move), one part things that are too expensive right now, and a dash of somewhat romanticized ideas of the future.

What’s on it?  Here’s a sampling (minus books, which are a list unto themselves right now), and a tiny bit of the rationale to go with them.

A hand wringer washer from Lehman’s, for laundry on the porch when’s it’s nice, and laundry inside when it isn’t.

To replace the one I made that didn’t work so well, a sun oven for outdoor cooking.

A nice, big composter, which I’m not currently allowed to have outside my apartment.

To help others and myself have some light, a rechargeable solar BoGo flashlight.

A grain mill, for grinding my own.

A greenhouse, for growing my own veggies – I’m partial to the domes – and some tools to go with it.

For the much hoped for chickens, one of these lovely coops.

Clearly, a lot of these things are impractical or plain old unnecessary right now, but I haven’t stopped thinking about the day that I’ll have a use and a need for them.

That said, while this sometimes feels materialistic – shopping, just in a different form – I also try to remind myself that this is research.  When the time comes, I’ll have a good sense of what I’ll need, where to find it, how to make it work for me.  This research has also helped me to find things that I could probably do for myself.  While my solar oven didn’t work that well, there are more plans out there to try.  There are also plenty of plans for chicken coops and geodesic dome greenhouses that I’m keeping my eyes on too.

This is more to buy, certainly (or make, if I can get together the right skills), but it feels different.  This isn’t mindless consumption.  It actually feels very purposeful, especially since it won’t be happening for awhile yet.  In fact, to help make it more purposeful, I’m considering setting up a savings account to fund some of these purchases when the time comes.  In addition to adding in some money regularly, I might challenge myself to reduce my regular spending a bit more here and there to fill it up even faster – every book or other want that I don’t buy directly contributes to future energy-saving and sustainable living purchases.

To that end, I’ve only just considered putting a picture of a farm in my wallet as a reminder that every time I open it – which is usually to spend money, naturally, since that’s where the money and the credit cards are kept – that there are bigger goals that I want to meet down the road.   There’s even a nice little slot that would do well for such a picture.  And so inspired, I think I’m going to go see about doing that now.

Written by Jenn

November 6, 2010 at 1:39 pm