Urban Adaptation

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

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The Low Shopping Year

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I’m not much of a New Year’s resolutions kind of person.  I do, however, like a good challenge (could you tell?)  And so, with the coming new year, I’m taking on a new one, and one that fits rather well with some of the other projects that I’ve got in the works.

Here comes The Low Shopping Year.

In my efforts to save some money, prepare to move, clean out the clutter, and just generally sort out my life, shopping isn’t helping.  As I’ve said before, I don’t shop a lot, and I certainly don’t spend much, but it still means that things are making their way into my home here and there, money that doesn’t have to is making its way out the door, and the clutter and finances are all the more difficult to deal with as a result.  Also, because I almost always buy used, even spending a bit of money can bring in a lot of stuff ($10 at the used book store is usually good for three or four books).

The original thought was that I would start what I called “The No Shopping Year”.  Unfortunately, “The No Shopping Year” sounds a bit grandiose.  And, given my present situation, there’s no way I can go an entire year without actually shopping for anything, since I like to eat, need medication, and may require an academic book here or there as I plow through the dissertation, so the name’s a bit of a misnomer, cool as it sounds.  So, in the interest of accuracy, I’ve reconsidered the No Shopping Year in favour of the Low Shopping Year.  (More accurate, but sounds less cool, no?)

The plan?  Seriously reduce (my already rather reduced consumption) in much the same way as with my No Spending Month.

The benefit?  Less money going out.  Fewer things coming in.  Less clutter to deal with.  Less clutter to move.  More time for whatever I want.

There are still details to work out.  I need to figure out what’s allowed and what isn’t, whether there should be any exceptions, and if there’s anything else I should be figuring out.  I’ll probably wind up working out a new budget to reflect (and possibly reinforce) these changes.

Written by Jenn

December 15, 2010 at 10:05 am

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

Riot for Austerity

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I’ve been considering the Riot for Austerity recently – partly as a possible project, but perhaps more generally as a baseline of something to work towards in the long-term, and to keep improving at as I go.  I think it’s incredibly important to do, as tough as it might be, and on some level we just don’t have a huge amount of choice in the matter anymore.  I can’t say I’m going to follow this completely to the letter.  Right now, trying to track all of these different elements is sounding daunting if not flat-out frustrating.  But I’m going to do my best to see what I can do about getting my consumption of resources down to 90 percent of the American average.

Now, for the specifics.  The goals:

1 – Gasoline: 50 gallons (189 liters) per person, per year / 4.7 gallons (17.8 liters per month).
2 – Electricity: 1,100 kwh per household, per year / 90 kwh per household, per month.

3 – Heating and Cooking Energy: These both fall under electricity for me.

4 – Garbage: 0.45 lbs of garbage per person, per day.

5 – Water: 10 gallons (37.9 liters) per person, per day.

6 – Consumer Goods: 1,000 dollars per household, per year.

7 – Food:  70 percent local and organic, 25 percent dry bulk, and 5 percent wet goods.

Given that there are a number of metrics here that I simply don’t have access to right now, I feel like I might be living by the motto “if in doubt, CUT!” for the next little while.  If I’m not sure I’m where I should be, the best solution for now, I think, is to go as low as possible.  It’s not going to be perfect – like I said, taking on this level of detail right now is feeling like more of a burden than a challenge – but so long as I know where I am and where I’d like to be, I can keep working towards a 90 percent reduction as I go.

Written by Jenn

November 9, 2010 at 7:37 pm

The Anyway Project – November goals

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Since it seems I can’t redesign my entire life in the span of a weekend (or even a month, I imagine, or longer), I’m plotting out some goals for this month for The Anyway Project.  The categories have changed a bit, but the ideas are still the same.  Given that things are still busy and that I still have a lot of writing, grading, and other sundry things to take care of, I think one or two things at most in each category will be a darn good start.

Domestic Infrastructure:

Get the kitchen cleared out, both in terms of food and other things that are kicking around in there that aren’t really needed (I have an awful lot of pots and cookbooks that aren’t really used).  I am, of course, still working to declutter the apartment as well.  This is also the time to winterproof as much as possible, so we’ll be fixing up the shrink plastic as much as possible and looking for ways to better insulate what’s left around here.

Household Economy:

I’m aiming to not only stay on track with my existing budget, but to cut down expenses and spending by another 10 percent in order to increase my savings this month.  I’ve also added a new category into my budget for putting towards purchases that help with sustainability and that hopefully will cut costs as well, so I’m planning on doing some research about the best investments to make.

Resource Consumption:

I’m going to start tracking my resource consumption here as well as I can (some resources are arranged through the landlords, though, and I can’t get a completely accurate read on them).  That said, I can do a better job of tracking my electricity usage and using less of it, as well as setting a timer for shorter showers, and taking them less frequently.  With respect to getting around, my mileage is all on public transit, which isn’t horrible, but I’m also setting a goal of walking or biking at least once a week when I normally would have taken the bus.  I’m considering starting in on the Riot for Austerity again, but it’s still under consideration.

Cottage Industry and Subsistence:

This one, I’ll admit, has me a bit stumped.  Although I see the value, I’m not sure I’m in a position right now to take on extra work in a cottage industry sense.  Nor do I know what to do at this point, so this one needs some thought.  I think I might instead focus on finishing the dissertation so that it’s done and over with and I can focus my energies in other directions (and stop paying tuition).  For subsistence, though, I’m looking into my options for some indoor growing.  This may be a bust, but then again it may not, and I’d like to get set up for that a bit more this month (this might be a good use for that new budget category).

Family and Community:

There are a number of organizations focused on sustainability and related concerns in town that I haven’t yet had much to do with.  So, this month I’m going to make an effort to get out to at least a few of their events and maybe even meet some people.  I’d also like to continue focusing on spending money – when I do spend money, that is – on local people and businesses.

Outside Work:

With October over, some of my outside work commitments have dissipated.  I’d like to keep it this way, and for now only focus on the dissertation and anything that’s important to either my future academic life or my future farm life (this has been working well thus far).   This is especially true, I think, in terms of sticking to those commitments that  mesh with my values.  To that end, I’ve got my eye on some projects that go somewhat beyond my usual work and start to engage with topics like food security and urban planning.  Now that the crazy period is over, I’d like to transition my research into some new work that matches my values and ideals a bit more.

Time and Happiness:

More exercise, better eating habits, more time on the couch knitting and reading.  That’s really about it.

That seems like a long list in some ways, but it also feels rather manageable, and some of these goals are things I’m already working my way through.  Some, of course, will take longer than a month, but it’s nice to know that there are specific goals to be met both right now and a ways down the road as well.

Written by Jenn

November 9, 2010 at 1:09 pm