Urban Adaptation

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

Posts Tagged ‘simplicity

Clearing house

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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.


Written by Jenn

March 21, 2011 at 12:43 pm

The Great American Apparel Diet

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I found out about TGAAD a few months back, but it didn’t really cross my mind to jump on board. Then, a few days ago, I was thinking about the New Year and resolutions (in the loosest sense) – wanting more time for the important things, thinking about getting my finances tightened up even more, and trying to declutter further – and it hit me that now would be a good time to get on board.  And, after a month of not shopping, this felt at least reasonably do-able as a project, and it seemed to fit well with my hope for a low shopping year. So, no new clothes (or new-to-me used clothes) until the end of August, 2011.

I don’t really spend a lot, mostly because I shop almost exclusively at thrift stores. But as a grad student, I’d rather be saving than spending, and given how little I currently make, it’s still a higher percentage of my budget than I’d like. Because thrift stores are cheap, I also have a lot of clothing – nice, good quality clothing, but certainly enough, and probably more than I need – and I could use the room. Finally, I spend more time shopping than I would prefer, looking for just the right things at just the right price.

So, for TGAAD my goals are four-fold. Spend less. Bring fewer things home. Have more time for the important stuff. Get creative with what I have (and get rid of what just isn’t working). Pretty simple, I hope.

When I was considering joining, I found myself nervous. Could I really do this? (As a side note, I think the fact that it felt so monumental at the time is probably a sign that this is a good thing to be doing.) Now? I feel excited – not just as though a big decision has been made, but also as though many months of small ones have too. For the next eight months and change there are no more decisions about shopping or not, buying or not, or even just what to get. It feels freeing, which is a pleasant surprise.

Right now, I’m considering whether I need to plan out an exception or two.  A suit for job interviews is at the top of that list, and my pj pants are about to go, I think (although there’s some lovely flannel and a sewing machine in the closet that could probably make short work of that particular need).

The only other question left, I think, is whether I try to further extend this diet to other elements of my shopping which, while also not hugely indulgent, add to the time, the expense, and the clutter of shopping (books and housewares, I’m looking at you).  While TGAAD is focused largely on clothes, I’m hoping that my perspective not only shifts with respect to this kind of shoppng, but also transfers to other elements as well.

Written by Jenn

December 16, 2010 at 8:51 am

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

Stopping shopping

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As I’ve said before, I’m not a huge fan of shopping.  I’m not a good browser, hate malls, and have a delightful situation where not only do I hate spending money, but also where thrift store prices have ruined me for real shopping.  While I love grocery shopping and thrift stores and don’t mind running out now and again for particular supplies, a shopper I am not.

However (and this is a big however), I’ve noticed my shopping has crept up a bit recently.  First, I needed some things for the wedding.  Then, as I started picking up various supplies (cleaning, canning, lower-energy living) I’d pick up a thing or two here and there, sometimes on a special trip, sometimes if I was just out for a walk and in the area.  But a trip to get extra jars for starters would also yield a new purse, or a trip to look for books on gardening might instead yield a novel or two.  In a lot of cases, the inexpensive goods of thrift stores proved just too alluring – oil paintings for $2, books for $1, or linen dish towels for $0.49 make acquisition relatively painless.

Now, this isn’t a huge deal – I’m spending not much money, it’s not like the stuff won’t get used, and it’s almost all second hand anyway, but none of that is really the point.  I still want to reduce the stuff in my life.  I still want to save rather than spend.  I still want to focus on the things that really matter.  So, I’m stopping shopping for anything other than the necessities.

For how long?  A month, for now, and possibly more if I feel so inclined at the end since a month doesn’t seem so very long from here.  They say it takes three weeks to break a habit so, while I don’t know that this is a “habit” per se, a month seems about right to me.

What am I giving up?  Basically, I’m stopping all casual shopping.  For the month of July there will be no new (well, new to me anyway) clothes, books, dishes, jewelry, accessories, artwork, or anything else that counts as a want rather than a need.

What about necessities?  I still have to buy groceries and medicine, and pay bills.  There are some dissertation related books and computer programs that need to be purchased (although that will be on the university’s dime).  There are still a few things that I’ve been holding out on for awhile now – namely a grain mill, sun oven, and solar flashlight – that I may want to pick up soon, if I can find a sale.  For these items, which are on a long-standing list, I may make an exception.

I’m actually looking forward to a bit more time in some of my days and a bit more money in my bank account.  Instead of shopping, I’ll be spending more time reading, writing, researching, cooking, baking, cleaning, and exercising.  I’ll also be renewing my library card and making use of that as well – there are some books that I want to have a look at that I don’t feel the need to buy right now. I hardly think this level of shopping is a huge problem – it’s neither frequent nor expensive – but I think taking some time away from it and focusing on some other things will do me some good.

Written by Jenn

June 23, 2010 at 1:15 am

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The wedding

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A few days ago The Boy and I got married.  We’re home now, and recuperating – even though we worked to keep it small and easy, the whole thing was still tiring enough – especially for introverts – that we’ve been in pretty dire need of downtime and sleep.

Despite being so tired, we’re pleased with how the wedding turned out.  We decided, for a variety of reasons, to go against what seem to be the current wedding conventions, at least according to bridal magazines – large, detailed, showy, and expensive.  In stead, our wedding was small, simple, inexpensive, and had only family present.  While this may not be for everyone, we tried very hard to keep things as simple as possible.  There were a few things that worked really well for us.

First, we decided to have the wedding at City Hall.  This meant we could simply show up for the ceremony – the arrangements were all made for us, from the officiant to the flowers, and the service itself was brief, which we’d both wanted from the get-go.  We also decided to simply have the reception at a restaurant where all the details would be taken care of.  The only decision we had to make – other than deciding on the restaurant in the first place – was between four pre-set menus.

We also kept it small – just family.  Including us, there were ten people.  This meant there were fewer people to coordinate, transport, and make reservations for, which meant less worry for us and those who were helping with the planning.   It also meant we could really focus on and enjoy the people who were there, and have more time with each of them.

Finally, we tried to keep the details from overwhelming us.  Once we had the place for the ceremony and the reception, we tried (some times more successfully than others) to let the details be simple.  I wore a simple dress from Banana Republic, bought used awhile back, and shoes that I already had.  We bought The Boy a simple white shirt, black pants, and a belt locally.  We got a ride to the city of the wedding with family and took the bus home the next day.  I bought my flowers the morning of the wedding from a flower market.

It was, all things considered, perfect and exactly what we wanted.  It was lovely to be able to focus on the day and our families, rather than the details.  While it wasn’t always completely easy and simple, focusing down this way really helped to keep us on track and create the wedding that we really wanted.

Written by Jenn

June 12, 2010 at 10:22 pm

Posted in Personal stuff

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