Urban Adaptation

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

Posts Tagged ‘stuff

How low can you go – week two

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Friday – nothing

Saturday – rubbermaid tub (bought used for starting a worm composter) – $2.50; 4 books for $9 (The Almanac of Rural Living – 3; Rodale’s Garden Problem Solutions – 3; The Foxfire Book – 2; Last of the Curlews – 1)

Sunday – nothing

Monday – air mattress – $41 (the old one broke, and this is a necessity for nights when I can’t sleep and need to be in the living room)

Tuesday – nothing

Wednesday – packing tape – $4 (needed to pack up box to return old computer to manufacturer for a replacement)

Thursday – 4 books for $11 (The Lacuna – 4, How the Farm Pays – 3; The Trade – 1; a Terry Pratchett for The Boy – 2)

So, this was more or less a week of somewhat unexpected but necessary expenses.  More in the sense that the mattress, as noted, is necessary to my sleep and sanity sometimes, so $41 was well worth it, I think (I got a reasonable quality one this time that I hope will last longer and not lose quite as much air and require so much maintenance).  My computer’s being replaced under warranty, but has to be packaged up in a particular way to ship back, and so I needed to get a roll of packing tape.

The books?  Oops is all I really have here.  I love books, but I very much need to be better about what I buy.  I’m not too bothered by more books on gardening, farming, and sustainable living – they will get used, and I appreciate having them on hand.  The almanac is especially fantastic, based on my intial readings of it, and How the Farm Pays looks great too, especially since it’s a reprint of an 1884 manual and uses older techniques.  The other fiction books, though, are not really so necessary in the strictest of senses.  Kingsolver I love and would have bought new, but held off on until it showed up used (which took somewhere close to a year, as I recall).  The Road is dark, but post-apocalyptic survivalist fiction, which I find helps get me in gear.  The Last of the Curlews…well, that just feeds into my love of reading naturalist fiction, The Trade looked interesting from a Canadian history and wilderness perspective, and I pick up the odd book every now and again for The Boy to read (although I like Pratchett just as much as he does, I think).

The grand total?  $67.50.

I’m not in love with the number, but $41 of that was a new mattress, so I suppose it’s not really all that bad.  And, out of the books, I spent only $8 on non-reference materials (and half of that was on a book that I’ve been waiting quite some time for).  I’m also not sure I’m thrilled with the amount of things – it looks like a lot of stuff when it’s all typed out, especially for one week.  A rubbermaid tub, packing tape, a mattress, and 8 books in just one week is not really that sustainable in this space.  Really, I think that I could be better about spending money, but also about bringing more stuff home, so that’s something to look out for for next week, I think – being mindful of money and of space.

Written by Jenn

April 15, 2011 at 6:00 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

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

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 challenge – 10×30

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With some of my work wrapping up, my schedule freeing up, and my state of mind loosening up, I’m looking for a new challenge.  I keep talking about doing another serious purge of the apartment, and since I’m feeling pretty motivated, I think this might be the right time to really start getting things in good order.

The apartment usually isn’t that messy, but there’s more stuff in here than I’d like, it does get away from us occasionally, and ‘d like to clear some of it out.  Less stuff means easier to clean and tidy.  Less stuff also means more room for hanging out, and yoga, and friends over, and all that good stuff.  It would be nice for The Boy to have a bit more space.  Also, I know that at some point I will likely have to move for work, and the more I can get rid of now, the better (moving just the books is likely to be a bit of a nightmare).

I’m calling this challenge to myself (and to you too, if you’d like to join in) 10×30.  The goal?  Getting rid of 10 things a day for 30 days for a total of 300 things out of the apartment for good.  Of course, in order to keep things on the level it’s not like I can get a whole lot of new things in either.  So, in addition to 10×30, I’m also going to make sure that if I do get anything new, an equivalent item has to leave (this is above and beyond the 10 per day that I’m shooting for).  Clothing in, clothing out.  Books in, books out.

While I have a few suspects already lined up for removal (have to start on the right foot) this will be a challenge.  I like my things, and I sometimes have a hard time getting rid of stuff in the moment, even though it almost always feels good after the fact.

As an incentive and to keep myself motivated, I’m going to keep track of things here.  Maybe with photos, if I can get my camera working, but I’ll definitely be monitering my progress – it might be every day, if I can swing it, or I might just make it a weekly thing, which also gives me the opportunity to anticipate or compensate for busy days by doing the work ahead of time or after the fact.  In any case, there will be updates and reports and all of that fun stuff as I look to purge some more stuff from life that just doesn’t need to be here anymore.

Off we go…

Written by Jenn

October 30, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Clearing the clutter

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With a season spent largely indoors looming infront of me, I find myself thinking more about rearranging and settling in.  I also find myself thinking about clearing out as well, though, in an effort to make a bit more space to comfortably spend my time at home.

With many interests and things on the go, I tend to have a lot of stuff kicking around as well (not that many interests inherently leads to a lot of stuff necessarily, but in my case, it certainly tends to.)  There are knitting and sewing materials, cooking utensils and cookbooks, musical instruments, art supplies, and DVDs and books.  There’s also vastly different clothing – almost one set for teaching and academic life, and another for bumming around the house, exercising, and mucking around outside.

I also tend to hold onto things.  Long-standing and deep-seated fears about having enough and ideals about using things up means I tend to hold onto a lot and, in some cases, acquire a lot, especially from the thrift store (together, this can be a deadly combo.)  Combined with a hyper-awareness of the state of the economy, the threat of Peak Oil, and all manner of other cheery little topics makes me want to hold on to what I have, just in case.  And so there are snow boots, warm coats, wool blankets, a food dehydrator, food stores, oil lamps, and all manner of other sustainable living-type things for just-in-case.

But at this point, knowing that a move may be in my future strikes a bit of fear in my heart.  The thought of moving just the books alone is terrifying, let alone the wealth of stuff that also happens to be kicking around here.  Plus, I just plain old don’t like feeling surrounded and tied down by things.  And I do.  I very much do at times.

So, a project lies ahead.  A long, slow one, I’m thinking.  One where I slowly and steadily complement my reduced spending and shopping with the process of weeding out what I no longer want or need to keep in my life.

No two ways about it, this will be a tough one.  It’s been tough before, and it’ll be tough again.  There’s not much that I can’t justify keeping, but stuff needs to go, plain and simple.  Fewer clothes, fewer books, fewer dishes and pots, fewer random bits and pieces and whatever else is hiding away in the back corners of the apartment.

I’m thinking that come the start of November, when things really cool off and the craziness of October has, with any luck, abated a bit, I’ll be working to either get rid of a set number of things a day (5?  10?), or work my way through a small portion of the apartment (a shelf or drawer, maybe) and get rid of what I can.  Then, rinse and repeat.

The process has to be slow.  Getting all up in my stuff’s face, as it were, doesn’t tend to work well all at once, and does little more than leave me frustrated and with a messier place than when I started.  So, the ideal is bit by bit, hopefully daily, but at least weekly.  As for the overall goal, I don’t know what that is yet, but I’ve considered before, and am considering again, whether 25 percent of what I own would be too much of a stretch.  It would go a long way towards lightning the load and making me feel a lot better, but it might be frustrating or unrealistic to expect so much.

And so I think, and I plan, and for now I get back to the writing and editing that needs to be done while in the back of my mind I start plotting what can make its way out of my life and into someone else’s.

Written by Jenn

October 16, 2010 at 10:33 pm