Throw out fifty things

We took a little holiday last week, back to Sudbury to see the folks. While I was away, I decided that I really really really really really want to do some de-cluttering. (I almost wrote re-cluttering . . . yikes!!!). So I picked up a used book for a dollar about de-cluttering by the host of the show “Clean Sweep”. I’ve never seen the show, but I take it the premise is that this guy helps hopelessly cluttered couples “get their lives back” by mucking out their closets, basements, attics, etc.

I wish he would visit us!

But in lieu of a fairy god-father, I guess we’re going to have to do it ourselves. He has a lot of good rational responses to typical excuses for keeping stuff, which is good for me. He really is relentless.

Besides that book, while I was in Sudbury I got myself a Sudbury library card (isn’t that amazing?!? I was thrilled!) and took out this book called “Throw Out Fifty Things” where she coaches you to do just that. You keep a list, and then you can post your list on her website. And just in case you think “I’ll just throw out these fifty dried out pens and be done with it,” sorry–multiples of a kind only count as one. Oh and by “throw out” she also means “recycle” or “give away” or “sell”. In the book there’s a whole part on “throwing out” mental garbage too, like bad attitudes, regrets, and so on, but I’m aiming for fifty real things, and I figure lots of mental things will probably follow quite naturally!

So we got home from our vacation this evening and within seconds of stepping in the door, I was already de-cluttering. I was like a parched woman finding water. Our suitcases are not yet unpacked but I have so far thrown out eight things. I’m recording my list in my sidebar to keep me motivated.

Some of these were actually kind of a big deal. For example, I threw away two old pairs of shoes. I wore them into the ground. Into the dirt. They were falling apart. And yet I have not replaced them. Why? I’m sure there are many disturbing reasons, but the fact that they are now GONE means that I don’t have to wear gross shoes any more–in fact, even if I want to, I can’t! This is important for me, and it’s only ONE THING!

Oh, what other changes are in store . . .

Confessing my sins

Garage Sale find: a crock for Sauerkraut
Garage Sale find: a crock for Sauerkraut

Well, today was the Great Glebe Garage Sale, and I definitely took a holiday from my no spending month. Here is my list of sins:

We got our bike for our girl, $30 for a Dora 2-wheeler with training wheels. It was more than I wanted to spend, and it weighs a TON, but hey, now we have it. Some better deals were some red Tommy Hilfiger running shoes for her for $1, a few dolls for $1, an old school red bandanna for $1, a Joan Didion book for 50 cents, and a crock for making sauerkraut for $2. Besides that was a plate of cookies for $10 (proceeds going to charity) and a sandwich mid-day for $5. Oh, plus one extremely packed bus ride home.

Overall, the yard sale itself was exhausting, but I’m fairly happy with what I brought home. Afterwards, my friend hosted an amazing brunch.

And now I’m home–both kids melting down and feet aching–it was a huge effort to not just go with the flow of my spendy day and get pizza. No, I chopped and whisked and grated together a little omelette for supper. Can I count that as a savings of $20 that would have been spent on pizza? Does that help atone for my spending sins???

Back to Frugality

A hand-made doll

As I’ve mentioned on here, I haven’t been feeling very frugal these last several months, mostly since my son was born in October, and also during Christmas and our March/April birthday madness (five family birthdays from March 21st to April 5th!). But those seasons are past, summer simplicity is here, so I feel it’s time to bring back the frugal.

In light of this, I’m making May a No Buying Month, with the following omissions:

– groceries (though I will endeavour to stick to my budget)

– gardening equipment and supplies

– some glass freezer containers so I can start making my partner some microwavable frozen lunches

I’ll try otherwise to hand-make gifts, make do with what we have, and avoid the Great Glebe Garage Sale (though that one will be really hard!). I’ll try to focus on gardening, cooking for the freezer before the hot weather sets in, and sewing some gifts.

What do you think? Is May a good time to do a No Spend month for you?

Nerdmobile cleaning cart

I blogged about it awhile back, but I finally did it: created my very own cleaning cart! And yes it is as exciting as it sounds (that is, if it sounds like the most exciting thing ever!).

What you see in the photo is my version of this cleaning cart. On the front is a blue bag for laundry, the inside is for items that belong in another room, with a red bag for small things or things that belong in my daughter’s room. On the back I have a garbage bag and a recycling bag.

This is the tidying version; when I’m doing cleaning too I have a tray with my cleaning stuff and rags that goes on top. The only additional things I have to lug are the broom, mop or vacuum if I’m using them.

The idea of the cart is that you set yourself up to sweep through the house once, tidying (and/or cleaning) as you go, with no time-wasting back-tracking to put stuff back where it belongs. Once I heard the idea, I was intrigued. Once I tried it, I was sold! It really works. It’s super fast to just stick things into the appropriate bags in the cart and move along. Otherwise, I tend to pick up a sock and bring it into the bedroom, there noticing a coffee cup and bringing it to the kitchen, where I notice that the stovetop is dirty, which I clean, and before I know it an hour has gone by and nothing substantial has been accomplished. With the cart, even if I can completely clean/tidy one room before a minor emergency distracts me, my life is seriously improved.

One fantastic additional thing I discovered about this cart is that my preschooler was really into helping me tidy up the living room! I guess she enjoyed sorting the stuff into the different bags. We actually tidied up the entire living room together, which really helped my sanity, and occupied at least 15 minutes of our time.

So, if you have a handy shopping cart like the one in the picture, try out the Nerdmobile technique and let me know how it works for you!

Ottawa Freecycle Weekend

giveaway

I’ve written before about how much I love curb shopping–a lot! I love finding useful and beautiful things in the trash and giving them a new useful life at my house.

Well, this weekend is a curb shopper’s dream come true: an “official” Ottawa Freecycle Weekend. Or as the City of Ottawa is calling it, the “Give Away Weekend“, coming at the end of Waste Reduction Week. The idea is simple: the city is encouraging people to put their unwanted items out on the curb with a “Free” sign on them, so neighbours can “shop” the streets, bringing home anything that looks appealing.

I think this is a fabulous idea: the city encouraging people to re-purpose and reduce waste. Do you curb shop? Do you have any great curb shopping triumphs to share? Does your city have an official Freecycle weekend? Let me know in the comments!

Happy curb shopping everyone 🙂

Reflecting on my “Buy-Nothing” Month

Last month I participated in Crunchy Chicken’s Buy Nothing Challenge. The challenge was simple, to not buy anything other than groceries for a whole month. That meant no meals out, no new clothes, etc. but also no haircuts or other salon services, no makeup, and no entertainment expenses either.

There were a few exceptions: necessary things like school supplies or other purchases, and also “items used for canning and food storage”. This was explicitely spelled out as jars and pectin for canning, which I did purchase during the month.

I did, however, extend this definition somewhat with my first and most major breach of the month, to buy a small chest freezer. Yikes! But let me explain: as many of my readers know, I’m expecting a baby very soon–2 weeks and 5 days to be exact (well, as exact as “due dates” are anyway!)–and I figure one of the most important things I can do right now is to stock up on prepared food that I can rely on for our dinners once the baby arrives and things are turned upside-down. I also bought some zip-lock baggies to store food in the freezer.

I remember two and a half years ago when our daughter was born, we were not prepared food-wise and we ended up getting a lot of convenience items. Take-out pizza, grocery store barbecued chickens, frozen lasagne, etc. Since I got my freezer in early August, I’ve been slowly filling it with yummy food like spaghetti sauce, chili, pesto made with local organic basil, and a variety of creamy soups. It’s so great to know I won’t have to spend the extra money for lower-quality additive-rich food later on.

I made other purchases as well during the month, such as my weekly cookie purchase at a cafe where I meet friends to knit. This is a sanity-saver, as it’s just about the only time I get away from the house and my toddler. Don’t get me wrong–I love spending time with her–but it’s great to be able to escape once a week and not be a mom for about 90 minutes!

Some other things I bought were perhaps less excusable: one lunch out for myself, plus at least two lunches at the farmer’s market when I was not organized enough to pack one up before leaving. Replacement batteries for my kitchen scale (an absolute necessity!!), a stupid $10 sippy cup (in a desperate, failed attempt to night wean my 2 1/2-year old off the boob and onto the bottle . . . didn’t work!), a gift for some friends, and a bunch of second-hand baby stuff, which we got an AMAZING deal on. I’m probably forgetting something, but I do feel I did pretty good . . . until the last couple of days.

For some reason, buying nothing felt pretty easy for most of the month. I had lots of energy to prepare lunches and snacks, and I was okay delaying or redirecting my desires for new fun stuff. We went to the park, brought our lunches, met friends at the park, avoided the mall, ate well at home instead of going out to restaurants, made gifts by hand and gave away jam. For entertainment we went to the library and hung out in our building’s back yard. We watched downloaded TV shows and used our membership to go to the museum. We had fun, and life really didn’t change in any way!

But for some reason toward the end of the month I started to suffer from buy-nothing burn-out. I started to want. I started to NEED! So on August 31st when my mother-in-law came visiting in her Mazda Protegée, I took advantage and went . . . to Ikea.

Utility Cart
Utility Cart

Oh my, but it was satisfying. After a full month (almost!) of not indulging in “retail therapy” I broke down and bought: some new bibs, a “park” potty and a baking kit for my little girl, a children’s rug with roads drawn on it to put in the living room for the coming baby, some light bulbs for our hall light that’s been burnt out for over 2 months, and a tray to serve as the top of my “utility cart” so I can pretend to be a hotel chambermaid as I move through the apartment tidying up. Overall, $100 damage. Way to go out with a bang!


So, what did I learn from my “Buy-Nothing” Month? The first thing I noticed was that our bank account was much healthier than usual (before the Ikea trip in any case!) . The second thing I noticed was that I do have a bit of a retail addiction that works against my otherwise frugal lifestyle. In times of stress I react by buying things. Not for myself (as in makeup or clothes) but for my daughter, or more likely, for the house.

If I can keep a watch out for my triggers, and work through these desires in a less spendy way, that will help me to maintain my frugal lifestyle. For the moment, I’m thinking about doing a buy-nothing week once a month, just to keep myself trained and practice being better organized.

Buy Nothing Challenge — Day 1

I blogged a little while ago about answering Crunchy Chicken’s call-out to folks to buy nothing for the month of August.  I wrote about being slightly worried about it, and having to use the last couple weeks of July to prepare . . .

Well, I didn’t do much preparation.  I mean, I didn’t get my hair cut or buy the blush I’ve needed for months now, or even buy any nail polish to make my toes look cute now that the flip-flops are out.  I’ve bought next to nothing the last 2 weeks, and now am heading into August with a good track record, but a bit of a want list.

On the top of my want list is a chest freezer.  I’ve been debating (with myself mostly) the purchase for a few months now, but a recent weighted pro-con list tells me that this will be a good thing for us for the coming months.  Mostly because it will mean I can cook ahead and stock up on meals so that when tiny baby arrives, we’ll have a few “convenience” items stashed away that are cheap, nutritious, and close-at-hand.  I’d love to get a bunch of local organic meat, and some organic chickens to freeze for busier times, and put up some chili and spaghetti sauce and even some pizzas.  Yep, I’ve got this freezer filled up already, in my mind.  Did I mention I’m probably getting a 3.5 cubic foot model?!

Anyway, this weekend seemed like the perfect weekend to get it.  We ended up not going on our trip to Sudbury so I thought, “I know, I’ll get the freezer and start my cooking this weekend–perfect!”.  Except . . . the Buy Nothing Challenge.  I KNOW the rules allow for “preserving” tools, and I KNOW we are free to confess our purchasing sins, and I also KNOW it’s just a fairly random set of self-imposed rules . . . but still!

I guess the kicker is that we are still paying down debt, and while this is a purchase that will need to come (if it is to come) before the end of September (otherwise, Tiny Baby will be here, and my chance to stock up beforehand will be long past!), we still don’t really have the money for it.

So, I have not yet rushed out to buy the freezer.  I don’t know if I will, or perhaps I’ll wait until the cooler days of September, when I’ll be home pre-baby for a couple of weeks.  The Buy Nothing Challenge has reigned me in.

One other purchase that didn’t happen . . . we walked by a yard sale on the way to the park today and there was a GORGEOUS Mikasa set of a serving bowl and platter–pale yellow around the rim, and a seventies-era floral pattern in the middle, with one bright red poppy in the design.  Beautiful.  And I didn’t even ask the price, because it is Buy Nothing month, and do I NEED a serving platter, beautiful though it may be?  Nope.  I will survive just fine without it.

Anyway, it’s still day 1 . . . is it really true that August has 31 days?????