Saturday, July 28, 2012

Week 7

An important rule was tested this week. The Dude needed a new rubber spatula for the camp box, as the one we had disappeared. So he ventured into the local thrift store ALONE!!
He got a spatula, even though we do have one at home that could serve double duty. He also got paracord, which is useful for camping. He also bought pocket knives that he is sure we need, and a set of plastic bowls which he is sure we needed, even though we have 2 sets of plastic bowls.
The 49 cent spatula turned into a $6 purchase. Oh well, at least the validity of the rule was tested pretty cheaply.
We have extra sleeping bags that will keep us warm and so we won't need to buy replacement bags for the two the flew off the rood last week.

Besides that, I don't think we spent anything except a few chef's salads at work, and an iced tea while out and about.

Next week's post will be a wee bit tardy because we are going here:

This week's tally:
Thrift shop $6.
Lunches $8
Iced Tea $3

Total- $17

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Week 6

This will be a short post as I am writing my thesis and have little time to write anything else.
Week 6 went pretty well. We went on a short camping trip. We went to Bannack Days and camped Friday and Saturday nights. Since we were attending an event, our lodging choices were a bit constrained. Usually I try to stay under $10 a night, with $15 a night giving me heart murmurs. But we wanted to get to Bannack early, and so we opted for a local KOA, at a total of $32 for the night. Steep, but at least it was a nice place. This was the view out our tent door

We didn't have sleeping plans for Saturday night until a week ago. I entered a search into Reserve America and discovered that the tipi at Bannack State Park was available. With tax and out of state fees, this came to $45. This was a little uncomfortable, but it was the only place nearby to camp, and it would be fun. The two night still cost less than a night in most hotels.

As usual (for us) food and gas were the most expensive bits. The Dude and I are both doing South Beach Diet, and the food bill keeps going up and up. We also had a very hot and miserable afternoon on Saturday and so opted to go to dinner in town. We went to a Mexican restaurant and split plates, so even with a decent tip, the meal for our family of 5 was only $32. At Bannack, we did splurge out a bit: coffee for The Dude, a split order of 2 pork on a sticks. The boys had allowance money and so purchased their own snacks and sticks. The water from the campground was making me a little ill, so I purchased a bottle of water The rest of the food was grocery store and Dollar store purchased. Besides camping, food and gas, we spent $10 on two state park entrances. The second one was for crystal mining. Luigi spent $5 of his own money to take a horse ride. And I believe that was the extent of our spending. In exchange, we got great memories, cool crystals, beautiful scenery, fantastic experiences, and free Montana T-shirts and sweatshirts :) They were promoting their new app and website

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Week 5

We started Sunday by finishing the yard sale. Very few people stopped by, and it was 97 degrees. Luckily we have a shaded porch. We brought a fan out there and it wasn't bad.

We hauled a van load of donations to the Goodwill trailer. Then we went to buy the things we decided the yard sale money would pay for. Magnus needed a new comforter because his was ripped. He assured me it was still functional, but I wasn't okay with that, plus it was dirty and kind of worn out. Shopko had bedding on sale, so we went there to look. Nice twin comforter in solid colors for $30. We'll take it. We also planned to buy a new toilet brush. We went and looked at the selection. $8.99 for a toilet brush in the holder. I said we already had the holder, The Dude pointed out that it is probably as gross as the brush. Then we saw a solo brush. It was $3.99. We went to grab it, but I said we should check Dollar Tree first. We also needed a new mop head. Ace carries our brand. We paid for our comforter and headed to Dollar Tree. They had toilet brushes in holders! For $1. We then went to Ace and I found that our mophead was $6.99-$7.99, depending on width and amount of scrubbers. I felt resentful about paying so much for such a disposable piece. Especially given that the mop itself costs just twice that. So, back to Dollar Tree we went, and purchased a $1 mop that has $1 refills. I figure if I hate it, I am only out $1 and a little more landfill space. If it works fine, then I just saved myself $6 every month or so. 
We also looked at bath rugs, since ours is not doing well. We saw them from $14 and up to way more. We want to get away from rubber padding because it holds bad smells. We discussed and almost convinced ourselves to go to a thrift shop to check for bath mats. In the end though, we decided to continue with our current solution: use old but nice looking towels which can be thrown in the wash easily and therefore changed often. Problem solved with no money spent.

Our trip to town could have cost $46 or even more if we had gotten the bath mat. Instead, it was $30 for the comforter and $2 at the Dollar Tree.

On Monday, we took the books to a local used book store, and sold a few for a total of $20. We then hauled the rest of it to the thrift shop. Dropping off there was tough because they had some nice things in their donation shed! But we were tough, we dropped off and did not go inside the store at all.

I guess all of that saving had us feeling pretty good, because by mid-week, we started acting like we had access to the Rockefeller bank account! On Wednesday, I went to school unprepared as far as lunch goes. I spent $7.50 on a fast food lunch. Then we took the afternoon off to go swimming in the river. We bought an unplanned cookout dinner and ice, for a total of $17.

We put out an extra can on Wednesday also, so that was another $3.50 out of pocket. On Thursday, we took the rest of the garbage to the dump. We had 4 sturdy, but in-need-of-recovering dining room chairs that we had listed on craigslist for a month. No thrift shop would accept them in that condition. No bites on cl. So we finally gave up and took them to the dump. Wouldn't you know, when we got home, there was a request for the chairs! ugh! Our dump run cost $15.
I had a book that was overdue and lost. I did turn it up, but 2 days after due date, so that is a 50 cent fine.

I decided to buy a new swimsuit. I have had my old one for possibly ten years and it is not fitting very well right now. Shopko was having a big sale, but I about fainted when I saw the original price of the suits were $80! At Shopko, for a small piece of nylon. I went over to Ross where there was better prices but the selection was just about exhausted by this time of year. Living in a small town, our choices are quite limited, especially since there is a certain box store that we do not shop in. I was feeling frustrated and really wanted a new, better fitting suit since I want to start doing laps for exercise. I took a deep breath and entered THE THRIFT SHOP!! All by myself. A little scary, but the first thing I saw was a sign: swimsuits, shorts, and tanks were buy one get one free. I went to look at the suits, and I found a cute one in my size, with tags still on it, for $5. I threw in a pair of shorts to wear over it, and left the store. whew! I left with nothing besides those two (well 3, since the swimsuit is a 2 piece) things.

 The rest of the week was dedicated to thesis writing, so no more money spent.

This week is tricky to total. The dump run, extra can, and household items were expenses. The household items hover the line between necessity and not. We could have lived without them, but they are also items that are pretty normal to replace due to wear and tear. We could have squeezed the extra garbage into our weekly can, but it would have taken a couple of months for it to be gone. Also, the payment for all those things came out of the proceeds from the garage sale. The food for our day off was expensive, but it was food. $17 sounds like a lot all at once, but it is just over $3 per person. It was: hot dogs, buns, chips, cherries, ice, and Little Debbie snack cakes. Pretty normal dinner food. We brought baked beans and drinks from home.

My swimsuit wasn't technically a need either. But my old one doesn't fit well. I could have found a work around with shorts, but I don't have a top that would work like that.

What is a need anyway? When you get down to it: food, shelter, a heat source in winter, health care when ill, and enough clothing to keep you protected and out of jail. We all live beyond that. But just about everything else falls into a grey area. For instance, Netflix. We have the $7 instant streaming only plan. Is that a need? No, of course not. Are we continuing it? Yes. Justification? Our library doesn't have a lot of movies to borrow. Downfall of a small town, although not exclusively because I have lived in other small towns with really kick ass libraries: great movie selections, awesome kids' areas, free passes to local zoos and museums. That is not the case here though. I have found that if I am engrossed in a series and only allow myself to watch it when working out or folding laundry, the house is tidy and I actually go to the gym. My iPad is perfect for taking to the gym, a laptop would be awkward on the elliptical. And I can't do dvds on the iPad. So Netflix stays. But these are things we wrestle with.

So far, we got back $200 at the yard sale and $20 for the books. I have some GRE study guides I am selling online. We have a Coleman cooler from way back when, and some Knex to sell. By some Knex I mean a lot. The boys have been sorting and bagging them so that we can sell them in lots.Update: GRE books only netted $4. They are from the old test, so no one was buying any except one math book. Well, $4 is $4.

The Dude bought 3 lunches at $3 each.
I am really not sure how to tally this week, so I won't. :)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Week 4 Amendment!

I forgot! In all the decluttering, we have pulled together a lot of trash. We have recycled or donated everything we could, but there is still junk. Last week we had an extra can's worth of garbage, so that was an additional $3.50 last week.

Our total non-necessity spending was $14.50.

This week we will be going to the dump with more stuff.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Week 4-The decluttering week

This week I barely left the house. I went through each room, decluttering, tearing it apart, vacuuming, dusting, creating clean living spaces. Now we are yard saling the spoils.

I have watched a lot of Hoarders and have thought much about the situation of too much stuff. I now see that life is easier and cheaper with less. I think there are two camps in frugality: storing things for someday and not owning much. We have usually fallen into the first category. Usually what happens is we buy something because we think it is cool, then maybe we use it a few times and then it falls by the wayside. When we happen upon it again, we think oh wow, we haven't been using it, but heck we may! The more frustrating scenario is when we find it again, think we don't need it so we send it packing, and then the next week do indeed find a need for it. I think this happens less frequently than when we own more than we need. When I stop to think of how much waste we generate as a society, I feel ill. I tend to feel virtuous because the stuff I acquire is usually secondhand, but if I buy then it is not available for the next person, who may have to go and buy it firsthand. But then again, that other person doesn't always come along. I read a Slate article a while back about what happens to our stuff. This paragraph was particularly engrossing:

In the rag-cut room, two men were silently pushing T-shirts, dresses, and every other manner of apparel into a compressor that works like the back of a garbage truck, squeezing out neat cubes of rejected clothing that weigh a half ton each. The cubes were then lifted and moved via forklift to the middle of the room, where a wall of wrapped and bound half-ton bales towered. I saw tags for Old Navy, Sean Jean, and Diesel peeking out of the bales, as well as slivers of denim, knits in bright maroons and bold stripes, and the smooth sur­faces of Windbreakers. Smashed together like this, stripped of its sym­bolic meaning, stacked up like bulk dog food, I was reminded that clothing is ultimately fiber that comes from resources and results in horrifying volumes of waste. Clothing stores completely separate us from this reality, and a “rag-cut” room brings it home in an instant. The Quincy Street Salvation Army builds a completed wall made of 18 tons, or 36 bales, of unwanted clothing every three days. And this is just a small portion of the cast-offs of one single Salvation Army location in one city in the United States.
We saw a micro-slice of that this week as we piled up bag after bag of unwanted clothing; books; toys; dishes; and other, more random, items for sale and donation.Although we can stem the tide for some of the stuff, staying its ultimate demise, we create our own build up in our homes. The clutter creates a noisy mind and the noisy mind cannot focus on its goals, at least mine can't. Mother Teresa understood the importance of simplicity.
"The more you have, the more you are occupied.
The less you have, the more free you are."
Mother Teresa 
But it seems the humans love of stuff is much older than any readers of this blog! Even in ancient Greece, they struggled with a life too complicated:

"In order to seek one's own direction,
one must simplify the mechanics of ordinary, everyday life."
Plato (Classical Greek philosopher)
We must clear out our spaces to clear out our minds. So we begin with the tough stuff. Our stuff. These are the boys' rooms at the beginning of the week:

Here we have two boys sharing one room. This has been a tough one. Overall, they try their best to keep it neat, but with too much stuff, there is only so much they can do.

 Rin has dust mite allergies and needs a clean, vacuumed room. We are not able to provide that in these conditions. They also love books:
This is Luigi's room. More space has equaled more clutter!

  Way too much stuff! Mouse paraphernalia from the mouse that passed away months ago. These boys need some attention.

Decluttering is often one step forward, two steps back and this was no exception.  Luigi's room was first. 3 bags: throw away, paper recycling, and give away. The boys have been watching Hoarders with me and they have taken the messages to heart as well. There were no tears and lots of big decisions were made. I didn't push on anything. I left each decision up to them.
The bags are the garbage and giveaway from his room.
 So is the bin. Everything but the chair came out of his room and closet. To be fair, I use the closet and so some of this was my clothing pare down.

After many hours, we got here.

Ah... There is very little in his drawers and baskets, so it will be a breeze for him to keep it clean.

The room is now clean. A bonus: his closet is almost empty. The closet is a funny thing It connects the boys' rooms and is quite long. It has 3 bars and lots of storage space. We still have lots of room to hang clothes, but one big section of it is empty. I was getting the vacuum to vacuum out in there and Luigi said, "Are you putting the vacuum in there?" What a brilliant comment! We don't have a utility closet and are constantly trying to figure out where mops and vacuum go. Now they have a home!

Deep breath, good night's sleep, and off to the big boys' room.

Same deal, 3 bags. This one was harder. There is more furniture and Luigi wanted to help, so there were 4 people in there. I was torn about letting Luigi in, but I told him he could stay as long as there was no judgement towards his brothers. He did well overall. Since his room was now clean, he was feeling quite pious.

This was the pile we pulled out of the boys' closet. We sorted through all of it and put 1/2 back. 

Even though this room had less clutter, it took 14 hours to fully clean! Lots of decisions, pulling beds out, vacuuming, washing walls, hanging pictures, rearranging furniture. But the end product is worth it.
This is their newly organized closet

Ah, and their beds. Magnus' bedspread is falling apart. We will be using some of the yard sale proceeds to purchase a new one.

Magnus' desk

Floor vacuumed, posters up, clean sheets, beds made

Even the action figures can stand upright now.

The dude is going to build platforms to get their beds high enough off the floor that they can vacuum easily under them. We had many talks about the importance of daily and weekly maintenance on their rooms, so that it can stay organized. Hopefully we can all remain diligent and on task with this.

So far our yard sale has netted $200 and we are much much lighter. We are hanging on to a few items to craigslist or ebay (like the 40 lbs of Knex we have!) but the rest will go to the Goodwill truck today and we hope to have hopped off the binge and purge roller coaster for good.

Spending this week.
The Dude had a Jack in the Box combo ($6) and a lunch at work ($5). However, he was also able to bring home banquet leftovers last night, so we all had a delicious steak dinner, with stuffed mushrooms for free.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

week 4-The Purging Continues Finding treasure

Decluttering has its ups and downs.
There have been moments of sadness, tension, and anger as well as moments of laughter and joy.

When we disagree on the usefulness of an item, or the placement of an item, or when we try to negotiate with a child, it can get rough and tempers can flare. Of course, we are also face to face with our own shortcomings and fears in this process.

However, there is the pure bliss at a finished room, or even a partially finished room. There is the astonishment to see how much lighter we are, and the humor found in the "what was I thinking when I picked that up?" moments. Then there is the delight in finding forgotten or misplaced items. Luigi found the other glove he has been searching for. The Dude had bought a thing for the Weber grill, but it got squirreled away and then when it was bonfire time (we make wonderful bonfires in our grill), he was wishing he had bought it, but h couldn't remember if he had or not. Well, it turns out that he had, and I found it still in its original packaging. Note: he purchased it used at Goodwill still in its package. As for me, I love birds and bird feeding. I have been struggling to find nice, functional feeders at Goodwill for a while. I get a lot of those little drip types that leak all over and bring ants and steal my joy. I had finally found the Perky Pet glass feeder at Goodwill for $2 or $3 this spring. A happy find, it is on my deck, it doesn't leak, and I have a hummingbird who visits. But I would like more than one feeder. I have been vexed by this issue for a few weeks. Should I try to make one? I have some beautiful glass ball feeders, but they are the drip type that leak. So, I have been trying to figure out if there is somewhere I can hang them where they wouldn't leak, or something.

Well, Sunday night, we were on phase one cleaning and decluttering of the Lego Room/Skunkworks workpod of Magnus. I was going through and thinning the board games that we never play. I go through phases of buying them because they look fun and what a great way to spend an afternoon and wow, only $2? Family fun for $2? What more could you ask for!? But then we RARELY play games together and so they all sit. Anyway, upon thinning, I came across a box, and what did it contain? The most fabulous hummingbird feeder ever!

Please note, this is a promotional picture ripped from the Web and not my pictures nor my hummingbirds/
It is beautiful, it doesn't leak, and I bought it sometime in the winter from Goodwill for $5. That was a huge splurge for me, but it was so pretty. Now it is hanging on my front porch, my Perky Pet is hanging on my back deck and I can free myself of all of my feeder failures. And still receive the thrill when I see the $70 original listing price on the website. I cannot believe I forgot about this one so completely.

I want to assure my readers that my house is not like level 5 clutter or anything. When I read these posts, I get concerned about myself. We have always been able to have people over, even throw decent sized parties, and get the house quite tidy for visitors. It is just a too much stuff+busy lifestyle bad combination.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The big announcement!

Scroll down to read about week 3, but I decided that this announcement is big enough to warrant its own post.

We have too much stuff and it is dragging us way down. We call ourselves stuff bulimic. We binge and we purge. Thrifting and poverty are a bad combination for us. We go to these shops and see all we can have for just pennies on the dollar, and we know it would be hard for us to buy it new, so we buy. and buy and buy. We get the endorphin rush, but the $20 or $30 adds up, and our house gets more and more full. Neither the Dude nor I like cleaning, so we spend a lot of time shoving piles of stuff around. This has led to 2 momentous decisions:

1. We are on a big declutter tear! Yard sale next weekend

We spent all day yesterday decluttering. All day and into the wee hours. We have finished the kitchen and gotten a pretty good start on the living room. There is still: dining room/office, bedrooms, bathroom, closets, basement. It is sad, when we moved here 2 years ago, we had 2 vehicles and one small uhaul trailer of stuff because we had gone through and pared down like mad. Now we have regained at least as much as we had. And how much money have we spent on that? The problem for us with thrifting is we are never faced with the full cost. If we were going to spend $300 on a new sofa, that would slow us down to think about the purchase. But when it is only $30 at a thrift shop, well, anyone can afford that! And oh, look at these napkins for 25 cents each! And I need a pan like this and it is only $3. And who doesn't need another book? Throw it in the cart. Although we might not need that thing today, we will need it someday. Maybe. Of course, we might not be able to find it.

A few things set me off on a big declutter. I am tired of the house always being a mess. I really like our house. And yet it is constantly in chaos. Dishes are always done, eating area is clear of food debris, for th most part the dining room table is open to sit at, unless there is a project going on. But even the kitchen is cluttered. I took pictures but will post them next week, when I can place them side by side with after shots. The Dude has been losing things and complaining loudly about it. He and I have both been suffering depression and anxiety lately, so it seems like a purge will help lift the spirits. A garage sale will help the bank account. And I am just grossed out by how much we are consuming. I helped a friend move a couple of weeks ago and we were able to pack her whole house in a morning. We are planning to move next year, and I want my move to go as smoothly. So, the purge began. It actually started a few weeks ago, and we have had a basket or two of yard sale stuff sitting in the front room since. The Dude and I started decluttering books, and then stopped to go clear out space in the shed. It was bad. Already filled with lots of give away stuff. An hour or so of rearranging and now we have plenty of room to fill with our discards. The Dude went off to work and I decided to get serious about it. I turned on Hoarders. I wanted to really revel in where it can all end up. I had never watched that show before and I saw that many people start with : dealing with poverty and finding bargains. Uh-oh! Let me assure you, we are not at hoarder level. Everyone has beds cleared off to sleep on, all sitting surfaces in the living room are free, there are clear paths through rooms. But the message hit home nonetheless. The boys and I spent the evening decluttering the kitchen and watching Hoarders and thinking about it all. We are decluttering and it is freeing!

The scary thing though, is it is cyclical for me. Stuff bulimia. I am so happy to purge, but I am also so happy to binge. However, this feeling led me to decision #2:

2. We are going to extend No Spend for a year. 

Everyone person or family is going to define No Spend their own way. We have decided the crux of it for us is to avoid restaurants (especially fast food) and thrift shops. Those are the leaky sieves for us. We will be mindful of all spending of course, and will try not to spend on any non-need item, but those are critical.

My reasoning for this step:
1. We are moving next year. We don't want to accumulate more stuff. We want to b free to move.
2. We are moving next year. We want to have a cushion to move on, which is more likely if we don't spend.
3. We want to break the cycle of spend and purge. I am tired of it, my wallet is tired of it, my house is tired of it. We need to retrain ourselves and perhaps this is the method to do so.
4. I am tired of wasting so much life energy on stuff! Thinking about it, shopping for it, caring for it. This weekend was a beautiful weekend. Instead of taking a bike ride, hike, or even working on my thesis, I cleaned and decluttered. That wouldn't feel so bad if we were clearing out 35 years worth of accumulation, but it is just two years worth! I don't want to do that anymore. I want to live life on my terms. I also really want to travel. To do that, I need to stay unencumbered with stuff and keep the cash flowing. This exercise may set us on the right path to do this.

Things I have learned on my purge:
We have enough soap and shampoo to last about a year.
We finally located the bulk Dr. Bronners we bought months ago.
Hoarders is amazing inspiration, even gets the kids excited to release.
Houses are much nicer when they are clean and airy.
Decluttering is one step forward, two steps back.
decluttering is more fun with family members pitching in.
Really purging a house is exhausting.

Week 3

Week 3 is a bit of a blur.
Sunday we hung about the house. It was nice to have an unplanned day.

Monday I needed to go to campus and I took the boys with me. On campus, they can play Wii games. This is a big deal since we don't have such things at our house. They played Wii for a couple of hours while I got some work done. OK, while I meant to get work done but played online instead! It was cool to see the little dudes interacting with college kids over these games. That evening, the Dude took Luigi to feed and care for horses at a horse rescue farm nearby our house. We were considering signing the boy up for a horse program, but it was $300. This is such a better deal for us: Free, 80 horses, Luigi learns the importance of caring for animals and learns what happens when animals are not cared for or thought out, and the place can really use as many hands as possible. They will be doing this weekly.

Tuesday was a hang about at home and get some work done day. In the evening, the Dude and I went grocery shopping and made a bit of a date of it. Usually, when we go grocery shopping, we throw in a round of thrift shopping, often leaving $100 poorer and with lots more stuff. Not now. We went to a coffee shop. The Dude got an Americano (probably around $3) and I didn't get anything. We walked around a bit and then went shopping. We got 2 snickers and a Mexican Coke and went and sat by the cows and had a snack. One of our favorite cheap dates.

Wednesday, Luigi had his art class at the library the next town north. We dropped Luigi and Rin at the library (Rin had permission to use the computer while he was there) and we went on a walk. I read up on hike potential before we left and we found this beautiful hike along the river. It was a bit difficult to find, but we stopped by the city hall and got a brush truck escort to the spot! Small town living at its finest :) 

 This was the river we hiked along

It was an old railroad track that has been dismantled, but not in all places.

We hiked for about an hour and then got the boys and went on a bike ride. We absolutely stumbled across a fabulous bike trail, complete with sandy beach!

 This is not a bad view.

 The wildflowers were in abundance

 And our (tiny) sandy beach reward!

Thursday we went to an outdoor movie with kids and friends. After the movie, I got tired of the headache I had all day and went to Jack in the Box for a Jumbo Jack combo. It is an almost surefire cure for me, and I was ready for it to be gone!

 Friday I had a nice time at a friend's house, and then came home and had a nice long phone chat with a dear old friend. The Dude got home from work late in the evening and was feeling down, so we took a walk to lift his spirits.

Saturday we spent all day decluttering and gathering things for a yard sale next week.

Things I have learned on my purge:
We have enough soap and shampoo to last about a year.
We finally located the bulk Dr. Bronners we bought months ago.
Hoarders is amazing inspiration, even gets the kids excited to release.
Houses are much nicer when they are clean and airy.
Decluttering is one step forward, two steps back.
decluttering is more fun with family members pitching in.
Really purging a house is exhausting.

Money spent this week:
The Dude's date night coffee: $3
Jack in the Box: $4.50
The Dude's dinners at work: $9

Total: $16.50