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Archive for the ‘Household’ Category

My biggest resolution for January was such a resounding success, that I decided to carry it on for February. My consumption diet worked, and I have truly loved setting this bar high for myself. I was able to save an extra $500.00, all by not buying any consumer goods. I never knew that not shopping could be so much fun! I feel like I appreciate the things that I have more; and I also feel like I have more respect for the things that I do buy.

There were only two purchases that may not have qualified under the terms of the diet, but I think that there were good rationalizations behind them. The first, and most important for my hubby, was that I broke his coffee grinder. Needless to say, we went right out and bought a new one, as our marriage possibly would not have survived a caffeine withdrawal. Fortunately, I don’t consider this a failure, because I had a leftover Crate and Barrel gift card, so it wasn’t really us paying for it.

The other was my new old-fashioned sewing machine. I don’t count this because, a) it was used, and b) I used Christmas money from my grandparents, so it really was more of a present than a purchase. Part of the reason I started this endeavor was to minimize my environmental footprint, as well as save money, so buying secondhand seems like a great compromise.

Very few things (aside from coffee related paraphernalia) are as necessary as they seem when I buy them. If they were, I wouldn’t have such an outflow to Freecycle and Goodwill. I now feel more empowered to fully think before I buy. Often, I find myself realizing that I need a lot less than I think I do.

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This ends the New Year’s resolution season, but to read more on my resolutions this year check out:

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Ever since I read The World Without Us, I have been a bit obsessed with cutting as much plastic out of my life as possible. Intellectually, I have always known how bad plastic is, but for some reason, this book really drove the message home. One thing that I have discovered, is how easy it is to replace most of your plastic leftover storage with glass jars.

The wonderful thing about the glass jars is that they’re usually free. The next time you make spaghetti, just rinse the jar out and put it into the dishwasher. It’s amazing how quickly you will build up a good-sized collection.

The only downside is spooning the food into the jar. Sometimes it can be messy, because the mouth is narrower than most plastic containers. I have two solutions for that problem. The first, and easier, is to use a spoon that is slightly smaller than the opening, that way food won’t dribble down the sides. The second, is to use a canning funnel. This is a funnel that has a wider mouth, and is used to pour homemade jams into jars. You really don’t need one to make this work, but if you found a cheap one, it might be worth it.

The upside of using glass jars is enormous. My plastic containers don’t last all that long, so over my entire life, I imagine that I would go through quite a bit of them. Each one is going to be around for tens of thousands of years, leaching nasty chemicals into our environment, and getting eaten by unsuspecting animals.

Also, little known is that these containers usually have chemicals in them that are know or suspected to cause all sorts of health problems. We didn’t evolve with the ability to handle these chemicals because we have created them only recently. Glass jars don’t have this problem. Glass is nonreactive, and won’t add any unsavory chemicals to your food. This alone I think makes it worthwhile to make the switch.

Using glass jars instead of plastic containers

Past posts on sustainability:

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The only thing that is truly new to me about my sewing machine is that, well, it is new to me–it was originally purchased in the early 60’s by a woman who has barely used it since.

A bit of background: I’ve been sewing since I was 5, and it was the first truly useful craft that I ever learned. My mom had bought me a toy sewing machine for Christmas that frustrated me so much that she finally broke down and let me use hers. I continued to use this machine until I graduated from high school and moved out of my mom’s house. I’ve missed its solid, functional presence ever since.

For high-school graduation, a couple of family friends thought that it would be a great idea to buy me my very own sewing machine so that I could take it with me to college. This was a wonderful and thoughtful gift, but unfortunately I have had problems with it ever since. A lot of the parts are plastic, and it’s just not really built to last. The final straw was last fall when I found out that it was going to cost $90 to fix. I just couldn’t bring myself to spend the money to repair something that had given me nothing but trouble.

After listening to a sales pitch for a $700 machine that didn’t seem much more solidly built than the broken one, I decided that I needed to go back to basics. I started scouring antiques malls for sewing machines, but never found one. I was about to give up when I finally had the inspiration to search Craigslist. Lo and behold, there were 20 listings for sewing machines!

Now most of these ads were for crappy machines like mine, but a few of them were for good old-fashioned ones. After a few weeks of trolling around on Craigslist, I found the perfect one. It is really solid, hasn’t been used that much, and still runs perfectly! I feel like I’ve struck the lottery. Now all I need to do is learn how to oil it, which is tomorrow’s project, and I will be good to go.

Stay tuned for lots of new old-fashioned sewing projects!

Becca’s New Old-Fashioned Sewing Machine

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For those of you that worried for my consumption diet, never fear!  A fellow freecycler came through for me!  I wasn’t expecting to get a set of nice measuring cups off of freecycle, quite frankly, I was expecting to get another set of cheap plastic ones.  But two people in lovely Alexandria responded to my request , one of which was offering me a wonderful metal set, only a couple of blocks from where I live.

For those of you that haven’t tried freecycle, it is a wonderful way to get rid of the stuff you don’t need, and also a wonderful way to find things that you want.  It is an email list that you can join and post wanted or offered ads.  The only catch is that the item has to be free for the receiver.  The wonderful thing about this system is that you never have to run to Goodwill.  I just shoot the group an email, pick the person that I want to have my stuff, leave the item of on my porch, and the person that wants it picks it up when it is convenient to them.  Gone are my piles and piles of stuff waiting for the semi-annual trip to Goodwill, plus I get to know (however briefly) the person who will be taking it off my hands.

It’s amazing what I can get through this group that I would never have thought that people would want to get rid of.  It’s also amazing how much fun it can be to give something that you don’t need anymore to someone who will truly value it.

My New Measuring Cups

For more on my consumption free January:

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As I mentioned yesterday, I have declared January to be consumption free. The best way to get a handle on binge purchasing is to stop cold turkey and then gradually add shopping back into your diet. This is all well and good, but last evening my 1-cup measuring cup broke. I’m amazed at how much I use it, because it is already missed.

The question that I am now asking myself, is do I make an exception to the rules? Or do I go on sticking to the resolution and use the 1/2-cup instead for a couple weeks?

I’m actually glad that this happened during my diet, because it has made me think a lot more about this silly measuring cup than I ever thought possible. It really is my fault, I got this set from the dollar bin at Target about 2 years ago. Should honestly be surprised that it didn’t last that long? It definitely is a case in point from yesterday’s blog about choosing quality. (Isn’t it nice when the universe has a sense of humor?) I remember my parents having the same nice metal measuring set for my entire childhood, and they still have them. Sure I saved a couple dollars by buying the cheap plastic ones, but I’m 27, so if I end up buying a set every 2 years for the next say 50 years, then it will still cost at least $25.00, which is about what a nice set costs anyway.

I think that I will stick to the diet. I’ve been really proud of myself for going 2 weeks without any shopping (asides from groceries), and I would hate to stop now. I may just put an email out to my freecycle group to see if anyone has an extra set. If not, it really is only two more weeks.

Previous blogs:

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How did the housewives of old keep their house constantly tidy? Sure, they had more time then we do now, but so much of what they had to do was significantly more time consuming. As I said yesterday, one of the ways they did it was because they had to. Friends would drop by without any warning, so there was more of an incentive to stay neat. The other reason, as far as I can figure, is that they had a lot less stuff than we do today.

Things that we take for granted today would have been prohibitably expensive for all but the wealthiest of people. Women would only have a couple dresses and a few accessories, children had a doll or a toy gun and not too much else, and the kitchen had far fewer gizmos and gadgets to get the job done.

I am not advocating that we give up all our stuff, just being more thoughtful before we add it to our collection. Do our purchases really make sense? Yes, the $10.00 teeshirt at Target is cute, but is it going to last or is it going to shrink in the wash and live out a long existence cluttering up your closet?

If we were all more cognizant of the quality vs. quantity of what we buy, I believe that we would have far fewer problems with over-stuffed homes, not to mention a better handle on debt. We have collectively been going on a shopping binge for a couple decades with cheap imports from Asia. Often, I will buy something at Target, and it rarely ends up being used, but at the time I thought that I had to have it. I get the rush of buying something pretty or fun, and it is cheap so I don’t feel bad, but in the end it is just an energy suck in my home. Buyer’s remorse then sets in, but it is too late.

So one New Year’s resolution that I have this year is to think before I buy (preferably for at least 48 hours). To get into this habit, I have declared January a “consumption diet” month. I am only purchasing food and toiletries. Everything else can stay on the store’s shelf until February, to make me think about whether I truly need it.

Previous posts that may be interesting to you:

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For a long time I’ve wondered how the women of old seemed to always be on top of the household chores, and I think that I’ve finally come up with an answer. It breaks down into two parts, and both can be modified for today’s living. Today, I am going to focus on the fun one.

Before telephones, people used to pop by unannounced for tea in the afternoon. You didn’t have more than a couple minutes warning that a friend was coming. If you were lucky, they were walking and the dogs tipped you off a full ten minutes before they arrived, and if you were unlucky they came by buggy and were at your doorstop before you knew it.

This was a great motivator for keeping the house spic and span. Most of our friends fall into one of two categories: the type you would have over even if the house is a bit of a mess, and the type that we would only invite over if the linens were ironed and the silver was polished. Back in the day, there was no telling who would show up, and so the silver was always polished.

With the invention of the telephone, it became no longer polite to show up unannounced. And if your house was a wreck, you could always put off the would-be visitor by saying that you were sick or were going out. Eventually, we stopped calling all together, and now we never invite ourselves over, instead we make dates weeks in advance to go out to coffee, thereby avoiding the home entirely.

So where is the lesson in all of this? I wouldn’t start showing up at friends’ houses unannounced to see if they eventually start keeping their house neater. What you can do instead is plan to host more. So many of us will think about having friends over, but we stop ourselves from inviting them because the house is a mess. A better way to think of it is: if the house is a mess, invite a friend to have dinner over in a couple days. This gives you the time to clean, but it sets a strict deadline on how long you have to do it.

Throw the hat over the wall so to speak. You will be amazed at how effective it is at motivating you to do the dreaded straightening and cleaning. In our household, this basically means that we have to have people over at least twice a month. Any less, and our house becomes rather unlivable. The beauty of this plan is that you get the joy of seeing the people that you love, and you get to have something to look forward to as you are cleaning.

Go on to: How Did They Do It? Part 2

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