Friday, November 30, 2007

So Much Wasted Thought

Sometimes when I'm in a store, I'll glance at a product for sale and in an instant, change my focus. It's as if a switch were thrown, and I start asking questions, such as...
"Who designed this? Who chose the colors? Who decided it would be a good addition to the world to make this product?"

For every single product out there, someone had to make these decisions. An actual person designed a mold for that plastic doo-dad you saw in the Dollar Store. A real live human had to choose the colors for the (lead) paint that covers it. Another person had to design the packaging, and arrange to have the items fabricated.

Whole rooms full of people (likely Chinese, but perhaps Indonesian, Thai or Vietnamese) created the items that stock our shelves.

When you go into a store, think about these questions. Ask them, before you put down your hard-earned money to add that item to your stockpile.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Yet Another Toy Recall or Why Not to Buy Stuff

So, there's another toy recall in the works, this one involving asbestos. Apparently, an asbestos-illness survivors and relatives group funded the testing themselves (a rare occurance). Read the whole story here.

My thoughts? Don't buy anything!

Cutting Down the Stockpile

I'm a stockpiler. Sales are dangerous, because I'll just stock up. Sure, I do mostly do it with items that we tend to use: shampoo, soap, canned and dry goods, wrapping paper. But...there's always a but, isn't there?

But, I have a small house. I also have trouble letting go. That's a bad combination. The fact is, I don't really save that much money by stockpiling. As you saw with my pantry, all stockpiling got me there was an extra donation to the city compost fund. I have thus been working really hard to avoid building up a surplus.

It's ironic, because I love love love clean open spaces. When the kitchen counters are clear and freshly wiped down, man, what a feeling of peace that invokes. I love an almost empty fridge. Part of that I believe is linked to my clutter disorder. I have so many things out because if I tuck them away, they'll get forgotten. I need to have visuals of everything to keep it in focus. When, say, the fridge is packed, it's overwhelming--I can't see everything. When it's less full, I feel calmer, more in control.

It's very hard to balance the need and desire for open space with the urge to keep, collect and accumulate. That's why I write here, in hopes of finding that balance, finding a way to simply be in the manner that I know leads to more peace and happiness.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thoughts on Black Friday

I am not a fan of lines. Now, I'm happy to wait for a reason: Disneyland rides, a free cup of good coffee, a restaurant that'll make me go "yum". But waiting in line to buy stuff? No thank you. I'm not a big electronics geek (yes, I like my digital camera, my computer, my laptop, but since I don't play video games and only update my electronics every 3-5 years, well, not much for me to buy). I don't like standing out in the cold, and I also don't like to get up early on a day that my older daughter has off of school. Sleep in and snuggle time!

So, for us, Black Friday was pretty much a non-event. We did head to our downtown to see the shops and the Christmas spirit. We peeked at Santa through the store window (the line was too long and the kids didn't want to talk to him, too shy!). We had a hot chocolaty beverage (love an Americano with some chocolate syrup--good for those of us who don't do so well with milk), we browsed the shops, we didn't do any shopping for the holidays. Well, we did buy a math workbook for older daughter, but that's more of an educational expense than a holiday gift expense, especially since she dove right into it!

How did you spend you day after Thanksgiving? On the couch recovering from too much turkey? Out in the cold, doing an icy sport? Or out in the cold of dawn, waiting outside the Best Buy for the chance to nab a bargain PlayStation or XBox 360 or other of their ilk.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's the food shopping holiday not the stuff shopping holiday, but still! I did manage to get our Thanksgiving meal shopping done for under $40, including turkey, so I feel good about that.

Happy Thanksgiving! Remember to think about thankfulness, gratitude...we have so very much, it's easy to take it for granted.

Love to you all, In Recovery

Sunday, November 18, 2007


I was courageous yesterday. I walked away. I trusted my gut.

Yesterday, after mass (that's another post, OK?), I stopped by the local Goodwill to drop off some donations that I had organized and packed my trunk with earlier in the day. I pat myself on the back for remembering both to pack the car and to actually get to the Goodwill.

While there, well, someone pulled out of a perfect parking spot right in front of me. How could I not stop in? Besides, it's the holiday season, there might be some fun decorations. So, I did it, I went in.

I browsed for a while. Pink tags were marked 50% off, tempting. I tried on some shoes (nothing there that was more comfortable than the ones I was wearing, but there was this pair of cute heels...too big, but still...). I found 7 or 8 books, for me and for older daughter, who is just tearing through books at a reckless pace. Found a puzzle, Ravensburger, the good ones. Those are almost impossible to pass up and they're very expensive new, close to $10. To find one with all the pieces for a buck, well.

I finally finished, needing to get home and arrange dinner. There were only two cashiers checking out, and one was searching for a DVD for a customer. They keep them in a binder, to cut down on theft. Slow lines. The other cashier called over the next customer, who was two people ahead of me. Still slow. I switched lines, just as the woman ahead of me told the cashier she wanted to buy a piece of furniture. Off they went to the back. The lines had built up behind me. I questioned myself, did I really need these things? I browsed through the books again, looked at the puzzle. I carefully, slowly set the basket down. Stood up straight. And walked out the door to my car.

I breathed deeply as I left the store. And only regretted that it had taken me so long to make the decision to leave.
* * *
Here's a picture of two more bags of donations I sorted out this morning. They'll go tomorrow.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Return to Sender

Or, in this case, to lender. Yesterday I returned three books and a pitcher from the friends they'd been on loan from. That felt good. Of course, both friends had forgotten that I had the items, which either tells you I had them way too long or I have friends with conveniently short memories. Well, you choose.

In other news, local author Sherman Alexie has won the National Book Award for his young adult novel The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian. You really should buy it and read it.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Resisting Temptation

The sale season is upon us. Special deals (Black Friday!), special events, and the obligatory gift giving that gives us a reason to head into the stores.

Resist. I must resist. Because as I've learned on this journey, keeping the stuff out of the house is the only way for me to have hope of reducing the clutter. Once I claim something, once I see it, want it and acquire it, it me. Once it's precious, heck, you'd need a bull and a whip to pry it out of my hands. Once it's been claimed, it wants to stay.

I'm really not a big shopper. There's virtually nothing I need, and frankly, little that I want that can be had for money. But the things I do settle on, well, see above for the risks.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

It's early, but...Christmas!

OK, here's a post I really like, about Christmas and frugality over at Being

I used to love the fall and winter holidays, starting with Halloween, moving to Thanksgiving (love to go shopping in downtown right after Thanksgiving, everyone is still happy and cheerful), Solstice and Christmas. For me, it's more a celebration of the lovely cool weather than the specific religious aspects of the season. We always have a tree, decorated by the children (with help from the cats). We enjoy hot cider, cookies, and, some of us indulge in fruitcake.

None of those things cost much money. You can make a pot of hot cider, with applejuice and a few spices, for about a dollar. A tree? Well, get a forest service permit and you can choose a great tree for just a little $$. Or, buy the "Charlie Brown" tree for about $5 or $7 bucks. You can enjoy the lights and bustle of downtown shopping and not actually spend any money. Visit Santa and let the kids tell him what they want, there's no need to buy the fancy picture package.

In this sense, I think the folks spouting about keeping the Christ in Christmas have a good point-the season isn't about what you can buy but what you believe, whether it's that Jesus was born or that the Sun King is returning or that the oil lasted the full eight days. Or simply that life is precious, and goes all too fast.

How will you keep clutter away at the holidays?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Toy Recalls: Oh, the Angst!

They just keep getting stranger! Read this NY Times article on the Aqua Dots recall.

The toy recalls make me want to box up every toy in the house and start from scratch. Heck, the kids can play with leaves and sticks, right? They don't need toys!

Admittedly, the Aqua Dots one is more disturbing than the more-common lead scares. That a child's toy has an industrial chemical, used deliberately (and yes, used for its intended purpose, which is to prevent water-soluble adhesives from adhering prematurely) that can metabolize into a date-rape drug? That is enough to scare any parent into using only homemade natural toys. Many blogs are tackling this issue, including Parent Bloggers.

The real question is, what to do about the whole phenomenon? Should we all stop purchasing mass-produced toys? What about avoiding toys that are manufactured in certain countries? The problem there is that it's simply hard to find toys that aren't made in China. And that isn't even enough to keep your kids safe. The recent Mattel recalls were for design issues, that is, things that Mattel had control over. It's one thing for a factory to substitute a cheaper, but potentially unsafe for children paint. But when a toy has a design flaw that can lead to an injury? How do we protect ourselves? Information of course is key. Be sure to check the Consumers Union for details of the recent (and, I fear, upcoming) toy recalls.

My answer: keep it simple. Keep the amount of toys in your home to a minimum. Ask for gifts other than toys for holidays and birthdays. Books, gifts of experiences (such as a zoo trip or membership), and clothing are safer choices. Also, consider sticking with the classics: Lego and Playmobil are made in Europe and have been for decades. Both lines have options for multiple ages, and are toys that can jump-start the imagination.

What do you think? What choices will you make this holiday season?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A Few Fun Blogs

Here are a few of the blogs I've been looking at lately. Take a look, you might find a new favorite!

...oh, and today, I cleaned my basement. Swept, tidied, took out the catbox, all the fun stuff.

And to end, a quote for you to ponder!
"Acknowledge the inner twelve year old ... but don't let her drive!"

Keeping Eyes Wide Open

It's so easy to stop looking. When you see something for the first time, your eyes can't take it all in, but they see it. Colors pop, edges are sharp, content is deep. But the next time, it dims a touch. And if you see something (or, someone) everyday, you start to stop seeing it at all.

This is how our houses can become so very cluttered. After not very long, we stop seeing the stuff. We step over it, or around it, push it to the side to get through a doorway, toss it into a pile, which becomes a mountain.

That is why it helps to have a fresh look. New eyes, any eyes. The person need not be an expert. It's purely the new phenomenon that makes it work. Because, to me, that mountain of paperwork on your desk, it's not a fixture, it's an eyesore that I'm seeing for the first time.

The true secret of decluttering, is, thus, to always look with new eyes. Sometimes you just need to take a break from your space for a little while. But you can activate that fresh look, those new eyes, with a little control and determination.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Up to 5,000 words

I've got 5,000 words now. A bit less than if I had averaged 1600 a day, but still making progress. I'm afraid I have to kill off a character I like. It's best for the story though.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


810 words today....can't update on the official site, as their server seems to be slammed (no surprise).