Monthly Archives: June 2011

project 333: update for June

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One of my goals for the year is to consciously participate in Project 333.  The main purpose of Project 333 is to have a complete wardrobe with only 33 items in it and wear that wardrobe for a period of three months.  I’m hoping that once I get started, I’ll be able to have no more than 33 items in my wardrobe at any given moment.  You can learn more about Project 333 here.

Nearly a month has gone by since I started my own Project 333, and the past few weeks have allowed me to participate in the project and focus more on enjoying what I have and spending less time thinking about clothes and what to wear.  Observations I’ve made in the last month with regard to my wardrobe include:

  • I could live with less than 33 items.  Less pants in particular.  While I had two pair of jeans on my list when I started this experiment, I’ve come to realize that I only need one pair of jeans.  When I have a favourite, I wear it and ignore the others.  While my Banana Republic jeans have been worn regularly over the past few weeks (I’m wearing them right now!), the Levi’s have not been worn at all.  I’ve tucked my Levi’s away until my current favourite jeans have been worn out.
  • Leggings, leggings, leggings.  Leggings are a staple in my wardrobe and I prefer them to tights.  Since the summer weather in Vancouver has been non-existent, I’ve been living in leggings, wearing them under skirts or tunic-length shirts. I’ve been wearing jeans 1-2 times per week when the weather is unseasonably cool.
  • Versatile tops are a huge help in a small wardrobe.  I’ve taken to wearing tank tops as undershirts under long wraps or tunic-style tops on cooler days, or worn alone when the weather heats up.  I’ve discovered I don’t like short-sleeve t-shirts at all, simply for their lack of versatility – I’ll be sticking with tanks and moving to long-sleeve shirts in the fall.
  • Just because I’ve worn something for years does not mean it still looks good.  I bought a pair of (expensive) yoga pants four years ago before I got pregnant with my second son.  They’d been worn pretty regularly over the past four years, and I discovered recently that either I’ve shrunk or the pants got a little too saggy, and could no longer be considered flattering.  When I compared them to another pair of yoga pants in my wardrobe that actually fit, they were about four sizes too big. Goodbye trusty Lululemon crops, hello body that had been living under those saggy pants.
  • Dresses can be very versatile.  Dresses can be worn alone during hot summer days, or paired with a pair of leggings during cooler weather.  They’re a great way to extend the life of pieces that you thought might only be seasonal.  I’ve got three lightweight, summery dresses and although I’ve only worn one so far, I’m hoping to incorporate the other two more readily as the weather warms up.
  • Sequins are not really my thing.  I’ve hung on to a couple of items I bought last year for the summer season that have sequins on them.  I’m going to be seeing how much wear they get over the next two months, but I’ve already donated one sparkly, sequined top and I’m considering letting go of the others as well.
  • I may be too old to wear flip-flops anywhere other than the beach or the pool.  This is purely a personal observation, and not a judgement of others who enjoy wearing flip-flops.  I donated my two pair of Havaianas this past month, with no regrets.  I have a pair of more versatile Crocs (they are a little fancier. don’t laugh, it’s true) that I’ll be sporting around town, as well as to the pool and the beach this summer.

Some benefits that I’ve enjoyed from participating in Project 333 over the past month include:

  • Less laundry.  For myself, I’m doing one load every 5-7 days.  Yes, that’s it.
  • Less time spent thinking about what to wear.  I know what’s in the closet and everything goes with everything else.
  • Less shopping, window or otherwise.  I did go shopping once this past month to try to find a suitable summer top to incorporate into my wardrobe.  I’ve decided that unless something makes me feel amazing when I wear it, it’s not worth owning.  After trying on a bunch of tops at a store with past weekend, I left empty-handed, but comfortable with not having bought something that wouldn’t stand the test of time in my closet.  However, spending an hour shopping and not finding anything has left me with even less of a desire to spend time at the mall.
  • Accepting the status quo – what I own is good enough.  I know now that the clothing I own is suitable for my lifestyle and the climate I live in.  I’ve accepted that I don’t need any more that what I already have.  And that feels great.
I’ve decluttered 8 items from my wardrobe in the past month, going from 33 items to 25. And honestly, I don’t feel deprived.  At all.  This is a big surprise for me, given that I’d already decluttered 90% of my closet and donated over 150 pieces of clothing.  To think that I could go even smaller is exciting and reaffirms that there are more important things to focus on and spend energy on than the clothing I am wearing every day.  You can check out my current list of clothing items participating in my Project 333 here.

penny wise, pound foolish

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I broke my blender yesterday.  And not on purpose.  I was trying to perfect my homemade coffee frappuccino recipe – I had been trying my hand at making them at home the day before, with mixed results, but was determined to find a way to make them simply at home on the cheap.  Well, I got my delicious frappuccino alright, but as I was trying to help the blender along in the ice chopping department, a metal piece of the blender sheared some plastic pieces right off the base of the blender!  Ack!  My gorgeous, stainless steel blender! Here I was trying to be frugal about my blended beverage consumption and I had wrecked a pretty expensive kitchen countertop appliance.  That’s what my granny would call, “penny wise and pound foolish.”

Maybe I should have been more careful about what I was wishing for.  I’m feeling a bit guilty over the blender getting wrecked as I’ve been dreaming of getting a Magic Bullet for years – so cute, so small, so SIMPLE!

looks awesome, right?

I saw them for sale at Canadian Tire just last month and longed for one, but realized it was counterintuitive to own both a Magic Bullet and a perfectly good blender.  So, I’ve been dutifully using my blender, making smoothies for myself and the kids.  But, I am now without a blender and pretty disappointed that it’s broken.  I’d gotten into the habit of making smoothies for the kids now that the weather was warming up, and was pretty jazzed that the kids were into such a healthful treat.

While I could probably get a replacement part for the blender for less than $10, the exorbitant shipping will probably make the decision pretty simple in the end.  I’m going to look into getting a Magic Bullet as a replacement for the blender.  In a funny coincidence, a friend of ours who is moving overseas in the Fall has offered us their Magic Bullet as they don’t plan to take it with them.  You know what they say: “Ask and ye shall receive.”  I’ll be ensuring the blender’s motor goes to the right place for recycling, and I’ve offered the blender pitcher to my brother who has the same identical blender as us.

Do you own a blender or do you prefer another appliance that does the same job?  Or do you prefer your margaritas on the rocks and do without a blender altogether?

retail me not: disposable coffee, disposable consumerism

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Earlier this year, I decluttered my coffee machine.  It was a cute little machine, I wanted to go more minimal and stick with using my french press.  A french press doesn’t require filters, so not having to buy filters was a bonus, but I will admit to not loving the process of cleaning the french press.  It is easier to ignore having to clean a drip coffee machine – a french press has to be cleaned each and every time you make coffee in it.  But I digress, I had gotten rid of the coffee machine and was happily making do with making my morning java in the coffee press.

In the past month, I’ve been introduced to the single-serve coffee machines and all the benefits they tout.  A friend recently purchased a Keurig machine from a large retailer in town, and upon visiting their house for a couple of dinner parties, I had the opportunity to try out the coffee.  I’ll admit, the coffee is pretty good.  But the packaging, oh, the packaging.  The grounds for each coffee is contained in a single-serving plastic container with a foil lid.  And the plastic is non-recyclable.  Now, I did not give my friend a hard time for choosing such a non-sustainable coffee maker, but I personally would not choose to purchase a coffee maker like this, no matter how tasty the coffee.

Last week, I visited a friend’s house for a playdate with the kids and she mentioned her husband had purchased a brand new coffee machine, a Nespresso Pixie.  Is this thing ever cute.  And the coffee that comes out of it… divine!  My friend gave me the sales pitch on it and served me a delicious cappuccino while she described its capabilities.  I questioned whether the capsules that hold the coffee grinds and make the coffee making so easy and mess free were recyclable.  She said, yes, the pods are recyclable as they are made of aluminum (like a pop can) – so you can elect to either clean the pods yourself and pop them into your recycling container, or you can return them to your local Nespresso dealer for recycling.  Huh.  As good as it all sounded, there is quite a lot of  plastic packaging that comes along with all the tiny little Nespresso pods.  Also, although the greenwashing of the Nespresso brand is quite thorough, it appears that only about 25% of used Nespresso pods are recycled globally.  Even worse, Nespresso’s Pro Capsules are made of aluminum bonded with plastic and are, as such, non-recyclable.

One of my main pursuits in adopting a minimalist lifestyle is to create less waste.  And, as sexy as these coffee machines are, I won’t be buying one.

(did I mention that George Clooney is a spokesperson for Nespresso?)

And as delicious as the coffee is that comes out of those things, I won’t be spending my husband’s hard-earned money on one.  The financial cost of single-serving coffee is enough of a deterrent (the machines themselves are quite expensive), but the environmental cost of single-serving coffee is abhorrent and I’ll be avoiding it at all costs. Grinding coffee beans in my own grinder once weekly is not an unpleasant enough task to warrant purchasing a coffee machine that will do it all at the touch of a button.  The most environmentally sound cup of coffee is one that is made from good ol’ traditionally ground coffee beans, prepared in a pot, and consumed out of a reusable cup.  Still delicious, and guilt-free.

2011 in 2011: tackling not-so-obvious areas of clutter

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When I started decluttering my home at the beginning of this year, some things were obvious places to start.  Clothing, of course. Toys, yes.  I quickly moved on from these more obvious areas of clutter to kitchen items, bathroom products and linens.  This past week I tackled greeting cards, and decluttered 170 greeting cards and envelopes from my home. I’m still not totally sure how I managed to accumulate that many blank greeting cards, but I have a few ideas.  I know I received a large box of generic, blank cards from an aunt as a gift, and after having two babies I had purchased a couple of packages of thank you cards to send to friends and family after receiving thoughtful gifts for my children.  I kept a few of the blank thank you cards for future use.  If I were feeling some more radical minimalist tendencies during my decluttering the other day, I would have chucked everything without a look back.  I’ll revisit the small collection of cards I kept toward the end of the year.  Next, I’m off to tackle my small but unwieldy collection of gift totes.  If anyone needs a large number of wine bottle gift bags, you know where to ask.

decluttering with kids and thriving with less

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One of the biggest contributors to clutter in our household is children’s things, and more specifically, toys.  While my husband and I did a pretty good job of accumulating household treasures over the course of our first ten years together, we managed to take it to a whole new level when we had kids.  It began as we prepared to welcome our first child – I felt it was imperative to have a closet full of baby clothing before there was even a baby on the scene.  Time went by, and I continued to accumulate things as our small son grew.

Before getting pregnant with our second child, I had sent a bunch of baby clothing that my son had outgrown to my parent’s house.  There was too much to store in my small home, so that seemed like the logical choice at the time!  I knew things had gotten ridiculous when I went to sort through those clothes over a year later and whittled down four large plastic totes full of baby clothing to one.  Those four totes contained clothing that my first son had worn for the first eighteen months of his life.  Seriously?  Did one child need that much clothing?  I’m not sure, but I gave most of it away and never missed any of it.

kid's closet

This is what was left after the initial purge of infant clothing. For such small people, they sure had a lot of stuff. Their clothes have been decluttered substantially since this time, but I'll save that for another post.

When we started decluttering in earnest in the Fall of 2008, it began mostly with getting rid of more of the children’s things.  After I had purged a lot of the baby’s clothes, I sold the bouncy chair my youngest refused to sit in.  Then the baby swing that took up half the living room.  Then an assortment of baby slings, a jolly jumper, an awkward nursing pillow that had never even seen any use, some cloth diapers my son had outgrown, a double stroller that I no longer wanted to push because it weighed 180 lbs with my two children on board, and a huge highchair that my toddler refused to sit in.  And then came the toys.

Anything that had been borrowed from someone or lent to us got returned to its owner. The exersaucer got sold, which was followed by an assortment of infant toys that had been outgrown.  I would struggle with the toy collection, as it always seemed that I could get the selection of toys down to a manageable amount and then a birthday or Christmas would come along and double the amount overnight.  I was pretty ruthless with vetting gifts out the door almost as quickly as they arrived, but that wasn’t a foolproof plan.  I had consented for my mother-in-law to purchase a giant car that the kids could sit in and ride around the apartment.  What the heck was I thinking?  That thing left our house in a few short weeks.

I’ve come to discover that as much as children enjoy toy sets that come with a million different pieces to them, mama does not.  For the most part, the kids are content to dump the toys on the floor and leave them there for me to pick up.  And so started the decluttering of toys that are liked well enough, but that aren’t loved.  This past week we parted with several of my kids’ Playmobil sets.  And honestly, it was completely painless.  My oldest had been asking me for several weeks if he could get a particular new toy.  I suggested he might like to sell some of his toys to fund this new toy purchase.  He jumped at the opportunity and raised over $100 in toy sales this week. He’ll be selecting his choice of one very small toy at the toy store sometime in the coming weeks.

goodbye recycling dudes!

goodbye recycling dudes!

After decluttering nearly 150 pieces of Playmobil from our home, I learned that my kids don’t really care that much for toys.  My oldest is content with drawing, colouring and spelling out the name of his favourite hockey team (Go Canucks Go!) He’s also been getting out a math workbook and working on his math skills in the mornings before school.  My youngest likes us to sit together to read a book, or play with any random palm-sized toy that he finds in his path – he’s not picky.  This has been a great lesson for someone who thought that “good toys” were either expensive, trendy, or a specific brand name.  Turns our good toys are the ones your kids like, not the ones that are sold to us through television and advertisements.  And sometimes the toys kids like are as simple as a pencil and a piece of paper.

when the best laid plans go awry

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This week has been really hard.  My youngest started to come down with a fever on Sunday night, and proceeded to spend the next couple of days in a great deal of pain.  We ended the day on Tuesday with a fever of 104 degrees and a trip to the emergency room – our first ever in nearly six years of parenting, thank goodness!  Wednesday and Thursday were spent in a general state of exhaustion, and my son woke up this morning with the telltale signs of roseola (rash following the break of a high fever).  He’s on the mend, but as we’re expecting an action-packed weekend with a visit from the grandparents and a cousin starting today, we’re trying to jam as much rest into this afternoon as possible.  It’s hard to rest when the house has blown up due everything put on the back-burner for a week.  I’m taking the weekend off from housework, and I’m hoping I’ll be back in decluttering mode next week when everything is back to normal.  I’ve got a great story about how the kids are getting excited about letting go of some of their toys, but I’ll save that for next time.

the minimaList: my 12 year old cell phone still works

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I live in a pretty trendy neighbourhood, where it feels like people have the shiniest, newest accessories.  This is especially true when it comes to the latest technology.  I have friends with iPhones, iPads and Blackberrys.  And they are all stay-at-home mothers.  I contemplated getting an iPad for Christmas last year for all of five minutes.  However, our home is small and my home computer is never more than a few feet away.  And although the portability of an iPad is fantastic, I would probably never have an occasion to use it anywhere outside my home.  It just didn’t make sense to buy one in the end.

One item I do carry with me daily is a cell phone.  Don’t be fooled into thinking that I carry around some fancy technology with which to make phone calls to all my friends and family.  My cell phone is over 10 years old.  But it works just fine.  It can make phone calls and accept text messages (but I never use it for texting).  It even has call display!  I make, at most, one phone call on it per day. So I don’t really have a need for a cell phone with all the bells and whistles.

It feels like a backlash might be starting against smart phones and whether they are completely necessary, or more a tool that can have a negative influence on our lives.  The World Health Organization reported last week that cell phone use can possibly increase the risk of cancer.  Rachel wrote a post this week about how her life has benefited from letting go of her iPhone.  Katy from The Non-Consumer Advocate wrote a great post today titled, “Can You Be Smart Without a Smart Phone?”  I would argue, yes.  Here’s a few reasons why I haven’t bought into the smart phone culture:

  1. It’s expensive.  I’ll admit I think iPhones are cool for all their capabilities and I even checked into pricing this past weekend.  Whoa, Nelly.  I don’t really want to spend several hundred dollars to own that little piece of plastic, nor do I dream of spending over a hundred dollars a month for connectivity.  The cost alone is enough to deter me at this point, but there are other reasons why I’m not jumping all over a new phone right now.
  2. It would further enable to my love of the internet.  I tend to spend a fair bit of my free time on the internet when I am at home, surfing or reading articles or blogs.  If you were to hand me a device that allowed me to do that on the go, I’d be in real trouble.  It might develop into a habit I wouldn’t be too proud of, so for that reason, I’m opting out.
  3. It doesn’t jive with my personal values.  I don’t want to become one of those people that whips out their smart phone to begin texting someone else when they are in the middle of a conversation with a real, breathing person.  I am not defined by my connectedness to the internet, but rather my connectedness to other people and the enjoyment I derive from spending time with others.
  4. I want to be present in my daily life.  I want to appreciate the world around me, and that’s something I just can’t be fully conscious of if I have my nose buried in an iPhone when I am outside.  I want to see my kids running on the playground and playing with their friends, and I don’t need to be taking calls or checking my email while I do that.  I also want to set an example for my children that it’s important not to be tethered to a machine – it’s hard to set that example when you’re tethered to one yourself.

Maybe in the future I’ll reconsider getting an iPad or even make the leap to a smart phone with all the fancy apps.  Who knows, maybe I’m missing out on an enlightened life by not owning an iPhone.  But I’m okay with that.  For where I am right now.

Do you own a smart phone?  If so, do you feel it contributes to your life in a beneficial way?

why people make cake from a box

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I’ve used boxed cake mix for baking many times in the past.  I used it last year to make cupcakes for my oldest’s birthday party.  But I thought this year I would try something different and make cupcakes and icing from scratch for my youngest son’s birthday, which is today.  All I can say is thank goodness we weren’t having company for this birthday.  The cupcakes turned out like round, beige pieces of cement.  And the icing was not a hit – my oldest asked me to scrape it off his cupcake before he would eat it.  Boo.  But we had fun singing “Happy Birthday” and we got a few choice photos of the birthday boy with blue icing all over his face.

Still, I think next time I’ll be asking Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker for a helping hand.

the minimaList: school’s out for summer

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As we find ourselves in the last month of the school year, the minds of parents often drift to thinking of buying an end of school year gift for your child’s teacher. For our family, this practice started two years ago when our oldest started preschool.  At the time, he had two lovely teachers and we gladly put together gifts for each of them to thank them for such a wonderful year.  Ditto for the next year, as he was at the same school and had the same delightful teachers.  This year, my son is in kindergarten and again has two teachers.  As I was beginning to consider what sort of gift to buy for each of these two very different people, one of the class parents put together a proposal that money be collected from parents who wanted to participate in a group gift.  She proposed that the gift would consist of a gift certificate for each teacher, as well as a digitally-created memory book that contained photos of the children and some of their personal artwork.  And the amount for all of these fabulous gifts? Only $20.

Let me tell you,  I did a small dance of joy when I got that email.  Here’s why:

  1. The value of this gift is going to be priceless.  The children will each be creating their own work of art with the teacher in mind, and their personal words of thanks and appreciation will be included in the photo book for the teacher.  I can’t speak for the teacher here, but I know if I was given a gift as thoughtful as this, I would be crying like a baby.
  2. Time spent not shopping will be better spent elsewhere.  I will not be required to spend any time shopping for gifts, or any time traveling to a shopping centre where I would surely have spent a considerable amount of time deliberating over whether my gift was “enough.”
  3. Gift cards as gifts means no packaging or wasteful wrapping.  The gift cards will be chosen for each teacher based on their lifestyle or personal interests – one teacher is a young mother and would probably relish a day a the spa, and the other is passionate about music and would love a gift certificate to indulge his passion.
  4. More bang for my buck.  There is no way on earth I could have put together such a fabulous gift for $10 per person.  It just wouldn’t be realistic.  The reality is I would have probably spent a lot more money than that trying to accomplish the same thing, but not coming anywhere near as close to the level of thoughtfulness that the proposed gifts will achieve.
Needless to say, I’m thrilled and I’ve already put in my twenty bucks.  Can’t wait to put the time I would have spent shopping out at the park on a sunny afternoon with my kids.  I think I’ll do that this afternoon.

Now that we’re nearing the end of the school year, are you buying or making anything to thank your children’s teachers?  If you homeschool, do you take the time to acknowledge your own contribution as parent/teacher?