Monthly Archives: July 2011

the things that children acquire

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We’ve been on vacation for ten days and the weather is finally getting summery here in Kelowna.  Even though the weather hasn’t been great, we’ve been having fun spending lots of time outdoors and catching up with friends and family.  I did succeed in bringing only one suitcase for myself and the kids for this two week vacation, but something tells me we’ll be going home with a few more things than I brought with us.  In the past week, my kids have managed to accumulate the following:

  • two plastic hockey sticks
  • two plastic Nerf lacrosse sticks
  • one baseball launcher (battery-powered) with six plastic baseballs
  • one Little Tykes basketball net and basketball
  • two sets of golf clubs from the dollar store with plastic holes and golf balls
  • one full set of Ping junior golf clubs complete with Ping golf bag and fancy golf balls
  • a dozen whiffle balls for golfing with in my parents’ back yard
  • two plastic balls from the dollar store for which to use with hockey or lacrosse sticks

The list just doesn’t seem to end.  And that’s not to say that they haven’t been using these things – the boys have been playing outside with a lot of these toys for every waking moment that they are here on vacation.  The sad part will be that we won’t be able to take more than one or two of these items home to our house. 

Did I say sad?  Okay, clearly I won’t be sad, but they might be.  I myself purchased the two plastic hockey sticks at the thrift shop last week before we set out on vacation (because I could not have anticipated the volume of toys and sporting items they would accumulate while we were here), but every single other item has been bought for them as a gift from family members (mostly grandparents). 

Maybe I should be glad they both have summer birthdays?  I’m not sure.  I’m glad the kids are having fun, but it seems that these toys have been purchased for the intent of “keeping the kids busy” and “letting them learn to play on their own.” 

Strangely, every time they get another toy they want the adults to play with them.  I guess the message here is that toys and things are never a good alternative for opportunities to build memories with beloved family members. 

I guess someone might want to tell the adults that before any more money gets spent on stuff.

retail me not: “you get what you pay for” is my new mantra

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I am very sad to report that the 7 tank tops and t-shirts that I purchased from JOE Fresh at the end of April have shrunk.  By as much as a whole size.  And it’s not a good look for me.

As much as I love a good deal (they were $6 each), I’m thinking that on the next go round it would be a better plan to buy one or two summer shirts that will last longer than 8 weeks than to buy 7 and have them last such a short period of time.  It’s a bit depressing to think that inexpensive things are actually designed to wear out quickly so that we as consumers have to run out and just buy more to replace these cheaply made items.  I’ll not be buying any replacements for these tops this summer, but I’ll be keeping these thoughts in mind for all future purchases.

Do you have any recommendations for clothing that is well made and designed to last?  I’d love to hear any suggestions you might have!

toss it tuesdays: goodbye SMAKA cheese slicer

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Last week I let go of my coffee grinder.  There was nothing wrong with it, but I had acquired a Magic Bullet in weeks past and had, much to my delight, discovered that it was capable of grinding coffee beans with much less mess than my coffee grinder.  So I sent the bean grinder off to the thrift shop, where a host of other small kitchen appliances and accoutrements had gone before it in recent months past: a bread maker, an indoor grille, a coffee machine, a crockpot and a spice rack.  I’ve decided now that all superfluous appliances have left the building, it might be time to focus more energy on purging some of the rarely used kitchen utensils sitting in the two drawers we have allocated for these things in our kitchen.  One rarely (if ever) used item is our SMAKA cheese slicer from Ikea.

SMAKA, what else are you good for?

When I first moved to Vancouver, I had a roommate (who also happens to have been my oldest friend) who insisted upon us moving in together that we make a trip to Ikea to outfit our apartment.  As someone who had never lived on their own before, I knew Ikea was cheap and would fit the bill as far as getting our place furnished without spending too much money.  Unfortunately, when things are cheaply priced we tend to buy more, and often it’s things we don’t actually have much of a use for.

My SMAKA cheese slicer is evidence of this – I’m sure this gadget wasn’t more than a couple of dollars twelve years ago, but it’s still hanging around in my kitchen and has probably been used only a handful of times.  It hasn’t seen much love for a couple of reasons:  1) it can only be used to slice cheese, 2) it’s awkward to use, and 3) a knife is an equally good tool for the job.  All in all, the existence of such a tool is pretty unnecessary, but I bought it because my friend/roommate convinced me it was a must have item for our kitchen and because it was inexpensive.  Needless to say, it will be making its debut at the local thrift shop in the next couple of days.  If you need a kitchen utensil that cuts cheese and nothing else, then this could be the kitchen utensil for you.

the shampoo-free experiment

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I recently stumbled upon another great local blog – Alexis lives in Vancouver and I was initially struck by her eloquent and touching post about how uncertain things felt both during and in the wake of the riot in downtown Vancouver following the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs.  I continued to follow her blog and was thrilled to read her post about going without shampoo.  In the past, I’ve always shunned the idea of going shampoo-free.  I’ve been reading about the “no poo” movement online for years now, and I never believed it would actually work on my fine, sometimes frizzy, wavy-in-some-spots, oily-in-other-areas hair.  However, Alexis’ post made me think, “Why not give it a try?  What do I have to lose in trying?”

Well, I’m only two days in to this experiment, and already I’m liking the results.  Yesterday I gave the baking soda shampoo/apple cider vinegar rinse combo a go and my hair, which tends to get extremely oily overnight, was not even oily this morning.  I did wash it again in the shower this morning with baking soda (1 T mixed with water to make a paste) and apple cider vinegar rinse (1 T mixed with water), and honestly, my hair is the softest it has been in years.

I don’t colour or process my hair, but I’ve noticed that since having children my hair has a tendency to get a bit frizzy and fly-away. Neither of those issues have been materializing the last couple of days, and I’m intrigued to see how things unfold over the coming weeks.  It’s a bonus that baking soda and apple cider vinegar are considerably less expensive than conventional shampoos and conditioner.  It’s also a big plus to remove all those chemicals present in shampoo and conditioner from my daily beauty routine.

I encourage you to join me in this experiment, and be sure to let me know how your journey without shampoo is going.  I’d love to hear of others who are going without shampoo, why you felt like giving it a try, and how your experiment is going.  I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

traveling light: how to pack like a minimalist

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At the end of next week, I’m heading off for a vacation with my kids.  My husband will be staying at home to work (which is crazy if you ask me!) and I’ll be jetting off for a two weeks vacation, during which time I expect I will be treated to many trips to the beach and home-cooked dinners prepared by someone other than myself.  I’m planning on taking a two-week digital sabbatical and will be abstaining from blogging.  I’ll probably still be checking my email periodically so as to coordinate some fabulous get-togethers with friends over the course of my vacation.  I’m looking forward to seeing friends from as far away as Europe while I’m back in my hometown.

As our departure date looms, I’ve been pondering what I’ll pack for this trip.  And as my parents are ridiculously minimalist packers (three weeks in Europe with one small rolling suitcase – um, hello!), I’m getting a ton of pressure from them to pack light for this trip.  I’ve decided to take up the challenge to go more minimal for this trip, both for myself and the kids.  I’ll be packing a total of 6 outfits for each of them, and here’s what that looks like:

  • 5 short sleeve t-shirts / polo shirts
  • 4 pair of shorts
  • 1 dress shirt
  • 2 pair of pants
  • 1 lightweight jacket or hoodie
  • 2 bathing suits and 1 uv shirt
  • 1 pair of sandals / water shoes
  • 1 pair of runners

The pants and long sleeve shirts might not get any love as am anticipating hot weather on this trip for the most part, but I am always happier to be a bit more safe than sorry.  We’ll have access to laundry facilities given that we’re staying at my parents’ house, so I won’t be surprised if we don’t actually go through all the clothing we take.

For myself, this process has been made so much easier by the fact that I am operating under a Project 333 experiment and only have 33 items to choose from.  I’ll be taking two thirds of my wardrobe with me, for a total of 22 items, including shoes.  I’m expecting to have enough to fill one small suitcase and one messenger bag for the three of us for a period of two and a half weeks.  Since we’ll be traveling by car, I’m also planning to take the kids’ scooters and helmets, as well as their PFDs in the event that they might take a boat trip or just want to wear them while they’re at the beach.  But apart from all that, we’ll be footloose and fancy free!

Are you an expert minimalist packer?  Or are you an “everything but the kitchen sink” kind of traveller?

2011 in 2011: times two

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When I started this project at the beginning of the year, I never dreamed I would find 2011 items in my home that I could part with.  So imagine my shock a few months back when I reached my goal with relative ease.  I decided to keep going – I changed my goal to 4022 items, double my original number.  And I was delighted and surprised to realize this weekend that I have almost accomplished that goal.  As of today, I’ve decluttered 3888 things from our home since January 1.

Wow.  If you’d told me that six months ago, I’d assume that my house was currently empty. My reality is, that’s not actually the case.

After getting rid of a ton of clothing and toys, as well as some small kitchen appliances, here’s what I’ve learned:

  • It gets easier.  What started out slow picked up steam pretty quickly.  As I began to clear areas away, I discovered more stuff I wasn’t using or in love with.  More stuff that I could have even imagined.  And not only did it get easier to part with unwanted and unneeded items, but the rhythm of my day has gotten easier and more enjoyable too.  Less time spent cleaning, tidying, and organizing and organizing means more time for me to do other, more enjoyable things – playing with the kids at the park, visiting with friends, and getting out to enjoy the summer weather.
  • Kids don’t notice what’s gone, just that there is more space to play with what’s left.  Pretty self-explanatory, but nothing can describe the joy of not having to pick up a million toys.  My kids are playing more with the toys they do have, and they haven’t asked for a single toy that has left the building.
  • You don’t need a junk drawer.  While I do have a designated drawer in my kitchen that holds a calendar, a folder with school papers and a few pencils, I do not dream of a junk drawer that holds anything I might possibly need at any given moment in the future.  I know what I need and don’t keep anything more.
  • There is more joy in less.  As someone who used to buy multiples of things (because if one’s good, three must be better!), I’ve discovered that it’s easier to love something in your wardrobe when there’s only one.  As special as something might be, it’s more special when there’s not half a dozen of them sitting around.  The same applies for most other things as well.  Another example would be kids toys, particularly stuffed animals your kids might be sentimental about – my son loves the first bunny he got when he was four months old, and could care less about all the other stuffed toys that have found their way in the door since then.
  • “Just in case” is a scenario that doesn’t often materialize.  Leo made a case recently about not keeping things “just in case.”  There are many things I was hanging on to for one reason or another:  a jogging stroller just in case I decided to take up running (ha!), clothing for the kids that I thought was cute but that they refused to wear (maybe someday!), or a bunch of cookbooks that I liked in theory but that once I really examined them didn’t contain any recipes that were practical for our family. Of all the things I’ve let go, I haven’t missed a thing.  Trust that you probably only really need the basics, and that is usually plenty.
As I continue to work towards my goal, I’ve got a few plans for what’s next on the chopping block.  I discovered this morning that my Magic Bullet does a fabulous job of grinding coffee beans, so my unitasker coffee grinder will be the next thing to hit the thrift shop.  I’ll be continuing to donate and declutter until I hit 4022, and then I’ll revisit this project to uncover what’s next.