monkeying around [day 236]

Retail stores are good for fun!  This is me and my son playing with monkey bean bag chairs at Target.  Normally I have a rule, it’s that you can’t touch what you have no intention of buying.  I broke my own rule, but my son was having so much fun that he didn’t even notice.  🙂

It’s also fun to ride the carts downhill in the parking lot, if you can find one with a hill.  What would be super fun is to get a bunch of slinkys and put them on the escalator at the mall.  I suppose it’s a good thing I haven’t been banned from stores, but would that really be so bad?

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the clothing experiment [mini-challenge]

I’m posting the 25 piece clothing challenge separate from the blog post, as I have a few people that want to participate already.  I’ll post the results monthly, along with the list of people participating.  Check it out.

Take 25 pieces of clothing from your closet, place them in a box or plastic tote.  Put it away for a month and see if you miss any of the stuff in it.  If not, take it to the thrift store.  If so, take out the item(s) you missed.  Rinse, lather and repeat.

If you do this challenge, send me a photo and the date you did it.  I will even pick up your box if you live in the north Dallas area and take it to the thrift store for you.  I would also love to blog your results.  🙂

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airing my dirty laundry… and clean laundry [day 235]

I promised you dirty laundry, so here it is.  There’s actually more of it, but this is my basket.  My kids have one upstairs too.  So why an I showing you this?  I have no idea, other than it seemed like a fun title for this blog post.

I was thinking a few days ago how ridiculous it is that I have as many clothes as I do.  I have a relatively small closet, at least considered small by Frisco standards.  It’s a walk-in for skinny people.  I thought, “What if I got rid of half of my clothing?”  Helping my friend move back into her house, and helping her purge clothing from her son’s outgrown wardrobe, was the final push I needed to do this.

I decided to do it.  Get rid of half of my clothes.  Going into this, I had no idea if this would be easy or difficult.  Will it feel like a sacrifice?  Let’s see…

Let’s start with my closet.  I have approximately 278 pieces of clothing in there, so I will need to purge 139 pieces.  The first pass through the closet yielded 84 pieces of clothing.  Not bad for a first pass, but still a pretty long way to go.

The second pass, which was a little bit difficult, yielded 28 pieces of clothing.  This pass felt a little bit like a sacrifice, but when I thought about it, most of this is stuff I don’t wear anymore.  This batch included my pair of mismatched shoes, as they’re too small and hurt my feet.  Sad about those, but it makes sense to pass them on.  These will go to the first person that asks for them (size 7.5), as the thrift store would pitch them in the trash thinking they need exact matches.  Continue reading

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light bulb! an idea or just simply for light [day 234]

My friend that had the flood finally got to move back into her house yesterday.  As I was helping, I noticed the old bathroom light fixture sitting in the trash, with all of the old light bulbs still in it.  With the challenge, I can’t buy light bulbs, so I gladly unscrewed them all, placed them in an unwanted pink basket and brought them home.  I have 2 lamps that need bulbs.

I want to switch my bulbs over to the compact fluorescent energy saving bulbs, but that requires purchasing them.  It’s great to do this, but throwing away good bulbs seems like a bad idea to me.  I plan to switch them out as they burn out, as they are better for the environment and they use 25% of the energy of standard incandescent bulbs.

I decided to count the number of bulbs and the types that I have in my house.  Here’s the analysis.  (Whatever, it only took 5 minutes)

  • Incandescent – 43
  • Compact Fluorescent – 23
  • LED – 13
  • Halogen – 24
  • Low Watt – 8
  • Fluorescent tubes – 2

Dang!  I have a lot of lights in my house!  Only 41% of my lighting is energy efficient.  Using an energy star calculator, replacing all of the non-energy efficient bulbs in my house would cost just under $500, retail price.  The halogens would pay for themselves in 1 year in energy savings.  The incandescents will pay for themselves in 14 months.  So the big question is, do you replace them right away or do you replace them as they burn out?  Or some people might even be wondering if they should replace them at all?  What are the pros and cons here?  Let’s put these bulbs head to head and see what makes the most sense.

Pros: switching to energy efficient lighting

  • Saves money on your energy consumption. Up to 75% savings on CF’s and 90% on LED’s.
  • Much better for the environment. LED’s have no toxic materials in them and require no special disposal procedures.  CF’s help prevent the greenhouse effect and global warming.
  • Lamp life. LED’s last ten’s of thousands of hours, CF’s last approximately 6,000-15,000 hours, incandescents last approximately 750-1,250 hours, halogens last approximately 2,000 hours.  The life span of energy efficient bulbs are substantially longer than the non-energy efficient bulbs.  This makes the initial higher cost of the bulb a good value.
  • Costs. When factoring the bulb costs and the energy costs together, these save a lot of money in the long run.

Cons: switching to energy efficient lighting

  • The bulbs cost a lot more to purchase. The purchase price is higher, usually 2 to 5 times more.  The upfront cost is more, although the long term savings should be taken into consideration.
  • Lights on. CF’s take time to “warm up” and the light gets to it’s full brightness in about a minute.  For some people this is an issue, but I’ve gotten used to it.  It’s actually nice in the morning when you first wake up not to have bright lights in your face.
  • Lighting ambiance. LED’s light lacks in brightness and because of the light temperature, has a bluish hue to them.  Incandescents have a warm, yellow light.  Incandescents also have directional capabilities that the others don’t have, which is why you see a lot of halogen fixtures in stores and restaurants.  Lots of progress is being made with the energy efficient bulbs in this respect.
  • Disposal. Disposal of CF bulbs is tricky, as they contain a small amount of mercury.

For me, the pros outweigh the cons.  I will continue to replace the bulbs as they burn out with energy efficient bulbs when I can.  When the shopping challenge is over, I’ll consider replacing a portion of these that are in fixtures I use frequently.  Some of the accent lighting fixtures I don’t use often can wait.

Disposal and recycling issues. The recycling and disposal of the CF’s is still not easy.  (Jason, better late than never on this post)  Although there are many recycling programs, there aren’t many drop off places and the city recycling program doesn’t pick these up from your house.  It’s just not easy to dispose of these bulbs right now.  There are, however, two major retailers that participate in the recycling and disposal of these bulbs.  They are The Home Depot and Ikea.  Yes, it’s a little bit of work to save your bulbs and take them to the store, but you can plan it with a needed trip to that store.  Get together with you neighbors and take turns making a “bulb disposal run” each month.   Given the life span of these bulbs, it’s not a huge time sacrifice, and given the size of them, it’s not much of a space sacrifice either.  🙂

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no retail shopping cost analysis [day 233]

Several people have asked me to compile this information, so here it is to the best of my knowledge.  I did not start this challenge to save money, although it’s been a nice benefit.  Here’s a few of the details, and I will be tracking this more going forward.

My bank records don’t go back to the start of the challenge in May, but I was able to grab the last six months.  I rarely pay cash for anything, I mostly use my debit card, so this is a pretty accurate picture of my retail shopping.  The retail amount spent during the challenge is at thrift stores or retail places that carry used merchandise, such as Half Price Books or Plato’s Closet.  Here’s some interesting data.

Savings: $1,767

Again, this was not by purpose, but it’s a nice benefit.  My finances feel better, as I’m not always broke and I feel like I’m living within my means.  It doesn’t feel like I’ve made sacrifices either.  I’m buying less, but making better choices.  What does that mean in layman’s terms?  I like and appreciate the smaller amount of stuff I do get, and less sits around collecting dust.

Thrift store shopping up 70%

Before the challenge, I shopped at thrift stores for 3.4% of my purchases.  Now it’s 73.8%.  What does this mean?  It means I’m getting things for a fraction of the retail price, and in the process, supporting local charities while keeping stuff out of landfills.

Behind the scenes

Looking at my expenditures was a little scary.  I spend way too much money on eating out and in fast food places.  My craigslist purchases are not reflected in the chart, as these are cash transactions.  I made 2 major purchases for about the same amount.  The first was before the challenge, my living room leather furniture for $700 (retail $3500) and the other, during the challenge, the hot tub that I blogged a week ago.

There’s a lot more data and things to report in this area, so stay tuned.  Anything you want to know about the challenge that I’ve not posted?

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build it and they will come… [day 232]

Yesterday I had to shop for work again.  I’m designing an interactive wall that unfortunately need some new supplies.  I was mentioning the fact that I had to go to the store in front of someone that just heard about my no retail challenge.  He asked, “So, if you shop for work, isn’t that against your challenge?  Doesn’t that give you the getting-new-stuff satisfaction?”  Okay, so I’m not sure if those were his exact words, but you get the point.  Here’s the answer to that question.

Let me start by saying that shopping is extremely frustrating and a root canal might have been a better way to spend my time.  Here’s why.

Ikea. This store is a giant maze.  I only needed one thing from there, a couple sets of Dioder multi colored lights.  I go in the exit there because I can look in the “as is” section first, and it’s the quickest way to the spot where the lights should be.  After making my way through the cold warehouse part into the marketplace, I find the display.  Sold out.  After asking about the next shipment, I find out these lights are discontinued and they’ll be replaced with a new design.  The problem?  The new sets are not available yet.  I start looking for my bread crumbs and make my way back to civilization.

Walmart. Not much to report here, just another giant superstore that takes forever to get into.  They didn’t have what I needed, which was inexpensive, decent quality, modern digital photo frames.  I needed 5 that look exactly alike.  They had some cheap, low quality ones, so on to the next store.

Lowe’s. Now, I’m all about a hardware store, if I have to shop.  I decided to take a look for LED lights, similar to Ikea’s.  Low and behold, they had them, and for the same price.  These are actually a little better, as one controller will hold more daisy chained lights.  They had just gotten these in a week prior.  Continue reading

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11 rotary dial phones & 1296 gift cards [day 231]

A few years ago, in my “excessable” art show, I had a gift card rug made out of 1296 gifts cards from different stores.  The show was in July and I left the rug in the car a little too long in the heat, melting a good portion of it.

I recently used some of the gift cards in a video shoot.  I had to take them out and clean them up, as they’ve been sitting in my garage for years.  I’ve added a few to the collection, with thoughts of putting the rug back together.  Problem: no box tape and no retail shopping.  I need to get creative with the pile of cards.  I have a few ideas…

I did get creative with the pile of rotary dial phones that were used in the show.  I really had no intention of keeping them, but they’re just fun to have around.  I’ve used them for many photo shoots, video shoots and props.  Right now, they’re a permanent art fixture in my foyer.

Here’s some of the photos…

I know it’s crazy to keep all this stuff from my art show, but it’s not in a landfill and I do use it occasionally, or some of it, all the time.  I think I’ll hang on to the phones and gift cards for a while.  If I do get rid of them, I’ll make sure they go to a great home.

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when the inside of your house is colder than the inside of your refrigerator… [day 230]

Here in North Texas, we’re a little spoiled by the not-too-cold winter temperatures.  We get our once a year snowfall, but generally our low’s are still above freezing.  This was not so 2 days ago, when the low, including the wind chill factor, was to dip into the single digits.

I’m always cold, but it seemed unusually cold in my house.  I thought, “Great.  The heater is acting up again.”  This usually means a trip out to the garage, flip the breaker, mess with the thermostat, then up to the attic, all in efforts to find the right combination of flipping switches on and off to achieve heat.  This has been a ritual since I moved in the house 4 years ago.

This time, the ritual was to no avail.  The heat was out and it was not going to work.  I don’t know much about gas furnaces, but I do know a little bit about electric ones.  Mine’s gas.  And, of course, these things only happen during extreme temperatures.  I called my friend **Keith, as he and his twin brother own a heating and A/C repair company.  I knew it would be the next day before he came out and we decided to stay the night and bundle up warm.  It seemed like a good idea at the time…

My oldest decided to sleep in his room upstairs, the youngest in my bed.  A little after midnight, the fire smoke detector starts going off.  *I had turned off the heater before going to sleep, knowing something was seriously wrong with it.  The smoke detector turned off before I had a chance to get up and deal with it.  Again, a quirky thing in my house, this alarm has been malfunctioning for a couple of years now.  It’s in my son’s room, the one that’s sleeping upstairs.  If you think these smoke alarms will wake your kids, think again.  It’s right over his bed and did not wake him.  After it went off for the 7th or 8th time, and finally wouldn’t turn off, I figured I better go deal with it.  I moved my son to my room, got the ladder out and took it down, trying to shield my ears from the piercing sound.   And yes, I checked to see if it was also a carbon monoxide alarm, and it’s not.

Keith called me back in the morning, and just to be sure, I changed the batteries in the thermostat, cleaned the contacts and tried again.  Nothing.  Keith came out, and the culprit was the main circuit board.  You can see the spot where it blew out on the green side.  On the flip side, there was another bad spot which had started to burn under the resistors to the right.  So, which news would you like first, the good or the bad?

Bad news: The circuit board is fried and needs replacing.  This is not only the board for the furnace, but for the A/C as well.

Good news: My house didn’t catch on fire.   Continue reading

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free polypropylene [day 229]

Instead of buying ziplock plastic baggies and other plastic containers, I like to reuse containers I already have.  Instead of placing my plastic sour cream containers, margarine containers or other food containers directly into the recycling bin, I wash them and use them for other things.

  • Leftovers. These are great for leftovers.  If you want to send something home with a friend, you don’t have to worry about getting your container back.  Great for work too, if you’re like me and forget to bring the containers home.
  • Paint. Great for small amounts of touch up paints.
  • Freezer containers. Make extra food and freeze it for lunches or quick microwave meals.  (never reheat in the plastic containers)
  • Recycle containers. Use a small container to keep small lids for recycling.  Aveda will recycle all of these for you.
  • Hardware. These are great for storing nails, screws, washers and other hardware items.
  • Art supplies. These can be used for storing art supplies or used as water containers for paint brushes.
  • Toys. These are great for storing kids toys that have small parts.  They’re easy to open and close, also making them great for the car.  Less toys under the seats.
  • Pantry storage. Use these containers to store food that comes in unsealable plastic bags.  I buy rice in the large bulk bag and store it in an old pretzel container.
  • Other uses. I’m sure there are many more uses for these.  Just think what might be a good second or third use of something before recycling it.

Let me address the question you’re all waiting to add to the comments section.  “Aren’t plastic containers bad for your health?”  Yes, some of them are.  I looked up these types of containers, as pictured above, and they are made of polypropylene.  Without getting too technical, the symbol on these containers is the one pictured on the left, and there’s no proven health risks on this type.  The containers say “dishwasher safe” on the bottom.  They are doing some studies based on a 2008 study saying some of the plastic will get into your food, but nothing has been proven to this point.  This type of plastic is considered a ‘safer’ type.

There are many types of plastics out there, and here I’m only speaking of PP (polypropylene) plastic.  I usually use these containers 3 or 4 times, hand-washing them or placing them in the dishwasher with a no-heat-dry setting.  Never cook food in any type of plastic, as that does melt and can leach chemicals into your food.

I’m no plastics expert, but it’s good to do a little research on any containers you do plan to reuse.  All plastics have the symbols like the one above, making it easy to research.  Yes, it’s a pain to have to know all this stuff, but it’s the world we live in.  It’s better to educate yourself and not have to worry.  I like free storage containers, and I could eat my weight in sour cream, so I usually have a lot of them.  All of them go to good uses.  What do you use food containers for?

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2 stores in store [day 228]

I had to go to 2 stores for work yesterday.  I needed a frame, a mat board and to have 1 photo printed.  I decided to go to Aaron Brothers for the frame and mat board, because in January, they have their “buy one, get one for a penny” sale.  I found the perfect frame, however I have no idea what we’ll do with the second one.  1¢ is too close to free to pass up.

It felt strange to be in a store.  I looked around a little bit, as they have art supplies, but I had no desire to buy anything.  I really didn’t want to be there.

Next, I decided to go to Wolf Camera for the print.  Now, I love camera equipment, but walking into the store still felt odd.  The aroma of film processing chemicals was a sweet reminder of the past, having to pay a lot of money for my photography habit.  It sparked a momentary appreciation for digital photography.

I rarely print photos, so I had to ask the quickest way to get one photo printed.  The sales guy pointed to the large yellow machine that does instant prints.  After several failed attempts to get it to read my jump drive, the sales guy tried.  After his many more failed attempts, I decided that wasn’t meant to be.

I had no desire to shop in either of these places.  Had I wanted to buy something, and did, it would be classified as an impulse buy, right?  It made me think about how many times I’ve done that in the past.  Going into a store to buy something I wanted and coming out with other things, things I didn’t need.    Continue reading

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