Oct 1, 2013

Thank You.

There's a lot of bad to see in this world if that is what you choose to look for. I don't. And because we don't do it enough, I just wanted to take a moment to thank you.

Your smiles, your humor, and your small daily kindnesses make this world brighter.

Your passions, your bravery, and your work make this world better.

Your struggles, your empathy, and your heart make this world more compassionate.

Your positivity, or your negativity, reminds me which I want to focus on in this short life.

Your mere existence makes this world what it is. The way you choose to interact with this world and its creatures can change it.

I have seen some great, selfless actions in the past few days. They happen all the time, really, if we just notice them. And little kindnesses tend to ripple out well past the original receiver.

So thank you. For your smile, your kind words, your generous contribution. For caring, for loving, for understanding a different perspective. Thank you for your light in this world. We all have it, and let me tell you, it can shine so brightly that you light the way for those around you.

Today, I hope you let it.

Sep 27, 2013

Four Free Things: September 27, 2013


This image, borrowed from RowdyKitten, shows an example 
of the type of place we could gift to a family in need if we 
all pitch in. Click the image to view the request at GoFundMe.
Four Free Things is a (mostly) weekly feature here on The Green Gazelle. Each Friday, I share four free or almost free things I hope to do over the weekend and upcoming week. Share the free or cheap things you've got planned in the comments section of this post.


Help Out a Single Mom

I'm starting with the one I think is most important. It isn't free, but it doesn't cost much and it has the potential to make an enormous difference in the lives of a single mama and her two teens. I've set up a GoFundMe fundraising site to help a friend of mine with her small, tangible, eco-friendly wish: a tiny home or travel trailer that they can always call home. Any donation size helps, even a dollar, and anywhere you can spread the message helps too. Here's the description. Together, we can give this family a home.

"Please help me raise money to give a family in need a home!  
I've got this amazing friend who always finds the positive, despite often dealing with hardship. Perhaps you know her. Maybe you don't. She found the strength to leave a bad marriage, and now she's raising two teens on her own - with child support checks that are insufficient and undependable. She is an extremely hard worker and fantastically thrifty, but still money is always really, really tight. Imagine how difficult that must be.  
After moving from one temporary housing situation to another, her simple dream is to own a tiny house, travel trailer, or some other small dwelling - a guaranteed, forever place for her family to live. That is such a small, humble thing to wish for in this world, don't you think?  
She's a strong woman, but she can't do it alone. Please help me make her dream come true. This mama and her kids deserve a home.  
Any size donation is greatly appreciated. If we all chip in what we can - $1, $5, $10, $25, $100 - in no time this family will have the funds to own their own little abode (or at least a great start on one). And you would have helped a lovely, kind family have a little more security and certainty in their lives - and one less thing to worry about. Thank you for considering, and please share this link."


Screen-Free Saturday

I think we all know that I spend too much time on the computer. This Saturday I'm taking the day off. As a bonus, I'm planning to do all of my house cleaning tonight so I don't have to do it tomorrow. That means I get to play outside all day, and read, play instruments, or play board games all evening! Doesn't that sound fantastic? Are you taking a screen-free day this week?


 Make 

I want to use a prize wheel during some events I'll be tabling at. The trouble is, I don't have access to one, and I really don't want to spend money on one. So I'll be attempting to make my own prize wheel this weekend out of cardboard and such. Wish me luck! It should be a fun project. What are you building or making this week?


Visit the Library

I think we also all know that I love, love, love the library. This time, though, my visit will be very specific. We are looking at a house (I know, I know. More on that later) that is listed as a 1950's home but actually looks much, much older. Our local library has a great North Carolina history room, complete with actual physical Sanborn Maps. These are maps that were created every few years by the Sanborn Insurance Company for insurance purposes, but now serve as an excellent resource for historic research. I'll pull those dusty old maps out and see when this house showed up on the maps to help me know how old it really is. What kind of research is peaking your interest these days?

Have you found any fun or interesting free opportunities in your area during the next week? Do you have tips for others on where to look for free activities?

Sep 24, 2013

Ditching the Personal Printer - A True Story

Why are home printer ink cartridges so dang expensive? They never last long, they always run out at the moment you need them the most, and they are made out of a ridiculous amount of plastic. And the refilling options seem to have an unacceptable failure rate. Does anyone else feel like perhaps we are being scammed here?

This infographic gives some shocking stats on ink cartridge costs and wastes. But while these numbers are of concern (especially in green-gazelley households such as yours and mine), the negative impacts we aren't talking about might be even more important.

It wasn't until the end of my last long-term office job that a friend of mine tipped me off to the health hazards of printers. Some studies show that desktop inkjet printers that you often get free with your computer, and that everyone has in there home or office or both could be really bad for your health (laser printers appear to be safer for now). It turns out that the offices of old, with their separate copy room housing ink-using equipment, might have been much better for us than the conveniently-located personal printer of today. Once I heard that, it was so obvious. But it had really never crossed my mind before.

I was once someone who couldn't imagine not having my own printer. For a while I even had a large format printer able to print 11x17. As one who dabbles in both graphic design and photography, I loved being able to see my work on paper. As one who is falls in the age group who is computer savvy, but still prefers to read from actual paper, I enjoyed the ability to rest my eyes from too much screen time while still reading something from the web. Environmentally friendly? Heck no.

But when we moved in January, I took the leap. I ditched our home printer. I had nearly finished school, we had just downsized our living space, and I didn't want to buy any more ink.

It turns out that life without a printer is pretty great. I still have things to print on occasion - resumes, doctors office documents, proof of car insurance. I go to either the local university or copy center to print by the page. The public library also offers printing. Often, forms a doctor asks you to fill out and bring to your appointment (for example) can be printed by the office and filled out there if you just let them know you don't have a printer. 

But believe it or not, there is much less necessary printing in my life than I would have thought. I have gotten used to reading digitally more often now, and much of my filing is now done on my computer (paperless) as well. Eliminating my home printer has reduced my use (and therefore expense) of paper, electricity, ink, ink cartridges and packaging, time trying to print something I really didn't need or those lengthy nozzle cleaning checks, and the new, better, gotta-have-it technology in printers that can convince us to replace an existing hunk of plastic made in China with a brand new one. Are you feeling me here? 

There are many of us who pretty much need a home printer - if you or a child is in school and needs to print regularly (like more than once a week), if you have a home based business and you have to print a lot, etc. In that case, perhaps there is a closet or porch where you can locate your printer to maintain good air quality in the areas of your house you tend to breathe in more often. But if it is necessary for you to print once a week or less, you might consider getting that beast out of your house. You'll save money, natural resources, time, and quite possibly your lungs. 

Have you chucked your printer, or are you considering it? How are you managing, or what are you worried might make it hard to live printerless?

Note: Links to other articles are provided to peak your interest in the topic. I am not guaranteeing their accuracy. You should always do your own research and fact-checking on anything you read on the internet.

Aug 9, 2013

Four Free Things: August 9, 2013

Me enjoying the view on the Blue Ridge Parkway during last
weekend's motorcycle ride. I know, my life is so rough.
Four Free Things is a (mostly) weekly feature here on The Green Gazelle. Each Friday, I share four free or almost free things I hope to do over the weekend and upcoming week. Share the free or cheap things you've got planned in the comments section of this post.

Well. It has been quite a while since my last Four Free Things, hasn't it? I've had too much to do for the past few weeks to look for free entertainment. This weekend and next week, though, I've got a few free things on my to-do list. How about you?


Pajamurday


Saturday. Pajamas. All day.

Yup, my plan for Saturday is to have absolutely no where to go, and nothing to do. We in the gazelle household are taking the day off of expectations and accomplishments. The only thing I'm requiring myself to get done on Saturday is to stay in my pajamas. Maybe I'll read. Perhaps I'll rearrange a room (because that is my idea of fun). Or start a knitting project, or pick up the banjo. I'll certainly drink too much coffee, and hopefully eat scrambled eggs. And probably nap. After I sleep in. Yep, a day off this Saturday is deserved and needed, and I'm allowing myself to take it. Go ahead, give yourself permission to celebrate Pajamurday!


Hiking Hounds!


As you might know from past posts, an awesome volunteer at our local humane society created the Hiking Hounds program to get volunteers out on hikes with pound pooches twice a month. We've been trying to go once a month, but this month we're committing to both trips. The hike is usually about 4 miles on a mountain trail, which takes around two hours. The pooches get lots of attention, and I get a bit of exercise and fresh air. It is probably the most fun volunteering I've ever done. If you don't have a Hiking Hounds program in your community, you could start one! Or, if you are not quite ready to jump in that deep, you can grab your family (furry or otherwise) and get out on a trail this weekend for an hour or two.  


Sourwood Festival


'Tis the season for festivals nationwide, but I particularly love the ones here in the mountains of North Carolina because they are centered around old time and bluegrass music, dancing and clogging, and crafts. You have no idea how happy this makes me. We'll swing by here after Hiking Hounds on Sunday, hopefully in time to catch some of the clogging. 


Motorcycling

You know the best part about traveling by motorcycle instead of car? You can smell the forest and feel the wind. It is so much more participatory than auto travel, and I love it. We planned to refrain from getting a motorcycle, but it turns out that a bike is one of the cheapest (and funnest) ways for B to get to work. They get excellent gas mileage... and around here, the cycling season is more like 10 or 11 months instead of the 3-6 month window of the midwest. To top it off, this area has some of the best motorcycling in the country because of the many twisty mountain roads. We'll most certainly get out for a ride this weekend.  

Have you found any fun or interesting free opportunities in your area during the next week? Do you have tips for others on where to look for free activities?

Aug 3, 2013

Winning the Battle with Me Stinky Pits

My Pot of Pit Purifier. tee hee.
UPDATE: I have heard mixed results from users of this deodorant recipe. Everyone seems to think it works really well - better than store-bought brands I've heard - on B.O. But folks have also experienced rashes in one or both pits - sometimes pretty severe. Try it at your own risk, but here's a couple of tips that might help: 1. Rub it in very gently. That baking soda is scratchy and I think rubbing it in hard could be contributing irritation that leads to rashing. 2. Try just coconut oil. This doesn't work on B.O. quite as well as the original recipe in my opinion, but it definitely provides some protection without the irritation of the baking soda. Just be sure to use a very small amount (just touch the tip of your finger to the oil and rub in really well).


Oh, B.O. Why do you love me so?

Some people have a really pleasant, earthy, musky body odor. But not me. My B.O. is sharp. Ripe. Stinky.

And hard to cover up.

For years, I refused to use antiperspirants (because of my health concerns associated with it) and instead used more natural deodorant brands. They didn't work. I found that especially when I was wearing a shirt or sweater that was a blend (having some poly fiber mixed in with the cotton) the natural deodorants didn't last an hour. I would spend the rest of the day trying desperately to remember not to lift up my arms.

Even at office jobs, I get stinky. When I began working in a professional office and in someone else's home, it felt unprofessional to subject the people there to my naturally-deodorized (but not really masked) B.O. So I bought a trusty store brand.

For a while, I would try to wash it off as soon as I got home. Eventually, I got lazy and stopped doing that. But I never stopped looking for an alternative to the chemical deodorant that I had to use to manage my stinky pits.

Whether or not you believe that antiperspirant can have negative health impacts on your body is your own decision to make. But there are a number of other reasons I didn't want to continue to use store-bought antiperspirant (or even store-bought natural deodorant, for that matter).
  1. I try not to use chemicals on my body, especially for things like lotion or deodorant that stay on long enough to absorb into my skin.  If I'm going to clog my sweat glands, I'd rather it be with something natural.
  2. I like to be able to pronounce the ingredients in my body care products (and food, and cleaning supplies).
  3. Even the "unscented" antiperspirant that I used had a pretty strong unnatural odor. Yuck.
  4. Deodorant comes in a ridiculously un-reusable containers. And it isn't cheap - especially the natural brands. 
  5. Plus, even many of the natural brands are owned by huge corporations that I don't really want to be supporting with my limited funds. (Here's a fairly shocking flowchart of ownership you might be interested in.)
So I made my own. In about five minutes. Inexpensively, with two ingredients. AND IT WORKS. Here's the breakdown of my results after about a week of use:

  • Wearing a 100% cotton shirt: at the end of the day, there was NO SMELL at all. No fragrance, no B.O.
  • Wearing a cotton shirt with some poly mixed in: Most of the day was the same as the 100% cotton shirt. By the end of the day, my pits had a very, very faint sweat odor when I stuck my nose in them and took a deep whiff. Still completely acceptable. Amazing.

So how do you make this wonder pit concoction, you may be wondering? Here is the entire recipe:

The Green Gazelle's Seriously Unscented Pit Purifier

  1. Pour baking soda into a small bowl.
  2. Add coconut oil by the spoonful and mix together very well until you have a very thick, crumbly paste. If you've added too much oil, just add a bit more baking soda.
  3. Scoop about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon out of the jar with your fingers and massage into your armpit. It should feel more grainy and gritty than creamy. Rub in until it isn't too oily. Repeat on other side.
  4. Wash hands.


I've left measurements out so you can run a small trial batch to see if it works for you. In case you were wondering, I haven't yet had any oily spots show up on my shirts, probably because the consistency is so baking-soda heavy. The only issue I had was when I wore a black tank top and a light dusting of the baking soda ended up on my shirt. I just used a lint roller to remove it, and went on my way.

Mine sits in this cute little ceramic bowl on the back of the toilet. And I will never, ever buy deodorant in the store again.

These are wonder ingredients, I swear. What do you use coconut oil for? Baking soda?

Jul 24, 2013

TV, schmee vee

Edit: This was originally posted on this blog in 2008, but still applies (at least in our home) today. Our most recent solution involves going tv-free every other day. How do you view your relationship with tv? How do you limit your screen time?

How many hours a week do Americans watch television? Nationmaster.com says 28 - we're tied for most hours watched per week with the U.K. 28 hours. That's another part time job's worth of time. That's almost as many hours as kids are in school each week. That's an average of four hours per day. Imagine the beautiful meals, winter hats, decisions, plans, gardens, breads, peace, conversations, blogs, furniture, backyard sanctuaries, jams, and more that you could make with four extra hours each day.

But instead we subject ourselves to marketing ploys telling us that we're not good enough. My beef with television isn't the actual shows, although the quality has gone down exponentially in just the last five years. Why do we flock to these reality tv shows? My guess is that it has something to do with the fact that we are bored with our own lives because all we do is work, sleep and watch tv. And many of the prime time television shows' characters' lives create this unreality in our minds that says that we should make more money, have more stuff, and never, apparently, have to go to work. But there are also some really wonderful, intelligently written, beautifully acted shows out there that make for excellent free entertainment (until their inevitable cancellation). And if you can find those shows, who doesn't support a free entertainment source that keeps you in your home with your family, perhaps not for four hours a day, but for some time anyway?

No, my beef with television is really mostly with commercials. They're louder than the show you're watching. They're flashing and jolty and bright, often completely changing your mood and possibly even your heart rate. Their goal is to make you feel like you need something you don't or you aren't good enough as you are. And that is not good for anybody.

We've found a couple of solutions to this in my household. You could, of course, throw out your television. If you can do it, this would be the best step. There are just so many more stimulating and productive things to entertain yourself with. But, alas, lifetime habits are hard to break, and sometimes you just need to veg after a day's work. So what do you do if you're like me and can't (or don't want to) kick the habit completely?

The first and easiest step is to get familiar with your mute button. I learned this trick from my fabulous stepdad when visiting last year. As soon as the commercial comes on, hit mute and take the opportunity for a little peace and quiet or brief conversation. In my house, we also tend to give ourselves a task that needs to get done before the end of the show- folding laundry, cleaning the kitchen, etc. We use commercial time to do it and don't subject ourselves to the brainwashing.

Another option is to create a schedule of the shows you actually like, and limit your tv time to those. I'm one of those people who will watch an infomercial if nothing else is on, just because I get so sucked in to the television. Creating a schedule allows you to get in the habit of turning off the tv when your show is over, or not turning it on at all on days that nothing good is on. I make sure I have a plan for those days too, because I know I'll be tempted by that rascal tv when I run out of steam for the day. My current diversion plan is to spend what would be tv time reading a good fiction book (which is almost like watching television but stimulates your brainwaves much more) or knitting.

If you really want to kick the tv habit without giving up the free entertainment option, try this. Disconnect your antenna. Go to the library and check out a dvd- they often have movies and full seasons of popular or interesting television shows. Try interlibrary loan for a better selection- ask your librarian for help if you've never used interlibrary loan before. Then just watch those in the evening when you get the tv craving. Tv shows on dvd are really great- a show that is normally an hour is only 45 minutes and you don't have to watch any commercials at all. Plus, when the episode is done, the next one doesn't start automatically. You get to make a conscious decision whether or not you want to continue to sit there and watch something. It makes it much easier to limit your tv time to only 45 minutes a day.

Like radio and the library, television is one of those rare free things that by all rights should cost something in America but still don't, and I really appreciate that. But we pay a little extra for tv, with our time and with the marketing we subject ourselves to. Its habit-forming ability can be very detrimental, just like any other habit-forming substance. But we can take the power back and enjoy the good parts of owning a television- free entertainment!

Jul 23, 2013

3 Frugal & Green Hacks To Replace Costly Store-Bought Cleaners

This little beast makes bathroom cleaning less horrible.
Ugh. None of us want to use dangerous chemicals to clean our homes or skin, but holey buckets are natural cleaners expensive! And still you don't know if they will work for you until you buy them and bring them home to use. Don't get me wrong, I think it is worth it to spend more for nontoxic cleaners, and I have found some that really work for me. But I've discovered some cheaper natural solutions that reduce or eliminate my need for these expensive items. These are just as convenient to use as something you'd buy (no extra elbow grease needed). They also happen to work better for me than their pricey, store-bought counterparts. As a bonus, they are all stored in reusable containers so I'm using less packaging too. Win-win-win!  

Here are my three favorite cleaning hacks that actually work:

1. Magic Bathroom Cleaning Stick

This. Actually. Works. I found it on Pinterest (as the link above can attest), and I am so glad I did. For about the cost of one bottle of eco-friendly bathroom cleaning spray you can get a dish washing want—which you'll use as a tub and tile scrubber that you simply refill with dish soap and vinegar.  Something about the vinegar mixed with dish soap actually cuts soap scum in record time and with little effort. Because the solution is kept easily accessible and ready to use in a dishwashing wand, I can quickly wash down my shower walls while I'm in there, or just before hopping in. It also works really well for the sink bowl. This one item has changed my relationship with bathroom cleaning.

Tip: Find a way to store this out of the shower stream so that it can dry between uses, like maybe hang it from a suction cup at the top of the tile wall opposite the shower head. I also squeeze mine out when I'm done using it to speed up the process.

2. The Oil Cleansing Method

I have crummy skin. Oily and acne-prone, my face is also easy to dry and flake. Gross.

Over the years, I've spent an arm and a leg to find a product that would work for me and keep my skin from drying out and flaking, or getting greasy in the middle of the day. There are a million product choices, and in the natural skincare lines the face cleaners can get ├╝ber expensive. I'd buy one, and if it didn't work, I'd be out that $20 or $30 bucks and on to another one. Honestly, I never found a face cleanser that I loved...only some that I didn't react to as badly as others.

And then.

I stumbled into the oil cleansing method (OCM) on the interwebs (see the link above for the post that convinced me to try it). To call this discovery life changing would probably not be an exaggeration. It's basically a mix of castor oil and olive oil that you can adjust for your skin type. You use OCM in place of face cleanser. Yup. Oil. Instead of soap.

This is what happened to me. I saw a massive reduction in the number and severity of acne outbreaks and deep, painful blemishes. My skin stopped feeling tight and dry after cleaning. I mostly stopped having any flaky, dry skin on my face. With less irritations, my skin had time to heal and is now much less red and blotchy. And perhaps the best thing was how balanced my skin became. Before, I had always (ALWAYS) gotten shinier over the course of the day as my face tried to replace the oil I had stripped from it during cleaning. With OCM, I no longer get greasy mid day. Ever.

Bonus? You use maybe four or five drops a day of the castor-olive oil mix, which ends up being really inexpensive. And you know exactly what you are putting on your skin. My skin feels great. I have more confidence. And I spend WAAAY less money to get better results than I did with even the highest end natural store-bought cleansers. I wish I would have discovered this two decades ago.

3.  A Better Hand Soap

This one I didn't find on the internet, but discovered on my own. If you're purchasing a natural brand of liquid hand soap you know that it ain't cheap. We've tried to make our own hand soaps for years using liquid castile soap (Dr. Bronner's peppermint, if you must know). We bought fancy recycled glass soap dispensers. We added tea tree oil, thinking it might act as a natural antibacterial. We used different ratios of soap to water. But my sensitive skin wasn't a fan. I found that the castille-based liquid hand soap was too harsh on my skin, and my hands would dry and crack. We went back to store-bought natural hand soap, which was just a little gentler on my skin... but definitely not on my pocket book.

But as it turns out, the dispenser can make all of the difference. When we purchased our first bottles of liquid hand soap in foaming dispensers (ours were Everyday Shea brand), I decided to try again. Once it was empty, I refilled the foaming dispenser with a Dr. B's-water mixture (to your liking—I think our ratio is somewhere around 1/4 soap to 3/4 water).

I don't actually know why this worked so well, but it absolutely did. Here's what I think:  The foaming mechanism mixes in air and creates a bubbly, foamy hand cleaner using less actual soap than a regular pump would dispense. Since it is already so foamy, I use less of it, and so I've got less soap drying out my skin with just as much cleaning power. It lasts a long time, it doesn't dry out my skin, and I can pronounce all of the ingredients (which is usually not the case even with "natural" liquid hand soaps).


Do you have any tricks for housecleaning or body care that are green and frugal, and that really work well? Share them in the comments!

Jul 5, 2013

(Almost) Down the Rabbit Hole

When we sold our house, I vowed to be a renter for a really long time. I was tired of spending my weekends on projects. I was stressed about the continuous financial investments we had to make for upkeep and maintenance. I hated—HATED—the fact that our mortgage came with such huge interest payments. I wanted some freedom.

But as I tend to do, I kept looking at real estate anyway. Not all the time, mind you. But every week or so I'd check the houses for sale on craigslist and on local realtor websites. See, in my dream world, we've got a beautiful, old (but still smallish), historic house, with enough room to build a wee guest house/mother-in-law suite. This would be nice for visitors, but also provide a space for parents and grandparents if ever they would like to live closer to us, and later, a caretaker for me and B (these are the things you think about when you are childless—how to plan for your inevitable elderly care needs).

And this week I found it. An ideal place. A 2 bed, 1 1/2 bath 1925 converted stable that once belonged the neighboring mansion (now apartments). It already has a second 400 ft structure, built very recently, that contains a small office and mother-in-law apartment. I did a drive-by. It's a quirky layout, for sure, but there is this gorgeous, magical little back porch nook where I envisioned drinking my morning coffee with the paper (we haven't gotten a newspaper delivered in about a decade, but whatever). The place needs some cosmetic work, and probably repairs as well as the main structure is so old, but it has so much character. It is substantially more than I ever thought we'd spend on a house, but significantly less than all the other houses in that neighborhood. What a deal. I was pretty much sold.

I began working the numbers: running the cost through a mortgage calculator, scheming rental plans for the mother-in-law apartment to help cover the mortgage, looking at what was supposed to be the savings column on our debt snowball as a way to pay the increased housing costs. Because they would definitely increase with this purchase, if we could even convince a bank to loan us the money in the first place. Likely our monthly housing payment would at least double, and that is before any maintenance and repair costs. This would mean no money going into savings, and probably not paying off our student loans early. But, no matter. In a cruel trick of nature, I inherited my dear mom's impressive ability to justify purchasing pretty much anything I want (she and I joke about this all the time; our motto is "I want it, and I want it now"). By the end of my decision-making process I've usually convinced myself that we would be better off buying in the long run than not, even though really that is almost never true for any of us, is it? Alas, within hours of finding the ad I was already well down the path to homeownership (a place I hadn't ever wanted to be again just a week ago).

And then it started to rain.

And it kept raining.

And raining.

And unlike most of the days here during this spring and summer, it wasn't short bursts of rain heartily buffered on either end by hours of glorious sun. Nope, it just kept raining, with small, cloudy breaks between torrential downpours.

Roads began to flood with the muddy water of the eroding mountains. The next county over saw an entire parking lot sucked into a sinkhole. And my trip to the local grocery store was foiled by the 3 inches of milky brown water (and rising) covering the floor of nearly the entire back half of the building.

Holy cannoli, what a rain it was. And maybe still is, as the forecast predicts a 30-60% chance of rain for the next ten days or so. And it was in the middle of these downpours that I remembered why I hadn't wanted to be a homeowner anymore. That mossy, 90 year old home I so lovingly dreamed about habitating was likely flooded right now. I would have had to address the water damage and mold issues last night and into the future had I been its owner yesterday. And all that not even to live for a cheaper monthly rate, but double. 

And just like that, I was completely over that old house. I like our financial plan (out of debt in three years), and spending more on housing just completely derails it. I like our new found free time, and homeownership doesn't lend itself to care-free evenings and weekends. And I love my desire to buy in cash from now on (housing included), because I am so over paying extra in interest later for the benefit of getting what I want right now

I think I'll always struggle with my desire to have something immediately rather than save up for it. It's why I've had—and had to get rid of—so much stuff over the years. It's why my credit card debt is so high, and why my mortgage payment was high too (with no savings to speak of, we put almost nothing down on the house). But as my true desires to be financially secure and clutter-free become more apparent, more concrete, and stronger, I find myself saying no more often than yes. Sometimes the conversation I have with myself takes a really long time, but I've been coming to the more responsible conclusion. I guess the first step to financial freedom is exerting personal control over your own tendencies. For me, that took learning to desire something more than stuff—undebtedness.

How do you tame your wants?


Jun 21, 2013

Summer

Today is the summer solstice, the official beginning of summer. I like to view the season changes as a transition time for myself, a clean slate if you will. For me, they are a time to re-evaluate my routines and make changes where needed. They are a time to set new goals, dream new dreams, and get excited about life all over again. They are new opportunities to be intentional. Although I didn't get to my solstice card making this season, there are still plenty of ways I hope to enjoy these warm months.

1. Reduce my debt.

After selling our house, cashing in some stocks (retirement funds that we had unwisely removed early and paid taxes and fees on a few years back so we could dabble in the stock market), and receiving generous birthday gifts from my family, we will be making a major payment toward credit card debt this summer. In one month our total debt load with be reduced by nearly one quarter. Between remaining credit cards and two masters degrees worth of student loans, that still leaves us with more debt than the average mortgage-less American. But still. It is a huge step; one that will allow us to pay off our credit card debt (the worst kind in my opinion) in its entirety in under a year. That is going to be a day to remember.

2. Dance.

We attended a contra dance last night, which in my opinion is sort of a requirement of living in the east/southeast. It was terribly fun and a great workout, so we are going to keep it up.

3. Hike, Bike, Swim, Play.

I'm planning to enjoy pretty much any way to be active outside. I'm going to soak up this summer, and count my blessings, because I have a lot.

4. Practice gratitude, compassion, and kindness.

Toward myself, toward my neighbors, toward everyone: I'm going to continue to work on approaching conversations, situations, and people with less cynicism and more love.

5. Music!

There are so many great (usually free) opportunities to hear wonderful live music around here, and I'd like to make a habit of taking advantage of those opportunities. Plus, I've still got that banjo to learn :)

What are your intentions for this new season?

Jun 19, 2013

The "Take Something Out" Rule, Revisited

This post was originally published in 2008. I've made a few edits and additions to the original post.

We Americans really have a hard time not buying things, don't you think? Nothing in particular, just things. It's no wonder we don't feel that we can spend money on quality organic and local food, or on alternative energy, or clothing that is more expensive because someone actually made a livable wage to produce it. We're spending all of our money on little plastic things, more clothes than any one person needs, and items we'll only use a few times or we think we might need in the future. Most of us have chosen quantity over quality. If you don't believe me, take a look around your house, in your closets, in your kitchen drawers and cupboards, in your basement and garage. How much of your stuff do you actually use every day? What about the rest of it?

The result of this unintended accumulation is often more stuff than can fit into our living space. More stuff to clean and store. More stuff to maintain and replace. More stuff to clutter our lives. And for people like me, whose stress level increases dramatically in an overfilled room, more stuff to clutter our brains.

We've tried to break the buying/procuring habit in our household, but it is difficult. Frankly, we've grown up purchasing things we don't need, either because everyone has one or we are depressed and need a pick-me-up or we feel like it would make life better/easier or it is pretty or it is on sale. It's a lifelong habit for both of us, and probably for many of you too. This has resulted in the accumulation of stuff. So. much. stuff. We've now substantially reduced our stuff at least four times (meaning that we pretty much wasted the money we spent on the original purchase), and still have way too much. 

A few years back, to help in our war against our own excessive accumulating, we installed the "take something out" rule to curb our consumerism. It works like this: for every thing we bring into the house - whether from a big box chain or a garage sale - we must remove one item from the house. Even things like socks have to replace something (often other socks, with holes in them). Over the years, we have been both super strict and pretty lax about this rule. But when we feel either our spending or belongings are getting out of hand, this tool can be reinstalled in full force to help reign us in.

This simple rule has changed our purchasing habits completely. Sure, a shirt looks good on the rack, but then I have to get rid of one of my other shirts, and I like my other shirts. Decision made. We slip up plenty to be sure, but it has helped us take more consideration in our purchases and accumulations. We can finally leave a store without $50 of crap we don't need. We've taken our power back! You can too!

How do you curb your appetite for stuff?