Monday, July 4, 2011

Semi-Related Post

My dad just sent me, and the rest of my family, a story via email entitled Juggling and Ponds.  He had a couple points to make, but one of them was that he can't do everything at once, or as I read it, I can't have everything at once.

I look forward to summer in Edmonton all year.  I love being outside in short sleeves and enjoy the sunlight 16 hours a day or more.  There is also a sense of excitement in the air, as people come out of their homes and enjoy each other and the weather.

However, with all of these exciting things, one thing I do not like is re-signing our lease.  There are many things that I like about our place and in a lot of ways it has become our home.  However, there is something about it that I'm just not fully content with and I think I know exactly why.  I want a home, a place to really settle, a yard to call my own.  I also find myself daydreaming of a having a dishwasher and washer and dryer.

The trouble is, Edmonton's housing/rental market is ridiculously high and it just doesn't fit into our current budget.  Ian and I, however, inevitably find ourselves looking on rental sites, talking with people etc... to see if there are any better deals out there that have exactly what we want for exactly the price we want it for.  But, we have come to learn it most likely is not going to happen.  

This almost frantic searching for the "perfect" place is so fruitless and always leaves Ian and me a bit depressed.

So, when I read my dad's story I was again reminded that I can't have everything at once.  We can't have our "dream" place while Ian is working on his PhD to pursue his passion to teach, while at the same time I enjoy being a mom and staying home part-time with Ruth.  It will just have to wait. And in the meantime I'll just have to count my many blessings.

How's it going?

In one quick sentence, "Things are well."

Summer is here, green is everywhere... what more could one ask for?

Oh, sorry you meant how is my year-without-new going?  Yes, that is going well in the fact that I haven't bought anything new (except I did buy a little soccer ball for Ruth, after not finding one at the second hand kid's shop).  However, I am having the itch to buy new and buy a lot!

Every so often, although I'm not a big spender and quite frugal, I have the desire to buy a new wardrobe, buy new furniture and buy whatever my heart desires.  It doesn't happen too often or seem to last very long, normally just long enough for me to occupy myself with something else, hopefully a bit more important.  However, I must confess it does happen.  You might not guess that I care about these things, since I am certainly not the most stylish of my friends (although I would rate myself moderately stylish) and I have socks and clothes that I got in high school (that I still wear).  Our apartment is also filled with mainly used stuff or give-a-ways and is modestly decorated (mostly due to our move).  

To some this may be very normal and you might be thinking "big deal", while others may be thinking "you definitely need to update some of those things."  So, why am I mostly content, while at other times feel the desire to revamp, redo and redress?  Well, I guess it's because I am human and not always do I feel content.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, we had two weddings to go to this summer and I really wanted to have something new and exciting to wear.  However, I quickly remembered new was not an option for me and I would have to find something out of my closet or take the time to search a used store.  I didn't have the time to look at any used places, so I looked in my closet.  I had a couple of dresses that would do, but to tell you the truth, I wasn't too excited about any of the choices.  However, I went with one dress I had bought in college and another I bought just last year.  And as you've probably already guessed, Ian and I had a wonderful time at the two weddings and I didn't think about my outfit once while we were out.  I even had several people complement my decor. 

Refraining from the urge to buy what I don't really need is not always what I really want to do, but often it is the best idea and the most rewarding in the long-run. 

More to come...more for me to learn.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I know, I know

I know, I know.  I said I would post every week, but do you know how hard that really is?  Good writing takes a lot of time and a lot of work.  I put both into what I post and I still find mistakes when I go back and read old posts.  (I guess that is why professional writers pay people to edit their stuff.)

I just started a new job and it has taken a lot of my extra thinking space.  My time has been limited because of going back to work, but also my motivation to put energy into writing a worthy post just hasn't been there.  However, I will assure you my friends that almost daily I think about my commitment and I have been doing well with it.

Here is a short blurb about the last several weeks.

As mentioned above, I started a new job and as always I realized I had very few work clothes.  (Unfortunately in my new position I am not supposed to wear scrubs...bummer.)  So I headed to our local Goodwill and found a great selection.  My daughter was with me, which made shopping a bit hard, but I ended up with 2 new pairs of pants, 1 new short-sleeved sweater and a jacket.  I enjoyed my experience and almost found it easier to find what I was looking for than in a regular store or mall.  I also found it very interesting to look around and see who was there.

I saw a wide variety of people shopping, judging by their appearance.  There were people who appeared to be in dire need of new clothes and others who appeared just to be searching for good deals.  I saw old clunkers in the parking lot and new-looking, expensive cars.  Some of the clothes on the rack were quite raged and some were pricey name brands.  It was like separate worlds were colliding and the basic need (or want) of clothes or goods was what was bringing them together.  (At least that was the nice way I chose to look at it.)

Although everything I have posted thus far has been positive, I have had struggles.  The biggest one right now is deciding what to buy for two weddings coming up.  I go back and forth trying to decide if I should take my commitment into this area.  I originally thought I would use my creativity to come up with something that would fit into my area of allowed buying.  However, the more I think about it the more I wonder if this is the right thing to do.  I spent some time the other night researching different options, but they all seemed a bit lame.  Marriage is something to be celebrated and giving someone a gift is a way to honor them and celebrate along side them.   I know a "home-made" gift is often more special than one bought at a store, but it just doesn't seem to be working here.
One of my friends has asked for camping gear.  So, although I have decided to chip in for a purchased gift, I am excited about the gift in general.  Ian and I love to camp and have had some really great memories doing so in our last 7 years of marriage.  I always think that healthy marriages include ones where the couple enjoy doing things together and experiencing adventure together along the way.  In my opinion, what better way to do that than camping?!

So, although I guess I am technically cheating, I am realizing that I am excited about giving this gift.  I'm not doing it out of my normal feeling of obligation, but out of celebration.  I guess deciding to buy used is changing me and for that I am thankful.

Now, what to do for wedding number two?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Ian's Birthday

My husband's 30th birthday was just this past Friday and we had a great time celebrating.  However, I realized quickly after thinking of what I could get him for his birthday, that whatever I bought him would also have to come under the category of used. 

Now most of the time it is not quite acceptable to give someone a used gift.  I have always kept the tag attached to the gifts I've given (with the pricetag removed), so that if there was ever a doubt as to if the item was used, it would quickly be dispelled.  So buying a used gift, even for my husband seemed a bit odd.  I also didn't have much time, so I was a bit nervous that I would end up just buying him junk in place of a real gift.  However, after thinking of the possibilities of what I might find, I got excited and headed with Ruth to the local thrift shop.

While we were driving to the shop I thought how it might be nice if I found a nice mug for Ian.  He really likes coffee and we have only a few mugs, after selling most of ours prior to our move.  I also thought, "wouldn't it be great if they had some sort of dad themed mug that Ruth could give him?" Although I knew that at second hand shops it is normally luck of the draw what you end up with, I still had hope.

As fate would have it,  they did have a mug and wouldn't you know it was perfect!  The mug was white with colorful lettering that said "world's greatest dad!"  I picked it up right away and was really excited to see that it was only 50 cents!  I do have to say, it was a bit odd picking up a mug that had originally been bought for another dad.  However, it really is true, Ian is a wonderful dad! 

Next, I looked at the sport coats.  Ian has one that he wears quite frequently at school and has mentioned it would be nice to have a few more.  There were some nice looking ones, however they were all X-L and certainly would not do.  So, I kept looking around.

I soon came to the game isle and found two things that I thought would be great for Ian.  One was an old Monopoly game.  The box was a bit haggard, to say the least, but all of the pieces were there and it would still provide a fun night with friends or just the two of us.  Then I found a plastic zip-lock bag which held 3 wooden peg games, along with the pegs and a pair of dice.  Looking at this zip-lock bag I smiled thinking of Ian playing these games, trying to become the master of these simple, yet difficult to conquer games.  One of them, which was shaped like a triangle and reminded me the most of the ones you see at Cracker Barrel, was called Bible I.Q. game and each peg had a bible verse written underneath it.  I thought "what a great gadget for an Old Testament professor's desk!"

I also picked up a bundle of colored pencils, held together by by a rubber band, that were in quite good condition.  They would be a necessary tool to make Ian's birthday card, since neither could I buy him a card, nor did I have any of my old art supplies (also sold in our move).

I headed to the counter happy with what I had found and sure Ian would enjoy the gifts.  The cashier was busy with a lady looking at watches, so I looked around from the counter.  Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a silver pot on a metal frame.  I knew right off the bat it was a fondue pot, something I was sure Ian would love.  I walked over to have a better look and was surprised to note that it was also in very good shape.  So, without hesitating, I picked it up and added it to my pile.

When everything had been rung up, the lady said "$7.10 is your total."  I liked that, but also liked what I had gotten.  For me, it was the best of both worlds.

When I got home, I wrapped Ian's gifts with birthday wrapping paper I had at the house and put some in used gift bags left over from Ruth's baby showers.  Some of the tissue paper I found was pink, and the two bags I found were green and yellow.  I even found yellow ribbon, which added a nice touch.

Ian and I ended up having a great time on his birthday and I think he enjoyed opening his gifts, which were probably more than he had received on his birthday in a long time.  Our friends watched Ruth and we had a nice dinner out.  Then we came back and enjoyed a very delicious chocolate fondue with bananas and strawberries.

I'd have to say, buying used for my husband's birthday was a success.  Now I just have to see how I am going to swing it for two upcoming baby showers and two weddings.  :)

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Why I decided to buy used for a year

I have been asking myself a lot of questions lately regarding why I decided to take on this challenge.  However, after thinking and writing some about these questions, I realized that I should first let you know what influenced me to buy used for a year.  

Here is a brief synopses of how I came to make this decision.

About a month or two ago, our church held a meeting with the group called ACT Alberta (Action Coalition on human Trafficking in Alberta).  It was a very informative meeting, although it was not the first time I had heard about human trafficking and the huge, largely unknown, problem that it is.  As most people do, I came away from the evening, wondering where my part was in helping to stop this atrocity.  And, while the majority of human trafficking is sexual trafficking, part of it is labor trafficking, something I might very well be contributing to.

That same evening, I was talking to a friend about how difficult it is to buy responsibly, as in fair trade, locally, etc... or just knowing exactly where and how the product was made.  There are several reasons why I find this hard, but the biggest reason is, these products don't normally fit into my "thrifty mindset," since they are normally a bit more expensive.  I understand why they are more expensive and I can respect that, however, like most people, I want and have come to expect cheap goods.
My friend's response to this, was that she has decided to buy all of her clothing used.  Although she is not promoting companies that use ethical practices for the labor and distribution of their products, she is not contributing to practices of unethical companies either.  I liked her reasoning and figured this was something I could commit to.

A few weeks later, my mom came for a visit and brought with her some magazines she had bought at the library.  They were the library's old magazines and only cost her 10 cents each!  My kind of deal and resourceful.  Any how, I came across a great article that got me really excited.  It was published in the Sept. 2009 issue of Good Housekeeping and is called Our Year without Shopping.  It is about a family who decides to "...embark on an experiment:  For 12 months we'd refuse to give in to these perpetual wants and purchase only edibles or depletables (things we used up, such as shampoo or gasoline)."  This family decided to go almost completely purchaseless, as opposed to my decision to buy used.  However, the seeds were being planted and I was getting excited about the possibility of trying it myself. 
(Here is the article if you would like to read it)

Along with these two very influential experiences, there were many other conversations, interactions, and readings that led me to finally decide I was going to bite the bullet.

Therefore, I decided to include the links to two blog posts that were influential in my deciding to buy used for a year.  They are well written and certainly worth the read.  --- posts Ash Wednesday and A Stirring  --- posts Living Simply? and More on Living Simply

So there you have it.  A look into what prompted me to buy used for a year.

More to come.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Start to my "New Beginnings"

As you may have already seen on facebook, I recently posted that I have been thinking about not purchasing anything new for an entire year.  I got a great response from people encouraging me to take on this challenge.  Someone also suggested that I blog about my experience and others agreed.  So, here it is.  New Beginnings with Old stuff, a blog about my experience of going the year without "new".

For some basic rules, this is how I intend to live out my commitment for the next year.

As of today, March 30, 2011, I, Sally will try not to buy anything new for one whole calendar year.  The purchases that I make have to be used.  So, I will probably spend more time this year at Goodwill,  at yard sales, or on used-stuff websites.  On the flip side of buying used, I hope to make more use of the things that I already have and decrease buying all together.  Excluded from the "new" list are any items that will be used up or consumed, such as gas, food, oil for the car, toilet paper, shampoo etc...  I have also decided that I may purchase a service needed, such as, car repairs, a babysitter, etc...  Although, I will try to make wise and resourceful decisions when buying anything this year, and hopefully always.

* I want to point out that I used the word try in the above paragraph, since I realize life is not always predictable.  There may come a time when emergency calls for me to purchase something new for the safety of myself, my family, or someone else.  I don't think it would be wise to refrain from such a purchase, just to save my pride.  If something does need to be purchased that is new, I will be sure and post my purchase here.  I am sure there are things that I have not thought of, but I guess that is where the challenge lies!  

I will try to post every week about my progress, what thoughts I am having, and maybe something random here and there.  Feel free to post any comments (although I will monitor the comments and will not post any inappropriate ones).  I do want to hear from you, even if you disagree with me.  

If you'd like to join me in this adventure, you are certainly more than welcome to do so.  However, if you would just like to read of my journey, here is the place where you can do just that.

Wish me luck.  Here's to New Beginnings with Old Stuff.