We almost made a critical error. I admit this only because the comedic value in our near miss is pure genius. To make a short story long, let me provide some background information. Almost 6 years ago, we purchased a fixer upper that had solid bones and a brand new central HVAC unit, but little else. The previous owners did some “updating,” but literally every. single. thing. they had done to spruce up the home has needed to be undone, simply because it was either done with low-quality parts, shoddy craftsmanship (if you could call it that without insulting real craftsmen) or, generally, a mixture of both. Read more
Archive for Uncategorized
Well it’s hard to believe that we’ve made it three consecutive months with a New Year’s Resolution. Personally, this is the first time in my life I can remember that I’ve come this far with any resolution, let alone one that has had partnership with willing (and not so willing) participants. Lessons we have learned so far this year:
We finally got that snowfall we’ve been waiting for! The snowfall was about two to three inches, and the boys were just itching to get out there and play in it. Unfortunately, the snow was just too powdery for building snowmen or having a snowball fight. But, it was perfect for making snow angels and for sledding. So, this weekend, our free activity with the boys was just that — hitting the slope!
This past Friday, I had to make a trip to Costco for some cost-effective food in bulk. I was making my way through the cavernous warehouse and my shopping list when I got to the wall of “tissues” on my list. I stood there for quite some time crunching numbers between the Costco brand and Kleenex brand tissues, trying to justify spending the extra couple of dollars on the facial tissue with lotion. Mmmmmmm . . . those are my favorite, so soft and so nice on my nose. You see, I have what my husband calls a tissue “problem.” It really is just that I have genetically bad sinus plumbing and/or allergies that cause me to sneeze and have a runny nose. And so, I blow my nose upon waking and usually a good three or four times after that in the mornings at least every day. I’ve done this as long as I can remember, and so, I’ve developed a tissue habit you could say, and I prefer the moisturizing ones. I also have two little boys who have perpetually runny noses, either due to the snotty genes they’ve inherited from their mother, or because they are constantly subjected to rampant germs out in public places.
After standing in front of the wall-o-tissues for about, oh, five or ten minutes, I suddenly had to ask myself, “Am I even allowed to buy facial tissues under our new No Buy New resolution?” They are not food. They are obviously not utilities, or vehicle/home maintenance, or business supplies. They are not from Santa (yet). So, I come to the determination that they could fall under the “personal hygiene” exception. But, I had to actually ask myself, “Are they really necessary?” Before boxed tissues, all of our ancestors got by just fine on cloth hankies, reusing clothes that were worn and stained, or buying pretty, embroidered, dainty ones in the department stores. I do have some cloth hankies, some handed down to me, a few pretty ones I bought at a garage sale, and a few I made myself out of old dress shirts. I have used them on and off through wavering periods of environment-related guilt. It has admittedly been awhile though. And, as I weighed the pros and cons to using cloth hankies, I came to the conclusion that there were two very good reasons for using cloth and only one real con against it. First, and foremost, paper tissues cost money that I don’t need to spend, and two, they are wasteful and end up in landfills or floating around in the ocean. The Green Yours website has some pretty staggering statistics regarding our purchase of paper products: “Americans consumed a staggering 654 pounds of paper and paperboard goods each in 2005. Fifty-five pounds of that total was tissue products, such as toilet and facial tissue, paper toweling, and napkins. The paper industry consumes 35 percent of all harvested trees every year, accounting for the felling of nearly 4 billion individual trees yearly.” The only saddening con is that cloth is just not as soft as the tissues with lotions. But, is that worth the environmental (not to mention financial) impact?
So, I ultimately did not put the giant block of tissue into my cart. I will pull out those cloth hankies and use them. Some of them are so beautiful I almost don’t want to blow my nose into them, but doesn’t my nose deserve something beautiful and dainty and vintage and with a history? In the extreme cases of very bad colds and sickness, of course, I will reconsider making an exception to this purchase, especially for my little ones. But this was a good lesson in stepping back and asking myself whether this item we just consider a necessity is really, really necessary. I am sure that there will be many more moments like this in the grocery stores in the coming year. So far, this resolution is an eye-opening experience, and it’s keeping me honest!
Welcome to the future! 2013 is upon us, and what would a new year be without some crazy, far-flung resolution that is sure to drive you insane by the 5th of January? Here at Thrift & Thrive, we figured we could find a way to make a resolution that was all at once a way to make us better people and drive a deeper commitment to the overall mission of our business…and thus it was born: We resolve to purchase nothing new for an entire calendar year.
So you may ask yourself, “yeah, what about food and stuff?” to which we answer, “OK, wiseguy…there will be a few exceptions.” Better to get those exceptions listed out of the gate, so here they are (and we hope we covered everything, or else it’s going to get real interesting):
1. Food/Seed/Plants: While dumpster diving behind Whole Foods sounds appealing…we are not quite there yet. In addition, seeds will be bartered or purchased thru seed exchanges, and plants will be bartered and purchased at Farmer’s Markets.
2. Utilities: Electric, Water, Trash Removal. Heck…I’ll even throw Public Transit in here. ‘Nuff said.
3. Personal Hygiene: No used tampons for us, thank you very much.
4. Vehicle/Home repair and maintenance: Some things just cannot be found used, though we will do our best to purchase leftover or reconditioned supplies to work on our 7 year old vehicles and our 100 year old house.
5. Santa Claus: He comes but once a year to bring our children each ONE toy. Considering we are not Santa Claus, this shouldn’t be a problem, right? Any gifts bought by us for Christmas, birthdays, etc. will be second-hand. Sorry, Mom.
6. School Supplies: While most of this should be relatively easy to find in secondhand shops or garage sales, Chicago Public Schools can get pretty picky…right down to the exact brand of pencil sharpener you need to send your child in with.
7. Travel/Outings: Money will be spent on food, transportation and lodging, but it will be done on the CHEAP and there will be no superfluous purchases like souvenirs, new tents for camping or beach towels for the lake. All of that can be borrowed, found in our closets or purchased used fairly simply.
8. Medical/Veterinarian: If we need stitches for our boys or vaccines for our cats, chances are they will be new.
9. Business Supplies: So, YES! This resolution of ours does include what we purchase on behalf of Thrift & Thrive. However, while we already purchase 90% of what we use secondhand, there are some supplies (reams of paper for fliers or pricing labels) that typically cannot be found used…but again, we will try.
Allow me to reinforce this: while there are exceptions to the rule, we commit to going above and beyond to barter, borrow, scour thrift stores/garage sales/craigslist before we purchase even these discretionary items new. Also, every single acquisition of ours (with the exception of detailed grocery lists) will be published on this blog, so there will be complete disclosure in what/how we acquire items all year long. We are also doing our best to find a way to keep a public running tally of the cost of purchasing used vs. new so that you will be able to see the financial impact of our commitment in real time!
A few sidebars:
First: We are not the first people to commit to this lifestyle, and we know this. As a matter of fact, while we came up with the idea independently, a quick Google search turned up dozens of listings with a wealth of information that inspired us to make this half-boiled, late-night idea into a reality. Check out The Compact, a collective of friends in San Francisco that started doing this waaaay back in 2006. They also inspired Kate Wolk-Stanley, who has been doing this for FIVE! years now and blogs about it on the Non-Consumer Advocate.
Second: We are privileged to be able to make this decision for ourselves. While this certainly is a choice for us, in most of the world, it is not, and therefore not something that anyone would find challenging or admirable. That being said, we are not looking for praise; we are hoping to further an ongoing movement to get people in our community to rise up and think about ways they can simplify their own lives. However, considering that we no longer have our day jobs in corporate America, and our family of 4 survives completely off of a 1,200 sq. ft resale shop, it isn’t too far off from being imperative.
Third: We’re not the most materialistic people in the world, so this is probably not a huge stretch. It’s been a long time since we’ve gone out and done retail therapy above and beyond $20 at someone else’s thrift store or yard sale. Also, most of our Christmas presents this year were already second-hand items. As well, we drive used cars and for years have furnished much of our house from they alley. There. I said it.
What do we need from you? Well, I’m glad you asked. Comments, suggestions, feedback, encouragement, motivation, and keep us honest. It’s bound to be a fun ride, and while right now we’re reeling off of the excitement and it already feels like we’ve got this “in the bag,” I’m sure there are going to be a few hair-pulling moments of fury and agony when that ONE THING we need cannot be found. Remember as well that we have 2 small boys, 7 and 2 years old, that may have a hard time understanding this commitment from time to time. So stick around…we hope you enjoy this blog and our resolution, and hope it inspires you to find things that you can simplify in your own life.
Now who’s got a beard trimmer I can borrow?