Storage Wars

Thing about downsizing is that you don’t know how much you really have until you move into a smaller space. We’re onto week three after moving into our condo. Having nearly 1000 square feet less than before…it’s a bit chaotic still.

The kitchen is unpacked and nearly everything fits. I say “nearly” because ideally, I would like all small appliances to be tucked neatly away in some cupboard. Our clothes…wow we have a lot of clothes…are also all hung or folded away into the closet, dresser and storage bin depending on the season. I’ll attempt to coax Skywalker into doing a fourth purge of clothes with me. We’re trying not to turn the second bedroom/office into a storage dumping area either. Still figuring out the linens, but the extra blankets are stowed in under-the-bed boxes. There are all these boxes of miscellaneous knick knacks needing a home too…still not sure about those either.

And then there’s binders and textbooks. Sigh. Why could we not bring ourselves to just recycle these? Well I know why, it’s namely because we spent thousands of dollars getting these paper goods for our education and to chuck it away without getting a dime back is just so anti-Asian-frugal mentality! I know you’re asking why didn’t we sell it right after university…well that’s because bookstores were buying it back for less than 50% of what we paid (read: Bad Deal) and you just never know when you might need to look something up again. I know. Now it’s too late to sell the books back and we’ve found in the last 10 years we haven’t needed to look anything up. Sigh. (Younger readers take note: SELL YOUR TEXTBOOKS ASAP.)

It’s really not as bad as I was initially imagining our storage situation to be though. For that I’m thankful. I was thinking we’d need extensive (and expensive) custom floor-to-ceiling shelving built in our living room. And while some more shelving/cupboards will probably make its way into the condo, I think what we’ll really need to do is to decide whether there is space for something before we buy it. If we can’t envision where it’s going to go, or if we can’t decide on what to give/throw away in order to make room for it, then it’s not coming home with us.

It’s not actually war on storage….but war on consumerism and clutter. Hopefully we’ll win.
Do you have any storage/anti-clutter tips you live by?

There is enough

Recently an article came out that nearly 50% of food waste comes out of the average Canadian household. It translates into $27 BILLION worth of food. We buy too much and it ends up rotting in the fridge. We don’t know what to do with leftovers, so we chuck it out. (And this isn’t in the household, but I get angry when I see people at buffets leave plates full of food at the end of their meal. Or even just leaving unfinished plates at restaurants.) Our eyes are bigger than our stomachs and our minds so saturated with the idea that more is better, so we always have much more than we need. And it gets wasted.

“According to 2011 figures from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, nearly one-third of all food is lost or wasted, which amounts to about 1.3 billion tons of food per year.”

Meanwhile, about 860 million people in the world are malnourished.

It’s not right. And this is just the food aspect. How about our cosmetics and recreational costs? Or the luxury goods we try to collect in our homes as status symbols? Or even all the little gadgets that are supposed to make this life more convenient?

I’m convinced that this earth can produce enough so that every man, woman and child can have shelter of their heads and enough food & water to drink. That we can all live comfortably…without exploiting the earth…but we must give up living luxuriously.

I’m not saying we should all try to live at poverty lines in order to do this…or that we shouldn’t enjoy the fruits of our labour by treating ourselves now and then. But we need to see that a lot of what we have is LUXURY compared to the majority of the world. We cannot take it for granted and especially not see it as something to be entitled to. If everyone raised their standard of living to the luxuries of North American living, this Good Earth will be reduced to dust. (It’s just not sustainable to grow enough corn to feed enough cattle for everyone on the planet to have steak. Or to mine enough metal to make everyone a new car every two years. Or drill enough oil to fuel everything.) But if everyone who had plenty can share it, then we will ALL have enough. And no one will have to be in want. (We’d also have less of an obesity epidemic in the First World.)

Of course, the human condition as to why we don’t do this is a completely different can of worms. That’s for another post.

New Beginnings

There’s something exciting about starting life in a new city. In our case, it’s a city I’ve lived in for a couple years in the past…but a new city for Skywalker. Yes we’re both excited. And yes we’re both a little nervous. Nervous because it’s not as familiar as home. Nervous because we’ll need to rebuild a social community. I may have lived there and had my network, but this time we’re here as a couple. We have to build OUR network.

This past weekend was Moving Part 1…just to bring down some non-essentials. It’s an interesting exercise to see what we consider essential or nonessential. We have so much “stuff” here in North America. We accumulate things easily. There’s so much that is nonessential.

We’re also realizing that our two bedroom condo on the West Coast is definitely smaller than our two bedroom townhouse here in the Prairies. It’s a downsize. There is no storage locker. So we’re going to have to get really creative with storage solutions. It also means we need to purge even more nonessentials. Actually I’m glad we’re going through this because living simply is a huge feat in North America. We always want bigger/better/newer/more.

Living simply is like a burden lifted off and a breath of fresh air. We can enjoy what we have. And we have only have the things that we want. More essentials, less nonessentials.

We’re looking forward to it.
(Along with milder winters, great food, beautiful scenery, etc etc etc.)

The Green Thing

(As read on FB’s “Awake Aging” wall)

Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman, that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.

The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.”

The young clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”

She was right — our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day.

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were truely recycled.

But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags, that we reused for numerous things, most memorable besides household garbage bags, was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our schoolbooks. This was to ensure that public property, (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags.

But too bad we didn’t do the green thing back then.

We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.

But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throwaway kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

But that young lady is right; we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

But she’s right; we didn’t have the green thing back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint.

But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?

Please forward this on to another selfish old person who needs a lesson in conservation from a smartass young person.

We don’t like being old in the first place, so it doesn’t take much to piss us off.


Crazy Birthday Parties

I recently read this article “Extreme birthday parties: How much is too much?” and then I remembered a conversation I had with some moms about the cost of birthday parties for kids. You have to invite the whole class or your child might face bullying from classmates (and you might face bullying from parents). And then each party needs to be something fun and extravegant…rent out a pool, rent out a movie theatre, rent out a Build-a-Bear room, have bouncy castles, ponies and live entertainment, etc. The swag bag can’t just contain gummy candies and dollar store pencils…they need to have a Barbie doll or Transformers action figure each. These parents are TAKING OUT LOANS to give their kids the “party of the year”….every year.

I raise eye brows, I balk, I face palm. Wow. First I can’t believe parents feel so pressured to please the whims of other parental peers they don’t really know and probably don’t want to know….to the point of going into additional DEBT to be approved of or liked by them. Second, why are parents so pressured to please their child? Now he/she’ll associate “love” with how much money is spent on them. (Mind you I grew up where “You have clothes, good food, and your own room, of course we love you” was the norm.) Third, these kids end up further taking for granted the LUXURIES (truly luxuries and nothing “normal”) they’re surrounded by and expect life to just get better and fancier with age. Not to mention if you’re a kid/parent invited to one of these parties you feel like you need to get a big present for the kid (and maybe a thank you gift for the parents for hosting) as to not look like the cheap/poor one of the group. So if every kid in your child’s class invites him/her, you almost need to take out a second loan for all the gifts you need to buy them through the year as well. It just creates one massive expenditure (and stress case) that most parents can do without.

Makes me want to family plan so that all my children will be born outside the school year. Hey…that’s actually my case. August birthday…and I only remember having one birthday party with friends over….at age twelve. (No wonder my younger sister had so many more birthday party events…her birthday is during the school year!)

I confess I wish I had more birthday parties with friends growing up. We always celebrated with family. There was always cake and sometimes we went out to eat. Just not a party with friends. Skywalker grew up with more birthday parties. He’d invite his best buds from school and from church. There’d be a delicious homemade cake, games and good food. Simple….but it looks like everyone had a great time from the photos.

Skywalker and I talked about this…unlike my experience, we’d like our future kids to enjoy birthday parties with friends. Though not until they’re old enough to remember them…and not every year. We don’t want other parents to have a reason for stress. We hope we’ll be able to teach our kids to value relationships over gifts…and see that the $20 worth of of a present they might get from someone can do so much more for another child in a much less fortunate part of the world. We also hope to show that love isn’t demonstrated in how much money is spent on a person, but in knowing their friendship and acceptance is secure. We’re going to buck the trend. Try to.