Tag Archives: social issues

Old Habits

7 Apr

Last week I emptied my refrigerator. I’ve been needing to do this for weeks, months even. I had stuff in there from my mom’s visit in late October and other food that was gifted to me for Christmas. Yikes! One thing I’ve learned about myself is that I am forgetful especially if I don’t have a specific place to file stuff in my brain. If I didn’t personally buy it, need it and make meal plans for it I forget it’s even in there. Sad but that’s just how my brain works…I’m getting use to it.

A few posts ago I spoke about passion, preferences and habits. So there are a few I am adopting. Some for the planet, others for myself, and some I even practice or at least use to but not regularly enough for them to make a significant impact. Experts say it takes a certain amount of time to integrate new habits and that you should never try to integrate more than one at a time. But then again I could never keep my car clean until I had an accident, went through the entire buying process on my own and bought a new one. Now my car is always clean. My point is I don’t think it’s the multitasking that makes new habits not stick but rather that there isn’t a dramatic enough change in environment to jar the old habit loose and reinstate a new one. So out with the old in with the new:

#1. Give Away Food

When I go to Trader Joe’s and get a great deal on the biggest bag of tiny oranges that I couldn’t get through in 2 weeks if I tried I will hand them out to the homeless that I pass at traffic lights. I did this once when I had a bag that I couldn’t eat all by myself and thought it was a much better idea than giving away money. And everyone was super happy and grateful. There is also the quandary of “do I really want to get the rest of this to go when I know that tortilla is gonna be soggy and disgusting by morning?” I HATE leaving food on the plate at restaurants so I always get it to go but some stuff simply wont last even in a fridge…wet burritos are one example or anything starchy that is gonna have to sit next to something liquid. You get my drift. So I feel like this might be a good opportunity to give it to someone on my way home. Instead of asking for money I’ve been asked to buy stuff by people waiting outside a fast food place so I think this is similar. The food, although cold at that point, is still fresh and hopefully good quality and a decent portion since it came from a restaurant. I will have to figure out the utensils though. Plastic? :/ The dollar store sells 4 stainless steel forks for a dollar. I may get a pack or two just for this as a test. Same goes for stuff in my fridge that I know I just wont get around to. Better than it going to waste in a dump.

#2. Let the Toilet Flush Itself

Go with me here. You can skip to the next habit but if you can tolerate it I would say this is worth reading. So I had to pee in the middle of the night a while back but didn’t want to wake my roommate so I didn’t flush. I come back in the morning and it’s like it never happened. I thought to myself…hmm, that’s curious. I know most things don’t evaporate that quickly so I assumed it just made its way down the drain over time somehow. And then a strange thing happened. My toilet started to run. Most new toilets run every few hours on their own. That cycles a good amount of water through the system in addition to the water used for each flush (mine is 2.5 gallons/flush) and does in fact work exactly like a regular flush just with very little force. So I’ve been “not flushing” liquids for about a week now and it totally works! I still come back to an empty bowl every time (except for the paper). I have a couple friends who go by the rule “if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down” regularly. I think it’s worth a try just as an experiment if nothing else. If your toilet runs at random times give it a shot. Of course #2’s are treated as toxic waste and should be flushed. Now I will admit still always flushing on the rare occasion that my roommate is around. Even though we don’t share a bathroom I don’t want her to think I’m unclean. I may have a conversation soon with her explaining my findings.

#3. Stuff Exchange (for accumulation elimination)

A lot of people who practice voluntary simplicity shop by this rule: “buy one, give one away”. A friend of a friend is taking her daughter shopping for clothes this weekend because she gave away two bags of clothes to good will last week. Like I keep saying I don’t buy that much so I think my best and easiest way to integrate this is with food. I finish a box of cereal I can buy a package of pasta. Crude example but you get the picture. Even though I want to eat everything I buy sometimes my plans for consumption don’t quite line up with how long things last in the fridge and I end up wasting it because it went bad a few days after I opened the package. I am only one person so this means a lot of trips to the store and eating a lot of the same thing for a few days straight. I kinda already do this so…no change there. I just want to be more conscious of the timing of my purchases so that I don’t waste things simply because I couldn’t eat it fast enough. I also have a Macy’s gift card I want to make good use of so this is the perfect time for a closet cleanse.

#4. 15 Minute Daily Cleanup

When friends visit, when my mom’s in town or when it’s hot or cold enough that I want to let some air circulate by leaving the door open my room is immaculate. Otherwise there are clothes piles. And shoes piles. And luggage. I have a habit of not ever completely unpacking. If I’m going to live in a tiny house or downsize at all I’m going to have to consistently keep my room clean. I had a 15 minute daily cleanup routine that got away from me a while back so I’ll be reinstating that. The great thing is, if done daily it doesn’t take but a few minutes and the rest of the time I can organize, wash dishes, etc. And the main culprits are clothes so I think getting rid of the useless 2/3 of my wardrobe and moving the remainder of my clothes from one side, behind my desk chair and far from my bed closer to the door where I get dressed anyway will make me more likely to hang jackets and belts up immediately and anything else I can wear more than once instead of putting them on the back of the chair. Shoes are one issue though. Door/closet shoe hangers aren’t cute but they work. This may be a solution to look into. Overall, clean is sexy and I won’t have to stress about cleaning up for an impromptu houseguest so…I think this one will do me a lot of good.

#5. Inspirational & Educational Audio

Hot talk radio has been around forever; less political and way more edgy and comedic than regular talk radio but usually still hitting on the big news topics of the day. I’ve been listening to Heidi and Frank (Frosty, Heidi and Frank) for about 4 years now and I haven’t missed a show in well over 3 years. These days they’ve created their own network online where they broadcast live each day and they have on demand podcasting so I listen to old episodes all day and sometimes go to sleep with it on. I am a devout fan but I will admit it’s probably one of my worst habits. It’s not the listening that’s inherently bad but more the topics they talk about. Not only is it hard to get stuff done because I’m actually trying to actively listen but their topics aren’t always the most uplifting. They are self-deprecating, everything and everyone is a target for a joke and their events are pretty much a kegger combined with a live radio show. I love you HF but you are no good for me. I won’t stop listening entirely but for working hours it’s probably for the best. Technically, classical music is the way to go but sometimes I need a bit more substance especially if I’m doing mindless work. So I’ve started listening to TED Talks instead. Most are 10-20 minutes each and are educational and inspirational. They are equally as distracting especially because I’m learning something but I figure it’s helping to balance out whatever negative energy HF puts off. I also listen to the 4-Hour Workweek, The Secret, and interviews from Niurka or Michael Bernard Beckwith. As cheesy as The Secret is I am the most productive when I listen to it. I’ve heard all of these so many times they are no longer distracting but just background noise so I am still getting the benefit of the topics and the tracks are wordy enough to keep me interested.

So that’s it. A little bit of everything. I’ll report any interesting findings.

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A Tiny House Interlude

24 Mar

This is a life-sized tiny house. Kidding, it's actually about 8ft wide, 13.5ft tall and 16-18ft deep, depending on the model. This is Jay Shafer at his tiny home. He is one of the main faces of the tiny house movement and has lived in tiny homes for the last 13+ years(?).

Ahhh! It’s 1:30am and I have to be up in 6 hours to attend an all day yacht racing seminar (yes!) and I am still up obsessing about tiny houses. I just can’t seem to stop myself.

I’ve been reading about Jonathan’s tiny house build over the last week. He did a wonderful job with an alternative layout to the Fencl, one of Jay Shafer’s designs: split kitchen with bathroom in the back (hitched end), definitely something to consider, and took LOTS of pictures which I appreciate. What to do…What not to do…I didn’t even know I had to do that! The list goes on. And he has a cute dog, Barney. I’ve actually read almost every single post from mid 2009 through late 2011, still a few posts to go.

He was having an issue with coding in a county where he wanted to buy land (huge bummer) and then somehow I got linked to Macy’s blog. She wrote a reaction post to his land situation and the tiny house community’s issue in general of where to set up shop (or a ‘homestead’ I suppose is a more appropriate term). So then I got turned on to her blog and she is in the midst of her own build. Yet another wonderful tiny house project that I can stay up all night reading from the beginning. Like a good tv series…you have to go to the beginning for full effect. Anyway, I am just really inspired to become a part of such a supportive and growing community and have added a place for my fellow tinyhouser’s (term I borrowed from Macy’s site – hope you don’t mind Macy, “tiny house builders/owners” is a bit wordy) links. She has a great page about WHY living in a tiny house is so attractive to her but I think those reasons go for a number of people who choose this lifestyle. Either way it’s a good read.

I also got linked to the Think Big, Build Small: A Tiny House Community on Facebook through Jonathan’s blog. Cool little spot where I asked a question about nails vs screws for framing and finishing…I’m anxiously awaiting opinions and advice.

Anyway, guess I should get some sleep. I’ve noticed my heart gets a lot softer when I talk about tiny homes. Not the way I am writing about…well…everything else.

-Half-price

What things will become…

21 Mar

This blog has been turned completely upside down…but it has not turned into something it isn’t…which for a while I thought it had.

My intentions at the beginning of all of this were the following:

• How to get as much as possible for as little as possible.
• How to have a certain level of (consumer) “quality” of life for less.
• Getting by without all the expensive luxuries but feeling like you have everything.
…and a little ranting and raving about the consumer system in general.

I’ve never been one for buying lots of stuff and have still noticed a dramatic change. Somehow in the last 6 months it has become:

• Inviting my lifestyle (and all my stuff) to reflect my values and beliefs truly.
• Taking action that adds value to your life and the lives of others.
• Living fully without all the stuff that society or capitalism says you must have to be happy.
…and still a bit of ranting and raving about everything that is wrong not quite right and what I/we might be able to do about it.

I will admit that I’m relieved. I thought I’d lost it for a second but really I was just finding myself.

-Half-price

Identity Crisis

16 Mar

My father was in town for business about four weeks ago. We talked about everything from politics to religion, philosophy to web applications (like father like daughter)…and of course money and work. I came to a point in the career portion of the conversation where I basically expressed that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life working for a company whose values were not congruent with my own; that I didn’t want to waste my time, look back in 30 years and regret it.

Now I don’t really believe in regret. Everything I’ve done including my major, MAJOR mistakes make me who I am in this exact moment and that person is a pretty cool, good hearted person with a lot to offer…and my feeling is that his sentiment is the same. So it surprised me to hear him say that he spent the last 30 years working as a programmer, mostly for large corporations, who made it their job to screw the little guy. I’ve always known what my father did but I never thought about how those programs effected the masses. For many years his company’s main client was a major corporation and somehow, even though everyone in my family is a customer of this Goliath and know how ridiculous and lame they are I never made the connection. Ignorance is bliss and I suppose my parents did a good job at sheltering me from some things.

Anyway it seems like a simple thing but in the moment, hearing his exact words and the look on his face…kind of broke my heart. It’s like superman saying that every time he saves one person, there are 2 more people that died. Well maybe not exactly like that but my dad is my hero. Most brilliant guy I know. To hear him say that hurt a lot and has made my last 4 weeks enlightening…and painful.

So. What’s it mean to me? Of course by the end of the conversation he simply said, “Find what you will do for free, then find someone who will pay you for it”. That’s always been his work advice but this time it hit me differently. So I did a little self-reflection and sent in a few applications for 3d design jobs by the end of the week. I, of course, do not have an architectural design degree but I do make a mean custom green home in SketchUp. Actually, I would say I’m better at that than most things I’ve done…and they actually pay people to use that program specifically. My portfolio was enough for an interview however I emailed yesterday and the position has since been filled. I started with architectural design firms, then to green home design, to solar energy and after that its been a brain scrambling spiral into…all of these issues that I didn’t realize I cared so much about.

Super-consumer culture
Fossil fuel peeks/renewable energy
Super-cheap super-sized food/food monopolies/buying local
Homelessness/mortgage crisis/bigger-living-is-better-living obsession

…There are a lot of things I care about and a couple non-profits I wanted to start eventually but those seemed way in the future and required a lot of resources to get done. And knowing me I probably made it more complicated than it needed to be. However these four issues not only are so immediately crucial but also they are things I can do my part to change right now. Habits I can incorporate today.

*sigh* Let me get off my soap box for a second and be real. This is NOT what this blog was supposed to be about. It was SUPPOSED to be about how to live a decent quality of life without killing our pocketbooks. And it has caused me to do so much reflection, on myself, my values and lifestyle which I see now are two totally different things and on the world around me. What is the cost of cheap goods? Where are those goods made and who made them? And I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t even know if this blog is valid anymore. The “Price” of this blog seems to refer less to the ticket price of something and more to the long term affects of those same products on the economy, the environment, and international relations (based on the fact that we are practically owned by China and half of the Middle East depending on your point of view).

A lot of people donate money to youth programs in the inner-city when the smog from our cars, city landfills and rabid product supply chain causes them cancer. Does that make any sense to you?

I am by no means more of a help than a hindrance. I’ve been educating myself and changing habits slowly but I am no saint when it comes to these issues or when it comes to anything. It’s hard. But now that I know that I know – because I did know…I guess I just didn’t care or didn’t think about it – I can’t stop thinking about it.

So what am I doing about it:

#1. I am inviting an increase of income in my life (I estimate I will have applied to 100+ jobs and temporary projects in the month of March alone in case you thought I was only “inviting” and not taking action). Need is no longer an applicable word really. There are people who do with so much less. But let’s get real, everything costs something: time, energy, money, or favors, and knowing that you can keep a roof over your head and food in your stomach makes room for everything else that is important to you. In my case:

#2. Shopping for the food that I want, buying local and juicing more. I believe the FDA certified organic is overrated. My family owns a farm and the land nor the animals have been touched by anything unnatural for 4 generations. Can’t get more organic than that. FDA regulations make it hard on farmers and ‘local’ often means organic in a purer sense. If you aren’t sure shopping at the Farmer’s Market will always give you an opportunity to ask.

#3. Consuming less. I’m already what I would consider a ‘low-consumer’. Outside of food I typically only buy things when what I’ve got is worn out or when I need supplies/business attire for work. I’ve never been a big shopper, prefer making gifts for family and friends and don’t have many possessions I truly care about outside of my laptop. My three big products this year thus far have been a juicer from my parents for a late Christmas gift (mine was in the $80 range and works great), a replacement phone when mine was stolen and a pair of wrinkle free sheets…they feel amazing.

#4. Gasoline alternatives…I admit that I have a gas card from one of the Seven Sisters. It does not make me happy. I thought that Diesel was the devil up until I watched a few documentaries and learned that Rudolf Diesel’s original design ran on corn oil alone. Huh? Standard Oil, who I was already familiar with, bought that patent and started marketing it as strictly a petrol engine, a fact whoever taught me conveniently left out. So now I’m considering dumping my car or altering it to a gas engine (runs on fumes only, can go for 100+ miles per gallon), diesel engine or solar electric system. This is pricey, time consuming and requires a ton of research before making a decision so I have a couple years to work on that one…

#5. Down-sizing. I’ve been obsessed with Container Homes (recycling 40 x 8 ft. shipping containers as building structures) and Tiny Homes (any house smaller than 800 sq.ft.) for a few years now. Since home design is a hobby, I already have a lot of construction experience and own a decent amount of the required tools I’ve decided I want to build a tiny home. I like living small. It’s a fun challenge, is inexpensive and my entire life thus far has always fit into about a 13 x 13 ft. space anyway. So why not dump the roommate, the landlord, and the utility companies? I want to own a home. I’d like to design and build that home myself. And with almost no space to build in LA this provides so many more options. If I build it myself I’m looking at about $20k just for the structure and basic amenities. I’ve got a few ways around this (sponsorship, recycled lumber, fundraising) which I think will cut my costs in half. The rest…well that is 1 year’s rent in a 1 bedroom apartment. Not too shabby for something that could last a couple decades.

All this will enable me to save a lot of money and use it to travel, see family more, have more barbecues with my friends and sail much more often. And all that sounds pretty good to me.

So that’s what I’ve been up to. I started so many posts in the last several weeks; going on and on about my job search, oscillating between points of view on certain issues, trying to come up with topics that were applicable to my original topic without getting to preachy and complaining about the ongoing poor communication skills of a couple of my clients as well as myself (I just got my NLP Practitioner certification so I have no excuse). But all that stuff’s not really what makes the world go ’round ya know? I think this time I actually got out what I needed to say and it feels good.

-Half-price