Simple living through going cold turkey!

I’m fascinated about how different paths lead people to live more simply. Recently a friend shared a link to the Market Watch interview of Canadian blogger Cait Flanders, who went on a two-year shopping ban.

As longtime readers may recall, I participated in a month-long “no spending challenge” with a friend. Like Flanders and the majority of her co-participants, the friend who initiated the challenge wanted to change her habit of unconscious consumption. Continue reading

Dealing with the Budgetary Crisis

No, not Congress. La crisis presupuestaria de la Casa de Tontería. To non-Spanish speakers: Need mo’ money in da House o’ Nonsense, eh? (I added the last word so Canadian and Yooper readers would understand.)

Last week, I got one bid (and another pending) to replace the driveway and the walk. The previous neighbors had trees growing right at the edge of the drive, which heaved the concrete. The husband was reluctant to cut them down until I pointed out that they would undermine his own house’s foundation.

Since they left and the bank sold the house, the decaying roots caused the cement to tip sideways, creating a dam where the downspouts pour out.  The summer has been very dry, but marked by torrential storms that made a shallow pool between our houses. Not only was the tar-like sealant washing away, but air bubbled up when even a child on a bike crossed the drive.

The walkway problem is typical for the builder, known affectionately as Jerkface MacGuyver.  Because the backfill around the foundation wasn’t properly tamped, the soil has compacted and the concrete tipped. Now the sidewalk leading to the front step tilts toward the house. As with the driveway, it pours water toward the foundation.

I had money set aside for the Garage Plan (a three-year project so well-thought out and  thus far so well-executed, government project planners would weep over their relative incompetence. Not that I’m bragging. I’m merely stating the facts with a sneer.).  Since I envisioned a new driveway leading to the garage, I felt comfortable using funds for this masonry project. I still have time to add to the Garage Fund.

Or so I thought. Continue reading

Review: Video about Tiny Homes

“The studio changed my life. It made me realize that I didn’t want to waste money on stuff — I had no place to put it — and that I didn’t want to spend my life putting stuff away, cleaning and working to pay off stuff.” – Felice Cohen, author of 90 Lessons for Living Large in 90 Square Feet (. . . or More)

Here is the 5-minute story of Cohen’s micro-apartment that went viral. It’s a small part of Kirsten Dirksen’s documentary We the Tiny House People: Small Homes, Tiny Flats & Wee Shelters.

I recommend this documentary for anyone interested in how simple living and the small-home movement continues to take shape through the United States. I appreciate that producer Dirksen didn’t focus on one region, but ventured to different areas – even offering a look at a French “cave home” and Spanish construction.

The reasons for living small varied, but most related to involuntary simplicity. Out-of-reach prices drive the movement and building restrictions threaten it. However, it struck me that New Yorkers had the clearest philosophy of tiny homes: living in micro-space is the trade-off for other lifestyle aspects. I laughed to hear that Manhattanites normally store their laundry in the ovenContinue reading

Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Kondo, Marie. Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, The: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Trans. Cathy Hirano. Berkley: Ten Speed, 2011. Print.

Summary: A cheery little book that walks the reader through culling one’s belongings

Now that I’ve had a chance to “do the book” aka the KonMari Method, I can review it. It’s quirky, written like a conversation sprinkled with anecdotes. I enjoyed it, particularly Kondo’s folding method, which helped me organize La Casa de Tontería’s  linen closet of doom. (However, she did a poor job of explaining it. See related link below.)

I’ve read many books on organization (not to mention having time-management seminars and work-efficiency training – oh, the corporate world!)  Yet I still found interesting variations on the theme.

Sort By Category

Forget moving clockwise through a room or tackling one space in a weekend. Kondo calls for dealing with one category at a time, starting with clothes and ending with sentimental items.

Reading this, I felt nostalgic for the days of spring-cleaning my bedroom, where everything but my bicycle “lived” with me. I used to empty my closet and dresser onto the bed, try everything on, and ta-da! only the best were kept.

Kids will love this, and her Rule of Thumb regarding papers: Throw them out!

However, adults have to hunt for like items all over, including storage areas for off-season clothes. Kondo is tough about getting  everything from the category.

“You can forget about any clothes you find after this. They’ll automatically go into the discard pile.” I let them (my clients) know I’m quite serious. I have no attention of letting them keep anything found after the sorting is done.

Yikes! Long-time readers will understand how I felt when I decided to use the KonMari Method on books.

Everybody Thing Get On the Floor! (Walking Dinosaurs and Shaking One’s Booty are optional)

Yes, the floor. My klutziness instantly recognized a good way to trip and die!  Imagine the challenge it poses for parents of small children. Not to mention cluttered people already have difficulty clearing floorspace.

However,  Kondo insists on it.  Items in their natural environment (shelf, closet) “remain unseen, just like a praying mantis still in the grass, merging with its surroundings” (p. 87). She notes that if books are already stacked on the floor, moving them to another location will allow the tidier to really see them. Continue reading

The Book Project continues…

Have you ever noticed that when you decide on a course of action, serendipity comes into play? Something similar happened when I started the Book Project.

First, the library started taking donations for its March book sale. It’s hard to give up books, knowing may never see them again.  But our librarians are thrifty. If my donated book is particularly interesting or in better shape than a book in their collection, it will end up on the shelf.

I started bagging books that someone else might enjoy. I filled three bags!

Second, I got a free copy of Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  I can’t say it was on my reading list. In fact, so many people were discussing it, I felt as if I’d already read the Cliff Notes and listened to the audio commentary!* Continue reading

Losing power…

Literally.

This past Saturday, high winds brought down powerlines in the neighbourhood. I was so very glad for the unseasonably warm trend, since the house cooled quickly between the time the power failed and 5 am, when I woke.

Losing power is rather common for La Casa de Tontería. Branches fall on the lines and strong winds topple poles. I expect to be left in the dark once in winter and twice in summer. The last long outage was April 2014. Continue reading