Wednesday, July 3, 2019

When is it time to upgrade?

It's July 3, the evening before our Independence Day, and many are out celebrating or attending the big fireworks celebration downtown. I however will be asleep soon. Stress wears me out.

What am I stressing out about? My stupid car. It's latest issue is a busted radiator. Lucky for me, the parts are less than $100 and the boyfriend can fix it. So it could be much worse. But it wasn't fun seeing the heat gauge max out this morning. It was even less fun trying to drive it home and pulling over three times on the five mile ride home to let it cool off. Not to mention the boyfriend had to come check it out mid-way because I was freaking out thinking my car might explode.

Photo: Carlyle Ellis Photography/Human Quotient
Having the radiator go out isn't unexpected given that my Honda Civic is 19 years old. I mean, how long is a car supposed to last anyway? It does only have 135,000 miles, but as a mechanic friend warned me a few years ago, all of its parts, gaskets, seals, etc. will fail start failing soon.

A lot of things have already broken and already been replace by the boyfriend. He's saved me tons in labor and aggravation over the years (thanks, honey!). So when should I just call it quits?

I came close to doing so last summer. I went car shopping. Narrowed down the make and model to a Toyota Camry or Honda Accord. But I was underwhelmed and if I'm going to spend $15-20k, shouldn't I be a little excited about what I'm buying?

I'm also overwhelmed by the options. SUV or car? If I care about the environment, does that mean I should invest more and get a hybrid or electric?

Another problem is I want the latest safety features for a three-year-old-car price. Not gonna happen. In the meantime, my boyfriend spruced up the Civic, painted the peeling trim and plastic hubcaps, and found a deal on tires.

Suddenly it didn't look so bad.

Plus, there's the cost. I haven't had a car payment in 16 years and pay $280/year for insurance. I definitely like that part.

However, I don't like worrying about how I'm getting my broken down car home or how long it will be out of commission. Or having the boyfriend have to spend time fixing it on his limited time off or in winter. And taking long trips in it feels like a gamble.

He says this isn't a big deal and there's not much else that can go bad since most things have been replaced ... except the clutch.

So should it stay or should it go? I can't decide.

What's the oldest vehicle you've had? How do you decide when it's time for a new one?

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Finally, curbside recycling!

I found this finished 2018 post in my drafts and decided to go ahead and post it,hopefully it will inspire me to post more! Although recycling has gotten even more complicated these days due to falling demand for materials.

photo: Igor Mazic, flickr
It's 9F and I'm excitedly bundling up to take out the recycling. Why such excitement for a routine chore? Because this is the first time in almost 14 years that I've been able to take recycling to the end of the driveway for pickup instead of having to haul it away

I've been a devoted recycler ever since a college boyfriend shamed...er inspired me to begin. My little hometown with a population of 35,000 had curbside recycling service way back in 2003, but when I moved to the "big city" of Columbus I had to kiss that service goodbye. That didn't stop me from recycling though. I dutifully saved my recyclables in the basement and then hauled them out once a month or so to pack up the Civic and take them to a drop-off location.

At some point curbside service was offered to city residents, first for a monthly charge and then the free in 2012, but by then I had already purchased the house. While my neighborhood is in the middle of the city of Columbus, we're part of a township. The township has its own trash services, sans recycling. So I continued schlepp the recycling to a drop-off location a few miles away or the boyfriend would take it to the recycling location at work. But it was a pain and something we always put off as long as possible.

Then a few years ago a resolution to add recycling to the township's waste services for less than $10 per year per household was up for a vote. Hooray! For less than $10 per year to each household's trash costs, but to me that was well worth it. Apparently I was soundly in the minority because the measure was soundly defeated, twice.

Then a few months ago, finally good news: our trash contract was being renegotiated to include recycling at no additional cost.  I called the day I received that letter to request a bin and have been counting down to January. Last Saturday I realized said bin had never arrived and I disappointedly figured I'd have to wait a bit longer, and then, what did I see on top of the three inches of snow at the end of the driveway Saturday afternoon but a lovely green recycling bin.

The only bummer is that when I went to collect my bin I looked around and didn't see another one on the street. And today when I deposited my overflowing bin back at the end of the driveway, it was still the only one in sight. Hopefully that will change tomorrow on pickup day or in the weeks to come.

But the apathy of my neighbors in this working-class neighborhood has got me thinking. If people won't recycle even when all you have to take a bin to the curb, what chances are there that people will make the real changes necessary to avoid environmental disaster?

I can't help thinking back to my time in Denmark in 2000, where it was common place to separate compostable trash from the rest of the rubbish for weekly pick up. Glass and plastic bottles were returned for deposits. Aluminum cans weren't sold there, although you could buy them in neighboring Sweden. Everyone seemed to gladly return, separate and recycle. What would inspire more Americans to do the same?

I know recycling isn't a panacea, but in the meantime it seems much better to recycle what we can instead of filling up the landfills.

Is recycling popular in your area? Do you recycle? Why or why not?

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Organizing Drawers the KonMarie Way

There's not much decluttering going on these days, but today I decided to finally try organizing my drawers the KonMarie way.

Most have probably heard of Marie Kondo by now, author of The Life Changing Magic of Cleaning Up. I read the book years ago and while I didn't follow it to the letter, it did inspire me to declutter even more.

One thing I didn't try at the time, but have been increasingly intrigued by is her method of folding clothing into small squares. With my drawers feeling increasingly stuffed, I finally decided to try it today. So I watched a few YouTube videos to fully understand folding method and dove in.

First I tackled my t-shirt drawer. I neglected to take a before photo, but here's my stack 'o shirts that filled the drawer.


It does take more time to fold the KonMarie way, but you quickly get the hang of it. Plus, I'll only have to fold the freshly laundered clothing each week.

Here's the after. I purged four shirts. While the 30 remaining shirts still fill the drawer, now I can easily see all of them instead of just the top three. Big improvement.


I'm even more pleased with the progress of the other drawers, which are much more shallow than the one above. The MarieKondo method works very well for these.. First up is a jam-packed drawer full of work shirts and sweaters. 


And the amazing after. Look at that empty space! I purged one top and moved a t-shirt to the t-shirt drawer, everything else is still here and completely visible.


My pajama drawer has always been a mess. I used to roll my PJ pants and tops, but they still barely fit in here.

And after, with lots of new empty space here too, which is truly amazing. I relocated a curling iron, but kept everything else. My hair straightener lives here, because I do my hair in the bedroom (with only one bathroom, ya gotta do some things differently). 


I also organized one of the half-size top drawers, which is full of work socks. I should probably purge everything on the right side of this drawer, because I hardly ever wear them, but for now I'm keeping them. Even so after refolding everything and tossing a few singles, there's empty space in here now and I was able to add a small box to store my extra Fitbit bands neatly.


I'm definitely a fan of all of this new space. In fact, I'm feeling inspired to tackle my remaining drawers and the closet next.

Do you use any special organizing or folding tricks on your clothing drawers?

Saturday, March 17, 2018

A paid off home


Two weeks ago I did something a little scary ... something some might consider crazy even. I paid off my house. Yep, 12.5 years after buying my home it's truly mine and I'm debt free once again. Yay!

After a couple years of debating it, I finally stopped messing around and paid off the house mostly because I was pissed off. Pissed off that the newly passed tax bill once again favors the wealthy and big business over those who actually need assistance. Pissed off after hearing some politician's comment about how they were giving the poor more money to go spend. Money which they think will come back to the wealthy as profits. I vowed to save that extra money and put it to work for me instead. And it firmed my resolve to stop paying interest to a bank.

So I finally did it, went to the bank, wrote the biggest personal check I've ever written and the house was mine. It was kind of anti-climatic actually, but on the drive home I started feeling pretty good about the whole thing.

How is paying off a huge debt crazy? Well most conventional finance and investing advice says not to pay off a low interest loan like mortgages and instead invest it where you can make more. But investing isn't a sure thing and there's no way I would have ever put that same amount into the market. Definitely not now and probably not ever.

Don't get me wrong, I do invest. I regularly invest my retirement savings because it's the only way I'll ever be able to retire. In fact I significantly increased that savings rate last year and bumped it up a little more this year. But I like to spread out the risk and keep some in safer savings vehicles as well.

Also, at 5.7%, my mortgage rate wasn't as low as some. I probably should have refinanced at some point. I did look into it two years ago, but at that time the payoff was so long that it seemed better to just pay it off instead.

Even after paying off the mortgage, I still have an emergency fund that can cover 2+ years of expenses. I'd definitely recommend building an emergency fund and retirement savings first before tackling the mortgage.

I planned to pay off the mortgage all along because I didn't want to have to pay the bank all of that interest. So I started paying extra early. According to my records, my first extra payment was four years after purchasing the house. The first year I paid the equivalent of one extra payment, as I did the year after that. Then two extra payments. Then it varied. Last year I really started getting serious culminating with the final payoff.

So what's next? Well, I want to build up my savings a bit because my car is 18 years old and at some point I'm going to want a newer one. Then, with a paid off house and comfortable emergency fund, I can start funneling even more towards retirement savings.

Do you prefer to pay off debts or invest instead?

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Challenge Accepted: January Cure Week I

I decided to try Apartment Therapy's January Cure this month. I've done the full blown version before, which is quite the commitment. So far the one month version is much more my speed. Plus, what else is there to do when the high is 15F?

Day 1: Organize a drawer
The January Cure kicks off with an easy win: Pick a drawer and organize it. I picked one of several kitchen junk drawers and weeded and organized them. The one on the right wasn't in too bad of shape. For the "cat drawer" on the right I weeded out some expired treats and medical items and now things fit much more neatly. While on a roll, I also checked out our big junk drawer but it was in fairly good shape.

Lucy poses distractedly above the after.

Day 2: Make a project list

The task for the second day is to do a walk-through of your home and jot down areas of improvement. I stuck to the main floor for this and while there is less to do that there was in the past, I still have a big list. It's a combo of cleaning chores and projects. Then you narrow the list down to three to fives projects per room that you actually want to tackle this month. Several painting items and other jobs will have to wait until it's warmer, but I'm pasting the hole list below for future reference. I'm hoping to tackle the italicized items during the cure and am debating a few others. I'm trying to be somewhat realistic about my motivation!

Kitchen
1. Declutter cabinet under TV
2. Clean light fixtures
3. Add remaining cabinet hardware

4. Fix scuffs on cabinets over fridge
5. Clean kitchen roman blinds
6. Paint cabinet molding
7. Replace cabinet molding or patch cabinet by doorway
8. Repair third dining chair
9. Paint back door
10. Paint basement door

Living room
1. Fix fireplace wall & paint (weather dependent)
2. Clean cobwebs off ceiling
3. Paint fireplace floor
4. Clean curtains

5. Paint baseboard

Bathroom
1. Paint hallway side of door
2. Touch up backsplash paint
3. Sweep fan blades
4. Beadboard touch ups

5. Buy new hand towels

Bedroom
I'm not quite sure how far I want to go with this, hence the commitment to just one item so far.
1. Fix ceiling + paint touch ups
2. Redo over bed area
2. Paint doors
3. Paint moldings
4. New window treatments

Hallway
1. Fill and paint closet
2. Clean light

3. Paint baseboards
4. Hang art

The bedroom, looking cozy after cleaning, but pre-projects.

Day 3: Set up an outbox

The outbox is a holding space for items you may want to part. The thought is that by leaving them there for a couple of weeks some of your attachment will lessen. I set up a bag in the spare room closet and filled it with several items.


Day 4: Floors & Flowers

I was dreading this weekend assignment which challenges curers to first do something sweet by buying flowers or a plant for your home, then vacuuming and mopping all of your floors. Since all of the main floor can technically be mopped, that's a big job!

I vacuumed everything and mopped the kitchen and bathroom -- two rooms that definitely needed it. The floors in the living room, two bedrooms and hallway are all wood, so they can be mopped too, but the finish is old and not waterproof so I use very little water and wash a small section then immediately dry it. It's a big hands-on-your-needs job and since we don't wear shoes in the house (or aren't supposed to at least) I only did the living room and bedroom. I did a lot of scrubbing! They do look better now and I'm happy I did more than the minimum. But I didn't move major pieces of furniture like the sofa and entertainment center because it just didn't seem worth it. Under my bed is already spic and span since I cleaned it in December when my new mattress was delivered. This project makes me wonder how often others clean their wood floors? I do it very, very infrequently. Ike embarrassingly infrequently.

I haven't bought flowers yet, maybe something will catch my eye when we grocery shop tomorrow. If not, I'll count the candles I bought last weekend because in this wicked winter weather they are certainly making the space feel cozy.

So week one ends on a positive note and I'm feeling quite accomplished! We're only one week in, so there's still plenty of time to join the January Cure!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

What I bought: Clothing purchases in 2017

my tiny closet
Ever since reading that the average U.S. shopper spends $1,100 per year on clothing and purchases 68 items plus 8 pairs of shoes (Overdressed by Elizabeth Cline), I've been curious of how I measure up. Inspired once again by An Exacting Life, I've dug out my receipts to add it up for 2017.

This year I spent $528.26, up from $335.29 last year. I had suspected I would spend more this year due to needing to replace some staples, like jeans, and indeed I did.

Clothing purchased ($421.38):
  • Red sweater - $15.00
  • Red llama Christmas sweater - $16.00
  • White sweater - $9.49
  • White/gray sweater - $26.48
  • Black knit 3/4 sleeve shirt - $12.04
  • Black knit short sleeve shirt - $8.64
  • Black blouse - $20.99
  • Black knit sleeveless Elle top - $16.99
  • Black blouse - $16.99
  • White and black striped knit shirt - $11.39
  • White and black short sleeve knit shirt - $16.98
  • White and black knit tank - $9.13
  • White knit top - $8.04
  • Pink blouse - $16.99
  • Pink sweater - $20.99
  • Purple t-shirt - $5.70
  • Two pairs of jeans - $43.00
  • Jean shorts - $16.29
  • Gray workout shorts - $15.29
  • Swimsuit cover up - $12.98
  • Navy striped sleep shorts - $15.00
  • Undergarments (5)  - $86.98
Shoes ($54.11):
  • Nike sneakers - $54.11
Accessories ($52.77):
  • Blanket scarf - $11.58
  • Black gloves - $1.11 (I have a $15 off coupon)
  • Earrings - $7.24
  • Necklace - $15.28
  • Purse - $5.00 (from thrift store)
  • Sunglasses - $12.56
Total spent: $528.26
Total clothing items: 26

Lucy also has a very refined taste in pants; only recently worn men's khakis will do.

I remained true to a white, black and gray color scheme once again, which does make it easy to mix and match. I'm pretty happy with this year's purchases and have worn most things frequently, except for the pink blouse, silly llama holiday sweater, and black and white tank.

One thing I'm quite happy with is that instead of buying a bunch of stuff before we went to Cozumel, as I usually do for vacation, I made due with the clothing I already had. I did need a swimsuit cover up and sleep shorts (love them, and I had been looking for good sleep shorts for quite awhile), both of which I purchased via Amazon and wore frequently.

I continue to be amazed by how quickly I forget what I've bought over the year. I save receipts, but don't reconcile purchases until beginning this post. I wouldn't have been able to tell which item was which on the receipt for most of the purchases made in August, June and March, except that a unique ID number is listed for each that matches up to a number on the tag of the clothing. Not sure if this is true for all stores, but it is for Kohl's. Genius idea! Next year I resolve to write things down after each purchase to make this process easier. 

I expect to need to buy new work slacks and shoes next year, so I'm going to try something new and budget $64/month for clothing. I'm hoping this way I won't feel guilty buying what I need as long as it's within the budget, while still being able to maximize savings.

Were your clothing purchases in 2017 worth the investment or a work in progress?

What to take another peek into my wardrobe? You can also see what I bought in 2016 and 2013.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Review: Goodbye, things


It's been forever since I did a book review, in part because I've hardly read any nonfiction lately. But, I couldn't have picked a better book to revamp the reviews with because Goodbye, things by Fumio Sasaki is one of my favorite books about minimalism.

If you're looking for a step-by-step guide on how to declutter and simplify, you'll probably be disappointed because this book is more about philosophy than the nitty gritty process of minimalizing, though there's certainly some of both.

Goodbye, things starts off with pictures of Fumio's home and those of other minimalists, offering a firsthand glimpse into different simple homes. They're all much more minimal than I ever desire to be, but still interesting to look at. With a bedroom that has only a mattress on the floor and a small table, Fumio minimized his belongings far beyond what I'd ever want to, but I still found his book inspiring.

The book then moves into what minimalism is, why Fumio minimalized his life and why having too much stuff is a problem for so many of us. Then comes my favorite sections--55 tips (plus 12 more) to help you declutter. They include many you've probably heard before and some new-to-me tips:
  • Get rid of multiples
  • Get rid of anything you haven't used in a year
  • Get rid of anything you wouldn't replace if you lost it
  • If it's not a hell yes, it's a no (This one works for me in multiple scenarios: clothes shopping, invitations to do things)
Fumio ends with describing the benefits he's received from his new minimal life.

This was an enjoyable read, one that inspired me to start decluttering again after I'd not been motivated to do so for months. It's definitely a recommended read.

What's your favorite book on minimalism/simplifying?

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