This post is part of the Saturday's Seven series.
Like most celebrations in the United States, Valentine's Day is often driven by consumerism. It is easy to become materialistic and forget about the unmeasurable aspects of love. If you are looking for a Valentine's Day gift that is "off the grid," here are 7 green ideas:
1. Estate jewelry. Find a recycled piece of jewelry. The benefits are twofold - no new materials were mined from the earth and your jewelry will always have a mysterious quality.
2. Organic flowers. If you are traditional, go with flowers but check with your local florist to build an organic and pesticide free bouquet.
3. Fair trade chocolate. Fair trade markets are growing rapidly and guarantee that workers in other countries are paid decent wages. There are also organic chocolates which are required to be fair trade.
4. Experience gifts. Think skydiving, horseback riding, a concert, a night at the movies, you get the idea.
5. Cook an organic dinner. Shop at your local farmer's market for organic produce and stop at your health food store for the rest of the ingredients. With fresh veggies, your Valentine's Day dinner is sure to be tasty.
6. Create a romantic evening at home. Save fuel and avoid driving on Valentine's Day. Light some soy candles, draw a bath with natural bath salts, and take out the organic massage oil.
7. Hemp lingerie?
photo by Albert Ip
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Saturday, January 31, 2009
This post is part of the Saturday's Seven series.
Friday, January 30, 2009
Zwaggle is a national network of parents who have agreed to exchange gently used items. There are several categories, including baby gear, books, instruments, toys, and video games. Rather than using money as currency, users post their items and designate a "price" with points. New users automatically receive 50 points. Last time I checked, the most recently posted items included a set of 4 children's VHS, a Fisher-Price Rainforest Bouncer, and a set of Windsor Pilates VHS.
Have you tried Zwaggle or any similar programs?
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Welcome readers from Frugal Dad! This is my second guest post this week, and I hope you enjoyed 10 Ways to Stretch Your College Fund. If you haven't read it, hop on over to Frugal Dad! If you are new to Just Plain Joy, I hope you'll take a look around and check out some of the most useful posts.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Welcome readers from My Super-Charged Life! I hope you enjoyed 7 Steps for Achieving a Super-Simple Life. If you haven't read it, hop on over and check it out! If you are new to Just Plain Joy, I hope you'll take a look around and check out some of the most useful posts.
2. Since blogs are only published on the web, they save natural resources.
3. You can access all the archived articles at any time.
4. You can read blogs from anywhere you have cell phone or internet service - which is just about everywhere!
5. You can subscribe via email and updates will be delivered straight to your inbox.
6. You can read blogs from your email account or from the web.
7. Blogs provide active links that take you immediately to more information on topics that interest you.
8. You can share your favorite articles with others by emailing them the link and bookmark your favorite articles to revisit them any time.
9. You can comment on articles and share your thoughts with others.
11. There are no annoying inserts.
12. And, ONE MORE REASON why blogs are better than magazines...Blogs are free!
photo by Copy + Waste
Why is your blog better than a magazine?
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Today's Top Pick is Paper Pile Makeover from Small Notebook. This is one of my favorite posts on her blog because of the before and after picture, which inspired me to try it with this post. You may also remember Small Notebook as my inspiration for the No Spend Month series. I just love the philosophy and presentation of Small Notebook. I find it's content is refreshing and inspirational.
What was your favorite blog this week?
Monday, January 26, 2009
The Dell Inspiron 700 M has been my trusty companion for four years. It got me through all my doctoral classes and my dissertation. I am sure there are smaller, faster, cuter notebooks out there now, but I am very pleased with this Dell laptop.
Here are the specs:
Width 11.7 in
Depth 8.5 in
Height 1.5 in
Weight 4.2 lbs.
Notebook type Thin-and-light (4-6 lbs.)
Screen type Wide-screen
I especially like that it is small, light, and thin. It has a nice large monitor and a sufficient keyboard. As I type away on this post, I hope it will continue to serve me well.
photo by jimboy
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Saturday, January 24, 2009
This post is part of the Saturday's Seven series.
I recently took inventory of my kitchen and it was looking a little cluttered. I have two crock pots, four cheese graters, five colanders (no offense Dad, I love the fold flat one you gave me!), over a dozen assorted glass and plastic containers, and three full sets of drinking glasses. After evaluating, I have decided to recycle some of my clutter and try to whittle it down to a collection that more closely resembles the essentials.
Here is what I believe are the seven essential kitchen items:
1. Knives (1 chef's knife and 1 paring knife). Although I spend limited time in the kitchen, nothing makes me feel like a chef more than the Santoku Chef's Knife.
2. Measuring cups. There are not many substitutes for a set of measuring cups. I like the wet/dry measuring cup.
3. Cheese grater. This is an essential item, but I think I can live with only one instead of four.
4. Set of cooking utensils. My set includes a spoon, slotted spoon, slotted turner, and pasta fork. These items are kept in a cylindrical utensil holder next to the stove.
5. Pot & pan. If you spend a lot of time cooking, you probably want a few assorted sizes of pots and pans. Otherwise, a basic pot to boil water and a pan to saute vegetables can get you through most recipes.
6. Cutting board/mat. I love my flexible chopping mats.
7. Can opener. There is really no substitute for the can opener.
What have I missed?
photo by ex.libris
Friday, January 23, 2009
Today's Fun Find is Etsy. I have to say, if you haven't heard of Etsy you must be living in a cave, but if you still have not visited the site you owe it to yourself and all the talented yet starving crafters of the world to visit!
One of my favorite artists is Squishy Sushi, where I ordered all my signature gifts this year. Her stuff is super cute and totally affordable.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
I was visiting a friend the other day, and she has the most beautiful houseplants. I have always avoided having houseplants because I feel they are a lot of work. With all my other commitments, I shunned houseplants to the list of un-glorious tasks, along with cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, and yard work. These days, I still avoid cleaning whenever possible, but I am re-evaluating the other tasks.
So many of us have moved away from our connection to the earth – where our food comes from and how to sustain ourselves – and I am the best example. When I was working, I would wake up at 5:30 a.m. to hit the gym, and then spent eight to ten hours a day working, and then returned home exhausted and too tired to cook so I would order take-out. Then, I would wake up and do it again. Those days, the last thing I wanted to deal with was houseplants. Since I have been home with my daughter, I have enjoyed reading a lot of literature on homemaking, and I have experienced how much more enjoyable these things can be when you have the energy and time. These days, I am starting to find the daily chores more rewarding and less taxing.
The other day, I saw how beautiful houseplants can be. They created a calm, yet cheerful energy in the home. In fact, according to one study, a six-inch houseplant per one hundred square feet of living area will do a good job of filtering out pollutants. The houseplants got me thinking. There are some things we should consider doing because they bring us joy, even though they are not simple - for example, having pets, getting married, and having children. These things require time, energy, and money, but they make us feel alive. Sure, I could divest myself of all my material possessions. But, it makes sense that if I enjoy surfing, then I should own a surfboard.
When I was working, my husband recommended that we start a garden. I groaned, and said, “But that is so much work.” Now, I realize he had a great idea. A garden is something we can enjoy as a family, it will get us outdoors, it can be used to teach our daughter about life, and maybe it could even provide a meal or two (if we’re lucky).
I guess it is not always about simplicity. There are worthwhile endeavors that enrich our lives, yet can be complicated and chaotic. I’m considering getting some houseplants.
Where in your life do you make exceptions to simple living?
photo by kurki15
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
This post is part of a series on Blue Day Lists, please check out the other posts.
These are places where I like to relax, think, and reflect. Some are peaceful, others are exciting or inspiring. I enjoy going to these places alone or with friends.
7. The Monterey Bay Aquarium - This is a special place for many reasons. When I was younger, my dad brought me along on field trips with his biology classes to the aquarium. I loved to watch the otters play. Then, when I grew up, my DH planned the most romantic marriage proposal ever and surprised me by booking the aquarium and arranging a private tour.
8. The library - The possibilities are endless when you are surrounded by books. To me, being in a bookstore or library is like being in a candy store. The best part about the library, of course, is that the books are free and after you read them they don't take up space in your house.
9. My parents' garden - My parents still live in the house where I grew up. And, I was married in their garden. Although he is never boastful, my dad has created an amazing garden that requires almost full-time care, which he does all himself.
10. A good garage sale - I loathe clutter, but I still love a good deal. A garage sale is unlikely to break the bank and still allows an outlet for a little retail therapy. Going to garage sales is probably my favorite way to spend a Saturday morning.
Where do you love to visit?
photo by capegirl52
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Today's Top Pick is Productivity & Down Time: They Go Hand-in-Hand (one of my favorite posts) from Simple Mom. This is one of the blogs that inspired me to start blogging. For some reason, I really responded to this mom, American expat, graphic designer, writer-turned-blogger. Her blog offers great content on productivity, organization, budgeting, cooking, decorating, green living, and more!
*The posts I select won't always be recent because I like to dig through a blogger's archives to find some of their greatest blog entries.
Monday, January 19, 2009
One of my favorite things is Oprah's Favorite Things, which is an annual show that Oprah does during the holidays during which she features her favorite products. I always look forward to this segment; however, this year, because of the economic crisis, Oprah chose to feature some thriftier holiday ideas. I thought this was a good choice, but I was still left wondering - what fashionable, functional, fabulous, favorite items would she have featured? Although I don't have product representatives knocking down my door, I decided to share the products that I personally love here each week.
The first product has to be my Blackberry. I own the Blackberry Curve and purchased it less than a year ago. It is compatible with the Bluetooth technology in my minivan, which is why I made the switch from my Palm. It also syncs to my online calendar at work. In addition to being my cell phone and calendar, I use my Blackberry for taking pictures, sending and receiving text and photo messages, keeping my to-do list, storing addresses, checking email, reading blogs, searching the web, making my grocery list, setting reminder alarms, and recording my baby's first moments.
What functions do you use on your cell phone?
photo by Menlo School
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Saturday, January 17, 2009
This post is part of the Saturday's Seven series.
Here are seven simple tips for getting and staying out of debt:
1. Write down every single thing you spend money on. This is an essential first step to getting a handle on your financial situation. Once you have established a budget and tracking system, this will also help you reflect on your spending habits.
2. Evaluate your spending and identify areas where you overspend. After you have a clear picture of where every dollar is spent, look for patterns and surprises. For example, maybe you did not realize you spend $50/month at Starbuck's (and by you, I mean I).
3. Create a budget. Your budget will be your playbook, so make it realistic. If you enjoy Starbuck's, then don't cut it out of your budget altogether. On the other hand, if you have financial goals that require saving a greater portion of your budget, you may have to be more frugal.
4. Identify a tracking system - Quicken, Mvelopes, or Excel - that works for you. My personal preference is Mvelopes, but I know there are lots of programs available. Your tracking system does not have to be complicated, just as long as it works for you.
5. Balance your checkbook daily. Paying attention to your finances on a daily basis keeps you focused on your spending and saving goals.
6. Create an emergency fund. An emergency fund is necessary for those un-budgeted expenses. Experts vary in their recommendation of how much to keep in such a fund, but recommendations range from $1,000 (Dave Ramsey) to eight-months-worth of expenses (Suze Orman).
7. Pay your bills on time and in full each month. Late fees, penalties, fines, and interest are big money wasters. Avoid unnecessary expenses by promptly paying bills.
How do you stay out of debt?
photo by emdot
Friday, January 16, 2009
Take a break from your email during the three-day weekend with Away Find. Away Find claims to be the painless escape from piles of emails. It allows people to reach you if necessary, without giving up your cell phone number. It's great if you work on the road or need to escape your email during a business trip or vacation.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
One of my favorite parts of pregnancy was preparing for the arrival of a new baby in our home – painting the nursery, registering for gifts, and washing baby clothes. They say the urge to clean can even be a sign that a pregnant woman is about to go into labor. While these are common ways to prepare for a new baby, decluttering and organizing are just as important.
After our baby was born, I did not leave the house for two weeks. I had a natural birth and a healthy baby, but I was still in recovery. Our home became my haven. Having the house in order allowed me to relax and enjoy just “being” with our new baby. As I sat on the couch nursing, I looked around me – clothes were put away, papers were filed, dinner was in the freezer - and I felt peaceful. Fortunately, my husband was great at keeping things in order for the duration of the two weeks.
Here are some tips to help organize your home for a new baby:
* Declutter your home as much as possible before the baby is born. Try to attack any piles that need sorting, filing, or organizing. If you have stuff you’ve been meaning to donate to charity, do it now; clothes that need to be dry cleaned, take them now; papers that need to be shredded, shred them now. These are all projects that will distract and overwhelm you when the baby comes.
* Create a nursing station. This should be a comfortable place where you can sit and put your feet up. You should have a small side table for water and other supplies (like cream or gel packs). Keep a book or magazine handy if you enjoy reading. Be sure you can see a clock from where you are sitting. If you like music, keep a CD player nearby. Also, try to find a place in the house with a nice view, such as in front of a window.
* Prepare the bedroom for the baby. Have diaper changing supplies (diapers, cream, wipes, alcohol and swabs for the umbilical cord, and changing pad) in one place (baskets work great for this). Keep a set of nursing supplies and a nursing pillow by the bed for night-feedings. Many co-sleepers or bassinets have a space underneath for storage which works great for these items. Also, have a lamp with a dimmer (or low setting) next to your bed.
* Clear out one dresser drawer for your postpartum wardrobe. Keep nightgowns, sweat pants, and t-shirts on hand to simplify getting dressed. Be sure to purchase several nursing tanks and nursing bras before the baby is born. If you don’t have a robe, purchase one and keep it next to your bed.
* Create a place for your postpartum medical supplies – this could be a basket, box, or shelf – in the bathroom. You will likely have maxi pads and a peri-bottle, and you may have other items. Be sure you are well stocked on maxi pads – this is one thing you do not want to have to send your husband to the store to pick up (although most women do).
* Create an emergency call list and a support team call list. The emergency call list should have the phone numbers of local hospitals, your doctor and/or midwife, your pediatrician, and your husband or birth coach. Your support team call list should have the phone numbers of your immediate family, as well as a few close friends who would be willing to come over and assist you with a meal, cleaning, or running an errand. Keep these lists by the main phone.
* Prepare meals in advance or arrange to have them delivered. The first few days with a new baby go by fast. If possible, designate someone to heat and serve your meal as well (this could be your husband). It’s likely that you will be busy with the baby, and even keeping track of a meal in the oven can be a challenge.
* Stock up on quick, easy, and healthy snack foods. It can be difficult to navigate your way around the kitchen with a newborn, but eating throughout the day is important to recovery. Healthy snacks could include granola bars, cereal, nuts, yogurt, individually packaged pudding, or boxed smoothies.
* Designate a place to log the gifts you receive. Many people will come by with gifts for the baby, flowers, and food. Create a spreadsheet or log to write the person’s name and gift, and then when you have time you can sit down and write thank you notes.
* Update your address book and purchase thank you notes and stamps ahead of time. You most likely will not have time to do these things soon after the baby is born, but you may have time to start writing your thank you notes.
* Get to know your phone. You may have never turned off your ringer before, but it can be nice to turn the ringer off or down after baby has fallen asleep. If you have more than one phone, consider turning off the ringer for phones in the bedroom or near the nursery.* Purchase a dozen burp clothes and designate a place for them in every room (again, baskets work great for this).
* Stock up on household supplies, like laundry detergent, dish soap, and toilet paper. This will help you avoid needless trips to the store.
* Wash and fold all baby clothes from 0-3 months. Store the bigger sizes in labeled boxes or drawers, and designate a box or bin for clothes your baby has outgrown (you will be using this sooner than you think!).
* Organize your home office, now. When you come home from the hospital, you will have a lot of paperwork, literature, and forms to be filed. Create a place for these documents before the baby is born; otherwise, the baby’s birth certificate may sit on the kitchen counter for months
photo by cathytx2001
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
This post is part of a series on Blue Day Lists, please check out the other posts.
There are special people all around us, but it takes time and energy to cultivate relationships. However, I believe it takes less energy to cultivate a relationship than to deal with stress alone. This is a list of ten people who I know I can have an intellectual or humorous conversation with, share a drink with, and generally turn to on any given day. And, I have them all on speed dial!
1. My sister - Only my sister can recount all my ups and downs since birth. She understands me like no other because we share the same genetic material and grew up under the same roof. Plus, my sister is just one cool person!
2. My husband - Not only is my husband a best friend, but he's a teammate. I like to think of us as a doubles volleyball team - sometimes we drop the ball, but if we remember we both ultimately have the same goal it makes it easier to open lines of communication.
3. My model mommy - This is a friend who is a mom and has managed to balance her family with her personal aspirations. Her kids are a few years older than mine, and she is willing to answer my millions of questions about sleep, introducing solids, and finding daycare. She is always there to boost my confidence and reassure me that it's all "just a phase."
4. My "twin" - My "twin" and I were friends before getting pregnant, but we happened to be pregnant at the same time! It was a double blessing to have a close friend during my pregnancy who was also sharing the experience. Now, we discuss all the baby minutiae without worrying that the other is bored to tears.
5. My coffee buddy - This is my non-mommy friend. She keeps me grounded in reality and is refreshing to hang out with, plus she has a great sense of humor! She loves my daughter and is interested in talking about her, and I know she'll never overwhelm me with advice.
6. My rule breaker - This friend is constantly surprising me. In contrast to my predictable daily routine, she is often traveling around the world. She is free-spirited and reminds me that there is no rule book for life.
7. My empty-nester - In the past six months, this friendship has become priceless. As an experienced mom, this woman has been through it from start to finish. She is like a second mom to me, and I know she will give me good "motherly" advice without judgment.
8. My guy friend - This friend is a throwback from high school. We don't talk every week or every month, but when we do reconnect it's like no time has passed. He has a great sense of humor and a no-nonsense outlook on life, and I know the friendship is there whenever I need it.
9. My dad - My dad is a man of few words, but he is my most loyal friend. I trust his advice, and I know when he cares enough to share it with me that it must be important.
10. My mom - Last, but far from least, I am fortunate that I can still turn to my mom. My mom is an amazing role model to me and has taught me many life lessons. And, when I'm not too stubborn to listen, she offers great advice.
Who cheers you up?
photo by JohnBurke
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Welcome readers from Green Baby Guide! I hope you enjoyed 25 Tips for a Green Pregnancy. If you haven't read it, hop on over and check it out! If you are new to Just Plain Joy, I hope you'll take a look around and check out some of the most useful posts.
Starting next Monday, I will be posting my favorite things each week. This week's top pick is a blog devoted entirely to this chic's favorite things - These are a few of Christina's favorite things. Christina has a running list on her blog of her favorite things - from wine to shoes! I agree with many of her selections, including UGGS, J.Crew Favorite Tank, and Victoria's Secret Very Sexy Underwear.
Monday, January 12, 2009
16. Buy less stuff. Advertising is designed to make us feel inadequate. We are led to believe that products will satisfy and complete us, but in reality they add to our clutter and debt. And, a lot of that "stuff" is produced from unsustainable materials that tap the earth's resources.
17. Avoid technology overload. New electronics compete for our money and our attention. They are also taxing on the environment. Here are some questions to ask before purchasing electronics: Is it educational? Will it add to the quality of our life? Is it a distraction? How will I dispose of it? Does my child need it? Can I afford it?
18. Teach responsibility and accountability. Changing the environmental crisis requires accepting responsibility for the current situation. These are skills that are beneficial in life as well. This starts with us setting a good example.
19. Choose experience gifts. New toys and clothes are fun, but I hope to give our daughter gifts that she can enjoy for a lifetime, such as dance lessons, art classes, music lessons, and swim lessons.
20. Avoid box stores. There are several reasons why box stores do not promote simple living and are not environmentally friendly. Many of the products are cheaply made, which encourages a disposable lifestyle, using unsustainable materials and practices. And, the abundance of choices can be overwhelming and paralyzing.
photo by ApparentlyNothing
What tips do you have for simple parenting?
Sunday, January 11, 2009
When my daughter was born, I asked my mom for her financial advice. My mom has always invested for my future and taught me to manage my finances. I hope to teach my daughter the same lessons. Even though my mom has taken the lead in my financial future, my dad has taught me several life lessons about money, living within my means, and hard work. Here are ten tips I have picked up from both my parents:
1. Purchase a life insurance policy. Most parents do not want to think about a life insurance policy for their child, but there can be several benefits. A whole life insurance policy (which does not expire when your child grows up) can allow him to get insurance at low premiums. This protects your child in the event that he becomes un-insurable (for example, due to a future illness). In addition, a life insurance policy can be a financial safety net and build substantial cash value over time, which your child can borrow against in the future.
2. Invest in mutual funds. Your child has the advantage of youth, which means she can weather the ups and downs of the stock market. Mutual funds are portfolios of stocks, bonds, and cash that are pooled together for investment. These assets are managed by a professional mutual fund company. There are thousands of funds available, so it is important to do your research and consider consulting a professional financial advisor.
3. Set up a 529 account. A 529 plan is a state-run investment program that helps you save for college. The value of your investment grows tax-free until withdrawn. In the years when withdrawals are made, the growth is taxed to the student, not to you. Your child's lower tax bracket can be financially beneficial to you. Your account can be used to pay for any accredited college and graduate school. Even after your child turns 18 or 21, you continue to have control over the account.
4. Match every dollar saved. This is a basic incentive tool for parents. As a kid, I was never tempted to withdraw money once it was in my savings account. As a result, I ended up using my fourth-grade lemonade-stand earnings to supplement my first low-paying job when I graduated from college. If you're concerned about your child making a withdrawal once you have matched his savings, consider matching his total savings each quarter or once a year. Or, if you prefer not to match every dollar, offer your child an appealing interest rate. For example, at the end of the year make a contribution of 10-20% of his total savings.
5. Teach your child to "pay" the bills. When your child is old enough to write a check, let her practice by writing checks from the family checkbook. Of course, you have to sign the check, but your child will learn how to properly write a check and log it in a check register. Even before your child can be issued a driver's license, you can obtain an identification card from the DMV. Starting a checking account for your child will help her learn financial responsibility. Once your child is older, even if you pay for her car payments, insurance or extra-curricular activities, you can deposit the money into her account and she can write her own checks.
6. Apply for your child's first credit card. Allowing your child to have a credit card may sound ridiculous, but she will probably have one eventually. By co-signing for her first credit card, you can set a reasonable limit and teach your child how to spend responsibly. Instead of giving an allowance, start by agreeing to pay off a certain amount of her credit card each month (perhaps $50 or $100). You will also be able to review the monthly statement and use these transactions as teachable moments.
7. Involve your child in your work. One of the greatest assets your child will have in the future is his work ethic. You can help establish this by role modeling a positive relationship with your work. Bring your child to your place of employment, talk about your career, allow your child to explore your workplace and observe you in action. All these images, experiences, and memories will strengthen your child's attitude towards work.
8. Invest in a retirement account for your child. Most parents think of saving for a college fund, but few think as far ahead as their child's retirement. A Roth IRA is a good option for kids because they do not need the tax deduction. Instead of the usual tax deduction, the Roth IRA lets your money accumulate tax-free. The maximum contribution in 2008 was $5,000. Is it too early to think about your baby's retirement? Maybe. But, consider this, $2,000 invested today and left to compound for say 65 years at a 10% return, will grow to $143,000 tax-free, and $2,000 invested every year for three years and left untouched for 62 years, will grow to $521,830 absolutely tax-free.
9. Invest in your child's first home. This can sound daunting, but there are several advantages to helping your child with her first home. I know I was extremely fortunate that my parents were able to do this for me. One way to help your child purchase her first home is by contributing to the down payment. My parents chose to do it differently. My parents bought my home, and I rented from them for three years. Then, when I was able to take over the mortgage payments and other home-owner responsibilities, they gifted me 1/3 of the down payment each year for three years. By doing this, they regained control of the title until I was clearly able to handle the responsibility.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
This post is part of the Saturday's Seven series.
A common approach to sorting through clutter is to create three boxes - keep, toss, and recycle. The first two categories are obvious...here are some options for those items you want to recycle:
1. Re-gift it. Many household items can make great gifts if they are in good condition. For example, for birthdays give books or jewelry, for graduations give unopened stationary or journals, for weddings give a vase or serving platter. The key to keeping items for re-gifting purposes is to store them together and frequently sort through them. If you haven't re-gifted an item that you have had for a long time, find another way to recycle it. And, of course, if the item was received as a gift, remember to stick a note on it so it doesn't make its way back to the gift-giver!
2. Pass it on. Passing on items is different than re-gifting and is good for items that are slightly used or would make odd gifts. For example, used clothes, partially used lotions or soaps, or food items. Pass these items on to younger nieces or nephews, co-workers, or friends.
3. Garage sale. Having a garage sale is an excellent way to clear clutter and make a little extra cash. Post an ad in your local paper or list your garage sale on Craigslist.com to attract buyers. In some communities, you can attract a crowd with simple signs. For items that don't sell, find another way to recycle them.
4. Craigslist and eBay. Selling items online is another way to make a little extra cash. List larger items that you don't want to ship on Craigslist.com. Smaller items can be posted on eBay. I have written about the pros and cons of eBay in previous posts.
5. Goodwill. Most communities have a local Goodwill drop off site. Goodwill is a nonprofit provider of education, training, and career services for people with disadvantages, such as welfare dependency, homelessness, and lack of education or work experience, as well as those with physical, mental and emotional disabilities.
6. Freecycle. Freecycle.org is a free online service for passing on free unwanted items to another person who needs that item. Each community is responsible for overseeing its own Freecycle group, so check the website for one near you.
7. Recycle. And of course, this is the obvious one. Items such as paper, wood, aluminum, glass, electronics, should be recycled. Check Earth911.com for your local recycling center.
photo by Amanda Woodward
Friday, January 9, 2009
I saw the Invisibelt advertised in more than one fashion magazine and mentioned in several blogs, but I was not going to feature it as a "fun find" until I actually tried it. Well, I broke down and bought one..and I love it! I actually have TWO now - one clear and one black. I like to wear my pants low, but sometimes they end up a little too low. And, I like to wear my shirts below my mid-section (as a proper girl should). This belt absolutely does the job of holding up your pants without giving you that unsightly bulge. I highly recommend it!
Thursday, January 8, 2009
When I received a comment from Christina in response to the Blue Day Lists series suggesting a post on "10 things I can't live without," I immediately began writing my list - Gmail, my blackberry, my favorite dark-wash stretchy boot-cut jeans...And then, I stopped writing because I can live without those things.
In fact, there is very little we cannot live without. So, I started writing another list...of things I really can't live without. It took a little longer than the first list, but here they are (with comments from those who have eloquently captured their importance):
1. Hope. "If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
2. Love. "If you have love in your life it can make up for a great many things you lack. If you don't have it, no matter what else there is, it's not enough." - Ann Landers
3. Generosity. "We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give." - Winston Churchill
4. Kindness. "This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness." - Dalai Lama
5. Forgiveness. "If we really want to love we must learn how to forgive." - Mother Teresa
6. Gratitude. "When you are grateful fear disappears and abundance appears." - Anthony Robbins
7. Purpose. "I never see what has been done; I only see what remains to be done." - Buddha
8. Creative expression (art, music, writing). "The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance." - Aristotle
9. Nature. "Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul." - John Muir
10. Literacy. "I cannot live without books." - Thomas Jefferson
Photo by clikchick
What would you add to this list?
This week marks the start of winter quarter, and I'm already thinking about ways to relax. Here are some of my ideas:
A - Aromatherapy. Aromatherapy is complex, but most of us can manage the basics. Lavender has a calming effect, while mint is invigorating. Light a few aromatic candles in your office, bathroom, or bedroom to set the mood to unwind.
B - Bubble bath. Pick a bath gel with a relaxing scent (see above) and wash away your worries.
C - Count your blessings. The stress of everyday life can make us forget all the positives around us. Remind yourself of what's going well, and you will feel some of the burden being lifted.
D - Drink tea. Tea warms you up from the inside out, and there are many touted benefits to tea-drinking linked to its antioxidant properties.
E - Enjoy your favorite movie. Lose yourself in the plot line of a romantic comedy, uplifting musical, or nail-biting thriller.
F - Facebook. This may not be for everyone, but spend an hour (or eight hours) on Facebook and you will quickly forget about your to-do list. Just remember, the list will be waiting for you when you return from cyberspace.
G - Get a manicure. Pampering can be a great stress reliever. To maximize your health benefits, go with a girlfriend and unlock the power of female friendship.
H - Horseback riding. Ok, ok, not what you might consider to be the most relaxing activity. But, I guarantee, trotting around outdoors with one of the world's most majestic domesticated creatures will give you another perspective.
I - Internet surfing. A great way to lose yourself for awhile is to surf the world wide web. Try StumbleUpon - the internet version of channel-surfing - to discover new websites, videos, and photos.
J - Journal. Writing about your stressors can help you process them, and therefore reduce their impact on your physical health. The tradition of journaling (or keeping letters or diaries) has been dated back the the 10th century.
K - Kitchen activity (baking and cooking). When you're coming home late and rushing to get dinner on the table, cooking may sound like the most un-relaxing (read stressful) activity. But, when you immerse yourself in the aromas of herbs and spices and begin to focus on the creation of a nourishing meal, the kitchen can become a sanctuary removed from the office, laundry room, or classroom.
L - Listen to music. Music can have a profound effect on your body and mind. Research has shown that music stimulates brain waves, so to relax you should listen to music with a slower tempo.
M - Massage. Massage doesn't just feel great, it can lessen depression and anxiety, enhance immunity, decrease substance dependency, and improve circulation.
N - Nap. A power nap can improve patience, reduce stress, increase reaction time, and enhance learning.
O - Open a good book. Reading can take you to another world. Whether you pick up a trashy novel or a classic, there are lots of great books out there.
P - Pet a dog. According to Therapy Dogs International, petting a dog can lower your blood pressure and calm your heart rate. If you are angry, afraid, upset or depressed, interacting with a dog can help divert your attention.
Q - Quiet reflection. Reflection is sometimes referred to as "thinking about thinking," and it is a key component of learning. Reflection allows us to learn from our mistakes, deepen our understanding, evaluate our experiences, repeat successes, and revise our actions.
R - Reflexology. Reflexology focuses on the hands and feet where the nerve endings are located. It is the use of special techniques to break up deposits and restore circulation.
S - Shop at a thrift store. A little retail therapy can go a long way, but don't break the bank - be sure to shop where you can stick to your budget.
T - Talk with a friend. Talking about your problems can help you process them and put them in perspective.
U - Uproot weeds. Take out your aggression on those weeds! Gardening is a great stress reliever because sunlight can improve your mood, being in touch with nature removes you from the stressors of daily life, and the beauty of nature can help you feel more grounded.
V - Vacation. Get away from everything and take a vacation or, the newly popular, staycation - where you play tourist in your home town.
W - Wine. Red wine is a source of antioxidants and may reduce the risk of heart attacks. Regardless of the health benefits (which are debatable), enjoying a glass of wine on occasion can be relaxing.
X - eXercise. Exercise has many well-known benefits. It can enhance your mood, combat chronic disease, help manage weight, strengthen your heart and lungs, and promote better sleep. It can also be fun! Take a hike, ride a bike, or hit the pool, the possibilities are endless!
Y - Yoga. Yoga is about more than just stretching - it is like an internal massage. Yoga can be detoxifying and invigorating.
Z - Zzz. We all need sleep...I'm off to bed now.
photo by krikit
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
One of my favorite writers is Bradley Trevor Greive, author of The Blue Day Book. In 2001, Greive came out with The Blue Day Journal. I had just graduated from college and was doing a lot of soul searching, and I found this journal useful in documenting my hopes and dreams.
In the back of the journal are several lists that are designed to provide ideas of things to do when you're feeling blue. These lists serve as a wonderful reminder that there are things that you truly love and enjoy. And, being a list person, I fell in love with these pages.
My Seven Favorite Drinks
What list would you like to see added?
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Why not start the new year out right by emptying your inbox?
Today's Top Pick is the Inbox Zero series from Merlin Mann's 43 Folders. I absolutely love the video he has on his site of a presentation he did at Google Tech Talk. A while back (before I had gmail), I accidentally lost all the emails in my inbox. Since I was using my inbox as a to-do list, I basically wiped the slate clean. It was a little stressful, but the reality was it didn't change my life one bit. I doubt my boss, family or friends even noticed! Merlin Mann offers lots of great suggestions for dealing with email in this series.
How do you keep your inbox clutter-free?
Monday, January 5, 2009
Wouldn't you like a personal assistant? Don't you deserve one? Here are nine tasks you can delegate in '09, even if you don't have a personal assistant:
1. Sorting email. If you have not switched to Gmail, I would like to hear one good reason why! Save time filing email by use Gmail filters to color code and label incoming email. And remember, keep your inbox empty by 1) archiving, 2) forwarding, 3) responding, 4) defering, and 5) acting (notice this is the last option) on incoming email.
2. Mailing birthday cards. Let Jack Cards address and stamp all your cards for special occasions. Order all your birthday cards now, and forget about remembering when to send them out.
3. Shopping for household supplies. Sign up for Amazon's Subscribe & Save program and save 15% on items you use routinely, such as coffee, shampoo, and laundry detergent. You select the interval - every one, two, three, or six months, and these items will be sent directly to you. And, they guarantee free shipping.
4. Clipping coupons. Visit CouponMom.com for printable coupons. Register and you can search the Grocery Coupon Database by state and by supermarket. The coolest feature is that this user-friendly site also matches your stores weekly sales items with coupons available from the Sunday paper to maximize your savings.
5. Checking out DVDs. Use Netflix and have movies sent directly to you. Browse for new releases online and add movies to your queue. No more late-night trips to the rental store or early morning detours to return your DVDs.
6. Shopping for sales. Use Shop-It-To-Me or Shoppingnotes.com. Shop-It-To-Me sends you updates on sales at all your favorite stores, and Shoppingnotes.com tracks any particular item you desire (simply enter the url for the item).
7. Remembering important dates. Your cell phone most likely has more features than sending and receiving calls. Familiarize yourself with the alarm and calendar, and you'll always be reminded of your important dates. Use your cell phone calendar to remind yourself of recurring meetings, dentist appointments, anniversaries, and birthdays.
8. Shopping for organic produce. Of course you would like to enjoy organic local produce, but who has the time to shop the farmer's market every week? Many farms participate in Community Service Agriculture (CSA) programs and offer produce subscriptions, where buyers receive a weekly or monthly basket of produce, flowers, fruits, eggs, milk, meats, or any sort of different farm products. To find a local CSA visit Local Harvest.
9. Banking & paying bills. Ask your employer for your direct deposit options, set up auto pay for your utilities, and select a bill pay program for your other bills. Online bill pay eliminates paper bills and checks.Most banks offer online bill pay programs, and there are several independent service providers as well. You may never make another trip to the bank again!
What tasks are you delegating this year?
Sunday, January 4, 2009
Saturday, January 3, 2009
In many cultures, seven is considered lucky. At the very least, it is a symbolic number. The number seven represents many things - colors in the rainbow, days of the week, local telephone digits, wonders of the ancient world, deadly sins, Disney dwarfs, and the list goes on.
To me, seven represents simplicity. It's three short of the more common "top 10," and just enough to get the job done. That is why I will be bringing you seven tips/ideas/hacks for living a simple, clutter-free, debt-free, organized, green lifestyle each week. I hope that you will find this Saturday's Seven Series to be lucky.
First seven in Saturday's Seven:
1. Tips for recycling clutter
2. Tips for staying out of debt
3. Essetial kitchen items
4. Green Valentine's Day Gifts
5. Tips for Green and Frugal Living
6. Frugal Dates
7. Essential baby items
Friday, January 2, 2009
Start the New Year off by getting organized!
This Friday's Fun Find is ListPlanIt - a website that offers over 350 downloadable lists. The founder, Jennifer Tankersley, has accumulated these lists to help others put their world in order. Her site includes an ePlanner for Baby, Birthday, Clubs, Contacts, Family, Financial, Holiday, Home, Meals, Memories, and more! Browse through her lists by topic or do a search.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
Happy New Year!
I am amped to bring new material to this blog in the year ahead! I have lots of ideas and inspiration, so here is a sneak peek of things to come this month:
TWO NEW SERIES: Saturday's Seven and My Favorite Things
Nine Tasks to Delegate in '09
9 Ways to Invest in Your Child's Future
Relaxation Ideas from A to Z
10 Ways I Protect Myself in Winter
And, more Friday's Fun Finds, Sunday's Super Simple Solutions, and Tuesday's Top Pick.
Want to read them all? Subscribe to my blog (enter your email address in the box at the top of the page)!