January 24th, 2015

Math and Other Values: January 24th, 2015

Believe it or not, the hardest part about this blog is the math.

What math, you ask?  The math that requires me to add 5 to the number of items we’ve purged, to subtract 5 from the number of items we have left to go, and to add 1 to what day we are.  Each day, I cut and paste the scorecard from the day before and adjust accordingly.  This handy short-cut means that I, periodically, have to spend a good hour, or more, hunting through the site, desperately searching for the day I added instead of subtracted, and then work forward, fixing the compounded error.

Sometimes I add, subtract, and then add.  I make so many errors, it makes me very happy I did not decide to try my hand at accounting.  You should be glad, too.

Today I was pondering value again.  See, I was driving down the highway, “enjoying” my nearly-worn-out no-season (as I like to call them) tires whilst the air around me was filled with srain (rainow?).  Basically, slush was falling.  It was a little like air hockey, at times. I was pondering how quickly the car I was driving could be tranformed from being worth a couple of thousand dollars (with any luck) to being entirely worthless.

This is something that comes up frequently in my line of work.  How much is that sofa worth to you?  It’s ugly, but Great-Uncle Egbert gave it to me with his dying breath!  What did it cost you to quit your job so your partner could move here?  What was your house worth, if you’d put it on the market when you broke up, 3 years ago?

It’s so shifty and sneaky.

And then there are the things that have no value at all.  I remember, as a child, pondering the meaning of the word priceless.  I couldn’t grasp the idea that something priceless was worth a fortune.  If you can’t put a price on it, doesn’t that mean it’s not worth anything? It’s the same idea as the word invaluable.  Things you can’t attach a value to: your children, your life, your spouse (some days!), your family.  That feeling you get when you’re finally home after a harrowing drive.

And the more crud that rolls out our door, the more that feeling becomes the focus when I open the door and walk in.

Today IS the 85th day, we’ve gotten rid of 425 items, and we have 1400 to go.  I triple-checked it, I assure you…but if you ever notice a mistake – tell me, please!

Friday, January 23rd, 2015
January 22, 2015

Incorporeal De-Cluttering: January 22nd, 2015

Five things that are not things we’ve been trying to get rid of:

1. Excuses: earlier this month, we started a 30-day family plank challenge.  This is a daily schedule in which the length of each torture session plank increases by increments.  The original challenge was too exponential for us, but rather than give up entirely, we’ve decided on a more gradual increase.  No excuses.

2. Bad Habits: Mike has been roaming around the house, attempting to ascertain the amount of phantom power our various electrical appliances are gobbling up when we’re not even using them.  This is prompting me to remind him that leaving lights on, all around the house, is far more likely to eat up energy (and money) than an idle television.   Bad habits must be purged!

3. Inattention: there are two working parents, and three school-aged kids in this house.  We’re busy.  All too often, we’ve missed things, we’ve forgotten about appointments until (or after) the last minute.  We have even missed special things like dressing up for fun days at school.  We’re all trying to pay a little more attention to keeping on top of what everyone is doing.  In two years, we’ll have 3 kids in 3 schools.  It’s best to instil this habit now, when we’re still only dealing with 2 schools.

4. Sleepiness: Mike and I both stay up too late.  I read long into the night, Mike is married to his computer. In the past, we’ve let the kids stay up too late for them to be actually refreshed and ready for school when they wake up in the morning.  We’ve been trying hard to keep on top of this, but it’s often easier said than done.

5. Negativity: it’s really easy to see all the bad things that happen around us.  It’s easy to see the bad side and spot everything that everyone else is doing wrong.  We’re trying to ditch that attitude as much as possible and focus on using kind words and kind actions toward each other.  Max, our 13 year old, reintroduced the nightly hug a few months ago, and it’s been the greatest thing.  It’s all about the positive.

Sometime the crud cluttering up the house is not just the stuff stuff.  It’s the other stuff.

Day 83 Scorecard: 415 down, 1,410 to go

(Also, tonight, I got rid of the need to write on the chalkboard.  Thanks, Max, for your enormous sacrifice).

January 21, 2015

In Case of Emergency: January 21st, 2015

I remember reading a little thought-project exercise one time.  It went something like this: imagine your house is on fire and you have one minute to grab the most precious (non-living) things you own.  What do you take?  The idea was that you would gather those things together and keep them at the ready.  Oh, and it would help you clarify what you truly thought was important.

I never got to the gathering part, because I would always get wound up with the logistics of it all.  What if the thing is something large?  What if I needed to make two trips?   What if the reason I loved the object so much was because I wanted to look at it all the time, not have it heaped up by the door in case of fire?  What if the fire started where the pile was?  Then everything I valued the most would be gone first?  Would I care to leave then?  And what about the creepiness of being on constant high alert in case of fire?

Too many things to concern myself about.

The funny part is, I really have never come up with an actual list of the most important things, other than the people in this house.  And our cat and guinea pig.  And the fish, of course.  Really, most of the stuff I own would be more of a giant pain in the neck, if I were to lose it, than something that would fill me with despair.

It’s really hard to think of much of anything that is actually irreplaceable, other than lives*.

And that’s my deep thought of the day.  I’m still stumped on where my “grab and run” location should be. Maybe I’ll get back to you.

Day 812 Scorecard: 410 down, 1,415 to go

* Mike says “photo albums!”  Which is true.  Old photo albums and the external hard drive with our 1000s of photos of our children.

January 20th, 2014

VBS Box of Splendour: January 20th, 2014

Sometimes, urban legends are true:

Nothing to see here.

If you don’t know what this is, I am simultaneously jealous of your ignorance and also, rather smug.

That, right there, folks, is a genuine piece of gold-spray-painted-macaroni-on-a-box.

I know.  It was rumoured to be a, well, rumour…alas, this time the rumour was true.  In fact, I have faint memories of gleefully anticipating how my work of creative genius would look once dry.

Always leave them with a cliffhanger…apparently it was enticing enough that I returned to Vacation Bible School.

Not enticing enough for me to remember anything I learned at Vacation Bible School (other than the lyrics to all the little-kid Christian songs, much to my children’s amazement…come to think of it, though, their amazement likely has more to do with me bursting into the aforementioned songs at top volume at the oddest of times, including as a method to break up disagreements and bickering).

What I do remember about Vacation Bible School is rushing home and being sent to fetch eggs from our hens who had mysteriously laid double-yolked eggs.  We were amazed and enthralled, but we did not credit divine intervention in spite of the songs and forgotten bible lessons.

As it happens, we were right in our scepticism.    My mother told me, years later, that it was our visiting uncle (uncle?  Right Mom?) who slipped the eggs in after removing the ones our hens had legitimately laid.

She remains amazed that we were so thrilled with the discovery.

I remain amazed that my hen laid double-yolked eggs! (in theory)  My good buddy Pepper had totally rocked the egg-laying world.  I was 5 years old, and my hen was the MAN.  Er, well, you know what I mean.

Alas, dear readers, I was going to post an epic photo of me and Pepper, but I can’t currently locate it, so you’ll have to wait.  Pepper did resemble this lovely lady, however:

No Pepper.

Not Pepper


But getting back to the box…I found this gem packed away with some other junk, and when I opened it, this is what I found:

"But MOMMY, it's so beautiful!"

Clara gasped upon espying the wonders within. Before she could gets the words out, I said “No. You cannot have this.”

I mean, really, is it any wonder that I spent two years at Art School?  Those are some mad art-making skills right there.

Story-telling aside, I think this is the perfect example of why saving your kids’ art is of limited value.  This is not cute to me.  Stuff my kids make is cute to me, but this is made by an earlier version of me who was definitely not “cute” to myself at the time…and I would have hated you if you’d called me cute at that time. Also: now I have a photo of it, so I don’t have to store a painted rock any more!  Everyone wins!

But the wonders did not cease at this point.  Oh no.  If you look closely, or even if you look from across the room, you will see (twice) my named spelled correctly.  Which is why it definitely makes sense that this is the bottom of the box:

I know I kicked back a bottle or two after class… …just kidding, I was FIVE, can’t you read? My parents made me wait until I was at least 7 before they let me indulge in not-my-namesake!


I mean, how could the teacher have possibly known?

Day 81 Scorecard: 405 down, 1,420 to go



January 19, 2015

Shawshank, Trampoline Style: January 19th, 2015

One day, last week, I was home for lunch.  As I stood brushing my teeth, our cat, Inside Flower* meandered in with me.  This is not unusual as I am quite sure she thinks we’re invading her space when any of us ventures into that bathroom.  As I brushed, I noticed she was eyeing the window and getting twitchy.

Suddenly, before I could even react, she shot out, leaping at the windowsill.

I think I’ve mentioned we like to economize in this house.  Sometimes, this creates problems for some members of the household.  Like, for example, when we use clear plastic to seal the windows in order to make our house more insulated in the winter.

Have you ever seen a cat ricochet across a room?

I was filled with equal parts mortification for Iffy’s likely banged up body and mortification for Iffy’s likely banged up dignity.  “Oh no!  Poor kitty!” I emoted in her general direction.  She paused, in her scuttling off, shot me a look of pure, unadulterated loathing, whipped back around, and strode out of sight.

I examined the plastic.  There was a smallish hole in it.  I sighed, because Mike had just replaced the plastic. The first piece had acquired a tiny hole (with a tell-tale single cat hair adhered, courtesy of static electricity, directly beside it) which gradually became a large hole.  When Mike replaced it, he included a piece of paper that said “no cats or pokey kids.”  The paper had fallen off the day before Iffy’s ill-fated launch.

At supper that night, I told everyone the hilarious story of the cat who knew the plastic was there but leapt anyway.

Max was giving me an odd look.

“What?” I said.

“Didn’t you know she’s done that at least twice in my room?” he asked.

I did not know this.

“I just figured you were poking at your plastic,” I said (it is, I admit, extremely tempting).

“No,” said Max, “it’s all her”.

Apparently, Iffy is trying to 5Down herself…

Since that night, I’ve noticed it’s gotten larger with each passing day.  I thought she liked us?  If I see her putting a poster up over any of these ever-increasing holes, I’m calling Stephen King.

Day 80 Scorecard: 400 down, 1,425 to go.

* A naming story which will surely come up at some point as it relates, fascinatingly, to legal concepts of property and hustling, all at the same time.

January 18, 2015

The Real Deal: January 18, 2015

So today I went to PodCamp, in Halifax, and it was fascinating.  I learned all kinds of interesting things about people who make content, people who sell that content, people who package content, and that there is a job named UX (short for User Experience – the guys* who work to figure out how to make your webbing experience interesting and how to hook up audiences with products – and vice versa).  If you live near here and you are involved in technology or computing or content-making, you should go next year.

Also it was free, which is my way to “spend” the day.

Which would be a far more clever segue if I weren’t pointing out to you the fact that I’m using it as a segue into more ranting about our culture of consumerism.  I should also have pointed out that the concept I’m about to write about (whilst viewed entirely through my eyes/heard through my ears) is one that Mr. Money Mustache has extremely deftly covered, and I (as always) highly recommend you visit his own rantings.  In a not-doing-justice sense, it’s essentially about the fact that most of us do not view our time as being worth anything.

Crafters, Artists, and Artisans of every kind understand this phenomenon well: if they were to truly charge for their time spent + materials, they would price themselves out of customers.  Makers-of-things are always donating their love and time.  Always.  We, the customers, are so habituated to cheapness in quality and price, we recoil at the cost associated with true craftsmanship.  We are consuming consumers.

Which brings me nicely around (another segue!) to today’s encounter with the perils of Buy-Nothing Month.  The event today was sponsored by various companies which offered discounts on their food items, but there was no full meal involved in the actual event.  I brought lunch with me, but I worried that a library would frown upon eating (I seem to have vastly outdated views of libraries: I thought they were about books, quiet, and non-consumption of food).  I remembered that I have gift-cards, so I brought them as back-ups.**

As I headed to the coffee shop, it suddenly occurred to me that I was within spitting distance (well, if I were an Olympic spitter; which is probably totally a thing) of The Running Room.  I immediately squelched my overwhelming desire to “just have a look.” As I began to praise myself for accomplishing such a herculean task, it suddenly occurred to me that they would certainly stock something that I have very, very much needed for quite some time now: ice grips for running.

Sure enough, they did, and I bought them.  Again, the slightly guilty feeling, but I have been without for more than a month of iciness, and frankly, I’m getting rather tired of near-misses.

My brother-in-law is a wise man who has held forth, on more than one occasion, on the perils of a false sense of security.  He is of the opinion that helmet-wearing has caused hockey players to be faster and more brutally aggressive because they feel impervious.  Although I have not conducted an in-depth analysis to confirm his opinion, I feel quite certain he is correct.  So I just thought I would assure you: I am every bit as ridiculously over-cautious and risk averse as always…I just like to know that I’ve done all I could do to avoid being the author of my own misfortune.

It was within this guilt/justification/guilt/rationalization interior monologue that I drove home from PodCamp.  For context, you should know that I live approximately 100k from Halifax. Coincidentally enough, the CBC radio program  I got to hear in its entirety on my way home was concerned with the withdrawal of Target from Canada.  The two live-and-in-person guests were described as “couponers, shoppers, and deal-hunters.”

I’ll be honest, the show was the opposite of interesting to me (today) but one question/answer caused my mouth to fall open in horrified amazement.

When stern-looking-but-really-rather-chipper host Preston asked the two “shopper” guests (who seemingly have real jobs, too) how often they each spent shopping per week, they answered:

“Oh, about 2-3 hours” and “I would say 3-4 hours” (I’m probably not quoting exactly…so please don’t listen to the podcast and then take issue with me).

a. this would be a fantastic form of torture if I’m ever in need of it,

b. are they kidding?

c. is it even possible to have a more expensive hobby?

d. are they kidding?

Preston (host-man) did not even react with surprise, nor did any of the phone-in guests.  Am I just so immersed in interrogating our own relationship with consumerism that I find this shocking?  Is this only just enough more than the average person to make them “experts” but not “weirdos”?  If so, what would qualify one as a shopping addict?***  The mind boggles.

Getting back to Mr. Money Mustache’s article (which I’m sure you immediately cruised over to, read, and then came back here to finish reading) which tossed out the working figure of $25/hour of valuing ones own time would mean that each of these “deal-hunters” is spending between $50 and $200 before they make a single purchase.  Every week.

Good grief.

The sound of one hand clapping?  That’s me, being gobsmacked.

Day 79 Scorecard: 395 down, 1,430 to go.

* very male-dominated, apparently, as most Internet-y things seem to be.

** even then, I felt too guilty to get anything more than a coffee and a cookie – I ate my sandwich in the coffee-shop-which-shall-remain-nameless, lest I be accused of promoting a non-local, non-Canadian purveyor of coffee.

*** Mike opined that he probably spends a similar amount of time shopping in an average week.  He was counting travel time and restaurant eating.  I’m quite certain, based on the guests, that they were only counting the time they actually spent in stores, examining items for purchase or comparison.  Even given that, after a few questions, he realized that that was decidedly a gross over-estimation of a usual shopping week for him, even when it’s not Buy-Nothing week.