February 21, 2015

On Demand Blogging: February 21, 2015

Today I went to a running clinic where we threw out the tightness in our muscles using a hard ball, and then we crammed all the tightness back in by doing crazy exercises, and then we tried not to cry.

And then we stuffed our faces at my favourite restaurant, Cora, and now I am totally exhausted.

On the bright side, Solomon first gave me a great quotation for today’s blog post…and then he kind of ruined it by saying “oh, you want me to repeat that?  Because I said ___ and then dot, dot, dot, you know, because I didn’t finish my sentence, so you should write it like that.”*

It’s all so meta I can hardly stand it.

Day 114 Scorecard: 570 down, 1,255 to go

* the _____ was “Oh Furbies: they’re so cute when they’re asleep, but then when they wake up…” Now you know.

February 20th, 2015

Halfway Point of No Clothes Shopping Year: February 20, 2015

I always like to say I have no willpower.

And it’s true: I really don’t, when it comes to food or candy or other junk food…well, chips, really.  But for other stuff, I’ve been practising my willpowering and I’m starting to get better at it.  I’m sure everyone remembers that January was this family’s “Buy Nothing” month and it was (mostly) a success.  I’m not so sure everyone remembers that I am on a one-year clothing-shopping hiatus (which pre-dates 5Down – it will conclude in September).

Here are some things I have learned about not shopping for clothing for almost half a year now in spite of the many efforts my sneaky brain makes to sabotage me:

1. For someone who feels like she doesn’t buy a lot of clothes, I sure am spending less money.  My theory is that it is easy to shop for clothing on auto-pilot because it fits into the category of “necessity.” No one says they’re going “shopping” when they’re getting groceries.  Shopping is buying the stuff you don’t need.  This is sneaky brain at work.  Don’t believe it, it’s a trap.  Which brings me to the next thing I’ve learned.

2. Second-hand clothing is definitely more economical and environmentally friendly than buying new. However, this is another easy trick for your sneaky brain.  If I’m buying something new, I accept the shirt is going to cost me $40 (for example, I so rarely buy new this is just a guess).  I balk a little, I only buy one.  My “spending money guilt” feelings get ramped up.  On the other hand, when I buy 8 shirts for $5.00 each, I am fine to carry on to buy 3 pairs of $6.00 pants, a coat for $12.00, and other inexpensive items.  Did you see what I did there?  Sneaky brain is so blinded by the inexpensive light, it conveniently forgets that I’ve spent far more money than I should have. It can be more expensive to buy lots of cheap things than to buy one good quality thing.

3. I have clothes that I dislike and that don’t fit me very well.  However, I have made a promise and sneaky brain is not able to smash through that particular wall.  It is interesting to look in the mirror, think “meh,” and resist the urge to purge my closet and replenish with fresh clothes when I feel virtuous about my choice. I feel like I’m suffering.  I realize this is ridiculous, but as long as I can fool myself into thinking I’m being all stiff-upper-lippy, I can muscle through the not-so-hot looking days. Setting a self-restraint goal can provide as much positive feedback as looking good in something new does.

4. Again with the clothes I don’t like so much.  This exercise in restraint is also making me aware of how impulsive I am when I shop for clothing.  Contrary to what you might be thinking, I’m not talking about the “oooh, that’s cute,” type of impulse buy.  Think of a stereotypical man, forced to go clothes shopping, who grabs the first thing that sort of fits and calls it a day.  That’s me.  My sneaky brain thinks I’m not shopping if I do it really fast and move on.  In some ways, this does mean I spend less money on clothing than the stereotypical woman, but it certainly also means I am prone to wasting money due to carelessness.  It is easier, in that moment, to grab and go…but the long-term result is an accumulation of “meh” clothing I just end up purging…which ends up in me needing to shop again…rinse and repeat. Rushing through clothing choices can end up being expensive. I have realized I need to care more when I’m choosing something to purchase, which conveniently brings me to my last point.*

5. I don’t need to buy something just because I’m in a store. Of course, the first rule of frugality is “don’t go shopping,” but the second rule should be “you don’t need to buy X (clothing, in this case) just because you are out shopping for X (clothing).”  This is a lesson that I also learned during Buy Nothing month.  It can feel rather gauche to enter a store and then exit without making a purchase.  This is a sneaky brain trick that means I spend too much money out of some weird notion of social obligation.  Honestly, sneaky brain: no one really cares if I do not make a purchase.  Well, the shop owner might, but that is another conversation altogether. It is okay to go shopping for a coat and come home empty-handed.  In fact, it is far better to go shopping for a coat and come home empty-handed than to go shopping for a coat and come home with something because I felt like I needed to buy one so I settled for this coat I don’t really like.

The only problem I’ve encountered, so far, is that I really need to get new winter boots but I feel like I can’t. I’ve been drying out my leaky boots by the wood fire on a daily basis, but somehow I’m able to ignore their leakiness right up until the next time I step into a slushy puddle on my way to work.  Those boots are going 5 Down as soon as I can convince my crazy self to buy new ones!  I’ve really got to work on paying attention to the law of diminishing returns…

Day 113 Scorecard: 565 down, 1,260 to go

* There has got to be a better way to do this, though, than shopping.  Shopping for clothing is one of life’s horrid necessities.

February 19th, 2015
February 18, 2015

Unintentional Purging: February 18, 2015

So we had a little bit of snow here and our neighbour dropped by to help clean out our driveway.

This is his very favourite hobby.  Or so I choose to believe.

This is his very favourite hobby. Or so I choose to believe.*

It’s not always easy to get a grip on the snow (and yes, I do mean that more than one way) and my neighbour may have had a teeny tiny issue…

Goodbye old, disgusting friend.

Goodbye old, disgusting friend.

Fortunately, the good people at Valley Waste Resource Management (formerly known as “the dump”) have assured us this happens, and they’ll provide us with a new one.

I’m betting the raccoons won’t even notice the difference.

Day 111 Scorecard: 555 down, 1,270 to go.

* thanks again, superhero neighbours!  And photo credit to Jennifer Lewis.


The 1 Thing Everyone Can Throw Out: February 17, 2014

Before I tell you what the one thing everyone could throw out is, I thought I’d share this adorable picture of us, doing our newest family tradition: family plank time.  We have been stalled out at 2:00 for a little while (mostly due to lingering illnesses), but tomorrow we’re bumping up to 2:15.

I look like I am floating: I am not.  Clara looks like she is confused.  She is not.  Solomon looks very serious.  He probably is.

I look like I am floating. I am not. Clara looks like she is confused. She is not. Solomon looks very serious. He probably is.

So what is that ONE thing everyone could and should, but probably will not get rid of?

Cookbooks.  Everyone has them, no one really needs them.

Since starting this challenge, we have divested ourselves of several cookbooks.  I have also recently discovered more than one cookbook that appeared on our shelves from no-one-knows-where.

Two of them were Weight Watchers cookbooks.  Mike and I are more of the load-on-the-bacon-and-butter types than Weight Watchers types.  In fact, I would likely not buy a cookbook if it hinted at anything remotely like a diet. Willpower is not my strong suit, nor is deprivation.

Surely no one gave them to us as a gift.  How awkward would that be?   Gifting someone a diet cookbook?  I mean, unless you’re trying to gently withdraw from a relationship and you’re attempting to make him/her loathe you by piling on the insults one by one.

I have my suspicions of whence it came and that person just may share a last name with my husband..

But cookbooks.  There is really, technically, no need for cookbooks any more.  If you want a recipe for the strangest possible combination of foodstuffs, all you need to do is use your favourite search engine and BOOM, there you have it.  Here, I googled turnip, barley, and leeks.  Looks good.

In fact, when Max was looking for a pancake recipe last week, and I suggested he use the Moosewood Cookbook, he looked at me like I had suddenly developed some mental deficit that had been hitherto indiscernible.

But here is the funny part.  I’m not ready to get rid of all my cookbooks.  Here is my shelf as of today:

Even a phonebook, Mom, since I know you were concerned about keeping a phone book...which my children also find puzzling.

Even a phonebook, Mom, since I know you were concerned about keeping a phone book…which my children also find puzzling.

I can’t get rid of all of them…there are too many ties.  The Moosewood Cookbook with its stains and ripped pages.  The Joy of Cooking, with its noted-up cookie recipes.  The Cake Bible that I wrote about in my Valentine gift suggestions post: yes, that is the very book that made me weep in a restaurant.  I still use it.

If you are going for minimalism, cookbooks are decidedly optional in this day and age.  If, however, you are going for enough, I think there is more to some cookbooks than just a particular recipe you love.  I’m happy to pare down the cookbooks that we never use, but the rest of them can go join their second-hand store brethren.

And anyway, it would take me too long to scan all the contents.

Day 110 Scorecard: 550 down, 1,275 to go

February 16, 2015

My Kids Are Better Than Your Kids: February 16, 2015

Really, what this should be called instead is something along the lines of “help is not always help” or “be careful what you wish for” …

See, my kids are awesome because they clean up when we ask them to.  Oh sure, there is the standard arguing: “he’s not helping,” “she’s just dressing her Polly Pockets,” and “why does he get to walk around with one puzzle piece in his hand for 10 minutes while the rest of us are sifting through boxes of mismatched toys?” and that’s just me, you should hear what they say!

They are often surprisingly quick about it, too.  One minute it is a mess to end all messes, and then it’s practically sparkling.  Are they magic?  No, they are not.  What they are is aware.  Aware that it’s not all that often that we will actually come and peek into the toy boxes to see what they’ve put into them.

Let’s just say that the word “toy” in “toy boxes” is used very, very loosely by them.

A partial list of things found in “toy” boxes today:

* pencils, pens, erasers, markers.

* Fimo and clay, unwrapped, and (in one case) seemingly carefully crumbled.

* kleenexes, or “tissues” as our non-brand conscious youngest child prefers to call them.

* hairbrushes and hairbands

* shoes.  yes, shoes, not dress-up shoes, but actual “I wear these outside” shoes.

* masking tape, paintbrushes, and socks.

I do not understand this.  I mean, I understand the impulse to just heave everything into a box and shove it onto a shelf, who doesn’t get that?  But to do so, knowing that your parents (well, one of them…well, me) are going to lose their minds over this disgusting habit?  Why?

I blame this child.  He IS the eldest, after all, and he taught the younger ones everything they know about stashing trash.  And look at that face?  That is the face of a master of deception...

I blame this child. He IS the eldest, after all, and he taught the younger ones everything they know about stashing trash. And look at that face? That is the face of a master of deception…

As I was surveying some of the damage, I sighed and said “let’s just throw it all out and start over.” Max agreed.  Clara interjected to claim that that particular piece from a wooden model that had broken years before was something she really, really simply must keep.   Of course, this applies to everything anyone ever wants to dispose of in the history of ever.  Solomon did not comment.  He’s heard it all before.


It was all a re-reminder, for me, of the necessity of taking things one bit at a time.  I was so overwhelmed by the sheer volume of messiness (once we’d removed things from their boxes) it really did feel like it would make sense to just turf everything.  I am not going to do that, though, nor am I about to take on the task of cleaning up for them, in spite of their reluctance to actually continue with the order I periodically impose on things.

Yes, it looks amazing.  Do not just a toy room by its outward appearance.  They may have stuffed an apple core and your income tax returns in there.  Nothing is impossible...

Yes, it looks amazing. Do not judge a toy room by its outward appearance. They may have stuffed an apple core and your income tax returns in there somewhere. Nothing is impossible, and I can’t watch them ALL of the time.

I have an evil plan.

For today, we did a lot, but not everything.  We cleared out most of the actual garbage and things that belonged elsewhere, but the toys have not been sorted.  My evil plan is to let the children do the sorting.  This is definitely the hardest, most frustrating part of having a lot of stuff. Hence, one of my reasons for starting 5 Down.  Less junk = less stuff to sort and organize! My plan of letting the kids do this organizing on their own has a couple of ulterior motives:

1. To make it really, really clear why excessive stuff is such an enormous pain in the nether regions and

2. To, I hope, have them come up with a system that makes sense to them, since my systems never seem to work.*

So I guess, in reality, my kids are only better than your kids at faking being good at cleaning up.  Or maybe your kids do this trick, too.

Also, they’re good at building giant Lego robots:

My favourite part is the eyes (yep, they're LegoMan heads).  I have been informed that this was Solomon's idea.  "Eye"dea?

My favourite part is the eyes (yep, they’re LegoMan heads). I have been informed that this was Solomon’s idea. “Eye”dea?

Not to veer wildly off topic, here, but I think I should also give a little shout-out to Mike, who prompted the whole “let’s get this toy space cleaned up” by removing the Guinea Pig tower (we have only had 1 piggy for well over a year now, but the structure remained.  Junior has been relocated to a more accessible spot, as you can see in the background).

Yes, it does kind of look like Juniors new digs are sprouting out of Mikes head...

Yes, it does kind of look like Junior’s new digs are sprouting out of Mike’s head…

Day 109 Scorecard: 545 down, 1,280 to go

* also to avoid me being committed.

February 15th, 2015

History Lessons with Fire: February 15, 2015

Dear American readers: this is a trigger alert for you.  Do not be alarmed.  There is no symbolism in this post, none at all.  Canada is not planning to burn your iconic buildings down (again).  Just keep in mind: this is the 21st century, not the 19th.  You are welcome.

Each member of our family has a part of 5 Down she or he likes the best.  For Clara, it’s the burning part. At least, that’s what she announced when we did this with Max’s old Empire State Building wooden model:

On Fire State Building

On Fire State Building

It behooves me to point out that we have a good reason for burning stuff:

Canada welcomes you...if you can get in.

Canada welcomes you…if you can get in.

And for a little perspective:



I had asked the boys to each find one thing from their room to throw out.  “Throw out?!?” said Solomon, incredulously, “I think you mean something to 5 Down, Mommy.  That is NOT the same thing as throwing out.”  Touché, kid, touché.  After the model immolation, the hunt was on for other objects to burn get rid of.

Fortunately, I only needed one more thing.  Fortunately, Max found a second wooden object in less than 10 seconds.

Clara thinks this was the best 5 Down day yet.

Day 108 Scorecard: 540 down, 1,285 to go