Category Archives: Simplifying

Freezer Update (Energy Savings)

Remember when I decommissioned and sold my upright freezer back in December? It was an impulsive decision but I was curious as to whether I would notice a difference in our electric bill.I can’t say I noticed a huge difference in December and January in terms of the dollar amount from previous months but it’s clear our “usage” of kWh is definitely less. In February, our bill was about $74 compared to about $100 in 3 previous months. We just got our bill for March yesterday (due April 10) and it’s $69.

Next, I went back and compared recent bills (after I got rid of the freezer) to the same months in 2011 (Jan-April). In January 2011, our bill was $130.88 compared to January 2012 ($101). In Feb. 2011, the bill was $138.82 compared to $101 again in Feb 2012. (I thought it was weird that the bills were identical in those 2 months-but that’s irrelevant). In March, 2011, our bill was $105.42 compared to $74. Finally, we paid $92.84 in April 2011 compared to $69 for this year.

Based on electric bills from the years before I got the freezer (consistently under $100), I was expecting to save about $25 per month and I’m thinking that’s about right.

We did switch suppliers sometime in the summer and that might account for a small difference in the bills but would not account for the savings in usage. I calculate roughly a 20% difference in usage since we haven’t had the freezer. One other disclosure…I imposed a screen fast during lent. The kids do watch some movies as a family but everyone’s viewing, including mine and Mark’s is significantly lower. I’m sure that accounts for the approximate $5 savings between Feb and March. That’s actually surprising. Wonder how much it would be if the desktop was turned off most of the day and night. It’s usually on sleep but still plugged in.

A note about living without a freezer aside from the energy savings. I actually think it’s liberating. There are a very few things that I like to freezer (extra spaghetti sauce and meatballs, cookie dough balls, muffin batter) but I honestly can live without doing all of those things. It’s actually less imposing making one batch of sauce rather than enough for 6 meals. I prefer working with 1-2 lbs of ground meat rather than 6. I can live without frozen cookie dough and muffin batter.

When I had the luxury of the freezer, I tended to waste more and even spend more weekly on food. I’d prepare more food than we needed, throw it in the freezer and about half the time, not get around to using it in a timely manner.

 

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Finding Cash!

Well, I fell about  $30 short of my “craigslist” goal in Jaunuary. As I wrote before, I’m totally fine with that. I still feel like I found about seventy bucks in the basement (selling things that I either didn’t purchase or that we haven’t used in YEARS). One thing that I sold this month was something that I was hoping to recover some value for but I’m satisfied with the transaction. It is still out of my house!On the other hand, and I’m not sure I mentioned this in detail, I’ve been paid a total of $43.00 for books that I’ve unloaded on Amazon. Not bad, considering 2 were books that I purchased to read myself and knew I wouldn’t reread. Another was one I picked up on the library cart for .50, intending to read it, then decided it was too depressing…sold that one for about $6 and the last was a copy of a book that’s near and dear to my heart….Real Learning, Education in the Heart of My Home by Elizabeth Foss. I picked it up at our local homeschool conference’s used book sale for $4 thinking that one of my homeschool friends could use it. Everyone was covered so I finally sold it. I was happy to pass it along for about $10. It is a treasure.

FYI, I’ve sold books on ebay’s “half.com” and just recently started listing titles on Amazon. I think “half” only keeps a small percentage of the shipping fee, while amazon takes a small commission on the sale. I really think the exposure is better at amazon and I’ve had more action there.

It’s very easy to list books on both sites and hasn’t been a huge time investment.

I’m satisfied with my efforts to make some extra fun money selling things I’m no longer using. If anyone’s interested, I’ll post a few tips about selling books on Amazon or Ebay soon.

I’m also researching just doing it directly from my blog and adding a paypal or google checkout button. I have to look into that, though. The only benefit is avoiding the commission but I’m not sure you can’t beat the exposure on Amazon or Half. (I’m no “Pioneer Woman”)

As always, I’ll keep you posted.

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Craigslist Update

I sold 2 things out of my basement this month and am $40 away from my goal. I would have been closer but I accepted a low-ball offer on something that had been posted and reposted. I didn’t haggle with the kid, just accepted his offer and the next day, got an email from someone who was willing to pay the asking price. C’est la vie.I might blitz Craigslist with some lower-priced, big, bulky items to serve the dual purpose of clearing space and approaching my goal of selling $100 by the end of the month.

I’m fine with whatever happens.

I’m seriously considering some type of e-fast during lent. In which case, I will suspend my goal and the books I’ve listed on amazon for sale since I won’t be able to monitor them in a timely fashion. I may just seriously limit checking my email to certain days or a specific time of the day.

I will keep you up-to-date.

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"Goal" Post, episode 2

I’ve been listening to Dave Ramsey podcasts while I do projects and chores around the house. His radio show is broadcast in my area but the reception is terrible. Other bloggers have posted about applying his plan to get out of debt and be financially independent. I will do that some day because following his plan-even loosely- helped us pay off our debt (everything but the house).

During a recent podcast, he discussed the key elements to setting and achieving goals. In order to be effective, goals must:  1) be specific, 2) measurable, 3) yours, 4) have a time limit and 5) in writing. This article on his website goes into greater detail about the importance of each of these elements.

Although I think it’s a great idea to set goals in different areas of your life, this is such a new practice for me, I’m starting simple.

I think posting about goals counts as writing but I think they will be more likely to happen if I also write them down on paper or in a book or something.

One goal I have is to sell more things that I’m not using on Craigslist.

Applying the Ramsey elements:

1. I plan to purge and earn $100 per month by selling things on Craigslist.

2. While the amount of money here is arbitrary.  Putting a dollar figure on the goal makes it measurable. If I’m posting 5-10 things every week and not making close to $100 per month, I can reevaluate to determine whether it’s worth the time. I am balancing my potential to earn a little money on some things with my desire to get things out the door. I think the $100 goal will motivate me to get rid of some bigger things.

3. This element is satisfied because it’s my idea but Mark definitely supports it. He also is amenable to listing some of his things.

4. My time frame is 6 months. If I’ve earned $500 by the end of May, I may continue but in the interest of simplifying, I may purge the rest of the things by donating them or giving them away in the early summer.

5. My goal is in writing here but I’ll also write it on paper.

By the way, I earned about $250 in December selling things on Craigslist that I didn’t use or need. I don’t anticipate that I have enough to continue that pace which is why I set the $100 goal.

I’ll keep you posted.

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Basement Update

I posted about getting to my basement almost exactly one year ago. Admittedly, some projects take time but there’s no excuse for THAT! I am happy to report that I finally organized a little in this space-finally, I had no idea it had been so long. Remember what the back room looked like?

“Work” bench-ugh
Last year, one of my goals was to hang a peg board above the unwork bench.
Ta-Da!
I used paint leftover from the boys’ room to jazz it up. I like it better than stark white. I know it’s not exactly beautiful in this room, but that little touch of color makes me feel better.
Here’s the other wall before:
CHAOS!
One major barrier for me is changing something that has been in the house since we moved in. I don’t have a sentimental attachment, it just takes me a long while to realize that something just isn’t optimally functional or efficient. Take, for example, that upside down bookshelf hanging on the wall. Actually, I really don’t even know WHAT that is. Just another remnant of the incompetent contractor who lived in the house before us. I get the feeling he found a bookshelf at a yard sale (I can’t imagine that he built that hideous thing) and slapped it up on the basement wall to “organize” his stuff. Who knows? It’s only taken about 14 years of living in the house for me to realize it was not that useful and another 2 years to finally take it down.

Here’s what I did yesterday:

Sorry for the grainy photos.
If you have a beautiful finished basement, I realize you’re not inspired or impressed. It is still pretty heinous and blah. But a little organization makes it so much better for me. The embarrassing thing is that it took about 20 minutes to build each shelf (on sale for $30 each) and a total of a couple of hours to purge and organize.
Admittedly, I was held up by Mark’s fishing equipment. I needed him to go through it, organize and purge what he doesn’t use anymore. Guess what? he still hasn’t done that. I just put all of his rods in a giant crock that his mom used to make sauerkraut and the top right shelf holds the other things. Even if he never gets to it, I can live with that. Shame on me for waiting.
I wouldn’t mind painting the paneling to brighten things up a tad but this is literally in the recesses of my home. So, that’s a project that can wait.
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Looking Ahead

The wheels are starting to spin for me. That week between Christmas and the new year is a week that I like to focus on SOMETHING productive. Purging, organizing, planning. The busyness leading up to Christmas is typically over, we take a break from school and I enjoy focusing on something related to the house. Mark used to take a trip for work during the first week in January and I always used that time to purge and organize late into the night.

This year, I really think I might try to sell a bunch of stuff on Craigslist. If it doesn’t sell, I’ll take it to the thrift store. I may even start an etsy store. There isn’t much in my house that is etsy-worthy but there’s a ton of wierd stuff in the mountains that qualifies as vintage, industrial, etc. I think it might be fun. Also, I’m hoping to encourage the kids to list some things and clear out a bit.

Merry Christmas to all 3 of my readers. If you have a special project planned for the week between Christmas and New Year, leave me a comment.

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Decommissioning the Freezer

Remember this post  about purging the freezer last year? (Yeah, same photo). I went to sleep last night or woke up this morning thinking that we probably don’t really need the extra freezer space that much. At least not enough to justify the extra space in the garage AND the cost to keep it running.

Now that I’m looking at the photo from last year when I cleaned it out, I’m really embarrassed to say that a LOT of the same things were still in there. Let me just tell you what wasn’t in there and you’ll get the idea. The butter, parm and 2 of the containers on the door were not in there. Everything else you see on the door was (the berries had been used up or pitched from last year and we did bag up our crop from this summer-hopefully we’ll use them)

In the main part of the freezer, the hot dogs, ham, pierogies and the bags of frozen homemade pasta sauce were used. Also that yellow bag of something was probably eaten. Everything else was still in the freezer today. I pitched it all. Yikes!

Aside from the 50 lbs. of grass-fed ground beef that we stored for about 6 months, this freezer is not worth the cost. I’ll make room in my kitchen freezer.

I will give you an update as to the energy savings-if there is one. If I regret this decision, I feel fine about finding a new, smaller, more efficient appliance.

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The Perils of Decluttering- Another Camcorder Update

I purged my camcorder a while back because the door was broken and I didn’t feel like investing the time, money and energy to get it fixed. A few months later, Mark asked about it. OOps, but he was ok with my explanation (see above). I think I purged it sometime in the early spring of 2010.I was sorting through a file box where I keep some important papers, household receipts, insurance policies and apparently, warranties. Can you tell where I’m going with this?It turns out, I likely wouldn’t have had to pay anything to have the camera repaired since it was still under the extended warranty that I bought with it. I wasted $50.00 on a warranty that I could have used and didn’t. I probably could have even gotten a refund (prorated) for the unused warranty but didn’t discover it until the warranty had expired.

When I think about it, I still wouldn’t have wanted to spend the time and energy to fix the camera but I would have and most likely would have tried to sell the camera afterward. Those tapes are cumbersome and now that the kids are older, I really don’t video tape that much. Most phones, ipods and Mark’s ipad has video capability so I’m only regretting my error a little.

What’s the lesson? Declutter so you know what you have. Would I rather have never remembered I had purchased an extended warranty? Maybe, but I think I learned something.

Have a good weekend.

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Craig’s List-I LOVE YOU! (And some tips)

I’ve posted before about selling on Craigslist. It has its disadvantages for sure, but recently we’ve had some luck unloading some things. We finally sold 2 pieces of machinery + miscellaneous parts up in the mountains. On the home front, I sold a bench that I love but that I just don’t have room for any more.

Doesn’t it have a lovely shape? Even with the chips and scrapes, I sold it for a great price. The woman who wanted it needed it to be black and didn’t have time to paint it-so I did it for her. It was worth it.
What I love about listing things on Craigslist is that it takes very little effort to throw something on there and for the most part, forget about it. I love this particular piece enough that I would only let it go for a very high price (70% of its original price). I’ve mostly sold furniture pieces and have always been satisfied.
I have a few tips if you’re gonna try it:
1. Have a price in mind that you’d want to get for a piece and what you’d accept and be satisfied then list higher than what you’d like to get for it.
2.  List the terms of sale, pick-up, payment in the ad. This seems obvious but is easy to forget to say “cash only”.
3. Read up on scams, they usually involve someone offering to pay more by check or telling you to delist your item.
4. Be honest about defects. As you can see from the photo above, the bench has knicks and scratches and I included that information in the ad.
5. Minimize spam by insisting that responses to your ad include the date or some other specific piece of info in the subject line.
6. I always try to google names or email identities to determine if the person exists.
7. I’ve learned from experience say “first to get here with the cash gets it” but I’m always honest about others who are interested. In some cases, if someone doesn’t want to pay what I’m asking, I might tell them, I’ll get in touch if I’m willing to let the item go for what they’re offering. I don’t fake bidding wars.
Always use your judgment and every precaution before having a person come to your home. So far, I’ve never had an uncomfortable situation but you never know.
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What she said…

This photo has nothing to do with the post but it makes me happy

I’m not sure how I clicked over to this blog but I’ve enjoyed reading it. Maybe because “Jules” also is an attorney and she admits in her “about” blurb that it made her grumpy, too. (I was miserable when I was working in a big firm). She recently completed a series in which she purged and organized for 31 days in October. Right up my alley.

The post explains what motivated her decision to begin the project. Basically she is helping a friend deal with her deceased parents’ possessions. This quote in an email from the friend struck me:

Well my friend…I’ve spent the day looking at the petrie dish of my parents’ life, known as the boxes from Lake Arrowhead. The fact that everything has a musty smell just seems to add to the experience. I think everyone’s goal in life should be to not end up in a box for others to analyze. 

I’ve been so frustrated that my in-laws, who each died in their 80th year, left behind the petri dish of their own lives for my husband (and me) and sister-in-law. All the papers, half used tubes of this and that in the recesses of drawers. Clothes that hadn’t been worn in years. You name it, it was left behind-never dealt with. Surprisingly, the above quote reminded me of that but it didn’t churn it up for me again. Instead, it made me consider my own petri dish. I’m almost 43 and as I’ve learned, life turns on a dime. Not to be grim, but any of us could go at any time or be seriously disabled. It’s true. I just think it would be rude and so inconsiderate to leave Mark and the kids with the remnants of my indecision.

I will attempt to embrace Jules’ battle charge, a popular and relevant quote from William Morris”

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”

Seems simple enough. I’ve seen that quote a lot. One of my problems is that when I think of having something beautiful, I almost always think to myself that I will most definitely get sick of it. Which is why I’m not great at decorating. But this is a good start (restart).

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