nivo total station teodolit hiperaktivite The Non-Consumer Advocate Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without. Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without

There’s nothing like hosting a garage sale to make me want to steer clear of thrift stores. I worked damned hard to clear my house of excessive and unnecessary stuff, so it would be self destructive to just fill it up again. Right? I schlepped a huge donation to Goodwill after last week’s garage sale, so there was no way in hell I was going to wander through the store aisles.

But a week’s time can sneak a bit of grey into an otherwise black and white world.

With a laser sharp mission to stop into Goodwill “to just photograph stuff for the blog,” I popped into one of my favorite locations on my way home from Costco. (I was able to rationalize that there was zero extra driving, as it was on a street I was driving on anyway. I am a top notch rationalizer, don’t be jealous of my mad rationalizing skillz.)

Goodwill did not disappoint, as an ever present targeted savings bank immediately caught my eye.

Hopes & Dreams

“Hopes & Dreams” is a new one to me. Although I kind of like saving for such a broad and lofty goal rather than the typical plastic surgery, casino money and wine. It’s the opposite of the normal hedonism.

I was also charmed by the graphics on this stack of vintage dish ware.

vintage agrarian dishware

Look at the sweet pastoral mother and child scene. It totally reminded me of Small Measure’s Ashley English.

Plate detail

The detail on the plates were heart meltingly sweet.

plate detail 2

Don’t worry, I didn’t buy them.

I was also charmed by this vintage vanity and stool. (Although the stool was obviously not original to the set since it had to be placed sideways to slot underneath the dresser.) Priced at $79.99, it wasn’t a terrible deal. These dressers are often in terrible condition with peeling veneer; and missing the mirror and chair. This one only needed some wood conditioner.

Vintage Vanity

Look at how groovy the stool was. I seriously would have snagged it if it was sold on its own and priced at $10 or less.

stool sample

The art nouveau drawer pulls were to die for. Hello, bakelite!

art nouveau drawer pulls

I took it an an opportunity to snap a quick selfie, although it turned out kind kind of weird, as I look like I sipping the from straw of my iPhone. (New collaboration between Apple and Starbucks?)

sippy iPhone

This week I am the questionable of the questionable-will. And no, I didn’t buy anything.

Sheesh . . .

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Today was a day to run a few walkable errands, despite the unpleasantly warm temperature. (89º, yes I’m a wimp.) I considered bringing a water bottle with me, but I realized that almost everywhere I would be hitting included a water fountain. And then I started to think about how when I was growing up in the 1970′s and 1980′s no one carried water, refillable or otherwise, yet we somehow didn’t die of dehydration.

We drank from water fountains.

My first stop was to New Season’s Market, where I dropped off the plastics recycling, as well as extra skateboard helmet foam that I forgot to give to the guy who bought it from my garage sale. Luckily, the buyer mentioned that he worked at New Season’s, so there’s a chance that the never-used foam can reunite with the helmet.

I also used the water fountain, which was both chilly and delicious:

New Season's drinking fountain

The next stop was the half-mile to the library, where I returned a couple of books and picked up a a DVD of From Up on Poppy Hill. Luckily, there was a Benson Bubbler fountain outside:

Benson bubbler

As well as a traditional indoor water fountain. Both were lip smackingly satisfying!

library drinking fountains

I was then off to the credit union, which I would guess was an addition half-mile. Unfortunately, the credit union didn’t have a water fountain, although you know that I asked. (I did find 55¢ under the coin counting machine, which helped to sooth my disappointment.)

But since I was picking up a few groceries at Fred Meyer, I knew I could just suck it up and use their water fountain. (Pun intended.)

Fred Meyer drinking fountains

But I gotta be honest here. I didn’t use this drinking fountain. Why? Well . . . the Fred Meyer drinking fountain is sandwiched between the bathrooms which lack doors. (The stalls have doors, but there’s no door to enter the rooms.) And someone had apparently just taken the dump of the century, and the smell was overwhelming.

Thanks, but I can wait the ten minutes until I’m home to get a drink of water.

Gag.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m normally huge fan of packing a refillable water bottle when out and about, but since I knew about the drinking fountains, I was able to leave that generally heavy item at home.

Do you drink from drinking fountains or are you partial to your own water bottle? Please share your preference in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on July 15, 2014 · 32 comments


  1. My work lunch is all packed and ready for tomorrow. I’ve become complacent lately about packing a work lunch, as the cafeteria’s salad bar is amazing, with fresh spinach, poached salmon and endless fresh veggies. It’s pretty cheap at $5 or so, but it adds up.
  2. I (almost) only went places today that were within walking distance from the house, and my most impressive activity was a massive nap on the couch.
  3. I loaded up the back of the mini-van to donate the garage sale leftovers to Goodwill. At first my plan was to just donate the clothing and a few other small items, but once I got started it felt so amazingly cathartic, and I ended up donating almost everything. (This was my only driving errand today.) And let’s give me a pat on the back for donating at Goodwill without going into the store!
  4. I hung two loads of laundry on the clothesline today, after washing them in cold water and only using a small amount of detergent. (I use the tiny Oxyclean scoop, which cuts down on how much detergent gets used.)
  5. I am starting to plan out some fun and frugal staycation ideas for my 14-year-old nephew’s two week visit.

Now your turn. What frugal activities have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Garage sale Katy

My weekend garage sale sale both a success (Saturday) and a bit of a dismal endeavor (Sunday.)

Saturday’s weather was hot, hot, hot! So much so that my husband set up the large shade canopy over the driveway to provide a bit of much needed shade. It was an excellent decision and allowed people to shop without melting in the 92° urban heat. I’d say that about half of the merchandise was spread out in the sun, but it was still nice to have that bit of shade. We were consistently visited by customers, and I made $211.75.

Sunday was an entirely different beast.

The day started out lovely with soft clouds and mild temperatures. Unfortunately, those “soft clouds” transformed into dark grey booming and angry thunder clouds, complete with heavy rain showers and flashes of lightening.

Needless to say, the weather kept Portlanders from heading out for a day of pleasant garage sale-ing.

Also, it hadn’t even entered my mind how the citizens of Soccer City, U.S.A. would plan their day around watching the final game of the World Cup.

Oops.

Luckily, I spent some time Saturday night rummaging through our attic space for additional STUFF to sell on Sunday. And although most of it went unsold, I did unload an acrylic oriental rug for $40, as well as a few pairs of my son’s outgrown Vans sneakers and miscellaneous other things. Day two garnered a less impressive $82.50 in sales.

And that shade canopy? It transformed itself into a refuge from the rain, without which we would’ve had to scrap the entire day.

Even though Sunday’s customers only came in fits and spurts, it was still worth doing, as the hard work of a garage sale is organizing the whole shebang.  Plus, I had my friend Lise as company, which made it pleasurable, as it’s normally rare to indulge in five-hour long conversations with friends.

Notable moments from the garage sale:

  • The woman who told me, “I was on my way to the liquor store to buy tequila when I saw your sign.”
  • The mother who talked her daughter out of buying a stuffed unicorn, saying to her, “I’ll say to you what I always say, ‘Will you be using it in two months?’ ” Which made the girl rethink her purchase and put the unicorn back into the bin.
  • The multiple potential customers who had a laugh at the Kitty Walk caged cat stroller that my neighbors put into the sale.
  • The eight (?) year old boy who talked me down from $3 to $2 for a pair of black slip-on Vans sneakers. I heard him loudly exclaim “score!” once he got back into his car.
  • The elderly asian man who spent probably 30 minutes fiddling with a VCR to confirm that it worked. He then haggled me down to $3 from $5 despite speaking pretty much no English.
  • Selling my neighbor’s outdoor heating lamp to another neighbor who last summer slept on her garage roof. I once had to yell at her to please not have outdoor sex six feet from my kitchen window. The other neighbors and I had a laugh about how maybe she’s planning on extending her outdoor season.
  • The obviously drug addicted customer who picked a fabric cinch sack from the free box, and then not so subtly snuck something from the clothing area into it. He then walked quickly away when I asked him if he needed help. I would have been happy to give him any clothing he wanted, so this did not bother me.
  • That the little-league size jock strap/cup did not get chosen from the free box, although the expensive hair products I won in a school auction and the toiletries left behind by our Japanese exchange student did.
  • Multiple interesting conversations with neighbors and random strangers.
  • Pretending to walk a large stuffed frog in the Kitty Walk. (Also, realizing that “Kitty Walk” and “Katy Wolk” were almost the same.)

Today I’ll bring the unsold STUFF over to a local consignment shop before I delegate everything to the Goodwill drop off. One thing’s for sure though, which is that I am not bringing the leftover merchandise back into the house. (It’s currently in the garage.) Because once I’ve made the decision to get rid of something, it becomes painful to look at.

I’m happy to have rehomed many, many things that were just sitting unused and unappreciated in my home. The sports gear will see action, the clothing will be worn and the knickknacks can collect dust in someone else’s house.

Remember people, crap out of the house, money in!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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I’ve been wearing the same scrappy pair of sandals for longer than I care to admit. (Okay, okay . . . maybe 8 years?) The shoes are leather with nylon edging, and through the years some of the nylon had become completely separated from the soles. I’ve very passively kept an eye out for a new pair at Goodwill, but frankly it was low on my priority list. But I was hanging out at my friend Lise’s house the other night when she asked why I didn’t just cut off the nylon bits.

It was an ah-hah moment.

Here’s how the shoes looked before my repair:

Shoes before

You can see the separation in this photo:

Shoe detail

And now they’re perfectly acceptable:

Fixed sandals

See where I cut?

Side view

And since I had my sewing scissors out, I fixed a pair of ancient pajamas which had torn at the knee:

Pajama fix

Which created:

A) A pair of summer pajama shorts.

B) A stack of nice soft rags.

Rags

So next time you’re thinking you need to toss broken or torn items, instead consider taking a pair of scissors and cutting off the offending bits. The solution might be easier than you think.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Zero Waste Wins While Traveling

by Katy on July 8, 2014 · 23 comments


My family just got back from a four day vacation down to Ashland, Oregon to attend the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and tour Southern Oregon University. The trip was a graduation gift to our eighteen-year-old son, and was a deliberate choice for an experience rather than a thing. And just like when we’re at home, we try to minimize waste whenever possible.

We’ll never hit zero waste, but we try, baby. We try.

Our first Zero Waste Win (ZWW) was this toiletry dispenser in our motel room shower. I love how this smart looking contraption took the place of those tiny and wasteful little bottles synonymous with hotel bathrooms around the world. I know this is a cost saving measure for the fine folks at Ramada Inn, but often times the two go hand in hand. (Oddly, they also had the tiny bottles set out on the counter, but we just left those alone.)

We also put the sign on our door that we woundn’t need housekeeping services throughout our stay, as daily sheet changes are far from necessary. Do I wash my sheets on a daily basis when I’m home? Hardly.

Zero Waste Win!

Wall toiletries

We also brought our own water bottles and travel mugs. I hadn’t thought about how the motel would use disposible tableware for their deluxe continental breakfast. I hate, hate, hate styrofoam, so we simply reused the same disposables every day of our trip. Not exactly zero waste, but still better than getting fresh stuff every morning.

Zero Waste Compromise! (ZWC?)

Zero waste kitchenware

Summer in southern Oregon gives you many opportunities to refill your water bottle, and here I am partaking of a public water fountain in adorable historic Jacksonville. We also refilled our bottles at the end of every restaurant meal with lovely ice water.

Zero Waste Win!

Zero waste water

And no Non-Consumer Advocate trip would be complete without documentation of the many coins to be found on the ground. This 11¢ was found under a bench in Ashland’s Lithia Park.

Zero Waste Win! (Waste no free money!)

zero waste money

I loved the ingenuity of this porch rail constructed from old horse shoes. A perfect use for an otherwise useless object. Sure, people decorate with them, but this is actually functional, and takes the place of what would otherwise have been built with new materials.

Zero Waste Win!

zero waste horse shoes

Other random ZWW’s included:

  • We bought a couple pints of Ben & Jerry’s on our last night. We had one we didn’t even open, so I took it down to the night clerk since our in-room freezer wasn’t up to the job. He was very happy to accept his pint of Coffee, Coffee, Buzz, Buzz, Buzz.
  • My original idea had been for the three of us to see two different plays while down in Ashland. However, that plan would have been a real budget buster. (We paid $210 for our back of the theater Tempest tickets.) I did have a Chinook Book coupon for 50%-off two tickets for Sunday-Thursday shows, but the Sunday night plays were mostly sold out and I had my heart set on The Tempest. I didn’t want my coupon to go to waste, so I took it over to the box office on Sunday and gave it to a couple who were about to buy tickets. (Instead, we paid $21 to see a movie in the blessedly air conditioned historic Varsity Theater.)
  • We held onto all recyclable materials during our trip and brought them home to put into our recycling bin.
  • I handed back a few unnecessary papers to the admissions department at Southern Oregon University.
  • We didn’t buy even one memento or thing during our trip. We only spent money on transportation, entertainment and food.
  • I just paid our six-month garbage recycling bill, which we split with our next door neighbors. Because we both minimize our garbage output, we’re able to split the service which saves us each $168 per year.

Do you make an effort to minimize waste when traveling? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

For loads more great information about zero waste solutions, make sure to check out Zero Waste Home.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Choosing Experiences Over Stuff

by Katy on July 5, 2014 · 31 comments


Ashland library

My family is on a mini four-day-vacation right now. Okay let me rephrase that, my husband, 18-year-old son and I are on vacation right now. Because without our 16-year-old son, it somehow doesn’t seem right to refer to ourselves as a “family.” (But since that lucky duck is spending a month in Sapporo, Japan I hardly feel that he’s being deprived of any car trip vacation opportunities.)

Where was I?

Oh yes, my family is on a mini-vacation right now.

Rather than buying something for our son as a high school graduation gift, we decided instead for an experiential gift and take him on his very own vacation. Money is, as always, tight, so anywhere that would require flight was out of the question. (Although I have been getting more shifts at the hospital which has helped to loosen up my money anxiety issues.) I came up with the idea to drive down to Ashland for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. My initial thinking was that we’d see one Shakespearean play and one non-Shakespearean play, but since tickets are very pricey, I bought great tickets for the single play I thought we’d all enjoy. (The Tempest.) And also that we’d pack the trip with lots of wonderful (but frugal) things to do.

Before we could plan any activities, I needed to find a place to stay that wouldn’t eat up our entire budget. I used Priceline to shop for a motel, and then took my step-father’s advice to stay in close-by Medford instead of schwanky Ashland. And since this meant we could pay $68 per night instead of Ashland’s typical $175 per night, this was an easy decision. Of course, I went through eBates, which gave me an extra 4% back after the additional 5% I got back for using the Priceline promo code of SUMMER14. (Whew . . . ) Add the free deluxe continental breakfast included with our stay, and our housing was a unmitigated bargain!

Is our hotel a luxurious experience? Nope. It’s a Ramada Inn, which is A-OK with me. It’s clean, the beds are comfortable and it has both a pool and a fitness center. And since we’re saving so such money on housing, we can spend in other areas without worry.

We could save a ton of money by packing our own food and forgoing restaurant meals, but my family really enjoys the experience of eating out when we travel.

Yesterday we used Yelp to locate a locally owned Filipino restaurant in Keizer, Oregon for lunch on our drive down to Ashland, and for dinner we ate at a British-ish pub, as my son was craving fish and chips. (And since we used Yelp to find the restaurant, we earned a free dessert as a reward for “checking in.”)

We then explored Ashland and located a perfect spot to watch the town’s fireworks display. It was literally across the the street from where they were being shot off, and it felt like we were directly beneath the fireworks.

Today we’ll see our play, and then wander around town. Tomorrow we’ll explore the Historic Landmark town of Jacksonville and likely eat more delicious food. My son has a scheduled tour on Monday at Southern Oregon University, after which we’ll head over to the Oregon coast to slowly make our way back home. (My son is taking a gap year before college, which has given him an extra year to explore his college opportunities.)

Nowhere in our itinerary will there be buying of location specific and useless souvenirs. (Although I have picked up two pennies so far.)

And hopefully, my son while have fond memories of his experiential graduation gift, where he got his parents all to himself.

Have you been moving toward experiential gifts over stuff? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Disclosure, the eBates link is an affiliant link, which helps to support the blog.

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Clothesline Color

by Katy on July 2, 2014 · 9 comments


I really like the colors on my clothesline today.

Clothesline

And to quote Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada:

“That is all.”

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Today I Am . . .

by Katy on July 1, 2014 · 16 comments


Grocery Outlet

Today I am . . . 

  • Driving the Japanese exchange student to the airport as he’s traveling to New York for a week.
  • Stopping at Ikea afterwards to enjoy a free cup of coffee and pick up a free big blue bag thanks to the Chinook Book that someone left at one of my mother’s guest cottages for me. (I’ll use the bag to stash stuff for my upcoming garage sale.)
  • Eating a 50¢ hot dog. Urp . . .
  • Forgetting to bring the CFL lightbulbs that I could have dropped off at Ikea. Craaaap . . .
  • Popping into the Grocery Outlet for goodies and also using a Chinook Book coupon. ($3-off-$25!)
  • Putting together a Craigslist listing for my like-new Goodwill Danskos.
  • Planning a dinner based on what I found at The Grocery Outlet. (Nice cheap drumsticks = Chicken Adobo!)
  • Taking advantage of the hot, dry and windy weather to hang multiple loads of laundry on my clothesline. (Sun dried sheets . . . mmm . . .  <– Homer Simpson sound.)
  • Considering doing a weeklong SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge in conjunction with Grocery Outlet’s Independence From Hunger campaign. (Start next week?)
  • Putting my feet up to read the new Jane Green book.
  • Thinking that I should borrow the neighbor’s power washer and remove the slimy moss scum from my brick patio.
  • Listening to my husband watch the U.S. vs. Belgium World Cup game.
  • Repeatedly reminding myself that tomorrow is the day to sign up for work shifts.
  • Happy to have enough work, but happy that today is not one of those days.
  • Getting excited about my family four-day trip down to Ashland, Oregon.
  • Oddly energized.
  • Happy.

Now your turn. What are you doing today?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Portland Goodwill shoppers are very lucky. Not only are our thrift shops fit to burst with bargain treasures, but we also have an awesome Goodwill Club program that tracks our purchases, gives us discounts and then lovingly obligingly spits out a $10 store credit for every $500 we spend.

Oh, wait a minute. Portland used to have a Goodwill Club program. Because as of today, June 30th, 2014, this program has been disbanded. I should have anticipated this catastrophic sad occasion, as this program has been systematically watered down through the years. But I knew I was very close to the $500 mark, so I stopped in at Goodwill on my way home from work yesterday. My goal was to spend my way to the $500, which I was only $24 away from achieving. (And before you get horrified that I’ve spent so much, keep in mind that I often buy Goodwill items for resale, so I actually make money when I shop.) I wanted a pair of non-flared jeans, plus whatever else I regularly keep an eye out for.

My eye was drawn by this $5 irresistible handmade vintage throw pillow. (I love the corner tassels!) It passed my sniff test, so into the cart it went.

throw pillow

And of course, there was the inevitable targeted savings bank. This time for “Mom’s Spare Change,” a new one to my imaginary collection!

Mom's spare change

And although I went down the knick-knack aisle, no dust collectors came home with me, although I was briefly enchanted by this Fiestaware dancing lady. I love my Fiestaware dishes, but a plastic tchotchke of the logo? Tacky!

Fiestaware dancing lady

And since I already have an almost excessive number of chairs to my name I also bypassed this sweet “Little Old Wood Chair:”

little wooden chair

See? Little Old Wood Chair!

chair detail

I’ve been keeping an eye out for a simple pair of black flats for months, and this actually-fits-me pair was only $4, so yup, I bought them too!

flats

had to buy this new looking pair of $9 Danskos, which were sadly ever so slightly too small for me. (Damned big feet!) They’re $120 new, and soon to be $50 on Portland Craigslist.

Danskos

I did find a pair of (unphotographed) $7 skinny-legged jeans which brought my Goodwill Club grand total to (drum roll please!)  $501!

So woo-hoo, I earned (okay, overspent my way) to a $10 voucher!

501 Goodwill points!!!!

Goodbye, dear Goodwill Club. I will miss you dearly.

Sniff . . .

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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