Cluttery papers

December is a difficult month. We all feel that we’re supposed to be joyfully baking Christmas theme cookies, decorating our houses, (inside and out!) drinking with buddies in front of a roaring fire and happily picking out gifts for our families, friends and every neighbor within a four block radius.

Madison Avenue and popular culture set us up for disappointment and frustration. Because seriously, who lives like this without losing their mind?!

The entire month of December seems to exacerbate our feelings of loneliness, poverty and feelings of being out of control.

So what I do is take control. I decide how I’m addressing holiday gift giving, and I choose how I spend my time. I plan out some activities that we can look forward to, and I make sure that I’m not spending an entire month stressing over the single day of December 25th. And mostly importantly, I make sure I’m doing the things that give me pleasure and help me avoid the feeling that my life is spiraling out of control.

Like decluttering.

December 31st is a great deadline for decluttering, because all charitable donations need to be registered by then in order to be included in the current year’s taxes. Plus, the anticipation of gift receiving is always a good opportunity to create some empty space.

So today I will go though a file of papers that I know is filled with pointless documents and I’ll drop a couple of grocery bags at Goodwill. And maybe, just maybe I’ll bake up a batch of Christmas cookies.

One single day is not worth an entire month of stress.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Five (Or Maybe Six) More Frugal Things

by Katy on December 16, 2014 · 23 comments

Selling books at Powell's

I’m doing another Five Frugal Things blog post today because frugality is an ever present part of my daily life, and not everything is about Christmas!

  1. I stopped at The Grocery Outlet on my way home from dropping my son at school, which is the only time I go as it’s across town and I always batch this errand. I bought seven half-pound packs of Columbus brand herb turkey breast for $2.49 apiece. I put six into the freezer, and will enjoy not spending the $10/pound that my husband’s deli meat normally costs for at least a month. This brand is normally sold at New Seasons and other fancy schmancy grocery stores for at least twice this price! Plus I used a $3-off-$25 coupon from my Chinook Book.
  2. I am cooking up pinto beans in the crock pot to make burritos for tonight’s dinner. My husband bought an enormous Costco bag of pinto beans a couple of years ago, and we’ve been using them up ever since.
  3. I did a Costco run yesterday for cat food and bought . . . nothing but cat food. I did sample Haagen Dazs ice cream, salmon, vegetarian orange chicken, a Ferrero Rocher chocolate, cheese and possibly something else. I had some eggs and toast before leaving the house to make sure I wouldn’t be hungry when passing the food court. I also filled up the gas tank of my minivan for $2.28/gallon.
  4. Last night’s dinner was a Rosemary White Bean Soup from a recipe I found on The Prudent Homemaker’s blog. It was huge hit and my sixteen-year-old son wanted to know what it was because he liked it so much. I already had the white beans on hand and the rosemary I snipped from a neighbor’s bush.
  5. My husband and I both texted ALAMPE to 727272 to get codes for a free Redox movies. And unlike most of their codes, they’ll actually be good to use until December 22nd!
  6. I took a BIG box of books to Powell’s bookstore yesterday to sell. They only bought a small number of the books, but since they’d been sitting in my father’s attic since 1991, I consider it a win! I took all the unsold books to Goodwill and will use the deduction when tax time comes. I used my store credit to buy a lovely kitchen item for my sister’s birthday at their Powell’s for Cooks and Gardeners store.

Now your turn. Did you do any more frugal things today?

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 December 14, 2014 · 44 comments

Pumpkin

  1. A neighbor posted something in our local Facebook group about wanting to borrow a card table and queen sized flannel sheets. In exchange she was offering a bag of powdered sugar. I didn’t have the sheets, but I did have a card table, which I brought over to her house (with a tablecloth) within minutes of her posting the request. I then brought home a two-pound bag of powdered sugar, which I added to my pantry. I feel like The Prudent Homemaker would be proud of me, she’s so good at sourcing free food!
  2. I finally baked up my last Halloween pumpkin. It yielded at least a dozen cups of puree, which will eventually go into the freezer in two-cup portions, but first I’ll spend a couple days baking up pumpkin theme goodies. Today is a pumpkin bundt cake. And yes, you can get pumpkin puree from a regular ol’ Halloween pumpkin.
  3. My son had an indoor soccer/futsol game last night and my husband and I decided to go to the upstairs restaurant to get ourselves a little treat. I chose a cup of coffee and they gave it to me for free. Yes, I was up until 3:30 A.M., but I did get a ton of baking done. Wheeeee!!!!!!
  4. I was having a hard time coming up with one last gift idea for my niece, but then I realized she now has pierced ears. I chose a lovely pair of silver and turquoise earrings from my own collection that I never wear because they’re too small, but will be perfect for a ten-year-old girl. They’re now all polished up and ready for their new owner.
  5. I’ve been continuing to enjoy the library’s access to free downloadable audiobooks. Not only are they accessible without leaving home, but they disappear after three weeks, so there’s never a worry about overdue fines. (So wonderful to have an audiobook at the ready on my phone.) Right now I’m listening to Agatha Christie’s At Bertram’s Hotel. I do love me some Miss Marple!

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

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 December 11, 2014 · 24 comments

Today I am . . . 

  • Picking up a $26 check from the kids’ consignment shop. I’d brought in my son’s collection of Starbucks Bearistas a few months back, which of course had all been from Goodwill to begin with.
  • Annoyed that I forgot to stop by The Dollar Tree on my way home since I want to mix up a double batch of ginger snaps and their molasses is cheaper than at the grocery store.
  • Pleased that I figured out a good Hanukah gift for my fifteen-year-old nephew. I bought him two pairs of what I call “The Nike Placebo Socks” (Nike Elite sports socks) as I know my sister is too practical to ever fork out $18 for a single pair of socks. Then again so am I, so it’s good I have lots of Amazon $5 gift cards from using Swag Bucks. I’m still going strong on my Zero Dollar Christmas!
  • Happy to receive my “Free Turkey or Ham” gift certificate that my employer sends out every year. I always get the spiral-cut ham since it’s something I would never normally splurge on. Plus I stretch that thing within an inch of its life!
  • Enjoying my Christmas tree, as we discovered a nearby lot where every tree was priced at twenty bucks! Gotta love living in Oregon!
  • Looking forward to tonight’s episode of Project Runway All Stars. You know I’m a fan of Portland’s own Michele Lesniak!
  • Super super bummed that I spilled a fair amount of my leftover soup from eating out with my father yesterday. I had deliberately eaten very lightly so that I would have enough soup leftover to share with the kids, so spilling even the cup or so onto the floor was a stab in the heart. And especially because it was from Jade in Sellwood, and their food is worth more than gold!
  • 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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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on December 10, 2014 · 27 comments

Mod-Podged containers

  1. My friend Sasha is coming over this morning, and I’ve set aside my $5-for-$10 Starbucks Groupon from a few weeks ago. I’d actually given it to my husband as a gift, but he kept not using it and I figured it would do me more good than him, as it will keep me from spending any money during this get together. Plus, since it’s hard to spend $10 at Starbucks, there will be enough to treat a friend!
  2. Although I’m still doing my Zero Dollar Christmas, I did splurge on a $1 item for my sister’s upcoming birthday. I was unable to resist this particular Goodwill goodie, as it was only $1 plus is something she collects. (And it was the half-off color!) I need to get her family’s package in the mail to accommodate all their birthdays, (December 16th and 23rd) so time is of the essence.
  3. My husband needed to buy new tires and brakes for his bicycle, so I reminded him to scope out our Chinook Book before making the purchase. It turns out that there indeed was a coupon for the bike shop, and the 20%-off saved him $17.60 from the $88 he spent. Since he bicycle commutes to work, this purchase was a high priority.
  4. I used the $10-off-$50 Safeway coupon to do a big grocery shopping trip and by using additional manufacturer’s coupons and their Just4U electronic coupons, I was able to save $47.22 from my $50.74 total. Plus, I was able to get two bricks of cream cheese and two tubes of toothpaste for free. (For those of you who don’t use coupons because you see them mostly being for junk food, I used coupons for carrots, dried pasta, cream cheese, toothpaste and cereal.) An additional frugal thing is that the bananas and tangelos started to rot almost immediately, so I brought my receipt back to the store and had them refund me $6.79 in cash.
  5. I’ve been emulating a mildly talent second grader and doing a few craft projects. Using this photo for inspiration, I assembled a square wreath using twigs, pine cones, rope and greenery, and then made a few cookie canisters using old cocoa tins, thrifted vintage maps and Mod-Podge. I spent no money on the projects, and the results were not-hideous enough to take a bit of pride in. No one is going to pin them on Pinterest, but the projects were still fun to do. Plus you know, free . . .

Square wreath

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

Sorry that my blogging has been spotty lately, but we’ve had some family stuff going on that’s claiming 100% of my attention.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Grading Portland’s Free Piles

by Katy on December 7, 2014 · 17 comments

I used to live in New York City in the late 1980’s and it was a beautiful time. Why? Because it was before any of us know to worry about bed bugs. A time when a fresh faced young Oregonian could schlep home all the amazing curbside finds that New Yorkers abandon in front of their apartments.

An antique dresser here, a cool metal storage cabinet there, it was all mine for the taking. I still mourn the gorgeous old church pews that I had neither space nor muscle power to bring back to my Park Slope third floor walk-up.

Sniffle.

Well Portland, Oregon has finally caught up to NYC when it comes to our citizens putting still usable goods out in front of our homes.

And this no longer so fresh faced Oregonian couldn’t be happier.

Check out this Zen fountain thingy! Not only did the owner clarify that it was indeed free, but she also made sure that any potential buyers would know that it worked.

A+

Free fountain

Now this rattan dinette set didn’t have include an informative sign, but it was definitely set out for free.

B+ for putting this set out in between Portland’s ever present rain storms.

Free dinette

A nearby business set out these windows and door free for the taking rather than tossing them into a dumpster. You already know that I brought home that five-panel door with en eye to upcycle it into a headboard.

A+ for seeing old house parts as still usable instead of as garbage!

Free door

You also already know that I scavenged the brand-new looking toilet seat off this freebie toilet. Because apparently I no longer fear embarrassment.

A++ for even imagining that a person like me would even consider bringing home free toilet components.

Free toilet seat

In case you start thinking that I live in a magical land where desirable free stuff abounds, I present the following photo.

  1. Nasty couch? Check.
  2. Jumbled box of hepatitis C sketchy items? Check.
  3. Torn up old clothing? Check.

D+ for having the optimism to think that this pile isn’t straight up garbage. But it is, especially since the books had been rained on.

Unappealing pile

Rained on books penetrate my heart with sadness.

free ethics book

This dumped out bags of sodden books just killed me. There are actual books in there that I would have brought home! And there are certainly books that Powell’s bookstore would have bought!

F for wastefulness.

Free soggy books

Barbara Ehrenreich would not approve.

Free soggy Nickel & Dimed

I did bring home this sad little aloe plant, but I left behind the tiny zen garden.

Free aloe plant

Adorable, but it certainly falls under the category of “Perfect for the clutter enthusiast in your life!”

A- for including all the components, but marks off for setting it out when it’s starting to rain.

Free zen garden

That was a good free pile. It was on a semi-busy street and included both practical and decorative items.

A+ 

Free pile crowd

Portland might not be up to the level of 1980’s New York City yet, but I’m seeing more and more people putting their stuff out for free. (In all neighborhoods too, which is kind of new-ish.)

I do love my Portland.

A+ for Portland!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Free Aloe Plant Finds a New Home

by Katy on December 3, 2014 · 12 comments

Remember my free aloe plant that I rescued from one of Portland’s infamous free piles?

Free aloe plant

It was planted in a not so attractive glass bowl with regular dirt instead of potting soil. However, it was alive, and I figured I could give it a new home without any possibility of buyer’s remorse.

I grabbed a vintage bean pot that I picked up from a everything-was-free garage sale. I then scooped some potting soil from my fuchsia plants which are done for the season. (Also free, as Fred Meyer gives free potting soil when you buy their on-sale fuchsias once a year.)

I dumped the dirt into my garden and washed out the glass bowl, which I will bring to a nearly consignment shop.

And the aloe plant? It now sits on the mantel, hopefully not catching the attention of my two cats who do not have a positive history with house plants.

Potted aloe plant

But that’s okay, as it was entirely free and brings a lovely bit of nature into my home.

Having a zero budget for decor is not a deterrent for having a lovely home, and my entire house is a testament to this theory. I like to call it “The House That Goodwill Built,” but maybe I should rename it “The House That Free Piles Built!”

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 November 30, 2014 · 44 comments

Portland free pile

1) This Portland free pile, which generated a lot of interest. Me? I brought home an aloe plant and concrete planter. My plan is to transplant it into a vintage flower pot with some nice hens and chicks, which I already own.

Free aloe plant

2) Turkey soup, turkey pot pie, turkey casserole, turkey stock, turkey enchiladas . . . .

3) Not spending a single penny on holiday shopping so far, yet being further ahead in my gift giving than I usually am. (Free Walgreen 8 X 10, $60 back from registering our Amex cards for Small Business Saturday and bits and pieces pulled from free piles.)

4) The last two times I’ve been to the grocery store I’ve bought single items such as celery or milk without succumbing to any impulse purchases.

5) One week into being a single car family, which is not any kind of a long term plan, yet is saving us money on insurance and gasoline. Sadly, we’ll likely be spending too much money a new-to-us car in a few weeks.

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

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Today is Black Friday, which means it’s time to leave your family at home and shop till you drop! And what’s Black Friday without some promo code love?

So here you go. You’re welcome!

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Go ahead, try these promo codes.They’ll save you a ton of money! ;-)

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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A Thankful Thanksgiving

by Katy on November 27, 2014 · 7 comments

Today I am thankful for:

  • The health and wellbeing of my family and friends.
  • Food, shelter and clean water.
  • One very reliable automobile.
  • That I have everything I need, and lack for nothing.
  • My job as an RN that pays well enough to work part time while still earning a living wage.
  • A functional kitchen that while is not magazine-worthy, can still handle a full day of baking and Thanksgiving prep. (Even though we’re not hosting today, I did make six pies, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, our dinner, plus a huge batch of chopped garlic yesterday.)
  • Library audiobooks to download. I went through a Janet Ivanovich and an Agatha Christie yesterday!
  • Delicious pumpkin pies, which were made using the puree from this year’s jack-o-lanterns.
  • Wonderful readers who support one another and step up when any of us are in need with advice or even a pity haircut.
  • My neighborhood and culture where I never have to worry about the safety of my sons.
  • Both of my next-door-neighbors who both get non-consumerism and are happy to lend, borrow and support one another. (No Joneses here!)
  • Ridiculously selfish kitty cats who show us love when their bowls are empty.
  • My patients who put their trust in me when it’s time to bring a new life into the world.
  • Portland’s thriving second hand market. Whether it’s Goodwill or a free pile. I’m almost always able to buy used without any extra effort.
  • Living in an era of modern medicine.
  • Electricity, natural gas and central heating.
  • The love and support of my family.

Happy Thanksgiving, fellow non-consumers!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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