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

The Frugal Practice of Home Haircuts

by Katy on August 26, 2014 · 29 comments

Home haircuts have been a staple of frugal family life since broke people started growing hair. I cut my sons’ hair until middle-school, when they started wanting specific cuts; and I’ve been cutting my husband’s hair since forever. However, my single foray into cutting my own hair was an unmitigated disaster, and I promised a co-worker that I would never do it again.

I keep my promises.

Luckily, my hairdo over the past few years is to wear it straight and without layers. But it had been at least a year-and-a-half since my last cut and the ends were looking a might bit straggly. I asked my husband to trim the ends, and by his adamant response of “No!” you’d think I’d asked him to perform brain surgery.

So I asked my sixteen-year-old son if he would cut my hair.

He was hesitant at first, but got into the spirit when he realized the devious possibilities.

pure evil

Here he is inspecting my straggly ends:

hard at work

I had him snap iPhone pictures to show me the progress along the way, and I could oversee that the hair was being cut nice and straight.

straight cut

I’d show you a glamorous before-and-after, except that there was nothing too dramatic about the cut. I simply wanted the ends evened out. Certainly not worth driving across town and shelling out $20!

Keeping a low maintenance haircut is a huge money saver for anyone, male or female. And when one’s own children can be trained to do the job, all the better!

Does your family practice the art of home hair cuts? Please share your stories in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Arranging Books by Color

by Katy on August 26, 2014 · 22 comments

Remember when I spent all that time styling my living room shelves? Yeah . . . it wasn’t for me. Not only did it get gross and dusty pretty quickly, but it simply looked fussy. And truth be told, I like books more than I like knick-knacks.

I’m a doctor reader Jim, not a bricklayer clichéd old lady! 

Shelf - before

So I took every last book and knick-knack off the shelf last night and started from scratch. Mind you, this is my idea of fun, so that is by no means a complaint.

Book pile

I decided to piss off my English department professor of a father and arrange everything by color. Because, you know . . . you’re never too old to rebel against your parents. (Sorry, dad.)

Shelf - after

I am so much happier with the look of shelves now. The previous knick-knacks > books arrangement had required an extra bookshelf in our bedroom, which can now be used to store/organize the kids’ video games. Not in our bedroom.

Look how pretty the colors look in this Instagram photo! The colors in my chair bring out the colors in the books and visa-versa.

Book nook

And those extra knick-knacks? They got put away until my inner old lady rears her white permed head again.

Note that I was able to achieve a completely new look without buying a single new (or used) item. By simply rearranging what I already owned, I could scratch that new stuff itch without even leaving the house. 

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Living in a 100-year-old fixer upper means we never run out of home improvement projects. Some have that HGTV wow factor, while others simply keep the house from looking like it’s inhabited by busy people without a budget for the fun stuff. And when our projects veer away from brag-worthy to meh . . . good enough, I like to think it’s for my pretend blog which I like to call:

The Inoffensive Decorator©

Recent example? Our bathroom light.

We did the majority of work and major house remodeling in 1996-1997, between when we bought and house and when we actually moved into it. (Yes, it was that disgusting!) We were forced to make too many rushed design decisions, usually based entirely on budget and what was easiest. I worked full-time nights as a labor and delivery nurse and had a baby/toddler at the time.

It’s pretty much a horrible blur.

Although I loved Portland’s (at the time) locally owned Rejuvenation Lighting, they were laughably out of our budget. So I was happy to come across a chrome Home Depot bathroom light that emulated that Rejuvenation’s classic old house vibe. I remember my neighbor who worked at Rejuvenation telling me that sure, it looked okay, but I was going to “get what I paid for.”

Flash forward eighteen years, and our bathroom light fixture was pock marked with rust and looking pretty damned crappy. I had given some vague thought to removing the fixture and spray painting it, but honestly it rarely grabbed my attention and was far from a priority.

See?

Rusty fixture

Rusty fixture - detail

But then a twin light fixture showed up at Goodwill. Sure, it was brushed nickel instead of chrome, but that was of no consequence. What did matter was that it was priced at $2.99, cheaper than a can of spray paint. Was it Rejuvenation? Unlikely, as it was fairly lightweight.

See how it’s exactly the same, yet lacking the rust factor!

Bathroom light fixture - new

My favorite detail:

Light fixture - price tag

And ch-ch-check out how amazingly HGTV-ishly better the new one looks!

New light fixture

Nope. It simply looks inoffensive. No wow factor here folks, just move along.

And The Inoffensive Decorator strikes again. On budget, and without breaking the buy-nothing-new Compact.

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 August 22, 2014 · 33 comments

Today I am . . . 

  • Home from work, which feels wonderful. The go-go-go constant adrenaline of working at an extremely busy labor and delivery unit can be utterly exhausting.
  • Continuing to declutter my bedroom. Because I see reuse potential in everyday objects, I often have a hard time not holding onto excessive stuff. Examples? Socks that could be darned. The bottom parts of denim cutoffs that could be used in a project.
  • Going to hang laundry on the clothesline for the first time in a week. I’ve been spray painting baskets in the backyard a few at a time recently, and I didn’t want our laundry to get contaminated.
  • Excited for my sister, who finally closed on buying an adorable house in New York City. How adorable? Check out the photo of the kitchen! (The stuff is from the former owners)

vintage kitchen

  • Happy that the Canadian roommates who completed a Buy Nothing Year are getting great media attention.
  • Putting together some goals to complete by the end of the year.
  • Proud of my kids. They’re both amazing and creative young men and give me pleasure on a daily basis.
  • Excited to put together a more proactive plan to run my household. I often feel like I’m putting out fires instead of getting ahead of things.
  • Craving enchiladas, and thinking I should together a pan for tonight as well as a few pans for the freezer.

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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I’ve written before about Dutch Tulip Feverwhich is defined as:

The tendency to buy a certain theme of useless crap that seems exciting at the time of purchase, but is instantly regrettable once taken home. 

Although this is specific to useless Dutch items, it can be expanded to fit most any situation. Dutch examples? Wooden clogs, windmill knick-knacks, kissing children figurines and any and all tulip-related items. Expanded examples? Shoddy I ♥ NY T-shirts, city-specific plastic knick-knacks and anything painted on a coconut.

Picture yourself on vacation in The Netherlands, surrounded by gift shops and suddenly it becomes a good idea, no a great idea, no the best idea to buy wooden clogs for all of your family and friends. You make international phone calls to figure out everyone’s shoe sizes and fill your luggage with aforementioned clogs.

Then you get home.

You unzip your luggage and find yourself staring down at a jumble of wooden clogs. Useless, and let’s face it, big and ugly. And all those fussy blue and white breakables, how did they did in there?

Crap.

You’ve fallen prey to the ailment that is Dutch Tulip Fever!

Please don’t lull yourself into thinking that your non-international travels provide immunity to D.T.F. $30 concert T-shirts, any mass produced Made in China souvenir and pretty much any useless souvenir tchotchke fall into this category.

Need proof that Dutch Tulip Fever is a true and diagnosable malady? I present to you the Goodwill evidence!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Do you fall prey to Dutch Tulip Fever when traveling, or are do you bring back memories and leave the gift shops untouched? 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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Five Frugal Things

by Katy on August 17, 2014 · 39 comments

Dancing Wolk-Stanleys

  1. My former coworker brought zucchini to work for me, and my family has since feasted on zucchini pizza, zucchini brownies and straightforward sautéed zucchini. (My 16-year-old son was extremely doubtful about the brownies, and even yelled out to his father to “watch out, it’s a trap!” when I tried to get my husband to unknowingly try a brownie.)
  2. I saw a dollar bill on the ground at the grocery store today and asked the women standing over it if she’d dropped the money. She answered that she knew it wasn’t hers and handed it to me to keep. Why yes, I think I will. (I also found a dime and a penny in the store!)
  3. I’ve spent probably at least four hours over the past few days leafing through old photos. (My husband studied photography in college, so we have a buttload of pre-children photos!) There’s nothing more frugal than reminiscence. Please enjoy the photo of my sister and I circa 1988. Join in the fun.
  4. Although we spent a fair amount of money hosting my NYC nephew, we’re now balancing it out. I’ve been putting an effort into frugal home cooked meals, and we’ve been watching library and free Redbox movies and pretty much just laying about doing not much at all. Sometimes, less is more.
  5. My 18-year-old son is taking a Cross Fit class, yet it’s costing us no money. How? My younger son took martial arts classes for a few years, for which we had to sign a 12-month contract. However, his classic soccer schedule ended up conflicting with the martial arts and we ended up paying $300 for three months of nothing at all. I talked to the management, and arranged for my other son to use the credit which should get him throughout to the point of whether he decides to continue with Cross-Fit.

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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Help A Reader — Baby Shower Ideas

by Katy on August 15, 2014 · 64 comments

My coworker Allison just announced that she’s 14 weeks pregnant with her first child. And as soon as the news spread, came the inevitable advice on what she “needed to buy.” She and I are pretty similar in our mindset about not filling our houses with excessive stuff, and we made eye contact over the nurses’s station as she listened politely to all the enthusiastic advice.

Later, she and I got a moment of private conversation and she shared that two different friends had already offered to throw baby showers for her, which was giving her distress. Allison explained that the baby’s room is quite small, plus she and her husband only plan on having the single child. Add to this that they thoughtfully downsized from a traditional house into a small condo a few years ago, and you can see why keeping it simple is a priority for Allison. She wants to accept her friends’ generous offers, but she also doesn’t want to be saddled with enormous piles of unwanted stuff. (My words, not hers.)

I gave her the suggestion of having of choosing a book theme for one of the showers, where guests could bring baby books to line a bookshelf. Allison loved this idea, and I could see the relief in her eyes. She and I also agreed that this subject would make an excellent blog post.

What non-consumer baby shower ideas do you have Allison? Have you attended or planned any baby showers with clever themes that fit with a less stuff ideology? Also, what baby ideas do you have for Allison in general? Did you buy must-have baby items only to realize their uselessness afterwards, and conversely were there any specific things that saved the day on a daily basis?

Please share your ideas in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Non-Consumer Mish-Mash

by Katy on August 13, 2014 · 15 comments

It’s time again for Non-Consumer Mish-Mash, where I write a little bit about this and a little bit about that.

Life Factory water bottleBPA-Free is Not Enough

I don’t like drinking from plastic, even when it’s BPA-Free, and a recent study profiled in Scientific American confirms that I am correct to be skeptical.

“In 2012 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of baby bottles that contain bisphenol A (BPA), a compound frequently found in plastics. The ban came after manufacturers’ responded to consumer concerns of BPA’s safety after several studies found the chemical mimics estrogen and could harm brain and reproductive development in fetuses, infants and children.* Since then store shelves have been lined with BPA-free bottles for babies and adults alike. Yet, recent research reveals that a common BPA replacement, bisphenol S (BPS), may be just as harmful.”

It makes me even happier that I recently scored a Life Factory water bottle from Goodwill. (And not just because it was $2.99 instead of $19.99.)

Dropping Balls Left and Right

I’m apparently unable to be on top of every category of my life. Work, family, housekeeper, if I’m excelling in one area I’ll let the balls drop in another. (You may have noticed how the blog has been a bit dormant lately.)

We just finished hosting my 14-year-old nephew for two weeks. Each and every day he got to be part of some fun activity and the whole family really enjoyed his company and the break from our normal humdrum activities. However, the house fell into impressive grubbiness and I screwed up my work schedule, which I won’t go into as it gives me an anxiety attack to think about.

I know there are people out there who excel at being able to keep their balls up in the air, and I marvel at their skills.

I do feel proud of all the great stuff we did while my nephew was in town:

  • Day trip to Mt. Hood.
  • Day trip to to the beach.
  • Attended three soccer games. The Portland Timbers, The Portland Thorns and the MLS All-Star Game.
  • Afternoon spent at Oaks Amusement Park.
  • Afternoon spent at Avalon arcade.
  • Downtown adventure day including tram ride, haircuts and food cart falafel.
  • Three get togethers with my nephew’s other Portland friend, which included Guardians of The Galaxy.
  • Multiple get togethers with grandparents.
  • An afternoon at the pool.

However, I want to take a fire hose to the house and I’m scared to write a to-do list as I know it will crush me.

Simple Living? Ha!

Decluttering 

It never ends. That is all. Seriously.

 

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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American families are in the thick of back-to-school season. With page long school supply lists and an expectation from retailers to buy an entirely new wardrobe for the kids.

Why?

Did every piece of clothing disappear into a puff of smoke on August 31st? Did last year’s scissors suddenly become non-functional on the last day of school?

I do have fond memories of being taken back-to-school shopping when I was a kid. We’d go to JCPenny to buy knockoffs of whatever shoes were popular that year. Famolares in 1977 and Nikes in 1981. And that was the pair of shoes for the year. One pair to replace the Newberry’s sandals we’d destroyed over the summer.

I choose to do things differently.

Although my kids are 16 and 18 and therefor take their own selves shopping now, it wasn’t that long ago that I was in charge of the task. But since I follow The Compact and only buy used, buying everything all at once just isn’t possible. Clothing needs to be bought when it’s found. A great pair of jeans here, the perfect jacket there.

Yes, we’re all being inundated with back-to-school clothing ads right now, but that shouldn’t matter. I don’t exactly buy a new mattress every Memorial Day and a big screen TV the week before Super Bowl. I’m a critical thinker and hope I’m able to cut through advertising pressure to make my own purchasing decisions.

Breathe, Katy. Breathe . . . .

If you are choosing to buy a new wardrobe for your kids’ back-to-school, I encourage you to think outside the mall and hit up area thrift shops, consignment shops and garage sales. Buying new mostly supports a garment industry that irresponsibly produces poor quality clothing in unsafe factories staffed by shamefully paid workers. Profits go to overpaid upper management and I would rather support a non-profit thrift shop any day of the week.

So please give the secondhand market a chance and bypass the mall.

It’s just so much better.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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Summertime

by Katy on August 6, 2014 · 9 comments

Summertime . . .

Laundry on the clothesline, pool schedule memorized, up all hours and sleeping too late.

Midnight projects, last minute barbecues and window fans.

A pile of half-finished library books and endless jugs of refrigerator water.

Turning a blind eye to back-to-school sales.

Why does it have to end?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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