What are Your Five Things? — Part II

by Katy on July 12, 2009 · 18 comments

Number Five

I had written a column titled What are Five Things? awhile back, and the comments were so fabulous and inspiring that it’s now time for part II!

The idea is to write five things that you have done lately to live your life in a Non-Consumer manner.

Here are my five things:

  1. I went to Goodwill the other evening to try and find some T-shirts. I am somehow down to just a few tops free of stains or rips, so this had become a truly necessary errand. I only found one I liked and bought it even though it was $4.99, which I consider to be a bit much for a used top. I brought it home without trying it on, which of course meant that it did not fit. (Grr . . .) However, I came across a garage sale while on my way to the library today and bought seven T-shirts and tank tops in my size for 50 cents apiece! I still have my Goodwill receipt and can return the non-fitting/expensive used shirt. Yay!
  2. I am on my second round of week-long hosting of a British soccer coach. This not only saves us money (we get half-off the cost of the soccer camp) but is a very enriching experience for the family. These young lads bring a bit of international flair into our lives without the jetlag and exhaustion of voyages abroad with children. Plus the English don’t think it’s weird to have their pants hanging on a clothesline for all the neighbors to see.
  3. The Multnomah County Summer Reading Program is in full swing, which means I am donating the services of my 11 and 13-year-old sons. The minimum age to volunteer is ten, so my older son is on his fourth year and is completely independent, although my 11-year-old still needs a hand. So he and I sit together two hours every other week signing people up and helping them choose reading prizes. The library staff is already kept very busy, so the volunteers are greatly appreciated.
  4. I continue on my genteel freegan lifestyle. I have brought home both a very sturdy metal garden bench and a watering wand in the past few days. I have been keeping a keen eye out for garden furniture for the backyard patio, as we’re in prime barbeque season. It can be used either as a small table or for seating, which is perfect as space is at a premium. The watering wand does spray water a bit, but I think it’s fixable. If not, I’ll just send it on its way to a new owner who might possess mystical fixing skills that I do not.
  5. I have been adding money bit-by-bit to our savings account. My entire paycheck is dedicated to household expenses and debt reduction. So any savings is completely put together from the money I’m able to scrounge from here and there. I just today received a check for $50 in the mail that was completely unexpected, and I will pop it into our savings account on Monday. It’s officially an emergency fund, but my eighth grader has a trip to Japan next Spring that will cost a pretty yen, so it may go towards that. Either way, it is our no-more-debt insurance.

Sooo . . . what are your five things? Please share your stories in the comments section below, and make sure to check back to read the other comments for ideas and inspiration. I know I will!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Jinger July 12, 2009 at 5:20 am

since i am confined to home until next month, i have spent no money except on medical bills and normal expenses. i did give my college girl a 20 dollar bill for ferrying me to the library and grocery. my simple life has become even more simple!


Mandy (Birmingham, AL) July 12, 2009 at 6:51 am

1. I’ve become an active library patron. I was able to cancel my Netflix membership within 3 weeks. I’ve already read 2 novels, listened to an audio book, and checked out lots of CDs and DVDs. I was most impressed that they have art posters that you can check out for two months. I’ve already got plans to rotate art in my apartment. Keeps it interesting!

2. I have officially been riding public transit only for 6 months. I do hitch rides occasionally with friends. But I compensate them by paying for lunch or buying them a coke.

3. I’ve also started exploring consignment shops. Through these places I am able to buy current styles for at least half off. I am now able to afford some of the brands I’ve always lusted after.

4. I am planning a dinner party. I have a friend from college coming into town to see the rest of us (we all lived together for 3 years). I know that a lot of us are tight on money (especially my friend in medical school). So instead of trying someplace cheap to eat. I will just cook for us. It simplifies things.

5. I’m saving up to become a member to the local art museum. It’s free to get in to the basic exhibits, but special events and exhibits require tickets. I don’t mind paying $120 a year if it gets me into all the events for free. I want to be come more active in the community and they actually host several young professional events.


Kristie-ND July 12, 2009 at 7:57 am

I spent 9.95 to subscribe to my local news station’s weather emergency alert program. It is good for an entire year, and saved me about 40.00 already.

The night we finally decided to describe was the night our weather man had been warning about for days, as essentially the storm system from hell. The system pinpoints your house specifically, so a county wide weather warning doesn’t have to apply to you. They will call you if YOUR immediate area will be in the path.

35 min after signing up, we received a call about a severe thunderstorm warning with large hail, and because it is specific to our address, we didn’t risk bringing our vegetables in containers on the porch in. Sure enough very soon after that call, we got that storm. It would have flattened all my stuff on the porch, so we saved the cost of replacing a strawberry pot, peppers, tomatoes, cukes, zucchinis and several pots of herbs, not to mention all the money spent on flowers in pots that we saved.

soon after that, we received another call about a tornado warning, which isn’t a common warning where I live. It allowed us to get our children safely stashed away. You can’t put a price on them, so I don’t think I need to even add anymore 😉

Best 10bucks we have spent in a VERY long time, and had the added bonus of saving quite a bit of money on veggies that I have been nurturing for weeks. Our growing season is so short, I don’t think I could get a full bounty of my veggies before the first frost if we have another winter like last winter.


jessie July 12, 2009 at 3:06 pm

Hi, Katy! Great post. I have posted my response on my blog: http://jessieimproved.wordpress.com/2009/07/12/my-five-things/

Thanks so much for being an inspiration!


Meg from FruWiki July 12, 2009 at 3:46 pm

Today my husband bought a bag of lemons to make lemonade instead of buying a plastic container of pre-made lemonade. The price isn’t much different, but it means that we’ll have lemon peels for the compost instead of plastic for recycling — plus we can make the lemonade however we want, including using less sugar.

Right now, my husband is out feeding our chickens. I’m hoping that there’s quiche in our near future. Only one of the two hens is laying so far but we’re already overrun with wonderful eggs — even after a friend happily took a dozen.

I’ve got some chan dahl on the stove right now. Making it from scratch using dry dahl instead of getting it premade or eating out.

I’ve spent most of this lazy Sunday watching online video via Hulu. Later we plan to watch V for Vendetta, having borrowed it from the library.

Later we’ll go for an evening neighborhood walk which “us” time. One of my favorite parts of the day 😀


Janet Texas July 12, 2009 at 4:53 pm

1. Hung my laundry out to dry on my clothesline.
2. Made my weekly trip to the library.
3. Ate eggplant, zucchini, swiss chard, and lettuce from my garden.
4. Bought an organic locally raised chicken and butter, berries and peaches at the farmers market.
5. Ate eggs from my own chickens and cleaned the chicken coop and dumped the pine litter and poop on the compost heap – and feed my chickens all our non-meat kitchen leftovers.


Caroline July 12, 2009 at 5:52 pm

hmm, i probably haven’t done five things all month.

1. we have been hanging with friends and family (a lot, I might even go as far to say too much lol). We are eating home cooked food, playing cards and chatting.

2. snowflaking the mortgage, even while I’ve been unemployed (it works – we’re up $3K already)

3. Getting paid a pittance in my new job means keeping an eagle eye on the finances, which leads to less spillage and constantly creating better habits.

In a nutshell, we haven’t been spending, acquiring or wasting.


marianne July 12, 2009 at 6:08 pm

1. i am in search of sensible shoes for a meeting i have to attend. i only have flip flops, sneakers or 3 inch open toed sandals. found a great almost new pair at Sallys for $2.50.
2. i am refusing to grocery shop. i have a ton of food in my pantry that will feed us for a month.
3. thanks to a rainy june, we have been relying on open windows and ceiling fans to cool our house versus A/C’s.
4. I developed my own new exercise program for the summer. i will be kicking a soccer ball around the backyard and running with my dogs. the cost of this round piece of fitness equipment? zero,zilch,nada. a freecycler had an extra one. =)
5. my nephew turned 10 a few weeks ago. his gift from me? a used book on bionicle (his IT thing right now) and a gift certificate hand made by me for an hours worth of playing video games. we get to spend time together and the novelty doesnt wear off as soon as the wrapping paper hits the floor.
6. im adding a sixth because i just realized something from 5. All 3 of my brothers kids were baptised in may. for their gift, i donated a large sum of money to a christian camp that my brother, my mother and i all went to as children. it is having financial difficulty right now so hopefully my donation in their name will keep it open so they may enjoy the same camp experiences i have.


Julia July 12, 2009 at 7:26 pm

1. my husband and son are watching a “Bill Nye the Science Guy” DVD from the library right now
2. we just ate some vegan cinnamon blueberry coffeecake that I made this afternoon—so delicious!
3. the other day, we spent a few hours playing “Crazy 8’s”, so fun
4. we spent some time earlier today at a local park, just enjoying the play structure which we had all to ourselves!
5. we visited a local botanical garden (which does not charge any admission fees) and were amazed by the cultivated garden and also the nature path through the “wild” part of the park. My son is fascinated by water features, fountains, streams etc. so this was a bonanza for that, too.

Okay the bad part is, we did indulge in coffee from a locally-owned cafe earlier, and ordered my son his first Italian caramel cream soda (flavored syrup + cream + soda water). Well, he absolutely hated it (he apparently still hates bubbles in any drink, I guess that’s good, he doesn’t drink soda pop), I took a sip and it was horribly sweet, and we ended up pouring it out. Sigh. In this case, the need for me to not consume extra calories (and icky ones at that) overrode my frugal impulse to just drink the whole thing rather than let it go to waste. Sigh. Now we know not to order that again, on our very rare treat visits to that cafe!!


Skwurlee July 12, 2009 at 11:06 pm

My five things

1. – Going for a daily walk – allows me time to clear my mind while also getting some exercise and fresh air
2. – Staging a free, outdoor event for our roller derby league, no waste, no mess, no money, lots of sun, new fans and good times!
3. – Enjoying vegetables daily out of my first ever garden, today I enjoyed the first cherry tomatoes of the year!
4. – Thinking about Christmas ‘gifts’, have been keeping a list of things people have mentioned so that I can keep an eye out at thrift stores.
5. – While it may not be ‘compacty’ I have decided to make a monthly very small donation to a different non profit organization every month. I am currently at a financial point where this is feasible for the moment and love how I can be an active supporter of places that do great work in my community.


alunatunes July 13, 2009 at 6:19 am

Went to the thrift mart and found an cool piece of paisley material for my Etsy bag project. I also BOUGHT a sewing machine (SINGER) and cabinet for $20.00! Dried my towels inside ( I always hang them on the back of the dining room chairs to dry…less pollen than outside). And my neighbors continue to bring over squash and zucchini and blackberries – so I am freezing veggies for winter….
Love your blog Katy- keep up the great work


Judy C. July 13, 2009 at 6:21 am

At first, I didn’t think that I had done anything worthy of reporting, but, since being “sensible” and “green” is such a natural part of my being, I probed deeper and realized that, indeed, I could report at least five things that I did (yesterday) to reduce my need to consume.

1. Repaired rubber-like shoes with Gorilla glue vs. tossing them to the garbage.

2. Composted a gallon of vegetable scraps and a dozen toilet paper tubes (donated by a neighbor who seems to go through a @#$%-load of toilet paper; pun intended).

3. Used rags to clean just about everything versus paper towels, and vinegar and water as the cleaning solution.

4. Used “gray water” from doing dishes to flush toilets and water outdoor plants.

5. Recycled rinse water from washer to start another load. Hung clothes on the clothesline outside versus using the dryer.

6. Used two-inch squares of soft, highly-absorbant cotton fabric (cut from an old sundress) moistened with witch hazel versus toilet paper.

7. Husband replaced worn parts on a fan with recycled parts from another fan to make fan workable again versus tossing it to the garbage.

8. Used cloth napkins versus paper.

9. Read previously-read magazines which I’ll recycle.

10. Sent guests home with leftovers packed in former fast-food containers which were donated to me since I don’t “do” fast food.

11. Wore all second-hand clothes.

12. Etc., etc.

I guess that that’s not too bad for just one day!


Tonya July 13, 2009 at 2:33 pm

I love this ongoing 5 things post. It’s inspiring to read others’ ideas.

1) The library continues to entertain and amaze our family. We watched 2 DVDs this weekend, plus the kids are enjoying all the summer reading program prizes.

2) Zucchini is growing like mad in the garden.

3) Switched my weekly produce delivery to an “all local” box for the summer.

4) Yesterday I “redecorated” my dining room with things I already have. Fun to have a new feeling room, without having to buy anything new.

5) We stayed home yesterday- didn’t use the car at all.


WilliamB July 13, 2009 at 5:33 pm

In no particular order:

1. Saved water from waiting for shower to get hot. This gets used to water indoor plants, fill the water filter pitcher (hey, if I don’t use bottled water does this count for two? but I’d use tap water if I didn’t use the pitcher so maybe not), things that need to be soaked. I used to use it in the washing machine but I bought a front-loader when the old one died so I can’t anymore.

2. As usual, brown bagged my lunch. With a reused bag, tupperware, and real silverware. This is mostly because there’s no decent food close to where I work but I say it still counts.

3. Had some old clothes refitted by a tailor rather than buying new. (I do so hate shopping.)

4. Setting the programmable thermometer to 77F means almost no AC bill so far this (cool, wet) summer.

5. Am making/eating meals to clear out the fridge, to eat produce before it goes bad.

6. Helped someone learn to compost.

7. Made the first meal that included substantial input from my miniscule garden: chard and chicken braise.

8. At the end of the day, turned off my computer and desk lights. (If only it weren’t so cold that I need a heater…)

9. Reserved a book from the library instead of buying it used. If I like it, *then* I’ll buy it.


Angela July 13, 2009 at 8:29 pm

1. Started composting, with a lot of help from my readers (thanks WilliamB!)
2. Air dried the laundry.
3. Arranged a swap with a friend- I’m giving her the leftover silk and lace fabric from the dress I had made for the Jane Austen Ball, and she’ll make bags to sell on etsy. In return, she’ll give me some of the bags.
4. Checked out Book Club book from the library, plus a few DVDs.
5. For dinner tonight we had some of the fresh veggies from today’s CSA delivery, along with some soup I had frozen awhile back.


Mrs. D2S July 13, 2009 at 10:01 pm

1) went to a local museum, intending to use free admission coupons, but it turned out to be a free day for everyone!

2) enjoying veggies from our garden, the first we’ve planted

3) went shopping with family that was in town, and easily came home empty-handed!

4) brown bag it to work

5) looking at craigslist to help furnish our new home


TryinginToronto July 14, 2009 at 5:57 pm

Have more than 5:

1. Making totally delicious vegetable stocks homemade by saving my veggie scraps. I’ve never felt good about using perfectly good veggies for stock and just throwing them away after. Using the scraps feels like creating gold from garbage. As most of our produce is organic, so is the stock. Yesterday my mom came over with a frozen bag of veggie scraps she’d saved for me! The scraps from the stock go into the compost.

2. Going on a family reunion trip to Virginia and buying only groceries and 3 small items on a trip to the Goodwill.

3. Making a wooden play kitchen (with some help!) for my sons. For attractive non-plastic kitchen play items, I periodically visited the Value Village for months. The wood kitchen cost some money to make, but is beautiful and elaborate and certainly a lot cheaper than comparable kitchens. Plus those kitchens would have been shipped from the U.S. which is a lot of travel miles plus shipping and duty costs. I’ve also made a woodworking friend who has offered to help with another project!

4. Signing up with the local government to change our water heater rental to an energy-efficient model free of charge, plus you get two months of free rental for participating.

5. Not being that affected by a city-wide local garbage/recycling strike because we have little garbage from buying little stuff and less new stuff, and from keeping a compost in our backyard.

6. Starting a veggie garden from heirloom organic seeds for the first time this summer.

7. Recycling the water from our dehumidifer (we have a damp basement) for soaking soiled cloth diapers.

8. Looking forward to the fall when I will return to work part-time after maternity leave and when my husband will quit his job. We will be reducing our income by half or more. We are excited about having more time for our family without childcare stresses and for the opportunities for being more resourceful and creative with our money.


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