Jul 31, 2009

Working on that Decluttering Thing...

Alright, so you already know I’m a hoarder, but I also come from a family of hoarders. It’s positively in my genes. It’s not just my parents, but my entire family: my grandparents on both sides, my sister, my brother, my aunts and uncles, great aunts and uncles, cousins…you get the picture. For someone wanting to improve their life and the environment I’ve been dealt one heck of a hand: I come from a family where they literally place their value on the amount of “stuff” they have. It’s like the stuff they have makes them who they are.

So this past weekend I had one of my nephews, Fatty, and had to drive down to my parents to pick him up after work due to various events that occurred. As I had a “cleaning fit” earlier in the week I asked my sister if she would like my behind the toilet shelving unit thingie that I had finally managed to completely clean off, and brought it down to my parents to get it out of the middle of my bedroom floor and for them to take to her when their Explorer gets out of the shop. The first words out of my mother’s mouth when she see’s this is “Don’t you need that?” My response was I cleaned it off and found stuff on there that I wasn’t using so I gave it away, repurposed it, or chucked it in some other way. The look on her face was priceless, pure horror.

Taking it one step further and revealed I was trying to declutter and learn to live by a “less is more” type of motto. My dad, being dad, simply goes “It’s not in your genes, it will never happen.” My mom on the other hand, I think her head started to spin at this point, sputters out “But that’s your stuff you can’t get rid of your stuff.” I didn’t argue back, instead I inwardly gloated for causing such a ruckus.

Growing up in Florida our house was twice the size (if not more) than the house that we moved into when we moved to Virginia in ’98. But we kept the same amount of junk (crap?) that we had in Florida. My room in Florida was huge! Instead of downsizing our oversized furniture, my mother insisted on cramming it all into (what seemed like) these tiny Virginia rooms. For many years, I thought that Virginia homes were so small and that I wanted to go back to the large stately home I grew up in. In my high school days I was definitely a snob (at least inwardly) about it. Yes part of it is my childhood perception, and the houses/rooms aren’t nearly as big as I remember them. On my last visit “back home” in July ’07 I drove past my old house and it did look smaller, but all the rooms in my grandma and Aunt’s houses still looked huge compared to the Virginia rooms.

It took me until within the last year to really realized that living with more crap than you need is no way to live, and only in the last three-four months have I really gotten brave (emotionally sound) enough to really push back on these concepts that have been forced on me my whole life and say “Hey there’s something wrong with what we’re doing.”

So the moral of my long winded story (if you're still reading) is that I’m gonna keep pushing forward on my “less is more” attempt at life (and watch my mother’s head spin in the process), and maybe just maybe one day soon I’ll be able to actually live in a smaller space and not feel like I’ve got crap overflowing from every possible crevice. I’m definitely motivated by the knowledge that overseas I’ll most likely have to share a room in a trailer. I’m definitely evaluating what stuff I use, what stuff has good memories/emotions connected with it that I want to keep (like Buddy’s—my dad’s aunt who raised him—table and box), and what stuff will be useful to have when I return from overseas (like basic kitchenware—and I mean basic: 1 bowl, 1 plate, 3 cups/mugs, etc.). Hey, at least I’m managing to still downsize. That’s the point right?

August Challenges for 52 Weeks

I have a couple of “on going” goals that I really want to work on this month.
  • Declutter apartment room by room
  • Use up pre-packaged items in apartment (to be replace with sustainable/homemade alternatives)

Some of my other goals are directly tied into the first goal
  • Give away TV (waiting for my sister to pick up)
  • Take unused items to the Salvation Army (it just happens to be closer to my apartment than Goodwill)
  • Use Freecycle and Craig's List to help declutter apartment
  • Give away/Sale oversized desk in living room (that's after I clean off it's contents and actually find the desk again)

The new changes that I’m pulling from the queue are
  • Give up using handicap parking spaces (except at work where I might not get a space at all otherwise)
  • Walk or bike to cafe to use WiFi

And I did go ahead and get the Craig’s List bike yesterday, so I’m going to count that as one of my challenges for August to jump start me, but everything else is an in progress or new challenge. It's not a fantastic bike, but it will definitely serve the purpose of getting me out and exercising while I try to patiently wait for a call about the job overseas.

And in preparation for the Buy Nothing Challenge I returned the rolling book back I bought last summer from LLBean and took advantage of their 100% Satisfaction Guarantee and was able to get the duffel I'll need to pack in when I go overseas, a lunch box and a stainless steal water bottle and cozy. After the monogramming on the duffel, I only owed $15. Pretty good considering I would have just given away the back pack and had to pay upfront for everything if I did use the 100% Satisfaction Guarantee that I had forgotten about. Much better deal for my wallet this way. ^_^

Jul 30, 2009

Socks...and a Bike!

Hi! My name is Hope and I'm addicted to socks. Not just any socks but warm socks. And hand warmers. Cute colors are a bonus, but aren't required. They must keep me warm and can't be scratchy. Hi, Hope!

In comes Sock Dreams. I've picked up their Long Cuffable Scrunchable Socks, O Wollies, Plaid Arm Warmers, and Microfiber Chenille Arm Warmers (just to name a few) over the last year and a half.

I was bad and found out they were had a promo code for 20% off (promo code: 9yearsonline). So what did I do? I order lots and lots of socks and more of the Chenille Arm Warmers in the colors I didn't have. But this wasn't just a frivolous spending spree (in preparation for Crunchy Chicken's Buy Nothing Challenge that starts on Saturday) but also practical planning for that hopeful job overseas...I definitely don't have enough socks to make it two weeks.

Ok, so I may have gone overboard with lots of socks, but hey they are practical and I promise not one pair of them where knee highs or over the knee socks (because even though I love these types of socks my dancer's calfs and monstrous thighs just don't make them comfortable). And, and the hand warmers will now match (instead of clash) with my outfits at work since my cube is in the sub-arctic region of the room (two cubes up it's feels like heaven to me, but they are sweating). So the hand warmers aren't made from recycled cotton, but the socks are. ^_^

And I'm going to look at a bike tonight. I've been wanting to get a bike for a couple of months but couldn't afford a new one. I tried Freecycle, but there are at least three other women looking for bikes there. And of course stupid me forgot all about Craig's List where there is an entire section devoted to bikes. So I weeded out the expensive bikes and eventually found an $80 bike. A little more than I want to spend, but still a heck of a lot better than $380 for the bike I covet at Olde Town Bike, one day it will be mine but for now the important thing is not fluffy features and is to get me out exercising.

If I can learn to tackle the hills around my apartment I can bike to the local coffee shop and steal use their free wifi instead of driving there (it's only a mile, I can totally do it...even with the monstrous hills that will attempt to defeat me).

Jul 28, 2009

52 Weeks

So I’ve several lists to the right hand side of my page that I've added over the last couple of days. They include positive/green changes I’ve made, am in the mist of making, and want to make. The idea is to come up with 52 positive changes for my new phase of life (I have a job for now, but it’s only until September) that will hopefully springboard me into my future in the computer industry. By why wait to make a big commitment until I have that ever elusive job? So starting next month I want to be able to come back on August 1st, 2010 and see that I’ve made 52 weeks of positive changes that are going to stay with me.

Why 52? Well I read somewhere that it takes doing something seven times to make it a lasting habit (and 365 small changes seams a little too intimidating to me). I’m currently reading “Sleeping Naked is Green”* and applaud Vanessa from Green as a Thistle for taking up her challenge; I’m not that brave yet (maybe one day I will be). Another reason is that if I do go overseas, I can use a “stock” of positive changes I’ve already made to stay in the green during that transition phase. While there are certain things that may end up in a “holding queue” such has no bottled water (it’s not optionally according to my friend in Afghanistan unless I want the runs permanently) that I’ll have to back peddle on, but I will hopefully be able to balance the list out with other positive changes (like getting into shape, i.e. being able to walk 1 mile without wheezing).

*On a side note, once people get over the shock of seeing me reading and realize that it's not for grad school they immdeiately read the title and think it's porn. I've gotten numerous response like, "Hope, how dare you read that in public/at the doctor's office/in your cube." Once I let them read the back cover or the first page they blush and scurry off to let me to read my book in peace.

Face Wash Bliss

After reading about using honey as a face wash I started experimenting with it at the gym at work, to help use up my honey while I’m still employed. I’ve also been using honey with brown sugar as a nice scrub/mask. I commented the other day that between my tea rinse and the honey that I never thought a gym shower could be so yummy smelling.

I wasn’t sure it was going to work, so I didn’t fully switch and kept using my old face wash from the health food store and old scrub from LUSH. I can hardly believe it, but I’m totally hooked on the honey. The LUSH scrub was called Ocean Salt while it did a great job at exfoliating not only my face but also the rest of my skin, it tasted awful when it got in my mouth and stung when it got in my eyes. And let’s face it, this happens quite often. So when I finished my face scrub tub, last week I could barely contain myself the next day at work from telling everyone how amazing honey and brown sugar scrubs are (hey I’m already that lesbian hippy child who refuses to where make-up—to my mother’s dismay, freely talks about reusable menstrual solutions—so long as I’m only in female company—in the office, so it really isn’t that far of a stretch for me to go off about a honey face wash, but I restrained myself).

So Sunday night when I finally jumped in the shower after a long weekend of babysitting my youngest nephew (aka Fatty) I was almost shocked to squeeze out my health food store face wash and it practically run out of my hand. I don’t know how I’m gonna use up all that store bought face wash so I can use the honey full time. Here's a picture of Fatty down in Occoquan on Saturday after we went to the Farmer's Market (he just noticed we where next to a dock and there were ducks!).

Jul 23, 2009

No 'Poo Progress Report

Week one was ok.
Week two the tangles were bad and the gressies started to bother me but not as much as the feeling that there was something still in my hair despite a good rinse. Usually a water only wash helped clear that up.
Now at week three I'm attempting to cut back the baking soda washes from three times a week to twice a week. Still dealing with not quiet feeling clean after a baking soda wash but it's now not better better after a water only wash. Tried cutting down amount of tea used in tea rinse; made the problem worse. 0.o It's just become a huge tangled mess that feels like its got some sort of waxy build up and I don't use any product on my hair.

In the two and a half weeks that I've been doing no poo the texture of my hair has completely changed. I have two medical conditions which cause me to have some hair loss (nothing noticeable just an excess of shedding). I have a lot of hair so the shedding has never been an issue. My hair has always been baby fine, but just a ton of it (it has deceived numerous hairdressers). Now my hair has become much coarser, or maybe just each individual hair has become thicker (and this I notice on days when I don't feel like I have some sort of left over build up).

So after a little more research and a little begging for help it turns out the 1 part BS to any parts water just isn't sufficient directions. I used a 1 to 3 part mix that was recommended in several location when I made my first batch (that how I got to the messurments listed in my original no 'poo post). So I've mixed up another batch with the newly recommended 1 tablespoon BS to 1 1/2 cups water (as my bottle hold just under 2 cups of water). I couldn't find my lavender oil tonight so I'll have to add a few drops in once I finally locate where I put it. I'll give it a couple of weeks to adjust and then report on the new and improved (hopefully) progress.

On another hair related note, I decided to trim my hair in the middle of the night last night. I guess what happens with insomnia (the night before I managed to clean my bathroom). I've been growing my hair out for over a year now, probably closer to two years come to think of it. The last time I got it trimmed the hairdresser insisted on cutting in some layers but refused to part my hair at it's natural part. The result was uneven layers as my hair refuses to hold any part of than a deep side part, grrr I told her that she was screwing up my hair but she kept insisting that she knew what she was doing and it would all even out after she parted it on the side and cleaned it up. Can you tell I've had this mistake happen more than once? Probably what I get for going to the cheapy salon most of the time, but I've had them do it to me at expensive salons too. Anyhoo, I wasn't brave enough to cut the three to five inches needed to give me a bob as it would be nearly to my chinn, but I did manage to cut about an inch off and not make it look disastrous and could probably go another inch and still have it around my collar bone.

Job/lessness update: My company has been a infuriating about actually attempt to find me a position. They fell back on the slap in the face offer and stopped looking, even though I wouldn't be getting away from my mother (even though everyone agrees that's what I need to do...funny how they can't seem to help make that happen due to their laziness). My dad passed my resume on to one of the contractors at his off, exactly two miles from my apartment, that is in need of people with clearances, but they haven't called. The job I interviewed for two weeks ago never called me back, and if you don't get a call back from them within seven days it's their polite way of telling you that you didn't get the job. I'm still holding out that Afghanistan/Iraq will come thru for me in the next month, two more weeks and they will have officially had my resume for two months and I can reach out to my friend over in Afghanistan to see if we can work these from all angels.

Jul 17, 2009

Pictures of progress

As promised I have some progress pictures of my decluttering efforts of my desk. First up is what the desk looked like about halfway through the first day of cleaning. Sorry it's a bit fuzzy, my only camera is on my iPhone and I'm a bit shaky too.

Next up is the progress of a hard days work. Still not where i want it, but a heck of a lot better if I do say so myself. And Mr. Bubbles agrees since he doesn't have to lay on top of all the junk that used to be there.

I have since continued to work on the desk and have managed to completely clean off the hutch, go through all the draws and only keep what is necessary, and even got my laptop set up on the desk. But sadly I don't have any pictures at this time. So, instead I will leave you with an introduction to the cats:Starting at the top: Ms. Juliet in all her black hotness, moving on to Mr. Bubbles who you meet earlier, and finally Mr. Oscar the grumpy old man who's been with me for over three years. All three are shelter rescues, with Oscar being the oldest and Bubbles and Juliet are about the same age, though I acquired them from two different shelters about six months apart.

Jul 16, 2009

An Interview, HR, and Buy Nothing Challenge

Well I've had my first interview since finding out I was getting sack at the end of the month. The interview was last Friday and I felt like it went really well, but I haven't heard anything back yet and it's been six days.

The HR department is finally starting to look for positions for me internal to the company. Yep, they've known since the first week of June and it's now the second week of July. Real encouraging folks. After meeting with HR yesterday the plan is to find me an internal job using my connections from my first job with the company, help desk, as many of my help desk co-workers have moved on to different technical jobs and I'm desperate to get back into the technical work (though graphic design, when I go a chance to really sit and do it, was way more technical than anything else I have done over the last two years). If they are unsuccessful in finding a position by the 31st I will be officially laid off with a severance package while they continue to look for a position for me.

So really August is the perfect time for Crunchy Chicken's
Buy Nothing Challenge - August 2009
I can continue to declutter my apartment and will have to officially break my fast food breakfast addiction (which I've been really good about this week, but that's probably because my bridge fell out Saturday and I ended up having a root canal on Monday). I'll have pictures soon to show my progress of decluttering my desk and hutch in my bedroom. The hutch is officially empty now, and the only things that don't currently have a "home" are three things that need to be framed. Not bad. Now just to get my dad to come by and get it and the chest of draws that I managed to empty.

I'm off to the 'Noke this weekend to see my best friend, Laura, and destress. I was supposed to go down over the Fourth but was sick and in bed the first two days with the exception of getting up to get pizza (which was delivered, bad me on so many levels) and then I managed to make it from my bed to the couch on that Sunday. I come bearing gift on this trip: Christmas/Yule in July little presents and kitchenwares for Laura and Sarah's house. Oo, I've got to pack the car and my overnight bag tonight since I'm leaving after work tomorrow (goes and writes self a note).

Jul 10, 2009

Confesions of a Hoarder

Some may be wondering why I'm so hellbent on my adventure overseas. First and foremost, this is a once in a lifetime learning opportunity: the opportunity to work in network management and not be hindered by compartmentalizing and the opportunity for me to learn and grow.

And not just grow my technical skills. The truth of the matter is I'm a hoarder. I like stuff in my possession, and most of the time it is stuff that I don't need, use, like too terribly much, or have trouble letting go of. Now while I'm getting better at letting go of things, the only real way I'm gonna learn the lesson I need is to be somewhere where I just don't have anywhere to put it or somewhere where I have to literally haul it around with me.

And placing it all in storage is not the answer. I did that when I moved back in with my parents for a year and a half and it was a mess. When I finally moved into my apartment last year I rediscovered stuff I didn't even realize I had, and a good 50% of that was stuff that I don't need.

In trying to train myself that "less is more" I'm working on decluttering my apartment and making many many drop offs at Goodwill and the Salvation Army. I reclaimed my kitchen counter space by selling my small kitchen appliances that I don't use enough to warrant keeping on eBay; like my poor crock pot in which everything I have ever attempted to make in it has failed miserably. I parted with everything but my electric kettle, mini food processor (which I could probably get away without), and my hand mixer.

I cleaned out my fridge and found food that was over a year past it's expiration date and eventually found all the shelves. I also went through all my sewing/crafting boxes/bags/stashes and managed to pair that down to just two small boxes with fabric and patterns and a bag of yarn. The knitting needles are still hanging out in the closet (that way the circular needs don't get tangled or kinked).

I eventual need to get around to my filing, which has overrun from one box into the draws of the tv stand. I'm pretty sure that at least 90% of my "to be filed" can go to the recycling center after it's been through the shredder. But that's still a little to intimidating for me, so I'm off to clean my desk in my bedroom this weekend (I have three desk: 1 that is my main computing station, 1 that's in my bedroom that was my computing station in my first two apartments, and 1 that's the sewing station). If it's not completely clean/decluttered by the end of the weekend, than hopefully I will have made a big dent in the clutter.

Jul 8, 2009

LUSH and no 'poo

I was introduced to LUSH and their amazing products on vacation almost three years ago. Wow, I can hardly believe it! Anywho, I've been using their shampoo bars ever since. Their small size, lack of packaging, and many amazing smells convinced me to ditch the shampoo bottle. However I wasn't able to stop my bottled conditioner addition. So, despite my love for LUSH, I've decided to give the no 'poo movement a try. Last night was my first attempt at the baking soda wash, and just to ease into it I used the last bit of my bottled conditioner. I can't say I've thrown out my conditioner bottle because I've repurposed the bottle to hold the baking soda and lavender oil mixture. Instead of the traditional apple cider vinegar rinse I've decided on a tea rinse (mostly be cause I've got a ton of tea that's not so tasty sitting around that as a tea lover I just can't throw out, plus if I'm gonna leave the country to work overseas for a year I've got to use or ditch everything in my apartment, why ditch it if I could be using it for something now ). We’ll see how this one goes. I'm going to water only "wash" my hair after my workout in the gym (6.5 miles on the bike today!) and use the baking soda concoction every other day to start out with.

My baking soda wash mix:

  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 5 drops lavender oil

Place ingredients in bottle and shake vigorously before each use.
Follow with a tea rinse (boil a cup of tea, let it cool so you don't scold your head, hop in the shower).


Inspired by how good I started feeling after starting AK I decided to see what other ways I could make me feel better by removing unnecessary chemical from my body and from contact with my body. This included evaluating (with my doctor's help) what medications I was on and what medications where really helping. From there I went to menstruation, hey as a woman it was bound to come up so why no start there. After a reading a friend's LiveJounral entry about the DivaCup I ordered my own. In my DivaCup search I was introduced to a great Canadian company called LunaPads (which just happens to be woman-owned and operated). After doing more research on LunaPads and their company, I completely fell in love with the company and had to place an order for LunaPads before my DivaCup even arrived. Now while I'm still not convinced about the DivaCup, it may just not be for me, I loooooooooooove LunaPads.

But reusable pads are not the only thing LunaPads sell. They package their kits in the bonus mesh bag, MoonPad bags to hold LunaPads in your purse, LunaBalm and LunaBlend for cramp relief, and Lunatic chocolate bars. They also sell other eco-friendly items like the organic cotton hankies and pStyles. The hankies are great; until I got sick last week I never realized just how gross klenex left my skin feeling (the hankies got left at work and I was left with an old box). I've yet to master the pStyle, but I did give it a try when I went camping over Midsummer.

The LunaGals (what the lovely ladies at LunaPads call themselves) had a post about their new product what they where calling family wipes. At first I was like no way, there is just no way are you gonna convince me to give up my toilet paper. But non-the-less I was intrigued and followed their link to Crunchy Chicken's blog and read on, and on and on. Not too long after, I was looking under the sink in the bathroom and found I had three rolls of toilet paper left and decided to make my own wipes since the previously mentioned lack of job security after July (still waiting on offers to start coming in).

Other goals

The other goals of this here blog will be as an outlet for my self-greenification, which for me also encompasses my healthy lifestyle goals. I wouldn't say that western medicine has failed me; it's more like western medicine has reached its limit with me. So in addition to western medicine I've added Applied Kinesiology(AK). I freely admit that when I first heard about it I thought it was just a bunch of hogwash. But what a validation it was to have someone else go, "Your body's telling you something’s wrong and we're gonna listen." So while I've been dealing with acne that never responded to traditional acne treatment, it turns out that I've got a systemic staph infection and what I thought (and was told) was acne was just the staph infection bubbling to the surface. While my face is not 100% yet, the change is pretty convincing and that's just the tip of the iceberg with AK.

the Beginnings

Why hello there Blogsphere. You may, or may not, be wondering why I chose to begin a blog since it seems everyone and their grandma has one. Well, I'll tell you. An adventure is afoot.

At the beginning of June I found out that my job was being eliminated and I have until the end of July to find a new job (less than four weeks left). With the economy in the crapper there could not be worse time to hear this news. I've been searching for a job since Christmas due to some workplace difficulties (read: my mother invaded my work life by joining my team last year and started harassing me at work). I was more than a little disheartened by the news, but quickly saw it as an opportunity to make my work life a better situations and a chance to get back to my real passion and work with computers.

Well, at the end of the second week after receiving the bad news I received a call from a former co-worker urging me to consider working overseas. She spent a year in Iraq and is currently in Afghanistan working as a contractor at a US military base as a network administrator. At first I completely dismissed the idea as crazy. But after some heavy internal debating I decided to take the plunge and just apply, hey what could it hurt right? I've done tech support, my concentration in undergrad was technology and I'm one paper away from having a Master of Science in Information Systems (MSIS). My only downfall is certifications; the only one I have is CHDP (that's Certified Help Desk Professional). I'll have to check and see what I need to finish my CCP (that's Certified Computer Professional) after my master's completed.