Tag Archives: Minimalism

The Great Purge (Saws and Tight Underwear For Sale, Cheap!)

18 Sep

(Note: This will be the last post here at plumbananas.wordpress.com. New stuff will be forever at plumbananas.com. Adjust your bookmarks.)

One of the most exciting aspects of our impending move to London is what I’m calling the G-POOSH, or The Great Purge Of Our SHit. (Okay, I’m not really calling it that.) It’s the process of jettisoning everything but the essentials. For example, I have a shirt that pisses me off when I look at it because it fits a little funny. I like the idea of wearing it, but not the actual practice of it. At one point it had potential, but ultimately, it’s a huge disappointment. Needless to say, it’s not going to London. In fact, if it had a face, I’d punch it. Yes, I’m the kind of dude who would punch a cantankerous shirt right in the face without remorse. Pow!

Not me, not my shirt. This is the worst shirt I have ever seen in my life. Or the best. I'm not sure.

Not me, not my shirt. This is the worst shirt I have ever seen in my life. Or the best. I’m not sure.

That reminds me of my tight underwear. A year ago, I bought two pairs of tight underwear at Target to wear while I jog and exercise. You know, to keep things in place. I haven’t decided if they’ll make the trip. Sure, they’re small and take up very little space, but I haven’t touched them all summer. Each time I open the drawer where my underwear live, they’re like “You bastard, you better not abandon us!”

This will probably be a last minute decision. I’ll be at the airport with my tight underwear balled up in my hand, and the authoritative airport voice will say something like “Last call, get on the plane now or we’ll leave your ass in the United States!” and Jennifer will be, like, “Come on Mike, we have to go!”

Me: But what about my tight underwear? Do you think I’ll need them?

Her: Are you freaking insane?

As a family we have a thousand decisions like this.

But some have already been made for us. We have a Blendtec blender that cost about as much as a 1984 Honda Civic (with low miles) that is worthless in the UK. It’s not that they have strict anti-smoothie laws, but the thing just won’t turn on over there, or, worse, will electrocute my dumb ass for even thinking that a spinach-blueberry drink is a good idea. I would tell you why this danger exists, but I have no knowledge of basic electricity. I will just type words like “voltage” and “fire” and numbers like “120” and “240” and leave it at that.

Blendtec and 1984 Civic

Since I no longer know how to use electrical hand tools (I swore them off in 2009), I am especially happy that they won’t work over there either. Actually, I haven’t even checked, but I’m hoping really, really hard because I would rather read or sit around looking at the walls than saw boards and drill holes. Books will never, EVER tear my fingers off. (I especially hate circular saws. If I believed in hell, I would think there would be running circular saws all over the place.)Saw Injury

The most annoying problem so far are the toys we have accumulated in the “play room.” I would say that it looks like a tornado has swept through the room, but that’s an overused, boring expression. So I’ll go with this: it looks like three elephants devoured the contents of our kids’ youth and took giant shits all over up there.

I’ve collected enough broken crayons and pencils to choke a rhinoceros. No, a HERD of rhinoceroses. (If it were up to me, the plural of rhinoceros would definitely be rhinoceri.) I have amassed a pile of broken and mismatched toy parts taller than me. Tiny doll blouses. The smallest blue jeans you ever did see. Itty-bitty rubber shoes that won’t even fit on my pinky. (Where’s the doll wearing all this tiny shit?) Plastic pellets from exploded bean bags. Confetti. A headless Toy Story Woody doll that does absolutely nothing when you pull the string. And about four thousand pieces of paper with, like, one scribbled line on each.

What I don’t throw away immediately, I have been bringing down for Ainsley to go through, to choose what goes and what stays. So far–luckily!–she’s decided to “shitcan” about 95% of it. Since she’s discovered Minecraft, she’s much less interested in REAL blocks, like Legos. It’s pixels over plastic.

Okay, that’s it for today. If I continue to write about moving, that just means that I’m avoiding the actual work of preparing to move to the other side of the world.

Spinning Off Minimalism

29 May


Nothing too terribly hilarious or painful has happened to me lately. Hence, the dearth of new blog content. I haven’t fallen down stairs in months, it seems.

I’ve again shut down the t-shirt business because, frankly, it’s in opposition to my recently strengthened priorities of anti-consumption and minimalism. Sure, it’s easy money, but I have to align my work with my values. It’s like working as a pimp and giving money to V-Day, a charity to help end violence against woman; it just doesn’t jive.

Speaking of minimalism, since I added the my stuff page, I’ve been working on my possessions behind the scenes, not blogging about every pair of socks I own–organizing, axing, and counting. I’m standing somewhere around 120 items. Again, I want to stress the reasoning behind this seemingly pointless exercise.

Three Reasons I Counted My Stuff

  • “The unexamined life is not worth living” Socrates said this and I try live by it. To me, it means examining the internal and external, my thought processes and my physical surroundings. This process has me asking what I need to be happy, like, do I need 25 shirts and 19 pairs of shoes to be happy? The answer, of course, is no.   
  • To remove the fluffy excess from my life, to cut the fat (to use a nasty, carnivorous idiom). I now use all of what I own and I know where everything is. I have more space and less junk to worry about. I switched dwellings ten times over a ten year period earlier in life, so when considering an item to add to our home, it’s always in the back of my mind: I’m going to have to move this some day.
  • Less stress! Clutter and waste drive me batty. Simplicity = happiness.

I have my physical shit together, but my blogging life is a mess. I have ten blogs registered. Sadly, I begin and then abandon them. My newest, which is currently empty, will be notbuyingit.net, which will cover simple living. It’s a broad topic, but If I had to communicate the purpose of this new blog in one sentence . . .

To show people how to consume less to make more time for the things that are important to them and to cut out all the bullshit. 

Subtopics: cycling instead of drivingconspicuous consumption, hyper consumerism, tiny or “micro” houses, television and smart phone addiction, advertising, and all that kind of stuff.

Though I wrote “to show people,” what I really mean is that I’m learning as I go and wish to pass on that knowledge to those interested. I hate sounding like I have life all figured out, because I don’t.

Peace, y’all.

Mini Rant on the Three R’s

11 May


Out of 350 students, our little Ainsley was chosen to represent LeClaire Elementary Thursday morning at the 16th Annual Earth Flag Celebration Assembly held at SIUE.

Previously, we received a letter from her principal declaring Ainsley a great recycler at school. We recycle at home of course, but we’re not tyrannical or fanatical about it. I decided it had more to do with her all-around awesomeness that deemed her worthy of this honor and not only her ability to sort trash.

Anyway, we were proud.

After enjoying an excellent brunch buffet they began handing out awards for recycling and waste reduction among 60 Madison County schools. On the surface, it’s a worthwhile event. We had fun, ate well, and Ainsley was able to skip half a school day without being sick or without a foot of snow on the ground. But, really, the best way to celebrate environmentalism is to NOT hold an event that includes harming the environment.

We did use real utensils and plates, but the organizers fell short on drink cups–everything was plastic, possibly recyclable, but still. Real mugs would have been much better. And of course, hundreds of cars had to drive and pollute to get to the event, but what are you gonna do?

Here’s an example of an award. The school that collected the most tab tops from soda and beer cans (measured in pounds) won an award. And it was some outrageous number that I don’t remember. By the way, here’s a crazy stat:

“Worldwide production for all beverage cans is approximately 475 billion cans per year worldwide.”

And it was kind of hinted at that schools need to work harder next year to collect even more tab tops. But that left me thinking about the underlying problem that went unmentioned all morning: We need people to reduce their soda, beer and other canned, bottled beverage consumption. It’s like they would be fine with people consuming more unhealthful beverages just to collect more aluminum for recycling. Same goes for plastic bags, six-pack rings, clothes, shoes–everything!

I wanted to grab the microphone and say something like:

Good job Madison County, but next year I want to see much lower numbers. I want kids to be crying because they’re having a hard time finding tabs. Everyone in this room, I want you to spread this message: REDUCE CONSUMPTION. Remember, it’s REDUCE, Reuse, Recycle. REDUCE is the most important of the three R’s.

Anyway, each award offered the opportunity to remind people to consume less, and each time: fail! The wasteful attitude in this country is so ingrained that it just goes without saying. People don’t even think to challenge it. We count the number of shoes collected for this program and celebrate without questioning how so many pair of shoes were collected. Why not mention that we all probably buy more shoes than we need.



How Many Pairs of Shoes do I Need? I Guess Seven!

1 May

Well, isn’t this sad: millions of people around the world have no shoes.

I stumbled upon this article this morning that says U.S. Americans have an average of 19 pairs of shoes. That’s 27 for women and 12 for men. If you click on that link and scroll down you will see that several people posted a photo of all their shoes, which, to me, is, like, the most fascinating thing in the world. And I don’t even have a foot fetish. 

For someone like me who’s always jabbering about the topic of “stuff,” you’d think I’d have less than seven pairs. This post will either justify all seven or show me that I can drop one or two. They’re in order from shoes I love down to shoes I want to strangle.

Saucony trail running shoes

Where I got them: This Spring at Goodwill for $8. Why I keep them: They fit perfect and they’re in like-new condition. They’re extremely versatile (cycling, running on all surfaces, walking the dogs) Why I might get rid of them: They’re not so versatile that I can wear them with jeans. Still, I’ll have these for a long time.

Vivo Barefoot “minimalist” running shoes

Where I got them: I bought them online a couple of years ago through The Clymb. Why I keep them: They’re the only shoes I’ve received compliments on since I rocked bright orange Converse high tops in Junior High. They’re comfortable, easy on/off, and multifunctional. They’re cool enough to wear with jeans. Why I might get rid of them: They beginning to show some wear. If my toes bust through I’ll have to retire them.

Crocs, Dark Blue

Where I got them: I bought them in 2012 at Goodwill for $8. Why I keep them: Comfortable. Light. Utilitarian. They’re my all-season house shoe, but I can also wear them for the quick bike trip to the library or around town. Why I might get rid of them: No chance.

Crocs, Stealthy, Brown

Where I got them: I bought them at Goodwill this Spring, again for $8. Why I keep them: I just bought them, so it’s too soon to jettison them; that would make me sad. They’re a stealthier version of my blue Crocs so I feel better about wearing them in public. Why I might get rid of them: If I find a good pair of shoes that I can wear with jeans, they could be cut from the team. The fabric on top make them less water resistant than regular Crocs.

Muck Boots

Where I got them: I bought them online over five years ago. Why I keep them: I want to spend more time outdoors; outdoors gets messy and moist. So these waterproof shoes will keep my other shoes clean. They also serve as my winter boots. Why I might get rid of them: I have used my old Crocs (below) for wet, dirty, warm weather activities. They’re not very comfortable. Still, I don’t want to buy snow boots, so I can’t see myself getting rid of them.

Crocs, Brown & Dirty

Where I got them: I think from Amazon several years ago. Why I keep them: Super comfortable! They were demoted to mowing shoes two years ago and they serve very well in that role, saving my other shoes from grass stains. Why I might get rid of them: They’re tread-less and stained, slick and potentially dangerous. I could mow in the mucks.

Dress Shoes

Where I got them: I bought them at–guess!–Goodwill for $8. Why I keep them: I can’t find a business that rents dress shoes. I don’t live close enough to anyone with size 9 or 9.5 feet with a well-stocked closet. They’re Kenneth Cole shoes, so they seem to be well-made and should last awhile. Finally, I’m not brave enough to be the freak wearing Crocs to weddings, funerals and dressy events. Why I might get rid of them: I only wear them once or twice a year. They’re uncomfortable. Jennifer’s father lives 70 miles away, but he’s in town often. We have similar feet. If he could take them off my hands, I could borrow them when I need them. Besides, I’ve never have been called on to wear dress shoes on short notice.

Five Important Updates You Cannot Pass up

29 Apr

Depression Update

I’ve recovered from a three or four week period (I lose track) of unexplained depression. I’ve given up trying to figure out why it hits me so suddenly and leaves the same way. It’s such a wicked affliction that when it hits, I don’t think “Oh crap, here’s depression!” It’s more like “I feel worthless today.” Then the next day it’s “I still feel like a piece of garbage today.” It takes ten days to get it: I’m having a legitimate depressive episode. I feel for those who have it worse.

Hedge Trimmer Update

Despite receiving no help from readers, I scored a minor victory over clutter and over-consumption when we returned the hedge trimmer to Home Depot this weekend.

Shopping Update

Depression is tied up into shopping. If I feel like crap, I can go to Target and feel better for an hour, especially if I walk out with something other than food, like a pair of shorts of a Bluetooth speaker. During certain periods of 2011 and 2012 I participated in some of this “retail therapy.”

Now, blue moods or not, I’m trying to avoid purchasing anything at retail, relying on Craigslist and thrift shops for legitimate needs. But some things are hard to find. I’ve been thinking about somehow acquiring a pair of well-made, fast-drying shorts in a neutral color with at least one zippered pocket that will practically LIVE on my skinny ass for the rest of the warm season.

Pretty much giving up on used, I’ve been looking online (REI, Campmor, Patagonia) at shorts that cost at least $60, but yesterday in Goodwill I hit the goddam jackpot, finding–for $2!–a pair of, tan Columbia shorts in my size with two zippered pockets, a hidden key pocket inside the waistband, and a built-in liner that will negate the chance that I’ll be wearing underwear this summer. If I try to articulate how happy this paragraph makes me, I’ll wee my pants and get booted from Panera.

Underwear Update

Without underwear, I will be a little bit lighter and nimbler, allowing faster sprinting, biking, and tree-climbing. I will be quicker in and out of the shower and I will spend less time doing laundry. Along with my awesome and über-comfy Lululemon liner-sporting running shorts I don’t see myself wearing under until October. (I don’t think I’m cool–maybe a bit lame, even–for owning something from this ridiculously expensive company, but I am thrilled with the quality of these shorts. In their stores, the men’s department is the size of a phone booth. Okay, maybe more like 8 phone booths put together in a 2 x 4 grid.)

My five pairs of boxers will have the summer off for a frolicking vacation or something. I might ship them off to The Keys. Then again, down there it’s quite easy to get caught up in the dangerous world of drug smuggling. Hmm, I’ll have to think about that.

Stuff Update

I created a new page up above next to ABOUT so I can keep track of all my stuff. And now I’m going to add 17 items to the inventory, sadly, without photographs.

  • Sweatshirt (gray, hooded, zipped)
  • Sweatshirt (blue, hooded, zipped)
  • Sweatshirt (brown, hooded, zipped)
  • Pants (workout, black, Adidas)
  • Pants (sleep, gray)
  • Pants (workout, gray)
  • Pants (jeans, blue)
  • Pants (blue)
  • Pants (thermal)
  • Pants (Cuddl Duds)
  • Shorts (tan, Columbia)
  • Shoes (trail running, Saucony)
  • Shoes (running, Vivo Barefoot)
  • Shoes (Crocs, brown)
  • Shoes (Crocs, brown, old & worn, for mowing)
  • Shoes (Crocs, blue)
  • Shoes (Muck Boots)

Notes from a Future Freegan Van Dweller?

27 Apr

I have an earth-quaking update on my belt situation.

You better sit.

Here it is: I have replaced my two belts with a single black belt I purchased at our local Goodwill. If you follow this blog closely, you’ll know that Jennifer bought my two belts at Goodwill. Well, not all thrifty purchases are created equal; both belts fell apart shortly after I laid my fingers on them. I thought for awhile that they were “trick” belts, some kind of practical joke, like an exploding golf ball.

Also in Goodwill, I found some awesome Saucony trail running shoes (glad I don’t have to worry about the pronunciation of “Saucony”) that make my New Balance shoes (also purchased at Goodwill) look like a couple of turds. I’ve spent $16 on two pairs of like-new shoes. The 2012 version of me would have kept both, but I’m going to sell the old pair on eBay. If Edwardsville had homeless people concentrated under an overpass I could bike on over to find a dude with size nine feet, but I guess all the homeless are over in St. Louis.

In other news, I’ve become enamored with freeganism, which I previously thought to be synonymous with dumpster diving. Sure, that’s a part of it, but it’s much more.

Freegans are people who employ alternative strategies for living based on limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources. Freegans embrace community, generosity, social concern, freedom, cooperation, and sharing in opposition to a society based on materialism, moral apathy, competition, conformity, and greed.

(I can’t figure how I’ve gone this long without Googling “freeganism.”)


I’m not an official freegan yet; I have to think about it and see how far I can go with the “alternative strategies.” Namely, I have to get over my fear of being spotted rooting through garbage. Also, the ick factor; I sometimes gag messing with OUR garbage. How am I going to react to stumbling upon a bunch of rotten eggs or a hastily wrapped poopy diaper? Oh, I know what will happen: I’ll pass out and hit my head on a concrete block, or, worse, I’ll land with my face on the poopy diaper or something equally disgusting.

Yesterday I got nervous simply riding my bike in the vicinity of dumpsters. I kind of slowed down and looked over there wondering if I could actually do it and I felt like I was breaking the law. Good thing I’m not a serial killer. I just know I’d fall over dead of anxiety just preparing for my first kill.

(On a side note, I want to document for my future self how I just did this funky hand dance trying to trigger Panera’s motion-activated paper towel dispenser. My enthusiastic gyrations failed to stir the machine. I’d love to see video of people doing the same this morning, but, sadly, I think it’s against the law to set up video cameras in public restrooms.)

I stumbled upon the term freeganism while reading about van dwelling, which is a whole strange world with a vibrant online community. I know, It’s bizarre, but I feel in my bones that I’ll eventually be living this kind of simple life once the kids are off to college or joining the circus or whatever. I would like to have one of these Volkswagen vans to customize. No mortgage. No car payment. No utility bills. No lawn to mow. No big home to maintain. It’s dropping out of “The American Dream” and living life on my own terms.

Girl living in a van

If you’re wondering where Jennifer fits into the van, that’s a good question–I guess under the false floor I’ll  build in it for storage.

As you’d expect, this is a contentious issue in our house. Examples: If something turns up missing I’m instantly accused of donating it. I say downsize and simplify; she says shut up. I say let’s rent out a room; she says you’re f***ing crazy. She talks about the yard and how awesome it’s going to look; I yawn and say cool. She shows me the new wreath for the front door; I force a smile and tell her it’s the best f***ing wreath I’ve seen in my whole life.  

When the girls are in school and Jennifer’s at work, I stand in the center of that big house and feel lost and desperate. Why? It’s such a waste of space. It’s a bitch to clean. The yard is huge and needs constant attention. Warm air leaks out in the winter. I see hundreds of toys that go untouched. Upstairs, to get from the top of the steps to the bedrooms you have to cross an expanse of space I could easily live in. Tiny house designers are creating homes smaller than this unappreciated part of our house. 

It’s not like I’m just intentionally trying to be obstinate or weird. I really do sit around thinking about how most of the world lives: in filthy poverty. Almost half the world — over three billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day. I am a filthy rich bastard compared to the population of Earth. That’s baffling to me.  See “first world problems” on twitter.

It’s not our fault. We’re force-fed what it is we need to be happy. Here’s a few things I thought up in, like, a minute:

  • Multiple televisions pulling in 250 channels
  • Multiple gas-powered vehicles
  • Electronic gadgets of all shapes and sizes (iPhones, iPods, iPads)
  • A closet full of clothes and shoes
  • Extra rooms, completely furnished, rarely used
  • Throw or “show” pillows
  • Souvenirs and sports memorabilia
  • Decorative glassware
  • Fancy plates and stuff for “special” occasions
  • Boxes and boxes of decorations for all four season and major holidays
  • Maybe a boat, a motorcycle, an ATV, or a camper (to “get away from it all”)
  • Gear (hunting, camping, hiking, etc.)
  • Random “collections”
  • Lawn tending machines and tools

If you’re not getting me here, you’re probably reading through that list and thinking “Yeah, and?”

Well, I guess it’s my job on this planet to be the freak say no to some of the most standard American values.


Marital Conflict #34,342: Over the Hedge

15 Apr


Occasionally I like to present marital conflicts in this space for educational purposes. If you’re a human you know what I’m talking about. Married people can’t agree on much of anything. If I tried to write about every marital conflict that pops up in our home my fingers would be bloody stubs by now. So I pick and choose.

This conflict is about what we decide to bring into our house and store for (possibly) decades. As you may know this is a serious topic to me.

This morning I went into the garage to find an umbrella and noticed the unboxed hedge trimmer on the floor. Jennifer bought this hedge trimmer two weeks ago. Her dad owns a hedge trimmer. Her dad lives an hour away and visits regularly. We need a hedge trimmer one time a year, in the Spring. We used his hedge trimmer last Spring.

You can probably guess what’s going on here. I would like to return the hedge trimmer, borrow her dad’s hedge trimmer, and knock out all the hedge trimming on a Saturday afternoon.

Why I want to return the hedge trimmer:

  • I’m a fan of collaborative consumption. Start a tool library in your neighborhood.
  • I don’t want to find a place to store the hedge trimmer
  • I don’t want to look after and maintain the hedge trimmer for forty years.
  • I don’t want my daughters, after their parents’ deaths, to be responsible for disposing of an old hedge trimmer.

My wife is not around at the moment to list the benefits of hedge trimmer ownership, but her reasoning at the time of purchase was that she needed to trim the hedges and cut back the fountain grass RIGHT NOW. That was two weekends ago. Her dad has been to our house twice.

Please, if you know my wife–and I know some of you do–reach out to her, see if you can douse her hedge trimmer ownership ambitions. Maybe say something offhand and subtle like “I think you should return that hedge trimmer to Home Depot and go eat at Sugo’s with the refund.”

If you think we really do need a hedge trimmer, I would love to take a peek into your cluttered garage.