A Day of Fleas

Ah, First Mondays, how we love thee. Thank you for sharing so many treasures with us, tempting us to fill our little apartment with all kinds of worthless junk. And for affording us the opportunity to come home with really cool treasures that aren’t worthless at all. Depending on your perspective.

Last Friday was our getaway day, which is really only a day that we’re both off work and one of us wants to go somewhere more adventurous than Whole Foods or Joann Fabrics. Last Friday was one of those days. We chose Canton First Mondays, a giant, once-a-month flea market about an hour and a half east of Dallas. And here are some things we found.

1. Jalapeno Cheese Bread made by our friends, the Amish.

They might not know they’re our friends, but I feel such a strong connection with them that I sometimes wonder if I was supposed to be born Amish. It could be all the documentaries I’ve watched, though I’m thinking it’s something more innate. We passed on buying their handmade butter and cheese (still regretting that decision), and are now on the hunt for a jalapeno cheese bread recipe.

2. Globo Globe

The little beauty now sits atop our newly painted computer armoire. Globes have been on my radar for quite some time, though I had yet to come across one I really loved. This was it. It is no good for reference- it still has things like East Germany and West Germany, along with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, but to us it is perfect. Reality has no place in our world. Or our globe.

3. Vintage Ironing Board

      

I waited 9 months after marriage to purchase an ironing board. Yes, it’s sad and yes, I found this one in month ten. You can click here to see the best ironing board we found. Also if anyone is looking for an ironing board from Target, we now have one for sale or lease.

4. Sewing books

I didn’t actually purchase these since I have a cabinet full at home, but aren’t they perfect? I imagined myself as a housewife in the 50’s as I flipped through to learn how to darn my husband’s socks and make cloth napkins. And then I realized I’m really not that different except that I lack the clothing and hair. Me and little Betty Draper- one and the same.

Altogether it was a day of treasure hunting and good conversation and sunburns. Kyle got voted “Husband of the Year” by a lady who, sadly, had to carry her own finds. As she saw us walking toward our car, she yelled, “Now that’s a great husband!” I have to fight the old women off with a stick.

Thank you, Canton, for another successful trip. Long live great finds and long live the Amish.

[fb_like]

When Thrifting is Like Making Sushi

This past year has been interesting for many reasons. Not only did we get married and move to a new city, but we started this crazy marriage blog and decided we weren’t going to buy any new clothing for the whole year. While it has been interesting on many accounts, this last one has challenged us in many ways. As we were coming home from our flea market trip last week, we started discussing what we will buy once our year is up, what clothing we wished we could have bought in the last ten months (not much came to our minds) and how it will change our buying habits in the future.

As we were thinking through the process of buying used clothing, it struck me that it’s sort of like making sushi. Remember the post a few weeks ago? The most difficult part of making sushi is finding the initial ingredients in your store. Once you know where they are, you can make them part of your grocery list, pick them up quickly, and make sushi part of your life on a regular basis.

The same could be said for thrifting. It can be super frustrating if you spend all your time searching for the things you want. But once you find those few perfect places, the odds of you finding something you love increase greatly. You can make more regular trips to a few shops, spending more time choosing between great things instead of desperately digging for anything worthwhile.

This has spurred more conversation about our next year. Should we make a new pledge? Not buy anything new for one year? Buy only clothing new but nothing else?

What’s one thing you would never buy used?

Also, click the Thrifty Pledge below for a link to one of our favorite thrifters.


[fb_like]

Photo Attribution

I Am Not a Hippie

Confession:

I just spent the last 2 hours of my life scouring the web pages of Forerver 21. In my room. Alone. When we took the vow to not buy any new clothing for an entire year, I thought I would appreciate clothing in a new way. I suspected that I would gain a better appreciation for used clothing, for saving money, and for getting creative. Yet I must admit that it’s somehow helped me appreciate the quickness and cheapness with which we can attain NEW pieces of clothing for very little. It’s turned cute clothing websites into thrift store porn. Oversized tunics and sweaters and baubles are desperately calling my name. I. Need. Help.

I’ve saved my birthday money from September because I haven’t found anything I really want, but secretly I’m hoping I can save it until June when I can buy ten new items of clothing for myself. I’ve found myself hopelessly scouring the web for apparel fabrics, to little or no avail. I’ll I’ve found are vintage clothes with lots of character that cost a lot, or new clothing that looks vintage that costs very little.

I know this goes against everything I’ve tried to be. I’ve set myself up as one who appreciates all things handmade, vintage, and creative, though my heart finds itself in a fragile state, ready to pay tiny wages to foreigners in sweat shops. And right now I don’t really feel bad about it.

I think at the end of our year, I’ll still want to make new things to keep my heart from becoming complacent or my brain from developing Alzheimers. Sure, there’s a lot of fun to be had in designing and making your own clothing. But while I wait for that cute linen dress to come off the machine, I think I’ll be scouring the mall aisles for updates along the way. After all, a girl can only sew so quickly. And her crafting budget can only take her so far.

Long live the true hippies. I am not one of them.

[fb_like]
Photo Attribution

The Rebuttal

In case you missed Kyle’s post yesterday, here it is. This is my response.

I usually read our previous posts (re: Kyle’s) and love them, dwell on them, and move on. I get the digital thumbs up that it’s my turn to write, so I sit down with my oatmeal and coffee and churn out something brand new. But because it’s our blog, I don’t have to be relegated to the comments section, but rather get to write an entire post in response to his.

For the last few years, I’ve battled with my family over what we’re all getting for Christmas. That’s right, all of us. My mom would email us asking for gift ideas and I’d reply all with some self-sacrificing antidote on why none of us want anything and that we should all just donate money to (insert 501c3 of your choice here) and call it done. I know everyone is feeling sorry for my family (as you should) but they’re very much used to my whims of nonsense and we all got gifts anyway. Which I may or may not have later donated to charity.

I don’t think Kyle struggled with this type of sin before I came into his life. I don’t think he would ever have known what Toms were or that he would have struggled to rid himself of things in the name of Christ. In fact, I think he was slightly on the other end of the spectrum (the 12 Masters polos in his closet would serve to prove my point), but I think I’ve gradually pulled him over to the other side. I really struggle with a sort of emergent worldview that the less we have, the more we’re serving the Lord. I think most of what’s in our hearts is good, though we’re still not quite there. Maybe we do it because we think if we don’t have a lot of stuff, we’re not able or called to actually give anything. Maybe we think we’re identifying with the less fortunate by depriving ourself of worldly objects. I don’t know. But I am learning this:

When we rid ourselves of things, be it material possessions or the views we have of ourselves, all it leaves is empty space. We’re getting so good at ridding ourselves of stuff (well, come over and you can be the judge) but all it’s leaving is an empty house.

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”- Matthew 12:40-45

We’re putting our house in order. We’re getting rid of all the “wrong” things, buying all the “if this is all I owned I’d be hippie but it actually cost 2k and I throw it around in my trunk” stuff. Our generation (or at least some of us) are getting so good at living a self-sacrificing lifestyle, except that it isn’t FOR anything. Other than a better image of ourselves. Our sin is still in worshipping our stuff, except that we worship the lack of stuff. And we pat ourselves on the back.

To my wise husband- I’m sorry I’ve taken advantage of the things you love about me and turned them into the only way to honor Christ. I really believe this is our biggest struggle and that I’m often at the forefront of it. I know that things don’t define us as good, but they also don’t make us sinful. That comes only from our human hearts, and from making an idol of the state of our household. Lead on, even if it’s in your Masters polo. I’m okay with that, and I promise I won’t give them away.

The 100 Things Post

If you missed Monday’s post you might want to read before you read this one. Here it is.

This is what I know: Jen and I have too much stuff. This is what I don’t know: what to do with all of it.

What is the goal with stuff? Why do we buy clothes and houses and cars and food and toys? What is the deep-seated reason behind all of it?

I suppose we buy food to survive, although I think oftentimes we buy it to comfort us. I’m not ashamed to admit that. One of my best friends was fasting recently and he said to me, “I never realized how much I turn to food for comfort, how much it soothes me.” This friend does triathlons too, and is in better shape than anyone I know. The American Dream says: keep buying, be comforted. Minimalism says: you have enough. God says: I am all the comfort you need.

What are we doing?

I think we buy clothes so we don’t run around town naked and embarrassed all the time. But if that is the case then why do we only buy clothes with certain logos or from certain stores? And by “we” I mean “me.” Guilty as charged.

I have three Masters pullovers. One of them was $105 and the other two were $90. I’m not sure why I thought I needed three of them. They’re all the same, just different colors. Do I really have them to keep me from being naked? Or do I have them because I think that little yellow America with the golf flag jammed into the bottom right corner says “I’m cooler than you, I’ve been to Augusta”? I think that’s probably a rhetorical question.

We buy houses to entertain people and to offer room and board to the least of these for in doing so we have offered it to the Lord Himself. Oh, wait, that’s not why we buy houses? That’s not why we upgrade year after year, always looking for something better and more suitable to our needs?

In high school my parents moved us from the glitzy part of our town to an older, less-rich part. At the time I guess I didn’t think much of it, I just did what I was told and helped remodel the new old house. In retrospect, what were they thinking? Didn’t they know they were supposed to buy a nicer, newer, bigger house and not an old, dumpy one that screamed “I’m from the 1970s, rescue me!!”? They must not have gotten that memo.

As it turns out, foresight must be silver to silence’s gold. Our front door was a turnstile for basically every friend my brother and sister and I ever made during middle and high school. Our house was a home and our fellowship there was alive. A lot happened there. A lot of nights of growing up. I’m glad they didn’t buy into the American Dream. Bigger! Richer! Nicer!

Somebody I work with jokes that our computers at work are run by little mice on scroll wheels. Well, I think he’s joking anyway. The concept, though, is not that relatively different from reality. A piece of metal flickers light on account of a bunch of modular transactions none of us understand. I don’t really think of my truck much differently. I turn a piece of metal, it makes a noise, and takes me where I want to go. I don’t get it. So why are we buying $50,000 automobiles? Do we need the quadrilateral shape of metal we transport ourselves in to say something about who we are as humans? I hope not, but I think so.

So what should we do about it? Where do we go from here?

I wish I had an answer.

Minimalism, at its core, is not about the number of items you do or don’t have (see: this article). That’s not how I’m coming to understand it anyway. Minimalism, in 2010, is about purging the excess and stripping away the unnecessary.

Of course, that begs the question: what isn’t excess and what actually is necessary?

Proverbs (and I keep coming back to this verse) says: “…remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God. (Proverbs 30: 8-9, ESV)

Jen and I have decided that before Thanksgiving (just to be ironic) we will go through every object in our home and ask each other the following three questions:

  1. Do we love it?  …if not then why even ask question #2?
  2. Do we use it?
  3. Does it have a home (in our home)?

This isn’t set in stone. I’m not going to domestically abuse my wife if she keeps her ribbons and fabric and thread. I don’t even know what the result of all this will be. Maybe we reduce our stuff in half, maybe we keep 95% of it, I have no idea. We’ll keep you updated on our progress though.

This is just our stab at becoming minimalists so we can focus on the people and projects in our lives that are truly valuable and ignore everything else. This is our attempt to share a life together. To rip away from our very hands anything that may be holding us captive to ourselves, anything that may be snuffing out freedom.

Hanging in his kitchen window, John Piper has a quote that goes like this:

Only one life,
Twill soon be past;
Only what’s done
for Christ will last.

How can you incorporate minimalism into your life?

[fb_like]
Photo Attribution

The Toys That Bind

All mortals tend to turn into the thing they are pretending to be.

– CS Lewis

I tweeted last night that I threw down four boxes for us to fill with either give-away items or garage-sale paraphernalia and that things were ‘about to get real.’ The effect of such an action was fairly inconsequential since Jen was humming Amos Lee songs and dusting off cake pans we used at our wedding while absolutely ignoring my every word, but hey I threw down those boxes with some passion!

We aren’t what people would call pack-rats, nobody from TLC is banging down our door to tape an episode of “Hoarders”, and even if we were there’s only so much you can fit into 600 square feet (I feel like us saying “our apt. is 600 sq. ft.” is the Geico caveman commercial of this blog, cute the first time it ran, agonizing every time since…I digress…and I’ll try to stop mentioning how big our apt. is). Also, we committed to not buying any new clothes for a year which I think is an easy enough vow to keep for two people who already have more than enough clothing. And I would say we’ve gotten rid of more than we’ve acquired since knotting the knot in early June.

We still struggle though.

“An iPad would be functional, wouldn’t it?”
“I think I want a new bicycle to ride around Dallas in!”
“There’s this great tennis racket I need to get!”
“We need some fun luggage, don’t we? You know, just in case!”
“I’m buying a $6,000 letter press, I don’t care what you say!”

OK, I made the last one up, but I’m sure we’ve had a conversation about the first four. I know we have.

On our Colorado trip I did some pretty intense reading on minimalism. Minimalism includes topics like “how to only own 100 items” and “how to fit your entire life into one backpack”, crazy stuff like that. Anyway, I’ve fallen for it like my wife fell for nunnery (or is it nun-hood?) and I’ve been trying to give away everything we own since we got back to Dallas. Thankfully Jen is rational (relative to me) and we still have items to sit/sleep on and food to eat, but I’m serious, things are getting REAL around here!

I’ll go more in depth on Thursday (we’re about to start long-post Thursdays…just warning the ADHD of you in advance) but for now the war is being waged. What do we really need? How do we control our stuff instead of the other way around? How do we not let the accumulation of household items get to the point that we need to buy more stuff just to store all the stuff we already own?

How can we not live this American dream we keep hearing about?

Answers coming Thursday. Or just more questions. I’m not sure yet.

P.S. – Note to self: stop quoting self in blog posts…

[fb_like]
Photo Attribution

Wardrobe Change

I’m writing this really late on Thursday night/ early Friday morning after Kyle’s first double header of the fall softball season. It’s the first season without the Hairy Alligators, and we definitely missed our friends back home. But the new team is really fun and now he’s a Decepticon. I don’t really know what that is, but then again, what’s a Hairy Alligator?

Here are a few of our thrift store purchases. We’ve decided that we’ve spent about $30 on clothes since we’ve been married, and this is only about half of what we’ve bought. Enjoy.

I’ll start off with a big fat fail. One of my first projects was to make a shirt out of one of Kyle’s dress shirts. (Note to readers: be sure and ask permission before you cut and paste. Your husband might not think his favorite dress shirt would look ab fab as your new skirt. Just a suggestion.) However, that shirt is now unrecognizable and is in pieces in the fabric scrap pile. Next time I’ll turn it into this:

Here are a few things we’ve repurposed:

From one of Kyle’s old T-shirts:

A before and after of an elderly woman’s blouse (I can only assume):

A GIANT dress I found. I’m pretty sure it provided me with 4.5 yards of fabric.

It will either become a skirt like this or a covering for the lampshade below. Possibly both. See 4.5 yards.

Also I have a stash of things I’ve left the same. A yellow tank, a linen and silk sundress, some fun jewelry and scarves. Here are some of Kyle’s. Because they’re pretty great they way they came.

We’ll try to keep you updated as our year goes on. Just know that it’s been challenging but really fun. Our clothes are becoming less about labels and more about the story behind them. Some of those stories are made up (by us) and some clothes tell the stories themselves. Regardless, our hearts are changing a little at a time. From a question of want versus need, from fashion-forward to creative-forward. And our wardrobes are changing with them.

Photo Attribution

[fb_like]

Double NCP

Three months ago, in a moment of weakness and confusion, we made a decision. We didn’t really think much about it, didn’t do any research or ask questions, we just sort of jumped in. Sometimes I regret it, other times I’m glad I did it. The conversation went a little something like this:

“Hey- wanna make a pact not to buy new clothes for a year?”
“Uh… sure. Do you?”
“Yeah, sounds good.”

And that was that. And it looked dangerously similar to our conversation that started the whole surprise wedding. And look where that got us.

“Hey- you wanna have a surprise wedding?”
“Yeah… sounds cool.”

And that was also that.

We had three goals at the beginning of the No New Clothes Pact (NNCP):
1. Save money
2. Become more creative with the clothes we have
3. Become more creative with other people’s clothes they no longer want

Some things we’ve learned so far:
1. People give away some really ugly shooties.
2. People give away some really great shooties, you just have to dig for it
3. Even if you really hate something you buy or screw it up with the sewing machine, it only cost you $3. Sew on.

I go through seasons (as I would suspect we all do) of truly believing I have nothing to wear, even though I have a closet full of clothes. This season is no exception. Part of me wants to wipe my entire closet out and just start over. Except that it creates diagnosable schizophrenia because I suddenly find it hard to part with the sweater I’ve worn once in 3 years. The sweater suddenly carries emotional ties and some sort of obligatory “keep me” stare. Brutal.

Yet to clear it all out, I have to have something to replace it with. And how am I supposed to do that? One very cheap piece at a time.

I was watching a documentary this week titled Grey Gardens. If you haven’t seen it, don’t waste your time unless you’re really into Jackie O, hippies, bizarre-o behavior, song and dance, and recluse tendencies. If you’re like me, you’ll love it. It was filmed in 1975 and as I was watching, I started to realize that every single style is just something that’s being cycled back through the world of fashion. Some of the things they wore were quite strange, but some of the things I could see myself wearing this week. It was an encouragement to use those vintage patterns I have and to keep buying almost new clothes. Even if they are from 1985. My wardrobe will eventually become new to me.

Tomorrow we’ll show you a little of what we’ve bought, upcycled, and totally screwed up. Entertainment for all.

[fb_like]

Photo Attribution

9 Things We’ll Always Buy Used

Houses – When my wife says she “cherishes character over shiny new things” all I hear is money swirling down our vintage, century-old leaky drain. It’s ok though, I can live with that because she’s not kidding, old really is better than new. We just have to choose the right kind of old.

Cars – This is more of a financial decision than anything else.

Furniture – I’m not going to say we’re NEVER going to buy new furniture, but that’s the mindset right now. Like, if I get into a 3-car accident with Dirk and Mark Cuban tomorrow and they both write me a blank check I’m not opposed to purchasing a few leather accessories (that sounds terrible) to sit on. Honestly though? I prefer the junk my wife buys for pennies on the dollar and refurbishes. I also like building furniture. Although bookselves and desks that would take a normal person 3-4 hours take me 4-5 months…

Books – You can one-up the “buy it used” mantra here. Just trade for it. Or get it for free.

Baby clothes – We don’t talk about this one. In fact, why are we still on this, let’s move on.

Artwork – Every time we’re in Target I find myself staring at their artwork thinking “ooohh that looks so original and awesome, let’s buy it.” Then I become cognizant of the fact that 2,000 other people did the exact same thing at Targets around the nation that day. So it’s not awesome and it’s definitely not original. So we don’t even buy artwork used…we just make it.

Golf clubs – I’m not hitting a 3-iron pure whether it’s used, slightly used, brand new, or Ben Hogan himself forged the metal with which it was made…so I might as well go cheap.

DVDs – Buying new DVDs feels like buying toilet paper, you’re rarely (hopefully) using either one more than once. With the advent of Redbox, Netflix, and Hulu what have DVDs become other than placeholders for home collections? And DVD collections are SO 2002.

Big people clothes – This is one we’ve been discussing for a few days. We’re thinking about not purchasing any new clothing for the next year. I just asked Jen if that meant I couldn’t buy a polo at The Masters next year. She said “you’re the one who made the rule” in one of those voices that makes you want to climb a large tree and jump head first into a pool of seething tar. So I guess that’s that. I’m sure we’ll revisit this paragraph multiple times over the next 11 months…(personal caveat: I’ve been told that shoes and undergarments are the only two things we’re allowed to purchase new – and I thought I was making the rules!)

Enjoy “The Decision” – we won’t be watching.

What kind of stuff do you always buy used?

Photo Attribution