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Monday, January 26, 2015

In and Out

Posted by Tim Stobbs on December 29, 2014

Ugh, Christmas is over.  The presents are unwrapped, you have setup, washed or otherwise started to use your new gifts.  Good for you.  Now on the flip side what are you getting rid of?

Pardon?!? All to often we get new stuff in our lives and don’t even give it a second thought that perhaps this would be an excellent time to also consider getting rid of a equal number of items to ensure your pile of stuff doesn’t grow.  I personally try to get to this the week following Christmas.

In some cases, this is a very easy thing to do.  For example, I got a new pair of jeans and tossed an old pair that I had previously fixed a hole in the pocket of.  The rest of the jeans were also starting to wear out so it was an easy decision to make.  Heck while you are in your closest you could just do a check in to see if you actually wear everything you have in there.

Other things are a bit more complex, like we got a new Keurig coffee maker for a gift.  So does that mean I should toss out my old coffee pot.  Perhaps, but I also use that coffee pot a LOT right now.  So in this case, I’ll take a wait and see approach to decide if I will use one more than the other and if I should get rid of something in the future.

Giving stuff and receiving it is easy to do.  Getting rid of things isn’t always so easy especially if you have problems tossing perfectly usable items (like I do).  So I tend to use the following methods:

  • Give it to a friend. In some cases, you might have someone else who can use something you used to have and they would love it.  When this works out it is wonderful for everyone.
  • Donate it. Nearly perfect used clothes are easy to donate and so are small household goods to some charities.  Other things you have to consider if it would be really useful since it is fairly won.
  • Sell it. Online sites make this significantly easier to do now and you can also give something away for free if you do not feel it would be worth selling.
  • Or if you just can not find a way to get rid of it…throw it away. I hate to do this, but accept sometimes I can not find something a home.

So do you do a post holiday purge?  If so, how you do handle it?

And Then a Funny Thing Happened

Posted by Dave on December 23, 2014

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about my wife’s and my decision to not give Christmas or birthday presents to each other (We both have December birthdays, on the 13th and 16th). Normally, the act of both searching for and then going to purchase presents causes a fair amount of work and time, and usually leads to both of us getting things that we kind of don’t want and causing quite a bit of unrequired stress in dealing with people at shops and malls, for the sake of consumerism. For my birthday, we went to our favourite pub for lunch and a few drinks (it fell on a Saturday this year). My wife chose a lunch at a new sushi place to celebrate her birthday when we took this past Friday off to relax for the day, before family Christmas insanity takes over the next few weekends.

I’ve noticed over the past couple of weeks, rather than fretting over presents, I’ve been having a much better time. I’ve made a few (admittedly small) donations to charities, something I normally wouldn’t do (Heifer International and The Salvation Army), because of my limited budget this time of year. I donated to Heifer International after reading a very passionate request for donations from Patrick Rothfuss, one of my favourite authors. He felt so strongly about the charity that he agreed to kiss whatever kind of animal people voted on that the charity provides to people they are helping (llama, pig, heifer, or goat….he ended up kissing a llama).

Over the years, I have slowly but surely tried to minimize most things that cause me annoyance. My wife and I have started spending more time at home, rather than running all over the province every weekend – we liked the visiting, but we didn’t enjoy being exhausted for the first few days of the week. We also made our “budget” as easy as possible to follow – in the attempt to eliminate money issues coming up monthly.

Our Early Retirement plan is sort of the last “problem” we’re attempting to overcome. We’d like to do exactly what we want to do, rather than trading a good portion of our time working. There are hobbies and interests that we have to set aside for the 10 hours a day we’re either working, getting ready for work, or getting home from our jobs. We’d much rather have this time to ourselves.

We’ll continue looking for areas to make our lives a little easier, either by doing more of something, or a much less. Is there anything you’re planning on changing in the coming year to make your life a little easier?

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone, all the best to you and your families!

Lowering Holiday Stress Levels

Posted by Dave on December 9, 2014

My feeling about the holidays as a (soon to be) 35 year-old is much different than it was 20 years ago. My holidays these days involve mostly hours of driving around the province of Ontario, in order to fulfil family obligations and witness present – opening by smaller family members. My preference would be to fit these visits in over the next 6 or 8 weeks, in the course of our normal visits we make to family, instead of over 6 or 8 days which is what has happened in the last 5 years – in some cases, causing my wife and I to spend more time on the road than we spend doing the actual fun visiting.

Over the years, my wife and I have attempted to make Christmas less stressful. I have attempted to stop adult gift exchanges – I would rather just show up and have some good food and visit than have to worry about getting a present for people that could just go buy whatever they wanted. This initiative was unsuccessful, as people apparently like presents. This year however, my wife and I stopped our own gift exchange.

Our birthdays are 3 days apart in December, a week before Christmas, which sort of compounds “present stress” that comes with the holidays. We try our best to get each other things that we’d enjoy, but this year decided to just not bother. Most years, I was essentially giving my wife an Amazon wish list of things that I liked, because I am not the easiest person to buy things for, or my wife would stress out that what she got me was nowhere near what I wanted. The whole process seemed like the opposite of fun to us. For our birthdays, we’re going to go out for dinner at a fun restaurant to celebrate – right now our choices are sushi (my wife’s choice), and gourmet burgers (my choice), but with a week to decide this could change many times.

As someone who is interested in spending my available dollars as efficiently as possible, this method of Christmas, although Grinchy is much more effective. One thing that I wanted is a cast aluminium tortilla press – I like to make corn tortillas, but kind of bent a frying pan making them the last time. My wife could comparison shop around and guess the size and type I had in mind or I can just buy this for myself and get the one I for sure want.

This change is a small thing, but I’ll take any sort of “win” this time of year – the more small changes we can implement every year to make things better in this hectic season, the better.

Is this a stressful time of the season for you? How would you, or how have you reduced the amount of stuff this time of year?