Friday, November 30, 2018

The Intentional Thrifter: Last one for awhile

Last thrift shift of the week, and the chance to do some purposeful shopping. Pair of bootcut Levi's jeans in good shape and right size, check (although they're the Long version and have to be hemmed). 
The sheer printed blouse was more accidental, but it's a good match for my other clothes, so it was a yes.
Replacement tote bag for one that is getting worn, check, and the colour is a bonus. (If you think the pocket looks a bit crooked, you're right. I have no explanation for that! I still like the bag, so I guess I'll just make sure the pocket doesn't face out!)
Christmas present for a relative who likes historic aircraft (and doesn't read blogs), check. It's a pop-up book.

I have enjoyed writing these posts, but it's time for an Advent break and some new directions. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Intentional Thrifter: Three years of culling the closet

About three years ago, I went "back to school" on getting dressed in the morning. The only thing I was sure of was that I wanted to stop wearing black jeans with everything.  I was also tired of freebie clothes that I'd stretched as far as I could.  Even when I did buy the odd new sweater or blouse, I couldn't figure out what to do with it...except wear it with black jeans. Or blue jeans.

Over those three years, I've shamelessly cycled a large number of thrifted clothes into my closet and out again.  It wasn't hard to get rid of what I didn't like; it was harder settling on what I did. My life does not normally require me to make a business impression or dress like something I'm not, and I'm grateful for that. I've admired photos of expensive (to me) new clothing, but, especially lately, I often get pulled up short by finding something nearby and secondhand that does just as well.
The $2 scarf I bought last week and wore today.

On time spent shopping, I think I spend an average amount, maybe more than some (because quite a few of my friends don't have the time or inclination), but less than women who spend hours browsing malls.  I do like reading a few style websites for fun, and there are a couple of You-tubers I follow, so I guess you'd count that as shopping-thinking time, even if they're not selling anything. Treehouse readers know how often I post photos of new things, but those are usually found in a quick few minutes after a thrift shift.
Silk and linen navy blazer with 3/4 length sleeves (I think). It's a size 14 petite, which should be totally not my size, but it it's a perfect fit. The accompanying pants, however, seem made for a giant. Sometimes you have to buy the package and use what you can.
Things I've Learned

I've learned to be cautious of fast-fashion fabric, new or used. Mass-market "modal" can be just as cheap and disappointing as regular stretchy synthetics. But thrifting is a good antidote for synthetic blahs, especially if your limited budget keeps you away from more inventive (read $$) makers. Used clothes often span a wider variety of price points and fabrics.

I've discovered I'm old enough...and young enough...not to have everything machine-wash-and-dryable. We've always done a lot of line-drying, but I tended to avoid hand-washing when our household was bigger--too much fuss. Like many jobs that initially sound too time-consuming, it's really about having the tools in place to make it a habit. For me, those are dishpans, a timer, and drying racks, plus those extra hangers I mentioned. I think I've ruined just one white top by handwashing it, and that's because it accidentally picked up pink stains from something else.

I've bought some bright colours, but I'm finding I like certain neutrals (grey, off-white, not-too-dark navy) just as much. I've learned that oversized isn't my best friend, and neither is beige of any sort. I keep hoping those beige caterpillars will magically turn into beautiful taupe butterflies, but it's pretty hopeless. I've also learned to stay away from crispy menswear, and pants designed for retirees.

The biggest thing I'm learning recently is to cut the closet fat a bit more, or at least slow the train of comings and goings. As time goes on, I'm recognizing more long-haul clothes "friends," and I feel less like shifting them off to make room for others.

And finally, thrifting isn't just about clothes. Recent book finds:
 I'm looking forward to reading Our Native Song as an addition to our local CM group's music study.
This one's a CM-era relic.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Quote for the day: Each immediate evil

"I think the art of life consists in tackling each immediate evil as well as we can....the dentist who can stop one toothache has deserved better of humanity than all the men who think they have some scheme for producing a perfectly healthy race." ~~ C.S. Lewis, from "Why I Am Not a Pacifist," The Weight of Glory

Friday, November 23, 2018

Keeping it green and cheerful on Black Friday

The best place to shop on Black Friday? The MCC thrift store, after a morning of sorting books. No special deals, but buying thrift means giving things a second chance; and, at this store, each purchase also supports Mennonite Central Committee programs.

Plus nobody was pushing me around or fighting for carts.

For under $10, I found a real-deal pashmina scarf in my favourite colour; a pottery soup mug; and a copy of Surprised by Laughter: The Comic World of C.S. Lewis. Yes, in spite of what Roald Dahl's Matilda said, Lewis was "sustained by joy and humour," to quote the dust jacket.
These other two items were bought earlier in the week. The sewing book (with unused patterns!) is for me.
And the plastic Tardis cookie jar, with lights and sound effects, is an early present for Mr. Fixit.
Who needs malls when you can travel through space and time?

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Here's a brain statistic for you

"Use it or lose it appears to be quite true when applied to the brain work of learning. Researchers find that children who are deprived of sensory stimulation develop brains that are 20-30 percent smaller than normal for their age. Although much remains to be learned about the neurological growth of the brain, some scholars believe that people quite literally build their own minds throughout life by actively constructing the mental structures that connect and organize isolated bits of information." ~~ Barkley, Major & Cross, Collaborative Learning Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty

Thursday, November 15, 2018

From the archives: What violence kills

From a post in November 2015

I read an interesting blog post recently: Simone Weil and Homer, by David Beardsley, on the Circe Institute blog. This is the part that struck me:
"By not making the clear connection to the one war, however, she made a clear connection to all War; to the eternal process that is inevitable when one country, one sect, one person, seeks domination.

"She also describes those moments of love that do break through the 'monotonous desolation:' hospitable, filial, brotherly, conjugal, even the friendship that can occur between mortal enemies such as Achilles and Priam.  'These moments of grace,' she says, 'are rare in the Iliad, but they are enough to make us feel with sharp regret what it is that violence has killed and will kill again.'”

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Six Weeks Till Christmas: Stop, Look, and Listen

In just under six weeks, those of us who observe Christmas will find it upon us again. The season of Advent begins on December 2nd.

I chose that word "observe" deliberately. Its roots mean "to watch." Sometimes it means to comment, sometimes it means to watch silently. Sometimes it also means to follow a rite, or respond to a rule. There's a distinction between being an observant child and an observant Christian.

The subway warning "Mind the Gap" implies both observing a physical reality and heeding the cautions of those who are concerned with our safety. It includes a verb, something we're supposed to do, even if that's only keeping our eyes open.  As that other childhood rule said, "Stop, Look, and Listen." We passively observe the days, months, years flying past, and there's nothing we can do about that. Even if we watch attentively, it doesn't slow them down. But we also observe by doing something to mark the seasons. To say that we've noticed, whether it's by marking a Calendar of Firsts or by addressing a stack of Christmas cards.

The Jewish world has just celebrated its New Year; and in the church year, the long season of post-Pentecost, post-everything-else is drawing to a close. In our part of the world, the days are getting shorter and the sky is often grey with threats of snow.  Of course the stores have jumped ahead with Christmas, but in our private (or communal) calendars, we can choose not to turn the page just yet.
What do you do in these last pre-Advent days? How do you observe them? Do you try to catch up, make up for lost time? Or are you preparing madly for December? 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Hard question for the day

"Human beings perceive life in its physical, social, and political dimensions as having evolved in steps and stages, not as being assembled and constructed from distinct pieces according to a specific design or blueprint. Sequence and consequence are intimately connected in the human mind; can one let go of sequence and maintain the notion of consequence, let alone accountability?" ~~ Ursula M. Franklin, The Real World of Technology (revised edition, 1999)

Sunday, November 11, 2018

For Peace Sunday

WONDERFUL

Now the emptiness of ages proclaims the promised birth.
Hope to help unhappy hearts.
Love to light the earth.
And He shall be called Wonderful!
He shall be called Peace.
For to us a Son has been given,
to us the Lord is born.
He will govern with justice and joy, consoling those who mourn,
And He shall be called Comforter,
He shall be called Peace.

Streams will wash away the desert as He goes passing by
Those in need will turn to Him
He will hear their cry.
And He shall be called Wonderful!
He shall be called Peace.
He will lead His flock like a shepherd and call us each by name.
He will walk in the favor of God,
and we shall do the same.
And He shall be called Comforter,
He shall be called Peace.

(Copyright 1971 by Medical Mission Sisters from the collection "19 Scripture Songs." All Rights Reserved.)

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

The Treehouse Gift Giving Guide, 2018

All my favourite bloggers and websites seem to be doing gift guides right now, so I thought I'd share some blog love and also post my own ideas.

What sorts of things do your people want and need? If you're trying to be practical, think about measuring tools, living-with-snow tools (especially if they have houses or vehicles), or tools that help you reach things up or down (like stepladders and long pincher-things). Think about home things that get worn out, like towels and sheets and scissors. Think about dark places that need more light, or messy places that need hooks, or faded places that need paint. Think about pets that need vacation-sitting or supplies (a gift card?), or closets that need organizing. (Only if they really want you to!)

The Zero Waste Bulk store is one Canadian source of alternative sustainable items, like bamboo toothbrushes, which could make good stocking stuffers. They include an interesting article on their site about frugal handmade alternatives to the alternatives.  (There used to be a Canadian baby-gear vendor that generously included readers' tips for ways to not need their products.) Putting a sock over a Mason jar as a substitute travel mug might not be something you would give as a gift, but it is a good reminder that even a sustainably-made new thing is still a new thing, and maybe you could find an already-existing thing that works just as well.

Handmade Holidays is back this year on Sew Mama Sew! I like the link they included to a no-sew plaid blanket scarf, on their post Gifts for Girlfriends. More details on the Alice and Lois website.

How about giving someone a Pursuit of Ideas poster from Circe Institute? [Oh no--they're out of stock--sorry. Maybe a subscription to their journal Forma instead?] Or paying for them to take an online course, or to register for a virtual educational event (or a real one)?

The Vivienne Files posted an accessories gift guide with a reminder that you can often find unique jewelry (and other gift items) at museum and gallery gift shops. Plus you are supporting those places and/or the artists who create the gifts. That's a win. (Where else are you going to find Lawren Harris coffee mugs?)

The 2018 Green Gift Guide at My Green Closet includes a variety of things, including (like The Vivienne Files) gifts from The Met Store, and one item from Ten Thousand Villages (Canadian site, American site). If you're browsing TTV, look especially at products made by Noah's Ark in India. One of the Noah's Ark specialties is recycled metal, and we have several pieces from them ourselves including a table, a recycled-iron owl (no longer available), and a nativity silhouette. Canadian Ten Thousand Village stores also sell tiny fair-trade chocolate bars from Divine Chocolate. (Treehouse-tested and approved.)

Canadian songwriter Steve Bell has a new set of devotional books, The Pilgrim Year, based on the seasons of the church year. You can also buy them individually, and there's an accompanying CD with music selected from previous albums. Minimalist blogger Joshua Becker has a new book coming out in December. Jan Karon has a brand new book too, and it's also available as an audiobook. Or maybe your giftee would like Karen Swallow Prior's On Reading Well, which is getting positive reviews all over the place.
(Where do you buy your books these days? I used to post links to deals from Hampstead House Books, but they have closed shop after forty years in business. If you have a local indie store, consider supporting them. And don't forget to thrift.)
If your friend or loved one prefers e-books or listening-with-earbuds books, there are all kinds of choices. Here's one that you can currently only get for Kindle: Hallelujah, an Advent devotional by Cindy Rollins and friends. CM educators, have you heard about the Common Place Quarterly? Or how about giving a subscription to one of the two e-zines published by Becoming MinimalistSimplify Magazine and Simple Money?

And for the person who has everything...here's a variation on buying in-your-name farm or rescue animals or just making a donation to a local charity. How about a promise to log some extra volunteer hours at an organization you both support, as your gift to them?

Happy holiday planning!

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

The Intentional Thrifter: Winter is coming

Last week I shuffled a few things out of my closet and back to the thrift store. The had-pity-on-it-for-$2.50 purple suede skirt: it was just too heavy, literally. Last winter's grey cardigan: also too heavy for the places I find myself, and I've discovered I like sweaters a bit shorter and with more shape. A top that was too tight, a couple of other things that weren't working...back where they came from.

In return I picked out a grey wool midi skirt (all my other skirts are short). Wool skirts don't come my way often, so I'm happy about that. It makes me feel Charlotte-Mason-approved.
I also found a cardigan and a sort-of-houndstooth blazer, after my most recent thrift shift. The cardigan was sorted with the "outerwear," but it's just medium-heavy. It buttons only at the bottom, giving it some drape and shape.
 I added a extra hook and eye to close it near the top.
There are no labels in it at all, so its story is a mystery.

I noticed the blazer earlier, but was going to give it a pass because I thought it was too long. Then I ran into a friend who happened to be shopping, and she said, "Hey! I saw a jacket over there that you should try on." (I have helpful friends.) So I did, and it came home. I snipped out its yucky bare-foam shoulder pads, and it's good otherwise.
Here it is with a top and leggings.
With a grey dress and scarf:
And with a sweater dress.
So: six out, three in. Ready for winter.

Monday, November 05, 2018

A Quick Book Review: Decluttering at the Speed of Life

Decluttering at the Speed of Life: Winning Your Never-Ending Battle with Stuff, by Dana K. White (Amazon link)

If you want to hear an original and practical voice in the clutter of decluttering books, check this one out. One reason it resonated with me is that Mr. Fixit and I followed very similar methods when we downsized, so we know they can work!

One example: think of your house (or apartment), clothes closet, purse shelf, and dinner-knife compartment as a collection of big and small containers. Each one is designed to hold just so much stuff, no more; so we should keep no more than the container allows. Sounds like a no-brainer, but how many times do we try to keep it all, or to bring in more, rather than working with the space we have? Most of us recognize this reality when we pack a suitcase: it's only so big, we can't take all those shoes plus a hairdryer plus presents for the relatives. But we're often not as careful when it comes to home spaces.

In the past year, for example, I have turned down free drinking glasses, because I knew all our designated drinking glass space was taken, and I did not want to give something else up so that we could have more drinking glasses.  But at some point we might decide we don't need as many coffee mugs and we do want more drinking glasses. It's all about choices.

Mr. Fixit's half of our bedroom closet is mostly storage cubes and shelves for things he uses. He has very few hanging clothes, so that's fine with him; or he can hang things in the hall closet. But my side is all hangers.

I was happy to be able to fit in as many bookcases as we did into our apartment space. That is (not counting Lydia's room and Mr. Fixit's closet shelves), exactly three: two in the dining area and one in the bedroom. I do have a small space in another cupboard for university textbooks, and we often have books living on the coffee table. But that's it! There are no good places to put more bookshelves, and the ones we have are pretty full. If I started bringing home piles of books from the thrift store, I would soon have a problem. So respecting the limits of our space helps us stay with "enough" and not "too much."

Check out Decluttering at the Speed of Life for more uncluttered decluttering talk.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Quote for All Saints' Day

"With this magnificent God positioned among us, Jesus brings the assurance that our universe is a perfectly safe place for us to be." ~~ Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy (italics his)