Sewing machine repair

I started today by biking to the thrift store for a return.  I was thinking that I’d get it out of the way so I wouldn’t have to go and be tempted during No Spend September.  In reality, going today just meant that I just moved the temptation up a day.  But it might be a good thing that I did since I made my last pre-challenge purchase with my store credit: a Janome sewing machine for $5.

In answer to the questions that will almost certainly be asked by my mother, yes I already had a sewing machine and no I didn’t technically need another one.  So why did I buy it?  The price certainly factored in, as did the fact that it’s a brand known for quality.  But, more than that, I’d like to do more sewing and it has features that my machine doesn’t.  It was a tiny bit of a gamble because the store doesn’t have an electrical testing station.  But I got it home and it seemed to do everything well except for one problem – the stitch length dial was stuck between 1 and 3 (it should go from 0 to 4) and when turned it didn’t actually change the stitch length.

Having recently spent $110 on a tuneup and repairs to my grandmother’s sewing machine and heading into a spending challenge, I wasn’t willing to put more money into a second machine when I already had a serviceable one.  But I wondered whether it might be worth trying to fix the new one myself.  If that didn’t work, I could always take it in for repairs when my budget was a bit more flexible.  So I turned to Google, deliverer of helpful instructions, and started reading.  One thing that seemed like a common fix for machines having the same issues was applying heat.  Apparently, over time, machine oil combines with dust and lint and gets sticky, causing jams.  Heating the oil, these sites suggested, could loosen things enough to get them moving again.

I was a bit skeptical.  It seemed way too easy.  But I took off the side panel, got my hair dryer, and gave it a go.  After two minutes, I could turn the dial using a lot of strength.  After four minutes, it turned easily and actually varied the stitch lengths.  I was utterly delighted.

I know this isn’t much of a repair in the grand scheme of things (perhaps more of a “repair”), but I’m so pleased that I was able to get something that wasn’t functioning all that well back into reasonable working order.  The more small actions I complete to repair things and extend their life, the more confident I become in taking on bigger and more complicated tasks.  I doubt I’m ever going to be a mechanical genius or a DIY guru, but it feels good to be able to take care of little fixes as needed and saves a good bit of money and bother.

 

No spend September

August, oh August.  Frankly, you were rather crappy.  And I responded to that crappiness by shopping and spending like someone who was in want of some serious distraction.  I bought things.  Many things.  They are lovely and useful and most were secondhand and inexpensive and I can’t really say that I regret it all that much.  But after all that I feel like I have a few pressing reasons to do a no spend month.  Immediately.

First, I’ve done enough shopping in the last month to last me for a good long while.  I’ve wiped almost everything off my “I want this, but I want it secondhand” shopping list.  I have an abundance of clothes, books, kitchen stuff, craft supplies, and all manner of other things.  I even have a large stockpile of food that could use some rotating through.  There’s no need for me to go shopping.  So I won’t.

Second, I’ve spent a good bit of money.  I didn’t go into debt and barely put a dent into my savings, but I’d like to get back to my focus on living as frugally as possible.  The more I can build up my savings, the better, and I’d like to make some financial changes around things like investing.  Even $50 or $100 a month can make a big difference, and tightening the budget and getting away from shopping will help get me closer to my goals.

Third, I realise that a separation is one of those things categorized as a MAJOR LIFE EVENT, but I no matter how crazy things are I just don’t want to get into the habit of using shopping as a way to distract myself or self-soothe.  I know full well that I was doing a lot of shopping in an attempt to care for myself and get out of the apartment, but there were times when my willingness – perhaps even need, in some of the darker moments – to get out and shop was a little scary.  There are better ways.  I want to figure out what they are again.

Conveniently, September is very nearly here and with the start of the month I’ll also be starting another month-long challenge.  The rules are:

  • Regular expenses like rent, utilities, insurance, and so on are all fine, although making efforts to minimize those expenses is cool
  • No shopping for clothes, books, housewares, entertainment, tools, craft supplies, or any other wants
  • Meeting needs – actual ones, not “but I reeeeaaaaly want it” ones – is also fine
  • Shopping for food is okay, but make an effort to use up what’s on hand first, and don’t go overboard (I’d actually like to see how much I can do with pantry staples)
  • Replacing any necessary used-up toiletries or health items is acceptable
  • Anything desirable that doesn’t meet the parameters goes on a wish list, both to reduce the desire and also to track what’s tempting and why
  • Any money spent in September must be matched by an equal savings account contribution (thereby doubling the apparent cost of everything)

These rules are pretty simple, but then, I’m seeing this as a pretty simple exercise.  I’m going to buy the things that I need, but anything else is off the table right now.  In all honestly, it’s a bit of a relief to have some constraint.  In addition to my own feelings of deserving new things or trying to make myself feel better, I’ve been getting a lot of the encouragement from friends and family to make changes in ways that are often tied to new acquisitions.  I know they care and want me to feel better, but it’s time to lay off the spending and get back to frugal living, and having a self-imposed challenge with some clear limitations should help quite a bit.

 

 

 

More retail therapy

Although most of my extravagantly excessive shopping of late has been secondhand, there have also been a few new purchases, which is a rarity for me.  After using the same rapidly deteriorating foam mattress for well over a decade and a possibly starting to mildew futon for the last four years, I bought a new queen sized mattress.  True to form, though, I bought it on super sale ($500 instead of $1700) and used $150 in gift cards to pay for it.

To go with the new mattress in a different size I also got a bed frame and bedding.  The latter was at the insistence of my mother who actually sent me a cheque to cover the cost of new sheets, pillows, and blankets because she wanted me to have a fresh place to sleep.  She’s long been a proponent of clearing stuff out to clear your mind and has seen the separation as a major opportunity for growth and changing around my life, starting with the bedroom (have I mentioned that my parents are fantastic and have been utterly and absolutely wonderful over the past few months?  I am very, very lucky.)

The final result is, in short, glorious.  I’m usually pretty hard on myself about new purchases, but not so much with these ones.  Although what I spent on the bed is probably the most amount of money that I’ve spent on anything in years, it’s been completely worth it.  I anticipate it will last for many, many years.  But even more importantly, I sleep so, so much better and it’s made such a huge difference to my mood, my focus, and my work.

Retail therapy

Generally speaking, I try not to shop very much.  That’s not to say that I’m always successful, but I do try to be very conscious of what I buy and why.  Usually it’s books or household items.  The books are because I enjoy reading, it’s inexpensive entertainment, and I think there’s great value in having a store of books on hand from fiction to reference.  The household items are because I love taking care of my home and appreciate using nice and useful house and kitchenware.  Other than that, though, I do try to keep the shopping to a minimum.

This hasn’t been the case recently, though.  As my marriage was falling apart, I was shopping myself silly.

Initially I was shopping as a distraction.  Over the past few months hitting the thrift stores meant I was getting out for a bit of exercise in the form of a bike ride and then allowing myself an hour or two of distraction where I wasn’t thinking about everything that was going on or sitting on my computer obsessively reading sites on how to save your marriage.  Then, once J. left, I was shopping as a way to remake myself and my home for what felt like a huge life transition.  I was buying some clothes (partly to make sure I had pants that fit after the nearly 20 pound weight loss), some craft supplies (stuff to do with my hands), and a whole lot of household goods (to revamp the apartment and replace things that I’d rather not have around anymore).

In my defense, all of my shopping was secondhand.  I wasn’t contributing to the market for new goods to be produced.  It was also very inexpensive, too, so there wasn’t much in the way of savings account depletion either.  But I was shopping all the same.  I was buying into the mentality that shopping was an acceptable way to deal with my problems and that because things were rough I deserved to have new things to make myself feel better.  Both mentalities are ones that I usually try to avoid, but it’s easy to see how they feel incredibly comforting when things are tough.  Shopping is easy, distracting, and feels like a form of self-care and given everything that was going on, I don’t really feel all that bad about it in context.

So, what did I buy?  Truthfully, it would probably be easier to talk about what I didn’t buy, but in the interest of full disclosure and keeping myself at least somewhat accountable, here’s a brief overview of what four months of stress-induced secondhand retail therapy looks like in my world.

Furniture: two walnut chairs, two bookcases, two pine side tables, brass floor lamp, pottery table lamp, tiered table, metal filing shelf

Kitchenware: food processor, blender, shears, two pottery plates, four pottery mugs, four pottery bowls, ten crystal glasses, two jadeite egg cups, magnetic knife rack, two pottery jugs, three tea tins, knife sharpener, four settings of cutlery

Linens: two wool blankets, wool mattress pad, five throw pillows, eight linen napkins, three towels, bathmat

Decor: dozens of candles, two pottery vases, Hermes typewriter, five picture frames, large basket, small basket

Entertainment: two cookbooks, ten novels, two board games, puzzle

Clothing and accessories: three pair of jeans, black pants, sweatshirt, canvas travel bag, two canvas tote bags, laptop bag, Converse sneakers, leather boots, running shorts, running top

Craft supplies: three pairs of knitting needles, 18 balls of wool, five yards wool fabric, five sewing patterns

I know I was just going to thrift store so often that I was bound to find things I was looking for, but there were times when it felt the thrift gods were throwing every thrift desire I’ve had over the last few months my way.  I’ve knocked jadeite, Otagiri blue horizon, metal filing unit, vintage blender, food processor, and The Flavor Bible off my ongoing “let’s keep an eye out for this at the thrift store” list. 

Of course none of this makes anything tangibly better.  Shopping was a distraction, and all the stuff in the world won’t magically fix anything.  On the positive side, I’m feeling less like shopping all the time and more like getting back to focusing on the important things in life.  But to start with, I should probably tidy up around here and figure out where to put all this stuff…

 

 

 

Changes

I haven’t been here much in awhile now.  Not that I suppose I’m ever here all that much, but the reasons for my absence have been a bit different this time around.  After four years of marriage, my husband and I have separated.

For what are probably pretty obvious reasons, I don’t want to go into a lot of detail here about what happened, how it happened, and all of those other things.  It suffices to say that things have been unpleasant for the last however many months, but in and amongst the crud there have been some startling moments of revelation, clarity, and grace.  And, if nothing else, I’ve been reminded of how wonderful my friends and family are as I navigate this new territory.

This is all fresh and new and things still feel rough.  But at the same time, I feel like I have more time and space and energy than I have in a long time, and I’m working to channel that into rebuilding a life for myself that is even more clearly aligned with my interests and values.  For now, that has amounted to a serious clearing out of the apartment and some pretty hefty thrift shopping, but I’m looking to more significant changes going forward, and in particular more changes that reflect my ever-present interest in sustainability and resilience and that will hopefully be reflected here.

 

Decluttering

I’ve been swearing – for years now, it seems – that I need to do a big clean out of the apartment.  Living here for over eight years and frequenting thrift stores as I do has led to the accumulation of a lot of stuff – piles of books, clothing, cookware, dishes, and all manner of other bits and pieces.  Since the apartment isn’t huge, this has meant that not everything really has a place of its own, and things get messy and disorganized really quickly.

Although I’m going slowly, I’ve already started the purging process.  At the end of April, I took 14 bags of donations to the thrift store – two of clothes, two of housewares, and ten of books.  (I didn’t think to take pictures, which I now kind of regret – the pile was impressive.)  While I’m a little embarrassed to have had so much to get rid of and that it barely made a dent in the stuff around here, I’m also really pleased to have it gone and moved on to a charity that will benefit from it and other people who will use it.

This is, however, just the start of the process.  One of my summer goals is to do a good bit of the decluttering that I keep saying that I need and want to do, but never really get around to.  My starting goal is to get rid of a quarter of what I own.  It feels a bit ambitious, particularly for someone who has a tendency to hang onto things, but I suspect that aiming high is the best bet.  Even if I fall short, I still get something accomplished.  On top of that, I find that as I get going the process becomes a good deal easier.

The other side of the coin is that I’m also bringing in less.  I got into a bit of a thrift store habit last year and I’m consciously avoiding that now.  Being out on my bike a lot meant that I was passing thrift stores pretty regularly.  Stopping for a bit of a browse became a common thing.  Admittedly, I got some pretty lovely and useful stuff – handmade pottery, wool blankets, a tomato sauce maker, and many great books – but I have enough and I certainly don’t need any more right now.  While I haven’t stopped going entirely – there are still a few specific things on my wish list – I’m being a lot more selective about what I choose to spend money on and bring home.

My ideal is simply to have a home that is a good deal tidier and more organized and that functions better, particularly in light of some of the projects I’d like to work on this summer.  I have a lot of things that I want to get to work on and having a space where there’s actually some room to work and that’s easy to tidy up would be a real boon.  On top of that, the nicer home is to be, the more time I spend here and the more relaxed and productive I am.  I spend so much time here that putting the time and effort into making it a good place to live is very well-spent.

Surfacing

River 1Much as I wish it were otherwise, work often gets the better of me and my time writing here becomes limited, if not nonexistent.  Such was the case this last semester – I had quite a few students (and lots of grading), an extra writing project to complete, and various other bits and pieces of life getting in the way, some lovely and some challenging.  Happily, the semester’ winding down and I have a good bit more time on my hands.  Of course, there are new classes to prep and conference papers to write and hopefully some publishing to do, but I feel like I’m surfacing again as I relish the slower pace of these last few weeks and ponder what else I’d like to do with some of my time.

One thing – a big, general thing – that’s front and centre in my mind is stepping up my sustainability and resilience game a bit more.  I’ve allowed the craziness of the last semester to let me slip a bit in terms of some of the standards to which I hold myself.  I need to take some time to get back to basics and build some new habits.  There’s a lot of room for things like producing less trash, reducing what I consume, eating lower on the food chain, and growing and producing more of what I eat and use.  I’m also excited at the prospect of simplifying my life a bit more.  Just yesterday I took a huge load (huge enough to actually be kind of embarrassing) of books and clothes to the thrift store for donation, and I’m only just getting started.  I’m hoping to spend a bit more time on projects that help with these goals and a bit more time here writing about them.  Living more lightly is something that’s always on my mind and I see the summer break as an excellent time to put theory a bit more into practice in a meaningful way.