Archive for the ‘Home’ Category


Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

Every time I’ve moved, I have taken a huge amount of stuff along – instead of culling before the move, I’ve always done it on the other end. I think this is inevitable. Wouldn’t a move be the perfect time to reduce the stuff in our home? Reasons why it doesn’t work that way:

  1. An employer is paying for the move. Why get rid of it when it moves for free? When we moved to our current city, in fact, insurance was by the pound, so we moved a bunch of cinder blocks (supporting a door desk) even though we didn’t think we would use them. That was crazy, but it is easier to let things linger in the move pile when you aren’t paying for the hauling.
  2. There is fear and uncertainty in a move – it is very easy to fall into the “we might need this in the new place” trap since we’re nervous about owning our first place, and we honestly don’t know what we will really need. In fact, we’ve been buying more stuff because we’ll be setting up the place from scratch. The new place is much larger (we have a 21 month old in our one bedroom apartment now, which is mighty cramped), so it is easy to expand outwards.
  3. Even stuff we really dislike, such as our amazingly ugly sofa from my wife’s graduate school days, is going to be moved because we have visitors coming to help us after we move in, so we’ll need a sofa right away in Canada for them to sleep on, etc. We have no idea where to buy a sofa in Montreal, and since we believe in investigating purchases thoroughly, we’ll end up moving this one to buy us time to make a good decision on a new sofa later. The realistic alternative would be to give this one away while in the US, then buy a temporary sofa (probably equally ugly and more poorly made) in our new city, and then research and buy the one we really want later. Yes, we could have replaced it here in the US and shipped the new one, but we don’t even have good measurements for the place we purchased.
  4. It is surprisingly difficult to find stuff you like at a good price. We comparison shop and wait for a good deal. If we needed everything all at once right after moving (how long can you really wait to get a kitchen table?), we’d end up buying a compromise at an inflated price due to haste.

I wish it were otherwise – I still cling to the fantasy of the fresh start, including the thought that maybe the truck will start on fire and we’ll get a hefty insurance payment to start fresh. But beyond the environmental damage of all that stuff being destroyed, I know that replacing it all would be a nightmare, and we’d end up with so many compromises we would likely be worse off from a minimalist perspective. We have given away stacks of stuff and sold some things we don’t need, but we’re still moving a substantial amount of excess. Hopefully we’ll have enough discipline to really do the cull on the other end.

Fork ice cream scoop

Tuesday, February 7th, 2006

Tip of the day: If you have trouble scooping rock hard ice cream (or even better, frozen custard), don’t turn to a fancy electric Posted in Home | 2 Comments »

TruBamboo cutting board – broken

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

TruBamboo - brokenTreehugger says that bamboo is the new cotton, and sings paeans to it regularly. It certainly seems like a great idea – quick growing, renewable, beautiful, and supposedly durable. We needed a small cutting board, and purchased a TruBamboo Small Bermuda. It looks cool, and is a perfect size. Chopping on it was fine, but slicing really seemed to cut deeply into the board. For better or worse, we’re no longer concerned about it getting all marked up – after a month or so, we noticed that gaps were appearing in the light-colored areas on the sides. It turns out that the board is just a bunch of strips of bamboo glued together. It fell from the drying rack, and half of the light strip on one side snapped off. Blech.

We didn’t abuse the board – hand washing, drying it on edge on a towel so it didn’t stay damp, etc. I think the implementation is flawed – the bamboo apparently warps even under normal use (causing the gaps, faintly visible in the picture), and a single fall can easily snap one of the many seams. Perhaps layering it up in alternating directions or using notched strips would help. Or stronger glue. In any event, these are too fragile for our kitchen. Plus, there is no way to easily contact the company to complain (email? nope… web form? nope…), so I think we’re just going to trash it when it breaks again or becomes unsanitary from the gaps, and skip the TruBamboo next time. Anyone have luck with another kind?

All Small & Mighty laundry detergent

Tuesday, January 17th, 2006

We’ve used All Free & Clear laundry detergent for quite a while. It is available in a pretty inexpensive monster 200 oz container and seems to do a fine job on clothing, although we always wash on warm – tried once on cold, and jogging shirts were still stinky. Anyway, we live in an apartment building with a laundry room in the basement, so the 200 oz was mighty inconvenient. Even normal 100 oz detergent bottles were a pain.

allI saw the new All Small & Mighty, Triple Concentrated Liquid Laundry Detergent, Free Clear (yes, that’s a mouthful), which comes in a small container, more like a dish detergent bottle. It isn’t much more expensive than the normal stuff, and with coupons & sales at CVS and Safeway, was actually much cheaper per load. I like the reduced packaging and resources used in shipping it to the store, as well as reduced space taken up at home – in a small apartment, storing big detergent bottles is a pain. And even better, it is easy to put in the laundry basket and haul down to the basement of the building – much better than standard size detergent bottles.

But does it work? Yes. I make sure to let some water run into the washer, add the (surprisingly small amount of) detergent, let the water run for a few more seconds to mix things up, then add the clothes. They smell fine – no problems. This review says that it turned into an unpourable “thick gel” after a while, so I’ve made sure to screw the cap on tightly. Hopefully we won’t have any such troubles, but you’ll hear about it here if we do.

Glass Jars

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2006

At the Container Store, they sell glass jars for a buck or more. What a hoot. You can go to Safeway and get nicer jars for not much more money, with the added advantage that they are filled with tasty jam or pickles. Anyway, we use glass jars for food storage. This helps us reduce the mound of bags filled with rice, beans, flour, sugar, etc. that end up buried and forgotten in the back of the cabinet. We use things more quickly since we can actually see everything, and jars seem to keep most foods fresher with less mess. Plus they are free, so when we move, we can just recycle them and start over again. I also like fewer garish labels confronting us every time we open the cabinet – it is really easier on the eyes. A few tips:

  1. Soak the labels to remove them. Nothing nastier than a jar covered with sticky goop. If water doesn’t work, try baking soda or rubbing alchohol. If that doesn’t work, recycle it and wait for another kind to come along.
  2. Tall jars are better than squat jars – you can fit more side-by-side in the cabinet and see what’s in them.
  3. Some jars, like Classico pasta sauce, have measurement markings on the side, which can be helpful.
  4. The plastic liner in most lids can pick up smells. We’ve soaked them with dish detergent, scrubbed them, and rubbed them with baking soda, but it is difficult to remove strong smells. It does fade over time, so just leave the lid out for a while. Someone suggested soaking with vinegar, so maybe we’ll try that next time.
  5. If the lid doesn’t have a plastic liner, it may be cardboard. Hard to clean, so just recycle and move on.
  6. If you are going to stick a knife in the jar (to get jam or something) then try to use one that has straight sides all the way up to the lid, so that stuff doesn’t get stuck when you try and scrape it out. Bonne Maman jam jars are perfect for this. (And it is good jam.) If you are going to pour stuff out of the jar (e.g. dry rice or beans) then use one that rounds at the top and has an opening smaller than the width of the jar – since it is narrower, it is easier to pour stuff out accurately into a measuring cup. This knowledge is hard-earned after many messes on the counter, so heed it well.
  7. For sanity’s sake, try and accumulate a bunch of identical jars, and discard the singletons as soon as possible. Otherwise finding the right lid is a constant irritation. Even worse, sometimes the wrong lid will feel like it fits, but actually not seal at all, making your mini-marshmallows hard and nasty.
  8. Even better, there are some jars like the smaller Mt. Olive pickle jars, that use the same lids for two different sizes. 100% goodness.

If you do something similar, we’d love to hear about any jars that nest for more compact storage. Keeping a variety on hand can get cluttered since they don’t stack well.


Wednesday, July 27th, 2005

Not only does this newly designed spork remove the need for two separate utensils, but it is also about as environmentally friendly as a disposable utensil is likely to get.

Via Treehugger.

Self storage – wow, we have lots of stuff

Monday, July 18th, 2005

Slate writes about our Self-Storage Nation today. I expected this to be a one-sided piece about how we’re all such pathetic overconsumers that we can’t cram all of our crap into our ever-larger houses. Indeed – that is about half the article. But the other half talks about some of the other reasons for self-storage, including people who are moving or getting divorced, as well as the fact that more and more houses are built without attics and basements.

But still, people. Do we really need “1,875 billion square feet of personal storage?” Much of that really is just:

mementos we somehow can’t live with, and yet can’t live without, and exemplify the downside of acquisition, the moment when you realize there are more bread machines, plastic lawn chairs, and treadmills than anyone could use in a lifetime.

Just give it away to someone who can use it, or recycle it. Spending cash to store stuff you are never going to use is just silly.

What to minimize for muffin cups?

Tuesday, July 12th, 2005

Saw these silicone muffin cups, and it brings up a recent debate here. We’ve always used paper muffin cups, but were debating whether it would be better to spray oil in a standard muffin tin. We hadn’t decided, but now there is this third option. So here’s the question: should we minimize silicone, paper or oil? I’m thinking we’ll still go with paper, but other opinions are welcome.

Via Treehugger.

Small house movement

Tuesday, July 5th, 2005

I love small houses. We live in an apartment, and I don’t think I want anything bigger – we have enough trouble keeping this small space neat and uncluttered. I also love the cleverness of having to live in a small space – you are forced to consider what you own, since you don’t have a big garage, basement or spare rooms to stash stuff.

Apparently I’m not alone. The Small House Society has a bunch of good resources for small house living. Apartment Therapy had a contest for the smallest, coolest apartment, and the results were pretty amazing. Of course, space-constrained Japan is a hotspot for living small – I gotta visit sometime.

Internet phone (VOIP) service review

Friday, July 1st, 2005

Slate has a decent review of various VOIP services. They like AT&T CallVantage, but it sounds like you may want to wait a bit yet based on this opinion of VOIP as a whole:

Reliability also is not always up to land-line snuff. Sometimes there’s no dial tone, your outgoing calls don’t go through, or the other party can’t hear you. I also have a nagging suspicion that I am missing important calls, a fear stoked by scattered complaints like, “Your Internet phone sucks” and, “Why does your damned phone never pick up?”

Sounds like our cellphone now, so we’ll just stick with that.