July Updates

Yoga in the Park: Went 3 times to get my YTT hours in. Outdoor yoga isn’t my favourite, but we have to complete at least 50 hours of practice/observation in the studio. Yes, finally got this done in the first week of July!

Moving: My move to my new place has been delayed until the middle of the month. Since I’m paying half a month’s rent, I’m not in a position to argue, but it was just annoying that the landlord dropped this on me last minute. Brother-in-law will help me with his company truck.

Turtle tank: My red-earred slider, Honu, will eventually move to Kitchener, once I’m settled in. He’s been stuck in a tank that he has outgrown, but last week I picked up a slightly larger tank and a cabinet/stand for $120 off Kijiji. It’s 30 gallons and not as big as I was hoping to get, but this is what I can afford right now and at least it’s deeper so that he can have a better swim. Many of the other options were a) too large and/or b) overpriced. Just a couple more weeks until he gets a new home! I’m also hoping to throw in some guppies too for stimulation too (don’t worry, he probably will be horrid at chasing them).

Bartering: Did half a dozen trades on Bunz the past month, including some transactions that involved the BTZ cryptocurrency. In terms of my biggest trades, I gave away my FitBit Aria scale* for an old Samsung phone. I wanted a second phone to act as a back up and to use it for traveling to Oregon later this month.

The highlight, earlier this week, was that I picked up a nice pair of cute yellow wedges!** They fit perfectly and will be great for date night!

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*I got sick at looking at my body fat percentage. I’ve come to terms that this number probably isn’t going down to what it was a few years ago, but I’m healthy, so why make myself miserable with a stupid number?
**Still going strong on my one-year long clothing shopping ban.

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Breaking Up with Amazon

When I was younger, my family and I would take road trips to outlet malls around Ontario or across the border in the United States. For a weekend, we’d explore new towns, peek in to tourist traps, drop in on a museum and try some local family restaurants. The one destination that we were never allowed to take off the itinerary was the outlet mall.

For years, I didn’t realize how much this was a firm part of my family culture. There was  great satisfaction in having found a great deal or picked out a new outfit. We didn’t buy a lot and we tried to aim for items that we needed as a family. At the end of the weekend, we proudly shared and told relatives and friends about our newfound purchases. This was and likely is a pretty exciting and normal for Canadian immigrant families, many who may have struggled financially when initially moving to Canada. Overcoming a plethora of barriers and experiencing both financial stability and disposable income gave us a feeling of pride and peace.

But it’s 2018.

More and more are we aware that consumer culture has had a large hand in climate change. As we’ve grown and matured, my family and I have started to explore ideas of minimalism, kicked started by shows like Hoarders and Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying-Up. In 2017, I started bartering on Bunz.com and in the fall, my family and I have spent a great deal of time clearing out the basement. On top of that, the biggest challenge has been the clothing shopping ban that I started in January 2018.*

It would be laughable if anyone ever said it was easy. It has been tough for me mentally and emotionally. I’ve considered quitting many times and have had dreams of sneaking purchases without telling anyone. I haven’t yet. What’s prevented me from going berzerk is being able to acquire new pieces off of Bunz.com.
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What this ban has done is forced me to acknowledge patterns of behaviour which I wasn’t cognizant of. Yesterday on Saturday, I went to a local craft show, Stitch ‘n’ Kitch, in Waterloo and I nearly bought myself a simple black t-shirt with the print “Kitchener-Waterloo”. I completely forgot – as shocking as it sounds – that I was even on a shopping ban until I began to reach for my wallet! I’ve done this many times before: trying to acquire a thing that I don’t need.** The high you experience from the thought of owning something novel, while you perform a wondrous set of mental gymnastics to convince yourself, of COURSE I need this new hipster sweater, I don’t have anything in this colour yet.

Since the shopping ban, I’ve begun to shift my time and energy in new ways. On the rare occasion, I crave a mindless walk around the mall but don’t succumb to it anymore. And while I used to label myself as someone who didn’t go shopping frequently, I’ve since acknowledge that that’s just a boldfaced lie that I hung onto; for the better part of my life, my suburban family and I went out just to crawl the mall on the weekends.

Living in the remote north for the past 5 years also helped me acknowledge these patterns of behaviour, because I had no where to go***. However, I ended up shifting my energy towards online shopping, which wasn’t unusual, consider I had to do it out of necessity. I never really made purchases on a whim and could spend months pondering a purchase before even pulling out my credit card***.

And now I’m back in the city and on a clothing shopping ban.

I’ve spent my money this year on better things; things that I wanted to but wasn’t able to because the services weren’t available for me. I have no health benefits or an active health plan, but I’ve paid for a counsellor ($60/hour), masseuse ($80/hour), physiotherapist ($75/session) and a personal trainer ($485/month). What I’ve learned is that no one questions how you’re using your money until you tell them you’re not on a health plan.

What?! You’ve got a personal trainer? Isn’t that expensive? I only have $500 worth of benefits so I can only have two massages a year. I can’t believe you’re paying out of pocket!

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Yet people won’t question you purchasing some shitty ass clothing that’s probably produced by horrible companies such as H&M, which cuts up clothes they can’t sell, and Zara, which steals designs from independent artists.

In a single year, you’d likely absentmindedly spend the same amount on stupid shit that won’t change your life and no one will say anything. Yet trying to invest in my health and wellbeing – taking preventative measures that will ensure a higher quality of life in the future – is something the other people will scrutinize you for.

What does that say about our society?

I can only conclude that we have our values fucking backwards.

I’m continuing to search for better conversations on how we spend our money. While I have found myself going to Amazon, which treats its staff members like crap and encourages its employees to spy on and backstab each other, I decided recently that I

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am looking for alternatives.***** While I’ve been itching for a new bullet journal, I decided I’ll go back to a A5-sized Peter Pauper Press grid-lined notebook. I researched the dimensions, called the local bookstore in Waterloo, Wordsworth Book, and made an order. Since they order directly from Peter Pauper Press, it will take a couple of weeks but the price is the same as what’s listed on Amazon and I won’t be making Jeff Bezos a richer asshole.

Will I slip and buy from Amazon in the future?

Probably.

Will I enjoy the indulgence of buying new clothes once I end my ban?

Duh, of course. I love clothes!!!

When I decided to get a new bullet journal, it took about 2 weeks of me mulling before I acted on it. Of course, it would have been easier for me to make a purchase online, but I know I can do better. We are all human, but part of it is just trying to be a better human.

And that’s what makes all this worth it.

*I have had self-imposed shopping bans for  3 or 4 months in the past.
**There really is no reason why I would need a new black t-shirt to tell me where I currently live.
***Unless my ex-boyfriend, J. and I would drive 7 hours down to Rouyn or Val D’Or, Quebec, just to go to the mall.
****I held off of buying Vibram Five Fingers for nearly a year. I currently own two pairs – one for hiking outdoors and one for the gym.
*****I still make purchases on Audible as I haven’t figured out an alternative yet. 

Increasing My Step Count

Two months ago, I started checking my daily step count.

Embarrassingly, I was hitting well below 5000 a day. I drive a lot for work and am at different schools every day. Essentially, I am traveling from one parking lot to another, since I don’t live near the gym or the yoga studio. I decided that I should try to improve this aspect of my life.

Along with half a dozen other friends, I am using the Carrot Rewards app.  While I currently do not have a pedometer, the Google Fit app on my smartphone counts my steps and uploads the information to Carrot Rewards. If I hit my daily goal, I get anywhere between 2 to 6 Scene points*. I also collect points for completing surveys (~40 points) and inviting friends to join (100 points). Other friends are currently using it for Aeroplan points.

I’ve actually been doing much better the past month, being able to see how my friends are faring. Social pressure is great and works well for me (when it’s people I care about)! You can pair up with friends, complete 10 step goals together within a week and get more points of your choice.

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A few of them who work downtown hit well over 10,000 each day. My daily step goal has increased to 5200 – it is determined for you and you cannot change it manually – from 3600 last month. Some nights, I have to do an extra walk to the local convenience store or a loop around the park to hit my goals**, but the fact that it’s changed my behaviour immensely is a great thing. I’m well aware that I need a lifestyle change and I’ve been working on it!

The only issue is finding a balance with carrying my phone around. I do try to set it down at home, while I’m cooking or running chores, so those steps aren’t counted. My workouts at the gym and yoga aren’t included either. I’m still trying to get my hands on a FitBit through Bunz, so this will help a lot!!

Do you use a pedometer or have a daily step goal?

*A thousand points gets you one free movie at Cineplex Odeon theatres.
**Tonight, I spent 20 minutes milling about the supermarket after dark. I didn’t want to walk through the park by myself when it’s late.

End of March Update

It’s been a great few three days in Toronto, but it’s also a huge relief that, as I was cruising up Highway 85 on Saturday afternoon, I am headed back to my home.

Toronto can feel like home in some ways and it always will, but honestly I find it stressful to be there for more than 3 days at a time. Traffic definitely contributes to it! Kitchener-Waterloo is where I live now, year-round and these days, I don’t “go home” for the summer. I finally have a place where I’ve got my own social life and independence as an adult and it’s not in the middle nowhere (sorry, Waskaganish)! My introverted self is very happy to have my own space where I can enjoy my solitude.

Here are a few end of March updates:

Financial literacy: Zipped back to North York on Wednesday night to see Dan Bortolotti, of Canadian Couch Potato fame, speak at the Fairview Library. It was pretty cool and I’m glad I was able to catch the talk as I missed it last year while living in the far north. I need to go over some of his podcasts and look at my portfolio again. Thinking of shutting down Questrade as I want to consolidate what I’ve got to just two brokerages or roboadvisors. Speaking of money …

Transferring my pension to Ontario: Trying to transfer my Quebec pension over to Ontario Teacher’s Pension Plan. Argh, I got a rejection as my last school board has still not filed that I resigned. Super annoying. Will have to reapply in July.

Bartering and clothing ban: Still going strong 3 months into my clothing ban. I’m actually doing quite well as I’m managing to get new pieces every few weeks or so. Yes, it’s bit more effort to set up the trades, coordinate and run around for them, but I feel much better knowing that my carbon footprint is smaller. It’s also cool to meet other Torontonians that I might not normally cross paths with!

On Friday, I picked up an Old Navy plaid shirt that I’m head over heels with. My only complaint is that shoes are harder to find, but I’ve got a pair of boots waiting for me next month. I’ve made about half a dozen trades in the Kitchener-Waterloo area, but still mainly bartering, mainly in Toronto. Got myself a beautiful metal teapot and a lidded bucket to handwash some laundry (now I can stop using my salad bowl to wash my bras). Picked up a pair of Sailor Moon leggings for a friend.

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Shopping:
Bartering has become the equivalent of shopping. I don’t buy much these days but I love locally-produced sticker art. They’re affordable for a few dollars and this is a great way to support local artists. I picked up two stickers from Cry Wolf Clothing on Ossington, between Dundas and Queen West. One is a racoon, a.k.a, “trash panda”, sitting in a garbage can that says “City of Toronto”; I adhered it to my very banged-up Macbook Air. The second is “Turonno” in Blue Jays font, which I happily stuck to my bullet journal. You can take the girl out of Toronto, but you can’t take the Toronto out of the girl!

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Practice teaching: Still need to practice teaching a full yoga class. Hard for people to commit the time … sigh. Mainly been doing short lessons on hips, glutes and quads with friends and family. Last night, I even did a Skype session with my friend. It was a little awkward but hey, I wanna pass on what I can as I care about my friends’ health!

Not needing my therapist: If you followed me on Instagram earlier in the fall, you’ll know that I took on a counsellor/therapist. I was seeing her about once a month and we had a lot to discuss and sort out, especially how I approach my relationships. At this time, I’ve decided not to return to her. Our last session was good, but it made me realize how much more mentally strong I am since October. I don’t really have many stressors these days. I haven’t “broken up” with her or anything, but I haven’t booked any future appointments.

Family time: I made sure to spend some time with each of my family members. On Friday, my mom had lunch together. We do this about once a month. Took her to Golden Turtle off Ossington. I enjoyed some vegan bánh xèo, which is a Vietnamese crepe served as an appetizer. Looks like egg, but it’s not!

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March Madness

Just enjoyed my first week of March Break in Ontario! It was nice to take a work break and spend a little time in Toronto. Here are some of the highlights:

Fitness: Subbed in for high school friends’ indoor beach volleyball league on Monday. I’m happy to say I’m finally starting to spike this year! Went bouldering on Sunday with some of my yoga teacher training crew. It was nice to have fun off the mat.

Reconnecting with people: Went to check out the pussy hut last weekend with B., whom I have not had a chance to hang out with for a few weeks. Got to see J., whom I haven’t been able to chat with for nearly two years. Normally, I see his wife a few times a year, but sometimes you gotta squeezep in the other half! Went to a baby shower for K. this weekend. Oof, having friends all over the place is tough because I’m constantly driving everywhere. However, I’m not complaining. After living north for 4 years, I’m thankful to be able to visit friends so easily. And on St. Patricks’ Day, we had a small high school reunion on the Danforth and enjoyed Greek food.
Family: Celebrated my mom’s birthday with my sister at our favourite Italian restaurant, Il Fornello. It was a belated birthday celebration because I wasn’t able to see her on her actual birthday; I had another YTT 3-day weekend and was mostly in the studio. Had a nice Thai lunch with my Gramma too.
Taxes: I have a super Mom! She helped me get all my papers in order and we filed my income tax. This time in Ontario. Goodbye, Quebec … I ain’t ever coming back. Also in the process of moving my pension back to Ontario with OTPP.

Books: Finished Caitlin Flander‘s The Year of Less, after purchasing it on Kindle for $1.99. Still struggling to finish Tiny Little Things. It’s such a heavy book that screws up so many emotions it’s not easy to read. I’m soooo close though! Will start on The Lonely Hearts Hotel soon.


Getting organized: In between, I managed to vacuum my room and wash all my bedding. I need to do this more often, ugh. I do not have a schedule! Also managed to clear our a couple of Bunz trades that had been pending since December. I picked up a blackboard/whiteboard, some eyeliner, a pair of turquoise Uniqlo jeggings, a well-loved Kate Spade wallet, a Somersby cider and a couple of Gap t-shirts. Super happy with my recent acquisitions! It always feels lighter when you clean out items you no longer use and get what you need and want.

Food: Check out this amazing vegetable pie I had at BarHop! I haven’t been taking as many photos these days. Trying hard to be present and always thinking about the Note to Self challenge, because it’s important to experience where you are and not just document. I had to snap this gorgeous looking pie though!

Great week over all! Working in Cambridge tomorrow.

A Resolution for 2018: No More Clothing Purchases

I’ve been thinking about minimalism. I’ve been thinking about my carbon footprint. I’ve slowed down on bartering on Bunz, but am still making about 3 to 5 trades a month – mainly in Toronto – as there isn’t much of a community in Kitchener-Waterloo.

Mainly, I’ve been thinking about the clothing industry. I still need to watch the documentary True Cost, but am already aware that this industry remains the second dirtiest economy, after the oil industry,, on a global scale. It also has a lot of human rights violations and donating used clothing to charities that sell them overseas is actually hurting African nations. It really doesn’t do much more than make us feel some warm fuzzies.

As I reflect on my current wardrobe, I’m pretty well stocked. I have all the work clothes I need. As a substitute teacher, I can get away with similar outfits as I’m often at different schools each day (and really, do kids care?). I spent the summer throwing away pants and leggings that no longer fit my 34-year-old waistline and purchased replacements that are fairly comfortable and not restrictive. I have pretty much what I need right now* and now I’m aware that I’m privileged living this way.

In terms of winter gear, some of my pieces are new (i.e. my snowpants and heavy-duty gloves are less than a year old) and I have older items that act as backup when I need to toss the usual into the washing machine. I’ve got a plethora of functional footwear** and replaced a lot of my undies recently. The last thing I bought was a pair of rain pants ($100 CAD) at Mountain Equipment Co-op; the last pair I owned were well over 10 years old and I ended up giving them to a student in the rural north.

So here’s the question: Can I get away without buying anything in 2018?

Of course I can!

This isn’t a new idea. Lots of bloggers have written about going a year or more without buying clothing (such as The Frugalwoods, as well as Eden Ashley). If you’d asked me the same question a few years ago, I would have flinched and recoiled. But as I already buy very few clothes, this doesn’t feel like an insurmountable challenge for me. And what’s even better, is that I can look for items on Bunz if I want to feel as if I’ve got something new. In fact, I got this American Eagle sweater this morning and it feels great!

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It’s still hit and miss when I barter. I’ve gotten a few items that didn’t work out for me, but I’ve gotten some really great stuff, like the Lululemon hoodie I picked up in November. Last week, I picked up a pink work top … I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t even had the chance to wear yet! But what is important is I can switch up my wardrobe with secondhand clothing without leaving a significant carbon footprint.

So I’ve decided to make zero clothing purchases in 2018! That also includes no gifts of new clothing from family and friends (used items or second-hand are fine). I won’t be buying any more jewelry, nor accessories, like purses or belts.

Still feel like you can’t live without a big and varied wardrobe?

Check out Jennifer L. Scott’s TED Talk, which is the reason I reworked my wardrobe over the summer. This is such a great video that I had shared with a lot of friends.

What are your clothing shopping habits like? Do you use it as an emotional outlet? Do you have a big or small wardrobe? Are you a fashionista?

*The only thing I might need to acquire are leggings without logos if I start teaching in a yoga studio, but I’ll deal with that once I cross that bridge
**Two pairs of ice skates, a few casual shoes, enough work shoes, three pairs of summer heels, two pairs of Vibram FiveFingers, two pairs of hiking shoes, three pairs of winter boots, two pairs of galoshes … I’m embarrassed to say that this is “trimmed down”.

 

Bunz Trade in Guelph

First trade outside of Toronto! Got rid of a few of my highly desirable Indigo notebooks (impulse buy) and a scarf for this size 8 Lululemon sweater.* A little loose but still pretty comfortable and very, very warm!!!

Didn’t waste gas as I went to hang out with my old high school friend afterwards for board games.

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*

New Tiffin from Ten Thousand Villages

I have been wishing for a tiffin for years!!

A couple of weeks ago, I finally bought a metal tiffin ($30) at Ten Thousand Villages*. Iit was treat to myself. If I’m going to get into a habit of not buying lunches – this was initially happening in September, oops – then I want to feel excited about eating my lunch too!!

Yes, my family and I are still purging a lot of household goods through bartering on a site called, Bunz, but when I do purchase something now, I think a lot harder about it first.

You’ve no idea how patient I can be! Having lived in the north means that I often wait for many, many months before I buy something. So this tiffin was no different and was not an impulse buy; I’d actually first saw it back in July and waited until I had moved to Waterloo, unpacked, reassessed what was in my possessions and started working before I picked it up. I love it!!!

The only downside is that I can’t microwave it of course, but now, I just dump the food on a plate if I do need to heat anything up. All the school staff rooms have microwaves. Plus it’s also super easy to clean and I only deal with one lid!

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*This shop focuses on selling fair-trade items at sustainable and fair wages.

More Bunz-ing!

Since August, I’ve been obsessed with bartering on Bunz.com!

It’s been super fun, taking stuff that is completely useless to me and turning it into something else I want. Unlike selling items on Kijiji, it also gives me some satisfaction of leaving a smaller carbon footprint; you’re allowing someone to use the item and you also get something that doesn’t require new production of it.

Since I’ve moved to Waterloo, I can’t barter as much. I still set up trades for my upcoming weekends in Toronto. On Sunday, I picked up these items over an hour and a half:

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In case you’re curious as to how Bunz works, I’ll describe these three trades and the reasoning behind the negotiations, as well as why I choose these items:

  1. Fireproof safe – We had a late night fire scare a few months ago, when the compressor on the fridge heated up and we ended up calling the fire department at 3 a.m. The plastic casing had melted and while the potential for a fire was there, thankfully, we discovered it soon enough. Since then, I’d been planning on buying a fireproof safe, since the local bank does not have safety deposit boxes available. I was happy when I saw this posted a few days ago. I paid $10 for this, since I didn’t have anything in the other person’s ISO*. Normally, it would cost $36 at Home Depot.
  2. iPad case and one senior/student TTC ticket – Literally a few hours after I posted a picture of a beautiful hardcover Aesop’s Fables storybook, someone inquired about it. I got the iPad case – a lighter option if I’m carrying a briefcase to work – and the ticket was an additional freebie, which I passed it onto my grandmother.
  3. Graphic novel, Invincible – Volume 1: Family Matters: While getting rid of more books, I had multiple people ask me about an old hardcover Where’s Waldo book. In the end, I settled and negotiated for this graphic novel, even though I knew nothing of it. I read it cover to cover in the afternoon and loved it! The other person, who was a Grade 3 teacher, looking for ESL resources, was pretty happy with this trade. We agreed to stay connected, since we both work in the same profession and have similar interests.

I was happy with all of these trades. I have to say I am better at choosing items I want and need. I actually even made a list of everything that I’ve ever acquired from Bunz:

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All the highlighted items are ones that I have gifted to family and friends. Crossed out items were re-Bunzed or tossed out**; underlined items are ones that I’ve used currently or frequently. As you can see, there are still a handful of items I have not actively used yet. This feedback also gives me an idea that I need to be more careful about acquiring items. Of course, they may also be items that I can’t use yet due to other restrictions (i.e. I currently do not have access to squash courts).

The rest of my family have also been involved in The Great Purge too, which has become a shared activity the past few weeks. Lately, we’ve been dredging up boxes from the basement and going through everything bit by bit. It’s been fun to sit around and reminisce over old junk, but it’s also cathartic to know that you don’t need it anymore and are willing to toss it.

My mom has been going through a minimalism phase (while my sister and I just rotate through stuff, we are, by no means, minimalists). I know I can definitely toss more stuff out.

Have you done any bartering? Have you ever used Bunz in Canada?

*This is a list of items that someone “is [in] search of”
**The Tarte eyelash primer, I discovered, was not vegan.