Category Archives: Little Life Hacks

Week Eight Update: Junk Mail War!

Vroom, vroom!  Image from ClipArtBest.com.

Vroom, vroom! Image from ClipArtBest.com.

It’s been TWO months now since I started my Junk Mail War, and I’m actually seeing a decrease now in the volume in my mail!

In particular, I know that I no longer receive a certain weekly sales flyer that really used to irk me. This was an especially obnoxious piece of mail. It was a mini magazine, really–i.e., many colored pages stapled together–and it always came sealed in a plastic sleeve holding other loose bits like coupons and perfume samples. But now I haven’t seen it in weeks! Yes!

To be honest, though, I still receive plenty of mail. I love getting mail. I always have several magazines, online orders, sample requests, bills, etc. coming down the pipeline. I hope, though, that opting out of my unwanted mail will help to offset the resources I use for my wanted mail.

I’m still learning as I go, but here are three new lessons I’ve picked up this month:

1. Keep a log of your removal requests. After a few weeks, it’s hard for me to remember which companies I’ve already contacted. If I were to do this project again, I’d keep a running list of the companies I’ve contacted, the date I contacted each, and the method by which I contacted each (i.e., phone, email, website form, returned mail, etc.).

2. Be wary of guest checkout options when shopping online. I recently made a guest purchase online with a store I’ve never shopped before…and then began receiving their mailer! How frustrating. In trying to avoid creating an electronic profile with a company, or in an attempt to not have to find or reset your password for an existing account (#hassle), you somehow authorize them to send you oodles of physical mail. Sigh. Moving forward, I plan to include a no–mail request whenever I see an “order notes” field.

3. Stifle the urge to attack the obvious junk mail that’s addressed to other (adult) members of your household. It’s not your mail, even if it drives you crazy. Just be a good example–maybe one day they will ask you for help with their own junk mail war!

I’m realizing that this war on junk mail will always be an ongoing battle, but I also know that my initial volume will continue to drop in the next few weeks–then I can just attack the odd piece as it arrives! I also plan to try to keep new junk away by including no-mail requests whenever I can when shopping online, opening new accounts, etc.

– Angela

A Makeup Bag Makeover

My makeup bag is so full of junk that I can't zip it closed!

My makeup bag is so full of junk that I can’t zip it closed!

My makeup bag is in dire straits. A rogue eyeliner has been roaming around inside it for months, uncapped and unchecked, and it’s left graffiti on everything. The bag is also so full of random stuff that I can’t even zip it closed. The mess and the clutter drove me to create a separate smaller bag for my favorite makeup, and I’ve been using it (and only it) for months instead of my nicer, larger makeup bag.

Sigh.  Basically, it’s like I’m living in my RV because I don’t want to clean my house.

I don’t have a lot of makeup (at least not compared to the people I see on Instagram and YouTube–wowza), but I have more than I want, need, or use. After all the inspiration from Marie Kondo and Light by Coco, I’m in the mood to purge things and my makeup stash seems like a great project–a low investment of time, energy, and emotion but with a big reward!

Considering that I’ve gone without the items in my big makeup bag for so long, I suppose a stronger (saner?) person could have just trashed all the contents without looking through it…but I need to look through it.  So here’s my plan to get all my face paint in order.  I’ve included (unglamorous but enthusiastic) photos of my actual process down below, too!

1. Make a list. Before sitting down to sort your makeup, make a written list of your favorite items. If you can’t remember an item without seeing it, how important is it, really?

2. Gather all makeup. Check the bathroom, bedroom, purses, pockets, etc.

3. Toss the obvious trash. The wadded tissues and bits of packaging are no-brainers. Immediately trash all opened mascaras over 3 months old, too.

4. Rescue the good stuff. Stick to the premeditated list here.

5. Evaluate the remaining stuff. Ask yourself the following questions for each item:

How old is this? Most makeup packaging indicates the number of months (like 6, 12, or 24) to keep a product after opening it. Personally, I toss wet items like cream blushes after a year or so, but I keep dry items like pencils, powders, etc. a little longer than recommended.

Does this inspire me, bore me, or disappoint me? Think about the product’s quality, performance, and ingredients, and the company’s animal testing policies. Be honest and toss whatever doesn’t measure up to your standards.

Is this a duplicate? Keep your best and beloved items and let the inferior versions go.

Is makeup my career? A major hobby? Do I have a costume party coming up in the next four weeks? For me, the answers to these questions are no, no, and no. I have a bad habit of keeping special or costume makeup “just in case,” but I rarely (or never) use it. Also, limitations inspire creativity. I could probably conjure all kinds of special looks with just the basics I have with a little time and imagination.

6. Clean your stuff. Wash your makeup bag and wipe down the keepers. (You get bonus points if you wash your brushes. I didn’t.)

7. Enjoy your clean, streamlined makeup bag! And maybe go tackle your nail polishes!

I love easy projects like this.  Plus, ever since I cleaned out my bag I’ve been using using my “new” (i.e., resdiscovered) products again and trying new things!

– Angela

P.S.  A couple of tips: Use cold, not warm, water to clean away makeup gunk.  Warm water melts all the makeup waxes and makes a bigger mess.  Even better, use makeup remover.  I finally had to use Goo Gone on the stubborn eyeliner stains inside my bag, then I tossed the bag in the washing machine with some towels.

The before.  My mini bag is sitting atop the mess underneath.

#1.  The before shot. A mini makeup bag is hiding the mess underneath.

My work in progress. My share and keep piles are up top and the growing trash pile is at left...And there's so much more left in the bag!

#2.  My work in progress. My keep piles are up top and the growing trash pile is at left…And there’s so much more left in the bag!

My handsome assistant.  Look at those hips!

#3. My handsome assistant, Mr. Shrimpy.

Playing with some sample swatches I found!

#4.  Playing with some sample swatches I found!  #sopale

I tested and compared several items before deciding what to keep or toss.

#5.  I tested and compared several items before deciding what to keep or toss.

The bag is finally empty, but there's black eyeliner graffiti everywhere inside.

#6.  My bag is finally empty, but there’s black eyeliner mess everywhere inside.  I cleaned it with soap/water the best I could, used Goo Gone on the stubborn spots, and then tossed the bag in the washing machine.

My final trash pile!

#7.  My final trash pile!

My final "keep" pile.

#7. My final “keep” pile!

Update: Junk Mail War

A portion of last week's attack!

A portion of last week’s attack!

I started my junk mail war at the end of March, so I’ve been on the offensive for about four weeks now.

So far, I’ve been pretty consistent about returning mail and contacting companies. I usually gather the junk day by day and then I attack it in a batch about once a week (usually when I’m paying bills). I’ve found that I prefer to email companies rather than call whenever I can, too—it’s just easier and faster.

After these first four weeks, however, I have yet to see any significant drop in the volume of my junk mail. The main reason for this delay, I’ve learned, is that most companies prepare their marketing materials four to eight weeks in advance. This schedule gives them adequate time to plan and coordinate everything—the sales, their inventory, and the printing/mailing of the associated advertisements. I’ll keep getting mail from these companies, then, until the backlog clears. This makes sense, but the lag in results is disappointing. I suppose I will see more of a reduction in my junk mail in early summer.

Also, as I mentioned in my first junk mail post, I’m getting a lot of mail from companies with whom I already have an account of some kind. These mailings have nothing to do with my existing services but are instead trying to sell me something else. I’ve noticed that my cable company and certain magazine publishers are especially bad about this. I get at least one or two pieces of junk mail from my cable company each week “inviting” me (i.e., pestering me) to add (unwanted) services to my account, and magazines begin their campaigns to get me to renew my subscriptions MONTHS before my current subscriptions expire. I’m returning the cable mail as I receive it and I’ve contacted the company, plus I’m using the postage-paid reply envelopes from the magazine offers to send back notes asking them to remove me from their lists. I’ve been telling them that I’ll get in touch if I decide to resubscribe (i.e., don’t call me, I’ll call you).

As this past month progressed, too, I noticed that I got a LOT of local mail addressed generically to “Resident.” This includes charity pick-up notifications, coupon circulars, and restaurant flyers. This kind of mail is dead-end mail, too—I can’t return it to sender. I’ve been dragging my feet on contacting these companies because most will require phone calls instead of emails. My neighborhood also gets all kinds of non-postal junk—like doorknob hangers from nearby restaurants, community flyers stuck on the mailbox, and big plastic bags knotted around my porch railings. (The bags are from local charities, and come with an invitation for me to fill them with donations and leave them out for pickup.)

One piece of junk mail I received this month deserves a special mention here, too, in that it was especially wasteful. I got a big, thick envelope from a local car dealership that contained a poster-sized piece of glossy paper that advertised (in a chaotic, confusing way) some big sale and prize giveaway. The kicker, though, was that a gray, hard plastic case the size of a matchbox was glued to the poster. I pulled a plastic tab from the case to activate a BATTERY that lit a BULB that illuminated a little SCREEN that displayed my raffle number. Are you kidding me?

Hundreds of these mini-computers went straight into the trashcan.  Sigh.

Hundreds of these mini-computers went straight into the trashcan. Sigh.

Onward!

Pink Sunday

She's laughing at your attempt to purchase something she's wearing.  (Image from Target.com.)

She’s laughing at your attempt to purchase something she’s wearing. (Image from Target.com.)

I like to think that I am fairly unaffected by marketing or consumerist “hype,” but I guess not. Read on…

If you didn’t know, Target announced a limited, one-time collaboration with designer Lilly Pulitzer months ago, and the female internet community has been abuzz ever since. The preppy, beachy line is very popular with Southern college girls, and it’s also the perfect stuff for adult women to wear for beach vacations, cruises, and resort stays. The original Lilly line is cute, colorful, and bold, but it’s also a bit pricey, so people were super-stoked about the afforable Target line.

Personally, I’m not a huge Lilly Pulitzer fan (the floral clothes aren’t really my style), but I’ve bought several small Lilly items over the years for myself and for gifts–stuff like drink cozies, pens, and agendas–so I was interested in the Target collection’s small accessories and home goods. Target released a comprehensive Lilly “lookbook” a few weeks ago and the items were cute, affordable, and fun. Everyone (including me) was getting their wish lists ready and saving their pennies in anticipation for the day of the big launch–Sunday, April 19th.

Well, the big day finally arrived, but…

The Target website crashed, store shelves were cleared out within 5 minutes (literally) of opening, and resale-minded shoppers filled carts with obscene amounts of Lilly merchandise–whole racks of dresses, whole stocks of pillows, etc. Scores of shoppers who had lined up outside in the early hours before the stores opened left empty-handed, crestfallen, and angry. People on social media called it “Pink Sunday”–a frenzy of excited young women–and it looked worse (but briefer) than Black Friday.

This entire scenario is fascinating to me. I spent a lot of time yesterday on news sites and social media, reading the (heated) shopper comments and looking at photos of the loooong lines, empty racks, and grabby resale folks. And I have a very complicated response to all of this:

It makes me wonder: Do companies have an ethical responsibility to match the intensity and breadth of their marketing campaign to the available supply of goods? And do companies have an ethical responsibility to limit the number of items a single person can purchase from a limited collection? Or is all fair in capitalism, especially when the items in question are luxury goods? Floral dresses and swizzle sticks are not needs, after all.

It boggles my mind: It’s amazing how a company can create such intense desires, and with so little–after all, this Target frenzy was sown only by a few pretty photographs online. People saw the photos and just “knew” they wanted this stuff, even though they hadn’t seen it in person, already have closets full of clothes, and Lilly Pulitzer items have been available for purchase since the 1960’s (literally). Sure, the official designer items are pricey, but if you really wanted a little bit of Lilly, you could have planned and saved for a special purchase long ago.

It embarrasses me: I have nothing against fun clothes and disposable income and the occasional impulse buy. We are so fortunate to live in the U.S. where our needs are met and we are free to play. But I’m still embarrassed that I found myself buying into the Lilly + Target hype. I pored over the lookbooks, too, made a list of the few pieces I might be interested in, and even visited a Target on late Sunday morning (everything was gone). And I’m embarrassed by the frantic, emotional portrayal of Pink Sunday on social media. Sure, it’s honest and real, but it’s also embarrassing to young women. It plays into all our bad stereotypes and distracts attention from all the good things we do on Regular Monday through Regular Saturday.

It angers me: Legions of smart, talented people are tasked by companies to research markets, study psychology, and design ads to part us from our money (and our logical reasoning?). These professionals are very good at what they do, and they make it hard to resist their companies’ wares. But what if we used all that talent and power for something else? Like enticing people to make better environmental choices, or to volunteer more, or to travel more?

It confuses me: Why was I so interested in the Lilly + Target stuff, even though I’ve never been interested in buying big Lilly pieces before? Was it the affordability mixed with the scarcity mixed with the hype? I suppose that’s FOMO at its finest–making me really want something I didn’t even imagine wanting before just to be part of the fun!

Sigh. So what can we do to “fight back,” or at least better control our emotional response to these kinds of highly orchestrated temptations? Maybe:

  1. Seek out simple living and non-consumerist inspiration and guidance. See my Blogroll for some of my favorite folks.
  2. Unsubscribe from junk mail and unsubscribe from junk email. Fewer temptations!
  3. Unsubscribe from all but my favorite fashion and lifestyle bloggers on social media. Or follow only one or two at a time. After all, they get tons of merchandise for free, present a highly-edited view of their lives, and it’s their business to create desire for their stuff!
  4. Have a bigger and better financial goal. It’s easier to bypass the small purchases when you remind yourself that you’re saving for an awesome vacation or paying off a nagging debt.
  5. Don’t shop for entertainment, or when highly emotional (sad/angry), or when hungry/bored.

Sigh. I already do most of these things, but I STILL would have liked to see the Lilly + Target pieces in person, and maybe buy one or two items depending on the quality. The next time I buy cat food at Target, I’ll keep my eyes open for any returned items.  🙂

In what clever marketing ploys have you found yourself ensnared? Please tell me I’m not the only one…

– Angela

P.S. Target says that there are no plans to restock and that they are learning from this experience.

P.P.S. Interestingly, my favorite bracelet is actually a heavy (fake) gold bangle from Lilly that I received as a FREE gift with a small online purchase. I’ve worn it so much that the finish is wearing off!

P.P.P.S. Why am I so basic?! 🙂

Five Simple Tips for Managing Email

I get stressed out just looking at this.

I get stressed out just looking at this.

My junk mail war is a new endeavor, but I’m already pretty good about managing my personal email. I shop online quite a bit and I like requesting freebies, so a few months ago I found myself constantly deleting junky new emails from my smartphone to clear the “new mail” notification. I picked a day and began tackling my incoming junk mail from that point on, and now I only get mail that I want (along with occasional stragglers!).

Here’s what I do to manage my email:

1.  Maintain two personal email accounts: a correspondence account and a business account. Use the correspondence account for communicating with friends, family, colleagues, etc. Use the business account for online shopping, marketing lists, hobby newsletters, etc.

2.  Unsubscribe from each unwanted email blast as you receive it (then delete the email). Look for the “unsubscribe” link buried in the fine print of the email. Commit to doing this for one or two weeks and your email influx will drop off dramatically. After the flood stops, you can tackle the odd straggler or new material as it arrives.

3.  Be judicious when signing up for new email lists when shopping online or requesting freebies. I always opt out of communications beyond those related to my accounts or orders unless I am already committed to or really curious about the company.

4.  Turn off email notifications on your smartphone, and reduce the frequency of mail server check-ins. Nowadays, most personal emails are by nature non-urgent. If people need to get in touch with you quickly, they will call or text you. I also set my smartphone to check for new emails only once an hour (which also saves battery power, I think).

5.  Don’t sweat the old stuff. Mark all your old emails as “unread” and move on with your life, or search by company name and delete most of the old junk in batches. If you really want a fresh start, you could always open a new email account.

A little time invested now will result in big benefits down the road. You’ll be less tempted to shop and less distracted by your phone, and you’ll spend less time wrangling emails!

The Honest Company – Mini Reviews of 25 Products!

My most recent shipment...

My most recent shipment…

I don’t remember how I got hooked into actress Jessica Alba’s book The Honest Life, but it was my introduction to the importance of “clean” ingredients in household and personal care products. Alba’s book really struck me and changed the way I shop for and use makeup, sunscreen, cleaning supplies, food, etc. As a result, my eczema is better than it has ever been in my life (for real) and I’ve been able to clear out so many sketchy chemicals from my house. I highly recommend The Honest Life as a first “primer” for people who are curious about the chemicals in the products that they use every day—or for people who are struggling with skin allergies. Alba’s book was easy to read and understand and it covers a lot of ground. I still refer back to it every now and again!

Image from Amazon.com

Image from Amazon.com

Because she was frustrated at the limited quantity and quality of clean household products for her home and family, Alba started a safe, all-natural, mail-order line of household, personal care, and children’s goods called The Honest Company. I’ve subscribed to the Honest Company’s discounted “bundles” for a couple of years now, and I order a new supply of goodies about every three or four months. I’ve tried quite a few of the Honest products by this point, so I thought I’d give some mini reviews. Read on if you’re interested…

What I Love And Regularly Purchase:

Laundry Detergent and 4-in-1 Laundry Packs. My clothes get really clean with the liquid detergent and the laundry pods, and neither has perfume or fabric softeners. My eczema really improved after I began using this for all the household laundry (towels, linens, etc.). Highly recommend.

Conditioner in Sweet Orange Vanilla scent. This is hydrating and detangling and it smells like a Creamsicle. I use it as a great shaving lotion, but others in my family use it as a great conditioner.

Organic Lip Balm Trio in Sweet Orange Vanilla, Rosemary Mint, and Pure & Simple flavors. These lip balms are the bomb. The Sweet Orange Vanilla flavor is my favorite and I have one at my desk, one in my purse, and one on my bedside table. The balm lasts a long time on your lips and is very moisturizing. Works great during dry, cold winters.

Stain Remover in French Lavender scent. I hate the strong smell of most stain removers, so I really appreciate the lavender scent of the Honest version. This remover works just as well on clothes as other brands, plus I use it directly on carpet to clean up pet messes.

Organic Healing Balm. This is good stuff to use in place of petroleum (yuck) jelly to moisturize and waterproof skin.

What I Like and Sometimes Purchase:

Sunscreen Lotion (SPF 30). This stuff works, but I find it thick and hard to spread, plus it’s expensive. My sister likes it a lot, however.

Oxy Boost laundry pods. Hmm. I didn’t see much of an effect from this on my laundry. The regular Honest detergents are very effective on their own.

Toilet Cleaner in Tea Tree Eucalyptus scent. The cleaner smells fresh, herbal, and pine-y. I like knowing that I’m not dumping chemicals into the water supply when I use it. However, I could probably achieve the same results—i.e., a clean toilet—with just my toilet brush and some baking soda. Note: This cleaner got thick/sticky/clogged over several months. Always close the spout after using it and aim to finish the bottle in a few months.

Bubble Bath in Tangerine Dream scent. This smells great and foams up decently. The bubbles are short-lived, but that’s okay with me. I’d rather have “clean” temporary bubbles than more persistent and chemical-laden bubbles. I use this more for the scent than the bubbles. Would be a great gift idea for kids.

Conditioning Detangler Spray in Sweet Orange Vanilla scent. Smells great and works great. Personally, I need to wash it out before going a second day after using it or my hair looks greasy.

Hand Soap and Foaming Hand Soap in Mandarin scent. Smells good, rinses clean.  (I also use diluted Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap in the peppermint scent.)

Hand Sanitizer Gel. This gel is fine. I just don’t use hand sanitizer. The smell of sanitizer (including this one) is too strong for me.

Dish Brush and Caddy. The short, chunky shape of this brush is comfortable to use and the bristles are medium-firm. Inside the caddy, there’s a pierced platform mounted atop a spring, so you can add soap and water and then pump the brush up and down to produce bubbles.

Wipes. I don’t have a baby, but these are good wipes to have around. They are very large, thick, and soft.

What Did Not Work For Me and What I Will Not Repurchase:

Bug Spray. This did not work for mosquitos. I would spray my skin and then watch the mosquitos light on me right afterwards.

Air & Fabric Freshener in Orange Cypress scent. Ugh. This scent was very bitter and medicinal. Also, the pump-style spray nozzle was hard to use and there was no cap.

Organic Body Oil. This was too runny and greasy for me. Would probably be great for babies. I prefer the Organic Healing Balm instead.

Shampoo & Body Wash in Sweet Orange Vanilla scent. This was drying to my hair.

Face & Body Lotion. I loved the original formula of this (it used to smell lightly like roses and absorb quickly) but I dislike the new version, which doesn’t absorb into my skin.

Dish Soap in White Grapefruit scent. This didn’t cut through grease for us. (We use Seventh Generation dish soap instead.)

Multi-Surface Cleaner in White Grapefruit scent. This counter spray didn’t seem much more effective than plain water for us.  (We use J.R. Watkins pomegranate spray instead.)

Glass & Window Cleaner. This is essentially vinegar and water. I could have made the equivalent on my own.

Toothpaste. Does not contain fluoride, which I prefer in toothpastes. (We use Tom’s of Maine toothpaste instead.)

What I’m Trying Next:

Spray Sunscreen
Stick Sunscreen
Dryer Cloths

For me, the discovery of the laundry detergent, lip balm, stain remover, and conditioner is more than enough to keep my subscription with The Honest Company. Let me know if you want more details on any of the products I’ve tried.

P.S. – You can find Honest products at Target now, too! Look in the baby section. I’ve also seen Honest toilet paper at Target!

P.P.S. – Honest also sends fun free treats every now and again. Once I got a baby tree in commemoration of Earth Day or maybe Arbor Day (sadly, it died after I planted it), and once I got an extra lip balm for Mother’s Day. Last Christmas, subscribers received organic sugar cookie mix and a snowflake cookie cutter, but I skipped that month. D’oh! 🙂

P.P.P.S. – This is just a reminder that I am not being paid or compensated by any company in any way. I just like this company and I’m sharing my thoughts.

Junk Mail War!

Just some of this past week's junk mail--ugh!

Just some of this past week’s junk mail–ugh!

I’ve been devouring Bea Johnson’s book (and blog) entitled Zero Waste Home. Johnson is a French-American wife and mother who began to completely overhaul her family’s consumption habits several years ago. After she and her family:

  1. refuse things they don’t need,
  2. reduce what they do need,
  3. reuse whatever they can,
  4. recycle whatever they can, and
  5. rot (compost) everything else,

they produce only a quart-size jar of landfill garbage each year. It’s pretty amazing.

Johnson has years of research and trial-and-error under her (secondhand) belt, and her book and blog are full of tips and tricks to reduce waste. I produce a LOT of personal waste, and my two biggest culprits are probably food packaging from (frequent) drive-thru visits and packaging/shipping materials for (frequent) online purchases. I’m inspired by Johnson, though, to take some steps to reduce my impact. For starters, I’ve decided to start a junk mail war.

When I moved into my house several years ago, I received TONS of junk (and legit) mail for TENS of people who no longer lived there. It was insane. The former tenants never must have completed formal change of address paperwork with the post office. I would mark everything “return to sender” and scribble a note about the addressee not living there anymore, and then send it all right back. I even wised up and made a few sheets of stick-on labels with the same language so I didn’t have to write the same messages over and over. The misdirected mail dropped off sharply after two or three months of this attack, but I still receive all the junk mail that’s properly addressed to my family. I decided to use a similar label method for my junk mail war.

This past week, I collected all of the junk mail we received, which was about 15 pieces. It doesn’t sound like much (and maybe it isn’t?) but each piece was a doozy–lots magazine-type advertisements with multiple pages stapled together, and big envelopes stuffed thick and full with paper. Seeing it all together made me realize, interestingly, that most of the junk mail my family receives is from companies with whom we already have an account. In other words, the bulk of our junk mail is not from “new” companies who want our business, but from companies who already have our business and want us to do something else with them–change pricing plans, order new products, etc. How annoying.

Anyway, I made two sets of labels with the following language (I couldn’t get all the language to fit on one label in a readable font size):

  1. “REFUSED – RETURN TO SENDER. Please remove me from your mailing list. Thank you.”
  2. “Please do not sell, share, rent, or trade my name or address. Thank you.” (The bit about “do not sell, share, rent, or trade my name or address” is Johnson’s suggested language, so I’m using it. She’s done the research and is nothing if not thorough.)

The labels I had were eco-friendly (i.e., the labels and packaging were made from post-consumer waste and were recyclable), but all label backing sheets are coated with a plasticky finish and are NOT recyclable (I learned this from Johnson’s blog). Sigh. Baby steps.

I then applied both labels to the front of each piece of mail. If the junk mail was from a company with whom I already do business , I wrote a note to the effect of “Please remove me from your marketing mailing list. Send account-related correspondence only.”

A couple of tips from Johnson:

  1. Do not open the obvious junk mail, because then you cannot return it for free.
  2. If mail is addressed to “Current Resident” or “Occupant” or another generic term, you have to contact the sender directly (via phone, email, or website) and ask to be removed from their list. This kind of mail does not include return postage.

I’m keeping my labels by the front door and I plan to keep up my attack. I’m curious to see how this will work!

P.S. This past weekend I also canceled three catalogs I don’t want/never asked for (via website/email), one recurring coupon pack (via website), and our annual copy of THREE different area phone books (via website). Yeah!

Schedule a Get-It-Done Day!

Do you ever have one of those rare days when you get everything accomplished on your list? Ahh.

I once read a blog post (wish I could remember where) that advocated scheduling a whole day once or twice a year to tackle the odd, difficult, or neglected errands on your list–the tasks that never seem to get done on a regular day of errand-running. These tasks might include things like visiting out-of-the-way specialty stores (to find certain batteries and lightbulbs, for example), dropping off items for repair (small appliances, shoes, jewelry), making deliveries at recycling centers and charities, etc.

In the blog post, I remember that the writer wanted to have her favorite lamp rewired, buy a new battery for her fancy watch, drop off donations, etc.  She wanted to tackle the things that weren’t needs but that would be awesome to get done so she could enjoy her favorite things again, help someone in need, do something good for the environment, etc. For best results on a get-it-done day, the writer suggested that you clear your schedule, arrange for childcare (if you have kids), and dedicate the whole day to tackling your odd tasks. I would add, too, to give yourself a treat for all your hard work–maybe lunch at your favorite spot or fancy coffee. 🙂

This past weekend, I scheduled my own get-it-done day. I slept semi-late on Saturday, loaded up the car, and then I:

– Got breakfast at Hardee’s (I have a thing for their bacon biscuits)

– Went to an important meeting

– Dropped off a carload of donations (household goods) at Salvation Army

– Bought some Girl Scout cookies (for the  second time this year…love those Thin Mints)

– Went to the craft store for a couple of supplies

– Went to the credit union to deposit the contents of my coin jar (they have a machine for this)

– Stopped by the ATM at another bank

– Dropped off plastic bags for recycling

– Went to Target to stock up on household goods

– Got a late lunch at Chick-fil-A

– Stopped by Toys R Us for to look for a specific gift (no luck)

– Dropped off a bag of donations (toiletries) at the women’s shelter

– Cleaned out my car (it was a mess after all this activity!)

Whew! It was a busy, tiring day but I accomplished everything on my list and took a loooong nap afterwards. This was a very satisfying way to spend a few hours and I highly recommend it!

P.S. I once read an article (in the New York Times, maybe?) that advocated taking off a business day once a year to attend to your own financial health. The writer suggested staying home and using the day to examine your bills, research better deals, inquire about adjustments, open or close various accounts, contact advisors, etc. This sounds like another great idea to me…

The Carry On Cocktail Kit

Image from PunchDrink.com

Image from PunchDrink.com

Starting an unintentional (but wonderful) theme of kits and travel, look what I stumbled across on Instagram:  the Carry On Cocktail Kit!

How cute is this? The metal tin is about the size of a deck of cards, and it includes everything you need to make two Old Fashioned cocktails–except the alcohol!  You take this (TSA-approved) little kit on the plane, buy a mini bottle of bourbon from the flight attendant, and then mix up your drinks per the instructions!

The Carry On Cocktail company only makes an Old Fashioned kit right now, but they’ve hinted that more kits are coming.  I’ve never drank an Old Fashioned, but I’d like to try one. It sounds strong but good–and very Mad Men.  I would love to see kits for dirty martinis and margaritas, too!

Here’s what’s inside the kit:

  • Aromatic bitters
  • Cane sugar
  • Spoon/muddler
  • Linen coaster
  • Recipe card

These little kits would be a great stocking stuffer or “bon voyage” gift for a friend flying out for vacation.  The only downside: The kits are pricey–$24 a pop!–but I guess you’re paying for the cool idea and presentation.

This also gives me another idea–wouldn’t it be fun to make (or receive!) a DIY basket of little kits like this for several different cocktails?  You could buy mini bottles of liquor, pair them with the appropriate mixers and garnishes, and then include instructions on how to make each kind of drink.  You could also throw in swizzle sticks, cocktail napkins, etc.  This gift could work for so many occasions (providing the recipient drinks alcohol, of course!).

Bottoms up!

P.S. – Speaking of cocktails, check out this book–Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist.  Wouldn’t it be fun to make these drinks for a book club meeting, writer’s group, or an English major’s graduation party?

Happy Valentine’s Day! <3

ValentineBentoLunch

My sister makes me the cutest lunches.  It’s hard to tell in the photo, but the carrots and granola bites are heart-shaped, too.  Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!