Airbnb virgins no more

We’ve avoided traveling in recent years because it can be complicated, expensive and tiring. We’ve opted for stay-cations instead. This year, we decided to try something new in the hope it would make traveling easier and more enjoyable.

Living in the Northwest where several locations in Canada are just a short drive away. We only wanted to go somewhere we could drive to to avoid the headaches of planes and rental vehicles. We chose Calgary because it’s less a tourist destination than Vancouver, Victoria, or Banff. Few people go there in summer, that coupled with the exchange rate in our favor made for an affordable choice that would leave us spoiled for choice of accomodation.

Using Airbnb were found  accommodation with free parking for only USD$45 per night in a cool, trendy suburb within easy walking distance of the city. The place was a new and immaculately clean townhouse with our own private bedroom and bathroom with use of the kitchen. The hosts provided us fantastic advice on local cafes and restaurants that were the hot spots for locals. We traveled with a very small duffle bag and one small backpack between us. Everything else we needed as far as toiletries, towels, hairdryer, etc. were provided.

I made a short video of our room (sans la salle de bains) ….. Check it out! Not bad for $45 per night, eh?  Sorry, couldn’t resist slipping in the stereotypical Canadian “eh.”

 

This was our first time using Airbnb, and we were so glad we did. We never could have stayed so close to the city in a hotel of similar quality for anywhere near the same price. We were able to walk the beautiful Bow River trail along the edge of the city and take in the sights at our own pace. Having our vehicle with meant we could explore further afield and get around safely after dark. The only preparation needed in advance was to register with Airbnb, to book and pay for the room, then pack our bags and enter the destination in our GPS.

It wasn’t totally without complications. We ran into a bit of a hitch with Airbnb registration process. As they have grown, they’ve increased their security making all users provide sufficient verification of who you are. That’s fair enough. If I’m staying in a strangers home, they have every right to make sure I am who I say I am. It’s they means of proving who you are that posed a bit of a problem for us.

Because we live simply, we avoid using much social media, and a large part of the Airbnb verification process is giving them access to your social media contacts. Without that, we had to jump through a few hoops, but now that we are verified and have received positive feedback from our hosts, all future bookings should a snap.

 

 

Minimalist crafting with plarn

by Bella
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Minimalism and crafting do not normally go well together, until now.  Plarn turns unwanted items (plastic shopping bags) into useful items. All you need is used plastic shopping bags, a crochet hook, and scissors.

Normally, when you you get into crafting, and specifically, in my case, crocheting, you accumulate loads of supplies. When I have too much stuff, it takes over my life, so I do all that I can to avoid the clutter. This project allows me to make my yarn as I need it, and only as much as I need, so there are no left over scraps.

I was first introduced to crocheting with plarn earlier this year when I came across an old post on one of my favorite crafting blogs, Repeat Crafter Me. Sarah, the blogs creator and my crocheting superhero posted easy to follow directions on how to turn environmentally unfriendly plastic bags into  an environmentally friendly yarn alternative (click here). Then she shared a pattern of her own design for a tasteful, quick-to-make, durable, long lasting plarn tote bag (click here).

When I saw this, I thought, “how cool is it that you can make a bag from bags? ” More importantly, I realized that this tote bag makes a great reusable shopping bag. I can turn something bad for the environment into something that can do some good.

After making the bag from Sarah’s pattern, I want to share the results. It turned out even better than I expected.

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It has an amazing, natural and textured look.

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I was even able to use buttons salvaged from old worn-out clothing for the embellishment and used the plarn to sew them on, so this bag is from 100% re purposed materials.
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With a little bit of effort, it’s easy to find other patterns for everything from pot scrubbers to full size laundry baskets made from plarn. After scavenging enough used plastic shopping bags, I plan to experiment more using this minimalist friendly crafting supply.

Still here: just keeping it simple

by Bella

Sometimes in order to live a simple life, you have to prioritize and let some things go my the wayside. This has been tough for me. I have so many things that I want to do in this life that I have a tendency to try to pack too much in to 24 hours and to complicate my life in the process.

Over the last 6+ years, I’ve been learning to stop myself from taking on too much, and to focus on doing fewer things, but doing them really well.  I’ve always needed a creative outlet. I used to draw, embroider, crochet, knit, weave, sew, and try to make everything I could learning every craft out there. Having so many creative outlets required having totes, boxes, and closets full of supplies and equipment. Not focusing on a single skill meant that I didn’t have the time to dedicate to giving my best to any one of them.

Now I focus on crocheting. I love making gifts for friends and co-workers, and because I have focused on elevating my crochet skills, I now create projects that are good enough to sell (I’m sharing some quick pics of my projects below). I could never have gotten to this point had I kept spreading myself so thin while drowning under totes, boxes and closets full of supplies.

I had to chose a specialization, to prioritize. I chose what was was most inspiring my creative side and didn’t look back. This allowed me to get rid of extra craft stuff, and this in turn cleared my mind allowing me to focus and improve my crochet skills.

Nearly everyday, I fight my nature to try everything and to take on more than I should. In late summer and this fall, I have felt and still feel the need to focus on time with friends and family, cooking, reading, and crocheting. These are my priorities and the things that are inspiring me at the moment, so they are my current focus and all other things have to take a back-seat, including blogging.

I have loads of ideas on things to blog about, and I will be back when my priorities shift. See you then.

 

Sorry the images are not to the highest standard.

Watermelon dress and Mary Janes

 

Ami Minions

 

Ami owls

 

Boot cuffs

 

Our goals – 1 year later

by Bella

Where are we at one year after posting our goals? Adapting and changing. This is a family made up of individuals who are growing and changing all the time. In that process, we often have to change our path, though our end goal remains the same.

One constant is our desire to achieve voluntary simplicity. We just keep revising our ideas on what that is and how to get there.  As we learn more, and environmental factors impact us, we make the necessary adjustments.

The goals we set a year ago were our ultimate dreams. It’s great to have dreams and to strive to achieve them. The real world may have other plans for us. Keeping that in mind, here are those same nine goals and where we are today, one year later.

  1. to be free of boxes of stuff. If it’s not something we use on a daily basis and truly need or love, it’s got to go. Jack has done a fantastic job of selling our excess stuff. We don’t really have a lot left as he has made a huge dent.
  2. to eat only simple foods that are nutritious, organic, vegetarian/vegan whole foods that are easy to prepare. We strive everyday to find the best quality, healthy, but simple foods to eat and have become inventive with our recipes. Jack and Bo decided late last year to reintroduce some meats into their diets, but I have remained vegetarian and have avoided most animal products. We eat mostly whole natural foods, cooking vegetarian recipes, to which Jack and Bo often add a bit of meat. We did have to start a “meat box” in the fridge to keep it separate from the produce.
  3. to live in an environment where we can bike, walk or use public transport and be car free. We do live in an environment where this is technically possible provided we stay in our isolated small town for everything and forever. Because that’s not an appealing concept to us, we keep and use a vehicle. I do walk to work 95% of the time, John works from home and Bo studies from home, so our vehicle use is minimal.
  4. to be able to fit all of our possessions into one small bag each and only one small container of kitchen supplies. Not even close. We still have a long way to go on this. After a long talk with Bo when she expressed a strong desire to stay put until she finishes her high school education, we decided to keep a few comforts to make our place feel like a home. See numbers 5 through seven for more info.
  5. to travel, to live, to love life without the constraints of maintaining a home, having excess physical possessions or working at jobs we that don’t feed our spirits. Without the stuff, we don’t need the home, without the home, we don’t need the jobs. This is where the dream and reality conflict comes into play. Our daughter Bo doesn’t want to do this until she finishes school, and then she wants to go it alone like her older sister who lives in Australia. We raised very independent kids. When she told us this, we stalled our travel plans because we always put our kids and their happiness first. Since that time, financial reality has sunk in. We have the money to travel and explore, but not the location independent income source to be able to maintain that lifestyle for long. We are working on a revised goal that will temper the dream with the reality. It is a work in progress. We live in a month-to-month rental that is fairly stable and inexpensive. Because of this, if our situation were to change, we have the freedom to get back on track with our travel dreams.
  6. to generate an income from things that we enjoy. I like my job, but, as I said, it’s not location independent. In fact it’s very much tied to one building. Jack, though he works from home, and, as of yet,doesn’t earn enough to support all three of us. He likes what he does, and is looking for new ways to grow his business.
  7. to have the time and money to travel and explore our passions. See number 5 about financial reality.
  8. to post on this blog weekly to track our progress and hopefully help others. I now want to revise this to say, to post on this blog when I find inspiration and want to share it with the world. I have so many ideas that I want to share, and I want to do it with passion, so I plan to write when I’m excited or fired up about something. I also have so many things that I want to do. Blogging is just one of those things. IF I focus too much on blogging, I’ll burn-out; so I’ll try to maintain a balance. I hope to get Jack involved. He’s full of ideas that I’d know people would enjoy reading about.
  9. to start a YouTube channel about our adventures by the end of this year. I’m proud to say that I did start a YouTube channel where I posted a video and had fun doing it. The video wasn’t about adventure, but it was about something I’m passionate about, genetics and genealogy. I will most likely post more on a variety of topics in future.

So there you have it. We’re real people, sharing our journey. Voluntary simplicity remains our main focus, and we continue striving toward achieving our dreams. As we succeed and inevitably, sometimes fail, we will continue sharing our story.

Working toward my own Independence Day

by Bella Yesterday was the 4th of July. The day when millions of Americans celebrate the approval by the Continental Congress of “the final wording of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.”  It is typically seen as a celebration of freedom via independence from the British monarchy. In this modern world, freedom, to me, means something very different. This isn’t going to be political. I’ll save my thoughts on “freedom” in America for another time. This is about the only way to be truly free in the world today, by not having stuff that weighs you down and and imprisons you. So I guess this is about shunning shopping as a way of life, and striving to have only what you truly need. So what do we truly need? Food, clothing and shelter, right? If you really want to be the ultimate minimalist, well, I guess that would be the goal. In our modern society, achieving that isn’t really practical. You’d have to run off into the wilderness and survive off the land with no tools or weapons. Actually, there is an even more extreme example of true minimalism. The Greek philosopher Diogenes took voluntary simplicity far as you can go within a civilization. He lived in a barrel with only a cloak, a stick, and a breadbag. He had clothing in his cloak, shelter in his barrel, and food that he begged for and stored in his breadbag; so even he had a little luxury in keeping his stick as it provided none of the three true necessities. Still it would be hard to be more minimalist than that. Personally, I want to achieve something in between the extremes. I personally like some interaction with others, modern sanitation, a clean and safe place to live, comfortable clothing, access to a variety of foods, healthcare when I need it and, of course, technology. To have these these things, I have to participate in modern society, but it’s up to me how and to what extent I do that, and that’s where freedom comes in. Freedom, for me, is not being held back from doing the things I want to do. I don’t want societal norms to stop me, but more than that, I don’t want to be held back by useless possessions.  If I have money tied up in useless stuff that I then have to store somewhere, I am a prisoner to that stuff. A year ago, I wrote about our 9 goals on our journey to voluntary simplicity which sum up how we are working toward achieving a balance. We’ve made a great deal of progress, on several of these goals. I’ll give you a detailed update in the next post. We continue working toward the day that we can call our Independence Day. That day will be something to truly celebrate.

Screw minimalism! I gotta have this.

by Bella

With so many amazing new and inventive products on the market, how can I possibly resist my consumerist urges?

.Check out this awesome head massaging helmet called “Headtime.” Yes, you heard me right, it’s called “Headtime.”

This is an innovative product that you’ll be proud to be seen wearing, and not just at home.

Wear it when you go on a picnic with your girlfriend, and you’re sure to make an impression.

Just check out  this smooth operator and how excited his date is.
The “Headtime” scalp massager will have you so relaxed that you won’t even care that you look like a knob-head.

Wear it when you go on a picnic with your girlfriend, and you’re sure to make an impression.

17 things our library provides that makes it easy to be a minimalist

by Bella

Our lives would be very different without our free library. It provides a sense of community, promotes sharing resources, skills and ideas, and makes minimalism a whole lot easier.

For the past 7 years we have chosen to live within walking distance of a free library. We are extremely fortunate to currently live in a small community that embraces, supports, and appreciates this incredible resource. As we evolve through our minimalist journey, we make use of the library more and more each year. The library has made it easier for us to live with less by enabling us to share this community space as well as materials.

I want to share 17 things that many libraries provide, most often free of charge, that you can and should make use of. Your tax dollars go to pay for these things, so why spend more money buying things that are already paid for and are there for your use.

  1. Books – Let’s list the most obvious library resource first. There are reference, entertainment, educational, cooking, crafts, and how-to books. Use these instead of having a home library. Your local library will keep the most up-to-date issues and new releases of many of these for you to use as needed.
  2. Seed library – This is becoming common-place in several districts. You can “borrow” organic, non-GMO, local heirloom seeds with the agreement that you bring back seeds from your harvest to donate for the following season.
  3. Tool library – If your library has this, you would be crazy to buy a garage full of expensive tools that you rarely use.
  4. Downloadable/Streaming media (books, magazines, music and movies) – OK, these don’t take up space, but they do clutter up your digital world. In most cases, people only read a book or magazine once, so borrow it, read it and let it return itself. Music is a little different because we will listen to the same tracks hundreds of times. Still there are so many ways to stream your favorite songs for free, like from your library, you don’t have to own them.
  5. Databases (research) – Students and job seekers of all ages, did you know that your library probably spends tens of thousands of dollars on databases for your use every year? You can use database tutorials to master a new software skill, access historical facts,f ind academic journal entries on almost any subject you can imagine, and much more.
  6. Tutoring and proctoring – If you need help with math, reading, writing, a language, getting your GED or even your citizenship, chances are that your library has a Lifelong Learning Center staffed with volunteer tutors to help.
  7. Computers and the Internet – Somethings that we, as a minimalist box free family, haven’t been able to part with are our computers and internet access at home.  It’s nice to know that if we ever take that leap, our local library can fill the void with public computers and high speed internet access available to us daily.
  8. CDs and DVDs – If you use the library computers in lieu of owning your own, and therefore can’t stream music and movies, then borrow the CDs and DVDs. Instead of amassing a huge collection of your own, just borrow them whenever you want. True, you may have to wait to get the ones that you want, but if you plan ahead and place requests early, this is a good option.
  9. Printers – Unless you’re printing multiple pages everyday, you can just go to your local library and use their printers. There is a probably a minimal charge for this, but it can be as cheaper, or cheaper than having your own printer at home. Cost it out and see for yourself.
  10. Taxes – Some libraries bring in free tax help from AARP (available to everyone, not just retirees) in the early part of the year.  One year they saved us over $4000. Libraries also stock basic tax forms. You can print out whatever they don’t have, read the instructions on their internet computers and even file on line.
  11. Scanners – Much like the printers, why own your own unless you use it constantly. Our library has a printer that you can plug a thumb drive into to scan directly to or print directly from. It will also scan and email or fax documents. Best of all the library staff are trained and can show you how these things work.
  12. Basic office supplies – Our library will let us use their stapler, hole punch, tape, notepaper, pens/pencils, headphones and old fashioned electric typewriter. In today’s world, it’s rare that our family needs these things. Even though we do still have some of these basics at home, we don’t have to, because we can just use the ones at the library.
  13. Classes and informative programs – Most free libraries invite interesting and highly skilled people from your community and from further afield to come and share and teach what they know to you, for free. In many cases, we find it hard to believe that these programs are poorly attended. Most people just don’t realize that their library provides these things. If you visit your library’s website, you’ll probably find several interesting and helpful classes and programs that you’ll wish you’d known about sooner.
  14. Kids programs – Parents spend a lot of money on things and activities to keep their kids entertained. Your local library may have free activities ranging from movies and video game nights to crafts, cooking classes, robotics, gardening, and reading to dogs.
  15. Bookmobile and Outreach – You may not even need to live near the library or own a car to use library materials and resources.  Besides the obvious options of using public transit, biking or walking, some libraries will come to you. A few districts have bookmobiles that bring a rotating collection of materials and sometimes internet computers to a locations near you on a weekly basis. There may even be an Outreach program for those who are house bound. This program delivers and picks up library materials to and from your home.
  16. A place to socialize – Meet people with a shared interest at library programs. There aren’t many places to do that where it’s free. If you really want to meet like-minded people you can even start a free group or club and use the meeting rooms at the library. Use the library’s internet computers to make posters, and to advertise your group on Craigslist, Facebook, Twitter and other free local advertising methods.
  17. Common shared space – Your home doesn’t have to be huge when you have a library to go to. The library is a common space for everyone in the community to use. Find a quiet corner to read a book, use the lobby to meet a friend and sip coffee, or start that new group and use the meeting rooms as a place to get together.

I’m sure that there are more ways that your library can enhance your minimalist or even non-minimalist life. Drop in and start talking to the staff or just visit the library’s website and explore all that they have to offer.