Saturday, December 11, 2010

Don't Laugh, It's Paid For...

Thanks Jonah for adding commentary! His comments are in *asterisks*.

I saw an old motorhome a couple of months ago with two bumper stickers that I really liked:

HONK If Parts Fall Off


Don't Laugh, It's Paid For

They pretty much summed up our life here. BUT, the house is looking a lot better I think. We've put a lot of work into the house, but very little money, so that feels good. I want to brag for a minute so I'll take you on a tour. If you want to see a little of what the house looked like when we bought it, there are some pics on this post:

If you want to feel bad for us (just kidding... we're totally happy in this house...except that the ceilings and countertops and doors in our current house are MUCH too short for Jonah), you can check out or old house in Saint George:
We loved that house, but after being in New Zealand between there and here, we realized we didn't need such a big or nice house (or house payment). Plus this one is SO much easier to clean.

Anyway, here are some photos, and since we've worked especially hard to limit the money we put into... I'm going to price out some of the stuff. Some of the free stuff included trades or a LOT of hard work on our part, but I'll spare you the details. The most important thing I need to say here is THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to our friends out there who have so GRACIOUSLY donated stuff to our quest for "free"dom. We've had a lot of friends give us their unwanted furniture, hand-me-down clothes and/or old building supplies. We hope that you know how much we appreciate it all. Our mottos here are REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE and DON'T CONSUME--CREATE!!, and we could never do it without the support of our understanding and generous friends and a local Non-Profit Building Materials Recycling Store (the source of our paint and many other things) AND Craigslist, the great liberator.

While I'm pontificating, I should respond to some of the comments and questions I've had about our lifestyle. I've had a few people call it "experimental lifestyle" or even deride us for being able-bodied people who choose to not to have "traditional jobs". It makes me realize that I'm not very good at talking about our views about consumption and consumerism. We've been heading this direction for awhile, and after we sold our house and business in Saint George, we had the opportunity to give up the 10 hour work days for Jonah and the 4 hour work days +housework +kids for me... from which all of our income was basically supporting our "traditional" lifestyle--fancy house, nice furniture, new clothes, eating out, toys, etc. Jonah asked if I'd be willing to live with less so that he could be around more to be with me and the kids while they were still young. I excitedly said yes.

We both had to agree to give up ALL hobbies (besides travel) that cost money and try to only pick up hobbies that make money. Jonah's been especially good at this, and his hobbies (fixing cars, eBay and Craigslist, running the cars on veggie oil, helping people with their random mechanical and handyman issues, volunteering for various organizations) have actually become a pretty good source of income (well, not the volunteering, but it's still good).

My hobbies have always included getting great deals, but now I've taken it a step further to getting the stuff I need or want for free. And I'm not afraid to admit I've even dumpster dove a few times (the first time I picked stuff out of the rubbish was in first grade, so my mom shouldn't be surprised). It has required a LOT of patience on my part for putting up with things being not so perfect for an indefinite amount of time instead of giving in and just buying it. But, the stuff I need ALWAYS comes, and I feel like I'm doing people a service by taking away their unwanted stuff for them and often doing something for or giving something to them in return. Plus, it's stuff that doesn't end up in a landfill, and I've not "consumed" something new, so I'm able to love it even if it isn't exactly perfect.

As far as the farming/animal husbandry, it's not the most money-making hobby, but we do save money on food and usually I can cover the costs of the animals by selling them after I've raised them a bit. Most of the food we're feeding the animals now is "rubbish bin" food... scraps from restaurants, stale and/or moldy bread that the grocery stores throw away, and expired or unwanted food... so that makes me happy to get my animals off the consumption bandwagon, and they are just as happy with old unwanted food as they would be with new stuff. *It's pretty amazing to see eight healthy piglets and HUGE Luau out there roaming around. They have been raised completely off rubbish and peelings and crab shells.* The only animal that still has a grocery bill is the cat... but I just can't figure out a way to get around that.

And finally, we're both working on our new hobby of "bartering"... in the last few months we've been able to make a lot of friends and find new opportunities by making trades instead of paying money. It's a blast, I have to say. Nothing like a good trade that's great for both sides. It's all little stuff (like trading some chickens for a handmade halibut fishing rod) so it doesn't interfere with our already confusing tax returns, but it's all worth it.

In reality, while we don't have "traditional" jobs, we both work at least as many hours as we did before, but since we don't have a huge house payment or other debts (if we didn't have health insurance, car insurance and home owners insurance payments, we'd just have utilities and groceries and THAT would be awesome. Darn that insurance!!!), we don't have to focus on a traditional income and are able to contribute in other ways. It's not for everybody, and actually most people scoff at it and can't imagine a worse nightmare, but it's what we enjoy. Who knows how long we'll live like this, but as long as we can keep it financially sustainable, we'll probably just keep going...
*We will most likely be working long after our friends have retired but that's the trade off for being able to be with our kids so much now.*

And finally, probably what gets most people is that we both have college degrees (mine was especially expensive) but we aren't "using" those degrees in a traditional job. I like to look at the other way around: because we both have degrees, we don't have anything to prove to anyone anymore, so as long as we're only living on our own dime, what does it matter? I guess right now we're choosing to contribute to the social community and not as much to the economy... I don't know. We're just weird and I can't explain it better than that.

I also want to say that we are especially blessed. Thanks to our families, summer jobs, our savings, and what would seem almost like a lot of luck, we were able to end college and start our marriage with no monetary debt... and we've been able to keep it that way. That's simply not a possibility for everyone; I totally respect that and am just grateful that it was that way for us so that we can be doing this now.

Anyway, enough talking. If any of you have any questions, please ask! I hope I've cleared up some confusion or questions. Sorry I've not been more forthcoming in the past.

Here are the photos. Get excited!

I am way too pregnant to clean up the outside just take a photo... and it looks MUCH better when the grass is green, but this is our new color (it used to be baby blue... it was cute, but showed EVERYTHING). We paid $15 for 60 gallons of paint, and mixed it all together in a big barrel and then traded fresh crab to use an airless sprayer and WHALA! The shutters and new front porch stairs came from rubbish piles.

New laundry room. Painted linoleum floors ($14 for paint and polyurethane for the entire house's floors being painted)... which I highly suggest. Washer and dryer were pricey but worth it: $400.
That oil painting is a recent "free pile" find and we're quite fond of it.

Laundry/mud room looking out. We really use it as the front door too since the real front door doesn't have a sidewalk leading up to it like this one does.

The big bathroom, which is the furthest away from the bedrooms. We called it the "shower room", but now we're going to call it "The Resort". Everything in here, including the mirror, medicine cabinet, wood flooring sample squares, paint, 100-year old railroad chest, supplies for "Resort" sign, new shower head, and towel heater: $45.

The kitchen was a real challenge... but with patience we were able to pull it off. Brand new cabinets with granite composite counter tops: $5.46. Oven: free. Subzero: $600 (again, pricey, but worth it). Bamboo rug: $34. Faucet: $4. Paint: $1. New lights: $3.

The living room looks a little "busy" in this photo, but we like it. Rug: $30. Hideabed sofa: $30. Chair, lamp, carpet, woodburning stove, table and chairs: Free. Paint $26 (we had to get spray paint for the table and chairs and stove). Sheepskin rug: FROM OUR OWN SHEEP! Awesome. Map book artwork on wall: $6 for old windows and a free map book from 1956.

Office chair: $10. Everything else: free! (Including that STYLIN' lamp, and that nasty/great oil painting). Electronics not included though.

We have fabric to make slipcovers for the part of the chairs that aren't black, but we just haven't gotten around to it yet.
*Aja got the idea to make the stockings out of old sweaters and I think they turned out great.*

This room isn't very free: the Baldwin piano was $600 and the tree was some money (but we'll plant it outside after Christmas) and the Christmas presents, but the paint and rugs and carpet (the rolled up stuff behind the piano is for the bedrooms when I'm able to help Jonah to move furniture to put it in) were free.
This room usually looks pretty cute when the tree isn't taking up half of it, but you get the idea.

These are Jonah's two LEAST favorite free things and two of my very favorite. A friend's mom got rid of this art because it made her cold... I love it because it's rarely this bleak here in Sequim.... when it's cold and clowdy, I look at it and think: "Well, at least it's not THAT bad!". I also really love this chest of drawers for some reason. It was from an "EVERYTHING IN THE HOUSE FOR FREE" ad I found on Craigslist. It was full of old man underpants, but I sanitized it when we got it home. I got a LOT of stuff from that house (which all required major sanitation)... microwave, toaster over, oven/stove, tons of kitchen supplies, model ships for Cam's room, vacuum, some lotion, food for the pig... missed out on the vintage Atari though... some teens found it before I did. Dang it! I also passed on the HUGE chest full of vintage Playboys... I just couldn't figure out how I'd sell them on eBay.

The hallway hasn't had its final coats of paint, but it's still SUCH an improvement from what was here before. The frames and chair-rail did cost us a big $15, but again, totally worth it. Paint: $3.

New paneling for doors that had HUGE kicked-in holes in them: $10. Jonah bought two hollow core doors and used one half of each over the hallway's side of all four doors and brad nailed over the existing doors.

The kids love the carpeted hallway, and I love not looking at the old peeled wallpaper and stab marks on the wall.

This bathroom was a HUGE improvement too. When we moved in it was covered from top to bottom with algae! The tub was completely brown and covered in paint and algae. Jonah pressure washed the bathroom, and I pulled out the big old cabinet above the toilet and peeled out the completely rotted vanity. We replaced the toilet ($12), Jonah sanded the tub, and I bought the vanity ($18 +$2 for plumbing supplies) with some birthday money. We painted it ($1), added some new towels ($4), and the hanging jar sculpture ($2 for the jars) above the toilet holds the kids' shell collections. Almost like new... :)

The bedrooms are not very photogenic, mainly because I didn't have energy to clean them to take photos, and also because the kids' rooms are so small, they just look cluttered in photos. But anyway, we have three bedrooms: Elsie and Ana are on bunkbeds in one room with a horse mural we painted on the walls and Cam's in his own room with upholstered ($4) walls. We got the beds, bedding, and mattresses for free (again, it's all about patience), and I think Cam's chest of drawers cost $20. I also bought three down comforters for the kids at a garage sale... $6. In our room above, we brought our mattress from Utah and it's on bins that we use to store stuff, like off-season clothes, office supplies, clothes for the kids that they will grow into, etc.
Another one of my favorite things in the house are the drawers in our room: Jonah couldn't believe I paid $30 for the set, but once I painted them and let the incredible handles be shown off, he had to like them too. Plus it's nice to have some space for baby clothes.

Oh, and since all of our Christmas decorations are in storage in Utah, I had to quickly pull off the road a few days ago to pick up a big branch that had been blown off a tree, and tied it to the top with my scarf. The kids loved it and made up songs about "Christmas Car" as we drove along. I'm thinking I need to have evergreen branches tied to the luggage rack all season long. Anyway, it has made three wreaths and other decorations around the house. Gotta love livin' in the Northwest.

Ponyo has been with us over the last year of the "remodel"... she's celebrating our near completion by moulting.... her usually dingy bouffant is bright white, and she also likes to wear Christmas jewelry. We're glad to have her.

Anyway, I'm just actively WAITING to go into labor, but I haven't done it yet, so I don't think I'm going to get a 12/11/10 baby, and I'm pretty bummed about it. But, if she's born tomorrow, she'll share a bday with two of my most favorite people (Mary and Jamie), so I'll survive.
And if she's not born tomorrow... well, we're just taking it one day at a time...

XOXO. Merry Christmas!


Tena said...

I have been an admirer of yours since I first found your blog while you still lived in St. George. You will never regret spending time with your children. No material possession could ever be more important. Many people will not understand what you are trying to do, but I think you are great examples. Thanks for leading the (sustainable) way. I hope you get to meet your new daughter soon!

richard said...

You will not believe how much I brag about you and about your ability to "live life backwards."
Most people I tell don't believe me so thanks for this post so that I have a place to refer people to now so they will BELIEVE!

Anonymous said...

Aja, I saw a link to your blog when I was reading Timette's and after reading it I found myself wishing I could live like you guys do! seriously- I think it would be worth all the hard work.... but I'm pretty sure my husband wouldn't go for it, so I think it's great that BOTH of you are willing to give up the conveniences of life for more important things. Anyway, just wanted to tell you that I admire the way you guys live and I hope you don't think I'm a blog stocker :)
-Amber Gueck (Reimschiissel)

bostonshumways said...

this is really amazing aj and jonah. seriously, you guys can make things happen. we love you so much.

Amber M said...

We get it, Aja, but since I have already had to explain your approach several times to people who don't, I'm glad you articulated it here, so I can send them somewhere.

You probably know that Steve and I are like-minded... unfortunately we have not been able to get out of the home mortgage -- YET -- although we often dream about moving back onto a boat. Unfortunately, I think that would result in at least one dead child... not from the sea, but from strangulation. :)

Anyway. Great post, and congrats on your new addition -- great job mama!

Anonymous said...

just fascinating and completely awesome!

brittanimae said...

Cool stuff you guys! I love that you took the time to articulate all this. I really love and admire what you're doing, and even if I'm not quite ready to hop on the train with you, it's good to know that train is still running somewhere in this consumerist society we live in. I just wish you weren't so far away! It would be fun to see all your animals and re-creations in person!!

Anonymous said...

You guys are way cool Aja! When you feel that your house is "finished" I think you should let me write an article about you for Better Homes and Gardens. I can't believe how good your kitchen looks (and rest of the house too) for so little money. You're inspiring me to be more thrifty.

Brooke said...

you really are one of the best persons (or is it peoples...people) I know. :) Can't wait to see you guys.

Brooke said...

you really are one of the best persons (or is it peoples...people) I know. :) Can't wait to see you guys.

Brooke said...

you really are one of the best persons (or is it peoples...people) I know. :) Can't wait to see you guys.

Josh said...

My favorite thing is that picture of the trees in the snow. So beautiful. For some reason pictures like that make me so happy.

You want to come to Arizona and give my house a makeover? Almost everything in my downstairs was free, but I don't know how to make it look as good as you guys do!

Anonymous said...

Your lifestyle is truly inspiring! I'm sure you have heard of - if not it's another great resource for completely free items!

Eyrealm said...

We've already commented on this but I jsut read through it again and now I know for sure that you really can make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. This place was spectacular considering what you started with! YOU GUYS ARE AMAZING!