What’s a Luxury Essential?

What’s an Essential Today May be a Luxury Tomorrow

And that pretty much defines a Luxury Essential. If you believe an item is something you require to survive, what needs to happen to keep it in your life?

For example, let’s say climate change increases pests, which then kill off forest farms used to create wood-based products, what happens to things like paper and popsicle sticks? Are these still necessary? Or will these become too difficult to obtain?

What Turns an Essential Item into a Luxury Item?

Short version is that it goes from being a commodity (something readily available) into a something scarce (difficult to find and/ or the price goes up a lotta lot).

How Today’s Essential Becoming Extravagant Impacts Your Life

By definition, an essential is something you believe you can’t live without. Now, some will say the only true necessities are water, food, air, and shelter. A few folks might add love (romantic and otherwise) to the list, too. Albeit LovePlus seems to be taking care of this last need, at least for Japanese men.

Anywayz.

This means that if you’re used to having all the clean water you want at the twist of a tap, your life will drastically change if this is no longer true. Actually, we here in the US are spoiled when it comes to water, even those who think they’re in a drought, such as Arizona and California.

But when you look at it globally, even these areas have significantly more access to safe, clean water than many areas of the world such as India, Mexico, and Africa,

Ok, that was a simple one.

So what do we, as Americans, consider to be necessary for daily life that might be become cost-prohibitive, or even completely unavailable?

Let’s use the example at the opening of this post, that of bugs killing of forest farms. How will your life change if wood-based products, such as paper, become hard to find, or too expensive to buy? No more printing web-pages all willy-nilly, for starters. You may have to use hankies instead of Kleenex. What about toilet paper? Or, heaven forbid, Amazon boxes?

What if it’s not bugs, but climate change? This could impact many crops, not just trees. Bio-fuels will become more expensive. As might breakfast cereal. Or the toast you have with your morning eggs.

Beer?

Or in the case of the page where I first read of this term, beer.

That’s right, beer. Climate change is making the raw ingredients for beer more costly. Well not yet, but it seems a few forward thinkers coined this phrase for their favorite weekend beverage. And they’re using this highly-relatable example to help skeptics better understand the current ecological changes, and how they might be impact.

I mean, really. Tell a football fan climate change is messing up crops, he may not care. He (or she?) has no idea how this impacts him, and may well assume that it doesn’t.

Why? Because all his fresh food comes from the grocery store, The flowers he buys for his wife come from the florist. He doesn’t see the difficulties except in rising prices.

Now tell him how the well-established balance of how much water falls and where it falls is absolutely crucial to his beverage of choice. See? He’s sitting up and listening this time.

Other Reasons a Must-Have Can Become a Self-Indulgence

Same with bees. Bees are dying. Oh, goody, he might think. They’re just pests anyway. They buzz and sting, and one of his kids is allergic to them,

Now tell him that bees pollinate the crops needed to make beer. Again, suddenly it’s relatable, It means something,

As if this wasn’t scary enough, things we consider to be essential may become luxuries for other reasons, as well. Like, say, oh, I dunno … a change in trade policies.

That’s right, our current administration significantly increased tariffs on Chinese goods, and China retaliated by increasing tariffs on things they import from us. Unfortunately, many of the things China imports from us are the resources they use to make the things that get imported back into the US.

This means the double-digit tariff we just put on Chinese goods could increase the things we buy in two ways. First, things made in China from Chinese resources are going to go up. Second, things made in China from US resources are going to go up twice; once en route from the US to China, and again on the trip back from China into the US. Or in the case of some materials, China has stopped buying US resources altogether.

Tariffs are Already Causing Troubles for Us in the US

Regardless of my party preferences and how I may feel about the current administration’s other policies, this one item is already being felt across the country. According to Fortune Magazine, jobs have already been lost by just this one policy change alone, and this happened only a few months ago.

As an example, remember the Solar article? Good thing we put this in place earlier this year because it’d be tough to do now. Many of the parts are no longer available, are very difficult to obtain, or have gone up significantly in price (or all of the above!). For instance, the second backup battery nearly doubled in cost, and has been on backorder for five months.

Why? Because the resources are being shipped from the US into China to be made into ginormous batteries which are then shipped back to sell to US consumers. But China has stopped accepting plastics and glass, or the resources to make plastics and glass, from the United States.

This in turn means that the US workers who collect, create, grow, and process these resources no longer have jobs.

Wait … Wasn’t This Supposed to be About Our Daily Necessities?

While the guys taking credit for coining this phrase meant specifically climate change and beer, we explored how this can be used across products and reasons for our daily fundamentals turning into frivolities. This meant we jumped across a lot of topics. Hopefully things stayed all flowy and sensical?

How Will Essential Luxuries Impact Your Life?

What do you rely on every day, week, or month? Which of these basics do you think might turn into indulgences, and why or how?

Or why do you think this new-to-me concept is overblown, or misguided?

Looking forward to your respectful comments and discourse!

Site Review — IIFYM

I must admit that I am in love with the If It Fits Your Macros site. It has a lot of great information, and they answer a lot of tricky questions about how your body uses food, the impact and possible diet-related causes of various medical conditions, and when different types of exercise programs make more sense for your needs.

They also have a succinct newsletter that whets your appetite, so to speak, to delve more into the information on their site.

However.

The one glaring issue is their “easy” program. And it all sounds simple, too. Until you pay money. Then you find out that you’ll basically have to live for eating for the next 30 days … buying fresh food daily (or every few days), carefully weighing your food to the gram to enter into a program that calculates the nutrients so you know what else to eat, and so on. And the only way to get your money back is to prove you’ve done the program for thirty days and that it didn’t work for you. There’s no provision for “I can’t do this program”, such as I just had a medical procedure done on my hands and can’t do the necessary food prep and documentation.

The program includes a blueprint that matches your body’s needs (based on your size, shape, age, activity level, health conditions, and gender) to the latest health science. For a much larger fee, they also have coaches available to help guide you through and stick to the program.

In short, if you want a lot of great info, I highly recommend the site. If you’re ready to dedicate a few hours each day to meal planning and preparation (not including exercise), this seems like a good program that matches your needs to real science.

But if you have any conditions that limit your ability to shop for, measure, prepare, and document your food and physical activities, you’ll need to wait until those conditions are cleared up, or have someone available every day to perform those functions for you.

On the one hand, I “wasted” money on a program I can’t use. On the other, I get my money’s worth just by reading all their content a couple times a week.

2018 Estate and Moving Sale

As y’all may have heard or read, our family has been in the same location for over forty years. This means that every time someone passes, a lot of their stuff comes to us, because everyone else moves around too much to store everything.

Meaning we now have eight estates of treasures from both sides of the family, making it look like we’re the hoarders.

We continue to be highly motivated sellers because the goal is to sell the home in the spring, and move someplace more arthritis-friendly.

We’ve sold a lot over the past year, between eBay, Etsy, garage sales, etc. … thank you, Ren and Alex, for making this happen!

Thanks to their efforts, we’ve been able to dig more out of storage to re-home, including Vintage, Antique, and Contemporary:

  • Holiday items, especially Halloween and Christmas
  • Furniture
  • China and dish sets
  • Crystal stemware and glass sets
  • Collectibles
  • Decor
  • Keepsakes
  • Books
  • Movies
  • Music
  • Historic Photos (mostly Detroit and Michigan)
  • Jewelry
  • Clothing and Accessories
  • Cookware
  • Storage ware
  • Electronics
  • Lawn and Yard Tools
  • Specialty Tools

Many smaller items may be packaged and sold as lots, such as a bin of plastics, children’s books.

Most items are over 50 years old, some are likely to be over 100!

Pictures and videos will be added here throughout the week. Check them out at our eBay store and EstateSales listing.

What Breed Bans Say About People

There’s a horror story making its way around the ‘net again. I’ve heard several variations of it, and I’m sure there is some basis in fact. Just not sure which pieces.

Short version is that a loving pitbull gets stuck in a shelter, lives in a cage with insufficient space and little or no socialization, and then nips at someone and is immediately put on doggy death row.

Thought some folks here may be interested in what I’d like to think is a well-reasoned response to the emotionally charged discussions of abuse, dominance, racism, cold-hearted facts, and so on.


Any human or creature could become problematic with that history!

Quite frankly, if we killed everything that was “male aggressive”, there wouldn’t be a lot of human males left, either 😜. Two men get into a fight? Kill the one who started it!

Sounds ludicrous when put that way, doesn’t it?

Regarding the aggressive breed comments and folks wondering why data show some breeds to be more prone to this behavior.

If you have a smart dog who’s also powerful and large, it’s up to his/her person to train and lead them properly, using love and not fear. Actually, that’s true of any breed, but it’s the power factor that makes a huge difference.

A toy poodle nips, and people are more likely to giggle at the little dog acting all big and rowdy.

Note that the breeds most people refer to as pit bulls were actually very popular 100+ years ago because they could help around the house and farm (hence the phrase, “work like a dog”), and then protect the homestead at night. This means they’re strong, smart, loyal, fierce enough to ward off animal and human predators, and have the stamina to be ready for any of those activities in an instant.

Now if you put this noble creature in the hands of someone who’s aggressive himself, the dog may become male aggressive due to the established history with men during the dog’s lifetime. Same of female abusers, btw. Just using men as the example here because it’s easily provable that this is more commonly a male pattern of behavior.

Again, this may sound ridiculous to some readers now, rather than “it’s just data”.

For example, if the original woman surrendered Jake after years of having him as a pet, but then the boyfriend said get it out of here, there’s a high likelihood that the boyfriend was also “male aggressive“ and may have abused Jake.

Additionally, many dogs will become aggressive if there’s no clearly competent alpha, because there’s no foundation of trust and comfort. The dog cannot trust that a human has his back, so to speak, and has to remain hyper-vigilant to protect themselves. Which humans often misinterpret as aggression instead of a survival mechanism. And quite frankly, so do most people. Men interpret a woman doing that as being a feminazi. Whereas when other men show this behavior, these “leaders” are seen as someone to fear, admire, or conquer.

Same behavior, different socially acceptable outcomes based on external factors, and therefore different rewards and punishments.

Which is a good working definition of racism, btw.

Once again, it all sounds far-fetched when the paw’s on the other critter, doesn’t it?

4 Quick & Easy Ways Our New Combo Washer/Dryer Saves Time, Money, and Clutter

How the Haier Washer-Dryer Combo Saves Our Sanity

Haier Power

The all-in-one Haier Washer/Dryer is awesome! Life-changing, actually. Now it’s easy to do laundry as needed instead of losing a whole day to do all of it every week. In essence, we now have convenient access to just-in-time cleaning!

Here are the four ways this awesome unit saves us time and money, which helps us decrease household clutter.

First, it saves time because no one has to dedicate several hours to get to the laundromat or spend a day sorting and doing laundry.

Second, it saves money because we can more quickly reuse washable items, meaning we don’t have to have as many spares on hand, so we buy less.

Third, being able to quickly clean and reuse linens means we don’t have buy as many disposable items, such as paper towels.

And fourth, a direct outcome of two and three above means less space needed to store spare linens and clothes, as well as disposable items. And having way too much stuff is pretty much the definition of clutter.

Yes, the sections below are in a different order. The title phrasing flows better, and this post presents things by importance to our household.

Clutter Redux

Being able to efficiently do these micro-loads means we only need three full-size sheet sets for two full-size beds, because the spare set is ready to use a few hours after stripping a bed. Same with blankets.

It might not sound like a big difference until you do the math. Two beds, each with one backup set of linens and blankets means four total sets. Now we have three sets in total. That’s an instant 25% reduction of bed linens!

Now let’s think about towels. No need to collect a week’s worth in a smelly hamper. Everyone has their own set of towels (one each of a bath sheet, bath towel, hand towel, and wash cloth). When the set is dirty, it’s one load that’s clean and ready to use again by their next shower or bath.

Saving Money

Or how about re-using kitchen towels instead of tossing paper towels after a single use? Suddenly we’re not wasting money on disposables, to boot! In fact, we’re able to repurpose the excess hand towels for kitchen use.

Same for clothes! Did someone have an oopsy? Maybe someone spilled some gravy on their shirt, or the personal plumbing isn’t working well this week (hello, flu season).

Or maybe you’re a five-pieces-equals-fifteen-outfits kinda person. Or you want to be, but doing such small loads seems wasteful.

But this combo unit is super-efficient when it comes to water use. One could easily use more water hand-washing a couple plates than this combo unit uses to wash a a set of sheets.

Back to Clutter Redux

Put all this together, and it means we’ve been able to donate and recycle a lot of clothes and linens in the few months we’ve had this. As in about one bag a week, on average. And a roll of paper towel lasts weeks instead of days now. At this rate, we probably won’t have to buy more paper towels for six months!

Wowza! I am totally ok with this change.

Time for Saving Time

We also use the Bulky Item setting to wash small area or runner rugs, and floor towels. Keep in mind the rugs don’t dry well in the combo unit, and need a place to hang for a bit.

This means cleaner rugs because each can be done as needed. It means fewer spare rugs because we don’t have to have extras on-hand while waiting for someone to go to the laundromat.

And it saves time because, well, no one has to spend a few hours at the laundromat every few weeks.

It also means we can repurpose or re-home older rugs because we can clean one at a time as needed, meaning one spare for three entrance rugs.

That’s a quick 67% reduction in storage space usage!

It’s All Intertwingled, Actually

As you can see, these four ways to save feed each other, and it’s wonderful!

One thing that’s not even covered yet is that it fits neatly in the family room closet. Super easy access for everyone!

Plop some laundry in, spend some quality tv or family game time, and remove your clean items. Next!

Still Using the Large Set, too

But sometimes we still use the full-size washer and dryer set. Like anything needing bleach. Or is too big, such as a comforter. Or the combo unit gets a queue because everyone wants to use it at the same time. Thankfully this is happening less frequently as we all get into the rhythm.

Much of the following is going to move to a separate post to make information easier to find and use.

So for those times when we still need the full-size washer & dryer set or a laundromat run, here’s the routine. We use Shout Color Catchers when mixing colors, or the homemade variety.

  • Sorting – bleachable whites and everything else, further divided into similarly wet-weight items, such as cotton/cotton blends and bamboo ot microfiber, poly/nylon/spandex, and lingerie/infused fabrics to help the load stay balanced
  • Clothes – some folks don’t like sharing loads, such “euw, you are not mixing my tighty whities in with her perfumed white clothes!”, so each person gets their own set of sorted piles. Which they can do themselves so I’m not stuck doing it all anymore.

Drying Hints

The combo unit uses a ventless drying method that doesn’t bake things to a crisp, which practically eliminates stiff fabrics and static, and thus the need for fabric softener! Which saves money.

It also means the unmentionables are perfectly safe. Which saves clutter, I mean drying space, in bathrooms and closets.

When using the full-size washer and dryer, we still use softener rinse to eliminate the cardboard and sandpaper feel of baked towels, and/or foil sheets in the dryer to decrease static.

On a personal soapbox note we stopped using dryer sheets decades ago when a neighbor showed me how she used them to kickstart her fireplace, fire pit, and charcoal grill. The foil sheets can be used several times, and are only a fire hazard when washing things you’re not supposed to such as items with solvents or gasoline on them. But that’s because the items themselves are flammable, not the foil. Plus the foil can be recycled.

Saving Time and Money, and Removing Clutter Can Be Simple

Yes, being able to do laundry as-needed in a convenient location saves my sanity. So much less time spent planning to get things done or making sure we have the right things on hand, and in places where people can find them.

First, we save time by doing less errands such as trips to the laundromat or store. Second, we save money because we can more quickly reuse washable items, Third, being able to quickly clean and reuse linens means we don’t have buy as many disposable items, such as paper towels. And fourth, needing to have less on hand means less space needed for storage.

Works for me!

Laundry and Allergies

Before going much further, let’s clear up a quick misconception. Unscented can be a verb or an adjective. As in, “no, we did not add any smells”, or “no, this doesn’t smell.” This means that some unscented products (without smell) are scented (adding a smell to counteract how it originally smelled).

Here’s the list of products I use:

  • Ammonia – sanitizes without fading colors
  • Bleach – sanitizes, and brightens whites, and fades colors
  • All Free & Clear detergent – cleaning without adding a scent; also mostly clear
  • Shout! color-absorbing sheets, aka Color Catchers – can mix colors, including whites, with little or no color transfer
  • Downey Free – softens fabrics in the rinse cycle without adding a scent; it’s milky white and has never imparted color or smell to my items
  • All Free dryer sheets – still have a light scent even though the company says they don’t; softens fabrics in the dryer without adding a lot of fake scent, although these still add a lot of chemicals because, well, almost all dryer sheets do
  • Aluminum foil sheets – removes most of the static buildup of drying multiple fabric types together
  • Control Freak dryer sheets – softens fabrics in the dryer without adding fake scents; in fact, these neutralize scents; like most dryer sheets, these add chemicals to the clothes
  • Vinegar – sanitizes and softens without fading colors or damaging fabrics such bamboo, microfibers, or infused nylons or polyesters
  • Dawn original dish soap – removes grease and food stains, such as the infamous trail of food down the front of shirts; note this is the original Original, not the 2x “Original”!
  • Lysol spray – sanitizes the laundry baskets so the clean laundry stays clean when transporting
  • Lint sock – keeps the lint from getting into the home’s main drain
  • Drain catcher – keeps the lint from getting into the home’s main drain
  • Lingerie bags – keeps items safe from snagging on other clothes, or from getting stretched out
  • Citrus powder – sanitizes without damaging fabrics such bamboo, microfibers, or infused nylons or polyesters, and brightens whites; may bleach items that get exposed to sunlight
  • Baking soda – removes odors and softens fabrics in the washer
  • Rubbing alcohol – remove pen and marker stains
  • Hydrogen peroxide – remove blood stains
  • OxyClean – improves stain removal; can add vinegar and baking soda or hydrogen peroxide to the wash cycle instead of the name brand
  • Washing Soda – improves stain removal, or use to make your own detergent
  • Borax – improves stain removal, or use to make your own detergent
  • Plain Dove bar – spot treat, or use to make your own detergent; I am allergic to Fels Naphtha, which was a bit of a surprise after using it to make a huge batch of homemade laundry detergent

This all started out as one post. Then I saw how long it was getting, and I’m like, ain’t nobody readin’ all that at once. Not even me!

So here’s the 1st of 5 parts.

It’s amazing how much effort goes into doing the laundry. Then again, according to my bestie Ren, that’s probably because I put the hyphen in anal-retentive. Just like it should be.

Anywayz. Laundry. Part 1.

Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before Getting Solar Installed in My Home

Decades ago, we had solar thermal on the south side of the Michigan house.

This did two things for us. First and foremost, it protectected the south wall. This added layer of insulation kept both floors cooler in the summer, and warmer in the winter. Given that my bedroom is on the south side of the house, I kinda miss it. Second, just having the panels on the house kept the heating bill down in the winter, even if they didn’t create any heat themselves.

But this sytem was installed in the 70s, and a nasty storm ripped those panels right off the house in the 00s. Except nobody made anything like those anymore, so we lost the “free heat” because they had to be replaced with plain old siding.

Which brings us to this year.

Now about half the roof is covered with sleek and shiny solar panels that create enough electricity to power the whole house, except for things like the gas furnace, stove, water heater, and fireplace.

It took a month or so to get the initial quote, then a few months to prep the property (fix the roof, remove the trees), and over a month to install because equipment needed to be ordered, permits needed to be pulled, and installation crews needed to be scheduled.

After all is said and done, a huge surprise was how noisy the power grid’s electricity was. Suddenly my shoulders, neck, and head aren’t tense all the time. The house is super-quiet because the solar power is pretty close to a perfect sine wave. Mom used to complain about the 60-cycle hum all the time. I finally know what she meant. She would’ve liked this, I think.

We sized the system slightly above our needs for three reasons. First, the system is never going to be 100% efficient. Second, we have backup batteries to store excess power so we can run on solar power at night, cloudy days, and when the grid goes down. And third, to sell back any excess power to the electric company for credits that can be used to lower electric bills in the winter months when the sun is lower or snow might cover some of the panels.

Yes, this was expensive. We’re looking at about a 15 year return on investment (ROI). But we also get a 30% tax rebate, meaning Dad can cash in some of his long-term investments without the tax hit. That’s a pretty big deal to a retiree.

These panels shade the roof, too,  keeping the heat down in the summer, and protecting the upstairs from winter winds. Which is great because the dying trees that used to do this have been removed from the backyard. The eldest was getting scary, dropping ginormous limbs every storm, sometimes on the house.

Funny thing is that the homeowner’s insurance will keep repairing the house, but not spend a couple grand to remove what causes the damage. Seriously, penny-wise and pound-foolish logic.

The good news is that the cost of felling the trees is included in the total solar installation cost to calculate the tax rebate because these needed to be removed to increase solar panel efficiency. Et voila!

The ground-up stumps of very large 40 year old trees also give our gardens tons of mulch, saving hundreds on packaged or bulk options while providing a uniform appearance. Major added bonus!

Yes, we covered quite a few intertwingled things today. Things that don’t normally seem related:

  • Old people need money, and they need to get to their savings without losing it to a greedy government (taxes).
  • Harnessing the sun’s energy should be easy, but it’s expensive and time-consuming (took months to plan, purchase, and install solar, and the ROI will take over a decade).
  • New systems often need to be over-sized to be correctly sized (roof solar panels and batteries).
  • Sometimes having trees is a bad thing (shade + oxygen = damage + repeated repairs).
  • Efforts to save money today may backfire and cost more in the long-run (paying for repairs but not to remove the cause).
  • And sometimes repairing things is a step backward because the step forward we took before is no longer available (loss of prior solar system).
  • Gardens need mulch to keep the ground temperature more even and hold in the moisture, making for healthier plants. This means even more healthy edibles that didn’t require dangerous pesticides or have to travel the globe to get on the dinner table.