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New Uses for Old Clutter

February 3rd, 2007 at 01:16 pm

Clutter, junk, "stuff"- it happens. It accumulates almost on its own and takes over a closet or bookshelf as quickly as ants swarm upon a dropped piece of candy. Usually, you realize you're running out of space when you go searching for someplace to put more clutter. What to do? You can always toss it. Or donate it. Or you can find a way to reuse it. Here, I list some uncommon ways to deal with clutter:

Old "reuse" Donate or consign.
New "reuse" Cut up into cleaning rags. Sure, if you don't hem them, then those rags are going to fall apart very quickly, but that's why they're called "rags" in the first place. And there's nothing more convenient to have some lying around in the garage while changing the motor oil, or to have in the playroom when kids are painting.

Old "reuse" Write/scribble on the backs.
New "reuse" Fold your own envelopes. Even better, learn origami or the art of paper folding. Amaze kids (the ones I babysit for are endlessly amused by me making paper boxes) and family, and maybe even make some pretty, original art pieces to display proudly in your house. No one has to know it was made from an ad you got in the mail.

Old "reuse" Stick them anywhere you can think of- in the car, in your purse, in the office- for those unexpected "let me jot that down" moments.
New "reuse" Not for the faint of heart (and not exactly for everyday usage) but you could learn how to perform a tracheotomy.

For the rest of us, ladies, you can use a pen as hair accessory: Gather hair into a low ponytail. Hold a pen at the part where the elastic would go and begin twisting hair around the pen, like you're starting a bun. Make the bun tighter by turning the pen clockwise/counterclockwise (hair gets automatically twisted in the process). Weave the pen in and out of the forming bun to set it.

You can also learn how to spin a pen around your fingers. Just don't do it during meetings because your clients will pay more attention to the circus act rather than your contract negotiations.

Old "reuse" Ahh, books. You've already donated boxloads to the library, attempted to resell them at garage sales for 25 cents a pop, or traded them with friends like Pokeman cards.
New "reuse" There are lots of book-trading websites to be found, including bookcrossing where you "release" a book into the wild, leave a message of where you left it, and wait for someone to go pick it up. There's even a neat hunting/tracking feature so you can see oh where oh where has your little book been.
Paperbackswap is another book exchange site. For just the price of mailing, you can swap books; mailing books earns you good karma, or points, which allows you to request books from other members. From my experience, this site works quite well for best-sellers and what I would call "beach reads," or the popular books that you read when you (or your mind) are on vacation.

Happy decluttering!

Weekly Roundup of Savings (and Mishaps)

October 15th, 2006 at 03:30 pm

Yeah yeah yeah, the week isn't exactly over (if you're weird like me and consider Monday as the "start" day) but it's been a milestone week. It was my first week at the new job as a medical writer! Lots of science/brainwork (data analysis, science talk with clients) and also lots of time where I just....sat around and "read." First weeks are never truly exciting, it's more like, "Oh yippee! You want me to help you edit this table of contents? Awesome!" But compared to my last job (marketing consultant) this job is better pace, less stressful, and much much more secure. (and it's funny how it just sort of fell into my lap. Yay, networking really works!)

Anyway, what does this have to do with savings? Well one humongous benefit to the new job is my commute is approximately 10 minutes. That's right, total mileage is only 5 miles one-way. If I take small roads, it is actually 4.6 miles according to Mapquest. This had made me seriously consider attempting to run to work. Have not ironed out the's not so much the thought I can't shower at work as it is the condition of the roads. There are very clear paths and sidewalks for about half the distance, but the remainder is horribly narrow roads with no shoulders. No lawns, either, just rock or gutters/long weedy (and most likely tick infested) grass. One potential shortcut is marked "Private" so I don't want someone shooting me for trespassing. Grr...must be some way to work things out.

Many people celebrate their first week (and first paycheck) in some way. I am only human, I met with friends for drinks. What I did NOT do was go on a shopping spree, though I was this close to buying more clothes online. What stopped me was the shipping fee; I had narrowed my choices down to about $25 for two sweaters, but the shipping was $5.95. That's 25% of the total price. Insane. If I was really desperate, I could run to that store in the mall and buy things, for ZERO sales tax (thanks, NJ). To avoid further temptation, I deleted the tempting email containing the sale and coupon. Unseen and out of mind. Besides, the money was put towards my little night out celebration =)

Lastly, my poor electric thermos/hot water dispenser died. I feel it was due to the fact I unplugged it everytime I left the house, and shoud've just left it plugged in. So, no more instant hot water, and what horrible timing with the cold weather approaching. I can't get it fixed since my parents brought it for me from Taiwan. So it's either $100 for a so-so one from the local Asian market, or $20-30 for a thermos (the kind coffee shops use) from Bed Bath and Beyond. Probably will go with the thermos since I still wonder how much electricity those dispensers use up to maintain the temperature of the water inside....

Happy New Week to All!

Talking with Strangers with Scissors

September 18th, 2006 at 11:52 pm

Do ALL Asian people necessarily know how to cut Asian hair? Hell, no. About the only advantages I've found were they are generally cheaper, and you aren't as embarassed to go in with a picture of some Hong Kong popstar and demand they make you look like him/her. If you're lucky, they might be playing KTV, Korean soap operas or wacky Japanese gameshows on the television, so at least you'll be amused instead of bored or forced to talk to your hairdresser.

I think a salon is a salon. You have to search for that one awesome hairdresser, and the only way to find him/her is through trial and error.

So in conclusion- home vs. salon?
Pros- CHEAPPPPP, 24/7, don't have to chitchat with strangers, no weird chemical salon smell
Cons- Um, you can't see the back of your own head? Hard to cut "style" unless you are well-practiced in haircutting

Pros- Name brand stuff that smells good that you probably wouldn't ordinarily buy, it is sooooo nice to have someone else wash and massage your head/scalp
Cons- It's a gamble- kaching- you don't know if you're paying for a good or bad haircut; you are at the mercy of someone else; you have to make appointments

DIY haircuts- Bring out your bowls!

September 16th, 2006 at 09:21 pm

Mention "home haircut" to a group of people and someone is bound to make some crack about getting a Bowl Cut. The Bowl Cut is ubiquitous; my Chinese friends and I figured some witty fool added "rice" in front of the phrase and suddenly it took on the Asian meaning- but, seriously, Bowl Haircuts can cross all cultural and ethnic boundaries. The Beatles had something akin to it. That creepy kid in The Shining (redrum....) looked like he had a bowl cut. Some of my coworkers call it the Peter Pan haircut. It's even on friggin

The simple theory is that you slap a bowl onto some poor victim's head, then use the edges as guide for your scissors/trimmers. This is assuming you have blurry vision, have really trembling hands, or are perpetually drunk and/or otherwise incapable of judging whether you took off one inch of hair from one side of the head vs three from the other.

My sister and I thankfully never had to wear bowls on our head. Our mom did cut our hair for us, shaped it into the standard "bob" style. Sometimes it looked fine; other times, one portion of our hair ended up curling in, another curled out. My sister and I have discussed this thoroughly and concluded that the inconsistent results were not due to the fact our mom was a horrible hairstylist, but that a) she cut our hair when it was DRY, not even slightly wet, and b) she used the same shears, it turns out, as those she used to cut fabric, yarn, paper bags (the utility scissors).

The bottom line is, home hair cuts are not "bad." I started cutting my own hair back during my starving student period when I was pursuing my graduate degree and world domination and all those idealistic dreams (heh). I haven't stepped into a salon in four years and thank you, my hair looks fine, nobody has laughed at me-yet- and my coworkers say my hair looks healthy and ask where I get it done (surprise!).

Here's my advice. If all you need is a maintenance trim, then there's no reason why you can't do the 1/4-1/2 inch trim yourself. DO buy haircutting scissors and use them ONLY for haircuts. DO wash your hair first, squeeze out the excess, then cut the damp hair. DO work in front of a mirror (duh). DO frequently comb hair out straight to catch any hair you may have missed. Also in the case of DIY haircuts, less is more. You can always decide to cut off more, but you can't repaste hair back onto your head.

If, however, you have short hair, I'd advise you go to a salon, as mistakes are MUCH more noticeable in short hair. In my words, you don't have much "starting material" to work with, so why risk any messups? If you want professional work done- highlights, coloring, perms, or a fresh, new style- then a visit to the salon is in order. In a future episode, I'll write about ethnic salons: yay or nay?