April’s Resolution – Getting to Know the Sun

I’m out of town right now, so this will be a quick update… It’s April 1st so it’s resolution time. No pranks, although those who know me may not believe that considering the subject of this month’s resolution.

Simply put, I need to get outside more. When I do get out, I enjoy it. I just always seem to be too busy to spend time in nature. I’m still too busy, but hey… resolutions aren’t supposed to be easy.

So this month will be spent trying to get outside more. Really outside. Not walking to the car outside. The resolution will be one time per week spent out in a new place. I don’t want this to just be me going to the same park or something. I want to enjoy the diversity that’s available in my area, of which there is much.

That being said, the activities involved outside are open. Hiking, canoeing, just plain old sight-seeing… We’ll just have to wait and see what happens. I’ll try to give you each experience in fair detail, so you’re getting at least four updates this month. If I run into inclement weather, I’ll try to make it up during the next week.

As alluded to earlier, this will be tougher than it sounds because I effectively have one, maybe two, days available each week that I can do anything at all. Even though I’m hoping this leads to spending more time outside in general, it’s probably not going to be very conceivable due to this.

Now it’s time to socialize.

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March 29, 2011

This will be a pretty quickly written post as I’ve only had about 10 hours of sleep in the past 3 days, so the risk of rambling nonsense is high. You’ve been warned.

Rambling Nonsense

As promised, Sunday Night I put (most of) my CDs back in their jewel cases. This is when I realized I haven’t ripped a good third or so of my CDs, so there’s another task in my immediate future. I gathered what CDs I have ripped and set them in a box to sell.

I stopped by The Record & Tape Exchange on my way to class Monday afternoon and discovered I have incredibly bad timing. For some odd reason that day was an unusually busy day and he had several large CD collections to go through. I figured it wasn’t a big deal since I’d be in class for the next few hours anyway.

The process unfortunately took a little longer than I had expected. Pricing CDs at the Record Exchange I worked at was pretty easy since it consisted of just scanning the barcode. The price came right up and you printed out the list for the customer. This place has no such technology and it appears the guy has to price everything by hand, looking online for anything he doesn’t recognize. No big deal, but I ended up browsing their records twice while I waited after class.

He ended up taking a little less than half of what I brought. Some of what they didn’t take was a little surprising, so I talked to him a little bit about how he decides what to take. This is a guy who’s acutely aware of what business he’s in, which became apparent as he spoke about not taking stuff that’s common because people can get it so much more cheaply online than what he could sell it for (regardless of how popular the album may be or how quickly it sells).

He was also really picky about scratches. I checked a few of the CDs he turned down for scratches and there’s not many that we’d blink at in the old days. Very light surface scratches on some of them, but it’s his prerogative.

As an interesting aside, thanks to AutoCorrect I’ve just discovered that I’ve been saying “prerogative” incorrectly my entire life.

Anyway, in the end he took 69 CDs and gave me $68 for them. He of course offered more in trade, but again that’s not really the point of this endeavor. It’s about what I expected so I’m fine with the results. I’m going to take the remainders to McKay’s and see what (if anything) they’ll give me for them. The CDs I didn’t take will get ripped as soon as possible and the cycle will begin again.

I still have to go through the process with DVDs, but that will most likely wait until next month as my workweek is starting back up again tomorrow. However, it’s been a productive month overall with this resolution and I think we can mark it down as a success.

Stay tuned for Friday when I’ll post my next resolution!

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March 27, 2011

This month has really flown by, but I still feel pretty good about my progress. Still, it hasn’t been quite where I wanted so there’s still some work to be done before Friday.

First up, dealing with more books. I stopped by our local library a couple days ago to ask them what their policy is on taking books. They told me whenever and whatever is good, but it’s best to bring them in the week of a book sale. Luckily, there’s one coming up this weekend!

I took a batch of hardcovers over this afternoon to donate, and I feel pretty good about it. This wasn’t a particularly difficult parting as I stopped caring about most of these books long since. I hadn’t been able to come to terms donating them since they did cost about $20 a pop, but this really is for the greater good. As a bonus, they seemed pretty pleased with the selection and felt they’d be taken pretty quickly (Robert Jordan and Terry Goodkind, anyone?).

A man this pompous must be talented.

The number of books sold and donated this month now totals fifty-five. What’s shocking is that while there has been a sense of relief from purging these, it doesn’t really look like that many are gone. We have one of those Expedit IKEA book shelves with tons of space, so we’ve been storing books behind books. As a result it doesn’t appear that I’ve gained much room.

Also I still have some decisions to make of the remainders. I discussed this a bit in my last post so I won’t go into detail here. However, not much ground has been made on the tough choices so more on that later.

Moving on to music, last Monday I stopped by The Record & Tape Exchange to ask about their policies for buying vinyl and CDs. It’s pretty much what I expected, so I’m planning on heading back before my class starts tomorrow afternoon. Only thing to do is check out my old albums and see what I’ve got.

This is where it’s starts to get really rough.

Man, I totally forgot how many cool records I own. I don’t have the biggest collection by any means, but what I do have I really like. I whittled out the records I feel completely comfortable with purging, but there wasn’t much. Nothing is so rare that I can’t easily replace them digitally, but there’s just something about looking at an album that’s making this difficult (I guess I can relate to you “there’s nothing like the sensation of a physical book” crowd after all).

Add to this that a friend of mine expressed interest in my albums and I’m a little torn. I’ll give first dibs to the ones I’m purging to my friends, of course, but I’m feeling a pretty strong urge to keep many of them. I may not be ready at this point to part with the bulk of these, regardless of whether or not I actually have a record player (the answer is “not”).

So that takes me to CDs. This will be much, much easier. I’ve already ripped the bulk of these to my computer, so I won’t be losing anything in terms of the music. CDs also don’t have quite the emotional impact either. I’m not sure exactly why that is, but I don’t feel as attached to them.

Of course, I haven’t started going through them yet (that’s tonight’s job) so time will tell. As stated previously, I’ve had my CDs in a rather large folder for some time. The jewel cases are in a box in storage, so my task tonight is putting the CDs back into their cases.

After writing this post, I’ve come to realize that I actually have made a lot of progress on this front. Even if it doesn’t seem like a lot and there’s so much more to do, all of these things have been whirling around in my mind for some time. One of those “always plan, but never do” kinds of things. So I’m happy that it’s finally getting done and I can start focusing on a more minimalist lifestyle.

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March 15, 2011

As promised, I’m writing an update on my book purge regardless of my success. Luckily there’s good news (because otherwise would have just been embarrassing).

Last night I went through my book shelf and pulled out a bunch of paperbacks that I felt I didn’t need any longer. Some choices were pretty rough because some of them I thoroughly enjoyed. But I had to weigh the likelihood of re-reading them and the necessity of having it in my home. Into the pile they went.

I pulled a total of 37 books to sell. There’s still a few left that I need to make decisions about (such as my Murakami collection), but I’ll probably give these away eventually rather than sell them since they’re some of my favorites and I’d like to share them rather than sell them.

Anyway, I went out to McKay’s and gave them the books to check out. They said it wouldn’t take very long so I browsed the store while I waited. I kept to the non-fiction because I’ve already figured that any fiction I care to read I can just get for the Kindle. I’d rather own books that would, for lack of better words, look good on a bookshelf. Older books, interesting books, things that people would like to read or just check out for a few minutes. I don’t think anyone is going to visit my home and open American Psycho for a quick read is what I’m saying.

Not exactly the easiest read, is what I'm saying...

What I discovered while browsing is the exact reason I don’t shop at places like this too often. They have a ton of books, but the prices on much of their stock aren’t much better than new. For example, The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins (let’s just pretend I named a fictitious book and save the judgments) was priced at $11.00. The price listed on the book itself is $15.95 and a quick look on Amazon can get you a copy for under $10. New.

Aside from that, I can just get it for the Kindle for $6.29. This is another benefit of going digital – the sheer amount of money to save. I understand the appeal of brick-and-mortar stores and the mom-and-pop operations. I understand the enjoyment of going to a little independent used book shop where the clerks are friendly, knowledgeable and helpful. Discovering the treasures hidden amongst the shelves or stacks can be incredibly appealing, not to mention exciting. But it all boils down to just more stuff and I can get the same enjoyment from a story regardless of the medium in which it’s presented.

I also chose to check around the CDs and DVDs to get an idea of what they like to take and for how much they sell it. It looks like they take just about anything, but right here is a dilemma. They had multiple copies of many titles. Not necessarily things I have and want to sell, but it doesn’t look like they sell much movies and music. I may need to go elsewhere to shed my CD and DVD collection. On the bright side if anyone needs a copy of R.E.M.’s “Monster”, I know a place.

The price is $.99 and the frequency is 38 per store, Kenneth.

After about 40 minutes I went back to the counter and picked up my store credit. They didn’t take all my books (I was left with seven of the thirty-seven) and I got $41.68 in trade. I don’t know what I’ll use it for, but I might find a few things. Alternatively, just now I had the idea to use it for gifts. That would make more sense out of this resolution as using the credit to get more books defeats the purpose of purging the dead weight.

As a last note, I got a comment from a friend on my previous post to check out BookMooch.com as another avenue for purging my books. This looks like a great site and I think I would have loved the idea several years ago. However for my current goal of creating more space and room in my apartment and rejection of physical attachments, I don’t think it’s the site for me. Check it out though if you’re interested in trading books at all, it really does seem like a cool idea.

All in all, it felt good to take care of this and I’m looking forward to further expulsion of my crap. Next week I’m going to check out a little record store I noticed on my way to class last night. I think I’d rather support them with more stock than McKay’s, if for no other reason than nostalgia for the days I managed a little record store myself.

Those were the days…

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March 14, 2011

I’ve spent the past 5 days attempting to write this post. I didn’t do it on the first day I had planned because I wanted to have more to report. I should’ve known better because that’s when my workweek started. So much for that organization resolution, eh?

Really though, I need to resolve myself to write updates regardless of progress. In that spirit, here it goes…

The beginning of the month started with a bang. I received a fortuitous email from GameStop that they were offering an additional $25 on used PlayStation 2s. This equals out to be 125% of their normal $20 offer. I’ve had my old one sitting around for years because I couldn’t bring myself to trade it in for so cheap.

I had always known that I probably wouldn’t use it again, but there’s always that sense of what I paid for it all hanging around and keeping me from taking the plunge. Not that I haven’t been realistic about the system’s worth, I just felt that $20 was particularly low. From watching Pawn Stars I understand the necessity of marking prices up, especially on older systems that probably sit around for a long time without selling. But, come on. This is GameStop. They were already marking the PS2 up 250%, so I knew I’d be getting a raw deal at $20.

I took the system and the remaining four PS2 games I had left to the store and traded it all in. Unfortunately (or fortunately in regards to this specific resolution), they had nothing there that I wanted so I left with only store credit in hand. I ended up getting around $70 worth of credit because they took all my wires and memory cards separately. It ended up being a pretty good deal and I was satisfied.

So that felt pretty good. A couple days into March and I had already gotten rid of some dead weight that was just sitting around. Getting a little more out of it than normal helped ease the pain a bit. But that’s where the progress stopped. Purging the PS2 was a good step, but that’s nowhere near the bulk of my stuff. I still have a bunch of books, DVDs, and CDs sitting around.

Again, the limiting factor on this resolution is time. That’s where the organization resolution is supposed to come into play, right? To a degree, yes. However I’m still operating within a limited window of time and no amount of organization is going to increase that.

Since I’m about halfway through the month, it’s time to buckle down and get some results. Between today and tomorrow I plan on pulling out books to sell at McKay’s, a local used book retailer. They accept some movies and music too, but I want to start with the books since they take up the most space. Unfortunately, McKay’s only really takes paperbacks, so I’m limited on what I can sell there. This will still slim my collection down a good bit, so it’s certainly worth it.

For the hardcovers, that will have to wait until next week. I need to spend a little time researching my options here. Some time ago I tried checking out where to donate books, but there doesn’t seem to be many places that will take them. Libraries will take some, but they’ll usually just sell them on the cheap to raise money. And I mean on the cheap. On the last day of a book sale at our local library we walked out with a plastic shopping bag full of books for two dollars.

Libraries get pretty desperate to clear out space too.

Anyway, in order to push myself a little harder to get this done, I pledge to write a blog update tomorrow night to give you a status update. Whether success or failure, you’ll find out about it.

One last note, I’ve been invited to start writing posts for a good friend of mine’s blog. You can read my first entry here.  Judging by my performance on this here blog, I wouldn’t hope for much. I’m going to try writing at least 2 posts per month for it, so we’ll see how it goes.

Check out the rest of his blog too, he’s got some good stuff going. One particular project I love (which is the one I participated in) is his Old Haunts project. It’s such a cool idea and I’m proud to have been a part of it.

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March’s Resolution – Purging the Dead Weight

So organization isn’t my strong suit, but keeping track of my spending habits is doable.

Now you’re up to speed.

It’s freaking March already, so that means a new resolution. This one I think I’ll be particularly successful with, considering it’s been in the works for some time. First, a little background…

For years my life has turned more and more digital. All my music is on my computer and iPod, I watch all my movies and shows through Netflix, and I now own a Kindle so all my reading takes place on that. As a result, I’ve become rather cluttered with the remnants of my old analog life. A DVD rack full of movies I never watch, a giant CD folder (remember those? 500+? How did we manage to lug all that crap around?) that I never open along with a box full of jewel cases in storage, and a bookshelf full of books that are just taking up space (not to mention being a bitch to move).

I went into my feelings on material possessions a little bit in my “On Spending Money” post, so I won’t relate the story again here. But the Kindle was the straw that broke this camel’s back. I finally realized there is absolutely no point in keeping this stuff around anymore. Sure it’s nice to have a “backup” in case something happened to my digital copies. But really, it’s not like these are collector’s editions or rare or highly sought after for some other random reason.

It’s possible that growing up during the Wild West of Home Computing numbed me to the possibilities of losing data. It doesn’t happen to me much anymore, but when it does I simply find myself caring less and less. Because, with the distinct exception of photos and writings, absolutely none of this stuff is anything I can’t get back.

So for this month, I’m purging the dead weight. There’s a used bookstore near me that will at least take my paperbacks, and the hard covers will most likely be donated somewhere. Actually, this bookstore also sells movies and music, so I might be able to get rid of some of that stuff there as well. The aim is not necessarily to sell everything (although it would be nice to get something back on all this), but the overall goal is to get rid of it.

Also, I’m not getting rid of everything. I do have a couple old or particularly interesting books I’d like to keep. It’s mainly the fiction that I probably won’t read again, or if I do will probably just pick up a digital copy of it on the cheap. Same thing music and movie wise. However, I’m approaching this with a cleansing frame of mind. It’s almost Buddhist… a very “letting go of physical attachments” sort of thing. Except I’m still going to have a bunch of stuff, just not necessarily physical stuff.

With all hope, this month will come with more frequent updates. I’m also hoping to help write for a friend of mine’s blog, but things are still considerably busy and time is fleeting. Wish me luck, because I’ll need it.

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February 22, 2011

February is almost over and it’s been a busy month. I still haven’t found a fantastic balance between working on these resolutions and work/school/home life, but there are some signs of success out there.

First, although I haven’t really been able to get a scheduled plan put together (daily, weekly, or otherwise), I have seen some results from simply writing out a “things to do” type list. Just by having this list to reference I’ve been able to get more accomplished than previously.

I think it’s the grounding that helps here. Pausing during my day to reassess what I’m doing and what I need to do (or can do). It’s a perspective I didn’t really have when just speeding through my days. I still need to work hard at developing this, but I believe that this is where I’m going to have the most impact with this resolution.

Second, the act of writing lists has already assisted with January’s resolution. I started to keep a word doc listing different foods or meals that are easy to make. I compiled it out of a few things I already had in mind and other things found on the Internet. It’s given me several ideas I had never had before, and buying groceries to make these meals will have a definite impact on my budget (taking the place of eating out).

Baby steps? Yes.

Again, my free time is rapidly filling up… Yesterday afternoon I had all of 2 hours free before I had to go to another class. Add going to the gym after that class, and I was getting home around 9:00. This isn’t leaving me much time for reflection or planning, but it does give me more of a sense of accomplishment, which may be all I need to kick-start even more action.

Biggest failure of the month… I still haven’t sketched out more ideas for coming Resolutions. This is getting more critical as March is fast approaching. I’ve got a couple warm-weather resolutions in mind for the spring/summer, but that won’t help me at the end of winter.

The good news is that I still feel pressure to get this done. Most of my initiatives burn out before this stage, so even if I don’t have much to report here I still feel good that I’m even thinking about it. That’s a crucial part of this experiment that I wasn’t sure would pan out. I’m hoping that sustaining that pressure will have a bit of a snowball effect on my actions. Sure, January and February were a little slow in the resolution-success department, but it all builds on itself.

Time to take another step…

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