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Friday, May 29, 2015

Instead of shredding...

I'm sure most people are more organized than I am. It would be hard not to be. It is the bane of my life.

Common wisdom says one should put statements through the shredder. Our shredder went kaput a while ago, PLUS I never could keep up with the shredding. Then I read an organizing book by Susan Pinsky. She has a whole page on why one doesn't need to shred. She says that almost no identity theft is perpetrated through garbage. It is the work of cyber thieves. She does say that--for things with really private information like social security numbers--one can use a thick black marker to obliterate the info, kind of like those redacted documents one sees in the news and on movies.

I just threw out a bunch of stuff, including old retirement account statements. It does make me a bit nervous. And I forgot about the marker trick.

Mr FS to the rescue! He just threw all the papers into an empty garbage can and poured water on them. He's going to stir them into oblivion. This really takes very little time. Much less than shredding.

Just a tip for any messy, overwhelmed, and disorganized types that might be out there. And we don't need to buy another shredder.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

We Heart McDonalds (France only!)

While in France, we don't scoff at McDonalds. In the US we enter a McDonalds perhaps once every three years or so. Make that five years. In Paris though....we are more frequent frequenters. 

In fact, another tip is that as you meander along the streets, keep an eye out for the nearest McDo. Pourquoi? Three reasons: 
1. One euro coffee. Sometimes you don't WANT to sit in a cafe for an hour. The coffee is surprisingly acceptable.
2. Bathrooms with toilet paper. 
3. Free wi-fi (pronounced wee-fee). This is not as critical an issue as it was a few years ago, when our rentals were sometimes without wi-fi. Now many parks have free wi-fi also. 

And guess what? Most of the customers are "real" French people (mostly teenagers) and not tourists. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Caffeine, Chocolate Cookies, and Toilet Paper: Tips for Travelers

More of my humble--very humble--tips. I am a caffeine addict. In Nantes five years ago I had a wee meltdown. We stopped for some mediocre espresso to revive me (Mr FS has a lot of stamina so I drank most of his).

Next time I was on the verge, Mr FS whipped out a surprise: a small baggie of instant coffee. He mixed some in an empty water bottle with the water we always carry and, you know, it was pretty good. It averted the meltdown. He is a genius.

We refined the lifesaver by adding some of the schoolboy (petit ecolier)  cookies you find all over France.* These are a chocolate topped square cookie embossed  with a schoolboy. Caffeine plus a hit of that dark chocolate. Instant revival. 

We sometimes eat them in a quiet corner of the Louvre, breaking the rules. SHHHHH.

Speaking of the Louvre, we always carry some toilet paper. Even in that august institution, one often finds empty toilet paper rolls. Last year, an American woman peered in the stall and lamented the fact that there was NO TOILET PAPER. I gave her some of my stash. She was very admiring of my savvy. 

The gray bathrooms in the streets are often similarly paper-less. Miss Em and I once improved international relations by handing some tp to a Russian woman who spoke no English or French. We also prevented her from entering as we exited, thereby saving her the shock of being sprayed with water by the automatic cleaning. Her rather scary looking male companion got kind of angry at us, but we managed to explain with gestures why she needed to let the door close. 

So my lifesavers are instant coffee, schoolboy cookies, and toilet paper. 

And a question: why is it that in the US the default color for toilet paper is white while in France it is pink? 

*Newsflash! You can get the cookies at Walmart and on Amazon! I don't think I want to eat them outside of France. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Dribs and Drabs: Packing for a Trip to Paris and Beyond

I have many big things to think about, the main one being whether I want a now-valuable vacation house when my mother is no more.  My brother does not want it. This simple little house is now worth a good bit--more than a good bit for someone like me--and I am unsure if I can handle the expenses.

Then, like many in my age group, I have to think about retirement: how, what, when, where.

I am one of those little things people. All my savings come not from making super choices in my investments or earning a lot of money but from saving a dollar here, a dollar there on the (too) many consumer goods that come into my life.

To take my mind off the big questions, which are filling me with anxiety, I am thinking about little tiny things that will make my trip to Europe (soon!) a little easier and a little more frugal.

1. One of those under-clothing pouches. We have been using these for years. They cost around $10 at LL Bean. We have been approached by scammers (fake deaf people, the fake gold ring trick) and fondled by people in crowded metros. No worries! We have our pouches! And yes, your tummy pooches out a little, but--guess what?--no one is looking at you.

2. Pantiliners. Aside from their regular uses, I just learned that you can put these in your shoes to absorb sweat! What a great idea.

3. Stick deodorant. I also learned that you can rub cheapo stick deodorant on your feet to prevent rubbing. That way you don't have to buy blister sticks (which are 99% vegetable shortening).

4. Make-Up. I am very low maintenance (i.e. lazy) in the grand scheme of womanhood. Nevertheless, I have amassed many lipsticks and foundations that are 80% used up. All the declutter experts say: throw 'em out. Frugal Me is reluctant to let even some wax and coloring die in vain, so I am putting them in my travel luggage. I will use 'em up in Europe. And, hey, if they have to die in vain, at least they will be in the Eurozone.

5. Books. Mr FS has solved his reading problem. He brings Walden every year and never reads it. I read it last time. I have amassed--thanks to the 25 cent books at the library--a bunch of classics (Austen, Graham Greene, Dickens)  in tiny formats and very bedraggled condition. These are due for re-reading. i will pass them on by stacking them on TOP of the garbage cans so others can take them--this is the Parisian way.

Do you have any tips for dribs and drabs?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Good Deal on Paula's Choice: Sunday Only

Miss Em and I have a subject line that we sometimes use: Shallow. That tells Mr FS not to bother opening the email. This subject line alerts the reader that the topic will be various shallow bargains: sales on stuff I think Miss Em might want, stuff I might want, things like that.

This post is semi-shallow. As everyone knows, I love Paula's Choice--both her products and her recommendations. She always has something on sale. I only post when there's a convergence of stuff on sale. That was true this weekend, but I was too lazy to post till now.

Here's the convergence:
2. If you spend $50, you get a free sample of Vitamin C something that promises to fade dark spots.

The above should be good all month.

3. THIS WEEKEND ONLY (and it's now Sunday), she has 20% off all her products good for rosacea. Neither Miss Em nor I suffers from this condition, but the products include ones we use anyway: serum, toner, BHA. The code for that is  EDDROSACEA15 .

Additionally, if you haven't bought from her and use MY code, you will get a $10 credit and so will I!


Saturday, April 11, 2015

I Fail at the Kondo Method. Everything Sparks Joy.

The title says it all. While the internet is filled with tales (and videos) recounting everyone's success with the Marie Kondo method of decluttering, I have been a failure. You are supposed to discard anything that doesn't spark joy.

While going through my tiny closets and pulling things out, I find that almost everything is sparking joy. Some things would spark joy in a lot of people. My weak spots involve fabric--pretty fabrics (no matter how small a piece--and no, I do not sew), cashmere sweaters, Italian sheets, linen dish towels.

I am also made joyful by bedraggled versions of the above. I LOVE the Eileen Fisher long alpaca vest that I rescued from an ignominious end at Goodwill. I wear it all the time at home. Ditto for the linen comforter cover with holes. Ditto for the frayed linen dish towels. I could go on.

If I donate these things back to the thrift shops, they will be tossed in the garbage can. Really. They get too much immaculate stuff. They have no room for the shabby. It gets put out by accident and if a worker or customer  spots a hole, into the garbage the item will go.

As I declutter at a snail's pace, I am filling a bag with things in good shape. My holey alpaca vest is safe with me. (And think of all the time and labor involved in producing that vest!)

Maybe I need to read that Kondo book again. I'm #12 on the list at the library.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

How I Ended Up with the Notorious Eileen Fisher Harem Pants: Selling on Twice Clothing

A few days ago, I recounted my (over)buying from some of the new resale sites. I swear I've put the brakes on.

Here's how I ended up with the EF harem pants that everyone was writing about a few years ago when they were first introduced.

I was going to write reviews of the various resale sites. For the "full picture," I decided to try the selling angle--at Twice Clothing. This is my story.

Selling at Twice: I sent in 7 things, including two pairs of shoes because they offered an extra $5 credit for shoes. These were unworn havaianas, so I knew they would be taken. If you send stuff in, you risk having items rejected. You can get items back, but it is a use it or lose it proposition. Either you take the offer (including having rejects sent to charity, which is a good thing) or have everything sent back for a $4.95 fee.

If I were sending in anything of high value (which I myself would not do, not that I have anything of high value), I would send it alone for the above reason.

 I only sent in items that had already been rejected by the Buffalo Exchange, so I was willing to lose everything in the experiment. You must check your items to see if they are on the accepted brands list. They took 5 items of mid-value and I got $21 in cash or $23 in credit. Plus $10 in credit  on the shoes. The amounts were in-line with their calculator. The things they rejected were nice, but there is no arguing with their evaluation.

I decided that for ease, I would take the credit. That decision was a mistake for me. I kept checking the site to try to use the credit. Of course, I didn't see anything I liked. Turns out having credit makes me rather agitated. 

Finally, I saw a pair of THE Eileen Fisher harem pants. They were 28 plus 5 in shipping--that would use up my entire credit. I've always wanted to try these on, so I figured it would be worth it for that alone. I also rationalized that I could sell them on Ebay (which I absolutely hate doing, so this was probably wishful thinking on my part.)

Much to my surprise, I love the harem pants! I will take them to Europe this summer. I only hope that Miss Em doesn't mock me too much when she sees them. She is prone to devastating critiques of my choices. She's always--or usually--correct in her assessments. 

As you can see, you get a ridiculously low price for your items. This is also the case on Thredup, a competing site. It seems that you get between 10 and 15% of the eventual selling price for things they take. The spread is much better at the Buffalo Exchange, where you get 50% of the selling price in credit or 30% in cash.  

The plus side is that i tried something I never would have tried "at regular prices." 

Will I buy again? Probably not, I'm afraid.  While engaged in my obsessive effort to use up my credit,  I noticed that the prices on items for sale are not consistent, but go up and down--and sometimes up again. I find this annoying. One Eileen Fisher jacket was $59, then $42, then $46, and is back up to $59 again. They probably have a complex formula. Still, prices going up and down and up--well, that's enough to take the site off my list (thank heavens!)

Will I sell again? If I have enough piled up that i don't care about, I might send in a bunch to get Miss Em some credit. I like to take things to the Buffalo Exchange for the social interaction. And I always like to donate. Sending to Twice would be a low priority.

Anyway, I am now the proud owner of EF harem pants. No way will I wear them to work. They will attract too much commentary (much derisive, I am sure). In Paris, I will just blend in. They are very comfy and I can cross my legs in them--unlike the experience of some reviewers.

No, I will not post pictures.