Too Thrifty Chicks

Think.Thrift.Create


2 Comments

When Less Is More: Thoughts on a Minimalist Life Pt. 2

I wrote a post almost a year ago about minimalism and promised y’all a part 2.  And here it is three months after I wrote it in June. (My bad y’all ’cause…life.)

My first post, which you should read here, was all about the genesis of how I came to live with less stuff in my life.

In brief, my journey to minimalism was about equal parts tragedy (dealing with my mom’s Alzheimer’s); necessity (the vicious cycle of living with debt and fluctuating finances) and desire (my quest for peace, presence and being awake to my life).

I have been going through this awakening process since Reese and I started this blog. Though we started Too Thrifty Chicks to curate a space where two quirky black girls could dream, and create our own virtual reality of funky style and sustainability, it has become soo much more.

As we’ve gone through the process of fixing our finances through Operation Do Better we’ve expanded what it meant to us to be Too Thrifty Chicks.

Spending less money necessitated shifting our focus on spending — even thrifty spending — to creating. We stopped poppin’ tags at our favorite thrift stores and started creating meals at home that we looked forward to eating together.

We created experiences with friends that costed very little. We even got to go on our dream trip to South Africa for which we paid cash.

This process of awakening also helped me think about my emotional attachment to stuff, and what it looks like to be focused on experience.

I love to travel, and I have either been to, or lived in more than half of these United States. I’ve visited our continental neighbors to the the north and the south. I’ve been to Africa, Europe and Asia and to three islands in the Caribbean. And I still desire to see more.

But I’ll be honest.

A lot of my pleasure travel was about escape. Being a journalist is as fun and exciting as it is emotionally and mentally draining. It can be particularly so when you love your job, and when you hate it, or when you live in a place that you’ve never embraced.

I confess that I was addicted to travel because I just didn’t want to be wherever I was, and I was always trying to get some place bigger and better than “here”. I also had this fantasy in my head of being a nomad who lived in exotic places abroad, and spending so much time living in southern states was cramping my style.

So I went on many a broke trip to escape my ho-hum life, and came back with the requisite knick knacks that proved I’d been somewhere. Some things I’d give away. Other stuff I simply held on to, feeding the fantasy of one day having a really nice house where I could display all my world treasures, and racking up a shit ton of debt along the way.

Movin’ On Up

When I had the opportunity to move to the DMV, I intentionally set out to do things differently. Living in Montgomery taught me that I could enjoy my life and where I lived even if it wasn’t the place I most wanted to live. I could make the best of it.

But now I was truly moving within spitting distance of a place I’d always wanted to live, Washington, D.C. I was going to be making more money than I’d ever made in my career. This was going to be great.

And in many ways it was. But just not in the ways I thought it would be. My job included travel, which was cool but exhausting, and made me think about whether I truly liked traveling and living out of a suitcase. My determination? I liked travel for pleasure, not for work.

Also, the realities of the cost of living and commuting in the DMV were staggering and I had to make some real grown up choices. I could have lived in the city, or lived in one of the ‘burbs for slightly (and I do mean slightly) less money. I chose the ‘burbs.

When I realized my mother needed more direct care, she moved in with me, and we moved into a townhouse. When I determined that that was not going to work, she went to live with my aunt; Reese became my roommate. When my old car died, instead of buying another one, I chose to give it up and use public transportation.

Little-by-little these things were preparing me for the life that I live now. When I left my job to work for myself, Reese and I changed our lifestyles drastically. We pinched all the pennies. I worked a temp position on the side while freelancing. She was babysitting and working a part-time position as a researcher in Baltimore County. We were miserable.

By the time that Reese knew she was heading to Memphis, I knew that I didn’t have the kind of financial cushion necessary to work for myself, and decided to get a job. But all that I experienced let me know I wasn’t going to go work somewhere that I didn’t love again. I wanted to a) live in a city that I could love, and b) live in a city that I could afford.

Traveling Light

I knew if I moved back to the South, I would need a car. Living in the North would mean public transit but higher rent. In the end it came down to two positions, one in Savannah, Ga., a place I knew very well, and a position in New Haven, Conn., a place I knew nothing about. Both offered an identical salary. If you’ve been reading me for a while, you know I chose New Haven.

Here’s why.

1) Roommates are temporary. Car notes are forever. I would have struggled to pay rent and a car note, and I had/have financial goals to accomplish. Unlike most journalism jobs, this one doesn’t require me to have a car. I walk, bike and bus to most places. It’s not perfect. And you can read a piece I wrote about how imperfect it is here, but it beats having to purchase and maintain a car that would spend most days parked.

2) Experience. I spent my first two years as an adult in Savannah, and while going back to a familiar place was attractive, living somewhere I hadn’t lived before was more attractive. Plus, it was closer to Philly where my mom is.

3) Community. I had initially hoped to live alone again, but then I remembered that there is community in sharing space with someone. As a single person one of my biggest fears is dying alone. And while I might technically die alone in the house that I now live in, my roommate and/or our landlords will certainly find my body if I were to meet an untimely demise. I find a strange comfort in that. Plus, I save money, and that leaves me room to pay off some bills.

4) The greater good. By not having a car, I am one less car on the road. One less person damaging the air. One less person contributing to the need for parking lots. Living with others also means I’m one less person consuming things to furnish an entire apartment or creating waste. That’s important to me.

5) Less really was more to me. Not living with more — whether it was more car, more apartment or more stuff — also had become important to me. Yes, I was probably influenced by the growing backlash against consumerism. But I also am influenced by my own personal experience being awake to my life and the reality of my situation.

Operation Do Better taught me that I could be a better steward of my finances, and overcome reckless spending. Dealing with my mom’s stuff made me realize that having an overabundance of material things is its own burden.

So today, I live in a city that I really enjoy, and I’m working in a job that is more fun than not. And while I have high hopes of being here for a little while, if for some reason I choose to move on, there is no “thing” holding me back. And that feels right.

– Ricks


3 Comments

When Less is More: Thoughts on a Minimalist Life Pt. 1

I must admit I came to minimalism through tragedy.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, my mother was diagnosed with early onset dementia of the Alzheimer’s type. Part of dealing with her diagnosis has been dealing with her stuff: her house, her physical personal belongings, her finances.

I discovered that my mom, retired Army veteran, lover of all media, homeowner and divorcee had an overwhelming amount of stuff! Honestly, if she wasn’t so neat and tidy, I would call her a borderline hoarder.

And I, her only child, had to dive in, when she couldn’t.

The experience of going through her house — our house — and trying to decide what to do with it all broke me down. I cried. Sobbed in fact. I was overwhelmed with the amount of stuff, but also by the memories.

At some point in the process I realized my mama wasn’t ever going to live in her house again. She had no need of all of the things she had accumulated over her now 58 years of life. Me, her only daughter? I haven’t lived in the same city longer than four years. Ever. I’m a nomad, at home every where and no where. Where would I put all this stuff if I kept if for nostalgia’s sake? I don’t have a house and the way this journalism thing is set up, I might never have one.

I’m still dealing with what to do with my mama’s stuff. It’s come a long way since that very first time I went through it, but the process continues. Dealing with her stuff forced me to have a come to Jesus meeting with myself about my own stuff. I had questions.

  • Why did I continue to drag things from my imagined life of living in a permanent space into my actual life of living in temporary spaces?
  • Did I place more value on “owning” a thing, rather than on its function in my life?
  • What would happen to my self-worth, self-esteem if I gave a lot of it away?

These are questions that I am still trying to answer.

In the beginning

When I got my first full-time gig at The Tuscaloosa News, I was stoked. And I wanted a grown up apartment to go with my new job. I did no math. Rent in Tuscaloosa and Alabama can be cheap. I would not discover until two years later how cheap it could be. All I knew was that I could get a whole townhouse for less than $500 a month. But a whole house needs furniture, right? And decorations, and, and, and…..

Yeah. That was a thing. Until I realized how much money I did — or rather, didn’t — make. I had to move to a less expensive apartment across town and try to get my mid-20 something head around the dismal state of my finances. I moved from Tuscaloosa, Ala. to Sarasota, Fla. in 2005, for a job that paid more, but I couldn’t afford to take my stuff, which I’ moved to Georgia. The re-location money wouldn’t cover getting all that stuff to Florida and I was broke. I also didn’t have a place to put it. This was Florida, pre-housing bubble bursting. Apartments were being converted to condos and rents were outrageous compared to Tuscaloosa.

Instead, I shared space with great roommates until I moved to Anniston, Ala. for graduate school a year later. I was moving toward minimalism mostly by circumstance, and a little by choice. I lived for three years without most of my stuff. I told my mama to keep what she wanted for her daycare and sell/giveaway the rest. I was on the road to Montgomery, Ala. vowing to never, ever accumulate that much stuff again.

A broken vow

While I never accumulated a house full of furniture again — Reese can attest to this — I still managed to amass a closet full of clothes, kitchen supplies and books. Oh, and there were the huge pieces of art that I had been dragging around since my summer internship in Zambia, circa 2001! And did I mention the heavy, vintage typewriter? Yeah. That was a thing. My house was mostly a statement in minimalism, but it also didn’t feel like home. It felt empty. Disconnected. I knew I wanted less stuff, but I didn’t have the language to talk about it when everything about growing up seemed to be about getting more stuff.

Two steps forward, two steps back

I got to test these questions again when I moved to the DMV. I left Montgomery, Ala. with only what I could fit into a two-door, 1997 Saturn SC2. Clothes, kitchen supplies, books. I was jammed in that car like toes in too small shoes. And still I ended up leaving a lot of things behind at a good friend’s house.

Though I had successfully managed to give away a ton of stuff, I still couldn’t bear to part with anything more. I mean, for goodness sake, I got my book collection down to four small banker’s boxes. Who does that? I vowed to purchase a Kindle and to never physically turn a page again.

And then I met Reese. This girl loves books. When she became my roommate, she came with books. Her books reminded me how much I enjoyed reading. How much I enjoyed turning a physical page and devouring a book in a 24-hour period. Her books reminded me how good it feels to walk into a book store, especially in Washington, D.C.

Our nation’s capital is home to Sankofa Video, Books and Cafe, The Children of the Sun, Busboys and Poets and Kramerbooks & Afterword Cafe. Not to mention thrift stores where you can find out of print books dirt cheap. (True story: I purged my suitcase while in Memphis because I bought books at a thrift store. Reese still had to bring some of them when she last came to visit.)

Ahh, glorious books. Truth be told, if it wasn’t for Operation Do Better, we would have spent every dime we made on books. The public library near our house, saved our pocket books to be sure.

But then it was time to move. And we both realized that in creating a home together, we had managed to amass a lot of stuff. That troubled the minimalist spirit that had developed in my heart from all my previous moves. Orchestrating a move is not my most favorite thing in the world, even though I have moved a lot in my 35 years. (Hello, Army brat.). I felt it whenever we visited friends, who had these spry, carefully edited apartments. Nothing more, nothing less. We had created an amazing space, but it was starting to feel like too much. Moving helped us both realize just how much it was.

Throw it out

When a friend posted a great article that encouraged us to throw everything away, ish got real. We jumped on a challenge to intentionally get rid of three or four things every day for 30 days. Because I was in transition, I had to modify the challenge. But I’m happy to say that by the time I unpacked my last box at my new space in New Haven, I managed to purge about 200 items over the last month.

While my stuff is still a little bit more than is necessary, it’s not much more, and that feels right. I learned while living with Reese what it means to create a space with intention, and I believe I have achieved minimalism without sacrificing comfort in my new place. I have some thoughts about how to ensure that I continue to travel light and ready for new adventure that I will share in another post.

So, I’ll leave you with these additional question to ponder: If you had an opportunity to pick up your life and move it to another country, state, city would your stuff hold you back? Would you chuck it all for the experience of a lifetime?

My courageous line sister recently did it. Check out her story and blog chronicling her adventures teaching abroad.

Do you consume, therefore you are? Share your thoughts on minimalism in the comments below.

-Ricks


2 Comments

Around Town: 1st Annual FABULOUS Second-Hand/Vintage Clothing Pop Up Shop

IMG_5499

The Too Thrifty Chicks spent a beautiful Saturday at the 1st Annual FABULOUS Second-Hand/Vintage Clothing Pop-Up Shop put on by Fia’s Fabulous Finds.

Fia’s offers upscale, quality, brand name ladies’ clothing and accessories in new and nearly-new condition at prices significantly below department store levels.  The pop-up shop brought together more than 40 vintage and second-hand vendors and jewelers, including our friend Tasha at the Thrifted Closet, under one roof at The District Architecture Center.

IMG_5490

Tasha wedged into the crowded space, but ever cheerful.

We arrived about 15 minutes early and we’re pretty glad we did. The line to get in was quickly growing down the block. The first 50 people in the door also got a bag full of goodies that included special discounts. The District Architecture Center is a beautiful space, but by the time you add vendors, customers a DJ table and bartenders, it was more than a little crowded to say the least. No bueno for chicas like us who really aren’t good with crowds and tight spaces.

From what we could tell many of the vendors had a lovely selection of  clothes, shoes and accessories, but even if we’d been dressed appropriately to try things on, there really wasn’t any space to do that. At one point I was visiting a vendor near the DJ table and was really afraid that I was going to re-live that scene from House Party where Darryl “Chill” Williams keeps bumping the table and changing the song.

Reese refrained from buying anything, but I zeroed in on two vendors that gave me my entire life for the day. I was captivated by the coolest looking sunnies at the table of a vendor known as MissyKlectic, a dynamic duo of designers who support “brave fashion visionaries”. We dig that.

In addition to the cool shades, they had the cutest button earrings and bracelets. I ultimately opted for the sunglasses, which were $15 and  I LOVE them.

image

Me and the most fabulous sunnies EVER. I took off the shades I was wearing because I wanted to wear these immediately.

Now the word “vintage” has always been a red flag for the Thrifty Chicks that means “expensive”. In fact, when we see it, we usually head in the opposite direction. We’re not big into labels, so we don’t really care who made it. If you’re going to charge anywhere near $50 for it, we probably won’t buy it.  And we didn’t, which is cool because we’re sure someone out there did. Pricing is an art and a science. That’s all I’ll say about that.IMG_5495

The next vendor I hit up was Patrice “Patty B” Boone of  The Prissy Tomboy and BTwenty3. Not only did she have amazing clothes, but she’s also a pretty great graphic designer. When I saw an acid wash, denim vest, which I have been hunting for some time, and a really cool vintage  jumpsuit, I knew I had to have both if the price was right. The jumpsuit was $27 and the vest was $9. The price was so right. Yes, please. You all will have to wait to see the clothes in a fashion post that we’ll do in the coming weeks.

All and all, we had a great and exhausting time at the 1st Annual FABULOUS Second-Hand/Vintage Clothing Pop Up Shop. The District Architecture Center is a lovely space, but likely better suited for a more intimate event.  We hope next year’s event will be in a much larger space.

Until next time.

— R&R

 

The many faces of Reese, post Pop Up shop madness!

The many faces of Reese, post Pop Up shop madness!


7 Comments

R&R Around Town: Chicken Wings and Mumbo Sauce

A research participant once said to me:

“D.C. is east of the river. DC was Ben’s Chili Bowl [before it became popular]. D.C. is neighborhoods outside of the better known neighborhoods. D.C. is Mambo Sauce and Chicken Wings. D.C. is Go Go. DC is Carryouts. That’s D.C.”

The first time I heard about mumbo sauce was during an interview I was conducting for my dissertation. The interviewee asked, “Have you been put on to mumbo sauce yet?” I shook my head no, and he looked as if I had just cussed him out. “You need to try it.”

So Ricks and I did just that. A couple times in one weekend.

That weekend sparked our quest to discover “real D.C.” and to document it in this new series we’re calling “Around Town”. It will feature some of the fun, foolishness, and fashion we encounter as we explore.

Chicken Wings an Mumbo Sauce: A Taste of D.C. Culture

IMG_4061

Ricks and Reese stylin’ for Chicken Wings and Mumbo Sauce.

A friend turned us on to a free art exhibit that was happening last month called, “Chicken Wings and Mumbo Sauce.” The exhibit was developed in response to a widely publicized exhibit at the Corcoran called, “Pump Me Up: D.C. Subculture in the 1980s.” The first exhibit featured local artists and the event’s namesake: chicken wings and mumbo sauce. It also helped kickoff our desire to really discover D.C.

What is mumbo sauce you ask? The short answer: no one really knows.

OK, people kinda know. It’s a condiment that every carryout in D.C. makes and is usually served with fresh-out-the-grease chicken wings. It’s a little different every where you go.

Some places make it spicier. Others make it sweeter, but ketchup and/or hot sauce seem to be the base ingredients. We were on a quest to sample this magical sauce that appears to be a part of growing up in The District.

We tried the mumbo sauce at the Chicken Wings and Mumbo Sauce event and honestly weren’t impressed — maybe because the chicken was cold and the sauce couldn’t do much to remedy that. Despite the cold chicken, we enjoyed the art, free beer, and general feel of the space. A diverse crowd vibin’ off each other’s energy. We dig it.

Pump Me Up: We Love Disco Dan!

The next day, we met up at the Corcoran to see the Pump Me Up exhibit. We wanted to see how the two compared to each other, plus admission to the event was FREE on the day we went. The exhibit was cool: posters, videos about go-go music, and an awesome mini-bio of Cool “Disco” Dan, a famed graffiti artist around these parts (who happens to be one of our new favorite people now, BTW).

IMG_4097 IMG_4093 IMG_4088Afterwards, we supported a friend who was speaking at a local university about food deserts in D.C. He dropped some serious knowledge about getting involved in communities and not making assumptions about the people you’re trying to help.  Of course we worked up an appetite, so we hopped in the car and drove from upper Northwest/Northeast DC to a carryout called Yum’s for one more round of chicken wings and mumbo sauce.

The wings and mumbo sauce from Yum’s was a nice way to finish off an exciting weekend. I don’t know if we were just super hungry or if it was really that good, but either way, there was nothing but clean bones left in those Styrofoam containers when we were done. IMG_4110

This was our first dive into deep exploration of “The Real D.C.” Not the Hill. Not the White House. Everything beyond and in between. The artwork at both exhibits was really cool. We dig go-go music, so it was nice to learn more of the history of it and see some of the awesome posters. IMG_4116

Chicken wings & mumbo sauce? Check! Now we’re off to try another adventure. Check in with us weekly during the month of May to see where our feet (and public transportation) have taken us and feel free to recommend a “Real D.C.” spot we should explore.

— R&R