The Dumpster Fire

dumpster1This is a weird one to write. The Dumpster Fire has been a miserable experience but at the same time a positive experience. There are times when the experience felt like I was part of a bizarre psych experiment or starring in my own version of cheesy sitcom, possibly a comic opera, except there was no laugh track, a wacky sidekick, but on occasion, there was singing.

Us at Chipmunk are trapped in an impossible situation because our department is meant to fail so it can be shut down and moved to the Chipmunk Head Office In The Land of Cheap Acorns.

The strange part about this disappointing turn of events is that intellectual curiosity took me on a different path as I tried to understand the incompetence, secrecy and impulsive decision making that started the fire in the first place.

Because of the dumpster fire, I…

Picked up an accounting book at a thrift store for $ 2

I most likely will have to read it several times to get my head around all the concepts. Reading the accounting book was nowhere near as scary as I thought reading an accounting book would be. Like there would be monsters or snakes lurking among the pages, poised to attack me with a calculator and wonky Excel file? A little weird to be reading it for leisure, but you know, sorry not sorry. I wanted to understand if what I was experiencing was normal or abnormal. Spoiler: it’s abnormal.

Started learning more about finance

I don’t think I will finish this journey with a finance degree but I have learned a lot of about the business side of finance. I am pretty good with my money (I have to be, I work at Chipmunk) but now I understand how people shift money around in business. Some methods are ethical and some not so ethical. I also learned not to be afraid of credit. Credit can be a tool if you know what you are doing. I know what I am doing.

Spent more time with like minded people

I found myself in a community where I can learn new skills and leave the dumpster fire thinking behind me. It’s like I am having a shower and scrubbing the dysfunction away with a Loofah of New Ideas.

Conceded that people are out of touch

And sometimes it’s best not to explain why and how. I found myself over and over again explaining what I thought were simple concepts but grew more and more frustrated when people didn’t understand them. I thought I was failing because I could not articulate the ideas, but it was more a case of the people just not caring to understand. People are perfectly capable of understanding but choose not to because it’s easier. Speaking of easier…

courtAlways, as often as you can, put the ball in the other person’s court

Not always nice or moral but time and time again I have seen this tactic work. If you want something to go away, ignore it, and force the other person to react. Most of the time, the other person will not jump through hoops to get what they want.

 

It’s okay to feel pissed off

The positivity people always trying to force you to see everything as a learning experience and how to build skills and insights from the failure and get better and never have any emotions over the fact that Things Are On Fire! I concluded that I was pissed off at being in a situation where every single resource has been removed or downgraded and no sane person would not feel some sort of emotion. I often have to remind people that I am not a robot. 

Being wrong is not so terrible

I used to hate to be wrong so I would do all this research and planning and checking to make sure I wasn’t wrong. I always felt that I was wrong because I was not diligent in my research or wasn’t smart enough to figure out the problem or understand the situation. It felt like a moral failing to not understand. Now I know (slightly) better, no matter how hard you try, things don’t necessarily work out. The community of people I’ve joined are wrong all the time and they seem to function without scorn or shame.

Eventually the dumpster will burn down into a messy goo of metal and plastic and we will all move on but when that time comes, I will have a greater sense of what is and is not expected of me and what I expect of others. While being pissed off about a situation is okay, not having to experience it again, is better.

The story of a Couch (Part Deux)

 

new-new-couchSo I bought a couch online and it was delivered. Granted it was delivered to the wrong address despite confirming the address with the driver, and the big 52 labelled at the entrance should have tipped off the delivery driver that this was not 57.

But after a few phone calls/texts and some help from a couple of coworkers, I had a new couch.

It was an okay couch. It was shorter than I expected and perfectly solid, but it was not the sink in and melt couch comfort bliss. I wanted Couch Perfection! So I packed it up and returned it. It was sweaty work but fairly easy and I got this chore done in under 90 minutes. Please keep in mind that any errand I run (except to the bank and the library) is a 2-3 hours chore so 90 minutes was a huge win. Bonus! No cuts or bruises!

For Couch Part Deux, I went to the actual store, braving 40 Celsius weather, and measured and tested every single couch in my price range. Note: mid-century modern couches look cool but aren’t all that comfortable. Maybe that’s why Don Draper drank so much. Or least a reason why he drank so much.

I wandered the air conditioned bliss of the showroom while the sales staff ignored me and then I found a somewhat ugly but fluffy, soft, and OMG, a reclining love seat and I knew that this was the couch for me. I sat on it and read a book on my phone while the sales staff continued to ignore me until it was time to go home and order the couch online, which I did. A week later I was happily camped out on my couch in pure Couch Bliss Recline.

So What Dd I Learn?

The answer changes daily hourly.

There isn’t a lot of insight related to my couch buying folly. I still struggle with Big Purchases (anything over $50) even though I am getting better, and that’s okay. You will, however, never see me buy a gag gift or an object just to fill a space (I have no space). Everything must have a purpose!

Except for the occasional book, cable or bike item, I really really suck at buying stuff online.

It’s okay to change your mind and admit an error. If something isn’t working, you (by you, I mean me) shouldn’t get trapped in the mindset that I went to so much trouble to get this item I should keep it. It’s okay to go to a little more trouble and get what you want, otherwise you will just resent your purchase.

Perfection = bad.
Couch perfection = good.

Gadgets Make You Mean

Did you hear the one about the minimalist and the gadget company?

sad-robot2I’ve been a minimalist for a long time. The main reason is that I earn a low income and there is little room in my budget for wants. Everything I buy is a need. Silly things like rent, food and a bus pass pretty much eat up 68% of my income. I put 10-20% in the bank and live very simply. Since I can’t afford to buy anything extra, my living space is compact and super efficient. This really helps me keep my sanity. I don’t have to keep track of things or maintain things or worry about the things breaking. You do not have to worry about breaking/repairing/replacing something you do not own.

So why do you work at a gadget company? Jobs, even shitty ones, are hard to come by and I need a job. I also thought that the gadget company would possibly go public and my financial situation would improve enough that I could increase my savings. No crazy ideas of owning fast car (or just owning a car) or a fancy house but some money in a retirement fund. Now that I think about it, even my idea of a windfall is pretty minimalist.

Before I talk about what it’s like for a minimalist to work at a gadget company, I want to explain a few things about the Gadget. I don’t want to get fired/sued so I will be vague about the gadget. I’ll just call it Chipmunk.

In defense of Chipmunk, it’s a pretty handy gadget, that’s well made, and it helps people save time and be more organized. You can totally survive in our modern society without a Chipmunk.

In no way does the Chipmunk save a life. So, if your Chipmunk dies, you will not die. It’s not an insulin pump, or a pacemaker or a wildly expensive life saving cancer drug. It’s basically a useful toy.

I work in technical support at Chipmunk Inc and this is what I have discovered about gadgets. It’s not a pretty picture I paint, and I am sure many would disagree. But there is something about a dependence on a gadget that brings out the worst in people.

Gadgets Can Make You Stupid

At Chipmunk Inc, we try to work with you when you do stupid stuff. Minor stupid stuff like when you throw away the receipt for an item with a 1-year manufacturer’s warranty, or you call us on speaker phone (you sound like Donald Duck to us). You call us from your car without your Chipmunk and get mad when we tell you that you need to be in front of the Chipmunk to troubleshoot it.

If I have to tell you why it’s not a good idea to call tech support when driving, well you just proved that gadgets can make you stupid.

We try to be fair when you break, drop, dunk in water, run over with your car (the list of Chipmunk abuse is endless) to get you a new Chipmunk.

And then you lie about how your Chipmunk mysteriously broke.

We can see the tire treads. We can see that you left it on top of the radiator and melted it. We know it didn’t get wet in a light rain shower, but you dropped it in the toilet. We can tell when you are trying to submit doctored documents to get a free Chipmunk under warranty. You are not fooling anyone. Frankly it’s pretty dumb to spend hours and hours trying to stonewall us or manipulate us to get a free gadget that costs less than $200. C’mon, go big. If you are going to invest so much time and effort into deceit and fraud, go scam someone else for a couple of thousands of dollars. Aren’t you worth more than $5/hr with your scamming? Have some dignity.

Gadgets Can Make You Entitled

Sometimes the Chipmunk breaks. It’s made in China by people who just don’t give a poop. Frankly I’m surprised it doesn’t break more. That’s the world we live in. If you haven’t destroyed it by being stupid and lying about it, we will give you a free one if it falls under the warranty period.

The Chipmunk has three main parts, A, B and C. If part A breaks, we give you a new part A. It’s all modular so there is nothing to unscrew or install because frankly you are too stupid to not screw this up and then sue us for a billion dollars (tip – we don’t have a billion dollars). If we cannot get you to not use your Chipmunk as a door stop, then we aren’t going to ask you to do any soldering. That being said, if Part A breaks, and Parts B and C work fine, we are going to give you a new part A. Not a Part B and a Part C because you are angry or sad that part A broke. No. There is nothing wrong with parts B and C. Please go be entitled to some other company, I am busy.

Quite often people think that because they own the most expensive Chipmunk, they should get special treatment and get their gadget replaced first and screw the other people with their inferior Chipmunks. Don’t you know who I am? Nope. All Chipmunk customers are equal no matter their income.

If you Chipmunk does not fall under a warranty claim because you killed it, or it just wore out we will help you get a replacement, but you can’t expect us to give you a free one. The same way Toyota does not give people new tires for their cars if the tires wear out after ten years. We are a business not a charity.

Gadgets Make You Mean

This is an ugly truth.

I consider myself an expert because I’ve been screamed at and cursed out by tens of thousands of people when their gadget breaks. I’m told I should expect this in my job, but in all honesty, it’s disgraceful when an adult has a complete and utter temper tantrum because their toy broke. This is the mark that the gadget has made you lose sight of not just decency and but reality.

When you call someone incompetent or a loser or threatens to have them fired or burn down their office, you have crossed the line from upset to down right mean, possibly unstable. And yes, this happens a lot.

I get it, you love your Chipmunk and you worked hard for your Chipmunk. It comes down to the idea that if you can no longer function as a rational person and are so stressed and anxious because you are constantly worried about your Chipmunk breaking or being stolen or losing it, then that’s a sign that an item in your life is no longer bringing value or joy but worry and stress.

It’s time to set the Chipmunk free.

The Story of a Couch

buying-a-housej2This is the story about the minimalist (that’s me) who needed wanted a couch.

I suck at shopping. Really, really, really suck at shopping. Most of the time the decision is made for me when it comes to rampant consumerism. I just don’t have room for anything. With only about 200 square feet of living space, one must conserve. No, the answer is not more living space. The answer is to live comfortably, but efficiently. A tricky balance for sure!

Buying stuff is remarkably easy now thanks to the inter-web but also incredibly difficult if you are prone to decision paralysis which I am a fully fledged sufferer.

Pretty much any item over $50 sends me into a panic. It’s not an affordability thing as I recently calculated all the credit I have; a ridiculous amount of over $80,000 Canadian dollars. Even if I bought the need/want couch with my line of credit, the cost would be like $3 a month in interest charges until I paid it off.

It’s an over thinking thing. This is how the overthinking part comes into play. While researching, I check out the reviews in an attempt to be a thoughtful consumer which you would think would help but this makes things worse! Six reviews for the same item naturally will have three reviews saying this is the greatest product ever invented and you are a fool for not buying a hundred of them!

Yet the other three reviews proclaim that this item is the most ill thought, poorly manufactured, over priced piece of merde since that episode of The Simpsons when homer3Homer was given carte blanche to design a car.

So this brings me to the couch. I had an old couch, but it was old and the city is no place for a couch, so it went to a special farm in the country to run and play with other couches and the occasional ottoman.

In theory I don’t need a couch, I have a bed and pillows so that should suffice but deep down my the many levels of craziness, I want a couch. Couches, primarily new couches, are a true sign of adultness. Not investments, not a home, a car, a spouse/children, but a couch.

So this really isn’t about minimalism or couches or even Homer Simpson, but our own lunacy about our lives. When it comes to stuff we are all a little nuts. It’s not the decision paralysis that is making me crazy, it’s the worry about making the wrong decisions that is making me crazy. It’s perfectly normal, some might say sane, to be concerned about making the correct decision when it comes to a big purchase, but we can’t always get it right. We just have to be mindful. So my absolute lunacy about buying a couch is not actually insanity, but me being mindful of what I want to add to my life.

Oh boy, I just realized, I Am An Adult!

So I Gave Up Meat Two Years Ago

happy-vegsIn 2017, I decided to cut meat out of my diet strictly as a cost-cutting measure because I have a very strict budget and since everything, except my pay, was going up,  I had to make some cuts.

I already ate a lot of vegetables because veggies are cheap and filling and help you poop (more about poop later) and unless you dunk your vegetables in maple syrup or fry them in a vat of oil, vegetables are good for you.

So What is the Verdict?  

Animals, you are safe.  Cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, spinach, not so much.

I have no desire to go back to eating meat. I don’t miss it at all. That was pretty surprising. Switching to a plant-based diet was effortless. Nobody was more surprised than me!  Now I am not going to preach to you like the newly converted, it’s up to you if you want to change your diet, but what I will say is that this was a very easy transition.

I wish I’d done this 30 years ago.

The first thing that happened was that after about four days, all my aches and pains disappeared. You know the inflammation you get just by aging. I still have the occasional pain, mostly from overdoing it in the pool or on the bike, but I no longer groan when I bend over to pick something off the floor. I don’t know if I lost any weight, cause I don’t weight myself (see this post for the reason why) but as I run out of estrogen,  I am keeping the menopausal weight gain battle in check. My weight battle is a truce between North and South Korea instead of all out nuclear war. So, by my very flawed logic, vegetarianism prevents nuclear war!

What I like about this lifestyle is that it’s really hard to exceed your daily caloric intake for the day when you are eating a lot of vegetables. There are no calories or fat and not too much carb counting to keep track of because frankly, nobody should have to do complex math to figure out what to eat. Vegetables make you full, and you stay full for a very long time. Unless you are using very sweet sauces, eating veggies controls your blood sugar and keeps hunger in check. I used to be a chronic snacker, but no more. Another surprise.

I have always cooked from scratch because it’s cheaper and healthier so switching to this diet has been an easy transition for me.  If you are considering eliminating meat or reducing the amount of meat in your diet, it might be a bit tough at the beginning but cooking from scratch is a skill and like anything new, it’s going to take some time, effort and planning to get good at it. My best advice is to spend a few hours of your weekend batch cooking and freezing individual meals.

I was genuinely surprised by how my body did not freak out when I gave up meat. I thought there would be some sort of detox like with sugar, but nope.  It was like my brain rewired itself to actually crave vegetables.   I get excited when I think of ways to cook and season broccoli. No, I am not drunk.

And Now the Part About Poop!

poop1Naturally, there are all kinds of health benefits from eating vegetables. Lots of fibre and fibre means pooping. Apparently, as you age, doctors become very interested in your poop. Like weirdly interested in your poop. The whole not pooping thing is bad or having un fibrery poop can means bad things like colon cancer which kills a shit ton of people (oh come on, everyone likes a poop pun!). And of course the eating a lot of meat thing has been proven over and over and over again that too much meat can lead to cancer and cardiovascular disease, so even cutting back a little is a good thing.

So Let’s Summarize

  • Less inflammation
  • Stable blood sugar
  • Less hunger
  • Good poop
  • Not dying young

 

It’s up to you to decide if you want to change your diet and all I can say is that I have nothing negative to report about my switch to a plant-based diet. As I see my own generation (Gen X) start to fall apart and sadly, die, I know this is the right choice for me.  Perhaps it is the right choice for you.

 

My Minimalism Flubs

flameI originally called this post My Minimalism Fails but after I finished writing it I decided my fails were more flubs than fails. Either way, none of my minimalism faux pas (I really have no idea what to call them, fails, flubs, faux pas) were harmful but mostly just stupid. And with that, stupid leads to learnin‘.

I still think I have too much stuff but compared to other Gen Xers, I have nothing so I need to stop beating myself up over it. It’s not a friggin’ contest. I think when a lot of people try any lifestyle change, they think/focus too much on perfection rather than the end result of the enviable bumpy road of the project.

These flubs are in no particular order, each flub pretty much have an equal level of not thinking this through.

Okay, if you are keeping track of the wording:

fails
flubs
faux pas
bumpy road
not thinking this through

I had a bike trailer to haul groceries and at my old apartment it worked. I had a bigger, more accessible balcony and lived much closer to multiple grocery stores. At my new place, it was not working. My balcony was the only place to put the trailer and the balcony is long and narrow and has a narrow doorway and an 18 inch metal lip (for the sliding patio door) and lifting the trailer on and off the balcony was hard. I mashed fingers, bashed elbows and bruised and cut my shins so many times.  It was just too fucking hard to get it in and out of the building without drawing blood so I began to dread using it. It was also starting to wear out (I bought it used) so I donated it back to the bicycle charity I bought it at and let them deal with the repairs. I think I got my money’s worth out of it and someone else will appreciate it. I decided to use the car share more often because the extra cost is worth the lack of bleeding.
Lesson Learned: Sometimes you have to spend to be simple.

Why the hell did I wait almost two years to buy a damn hammer drill? The walls in my apartment are concrete and getting anything into them is Very Difficult. I did research how to affix stuff to the walls and I got a lot of conflicting advice from The Google Machine and I thought the drill would be super expensive and might not work and I fell into a giant vat of indecision and sort of hacked getting shit to stay on the walls. Finally I drill bit the bullet and bought an inexpensive hammer drill and now everything is properly secured.
Lesson learned: In hindsight, I would have saved so much time and aggravation if I’d just gone to the damn hardware store and talked to an expert.

I fell into the trap of keeping furniture that didn’t quite fit in my microscopic apartment. I kept it for sentimental reasons and finally after more bashed shins, I had to admit defeat. I found a free stuff page on Facebook specifically for my neighbourhood and gave it away. I met some cool neighbours and was able to give stuff to people who would really appreciate the items. I am not really set up for selling stuff online. I don’t have data or text plan and cell reception at work is sketchy at best so the back and forth communications of online selling is Way Too Complicated. Especially for something that might net $20.

I had a bookcase that was falling apart but was made of really nice hardwood so I salvaged the wood that was not damaged and chopped it up and turned it into, of course, shelves which I attached to the wall with relative ease with my hammer drill.
Lesson learned: Don’t fixate on the financial mistake of doing something or not doing something. In the course of one’s life you are gonna pay the stupid tax no matter how hard you try. The best you can do is to try limit the number of times you pay the stupid tax. I sort of equate the stupid tax with eating bugs. Sometimes you accidentally eat a bug and it sucks, but it’s gonna happen unless you never go outside and it’s kind of gross and annoying but a week later you won’t be dead from stupid tax/bug eating and probably will forget all about it.

The thing I take away from my fail/flub/faux pas/bumpy road/not thinking this through is that it’s no big deal because nobody really notices. The world is a busy place, full of distractions and people are just trying to do their own thing and not lose their minds and eat bugs and they probably won’t notice that you aren’t a master at something you enjoy doing.

The thing that made all the shin banging worthwhile is the calm that I feel when I get home and I am not swallowed by stuff and the energy sucking force that a cluttered and disorganized space does to your soul. That’s why minimalism is so important to me.

This Week on Downton Portage

poodle-jumpingThe last few weeks have made me start to think about stuff. Some stuff in my life is working and some stuff in my life is definitely not working.

So maybe it’s time for a change.

I’ll try not to sound ranty but alas, the way things have gone in the last few weeks, I will most likely fail.

If you think I am going to get into trouble for some of my thoughts, you are so wrong. This being a blog and not, say, a deposition under oath, I can pretty much say what I want because creative writing often is embellished.

This post may just be a jumbled mess of rambling but the big scary truth is that most people don’t read this blog or much of anything I write. I know I should not equate lack of interest with you have no talent but it’s really really hard. It’s really really hard when people go out of their way to change the subject when I talk about my books or out and out lie about reading something they clearly did not read.

I know, I should write for me, not others but being a human being and not a robot, I am sometimes infected with feelings. Sometimes my feelings are hurt.

I haven’t been writing as much as I like because I have fallen into the malaise of why bother. This is just some of the stuff in my life I have to figure out. It’s going to painful and confusing but maybe it will get me writing again because I still think I have something to say even if it includes the occasional fart and poop joke.

I have a job that I used to like but now I don’t like it so much. I realized a few weeks ago I am going through my day with my fists clenched. No I’m not going to punch anyone, the fist clenching is mostly a metaphor. I spend the bulk of my day at work trying to anticipate the unreasonable scrutiny rather than just doing my work.

Work is pretty miserable because I have no control over my success or failure. I can do a great job but I am at the mercy of someone else’s standards or whims. I’ll give you a wildly exaggerated example of how this flawed system works.

Imagine you sit in the cubicle next to Dave. Dave is unreliable and a drunk. Boss tells Dave to complete Project X by Tuesday at 4pm. Dave does not do this. You have nothing to do with Project X. The performance reviewer tells you that you suck at your job and the fact that Dave did not complete Project X is entirely YOUR FAULT because just by bad luck you happen to sit next to Dave. Sorry no raise or promotion for you. Oh and lets micromanage your work because if you could not anticipate Dave was going to fuck up the project that you are not involved in, what other things are you keeping from us?

This is work environment is making me walk around with clenched fists. Always trying to anticipate the whims rather than actually working. It’s exhausting I tell ya.

New Work Rule! We are not allowed to speak to the employees on the floor unless it’s work related. This nonsense is pretty much impossible to enforce and oh so much fun to mock. Are people lurking around just waiting for us to make a mistake so we can be reported? Are there hidden microphones everywhere? And how the hell does one determine what is work related? So many questions! If someone says hi, is that work related? Technically it has nothing to do with bathrooms, kitchens or trash collection. Naturally if someone greets me in the hallway and I scurry away like the lowest of the lowest grand manor scullery maid, that’s gonna send out some pretty weird signals. I guess replying hi is okay. I suppose saying I am not allowed to talk to you is work related then the conversation is not a violation of the rules. Oh my god my head hurts with all this legal thinking. No wonder some lawyers drink.

The horrible ugly truth is that this is mostly my fault. I keep putting myself in a position where I have no control and am at the mercy of micromanaging. I have to pay the bills and not be homeless so one has to make choices even if the results lead to a misery less miserable than being homeless.

I think the writing is on the wall and it’s time for a change. Perhaps wisdom is kicking in to my 50 something year old brain and I’ve decided I’ve had enough of this nonsense. That being said I have absolutely no plan on how to fix this problem. The only plan I have is that I need to do something that brings value to my life and my success should be based on my abilities and hard work and not be determined by luck, unclear expectations and cubicle neighbour Dave.