Preparing Against the Machine We Call Time

There are a lot of things in life that catch my interest. A lot of things, in fact, that I wish I could devote more time to. For example, I wish I could spend more time cooking, and spending my money on nicer ingredients to cook more varying dishes. Or on another end of the spectrum, I wish I could spend more time reading through my copy of the Chicago Manual of Style to perfect my craft when it comes to editing and tweaking my writing. (And, you know, to further the skills in my professional field.)

But, as life has it, time isn’t something that you can summon endless amounts of. In fact, time is the number one limiter to all things in life, not money. Humans could do so much more if we all just had more time. The older and wiser we became, the more advanced we would be. Of course, this is all passed down to generations as they come and go, but it still begs the question. What would happen if we were undying? Would we advance at a much more rapid rate?

Because I wish we had more time, I like to focus on the time I do have now. I used to be so mindless about my days, constantly looking forward or backwards, but never down at what was happening right then. I’ve realized how poorly I have managed my time throughout my life in doing this, and it’s led me to understand how many moments I’ve missed capturing in memory.

So, instead, I’ll focus on taking in the moment, whether good or bad. We learn from the bad and we love to experience the good, so both are valuable to remember and to seize benefit from.

An interesting way I will go about doing this from here on is creating little “memento boxes” out of cheap moving boxes that I’ve had laying around the house. Basically, I’ll take one of these cheap moving boxes and store things that mean a lot to me here and now. Perhaps it’s a t-shirt I’ll have to retire that was a favorite of mine during a specific period of my life. Maybe I’ll start printing photos and creating albums to always have (though I know this is possible digitally, it’s just not the same as having physical copies). Heck, I know I’ll be putting some of my favorite records away in these boxes as well, as music has had such a great impact on my life. The possibilities are endless so long as I’m really soaking in the moment.

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Sustainability and Making a Change

Sustainability is one of those things that everyone knows about yet not many attempt to make a change to implement. And I get it. I was one of those people just a few months ago, preaching the benefits of recycling, shopping with sustainability in mind, and more. Yet what was I doing when it actually came down to practicing what I preached? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Now, though, I’ve taken the liberty of empowering myself and my ideals by backing up what I say and suggest. Instead of just theorizing and spouting what people can do, I decided to take up the most sustainable practices in my home. This has not only reinvigorated my willingness to learn and teach others what I know, it’s also transformed the way I see these things in my own everyday life and what I can do to inspire change in others.

I can’t begin to tell you how much certain packaging supplies have helped me in creating an awesome recycling setup in our home. While some would frown upon using cardboard boxes as their recycling bins, I’ve championed their use as nonplastic containers that can eventually be recycled as well once they’ve become worn down or any unwanted bits of water start to soak through it. 

While some would find it tedious to do what I do to make sure cardboard boxes are kept around for awhile, I don’t mind the extra work. In fact, having a little extra stuff to complete actually makes me feel like this is all worth it. It starts with making sure aluminum cans, plastic bottles, and glass jars are clean by rinsing them out after use. Then, I take a paper towel and dry them out as best I can in a hurry and set them in the respective recycling box.

This has been so incredibly easy to implement, to the point that it seems like a no brainer for everyone to do. I mean, we all have such packaging supplies laying around, from cardboard boxes to packing tape and sharpies used for labeling the different boxes.

It just requires a change in our everyday lifestyle. If you can’t make a change for the world and your home, how can you ever actually make a change for yourself? People will point to selfishness in changing who they are but not the world, but the truly great changes in one’s mental and physical health usually impact the other things (like the environment) for the better. That’s the case more often than not, at least.

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Recycling Using Everyday Materials

I come from a pretty simple and traditionally middle class home. Being in small town Illinois for 18 years of my life made me subject to some mostly average and “normal” trends and ways of doing things. I’d say the majority of things I’ve experienced and learned actually came after I graduated high school, simply because there was an extreme lack of diversity in my home town.

For example, we never used to really “go out” simply because there weren’t many options to travel to. We also didn’t eat at many ethnically diverse restaurants or even attempt cooking different dishes from different cultures because we lived small and simply. That is, my parents chose to do what they always knew and what was easy.

So, it probably comes as no surprise that we never used to recycle, either. This is something that has affected my way of life since moving out. I find myself always wanting to try to recycle but never committing to the act.

And up until now, I never thought it would be worth it. But now that I know the benefits and impacts recycling has on the earth, it’s absolutely imperative that I begin now.

The problem I always had was thinking I have to have dedicated recycling boxes to each material. In addition, where I grew up, there were no recycling drop off points nearby. I would have had to drive at least 40 minutes to the nearest dropoff location (yes, I’m serious).

Those two problems are nonfactors for me now. We have a recycling drop off point that’s a two or three minute drive away, which is an incredible boon for our want to begin.

As for the containers, well, we’ve thought about ordering cute plastic containers online, but since that will have to wait for a few weeks, we’re going with cardboard.

I’m sure you’re like me in that you have a few cheap moving boxes laying around the house not being used whatsoever. This is the perfect place to start, especially since the boxes are free and taking up space anyway. You may as well get some use out of them, because that’s what we’re doing. Our cheap moving boxes are big enough to retain plastic for about a week and glass for three to four weeks. And all paper will fit for a good month before needing to be recycled (unless cardboard is shoved in there).

These things simply take a will to start them. Once you’ve begun, you can be proud of yourself for accomplishing the hardest part. From there, everything gets easier.

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We Can Pickle That!

My fiancee and I are pretty big fans of the show Portlandia. It’s irreverent humor and scattered skits are pretty off-putting at first, considering you struggle to follow along with what in the world is going on. But once you get into it, you start to see some familiar faces and scenes with a slow-moving “plot” (if you can call it that) that sort of describes Portland’s weird culture.

In one of the early episodes, Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein (who are portrayed as different characters in just about every scene in the show) have wacky roles as people who “can pickle that!” It starts off as commentary talking about pickling, well, pickles. But from there, it gets pretty ridiculous. They claim they can pickle anything, which goes out of the way to start talking about items that aren’t even vegetables that are traditionally pickled.

Anyway, fast forward 4 or 5 months, and my fiancee and I have finished the entire 9-season series. We never did see the scene pop back up again as a follow up to the first scene, but we did find ourselves pickling our own cucumbers.

We had the appropriate packaging supplies and pickling supplies after buying some vinegar and the right seasonings to pickle cucumbers, and lo and behold we were able to pickle some mighty fine pickles. They taste better than store-bought, in my opinion, because we were able to dilute the jars with more vinegar than usual. When I eat a pickle, I want some kick to the mouth.

It’s funny how sometimes ideas can come to fruition because of the supplies you have available. Take one of our recent projects, for instance. We had enough packaging supplies (thanks to her dad owning a furniture company) to load up a lot of our unused clothes, trinkets, and other junk. We decided cleaning out the apartment some and donating the clothes was a good cause, since there was no way we were going to make hardly any money at all on it.

Most of the time, people have an idea and go out to get what’s needed. But it can be very fun and rewarding to look at the things you already have and make an appropriate judgment call on what can be done with those supplies instead. All it takes is a bit of creativity and some action to start a new project, try something unique, or get things done.

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Farmers Markets

In the past year or so, my fiancee and I have been going to our local farmers market from time to time for a multitude of reasons. There’ve been times we just wanted to check out who was there and what was going on. At other times, we just wanted to take the dog along with us to meet other dogs and have a snack in the morning. And even other times we went solely to gather a good amount of groceries for the week.

One thing is for certain, though. We love going to farmers markets now, and that’s a fact. There’s nothing cooler than experiencing your own local culture and vendors. Being able to talk with the farmers and vendors about their products, how they treat their animals, what they grow their produce with, and more is something you won’t get anywhere else. There’s no option to do that when you go to a Kroger or Walmart or Meijer. There’s no one there to answer your questions, inform you on their products, and quell any concerns you may have.

But at a farmers market, all of those things happen and more.

Sometimes you’ll get people saying how it’s more expensive and that they don’t like that. Price is an understandable reason to stray away from these things, but I cannot vouch enough for the freshness and taste of all of the products I’ve already had at my farmers market. It’s unparalleled, and it’s great to know I’m supporting local vendors instead of people or companies that do the best they can to undercut competitors, pay their workers lower wages, and worse.

One thing I know that my partner and I can do in future to help ourselves have an easier time, though, is bringing along a few cheap moving boxes. Sometimes when we bring our reusable bag, there’s not enough room for all the different types of produce we end up walking away with. I think it would help to have a few cheap moving boxes to carry our produce around in, which we can then put in our vehicle once we head out. Too often I find bigger vegetables crushing smaller ones, and I think it’s important to keep certain things separate.

Regardless of how we handle these problems, I know that we’ll be making a point to go back to our local market every Saturday when given the chance. We simply connect too much with the people, the atmosphere, and the food we come away with.

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On the Move

Throughout my life, I’ve moved around (as in, packed and unpacked my vehicle with my belongings) so many times that I wouldn’t be able to tell you how much I’ve truly done it. In fact, I’m almost positive that I’ve become a nomad, even if it’s only by definition from the percentage of time I’ve been on the move.

I think that I used to like the fact that I would hop around from place to place, moving in and out of apartments, dorms, and even crashing on couches. I was proud of the whole “up and moving again!” thing simply because it meant I was “adventurous” and free.

But then it got pretty old. I realized how often I was doing it, how stressful it could be to pack and unpack and load up my truck and unload it. It became time consuming, it wore me out, and I generally started to wish I could stay put in one place for at least a few years.

Well, that all changed once I moved in with my partner over a year ago. We’ve already renewed our lease at this apartment for another year because we enjoy the area so much, meaning I’m able to stay in one place for at least two years. That’s actually something I haven’t been able to claim for the last 6 years, if I’m not mistaken.

Now, while we will be moving out next summer which is just another move in my life, it’ll be to a new house that we eventually buy. And that, quite honestly, has been the ultimate goal for me for awhile now. Sure, it’ll be more moving and unloading than I’ve ever done in my life, but it at least has a sense of permanence attached to it this time. All the packaging supplies and moving items I’ve accrued in my years will yet again get some recognition and use, though this time may be one of the last that they’re put to full use. I’m not a huge fan of my meager collection of packaging supplies in the first place, but you know what? They’ve done me well throughout the years, to the point that I never had to go out and buy a new moving strap or new cardboard boxes.

Moving is a bittersweet activity. On the one hand, you look forward to the new place you’re going and are happy to be upgrading “well, most of the time it’s an upgrade.” On the other hand, though, you’re leaving behind a place that you have called home. It can be sad to say goodbye to an old abode, but it you look at life as constantly changing, it’s actually a good thing to move and switch it up.

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Art and Shipping

I never quite realized the need for specialized cardboard boxes until I came across art. And, to be honest, I wouldn’t have figured that it was art which would lead me to learn more about such shipping materials.

Here’s the thing: there are a lot more cardboard box variants out there than you’d probably realize. From small to big, rectangular to cylindrical, cardboard comes in many shapes, sizes, forms, and specialities that you probably wouldn’t know about unless you owned awkward shaped possessions that needed to be moved or shipped safely.

So, one of the types of cheap moving boxes I’m really talking about is picture boxes. You know, flat, rectangular boxes solely used to ship pictures and paintings and art? These are the ones that you’d never bother to go out of your way to buy unless you were an artist yourself or owned some more expensive paintings. Otherwise, why go to the trouble to secure a specialized box if the contents weren’t worth something to you?

I had the realization that these sorts of boxes had to exist when I was at a museum this past weekend. While I never took myself to be one to enjoy viewing art, I quite enjoyed myself getting lost in the artists’ pieces at the GRAM up in Grand Rapids. And that’s when I began to ponder the price of some of those pieces.

A little lost in thought, I wondered how it was that some of those paintings and pieces could be shipped from one museum to another (whether it was purchased, donated, or borrowed). And that’s when it dawned on me: they’ve got to have some sort of sturdy, reliable box out there that both protects the art within and secures it well enough to withstand some jostling in transit. Lo and behold, I come to find out that there are specific boxes meant for framed art or pictures. While museums everywhere likely don’t use cheap moving boxes for their pieces, I do know of some cheaper variants for consumers out there if they were worried about a keepsake of theirs being damaged on a move or while shipped.

Like anything, there’s always a solution or product out there that fits your needs. It’s no different when it comes to art or paintings or portraits. Be sure to ensure the safety of your possessions by grabbing some sturdy cardboard boxes made to protect your belongings.

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How to Get Great Boxes – For Free!

Here we go again – my 7th move in 6 years. I was literally turning into a nomad. I was more comfortable living out of my car than I was living out of a house. However, I realized that every time I moved, I always chose the worst type of boxes to move my stuff in. The boxes were always flimsy and hard to hold, making moving my things potentially hazardous. Throughout all of these moves I had had several boxes break in the bottom and my most valuable items put at risk.

I decided for this seventh, and hopefully last, move, that I wanted to properly prepare and make sure that I got the correct packaging supplies to get the job done the right way. But upon deciding this, that led to the next question….where do I even go to get good boxes? I am also getting married and getting ready to leave on a honey moon, so money is pretty tight. I was determined to get good boxes, but also determined that I would not be paying any money for them.

I plotted out the circuit of all the places that immediately came to mind that would have great boxes. After touring as many big home improvement and hardware stores as I could find, I quickly realized that if I wanted their packaging supplies and their good boxes, I was going to have to fork over some pretty serious cash. Who knew that a decent cardboard sized box could cost $2 a box?! It does not sound like that much, but when you are buying 10-20 boxes it really begins to add up. I really did not want to pay anything at all, so I started to do some creative thinking, and began to think outside the box, if you will.

I am a frequent shopper at big box stores, which allow you to transport your groceries out in the boxes that the food gets delivered in. I had seen some massive boxes there in the past, so I decided to swing by and check them out. Sure enough, costco had some awesome boxes at the front of the store that, if you can believe it, let me take the boxes away for free. I was ecstatic and quickly loaded up my car with as many boxes as it could hold.

Thanks for taking the time to read about my experience and to learn how to avoid paying a lot of money for moving boxes and the supplies needed to package everything up. And remember to continue thinking outside the box!

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Planning for Buying a Home

We all hit a point in our lives when we should be focusing on the more mature things, the responsibilities that are upcoming, daunting, and a little worrying. These are the things we are likely to put off longer than we should simply because accepting the reality of our near future is a scary and uncertain thought.

These are the things, though, that we usually can’t afford to put off, and so when we do we end up putting ourselves behind schedule or even missing out on opportunities, causing us to settle for less. These things usually manifest in buying a home, planning a wedding, looking for a new job, or relocating to a new city.

I find myself in the home buying and wedding planning categories. These are, perhaps, two of the most exciting things for a mid 20-year-old, but they’re also scary to think about if you don’t know the entire process or have the help you wish you had.

The good thing is, I’ve got at least a year to plan the wedding and around 10 months to start looking for new homes. My fiancee is great about looking for homes (far more than I am), so I’m thankful to have someone at my side who is even more enthusiastic about the entire process than I am.

The thing we’ll need to consider when the move does come, though, is having plenty of cheap moving boxes to pack all of our smaller belongings in. We’re lucky to have her dad, who owns a furniture store, since he’ll enlist help on moving and has plenty of trailers to put all of our furniture in (and he gives us new furniture from his store, too). In fact, we’re extremely lucky for these things since it makes the entire moving process much simpler and less stressful than if we were to not have him.

So really, it just comes down to being prepared for the move by having everything boxed up in these cheap moving boxes. Finding or purchasing some won’t be any hassle at all. It’s just all about having everything ready to go when the move comes.

And yeah, I won’t mention the home buying process itself since that’s an entirely different beast altogether, one that will rear its head in about 6 months. That’s when the excitement and stress truly begins. That’s when I’m sure my fiancee and I will have many a debate and stressful conversation about the future of our little life, since buying a home is no small task.

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Reading is a Lifelong Learning Experience

Over 4th of July Weekend I finished a 300+ page novel. In fact, I did it in just three days without devoting more than 8 or 9 hours total to the book.

It’s been a very, very long time since I’ve read this much in such a short amount of time. I’m not sure if the author was so compelling that I was blazing through the material wanting more or if I was just in the zone and would’ve finished any book in this time. What I do know, however, is that I sincerely miss reading that much.

Let’s take a step back. I used to read a lot of novels in middle school and early high school. Like, at least one a week. And I was happy when I read. I was healthy, I slept better at night, and I felt like my vocabulary expanded a reasonable amount. There was nothing else I would have rather done with a few hours to myself than read. It would get to the point that I would bring my book anytime my parents drove me anywhere (whether it was a two hour drive or just a 15 minute hike down the road to the grocery). I’d say “Hold on, hold on, I’ve got to finish this page” when they would be getting out of the car, and it would get on their nerves at times.

I want to revisit that time in my life by reading as much as I used to. I want to feel like I’m actively gaining knowledge and experiences and analyzing the material I read from multiple perspectives, too. I used to read just for fantasy’s sake, to escape. But now, I want to bring into my life what I read and make it a part of who I am.

There’s much to be said about reading habits, different genres, what sorts of authors you like, and if you’re a fast or slow reader. None of that truly matters if you simply are reading, I believe.

I think buying books is one of the best investments anyone could make, because that single book can be read multiple times by multiple people. It can impart its knowledge and its stories on you many times in your life, each time giving you a new perspective on the same content.

That’s why I use packaging supplies to create makeshift bookmarks and leave my annotations in books. I’ll fold up packing tape as a cheap (i.e., pretty much free) bookmark and I’m known to write little notes within pages on some cheap label tape. Heck, I’ll put label tape on the covers of my books with specific things like “read again in ____” with a year in the blank. Packaging supplies have been a great way for me to enhance my reading experience while also keeping organized enough to know when I last read something and what I learned from it.

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