Eco-nomical Living: Stuff Management

Making the shift toward a leaner, greener lifestyle doesn’t have to be painful.  But, it does require some effort.  Luckily, most of us “ain’t skeered” of a little effort, especially when the returns are so promising.

I think the biggest question we face is: Where to start?  That first step is often the most challenging.  Keep reading for some tips and resources, using the 4 Rs, that can help clear your path.

4Rs_Green-White

Reduce

There’s more to ‘reducing’ than just setting aside some of your trash for the recycling bin.  Think about it: We’re a culture that values stuff and we tend to have too much of it.

Most of us have over-stuffed closets, junk drawers, and other assorted clutter to contend with.  Studies, like this one, show this correlates directly to increased stress levels by contributing to what’s known as “mental clutter”.

The good news is those closets and drawers can be cleared out or re-organized over the course of a weekend.  Too many clothes?  Give them away or have a yard/online sale.  Junk drawer blues?  Toss or recycle what’s actually trash and re-organize the rest.

Once you’ve taken on the mess and reigned victorious, take a moment to re-assess.  Inventory what’s left and come up with a plan to keep the stuff you accumulate to a minimum.  Ask yourself what you really need and why.  You may find you can get by with much less.  You may even be happier for it.

Reuse

Before you throw something away, ask yourself if there may be another life for it.  Some examples?

  • Those jeans with the ripped crotch seam won’t be a useful giveaway, but it might make good material for a sweet new decorative pillow
  • Old t-shirts make perfect cleaning rags, fabric for stuffed children’s toys or even DIY shopping bags
  • A ratty-looking, yet still sturdy, set of wooden boxes can be cleaned up and re-purposed into a cool new coffee table or shelf
  • Your vegetable-based trash can be composted into a healthy bio-organism to feed your plants

You could even sell your re-done creations for extra cash.  You’d be surprised to learn how many people make their living this way.

Not creative?  A crafty friend may welcome the opportunity to take the items off your hands for their own endeavors.

Recycle

Recycling Bins

If you’re not already familiar with what’s available locally, it pays to do a bit of research so you know your options.  A couple of key points to consider:

Find out who’s responsible for its delivery to the recycling facility. 

Some areas, often larger cities, offer recycling as part of the regular trash pick-up service.  They may even provide the bins for you, saving some money.

If your area doesn’t offer pick-up, find out if there’s a recycling dumpster near you.  For example, we live in a rural area and have one in a nearby village, at the fire department.  It’s worth the occasional trip to the R-dumpster to keep the landfills from filling up faster.

Keep in mind that some facilities only take certain items. 

For example, they may accept your juice or milk jugs, but not the plastic bag from your cereal box or disposable water bottles.  Find out what’s acceptable and keep a list handy near your recycle bins as a reminder.  The time it could save during hectic evenings is priceless.

Replace

This step is often clumped with “reducing” or “reusing”, as the items are typically reusable and reduce your carbon footprint, but it can easily stand on its own.  Let’s bring it back into the fold, shall we?

These days, there’s a push to rid ourselves of the type of items that contribute to landfill overflow and even declining health.  The biggest of these is plastic.  Luckily, there are now many alternatives available and prices continue to become more affordable.

Kitchenware – From stainless steel to wood to ceramic, any of your plastic kitchen items can be replaced with something made for improved longevity and eco-footprint.  Among these are:

At my house, we use stainless steel water bottles instead of the throwaway plastic ones.  As a side note, we also use a fluoride-removing filter on our cold water tap for our drinking/cooking/pet water.  Any extra time taken in heating it up, when needed hot, is worth it to me.

Toys – Ever wonder what chemicals make their way into a child’s mouth when they chew on a plastic toy?  It’s not pretty.  There are healthier alternatives out there and kids find them just as fun to play with. These include:

Furniture & Bedding – The chemical exposure in our living and bed rooms is staggering.  The healthier versions are more expensive, but worth it in my opinion.  For example, your bamboo bedding may have run you $100 more than a standard set.  But the anti-microbial, anti-bacterial and allergy-reducing qualities of those bamboo fibers can save you more than that in health costs over a period of time.

Especially if you suffer from indoor allergies.

If shelling out for new couches, carpets, and beds is cost-prohibitive for you – believe me, we aren’t there yet either! – start by focusing on the things you can do.   Organic cotton or bamboo covers/upholstery for your mattresses and sofas.  Saving up to replace carpets with organic versions or hardwood (or bamboo or cork!).  Purchasing pillows or pillow covers of bamboo, buckwheat, etc.  A little change here and there can add up to a huge difference over time.

These are only a few of the ways you can make better use of your home resources and live a greener life.  How many more can you come up with?

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Marketing is More Than Just Sales

One of my biggest pet peeves when job-hunting is the misunderstanding of my field by companies that should know better.

I double-majored in Marketing and Human Resources, placing a personal focus toward online marketing (both in course electives and studying on my own, working for clients, etc).  Of all the jobs I run across in these and other business fields, Marketing is by far more misunderstood.  At least where I live.

The closest metropolitan area to me is Columbus and I occasionally look there in between freelance gigs to see what’s available.  Because I’m in a rural area, outside a small town that’s over an hour away from C-bus, pretty much all of the decent marketing-related jobs are there.

Unless, of course, you freelance. 

While the same assumptions may exist, it’s much less pervasive in the online market.  Most freelance job posts focus on one type of task anyway (i.e. specifically sales, PPC ad management, social media, copywriting, etc).

But I digress.

If an employer isn’t looking for a (very) experienced marketing professional for their top marketing department positions – the kind that requires 10+ years of specific experience and a ton of stats to qualify you – most of what you’re going to find are the outdoor sales positions, sales-heavy account management jobs, and product demonstration opportunities.

These jobs are largely posted by so-called “marketing” companies…companies who, upon checking them out, specialize solely in sales.

If you’re a great marketer, but not a great salesperson (like me, thanks to social anxiety), you’re kinda screwed on finding quality work locally.

So, how exactly do sales and marketing differ?

In most corporation set-ups, sales and marketing are treated as different departments, because they focus on different tasks.  They’re sometimes even pitted against each other, like rival sports teams.

However, in my opinion, they are related.  To me, sales is only one aspect of marketing and isn’t the end-all, be-all of the marketing field.  Sure, most marketing tasks are designed to result in sales.  But the act of selling is, itself, not the primary task.  There’s so much more to it and real, honest to goodness, marketing agencies know this.

Other, equally important, aspects of the marketing profession include:

  • Market Research

    This is the initial and on-going research into your industry and target markets. It helps determine market viability for your intended product, as well as discover your customers’ psychology and demographics, etc. to drive your marketing campaigns.  It can consist of customer surveys, competitor research, and more, so you don’t waste time and money marketing to the wrong audience, or trying to sell a product nobody wants.

  • Merchandising

    OK, so here I’m clumping a few tasks into one category, but they relate, so. Here, you might find pricing strategy, product packaging, branding, and the actual merchandising itself (i.e. how to display your product at the store or on your site).  You want to be able to showcase and price the product in a way that customers will react well to, without adversely affecting your profitability.

  • Copywriting

    This is mostly what I do as a freelancer. Writing copy and web content for companies looking to make a profit requires more than just the ability to inform readers and put words to a page in a cohesive, grammar-friendly way.  It also requires an ability to understand the audience from a marketing perspective, such as what part of the marketing funnel to address, how to speak their language, and so on.  Often, it branches off into specified writing deliverables, such as technical, SEO, product descriptions, etc.  And, sometimes, grammar rules go right out the window in favor of readability and creativity (fun times! LOL).

  • Community Engagement

    This is new territory in some ways, considering social media is a primary method of engagement these days. It ties in with other aspects, like advertising and branding, but is often treated as its own specialization.  It requires a knowledge of current platforms and an ability to engage with customers (potential or actual) in a way that positions your brand favorably.

  • Public Relations

    This is similar to building/engaging community but entails appealing to the general public, rather than a target consumer audience. This branch tackles things like press releases, building/maintaining relationships with journalists/bloggers who may cover your brand, reputation management, official press statements, and the like.

  • Advertising

    No, this isn’t quite sales but it helps drive sales, so they do relate. The tasks, however, are different.  Advertising refers to the paid placement of ads designed to meet the overall goal of the campaign.  Marketing collateral sometimes falls in this category.  The aim can be building brand awareness, lead nurturing, or the sale itself.  Your campaign’s goals will determine the methods you use and how you measure its success.

  • Analytics

    Often, this goes with other aspects (like advertising) but is sometimes treated as its own specialization, especially online. Analytics involves the measuring a marketing campaign’s success by metrics that align with its overall goals and provide data for subsequent campaigns.  For example, an Adwords campaign designed to build awareness will cast a wider ad placement net and measure success by how many site visits the campaign produced through its ads.  If those visits result in sales, all the better, but the initial goal of brand awareness is met.

I’m sure I’ve over-simplified the field and there’s always more to cover.  Perhaps I’ll touch more on these topics in later post.

The truth of the matter is: Sales rely on these other branches of marketing to reach its goals.

After all, if a customer didn’t see that ad, billboard, blogpost, news coverage, etc., how would they be interested enough to seek a salesperson for more information on a new product or brand?  The purpose of sales – good sales anyway – is to provide that 1-on-1 approach to demonstrate the benefits of a product and close the deal in a way that leaves the customer happy to buy again, refer others, etc.

I feel like, if more companies – in Central Ohio or anywhere else it’s an issue – took all this into account in their business (department) structure and hiring practices, they’d benefit by:

  • Attracting employees better suited to meet their business goals
  • Spend less on recruiting, on-boarding, etc. through smarter hiring practices
  • See better results for their businesses overall

Have you ever encountered inconsistencies or misunderstandings in how hiring is handled for your field?  What would you like to see, in terms of improvements?

This Tenn. Lovely’s After My Heart!

This sweet place mixes music, natural beauty, and maybe even some ghosts…

OK, so I have to share this old house with y’all!

It’s in a Folk Victorian style, with a stated build date of around 1900.  It sits across from Loretta Lynn’s property in Hurricane Mills, TN.  And it comes with 2 land options – 15 acres for $159,900, or 30 acres for @219,900.

How cool is that?

The house itself needs some work but comes with a mobile home.  If it’s in decent shape, that could be home base while the main house is renovated.  After that, it would make a nice guest house, private grandparent suite, game house for the kids, or even a craft shop/office/library (I’m always looking for those!).

Hurricane Mills-land view
Link to home description – and more pictures – by clicking the image!

The land is beautiful.  Not too manicured but not exactly overgrown either.  There’s plenty for a self-sustaining garden, some grazing for animals, and even the Oak Grove of my dreams.  Cause you know a Pagan gal’s gotta have a proper rit site on the ol’ homestead!  A girl can dream anyway…

I can’t help but wonder if the property has its own Civil War era ghosts, as Loretta Lynn has claimed her place does.  As long as they’re friendly, I’m good to share the space.  My childhood home (among others I’ve lived in) was haunted also, so it’s no big stretch.

Now, to figure out how to cover the money, taxes, move, reno, etc. for this sweet, sweet place…

 

Ups and Downs of the Feline Variety

Well, it looks like all the kittens have been born.  We had 12 one week, 4 several weeks later and an unknown number a couple weeks after that.  The last mamas had theirs outside and they were well-hidden.

The first dozen are now about 3 months old and doing well as outside cats.  Our porch is their hangout and shelter in the heat and rain.  The 4 Artemis had went outside to finish weaning (where her sisters had their litters).  Unfortunately, they seem to have wandered off and one was found dead a few days ago. He’s in the pet cemetery, under a shade tree out back.

Same with her sisters.  I haven’t seen their babies at all and haven’t heard them in their hidey-holes for nearly a week.  I fear something may have happened but have seen no evidence of it, save for one left for dead in front of the barn.

That little guy, no more than a couple weeks or so old, was brought in and cleaned up.  None of the mamas wanted anything to do with him, so I’ve been bottle feeding him.  The good news is he’s doing well; eating better every day and getting increasingly vocal.  Artemis even comes in and cleans him occasionally.  She’d feed him but for her restlessness and his reluctance to latch on when she is laying still.  My best friend suggested the name William the Conqueror, for his strength and courage.  Another friend suggested Hercules.  They know my affinity for historical/mythological names and both are under consideration.

group of kittens like mine

The black male cat with a badly broken paw that’s been hanging around all spring (and fathered many of our black kittens, surely; the rest are likely Harley’s) has also not been seen for several days.  He is sturdy and can hold his own well, messed up paw or not, so no clue where he wound up.  2 of our males, Garfield and Morris, are getting aggressive.  This is balanced by the gentlemen of our brood – their daddy, Ginger, and Harley and Poto – acting as protectors of the mamas and babies.  Ging and Poto have already been neutered; the rest are in need of it.

But, first things first…the ladies need spayed to prevent another huge wave of kittens.  We have 6 of breeding age and can only afford to do 3 at a time (thank you CareCredit!).  With any luck, no more litters in the meantime.  We can’t afford too many – way past our limit now – and they are hard to find homes for.

Such are the worries of a crazy cat lady.  🙂

Career Development, Here I Come!

The career development options are many, and there’s something for every budget.

One of the things I’ve been getting into lately is re-building my freelance career.  Having taken some time out to tend to things on the homefront left me a bit rusty. So, in between logging hours for my new clients and interviewing for gigs, I’m pursuing a bit of career development.  And it’s about damn time, lemme tell ya!

Enter Hubspot Courses & Certifications.

These guys have been a market leader in, well, marketing for a long time.  Their Inbound Marketing Certification was something I started several years ago.  School got too intense though (I was double-majoring) and I never found the time to finish it. Now I’m back in and at it with a vengeance.

They offer other free courses too.  The Content Marketing Certification is next, considering my freelance specialty is content-related.  From there, I’m thinking the latest SEO training and maybe something to get me brushed back up on social media marketing.

Other career development options include:

Alison – This is another I’ve personally used myself.  They offer free courses in a variety of areas, from business and marketing to IT, science and lifestyle.  They stay open by offering premium options (like a formal certificate when you complete a course) for a fee.

Udemy – I wanna say I’ve caught a quick free course here a while back.  However, most of these are paid courses, ranging in price from a little to a lot.  Sometimes, you can catch ’em when they’re having a great deal (like 90% off!).  The categories are many and you should be able to find a course that fits your needs.

Duolingo offers free language lessons, if that’s on your radar.  I’m a member of this site, but neither my sons nor I have signed in for a while.  The lessons provide visuals and audio, so you can learn word association and know you’re using correct pronunciation.

The Muse, a career resource and resume site, offers lists of free and/or cheap career development courses also.  One of these can be found here (the rest are in the ‘tools and resources’ section of the site).  Some of these are the free courses made available by well-regarded universities, like MIT coding classes and Harvard business lessons.

Honestly, had I known about all of these free learning opportunities a few years ago, I would’ve chosen them over going back to college.  Considering my career was built largely off of what I already knew and picked up (mostly for free) along the way, it could’ve saved me a ton of money and debt.  I turned down good jobs to stay in school.  With courses like the ones listed here, I wouldn’t have had to.  Plus, I could have customized my whole learning experience.

But, live and learn.  The career development options are many and there’s something for every budget.

Have you ever taken an online course?  Do you feel you got good value for your time and money?

 

Catching Up With Myself

It has been WAY too long since my last post.  2018 has completely run off with me and I apologize for the delay.

Though the house still isn’t in the shape I’d intended by now, other things have been getting done.  The barn is damn near emptied out, the garden mostly planted in, and Summer Break is under way.  Oh, and can’t forget the more than doubling of our cat crew…I’m officially a crazy cat lady!  Of course, these are all things I should have been chronicling as they happened (otherwise why run a personal blog, right?).

When I renewed my blog a few days ago, I decided to revive and re-structure it.  So, some things will be changing while others will be getting more frequent use.  The upgraded plan included ads, so those will be a new development.  Not sure yet but the theme and layout may change also.

The most important changes, though, will be with the content.  New pages, sub-pages and a plan for content that’s useful to readers, more regular-like.  The categories will be broadly varied but the idea is to provide great info, resources, and ideas for each of them.

In time, this site should become a place you want to return to, like going to a friend’s house for a glass of tea and good conversation.  In the meantime, thanks for bearing with me.  🙂

Ringing in 2018!

Just a quick post to wish everyone a Happy New Year.

2017 has been a crazy year in many ways, and been rewarding in others.  The good news is we can resolve to make the changes that improve the stuff we didn’t like.  We can look ahead with hope and take action.

I hope y’all enjoy your last night in 2017 and ring in 2018 safely.