Saturday, October 22, 2011

New Changes

In the last few months life has turned upside down. I have accepted a new job and am very happy, if not very busy. The key is that I am now busy on my own terms. And, generally...I don't find myself working on the weekends or flying to Kuala Lumpur for 3 weeks every month.

I have long neglected this blog, but will be back over the next few days with some updates!

Monday, February 21, 2011

What's in a name? An Urban Homestead in Singapore

As you may know, there is all sorts of commotion on the “interwebs” around the use and registration of the phrase Urban Homesteading as a trademark by the Path to Freedom folks. I am not going to link again to them you can look it up if you want. Path to Freedom (aka the Dervaes Family) really are an active bunch of Urban Homesteaders who have taken a trademark (in the United States) out with the Supplemental Register. A trademark, filed within the United States, no matter if it is a full registration or a supplemental registration, gives the trademark holder some rights to protect the phrase against others who might want to use the same phrase in the same geographical location. (For more information about the trademark kerfuffle you can look here at Crunchy Chicken, or join the Facebook Group discussing the same). The Dervaes Family states they had the best of intentions when they registered the phrase, but frankly once letters from an "ersatz attorney" started flying threaten users of the phrase, the Urban Homesteading Movement got pissed.

It is really silly after all. The phrase is commonly used, the trademark probably should not have been granted and the egoistic behavior of the family is just getting more and more people worked up. Frankly, the best thing for the Path To Freedom Crew would be to step up and say...OOPS, we screwed up. Sorry. Accept that you did a stupid thing. Be a grown up. Accept Responsibility. Say you are sorry. People may still forgive you. Forget, perhaps not, forgive. I hope so. The fuss and bother and this post today is a part of a big movement to try to take back the phrase URBAN HOMESTEAD.

The good news is I can say I am an Urban Homesteader all I want and there is nothing that they can do to stop me. That is because any trademark protection that they may have is limited to the geographical location in which they filed. So because I live in Singapore I can use URBAN HOMESTEAD. PATH TO FREEDOM. HOMEGROWN REVOLUTION. GROW THE FUTURE. And so on, yup not a damn thing they can do about it. The limits of the trademark protection stop at the borders of the USA. The letters the family sent to people in other countries are unenforceable, although the actions taken at Facebook and Google are possible as both sites are operated from within the US.
Okay, just because I am feeling feisty….I will GROW THE FUTURE on my URBAN HOMESTEAD walking a PATH TO FREEDOM and living a HOMEGROWN REVOLUTION. You get the point. I can say it over and over, but that is just as silly as what the Dervaes crew are doing.

But, what I am doing in truth is that from my little corner of the world, my 1900 square foot apartment in Singapore, I am proudly declaring I am a URBAN HOMESTEADER.

So, what is an Urban Homesteader. Well, the definition is really up to you, it means lots of things to lots of people. I don't have a huge garden-I don't grow enough food to feed my family, I don't have chickens (the condo in Singapore might frown on that), but I do have a few herb plants, that as much as I try to kill with my brown thumb valiantly hang on. I do make food from scratch. I do try to shop and source products locally. I mend sheets when they rip, I patch clothes. I freecycle and recycle. I do believe in the traditions that my Great Grandmother (A HOMESTEADER MONTANA) followed by living frugally, using what you have, being a part of a community. Ah yes, a community. Homesteaders, no matter how removed and far away from each other, relied on community. I am a part of a community-both online and in real life. And it is community that clinches it for me.

Homesteaders, Urban-Suburban-Rural and Virtual need each other. Just like they needed each other to raise a barn, tend to the sick or just join each other for fellowship on a Sunday afternoon when my Grandma was around, we need each other now. We need to share seeds. We need to share ideas. We need to cry together when our first chicken gets eaten (either by the neighborhood dog-or in our own soup pot). We need to be able to act together as a community and that is what the group intending to take back the phrase is doing.

The Dervaes family are Urban Homesteaders. You bet they are. They grow lots of food, they live simply, the seemingly walk the talk and practice what they preach, but they forgot one of the key principles of homesteading. That is the community portion. While I can proudly say I am a URBAN HOMESTEADER and my apartment is an URBAN HOMESTEAD and I am proud to be a part of a community that lives simply and knows what part they play in the world. Do I hate the Dervaes, no. Do I think they were misguided in trying to protect and capitalize on the phrase URBAN HOMESTEADING. Yes. Do I feel sorry for them that they have lost their bit of the community. Most of all.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Environmental News: Scuba Banned?

Now in other news, I just saw this post and thought it was interesting. Comments?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Singapore is Asia's 4th Greenest City- Oh Really?

Not much to hang your hat on when you see the pollution in our region, but in many ways at least Singapore is making an effort. Now, about that trash on the street??? The survey was conducted by but the link is currently offline. Here is an article in the Straits Times for reference.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Being Busy to Be Simple

11 inches of paper- that is equal to about 4 reams of paper which means this is equal to about 25% of one tree! This one stack of about 4 this size sitting in our office. Think we could have saved a tree with less printing.
It has been quite a month, more travel than anticipated, but still a good one in terms of being more content with the life I have now.

So first an update on January's Goals:
Goal Number One: Paperless Office

My desk.

I have made huge progress on the Paper Free Office Goal. I have to say the zippy little scanner helped a lot. In part, because it is cute and zippy, and in part because it is screaming fast. So here is a look at the second stack of paper that got scanned and later recycled. The last step is going through the tax files that fill the file cabinets that you see here, and I expect we can successfully reduce our paper in our office by at least 90%. As practicing lawyers it may be hard to eliminate paper in total, but I am pretty happy with 90% reduction.

Here are some after pictures of the office with it's new clutter reduction plan.

The craft/kids craft area half way...

The Craft Area after.

Goal Number Two was an inward goal, touching base with those Simple Living goals that are important to me. Why do I advocate voluntary simplicity, even if my life seems anything but? I am currently in the process of reading three books (well I was only reading one, until Jeff stole it from me) which are helping me focus on what is important to me and why I value an intentional life.

1. Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin. The Second Edition. This was the book that I read back when I took classes at the Northwest Earth Institute. Really caused me to think about being in the rat race and why I wanted to live more intentionally.

2. Hot, Flat, and Crowded by Thomas Friedman. I started this book at the end of the year and then Jeff started reading it, I am really behind what he is stating in this book, it is all about Asia. More on this later.

3. Harmony by HRH Price Charles. Mostly a book about the interconnection between our lives and the environment, a bit hard to plow through as he does tend to jump around a bit, but again defining what is important to me.

So, on the personal goal of getting back in touch with my inner reasons, I would say this goal is only about 50% done. There is still a bit more soul searching to be done, which is driving me to the February Goal here at "Casa de Simple".. what's next.
What's next is a finalization of some things that started about a year ago. I read the book the 4 Hour Work Week, which is mostly about hacking your life into one that allows you to work on your schedule. I then read Chris Guillebeau's Art of Nonconformity. Coupled with the insane, intense, and frankly less than stellar year I had in 2010 from a side business (Far Flung) work and health perspective, I know somethings got to give.

February 2011's Simple Living Singapore Goals are:

1. Outer Goal: Define those necessary actions with those unnecessary actions. Right now, I can't give up the 9-5 job, I can and will be finalizing the shut down of Far Flung (I will post on that later, as it will be quite an emotional one) and will be working on, working towards some new business ideas/ventures. Some of these businesses I hope will lead my family into a path of sustainability; professionally, economically and socially. Some of the business ideas involve a possible partner. Needless to say, this is not a making life more simple in the short term, but may lead to the ultimate goal. February is about defining what I (and my family) needs versus what we want and planning for our future.

2. Inner Goal: Refine and Define Inner Motivation. Before I can start the outer goal, I have to be confident in my motivations, confident in my desires. Set with my core values and principles. I know I am leaning towards an independent future, one that tends to shun conventional trappings in some ways, but yet in many ways I am a bit of a stick in the mud. So clarifying my vision is imperative. I will keep you posted on that as well - well all three of you who read this anyway!

I am off the road for another week, so expect another update soon, but in the meantime, here are a few more pictures of the re-organized office.

Lina and her new "space" aka the center of the office floor

Four of the six magazine holders that went to recycling. Just think again how many trees.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I am declaring WAR on Paper: More on the Paperless Office

I just read that the average lawyer uses between 20,000 and 100,000 sheets of paper every year. That means 5 tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses. For those lawyers who use up to 100,000 sheets, that is over a half of a ton of paper. That is over 1000 pounds of paper Yes....1000 pounds. HOLY CRAP that is a lot of paper.

I know that my average is much much less than that, probably closer to 5000 (about 10 reams of paper a year). But think about what that means. So I am only off putting a ton of CO2. That doesn't make me feel much better. I am still on my quest to rid my house and home office of excess paper. My schedule has been delayed slightly as I have been on the road more than I anticipated this month, but all told I have probably scanned in over 2000 sheets of paper and recyled them. I still have 6 or 7 notebooks filled with CLE (Continuing Education) materials that I need to review and either toss or scan as well as 15 years of taxes/receipts that need to be pruned back to the last 5 years only. My goal is to toss anything older than 7 years and scan anything older than 5.

Why am I doing this? Well, partially to get rid of the clutter in my office, partially because there is just too much paper, and partially because I just need to get things back in order in my quest to be more focused. I think my goal for February may be to create a "life hack" or other type of response to my need to touch things more than once. Work towards the goal of pick it up and sort it immediately. We will see, I still have a couple more days to figure that out!

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The Simple Office:Going Paperless


Another one of my "Stacks" of documents

Stuff, like most people I have a love hate realationship with Stuff. As a lawyer by day, a reader, a collector, and the owner of a scrapbooking paper company, I have collected lots and lots of papers. Add in the fact that we live overseas and are required to file taxes in not one, but two Countries and one State, add in the fact that the kids bring home stacks and stacks of paperwork from school. Add in the mail (which thankfully we don’t get much of) and my un-natural desire to save old magazines, recipes and ideas and you end up with a whole lot of CRAP.


One set of our shelves and one memo board (my side mirrors this)

The company I work for is a big proponant of the 5S system, which works for manufacturing facilities, but is a bit harder to convert into an office. My office at the factory, well that is already clean. It is the home office that has multiple shelves, drawers, surfaces and desks filled with paper.


My Husband's Desk

I am not advocating a full purge (that is a Minimalist plan and not my bag) and for me baby steps are key, but I have taken another step at removing all of the unneeded papers from our home. Stage One is the home office. I spent some $ on a real scanner a Fujitsu Scansnap1500, which is probably more than the average home needs, but I need to scan papers for work and my old flat bed just doesn’t cut it. So, after bringing home my new toy, I scanned in over 6 inches of paper, threw out 5 empty binders and recycled all of the paper. This took just over 2 hours. I then uploaded a bunch to Evernote and stored the rest on an external hard drive. A rough estimate of the pages scanned was around 500 and I easily have another 8-9 binders filled with seminar notes to scan (at least another 500 sheets of paper) plus 10 years of old tax records (which we have kept as we file in multiple jurisdictions and they each require specific records).

The First Stack of Scanned Documents

I estimate if I spend this weekend scanning and then one more weekend organizing the files both “online” and in the hard drive I should be down to only one drawer of physical papers left in the office. This puts me square in line for my goal of cleaning up the office in January. After the “paper” is gone I can work on the rest of the stuff, which is primarily my scrapbook/art supplies. The final step is to load all of the family geneology stuff online into a Dropbox for my sister so she can access the information as well.

The remainder of the house, well that is for another month.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Travel and my Simple Living Goals for 2011

Beaches of Phuket

I was asked today, and I thought it was a good question, how do I balance my love and desire for travel with a simple living philosophy. I have always thought it is about experience, living life to the fullest and grabbing the bull by the horns. See, we live in Asia. We (my husband and I) were born and raised in the US and we never left the US until we were both in College. Since that time we have traveled a lot, but compared to a European, the US centric mindset is one of "stay at home". I travel mostly for work, but quite a bit for personal pleasure and for the kids’ greater "cultural" experience.

When I was a kid, I admired my Aunt Moyna and Uncle Bob and the fact they spent money every year (at least it seemed like it) to travel to Europe or Hawaii or other far off places. They took their three kids to Ireland to visit with Monya's family. They went to Europe and traveled around; they traveled around the US and saw sights I still haven't seen. What I also vividly remember is the fact they didn't spend money on "new stuff" for their house. Now, Bob and Moyna had a wonderful house in California, but there were no "new furnishings while the old ones worked. The old cars were not upgraded every year or two, the "old" ones worked just fine. This became a model for me I think and impressed me more than I realized until just frequently. I think in some ways they were my inspiration for simple living. . I have started a new website to promote my families travel experience Vagabond Kids and I don't plan on slowing down our travel over the next year. Travel is important to us and is one of the reasons I want to be better at living frugally.

Sunset in Thailand

We spend more on travel than any other single non-essential item. I really do need a new couch, but the old one is okay. While a new Oriental rug for my living room would also be nice, it is the same amount as what I would spend on a trip to India with the whole family. While travel can cost a bomb, we can do better at Travel Hacking, in order to go further on our travel dollar. All of that being said, there are always things that I could be doing better and this is second point I want to make today, it is time to set my 2011 expectations. There is more I want to do; more I need to do to live simply. I could be living more frugally, I could be giving back more, I could be living lighter on the earth, I could be eliminating all un-needed items from my life and I could be connecting with my real self, rather than the one I have fallen into for work.

This year, I am establishing some hard and fast goals to make my life a better place and hopefully make a small stab at making the world better. So each month I am tackling three new challenges. One goal a month that leads towards inner simplicity and one goal towards outer simplicity and one that leads to either better health or a better environment.

So, without further adieu, here are my goals for the next few months (subject of course to change). I promise I will post each month statements related to my progress.

Buddhist Temple- Korea

January 2011

Outer Simplicity Goal: Clear the clutter in my home office and get all documents scanned/loaded to Evernote/ and or tossed into the recycle bin.

Inner Simplicity Goal: Review some of my old materials on Simple Living. Check in with the core principles I thought I believed in and reevaluate and revise.

Health Goal: Continue on the road to recovery (2010 saw me with wrist surgery, Gallbladder removal and my thyroid condition less stable). Step One is participation in a Year of 30 day Challenges and this month’s goal is consuming less alcohol as a step towards moderation in all things. Starting today and for the rest of January (with one exception my 45 birthday) I will not consume more than one glass of alcohol a day.
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