Get rid of the junk

Chris and I are minimalists. We only want to have the bare necessities around. Now that does not mean the items in our home are not nice. Everything is very specifically chosen, but as minimalists we only have what we need, cherish, and truly want around. We are the opposite of packrats and hoarders. I just finished reading: “After a While You Just Get Used to It: A Tale of Family Clutter” by Gwendolyn Knapp — which made me think of my own childhood.

Knapp is very descriptive about her mom’s home, but in a nice way. You get the point that her mom is a hoarder. It is funny how you do not really know the world you live in until sometimes you are far away from it. Growing up I do not remember our house having a lot of crap in it. We did not have nice things, but there was not crap every where. The couch we had was gross, had many holes (thanks to the dogs), and was not what you would think of if you were looking at a couch. My mom would cover it with sheets, mostly because she did not want anyone to see what it really looked like.

We were not hoarders, but I think looking back that my dad was a packrat. If you came into our house you would not see it. He kept it in his “office.” He had an office in the upstairs of our house. It was his area, and there were lots of papers. He kept everything. He also had an office/garage of sorts for his flailing business. There his packrat tendencies were with “tools.” My dad was a contractor. He had 100’s of every type of tool, and always found a reason he needed another. His garage was filled with money in the form of tools — money that should have been used to buy food to feed his family. Alas.

I remember when he passed on and we had to go through his possessions. We filled storage units that equaled the size of a two-car garage. This was not for furniture or clothes or belongings. It was for his tools and files. We took inventory of everything and had to go through it all. Sadly, most of it went into a dumpster (the files) and the tools given away or sold. There wasn’t anything that amounted to much. Sharing all of this brings me back to the point of: What do we keep and why do we keep it?

Chris and I have carefully selected the items in our home, we discuss together the merits of keeping or getting rid of things. We think through “why” we are keeping something. Does it have meaning? In a time where people want to feel like they belong, do you think that people use stuff to find meaning in their lives? That maybe surrounding themselves with things (whether trivial or meaningful) helps them feel less lonely and that they have more in their life? I often wonder that about my dad. What did all that stuff mean to him? I would rather hold the memories inside, and get the clutter out of my life.

What do you think?

Father Sues Employer Over Paternity Leave and Wins

I admire this guy. I really do. As I plan for my maternity leave, it is hard to decide what to do. I have read a lot of articles over the last few months about maternity and paternity leave, and I am still aghast that we have such shitty laws in the US, and that larger (and smaller) companies are so slowly coming around to supporting their pregnant workforce (and father’s as well). It feels like a slap in the face.

Regardless of what the laws are for the US, I have found it to be quite frustrating to navigate the entire process. Somehow no one tells you the steps to take, you have to navigate on your own, and talk to other women who recently delivered babies to see how it worked (or didn’t) for them. Did they deliver early? Did they go on reduced hours before delivery? Did that start short-term disability? What are your rights and are those at your workplace an advocate for you, or do they only answer your questions, and not attempt to help you understand the complexity of the situation. Things like: if you do not take the right steps, you can basically eat up all your vacation days before you deliver, and then have to take unpaid leave after your short-term disability is done. Crazy that they make it so complicated for women. Is it just about money?

So this guy works for CNN and sued them based on their parental leave policy. He won both for paternity and maternity leave AND he kept his job. Somehow I feel like it might be an anomaly — that most individuals that would sue their company would end up out of a job. He took a risk and he won. Think of all the other individuals at his company that will benefit because he spoke out. We all need more that will speak out. Husband’s for their wives, wives for their husbands, and those that might be in same-sex marriages or partnerships. Parents deserve to be home with their new babies to bond, and get the hang of how to take care of a little one.

What do you think?

Service, service, service

It is a topic that comes up often at work, but never mind that right now. I want to talk about service in my backyard. In my living room, on the phone, and wherever I might be. We all want it right? When we go into the store we want the person working in the store to not bug us too much, but be extremely helpful when we are ready for their help. We want to know when we call our bank or credit card company that they will help us with their questions, and make us feel good about the choices we have made to be a patron of their company. They make money off us right? So why should we be made to feel like we owe them?

Here are a couple of recent examples — and by recent, I mean in the last week. There is not enough time in my day to even list out all from the past month. Yes, I am a service addict and I tend to never forget how I was treated by companies. Really, if you think about it, service levels leave a permanent, laser-etched mark in your mind about their brand. You never forget a horrible service experience and you rarely forget an amazing one — if you ever have one.

Anyway, on to the examples:

Redbox: Over the weekend we reserved a movie on the Redbox app. When Chris went to pick it up, the machine did not work, so he went to another kiosk and rented from there – but since we weren’t able to pick up the movie at the kiosk we reserved it at, we needed to let them know so they would not charge us and so they could be alerted to the problem. Now, I do not care about the $1.50 I was charged, but I do care about principle. If everyone that reserved a movie at that machine did not contact them, how much are they making on their customers, and how many customers would they frustrate?

Their response to our email? They’ll give us a “credit” for another movie to use in the next 30 days. Sorry, but I actually paid for two movies, not one. So credit my account for the amount I was charged in error for your faulty machine. I rarely use Redbox and most likely I am not going to remember to use my “credit.” Plus, I might not even have the chance to use it in the next 30 days. Their solution is better for them, but not for the customer.

Contractors: Dating back to last May we have contacted over 30 contractors to do work on our house. Out of the 30+, maybe 5 have actually followed through with the appointment, and 2 of the 5 have given us bids. I know it is a booming housing market and they have all the business they can possibly handle, but do they realize how brand damaging it is? Service = following through with appointments, calling customers back, and providing bids so homeowners can make educated decisions. We cannot do any of that without contractors providing a very easy service. If you are one of the 30 you will never have our business – your brand has already been damaged.

Why oh why is it so hard for companies to see that one of the most important parts of how they communicate with their customers is how they serve them? With there being more and more options available from many different companies, if you can move or change companies or providers and find one that actually understands how to take care of customers, then those are the companies that are going to make it. It is all in the little things and in the details. Follow through, be accountable for problems, and fix them is the brand image customers remember.

Tyler’s Lemonade Stand

If you were an adult in my world when I was a kid, you probably would have thought that I would have gone into sales. Now the thought of it kind of grosses me out. Why sales? I was a Girl Scout which means I sold Girl Scout cookies. I think the only reason I even stayed in the troop for the many years that I did was because of the competition (with myself and others) of selling Girl Scout cookies. I am not going to go into details, as I have other blog posts about that.

My elementary school also raised money by selling nuts and candy every year. I cannot even remember the prize — maybe it was just knowing I sold near if not at the top of my class. At the same time I also had my own paper route. I delivered the “The Star Press” which meant it was the evening/afternoon newspaper. (Thank goodness, as I am so not a morning person). Every few months our manager would ask us to go “canvassing” where basically he would take us to strange and sketchy neighborhoods, often at night and ask us to go door-to-door to see if we could get folks to sign up for the newspaper. That was the least glamorous of all the gigs even with the random prizes and money he would throw in each night to see who would be encouraged to try harder and come out on top. Mind you — I was nine at the time.

And, yet, I am not in sales and I do not even dream of ever being in sales as a career. (My dad would have been so bummed). I often wonder what propelled me to want to excel and do so well selling things door-to-door. I was not a crazy outgoing kid, but somehow going door-to-door, selling on college campuses, and the competition of it all was an adrenaline rush for me.

Fast forward to 2015 and I come across “Tyler’s Lemonade Stand Fundraiser.” Tyler lives in Grafton, NY and decided to raise money for a police sergeant that was battling cancer and could not work. See this video of the long line of police cars that come to pay Tyler a visit and show their support. So far Tyler has raised $1500. Amazing. Now that is sales and talent put to good use. You rock, Tyler.

Airlines shrinking carry-on size, what’s next?

Just when we thought flying on a plane could not get ANY worse. Yes, they are trying to put in more seats, so that you basically are required to sit upright the entire time, a bag of peanuts is going to cost $3, and drinks will BYOB (all my jokes). All joking aside there does not seem to be much more they can take from us while on a flight, and instead it tends to go the other direction that everything is costing passengers more money.

So, when I saw this Fast Company article, “Good for Luggage Manufacturers, Bad for Travelers: Carry-on Bag Size to Shrink by 21%” I about lost it. What else are they going to do? The interesting part is that it looks like the current carry-on size is 22 inches tall, 14 inches wide, and 9 inches deep. The new guidelines would mean 21.5 inches tall, 13.5 inches wide, and 7.5 inches deep. They are only shaving a half-inch off two sides and 1.5 inches off another, yet, every inch counts! I am not one to check my luggage. I have to be going far enough and long enough that I need to take enough to warrant a larger suitcase. Even then, I do all I can to see how I can make do with a smaller carry-on. Less hassle and the wonder of if I will see my bag again, and it means I travel light. Oh, and did I mention that it saves me money because I do not have to pay to check my luggage (knock on wood, as that too could change).

The article states that the International Air Transportation Association (IATA) has put forth these guidelines and it is voluntary if airlines want to comply. Something tells me that Samsonite, Tumi, Victorinox, and others are in on this deal? It means more business for luggage companies if the guidelines go into effect than those flying the friendly skies are going to have to pay up (in more ways than one) to travel comfortably. What is next, seat sharing to save money? How about seat belt sharing?

What is confusing is that if some airlines comply with guidelines and others do not, it makes for an interesting trip. These are guidelines that should be standard across all airplanes of similar types. So that when you get to China, your bag will fit just the same in Brazil. This is not customer service, it is just another way to steal from customers. Can we stop, and go back to the days when traveling was supposed to feel like a luxury?