Open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

Today’s post is open to any topic.  Here’s what was on my mind:

Since I’m trying to establish a more minimalist approach to possessions, this article caught my eye.

The Diderot Effect: Why We Want Things We Don’t Need — And What to Do About It

The Diderot Effect states that obtaining a new possession often creates a spiral of consumption which leads you to acquire more new things. As a result, we end up buying things that our previous selves never needed to feel happy or fulfilled.

Some examples:

  • You buy a new dress and now you have to get shoes and earrings to match.
  • You buy a CrossFit membership and soon you’re paying for foam rollers, knee sleeves, wrist wraps, and paleo meal plans.
  • You buy your kid an American Girl doll and find yourself purchasing more accessories than you ever knew existed for dolls.
  • You buy a new couch and suddenly you’re questioning the layout of your entire living room. Those chairs? That coffee table? That rug? They all gotta go.

Have you ever fallen victim to the Diderot Effect?  How’s your clutter management coming along these days?


171 thoughts on “Open thread

  1. Has anyone used Costco’s auto buying service? Our plan to buy DW a new car in the spring and keep the Outback for DS when he gets his license next November just got torpedoed. The Outback needs a new head gasket, timing belt, and a couple of other gaskets that will cost $3,100. The car is only worth about $1,000 at his point, so there’s no way to justify paying for the repairs.

    We’re still leaning toward a Pilot, we can’t justify the extra $10k for the MDX. We’d consider another Highlander but I’m still pissed at Toyota over the issue with the hatch and warranty last year.

  2. Denver: We tried to use Costco, but they didn’t cover Honda dealers in our area at the time. We had good luck speaking to the internet sales departments of several dealerships and negotiating the price via phone/e-mail.

  3. Thank you to the person who recommended the British show about OCD cleaners. Very inspiring in helping me to throw away stuff.

  4. DH got rid of a ton of unused clothes that freed up a lot of closet space. He also cleaned up his small piles of paperwork sitting around.
    I cleaned out my closet, the bookcases and made the kids toss out things they didn’t need. Our neighbor took our old music system. I was marveling today that our bedrooms and office look so much better. I am now motivated to do more purging of my closet. If I buy things, I have to toss old stuff because otherwise we are back to crammed closets. Luckily, my kids have outgrown the toy stage so no new toys will be making an appearance for Christmas.

  5. Denver – we bought our Odyssey through the Costco auto buying program. It was easy and we felt like we got a good price. We went to Carmax to get a quote for our trade in because the dealer’s offer was low, but sounds like that won’t be an issue. I think the Pilot looks great.

    I fall prey to the Diderot Effect all of the time and DH falls for it as long as whatever item he’s buying is one sale. He refreshed his wardrobe this summer and bought about ten shirts, some Allen Edmonds shoes/belts and I think some pants. I just caught him on the Vineyard Vines website over the weekend because they were doing 40% off (I just cannot imagine that he could possibly need more VV shirt because they all look the same and he already has ten of them)

    I need a buy nothing year after this renovation, but unfortunately the kids keep growing and needing more things.

  6. Today I am unsubscribing to e-mails because my inbox has gotten out of control again and it’s also time for the kids to do the pre-Christmas play room clean out. I can’t deal with decluttering the house right now when half of the downstairs is not usable.

  7. We are about to embark on a master bath/closet renovation, which means we need to completely empty our master closet. I have been working on cleaning it out, and although I pride myself on my decluttering skills it’s amazing what I have trouble letting go of. It’s all a consistent theme – things that were pricey (to me) but weren’t perfect. I keep thinking they’ll magically become perfect and then I’ll get my money’s worth out of them.

  8. @ DD – does that mean you’re going to have to buy 2 cars? One for your wife and one for your son next year?

    Would you consider another Outback? My MIL just got a new one, and it’s gorgeous.

  9. Still dealing with parents’ boxes and things that came in our house in June. I know it is partly emotional and that while looking at them is depressing, going through them is more depressing. I had a burst of productivity a month or so ago. I went to our storage unit, which my mom paid for mainly because she couldn’t part with some of the furniture. I found 3 pieces to sell, but didn’t have a way to get them out to even get pictures of. Did get 3 boxes of books donated, a handfull of them came back in the house (DD#1 is using an old phyisics book because it lays things out more clearly and DD#2 is using an old college math book for the same reason), and two big bags of trash gone. Added in the kitchen/dishes from my mom’s place as DD#1 will go off to college soon and we had space for it. I cleaned my home office (work from home 90% of the time) / guest room just before Thanksgiving and hung some of the cross-stitch pictures she made. I found the small wall quilt that has the same colors over the weekend and it is going up later today.

    With all their stuff in our living room, it is making it hard to put up the tree, so my next task is to weed through that. Wanting to get the tree up is the current motivation. I did make a big enough space to get the kid train table downstairs last night so I can take a picture and post it on our local “buy/sell/trade” site.

  10. Fred – ha!

    We are very susceptible to it. When we bought our new house, we intended to use most of our old stuff. But things either didn’t work style wise or because of scale and before we knew it, we had purchased a bunch of new furniture. Once the stuff is actually in the house, inertia sets in and we won’t replace anything else.

  11. Denver, after comparing pilot and MDX, we bought MDX 3 years ago. I don’t know about the new pilot redesign, but for the previous model, I found it roomier, has many more cup holders, had integrated window shades etc. MDX is much more
    Luxurious and not as big. Less cup holders and space than pilot though. But we test drive it in snow and the MDX handling is unbeatable.

  12. Denver, if you don’t go with Costco, DH and some of his friends had good luck with H.M. Brown and Associates. They’re down in Centennial.

  13. Oh, man, Austin, it’s really awful having to go through your parents’ stuff. Took me years (and it was mostly DH doing the work because I’d just get overwhelmed and cry). My sympathies.

  14. I’m sort of having the opposite response right now — I was traveling W-M and so had neither the desire nor the ability to shop, and I have just been overwhelmed with the number of emails I have received over the past five days encouraging me to spend money. First Black Friday, then Small Business Saturday, then Cyber Monday, and now it is apparently Giving Tuesday. I swear, anyone I have ever done business with has been sending me not just one, but two or three emails every day — hundreds and hundreds of emails. I am SO SICK OF IT that it makes me never want to shop ever again. Just go the F away.

    In the past, it has certainly been an issue, but more the hedonic treadmill, vs “now this makes the rest of my stuff look like crap.” We’ve renovated, moved, etc., but I’ve never bought all-new furniture because now my old stuff looked shabby, and I always buy clothes to fit with what I have, etc. The bigger issue is that once I hit a certain level of “nice” in any particular thing I really don’t want to go back. E.g., my whole life I never had a garage; then I moved to a condo with one stall in a parking garage, and thought, hey, this is nice; then to a townhouse with a two-car attached one floor below (better!), and then to a three-car attached right next to the kitchen (wow! awesome!). And then back to the original neighborhood, with its tandem driveway parking. And all of a sudden, wow, that sucked; every time I said “honey, can you move your car,” every time I had to shovel out the cars, every time some idiot on the street scraped my car, it was a rankling reminder of what I no longer had. Same with cars — each one has been a little nicer than the last. I tell myself that I’d still be happy with the cheaper models, but then I go sit in one and get all critical of the plastic-ey look and the tinny sound, and next thing you know I’m buying the tricked-out TL.

    So the lesson I take is, if you ever want to retire, you need to increase your standard of living much more slowly than you increase your income. Because frankly, most nicer stuff is, in fact, nicer. But once you get it, you will resent giving it up, and so your baseline “need” threshold will increase; OTOH, you don’t miss what you never had.

  15. I feel like I just bought the internet over the past Friday-Monday and it’s all being boxed up and shipped to my house (well, a couple bits to the houses of distant family). But in terms of clutter, some of that was electronic files/ subscriptions (Innovative Language still has its sale going!), which I guess don’t take up so much room?

  16. I feel like I am the living embodiment of the diderot effect currently. I was really good about doing one of those KonMari cleanouts last year but couldn’t quite part with the expensive items. Thought I would sell them and then they sat for a year in bags in my closet. They are now in the guest room and after offering to the housekeeper and au pair to go through and pick out their favorite items, my task this weekend is making the list and getting them to the donation dropoff. I just bought a new work wardrobe for my new job that involves more conferences/panels and still need to buy shoes. Trying to find two pairs that will work with everything and can be purchased with Nordstrom Notes (racked up a bunch with the work wardrobe). I think I can get down to 4 purses and 15 pairs of shoes and my pledge is to stop buying stuff on sale and stuff made for outlets. Every single item falls apart that I bought from outlets that were not in the original source store. Have lived with a couch I hate for 8 years to avoid changing up the rug, the pillows, the paint color, etc. Too many decisions…..

  17. “First Black Friday, then Small Business Saturday, then Cyber Monday, and now it is apparently Giving Tuesday. I swear, anyone I have ever done business with has been sending me not just one, but two or three emails every day — hundreds and hundreds of emails. I am SO SICK OF IT that it makes me never want to shop ever again. Just go the F away.”

    Right there with you….I am shopped out by now and I don’t want to be bothered. Have already made my end of year donation decisions and giving tuesday is not changing them.

  18. DH’s issue was buying expensive (for him/us) items and then not using them much because they were too “nice”. We have a giant outdoor grill that is hardly used and a whole set of catalog looking outdoor furniture nicely stored.
    Now, I insist we buy mid quality items that we actually use and can get rid of without the guilt. This has helped with decluttering because there is no hesitation or hanging on to things forever.

  19. I guess I don’t do this with furniture. I don’t like shopping for or buying furniture, so what happens instead is that I wait until the item really needs replacing. For example, some years ago my father gave me money for a sofa because he was sick of sitting on our crappy futon. So we went through lots of angst choosing a new sofa. Once it was there, everything around it looked awful, but we were all too lazy to go through the furniture shopping experinece again, so the ugly battered coffee table, and the folding tables we use as end tables, remained. Now, it has been long enough that the sofa looks battered too, so everything matches again :-)

  20. AustinMom – give yourself lots of time and grace. I’m still going through my mom’s stuff from over 12 years ago. I shoved it all in my attic and didn’t deal with it for several years. It started to cause me stress knowing it was up there. Over the last few years I’ve purged a lot. I’ve decided that I either have to find a way to use and love it, or get rid of it. As I deal with each item, I’m asking if it is something that I want my kids to have to deal with at a later date. If I don’t deal with it now, they’ll have to deal with it sometime in the future. It took me years to get to the point though where I could deal with my mom’s stuff. A lot of times I’d try and would just break down and cry.

    I purged a bunch of holiday decorations this summer. I forced DH to go through ornaments that we didn’t use and threw out any that were from my mom that we didn’t use/like. DH is pretty sentimental and gets bothered when I declutter, so I have to pick my moments when he’s willing to go through things. I need to donate them soon before he changes his mind.

  21. MiaMama, my university has been sending me endless emails about Giving Tuesday. Of course, what they want me to give to is their development fund. Thanks, but I don’t give money to my employer. I’m giving to a couple of fave charities instead (Alex’s Lemonade Stand and Sandy Hook Promise)

  22. @ DD – does that mean you’re going to have to buy 2 cars? One for your wife and one for your son next year?

    Would you consider another Outback? My MIL just got a new one, and it’s gorgeous.

    Yes, we have to buy two. We were hoping to get a few more years out of the Outback, but it is a 2001 with 145,000 miles, so that was probably a bit too optimistic.

    We’ve been of the mindset that we need a third row, but I’m not sure that we do with DS getting his license in a year. Another Outback would be cheaper, plus it would fit in the garage better. Two full-size SUVs will be very tight.

  23. In honor of this post, I just deleted almost 1000 emails that have sat in my “promotions” tab on gmail. Best 5 minutes of my life.

    I try not to fall into this trap. It’s a bit easy when (a) I don’t have money to spend (b) my tastes are not high end for most things (jewelry aside) and (c) I have a small house. I always frame things as “needs”. For car shopping, what are our needs for the car (cargo, people, AWD, bluetooth, USB port) everything after that is bonus. Same with clothes (if I need this, can I get rid of 1-2 other pieces of clothing). We’ve been living for over a decade on our living room furniture – it needs replacing, and we could do it for ~$2000k, but other things needed attention first.

  24. I was thinking about refurnishing our family room once it’s done but may just stick with what we have after this conversation. I suppose I could be good and just save that money for the landscaping we’d like to do in the spring.

    I am almost done Christmas shopping but there are boxes everywhere. Trying to break those down this week too.

  25. @DD — If you like the Subaru, suggest looking at the Crosstrek or Impreza wagon, maybe for your DS next year — little smaller than the Outback, but cheaper, too.

    That said, we do love the Enclave with its accessible and useful 3rd-row seats, so I see the appeal of a bigger vehicle, too.

  26. After last Christmas I put all the boxes of ornaments, lights, decorations in the main (finished) part of the basement instead of back in their usual home in the storage (unfinished) part. As we have been using things over the past week the (now) empty boxes go back into storage. Whatever remains in the finished part, untouched after we get done decorating, will be ripe for purging come January.

    I keep meaning to clean out my closet…maybe that’s a project for tonight? Truly should take only about 30 mins.

  27. We need new flooring where we have carpet – 13 years old to us and not new when we bought the house. However, the girls were toddlers and we expected bad things to happen. The stairs will soon be a tripping hazzard, which is what is causing the initial push. Where we have wood laminate, we have two damaged areas that need repair, but the prior owners didn’t leave us extra enough to fix both places. That leaves the kitchen (white floor tile I have always hated) and the bathrooms (have all had new flooring). We are anticipating all new except the bathrooms next summer. I want to put the tile that looks like wood throughout the downstairs and keep carpeting upstairs, due to noise and weight as much as anything else.

  28. Mooshi- I find it interesting that you don’t give to your university. It is a pretty common measure of the quality of a school to look at the participation rate in giving from alums and faculty. If faculty don’t give at least a symbolic amount it seems like a very negative sign.

  29. Why on earth should I give money to my employer? That is just so weird. This is in fact, the first time an employer (including 2 previous schools) even asked.

    I do give money to my grad school – specifically to the engineering school so they won’t waste it on athletics

  30. Mafalda, gifts from alums are one thing. Gifts from the faculty just seems like oddly recycling the same money.

  31. 30 minutes to clean out your closet? Mine would take me several hours. Okay, some of it would be dilly dallying, trying things on to decide if I really, really wanted to get rid of them. Ugh!

    I am trying to get rid of stuff, but it happens in fits and starts.

  32. I worked at several universities and always gave because I sort of had to (worked in Development) but always hated it. There were actually quite a few faculty members at all of the universities I worked for that gave 7 figure gifts while I was there (either planned or outright). They just loved the institution and their work there.

  33. Wow, what kind of university has faculty that are so well paid that they can give 7 figure gifts?

  34. Well if you work for a public university you usually have a pension and a 401K and over 30 years you accumulate some extra assets. A lot of this has been in the form of planned gifts either using appreciated securities or real estate in a charitable remainder trust. I’ve also seen deans (who obviously make a lot more) give rather significant gifts. There was a department chair who had given maybe $2 million total over the 35 years he worked at my last university (he was on a lot of boards).

  35. “If faculty don’t give at least a symbolic amount it seems like a very negative sign.”

    We don’t give to DH’s university. When the nice students call, I tell them that we gave at the office. They don’t get the reference. But it is true. DH is well-paid, but he is always working. He puts in more “nonbillable” hours than nearly any other faculty member I know.

  36. Other than kid clothes/shoes/groceries, I don’t buy a lot and usually to replace what we have. We suffer from analysis paralysis and coming to agreement. We bought a new living room couch ~3 years ago and planned to replace our 1970’s loveseat but haven’t done it. Furniture shopping with 4 children isn’t particularly fun. Maybe I can get Mr WCE to go pick out a loveseat he likes (since he cares more). We really need to replace it because it dumps in the middle and my dad/stepmom will have trouble getting out of it.

    Mr WCE just had an e-mail chain about replacing the china that we don’t use and don’t want to use but that he wants to keep. I want to get new Corelleware, since enough of our old Corelleware has broken. He doesn’t care about the Corelleware, so the compromise may be to get new Corelleware and put the china in storage. With 6 people, I need that kitchen space for a 5 L casserole dish.

  37. LfB, thanks for the recommendation. We’re definitely going smaller and cheaper for DS when the time comes.

  38. Speaking of clutter, I’ve started to receive spam invitations on my phone’s Google calendar. I tried solution #2 and I hope this solves the problem.
    How to stop receiving iCloud calendar invite spam on your iPhone and Mac

    WCE, I just bought some Corelle plates in winter white, to use for snacks, but if I were starting over I would be tempted to buy them as my main dishware. They’re simple, durable, and stack up in less than half the space that my regular dishes use. I really like them.

  39. By the time our kids are launched, I feel we should gut our house and build a new home. I love our neighborhood and our lot but given that our home is older and had already been improved the only solution is to start over.

  40. I need someone to stand beside me in the closet and make decisions that I can’t make.

    I have 6 lovely purses, nice brands, that I never EVER carry. Why is it so hard for me to let go of them? Also, 2 pairs of jeans, also nice brands, perfect condition, but they do nothing for me. Everytime I wear them, I go change an hour later. So why can’t I pull the trigger?


  41. CoC, thanks for the color suggestion. Corelleware has the added advantage that it’s hard for my 4 children to break as they set and clear the table, although part of the reason I want to replace what we have is that Baby WCE has managed to shatter a couple dishes she hurled off the table.

  42. We suffer from analysis paralysis and coming to agreement.

    Me and DH too. So then we live with really old furniture. I thought men weren’t supposed to care about interior decorating! Why can’t I just have everything my way? Seems only fair.

  43. I had some Noritake stoneware from the early 80s. It sort of survived 5 moves and 2 small children. After we were down to 3 smaller plates, 4 bowls and 6 dinner plates (had 8 of each to begin with), I asked for Correlleware as a replacement. We did keep the two serving pieces as they are very plain. I wish what we had didn’t come in sets, but in individual pieces. The dinner plates are huge, so we use them for serving plates and use the luncheon plates most of the time. We have lost 1 bowl from the bar top to the ceramic tile floor so far. I think because it hit on a edge it shattered.

  44. Sigh. We were at my parents’ house for Thanksgiving and they have a TON of stuff from my grandparents (the last of whom died almost 3 years ago) that my mom has a really hard time letting go of. None of us kids want the old glass dishes, the old water-stained dressers, etc. But every time we suggest they get rid of something the response is “We can’t get rid of THAT! It’s an antique!” Argh. I hope they find a way to get rid of most of the stuff before they die and my siblings and I are stuck having to do it.

    I am not very attached to anything other than clothes. I do have a hard time giving away clothes, especially formal wear and things that have good memories attached to them (sparkly glitter shirt from freshman formal, I’m looking at you).

    We recently ran into the Diderot effect (and I agree, great name!) with the kitchen – we had to replace the fridges and so of course we had to get all new paneling on the new fridges because the old panels wouldn’t work, and the whole kitchen is paneled and to have the non-paneled fridges wouldn’t look as nice. I am hoping nothing else in the house breaks soon!

  45. I want Corelle too, but DH hates it. We have this immense bunch of really heavy stoneware that his first wife never liked. Well I never liked it either! Sigh.

  46. We are also having living room seating issues. We have two recliners – one the kids lived in and one cat loved to scratch, so it is falling apart. We’d like to replace both with a couch. So, we go shopping on Black Friday. While we are both fairly tall, he has long legs and I have a longer torso, making what feels comfy different for each of us. Now I find out that couches are MUCH deeper than ours that is upstairs and somewhat longer. I was ready to start picking out the fabric and he was done for the day (maybe the year). What I liked was it has the option of 1, 2, or 3 cushions across. Plus, we need to get a chair recovered and we could order coordinating fabric from the same manufacturer. OK…maybe this will get done the day after Christmas?

  47. We suffer from analysis paralysis and coming to agreement.

    Me and DH too. So then we live with really old furniture. I thought men weren’t supposed to care
    about interior decorating! Why can’t I just have everything my way? Seems only fair.

    WCE and RMS,
    Why are you two married to my husband?

  48. My husband really cares about home furnishings (and everything else). He generally picks stuff out and I approve or veto it. He is way more picky about things so this is the best system that we have developed for us.

  49. When my grandmother died, I saw firsthand that only a few pieces of furniture was wanted by the extended family. Her jewelry was mainly for memento value. She had dinner sets and tea sets with pretty designs. We inherited these and for years we were stuck using up these sets. There was a sudden big shift in style and space available, so where previous generations would have been happy to get these items, my parents generation didn’t really want them.

  50. DD, getting a new car for your DS gives you an opportunity to look for something with a lot of the newer safety features that he wouldn’t have had with your old Outback.

    I haven’t used Costco to buy a car, but my brother has. He was pretty happy with the no-haggle aspect of it, and got what he thought was a good price from a local dealership.

  51. FYI, we found a seamstress (!) that makes slipcovers for couches, and re-covered a couch and a chair that were REALLY UGLY (left by previous owner) but very comfortable. Et voila, “new” couch!

  52. Lark and anybody else who’s done work on a bathroom recently, do you have any suggestions, good or bad, on toilet selection?

    DW and I decided to partially remodel a bathroom. The big impetus was that the cast iron sink was rusting pretty badly, but on top of that, the sink fixtures are some weird thing that we’ve not been able to find replacement parts for, some of the laminate over particle board doors were swelling, and little plastic pieces in the hinges were breaking, causing them to lose their self-closing feature.

    So we took advantage of a Labor Day sale at Home Depot and ordered new cabinets, which arrived earlier this month. We demo’ed the vanity and storage cabinet, and decided to replace the toilet since it was easy to do now, and was in the way of repainting. On Sunday I took out the old toilet and painted, so now we have a hole in the floor while we pick out a new toilet.

  53. Where do you get Corelle these days? I love the stuff. We have a whole set in a colorful scheme, but believe it or not, Corelle can and does break so we need some more. Target seems to mainly deal in china these days.

  54. My criteria for buying furniture is that it looks good, is comfortable and is easy to keep
    The easy to keep clean is what DH doesn’t pay attention to. Then he’ll wonder how the white is tending to a slight beige. Or why special cleaning instructions for this or that are not being followed.

  55. Walmart, Fred Meyer, Bimart and the Corningware outlet all sell Corelleware. I will likely visit the outlet so I can get exactly the pieces I want.

  56. Finn – when we renovated the bathrooms at our old house, our contractor insisted that we use Toto. We got one piece, comfort height for everything other than the kids’ bathroom and elongated bowls for everything other than one that had to fit in a small space. I wanted a Kohler one for the style and he said no.

  57. Finn, we got a new type of toilet with anti-overflow features at lowe’s that I would recommend – I think it is a penguin but I’m on the school pickup line so can’t check now. Worthwhile for us because the bathroom is over the large family room TV.

  58. Finn,
    I just did a bathroom reno-and I got a TOT toilet-it is awesome!

    Also, it started with shower repair, which became shower demo-then floor looked bad, so that went, then Vanity, toilet and so on. I def fall into the Diderot effect all the time!!

  59. Finn, I was just discussing these toilets earlier today, and toto is worth the money. We got three new toilets during the renovation, and the Toto is the best of the bunch.

  60. We bought Toto when we did the house renovation, because that brand is supposed to be the best. But they still suck. I guess they just suck less than other low flo toilets. A pox on the lot of ’em

  61. HM – some time ago you recommended or made a reference to “The Pursuit of Happiness” by Nancy Mitford. Just wanted to let you know I recently read it based on your comment and really enjoyed it. I’m now reading Jessica Mitford’s “Hons and Rebels” which I’m also enjoying.

  62. SSM, I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Did you know that the Mitford sisters were J.K. Rowling’s inspiration for the Black sisters (Bellatrix, Narcissa, and Tonks’s mother Andromeda)? Obviously Bellatrix is Unity and Andromeda is Jessica, so does that make Narcissa Deborah?

  63. We had lots of people recommend Toto to us, but we liked the American Standard Champion better. 1.6 gpf. We got it for the guestbath when we redid it, and will get it again for the master bath.

  64. Hey, Woot Kids has golden “Collector’s Set” Spirograph for $20. Do a google image search for “spirograph art”; it’s pretty impressive. I bet Spirograph will be the next coloring book-type fad. I should invest in Hasbro.

  65. Thanks for the toilet recs.

    We had another bathroom partially renovated by a contractor earlier, when that contractor also did our kitchen. That bathroom is adjacent to the kitchen, so we had the flooring, vanity cabinet, and sink fixture match the kitchen.

    When we did that bathroom, we got a one-piece Toto toilet, with the ADA (aka comfort) height, in part because I’d just taken a trip to Japan for work and was impressed by the Toto toilet in my hotel. It’s a 1.28 gallon model, and it’s by far the best toilet in our house. It was also quite expensive, a bit over $500, which is the only reason we didn’t just go with another Toto.

    But based on the feedback here, I think we’ll stick with Toto. The one thing we’ll need to decide is whether to get the same model, or the newer 1 gallon model, which a local supplier told DW is better than the one we have. They’ve apparently made the sides of the bowl more slippery via shape and coating.

    We got the faucet fixture (Hansgrohe), as well as the vanity and shower light fixtures, from Costco.

    The tile floor is still in good shape, so we’re not replacing it. We don’t even need to regrout.

  66. Lark – having to empty your closets is a huge bonus when trying to get rid of stuff. When we did our bedroom work we brought everything down to our basement/garage, a big pain in the neck. I did not want to have to carry anything back up those two flights of stairs that wasn’t going to be worn again.

    Same for some work we had to do on a third floor office (with a bathroom). It is right over DS’s bedroom (in fact, his ceiling had a leak from the old pipes in the bathroom), so he had to take everything out of his room – he was able to purge a bunch of stuff.

  67. Our one absolute must-have for the toilet is being a one-piece. It is so much easier to keep it clean, and has one fewer place to leak.

    When I removed the old toilet, I took off the seat, which was an upgrade with the soft-close feature. It was a bit messy, but once off it was very easy to clean all the places that were hard to clean while it was attached. Once it was all cleaned up (and literally shiny), I installed it in our master, which made DW happy. I’ve decided that it was easy enough to remove and replace that I’ll try to take it off to facilitate thorough cleaning, maybe a couple times a year.

  68. Austin– you have to start somewhere, so take satisfaction in every little bit you get done.

    It’s been over 10 years, but we still have a bunch of DW’s parents’ stuff. I did a bunch of the easy purging a while back, but every now and then DW gets the time and motivation to go through some of it, and gets rid of a few boxes worth. At that rate we should have it all done before it becomes our kids’ problem.

    Cleaning up our old crap is top of list for my retirement projects. Speaking of which, I just had dinner with a classmate who was back home for a visit, who told us he’s retiring next year, and that another classmate has recently been retired (his job was eliminated, and he decided to focus on golf rather than look for another job).

  69. I guess for our bathroom, the toilet, light fixtures, faucet, and mirror replacement, and painting, could all be attributed to the Diderot effect, since all we really needed to replace was the sink and cabinets.

  70. Teacher Gift Ideas? Would making a gift to our school’s fundraising foundation in their name seem self serving? I have done target gift cards for the main teachers and starbucks for the auxiliary teachers in years past. One year I did travel size kiehl’s items with nice quality chocolate.

  71. My friend who used to teach in the Palo Alto Unified School District was reminiscing fondly about how parents used to buy her gift cards to the local spa.

  72. Mia, I give teachers gift cards to local restaurants – usually enough to take the family out, but I’m sure enough for a lunch date would also be appreciated :)

  73. We have Toto in our upstairs bathrooms (previous owners who added the second floor put them in) and they’re fine. They’re about 9 or 10 years old now and they do feel more substantial than the Kohler Home Depot ones we put in the powder room and guest bath but they’re getting a little rusty already.

    Mia – I wouldn’t give $ to the school foundation in their names, I think they like the gift cards (or at least that’s what my teacher friends really seem to want). We all give $50 to a class fund in the beginning of the year so I’ve seen gift cards to W-S, cooking classes, Amazon, etc.

  74. I tend to stick to gift cards but the one time I knew a teacher well enough and gifted a Vera Bradley wallet, it was much appreciated.

  75. I have also done hotel gift cards, but that was after DS gave the teacher a particularly difficult year….

  76. “We have Toto in our upstairs bathrooms (previous owners who added the second floor put them in) and they’re fine. They’re about 9 or 10 years old now and they do feel more substantial than the Kohler Home Depot ones we put in the powder room and guest bath but they’re getting a little rusty already.”

    What’s rusting? Toilets are mostly made of vitreous china, which doesn’t rust.

    When I took out our old toilet, the only things rusting were the nuts holding the tank to the bowl.

  77. The best teacher gifts we’ve been a part of were when a room parent collected money then got something nice, like an iPod. We’re always told by the school that we’re not to spend more than a nominal amount on teacher gifts (IIRC, about $10), so pooling funds is one way to get them something nice without violating that.

    Hmm, I think we helped buy DS’ kindergarten teacher a new guitar that way. He kept his personal guitar in the classroom and used it as a teaching tool, and it was pretty beat up.

    When we give just from our families, it’s usually something like chocolates or coffee, and we try to get the kids to help choose something that the particular teacher would enjoy. E.g., DD noticed her 1st grade teacher always made herself a cup of coffee when getting to school in the morning, so we got her a bag of the type of coffee DD saw her using.

  78. I hope they find a way to get rid of most of the stuff before they die and my siblings and I are stuck having to do it.

    It’s very easy. When my mom died, we just called the salvation army and they cleaned the house out (after we picked out the handful of things that we wanted to keep). They wouldn’t take her gazillion books so we had to haul them to the library for their next used book sale.

    We could have tried to do an estate sale to make some money but it wasn’t worth it since neither of us lived in the area.

  79. Since this is an open thread, I’m interested in your thoughts on transferring from one college to another.

    DS’ grades and test scores qualify him for merit aid at Flagship U that would cover most or all of his expenses. He’s also expressed a strong interest in spending a year overseas in an exchange program. I’m thinking that it might make more financial sense for him to do the exchange program as a Flagship U student than as a student at ~$70k/year HSS. After the exchange is over, he could (at least in theory) transfer to HSS to finish his degree there, gaining many of the benefits associated with HSS but at a lower cost than spending all 4 years there.

    Of course, there are some potential gotchas, most notably being the need to actually get into HSS as a transfer student. Any idea how hard that is? I’ve heard that because transfer students don’t affect incoming freshman stats that are used by US News to rank schools, it’s easier, and that it’s a backdoor that some schools offer to legacies without good stats. Perhaps good stats and legacy status might get him into my alma mater that way?

    The other concern is the loss of the four-year bonding that some schools offer, and DS is looking mostly at schools in which most kids live on campus the entire time there. OTOH, that would necessarily get interrupted if he spends a year overseas. I’m hoping Fred might have some insight on this.


  80. At my alma mater, transfer students were relatively rare, and according to the one I knew they had a hard time getting into the regular residential houses — they might be stuck with living off-campus and being associated instead with a non-residential house that caters primarily to grad students. Since much of the bonding was centered around your residential, that was a real drawback. I don’t know whether that’s changed, though I can see that the non-residential house still refers to having off-campus undergrads associated with it.

  81. I think it totally depends on the HSS. A lot of the small ones do not encourage tranfers, but some do. You may find that the bigger ones are more welcoming to transfers.

    There are also a lot of downsides to being a transfer. We get a lot of them at my school, but there are always mismatches between programs, and not everything transfers. We have a mentoring program, but we don’t mentor transfers, only students who enter as freshmen.

  82. HM described the culture at Harvard, but based on my sister’s and friends’ experiences, Stanford isn’t like that, and there isn’t anything in particular about the social life of the residential houses that’s compelling.

  83. Is it still common to do your junior year abroad? That seems like an issue — you do freshman and sophomore years on campus, then do junior year abroad, THEN come back and transfer to the HSS? That really only leaves one year there. Of course you’d still get the HSS Seal stamped on your forehead, but you wouldn’t get the “college experience”.

  84. HM, thanks.

    I think that would be a big concern to DS. Since he read his first Harry Potter book or saw the first movie, he’s really liked the idea of a residential learning environment.

  85. Finn – We have been to a couple of HHS presentations. They tend to emphasize the study abroad concept in a way that seems that the vast majority take advantage of it. IF that is true, then it would seem that they are all in the same bonding boat as far as coming and going. One presentation we attended said they assigned you to “houses” sort of like Hogwarts and you lived there your whole 4 years. In that case even if you are gone a semester, it seems the bulk of the people would be the same when you returned.

  86. RMS, from what I’ve heard from LSJU grads I know (admittedly about my age, so the info is dated), their residential experiences were, as you might put it, compelling.

    OTOH, back in those days it was also very common for students to move off-campus as soon as they could. I imagine that’s changed since then, given the cost of housing in the area.

    It’s something for us to look into further, although I don’t think LSJU is high on DS’ list because it’s not in an urban area.

  87. “One presentation we attended said they assigned you to “houses” sort of like Hogwarts and you lived there your whole 4 years.”

    so what happens to kids who go to a small school district like mine, and know the same kids for years and years, and then they go off to essentially the same experience at a HSS, when they graduate? Are they going to be ready for the wide world? It seems so opposite from my college experience, where I met tons and tons of new people, and changed up my living experience every year.

  88. Finn, I knew one person (not well) who transferred to Stanford from community college. She wanted to go there because Stanford had the best program in her field, and she had no interest in social/career placement/networking factors. It’s possible that the ability to transfer depends on whether they have space in your major of interest, as well as your qualifications. Her major was somewhat obscure.

  89. Extrapolating from one kid’s experience, the first year in a residential housing setting is important in forming bonds between students. From what I could tell, at least half the students moved off campus after their sophomore year, but continued to maintain strong ties with their residential housemates. Your proposed plan would throw a wrench into that typical experience.

    Interesting about Stanford and how the off-campus housing costs may have affected housing choices over the years.

  90. I think the first year bonds are only important if the kid moves off campus, because those become their links back to campus. In my case, I stayed in housing all 4 years, but moved a couple of times. I spent some time in a dorm that paired international students with American students, and kept some of those friends, even to today. I also spent time in a brownstone dorm that was informally referred to as Punk House, and I keep contact with some of those people too.

  91. At Columbia we were told that housing costs are a major factor in nearly all kids staying in campus housing their entire time.

    Back when my friends were at LSJU, I believe a common reason students moved off-campus was to save money. I don’t think that’s the case now. They’ve also built more dorms since then.

  92. RMS, he’s thinking urban like BU, Columbia, Penn, or places like that. LSJU is on the outskirts of suburbia, and there’s still wide open space just on the other side of Foothill Expressway.

  93. Finn–don’t know about Stanford, but some HSS will only take you as a transfer after your freshman year; others will require you to spend at least two years at their school. Also, be aware that some state schools will not let you use merit aid for study abroad, or at least limit what you can use or where you can use it. So you need to do some homework.
    Well, I just looked at the Stanford CDS, and last year they took 1% of transfer applicants.

  94. “Is it still common to do your junior year abroad?”

    I don’t know. We have one anecdatum right now that made me think of this– the older sister of one of DD’s besties is currently spending her sophomore year overseas in an exchange program via flagship U. She got a scholarship there that pretty much covered her expenses her freshman year, and also included a one-time stipend for travel that she’s using this year.

    BITD, it seemed that the common transfer points were after freshman and sophomore years.

  95. BenL, thanks, good points. We’ll need to investigate those if DS in interested in this approach.

    Yeah, the backdoor I’ve heard for legacies and other connected but not great stats kids is typically one semester or one year. E.g., USC typically offers some kids admission starting in spring semester.

  96. I guess I need to find out more about exchange programs at the schools DS is considering. My understanding is that if you’re a student at school X, and you go to school Y on an exchange program, you still pay school X tuition (several of DW’s friends did this as students at flagship U, spending a year at places like Amherst). So the thought of spending $50k+ in tuition to HSS so DS can go to to another school for a year when he could do a similar exchange for about $11k through flagship U bugs me.

    But I should do some investigation to see if my understanding is correct.

    And of course, there’s the very real possibility that he doesn’t get accepted to a HSS and this is all moot.

  97. Finn – this is anathema to Totebaggery, but I predict that the most likely outcome of this course is DS deciding after a year or two at U. of State that he is actually really happy there and no longer interested in transferring to Stanford. Only you and he can decide if that’s an outcome you’d find desirable.

    DW wanted out of Totebag High, where she was unhappy, so she graduated a year early and decided that a nearby state college would be good for freshman year, and she could subsequently transfer. Believe it or not, she found that she loved it there and stayed three more years.

  98. My opinion is that in the grand scheme of things four years passes very quickly, so make the most of where you want to be unless the first college proves not to be a good fit.
    I would say if you are always thinking of transferring from Day 1, you might not immerse yourself in college #1 and when you transfer it will take some settling time in college # 2 so you are neither here nor there.

  99. The school that I attended required credits = to about 2 years worth of classes in order to grant a diploma with that school’s name. You couldn’t transfer in your senior year and earn a diploma. So, make sure you check out all of the requirements, including those in the area of major that your son plans on pursuing. Sometimes they have more stringent requirements.

  100. About half of the students at our university study abroad, but that includes students whose overseas experience is a summer semester rather than during the academic year. The swim season straddles both semesters, so swimmers don’t generally study abroad, nor do most other athletes who have year-round training programs. DS2 did not want to miss a semester with his singing groups (not many in those groups went abroad, though some did); DS3 is still on the fence.

    It can be difficult for students with double majors, or technical ones, to take a semester or year abroad and still meet their credit requirements. The whole boyfriend/girlfriend factor can also complicate this decision. Some overseas programs keep the students in a bubble — they live with fellow expats and take all of their classes in English. The other issue is that the most popular programs can be very competitive, and students need to have their ducks in a row and apply pretty early.

  101. “after a year or two at U. of State that he is actually really happy there and no longer interested in transferring to Stanford.”

    That’s pretty much what happened to me.

  102. “required credits = to about 2 years worth of classes in order to grant a diploma with that school’s name.”

    At LSJU, I believe one of the graduation requirements was to have paid tuition for a minimum number of quarters.

  103. My Midwestern roots are showing but I love Chicago. He’ll be fine as long as he stays on campus or north and east of the school at night.

  104. Hmm, another thought comes to mind. Perhaps DS could take a gap year studying overseas through flagship U. I did verify that with their program, you pay flagship U tuition, and if you’re on scholarship, the scholarship can be applied to tuition when on an exchange program. He could then attend HSS for an uninterrupted 4 years, albeit being older than his classmates who didn’t take a gap year.

  105. Kate, that’s what DS said– I’ll be safe on campus. To which I asked, what’s the point of school in an urban area if you’re going to stay on campus?

  106. U of Chicago is no Hopkins in terms of bad area. Hyde Park is a pretty nice neighborhood but as with all (urban) campuses, everyone needs to be aware.

  107. I think the first year bonds are only important if the kid moves off campus, because those become their links back to campus.

    To an extent, but the bonds are also formed by the activities they get involved. I was heavily involved with the school newspaper and that was my social group, much more than the friends I made in the dorms.

  108. We’ve been doing some car research and figuring out what we really want/need, and we’re taking a hard look at the Mazda CX-5. Does anyone have any experience with it?

  109. Finn, Chicago is where my nephew is, who graduated from your kids’ school. He likes it afaik.

  110. 1) no direct experience (me or kids) with transferring (yet)
    2) study abroad. Different than BITD when I did a whole year as an economics major, the vast majority of kids at the schools I am most familiar with now go for a semester if they go during the academic year. Except for language majors who want to teach that language, they’ll go for the whole year.
    3) Study abroad is no longer limited to the junior year. Many kids go a sophs, even some as freshmen. So the tack could be: freshman year at State U, fall of soph yr abroad, spring of soph year at State U, do last 2 years at HSS. That would tick all the boxes of needing e.g. 4 semesters at a school to get a degree from there. Just need to be sure of timing for transfer applications, but I think a lot of them are later than the regular freshman admissions cycle.

  111. What about the whole “experience” at one school that you can’t really put a price tag on?
    I guess I am just surprised that you want to watch every penny after you seemed to have made private school education a priority so that he could have a chance at a top tier school.

    If he is jumping around between flagship u, overseas and top tier U…what about the whole experience of getting to know his classmates, or professors etc? I think there is value to that whether he chooses the flagship or the top tier school. Most of the kids that I know spend one semester abroad vs. the two semesters that was more of the norm when I attended college. Scarlett mentions an important point that many of the programs seem to be designed for the expats vs. the true exchange programs of the past.

    I am sure you can work out some sort of deal to maximize your cost savings, but what was the point of working so hard for 4 to 5 years to get in if you can’t have the full experience?

  112. Over the past couple of years, I’ve been searching regularly on Craigslist and Etsy for some area rugs for our walk-up attic (which is a big, open space that houses both my home office and general “hangout” space for the family). I have finally completed my rug purchases, but now I have decided that with the rugs on the floor, the off-white walls look too drab, and we need some new paint colors up there that coordinate with the rugs. DH painted the attic once, and has no desire to do so again, so I’ll probably be spending money on a painter next year.

    We also have the Diderot effect going on in our kitchen. This past summer, we had our 20-year-old cabinets painted white. Now that the cabinets are lovely and bright, the dark countertop (which looked fine to me before) suddenly looks drab. So I’m starting to think about creamy-colored quartz counters.

    I guess I need to find some more clients so that I can pay for all of this…

  113. Allboys, the name of my favorite Parisian expat blog just popped into my head. I couldn’t think of it the other day. It is Messy Nessy Chic. Another idea would be to look for a local program guide like the Austin Chroncle or Berlin’s Zitty magazine. It might not include info on tours of all the sites for tourists, but would have the French equivalents to Northside Garden Club’s Parade of Homes or Ye Olde Tavern’s festival celebrating 500 years since it opened. Hope you enjoy planning the trip!

  114. In the original Diderot article, did anyone else think the decision to go one month without buying anything new would be a pointless hassle? One of the reasons I love having “enough” money is that I can buy items whenever it’s convenient for me or the items we’ll need are “in season” at the store or the price is very good. Maybe I just think it would be a pointless hassle because I have 4 growing children.

  115. DD – I have only started reading this thread, but wanted to chime in on the car. My son is driving an Impreza and is not thrilled with it only because he cannot find a comfortable driving position. He’s 5’10”, so fairly average height, but finds the arm position really uncomfortable with the seat scooted all the way back. He fought to continue driving the car he learned on, with its 115k miles, over the brand new car.

  116. I think I’ve mentioned this before in a furniture thread, but I love our Joybird sofa. We got a box of swatches in the mail, looked at the models online and ordered. We probably spent about 10 minutes on the decision.

    Something that works well in our relationship (and my employment) – we easily make impulsive decisions, but we are usually happy with them.

  117. Finn, for various reasons, some involving a long-term significant other, my DD has transferred twice. In-state flagship, which she had really wanted to attend, ended up not being a good fit. She was least involved there, instead spending her time with aforementioned SO and high school friends, and ended up fairly unhappy. She is at a school now that was not on her radar at all in high school, and is really involved, busy with great internship, etc and actually seems happier. So my takeaway on this is that the success of transferring depends on their level of willingness to jump in with both feet at the new school. I also transferred as a sophomore, was much more involved at the new school, and was much happier.

    A common theme among friends and their kids is that kids who are so busy in high school find themselves at loose ends in college with a lot of time on their hands, sometimes leading to depression.

  118. @ WCE did anyone else think the decision to go one month without buying anything new would be a pointless hassle?

    It’s the sort of declaration that would only be made by a person not responsible for keeping the household stocked with food and toilet paper.

  119. ” kids who are so busy in high school find themselves at loose ends in college with a lot of time on their hands”

    I heard that same thing recently from the mom of one of DS’ friends, who is now a freshman at a HSS. And according to DS, she’s not taking just 4 classes, like one of his other friends at that same school. My guess is she’ll take a heavier load next semester.

    I can’t relate. When I was an undergrad, while I had time for pickup basketball games and drinking beer, I also spent a lot of time studying.

  120. Lauren, that’s one of my concerns that we need to balance. Thus my idea of taking a gap year to do the study abroad, then 4 straight years at whatever school he chooses and chooses him.

    I talked to DS about it a bit during the drive home tonight, and he said he’d probably want to do the study abroad during a summer and/or as a gap year between undergrad and grad school, although in the past he’d also talked about teaching at his current school during his grad school application year, as some of his past teachers had been doing.

  121. @Finn — FWIW, I pretty much agree with Lauren on this one. You made choices and sacrifices to put him in the position to get into the HSS. So if he gets in and wants to go and you can afford it, this is not the time to start nickel-and-diming it.

    But I guess it also depends on whether you see college as an investment or consumption good, as we have been discussing. If you are solely looking for ROI based on whose name is on the piece of paper, then two years local and two years there should suffice. OTOH, if you are looking for the broader “experience” and connections and such, then four years in one place will do that better, even if it means you pay a little more for the study abroad.

    FWIW, I would investigate the terms of the various study abroad programs. My school ran its own programs (of the “follow the prof around like baby ducks” variety), but there was also a process by which you could get approval for credits from another school’s program (but you then had to apply for and be admitted to that other school’s program on your own). But the key was you actually paid the other school’s tuition for that period. That saved me a bundle — I chose the program offered by my mom’s school (added bonus that it was of the “take classes at the French university with the French students” variety), and because she was a prof, that meant it was free (including the living stipend). YMMV, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the schools you’re looking at don’t have a similar option.

  122. “‘@ WCE did anyone else think the decision to go one month without buying anything new would be a pointless hassle?’

    It’s the sort of declaration that would only be made by a person not responsible for keeping the household stocked with food and toilet paper.”

    Snarf. :-) Totally. And it is very totebaggy conspicuous nonconsumption to boot.

    That said, I think it is a pretty common thing people advocate when people are struggling with money — I know Michelle Singletary advises a “financial fast” (though she allows you to buy food and toilet paper). I think the idea is to make you focus on why you buy (e.g., break the shopping-as-hobby addiction) and whether something is a need vs. a want.

    None of which, of course, is remotely relevant to WCE, who I’m confident has a spreadsheet of all planned purchases, as compared to budget and cash flow. :-)

  123. Finn, I not only lived in Hyde Park for three years and emerged un-murdered, I used public transportation daily to get to the really bad part of town, right next to all the housing projects (they’ve been razed now) and I still emerged un-murdered. It’s not like murderers are roaming around Chicago shooting people randomly. The murders are largely concentrated in specific neighborhoods — neighborhoods that U. of Chicago students are unlikely to frequent.

  124. LfB – I’ve been thinking about your comment re: never wanting to take a step back in terms of level of luxury, particularly with cars. I remember when I bought my Acura, I had a lingering guilt that I might be jumping up too quickly for someone in his early 20s, but I remember telling myself that if I wanted to remain at the Acura/Lexus level forever, I could reasonably expect to be able to do so.

    What I did not anticipate was that I would stop caring about cars and replace that interest with boats. So I don’t see myself buying another Acura if the need were to arise. And I think that, in addition to your rule about keeping your standard of living growth rate lower than your buying power growth rate, it’s beneficial to be able to recognize when and to where your passions have shifted, and be happy scaling it back elsewhere. In terms of consumption, anyone who’s not super rich shouldn’t be passionate about too many things at once.

  125. Any suggestions for a young artist painting set ? Also any suggestions on digital brushes would be welcome.

    I admire Finn for the degree of college planning. The way my household operates is that the big picture things are taken care of, but the fill in the details are a go with the flow type deal.
    Talking of shopping, I have to stop because the shopping diet of past months led to the monster of pent up wants being released.

  126. I heard that same thing recently from the mom of one of DS’ friends, who is now a freshman at a HSS. And according to DS, she’s not taking just 4 classes, like one of his other friends at that same school. My guess is she’ll take a heavier load next semester.

    Do you mean “she’s now taking just 4 classes”?

    Finn, if you are going to nitpick everyone else, you better be sure that your posts are perfect :)

  127. @Milo — good point. I have to say my own passions ebb and flow — a few years ago, I was all about The Plan for the stupid car (the biggest reason I was upset when our original garage design fell through was because no garage = no stupid car). And now I still want it, but I am just really not sure I will ever want it enough to drop the money on it, because early retirement is much more a possibility, and I am spending more and more time lurking on the MMM boards, and I just don’t know that the stupid car is the priority any more given how much time that same $ could buy me. Of course, it probably helps that I have the “stupid enough” car (hmm, maybe I should drop $10-15K into a new suspension and some seriously upgraded brakes and call it good). So maybe the answer is to recognize that passions and priorities change over time, so don’t lock yourself in at the high.

    Of course, I feel compelled to note that DH is totally stymieing my MMM efforts — it’s now all about the wine. He just ordered 4 more cases. I can’t really complain, because I’m certainly going to benefit from it, but, damn.

  128. “totally stymieing my MMM efforts”

    I have my kids to blame for this, right now because they have outgrown last years winter wardrobe, clothes and shoes have to be replaced. I told my DS that the moment he is off to college I would be driving around in my new blingy car. He was shocked at my future extravaganza ;-).

  129. “You’re advocating serial passions?”

    No more than one costly passion at a time. :)

    In terms of downgrading, DW was slightly bothered when we decided to sell the townhouse (at a ridiculous profit percentage) and rent an apartment for a few years, because she felt like going from owning to renting, and from a TH to an apartment was a double step back. When the housing market later collapsed, she stopped complaining.

    As for cars, my Dad’s done the Acura sedan thing for a while (and still drives it), but with his new Ridgeline — the kayak, bike, and small sailboat hauler — he did cloth seats and no sunroof.

    Over the past decade, my brother’s stepped down from a 911 Carrera 4 to a Hyundai Elantra.

  130. DS2 told me that he was reconsidering plans for law or graduate school, because “I have granite counters now.”

  131. lol! Is he still an undergrad, and he’s talking about his student apartment? Or in his first job, and he’s doing well enough to have a granite counter lifestyle without law/grad school?

  132. Finn- I visited University of Chicago with DS1- about 6 years ago. Our cabbie got a little turned around and we were cruising around the neighborhood. We stopped to ask directions for a family with the father told us. ‘You shouldn’t be wandering around here.” And he got in his car and led the cab to the campus! I found it so shocking that a resident would imply that we were in danger! I hear it is much more dangerous now.

  133. HM – no, I didn’t know the Mitford sisters were the inspiration for the Black sisters in Harry Potter – wow! The Mitford sisters were certainly a fascinating and diverse set of siblings.

  134. A close family member graduated from Univ. Chicago recently. Yes, Chicago (some parts at least) is a dangerous city, more so than NYC and very different in that way. However, students live in a cocoon of relative safety, protected by the UC police department, which is one of the largest private police forces in the country. Additionally, new students are given extensive orientation about their safety and how to navigate Chicago’s public transit. I would have no qualms about a kid attending school there, except if the kid himself felt anxious and doubtful about his safety. That environment is not for everyone.

    All that being said, the route between Midway airport and the campus passes through some high crime areas. Once a cab driver explained that was the reason he was making some modifications in his route during a late night trip through there.

  135. Let me modify. I would have some concern about a kid’s safety at UC, and probably at any number of other school locations. But I would not try to dissuade someone from attending because of my concerns.

  136. Hyde Park is neither totally safe nor a crime-ridden hellscape. It is a gorgeous older neighborhood right on the lakefront with beautiful older homes, parks, great restaurants, a new Whole Foods, and public transit to get downtown. It is also definitely close on more than one side to neighborhoods with serious gang and crime issues. It has more urban problems than some other HSS location – like parking issues, property crime, and the occasional mugging. How “urban” do you really want to be? What are you looking to get out of being “urban”? If you want walkability, shopping, and restaurants, then Palo Alto is probably plenty urban. If you want close proximity to museums/professional sports/theater/cultural events, to live in a diverse area (both racially and socioeconomically), and proximity to the downtown area for internships, then Hyde Park may be worth the trade offs.

    “Yes, Chicago (some parts at least) is a dangerous city, more so than NYC and very different in that way.”

    This is a matter of opinion rather than fact and a broad generalization, and I’m not entirely sure that this is true for the typical totebag college student, even if they shun fun and live in Hyde Park. The recent murder rate stats do not tell the whole story, even if it is an alarming trend. Chicago is very different from NYC, but not necessarily because it is stunningly dangerous to Totebag college students or tourists or Totebag families in comparison.

  137. I guess in summary – would I be concerned about sending my kid to Hyde Park? Me? My kid? No. Would it be a culture chock to send a suburban/rural kid there? Possibly. Is it dangerous? Depends on your definition of “dangerous”. It’s NOT in a bubble. Is it worth is? Depends how much you like the school itself and what you are looking to get out of the college experience.

    OT – we are going through this right now. Finally replacing some furniture that we have lived with for awhile. It id definitely leading to further purchases to freshen other things.

    I hate corelle because it is so light. I like the big heavy diner plates.

  138. “This is a matter of opinion rather than fact and a broad generalization”

    Well, it’s more dangerous based on objective violent crime rates.

    I like Corelle precisely because it’s lightweight. But heavy plates do have a certain charm.

  139. Because Chicago as a whole has more murders per capita than NYC as whole does not mean that a U of C student is more likely to be the victim of a violent crime than one at Columbia.

  140. A lot of schools are in mixed neighborhoods, but crime happens every where. I’m sure the parents of that missing girl at IU thought it was safe there.

    I ride the 1 train at least once a week, and the stop for Columbia is on that subway line. The stop for City College is also on that line. The students learn to be street and subway savvy.

    It might not be natural for a rural or suburban kid, but learning how to be safe in Chicago, Philly, LA and other large cities can be taught.

    My friend was visiting Wash U earlier this year. The school gave them a metro card to visit downtown St Louis.
    They didn’t know that some parts of the line were considered “unsafe” until some fellow passengers let them know.

    stuff happens every where, and some neighborhoods are less safe than other neighborhoods. We have to use our parenting skills to help our kids be safe whether it’s at a rural university, or one located in a dense city.

  141. Finn, DD studied abroad during the spring semester. Her classes were in French and English. She lived with a local family, which she enjoyed. In fact, they stayed with us recently when the Dad ran the NYC Marathon. We had to pay DD’s tuition, but not room and board. There were additional fees, visa charges, a plane ticket but net net it was less than what we paid for a regular semester here in the US. The total cost also included several day trips and weekend trips. Her scholarship money was applied to the study abroad program. DD also did a lot of traveling on her own during breaks, but she paid for that on her own with summer job money. One thing with we learned is that there is a BIG difference with study abroad programs. DD’s school is small and does not have a branch in London or Madrid, etc. that some other schools have, so we were guided to a study abroad vendor that worked with other small schools. There were mostly northeast SLA students in her program. I had some misgivings about the program that she used: most of the people we dealt with very young, not responsive, not well supervised. On several occasions they issued completely wrong information, the most serious of which was underestimating complicating visa procedures and processing times. Things to consider: are the students in dorms, apartments or living with families? Are side trips included? Where are they going? What will they be studying?

    DD really likes to study abroad. She’s participating in intercession program in January.

  142. My biggest issue with Hyde Park was the petty crime. Seemed like everybody’s apartment got broken into at least once, and various electronic devices would get stolen.

    Of course law school is different from undergrad, but a lot of the students we knew moved up to different neighborhoods like Wicker Park and “hip” neighborhoods.

  143. “Do you mean “she’s now taking just 4 classes”?”

    No, I meant exactly what I wrote, i.e., she’s taking more than 4 classes.

    DS has another friend at the same school taking only 4 classes, in which case it would make sense that he has a lot of time on his hands.

    DS thought it didn’t make sense for that friend’s parents to be paying so much for just 4 classes, and plans to take at least 5 classes in his first semester or quarter of college.

  144. If your point is that she is taking a heavy load, it still doesn’t read very well. Four classes could be 12 hours (light) or 16 hours (heavy). And the sentence “My guess is she’ll take a heavier load next semester.” implies that she’s taking a light load this semester.

    Let the nitpicking continue :)

  145. A lot of schools are in mixed neighborhoods, but crime happens every where.

    Yup. I went to a school in a midwestern college town but there was still a firm culture of “women shouldn’t walk alone on campus at night.”

  146. “Or in his first job, and he’s doing well enough to have a granite counter lifestyle without law/grad school?”

    Yes. Granite counters, spiral staircase, rooftop deck in an uber-trendy neighborhood. Evidently the prospect of going back to formica was too horrid to bear.

  147. DD, I was using DS’ friend as an example consistent with MBT’s point, that even though she’s taking more than a minimum load, she still has a lot of time on her hands, which could be attributed to her not having the full slate of other activities she had in HS.

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