The Water Heater Hack

Our water heater has a little problem. The high-pressure release valve occasionally leaks now due to age. It isn’t affecting our water bill so rather than bug the landlord I hacked it so that it no longer drips on the bathroom floor.

To do this I took the drainage hose from my old washing machine, attached it to the overflow valve, and stuck the other end in the bathtub. When the valve acts up, this allows the water to safely drain away.

2016-03-09 11.39.35

We move the hose to a bucket we keep nearby when we bathe. Water that collects in the bucket is used to water the plants and stuff.

Eventually I will have to ask him to fix the heater but for now this works.

Have you hacked something lately? Please share your stories in the comments below.

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Should You Throw it ALL Away?

A common refrain among minimalists is that you should throw away all of your excess in order to free up your life for other things but what about the things that you know that you will use?

For instance, say you purchased a small stockpile of paperclips when you caught them on sale. You actually use paperclips, but the amount you have is enough to last you for several years. Should you eliminate the excess to the point where you only have a small amount to last for a couple of months?

In the past I would have said yes but time and maturity has caused me to reconsider this. If you are settled and don’t plan on moving any time soon (and you have the space to store the excess) you could keep the excess and use them up. Of course, you wouldn’t buy any more paperclips until your stockpile was used up.

Now that I’ve decided that I just want to settle down I’ve changed my viewpoints on minimalism. Items like clothing and office supplies tend to build up around here because we receive hand-me-downs frequently and I like to stock up on office supplies during back-to-school season. Instead of eliminating all of the excess I now keep the items that I know we will use – and I make sure that it actually gets used before I go out and purchase new.

This helps reduce the amount of stuff that gets tossed in landfills as well as saves us money. Occasionally when our clothes threaten to overgrow our closets (we have several spendthrift friends) we thin them down to fit within the space we have allotted, but we don’t buy new unless we wear out the things we already have.

This is not a license to start filling your home with organizer totes, however. To make this work you have to be militant in the fact that you won’t buy new until you use up the things that you have, plus you have to be honest with yourself; if it isn’t something that you will actually use, you have to let it go.

How do you deal with excess items that you know you will use? Please share your stories in the comments below.

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Frugal Toothpaste

The toothpaste of choice in our little house is Pepsodent. It is American made, and at 98 cents a tube it is the best bargain around these parts.

While a single tube will last us for months, to stretch it even further I routinely brush my teeth with salt, baking soda, or plain water. Katie isn’t interested in being that frugal, unfortunately.

When the tube gets low I cut it open and we use up every last drop before we buy another one.

How do you save money on toothpaste? Please share your story in the comments below.

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The Laundry Compromise

Even though I don’t mind going to the laundromat I really hate spending the money so I’ve been brainstorming ways to save on this necessity. The simplest solution would be to acquire another washing machine but as of yet I have been unable to locate one at a price I am willing to pay (read: dirt cheap). While I will continue to look, in the meantime I’ve worked out a way to wash my laundry and save money too.

Every few days we gather up our dirty clothes, wash them out by hand, and hang them up to dry. Larger items like towels, comforters, and bed sheets are saved up and washed at the laundromat.

This has reduced our laundry expense significantly but sometimes we cut it even more by washing some of the larger items by hand as well. We don’t enjoy doing that so it doesn’t happen very often, however.

What creative ways do you save money on your laundry bill? Please share your story in the comments below.

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The Annual Closet Purge

At the end of every year my daughter and I take an evening to perform a ritual we call the annual closet purge. We go through our closets and remove everything that fits these criteria:

  • no longer fits properly
  • we no longer wear or want
  • completely worn out

After we finish going through our closets, we dig through each other’s discard pile and keep whatever we desire. This gives a second life to our clothes. Once we’ve picked through the discard piles for what we want, we toss out the worn items and divide what’s left for distribution among our friends.

This little ritual helps us to not only keep our closets under control, it allows us more variety in our wardrobe without having to go shopping at a store.

Do you have a similar ritual? Please share your story in the comments below.

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How to Discover What is Truly Important

A lot of websites (including mine) talk about how simplicity and minimalism can help you to achieve the life of your dreams. These methods help you to eliminate the unimportant in order to focus your energy. However, what they don’t help you do is figure out what your dream life is. Since many people believe that large amounts of wealth, travel, and material things are what they want they simplify their lives to pursue this stuff, only to realize once they achieve it that they still aren’t happy.

Fortunately there is a litmus test that can help you to figure out what it is you truly want in order to be happy.

Imagine that you are sitting in the doctor’s office. He has just told you that you have a disease that will kill you. Maybe not tomorrow, or even next year, but in time this disease is going to end your life and there isn’t a single thing you can do about it.

Close your eyes and imagine this. Really feel the emotions, embrace the knowledge that you are going to die. What do you want to do in the meantime?

Whatever that desire is, that is what you want deep down in order to be happy. The answer may surprise you.

You may realize that you want to travel. You may want to jump out of an airplane or visit the Grand Canyon.

Or you may just want to sit at home, relax, and just enjoy the rest of your life with your family.

I’ve done this. It helped me realize that I already have the life of my dreams, sitting here in my tiny home. Oh, I would like a bit more money but just enough to make life easier. I don’t need a million dollars–I just need enough to pay my bills and buy a few extras until I am forced to clock out.

I don’t need to travel the world. I don’t need to write a novel. I just need to relax and be thankful for the life I already have.

Every single day is a gift. Once you embrace the fact that your days are numbered it puts everything in perspective.

If you’re lucky you won’t ever be faced with a terminal illness but the fact is that we are all going to die. The question is whether you will spend your time dying…

…or living.

How do you want to spend the rest of your time in this life? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Frugal Doodle Paper

One of the things my daughter and I both love to do is draw. It would cost us a fortune to keep us in those fancy sketchbooks, however, so we’ve thumbed our noses at the elite artistes and started using what we have:

printer paper

Not only do we use clean sheets of paper for our drawings we also use the flip side of any papers that we no longer need. When I print I instruct the computer to print two sheets per page to save on both paper and toner. This occasionally leaves me with a blank half-sheet of paper. I cut it off and save it for the doodles.

My grandson loves the practice and even my friends have gotten in on the fun. I just plop the recycled pages on a table and invite everyone to start drawing! A cup of sharpened pencils and a pile of recycled paper can really spice up an evening.

How do you recycle paper? Please share your story in the comments below.

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The 35-Mile Pencil Myth

When I first started using pencils to journal with I was naturally curious about how long a pencil would last. A bit of research and I discovered that the Eagle Pencil company tested the Mikado pencil (later renamed the Mirado) and as a result claimed that the pencil would write a line 35 miles long.

Being a hard-core journal writer for years, I already knew that my previous Bic pen of choice would not quite fill a single composition notebook. Bic pens are rated to last up to 2 miles; if a wooden pencil lasted 35 miles it would fill 17.5 of my composition notebooks. That’s about a year’s worth of journals for me; could a single pencil last me for a whole year?

I got excited at that thought. I selected a brand-new composition notebook, grabbed two brand new pencils, and started writing.

Since then I have filled two composition notebooks and started on a third. Between my two brand new pencils (14 inches in length total) I have 8 inches left. Here is a photo of the remains:

2016-02-04 17.22.30

Between the two pencils I used 6.5 inches. As a result I can safely say that the 35-mile pencil writing claim is a myth. While a single pencil may be able to to write for 3-5 miles (depending upon how short you allow your pencil to get) there is no way that a pencil can last for 35 miles.

Even with the results of my unscientific study I am content with my discovery. An individual pencil will last twice as long as an ink pen so I am still saving money with the switch.

Have you even known a pencil to write for longer? Please share your stories in the comments below.

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Pencils and Simplicity

Let’s consider the pencil today. It is a tool that does exactly what it says on the tin but, like simplicity, it is also much more.

Pencils can be used for many things. They can write, they can draw, they can mark a piece of wood before you cut it. They can even be used to loosen a stuck zipper or to prop open a window. Simplicity is the same way. You can use simplicity to go back to nature, move to a big city, ease stress, achieve a goal, travel the world or just stay at home.

You always know where you stand with a pencil. Short, long, sharp, dull, or broken – it never tries to hide its status from the world. Simplicity is also honest. Along with the pencil, it doesn’t cower behind fancy clothes or try to impress others. It doesn’t pretend to be something it isn’t. Simplicity is genuine.

Like our lives, a pencil has a finite lifespan. Because our time is limited, we should focus on what makes us happy, not on what society says we should do or be or look like or whatever. Simplicity gives us the power to do just that.

Some people may look askance at a pencil. Why not use a fountain pen or at least a fancy Blackwing? So it is with simplicity as well. People wonder at the clothes we wear, the cars we drive (or don’t), the stuff we have around the house and how we choose to spend our money but just like pencils, everyone’s version of simplicity is different. Some are shiny and new while others are beaten, battered, and chewed. But they all still work.

In the end the pencil we choose or the simplicity we practice doesn’t matter. If it meets our needs and keeps us happy it really isn’t any of their business.

What else can you learn from a pencil? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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The hunt for the cheapest pencils

Once I made the switch to pencils the wheels in my frugal little head started turning: How much do pencils cost exactly, and which one would be the cheapest? Katie and I went to Amazon in search of the answer. Since we were both convinced that mechanical pencils were the cheapest route, we priced a 90-pack of Katie’s favorite lead. That pack cost $4.22, or five cents each.

In fairness we decided to look up a range of wooden pencil prices for comparison.

Brand Package Cost Unit Cost
Dixon, 144 pack (warehouse deal) $8.57 6 cents
Liqui-Mark, 24 pack (local Family Dollar offering) $1.55 6 cents
School Smart, 144 pack $11.29 8 cents
Mirado, 96 pack $10.99 11 cents
Ticonderoga, 96 pack $13.99 15 cents

Out of curiosity I looked up my old standby, the Bic pens I’ve abused for years. A 60-pack on Amazon cost $4.79 – or eight cents a pen.

Satisfied with the numbers I gave my mechanical pencil a click and went on with my life, my frugal soul content that mechanical pencils were truly the cheapest way to go….

…And then I ran out of lead, not just once, but every single day. It was costing me a nickel a day to use a mechanical pencil, which works out to $1.50 a month! Even during my heaviest writing periods it takes me a couple of weeks to kill an ink pen so by switching to pencil I was spending $1.34 a month more – and writing a lot less.

Aggravated, I raided Katie’s room and liberated a few wooden pencils from her secret stash. I’ve been using this particular pencil for several days now and haven’t even used up my first inch (yes, I measured it). While I may not know exactly how long a new pencil will last me I now know this much: a single wooden pencil will seriously outlast a mechanical pencil’s lead supply. As a result I can safely say that wooden pencils are much cheaper to use than mechanical ones.

While I’ll have to buy erasers long before I finish terminating Katie’s pencil stash, at least now I know what to shop for when the time comes.

Have you ever figured up how much it costs you to use an item? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Note from Katie: My mom’s a nerd. #problemswithnerdymoms

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