Categories
Finances Financial Freedom Frugality Minimalism Simplicity

The Art of Thoughtful Spending

An interesting thing happens when you realize that you have achieved your financial goals. You look around and want everything. This commonly happens to lottery winners. It’s the primary reason that they quickly spend themselves broke.

This is why I decided to purge before I allowed myself to spend. The reminder of how easy it is to accumulate too much serves as a counterpoint to the desire.

Even so, it became more and more difficult to resist the urge. My daughter has watched me pass up the things I’ve wanted so many times that she is actively encouraging me to cut loose.

But I do not want to be that person.

I didn’t achieve financial freedom by following the path of others. I didn’t achieve financial freedom by following their advice to spend and spend. I achieved financial freedom by focusing on my mind and my business. I refuse to step backwards.

That said, I could feel the urge rising as the kid persuaded me to window shop and browse online. I would catch myself ready to place something in the cart and realize that it was only a passing whim.

That was why, instead of buying like mad, I invested in a small notebook instead.

Every time I see or think of something I want, I write it down. I don’t worry about how outlandish the desire; anything that pops into my head is dutifully noted. At night before bed I pull it out, review the list, and make a point of adding to it. Then I close my eyes and visualize how my life would change if I added this thing to my possessions.

An amazing thing happens when you allow yourself to mentally spend money. Your mind begins to visualize the clutter. I could see myself wondering where I would stick things. I could even see myself using an item for a time before throwing it away.

I do not want to be that person.

That was when I began making my gratitude list. I started making entries about all of the things I already had that I was immensely grateful for.

On the top of that list was my freedom.

Everything I have added to that giant wish list pales in comparison to my freedom.

There is nothing inherently wrong with the urge to buy things. That said, in most cases we feel the urge to buy not because we truly want something, but because we have been programmed to believe that these things will somehow make our lives even better.

But what can be better than freedom?

The next time you feel the urge to buy-buy-buy, go out and invest in a little notebook instead. Pick one that makes you feel wealthy. Add a nice pen to that, and go home.

Start making a list by asking yourself:

What do I want?

At the very top of your list, write:

I want my FREEDOM.

Every time you feel the urge to spend, pull out your luxurious little notebook and jot it down. Then ask yourself: Will this thing take me closer to my freedom?

The answer will change your life.

As for me I’ve yet to spend much. Aside from honoring my promise to buy the phone, I am still purging. I do treat us to meals out on occasion, since one of the things I wanted to achieve with my freedom was the ability to do just that. I lack the skills or the desire to cook much, so this provides us with some healthy variety. Even better, it allows me to do something to help my local businesses survive the pandemic.

As for the rest, I am still thinking.

How do you deal with the urge to spend? Please share your stories in the comments below.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Finances Financial Freedom Frugality

How to Acquire a Cheap Car

Shortly after the near-miss flood, Katie announced that she’d become tired of walking to work in the rain and wanted to buy a car.

I watched her scroll through posts and eye the selections at local lots before I made a suggestion: “why don’t you ask around at your job? Surely someone knows of a car that you can pick up cheap.”

It took three days. A gentleman at her work had an older one. He’d parked it, intending to fix it up but the task was proving to be more time-consuming than he could manage. If she would reimburse him for the new set of tires he’d just purchased, the car would be hers.

“It needs a lot of work,” he warned.

Years ago, a mechanic told me that any car that would start and run was worth at least $500. This car would not only start and run, it had a brand-new set of tires.

I encouraged her to go for it.

True to his word, the car did need some TLC. But the tires and battery were both brand new so she practically got the car for free. We drove it home and went to work.

One day was spent sorting the fuses. It took several hours and an entire package of the things but I managed to get the windows, door locks, and a range of other things to function once more. Katie spent that day scrubbing the interior.

I am far from a mechanic so I recommended that we have the car inspected. We used his advice to create a list of repairs, sorted by urgency and skill set and got to work.

You can do an amazing amount of auto repairs if you are willing to learn from videos posted online. While I lacked the equipment for some of the jobs, I saved her a small fortune on the things I’ve fixed so far.

Even better: Katie no longer has to walk in the dark for her early morning shifts. She has a car that will take her wherever she desires now, and will soon have it in good enough condition to weather the cross-country move she’s planning in the future.

She doesn’t have a car payment. The car is even old enough that the insurance cost is negligible, so her bills haven’t went up that much.

At first some of her friends called her crazy for following her mother’s advice. They told her she wasted her money on a clunker. But then she pointed out that their expensive cars, complete with car payments, were costing them far more in repairs than her vehicle was.

The critics fell silent when they realized she was right.

We have been programmed to believe that newer is better. We will bypass the older, “uglier” car in favor of the new and shiny as a general rule. Yet if one is willing to do the work (or hire it done as money allows) you can save a fortune by purchasing one of these unwanted vehicles. Provided that the frame is sound, everything else can be fixed.

The thing that most don’t understand about used vehicles is that, unless you can afford to buy one that’s still under warranty, you will inevitably spend at least a thousand dollars that first year as you work out the kinks, so why not spend that on an older vehicle that costs less in taxes and insurance, skip the payment, and enjoy the cost savings?

I learned that lesson the hard way after I financed my first vehicle. Trying to repair one when you’ve got a payment and full-coverage insurance can be almost impossible if you’re in college or work a low wage job. After that first mistake, I made it a rule to buy old, fix them up, and drive them until the frame died.

This one lesson has saved me a fortune.

While I do believe that it is better to avoid owning a car if you can, that can be a challenge in many parts of this nation. I see no point in giving money to finance companies if it can be avoided; older vehicles solve this problem nicely.

If you already own a car that is paid for don’t trade it off for a newer one. Fix it up and you will have something that will last for many years.

Categories
Finances Financial Freedom Frugality

The Freedom of Frugality

Over six months have passed since Covid-19 reached the shores of the United States.

Thanks to frugality, I haven’t had to worry about it much.

I spend my days at home. I’ve no need to chase money at a public job; my savings combined with my royalties and investments have provided more than enough to live comfortably.

This would not be the case if I had allowed my expenses to keep pace with my income; by keeping my expenses as low as possible during the rich times I was easily able to save enough to live on even now.

The economy will become even worse as time moves on. While I no longer bother to keep a close eye on it, that much is obvious.

If you have not adjusted your expenditures downward, if you have not began to reduce your spending, I urge you to do so. Once the spiral starts, everyone will be affected.

I warn you now through the looking glass of experience: I have lived through challenging economic times in the past. Those who try to continue living as if money will always be plentiful tend to be the hardest hit when their incomes dry up.

I won’t bore you with a step by step tutorial; I’ve written several books on the subject should you realize the truth of my words.

As for me, I am taking this time to focus upon something other than the death and misery and terror around me. I’ve ceased using social media and rarely bother to even check the news.

My friends know to tell me if something important happens.

Have you began to reduce your expenses? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Frugality Recycling Simplicity

The Importance of Ingenuity

As I repaired my mother’s quilt, it became obvious that I would have to re-quilt it. The thread she had used to quilt it initially had disintegrated in places; to skip that step would defeat the entire purpose of repairing it.

I had a problem with completing that task. In order to quickly quilt it, I needed to use the machine but I didn’t have a quilting guide that would allow me to get the stitching somewhat straight. I headed online, determined to purchase one…

…but then I caught myself. Was there a way to make something that would work? I asked myself. My goal is to limit, and eventually eliminate my reliance on corporations. Thrift shops are closed, so the hope of finding a used quilting guide was slim to none, but could I make something instead?

A paperclip and some creative bending later, I crafted a device that allowed me to do what I needed. I crafted a quilting guide using an item I already had.

I came extremely close to buying one, not because I didn’t have the skills to make something that would work, but out of sheer habit. We’ve been conditioned to believe that we need to buy the solutions to our problems. I’ve been conditioned to that as well. I can remember during my childhood how those around me secretly made fun of people who solved problems and created items using the stuff they already possessed. That experience affected me more than I realized, and I suspect that it’s affected you as well.

I remember my grandfather getting secretly teased for using old leather belts to make hinges and clasps for doors and gates. I remember my aunties getting teased for knitting and crocheting scarves and hats for Christmas.

“Too cheap to buy something so they’ve got to pass out that nasty handmade crap,” I remember overhearing one person say.

I remember wondering why store-bought clothing seemed to be made funny until I got older and realized that they’d altered the construction process to accommodate their equipment. I remember the commercials and movies that defined those who made things by hand as being extremely poor or eccentric.

And now I realize just how deep that programming, the programming of generations, runs within us all.

A paperclip. That’s all I needed to devise something that met my needs. In time, I could fashion a piece of wire clothes hanger to make a larger one if I wanted to quilt in wider gaps, and I don’t need to buy anything to make it; I’ve got everything I need to make one right here.

I want you to think about that the next time you stumble upon a problem and immediately think to head online or to a store. I want you to think about how you have been programmed to buy the solutions to your needs.

I want you to think about that, because the marketers are being paid to program us to buy stuff instead of making it ourselves. They want us to buy because that is what makes them rich. That is what allows them to hole up in the Hamptons while they order us to work in contaminated factories despite the risk to ourselves and our family members.

They don’t care if we catch Covid and die. They don’t care if the processes they use harm us or the earth around us.

We have literally became sacrifices upon the altar of their Money God, and only we have the power to stop them.

All we have to do is stop buying their stuff.

I’m not going to say that it’s easy. We have a lifetime of programming to overcome, and even this eccentric old woman is struggling. But if we just stop and think about things, perhaps we can devise solutions that don’t involve giving them our money, and every time we do that we win.

A paperclip became a quilting guide. A plastic milk jug or butter bowl can become flower pots. A bit of string can turn a recycled jug into a hanging planter. An unwanted lid can catch the water from those pots even.

An unraveled sweater in our closet can be used to create socks, hats, mittens, scarves, bed coverings, or a number of other items. A sheet can be turned into a dress, a curtain, a quilt backing, or any number of things. Belts can be used for lightweight hinges or converted into pet collars. Even old computers can be brought back to life and used to surf the Internet.

There are so many things we can do with the items we already have, but they don’t want us to know that. They want us to buy everything we need and toss that old stuff instead.

It’s reached the point where I honestly wonder if the Minimalism movement has been hijacked by the corporations. Think about it: if we reduce our possessions to the bare minimum by discarding or donating our excess, what will we have to do when the items we keep wear out?

We have to buy new, that’s what we have to do.

I am proud of myself for devising a solution to my quilting dilemma. I solved my problem by using something I already had, and I didn’t give the corporations an extra penny, since I already owned the paperclip in question. Now I am looking around my home with fresh eyes as I ask myself what else I own that I can repair or create using the items I already have.

Have you ever considered the value of making things yourself? Have you ever solved a problem by creating something instead of buying a solution? Do you have any tips to share that will make it easier? Please share your stories in the comments below.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Decorating Frugality Recycling Simplicity

The 40 Year Old Quilt

I didn’t even know my mother was working on a quilt back then, but one day I arrived home from school to discover it upon my bed.

It was her very first quilt, and she’d made it for me.

I’ve cherished that quilt over the years. Even as it became tattered, I kept it. Eventually the holes from where I’d cut it during my childhood (and my children had repeated my childish mistakes) became unsightly, especially when combined with the decaying threads of her stitching, so I placed it in a box and stored it away.

Mama’s quilt before

People told me to throw the quilt away. One person offered to buy me a new bedspread if I would toss that old quilt, but I refused. It was a piece of my Mama, and my Mama died when I was 22. I don’t have much left that belonged to her, and this particular quilt was priceless to me.

I remember cutting that hole when I was just a child. I was terrified and hid the damage from Mom until the day she died.

“Hey. Mom, look what I found!” Katie held the quilt up in her arms when she stumbled upon it’s hiding place. “It’s getting in sad shape,” she noted as she inspected the damage.

I’m a different person now from the woman who stored it away. Old me would have never even considered it, but as I held that ancient quilt in my hands I decided to repair it. I would openly display the repairs, just to show the world that I loved my mother enough to fight to keep a piece of her in my life.

So that’s what I did.

I selected bright, colorful pieces of fabric from my stash and went to work. I worked on it during the evenings when I was too tired to think of sewing masks. Some nights I hand-stitched the patches in place using Sashiko-inspired stitching, other nights I patched it with the sewing machine.

As I worked, I grew more in awe of the love my mother put into making that quilt, her very first quilt. She must have had trouble assembling it, because some of the machine stitching had been whip-stitched back together by hand. She’d apparently tried to hand-quilt it, gave up, attempted to machine quilt it, and repeated the process until she finally finished.

And on top of all of that she’d embroidered the flowers of the months upon the blocks, placed the flower representing my birth month in the center, and added my name and birth date to it.

Most of that stitching is gone now, but I can still see it in my memories.

I ended up re-quilting it because the thread she’d used to quilt it had disintegrated. I deliberately used black thread to contrast with her white so that I could see where hers ended and mine began.

The back side of one of my patches.

I finished it tonight. As an added touch, I appliqued the G.I. Joe doll pants to the month of January, the month when he was born.

Grandson’s first pair of hand-sewn pants, appliqued in place.
The January block.

I am quite pleased with how it turned out. In time, I will learn a bit of embroidery so that I can add the names and birth dates of my parents, my children, and grandchildren to the relevant blocks. This will allow the quilt to become a family keepsake for when I leave this earth.

We’ve become so conditioned that we don’t think about repairing old things anymore. We use them up, toss them away, forgetting the memories associated with them. “If it’s old, it’s no good,” so many believe.

I disagree. I believe that age makes things worth more than the modern, heartless, disposable alternatives our society has embraced. And when something is created by hand, it comes from the heart, and this alone makes it priceless.

Have you ever considered repairing a piece of your history? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Frugality Simplicity Wardrobe

A Mother’s Work is Never Done

My Katie managed to score a day off from work yesterday, so we had the rare treat of sipping coffee together as we started the day. The conversation turned to brainstorming, since a relative had called to request some masks for herself and her son; she wants to pay and I don’t feel that it’s proper to accept money from her.

As we worked out a solution that would make everyone satisfied, Katie turned somber. “I know you’ve got a lot of masks to make, but if you get time would you mind patching one of my shirts? I love it but I can’t wear it now because of the holes.”

“Let me see it,” I grumbled good-naturedly.

At some point my daughter had acquired a camouflage button down Army Surplus shirt. While it was well-made, the years had made themselves known in the form of two holes that had appeared in the fabric. Katie wanted to patch the holes but she didn’t want the repairs to be too obvious. Fortunately, she had recently picked up some mask fabric in similar colors, so I offered to use that to make patches. She readily agreed.

I spent the remainder of the morning stitching those patches upon her shirt. She was so delighted that she made plans to wear it today:

Close up of Patch #1
Close up of Patch #2

While the images above make the patches seem noticeable, when she dons the shirt you can’t even see them unless you know where to look. I was quite pleased at the fact that I was able to repair that shirt using bits of fabric that I already had on hand.

Once that task was completed, I settled down at the sewing machine and worked on the masks. After a while I decided to take a break. I felt grubby so a bath was in order. Just as I began to relax in the soothing warm water I received a phone call from Middle Daughter. She had picked up some more fabric and was on her way to my home.

I didn’t even get to soap up. I climbed out of the tub and quickly toweled off, barely managing to pull up my pants before she arrived. She displayed her fabric finds, looked through my fabric stash, gushed over her excitement at being able to have Mommy make her some more masks (“I want to wear a new one every day!”), and asked how soon I could have them done.

“Let me finish my current batch, okay?”

“But Mommy! I want to wear a new mask! I like showing off your masks! No one else has masks as pretty as the ones you make!”

I ended up compromising. I would cut out the material for a single mask and whip it up along with the current batch, but she’d have to wait a day or so on the others. At 2 am this morning I’d just finished up, so, knowing that she was excited, I snapped some quick photos and sent them to her:

One side of Middle Daughter’s Mask
The opposite side of Middle Daughter’s mask

So my butt is tired today. Once I publish this blog post, I’ve got to finish up this current batch, arrange to ship the ones to my elderly relative, and start the batch of masks for Middle Daughter. At some point, however, this old woman is going to attempt to take another bath. I didn’t even get to soap up during yesterday’s attempt.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Finances Frugality Simplicity Wardrobe

The Shoe Patch

A few years ago the kid bought this cute pair of “boat shoes.” I liked the shoes so I watched her enjoy them because I knew that, in time, she would get bored of them and pass them to me.

One night I noticed she had tossed those shoes in the trash can, so I fished them out.

“Why are you throwing away your shoes?” I asked.

“They’ve got a hole in the toe,” she responded. “I wore them out so I knew you wouldn’t want them.”

I examined the shoes carefully. One little hole had formed upon a single shoe, right where the big toe rests. Deciding that they would still work for running around the house, I added them to my collection.

That was a year or so ago. The other day while I was wearing them to mow the yard I noticed that the other shoe was developing a matching hole. Since the original hole was growing larger, I realized that it was time to make a decision. I checked the soles to discover that they were still well-secured and in good shape and then headed for my sewing kit.

Two tiny scraps of denim later and I’d repaired those holes. It was a challenge to sew on the scraps with a straight needle, but I’m happy with how they turned out. Not only did I use what I already had to repair them, I used up stuff that most people would have thrown away to save something else that most people would have thrown away. Even the thread was something that most would discard – it’s so old that the spool is made out of wood!

I’m rather proud of the fact that I repaired those shoes. I saved them from going into a landfill far before their time despite the fact that they were engineered to be used during some trend and then discarded.

To my surprise, I am enjoying the fact that I am able to do things like this. With every stitch, the joy I felt at doing my part to defeat the consumerist programming we have all received was immense.

Think about it. What do we all think when we find a cute pair of shoes that we like? We go out and buy a pair for ourselves. What do we do when those shoes fall apart if we really like them? We toss them in the trash and purchase replacements.

I did neither. I fished those shoes out of the trash. I wore the heck out of them, and then I repaired them so that they will last even longer. I’ll wear the soles off of those things for sheer spite, because fuck the corporations who have programmed us to buy-buy-buy. Fuck the corporations who are now spreading fear over our food supply because they got caught allowing sickness to spread in their factories for the sake of their millions. Do you think they care that the Coronavirus could possibly contaminate our food supply? You can bet your bottom dollar that they don’t.

I spent my entire childhood believing the lie that we’re supposed to buy solutions to our problems. I spent my entire childhood watching my father complain when he had to repair things due to lack of money. To him, it was a shameful thing to wear patches on his clothes because he considered it a sign of poverty.

Well guess what, Sunshine? We’re all going to be struggling for money before this is over. Well, the average person will. I’m not so sure about the millionaires. If we continue to listen to their lies, we’ll continue to buy their stuff and they’ll continue to weather this in the Hamptons. Oh, they’ll complain because they can’t afford to hire their private jets as often but I really don’t consider that to be struggling, especially since so many of us are having to rely on food banks just to eat these days.

Every penny that we can avoid giving the corporations, every penny that we can keep for ourselves will not only help us weather this storm, it will slowly add up until it begins to hit their pocketbooks. All of those bailouts that the US government is giving to the major industries won’t do a bit of good if no one buys their stuff once this is over. It will only delay their inevitable collapse.

I am now looking at this as a challenge. I now look around and ask myself: what can I do to prevent making the rich even richer? What can I do to show people that we’re throwing too much perfectly usable stuff away? What can I do to counter the programming?

And it’s apparently working. My youngest daughter hauled in a pattern and some fabric so that I could make her two pairs of pants yesterday. She’s remembered that, while initially more expensive to make, that the clothes I make at home not only can use the fabrics and patterns that she prefers, that they last a lot longer than almost anything she’s been buying at the store. Her friends are admiring the purse I made her a while back and realizing that they can make their own purses out of the fabrics they choose while building in features that make them more durable than one can find in a store. Even business owners are contemplating the financial impact of paying over $1 each for cheap disposable masks over having a seamstress construct masks that will last for the long-term.

I know. As they’ve seen how well the kid’s masks are holding up, they are starting to come to me for quotes.

I don’t know how this is going to pan out, folks. All I know for certain is that our current state of affairs is not sustainable. We’ve reached a choice between buying their disposable crap or conserving our funds just to eat. I see no point in letting the rich get richer while we go hungry.

I’ll start on the garden when this rain stops. I’ve already planted a few items in salvaged containers that I’ve repurposed to get a head start, and Dolly Freed’s logic of raising rabbits for meat has become oddly appealing. I don’t know if I’ll go that far, at least not here, but I’m going to keep my options open as I monitor the situation.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Finances Food Frugality Organization

The Difference Between Stockpiling and Hoarding

“I’ve got coupons for the crackers!” Katie dug through her coupon holder as we entered the cracker aisle. “How much should we get?”

I checked the expiration date upon the boxes, holding one up to show my daughter. “How many boxes do you think we’ll go through by this date?”

Katie frowned. “Not a lot,” she muttered.

There is a difference between stockpiling and hoarding. It’s easy to forget that in the middle of a pandemic while facing an erratic supply chain. When we see something we use in stock, we instinctively want to buy it all because we honestly don’t know when it will be available again.

I struggle with this personally.

My life could be described as a financial feast or famine situation. I’ve had times of plenty and times of having not near enough. When I figured that out, I began to balance things a bit. During times of plenty I would stock up on bargains in order to survive the times of want.

For instance, a few years back I came across a back-to-school sale that had composition notebooks for an incredibly low price. Katie thought I was crazy as I hauled whole cases of notebooks home. I worried that I’d overdone things as storage and privacy concerns found me shifting my journaling habit to the computer instead of using notebooks but since those notebooks cost nothing for me to store I kept them.

And it paid off. My grandkids have used quite a few of them for school and play. I’ve used a bunch of them to make lists and take notes. My Katie is now working on the last batch, using them in college. Because they have been used, that purchase can be considered a stockpile.

Several years previous I faced an entirely different situation. I worked at a food plant for a while. They primarily made cereal and crackers. They kept a bin of the discards (imperfect boxes, wrong weight, etc.) that the workers were free to take home. I knew I would not have that job forever (I was a temporary worker) so I stocked up. I filled my pantry with those items.

A lot of it went bad before we could finish it. I felt like a fool for hoarding the stuff.

But how can you tell the difference? How can one know if they are simply stockpiling or if they are hoarding? Here are three general rules that I follow.

Can I Afford It?

This might sound silly at first but it is easy to blow your budget when you find a good deal on something you want to stock up on. I have done this more times than I can count over the years. I would see a stockpile of fabric in a thrift shop, arrange to buy the entire lot for cheap, only to realize that, while it was an excellent bargain that I spent all of my excess cash on the acquisition. While the fabric was used over time, I still remember my mistakes. I have adjusted my purchasing habits accordingly after that experience and others.

Sometimes it is better to pass up a deal, no matter how good due to budget constraints. While you can always save up a bit of money to have on hand with which to take advantage of good deals, depending upon when you stumble upon a bargain, your money stash might be a bit low to comfortably make the purchase. Bills and food must always come first. Remember that.

Will I Use It Before It Expires?

Many items like food and medicine have expiration dates. While the dates are just an estimate of how long the item will remain safely usable, those dates can be used as a guideline. When stocking up, check those dates. Estimate how much of the item you will use before the date on the container. Remind yourself that if the item isn’t used up by that date that you may not feel safe trusting it and limit the amount you purchase accordingly.

When it comes to items that expire, less is better in the stockpiling arena. It is better to use it up and purchase more than it is to invest in a stockpile that will go bad before you finish it.

BONUS TIP: Rotate your stock! The restaurant industry has a term for this: FIFO. It means “first in, first out.” Always use your old items first. This will ensure that nothing goes bad before you use it.

Do I Have Enough Room to Store It?

The catch to having a stockpile is that external storage is NOT cheap. Even worse, if you store your stockpile off site, you might forget that you have it and purchase even more. Look around the space in your home before you decide to stock up. If you can reserve a space that will allow you to access the items with little difficulty you are in good shape. If you find that area beginning to overflow, know that you need to stop for a bit and use up what you already have.

I recently had to do that with my book collection. It had outgrown the shelf I had assigned to it by at least a factor of two. Instead of being able to keep the books neatly organized I had them stacked in layers upon that shelf, to the point where it would take several minutes of hunting to retrieve a single book. In fact, when I thinned down my collection I discovered that I’d inadvertently collected duplicates of some titles. I’d collected so many that I’d forgotten what I had.

I will have a similar situation with clothing in the near future. Both of my daughters happen to adore clothes; whenever they thin down they bring their discards to me. Since the local clothing pantry is shut down due to the pandemic I will have to devise a solution. Since I now have a sewing machine, I will probably cut up the ones I can’t wear to either store in my fabric bin or recycle them into cleaning and family cloths. That will keep the storage space to a minimum and allow me to recycle them naturally. I may end up making a lot of patchwork items until the clothing pantry reopens but that’s okay – at least the items will be put to use.

Remember: if you find yourself beginning to trip over your stockpile, you’ve reached a danger point. While it is okay to stock up, it is painfully easy to start hoarding. If you cannot organize and keep track, you’ll find yourself with a problem.

~

While there are a range of other questions you can ask yourself, those are the three primary ones that I personally use. Do you have any questions that you ask yourself that I missed? Maybe you can teach me how to stock up more efficiently. Thank you!

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Finances Frugality Minimalism Recycling Simplicity

The Art of Reframing Your Circumstances

“Here you go, Mom!” Katie dropped a stack of tee shirts on the kitchen table. “Cut these up so we will have them ready. I don’t know when we’ll be able to get more towels or toilet paper at the store so we may have to switch over soon.”

“Okay,” I replied as I picked my jaw up from where it had fallen on the table. The older she had gotten, the more she had grown to prefer using disposable paper products. We had been debating their use intermittently over the years. I wanted to go with cloth to reduce expense and our environmental footprint. Katie wanted the convenience of disposability. To see my modern child actively encouraging me to switch to cloth after arguing against it for so many years speaks volumes for the times we currently live in.

And I have a confession to make. I’ve never in my life experienced a time when we could not buy things like paper towels and bathroom tissue. Aside from my switch to family cloth before my move here, the only time I’d ever had to experiment with alternate sources of paper towels and bathroom tissue was when visiting the homes of friends in the mountains. Back then, quite a few people lacked access to indoor plumbing. While almost everyone had running water, outhouses were common, and within the outhouses of older folk you would see corn cobs, stacks of newspapers, and the occasional catalog (typically a Sears catalog) in lieu of the bathroom tissue that is ubiquitous today.

People thought I was insane when I switched to family cloths and menstrual pads. Even I thought I was going a bit overboard when I did that but I wanted to experiment so I did. Now I’m beginning to wonder if we all might have to switch.

That frightens me. The thought that our world has changed so much that things I’ve grown up with, things I’ve taken for granted may no longer be available scares me in a way I cannot explain.

To prevent myself from going insane (I’ve got people who used to make fun of me pestering me for advice now!), I’ve had to start reframing how I look at our current situation. If we look at this a bit differently, look at this from another angle instead of thinking about the fact that we are doing these things out of necessity, I believe it will remove at least some of the feelings of deprivation and make this entire situation a creative challenge.

But how do you reframe the fact that the shelves are growing rather empty at the stores? How do you reframe the fact that things you took for granted are disappearing?

I thought long and hard about that during our last shopping trip the other day. I stocked up even more than I’d planned, spending $200 on canned goods and other shelf-stable items as I felt the fear mount at the sight of the empty shelves. The kid must have been feeling the same emotion because our cart was overflowing by the time we dragged it home. Our freezer is stuffed and the canned goods have overflowed my pantry. I’ve placed the overflow on my living room shelf to compensate for lack of storage. I’ve not attempted to garden in the back yard, so based upon my failures in the front yard I am concerned. Will I be able to grow enough back there to supplement? What will we do if I can’t?

Reframe, Annie. Reframe this. This is just another challenge. You can handle a challenge. You are one of the foremost frugal living experts in the United States. This is your time to shine. You can do this. You can not only figure out a way through this, you are going to do whatever it takes to show others how to get through this time as well. So stop whining, reframe this situation into the puzzle that it is, and get back to work.

If I was concerned at our dependence upon Big Business before, I definitely am now. Based upon how this plays out (Trump’s “absolute power” and “LIBERATE” tweets are NOT HELPING!), our current situation may become the new norm. So how do we get through this?

It dawned on me that the more we can reduce our reliance upon the major corporations – the more we can reduce our reliance upon mass manufacturing, period, the better off we will be. But how do we do that?

Our primary needs at the moment are food and shelter. Most of us have enough clothes to get by for a while (you haven’t thinned out your wardrobes, have you? Please tell me you’ve not thinned down your wardrobes), so as long as we can pay the rent (or mortgage) and keep food on the table, we’re in good shape. So what about the rest of the stuff that we take for granted – like bathroom tissue and paper towels?

I don’t believe my grandparents ever bought paper towels. As far back as I can recall, they would use recycled cloth for towels that they would wash and re-use until those towels fell apart. My grandmother would sew repurposed fabric into potholders and thicker towels to handle larger messes. I just grabbed a handful of repurposed fabric to use before the kid persuaded me to switch back to paper.

When you think about it, using repurposed clothing as hand towels, cleaning rags, and family clothes is actually better on the environment. The damage is already done with those; they were made, they were sold, and they were used for their intended purpose until they reached the point where they either wore out or went out of style. If we cut those items up, converting them into rags or family cloths, we can not only reduce the burden on our landfills, we can reduce our dependence upon the corporations. If we reduce our dependence upon the corporations, it won’t affect us if they go under near as much as it would otherwise.

Even better, by reusing the things that we already own instead of buying disposable stuff, we can significantly reduce the amount of money we need to live on. I don’t know about you, but cutting costs is high on my priority list at the moment. “Da Corona” (as people jokingly refer to it here) caught me a bit flat-footed financially. I’d planned to go back to work come spring and had budgeted accordingly since I quit my job last October. Because of that I don’t qualify for unemployment like so many others are fortunate enough to do. While I do make a few dollars each month from my book sales, it’s not enough to make me feel secure. Since this old bat is in the age range where this stuff becomes seriously deadly, I’m pinching my pennies as tightly as I can in order to wait this out. I like living too much to risk it.

“Use it up,
Wear it out,
Make it do,
Or do without.”

Unknown

That is the mantra I am chanting as I go through my days. That was the mantra I chanted when I realized that I am spending more of my writing time plopped upon my bed instead of at the kitchen table. I needed something to place my laptop on to allow it to breathe since overheating can kill a laptop. My first instinct was to order something online, which I immediately rejected. The less money I can spend, the better.

As I pondered the issue, I noticed the boxes that our latest pet supply order had arrived in. The cardboard was rather sturdy; all I needed was something flat and firm to rest my laptop on. I grabbed a roll of tape from my bin and got to work.

A bit of cutting and a few strips of tape later and I had my solution: a “board” made out of layered cardboard that was large enough to work as a lap table. It’s not the prettiest thing I’ve ever created but it works.

Laptop on stand.

I could dress it up with some paint or fabric but I decided against that for now. I want it to look rough; that way people will know as soon as they see it that I did not purchase a solution to my problem.

I want the world to know that I made it myself in order to encourage others to get creative as well. The less we buy and the more we make, the better off we will be. The more we repair and the less we replace, the more money we will have in our pockets moving forward. I am embracing that whole-heartedly.

For instance, not only is the laptop stand handmade from recycled cardboard, the laptop is a handmedown. It was gifted to Katie several years ago (thank you again!) and she eventually passed it on to me when she upgraded. This laptop is close to seven years old, which means that it is a dinosaur in our consumerist society. I installed an SSD in it that I found on clearance, added a lightweight version of Linux (Linux Lite, for the curious), topped it off with a keyboard protector to extend the life of the keyboard (that came with a matching cover for the trackpad), and placed it into service. With a bit of love, this machine will last for years, especially since the operating system I selected uses a fraction of the resources that Microsoft Windows does.

Big Business will not like my solution. They want me to buy their stuff rather than make something using stuff I already have but you know what?

We don’t need to buy their solutions. Purchasing their solutions may allow their employees to make a few pennies, but it also allows the CEOs and investors to quarantine in their mansions. I may not be able to do much about income inequality, but I can fight back with my personal choices.

This old woman is choosing to use what she has instead of buying new. I hope that you will do the same where you can.

It takes but a bit of effort to cut old clothes into rags and use them instead of paper towels and bathroom tissue. It takes but a bit of creativity to repurpose cardboard into a lap desk. Bits of cloth scraps can be pieced together to create larger pieces of fabric even. I’m currently using tiny squares of cloth scraps from my mask making to create a quilt even:

Tiny scraps of fabric that ended up being 1-inch finished quilt squares.

You don’t need as much as you think you need, my friends. You don’t always need to buy a solution when you encounter a problem. If you learn anything from me moving forward, I hope you learn that.

As for me, I need to conclude this post and get back to work. I want to make sure that the kid has enough masks to get through the week without getting bored. I also want to craft a few extra for another friend, who generously gave one of the masks I made away to an elderly lady that had crafted a mask from a paper towel. She is my hero, so I want to make sure she not only receives a replacement mask to stay safe, but that she has a couple of extras to give away if she discovers anyone else in need.

I may not have much but I intend to help my fellow man where I can. As for the corporations who believe money is more important than human lives, fuck them. I will avoid giving them my money out of spite. I don’t care how much money the government gives them, they will still collapse if we stop buying their stuff in protest. Even better, we will weather the economic fallout of this pandemic far better than those who continue to support them.

I think I’m going to enjoy the challenge of growing a garden this year. I believe that I will enjoy removing my financial support from a food supply system that doesn’t care whether their workers live or die. With every spade of dirt that I shift, I am going to remind myself of that. I will remind myself of the lives being lost to feed the machine.

I hope that you will join me.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Finances Frugality Recycling

The Stitch Rebellion

As our governor began to list the dead yesterday evening, chants from the protestors outside drowned him out. He sighed, explained that this wasn’t about popularity. He would save as many lives as he could save, despite the protestors campaigning for him to let people die by reopening our economy.

It reminded me of a parable I read in the Bible ages ago. There was a shepherd who left his flock of 99 sheep in order to search for the single lamb who had wandered off. Preachers tend to use that parable to illustrate how the Christian God cares so much that they don’t want to lose anyone. Considering that our governor is trying to save lives, is deliberately challenging a society that says money is more important than human life, that parable seems to match this situation.

What would the shepherd in that parable do if his flock were in danger of dying from coronavirus? I pondered that for a long while last night. I do believe that that shepherd from the tale of old would do whatever he could to save as many sheep as he could – even if the sheep weren’t happy with his choices, especially if the wolves were whispering that they needed to endanger themselves, even endanger others rather than obey the shepherd.

To me, this is about so much more than Coronavirus now as I think upon the situation. We have corporate CEOs and other rich people who are upset because the economic shutdown is endangering their yachts and their summers in the Hamptons. They don’t like the thought of losing money so they are campaigning to eliminate restrictions, even at the cost of human lives.

Even now, as medical workers die, essential workers are falling ill and dying as well, and neither their employers nor the organization who was formed to protect them give a shit. They are expendable; we are all considered expendable in the money-making machine that is our current society.

At least it’s out in the open now; at least we know what the major corporations think about us. We are just fodder for their money machine. We need to work their jobs and buy their stuff even if it kills us because they need money to quarantine on their yachts.

These were my thoughts as I continued to rearrange my living room to make a home for the sewing machine. As I tidied, I stumbled upon a ripped sheet that I’d intended to reuse as scrap along with a pillowcase with failed seams. Rather than continue to use them, I was going to recycle them and replace them with new. I wadded them up to place them in my scrap bag.

But then I paused. What if, instead of scrapping them and buying replacements, I patched them instead? I’ve got quite a bit of random fabric scraps here. Both kids have given me their discards and I’ve quite a few mask scraps as well; what if I used the true scrap to repair these items and keep them in service?

I grabbed a leftover piece of tee shirt from the scrap bag, pinned it beneath the tear on my sheet, and started stitching. I initially began to stitch by hand but as I worked I grew angry. We have been programmed to believe that it is wrong to repair items; if something isn’t shiny and new and perfect, if it doesn’t match the decor in some fancy magazine, it is wrong. It is wrong and we are wrong if we don’t do what the corporations want us to do. We should toss our old crap and buy their new stuff, even if we can repair it because that’s what keeps them rich.

I grabbed a colorful spool of thread from my box, a spool of thread my kids picked from a clearance pile when they were small. Deliberately selecting a random, mismatched bobbin, I stuck that sheet upon my machine and went to work.

I vented my rage upon that patch, deliberately experimenting with random stitches as I sewed. When one bobbin ran out, I grabbed another and kept sewing until that patch ended up being a statement of rebellion.

Because fuck the system that says everything must be picture perfect. Forget the system that says we must toss our old stuff and replace it with new. Why not go back in time, to how the Japanese would continue to layer new fabrics upon old items for years in a method called Boro?

This is what the patch looked like after I vented my rage:

The backside of the patch. This won’t show when the sheet is on the bed.
The top side that will show. I went wild playing with the stitches as I vented my frustration upon the patch.
The patched sheet back in action. To my surprise, my patch gave Katie a giggle. She thinks it’s a great idea.

I know it’s not perfect but you know what; it works. It works, and it’s one less sheet I have to purchase from some stupid corporation who thinks money is more important than people. This sheet was purchased at a thrift shop at least 15 years ago and if I have my way, I’ll patch it from now until Hell freezes over, just because I can.

We’ve been so conditioned to believe that we need to toss things that aren’t perfect, but why not embrace the imperfection instead? Why don’t we go back to the ways of our ancestors who used to repair things instead of throwing them away? We can not only help our environment by keeping things out of landfills and reducing consumption, we can save money and quietly protest the corporations who want us to toss our old and buy their crap instead.

So instead of tossing that shirt or that sheet or whatever it is into the rag pile or even into the trash, take a good long look at it instead. Can you repair it and keep it in service instead?

And remember: this isn’t just about sheets. You can keep your car running, like my friend who ordered the mechanic to replace the motor in her truck instead of taking his advice to purchase another vehicle. You can keep your old computers in use instead of buying a new one. You can take old stuff and make it into something different when you get bored. You can even recycle leftovers into a completely different meal. You can do this in so many different ways, and each time you do that you make this world a better place.

If you happen to have something that you’ve somehow patched, repaired, or recycled around your home, please share your story in the comments below. Let’s show the world that this is a good thing.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Economy Finances Food Frugality Minimalism

Supply Chain Concerns

Okay, folks. At last count these are the situations we are dealing with in addition to the COVID-19 outbreak:

On top of that, there also happens to be a Swine Flu outbreak that I’m watching that will affect our food chain as well as the fact that the United States Postal Service is having its own financial issues.

Are you beginning to understand why I am urging you to grow at least some of your own food now? Because I didn’t link to all of the news reports I have found on this stuff; there’s actually more out there than I listed.

If you look back in history (which I did when I researched the Stock Market these past couple years, you will notice an astounding similarity to the Great Depression. While the exact details are different, the similarities I am noting are highly concerning.

When it comes down to it, however, our primary needs are food and shelter. As long as we have a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, and food in our bellies, we will be okay. That’s why I’m not going into too much detail about other areas at the moment. If you resist the urge to toss your excess at the moment, a bit of creativity will get you through this.

Everett Bogue’s concerns about a potential housing crisis continue to bother me. There are calls for rent strikes in major cities where the cost of living is extremely high. I had trouble sleeping last night due to those concerns. While they shouldn’t affect me (I live on less than many do), there is still a chance that it might affect others. If Coronavirus continues to run rampant to the point where state and local governments are motivated to keep us in place we should be safe for the most part, but I am beginning to find the stories our governor are sharing in my state to be concerning. Landlords are apparently attempting to bully people into paying up or moving out; while our governor here is making an effort to shut that down, I worry about what will happen in the states where the governors don’t care who lives or dies. We still have a few governors who have refused to take the steps needed to flatten the pandemic curve; those states might very well allow people to be evicted if they cannot afford to pay their rent.

I am torn about this situation. I’ve always been a firm believer in keeping essential recurring expenses as low as they can go; I’ve learned through hard experience that it is easier to come up with $200 than it is to come up with $2,000. Unfortunately, I know that not all of you have followed suit. You’ve either rented or financed a place that is more than you can realistically afford now that you’re unemployed or you live in a city that has sky-high rents.

You need to have a place where you can stay home and stay safe for the duration of this pandemic. With state parks being shut down, I’m worried about how the van-dwellers and full-time RVers are faring. I’ve not even had time to look, so if you have any news please share it with me. I do need the information in order to best advise you.

That said, I am going to go out on a limb based upon my current information. If, and this is a big if COVID-19 eases up with warm weather, there is a chance that governments will reduce restrictions on movement and allow evictions and foreclosures to resume. Depending upon which way Trump jumps with his plan to re-open the economy next month, some of you who are struggling to pay your rent may have a problem.

Even if Trump backs down on the May thing, we might have a problem depending on what COVID-19 does in warmer weather.

Once the scientists develop and deploy a vaccine we will have the economic fallout to deal with. At least one person is calling for the US Government to allow Capitalism to work the way it was designed this time around but based upon what I have seen in the past with the bailouts of the auto and finance industry combined with Washington’s determination to continue that pattern, I am skeptical that Capitalism will be allowed to follow its natural course this time either.

If they don’t allow Capitalism to work naturally, the US government will continue to throw fortunes at these businesses to prop them up, not realizing that 1) the money will not “trickle down” to those of us at the bottom of the financial food chain and 2) helping those businesses stay afloat won’t do a bit of good if the general populace cannot afford to buy their stuff. The failure of a number of businesses is inevitable because of that, regardless of governmental intentions.

If the pandemic eases a bit with summer to the point where restrictions are eased, you may want to consider locating a cheaper place to stay in order to best weather the financial fallout, especially if you are currently struggling to pay your rent right now. I don’t care where it’s located or what it looks like, this is something you might want to consider but only if the pandemic eases with warmer weather.

It will do you no good to escape a sky-high rent bill if you catch Coronavirus and die in the midst of a move. If your choice is between avoiding Coronavirus and paying your rent, I hope you will prefer to avoid catching Coronavirus. It seems to be killing people in all age ranges.

Should you choose to remain where you are (which I honestly believe is best if you can afford to do so), you do need to minimize your recurring expenses regardless. The experts are already beginning to call this a Recession. While the stock market is up a bit due to the bargain hunters scooping up shares, that will change as companies release their quarterly earnings reports and revise their projected earnings downward. It will continue as smart businesses cut or eliminate dividends in order to weather the economic fallout.

Economists won’t make the call until it’s already under way, but once they utter the term “Economic Depression” I suspect that the stock market will really begin to slide. They are already growing concerned at the signs.

I believe that the chances are high that we will face an economic depression. I’m not saying this to frighten you but I am urging you to prepare for that possible eventuality. Cut your expenses. Grow a bit of food. There is only one way through this and all I have to guide you are the stories from my parents and grandparents because the Great Depression happened before I was born.

While I doubt you will be forced to go barefoot and shove your single set of clothes into the cracks of your walls in hopes of keeping the snow from covering your quilt each morning (yes, my father had to do that), I do believe that we will learn hard and fast what is truly important in the grand scheme of things.

Just remember: food and shelter are your primary needs. Unless you’ve decided to toss all of your clothing here recently, you should have enough excess in your wardrobe to get you by. Since more and more US-based clothing factories are switching over to the manufacture of PPE, you might want to keep the clothes you currently have, despite any temptation you have to thin your wardrobe down. Clothes do not last forever, and modern mass-produced clothing does not tend to last near as long as most believe it will.

I learned that the hard way when I moved here with a week’s worth of clothing. The items I selected wore out so fast it made my head spin, leaving me in a lurch because I spent so much replacing the appliances I foolishly left behind that I struggled to replace my ratty clothes.

It is not fun to walk around with holes in the crotch of your only pair of pants, so keep your clothing, folks. Depending upon how bad things get, that extra may come in handy. If anything, you may end up needing to recycle that stuff for rags if you cannot afford bathroom tissue and paper towels – or even diaposeable diapers. Middle Daughter is already struggling to keep her youngest in diapers due to this crap.

I’m running on about four hours of sleep, so I am going to conclude this post before I repeat myself further. I’ve been doing this for days as I hustle to not only make masks for those I love but because I want to get the sewing caught up before I start the garden, whose time is fast approaching. The sooner I can get this done, the sooner I can take a couple of days off to catch up on my sleep.

I am seriously looking forward to some sleep. I am exhausted.

Stay safe. Think about what I’ve written here. I beg you to begin making preparations now while there’s still a bit of time. As for me, I’ve got to get back to work. These masks won’t sew themselves and I’ve a purse to make for a lady as soon as they’re finished.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Food Frugality Minimalism Simplicity

Blast From the Past

“Is it done yet?” Middle Daughter bounced in her toddler chair as she watched me sewing her latest dress.

“Not yet, honey,” I repeated patiently. “It takes time to make a dress.”

“Okay.”

“Is it done yet NOW?” she asked a few minutes later.

“If you don’t quit asking, I’m gonna quit!” I’d eventually warn her in frustration.

The death of my mother in 1992 left me with her sewing machine and several boxes of patterns and supplies. At first I stored them away in my “retreat” – a tiny extra bedroom that I would hide in when my husband’s movie and video game habit got on my nerves.

Every time I saw that machine I felt guilty. It was a piece of my mother. She loved to sew quilts as she aged. As a child, she had even sewn me a few outfits. My family had little money and I had no skills. That machine could fix that…if I only knew how to work it. I could do what my mother did and craft the things my children needed.

My first project was an unmitigated disaster. I knew nothing about needle size, thread tension, or any of the other myriad settings and procedures needed to turn fabric into something worthy of use. I burned that first dress in the backyard in shame.

But then I became angry. I was angry because my mother had refused to teach me how to sew and angry at myself because I didn’t learn the skill by osmosis. I began lurking in the fabric sections of stores as I worked through my rage.

That was when I stumbled upon my first sewing book.

With every book I managed to acquire my sewing skills improved. My kids loved the outfits I made them. They even started putting in requests when they saw patterns that they liked. My middle daughter was especially persistent. She would sit beside me as I worked, playing with her toys as she encouraged me to “hurry up.”

Friends began to give me money to make clothes for them as well. When I started making quilts, the demand grew even higher. I didn’t make a fortune but the money I earned allowed me to buy supplies that I used to make things for my family.

But times changed. It became cheaper to buy things off the rack or at thrift stores than it was to purchase material. Wearing particular brands became popular. People didn’t want to buy something designed to last, they began to look at items like clothing, quilts, and curtains as disposable. Use it a season, toss it, then redecorate with new became the trend.

As my children lost interest in my homemade clothing I began to sew less and less. The demand for homemade quilts faded when mass-manufactured imports emerged on the market for far less than I could acquire the material to construct them. The quality was inferior (in my opinion) but those who were fond of the items didn’t care. They didn’t want to keep the quilts forever – just a season or two until they changed their color scheme.

By the time I began to explore minimalism I rarely sewed. Aside from the occasional quilt, my tools sat unused. Clothing was so plentiful that I rarely needed to buy any; people were happy to give me their discards since they bought so much more than they could use and store. Clothes shopping had become a hobby, and quickly fading trends made them disposable.

I didn’t see that ever changing so in time I gave away my sewing equipment and supplies. Save for a sewing box my daughters had gifted me with on Mother’s Day one year, everything was eliminated.

But then Coronavirus happened. Medical workers needed masks. Cashiers needed masks. Everyone seemed to need something that they could not obtain in a store, so people started asking me to start sewing again.

As I began to hand-stitch my daughter’s first mask, she emerged from her bedroom with a surprise: her dad had gifted her with a sewing machine he had found in a yard sale several years previous when she’d mentioned to him that she would like to learn but she’d never gotten around to even opening the case. Would the machine make sewing the masks even faster? she asked.

Oh yes!

After a bit of tinkering I fired up that machine and set to work. The kids got masks, some friends got masks, and the requests increased. I started using the rotary paper cutter my kid had to make the process a bit faster.

My kid noticed. For my birthday she replaced my cutting mat, ruler, and rotary cutter. Both daughters (middle and younger) had remembered the tools I’d owned in the past so both began to hustle to replace the things I’d eliminated.

Cutting mat and ruler.

That was when Katie found a pattern for a handbag that she liked.

“If I get the stuff, will you make this for me? I’m tired of my purses falling apart,” she explained.

“Of course!” I replied.

She was so excited that I set the current batch of masks aside to get started. She even helped me pin the pattern to the fabric.

Help from Katie.

When my daughters realized that I was going through quite a few spools of thread, they remembered how I would buy cones in days past. Middle daughter located the largest spool of black thread she could find in one store; Katie actually managed to locate some cones.

Coned thread feeds from the top as opposed to the side. To use cones with a standard machine, one typically spends $10-$15 on the special stand. As I did years ago, I refused to spend the money; I took a wire clothes hanger, some cardboard, and a bit of tape to construct one myself. I had to explain to Katie that she’d gotten the right thread; I just refused to buy the gadget that consumerism demands.

She laughed after she saw my solution.

DIY thread cone stand.

I finished the purse in a day, reinforcing it because the pattern was not designed for the abuse I knew my daughter would give it. She keeps everything in her purse; at times she’s used it for a overnight bag when she’s taken trips to visit her fiancee (now husband). I’ve even seen her stuff her laptop in her previous bags so I took extra care to ensure that if it failed, it would not be because of my stitching.

Before I could take a photo of the finished purse she tossed her gear in it and went to work. I do have a photo of the pattern however:

The pattern for Katie’s purse.

EDIT: Katie came home from work as I was finishing this post so I managed to snap a couple of photos of the completed project.

Katie’s new purse.
Another photo of Katie’s new purse.

While I intend to take most of today off from sewing, I’ll have to work up some more masks starting this evening. Here are some photos of the ones I’ve made so far.

Grandson wearing his mask.
Middle Daughter and her mask
Granddaughter’s masks.
Right after completion of one of Granddaughter’s masks. Middle daughter was impatient to see so I snapped her a quick photo.
One of my latest mask creations.
Backside of mask. I make them reversible.

It took several days of research to come up with the final design. I knew from previous experience that elastic (especially the thin elastic most use) won’t hold up with repeated washing and use, so I crafted straps that would hold up for an extended amount of time. This allows people to fit them to their face properly and position the straps based upon their needs.

When I consulted with nurses, they informed me that the standard CDC and NIH guidelines weren’t sufficient so I also followed their advice and used a heavy non-woven interfacing instead of the fabric liner those agencies recommended. When I make something, I want it to be as effective as possible, last as long as possible, and look nice as well.

Based upon the feedback I’ve received I suspect I will be crafting these things for quite a while. I also suspect that both of my daughters will keep me busy sewing other items as well. Middle daughter plans for me to make matching Princess dresses for her daughters as soon as her youngest gets a bit older, and Katie is already shopping for pattern lots featuring clothing that she likes.

Based upon the messages Katie has sent me just today about how her friends have been drooling over the purse I made her, I suspect I will stay rather busy.

Even more importantly, I learned a valuable lesson from this experience. Just because an old skill goes out of fashion, one should never eliminate the equipment and supplies one uses to make or repair things. You never know when times will change and those skills will be necessary once more.

For the record, however, I am still dreading that garden. If I didn’t believe so firmly that the food would be needed, I would say “forget it.” I am so very thankful that I know how to make one, however. I suspect we will need one for this year at the least. Depending upon how this mess sorts itself out, I might have to raise one next year as well. Thanks to the old skills I have been teased for over my lifetime, our family is in a lot better shape than many out there.

I am immensely thankful for that blessing.

What are you thankful for today? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Finances Food Frugality Minimalism

The Perception of Minimalism and Thoughts About the Economy

Everett Bogue sent me an email the other day. We email each other on occasion and he’d stumbled upon an article he thought I would find interesting.

I had to read the article twice. Then I had to ponder the article for a couple of days because I could not believe what I was reading.

Why? Because based upon that article, despite the fact that I was one of the top Minimalist writers of the Great Recession, I’m apparently neither the proper gender nor a member of the appropriate socio-economic class to be considered a minimalist. Colin Wright made it though; I was surprised he even got a mention.

One of the aspects of the high-handed article that I found so hilarious that Everett himself, the central voice in the Minimalism movement and the very person who encouraged me to apply minimalism as I struggled after having my telecommuting job moved to another nation, wasn’t even mentioned in the article. He was the person who privately explained to me that I could achieve my dream of being a stay-at-home single mother. Despite the fact that it was Everett’s personal experience and voice who jump-started the Minimalist Movement of the Great Recession, he was written out of the history of the Minimalist Movement.

Even more hilarious, the very impetus of the Minimalist Movement, the Great Recession itself, wasn’t even discussed despite the fact that many of us were driven to live on less because we had to. A lot of us lost our jobs during that time, including myself. The author decided to delve into the art scene instead, which has absolutely nothing to do with our lifestyle.

Leo Babauta wasn’t even mentioned. None of us old guard were named in the article except for Colin, and they didn’t even deign to link to his website, which is infuriating. Instead, they discussed the pseudo-minimalists who jumped on the bandwagon well after it left the gate, the wealthy folk who decided that Minimalism was cool and had the money to do what those of us who started this movement never could and definitely never would:

Throw money away on super-expensive, impossible to maintain furniture, appliances, and gadgets that the true Minimalists would have never deigned to bother with.

Minimalism is the art of eliminating the unwanted/unnecessary in order to have more time/money/energy to focus on the wanted and the necessary. A true Minimalist would know that it is stupid to spend $1,000 on a high-end special hotplate when you could walk down to your local thrift shop or box store and pick up a hotplate that serves the exact same purpose for $20 – or free in my case. My hotplate was given to me by a neighbor.

Minimalism isn’t about spending $1,000 on a high-end washer/dryer combo. A true minimalist would reduce their laundry and either wash their clothes in the sink (as I have in the past), go to a laundromat, or invest in a portable washer, hanging their laundry up to dry in order to minimize their impact upon the environment.

But since the elites hijacked the Minimalism movement in order to hawk their wares (you know who I’m aiming that dig at) and give fancy speeches to those who have so much money they can’t figure out where to spend it, the rest of us who started this movement, the ones of us who became minimalists due to our frustration at the economic climate at that time have apparently been written out of the history.

So I have one thing to say to the authors of that article: kiss my ancient female ass. I was a minimalist before you were probably out of short pants and I don’t give two shits whether or not I fit your paradigm.

I personally embraced minimalism because what I had been taught about life wasn’t working. The only way I could afford to feed my kids was to learn how to live on less money. The only way to live on less money was to reduce the amount I purchased. And as I reduced the amount I purchased, I realized that there were advantages to living on less that I’d not conceived. Not only was I able to become a stay-at-home single mother (which I’ve been told is still physically impossible), but I freed up the time that allowed me to write a number of books designed to teach others how to do the same if they wanted.

That said, I never imagined I would experience the time when minimalism, particularly my version of financial minimalism, would be desperately needed. I’ve already written a number of books on the subject; if you want to survive what’s coming I suggest you find one and start reading. I’m not about to repeat myself in a new book when my old books say the exact same thing and provide the advice you need to get through this.

Which brings me to the other subject I would like to discuss.

One of the things Everett pointed out in his email and bogcast shortly after was that, during the Great Recession, a housing crisis caused quite a few people to become homeless.

While I do believe that the housing sector is about to undergo a massive change, there is something different happening now. The Federal Government has suspended evictions and foreclosures. States are slowly following suit. They don’t want us to be homeless now. In fact, they are busting their butts in several states (including mine) to provide housing to the homeless, which is something I never imagined I would see in my lifetime. The governor in my state actually called out some landlords who were trying to quietly evict people just the other day, calling that a major no-no.

I suspect that the Federal Government is so determined to prevent the spread of Covid-19 that they might end up subsidizing or even purchasing the properties of tenants and mortgage holders in danger of being evicted. It’s either that or have the landlord class rise up in protest. Since Trump is rather fond of the landlord class (he happens to be one of them), I suspect he’ll act to serve his own personal interests and apply the method he devises to save his own butt across the board in some way.

So for now, while this stuff is running rampant, I don’t think any of us need to worry too much about being homeless. While a housing crisis is pretty much inevitable since so many of us can’t afford to pay rent, I see too many signs that indicate that the Federal and State governments won’t allow that to happen. The landlord class is at the top of the house of cards that describes our current economy; the Federal Government seems determined to throw whatever they can at those top layers, to the point that they are all but ignoring the cracks that are appearing at at the foundation. Because of that, they will do what they can to keep the landlord class somewhat content so we can remain in our homes. While I don’t know how they will do that exactly, for now I believe we’re safe.

So keep your stuff. Stay home. Plant a garden if you have a yard or scavenge some buckets to start a container garden. I heard of one lady who bought a bunch of $1 trash cans to start her garden in since she didn’t own any buckets, so that might be an idea you can use. While only time will tell how things will pan out in the housing arena, for now I believe we’re safe from being evicted.

I will keep an eye on the news and warn you if I see any indications of trouble. If you happen to stumble upon something in your area, let me know. This is definitely something I want to stay on top of.

While you’re at it, ignore the advice of frugalists who think living on thousands of dollars a month is living cheap. They have no fucking clue what we’re about to deal with. If you don’t like the advice I give, find someone else who practices what they preach. Find someone who lives on very little money like I do and follow their advice. Just as with the Minimalist Movement, the frugal living movement is filled with charlatans who have no idea how to truly live on less.

You’re not going to coast through this by living the status quo, folks. Prices are already starting to rise nationwide. They will continue to rise. Most of the stuff we take for granted (including quite a bit of our food) originates from nations that are being hit hard with this virus, and it will take a while for the production in our nation to compensate. That’s the real reason it’s hard to locate bathroom tissue and diapers in the stores. Worldwide production is down. While factories in this nation are working hard to compensate, they actually do try to pay somewhat of a living wage so prices will go higher.

But if the strikes over PPE, sanitation concerns, and hazard pay continue, we will have a rocky road ahead of us as they sort things out.

Minimalism, folks. You need it. While you don’t need the “toss all of your stuff” brand of minimalism that many propose right now, you do need to embrace the financial minimalism that my grandparents, my parents, and myself embraced as a way of life.

Water jugs and butter bowls can become bowls and planters to grow food. Plants can be grown to provide food instead of decorative greenery. Vegetables make pretty flowers too so don’t worry – they’re still pretty, just in a different way. If you can’t afford potting soil, make or grab a spade and a bag and dig some out of the yard. Find and “borrow” some if you have to. Do whatever you have to do to use what you have and locate what you don’t to start growing a bit of food. Some farmers are having to let their food rot in the field because they have contracts that won’t allow them to sell to the average person, so the cost of food will go up until that gets sorted.

If you happen to know a farmer, make that person your friend on Facebook. You can’t exactly meander out to their farm with the current restrictions, but if you can figure out a way to befriend them, they may allow you to quietly liberate some of the food they’ve got rotting in the field. If they have a heart (and dislike wasting food) they may be willing to turn a blind eye if some of that produce disappears into your belly.

Ask your friends if they happen to know a farmer who raises eggs and meat. I know some in urban areas who raise chickens and ducks. There is very little difference between chicken, duck, and goose eggs so don’t be picky. And if your kid happens to have a BB or pellet gun, clean it well and start target practicing. While I really hope it doesn’t get as bad as that, you can kill small game with a BB or pellet gun, and you don’t need a gun permit to own one in most areas.

If you really want to learn more about growing and quietly raising food, read Dolly Freed. I’m reviewing her book myself.

As for that surplus of clothes in your closet, you might want to keep them even if they don’t fit. Dolly Parton’s “coat of many colors” is a real thing. You can repurpose old clothes into rags (which will come in handy if you can’t afford paper towels, napkins, diapers, or bathroom tissue in the future). You can sew patches on your pants with the fabric, or even extend the legs on children’s clothing. You can piece them together to make quilts and other needed items. Hell, you can burn them in a stove in the winter if you get cold along with that stack of books you never got around to reading. It might not be the most eco-friendly thing to do but at least it will keep you warm.

I would rather have you over-prepared than under-prepared for this situation. Since we do not know what is going to happen, it is best to prepare for even the situations we cannot conceive of. I find it personally hard to even imagine that there will come a time when I cannot acquire food. I’ve not helped slaughter an animal since I was a kid but you know what?

That won’t stop me if my grandbabies get hungry. I hope it won’t stop you either.

So let the fools who think this is going to blow over in a few weeks do their thing. The so-called minimalists who are using their time off work to toss their stuff will learn the truth soon enough when their 401(k)s start plummeting to nothing. Everyone who has placed their faith in the stock market will learn a harsh lesson about life before this is over.

DISCLOSURE: I sold out of almost all of my stocks as I saw this coming. While one medical company I’d invested in went belly-up before I could catch it, the only companies I’ve still got an investment in are an entertainment company (since the demand for entertainment will increase for the duration) and a finance company that is essentially a “check into cash” place for the corporations. They make sure that they get their money first in the event that any company they provide financing to goes belly up, so they rode out the Great Recession pretty well. I kinda like the thought of someone charging corporations usurious interest rates the way so many of us are charged because we are poor, so even if I lose every penny I will receive immense satisfaction at the thought that those fat-cat CEOs are getting a bit of comeuppance.

I’m using the money from the companies I sold out of to help get through this. This girl is putting survival first.

I believe we will all learn some hard lessons about life before this is over, truth be told. We may have to learn and do things we never imagined to get through this.

But you know what? We’re going to be stronger in the end. So don’t be scared; just do what you can to prepare. While it could get rough, we are smart. We are creative. We will do whatever it takes to get through this mess. Just don’t waste your time casting blame, because at this point the reasons do not matter. What matters is that we survive this.

And we will survive this. I will share everything I possibly think of to help you through this. I’ve went through times when I had to feed a family of five on $25 a month. I’ve went through times when I lived on the scraps my kids left on their dinner plates. I’ve slept in stairwells. I’ve snuck into garages and huddled under mountains of scratchy curtains to sleep during the winter. I’ve even lived in my van in the past, so if anyone has the skills to figure out how to get through this mess it’s me.

Because I’ve been there. I know what it’s like. And I will share every tip I possibly can to help you through it too.

But if you’re going to make it through this, you need to start preparing now. It is best to over-prepare than under-prepare. Hoard your cash. Cut your expenses to the bone. I’m even going through my expenses and doing the same as I wait for the danger of frost to pass so I can start digging.

For the record, I’m seriously dreading the digging. I’ve not had a garden in ages and all I’ve got is a spade to work with. If I’m lucky, Middle Daughter will find that hoe she thought she saw in her shed the other day. We’re combining our forces to grow a garden.

It will be a cold day in hell before I risk my babies going hungry.

And thank you for your email, Everett. I appreciate you more than you will ever know.

All you old-guard Minimalists who are still out there, who understand what minimalism is truly about, you need to get off your duffs and start writing again. Seriously, these fools that are popular now are not helping matters. I don’t care how you do it, you have a duty to help people learn how to live on less so they can survive this. Send me links and I’ll get the word out that you’re back.

We are all going to have to band together for what’s coming.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Finances Frugality

How to Plan for an Uncertain Future

Okay, folks. We’ve got some work to do. Sitting on the couch isn’t going to make things any better – it will only make you insane.

Best case scenario is we have another recession. We live through this, our friends and family live through this, but we have some financial challenges to deal with.

Worst case scenario is we lose some family and friends and end up facing a Depression that makes the Great Depression look like child’s play.

That’s what we’re facing. Either we square up and meet it head on, or we let it kick us in the private parts while we skulk off to cry.

Either way, we can’t escape this. The only direction we can go is through it, so it’s time to get to work.

That was the pep talk I gave myself when I felt myself becoming sad at our current situation. As skilled as I am at living on less, seeing the names of my friends in the obituary column really hit hard.

But do you remember that old TV show the A-Team? You younger folk might remember the movie based upon that old series. It was my favorite show when I was a kid. And my very favorite scenes were when Hannibal made a plan and the team prepared to take care of business.

I have personally chosen to look at this as a challenge. I’m not only a minimalist, I’m one of the foremost frugal living experts in the United States. If anyone knows how to live cheap, it’s me. That said, this is a completely different situation from any I’ve ever faced. Even during the Great Recession I was able to go out and get a job. It may not have been the fanciest job, but I could get a job.

This time I’m at the age where, if I go out and get a job, I could kill myself. Since I enjoy living too much for that, I intend to tough it out on as little as possible for the duration.

When creating a plan, you need to focus on immediate needs first. For us, that meant whipping up some face masks so that my daughter could be a bit safer at work and I could be safer should I need to leave the house.

I had a few problems with that need, however. Not only had it been close to a decade since I’d sewn anything, I’d eliminated almost all of my sewing supplies. On top of that, I had never sewn a mask in my life, so I didn’t know where to start since I was horribly out of practice.

I could have thrown up my hands and said it was impossible but I knew that it wasn’t. I had a needle and some thread; add some material and a bit of creativity and I knew I could handle it. I gave the kid my card and asked her to pick out some fabric and interfacing (non-woven interfacing increases the effectiveness according to several family members in the nursing community) while I sat my butt down and began watching mask-making tutorials on YouTube.

I took ideas from a number of different videos and went to work. I no longer had a dedicated set of fabric scissors, so I repurposed the kid’s rotary paper cutter for the cutting part. After scrounging a bit around the house I selected an old tee-shirt to sacrifice to the cause (elastic shortage in this area) and got to work.

As I stitched, the kid came into the kitchen hauling a 1970’s era sewing machine. Her dad had picked it up at a yard sale and gifted it to her several years ago. She’d never used it; did I think it would make the sewing faster?

About that time a friend called. She was at the same store that sold the fabric: did I need anything? I begged her for some sewing machine needles and oil. When those arrived, I cleaned that machine and used it to finish the first mask.

While I was at it I sewed several masks for myself and some friends. I want as many of my friends to make it through this as possible so it made sense. I’ve seen enough of my friends in the obituary column. I’ve kept myself busy at that project for these past few days.

Now that the immediate project is done, I’m making plans for my next project, which is ensuring that we have some fresh food if money gets really tight, supply lines break down, or inflation makes the prices go up. I’m not exactly fond of yard work so I’ve decided to plant what I can in repurposed containers and to establish a three sisters garden in my back yard. You don’t need to weed a three sisters garden, which makes it perfect for my personality. As an added bonus, it will remind me of my grandmother, who made me promise ages ago to never forget the Native American blood that flows through my veins. While I may have been too young to remember the tribe she told me our ancestors were from, I’ve kept that promise to the best of my ability. This little garden will give homage to my ancestors.

These are just little steps that I’ve taken, steps that have not only kept me busy but have allowed me to prepare for what’s coming. If anything comes to mind that might make the coming days easier, I jot it down in a notebook to consider once I complete my current projects.

This is something that all of us need to be doing. Take a serious look at your life and ask yourself what you can personally do to prepare for any hard times in your future. Try to look at this as a challenge: just what can you do to not only make things easier, but that will stretch your abilities a bit?

Instead of paying your bills blindly, examine them to see if there is any expense you can eliminate. Do you subscribe to several streaming services? Eliminate one. Can you reduce your phone, cable, or other utilities? Can you open a window and avoid using the air conditioner this summer, at least for a while? If you go to a laundromat, can you scrape together a bit of money and invest in a small washing machine? If not, have you ever tried washing your laundry in a bucket or a bathtub? If you’re not an essential worker and are stuck at home, why not give it a try? That will allow you to save money you would otherwise spend at a laundromat.

There are so many different ways to save money! Just look around your house for ideas. If you can’t come up with any, read one of my books on the subject. The less you spend, the better off you will be moving forward. The best time to prepare is before you need to; the next best time is now.

Think about it this way: you can either feel sorry for yourself or you can do something about your situation. The first option doesn’t help a damn bit, but the other one just might save your ass.

It’s up to you.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Frugality

How to Survive the Coronavirus Pandemic Without Bathroom Tissue

I never imagined that the time would arrive when the crazy things I’ve done to save money or live on less would be helpful to a large group of the population. I started doing the things I’m doing just to save money in order to be a stay-at-home single mother to my kid, and I’ve caught so much flak for that decision since then that for the most part I keep my eccentricities to myself these days.

That was before the fights started. Just today, a fight broke out at a local store over bathroom tissue. My daughter’s store is struggling to keep toilet paper in stock along with a number of other items. From what I can discern, the local police in this area are becoming hard-pressed to keep the peace with the shortages we have in our town alone.

If it is this bad in our little town, I shudder to think of what it is like for those who live in major cities. The worst part of this entire situation is that none of us know when the chaos will end.

I’ve spent my days recently documenting this point in history. I’m logging the things I hear and see as well as collecting the occasional news article now that I’ve noticed a few web pages disappear. I don’t know what I’ll do with this chronicle; perhaps it may help my grandkids understand this time period at some point in the future when they become old enough to ask questions.

For now, however, I am more concerned about the bathroom tissue (toilet paper) shortages that seem to be sweeping the nation. Folks all over seem to sense that things could become even more challenging in the upcoming months so they are trying to stock up. I don’t blame them. That said, it makes things hard when you need to wipe your butt and you don’t have anything to wipe it on.

Years ago I wrote several articles about family cloths. I eliminated our use of not only bathroom tissue during that time, but my personal use of sanitary pads as well. For those who may be worried about the shortage of bathroom tissue I am going to republish the original article. I hope it helps.

What are Family Cloths?

Family cloths are a substitute for bathroom tissue. You can take old tee-shirts, washcloths, or other soft fabrics to use when you clean yourself after you go to the bathroom. While you are stuck at home, you can also use them as menstrual pads. They are more bulky than commercial options, but since the US has an apparent shortage of bathroom tissue, I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up with a shortage of menstrual products as well.

Hesitations About Using Family Cloths

The first hesitation some have is the instant ick factor associated with using cloth and washing it as opposed to using disposable paper. There is not much difference in washing family cloths than dirty underwear-both contain bodily solids and fluids.

The second hesitation is a concern over cleanliness. When wiping with cloth as opposed to paper you are free to use an extra cloth or so if you feel “less than fresh”-just toss it in the wash and you can reuse it. Compare this to regular bathroom tissue-how many children get scolded and conditioned to use less tissue to save money in the family budget? Have you seen the underwear of children conditioned to conserve bathroom tissue? It’s not a pretty sight. With family cloths you can encourage your family members to use what is needed to get clean, and even provide a bottle of liquid to help them with the chore!

The third hesitation is the gross-out factor of washing the cloths, but using the proper method you will not have to touch the soiled cloths.

The fourth hesitation is summed up as “What will the neighbors (family, friends) think?” Properly executed, no one will notice that you are using family cloths unless you actually tell them.

How to Begin Using Family Cloths

To actually begin using family cloths very little is needed.

The supply list:

  • Washcloths (old tee-shirts, cut into pieces, makes an excellent and inexpensive substitute)
  • Covered bucket or pail
  • Water
  • 1/4 cup bleach or vinegar
  • Squirt of dish soap or laundry detergent

Step One – Preparing the Family Cloth Bucket

Prepare your bucket by filling half full of water and adding 1/4 cup of bleach or vinegar and a splash of soap. Soaking the cloths in this solution will reduce odors and germs as well as allowing the cloths to come cleaner in the wash. If you do not have bleach or vinegar add some borax to the water instead, but bleach is the preferred liquid for its germ-killing properties. If your bucket is small or large you may want to increase or decrease the amount used. A half ounce of bleach per gallon of water makes a very weak sanitizer solution that is used to clean food preparation surfaces in restaurants. Do not use too much bleach-this will damage your cloths.

Place this bucket in an inconspicuous place within reach of your commode. I use a re-purposed laundry detergent bucket placed between the commode and vanity-my washer and dryer are in my bathroom, so no one notices a container of laundry detergent nearby! This is where you will store the used cloths until washday.

Step Two – Placing the Family Cloths

Place a pile or basket of washcloths within reach of the commode. The reason washcloths are chosen over other fabrics like re-purposed tee-shirts or flannel is simple: camouflage. No one thinks twice about a pile of washcloths in a bathroom, so you can hide these in plain view! Extra cloths can be purchased inexpensively at places like Wal-Mart-in January of 2010 the Southside Paducah Wal-Mart was selling an 18-pack of washcloths in white or a color assortment for $4.

Make sure you keep a roll of bathroom tissue in plain view at all times-this will make you look like you are using bathroom tissue the same as “everyone else.”

Step Three – How to Use Family Cloths

When you use the restroom grab a washcloth and use it to wipe instead. If you want to get really clean take a re-purposed squirt bottle (a dishwashing liquid or shampoo bottle is perfect) and fill with water and add a couple drops of tea tree oil (antiseptic), a couple drops or olive or mineral oil (skin conditioning – you can even use hair conditioner or lotion here), and a couple drops of liquid soap. Squirt this liquid on your cloth before wiping your private areas to get really clean.

When you are finished wiping place the cloth in the covered bucket, flush the commode and wash your hands.

Step Four – How to Wash Family Cloths

Take the bucket and pour it into your washer. Spin the water out of the cloths and wash them in hot water with bleach. Use vinegar instead of fabric softener in the rinse to get them extra clean. Dry well and place the cloths back in use.

Notes about using Family Cloths

Do not use a trash can to store your family cloths in. Someone will invariably toss a nasty piece of trash in there for you to fish out. Marking it as “Do Not Use” will only raise questions from company. Concealment is key. You can place your bucket in a covered wicker basket, or even stash it in the bottom of a laundry hamper-just do not use a trash can or diaper pail unless you are prepared for discovery.

Further Reading

If you are interested in my personal adventures with family cloths, you can check out the posts below. They are old but you may find them relevant to your situation.

Family Cloths

Family Cloth challenge

Forgetting the Family Cloth

Family Cloth and Company

Family Cloth Savings

Simplicity of Menstrual Cloths

On another note, I am also concerned that we may have shortages of items (or money) in the future. If you find yourself in that situation, you may want to check out my books discussing how to live on less:

The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing And You Can Too

The Minimalist Cleaning Method

I’ve written a few more related books. Rather than bore you, here is my page that contains links to some of the retailers that offer my books for sale. I’ve kept the prices low even during this chaos.

While I wish that I could afford to offer these books for free, I have to eat as well. Thanks to the Coronavirus, that eliminates me going out to get a job at the moment so that I can afford to do that. As I’ve said over the years, however, I keep the prices low for a reason. I am not trying to get rich, just pay the bills. At the age of 50, I am in the age group that this stuff is hitting rather hard, so I would rather not risk getting a public job at this time even if I could find one. With our local economy at a standstill, I doubt I could find a job even if I wanted.

If you believe that these books may help a friend, please feel free to share them. I don’t care if you buy a single copy and pass it around if it helps make this easier. Just remember that this old woman needs to eat as well.

Thank you.

Categories
Frugality

Katie the Coupon Queen

My Katie and I have been discussing my muses of late, particularly my personal opinion that I wanted to encourage people to find ways to give the corporations less money. I thought my words had fallen upon deaf ears but then something interesting happened.

For a couple of weeks I heard Katie watching episodes of some show about extreme couponing. I was amused at the fact that my daughter, of all people, suddenly seemed interested in people clipping coupons and saving money, but I let it go, reasoning that she was probably trying to understand some of her mother’s eccentricities.

When she came home the other day with a bunch of coupons, I started to grow concerned. I’ve attempted couponing in the past and I had spent more money acquiring the coupons than I saved. I kept my thoughts to myself; there are things people should learn from experience.

Sensing my skepticism, Katie collected her coupons and dragged me to the store with her yesterday. Her plan was to stock us up on things we actually use while spending as little as possible.

I thought she was on a fool’s errand as I tagged along.

To my absolute shock, my daughter managed to shave 1/3 off of her total bill with that stack of coupons – and that was at the store on the corner! That particular store is known for its higher prices; we both try to avoid it whenever possible for that reason.

Now, for the first time in years, my daughter and I are having conversations about homemade laundry detergent, expiration dates, and reasonable stockpile levels. She has no desire to buy things that will go bad before they are used.

Her argument is this: at the moment, it is hard to purchase certain things without giving your money to the corporations that are running our government, so why not use coupons, specials, and selective stockpiling to give them as little as possible?

I must admit that she has a point.

Have you ever had luck with couponing? If so, do you have any tips that you can share? Please share your stories in the comments below.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Economy Frugality

The Story of Bill

Bill is an American success story. He dropped out of college to follow his dream of making windows – and he hit it big. Bill is one of the people we look up to when we decide that we want to pursue our dreams. I used to be one of those people.

On the outside, Bill appears to be a saint because after he managed to convince everyone to install his windows in their homes and their offices, he used some of his money to improve his self image. He opened a charitable organization or two, convinced others to toss a few pennies of their wealth into the pot, and started doing good deeds, making sure that they were publicized so the whole world would see how wonderful Bill and his friends were.

What Bill didn’t reveal was the fact that he was actually playing a shell game. While our eyes were watching his charitable organization, him and his cronies were buying our governmental leaders in the background. They spent so much money buying our government that they decided that they didn’t want to buy our government and pay taxes too. Bill traveled to Puerto Rico, arranged to pay almost nothing in taxes (it wouldn’t look right if he got off paying nothing, he realized), and then “sold” the rights to some of some of his most profitable products to a tiny little company he created there.

It was the equivalent of selling a $100,000 home to your brother for five bucks, only in this case, Bill used the legal system to turn a portion of his money into the brother. Corporations are almost considered to be “people” in our legal code, so he essentially cloned himself, made the clone a resident of Puerto Rico, and transerred the rights to his most profitable products to this clone at a laughable price to avoid paying taxes in the US.

Bill did this because there is one organization in the US government that doesn’t contain elected officials he can buy: the IRS.

The IRS doesn’t discrimate. It is filled with low-paid employees who have one mission: ensure that everyone pays their fair share in taxes, if not a bit more.

The good people at the IRS watched Bill and his cronies pull stunts like this for years. They had been the ones getting yelled at when people noticed that Bill and his friends weren’t paying their fair share. They took it and took it until they got fed up and decided to fight back.

They not only decided to do a full audit on Bill, they called in the biggest legal guns they could to fight back.

“The nerve of these bastards,” Bill ranted when he received the audit notice. “Don’t they realize that I OWN them? I think it’s time they found out who their boss really is!”

Bill called up his cronies. His cronies called their friends. As one they hired attorneys and jumped into the fray. One by one they called the politicians they paid off, forcing politicians on both sides of the political fence to attack the IRS and start shoving new laws through the pipe to not only make the IRS stop, but to pass laws that prevented the IRS from trying to make them pay their fair share in taxes ever again. They also decided to punish the IRS for stepping out of line. Budget cut after budget cut caused the little agency that could to stop challenging Bill and his cronies whenever possible.

~

While the words I have written here are fiction, simplified for understanding and dramatized for effect, these words are roughly based upon a true story. This is the story of how the rich are using our money to manipulate our nation in their favor. This story is about one aspect, about how Bill and his friends manage to bully our government to get out of paying taxes, but they also use these same tactics to make our national leaders dance like puppets on a string.

Check into the donation records of every single politican in Washingington, and you will find evidence of how they buy our nation’s officials. Bill and his cronies make large donations to campaigns, knowing that these politicians will repay the favor whenever Bill and his buddies pick up the phone.

It doesn’t even stop in Washington. Up and down the political chain, from the smallest town to our national government, Bill and his friends are doing this. If you’ve ever looked at your mayor or sheriff and wondered how they managed to win their office, follow the money and you will find out. They’ve yet to make many of the campaign contributions private so you can still track them to a degree.

This is the sad reality of the United States. What was previously considered the “greatest nation in the world” is being turned into a puppet regime.

We can fight, we can scream, we can protest until the end of time and this will not change. The only thing that will happen is that we will be labeled as extremists and hauled off to jail as a terror threat.

But there is one way we can stop them. The method is completely legal, ethical, and non-violent. If we cut off their food supply, if we stop giving them the money that they need to buy our politicians, they will lose their ability to control our country. By removing our money from their pockets, we will cause their businesses to fail.

Even if you buy one less item from them, it helps. Even if you start patronizing one local business instead of the Big Ones, it helps. Even if you just keep the TV you have or the computer you have or the clothes that you have or the phone you have, it helps. Because every single one of these decisions places another nail in their coffin.

Our current business model considers a business to be a failure if it cannot show an increasing profit year after year. Our economic model is based upon exponential growth. Stop that growth, and they die.

If you are tired with the way things are in our nation, if you are tired of the rich growing insanely richer while the rest of us struggle, if you are tired of living in a nation that has turned into a puppet regime, then I hope that you will join us.

Use what you have.
Stop buying new.
Ignore their advertising.
Stop feeding the monsters.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Frugality Minimalism

The Television Adventure

When I eliminated my television back in 2009, I had no intention of acquiring another. I was perfectly content using my computer to stream videos or watch DVDs, so I thought I would have no reason to bother.

Katie disagreed. As everyone knows, my beloved daughter is not a minimalist. She works hard and shops with the same enthusiasm. I do not judge my daughter for this; she has the right to earn and spend her money as she pleases.

So when Katie came home one afternoon with a television in her arms, I shrugged and went on with my life. She wanted to watch movies and play games in her room and had decided to do just that.

I didn’t think about that television much. I watched it with her once a year, the day after Christmas, when we have a tradition of pigging out on clearance candy and watching Forrest Gump.

But then one evening after helping a friend move she came home with yet another television. Her friend had an extra that was larger than Katie’s and had gifted it to my daughter as a ‘thank you.’ Katie was delighted as she showed it to me; she could watch her videos on a larger screen thanks to the generosity of her friend.

My only question was what she intended to do with her old one.

Katie didn’t even give me the opportunity to ask that question. “As soon as I hook it up I’ll give my little one to you,” she announced. “It’s about time you joined the modern age and watched TV like normal folks!”

Oh geez.

That was how I found myself the proud owner of not only a small television but a Roku as well. She helped me hook it up and handed me the remotes with a smile.

I didn’t know how to work the remotes. The last television I owned didn’t have one. What the hell was I going to do with a television when I didn’t even know how to work it? I kept my thoughts to myself, thanked her profusely, and pretended to be happy with the gift.

That television sat in my room for a good six months untouched. I didn’t know how to work it, wasn’t motivated to try, yet I couldn’t bring myself to part with it because my daughter had loved me enough to give it to me. Eventually I realized that the situation was bordering on the ridiculous so I sat my butt down and figured it out.

Televisions have changed immensely since I last bothered with one many years ago. They do things now that I find amazing. I started out watching YouTube videos on the thing and eventually added one of those gadgets that play ancient video games and in time complemented it with a cheap DVD player.

It would save wear and tear on my computers, I reasoned.

As I developed the habit of watching a movie before bed, I realized that I could reduce my reliance on Facebook and the Internet if I had a way to capture the open air broadcasts from local news stations. I like to keep up with local news but I have a weakness for reading the comments. There was a problem with this, however. In order to capture the signals I needed to purchase another device and I was too cheap to spend the money.

That changed last night. While I was out to purchase some groceries, I stumbled upon a little antenna for $5. After asking the workers a few questions, I decided to give it a try.

It took several attempts but I managed to stick it to a window to gain reception. I fiddled with the remote, pressing random buttons until I finally found the proper menu and I managed to pick up a few channels.

For the first time in over a decade I watched the eleven o’clock news without losing myself in the comments section.

I feel as if I have stepped into an alternate reality. I can press a button and watch the news when it comes on instead of waiting for the highlights to go online. I don’t have to worry about my Internet going out when bad weather arrives. That’s an issue in my tiny area.

Part of me feels guilty for buying another gadget. Part of me feels odd because I am no longer part of the Minimalist Crowd that looks at televisions with disdain. But if I am going to allow others to live life on their terms, then that gives me the right to live on mine. The television was free, the antenna was $5, and now I can rest easy during storms. I can also use the device to play music when I slip a CD or MP3 DVD into the player I acquired, which means that I can shut my computer off entirely sometimes. I can even play games from my childhood, which I have discovered is a wonderful way to clear my head.

This little adventure has made me realize that change can be a very positive thing. It has made me realize that I need to abandon my comfort zone more often. It has also made me realize that if I embrace the older technology that I abandoned in the past that I can reduce my reliance upon the Internet. The world will not end if Annie cannot connect. To be honest, if I could teach myself to check email, respond to comments, and go offline after I upload my daily blog post, I would probably be better off.

I would definitely have more time.

If you happen to have a television (or manage to acquire one for cheap or free), you may want to consider buying one of those little devices that allow you to pick up stations for free. You would not only eliminate your cable expense, you may be able to drop some of those online movie subscriptions you pay for. They have a range of them, designed to pick up channels of varying distances from your home, so take care not to purchase until you find one that is powerful enough for your needs. The $5 one I purchased covers a 25-mile radius – just enough to watch the news, which is all I wanted. This is what the box looked like:

And always remember – minimalism is about living life on your terms, not the terms that some “expert” living out of a thousand-dollar laptop says you should live. You have the right to keep anything in your life that you find useful or gives you pleasure. If those experts want to judge, send them to me. I will be happy to show them what spot on my anatomy they can kiss.

So keep the old record player if you use it. Watch your DVDs. Play your cassettes and your VHS tapes. Wear the clothes you have in your closet. It is far better for the world if we use the things we already have anyway.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Frugality

The Soap Rebellion

I’ve spent the past several days discussing the big picture that surrounds us but the reality is that some of the most effective rebellions take place at home. When we make changes in our personal life and use those changes as talking points to teach our friends and family, over time people begin to listen and make changes of their own.

I’ve noticed this over the past decade as I walked the path that led me to today. People who used to condemn me, who called me insane to my face are now slowly making changes as they start to emulate my practices. Relatives now announce that they are culling their clutter. Friends come to me for advice on financial matters. Readers email me for similar reasons and I strive to help every one.

One by one the people around me have discovered that my particular lifestyle allows me a freedom that they cannot conceive of and have given me the honor of assisting them as they make their first steps to freedom.

I follow a simple plan to accomplish this feat. I listen to criticism, acknowlege their concerns, and do my own thing regardless.

And now it is time for a story.

When my Katie left for the Navy I didn’t expect her to return quite so soon. I started arranging things in my life to suit myself rather than continue the compromises we had made over the years.

One major surrender I made to maintain peace in our home concered liquid soap. My daughter loved it. I hated it. I felt that it was wasteful to spend a dollar or more on a product that was mostly water when one could purchase a small multi-pack of bar soap that would last longer, have a lower impact on the environment, and cost less as well. I grew up on bar soap; there’s nothing wrong with it except for the fact that companies prefer the higher profits they receive when we are persuaded that liquid soap is better.

That was why one of the first things I did after my daughter left was chuck her bottles of liquid soap beneath the counter and replace them with bars. I would have them available whenever she would visit but otherwise I was free to follow my conscience. My wallet agreed with this decision.

When my daughter returned from the Navy after being injured in BASIC I faced a quandary. Did I go back to our old way of doing things when I really didn’t want to?

I decided to experiment with a compromise instead.

I left my bar soap in prominent display. Beside those bars I placed the containers of liquid soap that my Katie preferred. When she asked, I explained the reasons that I preferred bar soap over liquid. While I would not try to force her to switch to using bar soap, I would continue to use my bars. She was free to use whatever she liked but when we ran out of liquid soap, the burden of restocking the stuff would be up to her.

I’ve refilled the bottle by the bathroom sink once in the months since that announcement. Little by little I noticed her use of it waning. I can no longer recall the last time it was low; after that first refill the bottle has sat mostly unused.

Every time I look at that bottle I have a little chuckle. My daughter has now began to experiment with different brands of bar soap as she searches for one that she likes. She has even mentioned that we might want to consider switching to bar shampoo because that would help the environment as well.

It can be a challenge to live a simpler lifestyle while we are surrounded by people who don’t share our views, but if we do our own thing while allowing them to do theirs, in time they will not only experiment, but come around to our way of thinking–at least to a degree.

This is why it is essential that we live life on our own terms. We may not make a difference in the world as a whole, but we do start to create ripples in the fabric of the society that surrounds us. Create enough ripples, and those ripples will merge to become a wave.

That is the only way to create a lasting change. That is the only way that we can stop the progress of the monsters. If we buy less, if we reveal to others that we’re buying less and explain why, in time others will pay attention.

So pick a monster and stop feeding them. It doesn’t really matter which monster; just pick the one you dislike the most. Tell others why you are doing what you do and ignore their calls to stop. Use up the things you have. Spend less. Focus on the things that are important to you and don’t be shy about that fact.

Between us all, we can start to move mountains. It just takes courage and a bit of patience.

Has your decision to live on less inspired others to do the same? Please share your stories in the comments below.


It is hypocritical to run a website about buying and living on less while begging your readers to buy your crap so I refuse to do it. That said, I live on the money I receive from book sales, so if you can find it in your heart to pitch in I would be immensely grateful.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Frugality

Minimalist Revelation

I awoke this morning with a surprising revelation. Aside from food, I no longer buy much.

At first I thought I was over-reacting so I looked at my purchase history for this past year. I didn’t spend even $500 last year at Walmart and they were my primary online ordering outlet.

Once every month or so I would order a bag of pet food, add some food or household items to achieve the $35 amount for free shipping, and that was it. While I did visit the local Walmart store twice last year, even factoring those two occasions in I spent under $500 total.

I did order several books that I could not attain locally, but I typically ordered used copies through Thriftbooks. The majority of my splurges were at three local restaurants and one local coffee shop. All of those are completely local establishments.

I don’t spend near as much money as I thought I did. Certainly not enough to make a difference in the grand scheme of things. The largest purchase I made last year (aside from my investments) was a gadget I purchased used from my daughter. She had purchased an iPad Pro to replace her aging laptop, discovered that it would not meet her needs, and offered it to me at a sizable discount so she could purchase another used laptop instead.

I had believed that I had been quite profligate with my purchases over these past two years, so to discover that the majority of my spending was on food and household supplies is quite the shock.

I looked back even further. I didn’t have all of my records, but it was fairly easy to calculate. I can look at anything I’ve acquired since I’ve lived in this little house and recall where and when I purchased it. The conclusion is glaringly obvious after that inventory: I stopped spending money after my experiment with extreme minimalism. Since I currently feel as if I own too much, I suspect that the experiment affected me more than I thought.

My little $500 I spend at Walmart each year is a drop in the bucket compared to the $7,000 the Walton family earns in a single minute. I doubt that they will even miss that tiny amount. Still, that’s one less bottle of fancy champagne that they can buy so I will have to be content.

I wonder what would happen if we all embraced minimalism. Most people spend a lot more than me; I spent a lot more than I did before I began this path. If we all just started buying less, would that make a difference in the world of the monsters?

And who am I to complain about how large they’ve become when I drastically reduced the amount I give them over a decade ago?

This makes me wonder if I could make more of an impact by simply encouraging people to spend less overall rather than to boycott individual companies. Regardless, my little blog is invisible in the face of the big name frugality and minimalism blogs out there. Does it matter what I do, since my refusal to promote this website limits my reach?

I don’t have the answers to my questions. They are heavy on my mind, however, so I thought I would share them with you today.


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!