Categories
Decorating Happiness Organization self-improvement

The Amazing Power of Tiny Changes

“If you want the things in your life to change, you’ve got to change the things in your life.”

Kevin Trudeau

The above quote resonated with me when I stumbled upon it several years ago. I’d always told myself that I’d make the big changes to my home and my life after I’d achieved financial freedom but after hearing those words I realized that there were some things that I could change while I waited.

So I did.

I’ve written on this website about some of the changes, about how I’d decided to experiment with the Diderot Effect, to see what it would accomplish. One of the things I allowed myself to do was to spend more money than old me would even consider to acquire the items that I really wanted instead of things that would just get me by.

I’d forgotten about that decision until recently. The changes I’d made were so subtle that they weren’t noticeable. Investing in a higher quality pen instead of using a cheap freebie, buying a large computer monitor when I found one on sale instead of making do with the small one I had, treating myself to a video game that I loved instead of doing without. Even the act of allowing myself to embrace the small television that my daughter had gifted me instead of insisting that I didn’t need it was an action inspired by that quote.

This was why, once the shock of achieving financial freedom wore off, I faced a quandary: what did I want to claim as my reward that I didn’t already have?

If you want the things in your life to change, you’ve got to change the things in your life. If you want a simpler, cleaner home, instead of telling yourself that you’ll do something with the next move or when you can afford the fancy storage system, start cleaning up your house now.

If you have a choice between buying an item now that’s cheap and saving up to buy the one that you really want, save up the money. The act of delaying the purchase not only makes the acquisition more delightful, you get what you want instead of just making do.

This is a big thing, much bigger than I’d realized. Just a series of tiny changes can completely change your life in time and you won’t even notice.

Since I made my initial decision to upgrade the things in my life so many little things have changed that I find it hard to recognize the person I was back when I started. I suspect the same will happen to you if you allow yourself to start making tiny changes as well.

As for the reward I’d promised myself, instead of focusing on acquiring things, I’ve decided to focus upon how I want the home to feel instead. I want a wave of tranquility flow over anyone who enters this home so I am in search of the right paint color and physical arrangement to make it happen.

Even this early in the process, I can already tell a difference.

I’ll share photos once this project looks a bit more finished but to my surprise, we don’t have near as much to do or acquire as I expected thanks to the tiny changes I’ve allowed myself over the years. Never did I dream that such small changes could make such a large difference.

Have you ever looked back on your life and realized that the tiniest changes made the biggest difference? Please share your stories in the comments below.

~#~

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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
Finances Housing Organization

The Value of Household Inventory

I opened the last tote of kitty litter this morning. As soon as I topped off the litterbox I sat down and penned a note to my daughter, asking her to order more come payday. We had 1.5 totes of cat food on hand, so I informed her that we would be good on cat food for this round.

This is a slice of the inventory method my daughter and I use to keep track of supplies in our home. I inspect our consumables on a monthly basis, ordering my portions as needed and leaving reminders for Katie to order her portion.

Daughter and I have worked out this method of dividing the expense of consumables over the past few years since she started working. The person whose turn it is to order is free (within reason) to decide upon which brand they select and we take turns or split the expense depending upon our current financial circumstances.

This allows us to not only turn over our mutual household supplies on a regular basis, it prevents us from running out and eliminates the issue of brand preference that we faced during the early days, as well as the feeling that one of us is shouldering the bulk of the burden.

How do you handle your household inventory and expense? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Housing Personal

How I Spent My Day Off

I set my alarm bright and early. I had plans to visit the library book sale and have lunch with a friend before applying at some local factories so I wanted to get all of my daily tasks completed. That way, when I arrived home after lunch I could dedicate the rest of my afternoon to decimating the jungle in my back yard. My days off may be split up this week but that didn’t mean that I couldn’t get stuff done.

I knocked out my daily tasks, washing loads of laundry as I worked while I waited for my friend to awaken so we could head out.

By 10am it became obvious that my friend had decided to sleep in. I couldn’t blame her; she works more hours at her public job than I do so I knew that she needed the rest.

However, I had things I wanted to accomplish. I needed to have everything done by early afternoon in order to tackle the back yard since the chants of “Feed me Seymour!” were starting to get annoying.

Did I want to be the friend who blows up someone’s phone because they’re exhausted and overslept?

No, I did not.

I chuckled. She needed her rest; I needed to get stuff done. Lunch and job hunting could wait for another day, especially since I’m in no hurry to start working full-time. The money might be nice but it’s not essential since I’ve got money left over to invest each month even at my current wage.

Rather than bother her I grabbed my shopping bags and headed to the library.

I walked into the room filled with books and froze. Do I really need more books? I asked myself. I have quite a stack at home that I’ve yet to read. Even worse, many of the business and financial titles I’ve encountered lately hadn’t exactly been written for cheapskates like me. I certainly didn’t want to acquire more fiction; I’ve got quite the stack waiting to be read at home already.

I do not want to be the woman who accumulates stuff for the sake of accumulation. I may not be a minimalist but I am not a hoarder.

Heavy on my mind was the fact that every dollar I manage to keep brings me that much closer to financial freedom. With a 10% dividend, every dollar I invest equates to ten cents in annual income a year.

Eighty dollars invested in this way brings me an hour’s wage closer to my goal. Did I really want to spend the $50 I’d budgeted for the book sale or did I want my freedom more?

The voices in my head were unanimous: freedom was much more important than acquiring more books.

I couldn’t even look at the selections. My heart wouldn’t let me. You’ve got enough, my brain kept screaming.

I left that book sale without purchasing a single title.

Disquieted at the sudden change of heart, I wandered around town a bit to think. It wasn’t like me to pass up the offer to acquire inexpensive books but I’d noticed myself doing that more and more lately. I barely even visit the freebie section at the library these days.

Why was that? Was it just because I had an assortment of books already, or was there something deeper at work? I ignored the scenery as I pondered this.

I realized that my time is limited. There are only 24 hours in a day; I have to spend at least eight of those sleeping in order to function properly. That gives me 16 hours each day to work a public job, take care of my home, socialize with family and friends, and work towards my goals. I’ve reached my limit when it comes to juggling everything. Should I take a full-time job I will be forced to make cutbacks in other areas of my life.

According to the Pareto Principle, 20% of our efforts produce 80% of the results. If I selected the books I choose to read more carefully I would not only learn more, I could save time as a result. It might cost more to acquire the individual books but the time savings would be immense.

The goal is to learn, not just to spend my days reading, after all. If I spent less time reading things that aren’t relevant to my objectives, I would have more time to not only work on improving my home but to rest as well.

Considering how many nights I’ve face-planted into my keyboard lately, rest is something I desperately need.

It felt odd and uncomfortable to realize that, in a year’s time, I’ve managed to grow beyond the basic financial texts that I’ve been able to acquire locally. It felt odd to realize that I could no longer pick up just any old book and learn from it.

It felt really odd to realize that I had absolutely no desire to even look through the offerings at the library book sale and to know that I needed to thin down my current collection to narrow my focus and conserve my time.

I returned home, mind filled with my recent epiphany as I ate my lunch. I didn’t even bother to wash the dishes. I piled them into the sink, sat down, and began to share my thoughts with my journal.

My friend showed up at my door while I was writing. I’d been so wrapped up in my thoughts that I hadn’t realized she’d been messaging me. While she was apologetic about oversleeping, she was ready to grab lunch and go job hunting finally.

I looked at the clock. It was one in the afternoon. I still had that back yard to tackle and despite everything I was still on schedule to get it done.

I no longer had time to go job hunting, however. I explained to her that I had arranged my schedule so that we would have been done by that point. I had to start working on my yard. It wasn’t going to mow itself. With the current rain forecast and my public job schedule, I had to get it done.

I’m not certain if she was more upset at me or herself but she settled down at my kitchen table, went online, and started filling out job applications. I puttered around the house a bit, working on my laundry as I offered her lunch. She refused so I went back to work. I headed out back and started mowing.

“You need to sit down and take a break,” she counseled when I paused to catch my breath.

“If I sit down I won’t get back up,” I replied bluntly. “Sitting on my ass isn’t going to get this yard done. I am getting this yard done today, period.”

I got it done.

I wondered what thoughts were going through my friend’s head as she left once I’d finished mowing. Was she upset that I’d insisted upon keeping to my schedule? Was she angry that I had plans for my life, plans to improve my home and regain my freedom? Was she upset at the fact that I wouldn’t just drop everything I’d had planned for the remainder of the day to go hang out and apply for some jobs after she’d overslept?

Maybe she thought I was being a jerk?

I honestly don’t know. I do know that I wasn’t trying to be rude; I simply did not have the luxury of procrastinating.

I woke up this morning to the sound of rain hitting my rooftop. I had made a sound decision the day before; my yard would have gotten completely out of control if I had delayed.

Time to get back to work.

Categories
Housing Personal

Adventures in Weeds

I arrived home after work to discover that, true to Amazon’s word, my weed trimmer had arrived.

Squee!

This is the first time in a decade or so that I’ve actually owned a weed trimmer. While I borrowed mowers the first year I moved here I eventually started paying my neighbors to maintain my yard. I wasn’t sure if I was going to remain in this area so I didn’t see the point in bothering much with the place.

But this year is going to be different. This year, the old broad who lives in the tiny house on the ratty street is actually going to mow her own lawn for a change. While I can’t afford a mower (and have no idea where I would store one if I could), a weed trimmer was do-able.

I raced in the house. Finally I’d be able to keep my lawn trimmed to my personal standards whenever I gosh-darn wanted it trimmed! I ripped open the box and slashed my thumb in the process.

The kid slapped a band aid on the wound and I kept going. I wasn’t about to let a stupid cut prevent me from my goal of mowing my yard all by myself for the first time in years.

I fumbled with the gadget, trying to put it together as the instructions laughed at me from their packet. Thirty minutes of steady cussing later I surrendered. My progress went pretty quickly after that until it came to the time when I needed to attach the guard.

I needed a screwdriver for that. Where was my screwdriver again?

I looked in my junk drawer. I looked in my tool tote. I scrounged through my old computer repair kit. What the heck? I have a ton of screwdrivers, yet not a single one of those pesky little creatures happened to be in evidence. It was like a gremlin had entered my house and taken every single one of them!

But I wasn’t defeated. Oh, no…this girl was determined to mow her darn yard and she wasn’t about to let something as mundane as a stupid screwdriver stop her!

I decided to use a knife instead. Delighted at my ingenuity, I began attaching that last remaking piece to the device.

That was when the thunder rolled.

“Are you kidding me?” I gaped at the ceiling as the noise shook my house. First I cut my thumb, then I fail in my attempt to ignore the instructions, then all of my screwdrivers go AWOL, and now there’s THUNDER?!?!

“Oh, hell no!” I growled as I worked even faster.

I finished attaching the guard and headed to the bathroom to retrieve the gigantic extension cord I purchased a few years back to use with the heat tape I’d attached to the commode.

That was when I tripped over the dog. She was trying to be helpful but my bathroom is just a bit too small to have a 50 pound dog weave around the back of your legs just as you’re standing up after unplugging a heavy extension cord.

At least I couldn’t hear the thunder over the crash.

I sat on that floor for several long moments as Lily the dog gave me an apologetic look and the thunder laughed maliciously. My ole’ butt was going to be sore in the morning, I was sure of it.

I was going to mow my yard if it killed me.

I picked my lard butt off of the floor, shook my fist at the ceiling, and headed for the door. It wasn’t raining yet and even if it was I was still going to get this done.

I gave a determined snort, firing up the trimmer to finally begin the task of slaughtering the weeds officially known as my front yard.

That was when my new neighbor decided to say hello.

I turned it off with a sigh. Despite the fact that the guy will most likely be gone before winter I couldn’t bring myself to be rude. I chatted with him for a few moments, listening to the thunder overhead as I became convinced that the entire Universe was conspiring against me. It had taken me eight years to finally decide to take charge of my yard; I could wait a bit longer if I had to.

The skies cleared. Another neighbor captured New Neighbor’s attention. I was free! I attacked my yard with abandon…

…and Lily attacked the weed trimmer.

What?

Lily had never seen me with a weed trimmer in my hands. She’d never even seen me touch a lawn mower. Bless her heart, the dog thought she was defending me. I jerked the trimmer up and away to protect her from the flying strings. The kid came out to see why I was yelling again and laughed before helping me calm the dog down.

That sorted, I got back to work.

I am so glad that I have a tiny front yard. It didn’t take long at all to chop all of the weeds down once I finally managed to get started. To my amazed delight, there wasn’t a single drop of rain while I worked.

I decided against tackling the back yard tonight. I’ll deal with it in the next few days.

This girl is not about to press her luck any further. Instead, I am going to pig out on the batch of brownies the kid just pulled from the oven and go to bed.

I am so done with this day.

Categories
Frugality Housing

Baby Step to a Better Life

I trimmed the tall weeds in my front yard with a pair of scissors today. I chuckled at myself while I worked; it reminded me of all the times when I washed my laundry in the bathtub.

It was also absolutely, completely ridiculous. I could hire someone to mow my yard but I’m no longer inclined to do that. It takes several days for them to get around to it and this year–this year I’m not in the mood to deal with a scraggly yard. I tend to procrastinate when it comes to hiring someone since it costs around $10 each time and I detest spending the money.

It was time to bite the bullet. I’ve decided to remain here for the foreseeable future; money isn’t as tight as it has been in times past. I can afford to purchase a solution.

I went on Amazon and located an inexpensive electric weed trimmer. It cost around $35 and will arrive in a few days. Even with the extra string I’ll have to purchase once it arrives I will come out ahead financially this mowing season. Even better, I’ll be able to mow my yard as frequently as needed to keep it neat.

That will be a major change compared to the previous years I’ve lived here.

I must confess that I hesitated to spend the money. It’s easier to spend $10 than it is to spend almost $40, after all. I had to give myself a firm reminder that I’m on a journey to become wealthy; wealthy people keep their yards properly maintained. I need to start doing that as well.

One step closer to the life of my dreams.

Have you made any progress towards your dreams lately? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Empty Nest Housing

Broken Bones

I received a letter from Katie yesterday. As I was reading it the phone rang.

It was the kid.

She’d suffered multiple stress fractures in her right leg during a PT test in addition to injuring her knee. As a result, the Navy was sending her home.

To say that she was disappointed would be an understatement. Even with a fractured leg she was only 14 seconds shy of achieving her time on her PT test that day.

Well, shit.

I kinda liked this empty nest thing but I can’t fault the kid for getting hurt. I know from experience just how easy it is to be injured in the military. I’m just grateful it was caught before her leg shattered.

She’ll be shipped home in about two weeks. After that comes the process of helping the kid heal and building her up for her next adventure. Only time will tell what it will be.

In the meantime there is a bright spot. She’ll continue to share the bills once she gets back on her feet. She’s already gotten two job offers locally now that the news is emerging. That will give her time to recuperate and figure out her next step while making life a bit easier on me once she recovers.

Life is still good. It’s completely chaotic at the moment, but it’s still good.

So what’s been going on in your world? Please share your stories in the comments below.


Categories
Decorating Holidays Life

Making Christmas Memories

Christmas dawned bright and early in the Brewer household. Katie had been sad since it was the first Christmas since her father had passed so I wanted to make it memorable. We invited a few friends to come visit with us so it was time to start cooking!

It is amazing what you can whip up using a toaster oven, a microwave, and a hot plate. The evening before, Katie made a white chocolate and Macadamia nut Christmas cookie. She ran to the store as it cooled, daring me to touch it, so guess what I did?

I took this photo and sent it to her:

The next day we set to work. Two Cornish hens, a bunch of Deviled eggs, and assorted sides later we ended up with our Christmas feast.

Assisted by our friends, we ate ourselves into a food coma by evening’s end as we listened to the Christmas music I splurged on for the event. To my delight, we had just enough room in our tiny fridge to store the remaining leftovers for the evening. Dishes were left until the next morning.

At one point, my childhood friend and I started discussing the artwork we’d made in the past. She mourned the fact that she no longer possessed any of the pictures she’d drawn as a child. With a smile, I ordered them to stand up and help me scoot the kitchen table to the center of the room. They watched me curiously as I tugged down the attic ladder and climbed up to retrieve a large tote. I’d saved a sketch she’d given me when we were kids. The expression on her face was priceless. I wanted to take a photo but she’s a bit camera shy, especially where my blog is concerned.

I became lost in memories as I went through the photos. I stumbled upon an old 8×10 that we’d had professionally taken years before Katie was even born. It was the best photo I’d ever seen taken of my ex-husband, so I gave it to Katie for her memories.

I retrieved a number of the photos, filling what frames I’d collected over the past few weeks and sticking them up on my walls. With the next round of frames I purchase I intend to start filling the walls in my kitchen. Here is the current layout:

My Main Photo Collection

Honoring Dad

Ignore the notes on the wall. As I read books late at night, I write down important things to store them until I transfer them into a notebook. If I pull them down before I transcribe them, I’ll misplace them. I don’t have many photos of my mother (she detested photos), but I intend to frame several photos that I have of her as time goes on. I have one gorgeous black and white photo of Mom in her youth that I may get enlarged into an 8×10 when I’m ready to make an honor wall for her.

Before it’s all done my home will be filled with my little treasures. My walls will be filled with photos of memories and people I’ve loved, my shelves will be filled with books, and my windows will be overflowing with plants. I can see my future home already; it will essentially be a giant library. I’ll have an old stereo, one with an old record player and old albums that I acquire here and there. I’ll have older radios, older clocks, and whatever older technology that I want to preserve. My furniture and appliances will be a mix of antique and modern. I am hoping to acquire a home with a large dining room that I can line with shelves from floor to ceiling to fill with books. In one corner will be a reading nook and the dining room table will be a place for me to spread out my research as I write my future books except on the random occasions when I invite friends over to entertain.

This house will be my haven.

It feels so good to finally be able to close my eyes and see where I’m going. It feels so good to be able to make small steps where I am, using the few things I already have.

And it felt like heaven to make yet another memory with my beloved Katie before she leaves the nest.

I am luckier than I ever imagined.

***

What memories did you make over the Christmas holiday? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Decorating

Honoring Memories

My dad kept a magic box filled with memories from his life. He rarely opened it; I didn’t have a chance to really look through it until after his death. I’ve kept the contents undisturbed, looking through them whenever I felt myself missing him.

The inner dialogue with my future self caused me to realize that his memory should be cherished, honored in some way so that I could have him close by. I’ve always admired homes with their memories displayed; they seemed to hold a window into the soul of the person who displayed them yet I’d not gathered the courage to do the same.

I’ve decided to change that.

I gathered up the small collection of photo frames I’d used to display pithy sayings and decided to put them to a real use. Instead of simple decorations, they are now a window to my past. I may not be ready to truly decorate until the kid moves out and I properly rearrange things but it would be a start.

The first thing I did was decide to honor my dad.

I opened his box, admiring the photos he’d collected back during his Army days, selected some from his Airborne training in Fort Benning, Georgia and mounted them near my bed. I didn’t have enough frames (or the proper size) but I had enough for a small start. I’ll add more photos to the montage as money allows.

It will take a bit of time to get the placement absolutely correct; I’ll doubtless move them once the kid moves out and I rearrange but for now I can snuggle up at night with him close.

Dad would probably shake his head at my sentimentality.

In time I intend to dig through my memories and fill this old house. I want to honor the past even as I focus on the future. We can’t know where we’re going unless we remember where we’ve been.

Have you ever honored the memory of the past in a similar manner? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Finances Frugality Housing

Winter Worries

The kid will be moving out this winter. She plans to get married once her fiancée graduates BASIC training and move on base with him once he gets things sorted. Here’s a picture of him in training:

The demon Fear has raised its ugly head since I’ve received this notice. She will probably move out mid-winter when the bills are at their highest. Should this come to pass I might have to suspend my investment plan until spring returns just to survive.

Sometimes working for minimum wage sucks.

I’ve gotten rather spoiled with her sharing our household expenses. As a result I’ll have to limit my spending just to make the bills. Since I only bring home about $600 a month from my public job I’ll have less than $100 a month to buy food and supplies while I wait for spring to come back around. I might have to use my book royalties to make things easier, at the cost of my future.

I don’t like that thought. Every penny that I invest takes me that much closer to achieving financial freedom. I miss my freedom. I also don’t like the thought of having to tighten my belt once more. The memory of those two lean years still haunts me.

But that’s okay. I know I can make ends meet regardless. It might be tight but it’s not impossible. Some way, somehow I’ll not only scrape through, I’ll figure out how to continue investing at least a little bit towards my future.

One bright spot: I’ll be able to sleep in a bedroom for the first time in over seven years once the kid moves out. I’ll even be able to rearrange a bit to make this place more usable.

Look on the bright side Annie. 

Maybe I’ll stumble across a way to increase my income so things won’t be so tight. Who knows? Anything can happen. In the meantime I am thankful that my daughter is on the verge of a brand-new adventure. I am also thankful that I know how to live extremely cheap. It allows me to survive in situations that would make the average person choke, so despite my fears I know that I will be just fine. I just have to ride the emotional wave.

How do you encourage yourself when fear raises its head? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Car-Free Finances Frugality Housing

Frugality and the Pareto Principle

According to the 80/20 Principle, 20 percent of actions will provide 80 percent of results. This is especially true when it comes to frugality.

When you break it down the majority of money I personally save falls into two main categories: housing and auto. By renting a one-bedroom house in a less than ideal area, I saved $200 a month back when I first moved here in 2011. Since rental prices have went up slightly since then I’ve saved even more.

By allowing my daughter to become my roommate instead of simply encouraging her to move into her own place I increased my savings even more by halving my already low expenses. While this also has the added benefit of providing my daughter with a safe place to live at a price she can definitely afford (while teaching her how to manage money), that is simply an added bonus.

Eliminating my vehicle saved me another thousand dollars a year. While I didn’t have the burden of a car payment (or the cost of the full-coverage insurance that comes along with it), that savings has added up as well.

I manage to save $5,000 a year on just these two expenses alone. The other little frugal decisions I’ve made pale in comparision. To be blunt, I would either have to take a second job (I would need to work an additional 34 weeks a year at my current $150 a week public job income) or locate a position that paid twice the hourly wage that I currently earn if it were not for the money I save in these two areas if I didn’t want to reduce my standard of living.

If you are serious about saving money I urge you to give these numbers serious consideration. While eating out less, eliminating phone service, cancelling subscription services, and other things do save money, you will receive higher savings if you focus on just these two areas of your life.

Running the numbers has shown me that making your own laundry detergent and simply living on less is not enough if you want and need to save serious money. It’s the big expenses that really destroy your budget. However, if you are interested in paring your expenses even further, I urge you to check out my books The Shoestring Girl and The Minimalist Cleaning Method.

Have you ever analyzed where the bulk of your money goes? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Housing

Baby Steps

Two days after my friend arrived, she had a job.

When she received her first paycheck, she rented a house.

When she received her last paycheck from her job in Michigan, she had her utilities switched on.

Now her daughter has managed to secure employment.

Just a small series of baby steps and she is well on her way to a better life. She is amazed at how easy it was to find work in this area, at how inexpensive the rent is. For the first time in many years she has hope.

I am honored to be a part of it.

She still has a ways to go, of course. We need to locate a refrigerator that she can afford, but for now we are freezing gallon jugs of water that she can use with a cooler to keep food cool. She will need to acquire furniture as well since she had lived in a hotel for several years but bit by bit we’ll get it sorted.

As I tell her when she thinks the hurdles are insurmountable, I started here with even less.

So no matter where you are right now, I want you to know that if you are willing to work toward your goals, you can achieve anything. I’ve done it, my friend is doing it, and you can as well.

I have faith.

Categories
Housing Simplicity Writing

A Quiet Solution

My friend and her family (I mentioned them in an earlier post) have finally moved down from Michigan. Until they find a place they are camped out in my tiny house. As a result, privacy is virtually impossible to come by at home and the quiet time I need in order to write is completely nonexistent.

I could gripe and complain but I see no point. I knew that things would be challenging from the moment my friend expressed an interest in moving back to Kentucky. As a result, I decided to get creative.

On the days I am not working at my day job I load up my two laptops and take a walk to the local library. I fire up my 11 year old XP laptop, work up my posts and other writings, then transfer them to my Linux laptop and upload them when I’m done.

It sounds like a lot of work but it is worth it. I have everything set up on the XP in order for me to write comfortably without distractions and have absolutely no desire to use a more modern computer that will go online.

The librarian looks at me askance when I arrive with my big bag of gear but leaves me alone otherwise. I honestly couldn’t care less if she does think I’m rather strange. I am solving a problem with a minimum of fuss and that is all that matters.

How have you gotten creative to solve a problem recently? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Housing Simplicity

Crowded House

The other day my friend from Michigan moved her family to this area. Until they get situated with employment and housing they are all staying here.

I must confess that I was concerned about this. Five adults (since Katie is almost 18), two dogs, and two cats living in a 500 square foot one-bedroom house means that we are stacked up like cordwood.

I have learned that it isn’t near as bad as I expected it to be.

For one, we all work together in a spirit of cooperation. While two of the adults have yet to secure employment (one is physically incapable of working), the rest of us are now employed. When schedules match up, my friend insists on driving me to work and picking me up to make my life a bit easier. We come home from work in the evenings to find that the others have prepared meals for the family and tidied up the house.

At night, since I have to keep a somewhat regular sleeping schedule due to my personal health issues (my brain glitches when my sleep schedule is disrupted) I am usually one of the first to go to bed. They move around stealthily that I don’t get disturbed. If one takes a nap in the evenings or is still asleep when I wake up, I give them the same consideration.

We even coordinate bathing schedules so that no one is caught unawares and has to go to the restroom while someone is taking a bath.

This experience has shown me that it truly is possible for a larger number of people to live in harmony in a small home provided you work together. While society tends to frown on such things, living in a small home can not only help families get on their feet after homelessness, it can help them live on less money when needed or desired. Let’s face it: it costs a lot less to live in a small place than it does to live in a big one.

I wanted to share this story because in my books I mentioned that I had reservations about a larger number of people living in really small homes. While I did point out that it has been done in the past, the thought made me nervous. Since then I have learned that it is definitely possible provided that mutual respect and cooperation abound with the family members.

I personally am grateful for the experience.

Have any of you lived in really tight conditions with other people? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Housing

Sardines

A friend of mine and her family is down from Michigan.  They want to move to this area to help me out while I get situated.

They arrived late this evening, so we removed the mattress from the sofa sleeper to make them a bed with. My couch will be a spongy sleep but it works.

When daylight comes I’ll see if I can snap a picture for you. It is wall to wall sleeping in the living room tonight. We are crammed in like sardines! Right now there are five adults  (counting my Katie since she’s almost 18), two dogs, and two cats in this tiny one-bedroom house, and we are doing just fine.

This just goes to show that you don’t need a huge house just in case you have company. If they love you, any space will do.

How did you arrange things for your last overnight visitors? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Freebies Housing

Would you like a Tiny House?

If you’ve ever wanted your freedom or independence here’s something you might want to sign up for. A tiny house is going to be given away to one special person. All you have to do is apply. If you win, you agree to foot the expense to have it towed to your place of choice.

Here’s the link if you’re interested: http://www.augustasinclair.com/tiny-house-gift.html.

Good luck!

Annie

Categories
Happiness Housing Personal

What’s the Worst That Can Happen?

At first I was nervous when the water started rising. “What will I do if the house floods?” I worried. I don’t exactly have the resources to move and this is the cheapest place around. The fact that it was happening 20 years to the day that I was flooded out in 1997 made me nervous as well. Would it happen again?

But then it hit me. What’s the worst that would happen?

First, I would have plenty of warning. There is a huge field that has to fill up before it gets to my place. We would be able to gather up our essential items, pack a few clothes, crate the dogs, and bug out.

Then if the house washed away we would be homeless. If the water got up that high this whole town would be considered a disaster area. There would be help available.

So you know what? We would be okay. Yeah, we would lose some stuff but who cares? Other than the critters, everything we consider essential can easily be stuffed in a couple of duffel bags apiece. For me, that means I would have a bag filled with my ancient, aging tech and important papers while the other would be filled with clothes. As for Katie, who knows what she would stuff in hers?

But the important thing is that we’re not attached to this house. We’re not even that attached to most of the stuff that’s in it. We have a small list of things that we consider essential but as for the rest? It is all replaceable.

After realizing that I relaxed. Even if the worst happened, we would be okay.

Of course, once I calmed down the water started receding. Ain’t it always the way?

Categories
Frugality Housing

Cheap Rent: Man lives in storage locker for two months

Talk about cheap rent! Here’s a video about a man who actually lived in a storage locker for two months!

This is actually doable; I know a family who lived in a storage building for several months after a job loss caused them to get evicted. I wouldn’t want to do that around here when the weather was cold; my friends did this back during the summer a few years back.

Enjoy!


Categories
Decluttering Frugality Housing Simplicity

Downsizing

I decided to see how to live in a much smaller space.  In our 2-bedroom home, one of the bedrooms is 8 x 10 feet with a built-in dresser. The other is 12 x 12 feet.

My daughter has had the little bedroom since we moved here, swapping out her numerous toys and keeping her pets elsewhere in the home.

I decided to surprise her by switching the bedrooms.

This is a challenge.  My bedroom also doubles as a storage room and the smaller one must do double-duty as well.  This should give me ample incentive to downsize.

So this morning I removed everything from her room and started placing my stuff within.  One wall was perfect for my shelves so it was completely lined, floor to ceiling with my personal items and the extra stuff we haven’t managed to part with yet. To conceal this I took a piece of wire and some hooks to hang up two white sheets—it totally changes the look of the room!  Even though the space is smaller it actually looks a bit bigger somehow with all of the white. I wonder what that room would look like if I painted the walls white as well? Give it a combination of minimalist/shabby chic look or something…

I didn’t think to take any before photos but I took some after photos.  The room is not decorated yet, but I wanted to give an idea of what I’ve been doing. 

I am hoping that not only will my daughter enjoy the much-enlarged space (I even put the guinea pigs in her new room), but that I will learn more about myself.  I am already trying to figure out a way to obtain a twin-sized futon pad—anyone in Western KY want to trade a twin futon for a full?

Honestly, I only use my bedroom for storage, reading and sleeping.  I spend most of my time in the kitchen on the laptop so how much space do I actually need? If I managed a futon frame I could put it in the living room as a couch and allow that to serve double-duty as my bed.

Anyway, here are the photos:

 This is the view from the doorway.  The light is a wall-mount and a bit glaring.  That big white fabric wall is hiding floor to ceiling shelves (mismatched of course!). It looks kinda neat in there with all the floaty white fabric, especially where I used it for the curtains as well.

This is my full-size futon folded up in thirds for daytime storage. I would love to have a twin-size one, small enough to fold and put away like the Japanese are famous for, but right now a Japanese shiki futon is out of my budget.

This is from the  fabric wall looking toward my closet.  I am really thinking of painting all of the paneling in this house white to brighten up the place!  White on white would be a fascinating look, and if I got sick of it at least I would have a base coat already down. ?

This is the little built-in dresser.  There is a LOT of wasted space above that built-in and I don’t have so much as a mirror to fill it with.  I’m thinking of scavenging some old wood I have outside to put a small shelf or two in all of that space. For the moment those old crates will have to do (sigh). Sorry about the light glare.. Next time I will try to take pictures while it is still daylight outside!

Overall it looks pretty good for a day’s hard work!  Almost all of my stuff fit, though I am placing a shelf in the living room that was a bit much for the small area!

I will keep you posted on how I cope with such a small bedroom though I must admit—so far it feels like a good change!  Just today I eliminated several boxes worth of items and consolidated some more, making for a bit less junk than I had…

On a sad note, I stumbled upon the papers from my mother’s death several years ago.  I took about an hour to go through them, reading the statements (she was killed in a car accident in December of 1992), looking at the photos and the picture of the officers freeing her from the car after the accident (it made the front page even so I have that article).

What do you do with stuff like that?  I detest that memory.  I was 22 and she was my last surviving parent. I want to take that bag and burn it—and the memories with it—but what if Katie wants it when she is older? I really want it out of my life, but Katie is only 10 and too young to understand what it contains.. What do you do in that situation?  Every time I look through it and my father’s papers I just sit and cry, but I gather I’m under an obligation to keep this stuff for Katie for when she grows up—but she never met them—she was born many years after they walked this earth. I’m just torn by the entire subject.  A need to eliminate things that trigger painful memories and an obligation to pass things on to their grandchildren.  What would YOU do?

Categories
Finances Frugality Housing

Bubble Wrap

Once again I have managed to achieve my goal of washing the dishes before bed. Maybe I’m starting to get the hang of this!

My daughter and I spent the day watching movies – though I took some time out to grab a snack for dinner. Simple snack of summer sausage with cheddar.

I used bubble wrap to line the windows in the kitchen today. I want to see if what they say about it keeping in more heat is true. I don’t know yet but I don’t feel as chill sitting by all of these windows in the kitchen now. I will miss my view here in the kitchen. I don’t look out the other windows so they won’t be missed.

I am hoping to have enough bubble wrap to give two layers to at least some of my windows for added insulation. They say that a single layer of bubble wrap will add an extra R-factor to the insulation value, so I am hoping it will help my single-pane windows.

I was going to just put some plastic on them, but cannot locate it since the move. Figured since I had to go purchase something, might as well try something new, you know?

Just a sign that I have too much stuff. If I didn’t have so much I wouldn’t be so disorganized!

Here in the kitchen the thermometer on the fridge says it is 65F in here, and the one near the ceiling says 68F. I will turn it down lower tonight and raise it back up in the morning. Thankfully we keep a stockpile of quilts.

I am a touch nervous about the first heating bill here, so we are keeping the heat low at first. I have been told that the highest heating bill here was $184 one month, but one never knows… I have lived in places and had $600 heating bills, so I want to make sure this place isn’t one of them.

When we lived in a 10×50 mobile home, even with horrible windows (with plastic you could still feel a breeze) the highest electric bill for heating was slightly over $200, but that was several years ago. I am heating 576 square feet here, not much more, and this place is in much better shape, especially the windows.

It will be okay.

Let’s just face it: I’m cheap.

Right now I would feel soo much better if my daughter and I were living in a tumbleweed house: she could have the attic, and I could sleep in the living area like I do now – and live in the kitchen, like I do now! It would be much less expensive to heat this winter, and I could pack up my whole home whenever I wanted to travel to visit my family!

Ah well – I’m happy nonetheless. I am living my version of the American Dream sans house and car payment – doesn’t get much better than this! But we all have little things we like to think about!

It is late, so time to walk the dog and hit the sack.. Goodnight everyone!