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
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
Frugality Minimalism Recycling Simplicity

Has Consumerism Tainted Minimalism?

Minimalism is the act of eliminating the unimportant in order to make room for what is important. That seems simple enough at first glance. However, a deeper look at the subject reveals that there may be a darker force at play.

From The Minimalists to Marie Kondo we receive advice to throw out or donate our old stuff. It doesn’t matter if the items are perfectly functional or if we could use them up in time. These things contribute to the chaos in our lives so they must be eliminated.

But what happens to the things that we discard? Many of us, either through impatience or lack of time simply throw these things into a dumpster. Others who realize that it only passes the problem on to our overburdened landfills choose to donate the items instead.

And what happens after the house is clean and simplified? The things we choose to keep eventually wear out, forcing us to purchase even more. In some cases we may go on an acquisition binge that doesn’t stop until we find ourselves overwhelmed with stuff again so we repeat the process by eliminating even more.

Who benefits when we throw our perfectly functional stuff away, only to replace it when we wear out the items we actually keep? Our wallets certainly don’t but the companies that produce the items do.

Let’s ask another question. What would happen if, instead of discarding our excess, we placed a moratorium upon future purchases until we used up the items we already own? Who benefits the most from that scenario?

Our finances would benefit because we’ve stopped buying stuff we don’t need. Our finances would benefit again because the act of using up and wearing out our current overstock of possessions would eliminate the need to buy more for an extended amount of time. The landfills would benefit because we wouldn’t send things there until the absolute end of their useful life. Donation centers would even benefit because it would reduce the amount of donations they have to sort through and discard in the search for saleable items.

Big Business wouldn’t benefit, however. Their sales would go down because we wouldn’t purchase near as much. The clothing industry would take a major hit because they could no longer persuade us to buy the newest fashions. Even the appliance and electronics industries would feel the pain because instead of buying “newer, bigger, and better” we would hold on to the things we already owned instead of discarding them for new. The only industry that might benefit from this new paradigm would be the storage industry—until we used up our excess to the point where we no longer needed the storage, that is.

While minimalism in the short term may benefit us with clean homes and empty spaces, the questions I’ve asked above make me wonder about who truly benefits in the long run. It makes me re-think my decisions in the past to discard the things I’ve discarded.

This also makes me wonder if my grandparents were smarter than I gave them credit for. They used the things they acquired until those items died and then recycled the pieces into other things to extend the usable life of their purchases even further. I’m beginning to wonder if we all need to start doing that.

To be honest, I would be surprised if I discovered that there was a conspiracy to encourage us to throw away our stuff just to entice us to buy more. That said, I do believe that we need to rethink our actions when it comes to the pursuit of minimalism.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Categories
Recycling Simplicity

When Older is Better

I took the opportunity to visit the computing section of a major store yesterday. Reader John had posted on Facebook about how laptops have gotten to the point where not even the keyboards are easily replaceable so I wanted to confirm his complaint. To my dismay, every single laptop offered for sale was designed in a way to make replacing the keyboards on modern laptops difficult to impossible. The entire machine would have to be dismantled just to get to that one failure-prone component. Thank you for bringing that to my attention, John!

In the past, laptops were designed so that someone skilled in computer hardware could replace a number of components. Keyboards, hard drives, RAM, and other components could be swapped out–not necessarily with ease, but it could be done. That is no longer the case today; computer manufacturers don’t want us to hold on to our machines so they’ve designed them to be almost impossible to repair. Given the prices I noted during my visit to the store yesterday, it wouldn’t even pay to have a tech replace the components.

Software has reached a similar point in evolution. If you want the “latest and greatest” version of Microsoft Office, you have to pay a monthly fee for the priviledge. The same goes for Adobe and a number of other programs. You can’t even enjoy a simple game of Solitaire without either paying for a subscription or being barraged with ads.

One of the saddest aspects of this reality is that it has gotten to the point where those who possess an older computer have an advantage. With the exception of the Front-side Bus (FSB) and a few other areas, older systems are actually faster and more powerful than the new ones being pushed upon us. The software that came bundled with those older computers didn’t require the payment of a monthly fee just to have access to the programs, either. Even better, you didn’t have to deal with hateful advertising whenever you wanted to relax and play the simplest game.

Software companies realized this. That is why they’ve eliminated the ability for these older computers to go online. It is nigh on impossible to get Windows XP to even go online these days; the last time I reinstalled XP I had to fight just to get it to activate. One of the last safe-havens in Microsoft, Windows 7, will soon face that fate as well.

I refuse to participate in this nonsense. Forcing people to view ads or pay for subscriptions only serves to line the coffers of multi-million dollar corporations. Forcing people to discard computers because they have been designed to be irreparable contributes to the destruction of our environment and only serves to rob the average person of money that they could better use elsewhere.

I started my personal rebellion by deciding to keep my ancient Windows XP laptop in service. It was the only operating system that could support the expensive multi-meter software I purchased for my computer repair business, as well as being the only operating system that could play some very old games I liked to play from the days of Windows 95/98. I’d also invested in an old copy of Microsoft Office and some other programs that I didn’t want to have to purchase again so instead of discarding that old laptop I kept it around. The speakers are shot on it now but I just connect an external speaker when I need sound.

I will use that laptop until it dies. If I have to I will dig up an older XP desktop so that I can avoid having to spend $$$$ on replacing that software because no damn tech company is going to force me to buy their damned subscriptions.

When I decided to purchase a desktop computer, I purchased a refurbished business machine. For under $400 I bought a desktop that blows away the specs on modern desktop computers. It came with Windows 10, which allows me to go online in relative safety when the need arises. I’ve already went through a couple of keyboards since I purchased it so the decision to go with a desktop was obviously a good one.

Thanks to Reader John, I will aim for older refurbished systems should I ever decide to purchase another laptop. I want to be able to repair my systems at least to a degree. I refuse to contribute to the madness by making the tech companies richer than I have to. Even better, it will keep those older systems out of a landfill for a few more years.

If you find yourself in the market for a new system I urge you to consider the purchase of a refurbished business-class desktop or laptop. Those systems are designed to be somewhat repairable. You can locate videos online if you want to do it yourself. If you happen to have an older system already (and have no need for the software it currently contains) you may want to consider installing Linux in it instead of purchasing new. Linux has grown to the point where they even offer it on new laptops these days (the OS in Chromebooks is Linux), so it is easy to install and use now.

Whatever you do, do not encourage the hardware and software companies to continue this madness. Don’t let them bully you into paying for a subscription or buying a new computer. If enough of us boycott them, hopefully they will end this madness. If not, at least we will be hitting them where it hurts–right in their wallets.

Categories
Finances Frugality Recycling

The Art of Building Wealth

The average person has been led to believe a lie. The average person has been taught that wealthy people can be identified by the clothes they wear, the foods they eat, the home they own, and the cars they drive.

They have been taught that the ones with the most expensive wardrobes, homes, and wardrobes are the wealthiest.

To quote Maury Povich, “that is a lie.”

If you see someone driving a fancy car, you can almost guarantee the person owning it is far from wealthy; if they own a nice car and an expensive home, chances are rather high that they have very little wealth, if not a negative net worth.

The wealthy become wealthy by living beneath their means. Many of them come from rather humble beginnings; in order to build their wealth they learned how to stretch their money as far as they could. This allows them to save as much money as they can to invest in things that will make them more money.

Verna Oller is a prime example of this. She used what she had, stretching her money to the extremes in order to invest. Her goal was to leave enough money behind to help out the small town she lived in.

My hero Verna Oller

This woman is my hero. She has shown me that anyone can become wealthy, regardless of their financial circumstances.

Including me.

When my office supply order arrived the other day, it came in a box that was stuffed with brown wrapping paper. I wadded it up, marched over to the trash can, and paused.

What would Verna do? I asked myself.

Verna would try to find a use for that paper instead of tossing it in the trash. She was fond of recycling things, of using them up completely before she discarded them. Could I do the same?

It dawned on me that I use a lot of paper around this house. As a writer, I am prolific when it comes to jotting down notes, journaling, and drafting out blog posts on paper. I keep a large supply of paper at all times since I go through so much of it.

I realized that if I cut up that long strip of wrapping paper that I could use it for notes. Grinning, I grabbed my scissors and went to work.

To my delight, that long sheet of paper was perforated at regular intervals; intervals that were identical to the width of a standard 8-1/2″ sheet of printer paper. I separated the pieces at the perforation, made a quick guesstimate, and quickly created a small stack of pages that were approximately the same size as a standard page. The scraps were then chopped up, clamped together into a makeshift notepad.

I now have a small stack of paper that I can use for notes and journal entries. A small stack of paper that cost me nothing but time yet allowed me to use an item that I normally throw away.

Even better, this tiny little stack of paper will take me closer to my cherished goal of financial freedom, since every penny I save is a penny more that I can invest towards my dreams.

Verna Oller would be proud.

What have you repurposed in order to save money? Did you realize that frugality can actually help you build wealth? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Inspiration Personal Recycling

The Story of a Failure

Back when I was in fourth grade we lived within walking distance to my grandparent’s house. Every time I would see one of my uncles or aunts arrive for a visit I would race there in excitement.

I loved visiting with my relatives. One of those visits is indelibly imprinted on my brain. I can’t recall the exact details; I believe I was in school when they initially arrived. I just recall hearing part of an ongoing conversation as I hopped on the porch to knock on the door.

My grandmother was discussing my parents with my aunt. I paused, hand raised. I didn’t want to interrupt them. Being a nosey child I wanted to hear what they had to say so instead of announcing myself I stepped back and listened.

My parents were described as drunks; failures that could no longer support themselves. It didn’t matter that my dad had been in an accident that caused him to lose his leg; they were drunken failures nonetheless.

According to my aunt it was a shame that my parents had created me. I was a waste of humanity because, due to my environment, I would never amount to anything.

I took those words to heart but not in the way that she expected. Deep down I told myself that she was wrong. I would amount to something. I didn’t know what but I would figure it out.

But she was right. I am a failure.

I barely scraped through high school. I ended up pregnant at 19.

I failed college twice. I failed, not only in my selection of a life-mate, but in my attempts to keep the marriage going. I failed my first attempts at being a writer.

I even failed my attempt at suicide.

I failed the Army. I failed my first attempts at starting a business. I failed to sell Avon. I failed to sell Tupperware. I failed to sell phone service. I even failed with Amway.

Failure after failure piled up behind me. My husband would laugh and tell me that I would never survive without him because I was unable to accomplish a single thing. I was lucky that he had rescued me, had saved the local slut after she’d F***ed up and gotten herself pregnant.

I would never amount to anything.

After each successive failure I would have a good cry, dust myself off, and try again.

I became a successful dog breeder after being given two registered animals in a WalMart parking lot. I used the money to purchase a mobile home with the eventual goal of escaping my husband. It took years to work up my nerve and arrange things but I did it. After years of misery I achieved a divorce.

I graduated computer repair school and started my first successful business. I’ll never forget the shock I felt when I earned $1,000 profit my very first month.

I succeeded in juggling four jobs plus the workload of being a single mother. I worked full-time in fast food during the day and divided my evenings and days off between computer repair, working for a cleaning business, and doing the books for another company.

I succeeded in raising my kids without the financial support of a man. I had to get help sometimes but I did it.

Finally, after decades of failure, I achieved financial freedom after I started this website and taught myself how to write and publish books. I rested on those laurels for several years.

But I failed again. I failed to take my own advice about multiple streams of income. I had preached for years to family and friends about the risk of depending on a single source of income. I knew better. I knew from experience just how hard it could be when you lost your only job for whatever reason. But I was cocky. I’d made it. I was free.

I learned that lesson the hard way once more as I watched the changing world of the Internet pick away at my royalties. I even failed to acknowledge the change at first.

I achieved financial freedom but I failed to keep it.

So I did what I do best: I had a good cry, dusted myself off, and moved on. What’s one more failure when you have so many already? I went back to work in a public job as I analyzed my mistakes.

I may have failed but I am not defeated. I will fail as many times as it takes in order to achieve success.

How many times have you failed? Please share your stories in the comments below.

 

 

Categories
Freebies Frugality Recycling Simplicity

The Beauty of Old Things

Several months ago my daughter surprised me with an odd request. She had noted that many of her friends and family were giving away their collections of old vinyl albums; could I help her select a record player so that she could play them?

While I am aware that vinyl is making a comeback, the last thing I expected was for my daughter, the Streaming Queen, to want to explore a technology that I abandoned decades ago. She has been so gung-ho when it comes to subscribing to this service or that, taking her music and stuff with her on her phone that I was taken aback.

When I finally managed to stop laughing I agreed to help her. I figured she would quickly get bored and pass the items on to me–and I would selfishly enjoy the nostalgia.

I helped her select a portable record player, get it set up, and showed her how to use it. I instructed her to keep a coin nearby to help with skips and even how to clean the records if they were dirty.

We’ve ended up with a new ritual as a result. When my daughter is at home she selects one of the albums from the ones she has managed to scavenge and plays it for both of us. She gets to expand her mind with older music while I get to savor the blast from the past.

Her friends are rather surprised when they come over for a visit. She likes to pull out her favorite Big Band album and use it as background music when they come over. Considering that most of her friends have never even seen a record player in real life, much less heard such old music, they are usually quite surprised.

Watching my daughter has made me realize the error of my ways. I eliminated my old stereo system along with a huge collection of vinyl, cassettes, and 8-tracks many years ago under the misguided notion that modern was better. While I see no logic in regret, I do see opportunity. No one wants to use older technology any longer. If it isn’t the latest and greatest it’s tossed out with the trash or practically given away at thrift stores.

While I don’t see myself actively shopping to replace my old stereo system in the future, I’ve decided that I won’t hesitate to fish one out of the trash or buy one if I stumble across a cheap offering at a thrift store. I’m always stumbling across interesting dumpster finds so it shouldn’t be an issue to locate a small music collection as I go about my daily life.

If anything, I’ll be saving something from the landfill while reducing my dependence upon the Internet. I will admire the beauty of the past as I carry it with me into the future.

We have been much too quick to discard the old, I’ve decided. For me, that stops now. Do you have any older items that you still use? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Decluttering Minimalism Recycling Simplicity

It’s Okay to Own Things

It’s become fashionable to throw things away. Out with the old, to make room for the new. There are even groups out there that will help you get rid of your things and encourage you to eliminate as much of your stuff as you want.

I know. I was one of them.

In time I realized that the Minimalist movement had devolved into little more than a pissing contest; a competition to the bottom. “I’m better than you, because all I own fits into my backpack.”

“Tough,” someone might respond. “I got rid of my backpack last week.”

There is some good to be had in the Minimalist movement. If you find yourself overwhelmed with possessions, especially if you have reached the point that you are tripping over stuff, you might need to thin down.

However, unless you’re preparing to move house or backpack around the globe it’s not really beneficial to get rid of all of your things, especially if you use and enjoy them.

The trick is in the using. If you have a cabinet full of dishes that you’ve not touched in years, you might want to pass them on to someone who will enjoy and actually use them. It doesn’t make any sense to clutter up your life with a bunch of stuff you don’t actually use.

Now that I’ve decided to settle down in this little town I’ve allowed my possessions to increase as a result of my revelation. I enjoy reading so I collect interesting books when I stumble upon them for free or cheap. I keep a decent-sized collection of unread material now but as I read them, the ones that I know I won’t need for future reference are passed on to friends or donated to the local library.

When I stumble across a clothing stash that someone is giving away that actually fits (and is something I will wear) I add the items to my wardrobe. I discard the pieces as they wear out.

I don’t go crazy buying things but I do make room for things that come into my life that I will actually use. Since I have no intentions of moving in the near future (and I am nowhere near the point where I’m tripping over things), this allows me to increase my comfort level while saving money as well.

You should start doing this as well. Once you eliminate the things you really, truly, do not use, don’t hesitate to add something you will use to your collection of possessions if the price is right (preferably free, of course!).

Just remember that this isn’t an excuse to start buying everything in sight. If you have something that does what you need, use it instead of buying new. Just because you can own it doesn’t mean that you should.

Categories
Frugality Recycling

The Improvised Pitcher

The other day a friend of mine passed along three bottles of concentrated Cranberry Juice cocktail. I hadn’t had any in ages so I dug through my cabinets in search of something small enough to mix it in that would fit in my refrigerator. To my dismay I didn’t have anything. The only pitcher I had was a bit too big to fit in my fridge along with the other contents.

Disappointed, I placed the bottles in my pantry. I would wait until I used down the supplies in my refrigerator to make a batch, I told myself.

The next day I went over to have a cup of coffee with my neighbors. As I was finishing up my cup, one of the kids reached into their fridge, pulled out a two-liter, and poured the remaining contents into a glass.

My cheapskate mind started jumping in happiness. I had a spot on my refrigerator door that was just big enough to hold that bottle.

“Hey, can I have that empty bottle?” I asked as they went to put it in the trash.

“Uh, sure. What are you going to do with it?”

“I’m going to use it as a pitcher,” I responded.

“Go for it.” My friend handed me the empty bottle.

I took it home, washed it out, and carefully poured the contents of the concentrate into the bottle. I added water, mixed it up, and squeezed it into the one empty spot in my tiny fridge.

I am now enjoying a nice cold glass of cranberry juice cocktail, courtesy of improvisation.

Refreshment never tasted so nice.

When was the last time you improvised to meet a need? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Food Frugality Holidays Recycling

How to Eat Your Christmas Tree

Okay, folks, time to recycle that tall piece of greenery you have stuck in the corner of your living room. While most of us just toss it out with the trash, did you know that you could actually eat it?

I’m serious, you really can.

I’ve known for a while that you can actually eat pine trees. In fact, you should never starve if you are stuck in a forest with pine because seriously, the trees! Eat them!

From what I understand in ages past pine trees were called the feast of kings because when kings would go out with their armies to invade other lands they allegedly relied on these trees to feed themselves and their armies even when there was meat around (I guess to supplement the meat).

Now I’m not sure about the legend but if you’re hungry and you’ve got a tree that you’re about to toss in the trash, why not try it? Can’t hurt.

Here is the link to eating pine trees: http://tacticalintelligence.net/blog/how-to-eat-a-pine-tree.htm.

And last but not least here is a link specifically aimed at teaching you how to eat that Christmas tree instead of tossing it away: http://wholefedhomestead.com/how-to-eat-your-christmas-tree/.

Enjoy!

Categories
Recycling

Shingles Made of Recycled Tires

I recently found a web page where a creative frugalista used old race care tires instead of shingles on a roof and my inner cheapskate fell in love.

I’m not exactly sure where you would get old race car tires but I still wanted to share this. Some of you might be able to figure out a way to use other tires for this as well, and if you do, please share how you do it in the comments below.

Anyway, click on the link here to read all about it and help share the love by sharing this post if you like it.

Hugs,
Annie

Categories
Decluttering Frugality Recycling Simplicity

Freecycle

Somewhere, near or far, there exists a Freecycle group just for you.

Don’t believe me? Go to freecycle.org to see!

Freecycle is a wonderful way to find good homes for things that you no longer need or use. Why worry about what to do with that whatsit or how to haul it to a landfill? Give it away and let someone get some use out of it instead!

So far I’ve given several things away on the freecycle network, and I always scan the offers. One never knows when something you really need will appear in a post, like extra garden veggies or a vacuum cleaner to replace the one that just went south.

Sometimes there will be people needing something that you just happen to have, but never thought to offer. That has happened to me several times, and it always feels good to know you’ve helped someone out.

The last area I was in had a very inactive Freecycle network. If you find yourself in such a dilemma, don’t hesitate to try to drum up membership, and remember to explore groups in your surrounding area as well.

If you find yourself surrounded by stuff you don’t need or use, please consider offering it up on your local Freecycle group. Don’t let your stuff go to waste.