Simplified Solutions

Sometimes simplicity means finding simple solutions to annoying situations.

Late last June I shaved my head in sympathy with a family member undergoing brain surgery. My hair has since been slowly growing back.

Growing back from baldness is challenging, and I have fussed and fought with numerous hair care solutions since then.

I have decided that instead of fussing with it—instead of using all of those products on my head daily, wasting an hour of time styling it just in case someone sees me outside walking the dogs—that I would just invest in a simple denim cap.

Now instead of worrying about if this hair or that hair sticks up like Alfalfa I can just go about my day.  Eventually it will grow long enough to lay properly but until then who cares? The time saved, the worry eliminated—is definitely worth the price of a simple hat.

Rule #2 for Living Cheaply

Whether you are poor or trying to keep from being poor, Rule #2 for living cheaply applies to you.

The second (or sometimes first) largest expense to people is sitting in the garage. 

Price a new car today and you will discover that you can actually purchase a small home for what is written on that price sticker! If you’re smart, you can actually buy a home for a lot less – I paid a lot less for the simple mobile home I’m living in than on the used van I purchased several years ago!

Do you actually have enough money to buy that vehicle outright?  Regardless of the answer THINK TWICE!

That hunk of metal and plastic is NOT going to go up in value – a comic book has a greater chance of making you money than that bucket of bolts on the car lot, so if you are trying to make money, invest in comics or memorabilia of some sort, NOT a car!

It will  go down in value until it is only worth a few dollars at the recycle center. Any money you invest in a car you are literally throwing away, remember that.

Think.  Do you actually need a car, or can you suffice with public transportation? If you need one, purchase the least expensive one you can pay cash for – there is no need to spend even more money on something that is essentially a giant financial sinkhole.  If it starts and runs safely–who cares what it looks like?  Those looks won’t put gas in the tank!

By purchasing a used car for cash you avoid that big payment each and every month. You avoid having to sink even more money into full-coverage insurance on the monster as well.  Purchase the least amount of insurance you can get away with and stash the money you save in an account that gives you interest.  This is what you will use to repair or replace the car in the event of a breakdown or accident.

I have friends who assure me that their $300+ car payments pay for themselves cause they don’t have to pay out of pocket for repairs, and frankly that is nonsense!

Of all of the vehicles I have owned, I have yet to have a single vehicle cost me $3,600 in repairs for a single year!  I’ve spent a couple of hundred here and there, and rarely more than that for a year of faithful, payment-free service! Considering that my liability insurance costs me $160 every 6 months, while the average full coverage policy runs about that every  month, I consider myself ahead of the game there as well!

Yes, I’m bragging.  I’m hoping that by bragging I can bring the car payment aficionados that are reading this to their senses about how much money they are throwing away on something that is going to rust and die!

Yes, there may be people that laugh at you for driving an older car but in fact you are that one who will truly be laughing.

All the way to the bank.

Bathing the Hard Way

In January a thermostat mishap while out of town caused a large number of my water pipes to break. The ground is quite damp here so instead of paying a plumber extra to climb under the soggy mess my mobile home rests on I decided to wait until the weather warms and the ground dries out before taking a look myself.

The outside spigot is on the live side of the house shutoff, so I run a water hose in through a window to power the washing machine, flush the commode, bathe and whatever else I need water for.

This is a challenge for a woman whose major weakness is a hot bath.

Baths get planned in advance these days because it takes a while to heat enough water on the stove to fill my bathtub.  I take sponge baths daily (a.k.a. whore baths when I was a child) but my cherished soak is now an hours-long ritual that no one is allowed to interrupt.

I use a metal bucket, a large metal bowl and my stock pot to heat water to boiling on the kitchen stove.  My tub is metal, so the drain is stopped up and the boiling water is poured into the tub.  It takes 2 rounds of boiling water to give a nice amount of really hot bathwater but I generally do three rounds to fill it as full as I can get.  Then cold water is poured in it until it is cool enough to step into.  This makes for bathwater much hotter than I can get out of my tiny water heater, which makes the work worth it.

I get out after a good long soak with the water still warm.  This water is recycled to give the dogs a bath, then recycled again to flush the commode until it’s gone.

I have honestly never recycled something so much in my life!!!

I guess it is a good thing to recycle, but it has pointed out how spoiled I was by being able to turn a faucet and get instant water. It has also shown me that one does not HAVE to have running water in every room or even in a house to live well.

I must admit though—I would not like to live without a washing machine. I am too addicted to washing clothes and towels for that.

I am in hopes that the ground will dry up this month so that I can take a peek underneath without having to worry about sinking knee-deep in mud.  The pipes are the pvc type so all you need are the pipes, joints and glue.

I’m not sure of the exact extent of the damage, but I should at least be able to rig up an interior spigot until I can repair it all and as for the water heater—it is not the necessity I thought it was, so I think I will look at it last to see if I need to replace the heating elements (I have it shut off at the breaker right now but am unable to check for damage until the pipes are repaired).

Yes I could probably hire it done or beg some handy male neighbor to do it, but why bother when I am perfectly capable of fixing it myself?

I am just happy and grateful that I have a water hose long enough to reach to my washing machine, and a y-connector so that I can fill up jugs and buckets while my machine does it’s thing.

I am happy that I have buckets, and the knowledge to use them.

I am downright delighted I have dish pans as well!

I wonder if people who live in tiny houses, who espouse the whole green movement—I wonder how often they wash their towels, and if that laundromat can get them clean enough?

I have an antique washstand complete with candle holders and mirror that I now keep in the kitchen for handwashing.  I keep the pitcher filled with water and a bucket nearby to hold the used water, which gets used to flush the commode. Water from dishwashing gets used for the same purpose.  Just the thought of a stinky commode is just gross, so I use every drop of water to keep it flushed, as well as keeping the back tank filled from the hose for the times when it needs flushing but there is no recycled water waiting to flush it.

If I lived near a place where I could readily access water either with a hose or containers, especially if that water source had a washer hooked up I wouldn’t really need running water in a place.  Just a compost commode to avoid flushing the stupid thing and a drain for all of the greywater produced.

That means that I am a bit closer mentally to living in a more rustic environment than I previously thought.

Life is good…..

Spring is Here!

Well, close enough—we sprang the clocks forward last night! Hooray!

I love spring.  It means I can turn off the heat and open the windows.  I can hang my laundry out in the sunshine and watch the flowers bloom.

I can stop hibernating and start living again!

Another benefit is the fact that my bills go down as my energy needs are reduced.  I love watching those bills drop!  One month last spring I had an electric bill of a whopping $12! I liked that bill!

Since I am alone in the house this damp dreary weekend I have turned the electric furnace off and turned on a single radiant kerosene heater positioned near my chair to heat the most important part of the house at present.  At present kerosene prices it costs about $3 a day to use that little heater to take the chill off the house and dry it out some, plus I prefer the warmth of the radiated heat compared to that furnace blowing warm air all around.

I need to take this heater in and locate a new wick for the poor thing.  I doubt that it has ever had a new wick installed.  This heater was purchased by my mother in either 1988 or 1989 to help warm her home.  She was killed in 1992 and I have had it ever since.  It has been used sporadically over the years but was pressed into semi-regular service when I moved last spring to take the chill off cold mornings and again this winter for the same purpose.

It is still working well but I want to keep it maintained properly, especially since I much prefer the focused heat to that of my furnace, and it is less expensive to use area heat on the days when I spend hours working at the computer compared to heating the whole house.

It would cost more to heat the whole house with kerosene compared to the electric furnace on cold days, however.  I would also have to invest in another kerosene heater.  I am considering the purchase if I find one at a good price as a better precaution against electric outages.

I spent $30 back in January on kerosene and I still have about 2.5 gallons left of that.  When I use it all up I plan to go to another place to purchase fuel that I have discovered in this area because they are several cents cheaper than where I normally purchase the stuff. I think they were selling it at $2.84 a gallon the last time I looked, while my current supplier charges a little over $3 a gallon.

I have some things I need to accomplish today so I need to close for now.  Have a wonderful spring-forward day!

Simplicity Recap…

I was awakened early this morning so I’ll post an update on the things I do to make life simpler and use less.

Instead of renting or having a house payment, I live in a paid-for older mobile home with a lot rent of $100 each month.  This enables me to save money toward a piece of land of my own.

I work at home, so my commute is from the bedroom at one end of my home to the laptop sitting in the kitchen. This saves gas, dress clothing, eating out, etc.

My coffee this morning was brewed three days ago this morning in a metal stovetop percolator.  I brew a pot at a time then reheat for my daily cup of caffeine.  I gave up on automatic coffee makers after spending years replacing them every few months to a year (failed hardware, dropped carafe, etc.). I paid $15 for this percolator new 3-4 years ago for faultless, loyal service. It heats the coffee on the stovetop. so it has no fancy parts to fail.

I take my used coffee grounds, dry them and place them in old socks as hidden sachets to absorb odors around the house and in the refrigerator and freezer.

Breakfast is generally late, and is actually more like brunch.  This enables me to get away with preparing only 2 meals a day instead of three. This morning I will eat a bowl of Grape Nuts, but sometimes I fix a breakfast hash with a potato, a piece of bacon and some eggs.  Big breakfasts are homemade biscuits with sausage gravy, all made from scratch. We very rarely buy things like Pop Tarts or instant breakfasts—those are treats in this house.

I use Fels Naptha, Octagon Soap, ammonia, Bon Ami, vinegar, baking soda and bleach to clean with.  I am using up some products purchased before I realized that I could clean just as well with simpler products—and save a lot of money in the process.  I wash dishes by hand using Octagon soap that I pay 79 cents a bar for.  It cleans just as well as those fancy dishwashing liquids that cost several dollars for a small bottle (and lasts a lot longer). I tried using Ivory Soap to wash dishes, but that didn’t work out.

Instead of going to the expense of painting, wallpapering, etc. I wash the walls and woodwork.  If the walls get in sad shape I will eventually paint some of them but I would rather set that money aside for a piece of land than concern myself with buying paint and paper right now.  In my opinion a paid-for piece of land is much more important that the color of a wall.

We no longer use paper towels here.  I have several rolls left over from the case I purchased a year or so ago that get used occasionally to wipe up things that would stain the cloth towels we have.  Kitchen towels get soaked in a sanitizer solution until wash day to help keep any stains from setting.  Cloth towels are also used instead of sponges to wash dishes, and changed after each use for sanitary reasons. I may be interested in conservation, but I refuse to risk the health of my family.

Instead of paper napkins we use bandannas coordinated with our casual kitchen.

We use family cloths instead of bathroom tissue, though we keep bathroom tissue around for guests or on for the occasion when we decide to use paper instead of family cloths.  We have only been experimenting with family cloths since late January after a frozen pipe ruined most of our stock of bathroom tissue.  Of the six rolls of tissue that were spared water damage we still have five 4.5 left.  This amazes me because in this house of females we normally went through 1 or 2 rolls of bathroom tissue a week.

When our last box of kleenex ran out we decided to use bandannas instead of buying another box.  I have a small collection of bandannas that I have used for tying up my hair on bad hair days, etc. so we are able to rotate bandannas regularly while being able to identify which cloth belongs to whom.  I’m not sure how much this has saved us since we used a combination of kleenex and bathroom tissue for our noses.  I normally go through the bulk of the tissue so I’m going to hazard that we have saved at least a couple of dollars so far. It was definitely a big mental change for me personally—even more so than trying the family cloths to my surprise!

I have been working to conserve electric use, but I am far from perfect.  Instead of multiple electric clocks we use our cellphones and my Palm Lifedrive as timepieces and alarm clocks. Amazingly it has made life calmer not having a clock in every room.  I do have a battery operated wall clock in the kitchen, but it rarely gets referred to these days.  We have had it for several years, but if it dies I am not sure if we will bother replacing it.  We didn’t bother replacing the one in the bathroom with it finally failed.

With the exception of the lights in the living room that are on a dimmer switch, all of our lightbulbs are either florescent or led. I try to use the led ones more than even the florescent, especially since they only use 1.5 watts of electricity compared to the 13 or 14 watts per florescent bulb.

The microwave and toaster oven are unplugged when not in use to avoid a phantom power load.  The same goes for the chargers used on the small electronics.

We don’t have a stereo, television, vcr, dvd or game machines. I’m sure this saves us not only the money that would be used to purchase them and care for them but also in the energy used to power them both on and off.  Our computers replace all of these devices.

Instead of a land line phone I use a Magicjack attached to my laptop which is connected to a cordless phone.  I decided that a cordless phone was a worthwhile investment compared to a corded phone for simple mobility.  The Magicjack costs $20 a year for unlimited calls in the United States (and I think Canada but I’ve never had a reason to call there to try). I use that whenever I’m home or around a high-speed internet connection to save on cellphone minutes.

My daughter and I both have AT&T prepaid cellphones.  She has the $1 mobile-to-mobile plan which only costs if she uses it, and while the expense is being shouldered by me currently I believe her father is going to start putting money on it being split by her father and myself. 

My cellphone has the $3 unlimited plan on it, so it costs me $3 on the rare days I use it but I don’t have to worry about how long I stay on the phone or what number I call that way.  I keep a texting plan on it as well which helps to greatly control the expense on that phone.  I tell people to text me instead of calling me when I’m out and about to avoid that $3 charge.  As a result I still have to put $25 on it every three months but I have a balance accumulating on it for those times when I need to use it several days in a row.

We have multiple computers here—that is our one big splurge.  I work on computers so I am forced to keep up with the most current Windows operating system (which gives me the perfect excuse to feed my computer habit). I also use linux instead of Windows for a lot of things because of the stability and the wealth of free software available.

I used to keep multiple computers running at all times for various tasks but have managed to reduce that to a single laptop running when I am awake.  This laptop is placed on my kitchen table to enable me to get lots of light without having to use electric and is connected to a usb hub that basically converts this puppy into a desktop. 

I use an external keyboard and mouse to save wear and tear on the laptop when I am at home, especially since I do so much keyboarding on the computer.  It is much cheaper to replace an external mouse and keyboard than it is to replace them on a laptop. This enables me to have an energy-efficient machine with a built-in battery backup portable enough to move through the home easily when I want to watch a movie in my bedroom or take it with me when I travel to visit or work .

My daughter has my old laptop that she uses to watch shows and play games.  I already had the laptop when I upgraded to this new one so I just gave it (my old one) to her.

To save on heating expense I keep the thermostat to the furnace turned down or off on warmer days and use a kerosene heater near me in the kitchen to provide heat without having to heat the whole house to a higher temperature. This kerosene heater has belonged to my mother when she died almost 20 years ago and is still going strong.  It also serves as backup heat in power outages.  We also wear sweatshirts and sweaters as well.

I have a printer/scanner/copier but it stays unplugged and disconnected when not in use to save energy.  The occasional short fax is sent using Faxzero which is free for up to 2 faxes a day of up to 2 pages in length.  You can send longer faxes more often (or avoid the ad on the cover page) by giving them $1.99 via Paypal but I don’t mind the advertisements for what faxes I send. 

I also have the capability to send and receive faxes through my MagicJack but I generally tell everyone to just email me things to avoid hooking the modem to the phone and waiting!  I have yet to locate a free fax receiving service online that does not force you to install some type of software.

I have a desktop computer that I use as a movie converter, file server and backup, but I try to keep it turned off unless I need something.  I keep my commonly used music, photos, books, etc. copied on an external drive for quick access without having to fire up the desktop, with stuff I use daily copied onto the laptop.

I convert movies to Xvid format and place the discs in storage to save wear and tear on them.  That way when we want to watch a movie we just click on a file instead of digging out a disc.  We also watch television shows and movies online.

One thing I have not clamped down on is laundry.  I wear things more than once if they are not dirty, but if it is dirty I don’t hesitate to toss it in the wash.  Laundry detergent is homemade. For a couple of dollars I can make 10 gallons of liquid laundry detergent that lasts us a really long time.  Compare that to what you pay in the store.

I have discovered that ammonia works better than bleach for whitening clothes, so I use that instead of bleach these days.  It costs less than bleach so that saves as well.  It is also safer on clothes and towels so they last longer.  I even put a half cup in with my colored clothes.  It really seems to help with dinginess on older garments, so I consider that my color-safe bleach these days!

I use cold water to wash almost all of my clothes and always try to have a full load to wash.  I make sure the clothes have room to agitate in the water which seems to help them get cleaner.  I hang them out on the line on pretty days but if the weather is cold, rainy or overcast I just use the dryer.

Dishes are washed by hand in 2 dishpans.  One has hot soapy water to wash and the other is even hotter water to rinse and sanitize.  I air dry all dishes for convenience and sanitation reasons. Using this method I may use three to four gallons of water at most compared to whatever a dishwasher would use, plus I don’t have a dishwasher to purchase, care for, maintain, repair and otherwise be in my way besides suck up all of that electricity.

I am still a sucker for a hot soak in the tub, but I try to limit that to once or twice a week to conserve water.  The rest of the time I either shower or take old-fashioned sponge baths.

If I have missed some aspect of my life you are curious about, please comment and I will address it in another post.  I am not interested in saving money just to be saving it.  I do want to make a statement that we don’t have to use as much or spend as much to live comfortably as big businesses would have us believe, but I also don’t want to cramp my lifestyle just to save a couple of dollars.

For instance we don’t use bottled water, but I do keep a pitcher filter for drinking water because we prefer the taste, despite the fact that municipal water is safe to drink.  I am a sucker for soft drinks so I drink about a 2-liter a week, but I am working on cutting that down.

If we are out and want a bite to eat occasionally, we get that bite to eat.  Living simpler has enabled us to have more discretionary income so that we can do that without worry. 

I enjoy finding new, less expensive ways to do things so it is a bit of a game—and the less I spend, the more I can either save or the less I have to work to pay the bills. Both are good.

Have a nice day!


While you are pursuing simplicity there is one thing you must never lose sight of.

This one thing is simple yet complicated at the same time.  I can’t take credit for it however, Shakespeare said it best:

“This above all, to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”

Don’t follow my idea of simplicity.  Don’t follow your mother’s or the dude’s down the street. 

Follow your own….

Octagon Vs. Fels Naptha Soap

There are a lot of posts concerning Fels Naptha soap out there.  Most homemade laundry detergent recipes recommend it for it’s cleaning properties.  However there is another old fashioned bar of soap out there that is not getting a fair shake.

Octagon Soap.  I found some at the Food Lion in Cynthiana, KY not too long ago and bought 2 bars.  One the packaging it says it is good as a laundry additive as well as for dishwashing and other things.  I have been using it around the house here and I love it.  It has a lemony scent that is more pleasant and natural than the chemical aroma the Fels Naptha contains.

I have used it to wash dishes, and Octagon Soap really does cut the grease!  It doesn’t lather as much as traditional dishwashing liquid but I am very pleased with the results.  I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks now and no intestinal discomfort like I had when I tried using Ivory Soap to wash dishes.

I’ve got some Fels Naptha here, and while Fels used to advertise in days gone past that you could use it for washing dishes, I’m not sure I want to put that to the test.  I know that it no longer contains Stoddard Solvent but I gather it still contains petrochemical ingredients so that is a concern of mine.  Has anyone tried using Fels as a dishwashing soap?

Octagon Soap costs less than Fels Naptha (the bars I bought were priced at $0.79 each) and overall seems like it is more versatile than Fels.  I have yet to try it in the laundry however.  I plan to do that when I make some more laundry soap, but I have a lot of it on hand right now and don’t want to get overstocked..

I believe that I will try to keep the Octagon on hand, by stocking up the next time I go to Cynthiana since I can’t find it in Paducah KY.  Has anyone seen it around here or perhaps over in Brookport Illinois?  I believe that it is not only less expensive than Fels but just a tad safer to use…

Ammonia for Whitening Whites?

Yesterday I discovered an old bottle of ammonia under my kitchen cabinet. After some research I read that some use it to whiten whites and as an all-around laundry additive.

I decided to try it.  I had a load of whites ready to go today from all of the cleaning I did yesterday, and they were quite nasty, especially the kitchen towels…

I had a load from yesterday that I used my normal amount of bleach for comparison.  I normally use 2 cups of bleach to keep them as white as possible…

I took this nasty dirty load of towels and washed them using one cup of ammonia in place of the 2 cups of bleach I normally use.  Added blueing like normal (which I also used on the other load) and tossed them in the dryer.

I was amazed.  The ammonia-washed towels were whiter and brighter than the bleach-washed ones!  I took pictures of them and showed them to a friend of mine and she agreed:  the bleached towels look much older and harsher used, despite the fact that the towels are the same age and had been washed the same until today, when I experimented with using ammonia in the wash.

I am going to post some pictures so that you can see for yourself. The kitchen towels are all about 3 years old and have suffered heavy abuse.  The washcloths are about 2 years old if that, because I just bought a new pack this spring.  All of my whites get washed the same way with 2 cups of bleach and have been washed that way since I eliminated paper towels from our house.

The bleached towels have a bit of a yellow tint to them despite the blueing used.  According to Barbara, “The ones on the right

[bleached ones]

are just marginally okay, they are gray and darker, with more staining. They look grungy in the photo, especially in contrast with the ammonia wash.”  She even asked if the ammonia-washed towels were newer, or perhaps less stained than the bleach-washed ones…

Here are some photos.  See for yourself..

I called the local Wal-Mart for ammonia pricing.  Here in Western KY the current price for 2 quarts of ammonia is $1.12, so for three quarts, the equivalent of a standard bleach bottle the price is $1.68.  Cheap bleach sells around here for around $1.75 for three quarts while name-brand bleach is closer to the $2 mark.  This makes ammonia less expensive than bleach, especially when you use only a single cup of it compared to the two cups of bleach I was using per load.

Note:  Dollar General sells the same sized bottle of bleach for $1 a bottle, which reduces the cost even more…

I’m not sure, but I have heard that ammonia is safer environmentally than bleach.  I know it is safe for colors, while bleach is not…

I’m kinda happy that I found that bottle of ammonia under my sink.  I know I’m glad I didn’t just toss it after this discovery!


Today I cleaned the area underneath the kitchen sink. 

Not only did I discover duplicates of some items, but some other pointless things to eliminate.  Like the meat grinder that was missing the most important parts that was under that sink when I moved in!

I have a fear of running out of stuff for some strange reason. Hence the duplicate item issue. Most of the items were old cleaning supplies and were able to be condensed into single containers.  Some items are things that I simply do not use anymore and could be discarded.

Simplicity at times does not seem simple, especially when fighting with yourself. 

That said, I need to make an effort to remember to use up the cleaning supplies I no longer use.  I have the remnants of a gallon jug of Greased Lightning, some dishwashing liquid (which will be used to wash the car this summer) and the remnants of a gallon jug of Windex besides a partial bottle of ammonia (which I plan to try as a laundry additive and some other things) and maybe a cup of Oxy-Clean.

It was annoying to discover I had two almost full containers of flea spray for the animals, two containers of insecticide for the yard, two cans of insect repellent, two cans of compressed air, a bottle of floor shine that had never been opened, several rolls of trash bags in multiple sizes and three partially used bottles of liquid potpurri (NOT including the several bottles I have stashed in the other room).

I pooled the contents that could be safely pooled, emptied one of the bottles of liquid potpurri into the soapstone oil burner, used the last bit of deodorizing carpet powder and arranged the rest where the multiples are now grouped accordingly.

Two bags of stuff were discarded–mostly empty containers after pooling things together.  There is a lot more empty space down there now and will be even more once some of this stuff gets used up.

To reward myself for a job well done I treated myself to a long soak in a hot tub of bathwater.

You know, at times it seems like I have made no progress at all, but then I open the refrigerator and see the space empty of the unwanted leftovers that used to fill the space–see that it is actually quite empty in there despite the fact that we have a lot of food!  I see the pantry getting more and more organized as the things we actually use are being given attention while the things that aren’t used so much are being used, given away, or discarded without being replaced.

I see a large decrease in the amount of cleaners I need to satisfy the need to clean, with a subsequent reduction in my expenses as well.  I see a reduction in the grocery bill, though the quality of food has stayed the same and somehow things seem a bit less chaotic around here.  I’m definitely not tripping over things like I have in years past, which is a wonderful feeling.

All in all it has been a productive day.  I hope your day went as well, and I now bid you good-night.

Simple Living

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex and more violent.  It takes a touch of genius–and a lot of courage–to move in the opposite direction.”

~~E. F. Schumacher

Sometimes inspiration comes from mysterious places.  I found that quote in a Pure Living handout that is distributed in my area of Western KY.  I thought of you.

Have a nice day!

Step Three to Simplicity: Decide on Priorities

Pursuing simplicity is hard to do when you’re racing around trying to have it all.  When you try to be the best worker, the best parent, the biggest moneymaker, the homeowner with the best yard, the driver with the fanciest car–you spread yourself too thin and inevitably will fail at one or all of your endeavors. 

This is a quote from Robert Collier’s book “The Secret of The Ages” published in 1926 in a 7-volume set and available for online reading here.  This is a quote from Volume 2:

“Do you know how Napoleon so frequently won battles in the face of a numerically superior foe? By concentrating his men at the actual point of contact! His artillery was often greatly outnumbered, but it accomplished far more than the enemy’s because instead of scattering his fire, he concentrated it all on the point of attack!

The time you put in aimlessly dreaming and wishing would accomplish marvels if it were concentrated on one definite object. If you have ever taken a magnifying glass and let the sun’s rays play through it on some object, you know that as long as the rays were scattered they accomplished nothing. But focus them on one tiny spot and see. how quickly they start something.

It is the same way with your mind. You’ve got to concentrate on one idea at a time.”

Sit down, have a cup of your favorite libation whether coffee, tea or Starbucks–and make a list of what is important to you.  If there are a number of items on that list consider it well, then one by one eliminate all but one or two.  These are the most important things to your life.

Only after consciously deciding on your priorities will you be able to concentrate your focus on what is most important and simplify your life by decreasing focus and energy wasted on things that are unimportant.

Second Step to Simplicity: The Terminator Test

Roll back the clock to 1984.  A crowded movie theatre shows the cult classic “The Terminator.”

Sarah Connor is a waitress having a really bad day when finally a bratty child places a scoop of ice cream in her uniform pocket.  She looks at the mess and groans when her friend Nancy walks up and gives some sage advice:

“Look at it this way: in a hundred years, who’s gonna care?”

We can follow this advice in our journey to simplicity.

When we look at the outdated covering on the walls, ask that question.  Who is going to care in 100 years if we wash that wall covering and keep it a while longer before deciding to reaplace it?

In a hundred years, who is gonna care if we drive a paid-for jalopy or a Porsche with an exorbitant car payment?

The answer is simple:  no one.

Ask the question about other things:  In a hundred years, who’s gonna care if we spent more time working or with the kids and the answer appears–the kids will care, and their kids as well, for they will be deprived of the rounded personality of a child who had parents who loved him and made a point to spend time with him.  The kids will be deprived of your time, attention and love while you pursue more money.  You will care (should medical science progress to the point where we are alive in 100 years) that you missed those precious times of your child’s life.

Some things don’t qualify for the Terminator Test–safety and cleanliness come quickly to mind, but the test can help us to weed out what is most important to our life from the rest of the chaos surrounding us.

Using the test, I can decide that painting the paneling can wait a few months or longer if I just wash the walls.

Using the test, I can decide to drive my paid-for van for a few years longer.

Using the test I can decide to stay in my older paid-for mobile home instead of bowing to fashion and renting or financing a more traditional place to stay.

Using the test tells me that my daughter is more important than making the big bucks, helping me to decide what career choices to make.

What can the Terminator Test help YOU to decide?

Time Magazine Article on Living with 100 Things

Time Magazine featured an article titled  How to Live With Just 100 Things.  This article talks about David Bruno’s challenge to do just that.  There is also a link for 5 Steps to Clutter-Free Living.

If you are serious about simplifying your life, you may want to read these articles for inspiration.

Anyway, I just ran across those articles and I thought of you.  Have a nice day!

10 Things Challenge Update

I started a new list of things I eliminated from my life, not realizing that I would quickly go over the ten item limit.  Here is what I have eliminated so far last night and today:

  1. Lotion bottle (contents pooled with another container)
  2. Broken digital camera I know I will never attempt to repair.
  3. Old dropcloth.
  4. DVD video of a convention.  I ripped the contents to my hard drive so that I can pass the video on to someone who can use it.
  5. Old pillow.
  6. Post-it note pad.
  7. Stack of music CD’s I haven’t listened to in years.
  8. DVD of a movie I detest.
  9. 2 boxes of old matches that have apparently gotten damp at some point.
  10. Box full of old books, some of which will be listed on eBay.
  11. Damaged music CD’s.
  12. Miscellaneous shirts.
  13. Pair of leg warmers (where did these come from?).
  14. Short sleeve sweater (when I’m chilly I much prefer sleeves so this never gets worn).
  15. Easel (given to my sister who will actually use it).
  16. Pile of old and mismatched socks.
  17. Pile of worn-out cleaning rags.

What have YOU managed to eliminate from your life?  

Bottom of the Barrel

Here it is:  The bottom of the baskets infesting that back bedroom.

I am so happy and grateful to be at the bottom of the issue!  This particular basket was about half-full of socks, most of which were mismatched.  A quick sort and the rest were tossed.

The room looks lopsided because of all the shelves on one side of the room, but at least the clutter is getting under control.

It feels soo good to see the floor again!

I am going to reduce my clothing to where it will fit in the unaffected half of the closet to eliminate the clothes hanging on that poor shelf.  That will free the other half of the closet up whenever the workman gets here and finishes the work…

I was actually able to reach the bookshelf and place my books back where they belong, and arrange for my unused easel to go to my sister’s house where it will be loved and used.

This does not eliminate the need to go through each individual box and reduce, but it does eliminate a lot of stress regardless. 

I will post pictures of the tidied room tomorrow after I do some more work to it.  I would like to be able to lay out the futon once again, whether I sleep on it or not….

I Feel Like a Hoarder

I do.  I really do!

Here is a picture of the room officially known as my bedroom.  This was taken after I tidied it up a lot.

I must admit most of the stuff will go back into my closet when the workman is done there, and it was jerked out in a hurry to avoid moisture damage, but still this mess is terribly distressing.

There is just too much stuff.  I have been avoiding this room since the water pipes burst simply because of the chaos within, because I know that my options are limited until I regain the use of my closet…

In our previous place we had a LOT more things, yet everything seemed to have a place thanks to a dedicated utility room with lots of shelves. Combine that with lots of closet space and we had it made!

This spaciousness served only to hide the fact that we have too much stuff. How much stuff do two people need anyway???

She’s a kid, so she’s going to have toys.  I’m a geek so I’m going to have computer junk.  We’re both females so we’re gonna have clothes and shoes galore no matter how hard we pare down, yet this is getting ridiculous!

I look at this room and wish I had some of those organizers from that hoarding show.  I wish they would come in and help me deal with this mess that is my bedroom…and the mess that is my kitchen.. and the mess I’m afraid to look at in the building outside….

A fresh pair of eyes and a strong pair of arms to go through this junk though part of me wants to just chuck it all–but how can I toss the papers from my parent’s funerals? 

My children who are now adults can perhaps take over the care of their baby photos which will help, but just seeing these things all piled up really affected me today…Somehow, some way I have got to reduce my possessions… before they drive me insane….

I went back in there and worked on it some more.. It is a lot better, but has a ways to go.

How is it that we have so much stuff, yet feel the need to add even more to our lives?

I do not believe I will buy any clothing for a while.  While my closet was not overflowing it was tightly packed, and I have clothes that I have forgotten I owned.. It is time to re-think my wardrobe.  I definitely do NOT need to purchase any liquid potpourri until I use up what I already have, not including the surplus of bleach pens I purchased some time ago on ebay…

I am going to explore this evernote program to see if it will help corral the paper and memories so that I can pass some of that out of my life….

What is sad is the fact that people come to my house and they look at all facets of it, and they tell me I don’t have enough stuff, yet these piles tell me a much different story…

This is why I pursue simplicity.  I want the ability to know what I have and where I have put it–know what I need and want and know what I can do without.  I want the peace and security of knowing that someone can walk into the most private areas of my home unexpectedly without it being an embarrassment to me…

Yes, the sight of this room embarrasses me, yet here I am posting it for the whole world to see.  Why am I doing this?

Because I want to do better.  I know I can do better.  And I know that I am not alone.

What do you have that embarrasses you?  Do you have a room like this one?  What are you doing to fix it?  Send me before and after photos–even before and during photos–and tell me your story.  I’ll feature you on this blog so that you can be an inspiration for others to simplify their lives.

Simplicity and minimalism do not HAVE to be about getting rid of everything, but let’s be honest–we can all afford to pare down our possessions.

Let’s do this.

10 Things Challenge

David has posted a challenge:  Eliminate 10 things from your life every week.

Okay David, I’m game!  Let’s see what I can do!

I went through my house this morning and chose my 10 items.  In some ways it was harder than I imagined it would be, but the freedom I felt when done was so intense that I actually went over the mark a touch!

Here’s my list:

  1. Hat that I never wear.
  2. Mixer with a missing beater (I never used it even before I lost the beater).
  3. Stack of papers I planned to print on the back-side of before using as a birdcage liner (going straight to the bird cage now).
  4. Several pairs of old socks (why was I keeping these–I have a ton of new socks).
  5. Pair of old undies.
  6. Pack of cigarettes from years ago (I don’t even smoke, but they were stashed away nevertheless!)
  7. Stainless steel paper towel holder (no longer needed since we almost never use paper towels these days).
  8. Stainless steel napkin holder (has never been used for napkins and is no longer needed for holding paper cause I toss my paper now).
  9. Small pet transport box, saved for the guinea pigs to play in.  Now placed in their pen so they can enjoy.
  10. Unused oven mitt.  I always grab my cloth towels for this job–why am I keeping something I never use?
  11. Unused pot holders.  Same reason as #10.
  12. Old Convention flyer I found stuck in a book.
  13. Plastic banana stand.  I wanted one of these things for years then after the purchase discovered that wanting is better than having!  Good-bye, wasted money!

I took a picture of most of the items, but missed the couple of items I went over on.  Oh well–you get the idea!  

That was kinda fun, so I’m planning on keeping a running list of the things I eliminate in preparation for next week!

Shoe Simplicity

I finally found a pair of shoes yesterday.  I finally found a pair of clogs that look like this but in black.  Simple enough to wear with jeans or a dress, and comfortable to boot.  Made of leather so it will last longer than that plastic stuff.

I am so glad that is done!  I would rather have one pair of comfortable shoes to wear everywhere than a pair for every occasion… Why keep up with 20  pairs of shoes when one pair will do?

I confess:  I have more than one pair of shoes.  I have my crocs for everyday wear, my black leather tredsafe sneakers for working or casual wear when the crocs will not do, a pair of black ankle-boots that have seen better days (never buy the fake stuff – it does not hold up), a couple pairs of sandals for summer and a pair of dress heels that are beautiful but hurt my feet and can now leave my life thanks to the new addition.

I would love to reduce my shoe collection down to a pair of dress shoes that can go from casual to dressy, a pair of everyday shoes like the crocs, a pair of sandals for summer and a heavier pair of nice shoes for either working or such.  Ideally I would love to go down to a single pair of shoes but I fear being a total fashion disaster if I do that, you know?  Is there a single pair of ladies’ shoes that can do it all and still look good?

Gadget Simplicity

One thing us geeks tend to have: Gadgets.

In such a digital world, how do we reduce the number of gadgets we need to carry around?  There are book readers, MP3 players, portable DVD players, cell phones, laptops… an endless array of devices to cater to our every whim…

For instance; I need a device to read books, play music and the occasional video, show off photos and help me keep track of life in general.

I tried using a smartphone for this but it was kinda hard reading a book on such a tiny screen–and hooking it up to the car stereo was not a fun experience…

I ended up going back to my Lifedrive.  I hadn’t totally retired the device because it makes an excellent Mp3/Ogg player and portable video device using TCPMP, besides being ready to surf the internet when bored at a restaurant that happens to have wifi (and small enough to be discreet).

Basically I went back to a bare-bones cellphone and my Lifedrive for everything else.

What does this eliminate?

  • ebook reader and physical books
  • portable music player
  • portable video player
  • portable usb thumb drive (has a built-in 4 GB hard drive for transferring files)
  • laptop for surfing the internet when out and about
  • paper planner
  • notepad
  • sound recorder
  • paper address book
  • alarm clock

It has a small built-in speaker, so I use it instead of a stereo to play music in the house when I’m cleaning, and connect it to my van to listen to it while traveling.  Katie and I sometimes go through the drive thru then park and watch a movie in the van. Yes, it has a small screen but my kid has yet to complain about being able to actually watch a show on the move…

I use it to transfer files when needed, and can even keep some portable applications on it for use on other people’s computers.

I still carry two devices when you add the cell phone, but that is better than some. It is definitely better than I used to do.  I would carry a paper planner, cell phone, notepads, books, mp3 player–you name it.  I have even been able to eliminate the alarm clock in my bedroom–and save electricity as a result.

Have you been able to simplify your gadgets?

Simplicity of Habit

Some habits can aid the pursuit of simplicity.

The morning coffee, for instance.

When you wake up in the morning and drink your dose, relax and plan the day ahead.  Write down on a notepad what you wish to get accomplished.  Ruthlessly mark out the things you do not NEED to get done immediately.  This is not a lesson in overtaxing yourself–we are just wanting to cover the basics of the day.

Just relax with that cup.  Don’t read your emails or check the news–make this part of your day relaxing to set the tone and get started right.  Sip, make a general plan and relax.

Make this small routine a habit each morning and watch your days change for the better.