Categories
Simplicity Wardrobe

Old Pants, New Tailor

“Grandma, can I spend the night?”

It has been ages since I’ve heard those words from my beloved grandson. Risk or no, I could not have refused to save my soul. I reasoned that since we’d both been at home (and not exposed to potential nastiness), that we should be okay.

He was fascinated as he watched me sewing masks. Question after question was asked while I worked until he finally discovered my bag of sewing scraps.

“Grandma, can I sew on this fabric?” Grandson asked.

Once I gave permission, he announced that he wanted to make pants for his G.I. Joe doll. A few minutes later, he reappeared at my side with the creation in the top photo.

Those pants would barely fit upon his fingers.

I praised his attempt and reassured him that his next attempt would get better. The next morning, I discovered his first attempt at making a pattern:

Grandson’s second attempt

It was time to find the kid a pattern. He was obviously determined. After a quick online search, I found a basic pattern to work from. I printed it out and we went to work.

Grandson cutting out the pattern.

Since I didn’t have the doll available to check the pattern, I sacrificed a pair of my old sweat pants to the cause. I’ve widened a bit over these past few months so they’d gotten a bit tight and they won’t be missed. The stretch in the fabric would compensate if the pattern happened to be a bit small, I reasoned. We cut out the pieces and then started sewing.

Grandson sewing his first pair of pants from a pattern.

While he worked, I told him stories about how men who sew are called tailors, and how tailors used to be much in demand for sewing men’s clothing. I made an effort to discuss male fashion designers as well because I know in this area many consider sewing to be the exclusive realm of women. I wanted to mentally prepare him to know that it’s okay for guys to sew.

He was so proud of his creation!

Grandson’s finished pair of doll pants.

I am so proud of him! He did really well on those pants. I told him to let me know if we needed to alter the pattern, so the very next evening after he left Middle Daughter messaged me. She’d had to buy him a sewing kit and he was happily creating an entire wardrobe for his G.I. Joe. I gather she’s trying to locate a small sewing machine for him because she asked if I would teach both of them how to use it if she found one.

I readily agreed.

Back in the day before corporations trained us to buy their mass-manufactured garbage we used to make the clothes that we wore and the clothes we placed on our children’s toys. We made our own curtains, sheets, quilts, and anything else we wanted. We even knitted our own socks! My grandmother was so skilled at it that she didn’t even need a pattern; she could just look at an item and “know” how to re-create it at home.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately as I sew on those masks. We would sew what we needed, wear it out, re-purpose the fabric into quilts and other items, and then make more, so we didn’t have a lot of excess clothing. Even better, we appreciated the clothing we had, but due to the mental programming we’ve received we now look at clothes as disposable. We buy it, wear it once or twice, and then pass it on to someone else, donate it to a thrift shop, or toss it in the trash where it ends up in a landfill.

What if we changed that? What if, instead of giving money to the corporations who have programmed us to buy and buy, we started making things for ourselves to wear instead? It would cost a bit more to buy the fabric but each individual piece would have a part of ourselves in them, and they could be tailored to fit us properly. We could even select fabrics that reduce the harm to our environment by avoiding synthetics. If we wore those pieces out, re-purposing them into quilts or other items, we could reduce the burdens on our landfills even more.

I believe that I am going to do that. As I wear out the clothing I have already, instead of replacing them with commercially sewn options, I believe I may make some instead. When I mentioned that to my daughters, they were delighted. Middle Daughter wants me to teach her how to sew and Katie has already placed a few orders with the shop of Mom. As I become more comfortable with that, I do believe I may be able to take it a step further by re-working hand-me-downs and thrift store finds, which would reduce the environmental impact even further.

Time will tell how far I take it but I like the thought of reducing my reliance upon mass market goods even further. I like the thought of preventing the greedy corporations from receiving financial encouragement to treat workers as disposable objects so this is a thought I am definitely pursuing.

Have you given any thought about reducing your reliance on mass-produced goods? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Categories
Frugality Simplicity Wardrobe

A Mother’s Work is Never Done

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Let me finish my current batch, okay?”

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

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

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

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

~#~

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


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

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

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Finances Frugality Simplicity Wardrobe

The Shoe Patch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~#~

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


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

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

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Finances Food Frugality Organization

The Difference Between Stockpiling and Hoarding

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

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

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

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

I struggle with this personally.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can I Afford It?

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

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

Will I Use It Before It Expires?

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

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

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

Do I Have Enough Room to Store It?

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

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

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

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

~

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

~#~

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


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

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

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Finances Frugality Minimalism Recycling Simplicity

The Art of Reframing Your Circumstances

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unknown

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

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

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

Laptop on stand.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope that you will join me.

~#~

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


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

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

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Finances Frugality Recycling

The Stitch Rebellion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~#~

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


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

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

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Economy Finances Food Frugality Minimalism

Supply Chain Concerns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~#~

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


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

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

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Food Frugality Minimalism Simplicity

Blast From the Past

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

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

“Okay.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was when I stumbled upon my first sewing book.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh yes!

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

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

Cutting mat and ruler.

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

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

“Of course!” I replied.

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

Help from Katie.

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

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

She laughed after she saw my solution.

DIY thread cone stand.

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

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

The pattern for Katie’s purse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am immensely thankful for that blessing.

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

Categories
Finances Food Frugality Minimalism

The Perception of Minimalism and Thoughts About the Economy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~#~

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


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

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

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Finances Frugality

How to Plan for an Uncertain Future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s up to you.

~#~

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


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

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

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Finances Minimalism

This is Not the Time to Practice Minimalism

We are currently experiencing an entirely new situation. Millions of people are now out of work, told to stay home in order to control the spread of Covid-19 because that is the one thing we can do to minimize the spread and loss of life. Businesses are closing their doors and they may not be able to re-open once this is over. Some businesses that we rely on each and every day were so leveraged before this happened that they may very well fail before the “all clear” is given.

We do not know how long this will last. We will never even know how many people actually died from this here in the United States because there aren’t enough tests. My friends are dropping like flies, healthy friends. I’ve had several that were found dead already, or became sick and died. I look at the local obituaries with dread now, shocked that this is happening so fast that someone I can talk to one week will be listed in the obituaries the next. I’ve never seen so many people die in our area – and none of my friends who died were tested for coronavirus. There simply are not enough tests for that to happen.

Now, think about this.

Most of the things we buy are made in China. China is trying to restart their economy, but due to the fact that there is no vaccine for this, they could get hit again and have to shut back down. We don’t know what will happen over there, we don’t know what will happen to the other nations who manufacture the other things we need.

One thing we do know is that our nation is, for the most part, a service economy. Compared to the past, we do not manufacture near as much as we buy in this nation. I watch my governor go on television every day, begging for someone to open a PPE manufacturing plant in this state, because every time we try to buy the supplies we need, our state government gets a notice that the items we were expecting to receive have been seized by the Federal Government. From what I can tell, that’s now happening internationally. If the US can catch it in transit or whatever (and I gather the manufacturer’s headquarters are based in the US), they’re taking it.

There will be repercussions from that in the future.

We do not know what we do not know. We don’t know what will happen at the end of this story. This is why I am begging you to be cautious.

Think about it. Say you’re off because of this current situation and you think it is a great time to thin out your stuff. You’re bored, so you decide to go full-on Minimalist. You don’t see any harm in it because you believe that things will blow over soon. You can always replace the items you discard should you need them.

But what happens if you can’t? What happens if you decide to thin down your wardrobe to a week’s worth of clothes, and the clothes you decide to keep wear out before this is over? Where will you go to replace your clothes? Will you even have the money available to replace those clothes? What happens if you decide to toss that extra refrigerator in your basement and your current one dies? You can’t just hop out to Rent-A-Center and get a new one right now. You may not be able to find a store open to buy one (if you do happen to have the money). You might be able to order one, but with the chaos in our shipping systems, it could take a month or longer for a replacement to arrive. What will you do in the meantime?

I am speaking from personal experience. When I moved here, I decided to eliminate as much of my possessions as I possibly could to minimize my moving expense and to explore just how little I needed to live. I know what it is like to need a way to cook and store food and not have the money to acquire it. I know what it’s like to have the clothes you decide to keep wear out before you are able to replace them. While my situation was a bit different (my issue was money), it translates over to the current situation because not only do we NOT know if we’ll have enough money to afford to replace the items we keep that fail, we may not be able to locate replacements to purchase.

I am begging you. If it is something useful or functional, please keep it for the duration of this time. Box up your extra clothes that still fit. Save your scraps. Definitely keep your sewing supplies and other “craft” supplies for the duration. Depending upon how this plays out, you may need them.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope this blows over and we are able to go back to “business as usual.” But there is enough uncertainty surrounding this situation that we may not be able to do that for a time.

You need to prepare for that.

Excellent leaders prepare in advance for all potential scenarios. I would be remiss in my duties if I did not urge you to do the same. While I do believe that, on the whole, we own and buy much more than we need, there is a chance that you may need that excess before this is over with.

Stop throwing your stuff away! If it is functional, I am begging you to keep it. Stash your excess for now. You can always toss it when it is over.

Categories
Economy

Do What You Can, Where You Are, With What You Have

It is with a growing horror that I’ve realized over these past few days that my grandparents were right. My parents used to tease them for their decision to save most anything they came into possession of; even the tinest scraps of fabric were preserved to become quilts. Every winter, I would watch them sort through bags of old clothing and random fabric pieces, assembling those scraps into coverings that kept the family warm. I used the few quilts I had been given in my childhood until they fell apart, not because I understood their logic, but because I loved and missed them.

That memory has dominated my thoughts these past few days as I’ve kicked myself for some of the decisions I’ve made over the years.

Minimalism is the art of eliminating the excess in order to make room for the important. As practiced, it means that, when you no longer use an item you discard it in order to free up space and eliminate the need to care for it.

I experimented heavily with minimalism over the past 15 years or so. Due to that, when I moved here back in 2011 I eliminated a number of items that I never anticipated needing again.

I ran into problems almost immediately. Having left my stove, refrigerator, and other items behind, I found myself without a way to cook and store food when I moved to this house. I had to scramble in order to correct that mistake.

I made a note in my mind that, should I ever move again, I would make certain that I kept essential possessions. One doesn’t know what will happen in the future, and it is always best to be prepared. It is better to have a refrigerator one does not need than to do without when your current one dies, after all.

As the days ticked closer to marking a half-century of life, I realized that I made other mistakes while pursuing minimalism. Not only did I eliminate a number of books that would have been quite useful to have with recent events, I eliminated almost all of my sewing supplies. With the exception of a sewing kit that my daughters gifted me ages ago, every single piece of equipment I used to sew clothing and make quilts was given away – along with the massive supply of fabric that I had stockpiled over the years as I haunted yard sales and clearance aisles.

At the time, the decision made sense. Clothing and other fabric-made items were cheap and plentiful; it was easier to visit a thrift shop or a yard sale than it was to actually make things by hand.

But now things have changed. In some areas, one cannot even purchase seeds to grow a garden since they are not considered “essential.” Sewing supply stores have been forced to shutter because sewing is considered a hobby…far from “essential” in the minds of lawmakers.

Yet our medical and other essential workers need an item that we can no longer acquire easily on the open market. We all need one particular item that can no longer be easily acquired – a simple face mask.

I had more than enough tools and fabric to make a bunch of them. I even have the skills to assemble them fairly quickly in batches, but thanks to my belief that fabric would always be plentiful and that it would always be cheaper to purchase manufactured items, I eliminated every single tool I needed to construct them quickly. Even worse, I eliminated more than enough fabric to make a ton of them.

I felt horrible when my daughter asked me to make her some masks. While I knew that I had the skills to sew some by hand, I knew that it would take a lot longer than it would have if I had only kept my sewing machine and other tools. I hadn’t, so rather than continuing to curse myself I got started.

I got lucky. Come to find out, the kid had been given an old sewing machine several years ago. A friend donated some needles and oil, so I spent yesterday using a paper cutter to cut the pieces and started sewing. I watched a few videos on YouTube, combined that with my previous sewing experience, and made the first mask.

The kid wore it to work today, thankful that she now had a bit more protection as she works on the front lines.

I’ve began the process of stitching together an entire batch out of the fabric I had the kid grab for me at a local hardware store. They opened a fabric section several years back. The hardware store was allowed to remain open as an essential business; since the fabric section is in the same store, we can actually acquire a bit of fabric here.

After I ensure that my daughter has enough masks so that she doesn’t have to re-use them without washing, I intend to sew some masks for the local cashiers in the area. I’ll use what I can acquire to make that happen.

While our medical professionals desperately need masks, no one seems to be thinking about what will happen if our other essential personnel fall sick. I intend to do what I can to keep them safe.

This experience has taught me a valuable lesson. Never, ever eliminate something that has a practical use if it is still functional and you can afford to keep it. It may be considered clutter for a while, but in this world, we never know when something will happen that will cause those items to be essential again.

And as I watch the financial news with what knowledge I gleaned over those two years of researching the stock market and financial principle, I suspect that there are going to be a lot of things we need that might be a challenge to acquire for the foreseeable future.

In our current focus on medical personnel (which is completely justified), factories are switching over from making everyday clothing to medical garments. Clothing shops have been deemed non-essential, so they have been closed. I doubt that the factories assembling medical garments will be able to readily transition back to making clothes for the rest of us, so if you have it (and it fits) keep it. Even if it doesn’t fit, keep it. You can recycle the material for masks, towels, and even bedding in a pinch.

A friend of mine gifted me with a plastic tote. It has a few holes along the sides, but it will still hold dirt. I intend to use that to grow food. I’m also going to take the shovel I acquired when I buried my daughter’s cat and dig up a place in my back yard. I don’t have enough containers (or even sufficent access or money for potting soil) for dirt, so I am in hopes that I can grow a few vegetables in the back. Unlike my front yard, I doubt it has ever been graveled over and packed down for parking so it should grow food decently. I hope.

I am dreading that. I’m out of practice when it comes to growing food. That makes me nervous. However, with the shortages I am hearing about in the stores and my concern about what will happen as our essential workers fall prey to this illness, I am planning ahead. I refuse to go hungry when I know I can prevent that with a bit of manual labor.

Folks, some financial experts are already whispering the “D” word. When combined with the fact that it could take quite a while before they come up with a vaccine for coronavirus, the lockdowns might last for quite some time. In my lifetime, businesses were discouraged from keeping cash on hand to carry them through extended shutdowns. If they weren’t financed to the hilt, using “other people’s money” to expand, they were wrong. I only know of one major corporation who keeps a cash reserve, and that’s Apple. The others used their surplus over these past few years to buy back stock (the value of which has tanked and will likely go even lower). As their stock prices have tanked, highly leveraged businesses have already began to fail. One company I invested in went bankrupt so quickly when this started that I didn’t even have a chance to sell out.

And I suspect that will continue as this pandemic continues to sweep the world. The United States government can’t afford to save them all. At some point, they will have to allow Capitalism to properly rein by allowing those who do not have the resources to survive this to fail. As that happens, many businesses that we take for granted will go under. It is already starting to happen in the restaurant, hospitality and transportation industries. Airlines and bus companies are struggling alongside hotels, restaurants, and bars as well.

As people have less and less money to live on, items like computers will become unaffordable along with subscription services for software and entertainment. To me, it looks like a chain of dominoes, with the first one teetering. We can’t spend what we don’t have, after all.

So keep your stuff. Hold on to it until we get through this, at least. If I’m right, you may need those items in the future.

As for me, I have learned an invaluable lesson. This time, whenever I acquire something that is useful, I intend to hold onto it regardless if the world believes it is clutter. I intend to recycle what I can moving forward, and I don’t care what it looks like. Like my grandparents before me, I will wear the badge of conservation with pride.

I need to close for now. I have some masks to assemble.

Categories
Finances

Cautious Preparation

If you’ve paid attention to the news, some workers are discussing the possibility of striking due to what they believe to be unsafe conditions in the workplace thanks to the spread of Covid-19. I found an article the other day about Purdue workers walking out because of their concerns.

Before this hit our news feeds I realized that our supply lines might possibly be in danger due to Covid-19. If the current workers fall ill, would anyone want to step up and replace them? While I hope that my concerns are unfounded, I decided to do a little something now to ease my concerns.

I’ve recycled some containers, converting them into pots. Within these pots I’ve began to grow some vegetables from kitchen scraps and seeds. I have a challenge obtaining seeds since my daughters have joined the chorus echoed by friends and family that I need to stay home for my safety but my youngest has assured me that, as soon as her store manages to acquire some seeds, that she will buy some packets for me.

In the meantime I have started the few packets I managed to obtain before those around me began to pressure me to remain at home. It isn’t much, but it’s a start.

The modern food chain revolves around workers in the field, the shipping companies, and in the stores. What will happen when more of those workers fall ill to this virus?

While I am not panicked, I have given thanks that I live in a somewhat rural area. There is a slaughterhouse nearby for meat, and a number of my friends raise gardens out of habit. Even with that I feel that preparation is best.

I have personally taken a “plan for the worst, hope for the best” attitude to this situation. As I watch more companies struggle, in a worst-case scenario they will fall like dominoes in time. I don’t even want to think of what will happen to our medical system, local, state, and federal governments. I can’t change it, so I see no point in stressing over it.

I look around for the things I can do right here, right now, with what I currently have available. I can keep my house clean. I can recycle plastic containers to use for pots, I can grow a little bit of food, and I can distract myself by reading books and journaling to keep myself sane. I can also eliminate leftovers entirely as I do all of this, which is something I have done. These little things may prove to be helpful in time, or I may end up laughing at my over-reaction once this is over.

In the meantime, the steps that I am taking allow me to sleep at night without stress. They allow me to sit upon my front porch and enjoy the sunlight without worrying much over the future. What will come cannot be stopped, but I can rest easy in the knowledge that I am doing what I can just in case things become even worse.

What are you doing to pare down your expenses and prepare for a potentially darker future? 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
Frugality

How to Survive the Coronavirus Pandemic Without Bathroom Tissue

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are Family Cloths?

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

Hesitations About Using Family Cloths

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

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

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

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

How to Begin Using Family Cloths

To actually begin using family cloths very little is needed.

The supply list:

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

Step One – Preparing the Family Cloth Bucket

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

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

Step Two – Placing the Family Cloths

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

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

Step Three – How to Use Family Cloths

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

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

Step Four – How to Wash Family Cloths

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

Notes about using Family Cloths

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

Further Reading

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

Family Cloths

Family Cloth challenge

Forgetting the Family Cloth

Family Cloth and Company

Family Cloth Savings

Simplicity of Menstrual Cloths

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

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

The Minimalist Cleaning Method

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

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

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

Thank you.

Categories
Economy Health

The New Normal

“If you’re going through Hell, keep going.”

Unknown

The world is under siege by an invisible threat that is overwhelming our medical community to the point where desperate measures are being taken to reduce the spread.

Oddly enough, now that things are coming to pass I feel an odd sense of peace. I suspected that things would be seriously affected in our nation since the Wuhan lockdown in January, so I no longer have to wonder what is going to happen next. My worst fears are coming to pass. The unknown is now the known, which gives me a sense of relief.

I can deal with the known. It’s the unknown possibilities that frighten me.

The last time I left the house was on Friday, March 13. A friend of mine had purchased a television and didn’t know how to connect her devices to it. I take care of my friends so, despite the risk, I went to her home and got it sorted. I am well-aware of the fact that, as things continue to be shut down, that the television will become her lifeline so I wanted to ensure that she was ready, especially since she has yet to fully comprehend the coming changes.

In the midst of the chaos that marks our local community, my daughter’s boyfriend came in on leave. They were married by the County Judge, who was delighted to take a break to participate in something happy for a change. Her husband has since retured to his base in California to see what happens with his scheduled deployment.

So for now, all we can do is wait this out.

My daughter’s job won’t be affected too much. She works in a grocery store, a venue that shouldn’t be shut down in the foreseable future. I’ve got enough money held back to survive for a couple of months. We’ve stocked up our supplies to the point where we can hold out for at least a month if it comes to that. I’ve resisted the urge to stock even more, since the majority of folks in my area did not realize that the situation was so serious until the other day so they are desperately attempting to make up for lost time by hitting the stores hard. They need more access to food and supplies than I do at this point.

One of my closest friends is now in quarantine, so I divide my time between keeping their spirits up as well as checking in on my other friends who are frightened at the changes sweeping the nation. I’m not getting much sleep as a result of that; the different time zones I am dealing with mean that I get to bed in the wee hours of the morning and am awakened not very long after. I nap when I can to compensate.

We aren’t going to be able to escape this, my friends. All we can do is move forward. The challenge we face worldwide is to slow the spread as much as we can to minimize the burden upon the international health systems. The only way we can do that is to stay at home as much as possible and avoid physical contact by maintaining a significant air gap between us and other people. We also need to exercise abundant caution with our personal hygiene by keeping our hands washed and so forth. I’m certain you already know that, so I won’t belabor the point.

If you’ve not stocked up on food and supplies for at least two weeks, I urge you to do so now. While I hope that food and supplies will remain in supply, I am uncertain about the ability of local groceries to keep some things in stock. I hope you will prepare accordingly.

This is going to get ugly, folks. It is going to get ugly, and it is going to be scary. While I see our state governors taking charge and doing their best, I am honestly uncertain of how much help (if any) that the average person will receive from the Federal Government here in the United States. To avoid any danger of being misled, I’ve taken to watching our President’s speeches. Thus far I’ve heard our President bail out the oil industry, encourage the FED to inject a fortune into the stock market and so forth, and announce that he is in talks to bail out the airline and cruise ship industries. Aside from promising an increased availablity of test kits, I’ve not heard our President speak much about concrete plans to help those directly affected by this.

That makes me extremely nervous.

I am not going to lie. Based upon the speeches I have personally watched, I’ve caught our President in several lies just over the past few days. I don’t know if those lies are meant to reassure the general public or not, but between those and the fact that he seems more interested in bailing out the corporations than he is in helping the average person, I have little faith that the United States Government is going to be much help in this. Fortunately our state governors are really stepping up to the plate, which gives me immense hope.

Dr. Fauci gives me hope as well. I have taken to watching his speeches and interviews since he is about the only one in our Federal Government that I trust to speak the truth. The picture he paints for the future is not a pleasant one, but at least it’s honest.

So buckle up and hunker down, folks. It’s about to get real.

Sending prayers, Annie

Categories
Health

Kentucky’s Current Coronavirus Epicenter

On March 6, 2020, my town received some disturbing news: Kentucky’s first Coronavirus patient was a resident of our area.

The tragic part of this is, due to the draconian screening methods used, this person was refused the test for Coronavirus and sent home initially. Given her place of employment, we suspect she worked at her job until she returned as the symptoms continued. Once again, she did not meet the testing criteria. By that point, however, she was so ill that they sent her to UK Medical Center in Lexington, where she was finally allowed to be tested for Coronavirus. She tested positive. Based upon reports from the family, she is currently on a ventilator.

Here is the statement our local hospital released concerning their attempts to properly diagnose her:
https://www.harrisonmemhosp.com/https%3A//www.harrisonmemhosp.com/node/COVID-19

Our town is in an uproar. We live in a small town, so we know who she is and where she worked. We also doubt that the store in question properly sanitized her workplace after she was diagnosed. The place certainly didn’t shut down. Here is a statement from the store in question:
https://www.lex18.com/walmart-issues-statement-in-response-to-coronavirus-concerns

As a result of this, our area now has one doctor, one Physician’s Assistant, at least one nurse, a number of hospital staff, and some family members currently in quarantine:
https://www.lex18.com/healthcare-workers-who-treated-harrison-county-patient-with-coronavirus-in-quarantine

Given the fact that we are a town with approximately 6,300 residents, this has significantly impacted our area’s ability to provide for those in need of medical care.

Our local leaders have been wonderful. Schools have been closed and all public gatherings discouraged. That said, I am furious at the United States government for this.

You see, Trump has stated that he wants to keep the number of confirmed Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases low:
https://www.businessinsider.com/trump-reportedly-wanted-coronavirus-numbers-kept-as-low-as-possible-2020-3?op=1

How better to keep them low than by not allowing people to be tested?

And how ‘nice’ it would be for our governmental leaders if our disabled and elderly were to die, because if they die, the US government will no longer have to pay Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to support these people in their Golden years and through their time of need?

Think about it. An illness hits the United States that primarily targets the elderly and the physically compromised. That demographic is typically unable to work or have already retired. What better way for our government to reduce how much it pays out in those dreaded ‘entitlement’ payments than to allow an illness like that to run rampant? After all, it’s ‘only killing old people,’ as so many have stated.

Even worse, our nation allowed a family from our area, a family who lived in Hong Kong, to come to our area when COVID-19 hit Hong Kong without placing them into quarantine. Our little town is incensed at the US government’s carelessness to the point that the local paper, who ran a front-page article when the family arrived, posted this statement on Facebook:

I do not know if it was a coincidence that this woman and her family arrived here from Hong Kong just a few weeks before our first case was diagnosed. I do not know if she happened to shop at the place our first official victim of Coronavirus worked. I do know that it is a very small town with a limited number of stores, so this is a definite possibility. I also know that it is possible that her and her family were asymptomatic carriers. They may have introduced it to our area without even realizing it:
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/26/health/coronavirus-asymptomatic.html

I am not faulting this family if that was the case. I am not faulting the poor woman who may have had to work while ill, because in this area, you are forced to work unless you are half-dead.

And apparently you are not allowed to be tested for this new thing unless you’re half dead as well, since Trump wants to keep our numbers down.

I feel so bad for the woman who is currently on a ventilator at the UK Medical Center in Lexington. I feel so bad for those who are currently in quarantine. I feel horrible for the family who may have unwittingly introduced this infection among our populace. They will never know if they did and I am certain that will weigh upon their conscience.

This makes me wonder even more if my grandson had the virus but wasn’t allowed to be tested. It makes me wonder if I had a mild case, and wonder if my friends who have presented similar symptoms were infected as well. It makes me wonder just how far the United States has fallen, that they care so little for their population that they are allowing an illness that has proven deadly to the elderly and disabled run rampant. We live in a nation where one of our reporters has actually suggested that this disease should be given to everyone, after all:
https://www.businessinsider.com/cnbc-host-everyone-should-get-coronavirus-to-save-economy-2020-3?op=1

Please protect your elderly. Check on them to make certain they have what they need. I have no doubts that they are watching the news with growing horror, knowing that our government is hoping that they will die.

And if you pray, please pray that our first official victim lives, and that our national government receives enough pressure to start testing more people. There have only been ten people tested in our state so far, which is absolutely ridiculous.

Categories
Food

Coronavirus Concerns

The disparity between the news reports I am reading about the Coronavirus outbreak are concerning. Despite the fact that documents have been leaked from China that reveal the official numbers have been under-reported, despite the fact that these people, who have been raised in a culture of compliance are risking prison if they share reports on social media, there are far too many taking that risk for us not to pay attention.

Yet the official news is ignoring that fact and taking the official reports at face value.

While I understand that the official totals for the US are low, I’m also well-aware of the fact that they aren’t testing a lot of people. A woman in Californa wasn’t tested for a bit too long because of the criteria that one must meet to qualify for the testing. My middle daughter and I have visited the UK Medical Center multiple times since her newborn daughter was transferred there shortly after her birth. Middle daughter’s eldest was diagnosed with the flu, pneumonia, and diarrhea during this time. His fever remained high for several days but he wasn’t hospitalized. The medical professionals questioned my daughter thoroughly about any contact her or my grandson have had with people outside of this area. She couldn’t think of any (she didn’t think about the international nature of the UK Medical Center) so he was not tested for this new strain of Coronavirus. He is slowly recovering.

There are several people at my youngest daughter’s work who have been diagnosed with similar issues. She became ill but had to keep working. I came into contact with people at the UK Medical Center, my Middle Daughter, my grandchildren, and my youngest, and I ended up falling ill with those same nasty symptoms. My fever finally broke so I am recovering.

I suspect that there are people being diagnosed with the same thing my grandson had who may have the Coronavirus who, like my grandson, are not being tested at present. As a result, they could recover or not depending upon the degree of their symptoms but the chances of them getting tested for this new thing are low so if they were infected, those numbers would not show up on the official totals.

This means that there is a slight possibility that the virus is spreading in our communities but not being officially diagnosed.

Whether it is or it isn’t, I have realized that the potential is there. No nation wants to panic their citizens so all of them are going to keep the official numbers as low as possible. However, if, and only if an outbreak is truly bad, by the time we as citizens will be notified that outbreak will be well under way. We are already seeing disruptions in our supply chains on a small scale today, but in the case of a panic, we could see our store shelves empty if we are all ordered to quarantine ourselves.

Due to this possibility, my youngest and I have decided to stockpile a bit of food. We’ve filled our pantry and intend to fill our freezer just in case. If it is nothing, we won’t have to purchase food for quite a while. If it does end up being serious, then we will be prepared. Several of my friends have started to do the same.

While I am not advising people to panic, the disparity between the official reports and my personal experiences of late have given me cause to be watchful and concerned. I may not be an expert in the medical field but it will cause no harm for people to stock up a bit on food just in case.

Pureed jalapenos used as a dip or on sandwiches works wonders for a variety of ailments. I have been living on a diet of that along with cayenne pepper and local honey for several days just to stay on my feet. Should you decide to stock up, grab a jar or two of jalapenos, dump them in a blender, puree well, and add it to your diet. Moisten ground cayenne pepper, mold into a ball, coat liberally with local honey, and swallow whole to help your throat and immune system as well.

Aside from that, keep your hands well-washed, keep your clothing well-laundered. Add a disinfectant to your wash to help with germs. Microfiber cloths and warm water will help remove germs from hard surfaces in your home. Wash them separately and disinfect them well before you return them to use. If you want to be super-cautious, supplement with disinfecting wipes or spray.

I’ve collected a small stockpile of both since several in my family have fallen ill.

Please look out for the elderly in your area. They seem to be the hardest hit.

And if you do fall ill from anything suspicious, try not to infect others. Go to bed, get some rest, and, if you can afford it or feel safe doing so, get checked out by a doctor.

Above all, be safe and cautious. I suspect that this batch of sickness may be worse than the official news is reporting.

Categories
Personal

Chaos

Due to pregnancy complications, at first one of my children and her newborn daughter were hospitalized. Now, my daughter has been released but her newborn has been taken to UK Children’s Center.

It has been a chaotic few weeks as I deal with this issue. While I would like nothing more than to talk about it here (I could use a shoulder to cry upon), I do not want to disrespect my daughter by sharing more than she has chosen to share publicly.

As I sit here, running on caffeine and adrenaline, the urge to bare my soul is intense but my morals disagree. This affects my daughter and my newest granddaughter; it would not be respectful for me to share this piece of their life without permission. Even as I have shared stories of those around me over the years, this is one story I cannot.

One bright side to this story that I can share is that I have been able to spend more time with my middle daughter and my other grandchildren as a result of this chaos. I spent a portion of time yesterday playing peek-a-boo with my toddler granddaughter. She would play that game as well as kick off one of her shoes and ask me to fetch things to her as part of the game, giggling every time that her grandma patiently participated in her antics.

That has been an immense bright spot in my recent days.

For now I have to sort some things around the home quickly. I am going to spend the night in the hospital this evening, so I need to sort things here before I leave.

Once the chaos settles I promise to return to my writing. In the meantime, I hope that you will bear with me.

Peace,
Annie

Categories
Life

Pheromones and Predators

Back in the early 1980’s my dad brought home a new dog – and a changed viewpoint on animals.

He had been out on the farm, sorting the cattle my uncle raised when, upon hearing a cacophony, he looked up to see what he thought was a little red fox being chased by a pack of dogs.

Foxes are not popular animals to farmers. They kill chickens and smaller livestock so when farmers see them, they kill them. Dad knew this, but he also had a soft heart. He didn’t want the animal to suffer needlessly, so he decided that he would kill the little fox quickly to avoid the upcoming torture and moved to intervene.

When the little fox spotted him, it changed direction. It barreled straight for my father and jumped into his arms.

That was when my father realized that it wasn’t a fox the dogs were chasing, it was a tiny red female dog. She was in heat and absolutely terrified. He kicked the pack of baying males away, sheltering the trembling animal in his arms as he retreated to his vehicle. He swiped a tear away as he recounted the story.

As the little dog he named “Foxie” gratefully settled in at our home over the next few days, he accepted all of the affection she gave him. He was her hero and she was determined to show him her gratitude.

“I never thought about it before,” Dad shared as she went out of heat and became his constant companion, “but it must be terrifying to be a female animal. Your hormones change and all of a sudden males come out of nowhere determined to breed. All of the years I’ve sat by and watched it but until Foxie jumped into my arms, I never knew. But she had to be terrified to jump into the arms of a complete stranger. I thought she was going to tear me into pieces until I looked into her eyes.”

~

As Spring approaches our tiny town I remember that little dog. As the weather warms I see the young girls coming out to play in the sunlight. When they hit puberty, the people those young girls hang out with change. Instead of roaming the streets with other females their age, the packs become predominantly male.

It makes me wonder: do human females exude pheromones as well?

I’ve searched for that answer several times over the years. From what I can tell, the science is inconclusive. Human females can become pregnant at almost any point during their menstrual cycle so I guess to science, the point is irrelevant.

I know something happens when human females hit puberty, however. Around the time I had my first period I was stick-thin. I was more interested in play than I was in boys so I spent my summers, stringy-haired and covered in dirt, playing in the creek and wandering the hills but during this time, more and more boys wanted to play with me.

Males young and old began talking to me more, wanting to spend time with me. They would surprise me with treats and random favors. The older males that my dad considered friends would talk to my non-existent chest instead of my face. The “innocent” touches and “accidental” contacts were focused on certain areas of my developing body. The sparks I felt within at the touches were simultaneously thrilling and terrifying.

Just looking back at my own behavior I can see shadows of that little dog. At first I would be flattered and then I would get scared. When I became scared, I retreated to my dad’s side or hid in my room.

And my dad promptly banned me from leaving the yard on my own.

Now I see the young girls on social media and out in public. I hear the whispers from the elders as they watch the pattern. On every post, a pack of males call every photo beautiful. Every move that they make is followed. Even my middle daughter, who is approaching her late 20s and pregnant, is worshiped both in real life and online. The words used to describe them range from crude to poetic.

If human females do exude pheromones when they enter into puberty, would that knowledge change our society? It’s not like it is something that we could consciously control. If it exists, it is a biological process, designed to attract males and incite them to mate.

Could it be that the young girls we call sluts are simply victims of biology? Could it be that the men who pursue them are the same? Could females be exuding some chemical that makes them desirable, makes men far older than them go crazy with the urge to mate?

I don’t know the answers to those questions. They are heavy on my mind this morning because I stumbled upon a social media page that “outs” what our society considers predators. The man in the video I watched had traveled over two hours to pick up what he believed was a 14-year old girl for sex. The chat logs leading up to that encounter made it obvious.

As I watched that nonviolent confrontation it made me think back, not only to that little dog but to my own experience and that of other females. Starting around puberty, the behavior of the males around us changed and part of me wonders if, despite the fact that I want to name the men monsters and do horrible things to them, if perhaps my view of the situation is inaccurate.

What if, just what if the female body at the onset of puberty does begin to exude pheromones to attract a male? What if we are all so close to the situation that we don’t even think about it? What if the males, scenting a female that is on the verge of fertility, begins to instinctively pursue her?

And what if teenage sex and pregnancies are the result of newly fertile females, not knowing how to deal with the pursuit, finally surrendering?

Because Foxie, that little dog who ran to my dad, would have eventually surrendered. She would have exhausted herself as she ran until she was incapable of escaping. I’ve seen that happen in the past in the animal kingdom and now I wonder if that is what happens to us humans as well.

What do you think? Do you believe it is possible that pubescent females exude pheromones that attract males to them? If you set your preconceived notions of child predators and young sluts aside, can you see what I have seen? And if it is true, if human females do exude a pheromone that attracts males to them, how do we as a society deal with that? Do we leave it alone or what? Please share your thoughts 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
Life

Politically Incorrect, Morally Questionable, or Technically Illegal

As I delved into this novel about a grandmother who stumbles upon something morally reprehensible while doing something illegal, it occurred to me that there are a range of topics that I’ve not allowed myself to discuss on this website. These are things that poor people do just to survive. They aren’t in it for profit; in fact, when their finances are steady they abandon the procedures. But when the chips are down and they need to put food on the table, these are the routines that they fall back on.

I’ve never thought about the self-censorship I’ve employed. As friends and family have suggested that I write about certain things, I simply didn’t write about them or I changed them in ways to make them unrecognizeable.

For instance, it’s illegal to remove the tags from pillows and mattresses. There are people who find those tags unappealing for a variety of reasons, yet I cannot tell you whether I am among that number for fear that my post will lead the Mattress Gestapo to my door.

Another example that used to be common a decade or so back involved software, movies and music discs. Parents would burn copies of their expensive originals for their kids. Rather than allow their children to scratch up a disk that cost them $20, $30, and sometimes more, they would let the children use the copies while the originals were stored away. They didn’t do this for profit; they did this to protect their originals from damage. But this procedure was considered evil enough that operating system manufacturers began to limit and remove the ability from modern operating systems because these parents were “stealing” — costing millions of dollars of injury to the original producers of the item. That’s actually one of the reasons that software manufacturers started listing their products in online marketplaces. While they stated that it was for “convenience,” it was actually to prevent parents from practicing these preservation procedures.

I’ve read tales in years gone by of minimalists who, determined to remove physical clutter from their lives to be a bigger dog in the primordial pissing contest who would rip the contents of their music and movie discs to their computer and sell the originals.

That’s highly illegal since the money received from the physical copies is considered pirating so you don’t hear that discussed now.

I’ve got an entire case of music CDs in my home right now due to the illegality of the practice. Rather than sell the ancient music CDs I’ve acquired over the years once I rip them, I eliminate the cases and stash the originals in a binder. You see, it’s not technically illegal to rip your music to a computer so that you can listen to it on a broad range of devices, it’s just illegal to sell or dispose of the originals.

The originals are proof that you legally obtained your digital music, you see.

If you want to thin down your physical book collection by scanning the pages to create a digital copy, guess what? You’re breaking the law as well. While it’s acceptable if you have proof that you actually owned the physical copy at some point in the past (so that you can argue that you were the one who scanned it), it’s part of a legal gray area that’s best left untouched.

And don’t you ever dare to think about sharing a digital copy of a book with a friend. That’s considered pirating, my friends.

Yet there are people all around who practice these little things. They don’t do it for profit, they do it because they feel that if they bought the original item that they should have the right to change the format, back up their originals, or share them with a friend for free.

Some companies are even now fighting to make it illegal for you to fix your stuff. I stumbled upon an article about this the other day. They are involved in a court case stating that it isn’t “safe” for the average person (or even a shade-tree tech) to maintain, upgrade, or repair the devices. John Deere is currently turning farmers into pirates due to this. They are purchasing illegal software produced in foreign nations to hack the software in their tractors just so they can fix the things without facing an outrageous bill from the John Deere corporation.

None of these farmers can write about the practice on the Internet. If they did, they would be providing evidence that could be used against themselves in a court of law.

And finally, there is the court of Political Correctness that seems to be running rampant in our society. Back when I worked a public job a police officer came into the store searching for a suspect. He didn’t say who or why; he just provided me a description of the person. He visited all of the stores in our little area, so us managers were all gossiping. The poor officer must have felt the fear that his description would be considered politically incorrect and therefore punishable because, depending upon the race of the person he asked about the suspect, he would either include or leave out the color of the suspect’s skin.

Those of us who shared the suspect’s skin color were rather shocked at that discrepancy. That single piece of information may have helped us identify the person better yet this officer was so worried about his job that he felt the need to leave it out when asking those of us who shared the suspect’s skin color.

Yet to me, skin color is not a discriminatory issue. It’s a color, for goodness’ sake! Seriously, I know for a fact that I’m a poor white Cracker every single time I look in the mirror. It’s not going to offend me if somebody uses my color when they describe me. The tragic part of that is the fact that I have friends in a rainbow of colors who feel the exact same way. As long as the terms are used as a description and not an insult, as a whole we see no harm in the practice.

Yet people can lose their careers over that.

I’ve heard of folks who used what they consider to be their right to free speech in our nation that have lost their jobs because they stated beliefs that were considered “hostile.” While some of those people may have gone overboard (it’s not for me to judge), shouldn’t they have the right to express their views without being persecuted for their beliefs? After all, there is a line between words and actions. It’s one thing to say that you believe all … oh, let’s use a term most everyone can agree to hate … infant sexual abusers should be … treated, or perhaps punished in a certain way. As long as they don’t go out, track down one of these infant sexual abusers and do that to the person, shouldn’t they have a right to express their opinion of what should be done if said person molested their toddler?

And if you look at the paragraph above, you will notice that I censored myself yet again. I didn’t want to censor myself, I just did. I may still receive hate mail because of that, because even the topic is considered a hate topic in certain circles.

The very stories I grew up with in my childhood, stories whose names I don’t dare to repeat here are being rewritten by the Moral Majority or outright banned. I grew up with those stories, yet I cannot locate a physical copy of the stories in question because they are considered wrong now. Fortunately, some of these stories are out of copyright so it is actually legal to download a digital copy of the original texts. Yet I don’t dare confirm or deny that I’ve saved copies of the original stories from my childhood because I know that it would label me some sort of racist monster.

It’s getting to the point where I wish that I would have never allowed those in my physical circles to know that I actually have this website because it drastically limits what I can safely discuss in this realm. As it is, I’ve taken to publishing my fiction under a variety of pen names that I don’t tell anyone about for safety.

Some of the nonfiction books I have published have resulted in grief from my physical circles as it is. My view on things is a bit different from several around me so I burned some friendships when they stumbled across the titles online.

The sad part about the entire situation is that those who know me well understand that I don’t hate anyone. I may disagree on certain subjects, but I am open enough to consider other views and alter my personal opinions when the case warrants it. I avoid confrontation like the plague. I grew up in a home filled with violence and I want no part of that, yet now I have to censor my words and alter my “personal beliefs” depending upon the person I happen to be talking to.

I don’t even dare to share my innermost personal beliefs with you because someone from my physical world may stumble across them and use them against me in some manner.

That is the world we live in now, a world where we censor ourselves automatically for personal safety. A world where we cannot discuss the things we actually do just to survive, not to profit, but because the things we are forced to do are illegal, morally questionable, or politically incorrect.

Hell, just my stated opinion that in order to change things within our government that we should do what we can to stop giving the major corporations our money labels me an extremist. My personal use of the Linux operating system had me on a watchlist years back. A coffee shop I used to frequent received a notice that they should report the names and info of their customers who used it because we were all potential cyber-terrorists. We weren’t cyber-terrorists; my friends and I were tired of Windows crashing all of the time so we started encouraging our less technically inclined friends to try Linux instead. We would sit in that coffee shop, installing Linux or helping newbies install it because that’s what Linux was about yet our own government considered us the bad guys.

I was so spooked that I eventually bought a Mac, though I didn’t dare state that reason here. I just stopped writing about it and went underground. I have had that hanging over my head for years now, wondering how to handle it. Now that my kids are grown I no longer care. I used Linux to bring an almost seven-year old laptop out of mothballs so I could sit at my kitchen table and sit in the sunlight to write while having the ability to work on my stuff at the library or a coffee shop, and I’m tired of concealing that fact. The laptop in question was manufactured by a company that offers these exact same laptops with the option of Linux or Windows, so I doubt that they would legally persecute me for the switch. Microsoft might disagree, however. By switching to Linux I avoided paying the “Microsoft Tax” for an upgrade that would have rendered this old system unuseable.

I’ve got friends who stock up on groceries that have shared this with me in secret. It’s on a watchlist somewhere that people who stock up are considered “preppers.” Collect weapons and you’re another sort of extremist even if all you do is dust them.

And I don’t dare write about these things. Poor, honest people who stock up during tax time because they know that they won’t be able to afford a lot of food until next tax season are doing it in secret. I know of people who are actually concealing their stockpiles within their furniture or otherwise disguising it out of fear. The sad part is that when I had kids I did the exact same thing. I would spend hundreds of dollars buying stuff in bulk because I never knew if I could afford to feed my kids if I didn’t. I wasn’t preparing for the end of the world or whatever it is some think I was doing. I was making sure I had food on the table because I didn’t want myself or my kids going hungry. And just like my friends are doing now, I hid it from general knowledge. I concealed it in totes and called it clutter.

I have books in my possession that I don’t dare reveal to the public. I collected them for ideas and to expand my knowledge because I was curious yet those very same books could label me in negative ways so I hide them. As I stated earlier, some of those books are from my childhood yet I don’t dare mention them here.

Last night one of my daughters messaged me with a brilliant post idea about one of the ways that people in a financial bind stretch their money. I wrote the idea down with the intention of writing about it this morning yet with the cold light of day I realized that I couldn’t. Due to the current nature of our society, my discussion of this practice might get people in trouble. It is real, it is happening all around me, yet I don’t dare mention it even in passing.

I intend to save the idea and write about it in fiction. It seems that fiction is the only safe place to discuss certain practices anymore. It allows the author to disclaim the procedure by calling it a lie.

It saddens me to think that the only safe way to discuss certain things is in whispers or encrypted chats. It saddens me to realize that I have been editing my words and discarding potential blog posts for fear of repercussions. It saddens me to no end to realize that there are people just like me who are hiding the stories from their childhood and concealing books they read out of curiosity, who even conceal the fact that they stock up on food when they have the money out of fear of our current social climate.

I don’t even know how to handle that. I’m not even certain if it is considered politically correct to mention the dilemma here. In this case, I have resolved to take my chances with this post. Unlike so many others, I have very little to lose.

Have you ever found yourself editing your words or concealing things that you do on a daily basis out of fear for the current social and political climate? If so, how does that make you feel? Please phrase your reponses in generic terms should you share your thoughts in the comments, especially if you think someone you know in the physical world may stumble upon them. Thank you.