Use it Up For Minimalist Living

Minimalism teaches us to only acquire the things we will actually use. But what about the excess we already own?

The things we toss will eventually end up in a landfill. If one of our goals is to reduce our ecological footprint, then we are defeating the purpose by adding more trash to the problem we are trying to solve. Plus, the things we choose to keep will eventually wear out, forcing us to replace them.

Why spend money replacing items when they wear out if we already own an excess?

It’s stupid, folks. It’s stupid to throw things away that you know you will use up in time just to follow the advice of an influencer.

Because you know what? Keeping those items and using them up costs you very little, if anything. Tossing that excess and buying more costs you a fortune over time.

Remember: it’s not what you spend, it’s what you keep that counts.

For instance, right now I own 10 pairs of jeans. I don’t need 10 pairs of jeans. I only use three pairs a week at the most. If I followed the advice of minimalist influencers, I would toss or donate seven pairs of those jeans.

But here’s the thing. Most of them were given to me as handmedowns. They cost me nothing to acquire and nothing to store, since I have plenty of room in my closet. Since jeans don’t last forever, they will wear out in time, so it would be stupid for me to toss that excess.

I will wring every last drop of wear out of them instead.

I will wear them on weekends. When my current batch of work pants develop too many holes for my job, I will replace them with the worst of those ten pairs of jeans. Then, when I run out of jeans that I can wear on the weekends, I will head to the thrift shop or a discount store and replenish the three pairs of jeans that I need.

I do the same thing with my shirts and other items. I wear them until they cannot be worn any longer and throw them away. I’ll buy more when I get low.

When my old washer decided to develop a glitch, I replaced it. I didn’t throw the old one away. It still works a bit. The timer is just dead, so I fixed it so that it runs nonstop while it’s plugged in and I use it for my nasty items. I’ll toss it when it completely dies.

This is how you not only survive poverty, this is how you build wealth for the future. You don’t just toss something because you have an excess. You use it up.

If you are tired of being broke, stop tossing perfectly good stuff away and replacing it with new! Because it doesn’t matter if the color is last season or it’s not part of a trend. What matters is that the item does the job.

So ignore the corporate shills telling you to buy their new stuff and throw your old stuff away and the minimalists who agree with them.

Their goal isn’t to help you. Their goal is to line their own pockets with your cash.

For more quick money saving tips, check out my book 400 Ways to Save A Fortune. Your wallet will thank you.

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.

The Art of Recovering from Disaster

A friend’s house caught fire over this past summer. He was at work. By the time the firemen departed, the house and its contents were destroyed. My friend was gutted. He’d not only lost everything he owned, he’d lost his trusted companion, a pet he’d had for almost a decade.

He took some time to grieve and then started the process of recovery. He rented a new place and began anew.

We can all learn from my friend. While disasters take different shapes and forms, the sense of pain from the loss is the same. With the right mindset, we can turn that loss into an opportunity to recreate ourselves from the ashes.

I started that process yesterday. By releasing the burden I’ve hidden for almost a year, I wiped the slate clean.

I had a good cry and then asked myself “what do I do now?” I found the answer in my friend.

It’s time to pick my butt off the floor and start over.

I knew that this was coming. I fought against it. I tried every trick I knew to how to try in an attempt to avoid my reality. I didn’t want to sacrifice the beliefs I’d held for a lifetime. I didn’t want to surrender to the madness. But ultimately I am a survivor, so I refuse to let what I learned defeat me.

I have no power to change the world. I have no power, no authority to do any damn thing but eat and shit and die.

I can work with that.

You see, I may not be able to change this world but I can change myself. I may not be able to change this world but I can control the choices I make and the things I do. I may not be able to change the world but I can go into the long night content with the knowledge that I did what I could.

“If you find yourself confronting an unjust and corrupt system, it is much more effective to learn its codes from the inside and discover its vulnerabilities. Knowing how it works, you can take it apart – for good.”

– Robert Greene, The 50th Law

I have fifty years of experience in how this world works. Corporations convince us we are lacking to persuade us to give them our money. They use the money we give them to further their own purposes; their purpose is to make the rich richer by draining the rest of us dry.

To stop that scenario is simple. To stop the corporations from draining us dry we have to remove the source of their power.

The only way to remove their power is to stop giving them money.

The milennial generation stumbled upon this truth some time ago. They stopped giving their money to support certain industries. When those industries felt the blow to their pocketbooks, they began to scream with pain. Do a search for “industries milennials have killed” if you want to read the details.

I may be old and uneducated but I’m smart enough to see from the evidence that the process works. I’m humble enough to learn from their experience so I have chosen to follow their example. I may not be able to execute it perfectly but if I can arrange to give the monsters less, I can help starve them out in some small way.

I’ve already began that process. Instead of following their instructions to buy new clothing, I have chosen to use what I already own until it falls apart. Instead of following their instructions to discard the excess clothing I have thanks to the little washer I own, I placed the items in a box for future use.

The longer I can go without buying clothing, the less I will feed the monsters. Even better, there will be less clothing entering our landfills. That is a wonderful bonus.

For far too long I’ve fallen for the lie that I needed to look and dress a certain way. The only reason they want us to look and dress in a certain way is because it makes them richer. In the end, as long as we’re clean and our bits are covered, the details only matter to them.

We have a surplus of clothing in our thrift shops. We have tons of clothes rotting in landfills because of their programming. I may not be able to change that reality but I can refuse to participate in it.

Is there a way you can stop feeding the monsters? Please share your stories in the comments below.

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

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:

Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

The Sock Rebellion

I cannot remember the last time I purchased socks. One day I realized that I owned far too many pairs and decided not to purchase any more until the ones I owned wore out.

It is finally starting to happen.

This morning I grabbed a pair out of my bin to discover that both socks contained holes. As I examined them I realized that I could read my computer screen through the heel of the pair.

It is finally time to let them go.

It is amazing to think that I’ve owned a pair of socks for close to a decade. If a pair of cheap socks will last that long, why do we so frequently purchase new?

More importantly, what else are we discarding before it reaches the true end of its life?

This makes me wonder just how long it will be before I wear out the clothes I currently own. In the months since I placed a moratorium on clothing acquisitions, my wardrobe has barely budged.

How much of what we’ve been spending on clothes has been a waste of money? I mean, if a pair of socks can last a decade, how long will a tee-shirt or a pair of jeans hold up if we resist the urge to replace them?

Heck, I’ve got a zip-up hoodie here that I purchased back in the early 2000’s and it’s still going strong.

So why are we still buying clothes if our closets are overflowing and the ones we already own are still functional?

It’s definitely something to think about.

What’s the oldest item of clothing that you own and still wear? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Out With the Old

One of the traits I share with the wealthy is the fact that I like to wear things completely out before I discard them. I see no point in buying new when what I already own continues to serve its purpose.

Occasionally I allow myself to go beyond standard thrift and wear things well beyond their usable lifespan. I become comfortable with an item since I’ve owned it for so long and find it hard to actually let go. I am really bad when it comes to shoes; once they are broken in they become like old friends as they come along on my travels.

Three of my very favorite shoes have been screaming for retirement now for several months. While still extremely comfortable, the soles were giving out. A pair of favorite flip-flops even lost their bottom layer, yet I continued wearing them around the house, refusing to surrender to the inevitable.

Both of my daughters had passed on a number of pairs that could have easily replaced them but I still held on, even while occasionally tripping on the flaps that used to be sealed to the bottoms.

It is time I stopped doing this. I might not have a lot of money but I do have self-respect. It makes no sense to wear rags when I have other shoes to meet my needs. When I made the decision late last night I scooped up the first of the three pairs and tossed them in the trash. I dug out the remaining two pairs for one last photo before discarding them this morning.

I feel a sense of sadness as I move on today. That’s okay. It’s perfectly normal to feel a sense of loss but time moves forward and so do we. I will take comfort in the fact that I have nicer shoes to wear; shoes that are much more presentable than the ratty ones I discarded. I will also take comfort in the fact that I wore them completely out before I tossed them away. Bit by bit as time moves on I will slowly upgrade my wardrobe by attrition, saying farewell to the old me who wears rags as I dress a bit neater going forward.

Unlike in the past, I am not going to go crazy by tossing perfectly functional items as I follow some trend or whimsically decide I want to change my look. I will allow this progression to happen over time so the changes will be permanent while saving money as well.

Do you have anything around your home that has outlived its usefulness? Why not toss it out today and share your story in the comments below? That way we can celebrate together.

The Difference a Shirt Can Make

One of the hangups I have with my goal is the fact that I cannot conceive of possessing a lot of money. The thought of spending or gaining a lot of money makes me choke.

That’s what happens when you’ve always been poor.

And that’s okay. I’m aware of my limitation. The burning question is how do I overcome it?

My daughter helped me come up with a solution. She loves to visit the new stores that are opening in our town so one day when we were both off from work she suggested that we grab a bite to eat at a local restaurant and look around.

I felt my pulse quicken as soon as we stepped into the very first shop. It was a boutique; every single piece of clothing in there made me quail when I looked at the price tag. How could people afford to pay so much? I thought as I looked around.

That was when it hit me. I could afford clothing like that as well. If I applied minimalism to my purchases and treated them well, the items would last for quite a long while. Just a couple of shirts, combined with a few little trinkets, would give my wardrobe a completely new look.

Even better, they would make me feel wealthy.

I noticed my mindset shifting as I admired the items on display. I could feel the difference in how the fabric played upon my skin. A far cry from the handmedown tee shirts that I’m accustomed to wearing, the items felt luxurious as they started speaking to me.

They told a story of wealth, of success. Of looking like the person I want to become. What would be the harm in saving up for a shirt, I asked myself as I began to admire them. As I looked, I discarded the trendy items in favor of more classical ones.

I checked out the prices on the pieces that would look tasteful regardless of the year or the season.

I imagined what I would look like wearing them as I walked down the street or worked on this website.

I reminded myself of the stories I’d read about paupers who saved up for nice wardrobes and used them as a tool to make the right connections.

I could do this. I could save up the money to buy the occasional shirt, I realized.

I remembered reading in the Napoleon Hill book The Law of Success about how upgrading one’s wardrobe could improve your whole outlook on life. Looking successful attracts success.

I wanted to look successful.

I calculated my budget in my head; I couldn’t afford to buy one right then. Maybe next month, I thought as I moved to place the shirt back on the rack.

“What are you looking at?” my daughter asked as she browsed nearby.

I showed her the shirt. “I’m going to see if I can buy it next month,” I shared. “Do you think it suits me?”

“Yeah, I do.” She plucked the item out of my hand and examined it. “It goes well with your skin tone,” she remarked.

The conversation moved on to the items she planned to purchase. She wanted a new outfit for when she went to attend her fiancee’s graduation from BASIC training and had selected a few to choose from.

I helped her make a decision. As she headed up to the counter, I noticed that she still had the shirt I’d admired in her arms.

“You forgot to put the shirt back,” I pointed out helpfully.

“No, I didn’t,” she replied.

To my absolute shock, she bought the shirt for me.

“Why did you buy me the shirt?” I asked as soon as we left the store. “You didn’t have to; I was thinking of saving up for it.”

My daughter smiled. “Remember all of those times when I was a kid when you put back stuff to buy things for me? This is my way of saying thank you. You gave up a lot to spend time with me and I wanted to show you that I appreciate it.”

I blinked back tears as we continued down the street.

I wear that shirt with pride now. Every time I don it I feel wealthy. I carry my silver round in my pocket, hold up my head, and tell myself that I am a success.

Since that day my daughter has gifted me with even more trinkets. She’d noticed the silver I carry and decided to add more to my collection.

First, it was a pair of earrings.

Next, she surprised me with a silver Yggdrasil pendant since the founding father of my mother’s family had been discovered as a baby beneath an ash tree. She even purchased a small container of pure silver to add to my collection.

I’ve added a couple of trinkets to my collection as well. I found a vintage ring on eBay some time back and today I allowed myself to splurge on an inexpensive bracelet that matches the pendant my daughter gave me. It’s not silver but it makes me feel wealthy just the same.

To my surprise, people treat me differently when I’m wearing that shirt around town. I can’t put my finger on it but it’s like they treat me with more respect now. Instead of dismissing me even the waitresses seem more attentive.

They actually seem happy when I walk in the door.

It puzzled me at first until a friend helped me realize the difference when I saw him walking through town. I waved but my friend didn’t respond.

Thinking that he hadn’t seen me I approached him for a hug. It’s been a tradition in the years that we’ve known each other to always say hello.

“Oh, wow, I didn’t recognize you!” he gushed as he wrapped his arms around me. “You look like a completely different person.”

Come to find out he’d noticed my wave but had been certain that it hadn’t been directed at him. He’d never seen me “dressed up,” so he hadn’t even realized it was me.

Clothing can make a difference. Just a simple shirt completely changed how I am perceived as I walk through town.

I am going to play with this as I move forward. I intend to look through my wardrobe and select dressier items to wear before going out in public. I’m curious to see what will happen.

Have you ever noticed a change in how people treat you based on the clothing you wear in public? Please share your stories in the comments below.



I have a confession to make. With the exception of my panties, every single piece of clothing that I am currently wearing was either gifted to me secondhand or thrifted.

My tee shirt was a handmedown from my daughter Katie when she became sick of it. The button-down shirt I’ve layered on top of it was purchased at the local clothing closet during one of their sales, where you can purchase a whole bag of clothing for a dollar. I bought the jeans I’m wearing at the same time as the shirt. My flip flops were originally gifted to my youngest from my middle daughter then later passed down to me.

You wouldn’t know it if you passed me on the street. I am clean and everything is in good condition. While I may not be dressed in the fanciest items, that is by choice and not by necessity. You can get some really fancy clothes at a thrift shop if you know how to look. In fact, I have a leather jacket that looked practically brand new when I stuffed it in my bag at the same sale where I purchased my jeans and the button-down top, which means I paid less than a dollar for it.

Of course, companies don’t like it when you do this. They want you to spend your hard-earned cash buying new stuff. They’re even selling clothing that looks ragged and filthy for hundreds of dollars these days, clothing that looks so nasty that I wouldn’t be caught dead in it unless I had spent the day digging a ditch!

So before you visit your local mall I urge you to hit the yard sales and thrift shops in your area. Instead of buying new I encourage you to look through your closet and use something you own already.

And above all, I urge you to stop spending cash to buy something you don’t absolutely need.

Where did you acquire the clothing you are currently wearing? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Drying Clothes on the Cheap

Last night I decided to wash towels despite the fact that it was storming outside.  I ran a line in my hallway where the previous occupant had placed one, hanging them in a double line along the hall.

When I awoke this morning it was to discover dry towels neatly hanging in my hallway! I was so pleased to discover that they dried so well!

I will continue with this—if they routinely dry so well I may eliminate the dryer entirely from my life and reclaim that space! I could take that few dollars from selling that dryer and put it in a savings account that draws interest or something, which would be better than having a dryer that sucks down energy like a kid chugs soft drinks…

Laundry Day

It is a bright sun-shiny day today, so I decided to do laundry and hang out my first wash of the season. It has been very rainy so far this year and frankly I’ve not been as attuned to the sunshine as I should have been, for I have missed a couple of really pretty washing days but such is life.

Thanks to the almost unceasing rain it is still very muddy and wet where the pre-existing clothesline is situated.  Honestly, that line has seen better days so we hung out a load of colors around the worst of the wet places to preserve our feet then went out in search of a replacement clothesline to place in a dryer spot of the yard.

Alas, I do believe every store in Paducah has chosen to rearrange it’s inventory—it took several times as long as it should have to purchase ammonia, clothespins and a line.  Dollar Store was out of clothes pins after a lengthy search through their chaos so we had to go to Wal Mart and deal with their remodeling frenzy. 

We got what we needed as well as a couple of groceries for meals next week and finally escaped to come home.  Instead of a traditional clothesline, I purchased a nylon rope that is rated to hold 75 pounds instead.  Not only was it several cents cheaper, it was designed in a more durable fashion and the regular clothesline was only rated to hold 24 pounds in comparison.  Wet jeans and sweats weigh an obscene amount, so I am in hopes that this new line will reduce sagging in the middle.

I got my electric bill yesterday.  It has dropped to $85.59, which is significant decrease compared to last month’s $124.41.  These past couple of warmer weeks I have been leaving the furnace turned off and just using a small kerosene heater in the kitchen when we get chilly to help reduce the billed expenses.

For the rest of this month and the warm season I plan to only do laundry on sunny days and hang them out to save on the electric bill. I read somewhere that every load of laundry dried in an electric dryer costs at least $0.75 to dry in electric usage alone.  Heavy items and full loads seem to take longer to dry than the auto-sense selection allows them in my dryer, so I’m estimating that to be double on occasion in my particular machine. 

K has not owned a dryer for a couple of years, and states that she only misses it when she wants to wash a large amount of clothing in winter, because of the time and space it takes to dry indoors.

The previous occupant of this mobile home used an indoor clothesline for his clothes in inclement weather. He had the line stretched along the length of the hallway and just left it there year-round, using it primarily in bad weather.  It wasn’t very obvious when there were no clothes hanging on it, but would be a bit of an eyesore if company came, so I removed it when I moved in.  With utility bills what they are I wonder if I should rethink the situation. What would you think about using an indoor clothesline to dry in inclement weather? Would the money savings be worth the detraction in looks on laundry day? A box fan could be used to dry the items faster, costing much less than running the dryer would….

The whites have reached the final spin, so time to wrap up and get back to work! I hope all of you have a wonderful day!

Corraling the Closet

I did it:  I managed to reduce the amount of clothing I possess to just enough to be contained in a single side of the closet!

Hooray!  No more clothes hangers draped off of the shelves!

I turned the hangers around backwards to better determine what I actually wear and what I don’t of the remaining clothing.  By this time next year (I don’t store out-of season clothing–it must all fit in the closet) I will know what I have used and what I have not.  What I have not is leaving, period.

The only things that I do not currently hang in the closet are pants, shorts and coats.  I hope to thin down my wardrobe where I can hang even these items there to simplify my clothing storage needs.

My sister is getting first crack at the closet gleanings before they get shipped to Auntie’s house for distribution among family and friends.  I’m not sure how much she will keep out of the pile.

Oh, yes–and I lost a pair of shoes today.  My cheap generic Crocs–the ones I slummed around the house in.  After three(?) years of heavy use they finally died.  Not bad for a $4 pair of shoes, especially considering the abuse I put them through!  Now I debate whether or not to replace them.  Since warm weather will be here soon I am thinking that I can make do with the sandals that I have though none of them will work with socks.  Those things were horribly ugly, but so handy, comfortable and inexpensive!

I also have the dressier clogs I purchased the other day, but the heel is a bit on the high side for tromping around the house and yard… Time to dig through my box of shoes to see how to make-do….