Categories
Minimalism Simplicity

How to Find Out What’s Essential to You

Beep! Beep! Beep! The alarm from the water treatment plant nearby alerted me that the river was up again.

I know my days are numbered here. While flood waters have only entered this house once in the past, eventually it will happen again. I have already seen them lick the bottom of my floor joices. I would be foolish if I believed the waters will never go higher.

When I first moved here I dealt with the inevitable future by playing the scenario out in my head: if I ever had to wade out, what is the absolute minimum I would want to save? I’ve grown lax in that practice so it is time to start again.

I believe that all of us should keep that scenario in our head. It allows us to focus in a time of crisis. No matter how safe we believe that we are, things can happen that are beyond our control. It always pays to be prepared.

As I lay in bed I asked myself that question. I wouldn’t leave until I absolutely had to but when that time comes, I will only have one chance, one load that I can haul out of here. What would I choose among the things I’ve collected over the years?

To my surprise, the answer was easy. I’d grab my laptops, my backup discs, my birth certificate, essential other identification papers, and a change of clothing. The pets would wade out with me so I would not have to carry them. The kid is old enough and wise enough to make her own selections. One large duffel, if that, would be sufficient to hold the bare essentials.

All of the rest I could let go.

I wouldn’t worry about saving the photos of my parents. I’ve scanned them into my computer over the years so I have digital copies. The books can be replaced. Clothes can be replaced even easier; as long as I’m covered I don’t really care about what I wear anyway. I’ve even got scanned copies of my essential paperwork–though I wouldn’t want to trust my future on scanned copies.

As long as I had my digital files (and a computer to access them), I know I would be okay. I may miss the individual physical items like the pictures but the loss wouldn’t be complete. And of all the things I possess, my computers would be the most difficult to replace–especially if I were flat broke. The files would be almost impossible.

Now that I know what is essential to me I can arrange things in advance. The older computers and backups can be stored in a bag for a quick getaway. As for the rest, I know that I can pare it down or not depending upon my mood.

As we march along this new year with talk of World War III on the news, it pays to know the absolute minimum you would need to take with you if you ever had to start over. One never knows when a war or a natural disaster will force you to abandon everything.

Today I urge you to ask yourself: if you had to abandon your home right now, what would you take with you not including your pets or your family? If you had time to carry out a single bag, what would that bag contain?

Please share your selections 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:

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

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Finances self-improvement

Operation: Katie

Yesterday morning I was awakened at 8am by the phone. Katie had finished the train part of her journey and wanted to call while she awaited her first bus.

She shared with me how she’d decided not to spend the money on a taxi in Chicago; she had gotten turned around and had to ask for help to reach the train station as a result.

Of all times for that child to develop my cheapskate tendencies, it just had to be while she was wandering around Chicago on a fractured leg!

Anxious about her arrival, I puttered around the house, keeping busy. I ordered Katie a pair of crutches (doctor’s orders), did laundry, cleaned on my house, and even made the stock purchase I’d planned to make this week.

I was so distracted at the thought of Katie coming home it barely registered. I didn’t realize until much later that I hadn’t even stopped to savor that tiny step taken towards my financial freedom.

My friend Kes came over in the afternoon and we spent an hour or so painting a large Welcome Home sign. Once that was completed, she went back to her house around the corner to finish preparing for the trip while I took a brief nap.

At 6pm Katie called from the bus station in Louisville, Ky. When I asked what time her bus left for Lexington she looked at her ticket and reported that the bus was scheduled to leave at 5:50pm.

I frowned, then realized that there was most likely a time zone difference between us. “Just in case, will you check and see with the clerk what time your bus leaves?” I requested.

Five minutes later she called me back. “I missed my bus,” she reported sadly. “It was pulling out just as my bus was arriving since mine was a bit late. Can you pick me up from here?”

My friend and I dropped everything and headed out.

We were 54 minutes away from the bus station when traffic on I64 came to a complete halt. An accident ahead of us had completely stopped traffic.

This mom transformed into a basket case after I called the bus station numerous times and could NOT get anyone there to pick up the phone so that I could get a message to her. I even tried to call the payphone back that she’d called me from with no success.

“My baby is alone in Louisville, stuck at a bus station with a broken leg!” I wailed numerous times. “She doesn’t have her phone, and I have no way of letting her know what’s going on! She’s scared, I know she’s scared. They may have closed the bus station for the night and kicked her out in the cold on the streets where there’s criminals and everything!”

I was more than a bit annoying during that hour or so we were stuck in traffic but my mother’s instincts were in full swing. I would have gotten out of that truck and started walking if I’d thought it would get me there any faster.

My friend’s old Ford was running on fumes by the time they cleared the traffic jam. We rushed to a gas station, topped it off (it only takes about $10 worth of gas at a time due to an issue with the fuel tank), and took off again.

We arrived at the bus station around 11:00 pm.

“Katie!” I raced into that bus station, holding the little sign I’d printed up as my friend waited in the truck. Considering the neighborhood she was afraid to leave it alone.

Katie stood up and began limping to meet me part-way. We fell into each other’s arms sobbing as I explained what had happened.

We had to do a round of “thank-yous” to the wonderful travelers who had kept my baby company while she had waited for me to arrive.

One gentleman in particular, a man who was traveling cross-country to see what he could do to help his own daughter out of a bit of trouble stands out in my mind. That poor man took time away from his own problems to comfort my Katie, enough so that she spoke with him for several moments in gratitude before we left.

I didn’t catch your name, but your face will be forever engraved in my mind. Thank you so much for looking out for my little girl.

We stopped for food and fuel at the Hurstbourne Parkway exit. We saw a Steak and Shake and pulled in.

Leo the waiter greeted us with open arms. He seated us, took our orders, and was incredibly nice and helpful.

Shortly after our food arrived I looked out the window to see patrons tugging at the door. It had been locked. Had we committed the Cardinal Sin of visiting a restaurant only minutes before close?  I sweated.

I nervously stood up and approached Leo.

“Oh honey, you’re fine!” he reassured us. “The dining room closes at midnight but I’ve still got my cleaning to do so you take your time; I can tell you’re exhausted!”

We watched him hum and sing as he did his work; his cheerfulness helped ease the stress of the evening. I made sure we left him a generous tip to thank him for his kindness along with a brief note to let him know just how much his treatment of us meant before we drove away.

If you are ever around the Steak and Shake on 2717 Hurstbourne Parkway in Louisville, KY, I highly recommend you stop in for a bite.

And please say hi to Leo for me.

We arrived home around 2:40am completely exhausted. I was asleep before my head hit the pillow!

I cannot thank my best friend enough for having my back last night, so here’s a shout-out:

You are awesome, Kes!

A Tale of Gratitude

I have no idea how much money I spent last night. To my immense gratitude, I had more than enough.

This is why I’m doing this. This is why I am busting my ass, scrimping and saving as I invest my pennies. Just a few short years ago this adventure would have ruined my finances. Just a few short years ago I would have been nervously counting every penny, praying that I had enough to make the trip.

But I don’t have to do that now.

While I can’t afford to do this often, the fact that I was able to spend freely during the chaos of last night is proof positive that I am heading in the right direction.

It is proof that living cheaply has its limits; there is absolutely no benefit to cutting your expenses unless you actually keep the money that you saved. Until you learn how to make your money work for you frugality is pointless because all you will end up doing is lingering at the bottom of the Food Chain.

Unless you learn to invest the money that you saved you will never be able to achieve true peace of mind.

I am so very thankful that I finally figured it out. I am so grateful that I decided to leave my comfort zone of poverty and start heading in the opposite direction.

And this should be a lesson to you. If an old woman with a high-school education who brings in less than $700 a month can not only manage to invest over $2,000 in under a year and build up her emergency fund to the point where she can safely afford to spend her way through a crisis, you can too.

Don’t ever let them tell you that you can’t.