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
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
Organization

Making Changes

Life has been a whirlwind since I made the conscious decision to stay in this little house. The past seven years had been a holding pattern so I hadn’t invested much of anything into making this house look more like a home. There wasn’t any point in spending the money if I was planning to move, after all.

Along with the changes my old friend fear has raised its ugly head. Every single time I purchase something it rises, screaming at me to stop. What if you spend too much money? You’ll be broke! and What if you decide to move after all or get flooded there? All of the money you spend will be wasted!

I’m dealing with it. There is no point in shoving it to the side or burying it deep. I have to own it in order to move on. I’ve made the decision to live here, period. At most I’ll end up moving perhaps one or two more times for the rest of my lifespan; there is no sense in doing without the things I love and miss if I can afford them.

The first major task was to reorganize my computer area. It took up far too much space in my living room for the amount of storage it provided. I searched long and hard for a computer desk, one that would serve my small-space needs and be durable enough to last the rest of my life.

That was a bust. The commercially-available computer desks were either made of cheap composite wood that would fail in a few years or die miserably in a flood. The metal options had glass tops that would not hold up to long-term abuse…or my rambunctious grandson.

I decided to get creative. I located a wire metal pull-out shelf that could be mounted on my current wire shelf for sixty dollars and went to work. I pulled everything off of my gigantic shelf, rearranged the shelves, and converted it into a computer desk.

It’s absolutely perfect. My CPU is close at hand but out of danger and I now have space for my router and those annoying piles of paper that I allow to build up until I get around to scanning them for permanent storage.

Even better, I can shove my keyboard and mouse out of the way when I want to write something by hand.

Once that was complete I ordered a corner shelf to make up for the lost storage space. I made a mistake with that one; instead of ordering the heavy-duty NSF shelf that I intended I accidentally ordered a lighter-duty version of the shelf I wanted. It works but it doesn’t match up exactly and definitely doesn’t hold as much weight as I like. Since it was my mistake, I plan to use it until it dies and replace it with the shelf I originally intended to purchase. I see no point in returning something I ordered when it was my fault for not paying attention.

The kid decided she wanted a larger bed so we decided to save a bit of money in that area as well. Instead of the kid buying a full-size bed we just swapped out the sofa sleeper in the living room for her twin-sized bed. She gets to have a larger bed, and I get something new to sleep on. I placed one of my shelves at the head of it and plan to use it as a makeshift daybed/chaise lounge. In time I’ll locate some of those pillows that support you while you sit on a bed, but that will be farther down the road. In the meantime the kid gave me a few of her extra pillows since she has quite a collection. I pile them behind me when I want to sit up and read.

new bed

I’m rather exhausted at all of the changes so I’m currently taking a break. I’ve yet to clear off the table that I had used as a desk for many months. Since the table is smaller than the big plastic table on my front porch I gave the big table away so that I can shift the smaller table out there.

It will be nice to have more space on the front porch.

I’ve one more major purchase that I plan to make in upcoming weeks. I’m going to invest in one more shelf to hold the library of books I am rebuilding. I’ve missed my library so by golly I’m getting it back. I can’t count how many times I’ve kicked myself for eliminating it when when I minimized my possessions. While it made sense at the time (I moved six times in four years, after all) I miss it terribly. Ebooks and Internet sources cannot compete against just pulling a book off of a shelf to look up a word or reference something you’ve read in the past for this old-school girl. While I intend to limit my library to what I can comfortably store in the space I will assign to it, I’m getting it back. Period.

I’m including some pictures on this post to show my current progress. I am so thankful that this place is finally shaping up. I’ll be glad when I finsh with the big purchases, however. Despite the fact that I’m buying for long-term use, I really hate spending the money.

What changes have you made in your home lately? Please share your stories in the commenbs below.

Categories
Finances Frugality Organization

Moratorium

Everyone’s needs change over time. You may slow down or stop using an item, or you may start to use something else instead. It’s just a part of life.

For instance, I was a big fan of pencil and paper. I not only write copious lists, I also composed my book/blog drafts and kept a journal in paper format. To save money I stocked up on pencils and notebooks the other year when I caught them on sale.

Since then my needs have changed. My journals are now stored electronically, written in plain text format and stashed on my computer. I save photos, scanned papers, and other relevant items in an annual folder with the file names sorted by date. While I still use pencil and paper for my lists, my usage of these items has went down drastically.

While I’m delighted at the lower cost of maintaining electronic records, the change in my habits left me with a small stockpile of pencils, pens, and notebooks. Instead of having a year’s supply on hand as per my plan, I have a tote of supplies now that won’t get used up for several years.

Since the items will get used eventually it doesn’t make financial sense to eliminate them. In fact, I’m sure my daughter and grandchildren will make a dent in them over time even if I don’t. Even so, it would be stupid for me to add to my stockpile this year. A stockpile is only worth the time and expense when it actually gets used in a reasonable amount of time.

As a result I have now instituted a spending moratorium on certain office supplies. No more paper, pencils, or similar items will be purchased until we use up what we have.

Period.

It doesn’t matter if we stumble upon a cute little notebook with a funny little saying or a crazy-cheap sale during Back To School Season. I refuse to buy what I don’t actually need.

Spending moratoriums can apply to all areas of your life. If you have a sizeable collection of books, music, movies, video games, or whatnot that you haven’t used, it makes sense not to purchase any more until you’ve actually enjoyed what you already have.

If you have food in your pantry that is in danger of going bad, don’t buy more until you use it up.

If your closet is overflowing, stop buying more clothes!

That’s why we stay broke, folks. We spend money on crap we don’t need when we have more than enough already. It’s one thing to stock up on stuff we need and actually use, but when it gets to the point where we have more on hand than we can use up in a reasonable amount of time, we need to stop.

Buying for the sake of buying is stupid.

What areas of your life do you need to impose a moratorium on? Please share your stories in the comments below.