Over the past year few years, I’ve been drawn to minimalist living.
After 40 years of collecting stuff, I’ve realized that “stuff” takes too much maintenance. Also, because we now have a grand child, I’m surprised by all the packaging and processing that goes into baby products; extrapolate that to adult products, and we’re creating so much trash. Another factor that enlightened me is that, as a caregiver, I helped my folks downsize from a house to an ALF. We sold $1,300 worth of “stuff” on Craig’s list and through a yard sale.
Over one lifetime, we generate so much refuse and collect too many things that end up sitting on bookshelves and in bins in the garage for no one to ever look at again.
We’ve lost sight of the fact that we’re only on the planet for a short time. It’s made me want to walk out of the house and live in a tent in the back yard.
OK, not really, but kind of.
There are many “crunchy” (minimalist living, eco-friendly, natural products) bloggers for me to learn from, and one of them is Cynthia at Saving and Simplicity. She is practical and frugal. She wrote a post with great ideas on how to save, conserve, and simply be a good steward of the resources we’ve been given. I’ve adapted some of her ideas (added personal comments and tips to some of her suggestions), and added some of my own.
If minimalist living appeals to you, here are some ways to get started.
- Hang your clothes to dry. Use a clothes line in the summer and a drying rack in the winter. This is my favorite energy-conserving tip. I’ve used a clothes line for 20 years – it saves us about 20 bucks a month on the electric bill. Whoo-hoo!
- Make your own laundry soap. There are tons of recipes on line. I made dishwasher soap this weekend.
- Cut the cable. ROKU is getting a lot of attention these days. We’re in a 2 year contract for cable, but once it’s up, we’re done. UPDATE: we ditched cable 5 months ago – saving about $100 a month. ROKU, Netflix, Hulu and CBS all Access give us all we need for about $30 a month total.
- Cancel your landline telephone. Most people under 30 don’t even have a land line. UPDATE: We got rid of our land line last month.
- Unplug appliances that aren’t being used. Engaged plugs draw energy, even if you’re not currently using them.
- Do your own repairs. You can learn online how to do anything these days. In some cases, you might still need a professional, but see what you can learn/do first.
- Downsize your home as soon as you can. I’m looking at homes now for when the hubs and I can do this in a few years.
- Cut up old t-shirts and use them for cleaning rags. Been doing this for 40 years. :-). Also, take old towels/sheets to your local pet shelter; they always need them for pet baths and beds.
- Purchased used, vintage furniture instead of new furniture. Take family pieces from older relatives in your family when they’re trying to downsize, or from friends who are moving. A year ago, we got a ‘new’ sofa, by way of a friend who moved to SC.
- Weatherstrip the windows and doors. Make a smart “DRAFT DODGER” out of socks for your entry door.
- Learn to use basic household tools.
- Do your own painting. Paint is the most inexpensive way to refresh/redecorate a home.
- Use reusable grocery bags; re-purpose your plastic bags. IKEA has the BEST STORAGE DEVICE FOR PLASTIC BAGS for only $1.99! We have two – one upstairs and one downstairs.
- When you need new appliances, spend the extra bucks to buy energy-efficient ones. Think long-term.
- Install low flow toilets and shower heads. Again, when you need them.
- Re-purpose plastic food containers. LIKE THIS. AND THIS.
- Maintain all gas and wood burning fireplaces, heaters, and air conditioners. Maintenance is always less expensive than repairs/replacements.
- Re-use hand soap dispensers. I love the foam pump bottles and re-fill them by adding about 2-3 T. hand soap into the bottle, then slowly fill with water. Shake well to mix, and you’re set! This makes hand soap go three times as far.
- Replace all your light bulbs with LED bulbs. We all should have done this by now.
- If you don’t have a major tool or appliance, borrow it, or rent it instead of buying it.
- Plant fruit trees and berry bushes. Our daughter started a mango sapling from the seed.
- Eat your leftovers. I’m determined we’re going to do better on this one. There really are starving kids in the world. Try to bring a sense of gratitude to every bite you take, even if you’ve seen it before.
- Pack a bag lunch. There is no reason not to do this, even if you only pack a few times a week. It can be as easy as packing the leftovers from dinner. Here are 40+ IDEAS FOR PACKED LUNCHES.
- Grow a garden. Even an herb garden can save you money.
- Cook from scratch. This takes time, but it’s the convenience eating that’s making us unhealthy and fat. I’ve learned this the hard way.
- Make a grocery list and stick to it. Design your list to replicate the layout of your store. Here’s our GROCERY LIST download.
- Compost your food waste.
- Shop local produce markets. Grocery store produce has been shipped in from somewhere. Local produce entails less gas and transportation expenses.
- Buy in bulk. Especially paper products, which can be stored for long periods.
- Make your own condiments. I made KETCHUP AND MAYO this week.
- Invest in a good slow cooker. Slowly braised meats/chicken are the most tender anyway.
- Buy cheaper cuts of meat, or opt for meatless meals. Cheaper cuts of beef slow-braised on the stove top (or slow cooker) are as tender as select cuts. I always braise beef for fork-tender results.
- Drink more water. Two ways to dress it up: Fill a pitcher with water for the ‘fridge and drop in citrus slices, cucumbers, strawberries for INFUSED WATER. Make SUN TEA by placing the desired number of tea bags in a large, glass jar with a lid. Set it outside in the sun in the morning. Depending on the type tea bags used (black, green, herbal, etc) you will have fresh tea in a 1-4 hours. And you didn’t have to turn on the stove! Just add ice. My daughter gave me this sun tea jar for Mother’s Day.
- Give up sodas. In recent years, diet soda has been found to have many NEGATIVE HEALTH EFFECTS. (It’s as corrosive to tooth enamel as battery acid. Ouch.)
- MAKE YOUR OWN BONE BROTH. (Store-brands are full of salt.) It’s so easy and cheap! This link has an excellent, comprehensive piece on bone broth, and the recipe at the end is so easy. I’ve not purchased broth since I learned how to make it.
- Save your coins in a jar. We’ve always done this, and when we cash it in, we donate the $50-70 bucks to a good, local cause.
- Sell stuff you don’t use – or donate! I keep a paper bag in the garage and put things in it all month long. When it’s full, I take it to the thrift shop and place a new bag in the garage to start over. Our DIL recently organized her house and is donating bags and boxes of reusable items.
- Be creative with inexpensive dates. Plan a potluck meal with other couples, go to church sans kids and then coffee afterwards, plan a garage sale tour through your area, volunteer, have a bubble bath with candlelight and wine.
- Use public transportation.
- Buy used clothing instead of new, especially for kids. ONCE UPON A CHILD is a fabulous second-hand store! Kids grow so fast, don’t buy new stuff with every growth spurt.
- Use coupons! HERE’S MY COUPON STORY/INSIGHT.
- Plan a NO SPEND weekend.
- Don’t wait until the last-minute with anything – repairs, groceries, planning, etc. Procrastination will cost you money.
- Take in free kids classes at your local craft stores, hardware stores and library. Home Depot has a kids’ workshop every month.
- Opt for sweaters, slippers and blankets before turning up the heat.
- DIY your gifts. I have found people love something you’ve created yourself. I know DIY gifts are my favorite to receive. Here are two of my favorite gifts to make, using re-purposed items: ARM CHAIR CADDY, and FLOWER POT CANDY DISH.
- Don’t buy wrapping paper. Brown paper bags make gifts creative and rustic. Save last year’s holiday cards and re-use for decorative gift toppers.
- Floss. Receding gums and loose teeth result in thousands of dollars in dental work later on. Think long-term.
- Learn to say no.
- Don’t compare your possessions (or lack thereof)/resources to others. It doesn’t matter what others are doing. They’re not living your life.
You might already be doing some or most of these things. If not, choose five to start with and work from there. The more you do, the better you feel. 🙂