Walk in your shoes not mine…
But you can walk in my path…
I guess the reason doesn’t matter as everyone’s life is different. The important part is that you want to make the change to a more simpler life and change doesn’t happen over night it happens in baby steps.
Baby steps are easy to make. If you don’t like the change and it isn’t working for you step back just a little and try another step or maybe the same step a bit different. It’s important to remember it’s not only the steps but the learning along the way. I am sure you will find even better ways to make the changes in your life than I do.
These suggestions are basic and are MEANT to be adapted to fit your life. Following the plan built by someone else will work for awhile but eventually you will become less enchanted with it and slowly slip back to what you know even if it isn’t working, it fit you, and that is where the comfort is.
Simple living isn’t an ending point, and you aren’t going to achieve it until you define it for yourself. It’s also taking into account what you are willing to live with and without. Only you know that answer. Here are some of the things I do here or what others I know do that work for them.
- Talk and communicate
If you have a partner go get them, have them sit and help you. Decide together and make the commitment together, this is going to be part of their journey too. Both of you will need to agree on the goals. You might be able to work on them independently but will need to know what the other is doing.
- Figure out where you are
It doesn’t make any sense to start a journey if you don’t know where you are starting from. Gather all your bills, find out exactly what you owe and to who, and for how long. Write it all down.
Figure out what exactly your income is. Do you work a full time job, do side jobs, trade or barter? Do you have any loans out that are being paid to you? Do you have things you have been planning on selling?
This next part is going to take at least one month. TRACK YOUR SPENDING, every time you spend ANY money write it down. At the end of the month look it over and make changes to reduce your spending.
What are your goals for the next month. the next 6 months, year, 5 years. Write them down.
If your goal is to build a storage pantry, take inventory and come up with a plan to fill it without dipping into your savings or cutting other parts of your budget short.
Simple living is also living simple.
- Make your plan
Next make a plan to meet these goals. For example if your plan is to reduce your spending. Figure out how to do that by looking at your spending list you made. Also know what you are going to do with that saved money. Save it or maybe build that chicken coop you want.
Do you need to buy that coffee at work and the morning muffin from the donut shop? Probably not, what if you made your own muffins and brought your own coffee. What if you brought that extra coffee maker to work and your own supplies to make coffee while at work. Pack a lunch. Most recipes for making muffins only take about 30 minutes from start to clean up and ther freeze well.
Did you really need that pair of shoes even if they were on sale. Were there other options, could you have used a pair you already have? Could you have swapped with a friend? Did you check the thrift stores?
Do you have to have every cable/satellite channel offered to you? Go back to the basic, rent movies from the library, borrow from Friends. Ask your friend’s family to record your favorite show for you.
Do you have to have the cell phone plan you have or is there a better option. A basic plan without all the extras is very affordable these days. I’m not going to tell you to give it up, but reduce the cost of it. Maybe it’s as simple as turning off the texting option.
- Cut back on your cost of food
I’m not telling you to only eat boxed mac & cheese. But buy basic ingredients and cook from scratch. I don’t mean packets of this or that. Buy milk, flour, noodles, herbs, spices. Find some basic recipes with basic ingredients and learn to cook. Once you get the hang of it and stock your pantry a bit look for more elaborate recipes. Cook in batches and use your freezer. Learn to can and dehydrate.
Learn to make your own sauces, noodles, bread, pancake mixes. Take control of what you are eating and be healthy. Making your own will save you money and you will never run out, with a well stocked pantry.
Are you growing anything for yourself this year? If you have never grown anything before, again start simple, grow a pot with an herb or tomato plant in it. Then try something else, expand and store your bounty.
Eat those leftovers! Cook enough for another meal and freeze it for when you are rushed this way you will skip the drive thru on you way to baseball practice.
- Grow your own veggies
You may be new to gardening so start simple and expand as you gain experience. A few simple plants to grow are beans, squash, beets, carrots, radish, lettuce and herbs.
You might not have the space for a huge garden consider growing them in pots, tubs and tucking them into the flower garden. Try raised beds in part of your lawn. Consider community gardens.
All you will need to start are a few basic supplies like a good shovel, rake and water bucket. These often can be found at yard sales and on clearance at the end of the gardening season.
Try to buy open pollinated seeds and heritage varieties. Buy organic if you can but they don’t need to be, just quality trust worthy seed. You will be able to save the seed for next year. Hybrid seeds and terminator seed will not produce viable seed and if they do in a few years may revert back to one of their parent stocks, not what you originally had.
You can save seeds and swap with friends to expand what you grow both in kind and variety of each kind. There are whole books written about seed saving and full of ideas and methods to do this.
- Cook from scratch
Basic recipes using basic ingredients from your pantry don’t have to be boring. Look around and find new recipes. Make your own mixes instead of buying store bought. Next time you make pancake, brownie, cookie mix make enough for 5 or 6 meals and store the mix in a container and when ready add the liquids and eggs. Write the recipe out and tape it to the side of the container so when you are ready you aren’t hunting around for the recipe. Change the recipe around you don’t need to make the same ones each time, add blueberries, bananas, strawberries, nuts. See what your family likes and use what you have.
Check the side bar on the right there are lots of good recipes for basic mixes posted there for you. These are the ones I use and will add more as time goes on.
Basic ingredients, flours, salt, sugar, yeast, baking cocoa and others are always going to be more cost effective than store bought pre made mixes. Buy them in bulk and store them. Don’t however buy more than you will use before the food goes bad.
Another benefit is you will control the food your family is eating and getting rid of unwanted additives, food dies, preservatives and who know what else.
- Cut back on your usage also cuts back on your dependence on someone else
Drive less and combine your trips to or around town. Ride with a friend.
Turn off the lights when you aren’t using them. Install energy efficient bulbs.
Unplug what you aren’t using-that cell phone charger, the paper shredder, small appliances. Install power strips for things like the computer center, and the TV center.
Turn back your thermostat if you are heating or turn it up a bit if you are cooling. Open and close the windows to regulate the temperature inside your home. Open and close the curtains to help.
For example here in the winter obviously I won’t open the windows but I will open the drapes in the morning to let the light in to help warm the rooms and close them at night to keep the heat in. I will also close them on very cold dark days and when it is very windy. In the summer I will open the windows at night to cool off the house and close them in the morning along with the drapes. Often if we must run the A/C and that’s only about 3 weeks a year, we will all camp out in one room and just run the one instead of one in every room. Turn on the fan, but turn them off if you aren’t home.
Track your electricity and water usage and challenge yourself to use a bit less every month. You will find other creative ways to do this over time. Call your utility company and ask them how to read your meter and keep track of it. They make mistakes too…Also ask them if they will do a home energy audit of your home and make suggestions on things you can improve on. Some local agencies will help making these energy saving changes, call around and ask.
When cooking use a bit less than the recipe calls for. A 5 lb. package of hamburger can be broken up into 6 packages each a bit under a pound each. No one will notice, and you will have found an extra package of meat. Try making meatless meals one or two nights a week.
If the recipe calls for 1 tsp of an herb, use slightly less. It doesn’t seem like much but over time the savings will add up.
Make extra you can supply from your own resources and trade with others for things that you need. Eggs, bread, sewing projects, crafts, jams, jellies are a good place to start. Check with your local small corner or country stores to see if they will be interested in buying these items from you. Maybe the farm stand would be interested, perhaps if you bought the berries from them they would buy back the jelly.
- Ditch the disposables in your life
This is not only good for your budget, but your house and the environment will thank you later. This helps cut down on the carbon emissions. Removing plastic from your everyday life will be a healthier change for you.
Buy and use rechargeable batteries. There are some great deals on solar charges a quick search on the net and you will find them. Solar is a great idea to me not only is the energy free it’s better for the environment.
Use cloth napkins and towels. You could purchase some pretty fabric and even better reuse some fabric you may have already. That cotton dress sitting in the closet from 3 years ago that doesn’t fit might work, or that older extra set of sheets.
Knit or crochet your dish cloths. If you don’t like those again consider using some of your old and worn cloth napkins. What if you can’t knit or sew yet? They are a great beginner projects that will teach you basic sewing skills. I bet you know some one who does, ask them to help you and be sure to thank them with maybe a bit of fabric for themselves or a simple sewing tool they might not have or a nice package or two of pretty buttons.
Use cloth diapers. I have seen lots offered at craft fairs recently and I’m sure there are many available on the internet. Make your own or ask someone to help you.
I recently wrote about using cloth snack bags and lunch bags to carry lunches in. The tutorial and link to the instructions can be found there. I used a simple pattern and even made my own as I went along. The fabric I had in my fabric stash, it was bought out of the clearance bin at the fabric store awhile ago.
Stop using plastic wrap, using another dish as a cover works well so does using drinking glasses and a canning jar lid. Even the canning jars themselves. If you must use plastic storage bags wash and reuse them.
Make and use cloth grocery bags and produce bags. I also bring my glass jars with me to refill them at the health food store from their bulk bins. They are simple bag patterns to make and free patterns can be found on the internet. A lot of the chain stores have jumped on the band wagon and are trying to sell their own reusable tote bags, me I wouldn’t buy them. They are made from some plastic or nylon material and have their advertising all over them. Make your own they will be prettier and you will feel better using them.
- Excercise more
Believe it or not, if you exercises you will feel better about everything. I come up with some of my more brilliant moments while walking or riding the horses. Gardening is great exercises. Park at the back of the parking lot and walk. Better yet park in the back of the lot at the other end from where the door is. Put some energy into pushing that cart back to the door after you have loaded your car. Take the stairs instead of the ramp or elevator.
- Glean what ever you can from everyone you talk to
Talk and listen to what everyone is talking about, what they are doing to cut back and give it a try. I notice handout all over the place with tips to reduce, recycle, and reuse. That is the basic of simple living when talking about saving money, resources, and stalking up.
Listen when the guy down the road is crabbing because his garden didn’t do that well. Learn from his mistakes.
Use local resources for knowledge, the county co-op, ag center, the 4-H group, pick up any handouts you see and read them. Talk to the folks at the farmer’s markets, feed store and produce stands.
- Build up your storage
Build up your food storage, start a pantry. When unexpected things happen you will have a little back up and put your food money where it might be need more urgently. This is investing in your future.
Shop from your pantry and freezer. Weekly shopping trips should be for items to restock your pantry and freezer. Maybe fresh produce you can’t produce or out of season. Take advantage of the local road side stands, farmer’s markets and co-ops, and pick your own farms.
Stock up on emergency supplies and first-aid supplies your family uses and might need. In an emergency batteries, lamp oil and water are hard to come by. It doesn’t even need to be a big emergency. The power going out for even one day makes people crazy and the store shelves are empty in no time.
- Take advantage of food in season.
Strawberry season?-buy a bunch of them. Learn to make jams, freeze some for later. Make some pie filling and can it. It’s great when zucchini is coming out every one’s ears, this can be dehydrated and used later. I put dehydrated veggies into the blender and make a powder out of it and add to my baking to replace a bit of the flour and to thicken stews. This adds some veggies to your diet and stretches your flour a bit.
See what you can trade or barter with someone who has a garden, and preserve then add to you pantry/freezer.
- Learn to sew & knit
The possibilities are endless here… from mending what you already have to creating new each season, to the lunch bag you are going to need to carry your lunch in. Kids need new toys?… make them puppets, bean bags, dolls, stuffed animals… Knit, crochet or sew those new face towels, kitchen towels, napkins, cleaning rags, overnight bags…
- Stop buying store bought cleaning supplies.
They are expensive and not good for you or your environment. Even the new so called green or environmental products. Read their labels! Make your own cleaning supplies with basic natural ingredients from your pantry.
Make and use your own laundry, hand soap and dish soap. I have posted the recipes, here, for the cleaning supplies I personally use. Hang your clothes to dry.
- Use your local library
They have books on every subject you could wish to know about, movies to rent, magazines. Save your money and borrow them.
- Make lists, schedules & a household note book
When you are organized you will have the extra time to do what is important to you. You will know when the laundry gets done, the shopping is done, the house is cleaned.
Do this for long term goals too. A seasonal to do list will help. That way when you see grass seed on sale in the fall you will know to purchase it because you have planned on seeding the side yard in the spring. You will know that little suzzie’s birthday is in a few months and the latest toy she wants is on clearance now, or better yet that the supplies you will need to make her something are in the clearance bin today.
You will know and be ready for the yearly vet bill to update the animals immunizations. You will remember that when you cleaned the gutters last fall they need repairing this spring. You will know that you had better buy those canning jars now because when it comes time they will be no where around and sold out for the year.
Keep a current list of what is in your pantry and freezer.
Make meal plans so you know what you will need for the week. I don’t do this as I shop from my pantry. My shopping has turned into weekly trips to get the sales, but my mission is to restock the pantry with items I have used in the past couple of months. Most of what I purchase is on sale and stocked well enough to last until that item goes on sale again.
All this new information and knowledge also need to be organized. Make up a notebook and keep everything in one place. Track your progress from month to month.
- Reduce the clutter in your life
Nothing is more time consuming than trying to maintaine the clutter in your home, car and life. Why spend hours cleaning, picking up or looking for something. Reduce the amount of work and keep everything in it’s place. If you don’t use it or expect to use it in the next couple of months, get rid of it. Sell it, donate it for the tax write off, give it to someone who needs it and will use it. Next time before you buy something new ask yourself if you really need it or can you do with something you already have.
- Check your accounts and receipts
Every time a bill for an account comes in, check that it is correct. You have read your electric meter so you know what the reading was last month. Do the math, make sure it’s right. Check you bank statement and balance your check book. Read your receipts right after you leave the register. Better yet ask the cashier not to start checking you out until you have emptied your cart and you can watch the scanner.
- Reduce your debts
Come up with a plan to reduce your debts. Cancel those credit cards and get them paid off. If you are going to use them, then call the company and see if they can give you a better interest rate. Choose cards that offer you something, reward points, flyer miles, cash back…
Don’t create new debts, pay cash from your budget to make your purchases.
- Reuse what you can and make do with what you have
Tired of those big heavy drapes in the living room? How about remaking them into valances for another room and using the left over for something else…a new grocery bag to take to the farmer’s market, cover and make a nice household notebook for a friend. Swap the fabric with someone.
That old lawnmower not working so well, have it repaired and the blades sharpened instead of tossing it and buying a new one.
Out of cinnamon in a recipe, try another spice instead of running to the store. (this will never happen if you are keeping your lists current and watching the sales 🙂 )
Do you really need that new flat screen tvor will the one you have work another few years?
- Take time to have fun
That may seem like a no brainer but most don’t take the time to do this. Do something for yourself every day. With all this hard work and preparing you will have time to do the fun stuff too. You will also find that what you are doing IS fun and you are investing in your future.
On your way back from picking the kids up stop at that stream and toss a line in. You may bring home a dinner and you will have spent some good time with the kids.
On your way to trade some eggs for some milk, take a different way, you might find or see something you didn’t know was there.
- Find a buddy
Talk with friends and family about what you want and are working towards. They may be interested too and you will have some one to bounce ideas off and trade with. You will also meet and find new friends like minded people tend to stick together. You may very well find a mentor.
And my favorite of all is to keep it s-i-m-p-l-e. 🙂