Category Archives: Simple Living

Children’s Books Featuring Simple Living

Here at Striving Stewardess, we talk a great deal about books for adults that feature simple living, minimalism, financial knowledge, and even books on chickens.

We haven’t really discussed books that are good reads for kids that encourage these ideas (though I haven’t yet learned of a good chicken book for kids!), but that does not mean such books do not exist!  Quite the contrary, children’s books that feature topics such as simple living are numerous, and serve as a great teaching tool for the littles in your life.  Here are a few to start with:

511mhgnbxwl-_sx367_bo1204203200_The American Girl Series/Anne of Green Gables/Little House books. Although each of these are a very different book series, all three encompass the “historical fiction” genre, and discuss encounters with simple living, minimalism, and even thrift.  I first became acquainted with the “Kirsten” character from American Girls as a first grader, and came to love the simple life lessons found in each book of the series.  Anne and Little House soon followed.  These would probably be best suited for those in elementary school, or older (as in the case of the Anne of Green Gables series).

51ugghaxdal-_sx370_bo1204203200_The Clown of God.  In this retelling of an old legend, Tomie dePaola reaches out to the picture book crowd, helping to teach youngsters that what matters are the gifts of yourself and your talents, not the fancier, earthly things.  This books seems especially well-suited for preschool age children and older.  Our son loves the illustrations in this book, and I love the religious undertones of the story as well.

The Bible (and many other religious texts).  I find it interesting that the common theme found among many religious books is the theme of simplicity (Jesus encouraging the rich man to give away his possessions, for starters). The great thing about books of faith is that there are different ways to present the material, from children’s Bibles, to religious instruction, that can be presented in an age-appropriate way.

I would love to hear what children’s books you know of that encourage simple living!

 

 

Time Out

I consider my children to be one of the greatest gifts I have ever been given (right up there with my husband).

With that in mind, you would think I would treat them as the treasures they are, without a second thought.  Unfortunately, I fall into the trap so many of us do:  I take them for granted far too much.

All the moving preparation (we accepted an offer on our house!) means a lot more work and emotional energy being expended.  Recently, I decided to drop what I was doing and go on a walk with the kids–one of our special activities–because Bean said, “Mama.  I want to spend time with you.  Can you stop working?”

Yes, sweet girl.  I absolutely can.

And I’m so glad I did.  I need to get this picture framed to remind me to stop more often and enjoy the amazing gifts I have been given.

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Learning for Free

notebooksI love to learn. As a kid, I remember how hard it was to sleep the day before a new school year because I was too excited. I anticipated starting school as much (or more) than my birthday or Christmas.

In college, I loved the first day of class when you would receive the syllabus. It was so much fun to read over what we would be studying and reading!

When I worked at Walmart, I loved ringing up school supplies. Almost as fun as buying them myself, though I was making money instead of spending it. Plus, my items rung per hour would go really high during August with all those small items.

Given how excited I’ve always been about school, you probably wouldn’t be surprised to find out I have a history degree as well as a graduate degree from a seminary. When I finished formal education almost 8 years ago, I wasn’t sure what I would do. Would life without studying turn out to be dull?

Turns out, it hasn’t been. While I’m no longer reading for credit, I read just as much now as I ever did as a student. (Bonus: I get to pick out the subjects I’m studying!)

Despite my own education background, I now value the education that can be found outside the classroom more than what I got in class. There are plenty of valid reasons to get a formal education, but I don’t think it’s the only way to learn.

Here are a few ways to learn for free:

1. MOOC it up. MOOC = Massive Open Online Courses. There are many places where you can take free online courses. Some formal institutions are offering them these days, or you can go through a site like Coursera, like I have done. All the benefits of an online class you’re paying for, without the cost.

2. Hit up the library. Think of a subject you’re interested in learning more about and find a book on the subject. Search for a good one online or take advantage of your local library’s research librarian. Even if your local library doesn’t have it, they can request if for you through inter-library loan.

The only problem is that you’re bound to think of related topic you want to explore more thoroughly so be prepared to have to repeat the process.

3. Apprentice yourself to someone doing what you want to do. If you have a skill you want to learn, ask to learn from someone who already has it. Cooking, gardening, carpentry, sewing…so many possibilities.

4. Listen while you work. Find a podcast or audiobook on a subject that interests you and listen to it while you do another task. I listen to hours of content a day this way. Even if you can’t listen at your job, you probably can listen in the car, while doing dishes or while mindlessly surfing the Internet. (And no need to pay for audiobooks: your local library probably has many available, on CD or in electronic format).

5. Make friends with someone whose first language is one you want to learn better. Practice your conversational language skills with them while getting to know them.

So even if you aren’t going back to school formally this fall, take some time during this season to renew your desire to learn!

Photo by Kitty Ireland

Camping on a Budget

tentFor several years, I have wanted to go camping. Not having a significant other or kids, I don’t have a built-in adventure partner, so I had to wait until it worked out for a friend to go with me.

A few weekends ago, my time to go camping finally came. While I had camped a few times as a kid, camping as an adult is a much different experience. Not that I’ve been scared of a little planning: I usually enjoy planning something as much as I enjoy putting the plan into action.

As my friend and I did not have any camping gear of our own, I relied on some camping-loving friends who let me borrow their gear and some of their expertise. Without this, the trip would not have been economically feasible. After all, for all we knew, this was our first and last camping trip, so investing money (beyond perishables and the site rental) into camping as a hobby would be unwise.

Starting the fire was the thing I was most nervous about...so I was really happy when I started this fire right up.
Starting the fire was the thing I was most nervous about…so I was really happy when I started this fire right up.

Turns out, we really enjoyed our time camping and are definitely doing it again. I have previously mentioned how much I love hiking, so camping is really an extension of that. We’ve already made tentative plans for a longer camping tour of national parks next summer.

Will I ever buy my own camping gear? Probably. But I’m not in any hurry to gain gear. I’ll probably just wait for good deals and buy used where I can. I already know that I don’t need too much. Really, camping appeals to my minimalist side because you are willingly choosing to live with less.

What Minimalism Means to Me

If you spend much time in the “simple living” corner of the Internet, you no doubt have encountered many definitions and expressions of minimalism. As it should be: if you’re really going to practice something, it should be personal.

While the name “minimalism” emphasizes what you’re doing without, I think most would agree it’s about clearing out the unwanted so that you have time to focus on what you want.

Writing my life plan has helped me to focus this further. I regularly review what I’ve decided is the most important and am constantly reevaluating my life choices against that. It’s helped me pare down my grocery list, DVR and extracurricular activities. (With a lot of areas, I simply ask myself, “What one thing am I most willing to give up?” and repeat that over and over until I’m comfortable with what is left.)

Pine LakeAnother aspect of minimalism as I see it is to prioritize only what will help you reach your goals (see, the life plan again). For example, if  I want to hike 15 miles at the end of the summer, I have to work up to that, starting now. If I want to own a home as soon as it is financially healthy for me to do so, I must set a limit on how much I’m going to spend on my garden. There’s nothing wrong with a weekly 4-mile hikes or a garden full of new pots, but these don’t help me reach my goals.

I absolutely am (or want to be) a minimalist with my possessions, too. While I do periodic purges (Marie Kondo‘s method has been a practical way to do this), my main focus has been to limit what I bring into my home. By doing so, I have been focusing on long-term change, rather than having a spotless, bare-bones place in the short term.

I find that minimalism is a natural outworking of my Christian faith. After all, I worship the King who once lovingly told a rule-following young man, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21 ESV).

And in another passage I read, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” (Hebrews 12:1). While “stuff” (material and not) isn’t all that he’s talking about as “encumbrances,” I can’t help but think that’s part of it.

What does minimalism mean to you?

Kicking the Heels off (and Other Lessons from Purging)

homemade jewelry holder
My homemade jewelry holder is looking a little bare. Maybe I’ll downsize to a smaller one at some point.

I’ve been very slowly continuing through the zones I’ve identified using Marie Kondo’s decluttering method. Most recently, I used my Memorial Day holiday to attack 4 areas:

– Toiletries
– Makeup
– Accessories/shoes
– Jewelry

I was surprised at how purging these items affected me emotionally. While I’m definitely a below average American woman in the amount of time and money I put in these categories, there were times that some of these things meant to me more than they do now.

The most difficult thing to part with was my nail polish. Up until a year ago, I painted my fingernails weekly. Since then, I’ve only done it once. I’m not ready to say that I’ve given it up for good, but I also know that I won’t get back to that weekly habit. I had spent a lot of money on that nail polish and it has given me a lot of joy…but it’s not currently giving me joy. I decided to keep 8 colors that I can most likely see myself still using, and gave the rest to a family that would use them.

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Most of my shoes fit in the closet, but these are the ones I wear more regularly.

I felt similar emotions cleaning out my jewelry. I simply don’t wear it anymore, apart from a special occasion. Some of the pairs of earrings that I got rid of had been some of my favorites to wear…in the past. I did keep a few pieces that I still really like and can see myself wearing.

One area where I really enjoyed cleaning out was my high heel collection. Why did I still own them? I always opt for a pair of flats when flip flops (or going barefoot!) is not appropriate. I had been holding on to them “just in case”, but all they have been doing since I moved them 2 years ago is gather dust. I now own 17 pairs of shoes…which still sounds like way too many (flip flops add up). I’ll continue to pare that down as most that wear out will not be replaced.

What things have been unexpectedly hard for you to get rid of?

The Minimalist Wardrobe

20150301_222253Recently I had the opportunity to buy some clothes, and not from the thrift store either.  (Though I still prefer to do my shopping that way!)

I wanted to utilize my money the smartest way I could, so I searched and asked around to try to determine what, exactly, makes a good minimalist wardrobe.  Here’s what I learned:

1.  Go timeless.  I hate clothes shopping, so the longer I can make these clothes last and be “on trend” the better.  I kept the colors fairly neutral, staying with blues and pinks (which look best on me) and blacks and whites.  Nothing too loud or garish for this gal!

2.  3/4 sleeves.  ‘Nuff said.  At Ronnica’s suggestion, I stuck with 3/4 sleeves for most of my tops, because, as she correctly noted, “It is appropriate for all but the hottest days of the year.”  I bought sweaters to layer with when things get too chilly for just 3/4 sleeves alone.

3.  Research what pieces are “must haves.”  In doing a quick internet search, it became apparent that “every woman” should have a few items in her closet, including but not limited to:  a little black dress, white blouse, and nude heels.  These and other must have pieces provide a good foundation for a wardrobe, and have served me well so far!

4.  I only purchased what I needed.  In my case, I really needed new tops and a couple more pairs of jeans.  I saw some clothing articles that I really liked, but refrained from buying them–they would have blown my budget, and wouldn’t have achieved my “minimalist wardrobe” goal.

5.  For every item brought in… another item went out.  My closet is itty bitty, so I couldn’t keep everything!

What are some essential clothing pieces for you?

Stewarding Politics

US flag over sunsetThe American presidential race is ramping up as we head towards November. As it seems to happen every four years, everyone seems to get caught up in the cause or candidate that they think will save America.

Before you skip this post, know that I’m not advocating voting for any given candidate or platform (or against one, as easy as that would be to do). Instead, I explore what it means to apply the topic of stewardship to our political choices.

If you are an American citizen over 18, you have one vote per race per election cycle. Given the scarcity of this resource, it is important to use it wisely. As tempting as it might be to vote according to your gut or what your smart-sounding neighbor says, it’s just not enough if you really want to be a good steward.

So how can you be a good steward of the vote that you have?

1. Research each candidates and what they stand for. For larger elections, this can take some time, as there are a lot of offices to consider. Resources I use to investigate include the candidates’ websites, local newspaper surveys and their voting record (if they are an incumbent).

While their website is of course biased, it helps me to see what is important to them. If an issue that I’m passionate about doesn’t earn a mention, that says something in itself, even if they publicly espouse the same values I do.

For me, this also means not making up my mind until the last minute. I want as much data as possible before making the decision, and want to be as open as possible as my understanding of the candidates or issues is always incomplete.

2. Engage in reasonable conversations about the issues. If you are passionate about something, I think you should absolutely speak up about it. Whenever possible, focus on the issue, not on the candidates, as candidates are imperfect and you won’t agree with them 100% (unless it’s you!).

In these conversations, be willing to truly listen to opposing views with the goal of understanding, not of refuting. Chances are, the person you aren’t seeing eye to eye with has the same root desires, but sees a different path to achieve those desires.

If the exchange becomes uncivil, kindly excuse yourself (online or in person).

3. Vote. This should be obvious, but I’m afraid it’s not. There are times that I choose not to vote in a particular race, but those are rare. For bigger elections, there are usually more than 2 options, no matter what the TV pundits say.

How do you steward politics?

Photo by Rebecca Garcia

The Wedding Dress

Depending on how you look at things, I may have a problem.

I have made it known on this blog that I appreciate a good possession purge now and then, and clothing is no exception.  We live in a relatively small house, and my closet is downright minuscule by 2016 standards.  I don’t have a whole lot of wiggle room when it comes to emotional attachment; if something doesn’t get used, then out it goes.

Therein lies the (possible) problem:  I have little emotional attachment to my possessions. (Side note:  the exact opposite is the case for my kids’ things.  I have the hardest time ever letting go of their little baby clothes or former favorite toys, so I tend to hang on to those things…please tell me I’m not alone!)

The possession that dredged all this up?  My wedding dress.

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I spent four figures on this little beauty of a garment, which also includes not one, not two, but three veils of differing lengths, a tiara, black sash, and “sash pin.”  Not included in that four figure price was the cost for preservation and shipping this grossly overpriced dress to my home after our nuptials.

Four.  Figures.  Four figures for a dress I will never wear again, that is taking up a lot of valuable real estate in my closet, and truly has no bearing on my marriage at all–we will be happily married regardless of the dress.  I wish I could go back in time and tell my 24-year-old self to take the clearance rack purchase, but what’s done is done.

So why hasn’t it gone the way of other clothing items?  Our daughter, Bean.  Because one never knows if she may want to have the option to wear an outdated dress when or if she gets married.

I’m still waffling on this one, though would not be surprised if the dress continues to collect dust in my closet; some things are just harder to let go of than others, even for a professed minimalist.

Learning from Inconveniences

Sometimes things don’t go according to plan.

That’s a bit of an understatement, isn’t it? Of course things don’t go according to our plans; we’re far from omnipotent. No matter how many times I experience this, I still think somehow I’m able to mold my day-to-day life exactly how I want it.

sink full of dishesA couple of weeks ago I was running my dishwasher with the last remaining dirty dishes in my kitchen. I was feeling pretty good about how tidy everything was…then my dishwasher stopped running. With little warning (though I suppose its loud creaking over the last couple of months should have been a sign), I was without a dishwasher…and with a dishwasher full of dishes that needed to be washed.

Thankfully I rent so I didn’t have any additional expenses. However, I did have to wait until maintenance could replace it, which ended up being 4 days later.

No matter how much I work to make things a certain way, I’m not in control.

After getting this lesson on a Monday, I got it again on that Saturday. I had hoped to spend the day finally catching up on dishes with my new dishwasher and get some things done around the apartment. I was enjoying the sounds of the much quieter replacement dishwasher, when they quickly stopped. This time it wasn’t the dishwasher’s fault, but the power company’s. The electricity remained out for the next 8 hours, entirely changing my day. I was able to get some things done that did not require electricity, but that was it for that day’s to-do list.

A dishwasher and even electricity are not rights. While I will gladly enjoy their use while I have them, I have to remember that they (and many other conveniences) can be quickly taken away. I’m blessed to have such reliable electric service, a well-insulated home, healthy living conditions and an income to support it all.

May I not take these things for granted.