Tag 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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Giving Yourself Grace

With the moving process well underway, I wanted to share some ways that my minimalist/stewardship practices have changed.

unnamed (3)1.  The kids spend quite a bit more time with screens.  I am not thrilled that we have already exceeded Bean’s two hour per week screen time limit for this week, but the need to clean the house before showings, and the fact that we are stuck in the air conditioned car during the showings (due to the two 90 pound dogs that have to get out of the house and the heat outside), means the kids get to indulge a bit in their screen time habits.  It isn’t perfect, but we try to compensate with outside time and reading time.

04f11a8c-94b6-4eec-b3ca-25ba4fca02632.  I spend less time on elaborate meals.  I love to bake and cook, but depending on the time a showing happens, I am not always able to prepare anything elaborate.  There have been times in the past three weeks (the time since the house first went on the market) where our suppers have been YOYO (You’re On Your Own) nights, and other nights when we have gone with something to-go.  The family gets fed though, albeit not with all organic/local/carefully crafted ingredients.

ad30d24f-c63b-466d-baca-b555b048b25b3.  We got a second car.  I wrote about this last week.  It’s still sort of a touchy subject with me, but we had to do what we had to do.  Hopefully it is temporary!

In a nutshell:  we are in survival mode.  My non-moving, minimalist self cringes each time I have to compromise a bit on my ideals (see:  cloth diapers and other things that are too green for me), but that’s where I am at right now.  And I have to remind myself almost hourly that this is temporary.

I want to continue to strive to be the best stewardess I can be. However, I am learning that one of the lessons of this move is the fact that we need to give ourselves grace, especially when it comes to working through major life changes.

Ronnica’s 101 Tips for Living on Less and Loving it

The idea for this blog is taken directly from Your Money or Your Life. In the updated version, Vicki Robin removed the tips section she had previously and advised writing your own…so I am.

Here are my tips for living on less and loving it:

Attitude
1. Don’t compare yourself to others. You don’t know how much debt they had to go into to buy that house/car/wardrobe/vacation.
2. Focus on being thankful for what you have instead of what you do not have.
3. Open your eyes to those in other situations than you are (at home and abroad). Much of what we think of as “needs” is culturally influenced.
4. Be more concerned about what you think about yourself than what others think about you.
5. Make friends who are like-minded and can inspire and encourage you.
6. Seek advice from those who are better than you in the areas you want to improve.
7. Avoid ads whenever possible.
8. Avoid visiting places where you will be tempted to shop without forethought.
9. When you’re tempted to splurge, remind yourself of your long-term goals.
10. Unfollow Facebook friends whom you are tempted to be envious of.

Groceries/food 
11. Buy fruit when in season and on sale and freeze or can it for later for use throughout the year.
12. Freeze unused yogurt before it goes bad and stick it in smoothies.
13. Freeze unused milk before it goes back and use it for baking.
14. Make your own dressing…better for you, and you make it for your own tastes.
15. Make your own spice mixes (ranch packet, Italian seasoning, chili powder, etc.).
16. Make sweets from scratch. Cheaper, and you’ll eat them less often.
17. Make your own ice, saving in Ziploc bags if you need to take it with you.
18. Make your own pizza crust and freeze it in appropriate-sized dough balls (wrapped in saran wrap placed in a Ziploc bag).
19. Eat more like a vegetarian.
20. Replace ground beef with black beans in your favorite casseroles.
21. Bake a week’s worth of goods in one day.
22. Know where to buy what to get the most value.
23. Freeze any unused bread before it goes bad, then use it to make your own croutons.
24. Save eating out for special occasions…
25. But be sure to tip generously when you do.

Health/beauty
26. Find beauty products that you can use for more than one purpose.
27. Wear less makeup.
28. Wear makeup less.
29. Cut your own hair.
30. Spend less time on your outward beauty and more time on your inward beauty.

Utilities
31. Turn off your electronics when you leave your house. I have my TV, DVD player and modem on a power strip that I can easily flip off when I leave the house.
32. Use a window fan to cool your bedroom instead of A/C.
33. Research the cheapest cell plan that meets your needs (StraightTalk has been great for me).
34. Pay for your cell phone by the year to save money (I pay for 11 months and get the 12th free).
35. Buy a highly-rated phone and keep it for several years.
36. Save waste water (like from unfinished cups or pasta water) and use to water your garden.

Housekeeping
37. Make your own laundry detergent.
38. …and your own dishwasher detergent.
39. Hang up your clothes to dry after washing, even if you have to hang a line inside.
40. Clean your kitchen with vinegar and water.
41. Clean your toilet with vinegar and baking soda.
42. Use handkerchiefs instead of tissues.

Clothes
43. Buy clothes that you are comfortable and you look good in. For me, that’s skirts.
44. Hang up clothes at the end of the day where they can breathe. If they don’t have visible dirt or stink by morning, hang them back in your closet.
45. Simplify your wardrobe so that everything matches just 1 or 2 pairs of shoes.
46. Pare down your underwear down to a week’s worth, and wash by hand between machine washes if needed.
47. When buying new tops, try getting 3/4 length sleeves, as they’re wearable almost year-round.

Garden
drying oregano48. Take advantage of any sunny area to plant a container garden.
49. Starting with easy veggies that are your favorites.
50. Grow your own herbs. Much cheaper and tastier than what you can get at the store.
51. Make friends with people who grow different things in their garden than you do and trade.
52. Companion plant in a way to attract the right kinds of bugs (ex: nasturtium with tomatoes).
53. Invest a little more in non-hybrid seeds, and save the seeds the plants produce for the next year.
54. Add cleaned egg shells to your tomato soil to fight blossom end rot.
55. Fight powdery mildew with watered-down milk.

Transportation
56. Be generous in the space you give between you and the driver in front of you. Saves stress as well as gas/brakes.
57. Turn off your car’s A/C if you are driving under 45 MPH.
58. Use public transportation when traveling to high travel areas (like downtown). Cheaper than parking and less stressful.
59. Instead of buying a car with payments, save each month what you would spend on a car payment and buy your next car with cash.
60. When shopping for a car, shop according to your needs, not what others will think or how the car makes you feel.
61. Buy transit passes through work, which allows you to buy them with pre-tax money.

Shopping
62. Before buying anything, find out if someone has something that you can borrow to meet that need, or if you can repurpose something else.
63. Buy to last: it’s okay to spend a little more in the short term to get something that will last your lifetime.
64. Don’t browse catalogs or websites.
65. Research electronics so you get exactly what meets your needs.
66. Focus on buying items that can meet more than one need.
67. Comparison shop online before hitting up the store.
68. Avoid the mall, unless you have a specific purpose for being there.
69. Use reusable bags. (Store in the car so you don’t forget.)
70. Save your splurging for the library.

Travel
71. Pack your own snacks and entertainment. You’ll spend half as much at a drug store than at the airport for the same items.
72. Bring an empty water bottle through security and fill it up at a water fountain on the other side.
73. Download ebooks from your library to your phone, tablet or e-reader.
74. If traveling over holidays, research flights on the holidays themselves, as they are usually significantly cheaper.
75. Save regularly for your travel goals, and don’t let less significant trips get in the way of budgeting for the ones you’ve always wanted to take.
76. Pack as few pants/skirts and shoes as is reasonable.

Moving 

77. Before deciding to move, come up with a budget and save up so that you’re not moving a credit card bill, too.
78. Find someone who recently moved and ask them for their boxes when they are finished.
79. Price the various moving options and determine what is the best value for you, money and time-wise.
80. Don’t forget to budget for all the little things you always seem to need when you move to a new place: trashcan, rugs, curtains, etc…
81. But also think through what you can reasonably do without.
82. If moving long distance, consider which possessions it may be reasonable to get rid of and replace when you get to your new home.
83. After you move, don’t visit any local fast food places, so you never get into that habit.

Hobby/Entertainment
colorado trail fall colors84. Find hobbies that costs no money. Mine are reading and hiking.
85. Use the library liberally to get as many as your entertainment selections as bbpossible.
86. Instead of going to the movies, make note of movies you want to see, to watch them on Netflix or borrow from the library later.
87. Exercise for free: outdoors or using frugally-acquired equipment at home.
88. Be a tourist in your own city, seeing (free or cheap!) sights you’ve never seen.
89. Cancel your Netflix or Hulu subscriptions regularly, saving up what you want to see for single 30-day windows, paying just for one month.
90. Use Pandora or Spotify instead of buying your own music.
91. When meeting up with friends, do activities that are free. Eat in together (even if it’s leftovers!) instead of out.

Holidays/Giving
92. Don’t give obligation gifts. Give according to your heart.
93. Buy a pack of blank cards, instead of holiday-specific cards. Write your own message.
94. Be intentional in your giving to charities, researching the organizations that you are giving to.
95. Pare down your holiday decorations to your absolute favorites.
96. Wrap gifts in usable or reusable wrappings (such as a reusable grocery bag in a fun color).

Time Management
97. Order your to-do list from most important to least, then work from the top.
98. Review your life plan regularly so that your to-do list aligns with it.
99. Make shopping lists on your phone (I use Evernote), saving paper and making it harder to leave behind.
100. Run your errands in one day, mapping your route to save gas and time.
101. If something has been on your to-do list for a few weeks, either do it or mark it off undone.

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?

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?

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.

The Simple Things

Though a key aspect of simple living is fewer possessions (and we are definitely proponents of that here on Striving Stewardess), I will readily admit that there are a few extras that help make our simple life a bit, well, simpler.

Aside from the obvious, like the library, Castile soap, and vinegar, permit me to share with you some items that help make my life a bit simpler.

1.  Amazon Prime.  This is a program that is relatively new to me, but enough of a priority that, when a special for new customers came along in January (incidentally our Buy Little Month), we paid the fee and signed up.  We order enough from Amazon that it should pay for itself in just a few short months.  We plan to also order diapers from there; with discounts from Prime, it should be even more of a money and sanity saver.  And apparently you can watch shows on there too…?? Very handy with no cable!IMG_1157

2.  Carpet Cleaner.  Yep, I’m eating my words here and joining the dark side:  I got a carpet cleaner for Christmas, and while I have only used it once, I am a complete convert.   Even if I only use it twice this year, it will save us over $300 this year alone.  Sure it’s a bit more work, but it is pretty easy to use.  And did I mention the financial savings?

3.  Slow Cooker.  I don’t know of any simple living adherent/frugal fan that doesn’t appreciate their slow cooker.  What is not to like about putting in the cheapest, toughest cuts of meat, vegetables, and some broth or water to make a hearty stew that will be ready in just a few hours?  Or the ability to toss in a can of fruit, some flour and some sugar to make a cobbler?  Seriously–this thing is brilliant and saves us countless hours in food preparation and in money (it even saves in energy costs!).

What gadgets have you found to make your simple life simpler?

Ronnica’s Resolutions for 2016

Sometimes I think that I just write this blog to provide myself some accountability. I’m pretty sure I’m 75% more likely to do something if I have put the idea to paper, and three times as likely if I share it with others. (I’ve arrived at these numbers less than scientifically.)

Now that 2016 is here, it’s time to share what my goals are for the year. Because I have my 101 in 1001 list, I don’t make formal goals for the year, but I do want to use the opportunity that comes with a new year to try to work on things that I’ve been struggling with.

The biggest area of opportunity for 2016 is the general mess of my apartment. I know what needs to be done, I just need to do it.

To this end, I’ve decided to dedicate 30 minutes each day for cleaning/straightening until I get it under control. Hopefully it won’t be something that has to take 30 minutes a day forever, but I need to change the momentum of my mess.

A part of this effort has been identifying a few organizational steps that I can take to maximize my efforts. I’ll be sharing more about those projects in a future post.
journal and BibleSimilar to Amanda’s resolutions, I also want to focus on starting my days more intentionally. I know from experience that how I start the day sets the tone for the rest of the day.

While I’ve broken myself of the habit of sleeping with my phone, it has become the first thing I turn to when I wake up. I am still going to allow myself to check for any incoming texts (otherwise I will be focused on what I may be missing), but then I will be putting it back down until I have completed my Bible reading and journaling time. No TV, radio or music whatsoever during this time either.

I hope by allowing God’s Word to be the first thing to speak to me (instead of whoever’s posts or tweets I happen to run across) will help shape my day and make it easier to notice His promptings throughout the rest of my day.

With both of these resolutions, there are going to be days I fail. Maybe even weeks I fail. I’m not demanding perfection of myself, just a willingness to change and some effort even when I don’t want to give it.

I’ll be updating in February to let you know how these efforts are going in addition to the results of my 3rd Buy Little month.

What are you working on this year?

My “Small” House

Our house is not nearly this big.
Our house is not nearly this big.

When Riley and I first moved into our current home back in 2010, it seemed huge to me–likely because we were only moving the two of us and one dog from a small apartment, so we had fewer possessions.

Thought we still have quite a ways to go in the culling possessions/organization department, I think we make very good use of the space we have:  approximately 1100 square feet for four people and an assortment of pets–three bedrooms and 1.5 baths.

On more than one occasion, however, it has come to my attention that, according to the standards of many, our house is rather small.  The first time the size of our house was brought to my attention was about two years ago, with the comment of, “Wow, your house is so cute…and small!”

Variations on this comment have been said with relative frequency since that time, particularly when we have company over (admittedly, it can be a tight fit for more than just a couple of guests).   We don’t have a guest bedroom (instead using a blow-up mattress in a private area of the basement).  We don’t have an office for the three days a week Riley works from home (instead using part of the sub-basement for an office).  We don’t have a dedicated playroom (probably for the best though–instead the kids’ rooms house the majority of their books and toys).

I suppose that, compared to some houses in this country, our house is rather small (though nothing compared to tiny houses).  Conversely, our house is a mansion compared to other homes in the world.  I am pretty content with our “small” home, but falling into the comparison trap with the homes of others is something I’m not immune to.  Here are a couple of things that aid me in staying content with our abode.

I remind myself what living in a modest home permits us to do.  Staying at home with our kids is one of our top priorities, and not having a large mortgage payment each month helps make this possible.  Bonus:  we paid for the house ourselves–there’s something to be said for pride of ownership.

I remind myself that our home has everything we need (and want).  Would I like an upgraded kitchen and bathrooms?  Absolutely.  Would I appreciate a two-car garage for more storage (since we only have one car, we wouldn’t need the space for a second car)?  Sure.  But we have a fully functioning kitchen and bathrooms, and not having a whole lot of extra space means we keep our clutter under control.  Having a smaller house also means we have ample opportunity to spend time together as a family–no one can go off and do their own thing without anyone else knowing.  This “small” house gives us all we need and more.

I remind myself that less house=less cleaning.  Pretty self-explanatory.  I like a neat space, but I also don’t want to be a slave to housework.

What about you?  What are your thoughts on living small?

Photo by Fotorus.