This is what greets anyone who walks inside our front door. The sign hangs just above the coat rack in our entry way. “Simplify” has been my battle cry for about the last 5 years.
5 years ago, we lived in an almost brand new house. We had an outrageous car payment on a huge gas guzzling vehicle that we really couldn’t afford. Keep in mind that I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for close to 9 years now, so for the first four years, we were pretty much still mindlessly throwing money away. It’s funny now when I look back at that time when. It makes me laugh, really. I had no idea what I was doing and I certainly wasn’t a frugal person in those days. Ah well, live and learn, right? Not that I am in any way an expert now, mind you, but seriously, I was such a moron.
I can’t remember how it all came down, but at some point I realized that we had to change things drastically. We were going nowhere fast and not having any fun along the way.
I consider myself to be a pretty simple gal. I think I always have been, but back then, I was pretty high maintenance in comparison to my standards now. For example, we ate out a lot. Like probably 3 or 4 times a week! Madness for a family living on one income. We ate NOTHING that was prepared from scratch, most things were frozen or out of a box. No garden. We blew money on lots of clothes and “things” and toys. We had no budget to speak of. And I wasn’t working. So, on top of all that money we were blowing, we were doing it all on a very limited amount of money. I would go every 2 weeks and get a manicure and pedicure and felt completely justified in doing so. It was like in my mind, I was saying, how can a person not do this? I need this and want it, so I’m going to have it. (Speaking of that, my MIL took me & the girls out for mani/pedis a couple of weeks ago for a wedding that we were going to. I realized then that it had been years since I’d had that done. It was so nice and I really enjoyed it. But not enough to put it back into the budget.) I’m not trying to say people shouldn’t get their nails done, people can do what they want with their own money, I’m just saying it’s not something that is important to me anymore.
Anyway, we finally came to our senses a little bit. We needed to move to a cheaper house. We needed to drive cheaper cars and I started investigating on ways to save money by simplifying our lives.
We sold the new house and moved into our crappy old house. It needed (still needs) a lot of work, BUT it was cheaper, it was in a great location right in the middle of our sweet little town and the taxes were low. Not to mention the excellent neighbors that we had no idea we were getting when we first moved in.
We got rid of the expensive vehicles. We now have one car payment that is manageable and when it’s paid for I will drive the wheels off of good ol’ Nelly the Nissan! Brian’s car was a gift from his mother, when she was ready to get into a new car, she gave us her old one. It’s a nice car that she took excellent care of and best of all: NO CAR PAYMENT!
After that, we just started taking baby steps into making our life simpler. And I can say from experience now that simpler = happier for us. We started a vegetable and herb garden, which I look forward to every year. I like to can things from the garden, which gives me such satisfaction (except for when beans explode in my kitchen, which by the way, there is still a stain on my ceiling from that!), knowing that I am able to feed my family from things that I’ve grown myself. I also cook a lot of things from scratch. Not only is it cheaper and tastier, but I can breathe easy knowing exactly what is in the food that I prepare. *Note – I don’t make everything from scratch. I tried that once and it was about the complete opposite of simplified living. I was totally stressed out and chained to the kitchen 24/7. But we eat a pretty simple menu around here, which makes it very easy for us to avoid processed food most of the time.* And by the way, I have found that old cookbooks are filled with really SIMPLE and delicious recipes. I used to think that if there were only a few ingredients in something, then it couldn’t taste that good, but now I know the opposite to be true a lot of the time. I know that there are a lot of great recipes out there now, I thumb through cookbooks in the store every once in a while, most of which have ingredients I’ve never even heard of and fancy names that frighten me and make me feel very much like an unsophisticated doof. If you get into things that you have to go running around to a bunch of different stores on the off chance that they might carry some obscure item, then that becomes very complicated. I save the complicated recipes for special occasions or for just a fun experiment and stick with uncomplicated & yummy the rest of the time.
All four of us have adapted to our simpler lifestyle. We have awesome times just being together. We go for walks, bike rides, the library, the park, or just into the back yard to play ball. All of which are simple and FREE! Living a simple life lets you have time to see and experience in the moment just how beneficial quality time with your family is. It also makes those times when you are going out for the evening to dinner and a movie or just to get ice cream seem so much more exciting. It’s not just the same old thing you do every weekend. We went to the root beer stand for supper the other night. It has easily been a year or longer since we have done this very simple thing, in fact I don’t think either of the girls remembered going there before, so it may have been longer. All four of us were excited. You pull up, push a button, the guy asks for your order and then a few minutes later, a girl delivers it to your car, hangs your tray on your window and you eat your food and drink your root beer IN THE CAR! Hannah was like, “We’re eating in the car?!” So, this was a real treat for them. For all of us because we were doing something special. Now, if every weekend consists of various drive-thru meals, something like this just falls into the mundane, every-day-routine kind of category.
Our most recent simplifying measure has been to get rid of our satellite. My uncle made us an antennae. Yes, he MADE it! For FREE! He’s so awesome. So, that right there is saving us like $70 a month! Never mind that when we were putting it up Brian started having back spasms and I was forced to go into the scary, hot, spidery, scary, dark, scary attic (this is an antenna that hangs in the attic) and almost kill myself trying to wade through the insulation and step only on the joists so as not to fall through into the dining room to get it all set up. How convenient for those back spasms to come right at that particular moment! (Just kidding, B! Sorta.) We get quite a few channels and even a couple of kids channels. (We aren’t speaking of the fact that we no longer have ESPN. We feel that if we don’t speak of it, maybe it won’t really be true.)
Personally, I have found that I really enjoy cheap and simple hobbies. Reading (books that I’ve got on loan for free from the library or free from Amazon with my Swagbucks), crocheting, walking, and blogging. I admit that I do love going to the movies, but I can probably count on one hand the number of times we go in a year. I will go if it’s something I’m dying to see, but usually I will just wait for it to come out on video.
Another thing that has changed is that I’m no longer a”junk” collector. I used to buy endless amounts of stuff that I didn’t need. Things to decorate the house with, clothes, jewelry, etc. Now, I have to really really want something to buy it and then I will usually only do it with birthday or Christmas money. That is, things that I just “want” vs. need. Things that we need get purchased, we do have two growing girls that can’t seem to stay in one size for very long. But as for Brian & I, the clothing in our closet has been in there for years. We will buy new clothes sometimes on Christmas or birthdays, but other than that, we just wear what we have. My house is decorated, but not overly so and that seems to suit me better these days. Right now, I have my eye on a composter. I’ve wanted one for years and so this year for my birthday, which is right around the corner, I will be faced with deciding whether to spend my birthday money on the composter that I really want or biting the bullet and getting some new summer clothes as the ones I have are pretty much worn out. That’s gonna be a tough one!
I’m not a minimalist by any means, not even close, but simplifying has been something that has given me so much peace as well as saving us some money in the process. And I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy being able to spend money once in a while, I do, and we do. I just have a totally different perspective now where money is concerned. Posessions are just things. They don’t make me happier to get them or sadder when I can’t have them.