Over the last 10 years I have sculpted a lifestyle which fools my ego into thinking that my thrift based decisions are actually electives. I try incorporate many disciplines: frugality, minimalism, homesteading, low impact, decluttering, preparedness, recycling, scratch cooking, repairing, gardening, etc. AS we know, my life can get complicated all on its own, so I try to simplify as much as possible. Even cutting back on visual noise such as bright colors and consumer packaging. I wanted to live a truly SIMPLE life, I would take up Shakerism or become some sort of monk. But alas I cannot – I make a living using computers, and have pets, hobbies and interests that require ‘stuff’. I also live in Maine where we have 5 seasons of weather, some of it rather harsh, so MORE stuff is required than living in a moderately temperate zone.
As I write posts on different ideas for my personal blog, I am trying to codify the rules I use when I am making decisions.
Best advice I keep in mind is William Morris (1834-1896): “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” I try to make sure the useful things are also beautiful as he did. I have art on my walls and refridgerator; I only require that it makes me smile to I look at it.
- Everything must have someplace to be stored.
- Things in storage must be used on a regular basis unless for emergencies.
- Don’t keep things that do the same thing.
- Research purchases as far in advance as possible.
- Choose used before new where feasible.
- Set up searches for items on ebay, craigslist and facebook.
- Put off making a purchase until it literally costs not to get the item.
- Choose vintage devices that work as well or better than new ones.
- Choose non electric items where possible.
- Choose US made items where feasible.
- Clean and repair items regularly to avoid replacement.
- Buy only white cotton bath towels or linens, as all can be washed together.
- Buy base products such as vinegar and bleach, or concentrated cleaners where possible.
- Paint mismatched furniture with white enamel, it makes the room seem bigger.
- I also changed the door knobs to smooth levers because I am getting old.
- I also changed any furniture draw pulls to smooth bin pulls, which are better for a small room.
- Clothes must fit in the storage space allowed.
- It must fit and be in wearable condition.
- Only shop when something needs to be added or replaced.
- Items must fit in with other pieces of clothing in style and color.
- Clothes must be worn once a year or donated.
- Repair items as soon as possible.
I always keep in mind Mark Bittman’s advice: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. Don’t buy things your grandmother wouldn’t have recognized as food. Avoid things with more than 5 ingredients.
- Scratch cook nearly always.
- Look for the earliest and simplest version of a recipe.
- Seek out less expensive cuts of meat, fish or other products.
- Buy fresh items in season, local whenever available.
- Stock pantry items which can be used in a wide variety of recipes
- Seek out the items with the least number of ingredients.
- Look for traditional or ‘heritage’ products.
- Avoid things with too much modern chemistry.
- Buy the same products repeatedly, to avoid disappointment and waste.
- Stock primarily ingredient pantry items, with almost no processed or semi prepared foods.
- Buy bulk or dry goods with little packaging.
- Recycling packaging as soon as possible.
- Store as much as possible in wide mouth Ball jars.
- Select varieties that do well in this particular garden.
- Choose plants that produce the most for the effort and cost.
- Use traditional wooden handled metal tools.
- Use bamboo canes and natural twine for staking and fencing.
- Use straw mulch to deter weeds and retain moisture.
- Small batch can or freeze whenever possible.