Simplification is never simple

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
  • 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.

Food
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.
  • Garden
  • 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.
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