Archive for the ‘just say no to gluttony’ Category

I want a pair of pink socks. I need them, because the ones I have are the ankle kind, and I can’t wear them with winter shoes.

Truly, I would wear them a lot. I love the color pink, right down (up?) to my hair. Plus, right now, when I’m wearing a pink shirt, I don’t have the requisite socks that fashion says I must wear with them.

Sounds a little silly, doesn’t it.

But this is why America is wall-to-wall storage bins. It’s why your credit card bill looks like that. It’s what fills the Wal Marts of the world.

Our consumerist society has conflated these terms, where wanting something becomes equivalent to needing it. Just ask anyone on an iPhone line.

Next time you think to yourself, hey! I don’t have such-and-such an item, I need that! think about it. First, do you really not have it? I don’t have a stand mixer. But I do have an excellent hand mixer that so far has been adequate for everything I’ve been baking. My failures at this have never been the fault of the equipment, sadly.

Second, if you really don’t have it, do you actually need it? Or do you just want it. My family’s shopping mantra is “well, we’ve lived without it this long.

As we move into the most consumptive season of our consumptive society, make sure that you aren’t confusing “want” and “need.” If you want it, fine. Buy it. But don’t kid yourself that you must have it.

After all, you’ve lived without it this long.

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I’ve never been one to celebrate New Year’s as a way to make life changes. I’m a firm believer that those changes can come at any time and shouldn’t be put off until the first of next year. That being the case, I find it thoroughly ironic that since I’ve returned home from the holiday celebrations I’ve not done much other than purge my house and life of un-needed, excessive, or un-wanted items and activities. With all of the activities in my life (and the need to stay sane) I’m doing what I can to make life simple.

Notice I didn’t say convenient.

My daughter, Hubby, and I have rid ourselves of easily a 10×10 roomful of long unused items and an automobile (aka “The Hotrod”). We’re considering selling my little motorcycle since I haven’t ridden it nearly as much as my brother-in-law has. We’re making plans to convert our kitchen back into a full-blown kitchen rather than an eat-in chicken. We’ll get rid of our computer desks and our computers and switch over to laptops, thereby freeing up our office and returning it back to its intended purpose as a dining room. We’ve donated 3 large boxes of books and videotapes to the library. We’ve sold DVDs and CDs.

I’ve also been purging some unhealthy lifestyle activities from my system lately. I limit how much time I spend in front of the computer and the television. I’ve started working out again.  One of my gifts was a Kindle, and I’m thrilled at the number of trees I’ll be saving. I’m also thrilled at the prospect of reading all of those classics I trudged through in high school and college once again, but this time for enjoyment purposes – and for free. We’ve even downloaded some “living books” for homeschooling. I think the Kid has had almost as much enjoyment out of the Kindle as I have.

I’m tired of cleaning all the time. I’m tired of having to move stuff out of the way just to clean other stuff. I’m tired of having to shut the spare room door because I can’t find room to store all the things we’ve accumulated. I’m tired of having boxes of stuff that I don’t even know what is being stored because we have so many dang boxes of stuff from our grandparents, our childhood, and stuff we’ve just kept! I’m tired of having to trash one room just to clean out another.

So – what does this bring me to?

Conveniently enough, a good friend of mine, Xan, all the way back up in Chicago is hosting a challenge this month:  NoBuyFebruary. One that you can bet I will be joining even though I am limiting my electronic time.

For the month of February she is challenging that we don’t buy a thing that we don’t absolutely need. Seriously. Americans are renowned for all the crap that we have. We have stores dedicated to Crap (with a capital “C”). Most grocery stores carry Crap toward the center of the buildings, and for that matter, so do many Big Box Stores. All that stuff by the checkout line – CRAP. The stuff at eye level, yep usually Crap. Ask yourself, do you really need that magazine? Do you need yet another flavor of lip gloss or Chapstick? Will you absolutely die if you don’t take advantage of the white sale? How many Persian cat figurines or bobble heads must you have?

Why keep buying stuff if you don’t need it?

Oh, I’m so guilty of this too, trust me (why do you think I’ve gotten rid of so much stuff, given it’s 15 years of accumulated Crap). My Kindle is a month old, already full of free books that will take me months to read, and yet I actually bought a book the other night. Our hallway is decked in a collection of handmade and imported masks and I still find myself browsing through those at art stores. I bought a mini-evergreen as a Christmas tree because it was only $5.00 and I was too lazy to get our artificial out. I’m not allowed to go near candles nor yarn until I use up my stores. I almost asked for the $250 KitchenAid Pro (ON SALE!!!) for Christmas just in case my smaller model broke within the next year or so….

Here I am at Pier 1 eyeballing a new set of dishes because the cheap set I asked for and received 2 years ago is starting to chip already.




We have been trained as consumers to become hoarders… to compete with the neighbors to have the biggest inflatable holiday decorations, the nicest car, the best patio equipment, the rockingest entertainment center, the newest computer equipment. All of which will be outdated within a couple of years and be considered ….  you guessed it.

And where does it all go when we’re done with it? Yep, the trash. And when 311,958,838 people throw out their Crap they run and get more, and in two more years that Crap will be replaced and so on.

So, do you think you can manage one measly month – 4 weeks – 28 days – and not purchase one thing except those things necessary for survival? Can you get by using the stuff you already have in your home? Can you imagine how much money you will save as a household? Can you imagine how little trash you will have?

If you went one step further, if you cleaned the “Crap” out of one room, how much trash would you have from that one room?

Please be sure to stop by and visit Xan at her blog and sign up for her challenge if you’re up for it. I think it would be interesting to keep track of your usual expenditures and see how much money you think you save this coming month. While Xan is not a normal writer for this blog (none of us are dabbling in normal after all), she is a regular visitor here and challenges my way of thinking often. Even if you don’t join us, at least give a second thought the next time you go shopping whether or not everything you need in your cart is a necessity or a frivolity.

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originally published by emphelan

Birthday parties on the homestead never have to be boring events. With three friendly boys, we are always getting invitations to the town kids parties. The host usually has those ginormous blow up slides or moonwalks, or they have parties in restaurants or stores that cater to such events. I say bah humbug to all that. If you have the money and it is what your child really wants, than it’s all good. But the town kids seem to get a real kick out of a little party on the prairie.

The first step in planing a party is asking your child. I know this seems like common sense, but you would be surprised at how many parents don’t actually do this. Your child will give you a slew of odd sounding themes. Take one and run.

We have decorated the house to look like we were under the sea, in a snow storm, and tracking dinosaurs. Some paper, scissors, crayons and tape can go a long way. Using things you already have on hand to entertain, isn’t just frugal, it is brilliant. For my middle son’s last birthday we had a cowboy theme, horse rides, bb gun shoot out, campfire food and chicken races. The races were a huge hit. I gave each child a hen, some where freaked out at first, but soon got over that, and lined them up. Then I would stand about 10 feet from them and yelled go. The first kid with the hen to go past me would win. This was the best free entertainment that I or any of the other adults have ever witnessed. The kids and their birds were running all over the yard, just trying to get to me.

One year my oldest wanted a Fear Factor style party. ( I would love to show you photos, but as I am no longer a paid member of Flickr, I can’t retrieve them) I had all the boys gagging or throwing up. And yes, that did make me rather proud. Here is what I wrote about that on a personal journal.

I set a plate in front of them, placing their hands in the “food”. I told them that it was worms in dirt. As soon as I yelled go! The boys started shoveling the worms in their mouths. A moment later one of the boys had to go throw up. 2 boys gave up and the 4th had so much in his mouth the he couldn’t chew. We told the 4th that he won because he was the only one not to spit it out. He was relived when I told him that he could spit it out now. {The worms in dirt was really Ramen noodles, chopped walnuts and maple syrup}”

Next we tied their hands behind their backs. I brought out the chicken poop. Using only their faces, they had to dig through the poop and find the worm. One child said no, he wasn’t going to do it. My son had a hard time at it. But one child {the one that threw up first} dug in and found that worm. {he wanted to win}. There was a lot of gagging and almost vomits with that one, and all it was, was cottage cheese, capers and a gummy worm. We kept their hands tied as I brought out the goats brains. One boy informed us that it was scrambled eggs. I said it looks like that, doesn’t it? On your marks, get set, go! The boy that said it was scrambled eggs, took one bite, and threw up. The boy that threw up in the first game, threw up again. Another boy gagged, and my son took little bites. He won that round. {It was scrambled eggs, peanut butter and maple syrup} The last of the food games was warm buffalo urine. {Apple Juice}”

The frog theme is one that we seem to do most often. My middle son adores frogs. We hunt them, we hop like them, we eat flies (candy)
It’s the cakes that tend to give us the most trouble. Luckily I can bake and my husband isn’t a bad drawer.

A Child’s party on a homestead (weather urban or rural) can be frugal but full of fun. Remember;

1 ask the child
2 negotiate with said child if they want something slightly unreasonable
3 check the pantry for ways to gross out the children or just to entertain them
4 use what you have on hand to decorate and create (we have had the party guests help us create and decorate in the past)
5 enjoy your kid and his/her friends

There have been some themes in the past that I had to modify to fit the above. Costume parties, haunted houses, and pizza parties were the results.

And just because your a grown up doesn’t mean you can’t throw yourself one of these theme parties. You should see what we do for my husband’s day.

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i generally try to keep our gift giving budget low in the spending department because we don’t have any extra money to throw around. however, i cherish my friends, both online and in real time because they are my true family. they are there for me more than my ‘real’ family is. so, i tend to go overboard this time of year showing my appreciation and love for them and all they do for me. and to me, handmade shows that more than any purchased gift ever could.

i have a standard set of cookies and goodies that i make every year. most are simple foods that my kids can help me make such as white chocolate dipped pretzels, peppermint bark, toffee, fudge and brittle. everyone usually gets a bar of soap and sometimes a jar of jelly or some tinctures. because the food items are simple to make, i can put the girls in charge of making them and  it frees me up to work on my main love…kids gifts!

i enjoy making gifts for everyone although i must confess, the kids usually get most of the creative handmade goodness. each year, i fill a folder on my computer with pictures, projects and descriptions of things i think would be great to give as holiday gifts. each year, it’s becoming more challenging as friends’ kids are aging and hitting all different age categories. a few years ago, one gift worked for all age levels. now, i’ve got 3 different age levels of gifts to make.

but, that’s alright because i’ve always got tons of ideas.

this year, the little ones are getting some posh birdies i made from this pattern at spool. sage is in love with them and runs off with any i leave laying around. i’ve already wrapped them up to curb this habit…don’t want to be sending out any used birdies!



the medium age category will be receiving felt food. this is the next group i need to get working on. i haven’t started doing any yet but i’ve narrowed it down to pasta, pancake breakfast and bread.

all the older kids that can add are getting a magic 5 game. i originally saw it on an etsy shop but i can’t find it listed anymore. so far, i have the pouch made and the game card made. now i’m waiting for greg to saw some branches into disks which i’ll paint numbers on and then finish with a beeswax sealant. the object of the game is to place the 5 in the middle of a tic-tac-toe grid and the other tiles numbered 1-9 must be arranged with the 5 to add up to 15 in every direction. i haven’t found the solution yet but i haven’t tried either. it intrigues me and i will do it before i gift them. i have 10 more days. 😀


then, there are my own kids…

a sock monkey for my 11 year old (she’s been wanting one for a few years and even put it on her list this year)


a waldorf mermaid for my 4 year old (i need to add hair and then it’s done)


a waldorf doll for my 2 year old who desperately wants his own doll…i’ve barely started on it and need to get busy. i’d also like to make a stuffed felt horse for the doll to ride but cannot locate the pattern online anymore (anyone seen the pattern???)

it can be tricky coming up with handmade gifts for older kids, my 14 year old and 12 year old boy are great examples of this. last year, i was able to make the 14 year old a quivor for his arrows. i used to sweat it worrying about whether i’d be able to make them something that would appeal to them. now, if i can’t, i’ll buy them something preferrably handmade elsewhere or secondhand (this year it’s used books all around…the eragon series for the elder and civil war novels for the younger). they are thrilled with used because it means they get more than they would if it were new.

adults are even harder to please when it comes to handmade, at least men are it seems. most women seem to enjoy handmade, probably because they can appreciate the time and effort that went into the gifts. men are a little more picky. food seems to go over well with them though…cookie samplers, fudge samplers, homebrewed beer, etc. i have done some knitting projects for my dad in the past that were well received: golf club covers, socks…and i made a leather bound book for greg one year that he has just about worn out he uses it so much.

coming up with ideas can be just as fun as making the items. i try to think of the individual and their hobbies. then i try to come up with ideas that i could make to enhance their hobbies or make their lives a bit easier. i keep a list in my binder (another post for another time perhaps) of people in my life and potential gift ideas throughout the year. as i use up the ideas, i cross them off the list. it works well for keeping track, especially when i get an idea at an odd time of the year!

when it all comes down to it though, it truly is the thought that counts!

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dscn0544part of my homesteading lifestyle is being as frugal as possible. i take no exception when it comes to wrapping gifts. to me, gift wrapping is an art in itself but it seems foolish to me to spend as much on the wrapping as i would on the present, or even more, considering i make the majority of my gifts.

i tend to collect items throughout the year that i think would make good wrapping decorations. i tend to get a lot of packages in the mail that are padded with brown or white paper. it is usually wrinkled but i like the crinkled look and often wad it up more before smoothing it out to use. although i prefer it plain, sometimes when the kids are helping, i let them decorate by drawing pictures or stamping on them.dscn0537

another medium i use for wrapping is newspapers. foreign newspapers are especially fun. occasionally, i get a chinese newspaper that was used as packaging for some herbs i buy. comics are great for kids, especially the colorful sunday ones.solstice tree

fabric scraps are another great way to wrap. lay the item down, pull up the ends, tie with string and decorate as desired. buying old sheets and clothing at the thrift shop is a great way to recycle fabric and put it to a great use. an alternative to wrapping with the fabric is to sew up gift bags that can be used again. these are fun and easy and can be cinched closed with string as well.cloth wrapping

i’m also extremely fond of corrugated cardboard. it makes lovely wrapping and when i get an item in the mail packaged with some, i covet it and save it for special items through out the year and more importantly, someone who truly appreciates my efforts in wrapping.corrugated wrapping

i also have the advantage (ha!) of inheriting a lot of junk when we moved here since the previous tenants used the back yard as their dump. i collect old rusty washers, wire and other interesting looking items to decorate the packages with.

other garnishments i find during nature walks…miniature pine cones, interesting twigs (once after an ice storm i found some with buds on them that were red. they made a lovely contrast to the white background), fresh flowers during the spring and summer, dried flowers during the fall and winter, bird and chicken feathers, corn husks, even cicada shells make exciting decorations for boys’ gifts. nothing is safe if it can be tied down!dscn0543

binder twine makes excellent ‘ribbon.’ i’m partial to the natural twine and shun the orangy plastic twine although sometimes, it is a nice contrast. i’ve also used baling wire before. never barbed wire though. 😉 morning glory vines make excellent ribbon as well.dscn0549

to me, wrapping is the best part of gift giving. i could spend days just playing with them!

does anyone else share my passion for wrapping using recycled items? what other fun things have you tried for wrapping?

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Originally published at Women Not Dabbling by emphelan

As I have stated in the past, I am not very good at all this domestic goddess type activities. I only do what I have to do, and the rest waits until company is about to come over. I watch other moms, you know the ones that seem so perfect and wonder how they do it. Home school, homestead and keep up the housework. I know that I don’t set a very good example to my boys. “clean your room, or. . .or. . . never mind I’ll do it.”

We don’t spring clean around here, we winter clean. Spring finds us outside working, eating a little and passing out where we stand. Winter cleaning is about to begin. This is the time we purge the items that well meaning folk give us. Things we have no use for. I have more sausage grinders than the local big box store. More vases than I have room for, more junk just to box up and store away until we have time for the country yard sale we have been talking about these past 6 years.

One thing I have discovered about the winter clean is that I actually prefer it to the spring clean. When the air is crisp, not bone biting cold, the windows are thrown open, and the winter air fills up the dusty house. It can be invigorating, though annoying to my little ones.

Winter cleaning can also cause us to “happen” upon something that can be gifted to someone else for the Holidays. I realize some people have a problem with that, but my family has become use to this. Some books that I purge go to my brother, kitchen items in good shape, that I really don’t use, goes to the budding cook known as my brother’s wife, and so on and so forth. It isn’t re-gifting exactly, it is more like we are the middle man for the items. I don’t see it any different than hitting up a junk treasure type store or a thrift store for purchases. My family knows that these gifts are thought out, and the right item to the right person. Besides, they get more use out of them, than I did.

The trick to being the middle man is that the items are in good shape, and cleaned before wrapping. That and not tattling on yourself after the gift has been opened. “Yep, that thing has been sitting around my house for years, thought I would be super frugal, i.e. cheap, and give it to you. It wasn’t good enough for me. . .” Keep all that to yourself, just smile and say I’m glad you like it. Re-gifting is also different in this middle man game. Re-gifting is when you get an item as a present, while the middle man holds the items that were never really meant for them. You find the perfect home for the item.

Or at least that’s what I tell myself.

Anyway you think about it, winter cleaning for your holiday gifts, helps you out in more than one way. Anyone like records?

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we live in an old house built in the 20’s. it is about 2000 square feet with 3 legal bedrooms (4 really but one doesn’t have a closet so it doesn’t count) and has a total of 4 tiny closets for the entire house. the basement is damp and anything stored down there molds w/in 6 months tops. so, what is a mother of 6 to do about storing all those clothes for all those kids for all those seasons???

last year, i started purging. the amount of clothes in my kids’ drawers is ridiculous. what’s that rule? we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time i think. and that’s so true. but, getting them to part with the less than desirable is sometimes hard. also, we live in a world of affluence and the mindset that we must have 20 articles of each clothing item. we are all sucked into the madness.

to remedy this, besides the 1 in 1 out rule, i’ve enforced a rule limiting the amount of clothing they may have. besides storing the clothes they wear in season, they also have to store any out of season clothes and future year clothes in their tiny closet and/or drawers. i feel a bit harsh doing this but it works and they seem ok once the purge is done. my older 2 children go to school (my 2 step kids are in a private school and wear uniforms so this isn’t an issue so much, not to mention they don’t have many clothes here anyway) and also have a stash of clothes at their dad’s so they really have twice the amount of clothes (at least) and don’t have to worry about being ridiculed for wearing the same clothes over and over. my younger kids are home schooled and all my friends are poor like we are so we are used to seeing the same clothes over and over again. 😉

for a master clothing list, this is what i’ve come up with:

for the boys:
5 everyday pants
3 play pants
5 everyday long sleeve shirts
2 play shirts
4 everyday shorts
3 play shorts
5 everyday t-shirts
2 play t-shirts
7 pairs socks
7 pairs boxers
1 pair flannel jammies (younger one has more)
2 sweatshirts
2 sweaters
1 pair swim shorts
1 pair boots
1 pair play shoes
1 pair snow boots

and for the girls:

5 everyday skirts/dresses (or pants depending on their preference)
3 play skirts/dresses
(or pants depending on their preference)
3pairs pants (or skirts/dresses if above is swapped)
5 everyday long sleeve shirts
2 play shirts
4 everyday shorts
3 play shorts
5 everyday t-shirts
2 play t-shirts
7 pairs socks
7 pairs undies
1 pair flannel jammies (younger one has more)
2 sweaters/sweatshirts
2 sweaters
1 swim suit
1 pair boots
1 pair play shoes
1 pair tennis shoes

this easier said than done…my mom doesn’t help with her excessive garage sale purchases but she is getting better. plus, girls are more into their clothes than the boys. and, all the coaxing in the world doesn’t convince my partner to get rid of his t-shirts or old clothes that are too small (“i’m going to lose the weight, i swear”). i think he has about 48 t-shirts alone…and, i’m guilty too….i see so many ‘great’ deals at the thrift shop that i now have another overabundance of clothing. but, as the kids constantly stretch out my tops reaching down while nursing, i’m holding on to all the extras until those days are over. other than that, i need to go in and be ruthless and start purging again. i have recently gone through my clothes from my business days. i don’t need those suits anymore so i’ll save 1 or 2 for just in case and call it wonderful.

if i would just stop perusing the women’s aisles when i shopped at the thrift shop, my dilemma of purging would be a lot easier. but, being able to fit all my clothes, winter & summer in a 1′ x 6′ area is quite satisfying. i’m not there yet but i’m working on it!

my dream master clothing list is this:

10 everyday skirts/dresses (5 for summer-shorter, 5 for winter-longer)*
6 work skirts
(3 for summer-shorter, 3 for winter-longer)
2 dressy skirts/dresses & all the trimmings (greg has fancy business functions that we attend 1-2 times per year)*
3pairs pants (jeans and other)*
5 everyday long sleeve shirts
2 work shirts
3 everyday underskirts for winter
3 pairs long underwear type pants
5 everyday short sleeved shirts 2 work short sleeved shirts
4 tank tops
7 pairs socks
7 pairs undies (mostly for moon cycle time :P)*
2 pair flannel jammie bottoms*

2 sweaters
3-4 head kerchiefs*

4 aprons (2 short for summer, 2 long for winter)*
1 swim suit*
1 pair boots*
1 pair sandals
1 pair mules*

i have achieved this in several categories (*) but i’m weak in the shirt and skirt category. i rationalize it by saying i won’t grow out of them as the kids will and mine wear out so i need more stored away. plus, the survivalist in me insists on having a stash for when tshtf and stores don’t exist anymore.

the key for having less is to choose more quality. i make it a practice to only buy clothing for myself and my family if it is well made and made out of natural materials: silk, linen, cotton, wool. it is hard to do sometimes but worth it. the clothes usually feel better too. i am working on buying 2 pairs of earth shoes by kalso…a pair of mules (my current ones are ripping on the sides and won’t be repairable much longer. i spent $4 on them at the thrift shop 3 years ago and they are leather, very nice brand) and a pair of winter boots. i just can’t justify the cost even though the ergonomics of them would suit my feet so much more better (i can’t wear heels or my feet cramp all night long very badly). i keep watching for them on ebay…someday i’ll snag them! i expect that they’ll last me for many years to come when i finally do.

has anyone else worked on cutting back on their clothes consumption? what areas do you struggle with maintaining a sane amount? do you feel a sense of relief by owning less (i know i do when i’m there)? what do you do to prepare for hard times in the (no so distant??) future?

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