Category Archives: Digging Out from Under

Just Right? Not Enough? Too Much? a/k/a The Goldilocks Dilemma

If you’ve followed along here for any period of time, you’d notice that I keep trying to find “rules.” That is, I keep trying to find set answers to recurring problems.

  • Can I cook in such a way that the kitchen cleans itself while I’m doing it? (See self-cleaning tab above.)
  • The three ways to save $ is another.

Here’s my latest:

I’m trying to figure out exactly what to keep, toss, or buy, and have been for a long time. I decided to try and “formalize” the decision-making process because I keep revisiting the issue.

I posed the problem in a forum where I participate. The answers I got and my reactions to them got me to create a spreadsheet.

From an hour’s worth of work, I came to these conclusions: storage limits are a major determinate for me — every item I considered it was a potential issue.

  • So, imposing a SPACE BUDGET should always be my first step when considering an item to keep, cull or purchase. The next consideration is whether or not what I’m considering is a durable item or a supply item?

(A SPACE BUDGET is a given amount of space allocated for a certain item.)

I discovered that I need to treat supplies differently than durable goods. Supplies tend to be things that are not used all at once. And they are things which are meant to be consumed entirely. So, for a bag of cat litter, space allocation needs to be big enough to hold the full bag, even when it isn’t.

So, this can be approached in two ways, from either the amount desired or the space needed.

  • How much of a given supply do I want to have on hand at the most? — How much space would it need?
  • Or, How much space do I have to allocate for this supply? — How much of the supply can be stored in the available space?

Some supplies require specialized storage, which of course makes it even more complicated.


My “Things I Don’t Use, Have, or I’m Getting Rid of It” List (working)

If you look at frugality sites, many have these “things I gave up to be frugal” lists.  The same is true if you look at many minimalism sites. Since I am working at becoming more minimalist and frugal at the same time and I RARELY agree with the lists I find.

Here’s mine!

(Also please see the note at the end.)

Alcohol – We know people who drink daily. Others who drink with every celebration. Us? We use a bottle of table wine about every 2-3 years, and most of the time it’s cooked into food. Exceptions? Port: it’s drunk from tiny glasses. So is the Grand Marnier I got as a treat Christmas. So, no wine cellar here. We have a problem using up beer too. It’s just not our thing.

Basketry Supplies – I bought someone’s stash, years ago, at a thrift shop. I have NEVER used any of it, so why keep it? It’s bagged up to go to the flea market next month.

Beads – A friend is starting an online bead shop. I’ve been slowly sending what I don’t think I’ll use in the next 5 years. Third box is ready to go. The boxes are tiny. I figure I may do as many as 10 before I’m done?

Boot tray  – We use a piece of lino on the wood floor instead. If things are really wet? We use a towel.

Canning Jars – I decided that except for the small jelly jars I use to hold the last of shelf-stable foods that I’m not keeping small-mouthed canning jars. I’m also not keeping those with shoulders. The straight sided ones work for everything I need. The other types are being culled as I free them up.

Celebrations – The two of us decided we just weren’t going to fuss any more. We may buy a card, or give each other something when a birthday or anniversary or Christmas rolls around, but in general? I try to thank my husband for his work, which pays for everything, at least once a week. I tell him he’s loved daily. So, we do NOT go out for anniversary or birthday dinners most of the time. In fact, we hardly ever eat out fancy. It’s nice, but it’s an “experience.” Been there, done that. I’d rather use $100 to pay down debt than have a swanky dinner! This doesn’t mean we don’t celebrate at all, it just means we usually do it at home, we stopped buying into the idea that you had to spend a lot of money and get dressed up for it to count. Why?

Cookie sheets – I use pizza pans. Figured the pizza pans being round was a necessity. Cookie sheets can be any flat surface, so years ago I got rid of the cookie sheets. We have 2 pizza pans and use them for everything: roasting veggies, making pizza, baking, etc.

Dish sponges – I got tired of buying them. My grandmother used flannel rags. When my last sponge disintegrated, rather than buying a new one? I tore up an old nightgown. That was about a year ago. We have a sponge for washing the car and a sponge mop for the floor, but I don’t really miss my dish sponges! Yes, I have to wash rags more often.

Drawers – I had several sets of old retail storage drawers, originally from a card shop. I used them for years to store craft supplies. I’ve removed and gotten rid of one. The others are slated to go when my office gets cleared, hopefully this summer! As craft supplies are culled, other drawers will be emptied too.

Duplicate Books – When I know they’re dupes? I keep the best one and donate or sell the others.

Extra Plastic Food Storage – I haven’t done this yet, but it will be soon. We have one spot to store these and it’s getting full again as food comes out of the freezer. DH needed some last fall and we bought a different type. Most of those will be pulled from the kitchen and either go into the workshop or be filled with flea market merchandise. I also need to do another match it with the lid session. I don’t keep either extra lids or containers which don’t have them!

Extra Set of Towels – These days I have one set of bathroom towels, 4 black ones. There’s 3 hooks in the bathroom. I take one out about every 3 days and wash it and add the unused one. Works fine. The towels are cleaned on average about 3-4 times a month and it’s much less of a PITA than pulling them all out, replacing them with the other towels, washing/drying them and then swapping all the towels again. If I don’t get it done? There’s still 3 towels in the bathroom. Less stress, less stuff, works!

Filing  – Everything was removed from the fling cabinet. When it gets refilled, there will be a lot less stored there! This is in process.

Floor wax – These days what I do is wash the floor with Murphy’s soap and water (using up the end of the Murphy’s, when it’s gone I’ll just use dish soap, if I have to use soap). I rinse with plain water and lemon essential oil. I don’t think the oil does anything for the wood, but it makes it smell wonderful and I like it waaay better than the smell of Murphy’s!

If I’m in a real hurry or the floor doesn’t need soaping, I’ll sweep or vac the floor, then run the string mop over it with hot water. Then empty/rinse the bucket and use the sponge mop, more hot water, and the oil.

When I had lino floors to clean, I used “Once and Done” from Armstrong, it’s a no rinse floor cleaner with wax.

Glasses – I got tired of replacing them. We do use wine glasses, but everyday liquids are drunk from coffee mugs.

Hair conditioner – Well I didn’t give it up. Why? I use about 1 bottle every 2 years or so. I use a thick conditioner and comb it through my clean wet hair, using about a dime sized portion at a time and a wide toothed comb. I use it as a detangler. My hair goes about 2/3rds of the way down my back btw, I do NOT have short hair!

Instant Potatoes, etc. – I don’t mind them, but DH says “Ick!” about instant potatoes. However, I used to use jarred marinara, instant gravies, etc. These days I make sauces & gravies from scratch. It’s cheaper for one thing. I control what goes into it for another. Finally? It can be made to suit our tastes and the commercial stuff is usually “okay” but not “great” (acc. to no one but us).

Junk Drawer – I think one reason the house gets so untidy is that I “let” it. So, why allow myself to have a messy drawer in the kitchen? If I change the junk drawer into something actually useful rather than a catchall for misc. clutter, can I cut down the clutter? This is an experiment We’ll see how it works!


Linens – Much like the towels above, I used to have 4 sets of winter sheets and 4 sets of summer sheets. These days, I have 1/2 that. I have 2 sets of flannel for winter and 2 sets of cotton for summer. The only place I have more than that is pillow cases. I take the top sheet off midweek and throw it in the wash. I take the bottom sheet and pillow cases off over the weekend. I’ve gotten past the idea that this has to happen all at once. The scope of that job would make me put it off. Removing one sheet, replacing it with the other similar sheet and then washing the old one doesn’t seem as onerous. Works for me, YMMV.

Magazine Subscriptions – I used to subscribe to at least 2. The only magazine I get now is the one where I’m on the staff, and I’ve been giving them away to interested people as I can.

Make up Remover – When I was in college, for a bit I was a theater make up major. The actresses used shortening to remove their theater make up. No perfumes, cheap, easy to find, etc. I haven’t bought fancy make up remover since!

Muffin Tins – I didn’t make muffins regularly enough to justify keeping a muffin tin. I also don’t have silicon or paper liners.


Office Supplies – With some exceptions, we have enough of almost everything: pens, erasers, stickies, thumbtacks, etc. We run out of ink and paper because I hate proofreading anything large on screen. Most of the book projects I work on I end up printing at lease twice….

Ornament (and Stocking) Hangers – I decided a few years back that string or wire or ribbon would work for these. Why buy and store something else?

Pencil Cups  – I had 5: both offices, the living room, the kitchen, and workshop. I’ve eliminated 3 of them. Two should be enough!


Retail Supplies – Because I worked in retail, I have lots of retail supplies I likely won’t ever use: extra receipt books, stickers, tags, etc. either too old to be used or I know will still be unused in a few years. In some cases, this stuff has gone to the dump. I’ve given some away. I have a small cigar box of supplies, but most of it is removed when I run across it, ASAP.

Ribbon – I used to have a lot of it. Well, to be honest, it came home from the bookstore. I offered free wrapping and had supplies for it when asked. As a private individual, I sure didn’t need the 5 rolls of curly ribbon, etc.  I’ve been culling it for a long time now. When I make up our Christmas bread, I frequently try and use as much ribbon as I reasonably can. Still I cull it and keep culling it. . . .

Shredder – We had one, but don’t now. Many times the shreds wound up in the wood stove to start fires. When the old shredder died, I decided to use the shredder I was born with, my hands, and continue that practice. If it’s not wood-burning season or the wood stove’s paper bins are full, I put it in a used manila envelope and take it to Stapes. A pound of shredding (about 2-3 envelopes) costs around $2. For about $8 a year I don’t have to have a special use tool, storage for same, or figure out where to put it!

Suits – I haven’t worked in an office for some time. It is nice to not need to worry about having a suit for work anymore!

Soda Crates – Earlier I had stored my beads in plastic boxes in soda crates. These are the beads I’m culling. At some point, at least some of the crates will be empty and will be used elsewhere or culled.


(Of what’s shown? The big round containers are gone. The white plastic container in the upper left is gone. Most of the monofilament is gone. Some of the small round containers are gone too….)

Scrubbing Bubbles – and other “specialty” cleaners. These days I use bleach, cleanser, dish soap, laundry soap, bar soap, ammonia, salt, and such. Except for leather cleaners, which I still have a lot of and lemon oil furniture polish, I don’t buy them.

The leather cleaner gets used on the leather furniture and car seats and shoes. The  lemon oil get used on furniture, wood floors, and occasionally on appliances!

Snack foods – I know people who always have snacks around and soda. We don’t. The only cracker we buy regularly are whole wheat saltines and I have a recipe and may try and make them sometime soon. They aren’t all that expensive, but I just don’t see the point in buying all that packaging for something that is basically flour, water, salt and soda, when I have all those things in stock all the time?

I can’t drink soda and DH isn’t fond of it, so no sodas for us.

Spoon holder – The one you put next to your stove; I don’t. A while ago, I had a ceramic pot. The pot got broken and tossed, but the lid was fine. I kept it for I know not what reason? Then one day I had an Aha! moment and I turned the lid upside own and pushed the handle into one corner of the grid over my gas burners. It stayed. It works great, is fairly small, cost me nothing and keeps me from gooping up the burners, the space around them, or the counters!

Sponges – I gave up dish sponges last year. (See above.) The only sponge, except for the sponge mop, is in the carwash bucket.

Swifters or other fancy cleaning tools – What’s in my broom closet? A small vac, a broom, a wool dust mop and a sponge wet mop. That’s it. I also have buckets, dust pans, brushes, etc. but no swifter or carpet sweeper. I had both and didn’t use them.

Television – It had been turned on once in about 10 years. It took the space that an entire bookcase would occupy. Hm…We needed more bookshelving, right? It was an easy cull.

Tinsel – I gave it up a few years back. We have beaded icicles and some glass ones.

Umbrella stand – We keep one umbrella indoors and one in each car. Don’t need more. When they come in wet? They are put on the piece of lino which is our “boot tray.”

Vacations – We hardly ever take them. Every once in a while, we’ll take a “get the hell outta here” break and spend the night in a local motel just to get away from the place where we eat, sleep, live, and work 24/7. Part of adjusting to working at home was finding the relief valve in everyday living.

We take day trips. Go to a museum or bookstore or event. But we don’t need to experience every ride, national park, country, festival, etc. Some things I just want to see. The internet works for that and it’s a lot cheaper than air fare and hotels!

A question I found years ago made a lot of sense:

Why work so hard year ’round to pay for/decorate,

and make “ours” some place…

and when we get a break from work we leave that place?

Made me really reconsider vacations. If I’m not going to “experience” something or a place and not going “as a break” why don’t I use vacation time to enjoy the home I’ve spent all the time, effort and money to create?

Vases – I culled my collection, it was 2 shelves worth!  I now have 5,  3 were inherited and will be passed on.

Wood burning supplies – Since we’re not primarily heating with wood, I won’t restock fire starters, junk paper, matches, twig bins, etc. like I did. We still have enough for emergencies, but it’s just that, and the beginning of the season we were fully stocked, so I won’t need to restock much of it for some time!

X – Various Products I make myself – brown sugar, cinnamon sugar, garlic salt, window cleaner

Yarn – I decided when I quit knitting all the time that I’d get rid of any excess polyester yarn and use wool instead. I have given away the excess and the yarn I’m keeping is stored in a tin. There’s still too much of it, probably, but I have culled the collection quite a lot!


 It may appear from this that we live a grim existence — not so! We like each other’s company, sense of humor, etc. We use the events in our daily lives for comic relief; we laugh a lot, hug and smile — daily.

Philosophy of Stuff: Keep, Cull, Replace?

For a long, long time I’ve been removing excess from here and elsewhere in my life. Fine.

This morning I read/heard these things:

  • A discussion about the realities associated with prepping. What are you prepping for? How much reliance on the grid/info structure do you include? How much food, etc. do you plan to raise? To store?
  • Do you have the skills and knowledge to do those things?
  • The only way to successfully survive, SHTF or not, is to plan on having less, being able to do less, buy less, be less healthy, over time. There’s planning and there’s reality. We all get older. We all eat the food. Buildings degrade. Income becomes less with retirement. Inflation happens.
  • What happens after SHTF?
  • An article on NPR about robots planting/harvesting/packaging “organic” food.

And I thought, again. I’m probably doing this wrong, or, more accurately, I’m not doing it right often enough.

I have ideas I try and use:

  1. “Plan for the worst. The best will take care of itself.”* The problem here is to do it reasonably. Saving food is fine, but you need to also use it. You need to know how to cook those dried hotdogs so you will eat them, before you need to. How much does that can hold? Will I actually eat it? How long will it keep?
  2. “Keep the best, pitch the rest.”* I  use this when culling books or other things where I have duplicates. But I also use it as a guiding principal when I don’t. If the function is duplicated, if its purpose is a needless “convenience.” A crepe pan, for example. If you know how to make crepes, a crepe pan is unneeded, a regular skillet works. I don’t have a sifter, for this reason, or buy brown sugar. A sieve works fine to sift flour and I make up brown sugar as needed. That said? I only do those things probably 6x a year or less. If I made cookies for resale or in bulk, regularly, I’d probably have a sifter and perhaps an electric one!
  3. Do I use it? Expect to use it? Have I used it in the past? It’s a wonderful framistat. I’ve never used it. Will I? Not likely — out it goes!
  4. With fewer, better things, you’ll have time to do something other than stuff maintenance. This is the main reason I’m moving towards minimalism. Has nothing to do with embracing Marie Kondo or Henry David Thoreau.
  5. Use lower-tech, lower-cost alternatives, when practical. Open the blinds first, rather than turning on the light — if all I want is a little more light in the room. Need to see much better so I don’t run into something? So I can work on a project? Turn on the light. With big backlit screens, I’ve found I don’t need a “reading” light to use a computer these days. Previously, that wasn’t true. Older flickering monitors were really hard on the eyes in a dark room!
  6. Only replace it when the replacement is guaranteed to be better. Of course, this is hard to know! But what I do is replace older, worn items with copies of the same thing, in better shape. My childhood home had 2 strainers, made to be used together. I loved them as a kid. When my dad died, it became mine. I use it all the time. The smaller sieve had been rusting through and degrading for a while. I finally found another copy, on Ebay last year and bought it. The old one got taken to the dump, immediately. I don’t know if someone grabbed it or not.

I’m really offended by the idea of a robot planting, maintaining, harvesting and packaging my food. Not sure why!

*(c) Judith K. Dial, 2005, unpublished manuscript.

Still Working On It

I have a mountain of clippings to go through. But I have created a method for doing the index Have organized the indices into a binder, etc.

Am I done? Not even close.

At the end of this, however, when I want the info about that off the grid house, I should be able to actually find it, and that will help quite a bit!

Tbere are still many papers to sort. And I need more of the composition books I’m using for scrapbooks. Just the same? I’m pleased with the effort and the paper bin is getting “fed” regularly!

How I Look at Things, Now

These days, when I pick up something here, there’s a series of questions which go through my mind:

  1. Am I using it?
  2. Am I likely to use it in the future?
  3. Is it heavy/awkward to use?
  4. Does it take a lot of maintenance?
  5. Can I get a lighter, easier to use or maintain version for the future?

Last night, I found a hanging, round, wire herb rack online. What I have used ’til now is a 2’+ pegged coat rack, which works fine. The problem with it is: I have to stand on a stepladder to access the hooks, 2x a year: to put the herbs up to dry and to remove them.

I’m trying to eliminate chores which require me to climb a stepladder, right? A rack I could hang lower, like our fruit basket, which is also hung, could be ideal. The one I found said in the not-quite fine print that it didn’t come with a hanging chain, which meant I’d have to find or make something.

Hm. Did a google search and discovered both Target & Williams Sonoma have  similar racks, which come with a hanging chain for $10 less. Great!

I like the rack I’ve used in the past, it may make its way into the out-of-season closets when we get that far, but right now it will stay put. If I remove it, I have to store it somewhere and remember where that is. Much easier, less work/less clutter to leave alone until we know where it’s going to be used or are sure we want to sell it.

The first flea market this year is in April. The cherry coffee table is slated to go, not sure what else, except some books and housewares. We should remove more furniture, but it depends on the weather, our health and money of course!


What I’ve Learned

Well, it’s different, you see. Not panicking in a clean space means that I can just clean it and leave it that way.

That is new and different, so although these points may be obvious to you, they weren’t to me!

The reasons behind my decluttering now are:

  1. With less stuff, it’s easier to use the space.
  2. With less floating clutter, it’s easier to clean the space.
  3. Also with less floating clutter, it’s easier to maintain the cleanliness.

This has nothing to do with sparking joy or minimalism, but is a pragmatic reality. Intellectually, of course I already knew this.

What’s different is the impatience I have with the assorted piles and boxes of stuff. Instead of being something to doggedly plow through which is uncomfortable at best and traumatic at its worst!


Pulling It Together

I have notebooks, pages, cards, file boxes of various sorts, tracking what I do or want to do. It’s a mess.

I started an index  today with the idea that I will cull/organize the mountain of paper into a usable tool, or set of tools. Since this incorporates several years (decades?) of planning, successful and not, it’s not a small task and will take me some time. A week or perhaps longer. I took a pic of the dining table awash in paper, but have to download it.

It occurred to me that I’m overwhelmed with the various tasks I’ve set myself. The cull and clean up of the house and stuff is a daunting task. Also, I have these various bits and pieces which worked (and didn’t). I don’t want to throw away work when I don’t have to, but have no need to keep it all forever, either.

So, it begins!

  • Loose-leaf binders for the seven levels of stuff cleaning plan. (2)
  • Teacher’s attendance notebooks, also used for the seven levels. (2)
  • Monthly Notebooks, for filing things which are done that way (12)
  • Category Notebooks, for filing clippings (5, I think?)
  • File boxes for the monthly notebooks (2)
  • Garden clippings and book in another file box (1)
  • Various cards, card pockets, and files (?)

I’m not sure what I missed, but I’m sure there are pieces not included in the list above.

It’s a mess.