Category Archives: Making Home

The Great Email Purge

As of right now, I have 1,300 1,4xx emails in my “trash.”

8/7/19 11:27 a.m., 6xx 8/23/19

I’ve decided that I need more exacting goals if I’m ever going to get to the lean and mean lifestyle I want.

So, that means that the average number of emails in my trash needs to be at least 2,000. This is a challenge I’m setting myself.

8/7/19 9:05 a.m. 

This post was written in Word and then cut/pasted into WordPress, because I couldn’t get the &*(&*( block editor to act correctly. That’s also the reason there are no categories or tags for this post. If/when I figure that out, I’ll add them, later.


The Ideal

Years ago it must have been, one of my parents or someone got a brochure for a housing development in SoCal. For some reason, this has always been my image of an ideal home. I guess the marketing people got me right!

It shows a 108′ x 300′ lot. the lot is divided into 5 (from the street):

  1. House, driveway, drying yard, etc.
  2. Pond, grass
  3. Swing set/play area, tennis or badmidton court, veggie garden,
  4. four rows of fruit trees, 4 per row, (40)
  5. chicken house/goat pen.

Tennis courts take 42′ in length. Dwarf apple trees take 10′ each, an orchard of 4 x 4 trees would take up 40 linear feet

Those items take up 82 of 300 feet, leaving 212′ in length for the animal pen area (chickens/goats), the grass/pond, and oh yes, the house and front lawn.

The lot as shown is 3/4 of an acre. We have more than that, although not a lot! I wouldn’t have thought we had room for 16 fruit trees, a chicken coop,a tennis court, a pond AND the house? I’m not interested in the tennis court, swing set, etc., but the  pond, fruit trees and chicken coop are interesting. Hmm!


Inspirations and Data

There are various places I’ve been getting inspiration, my batteries “recharged,” and just getting useful information.

One of these is the website, which is filled with common sense, realistic advice about living with less stuff, spending less money, and doing so more deliberately.

Another is the woman Lefie, on YouTube. (Link) Most YouTube folks who talk about simplicity or minimalism I find to be rather “holier than thou” an attitude I frankly want to watch about as much as I want someone to pull off my toenails!

Lefie is the only one I’ve found who’s human enough, informative enough, and entertaining enough to keep me interested. Not a lot of what she says is new to me, but it makes me think about whatever again and I don’t resent it. I don’t feel lectured at, and I don’t feel like it’s a preen job where she gets to show off how cool and accomplished she is.

I find most  lifestyle YouTube videos so bizarrely slick that I think it’s like bad TV, rather than other people talking to me about what works for them.  If I want to watch a production, I’ll get a movie, a TV show, etc. with professionals. Most YouTubers are not those things, and they do things like make up and manicures and very spiffed up houses, and then lecture.  (I call these “preen jobs.”)

They don’t have the presentational panache professionals do, their information isn’t fresh enough for me to be interested to watch the entire piece, and in the process, they’re for me, a bad infomercial. I started to watch one yesterday where the woman was doing a house tour. She moved the camera/phone around so much she made me dizzy and I stopped watching.

I’m not their intended audience, I know, but still. Did no one tell her that she can’t just pan around a room at normal walking speed for several minutes without making viewers kind of loopy?

There are a swathe of “frugal substitute” and “what we don’t use any more” YouTube videos, most of which I also find pretty silly or irritating. You can find 2 flavors of these: frugality/save money and minimalist.

I’m glad you use a bullnose clip instead of a chip clip. Terrific! But why use one at all? We use rubberbands, but chip-type snacks are rare here, because, doh, we’ll eat them and we don’t need the calories or salt or to spend the outrageous amount per pound for the snacks to begin with. So when such things make it into the house, they’re usually gone in 1 day, no need for a chip clip or bullnose clip or anything!

dollar sign from

My point there is that it’s MORE frugal and minimalist not to buy them to start with!

The other reason those videos irritate me is that I’ve been doing frugal paring down and substitutions for decades. I have tried 1000s of the ideas already. I keep hoping someone will find a new way to save money, but so far, I haven’t found one.

One way to save money: spend less.

Three strategies to do this: 1) Cheaper substitute. 2) Do without. 3) Use less.

What I’m really looking for these days and haven’t found yet, is the minimalist equivalent to the save money statement above.

That statement took a long time to crystalize from decades of reading, watching, trying, listening, etc.

I’m not a minimalist. I’m a recovering hoarder.

I’m not a frugalista. I’m a person trying to save money for a heating system, get ready for retirement, or just not waste money, because why would you want to waste a resource?

I’m not a YouTube fanatic. I only have subscribed to one channel, Lefie’s. It may be the only one I ever subscribe to!

I am not a 20-40 year old young professional or mom, looking for help, either.

I can come up with the blanket statement for minimalism, but not the detail. The detail requires the understanding that actual usage brings. I’m not a minimalist, right? But here’s the first piece:

One way to be minimalist, that is have less stuff is to get rid of stuff.

Revision: To be minimalist and have less stuff, get rid of stuff.

Revision 2: To become minimalist, remove excess.

It’s the same, obvious statement which can be overlooked amidst all the noise on the subject!

Trying to Be Organized

It’s remarkably difficult!

One thing I noticed early this spring was that much of the frozen food I’d pitched were the random combinations of veggies: bok choy and onions, or, or …? Because I composted about 20 of these “soup and stew” vegetable mixes, I decided that this year I need recipes for whatever I froze instead.

So I searched through my cookbooks and came up with some. Then I made a spread sheet of the recipe name/source/page as a column head and the ingredients as the rows. The quantity req’d for a recipe goes into the appropriate cel on the spread sheet. It’s two pages long at this point.

Why did I do it this way? Because all the ingredients aren’t available from the farm at the same time, so some will be frozen first and then I’ll add the others.

But then, how did I know how many I had? Were they complete? And, and . . . . and so I made a grid for that.

So, this morning (it’s farm day) I went through the “shopping list” I’d made for the farm, from the email about what’s available this week and a survey of the food in the kitchen and marked what was needed for the food to be put away.

So, now I have:

  1. Two shopping lists: one for the farm, the other for the supermarket
  2. A check list/grid of the completed/in process frozen foods
  3. A spreadsheet with recipe names, where I found them, and the farm ingredients
  4. Three cookbooks, with the recipe pages flagged.

I intend to make a large grid/checklist page that I can just tape to the fridge, combining #2, #3 with recipe cards,  (replacing #4) in a library pocket.

This is waaay too involved!

When I first conceived of this, I thought I’d do 2 recipes, maybe 3: summer veggie combo, winter veggie combo and something else. The 3 became 13, and the chaos began. When the list of recipes grew exponentially, my need for tracking and organization did the same.

Every week, I thought, “Okay, I’ll do this piece of organization/tracking and that will fix it.” and then discovered I’d forgotten some vital piece, again. (The last is the check list of how many containers are done. Are they complete? Not?)

For the past three weeks, I’ve added a new form of tracking and organization to this every week. Let’s hope that combining them on one page will get it to “use it at a glance”  that I want!

It’s done. I have room for the library pocket, but haven’t copied the recipes out yet. I added a 14th recipe.

So two more major steps: copying the recipes onto cards and proofing the data.


Busy… And!

  • Been working hard at the culling/cleaning effort, as I’d said. You can see that here
  • Got a contract in my inbox this a.m. for the memoir. I’d be shaking or something, if it felt real I think? So far, it isn’t.
  • Need to get back into the food tracking. We’re in full summer glut from the farm, there’s no way I’ll remember what I’ve got, what I intend to do with it, etc. without some sort a plan.

So I haven’t gone away, I’m just busy!


Figuring the Cost

Farm food It occurred to me that I should figure out how much we actually spent on the farm food? I knew what the total was and how long the food is available, but haven’t done any kind of costing for it this year.

Every week we get a slug o’ veggies, usually some herbs, etc.

A week ago, Tuesday, we got: spinach, mixed greens, pea sprouts, and lettuce. We had soup 2 nights from the spinach ( a cold spinach/avocado soup, a spring tradition here, yummy!) and I used the mixed greens in salads, cooked some of it, etc. We had spinach and lettuce salads with other veggies. The last of the mixed greens and spinach were dealt with yesterday.

Yesterday I got spinach, 2 heads of lettuce, a bunch of radishes, kale, bok choy, chard, argula, cilantro and dill.

Last night’s dinner was HM hummus, with lemon and dill. The salad had a little cilantro in it, and more of last week’s lettuce. Tonight’s salad will use the end of last week’s lettuce.

Despite my not keeping track last week because I was still sick, I have figured it out. The farm costs about $28/week, which works out to about $4 a day, if you only do dinner with it. That’s almost exactly what the allowance for food on SNAP (food stamps) is.

However, because we both work at home, we frequently use some of the farm food for lunches, but don’t always. So, say we use the farm food for 3 other meals a week, that’s 10, which drives the cost per meal down to $2.80, or $1.40 for each of us, daily.

This doesn’t include whatever food I manage to put aside.

It hadn’t occurred to me to start with the $ amount for food stamps, but it’s a good idea! If, God forbid, we ever end up needing that type of help, then our expectations will already be there. The problem is of course, that the $4 a day should cover EVERYTHING, veggies, meat, shampoo, etc. And to get there, I have a LOT more adjustments to make!

What I’ve done with the menu plan idea (See here.) is to greatly reduce the amount of prefab, frozen, and restaurant meals we’re eating. Making better use of what we have (Also see this.), wasting less, etc. It all helps. Anything I set aside from the summer glut or grow here is also a bonus, as it reduces the expenses. But I need to do better reducing the other costs!

Meat I pretty much have done this with the new menu plan, we only eat it 2x a week, on Friday and Sunday. I’ve discussed how I reduced what we pay for already.

That leaves everything else: anything other than meat and vegetables. And that’s a lot! Paper products, frozen foods, baked goods, health/beauty items, pet supplies, cleaning supplies, etc.

Frozen foods here are ice cream, meats, and vegetables. I have an ice cream maker, I always plan to make ice cream during the summer, but don’t always do so. I need to more often this year, like weekly. Being us, we buy expensive ice cream, so making our own will be cheaper, almost guaranteed!

Baked goods here are mostly bread and crackers. DH has been making bread every couple of days. We actually don’t do much other baking, although yesterday I found organic blackberries on sale, so this morning I’ll make a blackberry cobbler.

Paper products except for costing out and trying janitorial supply sources, I haven’t seriously tried to find a way to reduce our costs here. I located a janitorial supply company that sells to the public nearby. I keep meaning to, and keep forgetting, to buy a roll or 2 of TP and paper towels (our usual paper products) to see if we like them?

Health/Beauty items I’m not sure how else to reduce costs here. We’re using up the end of a bulk shampoo buy I did 2 years ago. I’ll have to buy shampoo again before the year is out, but that’s the first time in 2 years. (There was a good sale, I had lots of coupons and they doubled coupons up to $1 So I bought every bottle I had a coupon for.) I get bar soap from a friend who raises goats and makes artisan soap. She makes a 10 lb block for me about every 18 months and I cut it into bars. We also use Dr. Bonner’s baby soap, cut in 1/2, for DH’s shaving soap and at the kitchen sink (my hands dry out in the kitchen, I wash my hands too often). Deodorant is the only other thing we buy regularly. I buy it when I find it on sale. I’ll have to buy some of that soon, we’re using the last tube. Toothpaste we buy about once a year, the rest of the time we use the samples provided by the dentists.

Photo by Crystal de Passillé-Chabot on Unsplash

Cleaning products — this is an area I can work on! Because I’m so scent sensitive, I’m careful about only buying unscented products. The availability of these ebbs and flows. Six months ago, there were 3 different types of unscented dish soap at our local market. Last time I looked, there was 1. This means I tend to buy mulitples when I can afford it, because I may not be able to find the product in the future. I wouldn’t mind decanting a gallon of dish soap into smaller, more usuable containers, if it didn’t make me sick! Laundry detergent I have the same issue. I should check with the janitorial supply company for these. Wood cleaner/polish I finally found a set of products which doesn’t make me sick. Also fortunately, their office is nearby. My plan is to stop by before winter and see if I can’t buy a gallon of the stuff! And then there’s trash bags, but I finally found a cheap source of those, UNSCENTED, at our local cheapo market. Dh bought a box of hefty bags that is so stinky I opened it outside 2 months ago. They still stink! He can use them for workshop stuff, NOT bring them in the house or put them in my car to go to the dump! After 2 months outside, open, they STILL stink!!!

The usual/standard advice in “save money” books is to make your own cleaners or buy whatever is on sale. I do make some of my cleaners and use vinegar, baking soda, etc. as much as I think is sane but I can’t just use whatever is cheapest because of the scent issue. This means that except for buying in bulk or from a janitorial supply company, I really can’t cut here, unless I’m willing to live in a house which makes my allergies worse.

No one has convinced me yet that microfiber cloth or essential oils actually clean things. As far as I can tell, microfiber cloths are just fine terry cloth and essential oils just make things smell good! I can and do mop my kitchen floor every now and then with lemon oil and water, but it’s not to clean the floor, it’s to make the kitchen smell good! I do it AFTER I’ve swept and then mopped the floor!

Fortunately, I can use some scents, as long as it’s scented with natural oils, like lemon. I do this myself, because it’s just not worth it to use something that’s supposedly all natural scent to discover the binder, which they didn’t count, is something which I react to!

This cost/expense reduction project needs more work!


One, I finally feel NOT sick, which is a real blessing after 2 months of being sick!

Two, it’s a not too hot, not too cold day out there. The bean trellis got planted yesterday, it rained so I didn’t have to water the seeds in. The greens I’d planted last week are starting to sprout. Although I won’t get any where near as many plants as I’d hoped, all my seed is at least 3 years old.

The plan this year is to use it ALL up, and start fresh next year. This is what happens when you don’t do a garden for 2 years….

The car is loaded with flea market items going to the storage. At the moment, I’m waiting on the chimney sweep guy, who’s supposed to be here in the next 1/2 hour. After he leaves, I’ll haul a load to the storage and a load back (there’s no room in the storage for a car full, so something has to come back too.)

But, it’s also DUMP DAY, so a load or three of leaves and books and asst. stuff will go to the dump today. And that, if nothing else, will create a small hole in the pending stuff waiting to be dealt with. Hurrah!

There are 3 rugs on the lawn waiting for DH’s help to shake them. The 2 smaller ones will come back in the house, the bigger one is slated for the flea market, and will go into the car.

It’s spring, I don’t feel wretched, and I’m finally getting things done I’d planned to do two months ago. Hurrah!


Photo by Linda Xu on Unsplash