Minimalist at Nursing School

nursing shoes older than me

nursing shoes older than me

Reader Erin asks if minimalism would help while trying to go to nursing school while raising toddlers.

Well ……….Yeah!

As you already know, minimalism helps everything.

When I was in nursing school, I had only one child and I lived in a town far away from family. So I did not have the usual resource of relatives to help. Even my son’s father lived in a different town.

We rented a studio apartment near campus. We shared a fold-out couch for the first couple years, and later someone gave us a toddler bed. There was a table and three chairs, so we could even have company for dinner. The space was small, so it didn’t take much time to clean it. I had a set of four plate and bowls, so it was impossible for the kitchen to overrun with dirty dishes.

My son had eight outfits, and I did the laundry at a laundry-mat weekly. I had two pair of jeans, a week’s worth of tops and the all-white student nursing outfit.

The first two years, we didn’t have a car and we walked where we needed to go. I had a red Radio Flyer wagon that transported groceries and laundry. I typed papers on free typewriters available at the school.

I was able to get work on campus, both as an English tutor and as a model for the art department, so I scheduled work in between classes. Any free time during the day, I studied.

I took my son to day-care in the morning, walked to school/work, picked him up around 5pm and then we would have dinner and play and read books. After my son went to sleep, I would study for 2-3 hours before going to bed.

I didn’t date, I only went shopping when we needed something and my entire focus was on providing the things my son needed and school.

I had a friend with a son abut the same age as mine, and once a month or so, we would go to Chuck E. Cheese and nurse a beer for a couple hours while the boys played.

It was tough at times, but it has allowed the rich and abundant life I now enjoy…so very much worth it.

Don’t Be A Princess

Do you remember the story of the Princess and the Pea, in which a skeptical potential mother-in-law tests the nobility of a young girl by putting a pea under about 20 mattresses? The older woman is convinced of the young woman’s noble birth by the bruises she acquires while asleep.
I remember when, as a small child, I first heard this story and thought about the princess, “What a loser! She needs to toughen up.”

Life is going to send us all kinds of challenges. Unexpected physical demands, unforeseen money surprises, annoying people. Rather than letting these events throw us into a swoon or worse, a panic, let us plan for future challenges by training ourselves to be frugal and strong and kind now. Then when those difficult situations occur, we are prepared.

No matter where you are now, take steps to improve your health and finances and relationships. No flopping on the bed and moaning, “It’s too haaarrrd.” “I’m too buuussyyyy.” “People are meeaan.” Wah! It is hard, you are busy, people can be mean. Don’t be distracted.

I think of it as interval training. When training to build muscle, you push your body really hard for a short period, exhausting it. Then you let it rest. Then you go all-out again. This work hard-rest cycle builds strong bodies. Using a work hard-rest cycle can build emotional and financial strength as well.

Let’s go!

The Ebb and Flow of Possessions

No shaming allowed

No shaming allowed

On my recent trip to Minnesota to drive my daughter and her stuff to college, I got a chance to visit with two different persons that know about my counting game of keeping personal possessions to less than 100 items.

Both of them, on different days, in a guilty tone, confessed that they had too much stuff. As if I were a supermodel and they felt bad for eating that balanced meal of grilled chicken, steamed broccoli and rice pilaf in front of me.

The thing is, each of them was in a different phase of life, but one prone to accumulation. One had just helped her parents clear out the family farmhouse (so, not just 50 years of stuff, but 150 years of family heirlooms) and the other has recently welcomed an infant to the family.

The farmhouse clearer is overwhelmed by the stuff that she took into her own home, as she rescued it from de-clutter of her parents home. She is too busy to deal with it now, but we talked about strategies to share the family stuff when she does have time to deal with it. Tellingly, she is motivated to do so sooner, rather than later, as she doesn’t want her kids to have to deal with what she did.

The new mother, on the other hand, is an expert de-clutterer, having previous experience and lots of resources at hand to move items through their home when they are no longer needed. She doesn’t need my help at all. When the time is right, she’ll be able to de-clutter again.

There is an ebb and flow to life. No point in wishing to be at a different point of the cycle.

The $10,000 Auto Decal

When your child is accepted to college and sends back a “Yes” reply, the school starts sending you all sorts of stuff, including a free car decal.

Minimalists should always be wary of accepting free items, but I have kept two of these free stickers.

These two stickers represent $18,000. That's more than the car cost new.

These two stickers represent $19,000. That’s more than the car cost new.

Here is how they came to cost me so much. In the state of Illinois, there is case law, whereby children have sued their divorced parents to pay for college. And the court ordered it so. Four years at a state school with each entity (mother, father, child) paying one third of the costs. Aware of these rulings, the kid’s dad and I voluntarily entered into such an agreement, saving our kids suing us and the legal fees.

Plus, I want to help them pay for college.

As you can see by the auto stickers, neither student is attending a state school (average cost per year $32,000.) They are attending private liberal arts colleges (average cost per year $61,000.) They are responsible for the difference. Fortunately, they are both naturally intelligent and hard-working and have earned significant scholarships to attend school. Middle son, is on track to graduate without debt, beloved daughter will have some.

Beware free stuff.

Frugal Vacation

At the sculpture garden

At the sculpture garden

We recently returned from a six day trip to visit my son and daughter-in-law in Chattanooga Tennessee, an eight hour drive from here.

Total cost of the trip: $327.48


Gasoline: $102.22

Restaurant Food: $133.83 This was spent on the two travel days. While in Chattanooga, we ate all meals at my son and DIL’s home. I cooked dinner as they had to work during the day.

Grocery Store Food:$36.63 This does not include what son and DIL provided. I was merely refilling their pantry, as when we come to visit, it is a bit like locusts descending on your kitchen.

Entertainment: $54.80

In the past, when we have visited Chattanooga, we have mixed expensive entertainments like spelunking and white-water rafting with less expensive hiking and picnicking. This trip, we focused on the less expensive activities. Here are a few of the things we did and what they cost.

Walk around downtown, and across the pedestrian bridge. My son treated us to ice cream and icy drinks. $0

Bike rental for one day: $24

Lookouts baseball game: $0 (My son, who is a college baseball coach, got these as a favor from another coach.)

Nature Park hike and picnic: $0

Sculpture garden: $0

Hunter Art Museum: $34.80

Teenage squabbling was kept to a minimum and we had a great visit!

Frugal Beauty Routine

Funny, when I was younger, and actually kinda cute, I spent way more money on beauty products than I do now. Oh, the irony.

Here’s what I do now:

Easy to pack too!

Easy to pack too!

The soap is handmade with olive oil. There are cheaper soaps, but my skin doesn’t like them. I use the “no poo” method for curly hair where you “wash” your hair with conditioner.

A little bit of foundation with SPF 15 and mascara. That’s it. The small, unlabeled bottle has olive oil in it, which I rub into my face before bed and remove with a steaming washcloth. That process completely eliminated the breakouts I was getting.

It’s simple. It’s inexpensive. I don’t look like a supermodel, but I look just fine for my age.

Listening to My Body


As a single mom, it has been a struggle to take care of my little ones and myself. For years I ignored my tiredness and just pushed through. This summer, it has kind of caught up with me and I have been dealing with a pervasive fatigue. Not to worry, I ‘m not sick, just finally listening to my body.

This is a new skill for me, and I get it right only about half the time. I started two projects this summer that I eventually bowed out of.

Many years ago, when I was a quilter, I vowed that I would not buy any more material until I had used what I already had. This is the same kind of thinking. Don’t take on anything new, until I have finished what is already in the house.

So, I am resting and taking vitamins.


Summer Sandwiches

With all of us working different days and times, we don’t eat together at meals as we used to. I still want to provide fresh, inexpensive meals for my family and Summer Sandwiches has been one solution.

Baguette 1.49 9 oz spinach 1.79 sliced cheese 2.19 sliced turkey 2.49

Baguette 1.49
9 oz spinach 1.79
sliced cheese 2.19
sliced turkey 2.49

Here’s the ingredients for 5 sandwiches.

baguette sliced in 5 sections, cheese slices, meat and spinach added

baguette sliced in 5 sections, cheese slices, meat and spinach added

And all of them wrapped in some wax paper. I’ll store them in the fridge and kids (and me) grab them for lunches, snacks and late dinners.
Each sandwich costs $1.08 USD. I’ve not had any of them go to waste, we eat them too quickly.

and still 7 oz of spinach and 6 slices of cheese for a future meal

and still 7 oz of spinach and 6 slices of cheese for a future meal

New Kitchen Count

At the beginning of the summer, I stopped cooking with flour and sugar. Partly for health reasons, partly because I’m just not interested in spending my time baking anymore. We are still eating those things: bread, tortillas, cookies. I’m just not making them. Interestingly, by eliminating those two ingredients from my cooking projects, many of the items in my kitchen are superfluous. The dry measuring cups, the cookie sheets. So I did a big kitchen de-clutter. Here’s what’s left:

6 metal cookware items

6 metal cookware items

glass cookware and storage items--11

glass cookware and storage items–11

utensils and cutting board--14

utensils and cutting board–14

The pantry with some of the storage containers, plus a coffee canister and glass juice container.

the little white trashcan is for glass to recycle

the little white trashcan is for glass to recycle

I count 33 cookware and storage items.

Another Frugality Post

It’s been awhile since I did a frugality post, but with two kids in college this fall, frugality is never far from my mind.
Here are a few things I have done in the past week or so:

~The repeated loading and unloading of the drum set for the multiple (yeah!) band gigs, was starting to tear up the back of the hatch. So, I took some free cardboard from work and some leftover Duct tape (from the Prom Dress project) and made a liner for the trunk.

free liner for the hatch

free liner for the hatch

~My internet service at home has been down for a week and counting. Today, I am at a local café with Wi-Fi access and using the gift card I got for my birthday to purchase a tasty drink treat while I send this to you all. And, yes, I did make sure that my internet provider will prorate my bill for the month for the days that I have been without service.

~It is one of the minor irritations of my life that the bathmat in the downstairs bathroom gets dirty almost as soon as I throw it down. I read an advertisement that came in the mail. The store was touting their “reversible” bathmats. Doh, [she slaps her forehead] I can turn my bathmats over, making them reversible for free.

~For many years, I have paid my kids to clean the house. We had a round robin list of chores and everyone would sign up for what they wanted to do. Starting this week, I am doing the house-cleaning. A little more work and more cash in my pocket. All the kids now have outside jobs, so they have opportunity to make money aside from the house-cleaning.

~Beloved middle son, who will be leaving for college in a few short weeks, has already received the list of “must-haves” that he is to bring to college. He and I reviewed this list together, eliminated about half of it. That is, if he did not need these items for the first 18 years of his life, he likely will not need to purchase the item to tote to a cramped room that he will share with someone else, who got the same list and may have purchased all the items on it. Of the items that we agreed that it would be useful for him to have, I was able to find the following things at home in my minimalist house: large plastic bins to tote things and store between semesters, a flashlight and an umbrella, a power strip, shampoo, laundry detergent, toiletries and of course, his clothes. I did purchase for him a set of linens to fit the weird sized beds that they have in dorm rooms.

~My cell phone was acting up, I did a “hard” reset, which basically sends it back to the factory settings. Because I am a minimalist in my phone usage as well as other areas in my life, it didn’t take but a morning to re-load the apps and contacts that had been erased.

~Other frugals I hope to implement after everybody goes back to school: reduced food budget. That shouldn’t be too hard as the household will be reduced by 50%. A similar reduction in utilities should be effortless. By planning ahead, I hope to reduce my Christmas expenses by 50% as well. I won’t say how ahead of time, as some of my Christmas gift recipients read this blog.

How about you all? Recent frugals? Anything as easy as turning the bathmat over?