Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

I am very, very seriously considering selling my house next spring. I have been looking around with the eyes of a potential buyer, so as to be able to get top dollar when I am ready to sell.

I see that I have three main tasks to get this house to “appeal to 90% of the people 90% of the time.”

1) A few of the rooms need new, neutral paint.

2) The upstairs bath needs a new floor and sink, paint and new light fixtures.

3) I need to add decorative items in to give it a more homey feel. [I find this incredibly amusing. Usually when a house is being staged, it needs to be de-cluttered. This is truly a minimalist-only problem.]

While I have been working hard on some of the more labor intensive parts of this months long task, I needed a quick pick-me-up for motivation. So, I staged the living room. Here’s the photos.

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The couch. It’s twelve years old. I don’t think I’ll take it with me when I move. It used to have a twin, but the rough-housing Improv troupe broke it and this summer I replaced the broken couch with these two chairs.

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The small table replaces the coffee table. The cat is an attention hound, he shows up whenever I pull out the camera. The bookcase in the background I pulled out of my daughter’s room, as it has too much furniture.

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The books are borrowed. I clearly need to find some more stuff for the shelves. In a pinch, I can borrow from friends. The horse head in the window is a family piece. He used to be on top of a iron post and was planted in the front of my great-grandfather’s yard for people to tie the reins of their horses when visiting, so the horses would not wander off. He’s a hitching post. Or was.

Close up of his sweet face.

Close up of his sweet face.


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So, the count in my living room has gone from seven to sixteen. But I plan to only take three items to my new home: the two red chairs and the table. Oh, and the cat.

Peace Pilgrim

I’m adding a new category of posts. I’m going to include occasional posts about a minimalist, historical or modern, that I admire.

Peace Pilgrim is such a person.


She was an American woman who walked across the United States between 1953 and 1981 sharing her message of peace. She owned only what she carried in her pockets. You can read more about her here:

Cleaning Routines


What follows is a not-all-inclusive list of things I clean and how often I clean them.

Daily or more often: dishes, kitchen counters, cat’s litter box

Couple times per week: laundry

Weekly: sweep floors [mind you when my kids were toddlers, I mopped the kitchen floor daily] clean toilets, clean shower/tub, wash towels

Couple times per month: mop floors, dust, clean the cat hair off the sofa, clean the gunk off the stove

Couple times per year: clean windows

Yearly: clean gutters, wash curtains in basement, clean oven [I don't roast a lot of meat-it doesn't get that dirty]

Don’t Forget Why We Are Here

This September has been a difficult month for me, at work and in my personal life. Having it all come [almost] at the same time has knocked me off my center.

And I’ve had to remind myself [repeatedly] that I have solved more intricate and overwhelming challenges. We will make it through these too.

I’ve had so much spin in my head that it has made the most simple things complicated. Like today. Today is my youngest child’s 16th birthday and we went to the Department of Motor Vehicles so he could get his driver’s license. We went three times before we actually got there with all the documents that were required for him to take the driving test. And the employees there were all so stressed that they were snarky and snapped at other patrons, and at me when I asked for my insurance card back. Whew!

Tonight, as I drove back from taking youngest son to his dad’s house, there hung on the horizon a sliver of a moon over some trees just beginning to turn.


And I found my center.

We are here to celebrate the beauty we experience, to help our fellow travelers and grow in maturity and ability to love.

No documents required.

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.