Tag Archives: frugality

100 Thing Challenge + Little House on a Small Planet

I’m a big fan of simple living blogs, books, magazines, you name it.  When I picked up The 100 Thing Challenge by Dave Bruno from the library and saw how thin it was, I expected to devour it in a day or two.

But for some reason, that just didn’t happen.

I struggled with Bruno’s book in part because of its repetitive or circular nature: imagine reading a book that reads like a neverending blog post, referencing itself repeatedly  but without the nifty hyperlinks to take you back to the source.  The same intense language that gets smashed into a blog post so the author doesn’t lose your attention is mingled with more blase fare…not the most engaging book I’ve ever picked up.

Still, I took away some good points, like not keeping clutter pertaining to hobbies you wish you liked…makes me feel better about those empty scrapbooks I dropped off at Goodwill!  I also enjoyed that Bruno was entirely open and honest about his struggles throughout the year of the challenge.  But I have the feeling I would have gotten just as much out of reading his blog rather than slogging through the book.

I won’t be embarking on a 100 thing challenge of my own, but I am whittling down my possessions slowly and am more determined to tame my closet: Bruno had about 50 clothing items and never left his house naked or too underdressed…do I really need a stuffed-to-the-gills wardrobe?

This book, Little House on a Small Planet was something of a guilty pleasure read for me.  Jay Shafer, owner of the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, says in his interview for the book that he had something of a “perverse” obsession with tiny houses, with the idea of subtracting just a little bit more to create the smallest livable floor plan he could.

I love tiny houses.  And I love reading about alternative building materials and construction methods.  Build your house on a trailer?  Use straw balesCordwood masonryComposting toilets?  I didn’t necessarily fall in love with every idea in this book, but I definitely spent a lot of time doodling my own floor plan and dreaming and thinking about how the Professor and I could reach our goal of building our own farm in a sustainable way.

I guess that’s not such a “guilty” pleasure then, but since I can’t do anything about it in the here and now, it would probably be prudent to focus on other things.  But that doesn’t mean I won’t occasionally dabble in a little amateur architecturing…

What’s your guilty pleasure reading pick?


Surviving Without a Salary?!

Did you panic just a bit for me when you read that title?  When I picked up How to Survive Without a Salary by Charles Long, I expected it to be about ultra-frugality and living on basically nothing after losing a job.

handful of euros{photo credit}

That premise enticed me, but what I got was even better: a book on living–and making a living–without a 9-5 job through simple living and pursuing what you really want.  I already quoted the book once, with Long’s point that we can choose stuff that will cost us money (and therefore require us to work more) or we can choose time with loved ones, gardening, visiting on the front porch, things that add meaning to life without denting the pocketbook.  McMansion or tiny house…or somewhere in between.

Now, this is not new stuff to me, or to most people.  But Long makes you think about all the things you’ve assumed.  Here are some of my favorites:

*This Will Rogers quote–“There’s nothing dumber than an educated man, once you get him off the thing he’s educated in”–made me wonder what skills I (or my husband or anybody) have beyond my schooling.  Sure, I hold a BA in English and can write and edit, but could I also build furniture?  Do people’s taxes?  Kick butt washing windows?  Maybe we all need to think about how we else we could support ourselves, beyond one job.

*This one then goes hand-in-hand: “It’s the casual nickel and dime stuff, the once-a-week-if-I-feel-like-it jobs that are easiest to start and stop that provide the freedom only dreamed about by desk-bound nine-to-fivers” (16).

*In third world countries, farmers build their own houses and barns, they save their seeds, plant the seeds themselves, choose what and how to feed their animals–they do it all.  In America, farmers hire all sorts of experts from builders to nutritionists to do these things for them–we all need wider skill sets.

*This quote from page 24 only kindled my desire to build my own house someday: “Any peasant can build a wall.”

*We need to weigh the cost of everything: I need clean, dry clothes.  A dryer needs fabric softener sheets, special wiring, etc.  For us, a clothing rack works just fine…especially since the dryer in our apartment building is overpriced and hardly works.

*Fashion is the “obsolescence and the creation of artificial need” in our closets.  If hem lines are long this season, they won’t be next…but if I keep the same skirt, it will come back in vogue eventually (56).

*I don’t recall the story behind this quote, but I loved the phrase: “the material fast–buying nothing but essentials during a predetermined interlude of Spartan discipline” (78).

*When choosing your own work and setting your own pace (and really, who wouldn’t want that?), it’s important to have some physical work and some creative work in your day.  As a stay-at-home mom, I have that: I clean and cook and keep house but during Pookie’s naptime I write.  The Professor longs for the day we can move onto a farm of our own so that he’ll have that same balance when he comes home from work–we can’t have that now, but every day is one day closer to his PhD!

*Long makes a very interesting case about how freelancing and 9-5 work are pretty much equal in terms of job security.  The longer I think about that, the more it makes sense, but freelancing is tougher to get started in; I imagine once you’ve built up a portfolio and clientele, though, for whatever it is you do, things get easier.

So, that’s how to survive without a salary…in a nutshell, anyway.  Oh, and the entire chapter on auctions makes the book worthwhile.  The Professor and I might start going to auctions…just for fun!

Reader friend, do you think you could live without a salary or a 9-5?  And if you already do, tell me about it!