the simple minded suburbanite

My Inner Cowgirl
January 17, 2012, 3:47 pm
Filed under: budget, suburbanite, voluntary simplicity

I made a promise to myself late fall 2011.  It was a financial promise. It was a time management promise.  It was a quiet promise I chose not to share.  It’s no big deal, really, but little promises made and kept have a way of putting building my self-empowerment muscle.  As the air chilled, I promised to buy myself one super cool pair of black cowboy boots and one fantastic pair of jeans.  The end.  Why do you care?  Because I vowed to buy myself NOTHING else, barring some unforeseen special event, I mean REALLY special event, until the summer months approached.  Big deal?  Yes, because my committment to my jeans and my boots brought several things into focus for me.

1. I did not deny myself something I needed, desperately, a new pair of jeans ( refuse to dwell on why I needed said jeans).

2. I did not deprive myself of something that brought me joy:  a fantaistic pair of cowboy boots that express the shit kicking side of my personality and provide that needed rough edge to many of my far-too-girly ensembles.

3.  I did focus my money (neither of these items were cheap) on quality and did not piddle that same amount away or more on polyester blend sweaters, gold hoochie-mamma earrings, or 7 long-sleeved white t-shirts.

4. I have not wasted time browsing the racks at Target when what I really needed to grab my box of Always and get-the-f outta there.  I don’t stop at that cute little boutique on route to work at my local coffee shop.  I used my time, instead, directed to what I truly value and to creep my way toward my goals.

5.  I have taken pleasure in saying “no” to frivolous purchases and joy in embracing my closet, getting creative with scarves, belts, layering, and yes, wearing the same thing twice or thrice (albeit in a different way) around the same people, who really don’t care because they are truly my friends (I have limited time with those who don’t fall into that category) and they think I’m alternately dorky and cool no matter what I’ve got on.  Besides, doesn’t creativity and not giving a shit automatically put you on that thin wire between cool and dorky?

6.  I love the feeling of saying, “I know where our money went,” as opposed to “Where the hell did it go?”

7. I embrace the sense that “I have all that I need” and “I am enough.”

8. I smile and gently forgive any small transgressions:  Had to go to a white party that was fancy enough that my white Tshirts didn’t cut it.  Bought a $17 pair of black tights that I can’t wash and put back in my drawer fast enough to wear again with my cowboy boots.  And Costco, yes Costco! had this fantastic gold sequin top ($22) that I have worn a dozen or more times through the holidays and “trendy” dinners out with my new, cool jeans, old heals, and old, gold, hoochie-mamma earrings.  Just like dieting, we must have the occasional square of chocolate.

9.  Reiterate #7.  I am enough, I have enough and, somehow I am growing more enough and enough the less I am diverted with stuff and things to do that pull me from that personal level of fullness.  Amen to the cowgirl in us all.


KISS: Keeping it Simple, really Simple…
September 12, 2011, 9:58 pm
Filed under: budget, suburban, time management, voluntary simplicity

Been thinking a lot about my last post about simpler getting tougher.  I was thinking about if we can buy simplicity.  I was thinking about how when things have been “simplified”, other things bleed in and muck things up again.  I was thinking about what things I’ve purchased that truly make my life simpler and what things haven’t.  I was thinking of the business of simplicity.

I’ve decided to list a few things that I have that truly make things simpler for me, save me time, money, or keep me focused:

  • My Iphone.  I’ve found it to be worth every penny.  It helps me utilize my time efficiently, respond in real-time and eliminated the need for other products such as a GPS, paper planner, Ipod, camera, flip video.  My kids play chess, games, etc on it during long waits in waiting rooms ( I still keep portable board games and ask them to bring books along on long trips).  Note:  I fight the urge to check Facebook and LinkedIn every ten minutes.  And, to my kids horror, I have never played a SINGLE game on it.  I try to use it for efficiency, not as a time sucker.
  • Apple slicer.  I can core and slice an apple in seconds.  Snack?  a dollop of peanut butter and voila!
  • My cappuccino maker.  A Mother’s Day gift.  A basic, inexpensive brand saves me from driving through and spending $4 per cup.  By the way, it keeps me at home instead of creating the drive to “go out”, therefore making me more productive with work and home.
  •  Tweezers.  If I can stretch that trip to the waxer….you’d better believe it!  Let’s not even talk about the chin hair thing…
  • Keratin treatment.  NO!  I did not spend $495 on it!  I waited for a Groupon and got it for $95.  It has lasted close to 5 months and saved me hours of blow drying and straightening.  I also have skipped a haircut because me hair is much more manageable.  Please don’t email about the health implications!  I know!  I know!  Call Dr Drew on me!
  • Crock pot.  Love crockpot365!  Healthy, gluten-free recipes that I make at least once or twice a week.  She uses inexpensive ingredients and I double the recipes to freeze for later.  I use her blog but also decided to just buy the darn cook book for 60% off at our local Borders that is going out of business.  It is already way spattered and dog-eared.  Love it!
  • Baby carrots for kids lunches as well as individual packs of ranch dip.  If it keeps them eating their veggies….
  • Nice yoga pants.  Not the super expensive kind, but good quality, usually purchased on sale.  I’ve had the same pair for 4 years, no pilling, fading, and stretching in any of the wrong places.
  • Tretinoin.  I buckled.  I visited a dermatologist and got me some Retin A for “blemishes” aka: wrinkles!  It is expensive (about $50 a tube) but lasts for 2-3 months if used sparingly AND I don’t buy any other skin care products other than a drug store cleanser and moisturizer.
  • Battery operated doggy nail file.  Our old hound does not go to the groomers and I HATE to cut other’s nails (even my babies, that was my husband’s job).  I have a phobia about cutting and making their nails bleed.  So, this little gadget, though it does take more time than clipping, saves us from the groomers and makes everyone much more happy!
  • Food chopper.  Nuts, onions, celery.  Kids love to operate it.  Makes Christmas cookies a breeze.
  • Wireless printer.  Just press a button….

What are some products or services that make your life truly more simple?

We’re Doin’ Just Fine…More or Less
July 9, 2011, 7:38 pm
Filed under: budget, gratitude, parenting, suburbanite, voluntary simplicity | Tags:

“Everyone has more than we do,” mumbled my 12 year old.  12 year olds have a sensational ability to make huge leaps in logic.  In less than 30 seconds, he went from begrudgingly turning off his Xbox (but it’s not XBox live!) to donning his Nike tennis shoes (but they’re not Nike Shocks!) to heading out the door to weed the flower bed, one of his chores (only $12 a week!  I’ll be dead before I can afford an IPad!).

I take most of his pre-teen grumbling and complaining with a grain of salt.  My husband and I counter such nonsense with pointing out how fortunate we are, we have a family who loves each other, we have all we need and much of what we want.  We state what we’re grateful for each night before bed.  Our kids work and save birthday money, summer allowance, and the occasional cash from odd neighborhood jobs for the gadget of the year and I am proud to say that we whip out the same Nintendo Ds we bought 6 years ago for road trips (Lite?  3-D?  I say, Nintendo BS).  They’ve never been the kids who beg for toys in Target or whine for bubble gum in the grocery check out.  They understand that, as a family, we choose not to spend our money “that way”.  We prefer the stability of a home that is not under water, the thrill of the occasional family vacation or excursion, and the dreams we have for our kids’ futures as we squirrel away loose change for college.

But, I gotta say, I lost my cool.  He not only said it once, under his breath, but confidently repeated it to me with a full on look into my eyes when I asked the motherly, “What was that you said?”  I didn’t lose my cool right away, I lost it after I started into my usual, “There are so many people who would love to have what we have” speech and he, as respectfully as possible, said, “I know that, but I’m talking about everyone around here.  My friends!  Our neighbors.”  I’m not proud to say, I yelled.  I stomped around.  I flailed my arms. “$120 Nike Shocks!  Are you kidding me?  You’ve gone on a run all of 2 time the entire summer!” I had had it!

I know enough to step away…. so, I did.  I took a breather.  I calmed myself down.  After furiously scrubbing the kitchen and sorting all of the laundry in the house, I went onto the back deck and called my hubby, ran through all of the things I was planning to take away from son #1 to teach him a lesson.  My husband, may I say, knows enough to let me get it all out, spit out the venom, before offering perspective.  “It is his reality, and though he needs to be respectful of us, we do need to listen to his reality.  It’s how we feel often times ourselves, isn’t it?”

Shit.  I knew I married this guy for a reason.

I am not enough.  It’s the pressing, unwanted mantra that bumps around in the dark. It’s the self loathing untruth from which I’ve tried to free myself for most of my life.  And what son #1 said, it made me feel less than.  It made me feel that all the hard work that my husband and I have put into our homes, our family, our relationships, our careers is all for not because we keep falling short.  We keep falling short in the “stuff” aspect.  In all truth, this is one of the reasons I write this blog. Yes, for one, I want to point out the absurdities of the suburban, consumer-driven, self-indulging lifestyle.  But, also, it keeps me focused on what I know to be true, and I think everyone knows to be true when hard pressed, that none of that “stuff” really matters.  But, ya know, it takes alot of energy, consciousness, humility to believe it and stick with it in the Land of Rovers.  And sometimes, I think I’m the crazy one.

So, I took what my husband said to heart and changed gears.  My son is getting older now.  I explained, that Mom and Dad feel like everyone has so much more that us sometimes too but here is what is most important to us:  that our children dream big and work hard to get it, that our family finds joy in the day-to-day moments, that we embrace a love of learning and an openness to people and situations around us, that we be our true selves and support one another. You are not what you own, you are sooo much more than that.  I told him that what he said was a put down to a mother and father who love him and work hard to provide our boys with the best life we possibly can, that by saying words like that hurts us.  We are here to listen and to help with anything that comes his way because we love him.  And, if anything like this comes up again,

I will take all of his shit and throw it in the trash!

Author’s note:  I wouldn’t really throw it away.  Why, that would be wasteful and bad for the environment. I’d sell the crap on Ebay and get my hubby and I a nice little weekend in the mountains!  College?  Smollege!)

The Rise of Collaborative Consumption
November 20, 2010, 4:48 pm
Filed under: budget, burbs, culture, suburb, suburbanite, volntary simplicity

My father helps his neighbor mow his yard.  His neighobor prunes my father’s trees.  My mother tutors my old highschool friend’s daughter.  He brings her fresh eggs from his farm.  Bartering.  Sharing.  Helping each other out.  It is nearly non existent in the burbs.  My husband and I mull twenty minutes or so before asking our neighbor to borrow his pressure washer or help us move a sofa from upstairs to down. 

We’re all too busy.  Can’t you afford to hire it done?  We’ve got our own things to take care of. 


Came across this blog post about a book about sharing, bartering, etc.  It’s on the rise.  Wonder how long before it reaches my burb. Check it out.

The Rise of Collaborative Consumption.

My question to you, “What do you have that you could share?  Childcare? Music for a party?  Handyman skills?  Help write a resume?  Paint a room?”  What?

To Market, To Market to Buy a Fat Pig
October 26, 2010, 4:18 pm
Filed under: authenticity, budget, parenting, suburban, suburbanite, voluntary simplicity


One stop shopping is a thing of my past.  In my effort to be more conscious of the food my family and I eats, I have found my grocery habits taking on a new rhythm.

I drive across the river to Whole Foods for grass fed, no antibiotic meats.  Plan a morning to haul to Aldi for discount snacks and cereals.  My produce is delivered to my friend’s door through our CSA.  And I’ll zip once or twice a week to Publix to round out my meals.

Got to thinking, isn’t this (kinda) how people used to shop?  The butcher for your meat, the bakery for your bread, the produce stand, and the general store for the odds and ends.  Only now, it’s incorportated.  The “markets” are owned by giants such as Whole Foods, etc, who take a specific bent on consumer habits and pair convenience and the market research they perform to bring the highest quality items to you at a hefty price.

To boot, you have to drive over a map of several miles, stoplights, and Starbucks drive-throughs to make your purchases thus wasting gas, time, and your nerves.

To market, to market, as the nursery rhyme goes but America’s market looks nothing like the European markets of today or the American markets of yesteryear.  Are we heading in the right direction or are corporations simply giving us what we think we want without really changing a thing?

Doesn’t Whole Foods really wish I’d buy all of my groceries there, as opposed to what I can afford for meat that week? Doesn’t Publix stock some grassfed products now?  I’m making changes in my diet to bring me closer to the earth, to understand where my food comes from, to honor the food in front of me, yet, coorporations are so smart, they keep me satiated and keep me coming back to them.  I suppose it will end up like it did when I made and purchased organic baby food.  Eleven years ago, the only place you could find it was at a Whole Foods all the way in town, a forty minute drive away.  And I drove it…until the neighborhood Kroger near me started to carry it.

Perhaps my dreams of peddling to market in a cute little bike adorned with wicker baskets and a bunch of lavendar and sunflowers will be wiped out by my need for convenience and an unwillingness to truly change.  Good or bad?

October 14, 2010, 12:53 pm
Filed under: budget, nutrition, parenting, suburban, voluntary simplicity | Tags:

Grilled cheese and a can of tomato soup.  Perfect on a drizzling day sitting at the ball field.  I even lit a candle in the middle of the table to further warm our tired little souls.  So simple.  So good.

On the Ball
August 23, 2010, 11:52 am
Filed under: budget, culture, suburb, voluntary simplicity | Tags:

Day 11 of waiting for my refrigerator to be repaired, a pricey model that is only 2 1/2 years old and thankfully under a purchased warranty. I’m saved only by the $300 model that I called into my possession 6 years ago when my other pricey model in my old house went out while that house was on the market.  The $300 model, no problem. 

Quickly on the heels of my refrigeration debaucle comes a brand new bike pump whose needle snapped off on first insertion into an old soccer ball and a set of “industrial” shelves that buckled while being assembled, obviously too shotty to hold the intended left-over paint cans in my garage.

Heirloom Design.  I’ve mentioned it before, but given my latest consumer events (I guess I shouldn’t complain, Sears sent me a whopping $25 gift card to spend in their store on more crap for my inconvience) I googled the Heirloom Design concept once again this morning.  I mean, I am sick, sick of being “pecked to death by ducks” as they say.  And the ducks, as I say, have found their way to bore through my wallet! I mean, WHY CAN’T PRODUCTS LAST? AND WHY THE HELL SHOULD REPAIRS COST SO MUCH THAT IT MAKES MORE SENSE TO BUY A NEW PRODUCT??!!  Anyone else out there hear me?  Anyone else being driven crazy by the constant financial and emotional toll, not to mention environmental consequences?  I mean, I feel like I couldn’t be frugal if I tried even harder than I am.  It doesn’t matter if I try to take care of my things, they’re crap.  It doesn’t matter if I fix and maintain them, with crazy exhorbitant “maintainence plans”, they’re all crap.  I mean, I’m trying to save for college, I’m trying to make my home liveable, I’m trying to invest in our future and I feel like all I ever do is spend money in ways that I’m feeling robbed, raped, invaded.

Okay.  I’m getting emotional.  I understand that hysterics doesn’t make good writing.  Deep breath.  So what can I do?  Try to educate myself to something better.  So I got online on my recycled computer, mind you, and once again googled “Heirloom Design”.  It’s a concept that promotes manufacturers to produce products that actually last, instead of promoting a “throw away culture” which we post WWII generations have become.

I found a great article with tons of links for the interested consume.  It explains many facets of Heirloom Design, starting with the expensive Rolex and Monteblanc route to quality products to closed loop manufacturing and non product products.  It makes me hopeful, or thoughtful, or perhaps just appeases me for the moment, but I think of my grandmother dutifully mending and hemming and realize, hey I haven’t picked up a needle thread for that purpose in eons.  I think of my father up under the car’s hood.  I leave that to Valvoline.  I think of my childhood neighbors swapping off services such as lawn mower fixing and roof leak patching.  None of this, trash and run to Home Depot.  Isn’t Home Depot supposed to be the do it yourself place?  So why do they carry a huge section of new appliances and products?  Because of people like me.

But people like me are getting fed up.  And the only answer to fed up is to get on the ball.  So, ball, stay put while I unwrap this new bicycle pump.

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