31 March 2011

Getting Rid of Single Use Items

I'm on a quest to get rid of single use items, especially the ones that are rarely used, which means most of the tools in my kitchen. Today, my good friend Ginny over at Cooking with Chopin, Living with Elmo posted this. Sweet! Now that I know how to poach an egg without it, I'm getting rid of this:

Thanks Ginny! You are a kitchen goddess! ~ Plain & Simple As That :)

29 March 2011

Unpack your Memories

People! I beg you... unpack that scrappy old box of "memories" in your attic and unload some of the weight.

I found a box labeled "Stacy's Memories ~ Do Not Unpack!" So I've carried it around for years. Not only have I not unpacked it, I haven't even looked in it. Curiosity finally got the best of me, and I peeled back the tape to reveal a bunch of treasures JUNK!

Seriously, here's what I found: 
  • Stack of journals. I may read through these to see if there are any stories worth saving. They date back to my early days as a Christian and some are from the time I was dating/engaged to my husband.
  • A pair of rope sandals.. I have no idea where I bought them or why I thought they were special enough to be "memories"
  • A hand carved, personalized box ~ a gift from one of the kind people on my paper route in lieu of a Christmas tip. Actually, I think it may have had a dollar in it. That was back in about 1991. 
  • Castanets purchased on my trip to Spain in 1994.... you know.. incase I ever decide to take up flamenco dancing. 
  • An envelope of pictures (friends from elementary school and junior high should be warned. I have Facebook ammo)
  • An old passport
  • A leather purse I bought in Spain .. big enough for said passport and maybe a credit card.
  • The world's smallest violin. And yes, it actually works. A gift from my mom back when I played violin... 1986ish?
  • A stack of archaic disks. Does anyone have a computer that will read these? One might have my resume on it.
  • The stocking Santa filled for me. Smells like I got mothballs for Christmas. I don't remember being that bad. 
  • A tourist map and some cash from my 2003 trip to Nicaragua. I may consider the bills to be bookmarks and justify keeping them.

I'm sure I'm the only crazy one out there that packs away such tick-tack stuff and labels it "memories," but incase I'm not, I beg you to cull through your storage spaces. Maybe you'll find some real treasures, or maybe you'll find a pile of junk like mine. In the meantime, I've got to find someone that needs some Jesus sandals for their Easter play.  ~ Plain & Simple As That

26 March 2011

Buyer Beware: Before You Buy, Consider the Total Cost

That's not my money. Image Credit goes to Stevendepolo on Flikr
Before you make your next big purchase.. consider the total cost of ownership. Something that is a good deal in the beginning could end up costing you substantially more longterm.

We bought an aluminum fishing boat at a garage sale. It wasn't totally impulsive; we'd discussed the idea for at least a year. When we found one for $500, it seemed like a great deal. Then, we replaced something in the motor, bought a new battery for the motor, and a charger for the battery... and some oars incase the motor died in the middle of the lake.

**Cha-ching, cha-ching** 

We paid property taxes on the boat, the motor and the trailer every year. (Welcome to Arkansas - land of taxes.) We register it so we can take it on our local lakes which means we must purchase an activity card in addition to paying our POA dues. It would have been less expensive to rent a bass boat every time we wanted to go out rather than maintain this one.. not to mention the nuisance of storing it. That initial $500 is now.. well.. significantly more than $500.

Maybe a boat isn't the best example. I mean, it is a luxury item, we should expect to pay more.. but what about other not-so-luxury expenses.

Buying a home? Sure, mortgage interest is tax deducible and you can probably get more house for your money paying a mortgage than you can paying rent... but, along with ownership comes maintenance, lawn work, taxes, compliance to new laws (we got stuck for $5500 to switch our perfectly good septic system over to the city's fancy new sewer).

Before you buy, think about downsizing to reduce your utility bills and your overall environmental footprint. Plus, it'll take less furnishings to make it feel like home.

Looking at a new car? My first advice is to consider a used one. Right away, you let someone else take the hit for depreciation. Before you buy any car, find out how much insurance will cost. It can be dramatically different for a truck vs a sportscar. Do you really need an SUV for your once a year vacation, or would it be better to go with a smaller car for around town and rent a car to go visit your inlaws?

Also consider fuel costs. A few mpg multiplied by 15,000 miles a year can be a significant factor when gas is $3+ a gallon. Just do the math before you buy.

Have you been saving for a college education? If you're smart enough to get into an Ivy league school and you plan to be a lawyer, I say, go for it. If you're on the liberal arts path, opt for an education more in line with your future salary. It could take a lifetime of teaching fifth grade to pay for that Harvard elementary ed degree. If that's your dream, consider a state university. There's a time in life to follow your friends, college is not that time.

Okay, so these are big ticket examples, but before you make any purchase, you should consider the total cost. Don't forget to include interest if you're paying with plastic or taking out a loan. Those shoes may be tempting at 50% off, but unless you pay with cash (or pay your balance each month), you're not really getting the price on the sticker. That beautiful silk blouse is a steal at the outlet mall, but the dry cleaning bill will make up for it over the life of the trend. 

TVs were on sale during Superbowl season, so after 7 years of living TV-free, we finally broke down and joined America with a big flatscreen... and we added a cable tv bill to our monthly budget. Wise? probably not, but hey, we're selling the boat. ~ Plain & Simple As That

What about you? Ever experience buyer's remorse? 
What'd you buy that ended up owning you in the end?

23 March 2011

Why You Should Have Children Before You Turn 30

Some women have children into their 40s. I've heard of the random heroine who is still having babies in her 50s. Me? I'm done. My knees are too old to be carrying babies up and down stairs. I'm too set in my ways to put up with interrupted sleep routines. And my nerves just can't take it anymore! Besides that, my car is too small for three car seats and I'm not really interested in trading for a mini-van (no offense to mini-van owners.. they're great, I just really love my 40-mpg-VW too much to trade it).

So anyway...

Maybe you've heard that having children before you turn 30 can reduce your risk of some cancers.

Maybe you've heard that it is easier to lose the baby weight if you have children in your 20s rather than waiting.

Perhaps you want to give your parents their grandchildren while they are still young enough to enjoy them and to babysit for you.

These are all great and valid reasons to have children before you are a thirty-something.

I give you Reason #618 to have children before you are 30:

Once arthritis sets in, it is virtually impossible to open a sippy cup if the lid has been properly secured.

... off to find a hammer

~Plain & Simple As That

12 March 2011

How Things Can Make a House a Home

We have enjoyed being in our house-of-few-possessions for almost 2 weeks. Today, we commenced war on the storage unit. We brought home all the things a minimalist would give away, but we refuse to let go: my grandma's dishes, his grandma's quilts, my mom's Hummel collection.

The quilts occupy three big plastic totes in the attic. The dishes are in line to be washed and neatly placed on the built-in shelves. The Hummels have been packed and returned to their pedestals in the previously-vacant curio cabinet.

Simple is good; and a minimalist lifestyle makes for a very clean, contemporary house. But some things trigger memories - good memories - and those things have a rightful place in a home. And this house is just that... a home. Our home. Finally. ~ Plain & Simple As That

09 March 2011

Balancing Real Life with an Online Presence

Our recent move is going well. We still have some unfinished little things to get done, but otherwise, we are settling in. The biggest frustration has been working with a provider (I'll not mention the company name) to get internet access. Aside from the few moments a day when I bury my conscience and "borrow" from my neighbors' unsecured network, I've been semi-ignoring Facebook, Twitter, & Blogger. All are accessible via my phone, but how inconvenient is that? Teenagers may be able to text 30 wpm, but I have gray hair and my first age spot. I learned to type with two cartridges: black and white-out. I need a real keyboard.

Image Credit: Asthma Helper on Flickr
So, I'm in a bit of a quandary: almost two weeks w/o internet has been incredibly freeing. I have found more time to read, to organize, even to talk on the phone (people still do that apparently)... more time to live the simple life I desire. There's a part of me that wants to go without home internet access, even though I know I'd feel cut off from virtual-reality without all the friends that live inside my computer. Then again, when I do check-in with my Facebook friends, I realize I haven't really missed all that much.

Today's culture is somewhat reliant on having an online identity. Employers (should) Google you before they interview you. However, two weeks of reduced keyboard/screen time have taught me the importance of scheduling - even limiting - computer time. Giving up internet cold turkey may not be the solution to a simple life for everyone. I think the answer lies in learning to balance real life with an online presence. ~ Plain & Simple As That

What about you? How do you manage your online time?