I have been reading blogs lately and a question has come to mind. In many of the simple living themed blogs (sadly, mine included) I see a pattern. We start out with the goal in mind of simplifying our lives. Please know that I am not talking about a life of ease from work, just getting rid of the excess and junk in our lives that bog us down. It is an attitude of focusing on what is truly important in our lives and less on what society would have us believe to be vital.
Over time, for some the time frame is longer than others, the message of the blogs change. I read about women who are trying so many different ways to simplify that they are in effect causing more unnecessary work and stress for themselves. Let me give you some examples. These are NOT ones copied from any other blog but are hypothetical in nature to state a point.
Blogger #1 is trying to cut back on grocery expenses by making all her family’s meals from scratch. At first, she is learning to make homemade pasta, bread, and other pantry staples in an effort to buy less packaged foods and cut back on her grocery costs each month. After a while, you notice that she is spending quite a bit of money buying ingredients that are costing enough that you realize that she is likely spending even more on the groceries than when she started out.
Blogger #2 is sewing for her family to save money. While a great idea to know how to make your family’s clothing should the need arise, she is spending so much on fabric & sewing supplies that you wonder where the true savings come into play.
Blogger #3 is a trend blogger. She reads new ideas on other blogs and gets so excited about trying the ideas for herself that she inadvertently spends more money and makes more work for herself. Case in point, a blogger that gets so caught up in making a wide variety of homemade cleaning supplies instead of making 2-3 that will work on everything.
In the above examples, here is what concerns me. Blogger #1 started out with the right idea of trying to be more frugal in her grocery spending. Unfortunately, like so many others, she decides to try and recreate packaged foods in her home in a way that is not financially a wise choice. For example, I can buy a large frozen veggie lazagne for about $12 that is more than large enough for a family meal. To make that same lazagne would cost me far more by the time I bought the fresh produce, sauce, cheeses, etc. The only way I could make it cheaper is if I used fresh produce from my own garden. If I were devoted to never buying packaged/convenience foods, then making the recipe when my garden is not in season would cost more than buying packaged. On the same note, unless I am great about recycling containers, stocking my pantry with homemade mixes would be costly. Far better to learn to make a single recipe of those items. This is especially true if the mix is not one that you use on a regular basis.
Blogger #2 is wanting to sew for her family. If the purpose is to learn how to make the clothing, that is great. But does the cost of supplies, along with the increased workload, make it worth your while? Wouldn’t it be more frugal to shop at yard sales or consignment shops instead? Personally, I think any homesteading mom should have a good basic knowledge of how clothing is constructed so that she can make repairs to extend the life of the family’s wardrobes. But are we truly making the right choice if we are spending more for the sake of being able to say that we made it all ourselves?
Blogger #3 is a tough one. There are so many ideas adn recipes out there that when taken individually would be a savings of money for the family. Adding too many of them together can defeat your purposes. For example, a common attitude is that for every type of cleaning, you need a special type of cleaner. This hype was started by the cleaning product companies to sell more product lines. If you take a critical look at your home, you will find that you need very few cleaners. To really save money, you simply find the 2-3 recipes that will work on as many surfaces as possible. The trends are not just with cleaning products but with many areas of our lives as we become more self-reliant. Just because John & Jane Doe are storing 400 lbs of wheat doesn’t mean that you need to consider the same thing. If another person is saying how critical it is to raise your own meat, you don’t have to rush out there and buy livestock. There are other ways to accomplish the same ends without taking on work and expense you may not be able to afford.
There is a little of me in each of these bloggers. I have had my moments of insanity when I thought I had to do it all in order to be self-reliant. Over time, I found that I was just being silly in my spending of our resources. Not just in the resource of money, but my time and work. In the past, I have made up a large supply of mixes that took over 6 months to use. Now, if I make up a mix, I make only what will be used within a month. This saves not only the expense but storage space. I may keep the ingredients for the mixes well stocked, but I don’t make the mixes themselves unless I have a need for them.
I have learned to buy clothing at thrift stores or yard sales. Often, I have been able to find like new clothing for less than $2.00. In one instance, I bought myself a skirt, with the original store tags still on it, for only $1.00 at a yard sale. There are some clothing items that I refuse to buy secondhand, such as underclothing, but nearly anything else can be found for pennies on the dollar and in very good or like new condition.
In following trends or jumping on ideas that others present, I never saved us money in the long run. Cleaning supplies is a hot topic among DIY blogs. I find that in our home I only need to make 3 cleaners: an all-purpose cleaner, laundry soap, and fabric softener. The all-purpose cleaner will clean nearly everything. If I want to wash windows, then I simply mix white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. The laundry soap serves well as a dish soap. You can add a bit of orange oil to it if you wanted, but it isn’t essential.
The point is, when you take a look at how you are working to simplify your life and save money, are you really reaching that goal or are you making things harder on yourself both in work and finacially?