Simplicity by Choice

Off-Grid Living & Self-Reliance

A Hoarder’s Nightmare January 17, 2013

I proudly admit it. I am a hoarder’s nightmare. Why do I say this? In our house, we have a strict rule. Unless it is something like a tools or other essential homestead item, if the items go unused or needed for 3 months, they are not necessary to keep. I can just imagine the gasps and panics that a true hoarder would have at the thought of applying that rule in their own homes.

There are many reasons for why we apply this routine in our family. First, it immediately cuts down on the clutter. We only have around the items that are truly necessary. Sure, we have bits of time when clutter happens. It makes me crazy though. I just can’t stand it. I never have a problem with it at someone else’s home, but it makes me edgy in my own home. I simply cannot relax. If I need something, I don’t like having to search for it.

Living our lifestyle of doing things as past generations did, I don’t have time to be constantly having to declutter and clean. I have enough to do each day without causing myself extra work. I have always dreamed of having a simply furnished home like those the pioneers may have had. They didn’t have excess. Sadly, the “entitlement” mentality of today’s generations have brought about the idea of having whatever we want. But is that attitude really a healthy one? Where are we learning self-restraint? Where are we learning to prioritize? What example are we giving our children?

When I have our home as it should be, with all excess removed, it is fast and easy to maintain. I have much more time to spend doing daily chores and doing activities with the children. Stress levels are nearly non-existant.

I have found that the children play with only a very few toys, yet they have many more. The extra toys end up scattered due to lack of space to store them. It makes no sense to hold on to the toys that are not played with. Instead, they could be donated to a shelter or thrift store so that other kids could enjoy them. If the toys are in very good condition, a church nursery may even have use for them.

In the kitchen, it is very easy to let excess get out of hand. I have a weakness in that area. I see a kitchen item at a thrift store or yard sale and am sure that I will use it quite often, only to find that I rarely use it. I tend to gravitate to the same kitchen utensils and cookware every time I prepare a meal. I tested my theory by placing in the pantry the items I rarely use. If I didn’t need those items within 2 months, I knew I wouldn’t miss it.

I read an idea on some blogs of filling 40 bags in 40 days. This idea is to take a bag and going through one closet or room at a time, fill a bag each day. These are to be donated or disposed of. The idea being that at the end of that 40 day time period, your home will be decluttered. It is a workable idea for those who are not sure where to start. For me, I like to simply take one room at a time and do a thorough job of it. It is very similar to spring cleaning. I just prefer to do it more often.


Lighting Without Electricity December 18, 2012

Filed under: homesteading,off grid,old fashioned,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 4:38 pm
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In response to a question I received, here is an explanation of how we light our home. We have 3 lighting sources at this time.

1. For the kids (ages 4 & 6) we have the battery operated Coleman lanterns. These use 4 D-cell batteries, but will give up to 188 hours of lighting on one set of batteries. We chose these for safety reasons. We didn’t want them to have access to the oil lamps.

2. Oil lamps are our main lighting source. Instead of lamp oil, we purchase kerosene at a fuel station. A quart of lamp oil costs $6 at the local stores, while the kerosene costs $5.29/gallon. Quite a big difference in the budget. The kerosene burns just as well as the lamp oil, the only difference is that the kerosene will smoke more if you have the wick too high. There are little deflectors that rest above the oil lamp chimney which you can buy to prevent any soot from getting on the ceiling or wall. These are good to have whether you use lamp oil or kerosene.

3. We have a Coleman propane lantern. It is the type that you attach the small propane bottle to the bottle of. When we use it, the lighting is as bright as electric lights, but the propane can only lasts 6 hours. At a price of about $2.50 per bottle (twin pak at Walmart is $5), this lighting is not cost effective. We don’t use it very often. Actually, only use it about twice a month at the most.

The lighting that we are planning for is to install gas lighting. You can still buy through mail order the wall sconce lights that are fueled with propane. They contain the silk mantels, just like the camping lanterns use. These are very safe to use if installed properly. Many Amish homes use this form of lighting. The lights are bright as electricity.

We had tried candles, but found that not only were they a fire hazard we didn’t want to risk around little ones, but the price was not cost effective. We spent way too much on them.

Using the battery operated lanterns for the kids, the oil lamps, and the propane camp style lantern, our monthly lighting cost averages about $35 per month.


Blessings of the Old Ways December 17, 2012

Filed under: cooking,family,homesteading,off grid,old fashioned,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 4:31 am
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This past weekend, we had an interesting development on the homestead. The gas stove went out. Now, while this does mean that I am without an oven now, it isn’t all a bad thing. Thanks to our pursuing a simpler lifestyle, this is only a minor hiccup and not a major issue. For quite a while now, my husband and I have sought out alternative ways to accomplish our goals. One example being that we have 3 ways to prepare meals. The idea is to always have a back-up plan in case something happens. The current situation with the stove is a prime example.

If we only had the gas stove as a source for meal preparation, we would be in a bad way right now. It reminds me so much of the stories of what families go through after a storm knocks out power for several days or weeks. So many rely on electric stoves, water heaters, refrigeration, etc. If the power goes out, they are in a rough situation until power is restored.

Before going off-grid, we had an electric stove. It was great until a storm knocked out the power. Unfortunately, in our state, that is a common occurrence between spring thunderstorms and winter ice storms. We always have had the wood burning cookstove as a back-up means to cook however. That got us through many power outages back then.

Another means of cooking is an outdoor fire pit or grill. We don’t have a propane grill, but set up a grill with a wood fire. In summer, we cook over that quite often. We had purchased a patio fire pit for this purpose. The pit is a metal fire pit with a metal mesh screen. We found a replacement round grill that was designed for a large round charcoal grill at a discount store. This fits very well over the fire pit, turning it into a good place to BBQ.

The propane stove in our kitchen is my summer stove. I mainly use it in the warm months, unless I am baking or canning. The oven in our wood stove is smaller than modern ovens and is more tricky to use. I am determined to get it right though. The one problem that I have with the wood stove is that the heat doesn’t stay constant enough for canning. I do all of my canning on the gas stove for this reason.

In having the woodstove and a fire pit available as options, not having use of the gas stove is not a big deal. We always have the wood stove going to heat the front of the house anyways. Cooking on the wood stove is often faster than on the gas stove. It is also my “slow cooker” when needed. I can assemble a stew or homemade soup in the morning and allow it to simmer on the back of the stove all day. I love it.

All in all, this little hiccup of our stove is really not a problem at all. I feel very blessed that my beloved husband was home and able to disconnect the stove so that no propane could leak into the home. I am blessed that we have the alternative means to meal preparation and that I know how to use them. Actually, I enjoy it quite a lot. We will easily be able to manage until we are able to get the stove replaced. Situations like these are ones that we prepared for. I am so grateful that we have set our homestead up in such a way that these little bumps in the road are minimal. It is a relief to know that we are able to weather it without any true disruption to our lifestyle.


Today’s Canning July 27, 2012

Filed under: food preservation,home canning,pantry building — ourprairiehome @ 6:30 pm
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Spent $50 at the grocery buying some chicken, ground beef, 2 lbs of dried navy beans, and 4 bottles of tomato juice.  Once finished, I have 8 pints of chicken in broth, 11 pints of baked beans with ground beef added, and 12 pints of tomato soup.  With ingredients from the pantry, such as seasonings, we now have 31 meals for the total cost of $52.00.  Not bad for a morning’s work.