Monday, May 03, 2010

Simple Living: Clothing

I read somewhere that the average American female owns something like eighty shirts. Even if half of these shirts are off-season, this stills leaves the hypothetical female in question with enough shirts to go a month without doing laundry.

I probably own this number of tops. My weight fluctuates wildly, which accounts for some of the excess. I live in an area with temperatures over a year ranging more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which adds to my wardrobe needs. However, there is no denying that I simply have too many shirts. I decided to pare back, and here is how I did it:

1. If it's too big, it goes. It's one thing to keep my skinny clothes because I dream of fitting into them. But am I dreaming of gaining a few pounds? Of course not. I have several friends who are a little bustier than me who will happily take the hand-me-downs.

2. If it's not my style, it goes. I get a lot of hand-me-downs--no complaints here. There are items I love, items I pass on to someone else, and items I wish I could wear without feeling like a kid playing dress-up but for some reason can't. I tend to keep the last group anyway. Today I am passing them on.

3. Keep a light at the end of the tunnel. I made a deal with myself that for every five shirts I got rid of, I would buy one I really love from a local thrift store. This helped me make some hard decisions. Children aren't the only ones who respond to bribes, and I have already earned three 'new' tops. This will require a ten dollar expenditure, but ultimately expand my useable wardrobe while also giving me a little more closet space.

Once you have finished with shirts, why not move on to pants, dresses, and pajamas? Make sure you are giving away or donating these garments where possible, and replacing them with used ones. This keeps your fashion carbon-neutral and keeps small children out of third-world sweatshops.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Simple Living: Eating Out

I recently watched a rerun of an Oprah show on voluntary simplicity. It was such an inspiring show that I visited Oprah's website to read the comments. It was a little depressing to find that many of the comments were from people who felt that they can't afford to live more simply.

This seems counterintuitive to me, because needing less money to survive is one of the major points of simple living. It was emphasized on the show; for example, one woman was comfortably supporting a family herself as an elderly caregiver, which pays just a bit more than minimum wage. If you can live comfortably on a smaller income, you are free to either find a job you love more, or to work less hours. Simple living is a frugal choice, without any kind of investment needed. It's hard to see how using less electricity would cost more, unless you think the only way to scale back is to go solar.

I have been thinking about my blog for a while, but unsure of what to post here. I hate sounding preachy, and for the record, I don't think I am always a model of green living. However, I am doing my best on a daily basis to use less and less, and to make what I use more meaningful. After reading the comments on Oprah's website, I decided to devote space here to cheap, common sense ways of living a little more simply.

Here is one tip on scaling back on eating out, something which kills many American budgets. We all have our favorite restaurants. Figure out how much you spend for one fast food meal. In my case, it's about $4-5 per person. Next, figure out how much a meal at your favorite restaurant would cost. My favorite cuisine is Indian, so I'm looking at $12-15 per person. Is one Indian meal worth three drive thru meals? Absolutely, at least to me.

We don't eat fast food a lot, but I certainly know it is there in an emergency. We have fewer 'emergencies' if I know there is an Indian restaurant visit coming a little closer every time I think ahead and pack sandwiches. Trading food we really don't like for more food we love is not a hard switch, but these are the decisions that will get you on the road to more simple living.