January 16, 2006

Books About Simplicity

There are several books to read when considering simplifying your life, or honing those skills and moving forward even more. Among them:

Choosing Simplicity: Real People Finding Peace and Fulfillment in a Complex World by Linda Breen Pierce. This book collects stories from those who have downsized their lives, and relates their experiences and whether or not they regret the change. This makes it a bit different from those giving tips and counsel on HOW to simplify. Here, the author conducted a study and writes about those who have actually simplified. A good read.

Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence by Joe R. Dominguez and Vicki Robin. This is the must-read choice for any Simplicity bookshelf. It's the cornerstone, the landmark, the Big Kahuna of your reading choices.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Simple Living. Yes, there is one.

Living the Simple Life : A Guide to Scaling Down and Enjoying More by Elaine St. James. Good tip book - some you may like more than others (it's easier to cancel the paper than it is to eat the same meals, week after week) but it is one that you'll go back and re-read, and learn more each time.

Voluntary Simplicity, Revised Edition: Toward a Life that is Inwardly Simple, Outwardly Rich by Duane Elgin. History of the movement, discussion of spiritual motivations behind downsizing. Another Must-Read.

The Simple Living Guide by Janet Luhrs. Talks about choices. Simple living as making conscious choices: you can still wear designer if that's your preference, but you buy your duds in places other than the mall. Helps to understand the wide variety of lifestyles available within the "voluntary simplicity" world.

Others to check out:

Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic by John de Graaf, David Wann, Thomas H Naylor.

Twenty-First Century Economics: Perspectives of Socioeconomics for a Changing World edited by William E. Halal and Kenneth B. Taylor.

Thrift Store Shopping - Tips from the Experts

There is no shame in being smart, and shopping thrift stores is just plain smart. When you find that great bargain, it's brilliant.

As Adele Meyer, executive director of the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops, explained in the Modesto Bee, "People are more conscious of recycling and saving money and are less into conspicuous consumption," Meyer said. "Now, people brag about how much they saved on something. It's become a way of shopping."

There are goods available in thrift stores that are high quality, useful, fun, and worthy of consideration - the fact that they are very low cost is an added benefit. Knowing how to shop, and where, can take a bit of time to learn.

Several sites offer great tips on shopping thrift stores. Nattie Gilbert of Colorado offers some great suggestions at her site, including:

"Go potty before you go, because secondhand stores often don't have public bathrooms. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Eat before you go.

"Make a list of what you are looking for including sizes, colors, etc. If I am trying to match something, like a coat to match a skirt, I would bring that skirt with me to the store. I usually let the clerk know so they don't try to charge me for it.

"I keep a list for used store purchases like a grocery shopping list. When someone outgrows a pair of shoes or pants, I write down that item on the list and the bigger size to start looking the next time I go thrift shopping.

Look carefully for stains, rips, etc. Take the time to try clothes on and test electrical items. It can save you a lot of hassle trying to return items.

"Many stores have strict or no return policies. My favorite local store will let you return an item for in store credit only within 30 days with receipt and tag still attached to item.

"Watch for store specials, sales, and coupons. Ask the clerks, if you don't see any posted or advertised information."

DigsMagazine has some good advice on choosing thrift stores:

"The big nationwide thrift stores like Salvation Army, Goodwill, Value Village and (my personal favorite here in town) Savers generally have lots and lots of stuff, but the problem with these places is that every thrift store treasure-hunter in town is probably rifling through the same stuff. Check out some of the lesser-known, locally-run thrift stores in town as well — they'll frequently have a smaller selection, but when you do make that rare fabulous find, it'll be at a real bargain. One of my best thrift store scores was a big, white, 60s space-age-style fiberglass coffee table that I snatched up for a mere $20 at a tiny, out-of-the-way thrift shop run by a small local charity. The table had apparently been sitting there for weeks, just waiting for my boy and I to stumble across it. You can bet that at a better-trafficked store, some other 60s-design-loving hipster would have snatched that table long before we'd ever chanced upon it."

And remember, a thrift store is not a consignment shop. As esortment.com explains, "A consignment shop is a privately owned business, usually much smaller than the thrift store. People bring items to the consignment shop to be sold, at which time they will receive a percentage of that sale. Items may sell for one half to one third the original store prices and profits are put back into the store. Items in consignment shops are usually of a high quality and have been laundered prior to being put on display. No clothes or items are accepted that are damaged or not usable."

How to find thrift stores in your area? Google for "thrift stores" and the name of your city. Citysearch.com also offers a nice, long listing - but it will include flea markets and consignment shops with the true thrift stores. The example for San Antonio is HERE.

And, of course, the best way to learn of good thrift stores is to ask around. From Ginny, about those here in SA: "the ones I like are the Good Will on Dezavala and I-10, the Good Will on Blanco at 410 and the Family Thrift Stores close to Ingram Park Mall at 410 and next to Henry's Puffy Tacos on Bandera inside Loop 410 a few miles."

Becoming an Expatriate

There are those who daydream not only about simplifying their lives, but about changing their locations while doing so. The American Expatriate is commonplace in several areas of the world. It's not just Rick Blaine living in Casablanca anymore.

Explains ShelterOffshore,

"The very first step towards successfully downsizing is sitting down with your partner and together making a list of all your dreams for a simple life. After all, if you don’t ultimately know where you’re going in life how on earth do you expect to get there! This list should be unrestricted by thoughts of money, time or practicality and should be your ideal downsized or simplified life. This is the life that you need to actively think about every day and see in your mind in vivid colour. The more you focus on the finer details of your perfect life through visualisation the quicker this ‘dream’ will become your reality. Make sure both you and your partner are in agreement about the fundamentals of your new life and that you both actively think about this every day.

"You now need to begin putting the practical steps in place to achieve your ideal - I don’t know how visualisation works but it does work and if you keep focusing on what you want you will find the practical aspects of achieving your simple life easier! Work out where in the world you want to live, examine property prices in your ideal location and find out what you can afford. Think about the money you have in the bank and how much you will need to live on. Be realistic about all the financial areas of your new life - downsizing is of course all about living on less - but you will still need money to afford to live! Will this money come from savings, the sale of your house, a part time job, a new business? Be hard on yourself and very realistic when it comes to every financial aspect of your new life because it is always, always money that lets people down. And I don’t mean it’s a case of not having enough, it can be a case of imagining you will not encounter high costs of living in your ideal country and then moving there and discovering your assumptions were wrong and the cost of living is higher than anticipated and will require a readjustment of your new life plan."

EscapeArtist.com provides a lot of jumps as well as ebooks to educate those interested in this process. So does TransitionsAbroad.com.

For personal perspectives, check out Expats in Britian, an Expat in Chile, an Expat in France since 2000, and an Expat in Germany-- and don't expect everyone to like you: some may share Bill Grimm's opinion of the "ugly American expat."

[For More Info, check out my April 2010 post regarding expatriating - lots more links and books, too.]

Spices: Saving & Storing

How long are those spices good that are stored in the pantry? Here's the answer from the executive chef of Gourmet magazine and one of the top internet spice suppliers:

From Sara Moulton, this advice:

"If spices are kept in a cool dark place they should last for at least 6 months. After that you can still use them but you will have to use more in order to get the same potency. You can tell when their flavor is fading because their color fades: paprika and red spices go from bright red to dull brown, dried green herbs go from green to dull gray. When you buy dried herbs and spices, buy them in small quantities."

Source: SaraMoulton.com

From online, reputable SpiceBarn.Com:

"Whole herbs and spices last much longer than crushed or ground. Many people prefer to buy the whole form and crush or grind as needed. Herbs and spices can be crushed with a mortar and pestle, or a coffee grinder. Check ground spices for freshness at least once a year. If no aroma is detected, the seasoning needs to be replaced. Heat, sunlight, and dampness cause herbs and spices to lose their flavor and aroma quickly.

1. Store away from moisture as dampness will cause caking and loss of quality. Store in tightly covered jars and use clean, dry spoons for measuring. If you live in a high humidity area you may experience difficulty with caking.

2. Store in cool place away from light. Do not store in a window or in sunlight. Do not store near heat sources such as the range, dishwasher or refrigerator. Spice racks are nice, but not the best way to store your spices.

Shelf Life: Whole spices----2 to 5 years; ground spices---6 months to 2 years; leafy herbs-------3 months to 2 years; dehydrated vegetables---6 months

Tip: Make a note of the date of purchase on the label; then check them once a year and replace as needed.

Source: http://www.spicebarn.com/storing_spices.htm
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