Saturday, December 17, 2016

Four Ways I've Simplified Our Life

Sometimes, minimalists confuse me. Most of them are awesome people, but occasionally I’ll run across a blog post, an article, or a book that leaves me completely puzzled because they’ll be gushing about how their “simplicity” practices— which seem incredibly complicated to me— are so much easier than what they were doing before. Apparently a lot of minimalists formerly spent hour upon grueling hour throwing away disposable cups, buying produce at Walmart, and taking out the trash, which fortunately has abated since they started washing 100 dishes after hosting a party, biking an hour round-trip to pick up their CSA, and shopping at a bulk store with giant mason jars that they label with a crayon so the cashier can tare the weight of every item. “My life is so much simpler!” is the rallying cry, and I, bewildered on the sidelines, say, “This doesn’t make any sense! Making a meal from scratch and cleaning the kitchen and dishes afterward is not as simple as eating a meal at McDonald’s and then tossing the trash away! It’s better, but not simpler.”

Therein lies the rub: better versus simpler. There are a host of things in my life that I do on principal, or for the fun of it— buying secondhand, using a push lawnmower, walking everywhere— but I don’t pretend that they make my life simpler. However, every once in a while, something will show up that’s both better and simpler. Or even neutral and simpler. These times are awesome, so I decided to make a list. 

Even as I look at my list, I’m sure other people could be as puzzled by me as I am by others. Everyone lives in a unique situation, and even the people who bewilder me are, perhaps, not delusional. (Also, they probably own a dishwasher.) My ideas certainly aren’t for everyone, or even possible for everyone, but they have made my life feel simpler, so I thought I’d share.

1. Don’t shave.

When I was younger, I had to shave my legs twice a week to keep them looking smooth.   After many years of this, I began to realize that I did not care if I had hairy legs, but I did get annoyed at feeling the social pressure to shave. Zach said he didn’t care whether my legs were hairy or not, so that settled it. I still keep a razor around to shave every month or two (and my pits every couple weeks), but I don’t worry about it as much anymore. Because of the infrequency, I’ve used the same disposable razor for two years now, and it still works just fine (bonus tip: buy men’s razors. They’re cheaper). 

Zach has a very thick beard, so he used to shave every other day. He hated it, and experimented with several different razors and creams in his search for a non-razor-burned face. In June, Zach decided to ditch the blade and start working on a beard. Since then, he has saved hours of time and a significant chunk of money. Best of all, our mornings are more relaxed because he doesn’t have to budget time for a routine he hated in the first place.

Obviously, this isn’t for everyone, but it’s worthwhile to consider your beauty habits— makeup, blow-drying hair, showering every day instead of washing up, etc.— and make sure they’re all worth the time and effort. 

2. Prepare breakfast the night before.

Speaking of mornings... although I don’t hate them (unlike someone, coughcoughZachary), I do not want to spend any time making breakfast, and I also don’t want to make any decisions. My life got better when I discovered chocolate overnight oatmeal, which I mix together the night before. In the morning, I just grab it and eat it. No decisions, no preparation. I can use my time in the morning for other activities, like reading the Bible, chatting with Zachary, and drinking tea.

3. Eat less meat.

Meat is messy and it goes bad quickly. Unless you’re buying super-processed meat (which isn’t good for you), you have to trim the fat, clean up the bones, and eat the leftovers in a few days or else they smell funky. When we ate meat regularly, I was constantly trying to keep track of what needed to be thawed or frozen, what had been in the fridge too long, etc. Since we started eating more vegetarian fare, it’s been easier to keep track of the food and avoid waste. Sometimes I’ll discover the half-eaten bean-and-Swiss-chard burrito filling that has laid in the back of the fridge for a week and a half. Guess what? I can still eat it! Most of the other protein sources— eggs, beans, nuts, cheese— last much longer in the fridge than meat, which is nice for me because it allows me to be lazier.

Cabbage stir-fry with sesame seeds = yum.
Another great perk of avoiding meat is saving money. Every other week I make up a triple batch of refried beans (about a gallon and a half) for about $4 and we eat it in all our different Tex-Mex creations: burritos, quesadillas, enchiladas, huevos rancheros, nachos. Or I’ll fry up eggs (even the nice organic ones are just 30¢ each) to add protein to stir-fries, sandwiches, or pasta. 

There are many reasons that we’re mostly eating vegetarian these days, but convenience and money-saving are two nice perks.

4. Wash all your laundry together.

This factors into my laziness again. My mom taught me to do laundry, sorting the whites from the colors, but honestly, Zach and I don’t have that many white clothes, and sorting them is a lot of work. After a two-day attempt to sort laundry, I said, “Forget it,” and just started dumping it all in together and washing in cold water, or occasionally the “Color” setting if something is really dirty. (The only sorting I do is picking out our nice synthetic clothing after the wash and hanging them to dry, which makes them last longer.) So far, we haven’t contracted any deadly diseases from using cold water, and none of our clothes have been ruined, either. Laziness for the win!

Now it’s your turn! What do you do to simplify your life? 



  1. I love this post! I have several that I've "discovered" that really make life actually easier.
    1) One soap/shampoo/bodywash. I have about five minutes of running hot water, not enough time for dithering. I condition about once a week and it seems ok. My hair is still on my head.
    2) No laundry hampers. I was constantly thinking I'd finished the laundry only to have left a hamper full. This also saves me going into the kiddos' room and searching. If it's not already in the washer, it's not getting washed. Also saved on floor and room space.

    Like you said, a lot of "simplification" is actually a workload increase. Want clean clothes? Hook up washer, wash, hang to dry, wait 12-24 hours, wear wrinkled.

    I heard St Louis is basically solid ice right now, stay safe!

    1. I need to simplify our shampoo stuff! Right now we use different kinds because of my straight brown hair vs. Zach's luscious curly locks but it would be good to streamline the process.

      The "no hampers" thing is an interesting method-- I can see that working well with kids! When I was young we kids just threw our laundry in piles (colors and whites) in the hallway at night and my mom scooped them up. That makes sense.

      The ice has melted and the weather is warmish (40 degrees) now! There were some interesting nights at my outdoor Christmas job, though-- free ice skating for everyone. ;)