Sunday, November 23, 2014

Chicken Cacciatore in the One-Button Rice Cooker

1 cup chopped frozen chicken, bite-size pieces
1 cup rotini (spiral pasta)
1 cup chicken broth 
OR 1 cup water with 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon
1 teaspoon olive oil or canola oil
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes
1/2 pound (or 1 1/2 cups) frozen bell peppers and onions
OR 1 1/2 cups fresh diced bell peppers and onions
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Put all ingredients in the rice cooker. Stir with plastic or wooden utensil.
Put on the lid. Push down the lever for Cook setting. When most of the liquid is absorbed, 
the rice cooker will switch to Warm setting. If pasta is not yet tender, add a couple tablespoons
of water, and push the button down again for 5-10 minutes. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Free on Kindle: Myers Family Cookbook

Now you can get the Myers Family Cookbook free for Kindle (or your computer or other electronic device). It will be free today through Monday, November 3, 2014.

You will find recipes, how-to's, and family memories. Come, take the book; use it or browse it; pass the word. Review it, if you would be so kind. 

Thanks so much! 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Rice Cooker Cooking - Chicken & Rice with Veggies

Chicken and Rice with Veggies

1 cup brown rice
2 cups water
2 teaspoons chicken bouillon
2 tablespoons Soy sauce
OR 2 tablespoons Teriyaki sauce
1 package (12 ounces) frozen mixed vegetables
1 cup chopped frozen chicken, bite-size pieces

Put all ingredients in the rice cooker. Stir with plastic or wooden utensil. Put on the lid. Push down the lever for Cook. When it is done, it will switch to Keep Warm setting.


Monday, August 25, 2014

Decluttering: What about the old philosophies? - #9 - Former hobby or lifestyle

"Old philosophy #9.       If you have items or equipment from a former hobby, or from a former lifestyle (for example, you now live in an apartment but have yard tools from a house with a yard), you should keep them, in case you, once again, pursue that hobby or, once again, live in a house with a yard."

My husband and I experienced this one. Eight years ago, we relocated from a 5-bedroom house in rural Kentucky, with a full basement and a 2-car garage, to a 3-bedroom apartment in Baltimore...with 3 teenage boys still living at home.  We also went from conducting several home businesses to jobs. 

Needless to say (because if we were not a bit of pack rats I wouldn't have written these articles)...we rented an off-site storage unit. Slowly, too slowly perhaps, we whittled it down. At one time, I figured out that we could have bought a pretty good used car (or maybe even an inexpensive new car) with the money we had spent on storage. That thought was an eye opener. 

Finally, it became a matter of what's most important. Do we want that bill every month? Most of all, if we add up all the months in a year, do we want continue to "lose" that much money over any more years?  After two of the three sons who moved with us to Baltimore had moved out, we began to have more room, too.

I started sorting through my stuff at home, and soon my husband joined me with his, and then we started working together on ours. It was like a snowball effect. And then we started thinking this about the "stuff" in storage: "If we haven't used it in all these years, we probably won't."

We made room at home for the most important items in storage that we really want to keep, mostly the piano, and the boxes of Christmas decorations. And finally we were able to close out the storage unit. Yay! I took pictures because, after all, it had become like a home away from home. So I needed to say good-bye.

So, back to the top ("items from a former hobby or a former lifestyle, like living in a house with a yard")...well, if we get to live in a house with a yard again, I suppose we will take the money we will be saving on storage and use it to buy the few things we would really need. You know...  

Do you have items you keep because you never know when you might need them again in the future if you decide to pursue a hobby you've given up, or if you get to live a lifestyle that you don't have any more? Or have you decided to downsize what you aren't currently using? Either way, please feel free to share your thoughts. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Light at the End of the Paper Tunnel

Before and After

All loose, recent papers have been processed! Yes! And yes, I do still have boxes, notebooks, and file cabinets to sort. But for the first time, I feel there is HOPE. Part of that hope comes from having created a very workable central mail station.

Another part of that hope comes from dividing the papers into "Recent" & "Past", assigning two different tables, the dining room table only for sorting current papers, with the card table added in the corner for sorting through "old business".  I can't tell you what a relief it is not to sort through yesterday's mail (or last week's mail), and find some odd bill mixed in, from...oh, say, 2011. (I would open something and go: What?! Oh. One half heart attack later, I see the date and breathe a sigh of relief.) 

Do you have a system to go through old papers? Or maybe you don't have old papers? If not, lucky you! How do you like to keep your papers under control? 

Do you ever tend to binge eat?

I always have the best of intentions when I bring home a bag of chips or a package of candy, don't you?  Or maybe you don't ever bring home a bag of chips or candy. But hey, maybe it's whole-grain cookies from the health food store, or a batch of something delicious that you've baked yourself. Is there anything that someone in your household might be tempted to binge on?

In the process of "neatening", I just made a startling discovery. Maybe this is only true of certain personality types, I don't know. But I found out that if something is sitting loose in an opened bag, it's not neat, and I will do whatever it takes to make it neater. And maybe that might be eating it! Sure, that's not the only reason I eat them; but it doesn't help any. 

You see, since I took the tortilla chips out of their bag and put them in a container, I haven't been tempted to eat them like I was when they were in a bag. Now I can save them to eat with Chicken Tortilla soup or refried beans. 

I can't really say much about the candy yet, since I just now put it into the candy dish. But I'm hoping it has the same effect. That I no longer have to eat it to neaten the area where it is. 

Is there anything you do to help yourself - and maybe others at your house - to snack moderately? We'd be happy to hear about it. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

De-cluttering - What about the old philosophies? #8 - What about Sentimental Stuff?

Old Philosophy #8: "If an item – large or small – has sentimental value, you should keep it."

Why? Because, you know, if you keep it, you keep the person. Um, I guess not. 

Or is it, if you don't keep it, something bad will happen? I don't think so.  

But it is hard to let go. And we probably shouldn't let all of it go!...unless we're going to a monastery or going to live in the wild as a hermit or to travel the world with only a backpack. But even then, we might want to ask someone else to keep it for us. But what is "it"? How much is it? 

We don't have to keep the house, the old car, all the furniture, the jars of canned goods, and all the knick-knacks and linens that a relative left, just because we feel sentimental. For most of us, it's too much. So then we have decision time.

And sometimes it's hard just to sort through the sentimental stuff.  Different methods work for different people but here's one thing I've found to do. I make a list of things I really, really want to keep, things that, even if I were to down-size drastically, I would want to keep. For example, some of you know - and maybe some of you don't - that one of our sons passed away two years or so ago. Paul loved elephants all his life. Toward the end of his life, he got to pet an elephant! Paul had a collection of elephants but a lot of the trunks had broken off in various moves. I don't need to keep all the elephants. But he had a little Monopoly-token elephant that I scooped up and put in my pocket. I keep it in my jewelry box, and sometimes, when I'm missing him, I put it in my pocket again for a day. 

I have a little mosaic cross that belonged to my mother as a necklace. I had one just like it, in another color, as a child, but I lost mine along the way. My mom's cross is not in the colors that I wear, but I keep it in my jewelry box because it makes me think happily of both my mom and of my childhood. There are other things I keep that my mom made or used, but I don't feel the need to keep everything, just what I truly enjoy using or displaying. 

How many, and which, sentimental things to hang on to is a very personal decision. But for me, some of it comes down to whether it's something that brings happy memories, not tending toward guilt or depression...and to following my 'numbers rule'...for example, I can keep a couple of Paul's elephants, but I don't have to keep all of the elephants. 

And before I pass something along, I try to take a picture of it...or perhaps write a story about it. 

How do you preserve happy, loving memories of people or times in your life? 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Mail Central

This was my project for the weekend. I'm not sure what decorator style it is...none! But, it is in a corner...convenient to where I open mail that comes in; prepare mail to go out; and plan the meals and the grocery shopping. It finally dawned on me that I had to run from room to room - or around the table - to get all the things I needed for any one simple task. So now it's all central! 

Oh, and the shredder? I used to dump the shreddings all into a big garbage bag and, accidentally, onto the floor as well. And then I would need to pull out the vacuum cleaner. Do you see a motivation problem here? So this weekend I figured out that a plastic grocery bag will fit into the shredder nicely.
So I located a stash of them next to the mail station. 

Blue pens (my favorite), black pens, red pens, short pens. I finally gave away all the short pink, green, and purple pens that I used to get in a package whenever I bought short blue pens...before I found the short ones that are in the drawer. (I used to work a job where I needed to put a pen in my pocket.) 

My hubby fixed the battery operated pencil sharpener (I can certainly change a battery, but I couldn't get the silly thing open). And of course, a pen and pencil drawer wouldn't be complete without an eraser (hiding near the pencil sharpener) and white-out. Does anyone still use white-out? I still do, just now and then. 

Long ago, I labeled these drawers with verbs. The drawers were useful, already, before this weekend, but they just had become such a mumbo-jumbo that they were neither efficient nor fun. So, anyway, this drawer is labeled: "Calculate and Label". I decided that not only return-address labels but also stamps could fit into the category of "label"...because I needed the stamps handy, and it works for me. What works for you?

This drawer is labeled "Cut and fasten"...stapler, rubber bands, paper clips, scotch tape, even magnets.
But wait! What do I cut with?

It looked so much better before I added the scissors! Well, these scissors are literally falling apart; so, I think I am going to get smaller ones that fit better in the box with the hole-punches (yes, I really would measure the scissors at the store). And I think I will look for scissors with either black handles or white handles. 


I'm hoping I can now get on top of my mail. How about you? Is there something you've arranged or re-arranged to make your life a little more efficient? Has it worked for you? 

P.S. The only thing I bought (at this time) for this project were the little white organizing bins, which were at Target, all in a package together, near the silverware trays. I had two
 leftover, which I used elsewhere in the house.

P.S. #2. And here's the Cut and Fasten Drawer with the new working black and white scissors.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

V-8 Bean Soup

Why not go ahead and give you one more recipe for the little crockpot, while I'm at it today? 

I created this one several weeks ago. As with the others, the idea is that we can make "homemade" soup by using food that we can keep in the pantry. Also, there is a fresh option that you can use if you have it. 

The first time I made this one, it was a little bland, so I added a touch of chili powder next time, and it perked it up nicely.

V-8 Bean Soup

1 can (15.5 ounces) black or kidney beans, drained
1 can (14.5 ounces) green beans, drained

2 cans (5.5 ounces each) V-8 juice
1 cup water with 1 teaspoon chicken or vegetable bouillon
OR 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 pearl barley
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
dash of black pepper
1/4 teaspoon chili powder

Fresh option:

2 tablespoons finely chopped sweet green bell pepper

Put all ingredients into a 1 1/2 to 2 quart crock pot and stir.

Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Stir and serve.

Ham and Potato Soup

This is another soup I made "from the pantry" in my crock pot. It makes about four servings. But I'm thinking that you could probably multiply it in a larger crock pot for a larger family. 

This is not a creamy potato soup, as I did not use any milk; however, I think the instant potato flakes give it a nice consistency and add to the flavor. 

Ham and Potato Soup

1 can (15 ounces) peas and carrots, drained
1 can (14.5-15 ounces) cubed potatoes, drained
1 can (5 ounces) ham, drained
1 cup water with 1 teaspoon chicken or vegetable bouillon
OR 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth or stock
1/3 cup instant potato flakes
dash of black pepper

Fresh option:
2 tablespoons finely chopped onions

If the ham is not diced, flake it with a fork.

Put all ingredients into a 1 ½ to 2 quart crock pot and stir.

Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Stir and serve.

Note: If instant mashed potato (flakes) are not something you normally stock in your home, and you want to try out the soup, you might be able to find the smaller pouches, which you can buy individually. The pouch I have is 2 ounces and contains 1 1/2 cups of potato flakes.  

Thyme for Chicken Soup

Of course, it's always good to make foods from fresh ingredients. But what if you can't get out to the store? Crackers and peanut butter could get boring. So here's a chicken soup you can make from your pantry. It includes a "fresh option", in case you have it. I made this recipe for a small crock pot (1 1/2 to 2 quart) for my now-smaller family; however, you could probably multiply it with good success.

Thyme for Chicken Soup

1 can (10 ounces) chicken, packed in water, drained
1 can (14.5 ounces) green beans, drained
1 cup water with 1 teaspoon chicken or vegetable bouillon
OR 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
¼ cup (parboiled, long grain) white rice
¼ teaspoon salt or to taste
dash of black pepper
¼ teaspoon thyme

Fresh option:
¼ cup finely sliced celery

Put all ingredients into a 1 ½ to 2 quart crock pot and stir.

Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Stir and serve.


Friday, May 2, 2014

Minimizing the Entryway

Okay, so, yes, the first picture might actually look prettier...what with the wood and the shiny tray and the silk flowers. 

But it didn't make sense. It wasn't cohesive. This entry isn't part of a room; it's part of a hallway, which includes a mop and bucket, a recycle bin, a shoe rack, another shoe basket, and a simple folding chair for...of course, changing shoes. 

This area was - and is - what I call, euphemistically, our "garage". So I decided to switch out the tall, wooden bookcase for the kind of shelving we might have in a garage. It just makes more sense to me. It also was just that much wider that I was able to get the tools out from under the chair and put them here, too.

Do you ever go for simple, or cohesive, over pretty things? 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

What do you do about phones when the power is out?

Did I tell you I'm a prepper? I'm definitely not the "be prepared to live off the grid for a year" type of prepper. I think it's great that some people are; it's just not me. I'm the kind of prepper who is always "struggling to be prepared" for the next power outage, or the hurricane or flood, or whatever might happen. 

When we lived in California (many years ago), I thought I was prepared to evacuate in case of an earthquake. I don't know if I really was prepared at that time, or if I just thought I was. But I wasn't prepared to evacuate when one of my sons and I left our apartment a couple years ago as the creek out back rose higher and higher. I grabbed my purse, and we both grabbed our phones, and we took off. When we got to dry ground, I called my hubby and the others who weren't home, and I asked them to meet us at the local grocery store. 

We were very fortunate to get my car out of here before it could be ruined, and that our apartment wasn't flooded. And it came at a time when we could afford to rent a motel for a night (there where a few times in the past when we might not have been able to do that).  

But we didn't have a change of clothing, or our personal care items, and my phone was rapidly running out of power. Fortunately, the others had their cell phones, charged and ready.

After that, I packed a backpack with a change of clothes and some toiletries for each of my husband and me (my kids are adults and can pack their own). And I planned to get car chargers for our cell phones. 

Whenever the power goes out, I've been so pleased that I keep a simple, non-electric phone that I can pull out of my emergency storage box and plug in. However, recently our phone company installed a little box...a little box that means the phone's power comes from us, no longer from the phone company. This little box has battery back-up, which I've heard only lasts for about six to eight hours. So, now I no longer have that excuse to keep the landline phone. 

You remember how I had "planned to get car chargers"? I had gotten myself one, and it paid off during the latest power outage. I was able to charge my phone, loan my phone to the neighbor lady in case she had an emergency in her apartment, and take her phone to Barnes and Noble to charge it for her (because she didn't have a car charger and she had a model-specific connection that wouldn't charge with my car charger). 

And you see, that's the same reason I only "planned" to get chargers for our other three phones. Because they have model-specific connections (and are older phones), I couldn't just walk into the provider's store, and buy them for my men-folk here. 

However, more recently, with an eye to giving up the landline, I finally took an hour or two and did the research about various types of connections, as well as research about each specific phone and its connection type. And I finally got everyone their car chargers! 

I even got myself a little battery-operated charger for my micro USB-compatible phone; so if we don't have power, and we don't want to go out to the car, we can have one phone, at least. I tried it today, and the little charger itself got hot pretty fast, but my phone did go from three bars to four in about ten minutes. And even if the phone were on zero, and I was nervous about the charger getting hot, I'm pretty sure you can text on one bar. 

So, what do you do about phones in a power outage or other emergency?  Do you have a car charger? A battery-operated charger? A hand-crank charger? (Yes, I've heard such a thing exists.). Walkie-talkies? I had to throw that last one in, because I've always loved walkie-talkies. And I might wish I had one, if my neighbor's phone runs out in another emergency. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

How to Manage Your Money When You Don't Have Any - A Book Review

How to Manage Your Money When You Don't Have Any, 
Erik Wecks, 2012

I have read a whole lot of books about personal finance, and this is definitely my new favorite. As you might guess from the title, this is not your big book of investment advice, but rather a realistic, practical approach to dealing with life after the Great Recession.

I love this author's conversational, non-judgmental tone and sense of humor. Erik helps us to find our own mission, and he uses his experience in financial counseling to give us strategies, not just tactics, to reach our own financial stability.

Escape to Prosperity - A Book Review

Escape to Prosperity, Wes Beavis, 1999

This is an older book, which is still spot-on. It is a fun book to read - unless you want to continue to do the things that keep you broke. This is a book about money principles, which is written in an always interesting and sometimes humorous way.

Wes Beavis talks about paying off your mortgage, making tax-paying more pleasant, the cost of owning a car. He also talks about getting out of debt. But most of all, he talks about how to go about these things, all in a story-telling way. This book was required reading in my (home school) high school curriculum.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Three Can Minestrone

With only three of us living here now, I pulled out my 1-1/2 quart crockpot, and I started experimenting with making soups that are small and simple. 

Now, I do want to tell you that I think fresh foods are even better for us; but I grew up as a Girl Scout, with the motto, "Be prepared". I like to have some meals and soups that I can make with ingredients that I can keep in the house. 

I've been tweaking this recipe in several attempts, and tonight I was delighted, if I do say so myself. So, I thought I would share it with you all. 

Three Can Minestrone

1 can (15.5 ounces) Great Northern beans, drained
1 can (14.5 ounces) sliced carrots, drained
1 can (14.5 ounces) Italian diced tomatoes
½ cup water with ½ teaspoon chicken bouillon
OR ½ cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt or to taste
dash of black pepper
¼ teaspoon basil

Fresh option:
2 tablespoons finely chopped onions or green onions

Put all ingredients into a 1 ½ to 2 quart crock pot and stir.

Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.


Note: This recipe was created after the Myers Family Cookbook was published, so it is not found in that book. There are other soup recipes in that book, as well as other recipes you can make from items you can keep in the pantry. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

De-cluttering - What about the old philosophies? - #7 - Retro equipment

Old Philosophy #7: " If you have items that are no longer in general use, for example, vinyl records, you should keep them until you can have them converted or until you can buy the equipment to convert them yourself, or better yet, buy the re-manufactured retro equipment to play them on."

MY husband is a musician, so, I bought him a record player for all his vinyl records. However, I'm not a musician, so I didn't select a record player with high quality sound. Oops. 

But, that brings me back to hobbies and passions, once again. What kinds of things do we want to save? If it's our vocation or avocation, then we might want to go for it. But we might want to consider how many passions we have the time, energy, and space to pursue. 

Incidentally, my husband also has large reel-to-reel tapes that his father taped from radio programs or records. (I started to inform you that his father did this many years ago; but hey, when did you last see a reel-to-reel tape player?). We did finally let the reel-to-reel player move on.  Now we need to address the tapes. I'm making a list and seeing how many of them we can get on CD's or perhaps digitally. 

And - I know I'm repeating myself - but here we go again: I have quite a few old movies on VHS, but movies are not my passion; I'm not that "into" them, so it's not worth it to me to convert them to DVD's. So I will be letting most of them go. 

I guess what I'd really like to share with you is the feeling that we don't have to keep everything just because we have it. And it isn't always wise to acquire more to justify what we have. Unless it's our passion, and it fits our space, budget, etc., we can simply let it go. 

You can read Decluttering - What about the old philosophies? - #6  or #8.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

De-cluttering - What about the old philosophies? - #6 - Our own childhood stuff

Old Philosophy #6: "You should save your college textbooks, other books, your childhood toys and games, and clothing that no longer fits you, for your children and grandchildren to use some day."

This one is simple: Don't do it! (Okay, I'm really not telling you what to do; just sharing my opinion.). Except...

I decided to save a few things for my grandchildren (should I be so lucky) to use at my house. But I don't want to saddle my kids with a lot of my stuff, or with guilt if they don't want to take it. 

Maybe you want to keep a few college textbooks that fit your career or hobby, for your own enjoyment or reference. Perhaps you want to keep some children's books to read to your children or grandchildren, or that they can read while visiting at your house. Maybe you want to keep several childhood games that you can play with your children or grandchildren. Perhaps you want to keep a few extra coats and hats in the closet, in case someone gets their things wet. 

As I mentioned in another post, sometimes it's good to just keep numbers in mind. You might want to keep a few games, but you don't have to keep 20 games from your childhood, or you don't have to keep 50 games from when your children were growing up...unless you still play all those games on a regular basis. 

As I look at our coat closet - I mean game closet - I think this is as good a place as any to mention something important. Many of us live with another decision maker besides ourselves. We might not always agree on what to keep and what not to keep. If something belongs to someone else (for example, our spouse), we can beg, barter, or cajole; but unless and until they "come around" to our way of thinking, it's basically not ours to dispose of.

Any thoughts you'd like to share? 

De-cluttering - What about the old philosophies? - #5 - Old things we don't use anymore

Old Philosophy #5: "You should keep old things, like holey socks, because you might need them in an emergency or in an economic downturn."

Yesterday, we experienced an emergency. I didn't need any holey socks. I was glad, though, to have an old somewhat-worn blanket on hand, which I'd been debating whether or not to keep. We didn't end up needing it, as the electricity came on before we went to bed. But I was glad I had it for the peace of mind, as it brought the number of additional blankets up to what I hoped would be just enough. There are many, right now, in my area and other areas, who are without power, trying to find ways, no doubt, to be warm, or at least to keep from freezing.

Although I was happy I had that old yellow blanket, looking back, I realize there are three reasons why I hadn't gotten rid of it. I love the color; it had belonged to my son who passed away two years ago; and also, I have a long-standing personal philosophy that "you can never have too many blankets". I came up with this personal mantra decades ago, when I was considering baby gifts for friends; but as I had more children, its value became more apparent. Even with our children grown now, you never know who might be staying for a visit or a transition.

But when it comes to socks, I have to admit, when I replace them because they have holes in them, I throw away the old ones. Personally, I don't really see much value in holey socks unless it's all I've got. In an economic downturn, I would undoubtedly have holey socks soon enough (been there, done that), without having saved a drawer full of them. But to save them, on purpose, ahead of time?  Someone once said about this depression philosophy of saving worn out clothing, "In a depression, we would be depressed to have all these worn out things."

Rather than indiscriminately saving old things, in case we might need them in an emergency, what if we were to be pro-active about planning for an emergency?  I'm not referring to the long-term apocalyptic preparations that some people make. Although I don't criticize those, it's not my way. I'm referring to the emergencies that occur somewhere in the world every day and could occur in our world. How about having a small portable snack in our purse or backpack, and non-perishable foods, that don't require heating, in our homes?

How about having a way to get help - or just to stay in touch with people - during an emergency? We still have a landline phone, so one of the things I've saved is an old corded phone that I can plug in during a power outage...and yes, it works without electricity,  provided the phone lines are good. But this is only true if it's truly a landline, which I realized when I was going to loan this phone to my neighbor. She has Comcast phone service, and Comcast was down.

And what about alternative ways to charge the cell phone, besides plugging it into the wall? I was glad, yesterday, to have finally gotten a phone for which I could get (and had gotten) a car charger.

Now let's go back, for just a moment, to the idea of preparing for an "economic downturn". If you live where you own your home outright, and maybe you grow your own food, and maybe you have skills you would be able to barter; then perhaps you would have no need to move, and maybe saving old things might work for you in such an emergency, if you have room for them. But for some people, if hard times were to come, it might mean order to take a new job, or to live for a bit with a relative or friend, or just to downsize to a lower rent or mortgage payment. In some cases, "saving stuff" for an economic downturn might just be counter-productive.

But blankets? We can always use them to pack our stuff in, right? Actually, as I said in my last post, I believe you can collect too many of  pretty much anything. So you might not want to take my "you can't have too many blankets" mantra too seriously and accumulate way more than you need. And we can always offer old blankets to homeless shelters or, if worn, to an animal shelter.

But now, I need to go research how to mend a certain yellow blanket.

Read De-cluttering - What about the old philosophies? - #4
        Or De-cluttering - What about the old philosophies? - #6.

De-cluttering - What about the old philosophies? - #4 - Reuse or Repurpose?

Old Philosophy #4: "If you can remake it, or you might be able to use it in another way some day, you should keep it for when you have time to do that."

Like the other philosophies that were passed down from the depression, this is another one that can be good or bad.

This isn't about simple repairs, which I talked about in another blog post. This is the "reuse" in "reduce, reuse, recycle", but people were doing it long before that expression became popular. When I was a child, I had an aunt who was struggling financially. One year, to make Christmas gifts for my sister and me, she cleaned out old bleach bottles. She added little pieces of felt to make them look like pigs, and she punched a hole in each bottle for us to put money in. It was the best piggy bank ever, I recognized the love that went into it, and it was one of my favorite gifts.

Whole books and blog posts demonstrate the many ways we can reuse various items in other ways. My Repurposed Life is a blog I sometimes visit, just for fun. I simply enjoy the author's projects, ideas, and the visual appeal. This woman loves to take a piece of old furniture and make something new and beautiful.

When we re-use things, sometimes we make something beautiful and other times we just need something useful. For example, over the years, I've often saved glass dispose of grease, to store beans or grains, or to save pocket change or buttons. But I've found the key to control - hey, let's not forgot these posts are about de-cluttering - is to pick a number. Maybe the number is five or maybe it's three. Depending on the type of item, and our needs or hobbies, it could be a larger number, but the idea is to have a definite number. By saving only that number, and putting the rest in the recycle bin or garbage, we can keep the clutter down, as we go along.

I've learned to try to only save things to reuse, which we know we will actually use, and to limit the number. What about you? Do you save things to re-use? What do you save and how do you re-use it?

RRead: De-cluttering - What about the old philosophies? - #3
             Or De-cluttering - What about the old philosophies? - #5.

De-cluttering - What about the old philosophies? - #3 - Donate?

Old Philosophy #3: "If it is worn out, you should give it to Goodwill."

This one goes way back to my childhood. 

When I was a young girl, I cleaned my closet one day, and I set aside games, which I no longer played with, to give them to Goodwill. My dad complained that I was trying to give away all my good games...and, consequently, he built each of us shelves in the basement to store the things we were not currently using. 

In some ways, I haven't changed much since I was a little girl. Here's my 'thing' about Goodwill. On the one hand, it doesn't have to be perfect for you to give it to Goodwill. Goodwill not only provides people with various products more cheaply than they can get them at the department store, but it is an organization which also trains people and gives people jobs. As a good friend recently pointed out, even sorting through the donated items is a job for someone. 

On the other hand, I don't feel comfortable thinking of Goodwill principally as a place for my worn-out items. I myself shop at Goodwill to find the "treasures". So, I like to help re-stock the place with treasures for others to find, also. I like to pass along some things I no longer want which are still very nice. 

Of course, Goodwill is not the only option. In my area, we have a St. Vincent de Paul bin with a sign on it, saying that clothing donations go to help the homeless in our local area. So, nowadays, that's where my clothing goes (and some other things go to Goodwill...and there is also the Vietnam Veterans, or our church's flea market in the summer). 

When I had blindness materials to distribute, I went to the Blindhomeschooler Yahoo group. When I had homeschooling materials to give away, I wrote to the local homeschool group we had participated in until my youngest went to college. The last two or three summers, I've had the opportunity to give religious and educational books to a visiting priest who was sending them back to his mission in Africa. 

I've given household items to local residents through Freecycle, and I've given old blankets to an animal shelter. Of course, all of this takes time, and sometimes it's easier to just pick it all up and take everything to two places, a thrift shop and the garbage. 

As far as worn out items, if it's really and truly worn out - not just in need of a minor repair - I throw it in the garbage. But if it's clothing, and it's at least partly cotton, I make it into a rag. I cut it open, so it won't sneak it's way back into a drawer. But first, I take off any buttons. Yes, I save buttons. Usually, when I need buttons for a project, I find myself buying them...still, I save buttons. But remember, recycle sewing is my hobby. I figure that saving stuff is okay if it's small and it's part of your hobby, right? 

De-cluttering - What about the old philosophies? - #2 - Fix it or not?

Old philosophy #2: If it is broken, you should keep it until you can find a way to fix it.

I once read something like this, "Throw away all the broken toys and other broken items in your home." Do what??  I thought it was heresy or something. (I've since changed my mind a bit.) 

My husband and I were both brought up with the philosophy that "if it's broken, you fix it". If you don't have the skills to fix it, you pay someone else to fix it. Or, you save it until you can learn how to fix it, or until you can get the parts you need to fix it. Or you keep it until it magically fixes itself. (Yes, I added that last part just this moment, tongue in cheek.)

I once splurged and bought a really nice watch. It wasn't overly expensive, but it cost me more than I usually spent for a watch. It stopped working, so I took it to the jewelry shop where I had bought it. When I came back to pick it up, they said, "That will be $$." I don't remember the amount, but I was in shock! If I remember right, it was considerably more than I had paid for the watch.  I asked them why they hadn't given me an estimate, and they said that if they went into the watch to find out what was wrong with it, that was about as much labor as fixing it, and that my bringing it in was my permission for them to fix it. That day I learned a lesson in communication. I also learned that sometimes, it's cheaper not to fix something. 

I no longer think you should fix everything. I think what we repair - or pay someone else to repair - is different for each of us. My husband and I pay someone to fix our cars. My current car is 11 years old. My former car, an American minivan, made almost 200,000 miles before it finally became irreparable. My husband's Jeep has way over 200,000 miles. We have other places we would rather put our money than newer cars; but that's not a decision for everyone.

How do we know whether to keep something, so we can fix it, or whether to just give it up?  I think the best way to figure that out is to consider value, enjoyment, and "likelihood".  

How much money and/or time will it cost to repair it? How long will it last after it's been repaired? Is it worth it? During our last move, a piece of wood near the bottom of my china cabinet broke, making it unusable. I thought it was all over (the cabinet, not my life, but I was pretty sad). But my husband found a strong glue, and he glued the piece back together, and it's been good ever since. 

Another question related to value might be, is it something essential, and we can't afford to get a new one right now? Would it be cheaper to have it repaired than to replace it? 

Or, does it have strong sentimental value?...which brings me to my next criteria. How much enjoyment will we get from the item if we repair it?  Is it something that brings us joy? Will it continue to bring us joy in its repaired state? 

And lastly, what is the likelihood that we really will get it repaired? If we haven't fixed something for months, or perhaps years, when do we think we are going to begin? Is there something that will help us to get started, or it it time to be honest with ourselves? 

If you know me, you might know that I like "fixing" clothing items...repairing, re-purposing, changing out the buttons, etc. I enjoy figuring out how to save something, and I enjoy hand-sewing, so together they constitute a hobby that brings me a lot of enjoyment. My dad once got free lumber and nails in exchange for taking down a building, and he used them to build a house. Cheap housing was a necessity for him at the time; but building was also his hobby. 

If it's our hobby, by all means, let's fix it. If not, we might want to consider whether it's worth it, how much we will enjoy it, and the likelihood that we will actually get around to it. Otherwise, we might want to get it - whatever it might be - out of the house. 

Is there anything special that you've "saved" that was worth it, or that you really enjoyed fixing? 

De-cluttering - What about the old philosophies? - #1 - Gifts

Old philosophy #1: "If you spent good money for it, or it was a gift, so someone else spent good money for it, you should keep it."

This is a hard one. No one wants to waste their money. No one wants to think of crumpling up a twenty dollar bill (or more) and putting it into the trash can...or through the shredder...or, as people used to say, down the toilet.

But let's look at some of the ways we spend our money, other than buying "things"...just to dig a little deeper  into why we do what we do.

Perhaps you travel somewhere by airplane. You don't bring the plane home with you (not unless you own the plane, which most of us don't). If you travel by plane, perhaps you rent a car. You don't take the rental car home with you. If you aren't visiting relatives or friends (and, sometimes, if you are), you might stay in a motel. But you don't bring the motel home with you, nor the sheets and towels. But, generally speaking, we don't say, "I threw my money away."  What do we say? Hopefully, it's something along the lines of, "I had a wonderful time!"

We pay for a certain value.

If we go out to eat, we nourish our bodies and we enjoy time with our family or friends. If someone likes to golf, they get a feeling of accomplishment and perhaps camaraderie. If someone goes to a concert, they enjoy the music. At the end of the day, we have nothing to show for the money spent. Perhaps a carton of leftovers for tomorrow's lunch; maybe a scorecard or a program. Maybe some pictures. And that's all. But it's really not all, because what he have are the things of the mind and heart. And we can't put those in a box, or on a shelf, or away in a closet.

Now, I'm not suggesting we don't buy any "things", and I'm not suggesting we don't keep any "things".  But I am wondering if we could apply a similar value rule to the things we buy as we do to our experiences.

Years ago, my dad gave us a bread machine. We used it so much, I bought another one, so we could make two loaves at a time. Later, with less people living at home and a busier life outside the home, I wasn't making bread anymore, so I gave up the bread machines. Although both my father and my husband had worked hard to pay for those bread machines, we had already gotten our value from them, many times over.

If we have gotten our value from something, and we don't use it anymore, maybe someone else could get value from it now. And maybe we could use that space for something else that might bring value to our lives in the present - perhaps that something might be an item we have stored away, or perhaps just more space.

But what if we spent good money for something, but we have never used it? Shouldn't we keep it because we spent all that money to buy it?  Shouldn't we keep it, in case we want to use it some day?  But wait. If we haven't used it, what are the chances we will use it in the future? Maybe we need to own our mistake and move on. Maybe we need to move it on out, so we will stop seeing it and regretting that purchase.

If you are reading this post and you don't know me, you might think I advocate not keeping much of anything. If you knew me, you would know that's not true, as I drive an old car, and I like to give new life to old clothing.  And that's what I plan to write my next post about: should we keep it, so we can fix it some day?

Read De-cluttering - What about the old philosophies? - #2.
         and the previous post, Why is it so hard to dig out of the pack-rat den?