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There is an old saying that “The best things in life are free.” I wonder if some might consider this a bit clichéd now? However, in this article, I am writing in that spirit, with the aim to be of service to the Frugalite community. To conduct my research, I reflected on my life and asked myself what changes I have made in my life that haven’t cost anything but have made a rich improvement in the quality of my life. Here they are, dear Frugalites!
I only have one place to put important items.
I have memories in my childhood of all of us getting ready to go out and one or both of my parents not being able to find their keys. This was stressful! “Where are those darn keys?” “We’re going to be late!” “Kids have a look on the coffee table…in my coat…etc. etc.”
When I grew up, I created a simple practice: The moment I come into the house, I first put my keys in my “key place.” This practice means that I am almost never (okay, I am admitting here in public that I’m not perfect!) looking for my keys.
If you are going to pick a place to put your keys, here is a security-related tip: It is best that your “key place” not be right at the front door. I recently read an article about “relay attack,” where your car key signal can be highjacked by a high-tech device. If your keys are not where thieves expect them (near the front door), they will be more secure. If they are in a metal box to block the signals from the relay device, all the better!
The practice of having one place for your car keys can be extended to many other important items and documents. I have one place for my government documents. I have one folder for my receipts related to my house build. The receipts are paper clipped according to store.
When there are items to return, I am so grateful for this simple system. What are you spending time looking for? Is it your car keys? Or something else? What about your kids? A small investment of time to create a dedicated place for certain items and documents will save you time and reduce stress in the long run.
I always give myself extra time every time I need to go somewhere.
Many years ago, my life was a lot more chaotic. I was often late…late for everything! I can remember how stressful it was, driving places knowing I was going to be late. Every red light became torture. The temptation to run lights and put the pedal to the metal was high. I was irritated with other drivers. “How can he go SOOO SLOW!” (By the way, he was probably going the speed limit!). I was always apologizing to people, “I’m sorry I’m late!”
This added a lot of stress to my life. I knew that I wanted to be more on time, both for my own stress level and also to show more respect for other people’s time. Fast forward several years: I adopted a practice that I learned about in a course I took. It is simple: leave extra time for every trip that you make. That’s it.
I budget an extra 15 minutes on top of whatever the map program says it’s going to take. I am the kind of person who really gets into the moment of what I’m doing. In order to be on time, I now need to actually write down the plan: Leave the house at 3:15 pm. 2:45 pm: clean up and put on “town” clothes. Then, I often set a reminder alarm: This is the time to clean up and get ready to go.
I cannot express how much better my life is. I am that relaxed person who lets you go in front of me in the grocery line when you only have a few items. I sit in my car and relax when I get somewhere early. I arrive 15 minutes early for my Jujitsu class and have a chance to chat with my fellow classmates as we stretch and prepare for class. If an aggressive driver tailgates me, I always pull over or motion for them to pass me when it is safe. I now enjoy my drives much more, and I have given myself the free gift of lower blood pressure!
I always carry healthy high-fiber food at all times.
I am one of those people who, when I need to eat, I need to eat NOW! Over the course of my life, this has led to my eating a lot of expensive junk food in town when I get caught when my blood sugar is getting low.
I have a simple solution now that doesn’t add anything to my grocery bill. I keep a small plastic container in my purse at all times with four fresh dates in it. That’s it. If I get hungry, I eat the four delicious dates. Along with a few sips of water from my carry-along water container, that is usually enough to get me home or to a healthy choice.
Money is very tight these days, and my date with my dates is helping me save money.
Everyday, I organize my daily priorities with a list.
I love homesteading and wouldn’t choose any other way to live my life. However, it can be stressful to always have an endless list of activities that need to be done. Here are a few examples from my life this week: weed garden, collect St. John’s Wort flowers, make tinctures and oils, housekeeping, mound the potato plants, prepare meals, off-grid foot-operated laundry, milking cows off the homestead, writing, blogging, and I’m still building my eco-cabin in my spare time, so I needed to select and buy skill saw blades to cut heavy metal…you get the idea!
Whew! What makes this challenging is that many of these activities are ongoing, and some will never be finished.
In order to deal with this sense of endless work, I started a simple practice. Each morning, after I have my mindful coffee, I take out my notebook and start a fresh page. I usually call it something like “Monday Ideas” or “Monday Inspiration.”
Then, I write down 5 – 10 tasks that would be nice to do today. After I write this list, I review it. Is anything important missing? Then, I read it again and pick one or two that are my top priorities. As an example, today, I wrote seven things down on my list, with one top priority. I got the top one done before 10 am, and also three others, for a total of seven out of ten.
If a task is too big for that one day, like there is no way I can weed the entire garden, then I would have something like “Weed for 30 minutes.” Looking at my tasks in my notebook from the previous day helps me plan my priorities for the next morning. Rather than just starting my day, I feel I am more effective because I am brainstorming, reflecting, AND prioritizing. All of this only takes a few minutes.
Especially during stressful times, this can help me be realistic about what I can accomplish in one day. During those times, I make sure I add some self-care onto the list to remind myself to keep balance: meditation, quiet breathing, or “something fun” are often added to the list. I took a course once where I learned about a practice where you can set a goal daily for how you would like to BE. Would you like to focus on being kind today? Or patient? Sometimes, I take inspiration from that practice and reflect not only on what I want to DO but also on how I would like to BE.
Maybe you’re not a list maker. That’s okay, too. Perhaps just taking a quiet moment first thing to reflect on one or two top priorities for the day might be more your style. What can be helpful, I think, is finding a practice to center and organize your day that works for you. It doesn’t have to cost you anything, but it could add focus and a sense of accomplishment to your life.
Free habits can really add to your life.
There are many ways to add enjoyment to your life and reduce stress. Could you see yourself trying any of the free tips offered here? Do you have one you can share with us? Please tell us in the comments below.
Colette is passionate about sharing her knowledge of thrifty living and self-sufficiency. She has developed her skills in self-reliance living in the suburbs, the city, and more recently, on her own Half-Acre Homestead. Colette lived five years completely off-grid and without running water in an eight by 24 foot tiny home while designing and building her own 18 by 24-foot eco-cabin. She has just launched her website, Half Acre Homestead. Colette invites you to stop by and visit this work in progress! Coming soon in 2022 is her exciting new online program. Interested in Resiliency, Preventative Health, and Self-Sufficient/Off-Grid Housing (to name a few!)? Stay tuned for more details!