Free Things That Just Make Life Easier

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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.

About Colette

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!

Free Things That Just Make Life Easier


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. Her website, Half Acre Homestead is attracting followers from around the world who want to become more self-sufficient.  Colette invites you to stop by the Homestead and check out all of the great resources including the practical How To Guides, A Tiny Home Resource Center and her organic gardening stories on her blog. She shares her wholistic model (body/mind/spirit) for achieving self-sufficiency in her Free Course, "Growing Self-Sufficiency: The Whole Picture." Stop by the Homestead today to register free of charge!

13 thoughts on “Free Things That Just Make Life Easier”

  1. Thank you for this helpful article. I have been feeling completely overwhelmed lately and the tips in your article will help me get back to basics and take things one step at a time. I know all these things, have used them in the past, but let too many things get in the way of taking charge and getting things done. Some of them had to be dealt with — like three floods in the basement from hard rain storms — but I finally figured out the reason and now can get it fixed. Because of the floods, I’ve had to put several half-finished projects on hold — and the mess is overwhelming me. I’m off here to make a list and prioritize to get those projects done!

    1. Hi Nan, So glad to hear that your found this article helpful. It truly warms my heart as I sit in the middle of nowhere in my eco-cabin to know that my writing is reaching folks like you. If it can help in some way, that is wonderful. I am so sorry to hear about the floods you have been dealing with. Sometimes, these urgent things just come up and demand our attention. I hope that you are able to be compassionate with yourself during this difficult time. You have been dealing with a lot! Wishing you the best as you make your list and move forward. I hope that your projects are enjoyable and get done with ease! Kind regards, Colette

  2. Stopping a lifelong habit of tardiness – or almost – has relieved stress in my life. Back when we went to the movies, I’d time it so we’d arrive just as the lights went down, simply because I didn’t want to sit there waiting for it to start. But, I finally got tired of having a lousy choice of seats, missing the first 5 minutes if I miscalculated the time and stumbling over people in the dark.

    My mother set a good example for me, but I didn’t embrace it until middle age. Sunday School started at 9:45. Church was a 5 minute drive. She left about 9:25 but had been sitting in the living room by 9:00, resting until it was time to leave. With Sunday dinner already in the oven on low. And she didn’t harangue me about hurrying up; she just left when it was time to go. She was a great lady and I wish I was more like her in many ways.

    1. Hi Carla, If we lived in the same town, I think that we were likely stumbling over each other in the dark movie theatres. I had a good chuckle over that one. Yes, I got tired of it, too. I seemed to suddenly realize that so much of my energy was getting drained by these habits of mine. They weren’t serving me.

      Your story about your mother truly touched me. I’m middle aged now myself. Every detail of what your mother was doing: I could appreciate that. Isn’t it interesting to wonder what she was thinking about as she sat there quietly in the living room. I do believe that if we create these spaces in our lives for reflection, we can think more deeply and perhaps even know ourselves more deeply. Thank you for sharing this lovely image of a restful Sunday with your Mom. You may be more like her than your realize! Kind regards, Colette

      1. Colette, your kind reply is just one of the reasons I look forward to seeing a new article by you. Along with your good writing skills. And your choice of topics.

        My parents were both tough (not in a mean way but in a resilient way) and imminently responsible people. What I didn’t say about my mother was that I was born when she was 40, and she developed heart trouble 3 years later. My dad worked hard but often got caught in lay-offs at the airplane factory, so money was often tight. Mama sewed all of the dresses that she, my sister and I wore, and all of Daddy’s and my brother’s shirts. Her philosophy was that even if it took her a whole week to make a garment, then that was 52 pieces of clothing a year. She cooked 2 meals a day from scratch, taught Sunday was election judge in our precinct for awhile. She didn’t waste time, and yet she knew the value of rest. Her rest time was when she read stories to me.

        Both my parents knew the value of diligence and making a nickel do the work of a dime. Daddy’s hobbies (hunting and fishing) put food on the table. Mama crocheted and knitted, but her favorite activity was writing, which is absolutely free.

        Thank you for writing helpful articles and also giving us a place to share our lives.

        For a bit more about my mother, go here:

        A little more (with a couple of photos)

        1. Hi Carla, I had had a stressful day and your comment was like balm for my soul. As soon as I saw it was nice and long, I pulled up a chair and got ready to enjoy it. I read both of the links to your blog. I was so impressed by your mother’s resilience and resourcefulness. I really like her motto to “It’s what you do with what you’ve got that counts.” I loved the photo of her by the coke machine: very significant!!!

          My own family history has some small businesses in them. My grandfather was a dairy farmer, but also had a maple syrup business on the side that did quite well. Grandpa and Grandma kept the whole family nicely stocked with honey by allowing a local beekeeper to keep some hives on their farm. Grandpa’s Uncle Alfred had a small grocery store in a neighbouring town not too far from where I live now.

          Thanks so much for sharing. I think it’s lovely that you’re writing, something that your mother also enjoyed so much. I have bookmarked your blog and look forward to diving into it when seeking some inspiration. Wishing you the best!

          1. Reading over again this most excellent article and comments. I love this topic! When I was a girl there was a story in our reader about families tapping their maple trees to get syrup. It sounded wonderful. And beekeeping….such a good thing to do. We have a neighbor who’s a beekeeper and we buy his honey. Bees and honey are a good part of life!

            I’m hoping for another article by you soon. You choose interesting, relatable a topics. (This has been a good day for me: payday, grocery shopping and a friend gave me a very old treadle Singer sewing machine. I’m feeling particularly joyous!)

          2. Hi Carla, What a wonderful day you had yesterday. It sounded quite joyous to me, too. Thank you for sharing that joy with others through your positive and reflective comments. My own grandfather supplemented his income from their modest dairy farm by producing maple syrup. He also allowed a local beekeeper to keep bees on the farm and he shared the honey he received with all of his children. I can remember us keeping a large bucket of honey in our root cellar as a child. It always seemed quite magical to me to have so much honey!

            I am so glad that you are enjoying my articles. I write them here in my little eco-cabin, quite literally in the middle of nowhere. It is always rewarding to hear that I am reaching readers like yourself. Through my writing and homesteading on Half-Acre Homestead, I try to provide a model for thriving and helping out planet at the same time. Thank you for your feedback. Wishing you the best!

  3. Great article. Your mother sitting in the living room made me chuckle. I had a military father who felt that if we weren’t a half an hour early, we were late. I have cut that down to 15 minutes. My friends know this and adjust accordingly.
    I keep a clip on the strap of my purse that holds my car keys and house key. When I zip my purse closed, these are safely tucked inside. My purse is hung up on a hook when I enter the house. So far, so good.
    I love lists! There’s something very satisfying about checking off the finished projects.

    1. Hi Marie, Thanks for sharing your memories of your father. I’m more on the range of aiming for 15 minutes early, too. Thank you so much for sharing your practical ideas for keeping your keys and purse organized. I love lists, too. Hey, I think I’ll go make a list of why I love lists! Wishing you the best!

    2. Marie, you’re so right about the purse clip and place to hang it. Years ago my sister gave me a purse with a keyring/clip and I loved it! No more hunting for my keys. My purse hangs on a nail by the back door. No more hunting for my purse.

      My husband always knows where his keys and wallet are: in his pocket or in his drawer. Never anywhere else.

      And I love making lists. Sometimes I find an old one that I wrote years ago and it’s kind of fun to read over it and see how much/or little I’ve changed. I like to do paper crafting and making junk journals and altered books. I’m planning on making my own Book of Lists (favorite books, movies, jokes, sayings, places to visit, Bible passages, etc.)

  4. This is an incredible reference resource to keep handy. While my edition is the older 2005 version, it has this inspiring thought on the title page:

    “2,317 Ways to Save Money and Time”

    Reader’s Digest Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things New Edition Paperback – Illustrated, June 11, 2019, 384 pages

    I recommend looking over both the full description and the impressive reviews.

    In the US it’s fair game to request a free inter-library loan to see if you’re interested in either the Kindle edition or the current paperback. I understand that for similar access in Canada there are sometimes some unpredictable customs issues for the print edition.


    1. Lewis!!! This book looks amazing! I did read the full description and many reviews….People Just Love this Book. I learned numerous things just reading the description, for sure. Thank you for sharing these fabulous resources. I will put this one on my “Lewis List” to order when able. Many thanks for your thoughtful contributions for everyone through your comments. Wishing you the best!

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