Steps to Simplicity: How to Enjoy Things Without Owning Them

 How to Enjoy Things Without Owning Them

Do you enjoy going to art museums? I do. I studied some art in college including a semester in London where every other class was spent at the Tate Modern.

(How lucky was I?)

Recently I realized something, though. I can use what I’ve learned about analyzing art to live a simpler life.

Let me explain…

When we go to a museum we are spending time admiring artwork in the moment. Owning a priceless piece of artwork is not within our reach so we enjoy it without owning it. We can feel how it makes us feel and appreciate the beauty of the artwork without wanting to take it home.

Why couldn’t we do that in other places?

Retail stores are designed to make us want to buy stuff (obviously or they wouldn’t last long).

When we see something we like in a store, along with the price tag there is a promise that by buying this item we will be able to recreate that same initial enjoyment every time we see it, wear it or use it, and conversely, without buying the item we will be without that joy. The truth is that most things that are bought on impulse turn into clutter.

As I’m writing this I can see a pencil (like these ones) that I bought many years ago just because it looked “cool”. Have I ever actually used it? Maybe once or twice—probably out of obligation. This pencil hasn’t provided me any joy over the years that I’ve owned it (maybe it’s time to get rid of the thing?), yet I bought it for that very reason.

So instead of adding to my life or creating joy, it is simply clutter, taking up space in my pencil holder.

If this pencil were beautiful and I enjoyed looking at it everyday then I would consider it a good purchase even though it’s not functional, but I don’t think it’s particularly interesting or beautiful anymore.

If I had treated this pencil like I do a painting in a museum I could have walked away without buying it yet I would have still enjoyed it’s beauty.

Thinking about items as pieces of art to be admired turns out to be a great way to avoid impulse purchases that just turn to clutter. By focusing on admiring an item we can stop focusing on whether or not to buy it. We can learn to enjoy things without owning them!

When I see something I like, I ask myself these questions:

What is my initial reaction to it?

What do I like or dislike about it (color, shape, etc)?

How does it make me feel?

How did the artist (fashion designer, pencil maker, etc.) use color, lines, and texture in interesting ways?

Instead of this question:

Should I buy it?

In what ways have you learned to enjoy things without owning them?



How to Homestead Without Buying Property

How to Homestead Without Owning Property

With the housing crash of 2008 and the current unpredictable job market, not all of us have the ability or desire to own property.

But, just because you don’t own 20 acres (or any acres at all) doesn’t mean you can’t homestead. As they say, homesteading is a state of mind, not a place.

Your homestead could be an old school bus, a high-rise apartment in the city, a rented suburban home or a 50 acre farm.

The important thing is to be content with where you are right now. You need to create the life you want right now instead of waiting for some future that may not happen.

After all, homesteading is about returning to our roots, making do with what we have, and leading a simple, yet full and rich life.

We started our homesteading adventures when we lived in a two bedroom apartment. We now live in a house on 20+ wooded acres, but guess what? We don’t own it! And we probably won’t be homeowners for quite some time.

There are many ways to have a homesteader’s heart without owning your own home. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

Simplify Your Life

Par down. Get organized. Stop the influx of stuff and embrace a lifestyle of production instead of consumption.

Start a Garden

Whether that means a container garden on your balcony, growing veggies in your flowerbeds or joining a community garden, you can almost always find a way to grow a few veggies.

Buy Locally

If you can’t garden, consider joining a CSA or buy your veggies from local farmers. You can find farmer’s markets at

Raise Easy Animals

If you don’t have a lot of space or are just reluctant to invest in outbuilding that you may have to leave behind someday, you can still have animals.

Chickens are a favorite for backyard homesteaders and are becoming more and more common in suburban and rural areas alike. They are relatively easy to care for and provide fresh eggs that easily outshine grocery store eggs. We chose to build our chicken coop small enough that it could fit on the back of a pickup truck if we had to move it.

Other animals to consider are bees, rabbits, compost worms, or fish.

Find Ways to Reduce Your Waste

Composting, recycling, upcycling, or refusing are great ways to reduce waste. Use glass instead of paper, real dishes instead of plastic, dish rags instead of paper towels, etc.

Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies

I haven’t bought household cleaning supplies beside dish soap in a really long time. I make my own natural cleaning supplies and they work great, are super cheap and are not full of yucky chemicals.

If you sign up for my email updates you can get my free eBook, which has all of my recipes in it. You don’t have to of course, but I’d love it if you did ;)

Make Your Own Body Care Supplies

To save money and avoid nasty chemicals I make my own deodorant, bug spray, insect bite itch relief, leave-in conditioner and face wash.

Hang Dry Your Clothes

If you have access to a clothesline or space to put one up, use it! It saves a lot of energy and there’s nothing like sun dried sheets!

If you aren’t lucky enough to have a clothesline, simply hang your clothes on a drying rack. I have spent many a sunny day hanging cloth diapers on a drying rack on my deck!

Learn to Cook

Learn how to make your own cheese, butter, yogurt, kefir, salsa, soup, chili, etc.

Not only is homemade food healthier, it’s tastier and cheaper too. Learning to bake your own bread or make granola bars can free up some cash to invest in other homesteading projects or to put away for your dream homestead.

Learn to Can and Preserve

Food canning and preservation is a huge part of homesteading. Whether it’s a surplus of veggies from your own garden or a great deal on pallets of fruit from a local farm, a good homesteader doesn’t let anything go to waste.

I typically freeze everything because I don’t know how to can (yet!) and am still new at drying. It’s a wonderful feeling to look in your freezer in February and be able to pull out a bag of blueberries that did not cost you an off-season price.

Learn Other Skills

Learn to sew, use tools, fix an engine, knit, make soap, etc. All of these skills can be very valuable on a homestead and if you ever do buy a large farm, wouldn’t it be nice to already know how to do them?

This list barely scratches the surface of all of the ways you can homestead while renting. What are some of your homesteading challenges and how do you “make it work”?

4 Reasons Not to See Your Doctor Before 12 Weeks

4 Reasons NOT to see yor doctor or midwife before 12 weeks

It’s official. Our little sprout has a heartbeat! We are very happy and excited. I also sort of wonder whether we’re a bit crazy to have another child when we can barely keep up with the one we have :)

Since I’ve officially made it through the first trimester of pregnancy, I thought it would be a good time to talk about why there is no good reason for a normal, healthy woman to go to a doctor or midwife before 12 weeks.

Just like a lot of women, I was surprised that my midwives didn’t want to see me before 12 weeks when I was pregnant with OG. I thought that you basically rushed off to the doctors the minute you found out you were pregnant.

I think this view has become common because of the medicalization of pregnancy in the US. We treat pregnancy like an illness that needs to be managed instead of a natural biological process that our bodies usually know how to do on their own. Yes, there are times when women (including myself) need some medical help in pregnancy, and thank goodness for it’s availability, but typically birth happens without all of that.

Why a normal healthy woman doesn’t need to go to the doctor before 12 weeks:

Home pregnancy tests are just as good as doctors’ urine tests

There is no need to go to a doctor or midwife to confirm a pregnancy. Unless you are near menopause (which increases hcg levels and can cause a false positive) a positive test means you are pregnant. A negative test means you are either not pregnant or have tested too early. Yes, you could go to the doctor and have a blood test, which is more sensitive and might provide a positive result, but I don’t recommend it. The reason is that yes, a positive result means you’re pregnant BUT it doesn’t mean you will stay that way.

Early miscarriage is common and we have no way of knowing how common it is to miscarry before getting a positive HPT or missing a period. Many women would probably just think they didn’t conceive. It’s enough of a loss to get your period when you are trying to conceive that I don’t see any benefit to knowing about a pregnancy before a urine test can confirm it and then face the huge chance of losing it.

Therefore, it makes sense to wait and test at home.

There’s not much to see or hear

You typically can’t hear a heartbeat with a doppler until 12 weeks. In fact you can barely feel the uterus at 12 weeks because it’s still way down in the pelvis. That means your doctor or midwife may not even bother measuring you at your 12 week appointment. There will definitely not be anything to measure before that.

Routine ultrasounds are unnecessary  

It is increasingly common for women to get routine ultrasounds starting as early as 6 weeks. For a normal healthy woman (and I would argue for many others as well) there is no benefit to routine ultrasounds.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists discourage the use of ultrasound diagnostic without cause, arguing that, though there isn’t a proven connection between ultrasound use and ill effects on the mother or fetus at this time, there is a real possibility that it could be discovered in the future.

One study published in the New England Journal of medicine concluded that use of ultrasound scans did not improve fetal outcome. Even when the ultrasound discovered abnormalities the fetal survival rate was the same for the group who was given ultrasound scans and the group who was not. Another study found similar results and concluded that there is no benefit to routine ultrasounds. In fact, some studies have found ultrasound to cause harm to the growing fetus.

Some doctors might argue that an ultrasound can accurately predict an estimated due date (EDD). Still, judging by last menstrual period is just as accurate.

Routine pelvic exams are unnecessary

Unless there is a reason, symptoms of an infection for example, pelvic exams are unnecessary.

While researching for this post I had a really hard time finding what exactly these first trimester pelvic exams were looking for, which, to me, seems like a red flag in and of itself.

Here is what I found:

Confirmation of pregnancy – I really don’t understand this one. How is a urine test not enough confirmation? Not to mention the lack of menstruation, constant peeing, sore breasts, etc. I’d really love to hear from some medical professionals on this one.

STD screening – If you’re in an exclusive relationship and have been tested in the past then you really don’t need to be tested again. Even if you are concerned about STDs, Chlamydia and Gonorrhea can now be tested for with urine. The point is: This shouldn’t be a routine procedure but should be utilized on a case by case basis.

Pap smear – If you’ve had a pap smear recently then you don’t need one in pregnancy. In fact many practitioners won’t do one until after the birth. This is partly because any abnormalities wouldn’t be addressed until after the birth anyway.

Furthermore, though the doctor’s instruments are sterile, the vagina is not. An exam could push bacteria from the opening of the vagina back to the cervix, which then could cause infection. An Exam can also cause pain and bleeding.

If the practitioner can’t gather any useful information why do some still bother seeing women before 12 weeks gestation?

We have to remember that the standard of care is put in place for the general public. The general public includes people who are uneducated, addicted to drugs, and have unprotected sex with multiple partners. Taking this into account it makes sense that an OB would want to see a pregnant woman as soon as possible to talk about nutrition and other health concerns such as drug use. It also makes sense that they would want to check for STDs since many have no symptoms but can be very serious for your baby.

We also need to remember that a hospital is a business. I’m not saying that they are just out to get your insurance payments. I believe that most doctors and nurses truly care about giving the best medical attention they can. I’m just saying that hospitals aren’t going to question whether those extra appointments are necessary. They’re getting paid for them and you are consenting to them and no harm is being done (depending on who you ask) so they have no reason to question whether early appointments are necessary or not.

Many of the routine tests and procedures in obstetrics are not relevant to every woman or every pregnancy. Ultimately we need to be our own advocates, do our own research, and choose a provider we trust so we can make informed decisions for ourselves.


What do you think? Is there any advantage to early doctors visits for a normal, healthy pregnant woman?

This post is shared at Homestead Barn Hop

Helping Your Toddler with Tough Emotions

Helping Your Toddler with Tough Emotions

OG is right in the thick of “the terrific twos” (I don’t like to call it “the terrible twos” because I don’t want her to think that I think she’s terrible). She is having tantrums, throwing things and has started biting when she’s angry. It is exhausting and frustrating behavior for sure.

It’s so easy to get overwhelmed, tired and frustrated and start interacting with OG in ways I don’t want to interact with her (like yelling). I want to be a fair and gentle parent, not a punitive and reactive one. So I’ve thought about ways that I can help OG deal with her anger (and other emotions) in an appropriate and acceptable way. If you have a toddler who is learning to deal with his or her emotions I hope these tips can help you too.

Take care of yourself.

Self care is the single most important way to stay calm and be a gentle and respectful parent. We cannot stay calm and patient when we haven’t been cared for. It’s that simple.

Encourage appropriate expression of anger.

Resist your instinct to hurry the emotion along and instead remain patient. Let her know that it’s ok to be angry and that you are there to support her.

Don’t take it personally.

This is not easy because our children’s emotions trigger our own but it’s important to remain calm and centered so that our children feel safe to “let it all out”. One great way to do this is to realize (and keep reminding ourselves!) that tantrums are a toddler’s way of asking for help. He can no longer handle his own emotions and needs some support from the person he trusts most.

Show empathy.

Showing our children that we understand the way they are feeling (while still holding firm boundaries) can help them get through their tantrum more quickly. They just want to be heard (don’t we all?). We can say, “You are angry because you don’t want to leave but we need to go home now.”

I have noticed when I do this OG will change from resisting me to collapsing in my arms as if to say “you understand me. I want to tell you more”.

Give alternatives for energy release.

It is often easier to say, “try this” instead of “don’t do that”. Have a basket of beanbags or soft toys handy that your toddler can throw. Direct him to bite a pillow (instead of himself or others), stomp his feet or do an angry dance. These are all great ways for toddlers to use their angry energy safely.

Demonstrate appropriate expression of anger.

Easier said than done for sure, but we are our children’s first teacher and they absorb more than we even realize. If they see us blowing up in anger often they will do the same.

Pointing out when we are feeling angry is a good way to teach our little ones to talk about their feelings. It’s also a good cue to us to demonstrate a proper response to our anger. For example, “I’m feeling angry right now because there is a huge mess on the floor. I’m going to take a deep breath.”

Another way to show our children how to deal with anger is to admit when we have made a mistake and explain what we should have done instead. For example, “I’m sorry I yelled at you when I was mad. I should have stepped out of the room and cooled down instead of yelling.”

Read books together.

Reading books together is a great way to help toddlers cope with overwhelming emotions. I have noticed a huge difference in the number and intensity of tantrums since we got OG a few books. These are the books we have:

When I Feel Angry by Cornelia Maude Spelman

This book is excellent. It’s great for toddlers and older children too. I especially like that it talks about he difference between feelings and actions. Children learn that it’s ok to feel angry but not ok to hit, bite, etc. It also talks about ways to deal with anger like playing with favorite toys or riding a bike.

My Many Colored Days by Dr Seuss’

This book uses colors to represent different emotions on different days. The art is beautiful too!

The Way I Feel by Janan Cain

This book is great for naming lots of different emotions. I’ve noticed that OG will want me to reread the page with the emotion that she is dealing with (scared for example) and it gives me an opportunity to learn what she’s feeling (like that she is very scared of our washing machines spin cycle. I had no idea!).

One other book that I was recommended, but didn’t buy, was Llama Llama Mad at Mama
by Anna Dewdney. I didn’t buy this one because it is about Llama Llama getting mad at having to go shopping and OG loves shopping, so I didn’t think it would resonate.

I know I haven’t gotten them all here, so, what ways do you help a toddler (or older child) deal with their emotions?

10 Ways to Simplify Your Digital Life

10 Ways to Simplify Your Digital Life

We talk about simplifying our lives a lot here. By now you are all living in 400 sq ft houses with just 100 possessions, right?

Yeah me neither.

And that’s fine.

It’s also fine if you are!

The point is to work towards the level of simplicity that works for you.

One place we often don’t think of clutter accumulating is in our digital space, but it totally does. It can complicate our digital lives and make it difficult to get things done.

The Internet is a cool place. It’s filled with everything you could ever want to know. It’s also a dark hole where we can get sucked in and forget what we were looking for to begin with.

In order to be purposeful in our lives we have to be purposeful in the moments of our lives. That means being a better gatekeeper of—not  only our physical spaces—but our minds, our time and our digital space. Not an easy task with all the awesome information out there waiting to be consumed!

So how can we slow down the influx of digital information, par it down and create a minimalist digital life? Here are 10 tips for getting rid of digital clutter and creating a digital life that is tidy and useful instead of messy and distracting.

Use only 3 email accounts

I have my purposefully simple email account, which I use for PS business (as well as some other related business), my main Gmail account and then an older Gmail account that is now my “junk” account. I think most people suggest using just 2 accounts but 3 works best for me and I’ll tell you why:

I don’t want to use my PS email account as my main account for two reasons 1. It’s connected to my site so if my site goes away so does the email address, and 2. I like to separate business from my personal communication so if I want to take a break from “work” I can easily do that without missing personal emails.

I use my “junk” email account for coupons, promotions, etc that I don’t want to deal with daily. If I need something I will check this account for a coupon or sale but otherwise, since there aren’t any important emails, I can just delete them all at once.

Gmail also has a semi new function that separates different kinds of emails into different tabs which works really well if you’d rather have just one email address.

Check email at an optimal time each day

Making a habit of checking your email just once a day is a great way to save time but I find that when I check it makes an even bigger difference.

I have noticed that sometimes I check my email without the time or energy to devote to responding and then I end up marking it as unread and dealing with it later anyway. What a waste of time!

So, I try to check my email just once or twice a day—during OG’s nap and/or after she’s in bed for the night—when I have the time to respond. What I have found to be particularly useful about this approach is that I no longer have an inbox full of emails hanging over my head making me feel stressed.

Unsubscribe, unsubscribe, unsubscribe!

Every once in a while I go through my email accounts and unsubscribe from newsletters and email lists that are no longer useful to me. The fewer unopened emails I need to delete the better! Swizzle is a great tool to use for this. You put in your email address and swizzle finds all of the lists it’s associated with. Then you can decide which ones to keep and which to delete. Swizzle then compiles the saved ones into a daily digest.

Of course, having the forethought not to sign up to begin with would probably be the best choice!

Get rid of unused accounts

Whether they are social media accounts that you never use or some other service that you signed up for and forgot about, delete accounts that you don’t use. Then, update your settings in the ones you are keeping so you no longer receive email notifications for everything.

I usually set notifications to none, especially if I regularly go to that account (i.e. Facebook).

Clean up regularly 

Set aside some time each month to go through and delete old files, favorites, and applications that you don’t use anymore. When I am working on something I use my desktop as a temporary holding place. Each month when I clean it up I delete files I no longer need and move ones I want to keep to their proper place.

Stop bookmarking!

Honestly, how many times have you bookmarked something and then never gone back to it? I have so many bookmarks that I don’t even remember why I saved them. With so many bookmarks and folders I can’t find what I’m looking for anyway.

Recently I’ve started using Pocket to save pages that I want to check out later (when I have more time). Then I can add it to my bookmarks if it turns out to be a site I go to often. Other bookmarking tools that I don’t use but are pretty popular are Evernote, Xmarks and Springpad.

Move to the cloud

Instead of saving files on your computer or using applications that run on your hard drive, consider moving some of it to the cloud. By moving some of your computing to the cloud you can free up space on your local hard drive, which can make your computer run faster.

Dropbox is a great place to store files securely. Bonus: storing files online makes them easily accessible from anywhere.

Use technology to keep you focused

Do you have a hard time focusing when you are working on a task on your computer? I know I do sometimes. There are some really cool apps that can help you stay focused.

Be purposeful in which devices you choose to own

We all have some sort of digital life (obviously, or you wouldn’t be reading this right now) and choosing to have fewer connections to that digital life can make it less complicated and less time consuming. I don’t have a smartphone or tablet, mostly because I don’t want to pay for them, but I have noticed some advantages to not owning them.

I’ve noticed times when others would be using their smartphone (like waiting in a doctors office) I get to have a minute of silence or a chance to read a magazine article. It’s nice to not have the option because I know it would be difficult not to take that time to “get stuff done”.

Disconnect once in a while

No matter how many devices you have, consider taking one day every week or two to be totally disconnected. It can be tough but so rewarding. Choose activities that clear your head and give you a chance to refocus. Yoga, and outdoor sports like hiking and walking are some of my favorite ways to slow down my mind. I find that when I disconnect from my digital life I can become more present in my real life.

 How do you simplify your digital life?

This post is shared at The Homestead Barn Hop