Tag Archives: simplicity

You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap!) Book Review

I was sent a copy of You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap) by Tammy Strobel to review on this site. It’s about simplifying your life to a much greater degree than most people, and the satisfaction she found by doing so. She and her husband had a tiny, 128 square foot home built for them after going through various stages of cutting down on the stuff they owned, and really enjoy their new lifestyle.

Obviously, a house that small isn’t for everyone. But going for small houses doesn’t have to mean you choose one of the extremely small ones – you have to consider your family. But even if you want to simplify your life to a lesser degree, this book has some useful ideas. A small house for my family would have to be somewhat larger to accommodate our three kids, but could still be significantly smaller than the place we’re renting now.

Tammy and her husband did all this in stages. She recommends various programs, such as the 100 Thing Challenge, to help you get rid of a lot of the excess in your life. She also points out that getting rid of things and learning to make do with less is a huge help in getting rid of debt.

Tammy and her husband also go without cars. They ride their bikes most places, or use a Zipcar or public transportation for greater distances. This is a part I really enjoyed, even though my family isn’t at a point where going down to even 1 car would work very well. We’ve done the one car thing, and it worked for a number of years, but given the poor public transportation where I live, and other issues, it won’t happen again for a while. Which is a pity, because I really enjoyed it and the money saved was really helpful.

There’s also a reminder to give of your time, not just money and things. Volunteering is a wonderful way to bring some extra meaning to your life and to make you grateful for what you have.

Many readers will also enjoy the personal stories shared in this book, not just by Tammy, but from other people who have simplified their lives.

Perhaps most important, Tammy emphasizes the benefits your personal relationships can gain from a simplified life. In my family, electronics aren’t allowed at the dinner table, but they can certainly get in the way of everyday interaction at other times, yet we have fewer gadgets than a lot of people I know. Going for a more simple life can also include a commitment to spend more time actually paying attention to those around you, not just being physically there.

What’s really wonderful about this book is that simplifying isn’t made out to be some complex process. It’s broken down into steps that you might picture yourself doing if you’re so inclined. Habits can be changed, but it’s not easy to change a bunch of them at once. Changing them over time is far easier. There’s no expectation that you’re going to go straight for a small house, but there are many tips for a variety of ways to simplify your lifestyle.

Just Who Are You Keeping Up With Anyhow?

It’s pretty much in our nature to be interested in what other people have. It’s interesting, and sometimes you get some neat ideas. It’s probably a part of why Pinterest has taken off so well – we like seeing what has caught other people’s attention. But really, who are you trying to keep up with when you buy stuff, and why?

I had a talk with my daughter about this recently. She was bemoaning the fact that she doesn’t have her own cell phone, iPod, etc., yet she says all her friends at school do. She’s in fourth grade, so I can well believe that these days most her friends have such things.

We had a little talk about why she doesn’t. In large part, it’s financial. I see no need to strain our budget just to have the cool gadgets. It’s under enough strain as is. But it’s also because we don’t need them, and she doesn’t need them.

She does have an MP3 player. It’s a few years old, doesn’t play games or look cool in any way. But if she wants music, it’s there for her just as soon as she recharges the batteries, and my husband has a huge library of music to go through. She’s not exactly deprived of the chance to carry her music with her if she’d like. It even plugs into her clock, which is nice since we get lousy radio reception here. It just isn’t the “right” brand.

Lots of us have the same problem even as adults. You see what someone else has, and you want it too. You end up buying stuff you don’t need and sometimes isn’t even the best choice for your own needs. That’s great for marketers, but not so great for the environment and possibly not that good for you either, especially when it means you end up spending more money than you should have.

Sure, there are times when you learn about products you really do need, are great for the environment (at least relatively speaking), etc. through friends and family. Sometimes it’s worthwhile. It’s just that more often it isn’t.

Rather than keep up with others, keep up with yourself. Really think about what it is you need. Consider which products suit your budget and sense of environmental responsibility. You’ll probably be happier with your purchases in the long run that way. You may even find that simplifying works better than buying more in some areas of your life.

Are “Things” Getting in the Way of the Lifestyle You Really Want?

It’s easy to want a lot of things these days, easy to have a lot of things too. The things many people consider to be normal parts of a normal life now weren’t a part of life not so very long ago. Yet these things can all but take control of your life, leaving you feeling as though you don’t have time for the things that really matter to you.

That’s why simplifying your life is such a good idea. It gives you more time for the things that really matter to you.

What Do You Enjoy?

The first thing you need to do is figure out what it is that you do enjoy in life. That’s going to be different for each of us. It might be more time with family, more time to read, more time to do things outdoors, even more time for work you really love. It’s a matter of personal priorities.

You want to focus here on the things you enjoy doing that you really could do if you just had more time, not just the things you dream about. Dreams are wonderful, but the focus here is on things you could be doing in a short period of time. That’s not always possible with dreams.

What’s in Your Way?

So, what’s stopping you from doing the things you enjoy? What changes can you make in your lifestyle so that you can enjoy your life more?

Some things, of course, you won’t want to give up. Some things you shouldn’t give up. But possessions that distract you from the things you’d really love to do are perfect. Get rid of those things that are keeping you from the lifestyle you want.

This could be electronic gadgets that you enjoy playing with, but take up the time you know you could be spending on simpler pleasures. These may be things you enjoy more when you get around to them, but the ease of electronic entertainment makes you forget about them.

This could be clutter around your home, that makes caring for your home take more time. All that stuff you’ve been meaning to get rid of… get rid of it.

Cutting back on excess things in your life means you don’t have to pay for electricity to run them. You don’t have to keep them clean anymore. You don’t need space to store them. Get them gone and you gain some space at the very least. You might even get some money if it was something worth selling.

Think of the Environment

Another point to consider is the environmental impact of all the things that are so easy to acquire. Are they really worth it? Do yo give much thought to the impact these things have on the environment simply from their creation?

This is a time to remind yourself why you want a simpler life. It’s better for the environment and it’s more meaningful to you. You get something that means something to you when you simplify, whether it’s a chance to hike through amazing natural areas or growing your own garden or enjoying some other hobby.

These are things that matter to you. They’re things you can teach your children as they get older. They’re things you’ll be glad to remember later on, rather than just recalling nights spent in front of the television.

What things are in your way?

6 Basic Principles of Green Parenting

Being a green parent takes effort. It’s not easy to avoid the temptation to give your kids everything and to teach them to avoid consumeristic behavior. There are a lot of little things you should do.

1. Clean green.

Using homemade or environmentally friendly cleaners is a very important step for green parents. It’s a way to avoid exposing your family to many of the chemicals that are common to so many homes, some of which can cause health problems. Just think about any time that cleaning with harsh chemicals has left your eyes watering, given you a headache or made it just a little harder to breathe. Why expose your family to such things if you don’t have to.

2. Enjoy hand-me-downs and thrift stores.

Hand-me-downs and thrift stores don’t just save you a ton of money. They allow you to reuse clothing, toys and other goods that someone else doesn’t want anymore.

It can be amazing what you can get for so little. Thrift stores won’t have the hottest styles, but you can find some very good quality clothing in them for very low prices.

Delight in the finds, and make sure that anything that is reusable when you’re done with it goes down to another family or to the thrift store.

3. Keep things simple.

Birthday parties. Holidays. The general clutter of the house. If you can encourage simplicity in your life, you’ll generally consume less. You’ll also be less driven to distraction by the chaos of it all much of the time.

Kids really do love simple birthday parties, especially when they’re younger. Don’t fall for the competition to have the best party in the class. Younger kids will happily just play together. Their parents may even be grateful if you keep the goodie bags simple or even just don’t bother.

It gets more challenging as kids get older and start to feel peer pressure more, but keep at it. Talk about why you do what you do and why you don’t do what you don’t do. Sometimes they’ll agree and be happy about it while other times they’ll be disappointed, but that’s life.

4. Teach the kids to recycle.

Recycling is easy in many areas these days, but not everywhere. If you have it easy, make sure your kids start from an early age tossing recyclables into the correct bin.

5. Garden.

It can be a small windowsill garden or a serious one out in the back yard, but having your own garden is great for green parents. You’re teaching about where food comes from as well as an appreciation for nature.

Make sure you include composting. You don’t have to get fancy about it, but why should that food waste go into the trash if it can benefit your garden?

6. Get active.

There are a couple of meanings to this one. Yes, get active physically. How else to show your children that there’s more to life than television, cell phones and computers.

But also be active in your community. Volunteer. Do so as a family as children get old enough. Don’t just talk about the issues that matter to you, show that you mean it.

8 Ways Being a Green Parent Can Save You Money

Having kids is expensive. You can find all kinds of numbers for it, some covering just the first couple of years, others including the cost to raise to adulthood and even getting into projected college costs. They’re always pretty intimidating estimates when you think about it.

Some costs can’t be avoided. Kids have to eat, after all, and they need clothing and shelter. But you do have control over a lot of this. Considering the environmental impact at the same time can actually help you to save money.

These are some ways to be a green parent that aren’t going to increase the costs:


While there are some costs associated with breastfeeding, overall it’s going to be far, far cheaper than formula feeding. Most breastfeeding moms still need at the very least a manual pump and sometimes an electric one, and that means bottles and so forth will also be needed. Not to mention that the mother is burning more calories, some of which may come from weight gained during the pregnancy, but also comes from any extra food she eats.

But you’ll likely need fewer supplies since you probably won’t be giving so many bottles. You also won’t have empty formula canisters to dispose of. And having baby’s food supply always right there is a real help in those early, sometimes challenging days.

Cloth Diapers

Cloth diapering is a bit expensive to get started, although you can decide how expensive you want to deal with at the start. Just remember that disposables add up over time and would eventually probably cost you more. You can go with plain prefolds and diaper covers, buy all-in-one diapers or pocket diapers, depending on what you want to deal with and what you want to spend.

If you choose cloth diapers it’s important to consider the detergent you’re washing them with. I like to use Country Save detergent as it’s pretty environmentally friendly. I use it with all my laundry, not just the diapers.

If you’re in an area with a water shortage you may need to consider buying environmentally friendly disposables instead. Not as friendly to the wallet or to the environment overall, but in some areas water supply is a big enough issue.

Encourage Simplicity

This can be a tough one, especially as children start feeling peer pressure and watching television. You’ll know when it starts happening, as your child who was content with simpler toys suddenly wants whatever the latest hot item is. Plus whatever was just on the television. And that one too. The demands start coming and keep coming.

When this happens, talk to your child about why you like to keep your lives simpler, with fewer things. Children can be amazingly understanding. It won’t stop all of the begging, but anything that cuts it back a little is a help.

Accept Hand Me Downs

My kids get tons of hand me down outfits, especially my youngest. It’s really amazing how much this saves. Babies in particular don’t really need new outfits, and an outfit can go through a few babies before showing significant wear because they outgrow them so fast.

Toys can also be handed down.

Buy Used

What you can’t get given to you, buy used. Thrift stores and resale shops can be your friends. You’ll spend less on clothes for your family while being good to the environment. You’ll probably even find some really great outfits.


Whether it’s a tiny kitchen herb garden or a big garden in the back yard, grow some food. Not only do you then get control over what goes into growing the food with fertilizers and such (go organic!), you’re teaching your children about where food really comes from.

Be careful, as gardening can get expensive if you let it. Don’t overdo it on supplies and seeds. If you know another family that gardens, consider going together on some things. Seed packages can be split up if you aren’t going to use the whole thing, for example. Tools can be shared, although you need rules about broken or damaged ones.

Cook from Scratch

Well, maybe not everything. But as much as works for your family cook from scratch rather than buying convenience foods. This will save on packaging and can cost less. It also allows you to have more control over what goes into your food, so you can avoid the excessive amounts of sugar and salt that go into so many convenience and prepared foods.

It can also be fun, trying out new recipes and teaching children to cook as they get old enough.

Set the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Example

Always remember that Reduce is the first rule for a reason. Try to live it. Then reuse what you can, and send off for recycling whatever is possible in your area when you’re done with it. Many areas accept a wide range of recyclables, but in other areas you’ll really have to work to get much recycling at all done.

But reuse can be so much fun for children! Teach them to make crafts from things that would otherwise be thrown out. It will save you money on craft supplies and encourage them to think of ways things can be reused.