Simple Living: 10 Ways I Pared Down My Lifestyle

It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the reals ones after all. ~Laura Ingalls Wilder

I've alluded, now and again, to the changes I made shortly after I was laid off back in April 2011, and which continue to this day.I thought I'd be more specific about what I did, much of which resulted in one friend saying, repeatedly and to this day, "I could never do what you did, Ellen. I just couldn't."

The first thing I did...

...at the end of April, was stop my paid subscription ($29.99 per month for the international plan) to ancestry.com, which was hard to do.Even though my huge family tree and all my research are saved, and accessible, I can't do additional research until I'm able to afford the monthly fee again. Pinch. Ouch.

The second thing I did...

...at the end of May (after the "Dancing With the Stars" finale; new season in another week!) was turn off my land line and cable (approximately $90.00 per month bundled with broadband).I was left with a (temporary) free cable feed featuring about 15 local stations. Goodbye, HGTV. Sayonara, Food Network. Bon voyage, Bravo.Pinch, pinch. Ouch, ouch.Bonus! My electric bill dropped by $5.00 per month after the DVR box was unplugged and taken away.

The third thing I did...

...around mid-June, which involved some surprising hoop-jumping, was trim my cell phone plan.I had, at the time, a sweet smartphone - a Palm Pixi - that allowed me to access email, Facebook, Twitter, and the internet at large (I could even work on ancestry.com with it), plus take pictures and video, instant message, etc., etc.I loved its multi-tasking convenience, but it had to go.Pinch. Ouch. Sigh.Since I'm a gadget girl, and at the time was tethered to a clunky desktop PC, I also had a Samsung Galaxy Tab; think an iPad mini-me.I love my Tab. It runs both on WiFi, and on my cell plan provider's network, I can take pictures and video with it, and I can access both mobile and full internet, email, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Netflix, Google+, LinkedIn, Weight Watchers' mobile app, Words With Friends (healer_ellen or healer-ellen, I think), etc., etc.Best off all, it came with a Kindle app (OMG, best.app.ever.).(The awesome side effect of this cool gadget was, I stopped buying printed books. Since my bookshelves were stuffed to the gills, this side effect produced a step toward simplification I hadn't anticipated. Sweet.)Here's where the hoop-jumping came in: Because my phone was a smartphone, I had to have a smartphone (internet-based) plan to run it, and I already had a basic plan for it. In order to streamline my phone plan, I had to downgrade my phone.I spent $50.00 on a refurbished flip-phone in order to save $45.00 per month on my cell phone plan. I also learned I could save an additional 10% for having AAA, so I applied that discount.As for my Tab, which I paid an additional, albeit bundled, premium for, I intended to shut it down completely, but was tied into a 2-year agreement which wasn't ending until November 2012.If I chose to shut off that plan, I would owe a $150.00 penalty, up front. Since I didn't have that kind of money at my disposal, I chose to downgrade the plan to its lowest possible rate.Between the phone downgrade, the AAA discount, and the Tab plan downgrade, I was saving another $65.00 per month.

The fourth thing I did...

...around mid to late May, was start using coupons with purpose. (Shame on me for not doing so before I had to.)I subscribed to both coupons.com and smartsource.com, and I purchased a subscription to my state's Sunday paper solely to access its weekly coupons (not once did I read the actual paper).I've since let the Sunday paper subscription expire because family members who subscribe give me their coupons, which they don't use.

The fifth thing just happened.

The refrigerator in my rented townhouse died in late June, necessitating a new refrigerator.Turns out the old refrigerator was at least 35 years old, and didn't have an ounce of energy saving built into its system. With the installation of the new, Energy Star-rated refrigerator, my electric bill dropped another $5.00 per month.Crazy, right? Crazy good!

The sixth thing just happened, too.

In early August, my ancient (10-year-old) desktop PC failed in the worst way possible for someone who is unemployed; it ceased being able to access the internet.I had a major meltdown because the implications of that were overwhelming beyond belief.My parents gifted me with an early birthday present: a new laptop. I'd done all the research because I knew I'd have to do something - I just didn't know how.Who knew you could get a really decent laptop for about $300.00? Not me; not until that point. Especially since the desktop had cost nearly $1,000.00.I got the laptop ($297.99), transferred all my desktop files to it, powered down and unplugged the desktop for the last time, cleaned it up, and Freecycled it.  In response, my electric bill dropped another $3.00 per month.

The seventh thing happened with some tough love on my part.

Right after I got my new laptop, the (temporary) free cable feed vanished.My service provider had done an audit of the area, and that feed, with which I was crediting some of my mental health, disappeared.Within two hours of being cut off from what I considered a lifeline to the "real" world, I made a tough decision: I would get rid of my TV. The reason:  I felt its presence was going to mock me every time I sat in or merely walked through the living room.In those two hours, it became a "black hole" in my house. I offered it up on Freecycle, and within an hour it was claimed. A second hour later, it was picked up.My electric bill dropped by, approximately, another $3.00 per month.

The eighth thing stemmed from the seventh thing.

The removal of my TV started a chain reaction that surprised me. I'd already done a lot of shedding of things in my house, but the decision to give away the TV was the tipping point for even more.I Freecycled the rest of my now-unusable VHS tapes, the remaining theater props and costume pieces from my extensive collection (save for 2 dresses, a petticoat, a tiara, and crown), and a few tables and storage units that were emptied.I gave away half my CD collection, and I Freecycled over 100 books, after donating what I could to my local library.I was on a tangent, and I loved the resultant openness it produced.The holidays came and, with their busyness, I didn't have - or take - time to continue on my mission to simplify. As soon as they were over, though...

The ninth thing went down with Christmas.

I decided right after I put away my Christmas decorations that I was "done" with my stereo and my remaining 120+ CDs. I committed to ripping the CDs to my laptop, and Freecycling them, along with my stereo system.Two weeks after making that decision, the deed was done, freeing up even more space in my living room, and dropping my electric bill yet again, by another $2.00 per month.  In addition, I Freecycled kitchen items I wasn't using, freeing up cabinet space.

The tenth thing...

Hasn't happened yet, but it's just below the surface, and I anticipate it will come about in the next couple weeks.The next thing I'm going to do is clean out a large (too large, at this point in my life), dark, antique dresser in my bedroom. I'll cull the clothes within it that are too big for me, and Freecycle the clothes and the dresser.That will leave me with my other, smaller antique dresser, which I love both for it style and its light finish, and a more palatial feeling bedroom.At the same time, I'll attack my clothes closet and clean out the too-large winter items I won't be wearing ever again, and will Freecycle them, as well, making room for newer, smaller clothing.

Why am I compelled to do all this?

This penchant for purging things from my life began shortly before I moved into this space nearly five years ago.It has continued in dribs and drabs, but I noticed an escalation - almost an urgency - when I started my Reiki training in August of 2009. As I completed each degree, the urge to rid myself of more things seemed to rise sharply. Interesting, right?It's not just that, though, since I achieved the highest level of Reiki training mid-October of 2010. I believe what I'm doing is a direct result of my changed perspective of life, in general; my view of how I want my life to look. The view I see is clean and uncluttered; simple.Where is this simplifying leading me? I intend to have a smaller living space, unencumbered by overflowing dressers, shelves, cupboards, and closets. I will have what I need, and some items I want, and nothing more.It is highly likely I will never have a TV again; I can watch what I want to (save for things like the Golden Globes and the Oscars) online via sites like Hulu and Netflix.And I'm happy with my highly reduced viewing time, and lack of dependence on TV for its mind-numbing, background noise-providing ability.I've also noticed I'm significantly less anxious, and a lot more present, with the lack of never-ending catastrophes, and tragedies, and dire forecasts blaring at me.On top of all that, I've been off Facebook for the past couple weeks - a Lenten gift to myself - and I am loving it.I had noticed I was somewhat addicted to it; found myself checking it repeatedly via my Tab when I wasn't on my computer.  Not okay and so unnecessary - for me, that is.The first couple days were rough, and I had to coach myself not to click on that button. Now, to my pleasant surprise, I have discovered I no longer miss it. We'll see how I proceed on that front after Easter.Are you living a simple life, or do you want to?  Share your thoughts.

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