Tiny Steps in Three Directions for Week 45 (Decluttering and Simplifying 2010)

I’ve made some very tiny steps of progress in three areas that are very important to me, and I’ll tell you about them today.

Reducing Clutter

A small box of utterly useless stuff is ready to go to Goodwill, and a few bits of paper from around the house are gone. It’s not much, but it’s some progress.

I’ve also started reducing the amount of clothing I own — again. I wear the same five or six items every week, but I still have much more clothing than that. Near the beginning of this 52-week journey, I dramatically reduced the amount of ill-fitting and ill-chosen clothing I had, but I’ll be working over the coming weeks to eliminate even more. Those items that fit except… well, except for whatever small thing, really, will be going.

I’d like to get my wardrobe down to a lean, mean collection of things I really enjoy wearing. Then, I can make a trip to my favorite thrift stores and find some things to fill in any gaps.

Reducing Expenses

I’m also on a journey to reduce my living expenses. The biggest drain on our household budget, our mortgage, can’t really be altered at the moment, so that huge piece will have to wait. I can, however, make some progress on the smaller things.

The second biggest expense we have is our (one) car. With David planning a return to working outside the house, we may actually need two again, but that’s a discussion for another week. The payments on our 2009 Camry are higher than I’d like, the car is larger than I thought and it is already starting to show signs of mechanical issues, so I think it’s time to get a smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicle. I hope we can do that in the next three or four weeks, but I need to research some prices first.

That leaves me with only the monthly bills over which I have any control today. Early this week, I checked to see why I was paying $15.95 a month for my postage printing software (needed for my bookselling business) when my mother pays $9.95 for the same service, and I realized I was paying for upgraded services I no longer need. So I downgraded and saved $6 a month. I’m working on eliminating another bookselling fee that will save me $25 per month, too. I just need to make sure I don’t lose a feature I need.

I’m always checking bills for ways to save, but every couple of years I take a closer look. Since my income is at a low point, this is a good time for every bill to get a review. I’m also still trying to find a way to eliminate our $36-per-month trash service, but that isn’t practical yet. (Please read my article Generating a Handful of Trash a Week from May 5, and have a look at that article’s related posts, too. Comments are still open on that post and every post at So Much More Life.)

Returning to Freelance Writing

As the bookselling business that has been supporting me since 2003 continues in its own little depression, I’m returning to freelance writing. I started my return several months ago, but I’m making a little progress recently.

I started freelancing at age 17, and most of my work was journalism then. But I’m more interested in marketing writing, essays and ghost-blogging these days. And I have a client or two. It’s very low-paying work, but it’s giving me a chance to sharpen my skills and bring in some much-needed additional income.

Like in the other two areas mentioned above, it’s very, very small progress, but it is steps in the right direction, and that’s an improvement.

Tiny, tiny steps forward, I’m learning, are much, much better than slipping backwards — and they’re better than standing still, too.

Nothing earth-shattering happened this week, but a few dollars saved, a few dollars made and a few things eliminated is very nice.


  1. While definitely not artistic outlets, content mills may be of interest to you. Places like Demand Studios and Text Broker can help bridge the gap in income while business is slow.

    Like you, I’m working to whittle down my expenses so I trade less of my time for money and concentrate on the things that I enjoy doing. Too bad that I haven’t found a way for the things that I enjoy to earn money… yet.

    Love your blog. Thanks for writing it!

    1. Thanks for joining the conversation, Maria.

      I have actually looked into some of these I was denied by Demand because of lack of, uh, demand, but I plan to try again. I do a little of this kind of writing and actually, amazingly, enjoy it a lot.


  2. Thanks for the note on the content mills, Maria. Looks like a good way to keep one’s writing muscles exercised while making a few dollars. And since they supply the topic, it gets me over one of the biggest writing hurdles for me: coming up with ideas to write about. That’s the main reason my own blog tends to get neglected.

    As for “tiny steps”, Gip, any progress, however small, is still progress, and it all adds up.

  3. Hi,

    I read about your car issue, and while I am not well versed in cars, I can share my experience with you. I grew up in the city and never owned a car (my mom’s broke down when I was about 15 and we never replaced it, and before that, we only used it to go on vacation once a year, 3 hours away).

    My husband and I had a car for a short while (under a year) that we borrowed from his dad, while living in suburban Connecticut. First he lent us an SUV (more or less 13 mpg), which meant you need to put 20 bucks worth of gas every time you go out. Then I begged him to let us borrow the sedan instead (about 35 mpg) and it was much better.

    Then we moved to Belgium, and I discovered the Smart (http://www.smartusa.com/). It is a very small two-seater, but I hear it is very sturdy (roll-cage), so you would be safer in it on the highway than in a regular sedan. And it might be enough to commute to work on just go grocery shopping, as there is some trunk space, even though it’s not much.

    I guess you could call that your minimalist car, especially because, since it’s very tiny, you won’t need a lot of gas (less weight to haul = less gas wasted).

    They are also manual/automatic hybrids, which means you can switch gear manually at the wheel and automatically with the stick (if I understand correctly from what I saw back when we first moved here).

    I hope that helps,


        1. I think I gave up on finding a solution to the car situation. So all is just about as it was — and I’d still like a smaller, simpler car.

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