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Since I’m all about simple living, I’m also all about getting the most out of the things I use in my daily life. To me, living simply isn’t about needlessly suffering without life’s necessities, or as I mentioned earlier, winning some backwards contest over who can get away with the least amount of stuff.
But it does mean being very intentional about what things you allow in your home, and being deliberate about how you spend your time. Living simply asks you to evaluate your choices and make sure they’re congruent with your family’s priorities.
So when I find things in my life that allow me to do more with less, I use them with gusto. I value quality over quantity, which means I’d prefer 10 well-made tools in my arsenal that allow me to manage my home well rather than 100 cheap things that serve only one purpose.
Here are my favorite tools that serve me well, do more than one thing, and are worth their cost. Some are high-tech; others, not so much.
This first tool might be obvious, but it does so much for me. This workhorse serves as my main portal to the Internet for work, but we also Skype with the grandparents, download and Photoshop family photos, keep records of our family budget, store documents for a bajillion different things, watch TV shows on Hulu and movies on Netflix, and countless other tasks.
On one of our recent semi-monthly dates, Kyle and I plugged in my laptop to our minivan speakers (that’s how we roll as parents, g), went to a city park that had free wifi, and created our own little drive-in theater. Beats spending $20 at the movie theater, in my book.
2. Toaster oven
I hesitated buying a toaster oven when we first moved back to the States because they take up precious kitchen counter space. I’m really glad we have one now, though. They’re great for reheating leftovers (and makes them taste so much better than the microwave does), and besides toasting the obvious, you can also make individual pizzas and quesadillas. We’ve even done hamburgers. This is great for those of us in warmer climates, when heating the full-size oven causes near-heat stroke.
3. Buckets and baskets
We prefer having open-ended toys in our house, and these tend to have loose parts. By “open-ended,” I mean toys that allow the kid to play, instead of entertaining the kid because it plays on its own. We’re not hyper-vigilant about no batteries, but honestly, what’s fun about watching Elmo dance around? Instead, we invest in blocks, cars, wooden train tracks, play food, Tinker toys, dress-up clothes, and dolls.
These all require storage solutions, and buckets fit the bill for us. We got these Trofast buckets for $4 apiece at Ikea, and they also fit beautifully into their Expedit shelving system. Baskets are great, too — thrift stores are a great place to score sweet deals on them.
Baskets and buckets are also perfect for magazines, stuffed animals, art supplies, and keeping a small stash of separate toys in the living room.
Our printer does much more than print. We have the Epson Artisan All-in-One, which not only prints in both color and black and white, but it also scans, photocopies, and faxes (though we don’t use this feature). Plus, it prints photos with a higher quality than our local photo printer, can make lined and graph paper, and can turn any picture into a coloring page. Great for kiddos.
Invest in a quality printer that can handle multiple jobs, and it’ll save you trips out of the house when you need to scan or fax; plus having one machine will save you valuable counter space.
Photo by Nester
I’m inspired by Nester‘s passion for dressers, because as she says, these versatile furniture pieces can hold so much more than clothing. They work beautifully as dining room buffets to hold plates or linens if you’re short on kitchen storage, or if you don’t have storage for towels and toiletries, they can work in the bathroom, too. We currently have a dresser in the living room that serves as our arts & crafts station — it holds drawing and paint supplies, scrap paper, glue, scissors, and the like.
6. Great-fitting jeans
On Facebook last week, I asked those of you who follow Simple Mom to name your favorite brand of jeans. The most mentioned brands were Gap and Levis. These brands aren’t the cheapest, but they’re popular because they fit well.
A great-fitting pair of jeans will carry you from home with the kids and folding laundry to your evening date with the hubby — just change out of your t-shirt and into something eye-catching. Invest in the pair that fit you best, and take good care of them so that they’ll last years.
7. Google Calendar
You can create unlimited calendars within Google Calendar, and I use my account all throughout the day. I have one calendar for our family events, another for our menu plan, and Simple Living Media keeps track of its editorial calendar with a separate calendar for each blog channel (which each writer can see in their own account). Our local church uses Google Calendar, too, so I’ve imported this into my own account as well — this way, we can easily see when it’s our turn to serve in the nursery. And last year, I also had a separate one for our homeschool syllabus.
8. Baking soda and vinegar
I have a box of baking soda in my kitchen pantry, one under the sink, another in the laundry room, and yet another upstairs in the master bath. This is because I use it for cooking, cleaning the house (some of my recipes are in my new book), and cleaning my hair. Baking soda is a gift from God.
Likewise, I have a giant bottle of all-purpose vinegar in the laundry room and smaller bottles in the same places mentioned above. I also use vinegar to cook, clean the house, and clean my hair. This product, too, is a miracle.
A smartphone is much more than a phone. It’s a tool for staying connected on the Internet, for taking and storing photos, for listening to music, for watching movies on the go, for serving as your GPS, and a bajillion other things (some that increase productivity; others, not so much).
What’s that, you say — you don’t have a smartphone yet? Well, how about you win one, then?
Microsoft wants to give one Simple Mom reader one of their brand new Windows Phone 7 smartphones! These things really are hot off of the press… They were just released this month in the U.S.
Be one of the first to get your hands on one of these phones, and let this tool help you do more with less. It’s valued at about $500. So fun!
How to Enter
To enter, simply leave a comment on this post! Easy peasy. You can leave a comment every day from now until the 29th, so long as it’s useful, not spammy, and is about doing more with less.
This giveaway is open until Novemeber 29. After that, I’ll randomly draw the winner’s name and will be in touch with them about details. Head here to read the nitty-gritty official rules of the contest.
So, to get you started on entering the contest, here’s today’s post question: What’s your favorite tool in your life that helps you do more with less?
This giveaway is brought to you by the new Windows Phone 7. Less MIA. More PTA: Learn more about Windows Phone online and see it in person at local T-Mobile stores today.