Category Archives: Simple Living Wednesday Tips

December 14: The Price For Simplicity?

Every Wednesday, I’ll (try) to post up a Simple Living Tip, with an emphasis on tips that can be done while living a more traditional 9-to-5 life.

In this hectic world, I think even regular Joes/Janes like me sometimes feel the need to pay for services that make life simpler, whether it’s an organizer, maid or a personal assistant. 

While I have paid for cleaning help, I don’t think I would pay someone $125 an hour to organize and simplify my closet and home? Daily Candy readers get $100/hour through January 31, 2012. Is that a bargain? I think that I’m perfectly capable (I think) of editing out my closet and donating things to Goodwill.  Then I remember that I’ve been lugging around assorted junk like old movie posters for 10+ years!

I don’t envy movie stars for their fame or fortune (well, not that much..) I envy that they can hire people to make their lives run smoothly.  How much easier would life be if you had a personal assistant to drop off drycleaning, buy plane tickets, book salon appointments and take care of all the miscellaneous stuff on everyone’s todo list?!

December 7: Hire Cleaning Help

Every Wednesday, I’ll (try) to post up a Simple Living Tip, with an emphasis on tips that can be done while living a more traditional 9-to-5 life.

As a working mom, it’s a no-brainer  to pay for cleaning.  I don’t want to spend my weekends cleaning. My husband doesn’t like it.  And even with cleaning help, it seems like there’s still a lot left to do around the house!

For me, getting cleaning help is saving my sanity and allows me to spend more time with my kids.  I will cut out almost every other luxury before cutting this out.  I’ll clip coupons, mail in rebates, go generic, etc..

I do realize that being able to afford cleaning help is a privilege and I truly appreciate that fact.  While it’s not a daily thing and we still have errands/chores, it’s nice to come home to a cleaner house and a made bed every once in a while!

Even if I were a stay-at-home mom, I would try to pay for some cleaning help on a monthly basis just to help with some deep cleaning and/or as an occasional treat to myself.   I would be the easiest person to shop for. What do you want for your birthday? Cleaning service. What do you want for Christmas? Cleaning service. Anniversary? Mother’s Day. You get the idea.  

Do you pay for cleaning? Is it worth every dime? Are you one of those crazy people who enjoy cleaning?  Do you clean more often than your spouse?

November 30: Tips For Gift-Giving

Every Wednesday, I’ll (try) to post up a Simple Living Tip, with an emphasis on tips that can be done while living a more traditional 9-to-5 life.

In my ideal world, everyone on my Christmas list would want exactly the same thing or variations of the exact same thing (candles for all!) and that “perfect” item would be reasonably priced or on sale.  Obviously this isn’t the case.  And I’m not the best person to give gift-giving advice.  I often forget special occasions and I have set very low expectations with family and friends in this area.  See this post for clarification

However, even I hold on to the notion of finding that perfect gift, which makes me procrastinate and adds unnecessary stress during the holiday season.  If you’re a busy 9-to-5’er like me, how do you simplify gift-giving?

Here are some ideas:

  1. Look at Gift Guides: Many websites and catalogues put together a suggested Gift List based on recipients and sometimes price levels.  I find J. Crew’s guide very useful though pricey.  If you don’t want to stick to one company or store, a lot of magazines, blogs (and websites) compile gift lists from several sources.  Francophile? Looking for something unique?  Lots of kids, nephews or nieces? Gifts for do-gooders? On a budget?  There are gift guides and ideas out there for everybody.
  2. Just pull the trigger and buy:  All too often, I have a good gift idea but I hesitate to buy just in case I think of something better. Before you know it, it’s the last weekend before Christmas and I have to run to the mall.
  3. Speaking of malls, think outside the box for gifts: You can avoid the malls altogether by looking for gift options elsewhere.  There are some nice items at Starbucks or grocery stores.   This will help you avoid one of the major holiday stressors: crowds and parking lots!
  4. Give Food: Everyone loves to eat, right? I’m not talking about the generic cheese  and cracker basket.  You can select one based on a person’s preference whether it’s for Italian foods, vegan, meats, fruits or something more exotic. To personalize it more, throw in a cookbook or recipe.
  5. Magazine Subscriptions:  There are magazines for every possible area of interest from cat lovers to fashion to cars.  The recipient will get a monthly reminder of your thoughtfulness!
  6. Nothing Wrong with Gift cards (or cold hard cash): I think many people don’t want to give cash so gift cards are a good substitute. In my family, it sometimes becomes a gift card exchange (here’s your Target gift card. thanks. here’s your Kohls gift card. thanks!) but it’s the thought that counts. Just be sure to pick a gift card from the recipient actually shops at that store!

Of course there are always “those people” who seem impossible to shop for yet want gifts.  My Dad is one of those.  I never have any idea what to give him…If you’re “one of those” who have everything you want or few hobbies, please do people a favor and give suggestions (if asked of course)!

Is holiday gift giving stressful for you? Do you try to find the perfect gift for people on your list? What are your favorite gift-giving shortcuts?

November 23: Follow Your Own Advice?

Every Wednesday, I’ll (try) to post up a Simple Living Tip, with an emphasis on tips that can be done while living a more traditional 9-to-5 life. 

It’s obvious that I like to give advice, hence this series of simple living tips.  However, do I ever follow my own advice? Rarely.  I do try to limit technology on weekends… I don’t read blogs at all, don’t browse websites, rarely shop online and only check emails a few times, and I don’t login first thing in the morning…but other than that I often forget my own advice for simple living

That’s why I’ve been pleasantly surprised that one of my advice to limit choice is helping me keep my resolution/goal.  The only reason I even thought of doing this was because I wrote out the post about choice right before writing down my goals which included eating more fish.  So I decided that when I go out to eat, I should order fish by default unless it’s fried or seems too unhealthy.  That’s easy to do at Japanese restaurants but it’s not my habit to order fish when tastier meat dishes are on the menu. 

This is still a new habit and I tend to forget on weekends.  However, now if I go out for lunch during the work week, I immediately scan the menu for fish items, ignoring other choices.  This has made it much easier to order and I’m actually eating fish more often.  Simpler and healthier!

November 16: From the Land of Bikinis to the Land of Missoni

Chiara of the Blonde Salad blog, wearing Missoni

Part of the reason for my new interest in shopping has to do with our move to Italy (still in the “someday” stage).  While California appears to be fashion-conscious, it really does have a casual anything goes vibe that makes it easy to ignore trends.  That’s why I am a little obsess about upgrading my wardrobe right now.  I aspire to land in Italy with a preppie, casual California style that is unique yet not horribly off-trend in the land of Missoni, Marni and Armani.   Yes, my plan for moving right now consists of shopping for clothing…I do plan to hold off on shoe-shopping til I cross the pond. I’m not that insane.

While I have visited Italy many times, my perception of Italian style is limited. It will be interesting to see if my ideas change once I actually live there.  Right now, I am inclined to think that Italian style does not come cheap.  However, there are ways to mimic Italian style on a budget.

Real-life Italian style is also about the elegant, finishing touches and how you put it together.  Even if you don’t have a huge bank account, you can mimic Italian style with smart choices, creativity and attention to detail.  When I think of quintessential Italian style, I remember a woman I saw in Parma — she was riding her bike along the cobblestone streets, her long brown hair waving behind her.  Her outfit was simple and elegant — elegant slim black pants, black flats, and a crisp white buttoned shirt — what caught my eye and made the outfit was the finishing touch:  a long double/triple strands of pearls that carelessly caressed her neck.  It’s the small touches that complete an outfit.

Tailoring is key.  This is common advice in any fashion magazine.  However, Italians seem to take this seriously and you see the evidence of it especially among the well-dressed men.  Overall, tailoring is an inexpensive way to take your style to a higher level.  Note: If you’re new to my site, I’m referring to native Italians, not the Jersey Shore stereotype of Italians.

Spend more on a few classic pieces and spend less on trendy items.   In general,  Italians are more trend-conscious than Americans.   That’s because when something becomes popular in Italy, everyone from young to old (male and female) seem to be aware of it.  If a trend isn’t gender-specific (say, a certain way to tie your scarf or a certain color), it really appears to be EVERYWHERE.  Obviously if you are following trends, it can get hard on the budget.  However, a good rule of thumb is to never spend too much on popular trends.  As much as you love the current trend, it somehow always look outdated the next year.  For example, a few years ago the color lavendar was super trendy in Italy.  A budget-conscious Italian friend bought a pretty lavendar scarf and wore it all season. Fashionable and smart!

Appearances are important.  In L.A., you can get away with going out in your sweatpants. Hey, it’s even a badge of honor to wear fashionable yoga outfits around town.  In Italy, attire is definitely more formal.  In other words, even if you’re picking up cigarettes at the corner tabacchi, you don’t want to look like a bum.  This isn’t cheap because it means you have to have nice casual clothes along with work clothes.

My husband reminds me that it’s better to maintain your individual style rather than follow the herd.  I completely agree.  Even if I adapt my style somewhat to Italian trends, I think that no matter where I end up, I’ll always have my own California style.

November 9: Kid Birthday Parties

Every Wednesday, I’ll (try) to post up a Simple Living Tip, with an emphasis on tips that can be done while living a more traditional 9-to-5 life. 

Prior to actually having kids, I had dreams of keeping it simple, especially when it comes to kid birthday parties.  Now I wonder if I’m deluding myself. It’s hard to swim against the tide.

Imaginative birthday party themes! Sushi for seven year olds. Yikes.

The Family Only option.  This is more my style, but how do-able is it once your kids are in school and all their friends have themed parties and goody-bags, etc..?

And on top of birthday parties, every holiday is now a bigger deal!

I have no answers!

November 2: Go, Go, Go Then Stop?

Every Wednesday, I’ll (try) to post up a Simple Living Tip, with an emphasis on tips that can be done while living a more traditional 9-to-5 life. 

When I find myself feeling stressed at work, I usually try to take my breaks and unwind a bit during lunch.  However, sometimes I use that go-go-go momentum to accomplish even more by using my lunchtime to do even  more.  It sounds crazy to add more to your to-do list when you’re already busy, but if I get more done during a busy workweek, I actually have more down-time on the weekend.  (Note: this doesn’t work if it’s so busy that you’re forced to eat at your desk!) 

For example, on a rather hectic work week, I squeezed in a hair cut and grocery shopping during my lunch hour.   While I still had stuff on my weekend to-do list, it was a relief to have completed the more urgent chores and enjoy a slow-paced weekend with a full fridge, toilet paper and a manage-able hair cut (a priority on my to-do list due to an upcoming event).

As I said it is crazy to add more  chores to a busy schedule but sometimes that’s the only way to carve enough real downtime.

Do you tend to spread out your errands or cram everything at once? How do you carve out down time?