10 Things We Don’t Buy for Our Home

Simple living requires us to be more intentional about what we buy and bring into our home. What we choose to consume is a personal decision dependent on many different factors, so I’m not suggesting you stop buying the things on our list. Contemplating what we routinely purchase can lead to saving money, reducing clutter, caring for the environment and being more mindful.

Here are ten things we no longer buy for our home. I’d love to know what you’ve decided to no longer purchase.

  1. Flowering Annuals  – Mike and I got tired of spending time and money on planting annuals every spring. Last year we decided to stop buying flowers that only last a season and landscape our yard with perennials that return year after year. Now our yard magically blooms with a wide variety of flowers, grasses and shrubs through all the seasons.
  2.  Most Cleaning Products – I used to buy dozens of different products to clean windows, mirrors, furniture, toilets, tile floors, wood floors, showers and sinks. These days my house gets just as clean with one concentrated cleaning product, water and a little elbow grease.
  3. Plug-in Fragrances – I’m a sucker for good smells, but I no longer buy those plastic plug-in things with silly names like Cashmere Woods and Hawaiian Breeze. The artificial scents tend to be overpowering for few days and then disappear. Now I just make sure my house is fresh and clean and rely on a clean-burning candle for subtle fragrance. (I don’t see myself scratching good candles off my list any time soon.)
  4. Seasonal Decor – I enjoy celebrating the holidays, but I’m done decorating our home with pumpkins, turkeys, hearts, leprechauns, bunnies and Uncle Sam. Passing up these seasonal knick-knacks saves money, reduces clutter and makes our house feel less like a kitschy gift shop and more like our own home.
  5. Wall Decor – This one is pretty extreme, but we stopped buying things to hang on our walls. We find bare walls enhance the view of nature through our picture windows. This blank space helps create the serene ambiance we enjoy in our home. (I’ll be writing more about negative space in an upcoming column.)
  6. Decorative Window Treatments – We prefer to leave our windows as unadorned as possible. Where needed for privacy, we have simple curtains that are opened first thing every morning. We even removed those square grids (called muntins) and screens from our windows making them look larger, more modern and so much easier to clean.
  7. Photo Frames – A couple of years ago we got a quality 8 X 10 digital picture frame and got rid of all the small picture frames placed around our house. The digital frame sits in our living room and constantly rotates through hundreds of photos that can easily be added  through an app on our phones. I can even take pictures of old photos and pop them into the mix. Our digital frame has become one of our favorite possessions.
  8. Kitchen Gadgets – Mike and I are simple people who eat simple food. Somehow we’ve made it to 61 without needing an avocado slicer, an egg separator, a corn peeler, a pineapple corer, a crumb sweeper, a waffle-maker or an air fryer. We are pretty sure we can make do with the simple basics our kitchen has always had.
  9. Indoor Plants – One summer in my youth, I sublet an apartment where I was working and going to school. I lined my extensive collection of 70s record albums on the floor under the stereo system, never once having time to listen to them. For three months, my roommate overwatered a corner plant soaking the hideous brown shag carpet and destroying all of my precious albums. Ever since, I’ve been skeptical of indoor plants.
  10. Fresh Flowers – I love fresh flowers and used to purchase bouquets for our home a couple of times a month. Unfortunately, my cat loves flowers, too. He loves to eat them, play with them, hide them and knock them over. I’m happy to trade fresh flowers for free snuggles and purrs that really make our house feel like a home. §


Prepare for next year’s taxes now

Did you file your taxes well before the deadline, rush them off without a moment to spare, have to file for an extension, or did you bury your head in the proverbial sand hoping it would all just go away? Benjamin Franklin reminded us of the certainty of death and taxes. If doing your taxes was stressful, now is the time to start preparing for this time next year.

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), there are four steps you can take now to make filing your federal income tax return a little easier. The first step is to create your account information at IRS.gov/account. This online account allows you to securely access the latest information about your federal tax account and view information from your most recently-filed return.

Through this account you can view your tax records, change your address, apply for payment plans and make payments. You can also electronically-sign certain forms and manage your communication preferences with the IRS.

The second important step is to set-up a system to organize your tax records. The IRS doesn’t require a specific record-keeping system as long as it is accurate. File-folders are a time-tested method of staying organized. The files you need may include Income, Business Expenses, Medical, Mortgage, Student Loans, Investments, Retirement, Child Care, Home and Property, and Charitable Donations.

Depending on your situation, you may be able to get by with one folder labeled 2023 Taxes. If the trusty file-folder method seems too old-school, the IRS accepts scanned and digital receipts as long as they are clear and complete. Use a receipt tracking app to organize and save your images.

You can’t file your taxes until you have all of your tax records, which are required to be distributed each year by January 31. Your tax needs may include W-2 forms from employers, 1099 forms from banks, agencies and other payers, and form 1095-A from the Health Insurance Marketplace. Remember, most income is taxable including that from unemployment, interest, the gig economy, and digital assets. As a general rule of thumb, the IRS says you should keep your individual federal tax records for three years.

Step three is to make sure you’re withholding the right amount. If you owed a lot or received a large refund when you filed this year, consider adjusting your withholding. Changing your withholding can help you avoid a big tax bill or let you keep more money each payday. Remember that life changes such as getting married or divorced, having a child, or taking on a second job may also mean changing your withholding tax.

There is a convenient tool at IRS.gov called Tax Withholding Estimator that can help you determine the right amount of tax to have withheld from your paycheck. Any change will require you to submit a new Form W-4 to your employer. If you receive a substantial amount of non-wage income from self-employment, investments, and some pensions and annuities, you may want to consider setting up quarterly estimated tax payments.

Finally, the fourth suggested step is to set-up direct deposit. The fastest way for you to get your tax refund is to file electronically and opt for direct deposit. You will need your bank account and routing numbers. For those without bank accounts, the IRS offers some possible alternatives. Direct deposit avoids the possibility that a refund check could be lost, stolen or returned to the IRS as undeliverable.

Paying taxes is a reality of life. This year’s deadline is behind us, but don’t wait to take the necessary steps to get prepared for next year. Tax season will come around again as sure as flowers bloom in spring, but we can simplify the process to make it a little less taxing.

Going on a Spending Moratorium


I’m a stress shopper. I can go into the grocery store for a carton of eggs and come out with a tube of lipstick, a candle, deep conditioner, a magazine, mittens, and an avocado slicer. Depending on my state of mind, there’s a very good chance I’ll forget the eggs.

Since my word for 2022 is wisdom, being more intentional with money is a good place to start. On the first day of January, I spent a lot of time reflecting and planning for the new year. It was then I created a three-month personal spending moratorium. I read somewhere that when we want to do something differently, we need to know our why.

Here are some reasons why I want to get a grip on my personal spending habits:

  1. boost our savings account
  2. avoid clutter 
  3. practice self-discipline
  4. better manage stress 

So here’s my plan. January, February, and March of 2022 I will not buy:

  • clothing, jewelry, or accessories
  • make-up
  • skin-care or hair-care products
  • magazines
  • home decor

My strategy is an oldie but goodie – use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. I’ve already faced several challenging scenarios. I’ll share a few with you in hopes you can relate, or at least won’t judge too harshly.

  1. I ordered a really cute jumpsuit from Chicos that didn’t arrive until after the new year. That doesn’t count, right? Did I mention it’s really cute? 
  2. Wouldn’t you know, I didn’t have the right shoes for said outfit. But…I had also ordered a dress from Macys. So when that dress arrived, I returned it and bought some shoes. Since the shoes cost less than the dress, I told Mike I was actually money ahead. He said they call that fuzzy math. Math was never my strongest subject.
  3. I thought we needed something for an empty wall in our living room. I convinced myself it would be smart to go ahead and buy the cool mirror I had my eye on while it was half off at Hobby Lobby. Filled with guilt, I nervously made my $48 purchase, sweating and shaking like I was buying crack on the corner. The next morning I returned my purchase and felt well on my way to rehabilitation.
  4. We were almost out of toilet paper. I walked into Wal-Mart without grabbing a shopping cart. I went directly to the back of the store and picked up a giant 24-pack of toilet paper with both hands. I couldn’t have carried anything else if I wanted to. That may have been the first time in my life I walked straight in and out of a big-box store and bought only one thing.

I’m three weeks into my three-month “no-buy” personal spending plan, and it has already proven to be an interesting challenge. I’m definitely more aware of my habits, urges, and triggers to spend money. Through the next three months, I’ll let you know how my spending moratorium is going. I’m not really sure what to expect, but I have a hunch it will add wisdom, simplicity, and elegance to my life. §