Saturday, March 3, 2012

Organized Simplicity: A Book Review

Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider
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A while ago, I was perusing the Twitter feed for Paying Our Way (@payingourway).  I’m connected to several money-saving blogs, and one of them regularly posts the day’s free e-books for Kindle.  I saw one called Organized Simplicity and thought that sounded like something useful, so I snagged it.  It hung out on my Kindle for a while, until I was bored and decided to give it a go.

I’ve read other books on simple living before.  Most of the time, the premise is nice, but ultimately unrealistic for how we live our life.  I can’t see us giving up the TV or the Xbox, and I’m pretty sure there’s an ordinance against keeping a cow on the back deck.  Plus most of these people are so green, they practically generate their own oxygen.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s just not my lifestyle.

I could tell right away, this one was different.  The writer, Tsh Oxenreider (not a typo, it’s pronounced “Tish”), lives more like we do.  They have an apartment and two kids, and you don’t get the feeling when you read that she’s hovering over you with a wild look in your eye wondering why you haven’t hurled your TV from the balcony yet.

Her advice is fairly simple.  The genius seems to be in the layout and the method.  This is very much a how-to, hands on book.  Some of the changes she was discussing were things we already strive to do.  For example, as you know, we are trying hard to make our own meals from scratch.  We also use a number of homemade household cleaners(by the way, the back of this book has an appendix that is just chock full of homemade cleaning recipes).   Others were changes that I have wanted to make, but felt overwhelmed just thinking about.

These are the changes we have made since I began reading the book:

1.  I implemented the use of the daily docket, a document that helps schedule and organize the day.  It’s simple to use and helps keep me on track all day long.  I’ve linked the one I devised that works best for me.  On the left I list the things I hope to get done during the day, on the right I write in the hours of the day and schedule when I plan to do things.  I’ve been so much more productive since putting this in place.

2.  We set up a daily chore list, featuring grown-up chores and kids’ chores.  Chore Wars is a thing of the past.  Elias was way too good at manipulating the system.  Now, before any TV or electronics time, both kids have to get their chores done (yes, even Maddie has some chores to do). They take about 20 minutes, tops, so there’s really no excuse.

3.  We’ve massively reduced the amount of time spent staring at the screen.  The kids get two hours per day, max.  Once Maddie has used up her time, she has been great about finding other things to do, including painting, blowing bubbles on the porch, and reading to her stuffed animals.  Elias usually doesn’t even watch all his time.  I think just knowing he has it is enough.  Gavin has also done great.  Before, the TV was on from the moment he gets home in the evening until we go to bed.  That’s about five solid hours of TV and that’s a bit much.  Having the TV off means we can play music, just read, have conversations… it’s much nicer.  I think even Gavin agrees!

4.  We began working through the 10-day plan for getting the house organized and more streamlined.  I think in our case it’s going to wind up being a 30-day plan, but the point is, it’s getting done.  The living room looks fantastic.  We rearranged some furniture, created a reading nook and an art station, and hauled about six boxes of stuff to the Goodwill.  We are also inventorying every box that goes out and logging on a website Gavin found called It’s Deductible.  It calculates the value of your donations and stores the info so you can import it directly into Turbo Tax.  So far we’ve donated almost $400 worth of stuff… and that’s just the living room.  Each room has a great checklist to work through for cleaning, and I’m really pleased with how it’s going so far.

I’m really loving the changes so far.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to make changes but isn’t sure where to start. 

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