Simplicity: Possessions

Simplicity > Essential > Possessions

I have compiled a comprehensive and ever-changing list of the things I consider essential to my living a very small, very good life. I edit it about every three months. It doesn’t number the actual possessions, it just gives me a feel for the “rightness” of my surroundings. I fully adhere to the view that “the root of war begins in our quest for more.” — John Woolman.

  1. Living at Home
    1. Bed: frame, mattress, bedding, duvet in winter, cotton blanket in summer, throw blanket for extra warmth or napping, 2 pillows
    2. Dresser: cabinet my dad made with 3 shelves + baskets for underwear, bras, socks, Fountain pen supplies, home only clothes, and movement clothes.
    3. Closet: wooden hangers that hold all clothes, tote that holds off-season clothes, and other tote that holds my duvet + cover and coat in the warmer months).
    4. Bookshelf: 2 shelves of my favorite books, 1/2 shelf with farm resources, and 1/2 shelf with Welsh books.
    5. Fan — cannot sleep without the white noise
    6. Chair and sheepskin . . . Where I can be found when I’m sitting down.
  2. Transportation
    1. Schwinn GTX3 with Ibera rack and trunk, bike helmet, cable lock, tire pump.
    2. Shoes — Merrell vapor glove (barefoot shoe)
    3. I don’t drive
  3. Movement
    1. LL Bean UV bike shirt + puffer vest when cool
    2. Yoga: Manduka Pro yoga mat
  4. Learning and Spiritual Life
    1. A5 learning journal
    2. Fountain Pen — TWSBI eco blue + ink bottle
    1. NOAB (Study Bible)
    2. Welsh notebook (simple spiral bound)
    3. Kindle Paperwhite (with case and charger)
    4. Welsh learning books
  5. Food and Kitchen
    1. Bowl
    2. Snack plate
    3. Mug
    4. HydroFlask, 12 oz olive
    5. Utensils: spoon, fork, butter knife, serrated paring knife, chopstick, silicone straw
    6. Blue soup mug for food storage + Stainless steel lunch tiffin
    7. Cloth napkin
    8. cutting board
    9. tea infuser
    10. kitchen washcloth (1) + towels (3)
    11. Pantry— filled with glass jars holding staples (+stuff to make snacks) and bowls holding produce (shared)
    12. Mixing bowl for making bread, making big salads (shared)
    13. Glass jars and bowls for storing cooked food in refrigerator (shared)
  6. Leaving the House
    1. Tom Bihn Everyday Carry (Mars red)
    2. Inside Everyday Carry: Tom Bihn ghost whale organizer (super-mini, island blue) = wallet + pouch with travel spork, napkin, collapsible straw, hand sanitizer + pouch with mask
    3. Tom Bihn Luminary 12 (dark blue) which holds everything for a long day out including water bottle, everyday carry, with room for a sweater and hat)
  7. Traveling
    1. Tom Bihn Yeoman Duffle (Mini, Verde)
    2. Tom Bihn 3DOC Ultraviolet + clear (3-1-1 bag)
    3. set of packing cubes
  8. Technology
    1. iPhone + case
    2. IPad + solar keyboard
  9. Emergency Bag
    1. Sleeping bag
    2. solar charger for devices
    3. USB fan
    4. Jasper extra leash, food dish and water bowl
    5. spare glasses
    6. One outfit (in case there isn’t time to pack a separate bag with clothes)
    7. List of things to stuff in when tornado warning is issued.
    8. I can be out the door in 5 minutes.
  10. Clothing — simple, small, and comfortable clothes

Simplicity: Simple and Small Home

Simplicity > Essential #5 > Simple and Small Home

As I wrote before: I think houses should be smaller so gardens and lawns can be bigger. I think we need less time indoors and more time outdoors. I believe everyone should have a right to hang their laundry outdoors and grow food. The other advantages of a small and simple home are: easier to keep clean, less chemicals required when you can hand scrub surfaces frequently, less electricity/oil/gas/wood needed to heat the home, less furniture (and other stuff) to off-gas into your lungs, less stuff in general, and . . . I am not convinced that we all need super large ovens, stoves, refrigerators, freezers, hot water heaters, washing machines, dryers, etc. I think we should choose the smallest size that works for us, even if that size is not to have one at all.

Our household is four adults sharing a 4 bedroom, 2 bath, with a common kitchen, living room, and laundry facilities, 1400 square foot manufactured home. At times it feels much too large.

My perfect home would include:

  • 12 inch exterior walls, with large southern and eastern facing windows, with small and high northern and western facing windows, working shutters, greenhouse attached to southern wall, and next to it a screen porch with benches for removing and storing shoes.
  • Rain water harvesting system: roof, tanks, pump, and manual pump delivering water straight into the kitchen and bathrooms. Solar hot water tanks. Overflow pond.
  • Gray water wetlands and composting system for composting toilets. Septic for black water.
  • Small kitchen, large pantry. Solar food dehydrator, outdoor bread/pizza oven and grill (wood, not gas or charcoal), root cellar system.
  • Small solar energy system (or bio-digester). Transitioning to fewer electrical items so the system can be small and affordable. Solar battery chargers for small electronics.
  • Heat sink/ masonry by southern windows for winter passive heating — maple trees planted in front of house for summer passive cooling. Small rocket stove for heating and cooking in the cooler months.

The coming years will be filled with mini-experiments with each of the above systems. It will allow us to grow accustomed to the ideas and practicalities of working with these systems. In the meantime, as things break I have to ask myself, “Is this what I want in the future? Is this sustainable? Is this simple?” If the answer is yes, then I repair or replace it. If the answer is no, I let it be and we begin putting an alternative in place.


Sustainability > Gardening

Horehound (Marrubium vulgare) is a flowering plant in the mint family. It grows quite well here in Zone 6b. I just have a couple of plants, but they produce quite enough for our needs.

In the late summer, when it is flowering, and late in the day I go out and pick the leaves. I am always careful to leave the youngest leaves and enough leaves so that the roots are fed and ready to survive the upcoming cold.

The following is how I use horehound. It should not construed to be medical advice.

Use 1: You can dry the leaves and then steep 1 tsp of leaves in hot water for a sore throat.

Use 2: You can mix a leaf with honey and chew on it for a sore throat or cough.

Or Use 3, which is how I prefer . . . Horehound cough drops

Make no mistake, this is not candy. It is quite bitter, but it is an effective cough drop. You can suck on it, like normal, or let it dissolve in a bit of hot water, add honey and drink.


  • 1 cup fresh horehound leaves
  • 2 cups water
  • Let boil for 20 minutes
  • Let cool and then strain out the leaves, I squeeze the leaves to release all the oils. I normally get about a 1/4 cup liquid.
  • Put liquid into a sauce pan, add 2 cups of sugar, and boil to the candy stage. ( I test by dropping a drop in a glass of cold water, if it stays together, it is candy stage. You can also use a thermometer.)
  • Put a silicone mat in a baking sheet and pour the horehound mixture onto it. Place in refrigerator until solid. You could also use small candy molds (and those are on my wish list for next year)
  • The next day, remove from tray (or molds), break into pieces, wrap in wax paper, and store in jars.
  • I keep most of mine in the freezer, but leave a jar or two in the fridge.

Stability: Cynefin

Stability > Welsh. Simplicity > In knowing

Sometimes while learning Welsh, I stumble on a word that just makes perfect sense. Usually it is one of those words that you really can’t simply translate. It means too much. Cyenfin is one of those words and it fits so perfectly with my whole being.

Cynefin: belonging to place, a place to “stand”

Cynefin comes from and leads to understanding that the earth is animate, all life is sacred, and harmony is found in living in the rhythm of cycles and seasons.

Related words are ‘cyfenw’ which we translate as surname, but it really has the meaning ‘place name.’Also ‘cyfeiriad’ which is address or ‘place you are.’