Does Writing on a Variety of Subjects Dilute the Message?

by Katy on September 19, 2009 · 24 comments

iBookBecause I write about a variety of different subjects I sometimes feeling like I am a Jack of all trades, master of none.

Other bloggers write about a single area and are able to delve into their subject matter with laser-sharp intensity, getting into the nitty-gritty details without distraction. The investigative reporters of the blogging age.

Whenever I try and explain The Non-Consumer Advocate to people I meet, my description varies a bit. “I write about frugality, simple living and sustainability” is the usual line, but I always think later about what I’ve left out. Oh, I should have also said food waste, line drying my laundry and household waste reduction!

So what do I write about?

Well, I certainly do write about frugality, simple living and sustainability. And I also focus on food waste, line drying and household waste reduction, but I also like to think that non-consumerism with humor should be up there as well.

Can I delve into the detail that someone who writes about a single subject is able to? Mmm . . . probably not. At least not while holding down a job and parenting my teen and tweenage boys. (Not to mention my highly important downtime needs.)

I think I’m okay with my somewhat dilute message though. I’m someone who gets kind of bored doing the same thing all day, and luckily there are many bloggers out there who are covering the single subject arena with skill and doing it well. And if I were only able to cover a narrow subject matter, I wouldn’t be having so much fun!

Here are a few of my favorite single subject bloggers:

  • Fake Plasic Fish — Beth Terry’s blog that is all about the effects of plastics on our planet and our bodies.
  • Wasted Food — Jonathan Bloom’s blog that is all about food waste, both in the home and as a society.
  • My Zero WasteMrs. Green’s blog is all about household waste and how to decrease it.
  • No Impact Man — Colin Beavan’s blog is all about how he spent a year living in New York City gallantly trying to bring his family’s impact on the planet down to zero.
  • Small Measure — Ashley English’s blog is all about the beauty of food that is locally and organically grown and then consciously and deliciously prepared.
  • The Frugal Girl — Kristen’s blog is all about how she keeps the budget for  family of six, (gulp!) under control. She is the master of frugal living, yet there is no sense of deprivation, as is evidenced by the photos from her current vacation which are envy inducing.

Do you have a favorite blog to share? Please add it in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

P.S. I also write about cooking, parenting, gardening, affluenza, thrift stores, the Compact, decorating, libraries . . . .

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Melanie September 19, 2009 at 10:54 am

I agree with you:)….I think that there are a lot of bloggers out there who get so hung up on the one subject that they leave their readers “hanging,” per se, wishing that they’d talk a little more about life in general. You cover a little bit of everything, and you’re interesting, and that makes for a good read for me!


Cheapnik September 19, 2009 at 11:33 am

I kind of consider you Queen of home economic frugality…and an excellent interesting writer. A little variety is the spice of life!


Meg from FruWiki September 19, 2009 at 11:45 am

I don’t even see those as separate messages! The one message I hear is “Don’t waste!” That’s the essence of being frugal, imho, and it’s at the heart of sustainability and simple living as well.


Alea September 19, 2009 at 11:52 am

I have dealt with the same struggles. I listed my blog on one of those blog lists and originally listed it under home and garden. But I decided that it wasn’t fair to make the home decorating blogs compete with my food waste posts. 🙂 So I moved it to the cooking list, but that didn’t seem like a good fit since I talk about my garden, children, and thrift stores. Since none of the blog listing sites has a catergory for frugal, eclectic contrarians, I decided to leave my blog uncatergorized.

I did think about narrowing my focus for a short time to the kitchen, but decided against putting myself in a box. I also thought about catergorizing the blogs I follow (i.e. frugality, cooking, gardening, etc.), but realized that many of the blogs that I follow cover a variety of topics and defied traditional labels, which is perhaps why I am drawn to them!


WilliamB September 19, 2009 at 12:02 pm

The “problem” may be linguistic rather than subject matter. We may lack a single word or unitary phrase that covers this subject, even though we perceive the subject to be unitary.

A hundred years ago there were physicists and there were astronomers. Physicists used pencils and paper and wrote equations. Astronomers looked through telescopes and made observations. They were separate fields. If you said you were an astro-physicist (not that the word existed), people understood that to mean you had two separate specialties. Then comes Einstein and a whole host of others, and now there’s a single field of astronomy+physics = astrophysics.

The one I trip over is frugality vs. uncluttering. They often are presented together and treated in a lump by the same people, but I think these folk are making a mistake. There’s a lot of overlap – not buying stuff is both frugal and noncluttering. But getting rid of what you have, even if you may or likely would use it later, is uncluttery but definitely not frugal.


Alea September 19, 2009 at 12:41 pm

I’m back I had to go find URLs. Here are some of my favorite “focused” blogs:

$5 Dinners –
Frugal, delicious, mostly healthy recipes

My Year Without Spending – link on your side bar
Angela covers lots of topics, but they all are centered around her year of not buying anything new.

The Thrifty Country Woman –
Jane shares a memory, a recipe, and a frugal tip in almost every post as she writes about her daily life on her farmette. I doubt she would consider herself “green”, my dh and I (also country dwellers) have found that what is good for the septic tank is good for the environment!


NMPatricia September 19, 2009 at 1:09 pm

As I have searched for “frugal” blogs, “green” blogs, “simple living” blogs, etc, it has been hard to find those that I help me and I can identify with. This has been one. How I got here I don’t remember. All I know is that this is one of the better ones. I also know that the non-consumer aspect is an important one. I “know” how to do a lot. Not consuming is a tough one for me.


Angela September 19, 2009 at 1:17 pm

Alea- Thanks for the mention, and just as I was about to write that I have the exact same “problem” as Katy. I think my blog is mostly about nonconsumerism, and describe it in writing as “about living a nonconsumer lifestyle without giving up fun or style or otherwise feeling deprived.” But then of course it ends up being about wasting less, frugality, decluttering, recipes, buying secondhand clothing, etc.

Katy- I would say the success of your blog shows that you give a lot of people the perfect combination of ingredients to keep coming back for more. Nonconsumerism with humor, and great writing, is how I’d probably describe yours. And actually, nonconsumerism, being a lifestyle, does incorporate so many different subjects. That’s why I love it as a topic!

In fact, when I was going through my links and bookmarks, I realized most of the blogs I love might have started out “single subject” but end up straying into other territories. One single subject favorite I love is “30 bucks a week”
where a couple lives in Brooklyn on $30 a week and shares all their great vegetarian recipes.


Meg from FruWiki September 19, 2009 at 1:50 pm


“But getting rid of what you have, even if you may or likely would use it later, is uncluttery but definitely not frugal.”

Frugality is the opposite of wastefulness. Keeping things that I probably won’t use and don’t really care for is a waste of 1. space, 2. time and energy(cleaning, cleaning around, repairing, moving, etc.), and 3. money (to store, to repair, to accessorize). It’s only unfrugal if those things are outweighed by the cost of replacing it — assuming that it is replaced.

I’ve decluttered my house quite a bit but I’ve NEVER regretted getting rid of something because I’ve never needed it. Even if I did need something, it would probably be well worth the replacement cost to get rid of all the hundreds of other things that I have.

While people often hoard things thinking they’ll need those things, I’ve never seen a decluttering site recommend getting rid of things you truly need — or even truly love. Since most of the things most of us have aren’t necessities, there’s plenty of other things to frugally get rid of!


Jinger September 19, 2009 at 3:43 pm

Your blog is easy to read, timely and entertaining as well…I like the variety of subjects and the fact that although you live frugally, you don’t take yourself so seriously and have fun.

Keep on!


Kristin September 19, 2009 at 5:50 pm

I agree with the many before me who have commented that they like the variety of subjects you touch on… never knows what you might be writing about on any given day….and that makes it fun and interesting! No need to categorize everything or fit it into a box or label.


SanQ September 19, 2009 at 6:07 pm

I have read many blogs about various “sustainable, frugal, etc.” topics, and I really love yours-because it is many different things, and all of these things!


Mrs Green September 19, 2009 at 11:35 pm

How fascinating. DH said to me the other day that he felt our subject was too broad and we should find a niche! Say what?

However, I have to let you into a secret. Being a Gemini I have a need for diversity, so I have another blog which covers ALL aspects of ‘green living’ from energy consumption to green parenting and with some frugal and spirituality stuff thrown in too!

I find it very interesting that you list No Impact Man as a ‘niche’ blog – the range of topics he covers is immense.

Personally I love your blog; and if I had to describe you, I would put you in the frugality genre. I believe more and more of the ‘frugal’ ideas tip into the sustainability ethos anyway.

So I’ll finish with a thanks – thank you for mentioning myzerowaste and thank you for continuing with your wonderful blog 🙂


Krista September 20, 2009 at 1:31 pm

I love the mix of topics you cover in your blog!


Kristen@TheFrugalGirl September 20, 2009 at 6:30 pm

Thanks for the mention, Katy!

I feel like frugality is an enormous topic…I have about a bazillion post ideas swilling about in my brain, and only lack the time to type them all out. And I do sometimes feel like you do…that my blog is all over the place! There’s saving money, but I also talk about food waste and other green things, and photography and baking, and right now, I’m just posting pictures of our vacation (and that’s completely and utterly off topic! lol).

I like your blog topic(s)(s)(s)(s). 😉


Sierra September 20, 2009 at 9:06 pm

I had to laugh when I read this, Katy, because your blog is one of my favorite examples of a tightly-focused, single-issue blog. Whenever people ask me what its about (cause I talk about you) I say, “She writes about not buying stuff! It’s awesome!”


Meg from FruWiki September 21, 2009 at 6:01 am


Well, if it weren’t for those conditions then why would you get rid of something? I guess that is the problem. But are all those items in the basement really free in every way? Do you feel stressed going down there? Do you spend extra time trying to find things? Are you worried that the stuff may deteriorate over time? Do you worry about having to move someday and deal with all that stuff in a short time period? Does keeping that stuff keep you from using the space in a more enjoyable manner? If it weren’t for the stuff, would you downsize to a cheaper home? Do you feel bad for having so much stuff?

If you answered no to these questions, then keep the stuff if you want to.

However, consider that perhaps the real value of the stuff is much less than you perhaps figure. Of the stuff that you *could* use, how much will you *actually* use? When? And then, do you really *need* to use it or are you using it to prove to yourself that it was worth keeping all that time? And could you have used something else? Or, if you went out to buy a replacement part instead, was it really that expensive?

Also, can you organize the stuff better? A washing machine is fairly big. Can you take our the pieces you think will be most valuable and discard the rest? And do you actually go to it when you need a nut or do you already have a jar elsewhere or do you even pick up one while you’re out not knowing for sure if you have the right size at home?

I can understand not wanting to throw things out. I HATE sending things to the landfill. However, keep in mind that there are other options like Goodwill and Freecycle. If you have something that you *might* use in a few years, but which someone else needs now, would you rather keep it or give it away (or even sell it if it’s worth the hassle)?

Anyhow, that’s just stuff I’ve thought about over the years as I went from amateur “collector” to being much more minimalist.


Libby September 21, 2009 at 8:54 am

Being a jack of all trades myself, I was pleased as punch the day that I found the full original quote that this comes from. I have never heard someone use the phrase “Jack of all trades, master of none” without some amount of implied guilt before, with the assumption being that it is a BAD thing not to have any one specialty.

But that could not be further from the original meaning. This phrase originated as:

“a jack of all trades and master of none, and ofttimes better than master of one.”


Meg from FruWiki September 21, 2009 at 2:48 pm


Sometimes I find questions are more helpful even than answers! Or, at least, questioning things fully before accepting simple answers! Then, yes, there are those questions that you never really answer. I’m somehow drawn to ask those, lol. But they seem to useful in their own way.


Julia September 22, 2009 at 3:48 am

I really appreciate bloggers, like you, who write without specific focus. Your convictions shine through, but the writing is so much more interesting. I read a few blogs that have a specific intention, but I get a little bit bored with them after a while. When writers limit their writing to one overarching theme, they run the risk of repeating yourself and sounding like a self-help book. I don’t like to read self-help books, but I do like to read books (and blogs!) written be people of a similar mindset who have undertaken interesting and inspirational projects. Especially if they write about things other than those projects. So, thank you for doing what you do!


Tamar Stanford May 31, 2011 at 12:02 am

funny I was thinking about this today about my blog. I tend to write whatever inspires me and I do cover quite a few subjects. Then I thought, well I’m an artist and if I start to lock myself into one subject i’ll be stifled!!…I shall not be stifled!! lol


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