My Not So Simple Life

by Katy on November 5, 2009 · 14 comments

The following is a reprint of a previously published column. Enjoy!


I’ve noticed that there is a definite simple living paradox.

The simple living choices are often . . . well,  kind of a pain in the tuchus.

A good example is how I buy lettuce for salads. The simplest solution would be to throw a bag-o-salad in the cart. Then I could enjoy lettuce instantly prepped and available.

No fuss, no muss and I’m sure to have a healthy salad to serve my family.

But is this really the simplest choice?

The 5 oz. bag of salad greens cost $1.98, which is enough for just one small salad. (My picky eating 14-year-old oddly is a salad eating machine.)

The huge head of romaine lettuce is $1.69. Because it’s sold by the unit, rather than the pound, I always make sure to select the biggest one. It’s usually enough for four salads.

Once home, I chop the lettuce into bite-size pieces and double wash it in myhandy-dandy salad spinner. I then store it in said salad spinner, which sits in the refrigerator, ready for a salad at a moment’s notice. (The inner basket makes it so when the fluid drains off, it’s away from the lettuce. This is an effective slime-preventer.)

But here’s the thing. But I actually kind of hate this task. No, let me rephrase that. I really hate this task! I have to put my hands in the cold water to swish the lettuce around, which is so icy it hurts. My house is already set at 60 degrees, so stuff like this can push me over the edge. And I’m not too proud to admit that I’ve been known to scream a little bit.

So, should I just buy that bag of salad?


I get about four times the amount of lettuce when I buy it by the head. And I can be sure that it’s been washed properly and is free of questionable preservatives. I can also put it in a reusable bag, keeping one more plastic bag from the landfill.

When I spend less money, I don’t have to earn as much money. I don’t have to commute as much, and I’m  a much happier person. This simple living choice is more complicated in the short term, but much, much less so in the long term.

This simple living paradox will shift with warm weather, as I grow my own lettuce from seed in an old wheelbarrow in the side yard. (My backyard is a bastion of deep shade, so I have to get tricky.)

Have you noticed that your simple living choices complicate your life in the short term, while simplifying the long term? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Melanie November 5, 2009 at 5:31 am

You’ve really given me something to think about here…thanks for that. I usually buy the bagged stuff and supplement it with romaine hearts, but you’re absolutely right. I’m just lazy…thanks for a little kick in the pants this morning:)


Alison November 5, 2009 at 6:44 am

I’ve read this post before (and appreciate it just as much the second time around). Each time, my initial thought was that you were going to blog about “Real Simple” magazine. One of my friends who had been living in Europe for awhile saw Real Simple magazine for the first time a few years ago and cracked herself up over how contrived it was to live a “Real Simple” life. Granted there is some value in some of the articles but the fact that there are scores of advertisements and ultra-designed living spaces seems anything but simpler…


Bad Hippie November 5, 2009 at 6:54 am

I hear you on the lettuce and the salad spinner – big ole pain in the butt. But a definite money saver! And much healthier than a bag of iceberg lettuce, since you can buy romaine or arugula or whatever dark greens are on hand.

My nemesis, however, are my floors. I have hardwood in the front of the house and some very old (and ugly) linoleum covering a huge portion of the back. It is so tempting to get a swiffer and some of those pre-soaked cloths for cleaning day, but instead – I get a bucket and spend some time on my hands and knees.

Needless to say, I don’t really wash the floors all that often. 🙂


Carla November 5, 2009 at 12:21 pm

Hanging clothes to dry instead of popping them into the dryer is “simple” but more time-consuming. But, hanging means I’m not using electricity for the dryer, I don’t have to race for a just-finished dryer to get the hot clothes out before they wrinkle, plus if it’s nice out and I can put my racks on the deck I get the added benefit of sunshine smell in my clean clothes. Mmmmmm…


WilliamB November 5, 2009 at 3:04 pm

I think of this as a nomenclature problem. It simplifies my life if I buy bagged prepped lettuce, or food from the counter at Dean & Deluca, or any of the other modern conveniences. Simpler but not better because it’s expensive and sometimes not the way I like it.

Strangely, sliced mushrooms and whole mushrooms are the same price at my store.

PS – you don’t *have* to wash lettuce in ice cold water. You can use warm, give your poor hands a break.


m November 6, 2009 at 5:00 am

How about teaching your 14-year old son to do at least a portion of the task (like swishing the lettuce in the icy cold water, spinning the lettuce, or chopping the lettuce with supervision)???? He could take pride in learning a new skill in the kitchen and be one step closer to taking care of himself when he leaves home in 4 years.


TracyB. November 6, 2009 at 8:02 am

Katy…how about using some tongs or a wooden spoon to move the lettuce around in the water to get it washed? I am not sticking my hands in that cold water either.


Shannon November 6, 2009 at 10:33 am

I’m ashamed to admit this:
Hi, my name is Shannon, and I love my Swiffer. Thanks to the poster who mentioned the Schmop; I will look into one. I think flylady also has some type of quick mop with a washable pad. I have two little boys so I pretty much spend 30 % of my day cleaning the floors.
I think most people feel overwhelmed and desire a simple life, and those who market products are right there to sell us “simple” even when in many ways it is not any simpler. Take cake mixes: you add mix, oil, eggs and water. To actually bake a cake it’s only a few more ingredients, but the same amount of effort really.
What I find hard is things like finding local food, esp. meats because though we don’t eat a lot, we strive to eat grass fed, humanely raised. For me to buy “local” I have to either drive 15 minutes downtown to an urban farmers market, or drive 15 minutes into the country to the farm market there, which just adds work for me, plus me in my car more.


Tracy November 7, 2009 at 7:46 pm

“When I SPEND less money, I don’t have to EARN as much money.” That’s a good statement, Katy! I’ll try to impress that upon my co-workers who practically BRAG about the vast amounts of cash they spend on a new car every two years, expensive clothes, etc.


Robyn November 10, 2009 at 6:51 am

I think it depends on how you define “simplify” for yourself as WilliamB said. Your priority could be saving time OR saving money. Mine would be saving time. After working long hours, I do not want to spend a lot of time on food prep, so pre-packaged lettuce and baby carrots here we come. (You can get good packaged romaine, spinach, etc, not just iceberg) Packages do cost more, but I prefer to have the additional time to sit down and relax rather than chopping and peeling. We went to single stream recycling so now all the packaging is recyclable as well which is great.


Chi-Chi November 10, 2009 at 4:10 pm

Katy, I think this is my first time commenting on your gem of a blog. I thoroughly enjoy each and every post and I appreciate your insight.

Robyn, I tend to agree with you. I’ve come to realize that in a lot of ways, time does indeed equal money. When I worked outside of the home as a teacher, by the time I got home I was thoroughly exhausted. That would definitely not be when I would start baking bread or preparing a salad from scratch. I took a lot of short cuts because I didn’t have the time but I had more money. Now that I’m a stay-at-home mom, I take the long way (which almost always is the more cost-efficient and frugal way) because I have more time but less money. I came to realize that given the choice, I prefer having less money and more time. (And I know not everyone has the choice.) But I can respect the choice to choose shortcuts because as you point out, time is really valuable too.


Heather November 10, 2009 at 4:20 pm

Boy, you hit a nerve with this one. For years, I would beat myself up at the grocery store – whole head lettuce is cheaper – take it home and cut it yourself; block cheese is cheaper – take it home and grate it yourself; no individual yogurts this week, they aren’t on sale. In fact, I used to buy a large vanilla yogurt, go home and mix with jelly and divide into individual serving sizes. I tell you what- I was tired. Many nights I was too tired to grate the cheese and fix the enchiladas- so it was take-out time. I finally decided to take Rachel Ray’s advice to “take the help from the grocery store.” I often have to repeat Rachel’s mantra while I am grocery shopping. We eat a lot more meals at home, and I am happier. The perfect is the enemy of the good enough.


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