The Simple Life: Follow the Old Saying

This is the ultimate way to keep your shoes in great shape — just don’t wear them at all. But of course, there are limitations to this advice. Gathering Thoughts, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

What’s the old saying?

Use it up; Wear it out; Make it do; Do without.

I always have to look this up because I can never remember the order of 11 simple words, although I know they rhyme somehow. I seem like such an intelligent person as long as I’m at the computer and can look things up instantaneously. (Wearing glasses helps, too.)

But you know, with or without a computer, you can be a smart, financially savvy person who lives the simple life with gracious elegance if you live by this pithy saying, even if you can’t remember it. It’s the spirit of the quote that matters, and the driving force behind its philosophy is that you use what you have, creatively, before you head out to the department stores with your credit card.

The Daily Walk

The Norwegian Artist and I walk four miles, daily, around the property, in one or two mile increments. We discuss the general state of the world and the nation, and then when we want to think happy thoughts, we talk about our business, our dreams, our family, our relationship with God. Before the walk, I root around in a blue plastic bucket next to my desk for shoes; theoretically my office stays neater because all of the family’s shoes are tossed in this receptacle, but even as I write this, 13 shoes, including an ice skate, are lounging about the floor at the plastic container’s feet.

Finding a matching pair, in my size — 10, I’m short, with big feet, like a Hobbit — is always an accomplishment, and lately I am wearing the same black pair, mile after mile after mile. There are cracks on the bottom, holes across the top, but the laces are in great shape and when tied right, the shoes stay nicely on my feet.

Comfy Shoes for Home Alone

“You don’t wear those when you do errands downtown, do you?” the Norwegian Artist asked me the other day.

When you live out in the country, you think twice about jumping in the car and heading to the nearest store. Lady in Waiting, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

I glanced down at his feet, encased in brown leather slip-on mocs, toes peeking out through the torn stitching.

“Any more than you wear those.”

“Point taken. Are you ready for our walk?”

It’s not only that neither one of us really likes shopping for shoes — which at minimum entails a 70-mile one-way trip to the nearest town with affordable footwear — but that it’s a game somehow, a challenge to see how long we can get our individual walking wear to last, and a competition to see who can outlast the other. The products on our feet look appalling, but they still work, and our feet don’t hurt.

(When the day comes that we finally bury our beloved companions, The Norwegian Artist has another pair in reserve that keeps his toes encased, and I have athletic shoes — 2 sizes too large — that someone passed on to us and I couldn’t bear throwing away. It may be a long time before we make that 140-mile round trip.)

We Are All Eccentric

Lest you think I’m eccentric — which I am, but aren’t we all, in one way or another? — I really do have nice “town shoes,” which I keep nice by not wearing out in the garden, the goat pen, or around the property on a rainy day when the mud splatters everything. I am not so confident in myself that I can go out in public looking like a 21st century mountain woman.

But within my home, where I am comfortable and generally walk around in stocking feet, I get the most out of everything we have, not purchasing something new just because something old has a stain on it,  or a little hole, or a crack that isn’t so big that liquid pours out. Bath towels, when they get ratty, are turned into dish towels by cutting them into smaller, whole pieces and edge finished. When these get holey, they head to the barn, where they act as rags.

(Incidentally, I do have new, proper dish towels as well, in case you were wondering. I am not the Blessed Saint of Frugal Finesse.)

Spend Your Money on Things You Want

Invest your money in meaningful purchases that bring you pleasure and joy. These Gifts Are Better Than Toys by Steve Henderson

When you take time to use something up, however, you free your finances to purchase something else that you need, or want, more. I get far more pleasure out of a ball of sock yarn than I do a pair of walking shoes, and the longer I keep the latter limping along, the better chance I have of getting that ball of yarn. Money not spent is money earned.

Remember, it’s a game, and games are fun. Pick something in your life that is wearing out but not beyond redemption, something you were thinking of replacing, and ask yourself,

“Can I get a little more out of this?”

And then give it a try. Use it up; Wear it out; Make it do; Go without.

I did it! I wrote that without looking it up! And I only made one mistake . . .

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes. Fridays I write about financial health and simple living, and if you’d like to settle down with me for the weekend, consider my book, Live Happily on Less, available at in digital and paperback formats.

When you spend your money on things you want, consider artwork, because life really is more than cell phones, automobiles, and big screen TVs. All of the fine art showcased on This Woman Writes is by my Norwegian Artist, you can buy original paintings for less than you think, and licensed open edition artwork, at Steve Henderson Fine Art. If you’ve got a question about anything you see, just contact me at

In addition to my articles at This Woman Writes, I also write Commonsense Christianity at BeliefNet. Visit me sometime.

About This Woman Writes

Carolyn Henderson is the marketing manager of Steve Henderson Fine Art. She writes about life, art, and the art of life.
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