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Friday, July 20, 2012

An Experiment in Simplicity: What Was Here and What We Brought with Us

Hundreds of miles away from home for 2 weeks in a place we’d never been before, in a simply furnished apartment…the experiment was to see what we could do without and what things really do add value to our family life without taking a great toll in upkeep and organization.  This is the 2nd post in my Finding a Simple Mean series.

My husband had the opportunity to attend a 2 week seminar at a Christian college in Michigan and to bring his family with him.  The college provided a furnished 2 bedroom apartment (of the type normally designed for resident college students), with one bathroom and a full kitchen.  We were on our own for meals.

First, what was provided for use by our family of 6:
Facilities:
  1. 2 bedrooms
  2. 1 bathroom with 1 toilet, 1 shower, and 2 sinks
  3. full kitchen with cabinets, full size fridge, double sink, garbage disposal, dishwasher, range, microwave, and toaster
  4. free high efficiency laundry machines down the hall (we provided our own detergent)
  5. central air
  6. ground floor room with sliding glass door to concrete patio
  7. access to vacuum, brooms, and cleaning supplies
  8. Also in the utility room  down the hall:  ironing board and iron, table tennis table with paddles and balls, picture tube TV and DVD player
Furniture:
  1. 5 stackable twin-size beds, 6 mattresses (2 mattresses were on the floor)
  2. 5 small dressers
  3. 4 closets
  4. 5 student desks with chairs and built in lamps
  5. built in entertainment center type wall with book shelves, cabinets, etc.
  6. 2 phones
  7. ethernet and cable hookups (no TV or computer provided)
  8. 1 collapsible chair
  9. 1 floor lamp (ceiling fixtures in every room)
  10. kitchen table with 6 chairs
Linens
  1. 6 thin bath towels
  2. 6 thin wash cloths
  3. 1 hand towel
  4. 6 sets of bed sheets (2 flat sheets and 1 pillow case per bed)
  5. 6 pillows
  6. 6 mattress pads
  7. 6 circa 70s (orange and brown plaid) nubby “blankets” (really repurposed thin bedspreads)
  8. a never-ending supply of toilet paper (woo-hoo!)
Kitchen Stuff
  1. 6 earthenware plates with the Ikea tags still on (;0)
  2. 6 small earthenware bowls, ditto on the Ikea tags
  3. 6 mugs
  4. 6 cups (4 glass, 2 plastic)
  5. 6 forks, 6 knives, 6 spoons
  6. knife block with 4 sharp knives
  7. manual can opener
  8. 1 plastic serving spoon
  9. 1 plastic spatula
  10. 1 8” frying pan
  11. 1 nonstick cookie sheet
  12. 1 2-quart saucepan with lid
  13. 1 2-cup saucepan
  14. 2 hot pad and 2 cork trivets
  15. 1 1-cup measuring cup
  16. 1 plastic serving bowl
  17. 1 plastic colander
  18. 2 small earthenware serving dishes (we used one as a butter dish)
There were also wastepaper baskets in all the rooms, a kitchen trash can, and a recycling bin.
We were also able to sign out things like games, DVDs, puzzles, some additional cookware (yes, I was able to borrow a larger pot!), and even bags of Lego.
Now, we were warned that the furnishings and stuff would be basic, so we did bring additional towels and even a few kitchen implements.  Let’s take a look at the things we brought.

Household Stuff:
  1. 6 beach towels (we knew we would be swimming)
  2. 4-5 additional towels
  3. 1 hand towel
  4. 2 wash clothes
  5. 1 ice cream scoop
  6. 2/3 cup measuring cup (for making oatmeal)
  7. 1 knife for slicing bread
  8. 1 manual can opener (didn’t know one would be provided)
  9. 1 vegetable peeler
  10. 2 adult size collapsible chairs and 2 child size
  11. laundry detergent
  12. laundry basket
  13. dishwasher detergent
  14. dishwashing soap
  15. 2 bottles of liquid hand soap
  16. paper towels
  17. paper napkins
  18. 1 roll of toilet paper (because hubby always brings a roll of toilet paper---his motto:  no one is ever sorry they brought a roll of toilet paper.)
Clothing:
  1. Swimsuits
  2. 5 changes of clothes for most people (extra for the 3-year-old and the 6-year-old), plus 1 set of church clothes
  3. 5 sets of underwear for everyone (2 brassieres for me---that ended up being important)
  4. at least 1 pair of socks for each person (some of us don’t really wear socks in summer, but you never know when it might rain)
  5. 2 pairs of shoes per person (plus flip flops for me and Mary), except for Em, whose other church shoe decided to hide when we were packing---so she only had her Crocs (that ended up being important, too ;0)
  6. Floppy hats for Peter and David
  7. Peter’s cooling vest
Technology:
  1. Hubby’s laptop, cord and mouse
  2. a netbook and cord
  3. ethernet cable
  4. 2 Kindles and charger cord
  5. 1 Android Tablet and charger cord
  6. Hubby’s MP3 player
  7. 2 cell phones, the old fashioned kind, not smartphones (but no charger cords because they both magically disappeared at packing time)
Kid Stuff:
  1. A couple of books per kid
  2. stuffed animals (more than I would have liked)
  3. Mary and David’s MP3 players
  4. paper, pencils, crayons, a couple of coloring books
  5. Mary’s purse and all the stuff she stuffed into it
  6. a couple of favorite DVDs and some audio books
  7. frisbee
  8. diaper bag, sippy cups, straw cups
Toiletries:
  1. Shampoo and conditioner
  2. Baby shampoo
  3. 2 bars of soap
  4. toothpaste
  5. 5 regular toothbrushes plus a the Sonicare for the appliance wearer
  6. Waterpik for the appliance wearer
  7. 2 keys to turn the appliance screws
  8. flossers
  9. tweezers
  10. nail clippers
  11. 3 combs
  12. various hair clips
  13. various hair elastics
  14. hairspray
  15. cotton swabs
  16. Hubby’s electric razor
  17. disposable razors
  18. his and her deodorants
  19. sun block
  20. Peter’s creams, ear drops, and ear scoop
  21. Peter’s eye patches
  22. Various sized Band-Aids
  23. antibiotic ointment
  24. vitamin supplements
  25. ibuprofen
  26. thermometer
  27. children’s tylenol
  28. allergy tablets (adult and children)
  29. TUMS
  30. disposable diapers
  31. disposable training pants
Other stuff:
  1. maps, directions, instructions for our trip
  2. Hubby’s materials for the seminar he was attending
  3. books
  4. cloth bags for carrying things
Yes, we made a list, checking everything off as we packed, and everything easily fit into the car.  You’ll notice this is mostly just stuff you need to get by ( or end up running out to get if you for get it), with a few added luxuries.

We did buy a few things after we arrived (other than food):

Paper plates, disposable cups, more paper towels, and

Bottled water!

Because we used filtered at home and there was no way I was going to survive drinking “bathroom” water for 2 weeks.  We drink a ton of water. Yuck!

I’ll add that these last items are things that we never ever buy at home (except the paper towels) unless we are having a huge party and don’t have enough plates to go around, but constantly washing dishes wasn’t working too well for me (and I learned an important lesson from those disposable plates that I’ll talk about later in this series).

We eventually bought a car charger for the phones, which was ok since we didn’t already own a car charger and it works for both phones, even though they are different brands.

Next up in Finding a Simple Mean, I’ll be looking at what having a limited wardrobe taught me, and how a few simple changes in our clothing is going to make my life much simpler

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