Cost-per-wear, and its happier alternative.

I’m a big believer in cost-per-wear. My mom taught me that the more often you’re able to wear something, the more you can justify paying for it.

This is why I’m willing to invest $100 in a fabulous pair of shoes, even though it hurts in the short run. They’re well-made, they’re comfortable, they match everything. I wear them 5 days a week for years. That CPW is tiny in the long run.

CPW can change your mind about what’s really a “deal.” If that $7 fast fashion tshirt is holey after two washes, it’s not a great value—especially not compared to your spendier ones that last for years.

I love CPW, and I always think about it before making a purchase. It appeals to my inner maximizer. (I’ve spent the last 5 years trying to beat her into submission, but she’s still most definitely pleased by the idea of paying $.15 per wear on her favorite shoes.)

Don’t think you get a free pass if you’re not into fashion! The concept applies to more than clothes: it’s the same reason I’m okay with owning a $280 Le Creuset dutch oven. (I’m especially okay with it because my parents gave it to me as an awesome Christmas gift, but I still cringed at the price tag. I am thrifty, people!)

But I’ve used that pot four times a week, six months a year, for five years. It’s well-made and built to last. If there comes a time when I don’t use it anymore, I’ll pass it down to my kids. It’s heirloom quality: I’ll be able to do that. My cost per use is tiny.

Cost-per-wear vs love-per-wear.

when cost-per-wear and love-per-wear converge: 2 1/2 years ago Stitch Fix sent me a sweater ($44) and scarf ($24) that I still wear all the time

I love the cost-per-wear idea so much that I forget about the big exception: love per wear. 

Some purchases have a terrible cost-per-wear, but make me very happy. I read about this recently on the Men’s Style Lab blog (where they also share more caveats about cost-per-wear).

I love this shirt, but I don’t wear it often. I have some great heels that I don’t wear much, but I love them when I do. I have more scarves than I need: my CPW is higher than it could be because I wear a different one every day. But they make me very happy.

The Men’s Style Lab blog says to break the CPW rules (as long as it doesn’t break your wallet) if a purchase makes you feel amazing, even if you don’t wear it very often. These items are investments, too—in your confidence and happiness.

The maximizer in me loves CPW, but I also want to open my closet and see clothes I love.

Love per wear: it’s a real thing.

Do you rely on CPW? What’s your favorite garment with a great love-per-wear ratio?

A day in the life.

A day in the life

None of our days look the same, but they all share a similar rhythm of work and homeschool, rest and play.

This year we’re homeschooling our kids again, ages 4, 7, 9, and 11. We’re trying something new this year: for a variety of reasons, our oldest two are attending a cottage school, which takes some of the load off.

Today I’m walking you through a typical Thursday at our house. Thursdays aren’t typical—they’re the one day the kids and I might actually be home all day—but this is our typical Thursday.

From the post:

No two days look the same around here, but the basic rhythm is constant. We may be free-wheeling, but my kids also do very well with structure. Putting together a day-to-day that works for us has been about keeping those two things in balance ….

Head over to Simple Homeschool to read the rest.

P.S. A day in the life from 2014, and from 2012.

The beginner’s great big guide to audiobooks.

Everything you need to know to get started with audiobooks: how to choose which books to listen to, how to find the best narrators, which service to use, the benefits of paid services, plus a ton of resources for finding audiobooks for free or cheap. A must read for beginners; experienced fans are sure to find a few new favorites. When we were first married, Will and I listened to a lot of audiobooks together. We were rehabbing houses, and the books made the hours spent painting go by faster. We listened to The Professor and the Madman together while we were fixing up our kitchen and were hooked.

The technology has changed: it’s not as easy as popping a cd into the player anymore. Many readers want to try audiobooks, but are intimidated by the process of getting started. This guide is for you.

(If you’re an experienced audiobook listener, I hope you learn a few things and find some new titles you love.)

Why audiobooks?

There are lots of reasons:

• To “read” when your hands are occupied. This is my #1 reason.
• To redeem the time, like for a road trip, a daily commute, or folding the laundry.
• For kids who are too young to read to themselves. (Parents get hoarse, and tired.)
• For those who are unable to physically read, permanently or just in the moment, like when you’re feeling blah, or when your eyes are tired, or old.

What makes a great audiobook?

Individual tastes aside, not every book makes a great audiobook.

Style:

I love gorgeous novels, but I don’t like to listen to them. My brain does much better processing a complex, literary book when I can see the words on the page.

(One exception: I love to listen to great literary fiction on the re-read: Jayber Crow is great on audio the second time through, but it’s too much to handle on the first.)

Narration:

A bad narrator can ruin a good book, but a great narrator can’t save a bad one. If anyone claims to have a favorite audiobook narrator, it’s probably Jim Dale. Everyone loves Jim Dale.

On Audible, reviews are broken into 3 categories: story, performance, and overall. Tastes differ, but it still helps to distinguish the good from the bad.

How I choose:

I personally choose audiobooks that have:

• compelling stories. (No zoning out!)
• smart, but not literary fiction. No gorgeous prose.
• fantastic narrators. Bonus points for a winning accent.
• not a requirement, but books that have a lot of dialect make great listening (and frequently, annoying reading). Think Tom Sawyer, The Invention of Wings, These Is My Words.
• many hours of listening, if I’m using an Audible credit. I want to get the most listening out of that credit! (I listened to hundreds of hours of Outlander  on Audible. It didn’t hurt that Davina Porter’s narration was fabulous.)
• I often listen to brand-new releases that I don’t think I want to own, but have a serious library waiting list. I love using my Audible credits to get hot new books with no waiting.

I don’t typically choose content that would make an HSP squirm. When I’m reading a physical book, it’s easy enough to skim—or even skip—over violence or lots of language. It’s harder to avoid when it’s right in your ears.

How does it work?

There are many ways to find and listen to audiobooks. We’ll start with my favorite, Audible.com.

the beginner's guide to audiobooks

How to use Audible.com

When it comes to audiobooks, Audible is the service to beat. The Audible app is my favorite way to listen to audiobooks, for its everywhere access and ease of use.

I like Audible for their …

• extensive, high-quality library
• ability to search by title, author, or narrator
• reviews of the books and the narrators
• ability to listen to a sample before you buy
• clear indication of whether a title is abridged
• ability to listen at multiple speeds (.75, 1.25, 1.5, 2.0 …)
• ability to quickly rewind or fast forward 30 seconds (or whatever increment you choose, mine is set at 20 seconds)
• you can listen to your Audible purchases on up to 4 computers and 3 devices of each type

It’s not a free service (alas!) but it’s a good value for me because of …

Free 30-day trial
• daily deals that anyone can purchase, member or not (although sadly, they are U.S. and Canadian only at this time). This is a great way to try the service.
• members-only sales (more on that below)
• cheap audio versions if you own the ebook for many titles.
• their “great listen guarantee”: if you don’t like an audiobook, just exchange it—with no questions asked
• you own your audiobooks, even if you cancel your membership

How Audible credits work

Most new subscribers choose the gold plan, which gives you 1 credit per month. 1 book = 1 credit, regardless of whether the cash purchase price would be $8 or $48.

If you don’t want a recurring monthly charge—and don’t need to accumulate more credits—, you can put your account on hold. (To do this, click to chat with a customer service rep from the site. I’ve had great experiences on at least 3 separate occasions.) Though on hiatus, you still retain member benefits like being able to purchase titles at the member’s 30% discount rate (which I never do) and participate in their member-only sales (which I do all the time).

How to listen to your Audible audiobooks

Sign up for a free trial or choose a membership plan (don’t stress about which plan to pick—you can switch at any time). Purchase an audiobook, then download the free Audible app. You can then download your purchases to your device and start listening. (You can’t buy an audiobook straight from your phone: plan ahead for those road trips!)

About those big sales

Audible runs frequent member-only promotions (although you can participate if you’re on a free trial). Past sales have included:

• a 2-for-1 promotion, which offered 2 books for 1 credit from a selected list. I got Americanah (terrific) and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (haven’t listened yet).
• a huge children’s lit sale, where I picked up a slew of Beverly Cleary books for $2.95 each.
• half-price sales, where popular audiobooks are on sale for half off.

big hits

Right now they’re running a Big Hits sale (that ends tonight, 1/27/15 at midnight EST): 150+ best-selling, highly reviewed audiobooks are on sale for $6.95 each. These titles are catching my eye, although there are truly too many good ones to list here:

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
Faithful Place by Tana French (I don’t know if I could handle listening to this because of the language and content, but I love the sense of place the Irish accent invokes)
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, with a full cast recording.
The Professor and the Madman (Will and I both loved this—highly recommended)
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver, read by the author
Stardust by Neil Gaiman, read by the author
Call the Midwife, by Jennifer Worth (although my HSP self might rather read than listen)
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith
A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving
Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan
Middlemarch, by George Eliot
Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, by David Sedaris. I wasn’t a fan of this collection, but if you want to hear Sedaris reading his own work, here’s your chance. (Major warnings apply.)

These are just 13 of 167 titles. I’m interested in at least a third of them—too many to list! (If you’re not a member, these will appear to be at full price, but they are $6.95 through midnight EST on 1/27/15 to members. The full sale list is available for members to view. I wish i

Other sources for audiobooks

Audible’s not the only game in town. Other options include:

The library

The library is a great resource for old school audiobooks on compact disc. These are easy to listen to if you’re in the car, or have a cd player handy. My kids can operate these easily. Just keep a pen and paper handy to jot down your place.

Libraries also carry nifty little orange devices called Playaways. Imagine a dedicated one-book iPod: all you need are headphones and a triple A battery.

Some libraries have another great resource at their disposal: it deserves its own category.

The OverDrive app (via your local library)

OverDrive is a service that lets you easily borrow materials from your local library. With the OverDrive app, you can borrow ebooks, audiobooks, and videos—if these items are in your library’s collection. (If your library doesn’t own it, you can’t borrow it—even though the item will be indexed in the OverDrive app.)

I’m jealous of the many MMD readers who tell me they frequently borrow audiobooks through the OverDrive app. I adore my local library, but they have zero digital audiobooks. They’ve chosen to invest their funds elsewhere, which I can certainly appreciate. And they do have an extensive ebook collection.

To get started, use the library finder on overdrive.com (or in OverDrive’s app) to browse your library (or school’s) collection.

If you’re having trouble, ask for help at your local library.

Spotify

Spotify has an extensive collection of audiobooks, but the quality of the narrators is hit or miss. (They do have an extensive Jim Weiss collection: my kids love him.)

To browse the collection, click Browse > Genres & Mood > Word. You can also search for any audiobook’s title from the home screen.

A free account works fine for desktop use, but it can be difficult to listen on-the-go because only premium accounts can turn off shuffle play for mobile.

(To unshuffle: create a playlist for your chosen audiobook. Select the playlist in the app. Start any track, then open that track by tapping the bar at the bottom of the screen. You’ll see two symbols that utilize arrows at the bottom screen. Tap the arrow symbol that resembles an “x” until it appears white, not green.)

The Audiobooks app

This free app (by Cross Forward Consulting, LLC) features recordings from Librivox’s extensive collection of free public domain audiobooks. The narrators are hit or miss, and chapter breaks are marked by recorded Librivox disclaimers. But it’s free.

The app also has 263 higher-quality, disclaimer-free titles available for $.99 each, or $7.99 to access the complete collection.

Cracker Barrel

You can rent audiobooks (on cd) from Cracker Barrels nationwide for $3.49 per week.

Here’s how it works: buy an audiobook at any Cracker Barrel location. Return it when you’re done, and they’ll refund you your purchase price less $3.49 for each week you had it.

Crowd-pleasing favorites

If you’re not sure where to start, choose from these crowd-pleasing favorites.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The Harry Potter series. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. View more of my favorite audiobooks (and some of yours) here.

We also listen to a lot of kids’ audiobooks. If you’re a grown-up and you’ve never listened to Peter and the Starcatchers, or The Little House Series, or Neil Patrick Harris read Beverly Cleary, you are missing out. View 40 favorite audiobooks for kids right here.

What else do you want to know? What are your best audiobooks tips? Share away in comments. 

4 minutes in the nude.

4 minutes in the nude

Last October, I shared a few “things that are saving my life right now” in the MMD newsletter.

The idea comes from Barbara Brown Taylor (who I consistently confuse with Barbara Taylor Bradford, which is just ridiculous). In her wonderful spiritual memoir Leaving Church, Taylor tells about the time she was invited to speak, and her host said, “Tell us what is saving your life right now.”

Most of us know what’s killing us, and can articulate it, if asked. Some of us are overwhelmed with hurry and worry; some of us face crushing poverty; some feel paralyzed, unable to move.

But few of us stop to note what’s giving us life. Taylor says it’s too good a question to not revisit every once in a while: what are the things—big or small—that are saving us?

Every season carries its unexpected joys and challenges; such is life. But as a general rule, winter is the hardest month for me. I miss my sunshine; I miss my fresh air. I’m constantly quelling creeping paranoia over flu season.

And so to beat back the dreary days, this winter I’ve been keeping a running list—a literal, physical list—of the things that are saving my life right now.

Some of these are huge. (Babysitters!) Some of them are tiny, so tiny they seem silly. But they are real, and it’s dishonest not to acknowledge them. Not only that—it’s a huge missed opportunity.

And so I’m marking the things—big and small—that are making my life so peculiarly precious during this season. The things that are saving my life, even if it sounds silly to say so.

High on the list of things saving my life this winter: four minutes in the nude, every day.

Okay, it’s probably not four whole minutes. But every morning when I get out of the shower and put on my lotion, I can’t help but think of a Neutrogena ad from my high school days for some lotion-y product. That was the ad copy: four minutes, in the nude. Lather it on, and if you spend four minutes letting it soak in before you move on with the rest of your day, your skin will thank you.

It sounds ridiculous. And yet.

Dry skin feels wretched. It makes me hate winter (more). When I don’t lotion up in the morning, I feel raw and scratchy all day. I have a hard time sleeping at night. (I can’t even imagine what you poor people with eczema do.)

And so even though I’m perpetually running late because I was trying to crank out one more paragraph at the computer, I take the time to put on lotion every morning when I get out of the shower. I putter around the bedroom, making the bed, putting things away, while I wait for it to soak in just enough to remain on my skin when I pull on my jeans.

It’s just lotion. It’s silly, really. But it’s saving my life right now.

Next Monday is February 2: Groundhog’s Day, the halfway point of winter. The halfway point of this season that is so hard for so many of us. To fight back against winter, this is what we’re going to do.

On February 2, I’m going to share my list (because I’m keeping one—an actual, paper list) of the things that are saving my life right now. And you’re invited to share yours, too.

Winter is hard, but by pausing at its halfway point to share the things that are helping us through it, we’ll lighten the load.

I can’t wait to hear what’s on your list.