I'm a fraud.
I mistakenly thought I was frugal. I joke that my kids have only two pairs of shoes. (Why do they need more? They have only one pair of feet.) I have trouble telling the difference between the baby pictures of my two daughters because I dressed the younger one in the same outfits as her older sister. (They're five years apart, by the way.) I buy and drive used cars until they need to be pushed off the road.
I thought I was living a simple life -- until I moved.
The movers had to make two trips in a moving van the size of a tractor-trailer before my house was empty.
Every closet and corner of my house was stuffed with stuff -- some of which I hadn't used in years.
"Please tell me that's it," one of the movers asked near the end of a 10-hour day of packing.
Well, my move reformed me. I realize now I need to work harder at simplifying my life. I need to get rid of stuff. I need to buy less.
If you want to join me in this simplicity movement, then read September's Color of Money Book Club selection: "Nothing's Too Small to Make a Difference," by Wanda Urbanska and Frank Levering (John F. Blair, $21.95), published last month.
In their quest to simplify their lives, Urbanska and Levering left Los Angeles in 1986 and moved to Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains just north of Mount Airy, N.C., to manage Frank's family orchard.
The authors are part of a network of simplicity advocates who are trying to get all of us to slow down and lessen the environmental impact of our consumption-oriented lifestyle.
I met Wanda and Frank when they came to interview me for a new PBS series they put together called "Simple Living With Wanda Urbanska." The series offers commonsense tips on how to budget your time and money. Urbanska and Levering's book is a companion volume to the series.
If you feel overwhelmed with stuff, either on your day planner or in your home, you need to read the book and watch this series. (In the Washington area, WETA will run it starting 8 a.m. Oct. 2.)
In their book, Urbanska and Levering write: "Lifestyle simplification invariably cycles back to stewardship of your time, your money and the environment. It involves making thoughtful choices about what you buy and consume and how you relate to others."
In eight bite-sized chapters, Urbanska and Levering make a strong case that we all can make a difference by taking small steps to achieve a simpler life.
For example, if you drink coffee every day, don't use disposable coffee cups. Get yourself a travel mug instead.
No doubt you've heard much of the basic advice dispensed in this book, but hardheadedness is a condition that is hard to cure.
"Somehow, something happened on the way to the American dream," the couple writes. "We lost sight of elementary truths that have always made good financial sense. Somehow, we lost our perspective on how much is enough."
If you want to live simply, one of the first things you need to do is embrace frugality.
"It's okay to be frugal," Urbanska and Levering write. "Being frugal is not to be confused with being cheap -- with being ungenerous, miserly, Scrooge-like. To be frugal means to be a thoughtful -- not wasteful -- consumer, to be smart about your purchases, and to get good value not only for yourself and your family but for the health of our planet."
Actually, the couple has a quick and simple way to reduce consumption: Turn off your television.
You may be inclined to shake your head at this simplistic statement, but where do you think you get the notion to buy things you don't need? Could it be the commercials you and your children are overexposed to?
Speaking of children, the couple says, "As much as simple living has the potential to transform your life as an adult, setting the stage for simplicity in your child's life is arguably more important."
Urbanska and Levering suggest that parents create a firewall between their children and corporate America.
Here's one tip from their book that they've implemented with their son, Henry. Minimize or eliminate the brand-name clothes your children wear.
I know in this country that's akin to heresy. But it works. And trust me, it makes shopping a whole lot easier when your kids know you simply refuse to buy high-priced, brand-name items.
If you're not sure if you need to simplify your life, then answer these few questions. Do you have a garage but can't park your car (or cars) in it because of all the junk? Do you have a junk drawer or closet?
Do you find yourself repurchasing things you already have because your refrigerator or cabinets are too cluttered?
Are you worried that your children don't appreciate the things they have?
The simple truth is, as Urbanska and Levering write, "too many of us are consuming recklessly, drowning in stuff."
I don't want to drown in stuff anymore. How about you?
If you want to join the Color of Money Book Club, subscribe to my electronic newsletter at www.washingtonpost.com/newsletters. Scroll down the page and click on the box for Personal Finance. Each month, randomly selected subscribers will get a free copy of the book club selection. Also, join me at 1 p.m. Sept. 29 at www.washingtonpost.com for an online discussion with Urbanska and Levering.
Michelle Singletary discusses personal finance Tuesdays on NPR's "Day to Day" program and online at www.npr.org. Readers can write to her at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments and questions are welcome, but please note that they may be used in a future column, with the writer's name, unless a specific request to do otherwise is indicated.