I have REALLY been enjoying this whole thread. There's so much diversity and creativity here and I want to read it all over again for some ideas. Now and then I hear the topic weave in with the aesthetics of life and that's really entertaining.
We always focused on both the big things and the little things. The great used car, the affordable living situation, etc.
And yes, I used cloth diapers when the kids were little, cloth pads from the time I was 17 until menopause at 49, plain soap and washing soda for the laundry, only bought scouring powder and dishsoap for our cleaning supplies. I could give a huge list, but the main thing for us was why.
I was raised by Depression-era older relatives who never bought the window cleaner AND the toilet bowl cleaner AND the tile cleaner AND floor cleaner. When I was a kid we didn't have snack-packs, juice boxes, cable TV, cell phones, VCRs or DVDs and video games. I had a bike, some books, and paper dolls. We were not poor and we lived in suburbia in a sizeable town in the Mid-west. But there was a certain aesthetic of life. Kids played outside all over the neighborhood. My mother and other relatives were house-proud. The linen closet was neat and the dishes done.
I learned to keep things very simple and so I had a lot of time to spend with the children even when I had to work full-time at times. For me the little things were about making my life easier rather than more consumed by "simplicity". It was easier AND less expensive to use grated simple soap and washing soda in my laundry and my husband said he liked the result better than detergent. It was easier AND less clutter and expense to have just 2 sets of sheets per bed and 2 color-coded towels per person which gave me more room in the closet and more time spent with others rather than constantly sorting through a bedding nightmare and laundry (I did only 2-3 loads per week for a family of 4 excluding the diaper years).
We didn't really have to 'return' to simplicity because we never left. I probably save thousands of dollars a year on the small things because I don't engage in many of them in the first place. We all used the same toothpaste and shampoo. There was one bottle of lotion for everyone to use (if we had it at all), that kind of thing.
For me, my frugality and simplicity is based in both the large and the small but not really as new experiments and trendy DIY choices (what can I simplify now?). It's been a lifestyle that I never left no matter where I lived.
I don't stockpile anything. I keep a reasonable pantry but not hundreds of dollars of aging food. I have craft supplies to make much of what we need, but not closets of unused yarn and fabric. I think that's also because I have moved a lot and so I have found out what I need to own and what I don't. I can land anywhere and have everything I need to cook, sleep, bathe, dress, stay healthy in 3-4 large suitcases. That doesn't include furniture and rugs, but it's pretty much everything else.
Don't get me wrong, though. I LOVE to shop. My daughter and I used to make a day of visiting every thrift store in Tucson every couple of weeks until I recently moved to Australia. We try on everything and then have lunch out. That's our fun and it's frugal as well as social (time spent together) and environmentally responsible. I buy things to repurpose and give away mostly or to wear myself. But I don't feel compelled to buy stuff. I think one person here commented that just staying out of the stores in the first place was an act of frugality in itself and I would agree.
Thanks for sharing everyone. I have really learned a lot and am amazed and impressed by all the care that goes into what you do to take care of your families and your environment. I love all the stories and diversity.