DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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10 July 2012

Mindful living, being content, paying off debt

Over the years I've been asked many times what is the key to a simple life. I've thought long and hard about it and I reckon there are three main keys and a thousand smaller ones. Of the three main keys, the first one is to think about your life and what you want get out of it - your life is unique and it doesn't have to be like anyone else's. If you define your own path, and have realistic and satisfying goals, you're less likely to  listen to people telling you you HAVE to have certain things. You'll be less likely to be swayed by advertising. If you really KNOW yourself and where you're heading, you're more likely to stay focused. 


The second key is the ability to be content with what you have. Many people don't have that ability and never will. Sad but true. I think there is a way to develop contentment - you consciously think of what you're grateful for. All of us - the folk who have computers, cars and homes to live in are extremely lucky. Most of the people in the world do not have what we have. Don't take anything for granted. Work hard to get what you want out of life and be thankful for it when you have it. Share. Develop a kind and generous attitude. Don't buy things to show off, buy with purpose and function in mind. Buy good quality and instead of frequent upgrading, keep everything going for as long as you can. And at the end of the day, be grateful that you're in a warm and comfortable home with those you love around you. Hopefully, that will bring contentment to you.


The third is to pay off all your debt. If you do that, the rest of it is relatively easy, with a bit of on going hard work of course. The thousand smaller keys are different for all of us, depending on age, income level, ability, ambition and goals.

Mindful living, being content, paying off debt.


When you don't have to pay either a mortgage or high rent you free yourself up enormously - you can choose how many hours you want to work, or if you want to work at all. But how do you get to that position as quickly as possible? You need to have a plan and a budget and if you're married or partnered you need to both work together towards your agreed goals. The real trick here is to keep enjoying life while you're paying off debt because most large debts, such as a mortgage, will take years to pay back. If I were paying off a mortgage right now, I'd want my mortgage to be 25 percent of my disposable income, not 33 percent that many people go for now. I think 25 percent gives you a good pay back plan while not applying too much pressure. I'd pay that mortgage fortnightly instead of monthly. Also, I would work hard to save a little on the side to pay extra payments when I had the spare money. These extra payments make a big difference. When you set up your mortgage payments, make sure you have the option to make extra payments.


Go to the Down to Earth forum to get a lot of ideas about how to save money consistently. You can also ask questions there about saving money and a lot of other simple life topics. You have to make a plan to pay off your debt. If you think about it, just about every product at the supermarket has several brands that range in price from low to high. Consciously choose the lowest price, regardless of brand, that fits your values.  I won't buy any food that comes from China and very little food from Asia in general. I try to buy Australian and I try to buy as close to where I live as possible. That means I shop at farmers markets if I have to buy fruit and vegetables, I buy meat from a local butcher - I do not buy those things from the supermarket. I am rethinking my stance on generics at the moment. I used to buy them but now that most are from China, I buy Australian brands. I never buy the very cheap milk from the supermarket because I believe the way they're marketing milk is going to break the dairy industry. But apart from all that, everything else I buy, is from Aldi or IGA, mostly Australian, and it's the cheapest I can find. If you can stockpile your groceries, it will probably make even more savings, in time and money. So think about your likes and dislikes, your food values and devise a shopping strategy that gives you what you want at the lowest price. Grocery shopping isn't as straight forward as it once was. It's a  jungle out there.


Get involved in your life. Really involved. Stop working on automatic pilot, stop multi-tasking, focus on your work and do it to the best of your abilities - either in your paid job or at home, or both. Both are equally important and you want to give your best to both. Know how much money you're spending, and on what; know what's in the food you're eating - either by growing it yourself or finding a market selling produce you know a bit about; know your family - if they're young or old, never lose touch with them, stay involved in their lives and keep loving them.


There comes a time when there is a sort of automatic switch from being interested in simple life, and carrying out a few simple projects, to feeling like you're actually living the life. I think that switch generally happens when you're really focused on what you're doing - in both your debt reduction and your daily activities. We all do it differently, we all select different combinations of the thousand keys,  but when that swtich happens it's easier to stay on track and you don't have to push yourself to keep at it. It becomes natural and it's just how things are. Simple.

49 comments:

  1. Paying off, and then staying out of, debt is a biggie for us, and we made it a priority from the very start of our marriage. My husband already had a mortgage, and made the payment every month. But, since I was working full-time too, I made a second payment every month. While his payments included interest and insurance, my payments went entirely towards the principle. We owned our house, free and clear, within 10 years.

    Both our college degrees were on a pay-as-you-go basis. I tell folks mine was on the 25-year plan. But no debt. We drive our vehicles forever, or at least until we've saved up enough to pay cash for a new one. Neither of us ever runs a balance on our credit cards. We do have health insurance, with a high deductible, in case of some catastrophic event, and pay for dental and eye care out of pocket. Maintaining a healthy emergency savings is also a priority. We defer or go without somethings others may feel are important, but find the peace of mind and sense of well-being more important. Different continents, same state of mind I'd say.

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  2. It's always refreshing to read about the process of deliberate living. Unless you start off that way, it can takes years to undo a lot of the 'fast lane' living as you move over to the slow lane. And trying to do too much 'unwinding' at once causes people to give up altogether. Change done a little here .. a little there eventually adds up to LOTS of change.

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  3. Seeing Hanno in the garden makes my fingers itch to get busy in ours but we are having torrential downpours here in our winter so any good intention is cancelled by the weather alone.

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  4. Thankyou for such good advise. xxx

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  5. What a great read!timely for where I'm at.
    Thanks! Maria M

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  6. I have honed in a more peripheral phrase within your post. The phrase about multi-tasking. It's a concept that's been taken beyond the realms in which it was meant to remain, IMHO. I think I will start a forum thread about this one.
    Thanks for your informative post.
    Tracy of Brisnane

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  7. Isn't it something that shopping for food is no longer straight forward?

    Thanks for the advice, Rhonda, as always. You are so sensible and kind.

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  8. What a wonderful post. My husband and I are in our 20s and still students. We are living your advice right now--it looks like we may have our 30 year mortgage paid off within 5 years! Then we'll save for what will hopefully be an early retirement.

    Living simply, raising a garden and chickens, and buying quality goods as we can afford them has made our lives seem so much more in control. And I'm actually starting to enjoy the chores that I used to hate--like hanging clothes on the line!

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  9. I too honed in on the multi-tasking. Working from home this is even more of an issue for me and one which I really struggle with. I know I am less productive and certainly not mindful in the adrenalin rush of it all - but how to turn it around? And whilst the computer (blog) time is important to me, it contributes to the stress...

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  10. Ditto on the multi-tasking. I still have to work at not thinking I should be multi-tasking since I did it for many years at my job outside the home. S L O W A N D D E L I B E R A T E is what I have to keep reminding myself.

    Rhonda, this post might be the very best one you've ever written, in my opinion. I'm going to put a copy of it in my gratitude journal.

    Diane in North Carolina

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  11. Wonderful and timely post,Rhonda. I stayed out of debt most of my life until I went back to school for a graduate degree. Unlike most of my classmates in night school, I took on all the debt I could so I could take as many classes per term as possible. Thus, I could finsih my degree as fast as possible.

    Then I dedicated the next few years after graduation to pay off the debt as fast as possible. Even though I had used the debt for education, it still hung over my head. I did not like the stress that having the debt created. It was a lesson I kept with me to this day, 30+ years later.
    Now in my 50s, I am at a stage in life where I have options that some of my friends don't have. I don't have to work full time for wages. And I am very grateful for that. SJ in Vancouver BC Canada

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  12. I think we have built a disproportionate sense of entitlement into our lives and a system of self congratulation. We work hard, we deserve a sleep in, we went to work all week we deserve takeaway for dinner, and so it expands and the wants over take the needs and we end up using debt to "pay"for all this self congratulation. What you have said resonated with my own experience of quieting within, finding my place and being content. With contentment and gratefulness for what we have we can shuck off the need for "stuff". We can spend less and focus on paying off the mortgage and find a lot of happiness in simplicity. We are lucky that being thus far down the track a lot of debt is paid off and I can taste the freedom within my reach. Unfortunately none of our children seem to be embracing simplicity and are constantly wanting, wanting and spending and I can't ever see them having their own home. I worry that the longer they leave it to think about a home the less time they have to pay back debt so the larger it all becomes. Example doesn't seem enough. Have you been able to have this talk with your children? Do they get it? Or do you just have to hope they find their way eventually?

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  13. A timely reminder, i seem to have unconciously turned into a mindless consumer, i used to budget better and think before i bought but somewhere along the line since having my son i find myself seeing things and thinking i need that and buying without considering - do i really need it, do i have something else that would do the job, should i wait a few weeks and budget it in or compare prices. I think time has become a bit more precious and ive got a bit lazy about my shopping. Time to have a rethink....

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  14. Beautiful post. Living mindfully is what I aim for and to be debt free would be wonderful. I regularly calculate what that extra $50 payment will equal in terms of years and interest off our home loan, it's a great motivator!

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  15. Hi Rhonda, I always read your blog and enjoy it and find it reminds me why I live the way I do, for frugality and for the health of the planet. Imagine my surprise and consternation this morning to be unable to buy Borax from any of the usual places. The owner of our local mitre 10 informs me that Borax has been reclassified as a dangerous chemical, supermarkets are unable to buy it and not even mitre 10 can buy it any longer. I'm unable to use laundry detergents and am devastated that I am apparently considered incapable of handling or using this simple chemical in a safe manner after having used it without harming anything for 6 decades. Any idea what we can use to replace borax????

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  16. Good thinking. I've been chunking away at some old business reversal for some time now.

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  17. Susan, that's scary. I can still get borax here at the IGA, I wonder if it's still at the supermarkets. Does anyone know. If you can't get borax, replace it with the same amount of bicarb.

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  18. I am currently trying to live the motto 'do what you can, with what you have, where you are'. I don't know where I learned it or who deserves credit for it but gosh it is helping me to stop and think about everything. Thanks for a wonderful and timely post Rhonda! Puccetta in Sydney

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  19. I really enjoyed reading this post, because i know it to be true from experience. my husband and i decided we wanted to be mortgage free before we had children so we massively upped our mortgage repayments (beyond what we thought could afford. then we adapted to the lack of money (stopped eating out etc) and we paid it off what would have taken us another 15 years in 4. our lives completely changed from that day on. i went down to 4 days a week at at work (and consequently stopped shopping excessively for clothes and shoes which i hadn't realised was a stress/overworking coping thing) and i had time to start a vegge garden etc and learn crafts. now we have a toddler and a baby and i wont have to go back to work until i want to. husband got a new job (unworried about taking a drop in pay) and now has a job he loves which within 6 months was paying him 10,000 more a year than his previous hated job. and we really value things like eating out, and buying clothes now we do it occasionally instead of all the time. best thing i ever did, truely.

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  20. Hi Rhonda,
    thanks for taking the time to be so generous with your thoughts.

    Having read your thoughts for quite some time now I decided to consider saving up for a new kitchen (old one is fibro,falling apart,no storage etc). It would cost $18000 to rebuild the shell and put in new cupboards and benches.
    So I had a look on the mortgage calculator. On that $18000 I would pay $30000 in interest and it would take me 20 years to pay off the mortgage instead of 15. So that is a total of $48000, in after tax dollars, meaning that the kitchen's REAL cost is probably more like $63000.
    Worth it? I don't think so!
    Thanks for the regular reminders about 'saving up' :)

    Madeleine

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  21. g'day
    a wonderful post again rhonda
    i use the bi-carb instead of the borax it works great, i looked the borax up & its actually a toxin so i thought i'd give that a miss plus if you wouldn't use it in gray water systems why wash it into our storm drains which flow back out to rivers & oceans? just a thought ...
    anyway have a great day everyone

    selina from kilkivan qld

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  22. Here I am, on the verge of retirement, and yet reading this post I realise I still have a lot to learn. I enjoyed reading this.

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  23. Hi Rhonda,
    I was rather surprised to read that borax is now considered a dangerous chemical and can no longer be bought at Mitre 10???.I just wanted to let you know that Bunnings still sells borax in 1kg plastic containers made by a company called glitz green hope this helps your readers here in au.By the way I bought your book two months ago and I think it's absolutely FANTASTIC,I've now read it twice.Thankyou Rhonda for writting such an inspiring book,best wishes to you and Hanno. Gabriella

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  24. Hi Gabrielle. Thanks for your information about borax at Bunnings. I just wanted to say that borax is not a dangerous chemical. When I was growing up, borax was commonly used as an eye wash. I've still got two perfectly useful eyes. The problem with borax is that it builds up in soil if you use your grey water on the garden. The buildup turns into boron, which is deadly to plants in small amounts. There is no problem using borax in washing liquid and powder.

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  25. Multi-tasking - the arty of doing many things simultaeneously and usually pretty badly.

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  26. Hi Rhonda, I found a recipe for 4 ingredient soap on the forum, dated July 2007, is that the one you use now ?, at the workshop at Bell you said you recently changed to a 4 ingredient recipe with no rice bran oil.I have my molds and am keen to have a go :)

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  27. Thanks for the hint re the bi-carb Rhonda. Is it as good a stain remover as good old Borax? Queries at supermarkets produced the same information, Borax has been relisted and they can no longer buy it. I believe once stocks are sold it will no longer be available from the suppliers we've all depended upon. Mumble, mumble, mumble....unhappy camper here.

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  28. Wonderfully inspiring post - we are heading along this path at the moment, struggling with the debts, but not worrying too much about them! My 97 year old Grandma has lived by these guidelines all her life and is the most content, happy person I have ever met. Maybe this is the secret to longevity!

    Kath
    x

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  29. Rhonda, I think this is certainly one of your best posts so far. It is wonderfully how they are often a timely reminder for me just when I need it :) Because someone else mentioned washing I was wondering what your opinion is of Soap Nuts. I have only just heard of them and wondered if you had an opinion of them verses home-made washing powder?

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  30. In Hobart our local woolworths has ceased selling Borax but the Coles a few suburbs over from me still stocks it (as of last Friday).

    I was thinking of trying Bicarb though as I can buy it in bulk from our baking flour supplier (and I have a few friends who would share a 15kg bag with me).

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  31. You are so right !! That is what we try to do too ; )

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  32. Canadian Country GalJuly 10, 2012 11:27 pm

    I love your posts, it keeps me motivated. I have been living a simple life for many years now. I always thought I was doing something wrong as I don't seem to have as many material things as other people do, but, on the other hand I don't need the newest or the best of everything on the market either, and am very content with what I have.

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  33. I guess we don't have imported food from China in the USA. I wouldn't purchase it either! My daughter lived in China for a year and I know too much!

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  34. I quit using Borax in my laundry soap after reading that it is the #1 ingredient in ant killer.(this a just a personal preference) I added extra washing soda and one cup of baking soda (bicarb) in it's place and it works just as well as far as I can tell. I love reading your posts, Rhonda Jean, I am so eager to find a house (we are renting) so I can dig in the dirt and have some chickens, etc. Right now, I have to "sneak" out to the backyard and toss the potato peels and such. I just can't bring myself to throw them in the trash :)

    Janet

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    Replies
    1. And soap kills roaches and salt kills slugs, what is toxic to one species can be perfectly harmless to another used in differing applications.

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  35. Margaret, this is it: http://down---to---earth.blogspot.com.au/2011/07/simple-soap-four-ingredients.html
    Good luck. I hope it goes well for you.

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  36. I think what you've described here is right for a happy life. I was lucky to find a wife with the same outlook on life as me - and I think that to marry right is also another key to happiness! During our twenties we both worked hard, saved hard and managed to pay off some of our mortgage and save another deposit. Now we're coming into our thirties we've managed to buy our little "homestead" (which in England is an expensive thing to do) and although we have a large morgage it's the only debt we have. To live within your means is a key point, if we can't afford something then we don't buy it, and if we do buy something we try and buy the best there is so we only have to buy it once (This is very true with the amount of tools I have to have as a carpenter).
    Great blog post and glad to see you feel the same about buying Austrialian as I do about buying British!

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  37. I loved this post. Thank you for the extra motivation! My husband works full time in a good paying job but I'm at home with the kids, so the money is spent every month so easily - Around half his pay goes to paying off the house and he gets paid once a month so we are always counting down the days! I have been working in retail however as we all know it's tough out there and my boss had to cut back my hours. I am trying to save money and it is quite addictive when you get into it - shopping at aldi and the op shops are so fun when you start to realise how much you are saving. Now its time to sell some of my clothes on ebay to try to get a bit more cash!

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  38. Wonderful. I really enjoyed reading your blog today. Thank you

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  39. This is such a great line: "If you define your own path, and have realistic and satisfying goals, you're less likely to listen to people telling you you HAVE to have certain things."

    I am almost 30, but many friends and people my age are more concerned about material things and competing with one another instead of defining their own path. I have made the change towards the simple life by learning to say no to things I can't afford to do, turning off the t.v. and cutting away at my debt. It will take time but feels good! Great post and very inspiring!

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  40. My family is starting the journey to become debt free. I find that I am addicted to purchasing things. The effort of living simply and on a budget is showing me cracks on the wall of my subconscious.

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  41. I totally agree with buying Australian and avoiding the imports. It annoys me so much that most of our products come from china or Asia when we should be supporting our farmers and benefiting from our own healthy produce. We have recently started using Aussie Farmers direct to support our farmers and to ensure we get good quality produce (delivered free to our door!). Makes you wonder why the US doesn't have to have all the imported rubbish and we do?? Aren't they affected by globalisation the same way we are? Have you seen what we allow to happen to our live cattle when we send them to certain countries? Maybe we should be looking at how America avoids all these horrors.

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  42. Hi Rhonda,
    you've had plenty of positive comments on this post so I thought I'd add one that isn't so positive. I find myself a little resentful to read yet again how important debt reduction is to simple living. I recently returned from overseas and now live in a little rented house near the University of Queensland where my husband works. In just a few short months we've spent copious amounts of money on things like mulch, seeds, seed raising and potting mix, gardening tools, fencing for our veggie beds (to fend of the marauding brush turkeys), a chicken coop, more fencing, four lovely laying hens, an aerobin composter, a worm farm, a bird bath, cloth nappies, glass preserving jars, the list goes on and on. We're now paying back a modest amount of credit card debt and we don't enjoy paying interest. However, each of these things has made our weekly expenses shrink in some way, so the repayments become easier and easier. They've also provided many hours of entertainment and recreation for a young family who don't know anyone in a new city. We could certainly have been slower about it all, and saved carefully before each new purchase, but quite frankly, we didn't want to. I needed an outlet to help me cope with such a big change, to take some positive steps. The garden is my therapy. Besides, waiting and saving meant continuing to spend money on things like eggs, disposable nappies and fresh veggies. The credit card enabled us to at least get established and enjoy growing our own food while we wait to make new friends and feel more settled. Sometimes, a little debt can help with simple living. It certainly doesn't need to be painted as the demon of every simple lifestyle. You are certainly fortunate to be debt free!

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  43. Hello mavisandfrank. I'm a tough old bird and it's fine to comment however you feel the need. I totally agree with how you've set yourselves up and putting your purchases on credit card to save money on disposables, eggs and vegies makes sense to me. The debt I'm talking about is that of a mortgage - and that is something many people have, it's just a real relief to pay it off and get your life back. The other debt that is destructive is buying clothes, beauty products, CD and things that really aren't essential to life - to put them on credit instead of saving for them, costs more.

    I see your purchases more as investments in your chosen lifestyle. They're not frivolous purchases. I would have done it the same way, in fact when Hanno and I returned to Australia after living two years in Europe in 1980, we did the same thing. We all have our seasons. You are building your lives together and during that time, there will be increased expenditure. The good things is, your expenditure allows you to grow your own fresh vegies and eggs. That is a wise investment in my books. Good luck to you.

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  44. Just found your blog, and found this post really interesting. I will come back regularly. My husband and I have big changes next year as he leaves the RAF in the Uk after 22 years and us living in MOD housing since we've been married. We still don't know what job he will do or where we will end up yet. I don't work due to a bad back but do craft and try and save our money. Thanks again for an interesting blog. Jenny

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  45. This is such a lovely article, with due permission, I would like to share this on fb so that my friends can also read it, am going to tell my husband to read this daily :)

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  46. I live in the US and find that most of the frozen seafood and fresh garlic is imported from China. It is hard to find US shrimp even though I live on the coast.

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