New readers often send emails asking about how to start a simple life. This question is almost impossible to answer because we are all so different - different ages, countries, family situations, expectations, assets, desires etc., so I think the best way to help is to tell you how I started and go on from there.
Simple living surprised me. I didn't know there was such a thing but when I looked back I realised how far from "normal" I'd drifted. When I closed down my business to 'retire', I wanted to return to my home in the most complete and pure way. I went looking for ways to lessen the impact that me not working would have on my family. I wanted to save money by being a more economical shopper and I wanted to go back to cooking from scratch. Years before this transformation we had put in a water tank, a solar hot water system, had an organic vegetable garden and chickens, but now I wanted more. However, I didn't want just the material things that helped us live this way, I wanted to reinvent myself as well.
I hoped to leave behind the commercial world and immerse myself in being a housewife again. I knew my happiness was lurking here in my home somewhere, I just had to find it. I had an inkling that providing as much as we could with my own hands would make me happy and I thought that collecting eggs and picking fresh produce every day would calm me and help readjust my life. But I didn't realise then that I'd become a proud homemaker, and that I would define my success by the size and colour of tomatoes, the taste of a well made loaf, how happy simple things would make me or how well I slept at night. I didn't know I'd be proud of what I do here, and I didn't know, until I did it, how important the everyday work of a homemaker is.
So I guess the short answer to part of the question is to say that living a more simple life is all those things you want to include in your day to day activities, but it is also readjusting the way you think. Simplicity is a mindset as well as the everyday actions of the common home.
The first major thing I did was to shop in a different way and to build a stockpile. This was important for me because I believed if I could save money on my groceries, because I was buying them every week, that would be a considerable, ongoing saving. It took me about four or five months to build my stockpile, then I wanted to do some preserving (canning) to add my home grown produce to the stockpile cupboard. I had done some preserving in the past but had to relearn it. Then I thought it might be a good idea to get rid of the preservatives in our food, so one of the first things I did then was to learn to make a good loaf of bread. This lead me to buying flour and other dry goods in bulk, and I had to learn more about food storage.
Getting rid of the preservatives in our food made me think about getting rid of them in our home too, so I stopped buying household cleaners and started making soap, laundry powder and the other cleaners I needed. When we started making soap, we added luffas to the garden. Homemade olive oil soap and an organic luffa is a gift you can give to woman, man or child alike and they will appreciate it. Christmases and birthdays came and went and I had to think a lot about gift giving. I started knitting and sewing again, this helped me with our own clothes too, as well as those soft furnishings I wanted in our home. I found that when I did anything new, it always opened up other areas I needed to work on and think about.
I started to slow down, to concentrate on what I was doing and I tried to do everything to the best of my ability. Slowing down was enough to let me see a number of things that I didn't notice when I skipped over my housework and tried to do it as fast as possible. I realised I liked doing a lot of the tasks when they were carried out in a mindful manner, and slowly, over time, I reorganised myself and my home to reflect this new way of being. That change showed me that being at home had the potential to nourish my soul and if I could make my home a place of comfort for everyone who lived here, and for those who visited, that would be a significant and valuable gift. It's not easy, in fact there is more work to be done, but the next day always brings it's own challenges and joys and, by taking one small step at a time, I got to where I am now. This journey is never over. Simple living is not a destination or a reward that you move toward, the journey itself is the prize.
But I must remind you that living simply isn't just a series of tasks and actions that are completed over the course of the day. I believe you need to slow down, be mindful, develop generosity, be kind, give more, expect less and live your life as an example to those around that happiness and fulfilment can be found almost anywhere, in a city skyscraper, a suburban house, a farm or anywhere in between. Don't fall into the trap of thinking you need to be living in a serene rural location to live this way. It can be done anywhere.
One word of caution, you do need to be organised to live simply. Get yourself an old journal or binder and write down your new recipes, your meters readings, rainfall totals, your wish list for your garden, seed catalogues, your stockpile list - both what you have on hand and what you need to buy, any patterns you may find. Add to it the simple cleaners I've written about here, and you will have made your first step towards simplicity.
And finally, there is no one size fits all prescription for simple living. Each person does their own version of it. So be guided by me and all the other blogs you read but make the way you do it reflect you. This is about authenticity, not conformity. Do it your way and do one small thing today and another new thing tomorrow. Don't let anyone tell you you're not doing the right things. And if you find new pleasures in how you carry out your work, it is okay to feel pride in that. Open up yourself to new experiences and push your envelope. Be the person you always wanted to be, show your children, by example, how wonderful life is. These things, as well as making your home a place of warmth and security, are part of your simple life.