The second most asked question I get here is: "how do I start living like you do?". It comes a close second to: "why do you have all those pots on sticks in your garden?" Well friends, today I'll answer one of those questions, and it will have nothing to do with pots on sticks.
So what did I hope for? Well, after many years of working as a writer I wanted to work alone in my own home. I wanted to develop myself as a person and as a homemaker. I wanted to collect eggs and honey, I wanted to harvest vegetables every day, I wanted to preserve food. There was a part of me that wanted to create so I knew knitting, sewing and writing would be part of my future. I wanted to give up work and be free to build a little homestead in my backyard where the sun ripened fruit and vegetables, rain collected from our roof filled rain tanks and where chickens and bees reminded me everyday that I was part of a natural world, not a corporate one.
Surprisingly, that romantic dream actually became a reality but it was a bumpy road that lead me to where I am now. If you're at the beginning of this journey, never expect to arrive at a destination because there is none. But one of the important things you will notice, if you trust yourself enough, is that once started, this journey will take you quietly by the hand and lead you to from one step, to the next, and the next.
To illustrate that point, let me tell you what happened here. Once the decision was made to close my business and live on what Hanno was earning in our little local shop, I knew that my first job was to find ways to save. The money I was bringing in stopped, so we had to reduce costs. I looked for different ways to shop for groceries - because we spent money on that every week. I looked around for the best consistent prices (Aldi), did most of my shopping there and shopped at my local IGA for the rest. I found a bulk food store where I bought flour, nuts, spices, beans, chick peas etc. I found our local dairy, with the best milk in the state, sold cheaper diary products right at their door. So did our local cheese maker. They sold cheese and yoghurt at their door, with yoghurt at half price. It was just a matter of seeing what was in my local area. There was much more than I ever thought there was. When I had the shopping sorted, I started stockpiling - that saved me time and money. Our once a week shop became a monthly one, saving time, money and fuel.
We looked around the home to save more money. We got rid of our pay TV and the second car, stopped buying magazines and most books (I still get books from my Amazon associates account when I build up enough points), we stopped buying clothes and shoes on a regular basis. Still now, all these years later, we have enough clothes in our wardrobes to do us, and will have for a few years to come. Oh, we look daggy at home wearing out everything until it goes into the worm bin, but that's okay, we are far beyond judging each other by what we look like and the clothes we wear. It feels good to get the full value from what we own. Fashion is well and truly in the past for us. Now we're comfortable in our own skin.
In the past I had hated housework and did everything I could think of to avoid it. But while I was living this slower life, it occurred to me that if I wanted to live in a home that nurtured and comforted, I would be the one to make that home. So at this point my next step was to learn how to make my own cleaners, how to do my house work well, how to use my time wisely, and how to look after myself while I was looking after my family. Morning tea on the front verandah came into being then, and it still survives, strong as ever today. I did a lot of thinking during this period and changed how I thought about a few things. In the end, when I felt comfortable with the changes I had made in our home, I felt that I had remade myself as well. I had gone from being a corporate worker who wanted to change her life, to a homemaker, happy to work at a slower pace, happy to wear daggy clothes while I worked in the garden, happy to live on less, happy to stop shopping. Just happy!
When we got the vegetable garden producing and the hens laying, I realised I had to teach myself how to store food more effectively. I already knew how to preserve in a water bath, I knew how to make jams and relish, but I'd never done it in a purposeful and productive way before. All my previous efforts were a bit of a gimmick really, to see if I could do what my grandmother did. Well, it worked, I started putting up our excesses in jars and then we decided to buy a freezer. We started freezing vegetables in packs, just one or two bags as they were ready for picking, with larger sessions for end of season harvests. I tried drying, fermenting and sour doughs. All worked well and are still part of my food prep at various times of the year.
This post is getting way too long so let me just finish off by saying that at every stage of our journey, we've just done the next thing that needed doing. There is always a next thing in a simple life. You're always fine tuning, changing or looking for a solution to a problem, so trust yourself to go with the next thing and your life will probably flow along nicely like ours does.
One thing is for sure, trusting yourself will lead you to your own unique life, one that is not influenced by any other. Sure we all support each other, even over all these vast distances between our homes, but trusting yourself to take your own next step, will guarantee your life will develop in a way that suits you perfectly. Starting with the first thing you want to do in your simple life will lead you to a question or the need to learn (or relearn) a new skill. Take each step as it comes, there is no hurry, this life is slow and relaxed, and when you master that skill, there will be another that pops its head up. Trust this process, trust yourself and take it slow. When you look back in a year or two you'll see a trail of questions that you found answers to and a period of rebuilding skills that took you along to the next step and the next. Along the way a life will be built and as I said, never expect to arrive at a destination. The journey itself is our prize.