When I first started living simply, I didn't know what I was doing. I had no plan and no recipe for success but I knew what I didn't want so in the first few weeks I just did the opposite of what I usually did. Eventually I found a few books that helped me. I read The Simple Living Guide by Janet Luhrs, The Encyclopaedia of Country Living by Carla Emery, Your Money or your Life by Joe Dominquez and Vicki Robin, and I found an American forum that I eventually became an admin on and I helped start an Australian forum, all of them helped me start my brand new life. I wish I could have found one book that contained everything I wanted to do, instead I stumbled along doing what I felt was right and developed an idea of what I thought a simple life could be. Eventually I connected up all the dots and I'm now living that life.
In the early days most people writing about living simply were writing about the philosophical and financial aspects of living. Most of them, except Carla Emery, left the practical bits out. But to me, the ordinary day-to-day living parts were the real crux of it. If I didn't simplify how I lived it wouldn't matter how much money I didn't spend or how I thought about my life. If I didn't simply my daily life and all the day -to-day things I constantly repeated, what was the point?
Another big turning point for me was when I found blogs. Here was a wonderful unseen world where people wrote about things that interested me. I could see into their lives, get to know their families, understand how they lived and be part of a big neighbourhood that supported each other. When I found blogs, it didn't matter much that I didn't know anyone in my real life that was doing what I was doing, I felt comfortable here. Still, I didn't find many people living my dream life. I found blogs talking about global warming, lightening your footprint, going green and peak oil but none that wrote about how each one of us could do our own bit in our own homes doing ordinary things like changing how we shop, mending clothes and making do with what we have. So I dived in and started writing about what I was doing. I had already started writing a book and much of that then went into the blog. Writing everyday made me accountable and gave me a clear record of what I was doing. Slowly, my life took me by the hand and one by one I added things I wanted to learn. I was on my way. This felt right!
So what did I do? Basically I stopped spending, made a budget and stuck to it, shopped in a different way, started stockpiling, cooked from scratch, decided that growing the majority of our food in the backyard was possible, started making bread everyday, looked for ways to clean without chemicals, started sewing, mending and knitting, made soap and laundry powder and a million other things that although they came slowly and had to be learnt or re-learnt, are now all a normal part of my life and what define my days. I no longer struggled to earn a living to pay for food and clothes to be made for me, I stopped buying what was fashionable and went for the practical. I was over looking like everyone else, I couldn't be bothered with who the latest celebrities were or who they were divorcing, I stopped focusing on myself and came home in the truest sense. I started to fluff my nest and make my home warm, comfortable and inviting. I changed my life on purpose and while I was doing that, reinvented myself as well. Hanno was slower to realise this new direction was right for us, but when he did, he dived right in with few doubts. Now we are happier than we've ever been - the way we live encourages and supports that.
But the path is different for all of us. If you have a look at your mainstream friends, even though they're all living in the same way - with debt, convenience foods and keeping up with the Joneses, they all have their differences. This way of living is the same. My way of living won't suit all of you, you have to define for yourself what you want your life to be, then step by step move towards that life. You will probably have to give up much of what supported you in the past but that is replaced by the security of knowing deep down that what you're doing is good for you and your family.
Don't be fooled into believing that a simple life - or whatever you call it, is easy. It usually involves doing more work because you give away convenience and you trade fast for slow. And don't live your life according to mine, think about what you want and custom make the life you want.
No matter what the final version of your life is, it will probably involve some of these changes:
- Thinking about what kind of life you want to live - this is a conscious thing, you don't have to stay the same as you are now
- Controlling your spending with the aim of being debt-free
- Learning how to look after yourself and your family, reskilling
- Shopping in a different way
- Eating healthy, local food
- Growing some of your own food
- Disposing of disposables
- Green cleaning
- Using your time wisely
- Cutting back and making do
- Looking after what you own
- Making home your centre and connecting with your family and community
- Changing your definition of success
- Becoming independent - setting yourself free
Tomorrow I'll write about the thing we all hate - budgeting. Today, right now, I want you to think about your life and how you want to live. Get yourself a notebook and write down all the ideas you come up with. It doesn't matter if it doesn't make much sense, edit it later, just let the ideas flow. From your list, come up with a paragraph that describes the life you want. Then make some dot points of all those things you need to change to make that life a reality. That will be your starting point - you've just written the beginnings of your simple life plan. It's going to be an incredible journey.