I received an email a couple of weeks ago from a couple who have been following my blog for over a year. They have two children, both are working outside the home but have reduced their work hours to spend more time together, they're growing a garden this year for the first time and are doing a lot of the things I do here at my home. But they don't feel they're really living a simple life and wonder when they'll feel it as well as live it.
How long is a piece of string?
There is no answer to that question. I felt I was living more simply the week after I started committing myself to conserving rather than consuming. I think it's a change in mindset that happens when you really feel compelled to live a certain way and you know deep down in your bones that you're doing the right thing and you'll never go back. There is also the element of working out what will work for you in your own life. Copying what I do isn't going to work for everyone - each person will have their own path. This is handmade living at its finest, there is no one size fits all.
I don't think you need to identify a reason for living simply. I used to, but I've changed my mind. My reason for changing was that my way of life was making me sad. The things that used to comfort me made me sadder and I realised that not only was endless spending bad for me, it was pointless and environmentally unsound. I had turned "green" back in the 60s and 70s so it didn't take much of a push to get me back on that familiar path again but when I started thinking about changing, I knew what my reason was and I thought everyone else would have a specific reason too. Things like peak oil, climate change and the global economy peppered my earlier posts and then I realised that while it's fine to be motivated towards a simpler life by those things, it's also intelligent and sensible to change just because the lifestyle is so enriching. There doesn't need to be a reason.
Another Eureka moment.
So to that couple, I say that you should sit and talk about what you're doing. Are you happier now? Examine what difference your changes have made to your lives. You say you've reduced your spending, you're paying off your debts, you're cooking from scratch most of the time, you're recycling, repairing and producing some of your own food in the backyard. It seems to me that you're doing well and if you're not yet on the road to a simpler life, you're certainly on the road away from mainstream living. Do you have any friends who have simplified? Sometimes we need to see our life reflected somewhere else to connect the dots on what we're doing. Can you join a permaculture or organic gardening group? Can you connect with others at your local markets or at your children's school? Turn off the TV and have no-electricity evenings with the whole family. Join the forum, there are many people from all over the globe there, all with a similar ambition for a simpler life. You might find someone close to your location, or you may find your answers there somewhere on the hundreds of pages.
In the meantime, keep doing what you're doing, be mindful when you work, continue to read books and blogs that inspire you, and believe in yourselves. You've already taken the first important steps, building on that beginning in the practical ways of day-to-day living and working towards your goals, will help form the belief you're seeking. Above all else, don't give up.
I have no doubt there will be readers here who will have some ideas for you, so read the comments attached to this post, there may be hidden treasure waiting.