I had two emails recently from women who are new to all this and they're hesitating to dive in because one is not a good cook and the other lives in an apartment and doesn't have a backyard. Let me say this loud and clear (again). The way Hanno and I live suits us at our age, twenty years ago, even ten years ago, I would have structured my simple life in a different way. And because there are no rules, no ONE way of doing it, and because one of your aims should be to live a happy contended life, YOU alone decide what you'll include in your life. I don't expect any of you to live exactly as we do.
I want my life to provide me with:
- a reason to get up every morning;
- interesting and productive work;
- contentment that occasionally explodes into happiness;
- a framework in which to live simply;
- the opportunity and continued ability to learn skills that facilitate our lifestyle;
- a strong and generous family circle that supports every member of our family - when we experience the good times and especially when it's tougher;
- opportunities to express generosity, kindness and empathy;
- the strength to be a role model to the younger women in my family;
- and the enthusiasm and perseverance to take charge of my home and make it a place of comfort, welcome and warmth.
I hope that everyone wishing to change how they live would make a list similar to mine so that values and goals are clearly evident. You'll get yourself all tangled if you decide on change and just expect it to happen. It won't. Write down what you want to happen, then put plans in place to make it happen. Nowhere on that list does it say anything about cooking or backyards, but those things are implied in several of the points, so you'll need to be perfectly clear in your own mind what you hope to achieve.
As soon as I closed my business and gave up paid work, I wanted not only to be fulfilled by my work at home, I wanted to enjoy it too. I wanted to work hard, which was lucky because I work harder and more consistently now than I ever have, and I wanted to produce as much as I could at home and use my intelligence to learn the skills I needed to do that. But even though I wanted to work hard, I didn't want to feel deprived and I wanted abundance, enrichment, happiness, satisfaction, pleasure and fulfilment to be part of every day. I got that, and more. If my goals had been different, for instance, if I had wanted to open a little Etsy shop to sell my sewing and knitting, I wouldn't have been bothered with the garden because I wouldn't have had time for it. I would have spent time looking for a good fresh food market instead of growing food and keeping chooks. If I was younger and had children I would have spent my days homeschooling them and teaching them the practical tasks of a home and garden. If I worked for a living and lived in a city apartment, I would have taught myself all I could about container gardening, found a fresh food market, paid off debt, started green cleaning, got rid of all the disposables I used to buy, taught myself a craft and been as good at my job as I could be.
The choices are yours to make, not mine. So take some time to think about what you want, write it all down, then do it with enthusiasm and passion. Do one thing at a time. You'll find that when you do one thing, it naturally unfolds into something else and that is exactly how I moved into this new life. For example, when I decided to cook only from scratch, I had to learn a few new recipes so I had enough meals in my repertoire to satisfy the family. That lead me to stockpiling - which I had to learn about, that lead me back to preserving and learning all about food storage. You'll find, just as I did, that one thing leads to the next and what first appeared to be a simple thing contains many aspects that you'll need to learn.
Above all else you have to work out for yourself what is enough. What is your level of enough? That is where the real simplifying comes into play and unless you can change your mindset to want less, to not want to be like everyone else, and to be satisfied with enough, you'll find the going very tough and you'll probably go back to your old ways. I encourage you to read all you can, visit here and other blogs, read books and take time to think about how you can fit into this life. But in the long run, it is you who decides what your life will look like, and you who will decide what you're capable of doing each day. Don't let anyone tell you that you're not doing it right. There is no one way of living simply, there are thousands.
The way Hanno and I live is enriching and beautiful, even though it might just look like a lot of hard work to others. We have enough and we're satisfied and thankful for it. I hope you will say the same of your lives in the near future.