Coralie Allmin, a faithful Down to Earth reader, died after a short illness on 6 November, 2012.
Rest in peace, Coralie.
Sara asked a question last week in her comment on the truth in advertising post. My answer was much too long for the comments, so here it is now. Sara wrote:
I began questioning the "norm" a few years ago and I haven't looked back. I make as much as I can from scratch now. While I haven't tried your laundry liquid yet I buy a locally made environmentally friendly powder. It costs about the same as the commercial stuff but no nasty ingredients. I will try to make my own soon.
Based on my own experience with those older than me (my parents, their friends, relatives) I think you are amazing for choosing to make these changes. I cannot get through to my parents no matter how I approach it. My Mum thinks I'm mad that I don't douse my house in every product on the market and she can't understand why I'd pay an extra $1 per kg for apples from our local organic supplier rather than just buy ones from Coles.
However, as much as this irritates me, I also understand it. There are things I would love to try but I'm hesitant on taking the next steps. I would love to learn how to sew past a basic level, knit and crochet but sometimes I feel like I'm almost too old now to learn to do these so I can get to a point where I'm making clothes, knitting booties and jumpers etc. I anticipate it will take me years and years to get past a basic level. As it is, I just can't see I will be able to even start to learn within the next two years simply because of the ages of my two children. I don't have the energy in the evenings and being home full time with them the focus I need just isn't there. That may sound like an excuse however I know within myself it is genuine, I have gone to huge effort the past year to change the way we live and we have made huge progress.
Did you find making these changes daunting? Did you ever feel that it wasn't "worth your while" to learn to make your own clothes and it would just be easier to op-shop? I'm not sure if I'm explaining myself well...hopefully you understand what I mean!
Hello Sara. I understand it too. Most people do what is familiar and comfortable. My guess is that the older people you know have not yet found a good reason to change. I know, from personal experience, that no amount of talking will convince anyone to change along with you. It's like teaching children - you can tell them to be respectful or courageous or gentle until the cows come home but they are much more likely to do it if they see you do it. Role models are such a powerful force. If you want your parents to change, stop telling them what to do and just get on with your simple life. If they see the difference it makes in your life, and that you are happy, they're much more likely to try a few small changes themselves.
Yes, I found some changes daunting, I still do; I will keep changing. But I also realised that while some changes simply slip into our lives easily, others require their own time. I'm much more patient and I know now that this life is a series of never ending small steps. The changes I've completed so far have taken ten years. I haven't regretted learning anything and although I didn't use all my new skills straight away, there always came a time when I needed what I had learned. Many things must wait while you raise your children - that is your main focus for now, and should be. As they grow, the amount of time you have and your energy level will increase. So don't worry about not doing everything you want to do, that time will come. It's not necessary to do it all at once.
So instead of pushing yourself to grow vegetables in the backyard, find a good local market to buy your fresh fruit and vegies. Use simple living tactics for the things you're doing in your daily life instead of opting for convenience - use a menu plan, stockpile, stick to your budget, pay off debt and be a good role model. The time will come later on for soap making, compost and vegetable gardens.
I would encourage you to learn to knit at this time. Unlike sewing, knitting is a small thing - you don't need a large space to cut out fabric, you don't need a sewing machine. Knitting is just you, two needles and some yarn. Also, if you make a mistake while knitting, you can just unravel it and start that row again. It's portable, so you can take it with you when you take the children out, or you can do a few rows while you sit with them as they play. Start with dishcloths/facecloths. They are just a knitted square but they're an excellent way of replacing Chux and sponges, and all those squares will help you practise your knitting skills. You can buy knitting needles and, sometimes, yarn or old woollen jumpers to unravel at the op shop. For dishcloths you'll need 100 percent pure cotton and you can get that from Bendigo Mills (a 200 gram ball is four normal sized balls) and sometimes on special at Spotlight. It doesn't really matter what size needles you use on dishcloths. There are excellent instructions on how to start knitting on Youtube.
The next step I would like to see you make is to make your own washing powder. Grate up some yellow laundry soap, add borax and washing powder, mix it together and that's it. It will take you less than five minutes to make enough for a couple of months. Laundry liquid will take about 15 minutes. There are more detailed instructions on the blog. It will save you some money and with that money, maybe you can buy organic yarn when you learn to knit. : - )
There is not a set in cement way of living simply. We all do it in the way it suits us and that will change all the time, depending on your season of life and the circumstances you find yourself in. A good example of this was when Hanno had his recent accident. We use my homemade soap in the shower and to wash our hands. When Hanno was able to use only one hand, it was easier for him to use liquid hand wash and body wash in the shower. I had absolutely no problem using those products because it made it easier for him. Now things are almost back to normal, as soon as the containers are empty, we'll go back to soap. I feel no guilt for making that change and if I had to do it again, I would. If it were going to be a permanent thing, I'd make liquid soap.
Forget the idea you have of the perfect way to live and just do the best you can do each day. Some days that will be 10 out of 10, some days it will be 1 out of 10. As long as the 1 out of 10 is the best you can manage on that day, then you're still living true to your values. I will not walk in and ask you to account, there are no simple living police to tell you you're not doing it right. Do the best you can every day and let that be enough.