DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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4 August 2014

Slowing down and simplifying life

A recent poll in The Guardian gave a good indication of widespread hope, all around the world, of a simpler life. It also showed that most of us are happy but we want to slow down. But it's a bit of a Catch-22 this slowing down thing. You're on a treadmill, planning for your future, trying to do the hard yards to get debt repaid, raising children, being a good parent, building a happy and capable family, and there doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day to slow down and take stock. Although it seems counter-intuative, slowing down and living simply do require planning. Without a plan, often it doesn't happen.


Let's take slowing down first because I think most of us here have started our simple living journey but many of us don't take enough time out to sit back, take a deep breath and just relax. One of the ways to do that is to consciously take time out of your normal routine to include family activities or to spend time with friends. I think the obvious one is to start a tradition of Saturday or Sunday family lunch. It's something most people think is a good idea but it doesn't happen. Someone in the family has to be the person who instigates the lunch - someone has to think it's more important that what usually takes place. Maybe that is you. If you don't have family close by, invite your friends and start your lunch that way. The important thing is to have a regular time during the week when you spend time doing something that will relax you, something a bit different to your daily routine.


Of course, this can happen in a number of ways. When I invite family or friends over, I like to plan and supply all the food, much of it from our garden. But you should do what suits you best, remember, the point of this is to relax. So you might do all the cooking, you might ask people to bring a plate, you might take it in turns to present the lunch in different homes. Do what feels right. The only imperative is that is should be a regular gathering, something that becomes an agreeable and delightful habit for all of you. Family bonds are often strengthened with the regular sharing of food.


If you're on you own and don't have family living near by, or a group of friends you feel you want to invite to your home, make a ritual for yourself that helps you relax and slow down. It may be a daily walk, a weekly visit to a park or gallery with a cup of good coffee afterwards. It might be a visit to the library to spend a couple of hours reading with people around you. If you have a botanical garden near, a walk around there once a month to notice the change in seasons would be a wonderful way to slow down.


When you're having your lunch or walking or reading, don't allow yourself to think about anything except what you're doing and where you are. Be there in that moment to fully experience everything the time you're spending there will give you. Allow it to relax your mind and open your heart. Use it to build tradition and memories and to have a break from your normal routines, whatever they may be. When you first start doing this you may think that you'll get behind on your work but you'll probably find, like I did, that having that time out allows you to appreciate why you're working and you'll return to your work with more energy. Having no time to relax and unwind sometimes builds resentment. Planning it into your daily or weekly activities is a wise move and your work will soon adjust to accommodate it.


And to start simplifying your life?  That will be different for all of us but I think the best way to start is to think about what you're struggling with at the moment. If that is money or paying off debt, then start there and create a budget. Work out clever ways to change how you shop for groceries. These are not big savings but they are consistent and will add up. If you don't have a problem with money but want to start eating healthier food, think about how you can do that. It may mean planting a vegetable garden, finding a good fresh food market, not eating meat, learning how to cook gluten-free, building up a good repertoire of home cooked meals or making things at home that you now buy at the shops - bread, yoghurt, preserves and cleaners, to name just a few.


Yes, all these are just small steps, but that is what simple life is. It's a series of small and continuing steps towards the life you want to live. When you start with that one small step, new opportunities open up, new possibilities present themselves and if you follow your nose, you'll start building a simpler life. Remember though, you have to be flexible and change your mindset. Instead of working to gain everything you want, be thankful and satisfied with what you have. 

What are your strategies for maintaining a peaceful and slower life? How did you start living your simple life?

I've just started a thread over at the forum to continue this discussion, you can also ask questions there.

22 comments:

  1. I used to live in the city with a very busy job. A few years ago I moved with my husband to the country.
    Since then I try to live a more simple life. I make my own laundry soap, eat my home grown food as much as possible, not easy with a sea garden, but I give it a try.
    The biggest change is the early morning walk with the dog. I used to run around thinking what ever I had to do that coming day and when I arrived home I felt tired.
    Now I take my time, try to enjoy every minute. I am aware of the beauty of nature, I hear the birds singing. I listen to the noise of the sea. When I come home I feel full of energy to start the day.

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  2. When we grew up and had left home Mum invited everyone around Sunday evening for roast for a family catch up. As young single people who are out and about Sunday night was one that usually didn't have any social engagements on so it was roast dinner at Mum's place and it's been going for over 30 years and still strong. Prior to that when we were kids we used to sit down for a roast at Sunday lunch time. Regards Kathy A, brisbane

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  3. I'm taking this advise on board this time. I'm a busy mum to 3 and I work at paid employment a couple of days a week, life really is a big rush from one thing to another, but July saw me crash in a big way, I had a big dose of the flu, which manifested into a chest infection requiring 2 courses of antibiotics, I have never felt so sick in my whole life. Four weeks I've had it, and i'm still not back to my old self, it's given me a lot of time to reflect and assess a lot of things. I will be taking care of "self" a lot more from here on in. Less rushing, more me time sprinkled in, and I think prioritising what's really important and necessary will go a long way.

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  4. For those of us who have already started these are great tips for reassessing where we are and where we want to go. I love walking in the Royal Botanic Gardens- I can lose myself in there for hours! Same with reading and wandering through art galleries. Years ago, when I was very overwhelmed, I started a Happiness List. This was a list of simple things that made me happy e.g. walks along the beach, bubble bath, good coffee at a favourite cafe, cup of tea in the sun in the backyard etc. I would then actively sit down and plan when I would do these things each week, aiming for one a day. I would enter them in my calendar and made sure I completed these important activities like any other appointment or task. Sometimes you really do have to make your happiness a priority!

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  5. I started by reading your blog :) I've got all the ingredients to make soap, just waiting on a child free, pet free moment. I've planted a veggie patch. I've knitted 2 washes :) We are currently preparing for chooks and learning how to care for them by reading blogs, watching youtube videos, getting books from the library. I've ordered some containers so I can store some staples in bulk, recieving my first bulk order this week. All in a noisy, backed onto a main road suburban small block. I've enjoyed the process, creating a peaceful place. I've had a great deal of stress, painful things to go through. I have faith in God and I've immersed myself in creating a simple life. I'm grateful and happy. This blog, your thoughts and life examples have been part of my pathway to peace. Thank you!

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  6. I started down this road three or four years ago when I looked around my house and saw that I was drowning in stuff and wasn't happy at all. I started looking for alternatives and help. Over time, I came back into alignment with my core values of which focus around old-fashioned ways of living -- gardening, cooking from scratch, a place for everything and everything in its place, and generally, not relying on the system to make me happy, but to find it within.

    Your posts always resonate with me. Thank you for sharing.
    Ann

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  7. Things really slowed down here when the children grew up and left home. We make things like swinging on the porch swing a priority. It is a way to stop and have a conversation and an espresso or a glass of wine. We put up some small Christmas lights over the deck up in the trees so it is enchanting at night. We have lately been trying to spend an evening at a local park with a picnic and a board game. This has been very enjoyable as we can actually talk. I do not find restaurants with just the two of us a good way for us to connect since we are both people watchers.

    They are not available every weekend for a meal, but we make an effort to meet either our daughters by driving 30 miles to their town or by meeting friends for breakfast on Saturday mornings. Our sons live 150, 300 and 1000 miles away. We go dutch treat except for taking our family out so it is a small expense. We like to seek out small family owned places because they need to make a living, too. We have lately found a place run by a family who used to be Amish and they have the best home cooked food at great prices. This Saturday tradition has become a way to slow down and connect and everyone gets a break because no one cooks.

    I am mostly at home all week and my husband is the wage earner. I find it freeing to make a list for the entire week on Sunday or Monday so that my chores and errands are planned. I just complete my list everyday and I get my work done without having to think about what needs to be done.

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    1. What a wonderful life you and your husband have.

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    2. Thank you so much for your kind comment!

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  8. Thanks Rhonda, I wonder if this message of play amongst the work and truely being in the moment will ever sink in for me. I still feel as though I need to get all my work done before I can relax, and still the days aren't long enough for that. I am becoming resentful and it's making me sad and unpleasant to be around. I am making a commitment to myself to walk the dog everyday, meditate and take one photo everyday. It's so easy to put my things off because that doesn't require any negotiation with others. It's really just my thinking that needs to change. Thanks for bringing it back to my attention AGAIN.
    cheers Kate

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  9. There used to be a time when everyone slowed down on a sunday and it was either a lunch at mums or with the family, gardening or church. So many traditions have now been destroyed by our work schedules that dont allow for a slow sunday ( or saturday) Now it seems we are grappling for ideas to make ourselves slow down, and revisiting some of the old ideas is a good idea on how to achieve some relax time. good post Rhonda

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  10. I like this kind of posts a lot, Rhonda, but what makes me really happy about them, are the tons of inspirational comments following it. It's a double win and a good motivation!

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  11. Hi Rhonda, I'm on A Current Affair tonight doing a story on this topic. I hope you can watch it.

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    Replies
    1. I don't usually watch, Wendy, but I'm always pleased to know people are sharing the message. I'll see if I can view it online later today. I hope it went well. :- )

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  12. Exactly, songs of home...it's the comments that give a wider flavour to Rhonda's well written and resonating posts.
    Alexa from Sydney, Australia on the start of the Pension journey....new dimensions and new happenings :)

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  13. I'm the world's worst "slower-downer" and feel guilty if not doing anything. However, recently I have been taking my morning tea into the paddock to drink after feeding the animals. I just sit there and look at the trees and birds and find this soothing. Regarding eating together, I do so agree. Our daughters and their families join us for a meal every Sunday, which can be a rush for them, with their busy lives, but is never regretted as they are back in the family home which they wish to share with their children too (and often sundry friends and waifs and strays) I so admire your attitude and strive to slow down a little as the big 70 looms.
    Gill

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  14. my biggest struggle right now is the debt. very tiny tiny bit left over at month's end for savings. i keep waiting for a year and a half to pass to pay off one so i can snowball it into another! and then rinse/repeat! i try to keep the occasional "treat" (like coffee or a used book) small, i do think those are important from time to time to keep a sense of sanity in an extremely tight budget. sometimes i wish i could have a second job (sadly, teachers in the US work so very hard for way too little pay) but there just isn't time. i make some of my own cleaners in addition to using baking soda and vinegar. wash in cold water at night, and only once a week since there are just two of us. eat a few meatless meals/week. hoping to grow more than a tomato plant next spring on our small back patio. the second hardest part is patience ... another byproduct of our modern world. small steps now though since finding your blog in 2007. i too need to make relaxing a priority, just as important a part of the "list" as the chores on the list. thanks for keeping me going rhonda! karen in virginia

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  15. Rhonda, your post resonates with what I value. Living a simple life - for some of us - comes with a certain age;-)...

    Round a bout a year ago you wrote a post on Decluttering. I wrote a post on living a simple life - I quoted - " we do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking." I believe it to be true for living a simple life.
    Your questions deserve another round of thinking and writing from my side...
    Thank you for the reminder...

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  16. I think I have decided that my life is not going to slow down until the kids are grown. Even though they are teenagers I still cook, clean, and plan for everyone in our home. Including my 89 year old granny! :)
    SO,for now I am working (like crazy) at everything and paying off debt. In about 4 more years the kiddos will be on their own. {{sigh}} mission accomplished?!

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  17. I, too, have embraced the simple life. We began when we retired. Too many children and too much responsibilities before then. I have spent these years learning how to live simply. No one I know ever complains about the life they embraced. Everyone is content and healthy. Less stress equates to better health - I'm thinking.

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  18. I am not sure exactly how it started for me but I know that a big factor was a conscious decision not to live in a big town or city. I grew up in one and then in my early twenties work took me to the middle of nowhere and whilst I didn't want to live in that particular place it felt like 'home'. It took me a few years to find the right place but it was definitely finding that first that enabled me to slot everything else in place, one step at a time :). Lovely post Rhonda.

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  19. Thank you Rhonda, once again you have inspired and motivated me with your words and reaffirmed why I love living a slow, meaningful and simple life. As a busy working Mum with two daughters we struggle to have sit down meals every night of the week due to childrens sport committments etc. Probably 2 or 3 nights a week we eat separately which we can't change due to these committments. However we make up for it with Sunday morning Pancake breakfasts. We all mix the pancakes from scratch, one child mixing the other cooking the pancakes under my watch, setting the table with cream, strawberries, maple syrup etc. We use this time every sunday to connect, eat a relaxed breakfast together before planning a 'family day'. We all look forward to this every week. And I hope by this simple time together my children will keep a similar tradition with their families when the time comes :)

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