31 December 2007

Starting your simple life

I wish I could step into your homes and help you work out a way to start your simple life. It seems to me that starting is one of the most difficult parts of the process. Oh, it does become difficult in places along the way too, but the starting of it, that's hard.

We all have different circumstances and different ways we want our lives to be. For some, the main goal might be to completely scale down spending, driving, watching TV and to turn an otherwise normal suburban home into a little farm. Others might want to get out of debt while keeping their life pretty much as it is right now. There will be some families struggling with two parents working to provide enough for a growing family. Their idea of a simple life might be that one of them stays home with the kids and concentrates on saving money while the other continues to work. You might be about to retire or become an empty nester and see now as the right time to simplify. There are many scenarios, many ways to live more simply and many ways to start.

All of them take time.

It's a wonderful thing to have plans to work to and goals to fulfil but listing 20 difficult things to achieve in a short space of time will just set you up for failure. So instead of doing that, when you first start moving towards a more simple way of living, decide on one thing and start with that. You'll find that one thing will naturally expand into other areas that will lead you along. For instance, you may decide to reduce your debt. The first thing you do is gather all the information you have about what you owe, what you earn and what you need to live on. That, I hope, will lead you to make a budget for yourself. Your budget will allot your money to whatever it is you need it go to, and as one of those things will be to continue eating, you might see the need to shop in a way that will save more money. That might lead you to stockpiling. So as well as reducing debt, budgeting and stockpiling you might then decide to make more of your own produce. You learn to bake a good loaf of bread, you teach yourself how to make sauces and jams. Six months later you look back and here you are doing four important activities - debt reduction, budgeting, stockpiling and cooking from scratch - that are generally part of most simple lives.

You've made your start. That one activity lead you by the hand to others and your simple life is beginning to open up before you.

Once you've been consciously working towards your new life for a while, you might like to start working on yourself as well. Simply living is more than the practical aspects of cooking, cleaning, decluttering and gardening, it's also an attitude. It will help you a lot if you get rid of the nagging need for more, better and new. This need has been created in all of us by advertising and seeing what new things our friends and neighbours have. If you can convince yourself that you really will live well and be happier living a simpler life, then also convince yourself that having more, better and new will highjack any attempt to make your life simpler. You have to redefine for yourself what success is for you. In the past it might have been an overseas holiday every year or good clothes, now it might having no debt or baking bread your friends and family say is the best they've ever eaten. You can replace energy sapping activities with life affirming ones. It just takes work and time.

Above all else, I want you to stop thinking that you can't live as you wish to live. If you want to be happy, content, loving, successful, debt-free and healthy, then a simple life will help you gain every one of those wishes. It will be hard work to re-program your wants and desires, you'll work harder in your home because you'll stop paying for the conveniences you're used to and you'll have to explain your unusual lifestyle to your family and friends, but as you peel back the layers of your life and see how wonderful living can be without all the crap we have been urged to buy and how life affirming and significant you can make your every day existence, you'll wonder why you were ever sucked into the mess of more, better and new in the first place.

I am happy to answer any questions you may have if you're stuck in your move towards simplicity. I don't have all the answers, not by a long shot, but I might be able to offer a something you may not have thought of yet. Just ask away in the comments box or send an email if you'd like a more private answer.
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