5 February 2008

My heart's desire

I've been thinking a lot lately about what it took to kick start my simple life. I used to think it was to stop spending, but I realise now that was the consequence of something else I did. The big change was to focus on what I did at home and to make my home the most important place for me.

We grow up with advertising, it's ubiquitous, Wherever you look, there will be an advertisement telling you what to buy, where to get it and how wonderful you'll feel when you buy that product. When we wake in the morning and turn on the TV news, advertising is there to greet you. Read the paper - more ads. Go to work or to the park and you'll probably pass billboards and advertising signs along the way. You come home to relax and if you turn on the TV, every few minutes, ads will be telling you what you can't do without and how to get it. You've just spent another day in the modern world - bombarded by advertising.

Advertising make us look outside our homes to find what satisfies us. It teaches us that when we see what we like, we should have it. It never teaches prudence or patience; quite the contrary, it encourages us to go into debt to buy whatever our hearts desire.

My heart's desire is to live well, to be happy and safe and to feel satisfied by what I do each day. Since I started living as I do, I have achieved all those desires. I have never seen any of them advertised on TV or even in the slickest magazine. It's obvious you can't buy the experience of living well, the sense of being happy and safe or the inclination towards satisfaction. These, my friends are all handmade treasures, you have to make them all yourself. And you do it at home.

I believe that focusing on what you're doing at home and knowing that everything you do is a gift to yourself or your family helps build a better life. Go back to the old ways - it's healthier, cheaper and it will give you back your independence. Learning how to look after your family, yourself and your home without buying convenience foods, chemical cleaners and new appliances will liberate you. The money you earn each week will stay in your own bank account, or will allow you to pay off your debts, instead of adding to the billions we all give over to supermarkets and multi-national companies.

Advertising forces you to look outwards all the time. It constantly tells you that your happiness is waiting for you at a store. I would like to encourage you to focus on your home. Start small. You could start by making your own laundry powder (there is a recipe here) or bread (recipe in the sidebar), maybe you could start stockpiling so you don't have to shop as frequently as you do now. Start cooking from scratch or cleaning with non-chemical cleaners. It could be anything. Your start might be to make your bed each morning so that when you go to bed each night you can look forward to a lovely warm and cosy bed. Maybe you could start by making up a roster of chores for the children so that everyone helps at home and you start teaching them how to look after themselves - that is the most wonderful gift. You might start walking to work or making sure you take 20 minutes out of an otherwise busy day to make a cup of tea and sit quietly to relax for a while. You might turn off the TV or the lights more often, or start monitoring your own usage of electricity or water. Maybe you mend a ripped shirt instead of throwing it away, or cut up old towels for rags. There are so many small ways to start and once started, it's easy to add another small thing, then another.

You will find that as you do this, your focus will be on your home. Do your tasks slowly and mindfully and that will help you slow your mind too. See the work you do at home with new respect. It's not an annoyance, it will make your home, and your experience of living there, better - you're building a new way of life. As you work towards what you want for yourself and slowly, piece by piece, add to the fabric of your life, you will see that each level makes you stronger and less reliant on what you'll find outside. And once you find the true joy of being independent and capable of providing your own needs, nothing else will be good enough for you.
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