Flexible simplicity

22 July 2010
This is a continuation of yesterday post on living within a "simple life" framework.  The areas we're focusing on today are:
  • being green
  • housework
  • the work we do
This can be quite challenging for many of us.  It requires that we change our habits and often they are habits of a lifetime.  When you live a greener life you can get rid of as many chemicals in your home, which include chemicals you clean with, it may include giving up smoking, it will include disposing of disposables, for some it will mean growing their own fruit and vegetables, for all of us it means consciously moving towards reducing the amount of rubbish that goes to landfill, and if you have a garden, maybe starting composting or worm farming.

Most of the elements in this category will impact on all the others because greening your life will give you fresher local food, will change the way you eat and shop and it will save you money.  Don't fall into the trap of buying your way to a greener future.  Many of the "green" products at the shops are very expensive, but most of them can be made at home for a fraction of the cost.  Learn how to make your own cleaners, my recipes are here; reduce, reuse and recycle as much as you can; stop buying over packaged products and complain at the store about the packaging.  It is only when manufacturers realise that we won't buy their otherwise good product because it's not packaged in a thoughtful way that they'll change it.  Never forget the power of your shopping dollar.  If you can, make your own yoghurt, soft cheese, bread and any other product you use frequently.  Not only will it be tastier and cheaper, you'll stop bringing home all that packaging.  Ask the family to help you cut back on electricity usage by switching off lights, computers, iPod and phone chargers and appliances.  Try to adjust the temperature you will turn on your air conditioning or heating.  Even a couple of degrees makes a big difference over the course of a year.   Take shorter showers, use a broom instead of the hose for cleaning up outside.  And don't look at any of these points in isolation.  Add up the savings over a year.  That is when the difference will be noticed.

If you haven't already discovered the power of your own home, you are in for a delightful and beautiful shock.  Come closer and let me whisper this in your ear, because if everyone knows this, it will cause a revolution.  The work you do in your own home by creating a warm and secure place for yourself and your family to live in will enrich you and make you a different person. It saved me from a life of ridiculous spending and mindless acquisition, it slowed me down enough to allow me to see that there is beauty here, if I care to nurture and encourage it.  When I took the time to change my attitude towards my home, it not only gave me the energy to do housework and the strength to make the physical changes so our home better suited our family, it changed me in the process.  And it has been a beautiful change that I am grateful for every day.

Housework can slow you down and it helps if you concentrate on the job you're doing.  Don't think about what you'll be cooking for dinner, or what you'll be doing on the weekend.  Slowing down and being mindfull actually helps you get through the day.  And whether you're a first time mum or a retireee, take time out for yourself.  It may be a quick nap while the baby is asleep, a cup of tea and a book or a walk around the block.  It's important that you take the break.  Put YOU in the daily work equation, you need to nurture yourself and make sure that you are well enough to be the tower of strength that everyone expects you to be.

And remember, housework never ends, so don't try to finish it.  It will be there for you again tomorrow, so take your time, make changes that please you and try to develop a rhythm to your days.  Do the hard work in the morning and the easier things in the afternoon.  I see this work I do here in my home now as my job.  Some of it is outside and some inside, some of it difficult and some not so, some of it is repetitive and some new and exciting but all of it gives us the one place in this world that we are our true selves.  We feel secure here, we have made our home and our home has remade us.

Unless we're born into a wealthy family, all of us have to work at some stage to earn the money to buy what we need - be that a home, a car or our weekly groceries.  I hope you're not in a soul destroying job.  I hope that even if you don't like your job, you can find good bits in it, apart from the take home pay.  It's probably not the best time to be changing jobs with the economy the way it is, but when things improve, if you do really hate your job, look for something you like better.  Sometimes, even if you're doing the same type of work, the company will have less rigid policies, the workforce will be friendlier or the working environment will be healthier. You spend so much time at work, you should get as much of value out of it as you can.

Don't forget that your work can also help you live your chosen life.  You can take your lunch to work each day, take a bottle of water or a Thermos of good coffee, a book or knitting and make the most of your breaks.  And when you're doing the work you're being paid for, do your best, be respectful of your fellow workers and come home each day knowing that you used your skills in the most beneficial way and earned your money.  Trying to be your best and do your best will build self respect, and that is a powerful agent that will help you in other areas of your life.  The work you do outside your home is not a wedge you slice out of your life as if it doesn't matter.  It all matters, it's all part of your simple life and if it's not good, try to make it better.

As I wrote at the beginning of yesterday's post, this is a loose frame work of what many simple lives might look like.  The framework is flexible to accommodate all comers.  Shape your life to suit yourself, and don't expect it all to happen immediately.  Buying the organic or green products you can afford is fine, you don't have to be fully organic or green if you can't afford to be.  Try to make as much as you can at home, but if you can only make one thing, that's good too.  It all helps.  Doing what you can do at home is fabulous, you don't have to make every change possible right now - add things slowly, get used to them then add something else.  Don't get caught up with the name "simple".  It doesn't matter.  Just know what you want and go for it.  Don't be influenced by what others do.  Make your own way in your own time and you'll create a  simple life like no other, and when you do that, nothing else will be good enough for you.