How simple is simple?

2 July 2010
I have been thinking a lot about my life recently, particularly about why I am happy to live as I do while to others it seems like hardship and sacrifice.  I thought that by deconstructing the elements that make up the bulk of what I do, I might get a handle on what IT is but separating the inside from the outside work, the baking from the cooking, the mending from the sewing, the knitting from the gardening, just gave me a handful of actions that didn't seem to make sense out of their normal context.

When you think about it, working at home and the pottering around that goes along with it, should be the one thing we all, women and men, want.  We work at our own pace, we have no one telling us what needs to be done next, it gives us a meaningful way to fill our daylight hours, it rewards us with the comfort of a safe and warm home and if we have children, we see them growing within the safe confines of a loving family.  But there have been times in my past that when my ambition could not be contained within the walls of my home, it needed a wider range.  Maybe that ambition of the past has manifested itself in this blog; maybe this is my wider range now.  I have no doubt that many of you reading this would be nurturing ambitions of success, either at paid employment or in growing a small business, at home or in a small store. And of course, there is always the money aspect.  How much is enough?  Am I living my life well?  Am I living to my full potential?

Another element of this life of mine is the satisfaction I get, and I'm sure many of us feel this, from knowing that each and every day I am living outside the mainstream. I do not go to the shops much, I have removed that need within me to spend and I see a lot of the products eagerly sought by my peers as irrelevant.  Instead of wanting the shiny and new, I prefer old things with history, I want to recycle, an old jar suits my life now more than any fine glass.

And what about the name of it - simple living. Is it really simple?.  I get so many emails about this with readers pointing out to me that my life is far from simple.  Really? All I know is that compared to the corporatisation of bread, the plastic bag containers, the preseravtives that allow it to sit on shelves, the artificial flavourings, the oil and transport chains that have it delivered to supermarkets so I can drive there to buy it every day, the bread I bake at home is simple.  I buy my flour in bulk bags made of paper, and the yeast in large aluminium bags that last me six months.  Is it simple?  I don't know but it is simpler than the alternative. Is making cotton tote bags to take shopping simple?  Maybe not, but it's simpler than plastic bags that kill marine life and clog up our oceans like the dumps we've created onland. Is knitting a jumper simple?  It's a simple process of repetition that after buying the wool feels simple, although it is compromised if the wool is from China.  But compared to the alternative of buying a ready made jumper it is simpler. A pure wool jumper would cost a lot more than I paid for my balls of wool, and a cheaper acrylic jumper, or even a wool blend, would come from a factory in China and would clock up more miles in the delivery than anything I'd care to own.   Simple? maybe not, but simpler.

"Simple" tends to describe the processes of this kind of life, not that there will be less work.  It's generally more work and I firmly believe that is a good thing.  Yes, sometimes I curse and carry on about things I don't want to do but most of the time this work is enriching and satisfying and it makes my life what it is.  I am sure Hanno feels the same way. How else are we to spend our time if not working?  I don't want to be off travelling indefinitely like many of my contemporaries.  It is the dream of many people my age in Australia to retire, buy a campervan and take off on a long trip around our great land.  I did that in my 20s, travelled right around the perimeter of Australia, taking over a year to do it.  I can't imagine living to my 60s without knowing what my own country is really like; and I can't imagine living away from my home now.  Home is where I want to be now. I want to spend my time living quietly, giving to my community when I feel I have something to offer, and working in my home so I can live in the fine style I have come to know.  It may not suit everyone, it may seem like a lot of hard work and sacrifice to some, but I love it, even if I don't understand that love at times or why it resonates so deeply within me.

Thank you for your visits and comments this week.  It's been another busy and interesting week with far too many things to spend time on and have fun with.  I was interviewed by Radio National again yesterday for a program on Future Tense.  It should be aired in August but I'll let you know in time for you to listen.  I'm about to go to the forum now to see what's happening there.  There is always something on the go, some new project or interesting posts to read.  If you want to join us, simply click here.  It's free to join.