10 September 2010

You mean, we don't have to live like this?

I am continuing on from yesterday's post. There were many comments about how we are sometimes treated when we live the way we do, some comments about government assistance and some questioning how to help. Let's discuss all of those things.

BTW, my Frugal Home workshops are simply a continuation of what we discuss here. We talk about budgeting, how to lower the cost of living by shopping for bargains, stockpiling and reading meters etc., and green cleaning. What I try to do is to tell people how I live, without preaching. If this works for me then it might work for others too. If it doesn't, that's fine, I'm not trying to form a cult. What I hope to do is to show others that there are alternatives and that we don't have to work till we drop, wear fashions we don't like and that getting off the consumer merry-go-round is enriching and has the potential to improve life. One of my most favourite people to attend one of my workshops was a young girl around 28 years of age with a couple of young children. I noticed her paying very close attention to everything I said, she asked various questions, and then close to the end of the workshop, she asked: "You mean we don't have to live like this?". And I say to it everyone here and to everyone who will listen, NO WE DON'T! (If she is still reading here, hi Natalie!)

So, why should we even bother to get this message out? It will help others and it will facilitate change. When more people understand why we live as we do, when more people join us, when it is seen as a valid lifestyle choice, we won't be having discussions like this anymore. It will make it easier for us when other GET it. The world will be better for it and we won't be made feel like second-class citizens. Mind you, I never do. When I first started telling my friends about my changes, they thought it was odd but they have always enjoyed the home baked bread and the comforts of my home. And now many of them see the point and have joined me. When I come across someone who wonders why, I never feel inferior or second class, I just feel different, and that makes me feel good. I know I am doing the right thing for me and my family. If others don't see that, I don't care.

And how do we get this message out. Start by telling your family and friends what you're doing, and by showing them, by example, that it works. Don't preach, just show them small things and tell them that these changes have made you happy and move on. If they ask more questions, answer them, but don't try to convince them. Just be a guide for them, if you're convincing, they'll pick it up. You could also offer to show someone how to do something if they show any interest. Share your green cleaning recipes. Make up some soap and dishcloths and give them as gifts. Offer to teach gardening, knitting or crochet at your local school. If you have a neighbourhood or community centre, offer to present some life skills worskshops - subjects like soap making, bread making, preserving/canning, sewing and mending will be very popular. Don't expect to be paid. Your reward will be that you're helping people live well and you'll help create a better perception of simple living in our communities.

If you're too shy to stand in front of a group, teach your own children and offer to teach their friends in your own kitchen. A couple of quick cooking classes on how to make scones or pancakes, with the kids eating what they cook, could help spark a flame that leads to bigger things.

Don't expect to win everyone over. And be okay with that before you start. You'll save yourself some grief.

Rosellas (a type of hibiscus) being dried for tea making.

Email your favourite magazines and TV stations and ask for articles and programs about cleaning, sewing, home maintenance, grocery shopping on a budget and green cleaning. Tell them you want to see more about successful homemakers - not the ones whose homes look like showpieces but those who are fulfilled by being at home.

Now back to the government help. I don't want governments to support this with money, and I think governments have too much say in what we do already. But I want them to bring compulsory life skills lessons back to schools, starting in primary school. There are a lot of schools in Australia now with vegetable gardens and chooks that primary students look after. They also compost rubbish from the school canteens. This is a safe and steady start to a program that could teach older students a wide range of skills like budgeting, cooking, cleaning, mending, child care, meal planning and car maintenance. The same program could incorporate subjects like understanding advertising, credit cards and mortgages.

I am sure the more we show teenagers how to look after themselves responsibly, the less we'll have to teach them about the dangers of drug taking, alcohol and cigarettes. We need to fill them up with positives so there is little room for negatives to find a way in.

I guess the point is to talk about this and to make it more normal. The more we all take on this role, the faster it will change. Don't expect everyone to be won over and don't be disheartened when someone dismisses you and your ideas. They don't know any better. If someone had told me at the beginning of the economic crisis that two years down the track, many people would see the worth of a simple life and be questioning whether to go back to their former lives, even when they could, I doubt I would have believed them. But that is happening. Economic circumstances have been extremely harsh but they've shown many people that rampant consumerism, high debt and having it all does not make us happy. Change is happening. ... slowly. I encourage you all to share what you know, be generous and open up to those around you and let's see what a difference that will make. Remember, we have to give the information AND inspire people to use it. The alternative is to do nothing, and for me, that's not an option.

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