One small step

4 July 2011
Last week I received an email from a women who said she wanted to live a more simple life but she couldn't leave her job in the city until she paid off her mortgage; when she does that, she's moving to the countryside and will then get serious about simplifying. I have to question that course of action because it doesn't matter where you live, nor how much money you have, almost everyone can start simplifying right now, if they choose to. There is always something you can do, even if you're not doing everything you want to. Doing one or two things will start to make a difference in your life. This is not a competition but our days are numbered; you don't want to waste a day. 
Making sour cream and picking the first of the tomatoes in the backyard.
If you start with small modifications and changes, the big things will follow when you're ready for them. So you can't grow a garden where you are? Look around for a growers or farmers market and buy fresh fruit and vegetables  there.  You don't have the energy or the time to keep house or declutter your home? Start small by making your bed every morning and removing or recycling one thing per week. That could be as simple as giving a pair of your shoes or a dress you no longer wear to a friend or a local charity. You'd like to learn how to make bread but don't have the time? Learn how to make scones instead. It's simpler than working with yeast and it will get you baking and learning about how to mix flour with liquids and how your oven works. You can stop buying disposables and replace them with homemade dishloths, rags, sanitary products, modern cloth nappies and cotton shopping bags. You can't cook from scratch and don't have the time for it? Just stop buying takeaway food for now - cook your own food in your own home and see how much you save. You can start a budget, that will help you no matter what stage of life you're at. You can get rid of the harmful cleaning chemicals you use and start cleaning with homemade laundry liquid or powder, vinegar, bicarb, soap and elbow grease. You'll be surprised at how effective and cheap simple cleaning can be. And slow down, take time out for yourself to think and plan. That should be the easiest one but for so many of us, it's the toughest.

This simple life isn't a giant leap into the unknown for any of us. It's a series of simple steps that can be started in any way - you choose what you start with and how to keep going. What I write about here about my life with Hanno, well, it's just the way we've chosen to live. I know it's not for everyone and if we weren't the age we are now we'd be living simply, but in a different way. It's not an all or nothing way of life, in many respects, that's one of the attractions, because you can start with one small step and add others when you're ready. You'll find that some things you do now won't suit another stage. I have no doubt that Hanno and I will make changes in the coming years; as with everything we do, we'll make our life fit our capabilities and goals.

Knitting more Saartje bootees for the shop.
There are no simple living police watching what you do. Be kind to yourself and start small, add more when you can; if it doesn't work, don't be afraid to change things around until they suit you. I believe there are two big things attached to this way of life - it's usually a big change in attitude that gets you started, and there is a big payoff, in satisfaction and time and money saved, that keeps you going. But always remember it's your choice. Your life and how you live it should be about your choices, values, vision, goals and capabilities. Don't let anyone else tell you what you're doing isn't good enough, or strange. This simple life has the potential to be as beautiful and profound as you make it, and it all starts with one small step.