10 August 2011

Less is more

Once upon a time, suburban homes were showpieces where the smartest appliances, the largest screens and latest furnishings combined to place the home owners on a pedestal alongside their neighbours - pillars of the community and working hard to pay for every new thing that caught their eye. Often the king and queen spent long hours working away from the castle so that whenever a new sparkler appeared, it could be bought straight away and added to the trophy house.

Times have changed. A breath of fresh air sweep through and now many people are more concerned with self reliance than acquisition, and along with the smell of home cooked meals, we hear the click of knitting needles and the buzzing of the sewing machine. People have returned home again. Many are discovering the joy of cooking for the first time and along with that, gathering their family to the table for meals and the significant connection it brings. Gardens are being dug, nesting boxes for chickens being built, fruit trees planted. Garments are being mended instead of replaced with something new. Shopping in second hand stores and op shops is no longer looked down on - it's cool now. And the wonderful thing that has come hand-in-hand with these new (old) ways, is a feeling of contentment and something close to pride in building self reliance and working towards sustainable lives.

Who would have thought a few short years ago that the sale of DIY and craft supplies would soar as people take to doing things in their own homes again. And it's not only that - home cooking is popular now, chemical cleaners are being ditched in favour of soap, bicarb and vinegar, jars of food are being preserved, and hand made knits, made with luxurious pure wool, alpaca and cotton yarns, are on our backs again. Household savings rates in Australia have gone from negative figures a few years ago to positive again.  There is a very interesting article about world wide household savings rates here, as well as a chart of rates for many countries from 1992 to 2011.

I've been really surprised at the interest in the life skills workshops I'm currently presenting in my local town. Each one is booked out as soon as it's announced and a waiting list started for the next. Just yesterday someone in the next town asked if I would do a Frugal Home workshop for his sustainability group. These are ordinary people opening up to change the way they live. They want to know now about budgeting, reading electricity meters, cooking from scratch, shopping for groceries in different ways, vegetable gardening and green cleaning. I am going to take advantage of this trend and show as many people as I can the true wonder of living a simple life - that it's not just about a list of life skills that are ticked off, it's about personal growth, self reliance, independence and sustainability. It's empowering, and if two ageing hipsters in rural Australia can do it, anyone can.

I regret it's taken an economic crisis to bring us to this point but it seems nothing else was strong enough to change us. Worries about global warming didn't, neither did peak oil. Even drowning in debt didn't stop us. But the good thing is that when this changed was forced upon us, we discovered it was a healthy and sound way to live. It's not mean, it doesn't deprive us - having less gives us a richness we can only see when we step back from the excesses of the past to really see, and understand, that less is more.

I wonder if you see the same signs I do. Do you see a change happening in your neighbourhood? Or am I reading too much into what I see. Maybe I'm living in an area that is leading the way, or maybe I'm living in dream land.

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