How to start your simple life

24 June 2013
This is the first post in a series that will revisit the basic elements of simple life. It's about how we live here but also about the possibilities, now and in the future, for you to live simply. This is written as much for my own sake as for yours because I find it useful to refocus on what I'm doing quite frequently, to decide if changes are needed, and to improve what I do. Life is never static.

Let's start with the most basic - the name. Simple living isn't all that simple. In fact, when you give your whole life to it, it takes more time and effort because you tend to slow down, stop buying convenience and often home-produce a lot of the things you used to buy. So let's agree that the name doesn't mean much, it's just a way of us identifying a certain mindset and although we're all doing different things, we'll lump it all under the 'simple living' title for the sake of expedience and clarity.

The next thing to agree on is that what Hanno and I do here at our home isn't the only way to simplify. We are older than most of you and now we no longer work for a living, we have the gift of time to do whatever we like. Many of our contemporaries are off enjoying their retirement travelling in caravans around Australia in search of the good life, freedom, satisfaction and enjoyment. Hanno and I found that right here at home.

The two photos above are of my sister's kitchen and fuel stove.

We built a stockpile, grow organic food in our backyard, have stopped buying anything that is not necessary, cook from scratch every day, use our leftovers, preserve our excesses from the garden, bake bread, cake and biscuits, shop locally and support our community, have cut back on electricity and water, mend, repair and keep up our house maintenance. We firmly believe that everything we have here are our assets and we work to keep everything in working order for as long as possible. We recycle and reuse. We value the work we do alone, and together, and we value each other.

That is what WE do. It's not THE recipe for a simple life. There is no recipe and while there are a number of elements we all do, most of us pick and choose how we structure our simple lives according to age, children, work outside the home, income and ability. Simple life is always changing - there will be things you do now that you'll probably stop doing in the future; things that help you now that will become irrelevant. You'll change as your skill set grows, when the time you have in your home increases or decreases and when your passion and mindset start directing how you live.

Everyone who decides to simplify in some way will do it differently. Age plays a big part in this. You will do different things depending on how much time you have and at what stage you're currently at. The trick is to not take on unnecessary debt at any stage so that you have to work to pay back debt instead of living your life. We'll talk about money and it's role in life later but let's just say now that most of us will take on debt in the form of a mortgage and it's important to pay that off as quickly as you can. 

So if you're wondering how to start living more simply, take some time to work out what your values are. Write a list and then depending on what is on your list, start with the most important part or the part that you can do right now - today. The other day, a younger lady asked how she could live more simply, given that she had young children and was working outside the home. I told her to start on making laundry liquid. It only takes five minutes to make ten litres, saves so much money and she would be using a lot of laundry liquid with the young children. What I have found is that when you try one new thing, it tends to lead you to the next thing and the next. So for this woman, she may make laundry liquid when she has time and when she sees it works so well, she might look into making other green cleaners. So for her, cleaning would be her starting point. You can start anywhere - by writing up a budget, menu planning, thinking about how you shop, creating a vegetable garden, buying chooks, making soap, organising your kitchen to better suit how you work, installing solar panels or water tanks/barrels. It could be anything.

I started with grocery shopping. I needed to cut the cost of living in our home so I worked on that first. That lead me to stockpiling, baking, cooking from scratch everyday, preserving, freezing, chooks and the backyard. I started with one thing and it lead on to others. It will be different for all of us, we are a diverse group of differing ages, values, ambitions and capacities. So it doesn't matter what you do first, the important thing is to start.

Making chicken stock.

I'd love you to share how you started living a more simple life. What was the first thing you did and did that lead on to anything else?