11 July 2013

How to start your simple life

It's perfectly clear that we're not all the same. We're different ages, with children and without, married, single, straight and gay. And within all those differences, there are the personal preferences we all have. So given all that, why would there be only one way to live a simple life. The truth is there is probably a version of it for everyone who wants to live it.

Seville orange marmalade.

This is the question I'm asked more often that any other. How do I start to live a simple life? I can't tell you that, no one can. This way of life doesn't follow a formula, that's one of the beauties of it. But even if I can't tell you how to start, I can help you get started. Take some time out by yourself and:
  • look at your own life
  • work out what is important to you
  • identify what you don't want to change as well as those things you're longing to change
  • identify what you're having trouble with now 
  • identify what you think you can do now
What you're trying to do is to find happiness in your daily life by modifying the simple and ordinary things you do everyday. Some of the things that will help you do that is to: cut back on your spending and identify what you need as opposed to what you want; pay off debt; cut harmful chemicals from your food and from whatever you bring into your home; home produce what you can; respect the land you live on; try to reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses you're responsible for; become a part of your neighbourhood and community. There will be other things that are important to you, but those I listed are often a part of everyone's list.

Always remember that there is not one big thing that will make a huge difference in your life - it's an accumulation of small changes that will make the difference. I think the most effective way to start is to focus on what you're doing in your life now or what you want to do. Those first two categories will help you decide what you want out of life now and maybe what you should focus on. So are you a mother? Are you working outside the home? Are you a carer? Are there other people you have to consider? Your personal circumstances will dictate to a certain extent how and what you can do.

What don't you want to change and what are you hoping to change?

Are you currently having trouble paying off your debt? If so, start there. Get a notebook and track your spending for a month, then set a budget. Refer to last week's posts on how to do it.

Are you wasting too much food? Start menu planning, set up a stockpile, stop shopping so often, clean out your fridge and pantry and start from scratch.

Do you want to buy organic food and can't afford it? If you have a back yard, start setting up a vegetable garden. Ask your friends to see if you can share an order from an organic supplier. If you still can't afford it, or can't grow your own, you'll have to settle for fresh and local. Don't regret that, just get on with it. When your circumstances change you may be able to change that too.

Are you suffering with allergies or health problems? Start green cleaning, get rid of all the chemicals in your home and clean with the basics - soap, borax, washing soda, citric acid, bicarb and vinegar. There are recipes for green cleaners on my blog and those ingredients are all you need to make them.  Start cooking from scratch too. Try to eliminate all the preservatives, colourings and additives possible from your life, particularly in your food, drink and what you use to clean yourself and your home.

If there is nothing that you're having trouble with and you can find no real way into simple life, start with food. We all eat everyday, so that's a good place to start. Work out how much you're spending on food, identify how much you should be spending, do you know how to cook from scratch?  If you haven't tried simple cooking, start with a couple of dishes you know your family will enjoy and when you know how to cook them well, add a couple more. Get everyone in the habit of taking their own lunch and drinks to school and work or when you go out as a family. Make sure you have lunch boxes and drink bottles for everyone. If you want to bake your own bread, work on that. Find suppliers of good flour. Make sure you've got a good bread tin for baking. Start practising. It took me a couple of months before I was happy with the bread I made. Now I can almost do it with my eyes closed. Don't give up.

So it all boils down to this: if you have a particular problem, start with that, if not, start with one of the things we all deal with - money, food or cleaning. Like me, you'll probably find that when you start learning one thing, it opens up an interest in something related. Follow that path. Follow where your own particular journey leads you. Add what you can when you can. Don't rush it. Just go with the flow.

Fresh lemon juice for the freezer. Lemon butter below.

And please, if you can't do something that you really want to do, get over it, you'll make yourself miserable by dwelling on what you can't do. Move on to something else and maybe you will get back to what you want to do at a later time. There are times when it's easy to do certain things, wait for that time. It will come. Always remember, that nothing lasts forever. If you're stuck in a job or a house you don't like, it will change at some point. Right now, bloom where you are planted. Make the very best of today. You won't get it back. Don't try to be perfect, just do your best. And if you can say that you did your best every day, you're on the right track.  Nothing will change quickly, but keep going and when you look back, you'll notice changes, you'll realise you've been changed and you can prepare to go into the future, continuing to take these small, but significant, steps.

Next week we'll talk about the happiness factor and homemaking.
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