20 February 2014

Starting your simple life

I got some good news from Penguin yesterday. Down to Earth is being reprinted again. :- ) I've received many emails from people who have said it's been an important turning point in their lives. I am proud and humbled knowing Down to Earth had a positive effect on so many people. Thank you all so much for your support of my book. 


I reinstated my email last week and as reliable as clockwork, got five emails from new readers asking how to start living a simple life. It's the most asked question I get. I hope this helps.

You've been thinking about it for a long time, you've decided to simplify your life.What now? Well, there could be a hundred answers to that question but let's take the simple road and work out what is possible in those very early days. The path ahead will be different if you stay at home to work or if you go out to work, but there are a few similarities. The main one being how you deal with money. Paying off debt and reducing spending play an important part in living a simpler life. It's also often the one solution people don't want to know about. The first step in dealing with your money in an effective way is to know how much you're spending, and on what. Start tracking your money. Get a small notebook and every time you go out, write down what you spend. Don't cheat, this is only for you, no one else will see it. Track your spending for at least a month. When you add it all up, you'll have a very good record of your spending habits, how much you spend and what you spend your money on. That is where you start organising your money and paying off debt. There is more about it here.

I've found that many people who do simplify want to live a healthier life as well. They want to improve the quality of the food they eat, cut out preservatives and eat fresh, local food. They try to cook from scratch whenever possible and sometimes that means creating a vegetable garden in the backyard along with a flock of chickens. Travelling this route will allow you to be as self reliant as you can be in a suburban or urban home. For the non-garderners it means finding local food or markets and traders whom they trust and support with their hard-earned dollars.

If you got this far it tells me that you've started changing your mindset and have moved away from what is considered "normal". Continue to focus on where you're heading, don't take any notice of what your friends and family say, if you think you're doing the right thing, continue on and disregard the naysayers.

Organise yourself. If you're working outside the home as well as in it, or if you're like me and want to simplify as much of the housework as you can, you'll need to be organised so you can do it all. Simply living often means more work, but it's work that you often enjoy doing and will give you the life you're searching for.

When you organise yourself, include time for yourself in the mix. Concentrate on relaxing and making the most of every day. Taking time out during a busy day, even if it's just to sit with a cup of tea for 15 minutes, will help you keep going. You're worth it, never forget that.

Start making some of your own cleaners such as laundry liquid, cleaning paste, vinegar cleaners and soap if you feel you want to. That will help you on two fronts - it will reduce the cost of your weekly groceries and it will create a healthier home for you and your family. Take every opportunity to live with fewer chemicals in your life.

I just have to smile when I look at Kathleen exploring her new home. 
The frizzles are earning their keep. We got one egg from them on their first day here.

Establish productive habits. I found that by carrying out two daily tasks, it helped focus me on what I wanted - a sustainable and productive home. Your two tasks can be anything that you must do every day, but sometimes miss out on doing them. My two tasks were to make the bed every morning and to make a loaf of bread every day. Each of them didn't take long to do but they kept me on track during those early months. I felt that if I had done just those two things, that I was progressing on the right track and often it motivated me to continue on with more work.

So, just to clarify, here are some things that will help you move from a mainstream life to a simpler one:
  1. Stop spending and start paying off debt. Create a budget, track your spending and develop a plan to start living a more frugal life.
  2. Think about the kind of food you want to eat and look for the local suppliers you need. If you want to produce some of your own food and you have a backyard, start planning a garden. If you don't have the land, look around for a community garden.
  3. If you don't want to produce your own food, look for local markets and providores of good food. Ask neighbours and friends about a local butcher, fish monger, green grocer, dairy, cheese maker and bulk foods store. When you find these shops, support them with your dollars.
  4. Think about how you want to live and live according to those wishes. Develop a list of values you want to live by. Change your mindset and don't listen to anyone who wants you to stay as you used to be.
  5. Organise yourself and establish routines that will help you do the work you want to do.
  6. Look after yourself.
  7. Start making your own cleaners to help with your budget and to live with fewer chemicals. Easy laundry liquid recipe here.
  8. Think of two things that don't take a lot of time that you can do every day. It may be washing up, making the bed, sweeping the floor, or whatever. By doing these tasks you're establishing habits that will help you move further along your chosen path.
There is no doubt that changing how you live will be tough. It's not easy for any of us but perseverance will give you a life like no other. Once you start, keep at it and it will get easier. I would never go back to the life I used to live. I hope that by following your heart and living to your values, you'll say the same thing very soon. Good luck. I know that everyone who reads here will be wishing you well.

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