A self-contained, productive life

6 April 2016
When we were on the book tour, one question kept coming up in every town - it was about couples living on one income. Some people wanted to tell me how excited they were to be doing it and how enriched they felt by their change, some suffered the ignorance of family and friends who said it couldn't (and shouldn't) be done, and some wanted to take the plunge into a single income life but were unsure about the viability of it and their own capabilities. With every town we passed through, I became more convinced I had to address the issue when I came back. If couples can make this work, it's a great way to live. Even when I was working for a living and miserable because of it, I knew that life wasn't meant to be about working to earn the money to buy whatever I wanted. I also knew I didn't want to work until I dropped dead. There has to be a time when we stop selling our life hours for money, when we are rewarded for our toil, when we own our days and when we have control of our own lives.

I believe that work is one of the most important parts of life. It shapes our character and skills us for life. When we finish the work of school, we embark on the work that will give us the life we want to live, and that can be in the commercial workforce or work at home. The person who works at home has a career as a homemaker. That position may not have a wage attached to it but there are plenty of ways a homemaker can contribute significantly to the financial well-being and emotional growth of the family.

So let me get the unpleasant side of this out of the way right now - if someone makes a lifestyle choice they believe is good for them, then it's no one else's business. I know it's difficult for some people to see their friends break away from what is considered "normal" but everyone has the right to live as they choose. It's not the way life is generally lived now but it's not unfamiliar to me or many of the older readers, it's the way most people used to live. Although back then it wasn't really a choice, it was the way society was set up - it was "normal" then for couples to live on one income. It's also unnecessary for homemakers to criticise people who go out to work. Let's all stop the criticism and freely offer acceptance and kindness to the people we know.

If you make that choice for yourself, don't listen to any criticism; walk away. If you're sure your life is better with you or your partner working at home, then keep the faith and don't let anyone tell you it's wrong. And if you're the one doing the criticising, think about what you're doing. If the shoe was on the other foot, if you were being criticised for living the way you thought was right for you - how would you feel? This is not laziness, far from it, it's an attempt to live a self-contained, productive life in which work is the main component.

And to all those who are thinking of doing this, make sure you learn what you need to learn to make your transition easier. Make up a realistic budget, get rid of the excess you no longer need, look at everything you commonly buy and see if it's better done at home. That will cut your costs and probably give you better quality as well. Menu plan, don't waste any food, shop for grocery bargains, cook from scratch, make everything you can, mend, repair and recycle. By working side-by-side with your partner, one working for an income and one managing that income while focused on reducing the cost of living and raising the children, you will create a life built on your own values with family at the core.

Look at your home and start modifying it to better suit how you work. Organised cupboards that hold the items you need, in the places you need them, will support your work everyday. Start thinking about making up a routines chart so you get all your work done without missing essentials. Eventually, you won't need the chart, your days will run to their own sweet rhythm and you won't be wondering "what's next?". Pay your bills on time, get rid of the services you no longer need or want, and start paying off your debt. Life is easier when the mortgage is paid off so work towards that goal by sticking to your budget and not acquiring all the trappings that can add years to working life. It doesn't matter that you don't have the latest furniture or appliances but I encourage you to buy the best quality you can afford whenever you do purchase expensive items. It's much more economical to have something last for years, even if it costs more, that having to replace it frequently. A home can be made beautiful by using older furniture and painting it, and by making soft furnishings.

Simplify your mind as well as your home. Start making your own cleaners, learn how to sew and make bread. Grow a garden if you can, add chickens and bees if you have the opportunity to, expand your interests and incorporate those interests in your home. Be a role model for your children, help your friends and neighbours when you can, become the person you always wanted to be. Simplifying your life and doing the work you need in your home will change you more than anything else can. And despite what you might hear, it's an investment in yourself and your family, not a step backwards.

At the end of the day you'll feel content and satisfied that you used your time wisely that day. It's not an easy way to live, especially when you first start and you're not fully organised, but your days will be full of purpose and promise and you'll be living true to what you value. Life is never a one size fits all proposition. It's much more complex than that. So don't try to fit into a mould you know won't suit you, plan your transition and live the life you want for yourself. It will not be easy but if you do the work you need to do life will open up in many beautiful ways you never expected.