Simple life isn't a product

11 September 2017
It can be a struggle adjusting to a simpler life. Some people think that the way I live is THE way and that is just not true. I live as I do because it makes me happy, it makes sense to me, I've got time to do a lot of things in my home, I want to live in a productive home and I want to stay interested and engaged as I move into older age.  If I were 40 years younger my priorities would be different and the way I lived my simple life would reflect that.

At every stage of life, from very young to very old, there will be a way to configure your life and home to help you live well within the framework of your values. Each stage is different and you will change and grow through those changes.  I am a retired woman, almost 70, no debt, with the luxury of time. I freely choose to live without holidays, we buy the best quality we can afford so that it lasts longer, we gave up magazines and pay TV, don't have Netflix and most of the time, we make do with what we have. But I didn't start living this life that way. 

We live on a pension now but we worked hard to set ourselves up before we received it so we would be able to manage well into our old age on what we have. I know that is not the case for a lot of people. Many people have far more than we do and many have less and struggle from week to week. I am grateful I had the opportunity make the choice to simplify. We don't have a lot of money but we have enough and that is all we need.

There was a comment from a new (to me) reader a couple of days ago. I followed the link to her blog to read that she is dealing with this very thing. She is struggling to fit modern life in with simple life. This was never a problem for me because I chose to live a slow simple life in a modern context and didn't want to return to the old times. In my opinion, anyone who yearns for the 1950s wasn't there to experience the sexism that was commonplace then. Our society is better now than it was then. It was slower back then, we knew our neighbours and spent time with family and friends, but there is more freedom and opportunity now, especially for woman and girls. The advances we've made since the 50s make me grateful to live now but I cherry pick some good parts of the old days - mainly living debt-free, cooking from scratch and homemade cleaners - and incorporate them into my daily life.

When I moved away from paid work I had the time to become more productive. I'd always been a gardener so we grew fruit and vegetables, and kept chickens because I wanted to produce as much as I could in the backyard. I wanted to use the land we owned and not just the house. I wanted to reduce the number of chemicals we lived with so I started making my own cleaning products and laundry liquid.  I shopped in a different way and stockpiled because we had less money coming in and needed to save every penny we could.  I still do all those things because I enjoy that lifestyle, it keeps me busy and interested in daily life. There is always something to do and I don't want to be a 70 year old who is bored and thinks there is nothing to do.

We have the trappings of modern life here and it makes what we do easier, but we would never have gone into debt to buy what we have. If we can't pay cash, we don't buy it. We both have phones because it's easier to keep track when one of us is away from home; they help keep us safe as well as being our phones. I communicate to you via a computer, I've used a computer every day since 1988. We have solar panels and a solar hot water system - both vast improvements in the old electrical and gas technology. We have a poly tank that holds 10,000 litres of water which is an improvement on the old 5,000 litre corrugated iron tank we installed 20 years ago when we first arrived here. I have a self cleaning oven, dishwasher, bread machine, stick vacuum cleaner, an ironing press and iron - all modern appliances that help us live the way we choose.

But if I were 40 years younger with two small children, many of my choices would be different.  I'd still be supporting my simple life values but my choices would be appropriate for the life I was living then. I'd have less time to do many of the productive things I do now but I'd have a firm base of simple chores I'd carry out. I'd make laundry liquid because it does an excellent job, it contains fewer chemicals than modern washing products and it's cheaper. I'd take food and drinks with me when I went out, I'd pay off any debt I had. I'd cook from scratch, cooking double portions when I could so I had a supply of home cooked meals in the freezer for those times when I just didn't have the time or energy to cook after work.

Life isn't always about practicalities. We can also use our homes as a safe and stable base where we build relationships and teach our children how to be decent people. That home base provides a secure space in which we all can be the people we are, interact with those around us and while we do that we learn (and teach) kindness, generosity, courage, strength, respect, loyalty, honesty, self-control and individuality as well as how to be part of a family and a community.

Simple life isn't a product, it's a creation that we all make in different ways. Many of us have the chance to choose how we live and what we do each day. That will be different at 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 and 80, and it's always changing to reflect how we earn a living, the amount of debt we have, our children and parents, how much time, strength and energy we have, and a hundred other considerations. Don't expect life to be one thing that remains the same. It's okay to be different. It's okay to do things your friends and neighbours don't do. If it's working for you, keep at it. Change helps you shed your old ways and replace them with values that support you in your chosen life. It also gives you the opportunity to improve and grow. In the end we become who we are and settle into life with who and what we love. It's only when you look back you notice just how much you changed over the years and how you reacted to different stages.