When I started living a simpler life over 20 years ago, I saw it more as a collection of skills rather than a way of life. It took me a few months before I connected the dots and that showed me that when each skill was seen as part of something bigger it made more sense, and all these things made life easier.
For example, we’d kept chooks, grown vegetables in the backyard and eaten organic food for many years. I’d baked bread on and off for that time too and when we lived in the bush, we stockpiled. But all these things seemed to be disjointed and random. They were things we did when we had the time for them but never part of a particular lifestyle.
I wanted to live in a way that made sense environmentally, made a better family life and that challenged and rewarded me. So I looked at what we were doing. It helped to have a name to call it so we could focus on"simple living" and not all the single elements like chooks, stockpiling, organic vegetables, slowing down, budgeting, cooking from scratch etc. When I had the name for it, I discovered I wasn't alone in my thoughts. I found people writing about living how I wanted to live and that motivated me like nothing else. I knew I didn't have to move to the country to live the way I wanted, I knew I would have to learn how to do a lot of the things I wanted to do and I would have to budget and save as much as I could.
I'd already realised that shopping was a wolf in sheep’s clothing that would give me all I needed and wanted. It had to stop and when it did, I suppose that was the first conscious step I took on the road to my simple life. I stopped handing my money over to large corporations to buy the latest fashions so I could look like everyone else, buy convenience rather than do my own work and buy services I could do without. That made the biggest difference.
I created a plan to stop shopping for what I wanted and buy only what I needed instead. I changed the way I shopped for groceries, I cooked from scratch and made as much as I could myself. Another aim was to rethink how I viewed housework and to make what I did in my home meaningful and rewarding. I did it by realising that every single thing I did at home, I did for my family or myself. Knowing that, and really understanding it, made that change possible. It was like a light turned on inside my head; one of those classic cartoon moments when the light globe comes on and you can almost see new ideas forming and old ways melting away. If what I was doing at home was for us then what greater incentive could I have? However, the work wasn’t all mine, I think housework should be shared. My kids grew up keeping their own rooms tidy, making their beds and doing easy household chores. When they left home, I usually worked in the house and Hanno worked outside, but there are many times we crossed over and I'd do one of "his" jobs and he did one of "mine". I then realised that the work we do in our homes contributes significantly towards how we feel and that flows into other parts in our lives.
I am proof that change is possible. If you were to ask my advice on moving towards simplicity, I'd tell you to focus on yourself first and to understand that you may already be doing a lot of the things that make up this way of living. If it still feels disjointed to you, try to connect the dots in YOUR life. Work out for yourself how not shopping for convenience and things you don’t need, saving on your grocery bills, cutting back on your use of water and electricity helps to pay off your debt. Work it out on paper if you have to. Convince yourself. Develop a plan and new values that will facilitate and support your simple life. When you focus on a simpler future, when you do the work, it will change how you think abut housework, and the satisfaction you feel will help you to keep going. The rewards you gain are massive and you’ll discover the feeling of living debt-free, spending more time with your family and living in a calm and stress-free home. And I that, my friends, is the glittering prize.
Nicole Lutze is advertising her new natural cleaners workshops in March. They’re being held in several locations on the Sunshine Coast, cost $5 and are being sponsored by the Sunshine Coast Council. Click here for more information.
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