Monday, May 5, 2014

The Joys of Simple Living

We lead a simple life.  We always have for the most part, but we have even taken another step back towards simplicity since moving to Virginia. By Chad leaving a stressful job, selling half of our belongings, and downsizing to a little rental house in the country, we have left many stressful demands back in Nebraska.  Some people find it strange and think we are weird.  Others look at us with sort of envy – wishing they too could simplify their life, but not sure where to start.  Others ask us for advice on what they can do to live a simple life.  While we can give pointers, it is a very individualized decision to shun “normal” and do many things the way our grandparents or great grandparents did them.  Even Chad and I have some very different ideas on simple living.  While I could probably join an Amish community and love it, (I kid…..sort of) he has to have some modern conveniences like bathrooms and air conditioning.  J

My ideal life would be a simple house placed back in the trees with a big sunny place to grow a garden, have fruit trees, and a small barn to have chickens and goats. The introvert in me longs for a quiet place away from noisy traffic and people where I can go outside in my PJ’s and not worry about what the neighbors think. J  I would not own a TV, but I would own a computer and cell phone. (The cell phone only because I have children!) As much as I think I could do without electricity, the fact that I love to cook demands I have it.  I don’t think I would like to relearn to cook on a wood stove.  I wouldn't mind heating with a wood stove though.  I would make most everything we eat from scratch so I could get by with my garden produce, chicken, eggs, goats milk, and occasional trips to the farmers market for the few things I do not grow. I would own a clothes washer, but would dry my clothes on the line. My house would be small, therefore easy to clean, but my kitchen would be good sized.  People always end up in the kitchen anyway.  We spend probably 75% of our waking hours in it, and even when we entertain we rarely go into our living room!

 Because of my simple life I would be more of an extrovert when I go in public for church activities and other social gatherings.  Because I’m able to unwind in the privacy and quiet of home, when I do go out it makes it easier to chat, socialize, and be an active part of whatever activity we are involved in.

Obviously, I have much of my “ideal life” already.  Here are some simple things we do that I believe keep us moving toward our overall goal. And remember, just because I find these things important in my life does not mean I feel everyone should do them.  Everyone’s life is different; with varying goals and priorities….this is what works for us. Maybe a few ideas will speak to you.

  • We do not have cable.  While we do have a TV, DVD, and Wii, we do not have any TV channels.  TV is very, very limited in our house.  Chad and I watch maybe 1 movie a month, if that.  Remy on the other hand watches movies on the weekends and is able to play the Wii after school is done for the day during the week for a minimal amount of time.
  • We home school. This is one decision that many people disagree with, and while I respect that it may not be what works for your family; it IS what works for ours.  Having had Remy in public and private school in the past we feel that at this point in his life home schooling is the best fit for him. In my mind school outside of the home brings many unnecessary demands and distractions on all of our lives; demands that have nothing to do with education. But we take it year by year.  His education is what is most important and when the time comes where I feel he will not receive a quality one through home school he will go back to a “regular school.”
  • I cook from scratch most of the time.  I will admit we occasionally get take-out pizza or eat store-bought candy, but for the most part I choose to cook with whole, one-ingredient foods.  Look in my cupboard and you won’t find much in a box or bag, but you will find nuts, whole grains, canned vegetables, healthy oils, and dried herbs.  My freezer contains pastured meat, frozen fruit and veggies; my fridge has fresh fruits, veggies, cheese, and milk. I like to try to mimic my cooking to what a person would have done 100 years ago.  Simple and satisfying. And even though I can’t eat wheat and dairy, I still cook with it for Chad and Remy.
  • I garden.  Even this year with a small garden I will be able to provide my family with fresh vegetables at a fraction on the cost of buying them from the Farmer’s Market or store. By doing this I also spend less time at the store.
  • I hang my wash on the line.  Not only is this better for the environment, it saves on our electricity bill.  And I love the nostalgic feeling I get as I hang my wash on the line.  It is actually a very relaxing activity.
  • We limit our social calendar. Family time is very important to Chad and me. We entertain here at our home a few times a month and go to church Sunday and Wednesdays. Remy is involved with his youth group at church and occasionally gets together with friends outside of church.  Chad has several outside activities he is involved in with work and school during the day.  But for the most part our evenings are free to study, read, and play games together as a family.
  • Remy and I enjoying a leisurely evening by the fire pit.

  • We don’t spend a lot of money on “leisure activities”.  Part of this is a very small budget since Chad is in seminary, but even when he returns to the working world I don’t see this going up a lot.  We prefer to do activities that are free or minimal cost.  Chad and I love to hike.  Remy loves to fish and hunt. (Yes, I realize those activities can be expensive, but they can also be quite reasonably priced.  Even cheap fishing poles can catch fish.  And an old gun that was given to us is more than able to kill a deer.) We like to go to museums, too, most of which are free or minimally priced. We exercise outdoors or in our home.  
  • We don't have debtWe rent our house and if we ever buy a house again we most likely will buy cheap and pay cash rather than get a loan.  Our two cars are paid for, and actually, if it wasn't for Koda, we could get by with 1 car.  We keep our Suburban for hauling him around, road trips, and large items.  With 200,000 miles on it we couldn't sell it for much anyway.
  • We don't have a lot of excess "stuff"..  When we find that we no longer use things, we sell them or pass them on to someone who can benefit from them. Daily I can be found whittling my way through our possessions in an effort to minimalize.
  • We are our own hairdressers.  Chad cuts his own hair and Remy’s. 2 years ago I went back to my natural brunette color to save on trips to the hairdresser.  My hair style is simple and my hair products few.  Although Chad does a great job on his and Remy’s hair, I prefer to go to a stylist for a cut twice a year for a total of $50 a year.  Much better than before when I would spend $100 every other month on a cut and highlight.

Some look at our life and say BORING. And yes, I guess it may seem that way, but we love it.  By keeping our life simple we can focus on what is most important to us, God and family.  Because our life is simple we are able to spend more time reaching out to others through entertaining in our home, get-togethers over coffee, Bible studies with other believers, and writing on this blog.  Because our life is simple we can get by with less money, which means less time working and more time to do the things that are important to us.

People often ask me why I love the simple life.  Honestly, I think it was ingrained in me.  My earliest memories are of my mother doing many of the exact things I wrote about above.  Although she was an extrovert, she loved her simple quiet life that she led on her little farm.  J I remember as little girl of 8 having the exact desire for an “ideal life” as I do now. Some things never change…….

So how about you, friend?  Do you long for a simple life?  If so, what are steps you have taken to simplify?

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