Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Privilege of Living Simply

Since moving to our new home I've been decluttering and trying to simplify our life and finances. Lately, in my quiet moments of reflection, I have had the reoccurring thought over and over again:  Privilege.

Photo by Easton Oliver on Unsplash

Let me back up.  I believe this thought entered my head several weeks ago while listening to a podcast by Nicole Antoinette on her thru hike on the Arizona Trial. In the podcast, she mentioned the privilege it was to choose her own suffering. She chose do this hike and to leave her life, family, and friends for 6 weeks to be alone in the desert. It was tough both mentally and physically. She could have stopped any time, but she chose to stick with it even through the cold, the cactus that shredded her skin, the hunger, and lack of water. It was a privilege for her. Most people never get to experience a thru hike, even those who desire it. 

That got me thinking about my life, priorities, and ambitions. For those regular readers of my blog, you will know how I desire to live a simple, conscience type of life. I declutter, getting rid of things I no longer use or need.  I want to live in a small house.  I strive to make the things I DO purchase come from local or small businesses, and companies with ethical principles.  I love to cook with fresh vegetables, fruit, and meat bought from local farms. I don't work outside my home and like to devote my life to my family and lifestyle.  All of this is an incredible privilege.

In my last post I mentioned how when Nakoma and Phoebe moved in with us, we were crammed into our 1250 sq ft house, and how it really was a first world problem that I was even complaining. That's privilege. As I said in that post, in many countries, multi-generational families live in much, much less. But even in our own country this is privilege. Many multi-generational families are squeezed into small homes, living paycheck to paycheck, not even able to have the option to move to something larger.

Some people in my own town live in a food desert, meaning they are not within walking distance of a store that sells fresh food and do not have the transportation available to make the longer trek to the store. They are then left with the option of the fast food joint down the street that sells 2 burgers for $2, or the convenience store on the corner where they can get a $1 slice of pizza and a bag of chips. The fact that I choose and am able to shop for local and organic food is a great privilege. (By the way, the food desert is something I want to dive into more at some point in time.  I am very new to this reality in my town and many other towns in the US and cannot speak knowledgeably about it at this time other than what I wrote above. I know there are many organizations who are trying to eliminate food deserts in cities.  Hopefully I can post again on this subject.)

Because I haven't always lived a simple life, I have things I am constantly removing from my home. I sell them, give them to charity, or throw them away.  Even in our own country, there are many people who lost everything in the hurricanes and fires last year and do not have the means to replace them. The fact that I have excess to remove is privilege.

Finally, I have the tremendous privilege to work from home. I was fortunate when my children were growing up to be able to choose to stay home.  The times that I worked outside the home was because I wanted to, not because we needed the income.  Now that my children are mostly grown I still work from home.  I am able to help Nakoma with childcare for Phoebe, cook fresh meals, keep my home clean, and spend only the hours I want to working on my eBay business or blog. Many people desire to do this, but are financially not able to do so. 

Now don't get me wrong, I certainly don't want to sound like I am writing a blog post about how I'm privileged in a I'm better than them way. That isn't my point at all! So does that mean I should stop talking about these things?  I don't think so. I think that it's fine to live in this way; to strive to be good with money, thoughtful in purchases, and not living in excess. Not only is it a good lifestyle practice, it's more sustainable for the planet. I think it should be a way of life in which I write to encourage others. But only, while knowing how incredibly privileged I am to be on this path. 

Finally, to take it one step further, how can we impact those people in our own cities and towns who do not have the opportunities we do?  How can we balance excess and need? I look forward to diving into this more in depth in the future. Until then, what are your thoughts on this, friends? Like me, do you have incredible privileges that you take for granted?

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

My Quest to Live Simply

Since moving to our bigger home last December, I feel like I have lost a part of my identity.  When we lived in our little farm house it felt so perfect - so me.  True, there were things I hated, like the low water pressure, and how the water would get dirty every time we had a heavy rain, or the old beat up floors, or how an occasional mouse would find it's way in. But in spite of that, I loved it.  It was quiet with a beautiful view of the mountains; I had a garden and chickens, and over the year had made both the inside and outside my own.

The shabby little farmhouse and acreage were my simple life.  We had downsized by half to move there, both in space and in possessions. Because it was a rental and in the country there was no need to "keep up with the Jones's". I was able to grow some of our food and hang my wash on the line. I felt like the best version of myself there. If we ever talked about moving it was to downsize even more....we certainly never talked about doubling the size of our house and yard work!

But life changed. Within a matter of a week we became a multi-generational family squeezed into a 1250 sq foot house. Remington didn't even have closet space anymore. There was no separate spaces to decompress other than our small bedrooms. I know this is certainly a first world problem and in many parts of the world multi-generational families live in much, much less. But it was hard for us.

In the midst of this I was still dealing with the reality of my fibro diagnosis and it resulted in anxiety and depression. I was NOT in the right frame of mind to be making another life altering decision.  But sure enough, that is what we did.

Had we to do it over again, we would not have bought this house. We have lived here two months now and from day one we could see it wasn't the best decision. However, even though we should have thought through it a bit more - it's done.  Most likely, financially it was a fine decision.  We can put a little money and elbow grease into the house and make a good return in a few years.

For me, the hard part all comes back to losing a part of my identity by moving here. With a larger house comes the idea that we need to fill all the rooms with all the things, or, the idea that we need to do this, that, and the other so it looks like every other nice house in our neighborhood.

But this is simply not true.  We don't need to do any of that. We have a sparsely furnished room with the bookcases and one chair. I thought I needed to buy a few more chairs making it into a library...even though we have a sofa and recliner in the family room where we can read. Our guest room is totally empty, and while we DO need to get a bed for the room, it isn't a priority since we have no scheduled guests at this time. Truly, we have everything we need to live a comfortable life - way more than we need, actually.

I can still be the best version of myself here....even in a house in which the very size speaks against my ambitions to live a simpler, downsized life.  I can continue my quest to live simply. I can keep a sharp eye on the finances and only buy things that add value to our lives - not something I feel like I need to buy to fill the space or keep up with other people's ideals. I can cook more often with fresh, local ingredients. I can declutter so that when we move again someday we only have what we love and use. I can continue to make time for the things that add value to my life.  A walk with Mocha, a date with Chad, playing with Phoebe, expanding my knowledge with reading, or writing to encourage myself and others.

Even more, I can appreciate those things that I didn't have before.  The wonderful water pressure, the flowing clean water, and floors that are easy to keep clean and aesthetically pleasing to look at. I can enjoy having our own space to unwind without being on top of each other.  I can sit in my peaceful backyard and enjoy the trees, birds, and wildlife that live nearby, and listen to the water flowing in the creek next to our house.

I can continue my quest to live simply. When the time comes in a few years we will downsize again, hopefully having learned a few things along the way about contentment and living our best life wherever we are planted.

My encouragement to you, friend, is to also find contentment wherever you are.  Even if your entire life doesn't line up to your ideals, keep striving towards the things that are in your control. Practice gratitude, not only for the positive changes you make, but even the negative things that may just be a teaching tool for future growth. Happiness and contentment do not come from where you live or the things you have, but from how you live your life.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Personal Goals for March

Happy March, friends! February is gone already and it's time for me to set some personal goals for March. Also, if you are following along with our no spending challenge and budget goals, click here to read how we did in February!

Honestly, my personal goals were pretty easy last month.  I wish I would have walked more, but otherwise I am pleased with how things ended up.  I'm setting a few more challenges for March, but first, lets dive into how February went.......

Eat vegetarian 70% of the time. -  Success! Out of the 61 meals I ate in February, 46 were vegetarian and 15 contained meat so that is actually over 75%!  The majority of the meat meals was usually in the form of stir fry, so often it was a very small amount.  I did have a sandwich with turkey lunch meat once and a sandwich with a grilled chicken breast once, and my health log noted I didn't feel well the day after.  Interesting!

Walk Mocha every nice day - Mocha and I did not walk every nice day, but took an average of 3 walks a week. She has a nice fenced in backyard to play in on non-walking days.

No beer other than the brewery- I cheated a bit on this, but still consumed way less beer than I usually do.  Chad and I had a date at local restaurant that serves craft beer on tap and I had one with my meal.  Also, we wanted to go to the brewery, but decided to use our date money and have a date in our backyard instead so we bought beer to drink for this "date".  We figured we should enjoy our beautiful backyard on nice days, and it was a savings compared to the brewery.

Journal/Blog 3 times a week - Success! I have either written in my personal journal, or worked on a blog post 3 times a week.

Health journal daily - Success! This is a great way to see why I feel the way I do.  Food really affects my pain levels. I also noticed after getting many breakouts I was eating dessert every day, so was able to cut them out and my face cleared up.  Having this journal is very helpful in understanding what my body likes and does not.

Drink 1 gallon of water each day - Success!

Go to yoga 2 times per week - Success! I love it that Chad usually joins me for the yoga classes when his work schedule allows.

Read 1 book (at least) -  Success! I read Soulful Simplicity: How Living with Less Can Lead to So Much Moreand am I'm almost finished with Monarch: The Life and Reign of Elizabeth II.

When thinking through March's goals I want to continue to challenge myself physically and mentally, so many of the goals will be continued.  Drinking beer will not be one of them, though. I enjoy drinking a beer a few evenings a week and on the weekends, and it's rare that I ever have more than 1. I also found wine gives me a headache after just one glass, so even though wine is probably healthier for me I don't like the headache and prefer beer. For March, I am setting a much harder goal, though.  No sweets. Gah!  Let's take a look at my goals for March!

March Goals

Eat vegetarian 70% of the time -  I would like to clean up my eating a bit more.  Some days even though I did not have meat, it wasn't exactly healthy and heavy on grains. So with that in mind......

Eat vegetables every day  - Cooked or fresh. The easiest way for me to do this would be to incorporate smoothies into my diet.

Walk Mocha every nice day - Even though I may not make this goal I still want to set it.  It gets my butt in gear on days when I otherwise would not want to walk.

Journal/Blog 3 times a week 

Health journal daily 

Drink 1 gallon of water daily 

Go to yoga 2 times per week

Read 1 book (at least) - I want to finish Monarch and then read one more book.

No sweets - No candy, pastries, cookies, cake, or sweetened drinks like a chai from a coffee shop.  This does not include fruit or sweetener I put in tea at home.  I only have a cup of tea a few times a week so I figured that wasn't a big deal.  I am hating myself for making this a goal already! HA! This is going to be super hard for me, but a good practice nonetheless. And you better believe I enjoyed a piece of cheesecake on February 28th before this challenge started!

So that's a wrap.  What are your goals for March, friends?