Saturday, February 22, 2014

Simple Living

I have been thinking about simple living, especially in the contexts of minimal impact on the environment and slowing down in our fast-paced world. All kinds of things have contributed to this process, such as: Jude Hill’s blog, Maya Donenfeld, my concerns about the environment in the midst of this strange winter, Kimberly Palmer’s new book The Economy of You, “Frontier House,” the amount of time spent indoors due to the weather and illness, and my attempts to discern next steps.
I’ve been reminded recently of our search for a house when we moved to our current location. According to the realtor (and the bank), we could have afforded more in a mortgage than we were comfortable undertaking. In the almost 25 years that we have lived here, our decision to buy a smaller house and live with a lower mortgage has proven to be a wise one. We have had lots of expenses that would have been impossible to cover otherwise, including college costs for three children and ourselves.   
My husband went back to school to complete his degree after being downsized. I was already in school completing mine at the time. Thankfully, I was able to get a full-time job at the university I attended, which allowed us to cover our expenses for the time it took my husband to finish his degree and find a job, me to finish both my BA and MA, and one of our sons to attend college. We had a picture window to replace when a son’s stone-skimming attempt turned into a fractured window.
There was the lower-level flooding that required new flooring, cabinetry in the utility room and a bath, and new drywall; the spring storm that required a new roof and air conditioning unit and led to replacing the furnace, too; and a multitude of other expenses we couldn’t have foreseen, as well as the normal expenses inherent in raising three children. 
It is apparent that, in many ways, we have lived more simply than many in our society. Simultaneously, we live with a lot more than many, both in our country and around the world. At one point in my life, I was feeling somewhat deprived because I was comparing what I had to others in my circle who had larger houses, fancier cars, and other luxuries that I did not. When I made the conscious decision to compare my life and possessions to another friend whose home was about half the size of mine, I felt rich. I realized, then, that much of the discontentment in our society stems from the idea that we are entitled to the absolute best rather than a search for what makes us feel good about our lives.
While we appear to have practiced simple living more than many people, I have been encouraged by the number of people who appear to have embraced the idea recently. In addition, I have been trying to do even more. One of the things I have been doing is imitating my mother, who used to give things away when their usefulness to our family was over. Another is to follow the admonition, made popular during the Great Depression and WWII of “Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do or do without,” which my grandmother used to repeat often. I try to make many, if not most, gifts. Additionally, when I do need to purchase something, I try to see if I can get it used or can make it with materials on hand. I anticipate downsizing our home in the next few years, too.
I am curious about whether you have considered the idea and, if so, what steps you have taken toward that goal? How do you feel about it?


  1. simple is less to think about

    1. Agreed. Sort of a decluttering of the mind as well as the material.

    2. I lived off the electrical grid for 30 yrs. but when a downsized to a studio cottage, I brought in a line. My neighbors always complain about the high electric bills of $200+ a month and mine stayed about $75. Mind you, I live in Hawaii where we do not need forced-air heating or AC. I have always lived on the simpler side of life. I recycle everything, compost, use veggie scraps for vegetable broth, make my own clothes, make my gifts for friends and shop close to home at the Farmer's Market. Many of my friends have larger homes, nicer cars, etc. but I wake every morning feel blessed!

    3. Thanks for your input, Kiihele. We have been composting, too, and I recently started saving veggie scraps for broth. I hope to start taking advantage of the Farmers' Market next year, but here they are only in operation during the summer. While we do have to take advantage of heating and a/c, due to the range of temperatures here, I try to keep the heat at 68 and the a/c at 82. It both saves us money and uses less energy. I do make some of my clothes, but also buy second hand.