Saturday, 22 August 2009

What is *your* "simple life"?

by Eilleen
Consumption Rebellion

You know there are days when I look around and I can not believe that I am where I am right now. See, I have never thought of myself as particularly "green", nor do I see myself as particularly "frugal" either. The "simple" movement had never been something I ever regarded with interest.

See, I grew up in the 80s - the "decade of greed". I grew up at a time when "more is good" and successful people were those who worked hard, played hard and had HEAPS of stuff. I grew up at a time when the media (in the form of TV) had finally started marketing directly to children. Michael J. Fox, in his role as "Alex Keaton", in Family Ties was the very embodiment of who we should all be.

So how did I end up where I am now? I guess, one day, for me I just finally acknowledged that I didn't like how too much stuff made me feel. I just finally acknowledged that stuff didn't make me happy. It wasn't a big or sudden revelation - it just slowly creeped up and finally ended up with me doing my no-buying-brand-new for a year in Sep 2006 - the start of my simple, green and frugal journey...though I never thought of it that way at a time.

I know many readers here are "green" (or dreaming of being green). Why? What is motivating your actions and your thoughts? I know that for some of the writers here, like Gavin, it was very much about the environment. For some others, like Compostwoman, it was a combination of carrying on family traditions and the coming of her child.

While our motivations will influence our actions, I think that it would be fair to say that for most of us, the journey would mostly consist of a lot of little steps. And each step would bring new awareness - sometimes, of the whole path but more often than not, of just the next step.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across this story and thought I'd share:
There’s a story about a young man hired to work in a coal mine. When they gave him his equipment, they told him: “Make sure you have an extra battery, so that your light will never fail.” They were talking about the light on his miner’s hat.

“But I have a question,” said the young man. “My light seems dim. It only shines for a couple of feet in front of me. If I’m underground in the dark, I can’t see what’s ahead in the tunnels. I can’t see anything except what’s right here in front of me.”“Don’t worry,” they told him. “If you have any light at all, you can see well enough to take one step. So take that one step confidently. And then there will be light for another step.”
A simple life is different for everyone. And for me, it has been something that I have defined and redefined over the years and over a number of small steps. I expect that as I grow, my definition of a simple life will continue to change as my needs change.

So what is *my* simple life at the moment? My simple life consists of:

  • valuing and spending as much time with my children;
  • buying as ethically as I can; and
  • making choices that will help me physically, emotionally and, yes, even financially so I can do the above two.
I am slowly letting go of my "Alex Keaton" role model. Letting go of notions that I need to work long hours to give my family more stuff. I am letting go of notions that success means buying everything I want.

The journey has been sometimes difficult but at all times, empowering.

What is simple living for you?

Photo by Globetoppers


Threads of Light said...

My simple life at the moment means that I ask questions I never used to ask before.
"Why" is the most common question. Why do I want to buy that? Why don't I make it myself? Why not try life with no tv? etc.
By thinking about why I'm doing things or not doing things, I'm finding myself edging inch by inch toward a simpler life.

And boy it does feel good!

Sarah said...

I agree with Threads that asking 'Why', not just about what I buy, but what I do, has made me live my life more authentically (which for me means more simply).

Gypsy said...

I remember when I first picked up Elaine St James 'Simplicity' when I was at university. It just hit me so deeply - the idea that what we are is more important than what we own. After that, I started to find the consumerist culture offensive ... and wanted to carve out a life for myself that was more real, more meaningful. Thanks for provoking some real thinking.

dixiebelle said...

For me, I don't think I do live simply... I am busy, I have alot on, I am trying to blend so many things into my life. But, my idea of living simply is perhaps more conceptual... choosing to enjoy the small things, like fresh vegetables, or the simple things, like clean, wind blown sheets on the bed. It is being aware of the world around us, living a conscious life and *seeing* the simple things in amongst the chaos!

It is about being grateful for what we have, and not desiring and spending time wishing for what we don't... we know who we are, what we want, what we don't, and it is as simple as that!

Karen L R said...

Here's something from a book titled Love and Death, My Journey Through the Valley of the Shadow, by Forrest Church. He has distilled a lot into these few words.

Want what you have
Do what you can
Be who you are

I'm keeping his words front and center these days!

dixiebelle said...

Ooh, I like that, Karen L R!

Chookie said...

I was a teenager in the 1980s and I certainly don't remember Alex Keaton being a role model! But then, the 1983 Australian election was fought over a proposed Tasmanian dam. 1984: there was the Bhopal gas disaster, and Band Aid, and I became a Christian. 1985: Live Aid. 1986: Chernobyl. And in 1987 I bought Blueprint for a Green Planet. The Eighties were all about activism, not greed IME.

Jesus said that “A man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke12:15) and a modest lifestyle reflects that. There is also the matter of personal taste: I love gardening and cooking. Needlework as part of a simple life doesn't appeal at all!

Katidids said...

Our simple life is reusing what we have, taking care of our small portion of the earth, teaching our children to do the same...possibly better. We love freecycle & have a group of friends we pass and swap quite a bit with Awesome post!

Melodie said...

I too grew up in the 80's,but I dreamed of being Laura Ingalls!What really sealed it for me was my son.He has horrible allergies and asthma not just to pollen and the like but chemicals too.It got me thinking about why he was sick.I started buying organic,then making my own everything from butter to soap.A year and a half ago we move to 15 acres deep in the country.We are raising our own food and living as green as possible.My son is not completely well,but he is getting better as time goes by.As a plus our life has instilled a great love in him for simplicity and even as a young teen he is not interested in materialistic things.He would rather have a new goat or calf than a set of latest fashion clothes!

ladyhawthorne said...

As I get older - I'm 50 - I have realized I don't need all this stuff. It's too much to take care of, especially when I work full time. It leaves me with not enough time to do the things I love doing. So I guess it was a selfish reason to get rid of stuff and scale back. My last job was very stressful and anything that helps to get rid of stress is a good thing, so taking more time and decluttering work for that also. About 2 years ago as I began to read blogs I realized how much I could do to be green without adding to my stress level and so I began with small steps of recycling and such. Every day I find something else I can get rid of or something else I can recycle or something else I can do simpler and I am a much happier person now, even if I am still a bit selfish.

molly said...

the simple life is different for everyone, but as you say, the journey is well worth the effort:)

notesfromthefrugaltrenches said...

Absolutely wonderful post!

sharon f said...

When I was a little girl my friend's grandmother lived in the street behind us. I was always fascinated by her (and just a little bit scared!). She had a woodfired stove, made jam, baked from scratch, grew food and flowers and kept chickens and ducks for eggs and also for Sunday dinner. Her house was uncluttered with only the essentials and also very clean and airy and calm. She was also an accomplished seamstress and knitter. For me, she's was the perfect example of living a simple life.

Eilleen said...

Thank you all for sharing a bit of your journey!

I think the "why" is such an important part. Why do I need to buy that? Why do I feel so pressured to buy the latest?

Having different role models is also so important. I didn't really discover mine until I was well into adulthood. How wonderful for some of you to have had that experience in your childhood!

I also have found that a simpler life also meant connecting with others in more meaningful ways (as opposed to connecting over shopping). I found that when I'm making things myself or re-using, I couldn't do it alone. I always needed help - either to teach me skills or to help me with sourcing second hand (for swaps) etc.

Anyway, thanks again!

Annette said...

Eileen, I grew up with the same role models. Scary. I believe our first steps were keeping holidays simple and unextravagant, especially once the girls were born. We did not want to create an expectation that would be difficult to duplicate or surpass in the future.
Baby steps. Great story, btw. Very true!

Jo said...

My simple life is about remembering that there is a difference between 'want' and 'need'. I still buy things I want rather than just what I need, but I appreciate it so much more than I used to! I sometimes blog about this issue too...

Hana said...

I'm not really living a simple life either, but right now it means for me: cooking from scratch - and learning to prepare new meals; making and mending clothes instead of buying them new; being happy with what I already have instead of searching for new things (that's difficult!); washing my hair in baking soda instead of shampooing it... and, newly, and so difficult for me, learning to maintain and clean the household regularly.
Which reminds me, I should clean the things after my cooking today...