Sunday, 13 February 2011

Banishing drudgery

By Aurora @ Island Dreaming

Many of the activities encompassed under the simple living banner - all that gardening, growing, decluttering, brewing, sewing, knitting, (natural) cleaning, community work, animal husbandry, holistic child rearing, cooking and fermenting - can look a little like hard work. I know that most of the people I come into contact with in my everyday life have absolutely no interest in pursuing any of these activities, let alone a number of them, to create a satisfying, sustainable, frugal lifestyle. Whilst I love most of these activities; I sometimes panic that the domestic sphere will be the sum of my life and I will not attain all of the other goals I have. If you are finding this life is becoming hard work, it might be time to reassess why you are here at this stage of your journey.

I have been taking the last few weeks to assess where I am going in life. In the midst of all the cutting back we have done to pay off debt, I sometimes feel my life slips into drudge territory. I have had to reconsider what my ultimate goals are. Some of the things I have realised are important and had to change in my own life are:
  • Clutter. With a blank slate (and work surfaces), it is much easier to see where you want to devote your time and energy. 
  • Make everyday activities as attractive as possible. In my case I hate washing up, but paring down my kitchen equipment to the barest minimum, throwing in some hand crocheted dishcloths and decanting my washing up liquid into a pretty glass bottle has made the job infinitely more tolerable.
  • Make room for beauty. I am in the process of decluttering our living space; and am realising just how much ugliness there is amongst our possessions. Obsessing over utility and thrift over all other considerations is a recipe for unhappiness; make sure that you take the time and effort to make your environment soothing and beautiful, whatever that means to you.
  • Make time to pursue goals outside of the domestic sphere. In my case learning French has been a goal for several years. I am now attempting to rearrange my life that I might have the time to do this. 
  • Cut expenditure sensibly. Do not cut your grocery budget, or entertainment budget back so far that you feel impoverished. Unless there is a very good reason too, do not hack your budget to the point that all of the sources of joy in your life are obliterated. 
  • Spend money when it needs to be spent. If something in your life is not working and there is no frugal solution, budget and spend the money.  Whether that be sturdy storage boxes, new tools or a new outfit - if it will improve the quality of your life and you have the money, spend it.
  • Reconnect with your original motivations. If your most passionate goal has been to pay of debt, then read and watch and connect with people also passionate about that subject. If sustainability is the dearest thing to your heart, connect with people who are living the greenest lives they can. Whatever fills you with enthusiasm, begin there.
Frugality, simplicity and ecology are not bywords for drudgery, miserliness or misery. They should instead embody creativity and resourcefulness, and unswerving focus on that which is truly important and good in your life and in the world. If you feel deprived, or stuck in a rut, take a step back. Where are you now? Where are you going? What can you do today to add a little more joy to your life? Arrange your life so that it embodies these qualities, brings you great joy and gives you a future to look forward to.


Oya's Daughter said...

This is a very difficult thing to remember; I haven't bothered to get new clothes for myself or done anything nice for myself in a good long while as I always knew there was something else I could be spending it on. So meanwhile threadbare rags (quite literally in some cases) were what I called "clothes"; no art on the walls ("who has the money to buy something pretty?!")and bedding that was falling apart had been mended time and time again.

When I got a windfall I actually considered hoarding it, but after considerable urging from fellow frugalites on the difference between "frugal" and "mean-ness" I bought myself a new sewing machine and sewed up a new outfit. I purchased the first new set of matching sheets/throws/duvet/pillowcases I've had in over five years, and I now buy one print of art I admire and adorn the walls of my house. More money than I've spent in yonks and I still have a bit of a qualm at doing it, right up to the point I put on my lovely velvet jacket, sleep in my deliciously decadent bed, and am inspired and captivated by the beauty of another artist's hand in my house.

Frugality isn't a sentence; it's a choice.

Joyful said...

Great advice :-)

Mrs. J @ Road Less Traveled said...

You bring up a good point. My husband and I try to have fun being frugal and living a simpler life. We look at it as an opportunity to be creative. Almost everything decorating our walls are things that I made myself, or gifts from family and friends.

You are so right that you can't feel deprived: you'll end up miserable and then lose your drive to keep up the frugality! It really is a careful balance. I want to surround ourselves with beauty. My rule is it has to be something I absolutely love for me to buy it. Since I rarely find things I love, it is a frugal approach.

louisa @ TheReallyGoodLife said...

Great reminder for us all - thanks Aurora.

For me though, "make everyday activities as attractive as possible" becomes "make everyday activities as pleasurable as possible" - attractive isn't a key issue most of the time but having the correct tool for the job is (since it usually makes the job go quicker), or having some music on (which makes it feel like the job is going quicker!).

Fleecenik Farm said...

It is so easy to get stuck in this rut. For me it seems to be a seasonal thing. After working hard in the garden or busy making holiday gifts there is this lull where that creative energy was expended and I ask what?

But I find that I need to take this time to focus on myself a little more. Take long walks. Take time to make some nice things for myself and my home, feed neglected aspirations with small projects, connect with friends. It is so easy to find myself on the treadmill of the day to day. This is when I know I need ask a very fundamental question, "Didn't I chose this lifestyle so I would not be on a treamill?"

Proud Mama said...

Your post is perfect. I have felt this way in the past, and I wholly agree with your advice. Sometimes I become so focused on the task, I forget to find the beauty in my life. I also want to lead by example. If I portray simple living in a negative way as one of drudgery, why would others want to adopt some of my practices.

As a previous commenter said, "Frugality is not a sentence; it is a choice".

urbanadaptation said...

Perfect timing - I was actually thinking about this (and thinking of writing a post about this, which I may yet do) last night. As much as I want to live frugally and sustainably, I also don't want to live a life that is defined solely by cheapness and doing things in a way that doesn't leave much room for pleasure. I think it's become a slippery slope for me - the more I do the more I feel I should do, until I'm at a point where life isn't as enjoyable as it could or should be anymore. So, I'm working on it, and making sure there are always little bit of beauty and pleasure throughout.

Andrew Mooers said...

If you don't owe money, don't carry debt, you are wealthy.If you are happy, joyful, content you are rich. Wealth is not measured in dollars and cents. Getting better at simple, frugal living happens when you have no other choice, don't have tons of money but make better use of what you do have. Make it a game and hard work becomes a way of life.

dixiebelle said...

What a lovely post! Thank you...

Calamity Jane said...

Great post! This is an undervalued skill in our lifestyle. I think it is a kind of sustainability. Frugality and green living are great, but if you go too far, too fast and burn yourself out, where's the use in that? You have to make your lifestyle truly sustainable, for yourself and your family.
Beauty in every day objects is undervalued too. I used to think something like putting soap in a pretty glass bottle was silly, superfluous. But now i see the brilliance in it. How did we get to think that there's pretty things, and useful things, separate? Used to be that people took the time to make their everyday tools and objects beautiful. And we should again!

sl.tudor said...

Thats one of the best posts i have read for a while..its so true well done have hit the nail on the head..

Angela said...

Perfectly timed post -- thank you! I am on day one of two weeks between one job ending and another beginning. My plan for these two weeks is to finish a bunch of projects around the house. We bought a fixer and the fixing just hasn't happened very quickly.

Today, I started in our walk-in closet, which was stacked with un-unpacked boxes and is the only floor left in the house with the old carpet tack-strips and staples. I made some really tough decisions while unpacking those boxes this morning. I threw away a few old things that I've been "treasuring" for years. Thanks for reminding me why I'm doing this!

Aurora said...

Thank you for all your comments. I am glad that this struck a chord, I did wonder if I was alone in feeling this way sometimes.