Thursday, 13 November 2008

Dare to be different

Rhonda Jean
Down to Earth

I want to encourage every one of you who choose to live simply to do it on your own terms. There is no rule book for simple living, we all do it differently. I think that once you’ve got it in your mind to change from being a consumer to a conserver, many of the practical day-to-day things will come from your change in mindset. If they don’t, and you’re unsure about what to do next, just be guided by how you live your life now. Examine the things you do – your work practices, your chores, your transport, your recipes, your cleaning, how you cook, how you do your shopping – and one by one, make each and every task simpler, greener and more sustainable. Now that might be 100% simple, green and sustainable, but if it’s not, that’s okay! You do what you can do, you add to it later. It’s fine, no matter what anyone tells you.

I stockpile and shop monthly, with a quick trip to the local supermarket for local milk and cheese each week. But that is how I find it works best for me, there is no rule that says everyone shops that way. Try several different ways, then stick with the one that works best with your way of living.

I see so many other homemakers apologise for using a breadmaker. Why! If you want to use a breadmaker and it makes baking fresh bread for your family easier, use it. There is no rule that states the bread is less if it’s made in a breadmaker. The point is to make bread so you know what’s in it, you make it to your exact requirements and it's cheaper. Yes, your bread maker costs money to buy and run, but it pays for itself in less than a year and if you stop buying bread because of it – the bread that contains preservatives, colourings and artificial flavours, AND comes packaged to the hilt in plastic, then the breadmaker option wins, hands down.

It’s okay to say ‘no’ to others and ‘yes’ to yourself. Stop living to the expectations of others, slowly build a life that is unique to you. Make things easy for yourself. For instance, if you want to compost your kitchen scraps, put a little bin in your kitchen to hold the scraps and empty it every afternoon. If you want to go completely green with your cleaning routines, start with one thing first – like homemade laundry powder, then when you’re working well with that first choice, add others. Think about all these little things you want to bring into your life and make them as easy for yourself as you can. That way they’ll become an easy part of your routine and not a struggle.

Be mindful, make your own decisions, work out what will work for you and don’t feel guilty if you're reading your favourite blogs and you’re not doing what others are doing. I know a lot of you a guided by some of the things I say but if I do something that doesn’t fit well with you, don’t do it. Make sure that everything you do is right for you, not just being done because someone else does it.

Imagine your own life, and how you want it to be, then work to make that vision a reality. Don’t be put off, don’t listen to the naysayers, go with your heart and do what is right for you. I’m a non-conformist and I don’t fit in the 60 year old woman pigeonhole. I have always walked to the beat of my own drum and I have never looked to those around me for validation. That has helped me build this life I live. If I’d listened to all the advice I got when I wanted to change, I’d still be running a red hot credit card and wondering “is this all there is?”.

One of the great wonders of this world to me is that we’re all the same but all so different. Celebrate your difference and custom-make a life that fits you perfectly. Forget the blathering of women’s magazines, don’t do what your next door neighbour is doing, don’t copy your friends – or me – unless it is exactly what you want and need for yourself. Make your own version of this simple life. Life is never a one-size-fits-all condition, pick and choose the portions of other people lives that suit you and custom make the rest of it so that your life fits you perfectly. If you try something that doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to get rid of it, or modify it to suit yourself. Do it all slowly, take small steps. You will never build a simple life quickly – it’s a slowly evolving process that never ends, but one thing is for sure, if you dare to be different, if you are mindful of your choices, if you downsize, declutter and get back to basics, the rewards are there for the taking.