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.