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Simple Living

post #1 of 33
Thread Starter 
I love the idea of living a simple life. Sometimes I feel like I do. Sometimes I feel like I have a long way to go. (If I could only give up my small business...)

I'd love some advice from other simple living mamas that will help me get back on track when I start to unravel. What is the key to living simply in your life? Where did you start and where did it go from there? What aspects of your simple life bring you the most peace?
post #2 of 33
post #3 of 33
I would also love to hear some responses on this.... one moment I have plans to bake all of our own bread, and the next moment I'm holding an Iced Latte from Tim Hortons (in a plastic to-go cup, bad bad bad). I can't seem to be consistent with this.

post #4 of 33
I definitely cannot claim to live simply for a variety of reasons, but I think that it has to do with your personal preferences and what makes you happy and gives you a feeling of satisfaction. It also depends a lot on your definition of simple living.

For me it has been setting up a compost heap and growing our lettuce. I don't feel like I'm putting a bunch of stuff in the landfill, and when we want a salad, I just go pick some. My husband has a little rain barrel empire that gives him the same satisfaction.

I've committed myself to NOT buying supplies for projects (esp. craft projects) until I have completed my current project, or until I am at the point in the project where I will actually need the new supply. It saves a lot of space, and it saves a lot of money if I run out of steam half way through the project.

Very small things, but they give me satisfaction. Next steps include chickens next summer and setting up a clothesline.

Set a few goals. Figure out what you want your life to look like and make a few transitions.

ETA: Hey, boogiemonster! I just "recognized" you from my DDC.
post #5 of 33
Originally Posted by Curlita View Post
I definitely cannot claim to live simply for a variety of reasons, but I think that it has to do with your personal preferences and what makes you happy and gives you a feeling of satisfaction. It also depends a lot on your definition of simple living.
I think this is so true! I am trying to live more simply but I'm sure it's nowhere near someone else's idea of "simple living" I try to make changes here and there. Right now we're cd'ing and I'm using a clothes line to dry clothes. I'm trying to be more frugal and mindful of what I buy and I'm also decluttering my house These are huge changes for me and I'm proud of what I'm doing so far
post #6 of 33
Yeah, I've been holding off on answering this because I'm not sure how fully I qualify as a simple liver. But here are my original steps, as best I can recall:

1. We lived in a cute but super-small apartment. I had to cull and organize just for us to be able to cope. As I did, I found myself streamlining processes as well as things, and I found myself loving it.
2. Around the same time I had a fit of restlessness, wanting to buy stuff for the house and read stuff for the house and thankfully had a stroke of insight: reading home magazines and buying the products they touted was never going to fill even the most trivial forms of emptiness. I started turning towards making and making do instead of buying.
3. Shortly thereafter, I discovered MDC and it was a godsend--I found so many ideas and support for simplifying.
4. Eventually we began to move in a more eco-friendly direction with more aspects of our lives--we dropped to one car, started taking the bus, hung laundry, bought locally, etc. We still have a TON to work on, but most of the time I feel pretty good about where we are.

The aspect that's brought me the most peace? Because we have less, we need less. We can get by without me working much at all, which means more time with my son and (in the future) time for homeschooling. My husband gets to spend lots of time with the family as well. It's funny--we do things, like hanging laundry, that many people would say they don't have time for, but in fact we have more leisurely lives than many people.

My main piece of advice? Aside from not being afraid of baby steps, I would say that the thing that's worked out best is that my husband and I have kept in constant touch during this journey. We share what we read on the topic, we debate pros and cons, we work out compromises when we don't agree. As a result I feel that this is truly a family project and not just something I want to do.

Ack. I have, yet again, typed an essay. Apologies.
post #7 of 33
My advice would be take small steps... otherwise you get overwhelmed. Don't compare your lifestyle to others, what works for their family might not for yours and visa/versa. For our family it started with a major purge of everything from toys to clothes to household items... everything. I think this is key especially with large families. Remember every want is not a need! Think over your purchases.... is their something you might already have that will serve the purpose? could you acquire the item through freecycle, craigslist or thrift stores? even ask around your community (friends, school, church, etc. - you might be suprised)
post #8 of 33
I agree - baby steps are the way to go. We have slowly made changes over the past few years, and now when I look at the suggestion lists I see that we have made HUGE strides. The best part is that it was never uncomfortable or hard to remember to make the changes as we introduced them, because it was just one or two things at a time
post #9 of 33
I'm trying to live "more simply" but I'm not going to over-do things or try to live beyond my physical or mental limits.

Right now, I'm trying to make our small living space feel "bigger' by getting rid of excess stuff we don't need; books we never read, clothing nobody is going to wear, toys that won't be played with (or won't be missed even if they are played with now.)

I keep telling my kids (and myself) that we have enough space for what we need- even though we don't have all the space we want.
post #10 of 33

We are in the process of simplifying. My first step has been going through everything and getting rid of stuff we don't use regularly or at all. And I'm trying to be a little more serious about the purging. While yes I may like an item there have been lots of things that don't serve any purpose and would benefit me more by not adding to the clutter.
post #11 of 33
Originally Posted by phroggies View Post
My main piece of advice? Aside from not being afraid of baby steps, I would say that the thing that's worked out best is that my husband and I have kept in constant touch during this journey. We share what we read on the topic, we debate pros and cons, we work out compromises when we don't agree. As a result I feel that this is truly a family project and not just something I want to do.

This is absolutely true for us as well. It is a team effort, just like parenting. When I start to crave some over processed food or he feels like buying some new techno gadget, we turn to each other and say "okay, talk me out of this!".
Habits are hard to break, especially when you have been doing them for just about an entire life. Give yourself time and room to change.

post #12 of 33
I suggest you read The Simple Living Guide by Janet Luhrs. It's a really good book, and the best part about it is that you can start with the life and location you already have.

It may be at your local library, and it's broken down into different topics so you don't have to read it straight through, but go to the part you are interested in.

You can take a peek inside at amazon.com


I really liked it because you don't have to move off the grid to begin to enjoy simple living today.

For me, decluttering has been immensely helpful. And TBH, that's a long process. Working full time, and having babies every 2 years hadn't helped. Now that we are done having babies, and I'm a SAHM, this has been the year to purge and streamline. Of course, now that dds and I are big into arts and crafts, well, there's parts that are just going to be messy. But that's creativity for you.

But I feel good about the choice we made when we bought this house originally, and the choice we made to make this house work for us rather than upgrade to a new, larger home with larger mortgage.

Don't get me wrong, part of me would love to, but most of me is really glad we are living in a modest older home instead of a larger, brand spanking new home.

I was also very successful last Xmas at getting loved ones to pare down the toys to 1 for all three rather than 3 toys for the 3 girls. That helped so much.
Now this year, after all the lead paint scares, I'm almost positive our family won't be buying many toys for the girls (which will be wonderful).

And on that note, I've started making my own toys anyway, and I really enjoy being able to work with my hands again and creating something from nothing.

I've been taking more time to teach the girls how to do small things around the house to help them learn to help themselves - wash their own apples, pour their own water from a child sized pitcher. They also help me do dishes a bit. I definitely stopped discouraging them from helping out, even if it takes a bit longer.

Next year, I will take up gardening. This year, we just didn't get our act together, but next year, when the littlest one will be 3, will be able to enlist all the girls help in planting. That will be very cool.
post #13 of 33
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the book recommendation. I've got it on hold from the library.

I tried to read Living the Simple Life in the winter, but I have to admit I kind of tuned the author out when I read that she doesn't have any children. My life would be a heck of a lot simpler (but not as great!) if I didn't have a little one pitching food all over the kitchen and strategically planning all boo-boo acquisitions for when I'm on a business call (usually with someone who's hard enough to understand without a wailing toddler in the background).

I'm striving to find simplicity in our everyday lives. Like I said in the OP, I feel like I'm getting there sometimes; I'm really content with our home and our family life. But I own a small business, and I work from home, and sometimes I get really overwhelmed by the whole thing. I'm glad for a few simple reminders for keeping focussed and calm and grateful.
post #14 of 33
I hear you about trying to read something like that from mothers w/o children. ITU how difficult this is with little ones at home.

It might be that for a time, you have to pick and choose what areas you can actually accomplish and understand you have to let the others go for a while. Otherwise you will totally drive yourself :. Ask me how I know....

You will really enjoy the book, I am almost positive you will. I liked it so much, I might actually ask for it as a gift for Xmas.
post #15 of 33
Are you in an area where you can see people who are true example of simple living? For example around here we have Amish people and also some Menonites. I've noticed that the Amish people come to our Super WalMart in the mornings on weekdays so sometimes I save my shopping for that time just so I can see them. It's so inspiring to see them so committed by the way they dress and the things they buy (Or don't). I'm also lucky to live near an Abbey and when I see the nuns or monks it just reminds me I don't need as much as I think I do.
post #16 of 33
I so agree with the comment about doing this alongside and with the support of your dp. We have been in our house for 2 years; before that we were in our other house for 5, and before that our apartment for 2, I think ... well, I was for almost 2, dh was there with me for 1. Anyways ... lots of years living together. And each move, we brought the stuff with us. I have been telling him for years that I cannot live in chaos - that emotionally it is extremely hard on me (depression and anxiety), plus it really feeds my SID. But he didn't "see" it. He felt for me and tried to help me, but because he didn't "see" the chaotic lifestyle, he was really, unable to help. This summer, due to a major home improvement project (new paint, new carpet, new fixtures in our bathroom), he finally "saw" it all. And it has made a *huge* difference. He is now helping me get rid of it because he can finally see and feel the toxic affect the clutter and chaos and mess can have on us all. So, I highly agree that simple living needs committment from your dp (at least in my case it is true).

For us, decluttering, simplifying, and streamlining is huge for simple living. We have cut the toys in half; we have cut our books down by probably 30% of what they were (we had over 1000 books in our house and were buying more bookshelves to keep up! ). We are cutting misc. crud by 50%, purging the garage and shed, and keeping what we actually use and need. We eliminated the "playroom" and made it into a bedroom for ds#3. Each boy now has their own space (we are very grateful we have a house that is big enough for them each to have their own room), with minimal toys, and a place for everything. If something doesn't have a place in their room, then we either make one (if it's something that should be in there) or it doesn't go in there to begin with. The same is true with our living spaces. I want a simple house with beautiful things that are given their place and space. If something does not have a definite function and/or make our house beautiful/inviting/welcoming, then I don't want it in here.

We are also working on growing our own produce. For us, it is important to find local and organic food. But, we often don't make time to get to the Farmer's Market. Our local HFS carries some food grown in-state, but also carries much imported produce. So, we are slowly growing our green thumbs, and expanding our produce-growing and storing abilities.

Like a PP, I have decided that I will only buy craft stuff (for me, that is mostly fabric) if I know exactly what I'm going to do with it and actually have the time planned to do it. So, if I want to sew the boys all pajama bottoms, then I first need to schedule the time (talk with dh about a Saturday or Sunday where he could take the boys to the park for a couple hours), look through what I already have (fabric, thread, and pattern), and only then if I need something to complete the project, go to the fabric store the night before my sewing "date" to get what is needed. We plan on refurbishing our dining room chairs and I will need fabric for that. But, as much as I'd love to go wander the aisles of JoAnn's, I am waiting until the old fabric is off the chairs, I have measured and multiplied, and I know exactly what I need.

We are also trying to adopt the "one thing in - one thing out" motto. If the boys get something new to play with, then something of equal size or type should find its way to the Goodwill. We we decluttered ds#1's toys, we realized he had 4 or 5 Batman action figures, all basically the same size and function. We also realized he doesn't play with them but likes "collecting" them. So, he chose he 2 favorite and donated the rest. If he wants a new/better/different looking one, then one of the old ones goes.

Finally, we are trying to be extremely mindful in our shopping trips. No more just walking around Target, Ikea, or the mall. If we need (or want - I don't want to completely deny ourselves wants, but be more mindful of them), then we plan a specific shopping trip, take a list, and really stick to it. I want to know what is going to come in the house and where it will go/fit before it comes here physically.

Phew ... sorry that turned into a novel. It is really nice, though, seeing that all typed out because some days I do wonder if we are really doing things more simply or if I'm just pretending we are.
post #17 of 33
well, i feel our life is fairly simple, though a lot of that wasnt really by choice....

we had to move fast, to a much much much smaller space, so we dumped about 80% of our posessions... that's certainly one way to start!

another thing not really by choice that has made me feel blessedly simpler-- i have developed a lot of food sensitivities/issues since pg/birth. the main thing this means is not much eating out, and very very little in the way of processed goods. looking in your fridge and seeing only raw simple ingredients is very.... calming.

the biggest thing, though, i feel for really feeling simple is really living for the every day things. i stay home, so that's really easy for me to say-- my "to do" list each day consists of:

~water the garden
~clean (these two are usually the same for my little one!)
~cook food
~go for a walk
~schnuggle/read/go to bed

one other thing i might mention-- i am naturally suited to this kind of life. i know people who could never do it this way, they would go literally bonkers. they often ask me, rather quizically, "so, do you like this? are you sure you're ok??" yes! i love it! but i do know that not everyone would.

enjoy your quest!
post #18 of 33
I love the idea of simple living too. I think about it alot. However, my family biz is an upper end jewelry store, so I have a hard time reconciling my job with the lifestyle I want to live. Since I am always surrounded by superfluous expensive things (and rich people) I tend to want more than I would otherwise. I just strive to make as little impact as I can, and have to be satisfied with that. I am never going to be someone who lives in a studio apartment and buys very little, simply because I am always surrounded by people who live an extremely extravagent lifestyle. By the standards of the people I am surrounded with every day, I live very simply, but not compared to many of the people here. You just have to find your own happy medium- the mix of simplicity and "stuff" that makes you happy and content with your life.
I try to think about that before I buy anything- how is this going to add to my happiness? If I think it will (a painting to enjoy daily, for example) I buy it and don't look back. But having that standard helps me avoid buying a lot of junk that will just clutter up my home.
post #19 of 33
I agree it's about finding what works for you and your family.

For me it means less stuff and more time to do things I enjoy doing.

Less stuff means less maintainance and cleaning.

I do love comfort, though, so I will never live a very spare life if given the choice.

My favorite book on this subject is still How to Simplify Your Life by Elaine St. James. She has no children, but the book is short, to the point, practical and easy to put into practice those things that will work for each person.

Oh, and I have a husband who is not so interested in a simple life, but we both want a smaller house someday and he has promised he will keep his boating/camping supplies contained to one area of the basement.
post #20 of 33
I'm not exactly living simple, yet, but I am living more simply than I was.

I quit my job. It was really stressing me out, to an unhealthy degree. I'm working part time now, from home, consulting. I'm not making much money, but frankly, I will never step back up to the plate for the amount of stress that I was taking on for a paycheck.

Making that move freed me up for a lot of other changes in my home, and this summer I grew my own tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. I've never even grown a house plant before! It felt great. I also started doing almost all of my fruit and veg shopping at the farmers market. It slows me down to walk around there and see what they have, rather than running into the supermarket with a list and dashing out to the next thing. I iron DH's dress shirts, instead of taking them to the drycleaners. (That's a drop in the budget bucket, but you know, every little bit helps.)

I haven't been spending alot of money on clothes or things or food because I have more time now to make choices. DD has stuff in her closet and toychest that we didn't even know was there... I realize quitting a job isn't an option for everyone, but for me it was more about quitting a lifestyle to get to a place where I wasn't overloaded with bills and demands and no time. Being home this summer gave me time to purge my closet, and the scary dark cabinets under the kitchen counter...

(And a practical aside--99% of my bills are online, so they don't come to the house anymore.)
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