A very good friend of mine visited yesterday and we were talking about this very subject, and she pointed out how it was normal for people to always be wanting something, or wishing they had something, (or even wanting things that your friends have but you can't quite afford), and this goes on to make you feel, not only that you are missing something in your life, but also makes you feel bad. As she very rightly said, once you stop and really think about it, you realise that you don't need these things at all. And I mean NOT at all. For example I have a fairly smallish television and my parents have offered to give me their big screen one when they purchase a new one. This is a lovely offer but really I don't need it. What with the kids, who always stand way too close to the one I already have, and there is the fear of my boys toppling it over on top of my two year old daughter and squashing her flat, I don't need a TV the size of half my wall.....I can still see the screen perfectly on my little one.....(my eyes aren't quite that bad yet!) All a big one will do is throw out more radiation, use more power and cost me more money (not to mention potentially pancake one of my kids).
So if you keep on this theme, of thinking about what we really could live without, I think you would find there is an awful lot of things. I've mentioned before in previous posts how last year my smart phone got broken whilst riding my horse and I was reduced to using just a mobile phone that was JUST a phone....and seriously....within a week I didn't miss having the Internet and all those other fancy do-dohs on it. It was pleasantly refreshing....and a hell of a lot less of a time waster....to just have a phone that is a phone. Having said that I have found my smart phone to be a life saver on occasions....like the time I got caught in the supermarket with $400 of shopping at the check out and my card was declined because all the money was in the wrong account...so a quick jump on my Internet banking, transfer some money and BANG...the problem was solved right there and then at the counter. It certainly does have its conveniences but I think it is important to stop relying on it so much. I grew up without the Internet, mobile phones, a computer and any sort of beep beep game and I got along just fine. I did my final year of school without the Internet (it still didn't exist!...how old am I??)...we had a dicky dot printer for our computer (you know the ones that had the big feed of paper that you had to tear off) and I didn't get a mobile until I was about 22 or 23. And it was HUGE!
Steps to a Simple Life
I know, this one sounds like a bit of a botheration, but actually it's very therapeutic and you find all sorts of treasures you forgot you had. Make a few different piles of things as you are sorting through it all; 'things to keep', 'things to throw out' and 'things to donate'. Also you might find that you have a pile of 'things to sell on eBay', which is what I found when going through my wardrobe....so I was then able to purchase quite a lot of new things that I really love and want to wear (aka the whole stack of pretty dresses and skirts I now own!) You will find that there are things you need to keep for sentimental reasons, even though they are essentially useless (in a nice way!), but this is ok. Don't throw away your past if there is an attachment to an item, and don't throw away Great-Grandma's old tea set either because you'll regret it later!
2. Take stock of your pantry
This is a de-clutter thing too, but also it is important to have a real good look at what you are eating and feeding your family. You might not want to do the whole 'get rid of sugar thing' but just see how much of what is in there that comes out of a packet. Food shouldn't come out of a packet!! If it's in a packet it means there are all sorts of added nasties and it's not really food. Have a think. If your grandparents wouldn't recognise it, don't eat it!! (ok...so try not to eat it, or eat less of it)
I never bought much packet stuff or things in boxes before, just the odd thing, but now I aim to buy only fresh fruit and vegetables and just the basics like flour, butter and milk. I've been baking and cooking from scratch and we have been eating really well. It's also not that time consuming and once you work out a selection of quick snacks for kids, and that type of thing, it really doesn't take that much time at all.
The other thing you will discover, as well as an improved diet and better tasting food, is that your garbage bin will be considerably less full. This is something I was very delighted to find out, particularly that I now no longer have to jump up and down on my bin just to get everything to fit! You will also find that you spend way less money. Raw ingredients are naturally cheaper than processed food, where someone has to go to the effort of making it for you. If you want to further reduce your shopping bill try and buy from local producers. Less transport means less costs added to the price of the food.
3. Learn to sew
Now I'm learning to sew so that I can make clothes, for fun mostly (I'm finding I love my new found hobby), but if you shop around for cheap fabrics it can save you money. If you don't want to sew your own clothes, because really you can buy clothes quite cheaply, it is handy to have simple sewing skills so you can mend you clothes. Why throw out a perfectly good pair of jeans just because they have a hole in the knee? If you can begin to have a 'fix rather than throw' attitude you will save money and dramatic reduce your wastage. Take a leaf out of our 1940s ancestors book and 'Make Do and Mend'! (see post here)
4. Plant vegetables
My husband spent some of the weekend building me some veggie boxes, which I'm very excited about. I requested them a little while ago, but due to lambing going on, and then him being away shearing, it wasn't until now that he was able to get to it. As it is the start of spring we need to get a wriggle on and get the soil organised, but we have a great stash of sheep poop under the shearing shed to use as fertiliser, and once that is all established I can set about putting my vegetables in. We grow all our own lamb, pork and beef, and there is nothing like eating our own produce in this department, so it is going to be wonderful to pair up all our meals with home grown veggies! If you have any room in your garden why not consider popping in some vegetables. If you don't have a big yard perhaps consider vegetables instead of normal plants and flowers. If you are really space restricted what about using the front garden, the nature strip or do you have a roof top that could be utilised? Do a bit of research and see what sort of edible delights you can grow in pots!
Stemming from my point about taking stock of your pantry, you can start to think about what you can bake yourself rather than buy. I don't buy cakes or biscuits at all now, rather I make everything, which is not only cheaper (it makes a lot more than you would buy in a packet) but there isn't all the horrible preservatives and other weird ingredients in them. Yes there is sugar, but my children don't live off them, and it is just a matter of being sensible and giving them fruit as snacks and being like the Cookie Monster (like he is today, not when I was a kid and he used to devour cookies at a rate of knots)....but cookies are "A sometimes food!"
I did a whole post here on 'Back Away from the Technology' and I talk about tips to limit the use of technology. To me I find that technology confuses things and lets so much of the outside world in to our lives. In some ways this is good, we have access to unlimited information and education and can so easily communicate with each other. It's wonderful and astounding and it's great that we can be so connected. But sometimes we just need to 'disconnect' and it can be nice to be NOT contactable. Sometimes we just need to slip off the grid. I am finding that more and more I want to keep the outside world out to an increasing degree, not only to slow life down but to protect my children and myself. It can be hard but set yourself some goals and see if you can limit your use of technology, or even a single piece, like only checking your emails once a day, or hopping on Facebook every second day. See if it makes a difference to the time you now have available to do other more productive things and see if it makes you feel different within yourself.
7. Share the load and de-stress
By this I mean that I have started to rely on my husband a lot more. I'm a pretty independent kind of gal, I've been a single mum where I had to be the mum AND the dad, so switching off from that was pretty difficult. But I was finding that I was feeling like I was shouldering all of the stress, and almost feeling like I was making all of the decisions, and it was making me unhappy, and quite frankly, rather grumpy. Now I make sure that I share the load with my husband, and in some cases leave the decisions up to him. I find that I'm a lot less stressed, and really he is perfectly capable of handling things on his own without me worrying about whether he got it done or not!! I also find, and to quote my lovely friend who was here yesterday, you need to 'pick your battles', so where I might have once argued or stood my ground about a difference of opinion, I now let him make the choice with certain things that really don't matter that much. Of course the big things I will participate in a lively discussion, but the point is there really is no need to 'sweat the small stuff!'
Anyway, this has been my start to simplifying my life, and so far it has been working. From here I plan to work on letting go of technology even more (while removing more of the unnecessary bits from my children's reach) and with the weather starting to warm up a little, get to work on my new garden. With plans to one day own a farm, there will be many new additions to my simple life that will occur once this happens as I will have the capacity to have an orchard, keep chickens for eggs, have an enormous vegetable garden, maybe have a house cow.............!
Enjoy your journey!