People ask me what I mean when I say that I live a simple life. I am not, as people often imagine, living on a plot of land in the countryside, away from people. I live in a suburban house. I have just disconnected (as much as possible) from aspects of modern life that brought me stress, and I now focus on the things that matter to me like family, friends, nature, and experiences. I have stepped out of the competitive rat race where everyone jostles for more money, more material things, more status, and have learned to be happy, to slow down, and be content with less ‘stuff’. I have more time to appreciate what I already have.
It didn’t happen over night, or even really by choice, initially. I was ill and needed to escape the job and the lifestyle that exacerbated my sickness. I did that by retiring on a small work pension. The benefits to my mental and physical health, my relationships, my happiness, and my lifestyle have been immense, but also to my finances. I live on about 10% of my previous income, but live an abundant life without any feelings of deprivation. I know not everyone is lucky enough to have a pension, but there are so many people out there working extra hours, spending little time with family, or commuting for hours just to pay for things that they don’t really need, as I used to do. That newer car, bigger house, wardrobe full of clothes really won’t make you happy, well not for long anyway. The pressure will be on to get something else.
We are all encouraged to live beyond our means now a days, but that brings debt, stress trying to keep up, and worry as you live pay cheque to pay cheque, feeling like you are not good enough, and wanting more. Thank goodness material things don’t have the same significance to me any more. I am no longer trying to keep up with the Jones, which is so liberating. Shopping was a habit that I used to do when I was bored, stressed and overwhelmed. I did it to fill my time. Now I find it boring. I don’t want more clutter. In fact I am constantly decluttering which is good for my purse when I sell stuff, or good for my heart when I give it away. Don’t get me wrong, I still love a new top, or gadget for the kitchen now and again, but they are a bargain or from a charity shop, and mean more because I have saved up for them.
I am more self sufficient now. I don’t need to do a weekly shop. I shop from my cupboards, freezer, the countryside and my garden first. I don’t waste any food. For many people the weekly shop is just a habit and half of it ends up in the bin. Making simple meals and cooking from scratch means I get good quality food at a low price.
Any shopping I do is intentional. There are no longer impulse purchases sitting at the back of cupboards with tags still on. By saving on buying things I really don’t need, I have money to spend on the essentials. I don’t need or miss the extras. I have learned that a laugh with a friend over a picnic, a walk in a sunset, a bowl full of free berries from nature, or making a meal from home grown produce can give me more joy than the latest phone, a new car or a bigger house (the things I gave up when I left work). My priority is to collect those experiences rather than things.
People have almost gleefully told me that I will have to go back to work as the economy changes but I am resisting. I do need more money than I have needed for the past 7 years, but I refuse to get on that roller coaster again and get sucked back into that consumeristic void. I will look for ways to earn money that fit into my simple life style. At the moment I am doing a bit of freelance writing, but when that ends I will sell crafts, plants, offer gardening, babysit or find more writing work. I don’t need a lot, I just need enough to get by. I have learned to live within my means, as my Gran used to say. Time spent with those I care about, and my slow, peaceful sanity, are more important than a big weekly pay packet to me now.
Are you feeling overwhelmed with the way you are existing? What are the first steps you can take to find a simple life worth living? It might be de-cluttering and selling things. It might be to cut your frivolous spending. It might be having to cut your food bill due to rising prices and so you start to cook from scratch. It might be to eat fakeaways instead of take aways, or to eat less in restaurants. It might be watching less television to save energy. It might be planting a garden. It might be paying your debts off or your mortgage early. It might be to reduce your hours to spend more time with family or doing something you love. However you gravitate to simple living I promise you that it is not a bad thing if you embrace it. The media is trying to panic us into giving up our dreams of living a slower, less stressful life by constantly talking about the economy and poverty. Being cash poor is not the worst kind of poverty. Being emotionally, physically, and time poor are more dangerous. How would big companies make their enormous profits if we all decided we needed less? Yes we all need to pay our bills but there are always ways we can reduce them, and that often means having less. That seems scary initially. I was petrified and thought people would judge me. Most don’t, and a lot of my friends wish that they had the courage to jump as well. I am not letting fear of a financial crisis stop my dream of living a simple life, and even if some one gets there through crisis, as I did, I promise you that it is not a bad thing. You just have to change your mindset to gratitude rather than ‘want’. Life can be so full with so little.