Tuesday, 28 January 2014

What is simple living?

As per Wikipedia, Simple living encompasses a number of different voluntary practices to simplify one's lifestyle. These may include reducing one's possessions or increasing self-sufficiency, for example. Simple living may be characterized by individuals being satisfied with what they need rather than want. Although asceticism generally promotes living simply and refraining from luxury and indulgence, not all proponents of simple living are ascetics. Simple living is distinct from those living in forced poverty, as it is a voluntary lifestyle choice.

Simple living can be an individual choice to each person and their circumstances. It doesn’t matter if you’re single or with a partner, have children or not, earn a lot or a little, work full-time or not at all. Each person can decide how they want to live and adapt their practices to living simply. When you live simple, you try to reduce your expenses and increase the quality of your life. You adapt to routines, get organised, reuse and recycle, learn to stockpile and cook from scratch, make your cleaners, declutter, budget, make your own skincare and home remedies, live as sustainable and independent as you like/can by growing veggies and having chooks. Simple living does NOT mean you’re never allowed to shave again, have only one shower a month and live without electricity. Also, some people wish to live this way and if it works for them, then nobody should argue how they should or shouldn’t live. Living simple and frugal sounds a bit like alternative lifestyle people living out in the bush but it doesn’t have to mean that. YOU decide what level you do want to commit to and what you deem as simple. There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for it. Some people decide having a laptop and an iPad/Tablet is part of simple living while others decide they would like to live without those. Some people might practice simple living in a flat without the opportunity to grow vegetables and keep chooks while otheres live in a more rural area away from shops and supermarkets and try (or have) to become more self-sufficient. The choice is up to you but I can tell you, if you slide into simple life like I did, you suddenly will have the desire to not go shopping, to use less electricity and water, to learn skills you never thought you could do and be happy!

So who am I? My name is Frances, I’m 38 years old and live in Central Queensland on 3 acres of rural bliss. I’m of German origin but have been living in Australia for 15 years. I have a partner but no children, instead I have 2 dogs, 5 chooks and 4 parrots. I’m an Engineer and work full-time while my partner takes care of our property and animals. As I was explaining in my last post, life just burned me out and made me unhappy. I learnt how to simplify my life, live with less and be happy. It was an amazing transformation! But it wasn’t easy. Don’t forget, simple live is everything but easy when you start out. But once you’re in the swing of things it will make your life happier.

Why is it so hard to start out? Just saving some money and making your own cleaners can’t be so hard – or can it? Well the difficulty lies within how and with what to start. So you want to save money, but how? You need to create a budget, you need to shop around, find the same items you need cheaper or on special, need to compare, remember prices and become more aware what you actually spend your money on. You want to start stockpiling, but does that mean you just go to the next Supermarket and buy heaps of everything you normally buy? Will this fit into the budget? You start cooking from scratch and realise that buying tomato sauce for your pasta is not really ‘from scratch’. So next time you make a meal, it takes you three houes because you want to make everything from scratch. And your meal plan works great but you buy an item for each meal you never use again and your meals suddenly become really expensive. You declutter and don’t know if you really need and/or want the items but what do you do with them? Try selling them, drop them off at the Op shop? So you put them in the cupboard to think about it before you declutter again and of course you forget about those items. You make your own cleaners but have never done this before and suddenly mixing the stuff up and trying to find a suitable container for them takes longer than the cleaning process itself. You get some chooks and suddenly find yourself with 30 eggs a week. You start your vegetable garden but do you know what to grow in your region and how? What do you do with the harvest? Do you know how to preserve? Suddenly you realise that living simple is everything but simple and together with your job and family it might become too much for you and you decide to go back to your old routine, not because you’re happier than but because it’s easier.

It took me nearly an entire year to figure all of this out and I’m still learning because that’s what simple living does – you want more. Not more materialistic goods, you want more skills to learn to live with less. I endeavor to help you with the transition into simple life by showing you how I transformed myself. Let’s take one step at the time and please feel free to contact me with any questions you have. Don’t forget simple life is supposed to make you happier, not stress you out. But don’t worry, you can do it!

The first step to take is to decide how you want to live. How do you see simple life fitting in with your way of life? Go and have a cuppa, take a notebook and pen and write down how you realistically want to live. If you have a lot of debt and a mortgage you can’t just quit work and life self-sustainable – you will have to work towards it. If you believe you cannot achieve how you really want to live in the short-term, create a short- and long-term plan. I did that: I have no debt other than my mortgage and a couple of investment properties. My partner isn’t working, so quitting my job is no option. Even if we’d sell the investment properties, we still would not be able to pay our home off and we also wouldn’t have the skills to live on a small income. Our current expenses match my current (quite high) income. We have to learn to live on less first. For me, I created these two plans:

Short Term Plan (within the next 10 years):

  • Pay off home
  • Reduce expenses
Skills to learn:
  • Budget
  • Cheese Making
  • Soap/Skincare Making
  • Preserving and Stockpiling
  • Gardening
  • Cooking from scratch
  • Make my own cleaners
  • Check assets/equipment and repair and maintain or plan and budget,
Long-term Plan (after 10 years):
• Quit work
• Learn even more skills (e.g. making my own clothes, livestock)

When I first started simple living, it did my head in. So many things to do, so many things to consider. I felt like Sysyphus. Now I have finally learnt that I don't have to start everything at once but I can go day by day, week by week, month by month and add simple living to it. Instead of decluttering the whole house at once, I do a room each month. Instead of making everything myself, I start making cleaners as they run out. If there's a system, there's a way (this is the Engineer speaking in me). Last year left me all confused and overwhelmed. This year I'm ready. Let's do it! Go and get your coffee and make that list.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Are you happy?

About a year ago, my life seemed perfect - I had a great career; I earned plenty of money; I had a loving partner; I was healthy; I went on plenty of holidays. But I wasn't happy. I wanted more. I wanted a better job and more money as there was never anything left. I didn't appreciate my partner, I was overweight, never enjoyed any of those many holidays and never had time to do the things I liked. I thought if I'd weigh less, earned more, be able to buy everything I wanted, I would be happy. I had no idea!!!

My breaking point was when I broke into tears in the middle of the Gym. There was no specific reason, I had just a bad day - I lost money because I mixed up the dates for our holiday booking and had to re-book as I wasn't able to get a refund. I weight myself after yet another diet and still didn't loose a gram. My job was stressfull as usual and there in the middle of the Gym while I was doing my exercise I bursted into tears. No-one saw this coming, me at the least. I cried and could not stop. People in the Gym were getting worried as I had no apparent reason. I myself thought how silly of me, I got the perfect life, I should be so happy. I've got everything most people ever want - why the hell am I so unhappy??? I left the Gym and did what I normally did when I was sad - I went shopping. I need to spoil myself, right? I'm working hard and deserve something nice. Normally I would go and buy clothes I never wear or I do get some pampering done. But this time I went to the bookshop and bought myself a book which probably saved my life. I bought a book about the simple life. I didn't know it was about simple life. I hoped the book would make my life easier, find better solutions for all those annoying chores I don't like doing, so I have more time to go shopping. If you would have told me this book will teach me about living with less, I wouldn't have bought it. Hey, I work hard and earn well - why should I want to live with less?

I read the entire book in just 3 days. I created lists and plans on how to implement all those changes, thinking the entire time of how I can save time by doing this without really wanting to change the way I live. But somehow it happened. Very slowly and hardly noticeable. I started to question why I live the way I lived. How did I get there? Is this were I wanted to be? Was this what I had in mind when I went to Uni and studied? Did I really want to work that hard to buy stuff I didn't really want or need? Did I want to feel stressed, tired and annoyed all the time? No, this wasn't how I envisaged my life to be. I had to change. I wanted to try the simple life, see if it makes me happy. I started with cleaning out my wardrobe. I had two wardrobes full of clothes. They all fitted me, so I thought I can't trow them out. But I went thru everything and checked if it suits me and if I really like it. I gave more than half of my wardrobe to charity. And I suddenly had this feeling, I haven't felt for a long time - satisfaction. And then came happiness. Funny enough this feeling of happiness lasted much longer then any of my I-bought-myself-something-to-feel-good happiness. It was just there - every morning I opened my wardrobe I was happy all over again. I can't explain it but I since have read a lot about simple life and the theory to live happy with less.

I spent the entire last year (or what was left of it) to implement a simple life. Well, this sound like a truly happy ending, right? Not quite. I have no idea why it's called the simple life, when it certainly isn't simple! Cooking from scratch, housework, gardening, making your own cleaners, buying local food, repairing, recycling, being mindfull while working fulltime is hard work! After 12 hours working away from home I don't really feel like having to go to several different shops to buy the product at the cheapest price. How was I supposed to tend a vegetable garden when I only saw my graden in bright light only on weekends? I wanted to life a simple life but I felt overwhelmed by it.

Simple life isn't easy. It's not convenient. but if you feel like I did, give it a go. I will write on this blog about transitioning into a simple life. I will explain the steps I took to get me there. Participate in the journey and experience the changes in you and your life - you will love it! Please join me in living a simple life, a happy life - it's not complicated!