Friday, March 7, 2008

Thoughts on Simple Living

A recent post at the contentment-filled Down to Earth has given me mixed feelings, and I'm trying to sort them out. I am wondering if Simple Living is as simple as all that!

It is very easy to move from contentment with a simple life to smugness about it. Hardly conducive to moving other people forward, though. I also think it's often a bit simplistic. Often a decision early in life sets a trajectory which is very difficult to shift. As a positive example: The Geek is a computer programmer -- it's all he has ever wanted to be. Now in Australia, there are only two cities where you can get the kind of job he wants: Sydney and Melbourne. We're Sydneysiders. As it happens, the parts of Sydney with computing jobs in them are all at major transport hubs, except for one. The Geek has always walked and/or used public transport to and from work. But if he were in the building trades, the story would be quite different. The Geek's apparent eco-friendliness is a result of his career choice, rather than a transport choice.

We can't always see how our previous choices will affect the options open to us later, and for some people, the usual prescriptions for starting Simple Living are close to insurmountable. How do you cook from scratch, for example, if you have never been taught much cooking and all your family have a firmly-set taste for processed foods? (Don't look at me for the answer: I chose a family which could cook!) Perhaps more entry points to the simple lifestyle need to be shared around?

That's my first feeling: that sometimes simplifying one's life is quite complex! And in particular, that if you have more money to start with, you have more ability to live simply.

On the other hand, sometimes I feel that more medium-level articles are what I need. The Geek commented the other night that the usual items in Make Your House Greener articles are things we have already done -- we're now heading for the expensive-and-daunting end of the spectrum, where the photovoltaics and grey-water treatment kits live. Surely there is something in the middle, between $200 and $20,000?


lightening said...

Yes, Simple Living can be anything BUT simple at times. In my mind, it's more about making mindful choices as opposed to simply "going with the flow" (doing stuff or buying stuff just because it's what everyone else is doing/buyin). Some people look at it as being about not spending money or doing this activity or that activity. In my mind, everyone's path is different and different doesn't mean WRONG.

Anonymous said...

True, Simple Living is complex. I think that everyone's version of simple living is different. To me it isn't so much about finances or cooking from scratch etc it's more about living the life you really desire( or at least working on reaching that goal) and enjoying the journey.

Anonymous said...

I have read the down-to-earth blog as well as your comments and you have both given me food for thought.

You are right in that it is very easy to say "cook from scratch" "make your lunch pack instead of buying out". But what if you leave the house at 6am and don't get home til 8pm - there isn't much room/time there for making a lunch box is there?

But if you look again, and think differently, it can be done. However, you need to have the ability to cook from scratch, to plan your meals, and to consider making extra at night to take some the next day for lunch.

I think a good mid-way to start for people who really don't cook is to maybe cook one meal a week from scratch. Doesn't have to be a major meal, could even be an omelette with some chopped onion, cheese and ham. or a simple tomato sauce for pasta with onions, garlic and a tin of tomatoes.

Do that for a month or so, and then try to cook two meals from scratch at weekend. And then slowly build from there.

And even if you don't cook from scratch you can at least buy only what you need with a menu/meal plan for the week.

I agree with the other comments that the whole simple living ethos seems to be stopping and taking a look at your life, whether you can change things to make you happier/healthier/less fraught etc.

And I agree totally with you on your comments on transport. I am from the UK and people in London find it very easy to use the public transport "card" but that is because it is so good - try using a bus in a small town instead....!

I will now have a browse around the rest of your blog.....

Miss P

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry you find my attitude to be smug. I am anything but. If you've just started reading my blog, maybe reading a bit further back would give you a more accurate idea of my true feelings.

I think simple living is quite difficult, not only when starting off, but also in the progression of it. There are choices to be made every day and, generally, those choices are going against the tide of those around you. My own choice to live more simply was like going from black to white for me. I owned a technical writing business which specialised in writing for the mining industry. It involved a lot of travel and a lot of excess. I closed down that business instead of selling it because when I came to see the negatives aspects of that job, I didn't want it to continue, for me or anyone else.

My formula for simple living is only that - mine. I hope by sharing what I do, others will see the varied ways it can be achieved. I don't think my way is the only way, it's just the way I do it.

We have thought about photovoltaic panels but decided against them, going instead to just solar hot water. Maybe we might change that decision if the installation and technology become a little cheaper. I think if you have the money though, it would be a wise investment.

If you haven't read Linda Cockburn's blog,it's here: You might find something there that's of interest.

I grew up near where you're living and know the area well. I agree that Rookwood is a great place to visit. Good luck with you endeavours. I send my best wishes to you and the geek.

trendy georgia said...

Hi there,
I read your blog with interest. I guess if you want o live simply then its really easy, but the desire has to be there. Therefore I find it all quite easy. Im one of those people who wanted to live simply but didnt have the time (Or so I thougjht) knowledge(again o so I thought) andnbasically found living by buying everything and treating myself and my family to things easier than changing my lifestyle. Perhaps its age catching up or children growing or just returning to y farming roots but I have totoally started spurning modern ways . Now I DONT work so I DO have the time but again thats my choice. I can recommend the grass roots magazine as a terrific advice getter for simle cheap living with alternatives to buying the expensive products needed to ensure a simpler way of lving often included, written by real people, not journalists I might add. Im blagging on a bit here but I find Rhonds posts a huge source of inspiration also joining Simple savings website was perhaps the biggest kick in my butt I couold have ever given to myself. I have children who love processed food (thanks to me) and all the mod cons and YES it is hard to change but slowly we do see it and I do also give in. My children are very talented in the performing arts and so we spend a lot of money there but live simply elsewhere, that is the way we live happily. So it is always up to you ultimately. If we hadnt had children (I cant imagine why not but if we did) we would be living hippily and happily out in the wops.
I finishwith a quote I recently read written in the 1500s that goes something like this: living frugaly is a second income. Meaning the money you save living simply is akin to a wage rise. I just love this quote. God bless Cheerily Cherry (cant type well!!!)

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say I agree with your post.
I live a simple, frugal life and always have done because that is the way I was brought up. For me it is not a 'life choice', it is who I am. I do find a tendency in the blogoshere towards a smugness in some people, I do wonder if this is because it is almost 'cool' now? Having said that I did not think you had directed your comments towards Rhonda at all! She has some very practical help on her blog and is always interesting.
I will now take a look through your blog!
Mrs S

Chookie said...

Goodness me, controversy! I hope you are all finding it of the helpful kind.

Lightening, I do think mindfulness is a big part of SL; I'm wondering how The Great Unmindful can start thinking when they're tied up in the rat-race and can't see a way to unravel the knots? (Now there's smugness...)

I think you have also described mindfulness, Tracy -- and good luck with the kohlrabi! They are better young -- below tennis-ball size.

Miss P, I do think the continuous exhaustion of long working hours decrease the chance of living simply. An omelette is a good idea for a person with No Time.

I'm sorry you felt that I was having a go at you, Rhonda. What was your first step in moving from black to white? Did it set you on a trajectory which made other decisions easier, or have you struggled the whole way?

Cherry, I can see the way you put more emphasis on experiences rather than things -- is this a vital part of SL, do you think?

Maybe smugness is to do with the Cool Factor, Mrs S -- I hadn't thought of that!

Anonymous said...

chookie, I started feeling that things were not right in my world, I was unhappy and nothing made a difference. It slowly dawned on me that a new way of living was needed. When I closed down my business, I had no idea what I'd do and my husband thought I'd gone a bit mad. I guess, looking back with perfect vision, that I had gone a bit nuts, and that is what I needed to put my life totally under the spotlight, to search for what was able to be salvaged and what I could ditch.

It was only in finding ways to help us survive without my money that I moved towards being frugal, and then a whole new world opened up for me. It was quite difficult at first but as one thing after another fell into place it became easier. There are still times when difficult decisions must be made, and it's not plain sailing all the time. However, now that I've reskilled myself and know what to do to support us, it's easier and it brings me great joy every day. I hope you find the same thing happens for you and your husband. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Hi there,
Interesting post and comments. I believe a lot of the "simple living" things I read are more about "satisfied living". There's a lot to be said for satisfaction.
Best wishes, Ann.