Posts Tagged ‘simple life’

but tossing and turning instead because my brain won’t turn off.

As I was lying in bed last night, I was thinking about yesterday’s post and how complicated my life really is. Today, on Facebook, three of my friends were lamenting Monday, and realizing that somewhere along the way, we have forgotten how to live.

The  joy has been sucked out of our lives with busyness: long commutes, needless paperwork, unpaid overtime, too many papers coming home from school, soccer games, and lawn mowing.  Even 13th Century peasants had 80 holidays per year, and slowed down in the winter long enough to mend their socks and make babies.

Some people are lucky enough to be in the financial situation to be able to do what they want, and others of us, are treading water, trying to get the bills paid. I know some will say, “follow your bliss”, “quit your job and do what makes you happy”, “sell your house and your car and everything will be okay”.

Some of us are just not in the financial position to do that.  I’ve been reading a lot of blogs about simplicity, and there are  a lot of hardcore, all or nothing types.  Either you sell your t.v. and your car, or you might as well give up your quest for a simpler life.  That’s just not possible for all everyone.  Some of us have child support to pay;  a significant other in school; are under or unemployed; have houses that won’t sell in this market; or are up to their eyeballs in student loans and credit card debt.  Maybe we live in places that have no public transportation and eight-year-olds that can’t ride their bikes 10 miles to town and back. What about us?  I am hopelessly optimistic.  I just think we will have to be ultra creative to figure this all out.

What do those of us that want a simpler life now do? In our minds we see how we want our lives to be, but aren’t sure how to get there.  Maybe we don’t even know how we want our lives to look yet, so we can’t even begin to make a change.

Eight years ago, I knew that something wasn’t quite right in my life. I really felt stale and stagnant.

So I took the following steps to make some changes. I…

  • learned to oil paint. I had always wanted to learn to paint, so when my daughter was just about a year old, I took an oil painting class.
  • threw pots on a wheel at a pottery studio. Let me tell you, pottery can be therapeutic. The other major and maybe the most life transforming thing that I learned was: Don’t be afraid to look like an idiot and ask questions. People want to help you.
  • came to terms with the thought that I wasn’t crazy, just creative. I saw a counselor for a while, but I think anyone could have filled the role of letting me know that I wasn’t crazy, just different from the mainstream. Who wants to be like everyone else anyway?
  • tried every thing I could think of to save my marriage. I didn’t bolt, and suffered for a while, but I wanted to make sure every step had been overturned before I left.
  • found people in my tribe. This included people from age 21-76. Age doesn’t matter, heart does.
  • made a plan. I went back and got my teaching certificate for High School science so I could find a job with a paycheck that could support myself.
  • finally learned how to use my camera which is by far the most fun I’ve had so far.
  • met a great friend that shares my lust for learning, so I married him.
  • really started evaluating what I eat, buy and otherwise consume, and have started making some difficult choices in my behaviors to match up with my values.

So, that’s what I’ve done so far, not all at the same time mind you-over the course of the last eight years. I’m not there yet, far from it. I still feel like there is a lot more for me to learn.

The last ten years have beat me up in a lot of ways, but I wouldn’t trade them because I learned too much about myself. If I hadn’t have had troubles along the way, I would still be stupid 26 year-old Jenny, and not mildly jaded 36 year-old Jenny.

So friends, what are we going to do to find the simplicity and connectedness in our lives that we want?

Step One: We have to evaluate what our values truly are. What do we hold dearest to us in our lives?  How can we better show through our lives what is most important to us? And then, this is the kicker…we have to prioritize those values. Put them in 1,2,3 order with one being the most important to you.

I’m going to sleep on this one tonight, and post more about this tomorrow. If you are courageous, post your values in order in the comment section on the blog, and maybe we can help each other out.

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Jeremy and I were sans kiddos this weekend, as all of them were with their other parents.  This is our putzing-date time.

We went to the local farmer’s market for cider and greens, dropped off some pickled hot peppers to a friend.  After waking Kevin up (sorry!) and giving him the pickled peppers, we went to the second hand store to buy cloth napkins so we could get rid of the paper ones for good.  It was a jackpot day because the thrift store had all cloth napkins half-off.


We also purchased two climbing roses on sale for $2.50 each and a drying rack that we had been eyeing at another thrift store so we could dry our clothes without the dryer in the winter.  On the way home, we spotted two rain barrels at a garage sale for $45.  A pretty good price we thought, now we can collect water and water the garden next summer without running the well.

It was a banner day for making our lives a little more green.

Sure we spent a lot of green, but everything was at bargain prices.  All of the things that were purchased were things that we’ve been talking about for ages.  The roses, well, that comes out of my allowance for October.

Our car was so full, Jeremy had to go back with the van to pick up the rain barrels.

What the heck?!

Hey!  I thought that we were supposed to be downsizing, cleaning up, and simplifying our life!

Mmmm.  How does this all work anyway?  To use cloth napkins, I have to purchase said cloth napkins and bring them into my house, and unless I want to do laundry everyday with six kids that spill a lot of milk, I need a lot of them.  If we want to collect your rainwater, we have to bring home rain barrels.  If we want to dry our clothes in the winter, we need a clothes rack, because if you drape wet sweaters on your antique wooden chairs when wet, you’ll ruin them (ask me how I know).

I even had to buy loads of jars in order to all that canning I talked about.

Why do we need so much stuff?

Here’s the part that got me going on all of this today…

When we returned mid-afternoon from our spending spree, we noticed a buggy without a horse across the street, where our daughters’ friend used to live.  There was an Amish woman in the garage sorting through the junk that the family had left behind when they moved out in the middle of the night a few weeks ago.

We went over to see what they were up to, and offer the services of our van if needed.  The house was trashed.  There had been a flood in the house that no one had told the landlords about.  The dogs that had lived there tore up the doors.  The garage was covered with piles and piles of stuff.  In the piles were trash, clothes, shoes, broken toys, beer boxes, a broken fridge, a karaoke machine, scads of take out pizza, and a box for a 54 inch flat screen television.

The family left because they had not been paying their rent.  Whether or not they couldn’t afford it or just didn’t want to, I don’t know.

The woman doing the sweeping was one of the owners of the house.  She was saddened by the way the family had taken care of their belongings.

“There is probably more than $1,000 worth of broken things and clothes in this garage.  I don’t understand why they didn’t take care of the things that they had.  If money was tight why didn’t they take better care of their clothing?  Clothing is expensive,” the woman commented.

The garage represented well more than $1,000 worth of items neglected, consumed, and abandoned.

Our landfills represent millions and millions of dollars wasted, neglected, consumed, and abandoned.

So what can we do about it?  We’re Americans after all.  We consume things.

Jeremy and I offered to help take items of any usefulness to Goodwill.  After all, it was easier for us to haul it in our van, than in the buggy.  I took everything home and gave it a good washing, and hung it on the line to dry.  What wasn’t in good enough shape for Goodwill I cut up to use as rags.

What can we do about our consumption? I think our Earth is grand and I want to protect it, but I still consume things.  Now I consume a lot of green-earth-saving things, but I’m consuming none-the-less.  I don’t have a great answer.

Here’s what my old man and I have been talking about to try to eliminate the consumerism from our house:

  • Buy as much as possible second hand. It’s really wonderful to save money.  But, it’s also great to get some more use out of something that may have ended up in a landfill.  My favorite haunts are garage sales with girls selling lemonade out front that look to be a couple inches taller than our girls; Goodwill; The Mennonite thrift store in town; and then the more upscale consignment clothing store.  We also shop at the second hand furniture store, and small groceries that sell dented cans, overruns, and products nearing the expiration date.
  • Try to limit the amount of stuff that comes into your home. This one is really hard.  All of the kids bring home papers from school each day.  Each one of us brings items into the house, maybe one small bit by small bit, but it adds up.
  • Don’t watch T.V.. We do watch videos in our house, and sometimes we’ll watch our online funnies.  We hardly ever watch television though which limits the amount of commercials we and our kids see.  If we don’t know that a new product exists, it’s much harder to want it.
  • Get rid of stuff. I am terrible at this one because I’m cheap.  I would love to have a cleaner house, but I’m afraid that I might need that thing someday.  But, by keeping all of the little doodads, I can’t find the things that I need when I need them, and may be tempted to buy a new one.  We realized last week when the kids were sick that we had five thermometers.  Unless we need to take simultaneous temps, I’m sure that one would do.  I’ll keep you posted on how this one goes for me.
  • Don’t buy junk you don’t need.
  • “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful,” said William Morris, one of the fathers of the Arts and Crafts movement at the turn of the last century.  Most American homes are filled with all kinds of lame junk that is neither useful or beautiful; so donate it, repurpose it, or use it for kindling.

True Confession: I am far far far from being anywhere near perfect or even really good about less consuming. But I want to be there.

I know that I do want to fully appreciate the items that I own, and take good care of them.  I have a pair of sandals that I spent $80 on 10 years ago, and they finally had to be retired this year.  That averages into eight bucks a year to wear those great shoes.  They were a quality product, and I took good care of them.  What if everything we owned was of quality, and we took good care of them?  I bet I could get by with one pair of sandals, don’t you?

I don’t know what the answer is to get us all off of this rat race of consumerism.  The Amish woman across the street today was never on it.  She consumes stuff, but really only what she and her family needs.

What ideas do you have?  I’d love to hear them.

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