Friday, August 20, 2010

Frugal Friday - What Does 'Simple Life' Mean to You?

I have known for a long time now that my life needs to be simplified - I need less stuff, I need fewer commitments, I need to slow down and spend deliberate time on things rather than rushing from here to there.  As part of that, I realize that living simpler will impact my budget as well - not necessarily by lowering my expenses but by allowing me more control over my money and making me more content with my life.

The thing that disappoints me though is if you, say, Google "Simple Life" most of the links that come back have to do with working for yourself, growing all your own food, raising chickens and cows, churning your own butter, sewing your own clothes from feed sacks, learning how to navigate by the moon, ...oh, wait that one isn't in there!  :)   In any case, many of those links involve reverting back to life as it was 100 years ago or so perhaps with the addition of running water and a flush toilet.  Does living like this make life more frugal as well?  I'm sure it does - all these modern things and the stuff we have cost money.  Eliminating them will for sure reduce expenses.

The problem for me is this:

I have zero desire to have that type of life.

I do know how to garden, sew, cook and bake from scratch, and I could, if necessary, probably knit myself socks or a sweater (though the first few would look very strange, I guarantee!).  Oh, I do grow tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and squash as well as a few herbs.  I do sew a bit now and then (mostly quilts).  I do love to cook and bake from scratch and do so on a daily basis. I prefer embroidery over knitting and haven't picked up knitting needles in years. 

For me all of those things take time, and time is what I want to gain, not lose, by simplifying.  Time to spend with my family and friends. Time to put that extra evaluation into an assignment for my students to really help them get that concept. Time to curl up with a good book, or my embroidery, or a hot cup of tea and a family DVD with my son under one arm and my daughter on my lap.  Time to attend a conference for a much appreciated new viewpoint on something I'm doing in my classroom.

If I didn't have access to a good farmer's market with fabulous produce and prices, I'd be more inclined to grow more of our own food.  I am daily grateful that I don't have to rely on our backyard to feed us - quite frankly we'd either starve or be an awful lot thinner come spring! For me simple living in terms of food means cooking simple, wholesome meals that are delicious to eat, easy to prepare and at least somewhat pleasing to look at.  It does not mean grinding my own wheat, or growing all my own fruit or vegetables and canning, blanching, pickling, or otherwise preserving.  It certainly does not mean raising chickens or cows or pigs for meat, dairy and eggs.  If I do some of those things (which I do) it is because I have the time and enjoy them rather than because it's a necessity or part of living simply.

I do make some of the clothes I wear and my daughter wears.  If I have time and can make something for less than I would pay to buy it, then I make it.  Time is at a premium for me now, my mother loves to sew and does most of the sewing for me (she actually asks me what she can make each time I talk to her!), and many times I can get things cheaper at the store.  Sewing is something I enjoy in moderation when I have the time.  For me simple living in terms of clothing means knowing we have what we need and can either buy or make what we don't have but need as time and money allow.  It doesn't involve sewing every stitch of clothing we wear, knitting all our knitwear (or even some of it), or remaking all our old clothing into something else, so that no scrap of fabric is ever wasted.  I do make some of our clothing and I have remade clothing as well (in fact I'll be posting some pics of a couple projects in the next few weeks!), but I am very, very grateful that it isn't a necessity. Sewing is something I have always in enjoyed in fits and starts and always in moderation.  I am terribly grateful that I don't have to make all my own clothing! If I did, I'd probably have two outfits to wear and that would be it!

For my household, I do enjoy having my air conditioning, my central heat, my hot and cold running water, my flush toilet and the like. I certainly like being able to purchase soap of all kinds at the store, farmer's market or from a friend.  I like being able to go buy a chair rather than making one or purchase sheets for my bed rather than sewing them on my machine.  For me, in terms of my home, simple living means having a home I'm comfortable in and that others are comfortable in, where the chores are caught up and the place is filled with items that are useful and/or well loved.  It does not mean making my own soap, forgoing modern conveniences, cooking on a wood stove or hand brushing my carpeting clean. 

Additionally it does not mean filling my home with stuff just to have stuff.  This is the major reason I want to clean out my entire house this year - I bought into the 'stuff lie' for so long and my house is full of unwanted and non useful items.  That certainly isn't simple living and I'm through with it.

In terms of work, simple living means doing what God has called me to do, which is teach, primarily adults and science.  It does not mean running my own business, working from home or homeschooling my children.  It does not mean working 120 hours a week either! Or serving on dozens of committees and boards, or teaching dozens of Bible studies, extracurricular classes or other things like that.  I enjoy my teaching and feel that is what God has called me to do, especially since He has provided wonderful care and schooling opportunities for my children along the way.  If things were different, if I couldn't find that child care or schooling, I might change that.  For now, this is where I am and what simple living means.

Defining what simple living is for me is helping me to be frugal by allowing me to put my money where my mouth is, not necessarily put more into savings, buy groceries for $3 a month, or pay off my mortgage.  Those things are happening too - well, groceries at $160/month instead of three. :)  And it's because I'm not buying into the stuff thing any more and I am being more deliberate about where my money goes so I'm not disappointed later.

I've had people say to me that if I really wanted a simple life, I'd grow all my own produce.  If I really wanted a simple life, I'd sew all my own clothes.  If I really wanted a simple life, I'd make all my own soap and cleaning supplies.  If I really wanted a simple life, I'd stay home with my children rather than work outside my home.

I think the appeal of that form of simple living is that it requires people to slow down and be deliberate.  Isn't that what simple living is really about?  Being deliberate about what you're doing so that you are making the most of your life, not the life someone else wants you to live.  Slowing down means you can do that well, without losing your mind or your relationships to the frenzied pace of today's modern world.

Living Simply isn't about living on a farm, or making your own soap or clothes. It's about living the best life you can while making the most of what God has given you in terms of finances, energy, talents, and relationships.  Isn't that what living frugally is all about too?

How do you live simply (and frugally)? I'd love to hear!

For more Frugal Friday, check out Life as Mom!

2 comments:

  1. I would agree with you that simple living does not nessasarily mean going back to 1800's living. I love much of that way of life and we do a lot of it too, but when I get to much of even the "simple" things going then life can become far from simple. I think it is important for each of us to know our own limitations and be willing to say "no" sometimes.

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  2. Great post! Beautifully written and is exactly how i feel about living simply! :)

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