what does “simple living” really mean?
A few weeks ago a magazine journalist called me to chat about simplicity. She was interested to hear what it meant to me…which I found slightly overwhelming but largely humbling.
I rambled, as I do when I’m on the phone, and in doing so found myself spurting all these thoughts that had been misplaced in my very active, if slightly anxious, pregnant brain.
I explained, as I did here, that this year has been a significant turning point for me. More time, more children, less work, less money and, ultimately, a big shift in priorities.
At the very crux of this shift has been a better understanding – a truer understanding – of simplicity and minimalism…which is not, in any way, related to white walls, linen bedcovers and passionate decluttering. I may be contradicting my former self by saying this, but I’m happy to admit that my practise of simplicity has evolved over time and, thanks to life circumstances, become a whole lot more authentic.
To me, simplicity is not an aesthetic or a trend. It’s a way of living that celebrates resourcefulness and mindfulness – rarely easy but often satisfying.
How ironic that we’re sold simplicity as an expensive, often unattainable, image. The picture of living simply has a lot more to do with magazine-worthy kitchens and their accompanying wooden utensils than it does with mending and making do and using something till it has withered away.
But how incredibly reassuring it is to know that if we dig a little deeper we soon discover that the heroes of this way of living were our grandparents and the generations before them; the pioneers of budgeting and frugality and living within their means.
If you feel the urge to live more simply and tread more lightly but feel overwhelmed by the how, you’re not alone. But know this; simple living is never dependent on your income or your location or the colour of your walls. It’s much more reliant on your mindset, your intentions and your awareness.
Three ways to make simple changes:
- ditch the takeaway coffee cups : Why? Because Australians use 1 billion a year and despite popular belief, they’re not recyclable. It took me a while to adopt the habit of taking my keepcup everywhere but now it’s second nature (I recommend the glass version). Alternatively, take ten minutes out of your day and sit in at the cafe, drink from a mug and know that you haven’t contributed to landfill.
- question yourself before you buy anything : buying out of habit is pretty common in our culture but I’ve found over time that mindfully questioning myself before I purchase means that I ultimately buy less (but buy better). Needs take priority over wants and longevity, practicality and quality become paramount. If I need a new vegetable peeler I’ll search the op-shop before I resort to the supermarket. Similarly, if I need a new top for my ever-expanding belly, I’ll look in my wardrobe before I look online. And if something needs mending…I mend it or find someone who can. Instead of buying new boots this winter I spent $60 getting two pairs of well-loved ankle boots re-heeled and re-soled (this was an easy choice considering I loathe shoe shopping).
- adopt new grocery shopping + cooking habits : food waste is a major environmental concern in Australia (alarming fact sheet over here) and it also has a big impact on our wallets. How to make changes that benefit your budget and the country? Meal plan, shop to a list, cook from the fridge/pantry before you head to the supermarket and get inventive (Simplicious, Frugavore and The Thrifty Kitchen are great cookbooks to get you started).
Seek and you’ll find a new wave of simple living inspiration. But where to start?
- this conversation between Brooke McAlary and Sarah Wilson expands on many of the points I’ve made here. It’s a great introduction to Brooke’s popular blog + podcast, Slow Your Home.
- ABC’s new doco, War on Waste, is a great way to be shocked into changing your daily living habits.
- I’m on the library waitlist for this so I can’t offer you a personal review but I have heard brilliant things about The Art of Frugal Hedonism.
- I often return to Rhonda Hetzel’s blog and books – Down to Earth + The Simple Home – when I’m in need of some back-to-basics advice. Rhonda really does live the simple, good life and her words are wise.