___ too busy
___ too hectic
___ too complicated
___ too time-pressured
___ all of the above
All I want is a simple life
You may have noticed that this is my blog's byline. Depending upon what circles you travel in, you may or may not be surprised to discover that this sentiment is not all that uncommon, and for many of the above reasons. If you browse Blogger profiles under the term "living simply" there are hundreds of profiles listing this as one of their interests. However, if you go on to read the rest of the items on these lists, it becomes apparent that they all don't mean the same thing.
Craig Ambrose wrote an interesting blog post on this very topic not too long ago, and he made that very point quite eloquently. Considering the number of definitions offered by Dictionary.com for the word "simple," this shouldn't be surprising.
Simple - /ˈsɪmpəl/ -Pronunciation [sim-puhl] adjective, -pler, -plest, noun
1. easy to understand, deal with, use, etc.: a simple matter; simple tools.
2. not elaborate or artificial; plain: a simple style.
3. not ornate or luxurious; unadorned: a simple gown.
4. unaffected; unassuming; modest: a simple manner.
5. not complicated: a simple design.
6. not complex or compound; single.
7. occurring or considered alone; mere; bare: the simple truth; a simple fact.
8. free of deceit or guile; sincere; unconditional: a frank, simple answer.
9. common or ordinary: a simple soldier.
10. not grand or sophisticated; unpretentious: a simple way of life.
11. humble or lowly: simple folk.
12. inconsequential or rudimentary.
13. unlearned; ignorant.
14. lacking mental acuteness or sense: a simple way of thinking.
15. unsophisticated; naive; credulous.
While some of us may find an uncomplicated life appealing, it's doubtful that very many of us would think the same of an ignorant life. We might like to think of ourselves as free of deceit and straightforward, but probably wouldn't care to be referred to as mentally deficient, inconsequential, or unsophisticated. Yet all of these are meanings of the word "simple."
How we view simple living will be determined to a great extent by the context of our lives. A simple life for some may mean having only one boy or girl friend instead of six. For someone else, simple might mean "easy," as in having a job where one doesn't have to work too hard. Or it might mean not having to spend too many hours in rush hour traffic each day.
So how do we know what simple living means to any given individual? By allowing them to define the phrase in their own terms and within their own context. The individual I have in mind at the moment of course, is me. I realize that since I chose this term for a byline to this blog, then I'd better define it.
When I say that I want a simple life, what I basically mean is that I refuse to be a competitor in the rat race of life. This is a choice Dan and I have made and is a reflection of our life goals. These goals do not include accumulating as much money and material wealth as we possibly can. Rather, we seek a life which give us a sense of purpose, appreciation, and satisfaction with what we do and how we do it. One aspect of this is in the ability to provide for ourselves through a relatively independent, sustainable lifestyle. A lifestyle that relies less on consumerism, and more on our relationship with our land. One that keeps us in closer contact with the natural creation and it's gifts.
Of course this doesn't mean that we never buy things. But it does reflect an attitude of not assuming that money is the only answer to every problem. In this sense, living a simple life means not getting caught up in a lifestyle of consumerism with it's inherent sense of dissatisfaction.
I heard this more charmingly put when I lived in the Ozarks many years ago:
Use it up
Wear it out
Make it do
Or do without
Wear it out
Make it do
Or do without
So how do we flesh this out? For starters, we are a one income family. Many people assume I don't "work" because we can afford for me to stay at home. In one sense that's true, but we "afford" it by living a simpler life than most. We rarely eat out or go to entertainments, we drive old vehicles, and I buy all our clothing on clearance or in thrift shops. For years we did without air conditioning and used wood heat. I hung my clothes to dry on a clothes line. We grew and canned much of our own food (all of which meant that I did indeed "work," I just didn't get paid cash for!) We maintain only basic telephone services and have never paid for TV. Neither did we make the switch to digital television. Our telecommunications indulgence is the lowest speed DSL internet service available.
Probably the biggest factor is that except for our new mortgage, we have no debt. Again, this is a choice. For example, if one of the vehicles breaks down, we make do with only one until we can scrape together the cash to fix the broken one. This reflects our philosophy of living, which is basically that we don't "need" as much as we tend to think we do.
Our recent three and a half years of apartment dwelling only served to reinforce all of this. Yes, we have a lot of hard work ahead of us, especially considering that this place has been neglected for so long. We are older now, and so have to take the pace a little slower. But even though we have a dream for this place, there is still something satisfying and fulfilling about just being able to work toward that dream, regardless of how fully we reach it. I suppose that's what's meant by taking time to smell the roses along the way. I'm just thankful to have those "roses" to smell.