June 22, 2009

A Simple Life

Life is ..... (check all that apply)

___ 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

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.


Cathy said...

We are walking along parallel paths.

I feel in the lap of luxury living in town now instead of in a 1900 farmhouse but I know whereof you speak. Are you on city water/sewer?

Mim said...

Great life! And this life will "simply" be the most work you've ever done, physically. I've lived like you in the ways of being home and Bob going to work. Home is such a wonderful job!
Your cats are the purfect colors for country cats, invisable in the brush.

Renee Nefe said...

well we aren't in our dream home but the house is our only real expense. The old cars are paid for.
I see my friends with supposedly no money who just went and bought the newest iphone. what?!?!? that isn't a need. Another friend just messed up her "creative" financing and now they're in trouble. ugh! I just don't understand this mentality.

While my friends are looking for bigger and better (debt), I'm looking forward to downsizing and living simple.

bspinner said...

We share the same philosophy about life and what's important to us.

I really enjoyed this posting!!!

Leigh said...

Cathy, we have city water and a septic tank. That seems to be a fairly common set-up in this part of the country. I would have preferred well water, but alas, this place doesn't have that. Even so, the water isn't as bad as where we just moved from. DH still wants to have a well drilled someday anyway.

Mim, that's the irony of this kind of lifestyle, isn't it. "Simple" can be pretty time demanding!

Renee, I've pondered what you mention about your friends. It seems to me that when someone says they can't afford something, they really mean they just don't want to spend money on that particular item. Sales folks seem to know this too, which is why I've stopped saying I can't afford whatever their selling. It's the truth but they keep pushing their sales pitch. Now I just say "NO" with no explanation.

Barb, I very glad to hear that! Thanks!

Julie said...

I feel like we have a simply life in the sense that our family comes first and money is not a big thing. We have enough that we have cars that are paid for and a house that we owe very little on. I bake my own bread and can our fruit and veggies for the winter.We travel alot but always pay cash no credit!!!!

Woolly Bits said...

your entry could be written by me. I hate when people tell me: aren't you lucky, you have so much time! and then they waste theirs away bu watching soaps etc.:(( of course some things are much more time consuming without car etc. - but it makes you focus on what's necessary - and leaves you with more time for important things!same with comments such as "I could never do this". one of my teachers used to say: if you say you can't learn this - it usually means you don't want to learn this badly enough! let's enjoy our "simple" lives and pity those who still feel the need to compete with others to have more, earn more etc...

Sharon said...

Ugh, your comments at the top make me pay attention. Living this lifestyle is why we were the only ones able to accept retirement income when the buyout offers came, and I'm fine with that People ask if we're going to travel. Nope. Stay and and not pay bills. I think it has a lovely ring.

Trapunto said...

I've always liked this saying. I heard it without the "or"--just "Do without"--in New England. So maybe it spreads?

Leigh said...

Jewel, I still ponder the term "simple" and wonder if it's the best way to describe what I'm trying to say. Others have tried to define it similarly and it seems that most folks seem to agree that one component involves a more hands on approach to life in general. I very much agree with your statement that family is more important than money. That says so much.

Bettina, you bring up some excellent points! People spend their time and money on what's important to them. I think you hit one of the nails in my thoughts on the head, it's largely a matter of what's truly necessary. Human nature seems to complicate life with so many frivolous things.

Sharon, I only wish we'd been able to do this earlier in life. In some ways we seem to be starting so late, after the kids have left the nest. Now we have a long way to go. I just keep telling myself, 'better late than never' :)

Trapunto, I really should look up the origins of that little saying! Interesting to know it is said elsewhere.

Sheryl at Providence North said...

This is exactly our viewpoint too. We work much less "off the farm" both work part time, shared responsibilites at home. We can do this because we have shrunk our need for income. It is a much more satisfying lifestyle and we are closer to each other now that we are together more and share the home responsibilities, working together.

Unknown said...

I am amazed that your story has so much in common with what my husband and I are doing. I sometimes wonder if we're not too old to begin, but here we are and time will tell the tale, as it always does. We found an old 1930's farmhouse on 5 acres last year. I've worked in the health insurance industry my entire life and my husband is a carpenter. Last year, I just reached a point where I just can't take the stress of the rat race anymore. We just want a simple life, which we define as I believe you do. We'll never be rich, but we've never been happier.

Leigh said...

Well said! It's always nice to find others with similar desires and goals. I have to say that I've never regretted our decision and only wish we could have gotten an earlier start. Wishing you the very best for your quest for the simple life.

Alexa-asimplelife said...

Great article...and yes better late than never. I think as one ages wisdom helps us to choose what is best for us and reminds us to go with the flow. Slow and steady .
Your place of happiness sounds beautiful .
May your many dreams come to fruition

Visiting from Sydney, Australia

Leigh said...

Welcome! And thank you. We've been at it slow and steady for eight years now. Sometimes it seems too slow and not too steady, but I can definitely say it's been worth it.

Jeff said...

I just stumbled across this blog and I must say that I truly love it! It is so in line with what my wife and I are doing at this time of our life. We have recently bought a small 6 acre farm. We have triplet grandchildren, 2 boys and a girl, who are 8 years old. I think the farm is the perfect environment to raise them. When I was growing up my uncle and aunt had a small farm in Tennessee. We would go for a visit and I never wanted to leave. Our farm has an old house built in 1950 that we have almost completely renovated. We have a 1/2 acre pond, a barn, and a tractor. We plan to have goats, rabbits, chickens, and of course a couple of dogs. It has been hard work but we have truly enjoyed every minute of it. Thanks for the information you share on this blog.

Leigh said...

BJ, thank you and welcome! I so agree about letting your grandkids experience the farm and nature as much as possible. Sounds like you have an excellent place for that! If your grandkids can see that you enjoy the hard work and lifestyle, they will have a much better attitude toward both when they grow up.