The beans are soaking for tomorrow's pot of chili, the recycling bin has been emptied and sorted, my housework caught up and now Coop is out mowing the lawn for the first time this spring.
Rhonda Jean at Down to Earth has asked her readers to blog about how they live. Since I have time, here we go. I know I've blogged about our life more than once, that is pretty much what this blog is about, but if this post is repetitive on certain subjects, please forgive. :)
My husband and I made a choice a few years ago to give up what I call the hamster race . We were living to work rather than working to live, running in circles like hamsters on a wheel, getting nowhere really. We would occasionally reflect back on simpler times when we had less materially, but were happier.
Funny, but neither one of us was getting any younger either and I really did not want to leave my children to have to deal with settling our estate and financial situation when we left this earthly plane. We had a business, a home and too many debts. Finally, we chose to get back to basics. After looking at our options and figuring out how we wanted to spend our lives, or perhaps better said, how we didn't want to spend our lives, we closed the business, liquidating everything we could to pay off as much as we could. After a very long attempt at selling that failed, we let the bank have the house. This was probably the hardest thing we’ve ever done. Until you’ve done so, letting go of your old way of life, your stuff and your home can be very difficult even when it’s your choice to do so.
Our preferred way of life did not happen immediately even then. We moved around for a few years, but finally settled where we are now, where it feels like home, living a much simpler, much happier and much more self sustaining lifestyle. We still work hard, but the difference is, we are not working for a paycheck now, we are working to live the life of our choosing.
Coop’s retirement income is $941 per month. This is the amount we live on with the only exception being the occasional etsy or ebay sale. According to U.S. Federal guidelines, our income is more than $2000 below the poverty level. I guess by American standards we’re poor folk now, but I know that "poor" is more a state of mind than income. I have a saying I keep posted on my refrigerator that reads, “The happiest people don’t own the best of everything but make the best of everything.” That would describe us quite well.
According to our standards we live well, eat well (in fact much better than when we had more to spend) and sleep well. So, how exactly do we live? The answer is this; simply, frugally, creatively and sustainably. Our objective is to be as self sustaining and debt free as we can be, according to our ability and means, and to live naturally and organically, doing as little harm to the environment as possible.
This comprises raising our own organic plants and produce each summer. Eggs and milk are purchased from nearby Amish folk. We are planning to raise our own chickens in the near future. We do our primary shopping once per month, making our rounds to find reduced priced goods and purchasing in bulk when we can get a significant savings. Coop is always eager to bargain for a better price and you’d be surprised how often he gets it. Recently we came home with over twenty pounds of organic beef for just $2.25 a pound. (yes, we still eat meat...I know, I know) We purchase staple items (flour, sugar, oats, etc.) from our locally owned bulk food store which very fortunately is within a few miles of our home.
I love my life at home. A day in the kitchen may be work to some, but I spend the time with a happy heart. I stew bones for soup broth rather than purchasing it, and save dried bread and crackers to make my own bread crumbs. Purchasing convenience foods is not an option for two reasons; they are more expensive and are often full of all kinds of unnecessary and less than beneficial ingredients. Since I do my own preserving there is rarely a need to purchase canned vegetables, relishes, pasta sauces, etc. There is always food on hand so meals are planned around what we have on hand and there’s no need for more frequent trips to the store.
Very seldom do we venture away from home unless it is necessary, except for the occasional trip to see our kids. When we do go out, we plan ahead and combine errands to avoid unnecessary trips. We freecycle, recycle, reuse and barter when we can. Most of our clothing and household items come second hand from local thrift stores. We maintain what we have so we don't have to replace items any more than is necessary. We still own the same old vehicles we did over a decade ago. We still use the same lawn and garden tools we have for more years than I can recall.
Virtually nothing is spent on entertainment. We have a TV which is generallyfam turned on in the evenings for Coop’s benefit. I read, browse the internet, crochet or partake in some other type of creative endeavor. In the summer months we often find ourselves outside star gazing. We tend to be homebodies, so we don’t do a lot of socializing outside of family. However, evening card games with the neighbors are commonplace in the summer. Summer also brings family and friends together around a fire now and then, sharing food, friendship and roasted marshmallows. : )
Our days here in the country are made of numerous small acts that define who we are. The steps we take to live as we do are what matter most because those steps are what allow us to live as we do. I have learned through the years that living close to and in accord with the natural world is essential for my sense of well being. I need to feel the earth and the countryside is where I thrive…away from the noise, glare and congestion of city living.
I guess all in all our simple life is about living the best life we can according to our vision, not the ideals of others. It’s about being less dependent on the outside world and more responsible for ourselves. It’s about taking back our lives, living in the now instead of striving towards some unsustainable, unrealistic or fictional future.
In the end, I guess one could say that to “live well, laugh often and love much” is our motto. This is what brings us contentment and satisfaction at the end of each day.