I’ve been thinking that I need to write a more reflective post, about why it is that I maintain the lifestyle I do and place such value in gardening, simplicity, and lack of investment in the commercial world. Bear with me, because this is not a short explanation!
I define simplicity a little differently than most people. I think that’s where it starts. When I say simplicity, and what I mean by a simple life, is that one is very in tune with their purpose, their ambitions, and the effects of their actions. It is a conscious decision to live a certain way, and with that comes a simplicity of spirit, a clear understanding of one’s self and a lack of many of the complexities of modern life. Let me elaborate.
A lot of who I am has to do with the way I grew up. That may seem like a very obvious statement to make, but it is very true in my case. It wouldn’t be accurate to say that my parents are simple people (that implies that they are ignorant, which couldn’t be further from the truth) or that their life is very simple (not accurate either- they are invested in many aspects of home, community, and environment). But they have always been very sure of the things they want, of the purposes they are dedicated to, and very aware of how they want to live their lives and the way they impact the world. This has been apparent to me from the beginning. My mom and dad are people of steady spirit, a strong but healthy work ethic, and an unwavering dedication to friendship, advocacy, and goodness in general. That, I think, is the kind of simplicity I’m talking about. It’s being sure of yourself, moving steadily forward while always checking your motivations, and not slipping out of your chosen path simply because society tells you to do so or tricks you into thinking you’ll be more comfortable that way. Simple living is achievement through the small things that add up, not through making an earth-shattering discovery or donating a million dollars to charity (though I certainly approve of those achievements as well!). Dad donates blood every month and goes to Middle Eastern and African drumming classes in Spokane with good friends. Mom teaches new gardening skills to her community and is involved in yoga and Zumba classes at the Kalispel Tribe of Indians’ athletic center. My parents take good care of themselves, are involved in their community, and also put in lots of time maintaining their home and property without buying into corporate America. For more on my upbringing and my childhood homestead, read my article in Mother Earth News magazine here.
In the last year I have made many decisions that all add into my version of living simply. I have chosen to only eat pastured meat, because I know that these animals are treated humanely and are fed their natural diet, which dramatically increases the nutritional content of their meat and ensures them a good quality of life. I buy locally whenever I can, because I believe in supporting my local economy, and because buying locally decreases pollution by fossil fuels used in transporting food. I buy most food in bulk, to save money and also to eliminate waste—by bringing my own jars, containers, and produce bags to the bulk section, I am not paying for packaging that will end up in a landfill somewhere. I make a conscious effort to buy items that will last me a long time or that can be reused or remade so that I can get the most value from them and again eliminate the need to throw things away. I grow as much of my own food as I can, because this increases the health and fertility of the earth, saves me money, and increases my own skills, health, and self sufficiency. I look at the ingredients of any processed foods I do end up buying. If I don’t know what one of the ingredients is (or I do know and I don’t want to eat it), chances are I won’t buy it. I freeze vegetable scraps so that they can be made into vegetable stock, to get as much value from my food as possible. I keep myself on a budget of $400 per month beyond costs of rent and utilities. This enables me to save for future education, housing and traveling and makes me think twice about whether a purchase is really worth it. I mend, sew, and crochet so that I can repair and make things for myself and others, rather than supporting commercial industries. I read about simple living, sustainable homemaking, and do-it-yourselfing on a regular (constant!) basis. I don’t own a car, and Matt and I make efforts to cut down on driving his car whenever possible, or at the very least make sure to carpool, to reduce emissions and motivate ourselves to walk or bike instead.
I just read all that, and it sounds like a giant paragraph of bragging. I really don’t mean it that way. But I am proud of how I live, and my purpose here is to help spread the word and educate about this lifestyle and hopefully encourage others to do what they can. No one can do everything exactly as they wish- we are all limited in some way, but to do what you can and feel good about it is the important part. I can personally attest to the benefits of living simply and always making conscious decisions as a consumer. Since changing my diet away from processed foods and commercial meat, my immune system has strengthened unbelievably. Growing my own garden from scratch gives me satisfaction in knowing that I can provide for myself and that I know exactly where my veggies are coming from. Limiting my spending makes me more aware of what it takes to really live well- friends, music, good food, and not too many possessions, but all of them of good quality.
I encourage you to look around your life and see what you can simplify. Simply put, it will be good for your mental and physical health, for your community, and for the planet.