What Simplifying My Life Has Taught Me


I am not the person you would have thought would one day simplify her life.  I am not the person you would have thought would someday live on a homestead.  But I am so incredibly happy and grateful that this is what I learned, from listening to my heart, would be fulfilling to me.

And it truly is.

We were on the merry-go-round of life, working ridiculous hours, dealing with the politics of working for others, accumulating debt (credit card, mortgage, vehicle....) and having little to no time to spend with each other, make meals from scratch (which meant we were consuming processed food....), or just enjoy life.  We lived for the one or two vacations we took each year so we could decompress and slow down.  But because it took a couple of days to decompress, our vacations were over before we knew it.

I had no idea there was any other way to live.

Simple living isn't about being poor.  It isn't about not working.  It also isn't about living in a dream world where you believe there won't be any stress.  Instead, simple living is about living intentionally.  You still own things.  You still work (unless you've been able to save so you no longer have to).  You still have exposure to stressful situations.  But you focus on what's important to you.


I've learned to be content
I remember one day, about 15 years ago, when a co-worker stopped by my home to pick something up.  She commented that she thought I'd have a larger, more elaborate home than I did.  I didn't show it but I was really upset!  It was actually like being back in high school again.  Feeling judged and like I was less than.  I replayed that comment over and over in my head.  We had a nice home but no, it certainly wasn't large by today's standards and definitely not elaborate.  It was, well, average.  My insecurities made me immediately want a larger, more showy home.  I focused on this.  I longed for this.  But J had just retired from the military, I had just graduated from college, and neither of us was making much at our new jobs.  I was angry that we didn't make enough.  Angry that we had debt.  Angry that I felt inadequate.  Until I realized that I wasn't.

It took a few years, but one of the first things I worked on was being content.  I had read something written by Dave Ramsey (affiliate link) and it was about learning to be content with who you are and what you have in order to get rid of debt for good.  I had to learn to appreciate what we had and to be comfortable in my own skin.  Who cares what others thought of our home, as long as we loved it?  Who cares what others thought of what we wore, ate, owned, etc., as long as we were happy? It's easy to say but a lot of work to actually feel.

Honestly, this concept was foreign to me.  It was a completely opposite way of feeling than the way I was raised, so it took some time and hard work, but little by little I was able to shed previous insecurities and understand what being content both looked like, and more importantly, felt like.


I've learned to want less
Because one of our goals of living simple was to work for ourselves on our farm, we had to reduce our spending.  This also meant reducing our wants and differentiate between needs and wants.  I set a goal to learn how to get off the earn-to-spend treadmill.

We are choosing to not grow our business into a corporation, instead keeping it small and manageable by the two of us.  Because of this, our income is lower to mid-middle class (and variable).  We also have a lot of overhead that we have to factor in.  We took the two years prior to me making the jump to joining J at running our business to cut our expenses.  We lived on less, making sure that it was still comfortable for us.

The way I went about cutting our spending before making the jump was this:
  1. I tracked every single penny we spent.  By hand.  Filling in a sheet.  The reason I chose to do this was because before I started this experiment I would have told you (and honestly believed) that we really don't spend much each month on extras.  Once I had to hand write every single expense, including when we paid cash, I could see that I was definitely wrong.  For 3 months I wrote everything out without us making an effort to cut back.  
  2. On the 4th month we challenged ourselves to cut back.  I only wanted to write in two expenses per week that weren't regular bills.  This meant coffee shop purchases, clothing, unplanned eating out, or any impulse purchases.
  3. We also went back to using cash for misc. spending, eating out, hair, and chicken expenses.  (the dog stuff is ordered online, so we did not convert to cash).  The reason is that when you can only use cash then you can't go over budget.  If you use a credit card or debit card, it's very easy to go over budget.  (**I don't keep track of the envelopes, I add to them weekly and if there's excess, it stays in the envelope for future use)
  4. Because I was working ridiculous hours and traveling a LOT, I didn't worry about cutting our food budget.  This was one of the areas we knew would improve drastically (and we did).
I've learned to slow down
It took awhile, months actually, but I was able to slow my life down.  This was a biggie in helping my stress level plummet as well.  Life is just too short, something we all know.  I thought I had a pretty good grasp on this but I definitely didn't.  I was not taking the time to really enjoy the days of the seasons.  I couldn't!  I was too busy putting out fires, dealing with inter office politics and traveling from store to store to help managers and their employees work things out.

It actually brought back memories of when we lived in Hawaii.  Prior to our move I had been attending college and working 1 1/2 jobs.  Once we moved to Hawaii I opted to hold off on returning to college until we transferred back to the mainland and instead went to work full-time.  My personality was go-go-go.  The environment there was not - it was a LOT slower.  I struggled with slowing down.  My boss and coworkers made fun of me.  They would give me a task and tell me to take my time, I'd have it completed by noon, ready for another project.  My boss told me I was wearing her out. 

I get it now, 20 + years later.  I can look back and fully appreciate their work philosophy.

While we certainly have deadlines and a full plate, we will never allow our plate to get as full as it did working off of the homestead.  It's the little things we have time to notice and appreciate now.  My goal this year is to make us make time to golf every other week.....

I've learned to be present in the present
Although there are still moments when things get hectic and I forget this, I have lived more in the present in the past year than I have my entire life.  And it's amazing!  It doesn't mean that every moment of every day is good or great, but it does mean that my life isn't passing by without myself being a conscious participant.  


I've learned to simplify our eating
I never had even given this a thought before but slowing down, eating seasonally, and fully appreciating the bounty we have has allowed me to work on simplifying our eating.  I'm one who enjoys fruit and veggies very minimally prepared anyway, so it's actually perfect.  In the summer I eat a lot of raw veg - salads and wraps mostly, although I do enjoy rice and veggie bowls, stir fry, grilled veggies and the sort.  In the winter I like roasted veggies, veggie stew, Cajun-style beans & rice, and soups.

I've learned to try to re-use what I've cooked a few times throughout the week.  I used to cook something completely different every single night.  It took some time for adjustment, but I've got it so my husband will eat much of what I eat with meat on the side for him.  This makes it soooooo much easier.  Meal prep helps a lot too.  Cutting up all veggies before I put them in the fridge so they are prepped and ready for meals that week is a large part of it.  I previously was always on the lookout for new recipes.  Not so much anymore.  We have a great collection of meals we like for fall/winter and another collection for spring/summer.  

I've learned (more) about living intentionally
The backbone of simple living, I've been working on learning to focus on what I want out of life while ignoring and minimizing distractions.  This is actually harder than it seems for me.  We are inundated, every single day, with tons of distractions.  From commercials to ads on vehicles to social media.  It's all a distraction and can easily sway us away from what we really want.  It makes us believe, even if only for a few minutes, that we need the life they are advertising.

I've also come to realize that the word "frugal" doesn't mean poor or eccentric.  Although I wouldn't consider myself a frugal person because I buy what I want if I like it and can afford it, I am working frugalism (is that a word???) into many areas of my life.  I've given up mindless spending and instead adopted intentional spending.  I've also given up purchasing items to try and fit a lifestyle I'll never have.



I've learned to love owning less stuff
This is likely what you think of when you hear simple living.  Although I'll never be an actual minimalist (I like some stuff in my life...), I have learned to absolutely love living with less stuff.  It's so freeing!

On this same note, I've learned to separate emotions from things.  I previously had a really hard time parting with things that held memories for me.  Even when I actually didn't want the things.  What I've learned is that I love the memory the "thing" reminds me of.  It was a relief to come to the realization that I will always have the memory.  It enabled me to part with the items I held on to for this reason.  For a few items I took photos and got rid of the actual items.  I've found the photos to bring me the same joy.




What about you?  
What lessons have you learned in simplifying your own life?

4 comments

Nichole McGhie said...

This was great! I love Dave Ramsey. We are in the process of moving and it has definitely made me realize how much stuff we have. It makes me appreciate that we are moving to a smaller home because it’s making us downsize and let go of a lot of “stuff.” And I love what you say about living simply and more in the moment. This is definitely something I need to work on because it’s something I really want in life. My kids are growing way too fast and sometimes I feel time skipping away from me.

Kathy said...

I absolutely love this post and agree with everything you had said. On the cash front I still believe that this is the only way people will understand how much money they have and spend. I love using cash for weekly groceries because as you say once it's gone from your wallet and there is no money left you realize there is no more left. If you use a debit or credit card you aren't aware of what things are costing from week to week. I also love my stuff and got rid of a lot of things a couple of years ago and earlier this year after watching Marie Kondo. I still need to go through my house and do more. I love the fact that you have enough money with your business to live comfortably and aren't going to go bigger...no one says you have to go bigger and grow..if you earn enough money to comfortable live that's great. Loved your post. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane, Australia

Staci at Life At Cobble Hill Farm said...

Thank you Nichole! It's great that you are trying to live intentionally before your kids get too big because you are so right - the time passes much too quickly!! I love all that Dave Ramsey teaches. Very life changing indeed!

Kathy - thank you so much! I went through my home over the course of a few years, purging little-by-little. It works, you'll get there! Thank you for your kind words of encouragement regarding the business. We've had people tell us we're bad business owners because of this decision but I know better. Life isn't all about making the most amount of money you can - you've got to have balance! Thank you for visiting!!

daisy g said...

Yes, you have made some significant changes in your life and it is paying off (in so many ways). Frugality doesn't mean poverty, it means that things are not wasted. Not time, effort nor money.
I have always been frugally minded, I think I got it from my momma, who went through the war in France during some very tough times. It's a trait I am proud to carry.

So glad that you are in a good place. Contentment is enough for me. It feels like a warm blanket enveloping me.
Continued blessings...