Starting Your Own Path To Simple Living - Begin Today!


One of the popular questions I receive goes something like this: "I want out of the rat race but I don't feel like I'm ever going to get there.  Where do I even start to achieve a more simple life?"  The short answer is - figure out what your simple life looks like and stop buying things that don't move you toward that goal.

Oh, if only it was that easy, right?

Living a simple life (a.k.a. voluntary simplicity) is a change of lifestyle that minimizes the needless consumption of material things and pursuit of wealth for it's own sake.  The focus shifts to embracing a scaled-down, slower paced life that focuses on what you truly need and genuinely cherish, be it material things, relationships, work, etc.  It is living a life that is intentional, less complicated, and more meaningful.  Most of us are on auto pilot, spending our very short time on earth in pursuit of material things even though, if we are truthful with ourselves, our deepest aspirations are actually nonmaterial ones.

Simple living isn't about deprivation.  Far from it.  It's about living with fewer distractions - owning less, wanting less, finding gratitude for the smallest of things, and spending the time you do have enjoying life.  It means letting go of anything that interferes with your own high quality of life.  There are no rigid rules, it's what feels right for each of us.  Simple living is a lifelong journey about being who you really are and living a life in harmony with your values and integrity that is designed by you rather than by society.

Does this mean a life of no responsibilities, problems or worries?  Absolutely not.  It simply means living a life that is fulfilling to you and aligns with your deepest desires.  We've all got one shot at this life so it's all about making it the best one you can.

Let's look at more of a step-by-step guide to planning your own journey.


1. Identify Your Goals
This really is step one because your goals, or vision, for a simple life is what will drive all other things you do (or don't do).  All of our vision and, eventually, journeys will be unique to us, even though we may have many commonalities.  Because of this, it's imperative that you decide for yourself what your personal vision is.

a. If you could do anything with your life (money, responsibilities, location, etc. aside), what would it be?  
    My personal answer is this:  We would live on 10+ acres, debt-free, with a small home and plenty of housing for animals.  We would take in and care for neglected and abused farm animals.  We would grow much of our own produce, make most of our meals and products from scratch, and make a living from our farm.  We would work to get more involved in our community, build and embrace a small circle of friends, spend time taking care of ourselves, and learn to live and appreciate a simplified life of less stuff.

b. Now, taking what your ultimate life would be, break it down to something that seems somewhat manageable.  What could you aim for, as a lifestyle change for the next 2, 5 or even 8 years?  If your ultimate vision doesn't seem possible, what type of vision seems attainable?
     My personal answer is this:  We will live on the outskirts of town on 1+ acres, debt-free, with a small home and housing for some animals.  We will take in and care for a few neglected and abused farm animals.  We will grow much of our own produce, make most of our meals and products from scratch, and make a living from our farm.  We will get more involved in our community, build and embrace a small circle of friends, spend time caring for ourselves, and learn to live and appreciate a simplified life of less stuff.
     Because it is quite expensive in our area, what seemed more manageable was to aim for less property and starting smaller on our journey.  It's also important to understand that your vision and goals should remain fluid.  Your circumstances may change and, as you work toward and within your journey, your vision of what you want for a life may also change.
     As an example, we ended up purchasing a small farmhouse on just under 1 acre of land.  This is too small of a property to take in abused or neglected farm animals.  We originally thought of our home as a stepping stone to our ultimate vision.  It's been about 10 years and we've realized that our vision has changed.  Everything has remained the same with the exception of taking in farm animals.  Although someday we may have the property to take in a few, we've since decided that caring for a lot of animals is not what we would like to do at this point in our life.


2. Create Smaller Goals Leading To Your Larger Goal
In order to get you moving toward your goal to a simple life, smaller more manageable goals will make it feel more attainable.
a. Make a list of your smaller goals and keep them where you can see them daily.
     Some Of Our goals were:
       - Sell, give away, toss, or donate all of the items we own that we don't need or love.
       - Pay off all credit card, college, and auto debt.
       - Stop shopping mindlessly and try to make do with what we have.
       - Start a budget and begin paying cash for what we purchase.
       - Cut spending by $500.00/month and put that money into savings.
       - Purchase a property in the country.
       - Pay extra on the mortgage to pay it off early.
       - Start a farm-based business.
       - Make everything from scratch at least once.  Continue making from scratch if it seems reasonable and if the homemade product is superior to what is purchased.
       - Support local small businesses and farmers.
      - Plant a garden and learn to grow much of our own food.
      - Learn to preserve food.
       - Leave the rat race and work for ourselves.
       - Adopt animals.
       - Get back to writing.
      - Find time for art projects.
      - Spend time regularly biking, hiking, golfing, and/or walking together.
     
We haven't yet achieved all of these goals, and they weren't in any particular order, but smaller (flexible) goals kept us focused on our larger goal and kept us both working toward the same thing.

b. Every choice you make, going forward, should take your goals into consideration before you make them.
i.e. if you say "let's go to dinner Friday night" and your budget is tight, think about your goals.  Does spending money on dinner out, when you are trying to save for a lifestyle change, benefit your future life?  Does it hurt it?  If it doesn't benefit it and does hurt it, start making choices that instead support your goals.  Save the money, make dinner from scratch, and focus on working toward your new lifestyle.

3. Start Budgeting
No, it's not necessarily the most enjoyable step in the process, however, it does get more and more enjoyable the closer you get to reaching your goals.  Because finances are such a huge part of our lives and the primary factor in making decisions for our lives, it is imperative that if you don't currently budget you begin.  Today.  Budgeting is the only way to truly begin actively working toward your financial goals.  I can tell you this from first-hand experience.  I tried everything I could to work around making and following a budget but it wasn't until I finally gave in to the process that we started making headway.  Trust me - start a budget.


4. Begin Making Things From Scratch
Meals, cleaning supplies, soap and skincare, salves and ointments, etc., make what you can from scratch, at least once.  You may be very surprised at the cost savings as well as how easy you can fit many of this into your lifestyle.  The nice thing is you can start doing this now, while you are at the start of your journey.

It may seem overwhelming to try and fit making things from scratch into your life but you can find a way.  Don't try converting to all homemade, start with one or two things.  Get that under your belt and then add another.  Try to think about ways you can prepare things ahead or in steps so it better fits into your schedule.

If you like structure, one thing that benefited me was to make an annual plan.  For instance, in November I make enough cleaning supplies (glass, all-purpose and laundry detergent), elderberry syrup, honey cough drops, and vapor rub to get me through the year.  This way we aren't suddenly running out of it when we need it and I'm not trying to fit in making it every few months.

March and October were lotion, deodorant, and soap-making months (of course, now we make them all of the time because it's our business).  All-purpose and drawing salve is made in May, beeswax food storage wraps are made in October (if needed), and facial products are made twice a year in March and September.  The first Saturday of the month is when I typically make any products I have planned for that month.

5. Learn To Live Frugally
Don't wait, start today.  Make baby steps or jump head first, whichever is the most effective method for you.  Learn to make do with what you have, look for used items as opposed to new, and simply do without.

Stop shopping.  It should be your absolutely last alternative and well thought out before you make a purchase.



6. Downsize Your Belongings Before Downsizing Your Life
People who live a simple life consciously choose their possessions rather than following the cultural norm of purchasing more stuff to fill up their home and life.  This typically results in wanting and needing far fewer things.  When you surround yourself with fewer things it's much easier to develop a genuine love and appreciation for those you do keep in your life.

If your ultimate goal is to downsize your life, start now with your belongings.  Instead of purchasing things to simplify, make sure you truly cherish all of the items you surround yourself with.  If not, get rid of things.  Buying new organizing systems doesn't help your efforts, it only adds expense to it.  I'm not suggesting you get rid of everything tomorrow, instead, begin going through your stuff and questioning whether or not you "need" it and whether or not you love it.  Once you've completed a purge (or two) then reassess the organizing of what remains.


7. Get Out Of Debt
All debt.  College loans, credit cards (no matter how small), car loans or leases, personal loans - all debt.  Debt is paying for the past not living in the now or saving for the future.  Eventually, getting your mortgage paid off as well will be the last debt to get rid of before you are completely free of the weight of owing others.  Being debt free means you have so many options because you're overhead/minimum earning you need is now minimal.

Many people tell themselves they have no choice but to keep working a job they hate.  I know, I've been there.  They believe they need two full-time workers in the family in order to keep their heads above water.  Yup, been there too.  There are some circumstances where this is absolutely true.  However, in most cases it's not completely accurate.  It's all in what is important to you.  If you reduce your needs and wants, and therefore your expenses, many times you can then accommodate a lower income.  You can then choose to find employment in an area that accommodates personal passion and fulfillment.  It may also allow you to be self-employed, or become financially independent and retire early, or even work part-time.  The point is, you get to decide.

8. Save Money
Finances are a tough subject.  Many people believe this is what will always hold them back from living the life they dream of.  And maybe it will, or maybe you can adjust your dream to fit within your budget.  That's what we've had to do.  Were we completely comfortable, financially, with making the jump to working for ourselves?  Absolutely not.  But to us the risk was worth the reward.  We'd been planning our better life to start in retirement, hoping we'd be ready financially at that point to make the shift.  But, after experiencing the sudden loss of a handful of friends and family members who weren't even able to get to retirement years, we realized it was time to begin enjoying our life now.

It's tough at times but in the end, the decisions we've made are worth it to us.  Would we like to own more property and be more financially stable?  Absolutely.  But we are so incredibly happy and not having reached all of our goals doesn't stop us from living an altered version of our good life.  And we love it.

Save money wherever you can, starting today.  Pay yourself first and continue reviewing your budget for areas you can make cuts or eliminate some expenses completely.


9. Learn New Skills
This is something we continue to do.  Learning new skills will save you money and empower you to take care of many things yourself.  Plus, it's a great challenge and accomplishment!

10. Build Your Circle Of Friends
If you currently are not surrounded by friends who have a similar life goal, begin seeking out some who are.  These are people you can bounce ideas off of and share fears and wishes with.  These people won't think you're crazy or struggle to understand what you desire.  Instead, you will find support, compassion and inspiration.  I'm not suggesting moving away from friends who don't have similar interests, but rather, adding additional friends to your circle who have similar motivations.


11. Begin Today
Begin working toward your dream life today.  Don't waste another hour or even another minute.  You are worth it - you deserve to live a life focused on living.

Begin living an amended version of that life today.  Do what you can where you are - don't wait for things to align perfectly "someday" in order to begin making the changes.  That will likely never happen.  Begin enjoying your life and living consciously today.  Not only will you begin learning to live more simply, you will also see that the lifestyle you desire is possible.


4 comments

Kathy said...

I love this post and for someone who is new to this sort of life you have given them a lot of great tips and steps to start. I made some home made yoghurt yesterday - haven't made it in a while however when I first made it about 7 years ago I was intimidated to make it and then when I did it was super easy. Same with mayonnaise that felt the same as I didn't want it to split however I found a recipe that takes a few minutes to put everything into a jar and then using a stick blender it's done in 30 seconds. Once the mayonnaise is made you use a cup of that to make coleslaw dressing - again a few more minutes of popping things into a jar and 30 seconds later you have coleslaw dressing so in less than 10 mins I have both mayonnaise and coleslaw dressing...I was so proud of myself and I will never buy store bought again. I just add that recipe to my condiments I make at home. Simple things make me happy when I add more things to my list that I can make myself. Kathy, Brisbane, Australia

daisy g said...

These are things that I have always thought about, but never put into words. You have done it so well.
Y'all have accomplished so many of your goals and reframed others as time has passed.
So happy for you both and y'all serve as a wonderful example of what folks can do with some grit, determination and a plan.
The "less is more" mentality really works for me. Whenever I am dusting, I take the time to really appreciate each selected item, knowing it is loved. I have pared down to having things in our home that are special and make me feel connected to my soul.
You might enjoy the blog, "Down to Earth. Rhonda is such an inspiration.

I love the picture of that wattle fence! Gorgeous!

VegiChik said...

So enjoyed reading this as well as your past entries about your move to simpler living. We began our quest about 4 years ago-finally sold our in-town home last February & built a smaller/simpler home on 10 acres so we can garden - moved in last Fall. Still lots of projects to do to finish the house - doing a lot of the work ourselves is the only way it was/is affordable. SO worth the work-our expenses have already gone down due to lower taxes + utilities. A hint I read a number of years ago that, so helpful w purchase decisions: Not only ask yourself how many $ an item costs, but also how many hours of your time will it cost. If it costs $100 & you get paid $10 an hour, do you really want to spend an entire 8 hour day plus, working just to buy THAT? Can be eye-openingšŸ˜³. Looking forward to your Spring soaps . . . Sharon

Staci at Life At Cobble Hill Farm said...

Kathy - thank you so much! I remember the first time I made both yogurt and mayonnaise and I, too, was very much intimidated. I was ecstatic to find out how easy they were!! Thank you for sharing!

Daisy - thank you so much for such a kind comment. I love the thought of feeling gratitude for your items as you dust. I'm going to incorporate that into my cleaning routine. Yes, I LOVE Rhonda's blog!!

Sharon - thank you! I didn't realize you were doing much of the work yourselves on your new home. Yes, it definitely takes more time but very much worth it. Indeed calculating costs as to how many hours it takes to earn the money to pay for an item makes a difference. I started doing that when I was trying to figure out how to stop resorting to take out or eating out. Once I reframed the cost of our meal by the hours we worked it was sickening. I'm fine with it for once in a while, not for a couple times a week....