The simple life means getting back to the basics and figuring out what is really important and necessary. Of course it’s not really simple. That sounds so much better, though, than the Basic Life or the Fundamentals Life.
We live in a society that prizes high incomes, fancy cars and big houses.
We are told to make something of our lives, study long and hard to ensure a good, well-paying job, and show off our success with the large and expensive things we own.
Families cram themselves into tiny downtown apartments so that they can be close to that good job, or limit their families to one child because that type of housing is expensive.
Parents work long hours, multi-tasking, and wasting time on social media, and seeing their partners and children only briefly. Stress levels and anxiety are high, and we are weighted down with increased occurrences of illnesses and diseases that were once rare.
Our lives are longer, but our enjoyment of life is less.
We’re killing ourselves out there.
Humans are not made for a multi-tasking, overstuffed, luxury-filled life. We are made for activity, hard work and frequent, regular relaxation.
Cook From Scratch
Learning to cook from scratch, from real ingredients, can save you an incredible amount of money.
It’s really hard for anyone to dispute this!
Just compare the cost of frozen french fries to a bag of real potatoes. Even when potatoes are out of season and expensive, they’re still usually less expensive than french fries.
Not only that, but fewer chemicals, preservatives and artificial ingredients means your general health is better. It’s not so uncommon to hear people say “I’ve been travelling all month and eating in restaurants. I can’t wait to get home and eat a proper meal.”
Most of us know that feeling.
And the truth is that scratch cooking does not have to be difficult. Anyone can pierce a potato and pop it into a hot oven, after all.
If you don’t already have a copy of A Cabin Full of Food, and you want to cook more from scratch, I urge you to take a look at it. I wrote this massive encyclopedia of homestead cooking for people who already know how to cook but are not used to cooking completely from scratch. The recipes are clear, simple and timeless, perfect for living a simpler life, and totally taking the mystery out of “What do I DO with a whole bushel of carrots?”
We Need Time In Nature
Science is now proving that we have a physical and emotional need for nature!
Spending time near trees and other vegetation calms us and makes us healthier. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it.
Certainly, we can say, after our move from the city to a cabin in the woods, that our health has improved. One of our children has autism, and regular outdoor time has made an incredible difference in his behaviour.
It’s no surprise that wise people throughout the ages have pinpointed gardening as a necessity in a healthy, complete life.
Cicero said, “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”
Simple Living Means More To Share
As we return to the basics and to increasing our self-sufficiency, we find ourselves using fewer resources.
A homeschooled child, a potato eaten on the same property where it grows, a chicken that eats grass and bugs all summer – these all use less resources than the public schooled child, the package of french fries or the factory-raised chicken.
A simpler life gives us more to share with those who have less.
And that’s always a good thing.
Fewer Needs Means Less Income Necessary
The less money we spend on goods and services from others, the less income we need and, generally, the less time we need to spend in order to earn that money.
This leaves time for important things like friends, family, volunteering and pastimes we love.
Conversely, needing less income for daily life means debts can be paid and money can be put aside for the future or we can use to help others who may not have the resources we do.
In short, the less we need, the more freedom we have.
A quote I have loved for years is — There are two ways to be rich: Have plenty of money or few needs.
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Food Tastes Better
When we grow up relying on supermarkets and enjoying “fresh” strawberries all year, we lose the magical experience of the first ripe strawberry in June or the first baked potato of the fall.
Our senses become dulled and jaded when all food is available all the time.
With local, seasonal eating we once again treasure the first June strawberry, savor the baby vegetables of early summer, delight in the late summer tomato glut and fully appreciate that first fluffy baked potato in the fall. Even milk, eggs and meat have their time and season, and we re-learn the amazing cycle of food throughout the year.
Unfortunately, too many of us have forgotten that each of these foods have their own special time and place when they are freshest and most satisfying. It might be nice to enjoy food all year round, but in the long term we’re better off when we enjoy them in their own season.
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Appreciate Everything More
Not only food, but we appreciate other things more, too.
I look forward to cool temperatures that let me store food outside in the cooler since we choose to live without a refrigerator.
We all love that first bit of heat that radiates when the wood fire is lit in the mornings. While the coolness of winter mornings may not seem like a good thing, it makes the fire’s warmth all the more welcome.
When we purposely limit our clothing, our electronics usage, our use of electric appliances or any of the other ways we cut back, downsize and simplify, each usage becomes increasingly precious and important.
We Are Made To Work
We are made to work – to move and to be physically active daily.
How many people sit in offices all day only to head to the gym after work? There are so many jokes and memes about people who sit around all day only to drive to the gym where they do exercises that mimic natural hard work – bending, lifting, running.
I suppose it’s a good thing if you’re a personal trainer or the owner of a gym!
One funny thing I saw was an exercise plan that recommended you buy a sledge hammer and do natural movements like swinging it. Or, you know, you could come on over to our place and help chop next year’s wood and clean out the chicken coop. That’ll build some muscles.Whether we are gardening, walking more, hauling hay, cleaning by hand or chopping firewood, we can cut out the middleman and exercise in ways that provide us with concrete benefits.
And instead of costing us money, we save money.
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Closer Family Ties
When the entire family commits to getting back to basics, a wonderful thing happens.
Working together, learning together, playing together – these bring us closer and build strong family ties
It is also a great way to teach children responsibility and the pure joy of a job well done.
Less Stress and Worry
When we know how to care for our own needs – and that can cover a wide range from learning to cook basic from scratch meals to growing tomatoes to making our own soap to raising livestock – a funny thing happens.
We become less worried about economic ups and downs.
I covered this in my post on The Homesteading Economy. There is a certain economy involved in providing for your own needs, even if the dollar value is hard to calculate.
There is a lot of security in an abundant garden, full barn and varied seedbox. Many people who start to go back to the basics do so in order to achieve this security.
But I’m going to tell you what I think is the most important.
Reconnect With Life
We have become so incredibly disconnected with everything that is required for life.
From birth to death, we let experts take over every detail of our lives while we busy ourselves in the frenzy of “making a living”.
Childbirth, health care, food preparation, education and more – we have become so accustomed to letting someone else take care of it that too many of us consider ourselves inadequate to do even, yes, the basics.
This gives control of our lives to other people. We get fooled into thinking this will make us happy, but the truth is that it just doesn’t work.
Every small thing that we can take back enriches our lives and lets us take back a little bit of that control. We learn that we can do these things that our grandparents and great-grandparents took for granted.