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I recently received a hand-written letter from a dear friend we had to say good-bye to when we moved to the south. We met at the farmers market, of course, and bonded over her handmade soaps and the need for keeping my baby’s skin free from the nasty stuff in store-bought soap.

This letter was filled with the exciting goings on on their own homestead. The chicken coop and the garden. Hanging clothes on the clothesline and the personal benefits she has gained through this whole process.

It sat me straight up and smacked me in the face. It made me realize, sadly, that I had lost focus.

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When we first arrived on these two acres we were focused on living simply. Specifically, we had a desire to realize fully and truly that there is very little we actually need in this life in order to simply live.

We had just sold nearly half of everything we owned, packed the family and all of our belongings in a minivan and small trailer and headed south to start a new life, in a way.

But, over these past 1.5 years, things got away from me. It has just been too easy to continue to try to apply the modern industrialized mindset to an off-grid agrarian life. Things here can be hard and when things get hard we often slip back into the desire for the old and familiar.

I’d been feeling this for quite some time, though I couldn’t put my finger on it, and, frankly, it has been making me anxious.

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Our meals started out as the absolute bare necessities. That has transformed into the more than occasional fun meal involving much more than we can grow here, or manage to clean up after.

My collection of jars and bottles and kitchen equipment is overwhelming our tiny corner allotted to food preparation.

Cabinets are over-flowing with childrens’ clothing when they really only need a few pairs each of work and dress clothes.

Sure, our home is small, but perhaps what we are trying to cram into it is just too big.

I can simplify food preparation, the stuff in our home, the clothing we wear. I can’t pare down the number of children we have, their basic needs, or the needs of our family, our community, and our home.

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I am so grateful for this wake up call. Downsizing has always brought me a sense of relief. Part of that is probably because I am wholly incapable of managing many areas of life with any sort of organization.

The other aspect of downsizing that has always appealed to me is the routine that seems to come out of it. When you can cook and eat anything you want, wear one of ten different outfits, or go here or there whenever you wish; life becomes utterly and disgustingly complicated and chaotic.

I kind of hate that.

And so I find that in paring down our belongings, and maybe more importantly our options, a basic and simple rhythm of meals and laundry and home care evolves. And out of that came a focus on more important priorities.

It seems we had achieved some semblance of that when we first moved to this land, in the hopes of pursuing a simple life close to the land.

I think I’d like to get back to that now.

 

11 Responses to Finding My Way Back to Simple Living

  1. isis says:

    well said!
    i think that for me is the hardest part. decluttering in the way you describe. how many clothes does a girl really need? now of course it is still more complicated since i do still have an office job. but still, this is something i struggle with. the same in the kitchen. and really everywhere in the house, vases and decorative things that make dusting and cleaning a pain.
    how do you decide what you keep and what goes away?

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    Shannon Reply:

    @isis,

    I really try to keep it to the absolute bare necessities otherwise it’s still too much. We got rid of almost all of the children’s toys, for instance, before we moved. They spend so much time outside and working with us on the land that they don’t miss them. Same goes with clothes, a few pairs of work clothes and a couple of dress clothes is enough.

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  2. MaryLynn says:

    Great post! We keep saying we want to declutter and simplify, but we don’t ever do much about it. I’m an admitted packrat. I blame it on my dad -haha; he was the same way. I really want to get rid of things we don’t need, but, like isis, my problem is knowing what to keep and what to get rid of.

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  3. allison says:

    Love this post. As I deal with the daily struggle of my career, the neglected homestead, having to hire a sitter because things are just too stressful right now, I LOVE reading your posts and viewing your work.
    Granted, we have minimized much in our life but there are still too many toys, art supplies and gadgets.
    Something has to give soon.

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    isis Reply:

    @allison, ha, the overflow of art-supplies sounds familiar here! i think for me personally that maybe is the hardest part. i just can’t seem to part with any of it, even though i don’t frequently use much of it any more. i still keep hoping one day i will!

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  4. Hilda says:

    Love your site!! I try to live a simple life myself but there are times that I get caught up in everyday life and I have to take a step back and come back to simplicity. Thank you for the wonderful posts and the time you take out of your schedule.

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  5. Cindy says:

    Great post, Shannon. Although you and I are geographically in very different places (I’m in a Midwestern subdivision), we’re at the same place mentally. I’ve been paring down so much of what we buy, having been overwhelmed by a pantry filled with spices and options but feeling I had to run to the store to get something to make for dinner. And with clothes, we’ve been weeding and weeding, and are now committed to buying high-quality, ethically manufactured clothing that will last for years, rather than buying disposable clothing. It’s not an easy process, because “too much” sneaks up on you. I appreciate your honesty in this post; it’s easy to assume that because you’re living in a small home and working toward creating most of your own food, you don’t struggle with keeping focus on living simply. Thanks so much for sharing your journey with everyone.

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  6. mary Ann says:

    What a timely post!
    I have been decluttering for the past 2 weeks as I have time. I’ve taken two trunkloads of “stuff” to donate. I still have a lot to do because I am determined to really pare down. I’m not a pack rat and I have a modest sized house, but I still feel burdened by my possessions. I remember reading the advice when we bought our little farm (that we don’t live at full-time yet) about not buying a tractor and then having to make all of your farm decisions based on that purchase. I use this analogy in my head all the time now about how my stuff here at home ends up determining how I spend my time and how I live my life. The zero waste home blog offers another example of a shift in thinking about how much stuff we unnecessarily have and buy. While her lifestyle is not what I’m after, it serves as yet another example of how any of us can say no to what is considered normal and live a full life with less to weigh us down. Thank you so much for this post. I’ve enjoyed the honesty of your posts and following your process of homesteading, the good and the difficult.

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  7. Cynthia says:

    Beautifully Said. Today I needed this reminder.
    Miss you Sweetie…………Love and Hugs

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  8. melanie says:

    Thank you for this post. It was received by me at the perfect moment. I have been contemplating these things, too, and realize I have gotten very far away from the simplicity I tried to create in my life a few years ago when I sold most everything I owned. It is fascinating how the larger social paradigms can creep in little by little, unexpected and unlooked for, taking over silently like pervasive little weeds. I appreciate what you are doing, and am so glad you are sharing it with this larger audience. Continued luck, success and abundance of what is important to you.

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  9. MamaofBabes says:

    Oh my I can SO identify with that anxious feeling and the disgustingly chaotic and complicated! We moved islands and lived in a tiny housebus for a year with our then 2 littlies and life was simple and amazing! Since then we’ve moved progressively til we ended up where we are now-in a huge house with what feels to me like a huge amount of things(and 3 littlies with #4 on the way). My husband feels that this is a sign that we’re successful but I’m overwhelmed with the constant picking up of ‘stuff’ not to mention paying astronomical bills for this astronomical house and now debt on things we apparently ‘need’ (to be fair it’s a bed and dining table after both of ours broke but it’s the last straw for this little camels back). I have a wonderful husband but our ideals in this particular area are worlds apart. Ive found it near impossible to balance keeping my eye on the goal of simplicity with the need to work in with him and his goals. I think it’s time for one of those ‘let’s work on a better compromise’ chats ;)

    [Reply]

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