What is a simple life? Is a cabin in the woods (like Thoreau in Walden) necessary for you to live simply? Do you need to eschew all modern conveniences, worse yet, technology? Luckily, there are no hard and fast rules dictating what defines a simple life – only you can do that.
For me, living simply means being as self reliant as possible but mostly it’s about detaching myself from the consumerist cycle. This, is my story…
The world, it seems, revolves around not just what you have now but what you’ll buy next. Breaking that cycle is challenging because we’re constantly bombarded with bright and shiny new things to buy and they’re presented in such a way that we want to buy them. Realising I was as caught in this cycle as anyone else was my first big step toward living a simpler life. Equally motivating was the understanding that while I liked nice things, what I really wanted was freedom. Then I lost my job… This was back in the late 80’s recession and that period of unemployment, while horrendous financially, taught me some very valuable lessons about life, and about me.
Living simply was the only choice. I could barely cover my mortgage (interest rates were around 18%) so every single cent was precious. Nothing was wasted. I learned to make do with what I had. I sold off whatever I could to keep afloat. I learned to be creative with whatever produce was cheapest that week. It was tough. It was challenging. Ultimately, though, it was empowering. What I learned from that period was that once my basic needs were met, I really didn’t need much else.
When I was working again, I stuck to that ‘needs only’ philosophy as much as possible. I no longer shopped for entertainment and I made a point of learning the skills of self reliance: baking, cooking economically, etc. I was happy and content. My view of what’s important in my life was changed forever.
Nearly 25 years later, I’ve been married, borne a child, and divorced, but that period still impacts the way I live today more than any other. Sure, there have been times when I haven’t been very frugal and there have been financial decisions made hastily which, in hindsight, could have been delayed or avoided altogether but always, in the back of my mind, is the ultimate goal of being smart with my money and living a simple life – as defined by me.