This guest post by SW and entry in our non-fiction writing contest.
Living a simpler life doesn’t mean living an easier life. In reality it is just the opposite. Living a simpler life tends to be a harder life. At least harder in the context of work required to live that kind of lifestyle. Even though it’s a more challenging lifestyle… it’s a more rewarding lifestyle.
I’ll be the first to admit that my consumerism lifestyle has made me fat. I work a job that doesn’t require a lot of physical labor, I pay other folks to do things I could be doing, and as a result I’d added on around 60 pounds of excess weight. If you think about it…. were our grandparents or great-grandparents overweight? I’m guessing probably not. They worked manual labor for a living and/or tended a garden and farm animals for food. Something else to think about…. aside from lung cancer from smoking how many cancers did they have to contend with?
Around a year ago I decided that I needed to wean myself off a consumerism lifestyle and get back to a more simpler time. Like most folks that think about making this leap, I had several reason that moved me forward and got me into researching my desired lifestyle. By living a simpler life, not only am I improving my life but there are other advantages as well. Since this is more of a thought provoking article vs. a how to article… I am going to toss out some things to think about.
The first thing I did was get back into gardening. It’s best to take this slow and not build up your gardens too large too fast. If you get overwhelmed then you will not want to work your gardens and end up getting disgusted with how they are going.
Personally I think part of the reasons that everyone is getting cancer, or their cancer is getting cancer is because of all the chemicals we are subjected to. With this in mind I have chosen to grow my food organically without chemicals. If you take this route then you definitely want to start your garden off small and increase it a little at a time. When you cant spray the garden for pest insects then you have to rely on mother nature and human intervention to protect your crops. This takes more work on your part, (think about pulling all those tomato hornworms off by hand) but in the end it is so much more rewarding. Just knowing that you can go out to your garden and eat straight from it while you work makes it all worth while. If this kind of gardening sounds good to you then check out some books on organic gardening, companion planting, and natural pest control. I am always adding books to my library. I figure if I can gleam a couple new ideas then it was worth whatever I paid for it.
As someone that just recently pulled my head out of the sand, I had a lot of debt because of my consumerism mindset. I now see that way of thinking is unsustainable and I set forth to change my life and mindset for the better. One of the first things I needed to do was figure out a way to pay off my debt, and to find extra money to throw towards that debt. Cutting out the cable and limiting eating out is a no brainier, but I wanted to take it to a whole new level since I am not only trying to reduce my debt but also change my lifestyle.
I got to thinking about my electric usage. Since my house is 100% electric it seemed like a good place to start on reducing my expenses. The dishwasher that came with the place is very low end and has never been all that great. I could buy a new one and replace it, or I could go with ‘plan b’. I decided against falling into the consumerism trap and instead of buying a new more efficient dishwasher, I now wash all my dishes by hand and use the dishwasher as a double decker drain rack. This keeps my counter tops free of a drain rack. If you think about it, the dishwasher uses quite a bit of electricity. You’ve got the electric to operate the machine, the electricity for the hot water heater, and the electricity for the heating element. I know this heating element is what is used to dry the dishes, but I’m not sure if it is also used to heat the hot water coming in even further. Either way… by not using the dishwasher I save a bit of $$$ over the course of the year.
Another huge energy hog is your clothes dryer. I looked at installing a clothes line outside in the back yard. I remember as a kid mom hanging out the clothes to dry and how they smelled fresh off the line. I don’t care how hard laundry companies try… they will never duplicate that smell. Then I got to thinking on the subject even more. What if it’s raining outside when it’s time to do laundry. Cant very well hang the clothes out, and it’s back to using the electric dryer again. Then I happened to stumble on an article at a homesteading site. They had set up an indoor line running down both sides of the hall. The line itself was a little below the ceiling but easily reachable. This allowed them to hang their clothes inside out of the weather. This sparked an idea with me and I went about installing an indoor clothes line in my back bedroom that doesn’t get used much. Now I have a way to cut my electricity bill even further because I am not wasting it to dry my clothes. The spin cycle on the washer gets the majority of the water out of the clothes so I don’t have to worry about drips and within 12-24 hours my clothes are dry and ready to put away. I can speed up the process by turning on the ceiling fan.
Speaking of fans… Do an image search for houses back in the 20′s. I bet you find one thing in common. Most of the houses had some sort of awning or porch over the windows. This was there for one reason only and sadly we have gotten away from it. By installing an awning or porch over your windows you are shading your windows in the hot summer sun, thus helping to cool down your house since our windows have the poorest insulation values. Another advantage is they shield your windows from the rain. How is this an advantage? If you think about it… during the summer it is the coolest outside when it rains, but because it’s raining you cant open the window. What if you built some sort of awning that stuck out 4 to 6 foot… then you could not only open your window when it was raining, but you could also set a box fan on the window sill to pull in some cool fresh air and not have to run the electricity hog of an air conditioner.
To further reduce your electric bill you can take things a step farther. A long time ago I switched over the majority of my light bulbs to CFL’s. While there is no doubt that saves some money on the electric, it wont save as much as not using them at all. One month I challenged myself. During the winter I love burning candles and one thing I noticed is that with one or two jar candles burning I had enough light to move around the house. I would light one in the bedroom, one in the living room, and one in the kitchen, I also had a fourth that I moved from room to room when I needed more light. Moving about the house was easy and I didn’t need to flip the switch. I also found that with two candles placed in the room I had enough light to clean house by candle light. I would also have different scents in different rooms so when I entered I had a change in aroma. What I did was buy the $5 glass jar candles and when they were burnt out, I’d reclaim the left over wax and create emergency candles in half pint canning jars (complete with match book inside). I’d then clean out the candle jar and insert a new pillar candle into the jar. After Christmas most places will mark down their seasonal scent pillar candles to little of nothing. Buy them out and stock up for year round use. Not only will you be saving on your electricity, but if you happen to loose your electric then you’ll already be used to operating by candle light so it’s not a dramatic change and burden for you… plus you’ll be creating emergency candles as you go along, so it’s really a win win situation.
Aside from the obvious money savings there is another reason I want to reduce my electric usage. Eventually I want to install a solar system to power the house. The less power that I use and have to store, the less money I have to spend on solar panels and the battery bank.
I am sure that most of you are like me and do a lot of reading when it comes to the area’s that interest you. One of the magazines that I read had a couple of articles that really opened my eyes and kinda confirmed what I have been thinking. Chemicals are bad for you. Now I know some may be saying… well… duh! These articles were in reference to things we were told were safe. Growing up I learned to cook on cast iron skillets, and then when I was in college those wonderful Teflon coated non stick pots and pans came out. Like a lot of folks I fell for the hype hook, line, and sinker. Well according to one of the articles Teflon has been linked in testicular cancer. Well ain’t this just dandy! I had already started to go back to cast iron before I read the article because I had a thought came to mind. Every so often I had to replace the skillets cause they were no longer non stick… so if they aren’t non stick then what happened. My thoughts were… I was eating the coating and that probably wasn’t good for me. After reading the article I tossed everything I had left and went and bought 4 more pieces of cast iron. Now I either use Cast Iron, Glass, or Stainless Steel for my cooking.
In the same magazine they had an article about the chemicals used to make plastics leaching out into what you consume. This has also been linked to cancers. Well isn’t this just great. At this point I got to thinking about the things I can do to limit my exposure. I came up with a couple of ideas that I have implemented. I have thrown out my coffee pot. It was 100% plastic and the hot water running thru the system was probably picking up chemicals along the way. Now I use a stainless steel peculator like our parents and grandparents used to use. I have noticed one major change when I did this. With the plastic drip coffee maker I could drink about two cups before I started to get heartburn. Now that the plastic is out of the equation… I can drink a whole pot of coffee without any heartburn effects. It had to be something in the plastics because I am still using the same coffee, just going about brewing it in a different way. In keeping with my electric reduction goals I bought a stainless steel 1 burner hot plate vs. using the 220v stove top to brew my coffee.
Another thing I am doing to reduce my plastics exposure is store food in glass canning jars whenever possible. I have jars from half pint all the way up to half gallon. I’ve even got my coffee in a quart canning jar sitting on the counter.
Since we are talking about chemicals. Look at the food you buy. EVERYTHING is loaded with chemicals. It could be GMO’s (which you’re not going to know about because they don’t have to label them) or all the chemicals they use in your food. They claim it’s there for “freshness” or as a “preservative” or for “coloring” when in reality proper canning procedures will keep your food good for over a year. Our parents and grandparents can attest to this because it was common practice to can and put up your food for leaner times.
While I cant prove it, my thoughts are all these added chemicals are why everyone has cancer of this or that. At the age of 40 I am finally seeing the light and it is now my goal to rid myself of these chemicals as much as possible. My goal is to have a large enough garden to produces at least 85% of my needs. Some things I just don’t have the room to produce…. like rice and oats.
I want to know that when I make up some tacos that my taco seasoning is just seasonings unlike the package stuff that has chemicals for color, and texture, and freshness, and to keep it from clumping (recipe available on request). I want to know that the tomato I am eating has not been sprayed with some chemical to kill the bugs but has also seeped into the plant and in turn gets ingested by us as well.
I could go on and on, but I just wanted to toss out some ideas to get you to thinking about ways to improve your life and possibly your lifestyle. Before I wrap this up let me toss out a couple more quick tidbits of information.
The more self-reliant you become the less you will have to purchase. The less that you have to purchase, the less hours you have to work to pay the bills. This could mean retiring from your job early. Think about it… if you change your lifestyle and you need less money to survive and thrive, then while you have your job you are able to put more $$$ towards your retirement account. This could mean you could walk away and actually enjoy life. If you’re not spending as much time working for someone else and instead working on improving you’re quality of life by living simpler it’s really not a burden or depriving yourself of the finer things in life because you have learned that the finer things in life cant be bought.
Everything I do is geared towards one goal. Reducing my dependence on someone else.
Think about what changes you can make to live a simpler, healthier, more self-reliant lifestyle. You’ll be better off in the long run. If you’ve made some of those changes, then post them in the comments section so the rest of us can learn from you.
This contest will end on April 22 2013 – prizes include:
- First Place winner will receive - A $500 dollar gift certificate courtesy of LPC Survival that is good for $500 off anything on their site. And a Wonder Junior Deluxe hand-mill courtesy of Kitchen Kneads,
- Second Place winner will receive – Two cases of MRE’s courtesy of Camping Survival and a $150 gift certificate off of Hornady Ammo from LuckyGunner.
- Third Place winner will receive - a one year subscription to Personal VPN service courtesy of unspyable.