Making the change to living simply

Okay, I’m not living in a yurt (and apparently you can buy one in Colorado), raising my own sheep and chickens, and I don’t even have a garden (maybe next year for the garden I hope) or anything so radical as all that… but I’m slowly changing our lives over to live more simply.

Some small but meaningful things we have done in our lives to simplify:

1. We bought a small, older, but affordable home (though if I were honest, it wasn’t because we were thinking of living simply 7 years ago, but it is because it’s what we were comfortable paying for). Yes, this 32 year old, 1800 square feet, 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom house with really poor storage (no linen closet and tiny coat closet) does have its drawbacks when 5 people live in it, but it’s enabled us to live within our means even though gas and food prices have increased. Our taxes went up, sure, but I do know that some newer subdivisions taxes are three times ours (ours $2000, theirs $6000).

2. Because of #1, quitting my job was possible. It would be unfathomable had I been in a home with a mortgage 3 times as large as ours. Don’t get me wrong, I’m somewhat envious of those with large beautiful homes (my own sisters come to mind), but it’s a trade off. Any time I get too envious, I start calculating how much it would cost to pay for those houses, and I really don’t feel I am lacking. Especially when I consider how I would have to pay for daycare for 3 children, then transportation to work, then the emotional and physical toll on me. I’ve been there, I already know it would be horrible on me and our children and our marriage.

I realize not only can I not do it all, I don’t even want it all.

3. I’m donating a lot of the excess things we don’t use. I have gotten rid of so many things that have been taking up space. Baby toys, baby clothes (no more babies for us, hooray!), our junk, other people’s junk we inherited.

I donated or got rid of:

unloved or outgrown clothes, extra sheets (really, who needs 6 sets of sheets? I got a few sets for Christmas last year and never have seemed to retire any of the old sets), ratty old towels, children’s outgrown toys

– extra dishes (especially the chipped ones),

– the portable dishwasher (it was breaking, and often really didn’t save me that much time)

– I never had an electric can opener, but if I did, it would be gone too. I have a handheld one, and I don’t open many cans anyway.

– My electric juicer – in reality, it was a pain in the butt to pull out of the cabinet, use, and clean up was a mess. The juice wasn’t even all that good. The juice was often frothy, and it removed all the pulp (the pulp is where the fiber is). And more often than not, the juicer stayed in the cabinet. Instead, I’ve kept our blender that we use often for smoothies, and got a new glass hand juicer for the citrus.

4. I’m simplifying the home (and everything in it). Not having as much stuff makes it so much easier to spend less time moving stuff around trying to find a place for it. Oddly enough, it leaves time for more important things, like cooking, and planning to do fun things with the kids, with my husband, and even time for myself.

5. Because my kitchen is not a near constant disaster (because simplifying it is working!), I’m going back to the basics on cooking. This is an area that I’m working on, as I used to use packaged foods more than I liked to (I mean, I steered clear from a lot of the obvious ones like the meals in a box, but I cheated and used bagged salads and prepared spaghetti sauce). I’m finding I like cooking better and I enjoy it more when I’m more fully involved in the process.

So, in an effort to work on that, I have begun to:

– peel my own carrots (I know, it’s often so easy to buy bagged baby cut carrots)

– cut up my own lettuce

– make my own potato dishes (so far I know how to make a good seasoned red potato, mashed potato, and potato salad)

– make my own sauces – spaghetti sauce with a little bit of marsala wine is very good, and I can
make a really decent teriyaki sauce too for stir fry.

– make our own pizzas (though I admit to using a pre-made crust, the next effort is trying to make one from scratch)

– make our own smoothies (my littlest doesn’t like eating strawberries or blueberries, but will eat them blended in a smoothie).

– though I don’t care much for baking, I find that I can get more veggies into my kids by making zuchinni nut bread, and I found a great recipe for a carrot/zucchini nut bread.

– plan to cut out the red meat (except occasionally) and replace with beans. I have various bags of dried beans and peas in my pantry cabinet. I have to find recipes for them.

– eat more brown rice – though I need to find good recipes for that

– make our own granola bars (okay, this I haven’t done yet, but I have found a great granola bar recipe from Alton Brown of Good Eats)

– learn to cook my favorite restaurant dishes, so I can avoid going out, and monitor what goes into my food (I loved chicken marsala and now I can cook it at home).

I really feel that a lot the things that make life more convenient are making are weighing us down at best, or outright making us sick. I really believe that. I’m about 25 pounds overweight, and my triglycerides are high, so I have my own health concerns to think about as I make changes. But I have had the time to think about what’s important to me since I’ve started my blogs.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m only now just starting in earnest about cooking entirely from scratch. It’s hard, especially when it takes at least 2 hours to cook spaghetti sauce from scratch (and I have yet to find diced tomatoes in jars around here, not plastic lined cans), and about 30 seconds to open up a jar of Ragu and about 15 minutes to warm it up on the stove. And while I’ve made split pea soup before from dried peas, I really haven’t done much with dried beans, except science experiments and letting the kids use them in lieu of sand for sensory activities at home. I have however, cooked barley from…umm, whatever dried barley is made from. It’s really good in soups.

So, for me, it’s been baby steps all the way. I am doing what I can to simplify living, even here in the middle of suburbia. It helps to center me, even as there are rows upon rows of shopping malls popping up all over the place in the name of “growth”. There are forces working against us being healthy and taking care of ourselves. It is stealthy and no one ever sets out to damage ourselves, yet it is happening more and more.

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3 Responses to Making the change to living simply

  1. Mike Harmon says:

    I just stopped by your blog and thought I would say hello. I like your site design. Looking forward to reading more down the road.

  2. Melissa A says:

    Great post! As I was reading it, I felt like I could have written because it sounds like exactly the way we are living 🙂 Good for you!

  3. graceunbound says:

    Cook your spaghetti sauce in a crockpot! I need to whip up another batch again, I just used the last container from the freezer. It makes it sooo easy to just dump it all in and come back to it several hours later.

    I know what you are saying though. It’s a journey we’ve been making over the past year as well. The more I get back to basics in cooking, the more I find I enjoy it.

    Do a search on Allrecipes.com for bean recipes, you should find some good ones. The sweet potato and bean burritos are good, even my sweet potato hating husband likes them.

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