Living The Simplest Life
There is a secret I have learned over the course of the last few years of living on a very low or non-existent income and it is this - that living the simplest, most basic life, pared down to essentials - this is the best life I have ever lived and I want to live like this always. A small, quiet life meets all of my needs and also all of my wants. I am sitting at my kitchen bench writing and gazing over the unwashed dishes at the sun shining through the crimson leaves of the grapevine I planted last summer. Next summer I think it will have covered over the whole of the pergola and one day I will be able to pick the grapes, sitting in the shade of this grapevine that I have nurtured since it was a tiny stick, and I will be sitting on the garden chairs that my friend was going to put out on hard rubbish day, drinking tea that I grew in the garden and I will be so happy, just as I am today, that the sun is shining and I have a roof to sleep under and people who love me.
A roof over our heads, enough to cover bills and food. That's all we need, and not another single thing. Not fancy takeaway coffee or new clothes or a garden gadget or a kitchen widget or potted colour from the nursery to jazz up the porch. These things are nice, and so are all the other razzamatazz bells and whistles of consumerism. But truthfully, we do not need them. They are lovely to have but I believe the secret to true contentment is to be able to sit quietly, breathe deeply and say, I have enough.
Knowing the value of enough is a secret superpower. It means I can live on almost nothing. It means that things don't have a hold on me. It means I don't have to strive all the time to earn anything beyond the most basic income so I have time instead to potter in the garden and read and lie in the hammock. I also know that I am enough, right here, right now. I don't need to achieve to impress anyone, don't have to go out and seek experiences or travel to prove anything to myself or anyone else. The adventures I have in my garden and neighbourhood are all I want or need.
When we slow down, stop running around all over the place and just settle quietly in the space where we live, we learn to really see and really listen. We learn the value of tiny things. The values of every plant in the garden down to the tiniest weed. We make connections with the creatures, the birds, the skinks, the insects. If you have time you can watch the flight path of a bumblebee. I think I could spend a lifetime just sitting with the two big trees in my garden, watching them, listening to them, finding all the life that thrives in them and tracing all the relationships they have to everything else in the garden.
This time of pandemic has shown us many things. It has shone a light on our fragility as human beings. It has revealed to us that our deepest longings and needs are the connections we have with those we love. It has showed us how quickly our financial position can change and that living the simplest life might be a necessity for many, many folk who never imagined this would be their reality in 2020. If that is you, let me reassure you. If you have a roof over your head still and are able to pay your bills and eat, then that is enough. The rest is only advertising and fluff.
I think that I might be writing a little over the coming weeks and months about living the simplest life. This is not for everyone. Maybe you still have income and can live beyond bare bones. That is wonderful. The cafes, musicians, artists, local farmers and small businesses of the world will be needing you. I have a dear friend who visited me in Tasmania in the summer. She and her husband are still both working full time and during the pandemic she has dedicated some of her income to spending intentionally at small businesses and ordering from creative makers. She sent me a lovely care package that she had ordered from a small Tasmanian business, and I think that is a fine way to go along in these times if you can. If you are doing well, these posts may not be for you, but do read along and join in, and add your mite of advice and experience.
One of the great difficulties, I think, of moving from one level of lifestyle to another is not realising that there is another valid and perfectly comfortable way of living that is much lighter on resources. I think that I live a very reasonable and lovely life which encompasses all my needs and pretty much all of my wants and all of it on very little income. I move in a circle of friends who mostly live like I do. A lot of them make do and mend, buy second hand, garden, preserve their harvests, use their kitchens to cook in, walk and bike, and most of them do this because they think it is an excellent way to live rather than because they need to for financial reasons. Of course, this means that they can put their incomes toward paying off mortgages and interesting travel and putting solar panels on their roofs, or simply working less. I live like I do mainly because I want to, and I have been able to adjust how much I work to my much lower levels of expenditure. It is a virtuous circle, the best kind:)
My friend Tanya's garden shed, made out of pallet wood.
So, for those who need it and anyone who wants to live their simplest life come along with me for the next few weeks for very frugal adventures. I am also counting on the vast wealth of experience of the community of readers here to share your wisdom and advice, as I always do. At least once a week I will post a Living the Simplest Life post, maybe interspersed with others as they come to mind, and we will see where it all goes.