There’s this oxymoronic notion running in our culture that one must simplify to live a happy life.
Did I say moronic? Or did I say it was oxymoronic? Probably both.
Simplify. The word denotes ease. Simple living. Breezy, easy living.
The simplify notion is easy when I have a suitcase packed and our family is headed out the door to an exciting adventure four plane flights away. Or even if we’re just travelling a couple hours away with a packed minivan. Travelling enables no dishes to wash, no meals to plan, no house to clean.
There aren’t enough kids’ toys to perpetually move. I don’t have all my stuff that requires a perpetual organizing and tidying, so I get to pursue a new book or hobby. There are always new people to meet and never-ending activities we haven’t done or seen before when travelling.
These are travel adventures though. Through travel, life is simple, without accoutrements, so we are living lightly. Or at least that is me and my husband’s approach (we have seen couples with a half dozen pieces of luggage, toting baby cribs, and strollers with their toddlers).
Regular living though, that put your brick down, find a mailing address and sign up for an account for a national energy retailer to send you a monthly bill, well, that’s much more difficult to make simple.
I would know.
I have tried.
I don’t want to suggest I haven’t accomplished some simplicity in my life: I did somehow manage to sell my childhood-drafted dream home. (That was a feat in simplifying).
This home was light blue, had white shutters, and single-hung windows. I spent hours, days, months planning this home. And I took great delight in every moment of planning. Every nook and cranny of that maple and alder kitchen was intentional. I pored over granite samples, stainless steel appliances, the cutouts and niches, brushed nickel faucets, and pot lighting. My olive oil knew where it would live. The food dehydrator too. If it didn’t have a prescribed address, it wasn’t in my kitchen.
The rest of that home didn’t have quite that care and attention, but I still pulled out my existing furniture and measured and planned and drew and drew and drew.
It was a childhood dream come true and it was a full expression of my childhood creativity.
Before it was even complete, my real estate friend and I walked through. She remarked that the dining room would make a lovely study for someone one day in the future.
Perish the thought! I would never sell this house.
But then I did. For the sake of simplifying our lives.
We put that FOR SALE sign in the front lawn and we moved to a simpler life.
Or so we thought.
I purposefully didn’t purchase a new home, in a new neighbourhood, in the new city we were to be living in, because I couldn’t spite my first home like that.
If I was to simplify, it would have to fit my fantasy of simplicity.
We bought an old home with decades of stories in it its walls. But smaller, of course, minus the eighteen foot entryway, minus the granite, minus the sidewalk remarks of holy smokes, who lives there?
This house had stories: it was the same age as one my grandmas. It might even have entertained the Prime Minister back in the sixties because his Justice Minister had lived there. Once upon a time, another family had lived there for thirty years. Once upon a time, a theatre producer lived there. If these walls could talk, they could write their own theatre production.
So when we began to simplify our lives, we pulled out old totes of baby clothes and decide just how many baby onesies was cute and how many baby onesies was mommy-hoarding. We found totes of fifteen year nursing school notes when IVs had different procedures, babies didn’t co-sleep, and even if I did return to nursing, I wouldn’t be consulting these aged resources, so to the garbage they went.
I discovered I was an organized hoarder. You know you’re an organized hoarder when…
- You have enough photo albums, scrapbooks, and photo boxes to fill an entire home library.
- You know which tote houses your first teddy bear (yes, you’re forty and you still can’t part with him).
- You have a tote dedicated to lonely socks.
- You have a tote for photo negatives. (Ode to the digital age: You save me space. Thank you digital discovery!)
- You have a tote for clothes you wore in your first year of marriage.
- You have a tote for unused picture frames.
- You have three totes of baby clothes and one large tote of kids toys, for the grandkids (though my oldest child is twelve).
- You know which tote houses your grade seven year book and that porcelain mother goose that opens to a perfume bottle (perfume that you mixed from chicken bouillon and water when you were just six).
Come to think of it, I really should have taken out shares in Rubbermaid before you got married.
Oh, and the kids think I have too many books (oops, wrong list—that belongs on the ‘you know you’re a homeschooler’ list).
We lived in that house for seven years. Seven years where we travelled and homeschooled our family of four. Then we decided to move, again, and simplify again.
We purchased a three-acre parcel of land, an opportunity for animals, a big ole garden, and skies the size of Texas with the backdrop of the Selkirk and Purcell Mountains. The nearest town with the charm of San Fran and energy of Portland, coffee worthy of Paris, and the friendliness of instant family. We are creating the homesteading homeschool life.
We’d be off grid homeschoolers: the ultimate simple.
Since we experienced off-grid travel in rural Ghana, with occasional electricity, we knew it wasn’t as quaint or romantic as it sounded. Electricity is kinda nice if you like a freezer filled with food tomorrow or you don’t prefer washing your clothes in the tub and hanging it outside to dry. Water straight from the tap, not hauled forty five minutes from a creek downhill is a pleasure, and filtering water for eight hours, boiling it, and filtering it again is not.
As off grid homeschoolers, we could learn to chop wood and harness our forest, we could continue learning drying our laundry, and planting vegetables.
But I know that living off-grid in order to simplify my life is a fantasy.
Living off-grid is hard, hard work.
The goal is useful: to give us a lot more time to spend doing the things we want to do, also known as living our lives.
- We need to recognize that this life is temporary.
- That this life isn’t what we’re leaving, but what we’re going to.
- We have stuff to do in the meantime. So, in the meantime, we will live life. Do things. Not just organize things.
- We need to make our lists of stuff we do and do it.
- We need to ask ourselves if we are living a life worth living today?
- We need to simplify our homeschools.
- We need to live our lives!