“Be who you want to be, not what others want to see.” ~Unknown
Growing up in a consumer society has its obvious advantages—technology is abundant, restaurants are everywhere your eyes can see, and grocery store shelves are always full. All of this leads to the illusion that everything is available, in quantity, all of the time, and for the most part it is.
I was born and raised in a consumer culture and I thought I had it all; the ability to buy whatever I wanted and needed was deeply ingrained in my psyche. In my childhood I had toys, stuffed animals to decorate my bed, Nintendo, a swimming pool in the backyard, a unicycle, my own little black and white portable TV, and a closet full of shoes.
My tastes changed over time, but until I became an adult at the age of twenty-eight my perception about shopping and acquiring stuff was on the naive end of the spectrum.
It didn’t matter where things came from, so long as they came and there was a temporary happiness associated with each and every purchase.
Change. Something must change. I heard whispers in the night.
The things I had accumulated were not bringing joy; what was more, they weren’t even being worn or used. I thought about the excess, my excess, others’ excess, the excess from stores that never gets sold and has to go somewhere, then I considered for a moment the environment.
My husband and I moved from a one bedroom apartment in Seattle to the plains of southeastern Hungary to immerse ourselves in quiet country life.
We had a strong desire to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. We purchased a five hectare farm with cob buildings, built without foundations and just silt under the tile floors. Electricity, but no running water.
It was ours—the trials, the warmth of the fireplace, the peace and quiet to reflect on life.
After five years of spending mornings in silence, listening to the sounds of pheasants, guinea, and owls, our closeness to nature started to become rapidly apparent. Simplicity crept into our lives as an inkling of an answer of previously soft-spoken whispers.
Drawing water from the well, bucket by bucket, spinning wool, and preserving fruit, the introduction of self-reliance into our lives was profoundly exciting and exhilarating at the same time.
Paring down and wising up, we slowly became eco-minimalists.
There are downsides to being “different”: We have lost friends along the way, our parents don’t quite understand our determined stance on living a simple life, and it isn’t easy being green. So, is living an unconventional simple life worth it? By all means, yes!
The rewards are beautiful when you truly accept gratitude into your heart. Gratitude for the little things in life: the meaningful conversations, the love, the laughter, the roof over your head (never to be taken for granted), the ability to cook for yourself and sew your own clothes.
How do you know if you are suited for a different kind of simple living? You are ready to live life on your own terms, for your own pursuit of happiness.
Distancing yourself from society may be necessary to get out of the brain smog, so that you have the ability to think for yourself without the white noises of traffic, bells, and life on the street. Spending time in silence does wonders for restoring the soul and giving you time to emerge into a new persona, a more intelligent version of your former self.
1. When memories become the real worth in your life, not things.
Think about your past, your childhood. What memories stand out? The number of toys you owned or the family and friends that you shared those special toys with? That you got to go hiking in a canyon or shopping in a cityscape?
Chances are good that it was the experiences that made life enjoyable, not the stuff—the people that you remember, the good times and the bad, the memories that last a lifetime.
2. When connecting with nature is a desire, not a chore.
Getting outside for fresh air daily is not only good for your lungs, it may help to simplify your life. It gives you the opportunity to walk, ride a bike, and move your limbs, a natural way to keep fit.
Connect with the earth by walking barefoot, laying in the grass, looking up at the sky and by allowing yourself to feel small in the vast universe.
3. When you are tired of the chase.
A life lived slowly is a life well lived. When we rush we miss expressions, we miss flowers in bloom, and we miss moments that will fly right by. Slow down!
Life is not a race. There is no competition; there is no need to whiz by. There is however a need to enjoy the details, to smile at the clouds and have the ability to wait. Patience is an esteemed virtue that we can all strive for.
4. Interest-led learning excites you!
Simple living is all about self-reliance. The ability to learn things on your own shows your determination, flexibility, and open-mindedness. When you learn new things out of your own interest, you are sure to embrace new ideas and take them far.
We didn’t become the architects and engineers our family and friends wished us to be, we didn’t even become who we thought we would be. Instead, we became us—and we are extremely joyous and grateful for that.
Wherever you go, be the change you would like to see in the world.
You don’t need to change addresses or move mountains to discover simplicity. You don’t even need to travel. You can find it right in your own home. Create new memories, go for a walk and connect with nature, explore self-reliance and be open to taking your new life in, slowly.
Photo by Kara Allyson