I've been thinking a great deal about the state of things, climate change, the global economy, peak oil, peak population, first world out of control autoimmune disorders, civil unrest, toxins everywhere, the list goes on and on. I don't think I'm alone in being concerned about these things, if you pay attention to the news, you can't help but be a little informed at least that this is not the same world of our childhood (I'm saying this as a person in my mid forties).
Many years ago, tight finances in my life lead to forced austerity, this was probably the single most wonderful thing that has ever happened to me (aside from meeting Mr. Homesteader a.k.a the love of my life, and quitting smoking). From that time of being forced not to spend, to only be a consumer of things I actually needed, came a better understanding of what it actually takes to live a happy, healthy life. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows...I was very upset and unhappy over no longer having a disposable income. At that time, my understanding of happiness was very dependant upon stuff and things and taking away my ability to acquire stuff and things took some time to come to terms with. I'm not sure if I would have had as much personal growth, or at the same rate, if this had not happened. Regardless, it did and the re-evaluations made in all areas of life lead me to a peaceful place...and this place I like to call Voluntary Simplicity.
Voluntary Simplicity is now just a natural part of my life and being. It is so simple by nature but also so complex in that it takes into account every single aspect of life, from health and emotional well-being to the physical properties of home, property and stuff. If I don't need it, I generally don't buy it. If it is a "want" and that want is within my means, makes sense and doesn't cost the earth, I'll still go for it, but it really has to be something very special to me and have some kind of purpose. Does it make my life easier and more comfortable? Does it add to my general state of good health or could it have a negative effect? Is it good, bad or neutral to the environment? You can't help but find more balance just by keeping these simple questions in mind before you buy.
Some think I'm crazy to put so much time and effort into jamming, pickling, canning, freezing and drying food, to making things for myself and doing things for myself. I've been called a "prepper" a "doomsdayist" etc. That's really o.k. I do these things because they make sense to me. I used to feel a sense of entitlement, that since I had money to buy things, I should be able to have whatever I wanted, when I wanted it. I didn't think about the effect it might have on my health, my neighbour's health or the health of planet....I just wanted it. I believe that the effort I put into this voluntary simplicity gives me and those around me better health, more balance, a greater sense of community. Just today, one of my customers told me he'd have some blackberries from his hedgerow for me soon. He's going to take what he needs to make blackberry beer first then give me the rest. I will give him back some grape jam that I've made from my own fruit....this is so simple. Simple country living. Yet as simple as it is, I get something that I don't grow myself and I won't have to buy and he gets something that he doesn't grow or make himself and again...doesn't have to buy. Community. It doesn't get much more simple than that.
The complexity of Voluntary Simplicity extends so much further than bartering a few food items, Mr. and I are almost ready to install a solar array on our homestead. I've heard it said "how can this be voluntary simplicity, how can this be austere, that's so expensive...must be nice"...my answer to all of that is... it is nice, but it has also been a choice and we've had to take our time. It was our choice not to spend money elsewhere and we definitely took our time, buying components as we could. Most people we know can make this choice if they want to, again it's one's choice where they spend their money, time, resources. But more about the Solar project in a future post, it's so wonderful, that it needs a post of it's own.