Editor’s Note: This is a post in the new series, Simplicity in Action. If you’d like to submit your story of how simplicity has worked in your life, please read more here. You can write about anything from decluttering a junk drawer to simplifying your diet. Let your small and big changes inspire others.
I often have to run out of the door, literally grabbing a basket of extra clothing, some snacks, toothpaste and car keys to get to a birth on time. I am a midwife, mama to two homeschooled teenagers, a wife to my foreign-born husband.
Raising teens and catching babies has made me infinitely clear about what I need in order to feel comfortable, calm(er), and organized. My time is not my own. I attend births and make sure everything remains safe, but I, ultimately, do not control the process. My mind is busy, my days are full with appointments and stories of individual lives and families. Heartbreaks. Fears. Joys.
I like it neat. I feel good when my surfaces are clear. Flowers in a mason jar or a bowl full of freshly picked apples can clutter my counters, but otherwise….nothing. I like things to have a place and to be able to find things in my mad dashes out of the house.
In order to accomplish this I realized I needed to own less. Owning less meant having to take care of less and most importantly less to put away. That was often my driving thought behind de-cluttering my home – If I have less, I do less.
Many years ago when my children were small, I started with a small game I used to play with myself. I’d say, “Ok – today I have to get rid of 10 things.” This would include everything. I could go through a junk drawer and get rid of ten non-working pens and that would count. I could go through my wardrobe and get rid of shoes, jackets or unworn dresses! It didn’t matter what I got rid of as long as it added up to 10.
Then I moved it up to 30. This began my process. I made sure that what I owned, I loved. I didn’t want anything unnecessary. I didn’t want to have doubles. One spatula was enough. If I didn’t like a mug, I got rid of it.
The next step was to limit what came into my home. We began the “Buy Nothing Budget.” I was pretty serious about this, yet tried to keep my sense of spontaneity and fun. We decided to buy absolutely nothing except groceries and staples like shampoo and cleaning products. If we really needed something (non-urgently) we would wait a week or so and see if we still thought we couldn’t live without it. This cut out our shopping trips to Santa Fe. It easily eliminated any extras at all! There was some more work involved in this decision, but not too much. It meant that I had to make my lunch the night before, this took a bit more planning. Ultimately, it was extremely satisfying.
It meant that we consciously used up what we had before buying something new. No bins of unused or half used cleaners. One glass cleaner, one powdered scrub, one bottle of vinegar.
It was seriously amazing how much time this freed up for us. There weren’t any excessive trips to town or Santa Fe to shop. No spontaneous stops at a second-hand store just to browse. We needed less all of a sudden.
And the extra money allowed us to pay off all of our bills. We became debt-free! It was incredibly exciting to shove over the extra money to our car loan and our credit card bills. We never owed more than $11,000, but that amount felt insurmountable to us. With the money saved on our “Buy Nothing Budget” we were able to pay it off. And it has stayed off. For now.
I feel calmer and more focused on what I want to be focused on. I can spend time with my family during my free time and work on my projects that give me a sense of quiet accomplishment. I can write. I can garden.
Living simply for me and my family means owning less, doing only what enriches us, and spending less. We are very aware that happiness doesn’t come from possessions or money.
To read more about catching babies in the high desert, simplicity or raising teens please visit Kiersten at her blog Growing Flowers.