Wednesday, February 17, 2016
My Definition of Simple
I read a post yesterday at Frugal Trenches guest submitted by a mother as part of FT's How We Spend Our Money feature. Without going into details, the mother shares how with an income three times her current household, she and her then husband were caught in the simple lifestyle movement. She talked about how much they spent without a second thought. I was very confused by much of her post and how she kept describing her past life as simple and how they spent great deals of money living a life to maintain an image of simplicity. Then it dawned on me, the definition of simplicity that marketers were selling and she and her then friends were buying was very different than mine. Simplicity meant throw money at something, and that will take your cares away. If she decided she was going to wear nothing but natural fibers, there was a store for that, but to fit in with the others, one sweater wouldn't do, you needed an assortment for every day of the week.
On the other hand, I am also not aligned with those that have left the grid almost completely in order to live what they've described as a simpler life. Getting up at 4:00 a.m. to make sure to put a log in the stove so my children won't freeze, a log I've cut myself after felling the trees in the back 40 myself. Sounds anything but simple to me. I don't think knitting my own sweater from natural fibers will keep me warm as it would end in a pile of yarn mess. I suppose the simplicity is in not beholding to anyone else; creating your own income, and living life on your own terms.It also means doing away with many of the modern conveniences, or rationing them to minimal use. In both these scenarios, both extremes, I really am not judging, just comparing.
For me, simplicity is about exerting the least amount of resources to get the maximum rewards. This will probably sound just plain lazy to some folks and skin flintery to others. I am a bit lazy though. I like a good sleep in when I can. I like knowing that after a huge snow storm, while I'll have to get out the end of my drive way myself, a large plow truck is going to clear the roads for me, while I'm safe inside having a cup of coffee made in a coffee maker. I try to be careful with money, not spending money just to spend, though indulge in the odd treat now and then. I don't mind, and even enjoy a useful secondhand purchase at a garage sell or charity shop. Hello $4.50 like new jeans.
Simplicity, in my world, comes down to what those resources and rewards are. I don't want to work 60 hours; the reward of a higher paycheck, but no spare time, was not simple. It meant I was stressed trying to fit laundry, child care, friends, and other obligations in. Alternatively, at this stage of my life, cutting back to no work or even half time would require me to take on tasks that I am not good at, do not like to do, and would take much longer than just using my salary to pay to have them done. There are other rewards I get from having more income. I can donate where I want to. My family can have experiences that would not be doable if we had a slimmer monetary budget. Simplicity also is knowing if things financially took a downward turn, which they have before, I can muddle through and make changes without sending our life into a downward spiral.
I'll continue to use money to pay for some simplicity where the time savings or quality of the purchase matters to me. I'll bake and cook from scratch when I have people over, clean my house, wash my own laundry, taking advantage of sunny days with light wind when I can dry them outside. I'm not going to have a weeks worth of laundry strewn about my house mid winter, waiting for things to dry. There will be dozens of trade offs in decision making everyday. Simplicity for me is not stressing over each one of them.