The Simple Life - How did you get here?

by Liz Beavis
You may be wondering what influenced Pete and I to live the way we do. I'm never sure what to call it, its kind of simple, but complicated, and its definitely frugal, but not stingy.  We certainly have everything we want, and not much that we don't need.
Frugality is one of the most beautiful and joyful words in the English language, and yet one that we are culturally cut off from understanding and enjoying.  The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things.  ~Elise Boulding
I can't remember exactly what got me started on thinking that I'd like to change my city-dwelling lifestyle.  In 2007 I was living in a rental property in Brisbane and very proud of myself because I had no car and used public transport to get around (easy to do in a large city).  I think it all started when I went to a conference in which there was a long discussion about 'sustainable development' and 'resource depletion'. That got me thinking about the way we live.  I started to read a few books on various topics:
  •  Capatalism as if the World Matters (Jonathan Porritt) - This introduced the idea of 'natural capital', the parts of the natural world used by humans either directly as resources, or indirectly as sinks for waste or services, such as climate regulation.  Jonathan proposes that we are using up natural capital, in the same way as you would use up financial capital or savings in the bank, when we should be trying to live off the interest, ie allow natural cycles to continue and only using what we can without disturbing them.
  • Affluenza and Growth Fetish (Clive Hamilton) - In which Clive proposes that we would be happier if we 'downshifted' our lives and stopped the over-consumption that has become to common in modern societies.
  • Waste Equals Food (William McDonough & Michael Braungart) - This book suggests that all products should be designed with a 'cradle-to-cradle' perspective in which every product can become the raw materials for another product, ie all natural products are can composted and all technological products can be taken apart and used to make something else.  This meant that natural products such as cotton shouldn't be 'contaminated' with unnatural products such as synthetic dyes which can't be composted.
Gum trees on our property - simply beautiful!
I also started seeing a naturopath around this time in an attempt to clear up my terrible acne.  She educated me about my diet and made me consider what I was eating.  After cutting out dairy, wheat, sugar, alcohol and caffeine for six months my skin was perfect.  I probably wouldn't have believed it was possible if I hadn't tried it (and if you think six months is a long time, it reflects how desperate I was to have clear skin after suffering from acne for so long).  I now eat most of those things again, but no additives, avoid sugar and caffeine, and try to eat unprocessed food when possible.  If I start to get a pimple, I know its a warning that I'm reacting to some toxin or allergen that I've eaten.

My first step at changing my lifestyle was to try container gardening.  

This was a struggle with no car, in a rental property (but I'm sure it can be done more successfully than I managed at the time).  Then I met Pete, who already owned 5 acres and had chickens.  This was good timing as we had both suddenly become interested in self-sufficiency (Pete had been using his property for a dirt-bike track until the neighbours complained, so it wasn't chosen with farming in mind!).  
I moved in and we started a garden, then we got a steer and more chickens.  We quickly learnt that we were making heaps of work for ourselves by rushing into these activities, but we were so keen to try everything!  We spent many hours searching the internet for answers to our many problems, and found limited advice (which is why I started this blog originally, in the hope of helping others with solutions we've learnt the hard way, through trial and many an error!).

My influences now are less academic and more practical, now that we understand what has to be done (the frugal lifestyle) we need lots of advice on how to achieve it.  I'm currently reading again a book by Jackie French that I got from a farmers market, Organic Gardening for Australia, from 1987.  I don't know if you can still by it, so if you see one at a market, buy it!  Its full of great basic tips for the beginner.  

We now have a massive collection of books on all subjects from gardening, to cheese making, to home butchering and sausage making and aquaponics (another dream coming soon).  

We also buy a few magazines when they have useful articles:

  • Grass Roots (no website, available in news agents and can subscribe on Amazon)
  • Earth Garden (gets a bit commercial, I prefer Grass Roots!)
  • Organic Gardening (Peter Cundall is my hero!)
I've just discovered a great blog that seems to put things so much better than I can: is worth pointing out that contentment is completely contrary to the doctrines of Industrialism, which is the dominant worldly system that we all live within. Industrialism survives and thrives by creating materialistic discontent; by encouraging the natural, inherent covetousness within each of us. People must buy stuff of all kinds, lots of it, for all their days, in order to support the industrial system. I dare say, envy, materialism and discontentment are the lifeblood of industrialism.
Everyone has their own way of living simply, depending on their needs and abilities, its lovely to see all the different ideas and think about what might work at our place.  It seems that once we realise that industrialism/ capitalism is the problem and release ourselves from its expectations we can finally become content with what we have.  
Please share your inspiration, I'd love to know how you got here! 

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