We make the 4-hour trip back to our hometown almost every other month and each time I'm reminded of just how far we've come since we've moved on and really started living this simple lifestyle we'd always dreamed about.
We tried as hard as we could for the first several years. I built up my canning skills, created meals from scratch, learned many valuable homesteading skills, but it wasn't quite enough. I always felt rushed, stressed, and worn out from everything that I needed to do. I wondered how on earth I was ever going to get to that level of simpleness that I craved.
It took a few more hardships and moving out into the middle of nowhere for me to really figure it out. Now I look at my days with a sense of accomplishment, but also with a sense of peace. We aren't living the best lifestyle we possibly could just yet, but we are getting there and each day we are finally starting to feel more and more like we are allowed to live life instead of just try to get through it.
Over the years I've learned a lot about the steps of moving towards a simpler lifestyle and today I thought I would combine the best ones for you in this article. I'm not saying these steps will be easy or that they are something you can accomplish in a week, but with dedication, you will be able to soon see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Create a morning routine. This simply didn't matter to me before we had children and now I understand just how important and necessary it is! Without a calm morning routine, our day will feel hectic and chaotic. This is the chance we have to set the mood for the rest of the day. I start my morning by waking up with the baby (about an hour or 2 before the rest of the family). Baby will watch me as I pick up the kitchen and house and begin preparing the meals for the day. If the weather is nice I will take the baby in his carrier and we go for a little walk. My goal in the morning is to have the house mostly picked up, supper started, and breakfast on the table by the time the rest of the family comes downstairs. I also like to have on some inspirational or calming music in the morning. Need help getting started? You might enjoy the Make Over Your Mornings Course.
Kick the clutter to the curb. And I mean really kick it all the way out of your house. When we moved into the camper over 2 years ago we sold about 3/4 of what we owned and guess what? We don't miss a single thing! Take it in pieces. Clean out one room at a time and then a few months later, do it again. Keep cleaning out until all you have left are the things you feel are beautiful and the things you really need. I do not own anything that I do not use less than once a week (besides canning equipment and seasonal clothing). Everything has a purpose or significant meaning. This is a very difficult step for many people, but I assure you that it's 100% worth it.
Stop using electronics after supper. This was a hard one for me and something I only implemented recently. I tend to be a bit of a workaholic and it's hard for me to put down the computer. But we made it a goal to let go of the electronics after supper, which opens up so much time for other things to get done or for family time. If work still needs to be done after supper I'm occasionally allowed to use my computer, but only after the kids are in bed.
Create a cash budget. There's nothing wrong with using a debit card or checks for paying bills, but we've found that life can be greatly simplified by using cash for everyday things. We use the Irregular Budgeting System, so our income goes to pay all bills first and then the rest is split up and those "extras" are kept as cash. Why? It greatly simplifies any money issues; you either have the money to spend or you don't. And no more worrying about using credit cards or over-drafting a bank account.
Clean as you go. I could not picture living a simplistic lifestyle without this step! When I'm baking or cooking, or even working on a craft project, I'm always cleaning as I go. (And usually with my homemade cleaners made with essential oils from Mountain Rose Herbs.) This prevents me from getting to the end of the project and being so tired that I don't want to clean up or from telling myself I'll clean it up tomorrow and then it doesn't get done. Tomorrow is just as busy as today. Clean up as you go!
Skip trips to the store. Do you occasionally find yourself running to the store for just a few things? It's time to stop. Not only are you wasting time and gas money on something that you probably don't need right away, but you are adding in extra stress by being in the mindset that you need everything or can't make do. In the pioneer days, pioneers would only make the trip to town after creating a large list. They knew how to do without and that to have those items would be nice, but they didn't need them right away. They made do until it was time to go to town again, and when they did get there, they would stock up to have plenty to get them by until next time. The next time you need something, don't make the trip to the store, make a list and wait until you have a nice long list before you make that trip.
Make a simple stockpile. To go along with the above step - make sure you have created a simple stockpile so you don't run out of those things that you use all the time. If your family eats a lot of beans, buy the 25-pound bag instead of buying the 2-pound bags. You can get plenty of tips on building your stockpile here.
Meal plan. This is a big one! My favorite method of menu planning right now is using the Meals Binder. Meal planning is an incredibly simple way to make sure that you are not only planning out every bit of your grocery money, but it also stops the daily, "What's for supper?" question. It only takes me about 10 minutes each week to create my meal plan. If you have trouble creating a meal plan and grocery shopping list of your own, I highly recommend either Build-A-Menu or Plan to Eat. Both are very affordable meal planning services that can save you a great deal of time!
Minimalize your clothing. I never realized what a relief it was to have less clothing until I really cleaned out my closets. I'm not saying that you need to only have a handful of items to wear, but keep only a small, strategic amount of outfits that can be put together quickly. No more sorting through the closet deciding what to wear and no more unending piles of laundry to do. Learn more about creating a minimalistic wardrobe here. Here's a quick tip...buy yourself some nice wooden hangers and only keep the amount of clothing items for the wooden hangers that you have. We have a few sets of these Wooden Hangers.
Take a walk. We've been trying to take at least one or two walks each day when the weather is nice. I love taking them in the morning with the baby to start off the day with a clear mind and we love to take one as a family later on in the day. It gives you a chance to be together, a chance to get some fresh air, and a chance to talk about the day.
Create home "stations". Create various stations in your home for different things. For example, in our house we have a mail station (for unpaid bills and unread mail), a "Go" station (for jackets, purse, diaper bag, etc), a reading station (books, pillows, blankets) and much more. These make each room in our house more functional and create a place for things that otherwise might cause clutter.
Play with your kids. This might sound a little silly, but if the weather is nice you can sometimes find me swinging on the swing set with my little Farmer Boy, seeing how far we can lean back on the swings until our hair brushes the ground. Or sometimes you might be able to find all 4 of us stuck inside a fort we built in the living room. Take some time each and every day to not only play with your children but be totally involved in that play. Be a child with them and laugh together. It will do your soul a world of good!
Remove the negative things in your life. I think this is the hardest step, but it's also the most important. Negativity has no place in your life. All it does is cause stress, anxiety, and issues. It's easy to get sucked up in the drama and the craziness of this world and hard to remove yourself from it, but I promise, it's very, very worth it. The next time something negative crosses your path, decide if you really need to be involved or if there is something you can do to remove yourself from the situation. Yes, sometimes that means un-friending a continual drama queen on Facebook or maybe something as uncomfortable as telling a family member that you need to have your space in a situation. But, like I said before when we started chatting about these steps - not everything on the path to simple living is easy, but it's worth it in the end.
Our lives aren't perfect and they never will be, but I fully believe that we can live a slower-paced, simpler lifestyle no matter what. It's all in the choices that we make along the way.
The Homesteading Handbook: A Back to Basics Guide to Growing Your Own Food, Canning, Keeping Chickens, Generating Your Own Energy, Crafting, Herbal Medicine, and More (The Handbook Series)
The Encyclopedia of Country Living, 40th Anniversary Edition: The Original Manual of Living Off the Land & Doing It Yourself