As the next big winter storm prepares to roll in – we are hunkering down until it passes. Outside in the darkness, the wind is howling and the sea is pounding. I can hear the trees whipping around.
And our solid little cottage is warm and dry.
Our journey to simple living started out for practical reasons: our budget. But over time it grew into a philosophy for the way we choose to live.
We purchased a small house, requiring TLC, in a place where we wanted to live – because that is what we could afford. But also because that is what we wanted. We found the house on Gumtree.
We then decided to decorate the house with sustainability in mind, so aimed to find what additions we needed on Gumtree too. We bought pre-loved sofas and beautiful quality, second-hand curtains, even beds, and a giant sliding door – all pre-used.
From there we decided to reuse and recycle as many of the components in our renovations that we could. We found wooden sash windows and sanded them down and varnished them. We painted old chairs and added a few beautiful old wooden cupboards and tables, some inherited, some purchased.
We aimed for excellence in the quality of building materials and fittings and decor (sometimes we fell short).
Once we have done some renovations, we started to take on decluttering and tidying projects. I read more and more about Minimalism.
Then adopting the Minimalist philosophy
And then the practical morphed into a philosophical stance. We had the theory. We chose a simple lifestyle.
And now we make decisions based on the Minimalism philosophy.
So we happily find ourselves living in a fairly small space. It suits us for a few reasons:
- More time
Maintaining and cleaning a smaller space means less time spent on maintenance. This means more time available to live our lives according to our priorities.
Because we have a gentle and ongoing decluttering habit our living spaces, cleaning and maintaining the things we do have, takes less time too.
For example we have a Nutribullet which we use for a variety of purposes from mixing pancake batter to making smoothies & grinding nuts. One tool does has a number of functions.
- Less cost
Maintaining a smaller space means lower upkeep expenses.
This decrease in financial stress is twofold;
- on the one hand, there are fewer bills to pay and electronics to repair,
- on the other hand, the desire to purchase more stuff diminishes, saving more money.
Although the decision to live in a small home is less expensive, it can still be expansive. It is easier to move towards self-sustainability and independence.
My husband, James learned to do a lot of the renovating himself, skills which saved us money and helped to make a house into our home.
We have a grey-water system in place for our small garden and plan on installing solar panels to generate our own electricity as soon as we can. As well as being Earth-friendly choices, these will save on costs in the long term. Initially, there will be a financial outlay, but over time we will avoid the increasing costs of electricity and water. Further, a smaller home requires less energy and water to run.
- More peace
An uncluttered small home creates a sense of peace.
Although this is particularly true for my temperament – in that a clear open space allows me to think more clearly and be more creative – it also comes with practical benefits.
- Having one place for the keys means they are easily found each morning.
- Having clear countertops means we can prepare food and clear away with ease.
- The space between objects lends itself to a sense of calm.
- Visually, less in a small home creates more peaceful surroundings.
We choose not to live in a cluttered space, and we live in a small home. We can therefore only own a certain number of things. Because we choose to remain uncluttered, we don’t have space to accumulate.
I have employed various tactics from time to time – because simple living is an ever-evolving habit. But “one in, one out” is one of the simplest tools which I still use.
Employing this rule helps to confirm my purchase decision around a new jersey, for example, because I know that an item of my clothing will be leaving my cupboard to make room for the new arrival.
- More connection
Living in a smaller home means being around each other. It means sorting out differences and facing challenges out of necessity.
My girls share a room, so sending someone to a room for a timeout comes with restrictions.
- It means we need to deal with issues sooner.
- It also means that we have to voice our needs; if someone needs some alone time we have to respect that.
Young children gravitate to where the action’s at, so even with a huge house, my guess is that we would spend most of our time around the kitchen table together!
The sense of connection has expanded beyond our walls into the community. We buy our veg from a neighbour, honey from a friend, eggs, and dairy from a school mum, and chicken from a farmer friend.
- Less holding on
Also with fewer things to look after, instead of those items becoming more precious, I have found that material things, in general, lose their importance. When we break a plate, we either try to repair it, or it gets thrown away.
Today we broke 2 champagne glasses. The accident triggered no emotional response to the loss. The functional value of a champagne glass, therefore, is now greater than the value of the glass for its own sake.
A practical acceptance of less holding on can then expand to an outlook in life. We can more easily let go of disappointments, expectations of other people, emotions. And focus instead on what truly matters to us.
What about work?
I run a business online. I work from home and have
- a desk,
- a chair,
- a laptop,
- a phone,
- and wifi
I love my small corner where I learn and create and share. I love my work. That is a link to learn more about what I do. My style of work suits our small home and our Minimalist lifestyle.
My husband runs a small solar PV installation company called Blue Sky Solar. He works out of the house and hates sitting at a desk. So our particular work requires very little space at home.
A small house has real value
For us, we live in a small house. We choose not to live the extreme tiny house lifestyle, yet. But we note the benefits of living in a smaller space. We are choosing a Minimalism that fits our family, our ever-changing needs, and our lifestyle.
Life flows by at an increasing speed.
For now, we choose to be together, to go out into the world, to let go of things, and to hold onto one another – because, for us, that is where the true value lies.