Swan Song

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There are big changes coming in the Simplicity household. I’m not 100% sure what form they will take or even when they will happen, but the changes will happen, at the moment they are like shadows waiting to be thrown into focus.

For almost two years now we have been planning a trip to take our Son to Florida. One thing we know is that our time is limited when it comes to family holidays, in a few short years we will be redundant and his friends will take our place as his travelling companions.

So before he gets too old (and embarrassed!) to want to go on holiday with his folks we wanted to take a trip to give him lasting memories of family holidays and very soon we shall be embarking on our journey.

But the title of this post doesn’t refer to this as I’m sure there will still be many more chances for us to holiday together, albeit on a smaller scale, it refers to what comes next.

To us this holiday is symbolic of a lifestyle that we are leaving behind, it will be our own personal swan song.

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These are a few of my favourite things……

“Buy me diamonds and rubies
I’m crazy bout Bentley’s
Gucci dresses and drop top kompressors
Wine me and dine me
Bring those platinum rings
Those are a few of our favourite things”

– Big Brovaz, Favourite Things

It saddens me that nowadays many people think that the higher the price tag the better something must be. Interestingly it’s thought that the things you own with the highest material value are often not the things that add the most value to your life.

So just for the record here are a few of my favourite things………

  • My family – ¬†I’m lucky to have such a close family both in terms of relationships and distance. We get together a lot as my Mum, Dad, Grandmother, Sister, Brother in law and Nephews all live within walking distance.
  • The view from our house – It never fails to cheer me up, whatever the time of year, in sun or snow all I have to do is take a few moments to take in the view and I’m happy
  • My cat – my old lovely lady of a cat has been my companion for 14 years. I love my cat and she loves me ūüôā
  • Discovery – By nature I’m inquisitive and I love finding out about things. People, places, ideas – you name it I love to discover, whether by reading or experiencing directly.
  • Being near the ocean – The sight, the sound, the smell, the touch, the taste. Being near the ocean awakens all of the senses.
  • Laughter ¬†– you can’t beat a good old belly laugh can you?

These some of the things in life that make me happy, really happy. The best thing about these things though is that they aren’t really “things”at all

What about you? What are your favourite things?

Minimalism

One thing I find that gives me encouragement and inspiration to live a simple life is reading how others have achieved the goal of downsizing their lives.

Whilst searching for this information on the Internet I have come across quite a few blogs and websites about minimalism. I’d never really considered applying a minimalistic approach to my life, but after reading more and more about it it’s an approach to life that really appeals to me.

Whilst I don’t ever think I could truly be classed as a minimalist (living with only 100 things, what with my family? You have to be joking! ) much of what I’ve read coincides with the steps we have taken to simplify our lives.

Minimalism and simple living are closely related as both advocate the reduction of the unnecessary in order to concentrate on what matters most. I see simple living as the charming country cousin to the slick pared back minimalism.

For those of you interested in finding out more about minimalism then these websites have a wealth of information.

www.theminimalists.com

www.becomingminimalist.com

www.mnmlist.com

Update on the vegetable garden

Due to last month being the wettest June in the UK on record and July following in the same footsteps it’s no surprise that not much in the way of progress has been made in the vegetable garden.

Thankfully, this weekend offered us some fine weather and a chance to carry on with our plans.

There have been a few alterations to our original plan – the main one being that we no longer need two sheds due to our garage declutter.

After looking around at the ready-made sheds that were available locally Mr S decided that he would have a go at making the potting shed himself.

He managed to complete the frame and base which will make up the potting shed and covered seating area, hopefully it won’t be too long now untill our garden tools have somewhere to call home!

Elsewhere in this part in the garden the soggy vegetable beds are starting to dry up a little. We have already had success with our potatoes, harvesting them as we need them to ensure that they are fresh and the quantity of strawberries has surpassed previous years.

We are currently picking a pudding basin full every other day, however due to the high rainfall they aren’t lasting very well once picked and so we seem to be having an awful lot of strawberry smoothies at the moment.

The other vegetables are slowly coming on but what they really need now is some sunshine to give them a boost – they’re not the only ones ūüôā

Simplifying Finances

photo credit: Dplanet

The work to make our life simpler is no quick fix solution, we are in this for the long-term¬†and recognise that whilst we have not exactly been completely committed to the end result over the last few years we have made great strides towards it by what we have done so far, the main thing so far being…

Simplifying Our Finances.

We have been quite lucky in that the both of us have a natural aversion to debt and have never run up huge credit card bills – if we want something we save for it and pay in cash.

The one exception to this though has been the necessity to purchase our house with the aid of a mortgage. We reduced this debt heavily by downsizing to the house where we now live. It has been hard at times, both with the amount of work and the conditions we have had to live in, however the pay off is that we have since managed to eliminate this debt completely through making overpayments and now own our home outright.

In paying the mortgage off it now gives us the knowledge that whatever happens to us employment and income wise we potentially have a roof over our heads and one less bill to pay at the end of the month.

Our other outgoings have room for improvement though! Utility bills, food and fuel can all be reduced and we plan to do so over the coming months by looking at what we use and what we can do to reduce the cost.

One of the biggest ways that we hope do this is by growing a large proportion of what we eat. We have been steadily increasing our productivity in the garden over the last few years and our aim is to improve on this from now on.

Tips to simplify your finances

Imagine how much simpler your financial life would be with no stress about debt. Becoming¬†debt free¬†is one of the most stress-relieving, life-simplifying things you can do. I know that everyone’s situation is different but here are a few ideas that we have found useful in simplifying our finances.

Plan For Upcoming Expenses РPlan and budget for large expenses such as Christmas and holidays. We find that putting away a set amount each month for upcoming purchases elevates the need for using credit cards to make major purchases.

¬†Buy A Smaller House¬†‚Äď When you are looking to buy, consider buying smaller. One of the problems when buying a home is the temptation to buy more than you need. Just remember, the bigger the house, the higher the mortgage payments, insurance premiums, maintenance costs, utility bills, etc‚Ķ Plus you‚Äôll spend a ton of money buying more junk to fill the house.

Keep A Spending Diary ‚Äď Each day, record everything you spend into a notebook. We have done this in the past and it has been really useful to pinpoint exactly where all of your cash goes. It also helps to keep you more mindful of what you are spending.

Get Organized – Keep things simple. Consolidate your bank accounts as it makes tracking your finances easier, set up direct debits for paying regular bills so you don’t miss deadlines and keep a note on a calendar when the ones that can’t be automated need to be paid.

Build An Emergency Fund¬†‚Äď Few things give you peace of mind like having a stash of cash set aside for emergencies and unexpected expenses. Ours has saved us several times.

Simplifying Life – The Next Steps

At the moment I feel that our plans are in limbo. I know that it’s to do with the time of year as we take ourselves off at every opportunity to make the most of the Summer. It shouldn’t be a surprise really as this happens every year and we try not to plan any large projects throughout the Summer months but it does¬†mean¬†that we lose some of our momentum.

So this post will hopefully act as a reminder of all that I feel that we have achieved so far in simplifying our lives and hopefully inspire us to continue on our journey.

Things we have done so far….

  • Moved house and paid off our mortgage.
  • Made energy-saving measures and lowered our fuel bills.
  • Set up my own home based business.
  • Begun to grow and brew our own.
  • Decluttered our possessions.

Things that need work on……..

  • Lower our fuel bills even more to save money and the enviroment.
  • Declutter more and learn to live with less.
  • Grow more of our own fruit and vegetables.
  • Look at other streams of income which are not reliant on employment by others.
  • Streamline our finances to enable us to save for our future plans.

I’m sure that there are many more things that will be added to the to do list over time, how about you – what have you already done towards achieving a simpler life?

One Man’s Junk……

I think that I may have mentioned before that Mr S is a hoarder. We often come to blows over things that magically appear in our house that other people see no good reason to keep. Like some people rescue injured animals he rescues unwanted junk.

The reason he does this is that to him it’s not junk, one day it will come in handy. For what god only knows but there it sits in the house until I can’t take it anymore and I blow a fuse (for which I’m sure he has a replacement stashed away).

This “treasure” then disappears never to be seen again into the garage or the shed – out of sight out of mind for both of us.

There is a fatal flaw in all of this though – our garage is not a tardis.

It has become apparent that something has to be done. While we were planning the vegetable garden we decided we needed not one but two more sheds! One for potting plants, the other for storage.

The potting shed is needed, at the moment potting up is done outside if fine but more often than not in the house which is not ideal. The other reason is because all of the garden tools are scattered over half an acre of garden because we have no storage space for them, and guess why we have no storage space for the things that we need to store? Because our shed and garage are full of useless junk!

Actually I am being a little unfair here. A lot of what is hidden away are remnants from the past, extra materials from our house renovation, materials from when Mr S worked for himself but the point is still the same – it is not needed and taking up valuable space and it is valuable because we were considering the purchase of more storage space.

It’s amazing what the thought of spending money on something we already have but is under utilised can do – this week Mr S began a clear out in earnest.

One full sack followed another into the trailer and then off it went to the waste tip. The best thing about this (beside actually being able to walk into the garage) – after only one day of clearing he had cashed in enough scrap metal and spare cable to pay for the new potting shed!

The Uncomfortable Truth

Sometimes you happen upon something in the media that makes you sit up and think and occasionally really rocks you to your core……that’s what happened to me today.

For a while now I have been thinking in detail about what I eat, I guess that when you are growing your own food this is to be expected. I have not eaten meat for nearly 25 years, not because I don’t like the taste of it but because of the issues with animal welfare. At the weekend I saw a piece on TV about the slaughter of male calves in the dairy industry and this led me to contemplate ¬†adopting a vegan diet.

Whilst searching for more information about becoming vegan on the internet I came across the documentary “Earthlings”

EARTHLINGS¬†is a powerful and informative documentary about society‚Äôs treatment of animals, narrated by¬†Joaquin Phoenix¬†with soundtrack by¬†Moby. This multi-award winning film by¬†Nation Earth¬†is a must-see for anyone who cares about animals or wishes to make the world a better place.”

I wasn’t quite prepared for what followed and although I am quite aware of many of the topics cover in the¬†documentary¬†Earthlings has got to be the most important film I have ever seen. Yes it is shocking, brutal and very, very hard to watch however¬†I firmly believe that every person should watch it, so that they are able to make informed decisions.¬†The film offers footage that most people would rather not see, and rather not contemplate but if you are prepared for an emotional and intellectual challenge then you must watch it.

So am I changing my diet for a vegan one? Watch the documentary, I think that you’ll find the answer to that question there.

You can watch Earthlings online at http://www.earthlings.com/ 

The One Thing a Day Challenge – 30 Days On…..

Well here we are at day 30 of the One Thing a Day Challenge and what an interesting journey it has been so far.

It has been reletatively easy for me to find one thing a day to get rid off despite my home being reasonably clutter free already. Just before starting this I had a major clearout and so I look at the One Thing a Day Challenge as a way of fine tuning my possessions.

So what happened to all of the stuff that I got rid of over the last 30 days?

Well most of it went to a local charity shop, some was sold on Ebay (making me a profit of £104.08 ) and only two things were actually thrown away Рthe leaky water bottle which was unfortunately not recyclable and the sewing machine which went to the local tip as not safe to pass on as the peddle was held together with tape!

Any lessons learnt?

It’s been an interesting excersise so far. Even though our house is fairly clutter free it has been easy to find one thing a day and I would urge anyone wanting to live with less to try it. One thing doesn’t seem much at all but it adds up and it’s quick and easy to do too – I left a box by the back door and put each item that was destined to be donated in it as I found it, once the box was full off it went to the local charity shop.

The other thing is that I don’t actually miss any of the items that have gone. Many of them had escaped decluttering sessions over the years, take my old sewing machine for example. This was the only item that I actually struggled to get rid of as it held quite alot of sentimental value. It was an 18th birthday gift given to me by my Grandparents – my Grandad died the day before that birthday so this was his last gift to me. However it didn’t work, was taking up room, was very dusty and had been replaced by a new one. Now that it has gone I don’t miss it one bit and my memories of my Grandad still remain.

The main thing for me though is that by spending the time getting rid of something each day it has actually made me think about what I bring back into the house.

Firstly it has made me think about if I really need something when faced with buying it. Lets face it if you’re going to the trouble of getting rid of stuff you hardly want to fill your house back up again, so by doing this task it has made me consider carefully what I am buying.

The¬†knock on effect of this is that by carefully considering each purchase and I’m now taking greater attention to what I’m actually buying. Buying less stuff means that I can spend a little more on quality, chemical free products that will last – whether that’s food, clothing or household products.

This for me is the important part. By learning to live with less my hopes are that as a family we will be consuming less. Last night we sat down to discuss this and watched the¬†fantastically¬†thought provoking video “The Story Of Stuff”. If you haven’t already seen this I would recommend that you do, the link to it is here¬†http://www.storyofstuff.org/movies-all/story-of-stuff/

So will I be continuing the one thing a day challenge?

Of course! It’s said that it takes just 21 days to form a habit – I reckon that I’m just about there.

If you have been doing the One Thing A Day Challenge I’d love to hear how you’re finding it, why not post a comment below!

Why The Simple Life?

I was recently asked why were we looking to simplify our lives? I think that the person asking the question was looking for a succinct answer Рconcise and easy to understand Рunfortunately all they got was me rambling on.

Which is probably how this post will come across for which I apologise in advance. You see I don’t really think that there is an easy way to explain what we are doing mainly because we are doing it for various reasons.

So why are we doing it?

One of the reasons we are doing it is that by reducing our¬†consumption it allows us to free up our income for other things. By not subscribing to keeping up with the Jones’ we are able to spend our income on the things that matter to us and eventually we hope that this will enable us to reduce the time we spend earning money.

At the moment our short term goal is that it enables us to save for our Son’s higher education, should he wish to study further. With university course fees costing as much as ¬£9,000 per year ( I hate to think how much this will have risen by the time he goes) we want to be able to help him by not having to start his adult life with thousands of pounds worth of debt (and of course if this isn’t the path he wishes to follow we will have a nice safety net for when we finally give up the day jobs).

The long term goal is that by living simply it will allow us to reduce the time we spend earning money. Looking at it at a basic level the more money that we spend equates to the more time we have to spend earning it which means that we spend less time doing the things that we want to.

Simple living is fast become a way of life to us. It isn‚Äôt just about getting rid of stuff, decluttering and getting organized, although this certainly helps with simplifying life. ¬†It’s about focusing on our priorities in life and for me living a simple life really does help me¬†recognize¬†the important stuff.

In the past I spent money on stuff thinking that it would make me happy. It didn’t of course because most of what I bought had no real purpose, it was a want rather than a need, put into my head by some clever marketing ploy.

As we have simplified our lives alot of those wants have disappeared. Of course I still want things but those wants have altered, where as once a new handbag may have topped my list now it’s more likely to be something with a purpose such as a new spade or a packet of seeds.

So the next time someone asks us why we are doing all this the answer will be simple – I’ll just tell them to read this post.