I am contemplating doing a series of articles over the next few months, called No Excuses. A friend brought up a topic, and it made me think about a few things. My lack of focus and concentration caused me to be somewhat closed-minded of how different everyone is, how diverse their life stories are. After a little chat about ‘not keeping things together’ physically or psychologically, with a few people, I came to a few conclusions about just how every person can carve his own improvements.
“To change one’s life: Start immediately. Do it flamboyantly.”–William James.
Let’s start with this title: “Live Simpler, Irrespective of Situation”. The two points I want to try to get across here are that it is completely possible to change what you have now and that you probably should! A part of what I realised, is that people (in their diverse personalities and cultures) do not all see the possibilities. Some are sceptics, some are fearful, and others just lack the vehemence to leap. Get that out of your way, foremost:
This is doubt and disbelief in the potential for change. Realising that scepticism is mostly driven by the attitude that things just can not be like the ‘they’ say it is. “Taste this, it’s some of the best wine there is”, right? This sort of experience breeds scepticism, not in oneself, but in what others are so adamant about. Take one thing home from this: It is normal to have some level of scepticism and probably healthy. However, the mere fact that a song excites someone so much should mean that it is worth a listen to. Even more so, if the suggestion to listen to it came from a trusted person or friend; someone that cares. Last, appreciate the fact that you may experience it positively too, even if not in the same way as he/she signifies. What is certain is that this song or glass of wine will be a gateway to something more aligned for… you?
Changing something that works is scary, but here is the thing. You would not be experiencing fear about a change if you did not deem that change as essential. The aspect of leaving good-enough behind frightens you because the option of remaining with good-enough is not really on the table. Your fear comes from you not having a choice, and you know this is the only way to step up.
You got used to working in the same town with the same people for years. Moving out and meeting new people is scary. Fear is the assumed reaction for any normal person and creature of habit. On the flip side, when was it ever bad to see new things and form new networks with different folks? Face the fear, grow from it, mount up, be proud. Are you scared of failing, perhaps? Failing early is a natural part of the process of self-improvement, transformation and adaptation to things outside of the average.
Lack of Vehemence
This is the most arduous to admit and almost impossible to grasp for other people. You are burnt out, tired, and while you know exactly what you must do, you linger on things. There is only one way here, and that is to research, experience and talk to others about the journey ahead. Drive yourself to become enthusiastic about it, believe in what can be done and draw inspiration from the recipes of change you are contemplating. The sheer variety of different things you can mix up to make your own story should be exciting enough already. Believing in it & feeling it will create energy that comes from within. Share ideas, create plan A and B, and constantly remember that you are transitioning to something that will be at least better for YOU. It’s a stepping stone to complete reformation. Fear and scepticism subside, vehemence builds up and before you know it, the reason for your burn-out becomes the very thing fuelling your new journey. Nothing makes one run from a dark tunnel, much like the sound of an approaching train. Just to remember to read, observe and plan outside of the circle of your day-to-day familiarity.
The Core: Simplify to become rich and free, with or without wealth.
Lao Tzu said, “He who knows he has enough is rich”. I was never sceptical about that, I just did not understand it. Something always felt wrong, missing or unbalanced, and I just could not put my finger on it. Eventually, I started looking further than my small circle of influence which led to my discovery of people and places very different from what I was used to. Pieces of the puzzle started falling into place as relationships started forming.
Without going into details on how I got into the ‘rural life’, I can say that it started by spending my life outside of the cities and putting more of a life bias on the work-life-balance. It became more and more clear that I just wasn’t built for complexity. No one is, really, they just think that they are. Complexity is having more material things than you need, living in a larger space than you have to, paying for more services than you can shake a finger at. Driving when you don’t want to, putting yourself at risk for the gains of others and feeling your health deteriorate just to put a roof over your head – these are complexities you must get rid of. Living simple brings you back to life, and life alone.
You realise that being rich means being free, having free thoughts, moving freely and experiencing actual life. The adverse of actual life just means, living as others (employers, family, friends) expect you to live. Actual life does not mean sacrificing the things you love, it does not mean giving up hobbies or experiences, health or hygiene. It does not mean to become careless and unemployed. It means living at a self-determined speed, having inputs and outputs based on what you need and can handle, working for more reward to yourself and less for others. It means having time to rest more, work harder on what you believe in and to eat healthier. It means to be carefree rather, or at least on a very pleasant journey toward that. Those on a quest for a happy life are happier on the quest than they are at the destination. I can see and feel it now, despite many negative things still getting me down while I am still chained to the system. The journey though, fantastic.
Rent, Toothpaste, Travel
You are working, like most people tied to the system, in a very traditional model of working. You get up in the morning before you wake naturally when they tell you to. You have breakfast, likely unhealthy or, if not, expensive. You brush your teeth, jump in the car (or bus, or train) and then spend a stressful commute getting to the place of work. You are bossed around, or you boss other human beings around a bit. When the day is over, you give some of the money you made to a shop for some subpar preservative loaded food, after which you return home to get some rest; just to repeat this a few thousand more times. What am I saying?
A million solutions lurk
There are infinite life situations, characters, attitudes and perspectives. However, I found that for my situation, as well as others I have spoken to, the problem to solution ratio was always three-to-one or better. This is good news. It means that if you already tried to devise an exit strategy, and failed, there are at least two or more others. Even more likely, the one that you think failed was not the right plan – leaving three more to figure out. The problem to successful solution ratio is three to one. Get it?
My plan involved downsizing and simplifying while moving out and away from the influences I cannot change. In an almost permacultural approach where the problem is the solution, moving out of the city was number one. Getting away from the commotion, anonymous masses of hurried and unfriendly people, pollution and into the country-side where I could surround myself with the things I love, was a double-whammy. It’s not everyone’s solution or direction, and I don’t even want any readers to think that at all. This is mine, it is still unfolding, and I have no regrets so far, despite several hardships and failures along the way. Fortunately, I have a wife that appreciates the same end-goal, albeit that she has different passions along the journey. We run a pretty tight ship together.
Perhaps you like being in the city or village you are in, or maybe your journey does not allow for a distancing right now. No problem! If you are still reading, you are interested in changing the present principles and patterns of your life. Stay where you are and get rid of all the clutter then. I am going to drop suggestions now, and instead of taking it as opinion or advice, mull over it. Pay special attention to the far-reaching positive consequences of these points, and you will get the picture – my goal for writing this article.
“Change before you have to.” – Jack Welch
Get rid of all your extra cups, glasses, plates and cutlery. There are one or two or three people in the house with you. Let the serious occasional guest bring his own. A good friend will never question this motive.
Sell your dishwasher. It burns resources and does not save enough time to warrant its cost, wear and tear, limited lifespan and electricity. Turn on music, wash with a good bio-friendly soap in cold water, and develop discipline at the same time.
Downsize your living space. You don’t need separate rooms for things. Drop this notion of luxury and status. Even better, move into an adapted, tiny and safe shed/hut in someone’s backyard. Chances are your rent will halve (or better) and put you closer to work and in a better neighbourhood. Cost? What people think; you should not care.
Switch to a bicycle. Where safety allows (especially if you move to a shed) you can cycle on the fuel stored in your fat. Keep your car, if it’s paid up and if it makes sense to do so, but stop using it. Vehicle fuel is not sustainable and cuts away at your current and future economy (which translates into your freedom).
Care for what you can change. Family, friends, and colleagues can drain you completely. Make the right calls when it is needed so that you can create freedom by separating negative and toxic elements from your new life. Make them a part of the journey, if they are willing to grow by sacrifice.
As your capital requirements decrease, consider letting go of the career or job you thought you needed. Life is over in the blink of an eye and working to reach the end is pointless. Take your situation into consideration before acting on it. If you have to stay where you are (doubtfully) then change your mindset by realising that the rest of your (improving)life makes de facto ‘work-life’ a lot easier.
Use fewer things. Stop buying things that need to be discarded, like plastic containers and metal cans. Fit a composting toilet to your new hut, or flush the toilet smarter (less, with rain or grey water). Stop heating or cooling your home, by having a better designed or smaller place to live in.
Work and Life and Work balance. Mastering subsistence/self-reliance is on another level, and can easily be achieved on many levels. Chances are you will always work, even if covering the things you can not do for yourself. This is personal, and up to you. Think about working less in the traditional sense, and more on other streams of income. Some of them will produce the resources you need, others will generate income. Do more of the work you want to do, for yourself and helping others, live more.
Ditch TV if you are paying for streaming services. Downgrade your internet/data dependence to save more money. Downgrade your insurance to only what is needed. Get rid of policies that will not serve any actual purposes. Spend your time on enriching experiences, educational or inspiration YouTube channels, or the arts that make you happy.
Stop buying fresh produce that you can grow yourself. Not only is this a learning exercise, but healthier and rewarding. If you cut the cost of just 20% of your vegetable purchases by growing the basic and easy items yourself, you are on a winning ship. Saving seeds will rescue us all one day, it gives you a little evolution to control, and it means you can regrow food at zero cost. Share your surplus with friends or the community.
Try to use fewer machines and more muscle, if you can. If you have no lawn (and you really shouldn’t), sell the lawnmower. Don’t pay people to install things if you can do it. Most things are easily done yourself, easily self-taught from online videos and make no sense to not do yourself. Do not be lazy. Add up the costs of ‘getting a guy’ to do it. Professionals should do legal and safety work, like gas and electrical installations.
Only buy food that is healthy and will last longer, even if you have to preserve it. Cut out expensive and unhealthy takeaways. Growing your own food will also help solve this one, but you may still want to learn to preserve food in different ways. You can eat or snack from something you grew or bought long ago, for quite some time.
Raw veggies are great, but taste differs. Meat, of course, is another thing. Smoke or grill your meat on wood, or a small and efficient gas cooker. See which option makes more sense in the long run. You can cook meat in advance and keep it cool for days as a cold-meat meal. Buy cheaper meat, too. A million points if you produce your very own meat through chicken, duck, or rabbit. Non-meat eaters have the bonus of growing it all!
Should your home, hut or caravan be near any garden, use it all to your advantage. Compost and mulch anything from the garden, all food waste and everything you can get your hands on. Compost can sell but is better used to invest in the future of your food.
Drink water instead of sugary drinks. Reduce consumption of other expensive drinks. Not only is this a healthier option, but a quick calculation should show what you spend on those items. Water is great, or if you like fresh juice you could start producing your own from the garden easily.
Stop smoking. For the sake of your health and eliminating any chains that have a hold on your economical freedom, ditch the sticks. If you are ‘vaping’ and it’s not free, then get rid of that too. Easier said than done, but start working on that journey now.
Close accounts. Seriously, cellphone contracts must become prepaid. De link anything that keeps you attached to the system. Buy-now-pay-later cards at clothing outlets, loyalty systems that cost subscription fees, internet services you don’t need or can not account for; let it go right now. TV Licenses can be ditched too unless you own something that legally requires it. Terminate additional bank cards, petrol cards and downgrade accounts, you don’t need platinum (or even gold). Your wallet should become as simple as your goals, and the sky is the limit here.
Share excess, borrow and trade. Having a sandwich press that you use once a month is not ideal. It consumes space, a valuable resource when downshifting, and it forms part of the clutter of unused things to clean and move around. How about giving away the things you do not really get good use of, or gifting them to a neighbour or friend on the condition that you can borrow it from time to time? The same goes for transport and other items. Get rid of the excess and share the rest. This way money and time are saved by people other than yourself as well. Many people keep things in case they need it… a vicious circle.
You should not be living in a sort of setup that requires chains and money suckers like garden-services or special levies (or any levies). Move away from it or if you can not, opt-out of it. If that still is not an option, you are signed into a contractual ball & chain. Make an evasive plan right now.
Last but certainly not the least. Free your mind by getting rid of any doubts and inhibitions. The journey will bring new friends, perfect replacements for the judgemental ones questioning your simpler outlooks. Further set yourself free by choosing not to engage in the widely available toxicity that is spread through social media, the news and other means. Bad things happen, and it may be getting worse. This is even more incentive to join hands in common-goals striving for a better life, better future and locking the bad out.
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” – Rumi