I thank that the long break I had between posts last year was mainly due to my changing mind set.
I felt and still feel, even more strongly than before, that as a family we need to simplify our lives. We need to get back to basics more. To reduce our dependance on chain stores, mass marketing and advertising. To break the hold that consumerism has on us.
Now that’s not easy. As a family – and I have noticed even more in the past few years as we have had our own business – that time is of a premium and money reasonably plentiful. I’m not offering that as an excuse though. After many years of having nothing and making do it was like a thirsty man coming to a flowing stream and drinking deeply. We now have the things that we wanted but could not afford. We didn’t go overboard but certainly it was nice to have those little luxuries. Did we miss out before – in hindsight – NO. We were happy and content and if at times we had to tighten our belts and make do with less then we did it. There was always food on the table and clothes on our backs. We made do with second hand furniture and for that matter built a new house by doing the work ourselves and felt content and proud of what we could achieve with little money. Now we spend the money and get others to do some of the work – simply because we don’t have the time. With the long hours that Ashley works he is simply too exhuasted to spend hours fencing or painting. That’s ok. It’s a compromise we are willing to make. Mind you the items that are necessary (such as the new fence) go through a rigorius debate between the two of us as to whether we can afford it and if it is truly necessary. If the answer is yes to both then we go ahead – making sure that the money is there to pay for it immediately as we are not going into debt for the sake of a fence or a new paint job.
Having a Handmade Christmas this year is a big step towards this goal. Like any goal it will take time and hard work but the fact that the family have embraced it is a big step. A bit like man first stepping onto the moon. It’s scary stuff. When we mentioned the idea to Mum she willing came along for the ride and is starting her homemade gifts too. To a point the children have to go along with what Ashley and I decide is what is necessary and essential for our family. We are the adults and as we are the ones earning the income we have the final say but that does not mean that each of the children have ideas that are heard and debated and quite often incorporated into family life. I’m not saying we have a family meeting – rather ideas are discussed in the course of our day, when travelling (like yesterdays trip) and when sharing a meal.
My Grandfather gave me the best piece of advice just before I was married. He said that as a couple you should never buy anything without fully discussing it first. Talk about the pros and cons. Whether you can afford it or not. Do you need it? Will it do what you want it to do? It’s a piece of advice that Ashley and I have followed for all the years of our marriage. There are times when one of us will make a decision about something we need but that’s also in our area of expertise. Other items (like a new car or renovations to the house) are discussed fully and deeply and it may be months before we make a decision and even then the choice to go ahead with a purchase is only made if we are both in agreement. It works for us.
One of the biggest items we spend money on is our electricity bill. Ashley and two of his friends have been discussing this issue in great detail over the past months. All three of them are convinced that solar, wind and generator (as back up) power are the way of the future. While each agrees that those things are needed we are the only ones in a position to have all three power sources. One friend lives right in town so solar is his preferred method. One lives out of town in a smaller township where solar and a generator are his options while we have room for solar, a wind turbine and a generator as we live on two acres. Now it helps immensly that among the three men we have a mechanic, a refridgeration mechanic and an electrician. Between the three of them they can pretty much solve any issue that arises. While these sytems are still a few months (and dollars) away from being set up and running it’s comforting to know that in the mean time the “boys” are working out any bugs and issues that might arise so that the change over to alternative power is a smooth one.
So what promtited this post? Well one reason is I have been watching lots of Youtube videos mainly ones from “Peak Moment”. It’s an American based couple who do loads of fascinating interviews with normal people who have embraced the simple life. They are people who are making positive changes to not only their lives but also those of their communities. It’s not “hippie stuff”. Nor is it the “spend big bucks or it won’t work” lifestyle. Instead it’s the get out of debt/make your life work/be involved in your community kind of stuff that makes sense in a world whose resources are diminishing. Each episode is only about 30 minutes long and easy to watch and listen to. Best of all there are simple ideas being shown that anyone can do and lots of fascinating explanations as to why we have felt we need to live the way we do with consumerism etc.
The second reason is when reading the blog Better Me, Better World a link was given to Powerwise and a calculator so that you can work out your energy consumption from the basic things in your home. Things like the toaster, dish washer, fridges and freezers. I started to play. Now I didn’t get all anal and run around the house checking the wattage of each appliance but the few I checked quickly added up to nearly $50 a month for the basic use of things we take for granted. Elise wandered in. She thought what we used monthly wasn’t bad until I showed her that over twelve months that added up to $600!!!
Something certainly to think about.