What is our family doing in pursuit of Living Simply? Some stuff we’re doing now, some we’re hoping to do in the future when we achieve The Dream. I’ll break it down into the seven aspects of Simple Living I laid out in a previous post.
1. Priorities: my biggest priority is spending as much time as possible sharing in my children’s lives as they grow (so quickly!) towards adulthood. I’ve already achieved it: I gave up my career to be a stay-home-mum, and we homeschool the children (for many reasons but a big one was to live our daily lives together). The only caveat is that Husband works hard, and often long hours, and so doesn’t get to share in the kids’ lives as much as he’d like. He would definitely like more time with the children (and together as a family). As for the smaller priorities, I’d like to indulge my domestic interests more (by having some land and a house of my own to care for) and I’d like bring horses back into my life, pursuing my childhood dream of owning my own horse some day.
2. Work: By managing our finances and building our savings we’re hoping that Husband can find work he enjoys more, even if the pay is less. Ultimately he’d like to work part-time but it’s too early to tell when we’ll be able to manage that. I have set up a small consulting business that demands little of my time. I’m hoping to grow it over the years so that my income can contribute more significantly to the family’s earnings.
3. Consumerism: we don’t have cable TV and the children are protected from a vast amount of consumerist messages just by that alone. My kids have no idea what Webkinz or Bratz dolls are. They don’t ask for specific toys b/c they are unaware of most of what’s out there. Keeping them out of school also protects them from consumerism, including the peer pressure factor. For ourselves, Husband and I are vowing to cut out spending money on unnecessary things (though obviously, once in a while we will want something special and that’s okay so long as we’ve saved for it). We do like our toys, we’re just putting it all in perspective.
4. Financial Health: we’ve created a detailed monthly budget and set financial goals. We’re contributing to an RRSP, putting money into a savings account, and vowing to pay off debt by year’s end. We don’t have credit card debt, but do have some other low-interest loans we’d like to get rid of. Cutting down on unnecessary purchases and trying to curb the influence of consumerism is the biggest part of meeting these goals. The hardest part will be when we’re ready to buy some real estate. It’s very pricey here and it’s tempting to want to maximize a mortgage (and the banks are more than willing to extend your pre-approval amount far beyond a reasonable level of debt). We’ll have to be creative in finding ways to get what we want without taking on so much debt that we rob Husband of the freedom to pursue his priorities (see 1 and 2 above).
5. Environmental Sustainability: I cloth diapered our two kids, I use a menstrual cup and cloth pads (they’re fabulous, ladies – you will never go back!). I exclusively breastfed both kids and since we coslept we didn’t buy a crib or have nurseries or other such paraphenalia one usually associates with babies. We only just this past fall moved into a house – before we lived in high-density housing, packing a family of four into a 2 bedroom apartment for 3 years. We recycle everything we can and compost whatever we can (having bears in the neighbourhood limits us somewhat). We create one full garbage can (of an allowable 2) of waste per week. We have only one car (admittedly not a very fuel-efficient one); Husband takes the bus to work. I use canvas grocery bags and am trying to eliminate the plastic ones from our household for good. We have a clothesline and this summer (our first in this house) I will attempt to use it! I buy organic eggs and apples. I’d like to plant a vegetable garden this spring and when we move I’d like to expand that to include a greenhouse and perhaps some laying hens. We buy our beef from family friends who raise their own cattle humanely and without drugs. We eat meat only about once a week (a 1/4 cow lasts our family of 4 one year). I would like to find a source for natural pork and chicken (farm-raised animals with a good life) when we move. I’m also looking forward to ready access to farmer’s produce (local fare) and organic foods. I’d like to collect rainwater in our next home for gardening and other non-potable water use. I use bio-friendly dishwashing soap, dishwasher and laundry detergents (Seventh Generation products) and I clean my house with baking soda and white vinegar. I’m dedicated to buying only gently-used clothing for the kids (although sometimes it’s not possible if an item is needed in a hurry) and I’m working on doing that for myself (I confess I have a bit of a mental roadblock there, but I don’t buy myself many clothes in the first place).
6. Community: I live in a big city and I don’t know my neighbours. I have, however, developed a wonderful community of mamas around me though we don’t all live in the same areas of town. I met these women (and their families) in three ways: one is a group of attachment parenting mamas (my “AP tribe”) that I met online at a Natural Parenting discussion board – we sought out local board members and started meeting regularly IRL. These women really changed my life. I also belong to La Leche League (LLL), of which there are a few chapters in our city. Finally, we belong to two homelearner’s networks that meet regularly for activities. Interestingly, the three communities I’ve mentioned all overlap considerably and it’s a running joke that we’re an incestuous bunch. Just today I ran into a mama at a homelearner’s activity and I couldn’t remember where I knew her from. It was her first visit to the activity but it turns out we met at a weekly get-together in the summer put on by a mama from my AP tribe AND she was a Leader Applicant in LLL and we attended the same applicant day-conference together (we’ve both just “graduated”). This type of thing happens all the time in my world and it truly brings one a sense of community. When we move to our new region I will be able to hook up with AP mamas by finding them on our online board, and with homelearning mamas through various homeschooling lists as well as the program my daughter is enrolled in (which has it’s own online community and is a province-wide program). Instant community. I’m also hoping to get to know my new neighbours better when we move – rural living seems to foster that.
7. Volunteering: I’ve been the treasurer of our LLL group for going on 3 years now, which is all volunteer work. And as I’ve just finished the leadership application process I’ll be co-leading our group (we hold two meetings a month) and my phone number will go on the website so that mothers who need breastfeeding information can call me. There’s a LLL in the region we’re moving to, so I’ll be able to continue my work with LLL there. I do this not just to give back a little something to an organization that has so profoundly touched my life, but also because I believe in the power of volunteering and wish to do my part. Breastfeeding is a cause dear to my heart, and I want to do my bit to make sure that any woman who wants to breastfeed gets the information and support they need to succeed.