Simple Living Our Own Way

Chooks

When Reubs and I were living in Sydney and began daydreaming of a “simpler life” we had hazy ideas of a veggie patch and keeping chickens and escaping the daily grind. In my fantasies I saw myself self-employed with a little creative business, growing and preparing all our own food, sewing our clothes and op-shopping for everything else we needed. Our cute little house in the country would be decorated with crochet blankets and vintage trinkets. We’d have a wood stove that I’d bake all of our bread in, and a pantry full of home grown and preserved food and homemade soap… It was a lovely, albeit romanticised and idealised, dream.

Homegrown and Homemade

A few years on we have achieved some of the things I dreamt of, but other things are a long way off and some will likely never come to fruition. Sometimes I feel disheartened by the fact we haven’t made all the changes we’d like, and often I feel like we aren’t doing enough. I’ve been reading blogs and books about simple living since the topic first piqued my interest in Sydney, and as much as they inspire me, sometimes they leave me feeling inadequate and overwhelmed. I think a lot of people entertaining the idea of simplifying probably feel that way at times. Like you have to embrace “the good life” completely and make all your own clothes, grow all of your own food, make all of your own cleaning products, knit all of your own dishcloths, make all of your own soap, raise chickens for eggs and a cow for milk and sheep for yarn for all the knitting you must do… Or else you aren’t doing it right. But I have come to realise simplifying is not all or nothing. You can embrace a simple life in a million different ways and it’s ok to take it slow. There is no magic formula for doing this right. There is just doing what is right for you right now, and making an effort to continue making things better for the future.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

At this point in time we are working on growing our own veggies. We have two chooks and plans for more. We have the house in the country and it is full of crochet blankets (though at this point it’s not particularly cute!) We have completely changed our spending habits, paid off our debts (aside from our mortgage) and started saving. We do buy lots of stuff from op-shops. I have started that small home business. We do prepare most of our meals from scratch. We have dabbled with cheese making, home brewing beer and making cleaning products, and though we still buy cheese, beer and cleaning products at this time, we plan to continue practicing those things and over time using less and less of the store bought stuff.

Reuben and Veggie Patch

I’m nowhere near mastering dressmaking, though I hope that one day that will change. I’m still a hopeless knitter and have come to accept that maybe knitting just isn’t for me, so I might have to relinquish that little part of the simple living dream. We haven’t yet had a go at preserving but I know eventually we will, maybe when our fruit trees are bigger and have started producing. Though I’d love to bake all our own bread, 99% of the time we still buy it from the bakery and I’d like that to change. I still buy all of my toiletries and cosmetics and probably always will. I doubt I will ever make soap because, truth be told, I’m just not all that keen on hard soap (it makes my skin dry and leaves soapy bits all over the shower!) I have been meaning to crochet dishcloths for about 2 years and still haven’t.

Butterfly Cakes

And all of that is ok! It doesn’t mean we aren’t doing simple living “right”, it means we are doing what we can and what works for us right now. I tend to be a very “all or nothing” kind of person and either give something 110% or give it up, but I have to remember choosing this lifestyle wasn’t about becoming a shining example of simple living. It was about escaping the cycle of accumulating material stuff for sake of keeping up with the Joneses. It was about living within our means and without debt. It was about having more time. It was about growing and cooking and creating things with our own hands. It was about living a more sustainable, slower, happier life and doing things that brought us joy. And we’re doing that! While our life is a million miles from my fantasy version, it’s also a million times closer to it than my more pessimistic side ever would have allowed me to imagine. Our life is so much simpler, more balanced and happier than it once was. It’s not perfect, but it’s a work in progress.

We’re just simple living our own way.

Katie x

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Katie

About Katie

Katie is a tea drinking, jewellery making, op-shopping daydreamer. Katie likes vintage dresses, Pictionary, doilies and colourful tights.

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46 Responses to “Simple Living Our Own Way”

  1. Juli Schuster March 24, 2014 at 12:20 am #

    I love this post. I’m an empty nester and have always dreamed of a simpler life, but have just in the past few years begun to actually live it. Your blog is an inspiration to me and I’m sure to many others about how to actually live that dream. And remember, you have many years ahead of you to make those dreams a 110% reality! Congratulations on what you have achieved so far :)

    • Katie
      Katie March 24, 2014 at 11:24 pm #

      I do sometimes forget we have so much time ahead of us to make stuff happen. This is a marathon not a sprint! Thanks for your lovely comment Juli :)

  2. Rita March 24, 2014 at 3:24 am #

    I hear you, Katie. I’m coming to realize that many things we associate with “simple” living do not always make life simpler. It is often much more complex to make things by hand/from scratch. I think you get to the heart of it in that last paragraph–it’s not about doing any particular things, but about doing what works to get to a particular kind of life, one that is sustainable in all ways.

    • Katie
      Katie March 24, 2014 at 11:40 pm #

      Spot on, as always, Rita! Sometimes “simpler” isn’t actually simpler. That’s my problem with baking bread on a regular basis. I would love to always have homemade bread on hand but the reality is I don’t have time to bake every day, our local bakery is literally 2 minutes walk from our door, and they charge just a couple of dollars for a perfectly nice, fresh loaf. That seems pretty simple to me. Totally agree that it’s about doing what works to get to a particular kind of life, rather than doing things just because they are prescribed simple living activities. xx

      • Ashlyn March 24, 2014 at 11:57 pm #

        I completely agree with ya’ll! Sometimes my head starts spinning from all the things that can harm us, and trying to find a way to make everything myself and being conscious of the environment. It’s exhausting, then you feel guilty when you run out of dish soap and end up going to the store and buying it because you just don’t have time to make it like you said you would…I think picking and choosing things to buy and things to make yourself takes time to find the right balance, but it can be disheartening along the way. Thanks for sharing this post<3

  3. Brooke March 24, 2014 at 3:26 am #

    I for one think you guys are doing a fantastic job! It is quite inspiring to me (who aspires to have a simpler life as well) and it’s encouraging to know that it can be done bit by bit when it needs to be. Be encouraged because y’all are doing it right!

  4. Robbie March 24, 2014 at 4:36 am #

    You guys have already done so much in such a short time! Be proud of where you are and keep moving forward! I adore you both!

  5. domestickate March 24, 2014 at 4:45 am #

    I’m with Brooke^ Also, people who seem to be living a picturesque version of simple living sometimes end up being boring. It’s the same ol’ story, and that story often culminates in “Buy our e-book about simple living now!” or “Hire me as your life coach!” Or, they’re living so far from what I want for my life that it just isn’t helpful. I don’t want to check out of normal society; I just want to unsubscribe from many of the demands of normal society. I want to live joyfully and sustainably and do my part for my community. Your blog is inspiring because you are in progress, because you work at the life you have, and because you make it all seem real and attainable.

    • Katie
      Katie March 24, 2014 at 11:34 pm #

      I so hear you Kate! “I don’t want to check out of normal society; I just want to unsubscribe from many of the demands of normal society.” – This sums up my feelings perfectly!! xx

      • Renee March 25, 2014 at 3:10 pm #

        Oh this is it isn’t it? Completely it! Just about finding your own ‘slow’ within the harried pace of what society subscribes to. We’re on this journey as well, slowly simplifying and getting there bit by bit. I’m somewhat envious that you have taken this route before having children – it has taken becoming a mother for me to realise the potential of simple living. You are so much further down this road than many of us, take joy in your own pace :)

  6. chelsea March 24, 2014 at 5:57 am #

    This is so incredible! I agree, there’s no “right” way!

  7. Megan March 24, 2014 at 7:36 am #

    I love reading this post Katie because I know exactly what you mean. We’ve got cows, chickens, some soon to be milking cows, a vegetable garden, a home business, simple spending habits, bake everything from scratch just about and I am actually beginning to wonder where the term simple for this way of life came from! It is a complex way to live and by no means perfect – our chickens aren’t laying at the moment, sometimes the house is a mess and not at all cute, the vegie seedlings are still tiny and we’re still buying all our food from the shop. It is not as easy as you originally think and takes way longer. I was getting all stressed about this and then I realized it’s about the journey and appreciation not the destination. Sure it will be stressful and hard but it’s the type of stressful and hard I choose. But by every new little thing I learn to do, I appreciate it all the more and I guess that’s living simply – enjoying the little things like the first chicken to hatch or when your loaf of bread doesn’t sink in it’s tin ;-) as for knitting, I would dearly love to do that too, but I’m afraid I’m just not that good at it yet!

    • Katie
      Katie March 24, 2014 at 11:44 pm #

      So glad to hear I’m not alone in this! It sounds like you are doing amazing things Megan. We just have to have patience, make the most of the journey, celebrate our little acheivements and keep on keeping on. Thanks for sharing!! :)

  8. JB March 24, 2014 at 9:33 am #

    I love, love, love this post. I really enjoy hearing about your version of a simple life. :)

  9. Zena March 24, 2014 at 9:56 am #

    You can’t do everything all of the time! I’m glad you were able to choose realistic what you can and choose to do it. Often in blog land people only show the good stuff they do and not when they are buying products because they are busy making something else. You are both doing an amazing job in your pursuits and I love the honesty. You are showing a realistic life for your age and budget and stage in life. I would love a new wood stove, ours is old, ugly and crappy and doesn’t work properly but on Pinterest people have beautiful ones. We all need to make do with what we have including myself!!!

    • Katie
      Katie March 24, 2014 at 11:47 pm #

      Oh, Pinterest can be a dangerous place! And you are so right about bloggers generally only showing the successes and the good stuff. I’m fully aware of this fact but sometimes I do need reminding that there is so much more to the story behind the pretty pictures! x

  10. Alana March 24, 2014 at 10:22 am #

    Hi Katie, thank you so much for posting this. I often feel like this too and, like you, I always want to do things 110%. I read your blog religiously and find so much inspiration within your pictures and your words. I think you touch many people’s lives like this and you are actually doing so much more for the world than you realise.
    I’m planning on starting my own vegetable garden next week (I have composted and lay down the soil and mulch). Watching you grow your own food has inspired me.
    I have the same (romanticised??) dream about owning my own cottage, growing my own food and being self-employed (although I have no idea doing what??). Watching you achieve all of this inspires me too.
    Thank you xx

    • Katie
      Katie March 24, 2014 at 11:52 pm #

      You are so very, very kind Alana. Thank you. I can’t wait to hear more about your veggie patch! Picking, cooking and eating something you have grown with your own two hands is one of the most rewarding feelings ever. You’re going to love it! xx

  11. Alison March 24, 2014 at 11:29 am #

    Thank you Katie! Just what I needed to read this morning. I agree we all need to do this life in our own way. My washing machine and bread maker died this week, I bought a brand new washer but chose to make my bread by hand now and bake it in the oven. My choice. I need to remind myself (often) I am making a little difference each day that adds up to a better, happier and less stressful life for my family and our planet. I love reading your blog…all the best to you and yours.

  12. Life With The Crew March 24, 2014 at 11:58 am #

    I know it is easy to get wrapped up in all of the pretty homesteading blogs, but keep in mind that they are showing you the pretty parts – the beautiful knitting projects (not the piles of dirty laundry), the chickens in the sun (not the mud, poop, and snow filled chicken coop during March thaw), the cheese they made (not the pesto they bought from the store), etc. Everybody has their own idea of what simplifying life means. For my husband and I, it means being aware of our consumer choices and making as much food from scratch as possible. Just by being aware and thinking about these things, you’re doing so much more than other people.

    • Katie
      Katie March 25, 2014 at 12:06 am #

      So true that the pictures we see on blogs are only half the story! x

  13. Kathy March 24, 2014 at 1:36 pm #

    I wrote a little post a little while ago about all the things that I had changed but sometimes life can get in the way and there were no home made snacks or veggies in the garden but it was what I could do at the time. I know where my heart lies (like you) that you do what you can and when you can and as much as we’d like to bake bread everyday sometimes that may not be possible. I think doing what’s right for you guys is the key, it’s not a race, it’s a journey (famous last words). You guys moved out of the city, have bought your own home, something that you can afford and over time, years (it does that that long) you can fix up a room as you go. Having chickens, growing veggies and your little creative home business is amazing given where you guys were a few years ago. You had a dream, and you worked towards your dream. I bought a soap kit from “Green Living Australia” and made it which I wrote about on my blog back in November. I have to say the soap is amazing and nothing like store bought. And in saying that if soap isn’t your thing, then you can always buy some from the farmers markets where you are supporting someone else’s local business. You don’t necessarily have to do everything yourself. But living the life that is right for you and Reuben and not was is “seen or done on the internet” is exactly where you should be. Congratulations for understanding all of this at such a young age as you have years and years ahead of you and plenty of time to be learning preserving and other life skills that go with simple living. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane, Australia

    • Katie
      Katie March 25, 2014 at 12:02 am #

      You always leave such kind and thoughtful comments Kathy! Thank you. And you are so right that that you can make simple, mindful choices without having to do everything yourself. I love supporting other little businesses! We buy our honey, jams, some of our fruit and veg, and other bits and bobs from the famers market, and I try to buy as many of our not necessary items (like gifts, clothes and home things) from makers on Etsy, at craft markets or secondhand. I wouldn’t have it any other way! xx

  14. Liz @ I Spy Plum Pie March 24, 2014 at 1:37 pm #

    I love this post. I think it’s such an important point – there’s no right or wrong way to live simply, it’s about making informed choices and doing what works for you. I’ve just bought an apartment in inner Melbourne which means whilst I can’t grow all my own food or have chickens, I also don’t need to own a car. That’s a choice that works for me, but wouldn’t for others, and I think that’s okay.

  15. tricia March 24, 2014 at 2:12 pm #

    Beautifully said Katie. I love that everyone’s idea of a ‘simple life’ is different. It would be a tad boring if we all lived the same way ;-)

  16. Esther March 24, 2014 at 2:53 pm #

    Also, there’s no one ‘right way’ anyhow, so how can you do it? Everyone has a slightly different interpretation. Just do what you can, and trust me, it’s already more than most!!

  17. Denise March 24, 2014 at 4:44 pm #

    No two families live the same way, simply or not, you guys are doing what is right for you, how you can at this time. Don’t be down on yourselves, be proud of yourselves, for you are living your dream, whilst many are still just dreaming. Xx

  18. Ravs March 24, 2014 at 10:19 pm #

    This post was wonderful to read. Thank-you. My garden is very neglected at the moment, the weeds and volunteer pumpkin plants (with very few signs of pumpkins) are taking over – but I know that when the time comes it won’t take long to rectify – and the raised beds are ready and waiting. I just have to keep reminding myself that I can’t do everything at once. The priority at the moment has to be Uni, and completing my teaching qualification. But still we do what we can & try to live a less consumer, more sustainable life – for me that meant requesting a prac teaching placement that I could get to by bike or public transport. One simple thing at a time.
    You two have actually made amazing changes in such a short time, celebrate it.

    • Katie
      Katie March 25, 2014 at 12:09 am #

      All any of us can do is our best, at our own pace. I think it sounds like you are doing brilliantly Ravs! xx

  19. Cyrene March 25, 2014 at 12:28 am #

    Hello,
    I did enjoy reading your post. I guess it depends on one’s definition of “simple living”. I believe Simple Living is not that one has to make everything her/himself but rather do what she/he can and resource the rest from small producers/farms/co-ops, etc.

    When I first moved to central Italy I had the same dream but then I came to realize that I can not do everything myself, I need to rely on others for some products. Now I grow a lot of my veggies and can a lot. I never but tomato sauce or jams, etc but I still buy honey from a small farm run by two elderly persons; I buy my milk from another small farm and I know for sure that they look so well after the animals (they are vegetarians!); even though I make cheese at home, I still do buy some from a small local farm sometimes; I also buy what I do not grow from a small organic farm and source all the rest, like olive oil, soaps, flours from small farms nearby. I get my coffee and sugar from a small co-op that sells fair trade products.

    My interpretation of “Simple Living” is to make/grow what I can and get the rest from small local producers, and NEVER set a foot inside a supermarket. I will never give my money (pennies) to those giant cooperate companies/chain stores/supermarkets and will be very happy to help the small businesses. If we all made everything we need, then many small farms/producers will have to close down. We need to hep each other.

    I wanted to learn to sew and make my own dresses but still haven’t got the time to do that and until I do, I will be very happy to buy a dress from a local crafter, if I need to. Simple Living for me is to shun all the products that I believe are damaging this beautiful planet of ours, like: My mobile phone is 10 years old and when it breaks down I will not get a new one; that will be the end of it. Now I keep it because I live alone in the mountains and need it for emergencies. I do not have TV; I do not have a car; I do not have a facebook account because I believe it is one of those big cooperate nasty companies. Some may say blogger is the same and I would say at least with blogger one is not bombarded by ads, etc. :)

    Katie, I believe you are on the right track. You and your partner are still young and you will have the time to achieve your simple dreams. Well done. It makes me so happy to see young people going through this path of Simple Living. Bravi :)

  20. Myfanwy Hood March 25, 2014 at 1:08 am #

    Great post! :) Every little change makes a big difference.

  21. Brenda March 25, 2014 at 5:50 pm #

    I love this post Katie! I’m right there with you, feeling the pressure, but also realising that what I can achieve and what I dream of achieving are two very different versions! Like you, when we moved to the country I dreamed and growing all our own, of making my own cleaning products, of baking bread each morning etc etc etc….the reality is different, but when I look back and see how far I’ve come, I have to rejoice in what we have achieved. You are an amazing success story of a couple who wanted a change…and took that leap and are living your dream…no one else’s! Congrats on making the changes you have, on living your dreams your way! xx

  22. Zara March 25, 2014 at 6:59 pm #

    I’m with you Katie. If I tried to do all the sustainable/ make it from scratch things that I wanted to do I’d have no time to actually enjoy them all.
    A wonderful post. x

  23. Lila March 27, 2014 at 1:44 am #

    I think it is very admirable how far you have come already! It’s the little things that count, and it should be measured in the quality it adds to your life, rather than a Pinterest inspired checklist (this is often the case for me!) I am at an in between sort of place in my life at the moment and there are so many things I want to adapt into my life, but it’s just not happening as I’d like. I digress! (And I know I will get there some day, you really have inspired me.) Keep on living your lovely little dream, trust me when I say it’s my perfect idea of simple.

  24. Tania March 27, 2014 at 12:04 pm #

    Katie, I often feel much the same way! I too am an all or nothing time person and my worst criticisms can come from myself.
    The simple life is very time consuming and not at all simple! That said, I’m not sure anyone achieves everything they want to, but the journey and the successes are rewarding in their own way.

    For example, this season my vegie garden was total failure. It was pretty depressing after all the time I put in, but the weather had other ideas. We still don’t have chickens after all this time! We still don’t have a reliable water source! I felt so down I didn’t feel like doing any sewing or knitting for months (which after several years I still make so many mistakes on).

    The only part of my life that felt in any way self sufficient was my cow and her milk.

    Look though, at what you have achieved in this time, and dwell on the positives, because it’s not just about the destination but also the learning journey.

    Thinking of you Katie and just know that you are not alone! xo

  25. Sophie Isobel March 27, 2014 at 6:04 pm #

    Love love, fabulous post! (I linked to it on my Making and Doing post this week). It’s amazing to see the comments too, here we are all wanting to live more simple lives, it’s so wonderful, I just want to give everyone a big hug! And of course everyone’s simple is different, but every little bit makes a difference and that’s what’s so important. So love seeing your adventures and feel so inspired to continue the journey, even if my new veggie garden is currently just a bunch of seeds in the ground.
    Oh and can you email me your address lovely, I have goodies for you.
    Sophie xxx (sophieisobeldesigns@hotmail.com)

  26. Lynne March 28, 2014 at 3:09 pm #

    I needed to hear this today. I am so far off from my dreams, and sometimes I feel so badly about that. It takes many slow steps to get from A to Z, and I needed to hear this. Thank you.

  27. Sarah Jane March 29, 2014 at 8:00 pm #

    I know exactly what you mean and how you feel :-) I think it’s all about enjoying where you are at, even though that can be hard to remember sometimes :-) Occasionally it feels as though you’ll never get any where, but if you take a step back and look at what you have achieved it can feel pretty good, even if it means dropping some ideas along the way :-)

    My favourite book – and the one that keeps us well stocked with bread – is Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg & Zoe Francois. It is brilliant, I really recommend having a look at it!!

    Hope you’re having a good weekend,
    Sarah x

  28. Mel @ Coal Valley View March 31, 2014 at 2:03 pm #

    Hear hear Katie! Very well articulated and I’m nodding along with everything you say. I too feel a bit frustrated sometimes that I’m not living the complete version of simple life I had romanticised in my mind but I am doing what I can on the very limited spare time I have after looking after 5 children. The one thing that really sticks out in my mind is what Rhonda says in her ‘down to earth’ book and that is that the simple life is very time consuming and actually a lot of hard work. What a relief. Living simply can also mean different things to different people too. For us, it’s about treading a little lighter on the planet as well as providing more freedom in how we want to live. I wanted to be at home with the children so by necessity we needed to get back to basics by needing less and consuming less to be able to afford it. It’s about slowing down and enjoying more time together as well as being more self sufficient in general and cutting back on expenses. So we are working towards making our farm financially viable so we can be in charge of our work but this process is far from simple and is indeed a lot of work. We supplement our food with what we grow in the veggie patch but we are a long way from being able to feed a family of 7 from it and I’ve still not managed to do anything in the way of preserving, there never seems to be enough hours in the day! I enjoy knitting and baking but they are really nothing more than hobbies. I also have the latest iPhone so in some ways it’s about being mindful how you spend your money. Cityhippyfarmgirl had a great Post last week titled “Luxurious Frugality” which touched on that point and resonated with me……You guys are doing an amazing job! Mel xxx

  29. Mevrouw Wispeltuut April 1, 2014 at 12:34 am #

    “We’re just simple living our own way.” There isn’t a better way, only this one is the best!

  30. Elizabeth April 2, 2014 at 10:00 pm #

    It’s so funny because this article pretty much summarises how I’ve been feeling this past month. Thank you!

    A nice mix of disheartened because I cannot master everything in the universe, but also relieved because I’ve just realised that it’s unrealistic to do so. ha.

    I find all these incredible blogs which give the impression that the authors are successfully “doing it all” (ie: everything you listed). Sewing/Knitting/Baking/DIY everything/Shoemaking etc etc blah blah and I just want to do everything too and it’s kinda not possible with two kids. ha.

    But I have started making bread.

    and that gets me major points with the GFs.

    woo

  31. rachel April 4, 2014 at 1:01 am #

    man this post spoke to me. I am not nearly as close to the goal as you. Sometimes I try to maker rules for myself to follow, and just like cheating on a diet, as soon as i break those rules, I feel terrible.
    But last night I had this realization- everyday that I pass up my convenice store coffee in it’s cardboard cup is one day better. I don’t have to be perfect. i just have to be better.

  32. Kim H April 13, 2014 at 6:03 am #

    I loved this post. It’s exactly how I feel a lot of the time. I think, as lovely as living more simply is, there’s a pressure these days, amongst the simple living people at least, to do it all and be fully self-sufficient and if you’re not then you’re not doing enough bla bla bla. To be honest, I find that exhausting and sometimes I need the comfort of bakery bread and shop bought stuff because I find myself flat out living life and there’s not always the time to do it all. I think there’s a keeping up with the Jones’s element in simple living right now and I hope that disappears really soon. I’m happy doing my bit – I grow our veggies and make sourdough sometimes. I ferment water kefir and I’ve pickled some of our cucumbers this year (first time at pickling! Yah!). We have the cutest chooks ever and two crazy dogs and a pet blue tongue (my sons) and that feels like heaps to me right now. I can’t sew or knit or crochet. I didn’t end up growing enough tomatoes to bottle. I’m like you and don’t love hard soap for exactly the same reasons and I’d love a cute little jersey cow to own and milk – if someone else could milk her for me! Simple living is really, truly lovely but we don’t have to be perfect and we don’t have to do it all….do we???? x

  33. gaby April 16, 2014 at 9:11 am #

    this totally resonates as we live in an apartment in inner city, but strive to live simply nevertheless. i just remind myself, close enough is good enough ;)

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