As I have said before many people were confused about our decision to change our life, leave our home and live on a 2 acre plot in rural Ireland. A plot on which a broken down old house stood with greenery growing out of the roof ventilation (holes), looking sad and lonely and just waiting for us to rescue it. I fell in love in 30 seconds flat, the same cant be said about Simon, however he did appreciate the land (always the sensible one) and see how we could live the new life we were dreaming of.
Simon dreamt of pigs, goats, solar panels and windmills, I however gently snored whilst dreaming of the cute quintessential Irish cottage with me complete with frilly apron, canning and preserving fruit, whilst chickens and dogs ran around my feet and the words “Back to Work Tomorrow” were never spoken aloud again in our house. Well a girl can dream.
What we have had then over the last few years is a mixture of both dreams and so we didn’t do too bad apart from the work thing. I asked Simon when I was considering writing about our experiences, how he thought I should describe us. What were we and how could I give us a catchy label?
Do We really Need a Label?
He asked me – why do we need to “Be” anything?
I thought it was because then I could appeal to certain groups of people, you know the ones who would read my witty ramblings and learn from our hands on experiences of living without electric and running water. He was right though we cant profess to fit any one group- We are just us.
We are not ecoWarriers or environmentalists- whatever they are and certainly not Doomsday Preppers, although with the issues we are facing recently perhaps the survival instinct is a valid one. We didn’t have financial issues that drove us out of suburbia. We are not travellers. anti-capitalists, anti-establishment in fact anti anything – well except Simon would say I am anti-social and that I cant disagree with.
So in my struggle to establish what we represent I realised we loosely resemble all of the types of people who are simply looking to change and live a more simpler freer life, whatever that means and really only you can decide that.
What I Do Know is:-
We wanted to be more self reliant. To Simon that self sufficiency centres around, creation of home energy, water provision and food growth. To me I wanted solitude, quietness and a less busy life, I am so much more content to just have Simon,the dogs and the land to rely on. I do miss my family and I still feel deeply connected despite the distance, we now communicate differently and in some cases better.
Seems like everyone is looking for a little more self sufficiency these days whether they live in a town house or a smallholding. The idea of being self sufficient can appear to be romantic – slowing down, smelling the roses, eating your own food and learning to live quieter, but in reality it is often much harder than we first anticipate. The process takes time and patience and a whole new mindset. I am by nature impatient, seeds need to grow the day we plant them and the next day fruit should have appeared, so the learning of new skills and waiting for them to come to fruition still continues to challenge me. A simpler life means I have to take things one step at a time, but more than that – give my self permission to wait for things which in this busy consumer life that is all around us is not the norm.
What do you really need?
I suppose we would have been considered relatively successful in our old life. We had good jobs, two cars, nice house and SO MUCH STUFF. We worked long hours to earn money we spent on things that we assumed made us happy and we strived for bigger and better, better job, newer car, more clothes and latest gadgets. The question is why? The more we had the more we wanted, but they were just things, most left dusty in the cabinets of life, most never used or worn but the kick from retail therapy is hard to shake and weekends without shopping would surely drag, wouldn’t they? I was so tired and stressed out by striving to achieve and fulfil life’s expectations and I thought the process of acquisition increased my self worth. Of course it didn’t but that’s a hard pill to swallow.
Lets be honest though we were not rich by any means we were I guess middle of the road, paying out our mortgage, car loans and credit cards, so the wake up call off a sudden hospital stay and the possibility that I wouldn’t have enough time with Simon after everything we had worked for made me hate my work for taking me away from the home and so the need to live differently became all important.
I am not saying we now have nothing or that we never buy anything at all we have just pared back. Your idea of a simpler life could just be clearing out unused possessions or taking time to switch off more. You might think that selling your house, buying a remote plot and moving countries a bit extreme and therefore not for you but again I don’t profess to have your answers for living a quieter life. We have found though that by only keeping the things we really loved and considering every item we purchase we have achieved a better space to live in. Its more about living with what you need, learning to curb the drive for constant want and so I try to want less. If I buy it then it is because I need it. We are by no means minimalistic, and we still go out to dinner but we try to fight the bad habits of old and I don’t miss the ease of fast food and drive throughs – well I do a bit but I don’t have the opportunity stuck up in the hills so that helps for sure.
I am not professing to be a self help guide and we are not perfect at this self sufficiency thing, honestly we still have a lot of stuff – it is always a struggle to ask yourself – do I need that? I think it will take years for us to really be good at a life of voluntary simplicity but we will continue to try and laugh about it as we get it wrong which is frequently believe me. Life is short and standing in my field looking out across our garden my body feels calmer, I feel more present and I marvel at the beautiful life we are creating together.
A more present life, just one with less.
When we first arrived we lived in a 27ft caravan for 18 months, no electricity except for a small somewhat sketchy solar kit and no water other than what we could collect from the sky. I missed my hairdryer more than I can say and still do, it is the one thing I really miss. We shopped carefully and smarter, buying offers and food that was in season, meal planning became second nature. We battled mud and damp, rain and wind that threatened to send the van rolling, biting insects and slugs that ate anything we planted overnight and had numerous set backs that we didn’t anticipate, despite all of that we loved it, so much so that we still smile fondly when we pass the van. Only last week I said to Simon – We lived in that – Yep he said we were clearly mad – but Happy.
We ditched the old debts and ploughed all of our money into the new house we would eventually live in. We knew we didn’t have enough money to pay a builder to finish it and that we would have to do a lot of the second fix ourselves but we had planned for that and knew that our home would be super efficient and ensure we had no energy bills going forward.
We built our own polytunnel from water pipes and set up our chicken runs to begin the process of creating our own food sources. Learning to live without electricity started out as good fun – kind of like a long camping holiday but once it became apparent I would need to return to a full time job to supplement our dwindling savings life without a great shower and iron became less fun, but we did it and now we are living in our house and powering it totally with solar I feel flushed with electric. Look nothing like being attached to the grid or anything – this new life means we look to the weather for how much power we use and when. Clothes washing is now on sunny days, showers are short and we don’t have a regular TV. We use minimal lights and never take our electricity for granted and I am continually amazed that we power this wonderful life with the sun and a bit of help from Simon.
I have said so much and maybe not enough but to find your own simpler life you don’t need a log cabin in the forest or an uninhabited island although that does sound amazing, it just needs you to be kinder to yourself, consider what you need to feel peace and think about how to slow down a bit. However if you do want to be completely free of this consumer economy and live only off the land then go for it – just let us know your experiences – Simon would love that as secretly that is how he would be, foraging and eating nettles and other wild things that I dare not contemplate. So if this life is your life or you would like it to be get in touch.
In the meantime – Just Breathe