When I first started researching this concept which was new to me, I became a little overwhelmed by the volume of information and the number of things that people were doing to 'simplify' their lives. Some of it did not sound practical (nor simple) to me, such as making my own clothes. I get along with sewing machines like I do with lawnmowers - they just don't seem to co-operate when I want them to. I admire those that can master the art of sewing. Generally I can buy clothes cheaper than I can make them - without the time involved, which is valuable to me. Most of my clothes are purchased from an op shop so I guess that classifies as living simply or eco-friendly because I am recycling or re-using something that already exists. So, I am adopting a simple life concept and making it fit in with my life and the time I have to outlay.
Simple living (or sustainability or eco-living, whichever it is you are seeking), does not have to have the same definition for everyone. There are no hard and fast rules about what has to be done to achieve your desired outcome. I learnt that I had to tailor information for me because there was so much I wanted to achieve which wasn't feasible. Either I wouldn't have the time for it (like hand baking bread every day) or it wasn't practical (a milking cow) or it would not fit in with my flooding property (a herd of cattle).
In my first week of research I had 22 things I wanted to achieve in one weekend written down in my diary. Things like digging garden beds, fixing greenhouses and chook pens, making cleaning products, tailoring budgets and so-forth. There was no way I was going to achieve all of that in two days. I have learnt now to be realistic about my time and plan only a few things every weekend so that if something crops up I don't feel that I am letting my goals down. Rome was not built in a day and I have to be patient.
So, I have summarised what were the most important areas of my life to start on and what I have achieved so far. It won't be the same path as yours but if you haven't started yet then you can take a deep breath and know that you are not alone...when you get your head around it and start making small steps you are already on your journey. Like housework, it has no end because one project will always lead to the next. That's the beauty of it...a lifelong hobby.
1. Start off with identifying what the main thing is that you want to achieve from all of this. When I really thought about this question I realised my main purpose wasn't to save money or to even simplify my life. I really just wanted the achievement of being partially self sufficient, to feel proud of myself for making, growing and preserving my own things, and looking after my environment, just as my ancestors did - and being able to teach my kids to do the same. I wanted to put the floods behind us and use my land regardless. This decision made my list of priorities easier.
2. My first priority became my gardens so that I could have them ready to plant for spring. It took three weekends and a little time off work but everything is now planted and on its way.
3. The gardens led to creating a compost pile for organic fertiliser and saving my vegetable and fruit scraps in a container on my kitchen bench.
4. My next priority was to examine my rubbish and become a more dedicated recycler. Everything we threw away I thought about what it could be used for. We recycle toilet rolls for growing seedlings, meat trays to put them in, egg cartons for when I get my chook pen sorted, all glass jars for preserving etc etc. My recycle bin is now only half full when it goes out every fortnight.
5. My ongoing priority is to learn how to do whatever I can myself. I bought a breadmaker to make bread so I can put it on timer and wake up to fresh bread. I made my own laundry liquid and this week will make soap. I bought a water purifier to reduce the expense and waste of plastic water bottles.
6. Decluttering - I set myself one room or cupboard to declutter every weekend and the feeling I get when I have done it is amazing!
7. Finances - These seem to be falling into place as I go. The budget and fine tune is still on my list but I have already saved $500/year on bottled water, $300/year on bread and $200/year on washing liquid. I can't wait to see how much money we will save on the solar panels we had installed in June.
8. Shadehouse and Chookpen - everything I have done above means these two tasks fall into line next so I can production-line my seedlings and have eggs for my cooking.
This list is miniscule but it's how and where I have started. Every day I think of new things to add to my list so I have a master journal and transfer tasks every week. I am on a learning curve but I know now what I like about reading simple life blogs....everyone sounds happy and at peace with themselves. I want me some of that!