WORDS KAREN LOCKE PHOTOS HONEY ATKINSON
Perhaps it’s what I surround myself with, but I’ve really noticed lately that ‘simple living’ seems to be the buzzword of the moment. Coming from a marketing background, I’m really not a fan of buzzwords. I cringe whenever I hear ‘artisan’ and ‘hand crafted’ being used with such wild abandon.
Marketers are smart people, and they have a plethora of expensive research tools to keep on top of what people are desiring in their lives. So it’s no surprise that many of them are using this trend towards ‘simple living’ to their advantage. Their market research tells them that people are feeling disillusioned and seeking an escape from their busy, stressful lives. This is why we’re seeing all the ‘live simply’ product ranges popping up in the supermarket aisles, and television advertisements that tell us that if we’d just buy this or that new product we’d be able to to slow down and enjoy our lives more.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the concept of simple or slow living these past few years. Like many others our family has been on a journey where we’ve been rethinking the way we live and in the process, taking lots of small steps (and a few big ones) to move away from hectic, stress filled days and a life of excessive consumption.
I must say though, that I find the term ‘simple’ living a bit misleading really. Those of you travelling this path would, I’m sure, relate to having episodes of wanting to call ‘BULLSHIT!!’ on the whole simple, slow living thing. Most of the time, making things from scratch – food, clothing, cleaning products – and growing your own food, is anything but simple. In fact, making things from scratch usually takes a great deal of time and effort.
If you look up the definition and various interpretations of ‘simple’ it refers to something plain, basic, or uncomplicated in form, nature or design. So perhaps this reference to simple living is more about the nature of the activities, rather than the amount of (considerable) effort involved. But more than that, I think that living simply could also be about the after-effects of our actions too.
For instance, it would certainly be easier and more convenient for me to buy my almond milk from the supermarket. Then I wouldn’t have to remember to soak the nuts overnight, get up extra early so that I can blitz and blend them, strain the milk, bottle it and refrigerate it all in time for the kids to have their breakfast. None of these activities are difficult, or complex, but they are certainly time consuming. But buying it comes at a much greater cost …and I don’t mean because it’s more expensive to do so, though that is an important factor. I’m referring to the packaging, transport and pollution that costs the environment, and the preservatives and artificial flavourings that make it a less healthy alternative for my family.
So what does it really mean to live simply? I’ve read a lot of books on the subject and it appears the path is different for everyone. But it certainly seems to involve a change or shift in your way of thinking and looking at the idea of what is ‘enough’. It means taking a step back and re-evaluating your life, how you want to live, what is important to you and your family, and what changes you can make for the better.
It means rediscovering the joy and satisfaction of homesteading, and in building a home filled with personal, thoughtful items bought or made with love, rather than the latest and greatest furniture, products and gadgets.
Rather than being about depriving yourself of things it’s about creating a lifestyle that will allow you to live well on much less.
It’s about taking the road less travelled, becoming more of a contributor than a consumer, and regaining your individual power and independence by being less reliant on the system.
It means taking pleasure and allowing time for something as simple as having breakfast at sunrise in a grassy field.
When Honey and I were on a work trip recently we’d driven past this gorgeous field of swaying long grass several times as we drove to and from our accommodation. We remarked what a glorious spot it would be for a sunrise breakfast. On our last day there we were exhausted from several days shooting and really didn’t feel like getting up before the sun to drag a table and chairs down to the field. But we did it anyway. And it was glorious.
Sometimes the decision to live simply and to slow down requires a great deal of effort. But in my experience, it’s what allows for fuller moments of beauty and joy in our lives.