Tuesday, 29 April 2008


It is hard to think of a reason why you wouldn't want to live simply. Ask busy friends and frantic, working parents what they crave most and you will hear - time, give me time to do things I want to do. Then ask, what are these things? They invariably say - time to grow some herbs or a few vegetables, time to spend relaxing, time with friends and family. Funny thing is, living simply gives you all those things as part of the whole packaged deal. People always say to me that I am lucky to have time to do this, that and the other. The thing is though, that, sure we have enough money but how much is enough? Most people with our income still insist they need more money because they want more stuff. Forget the stuff. Less money gives you more time and the more time you put aside, the less money you need. It's a win:win situation. But it's a leap of faith.

It is a natural human condition to want to feel secure and, recently in our history, that has meant getting more money. If we look at how things were way before the industrial revolution only 120 years ago, having enough to eat and a place to live meant having security. That is why seedsaving began nearly 10,000 years ago - growing food was the number one priority for small groups of settlers. All the other things that today we connect with being a civilised society came a long time after food security - manufacturing, services of one kind or another, entertainment, transport etc. Somehow though, these other things have crept up the ladder so far that they have taken the place of food security as the number one important thing in our western lives.

Now people are, once again, beginning to think about their food because, for many years, we have not been paying the true cost for relinquishing our food security to big business which has been plundering the earth's resources to compete for your dollar. I am no different to anyone and have spent time and money in the past on buying things without even thinking about the impact I was having on myself, the earth and resources. Somehow though Roger and I have always preferred experiences to money and we began to veer towards harmony with the world, instead of competition with it and other people, soon after getting married a million years ago. This doesn't mean we are hippies or act or dress differently to anyone else. And this is my biggest bone of contention in this whole affair - why do people who are financially comfortable have to plunder the earth in their sad and sorry lives while people with less, often choose to be happy, responsible earthlings?

At the bottom of the hill from where I live is a very expensive area of Adelaide. And yet the blocks are all being divided up and bigger and bigger homes are being built on smaller and smaller peices of land. If you have a million dollars or more to spend on a house why on earth wouldn't you buy as big a piece of land as you could rather than a big house with no land?? Why wouldn't you have a garden and a gardener, big lawns for your children to play on, space to have a BBQ under a tree and little nooks and crannies to sit and enjoy the birds? Why wouldn't you get the gardener to make you a vegetable garden, if you won't make time to do it yourself, where your children can get their hands in the soil, climb fruit trees, make cubby houses, have chickens? It is beyond me to understand this. Everyone complains about their children playing computer games but holy valotta! children need space to explore and run and play. That's why we bought a house on a cheap hill with lots of space and told our boys that if they wanted to play computer games they could go to a friend's house but we weren't having them here. I still don't understand why the top of the hill is cheap and spacious and the bottom is crowded and expensive!

As the western world creeps inevitably closer to losing the plot, people begin to rebel. Good, that means they are at least thinking, if only about themselves. The rising price of food is beginning to become the topic of the radio stations here, now that the weather has cooled and we have had a bit of rain. People look at what my family eats - the photos are everywhere and friends visit this blog even if they don't often comment - and I always take them something from the garden, and they look (askance!) at me, happy, relaxed, enthusiastic, energised and time-rich and they are, perhaps, beginning to see that we are the secure ones. No matter what happened, we could grow nearly everything. With a cow we could have dairy food. We could have meat hens as well as layers and catch the odd rabbit, do a bit of fishing. We don't need much meat. Roger can make and fix anything. To be able to put aside money for old age is a bonus. What will we leave our children? Attitude! The ability to be comfortable knowing how to fend for themselves. A feeling of being a part of the natural world, not just the man-made world. Enthusiasm and self-confidence. If they are lucky they will get the shack. What more could they want? Going without makes you grow within.

It is a good feeling to be self-reliant and to me that is what real life is all about. Security is only as far away as your garden.

"Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realise we cannot eat money." Cree saying.


Unknown said...

Kate, you have hit the nail on the head with this post. Lily Tomlin once said "The problem with winning the rat race is you're still a rat!". Since Kim and I have made the conscious decision to lead a sustainable life, we have found that once we have satisfied the basic needs of greening the house, we now want for less, and less stuff. Our bills are small, food is more wholesome, and we are rarely bored. My wage got cut back recently because of my back injury, and we are still managing to save heaps and pay down our debts even quicker than before. It is just amazing the feeling we get every pay day, now that the craving for stuff has gone!

Pattie Baker said...

I loved this post--the whole Earth Skills thing becoming ever and ever more important to me as a legacy to leave our children, and richness being more and more about being able to recognize the bounty of the earth and work in concert with it.

chaiselongue said...

You're so right, Kate! People should forget the stuff and garden instead. A small plot of land and the time to work on it give so much more than food - and certainly more satisfaction in eating what you've grown yourself, not to mention flavour, than earning lots of money. Spreading the word to big business and stopping the exploitation of people in the third world may be more difficult to achieve, I'm afraid, but we must keep trying.

Greg W said...

Another outstanding post. You are on quite the roll.

My wife and I used to be a part of the whole making money to make yourself happier gig, left over ideas from our parents generation, until we each went through our separate divorces, from other people. By the time we married each other we had shed all of the 'stuff' and now live very simply and I think much happier.

Thank you for another great post.