There’s a growing movement of us in the UK who are rejecting mainstream lifestyles (particularly in the West) of consumerist culture, 24/7 news, and the ‘have it all be it all’ world that has become the norm for so many of us.
For me it started about four years ago. I lived in London, I had a job I loved, a great lifestyle, lots of friends, I ate out every week, went to bars and lived life to the full. I lived in one of the greatest cities on earth, but underneath it all all I wanted was to up sticks and to live in a caravan away from it all. When you live in a city like London you are assaulted with sights, sounds and smells constantly, and that is something many of us thrive on. Indeed when I got there about three years before this feeling hit, I loved the fast pace, and the amazing lifestyle on offer. There is so much choice, so much to do and see, so many people and places to connect with. But there’s a downside to this lifestyle. It’s exhausting. It causes frustration. Look at anyone on a tube at rush hour and you can see it . Everyone is head down, force on before the doors clothes. no-one stops to look at each other, or have a chat. People are squashed together, head to armpit.
After three years of living there (and before that seven of living in Manchester, one of the other largest cities in England), I just felt wrung out. On my days off I would sleep or stay at home, too tired to do anything. There was lots of choice of ‘things to do’ but I felt overwhelmed by it. I wanted simple. Firstly I realised I wanted to be nearer my family. This was pre-wife and so I felt the pull of being nearer to my Mum and Dad and siblings. That was a great start, I moved back north, but still to a city, moving to York, a very beautiful city. York is a city full of tourists, but a lot of simple living can be done. This week I spent a lovely lunch break eating ice cream by the river, watching the geese and the tourist boats up and down the river. There are lots of beautiful walks, and the countryside is but a 10 minute drive away.
Then I met my wife in 2013 (6 days after moving- noted as an occurrence of fate) and I just went about the business of falling in love.
At some point I realised that I had a lot of stuff. A lot. I think it was around the time we moved in together, which obviously you end up with having two of everything, but I found as we sorted and threw I wanted to go further. I wanted to live with less. Did we need a teapot? Did we need a CD stereo when we never really used it? The feeling of clearing the clutter was liberating. I didn’t miss it. I felt more at peace. So we carried on. We think we have rid ourselves of about 50% of our possessions and furniture up to now.
It didn’t stop there though. Although minimalism in the house is great, there were lots of other things that I wanted to change. I stopped reading newspapers a few years ago because they’re all negative news, and hearing and seeing that day in and day out is no good for a persons soul. This year has come the TV. We both realised a lot of it is just a time stealer, we spent a number of hours watching not very good TV because that’s just how it was. We’ve also started eating simpler, fresher food and cutting back on sugar and additives. Although I am still on social media, I limit it to Facebook to see friends having fun and Pinterest for pinning lovely stuff. I don’t wear a watch, and I don’t buy anything much but clothes really which is my last buying vice.
Now we’ve moved out of the city into the country. The village has one small shop which is great and a pub we haven’t even been to yet. We spend our time walking with the dogs, heading to York for dinner by the river, or exploring the countryside. We don’t have enough room to grow our own veg so the Good Life it’s not, but there’s a sense of peace of being disconnected to the ‘real world’ with all it’s stresses. I think there’s a bigger sense of peace and wellbeing for me which has really benefitted my mental health (more on that in future blogs). My caravan dream was scuppered in the main by UK planning laws. It’s not easy to live on a piece of land with a caravan. I still harbour dreams of narrow boat living though and am working on the wife with this one slowly!
I realise it’s not for everyone, but I think the simple life is about finding what works for you and using that to enhance your life. You might be city dweller and still be a minimalist and a simple live-er using experiences to enrich your life, and growing cauliflowers on your balcony. You might live in a caravan out in the wilderness with no dinners by the river and your own wind powered turbine with only grow your own food and think I’m talking tosh.
Simple living for the majority of us is more about choosing the few things that enrich your life and rejecting the rest. It’s about rejecting what the media tell us is right or most socially appropriate and about getting out there and having experiences that enliven us. it’s about choosing well, both materially and experientially and paring back on everything else.
Are you living simply, or trying to? Let me know of any tips? We will share our journey as we move on to living more and more simply