We’re all familiar with the learning curve – that slow, hiccuping start we get off to when we tackle a new task. The period where we suck at something, which is the necessary preamble to the period where we kick ass at something.
I’ve watched my two-year-old son wobble, fall, and falter hundreds of times already. So I’m sure I’ve been through the learning curve more than a million.
But, for some reason, I didn’t expect a learning curve when it came to simplifying our lives
About a year and a half ago, my husband and I both worked outside the home. We had opposite work schedules, so we never saw each other. We were both working constantly, either at our jobs, or at home caring for our infant son and trying to tame mountains of laundry, dishes, and bills.
By the time our son was one, we were crazy about him. But we were exhausted and miserable about our lifestyles. We knew we had to make a change.
We decided the answer was simple – simple living that is. We would choose to live on less, allowing me to quit my job and be with our son, as well as focusing on my dream job of freelance writing. We’d make bread. We’d garden and compost. We’d ditch processed foods and restaurants and cook everything from scratch. We’d keep backyard hens. We’d make stuff ourselves and heat our house with wood. We’d hang our clothes on the line. We’d ride our bikes and walk more and drive less.
It’s not as though we lived extravagantly before. My husband and I have both always lived fairly simply. I was raised by thrifty freelance-writer parents. I’ve ridden my bike and walked most places for my entire life. I’ve never been into diamonds or spending weekends at the mall. Shopping has always been low on my list of favorite pastimes. And I’ve long been a fan of the voluntary simplicity movement.
So I assumed we’d love our simpler lifestyle. I imagined it would be relatively easy to pare down.
It wasn’t easy.
Recently, a few things made me realize how difficult it was.
- We went out with friends to a restaurant we used to frequent. (We used to eat out a lot.) The food didn’t taste good. Then the same thing happened at another restaurant. That’s when I realized what had really happened. The food we make at home now tastes really good. We learned how to cook.
- I started looking forward to heading outside on cool mornings to swing the axe around and realized that I’ve become a master wood-splitter.
- I have not used a recipe to make bread in eight months.
- My friend asked me if I missed our car, and I couldn’t figure out what she was talking about at first. Miss our car? Oh, that’s right, we’re not driving our car. I hardly even think about our car, and I usually don’t miss it, at least 95 percent of the time.
The relative ease of cooking from scratch, making bread, chopping wood, and living sans automobile today made me realize that these and so many of our other lifestyle changes were once pretty difficult.
The first few times I made bread felt like conducting a chemistry experiment. And I’m glad you’ll never see my first attempts at chopping wood or taste some of our not-so-delicious attempts at main courses. When my husband first started riding his bike to work, he came home exhausted most days. And I think he probably said, “The simple life isn’t so simple.” at least 50 times last year.
It feels like we’ve been through simple-living boot camp.
We still have a lot to learn. But we’ve gotten physically stronger and more resilient and we’ve honed dozens of skills that serve us well everyday, make us feel better about our environmental impact, and which I hope will help us be more financially secure in the future. As my friend, who’s been on her own journey toward a simpler, greener, thriftier life, quipped the other day, “If I’d lived like this for the last ten years, I’d have $50,000 in the bank right now.”
So if you’re thinking about paring down, trying to save more money, learning to cook or meal-plan, giving up TV, ditching plastic, switching to green cleaners, making your own personal care items, or embarking on some other lifestyle change, I am here to tell you that it may not be easy at first. You will probably have to learn each new skill, just as you’ve learned everything else in your life – slowly and day-by-day.
But you will kick ass at it before you know it.
What new skills have you learned this year? What’s the most difficult lifestyle change you’ve made? What’s the most rewarding?