I keep 12 questions handy in my mind to help me determine where I stand with living a Simple Life. As I make progress, I frequently ask myself these questions, to keep me goal-oriented.
Our first goal here on the farm is and has always been to live as simple of a life as possible.
I often stop a moment to check to see if I am within the guidelines I’ve set regarding this. Some days I do pretty well, others, not so much.
It’s a challenge, even on the best days. In order to help me stay on track, I’ve listed out 12 questions that I have to ask myself to determine if what I’m about to do, or what I want to do is in keeping with my desired simple lifestyle.
Here are the questions I ask. See how many you can answer.
Am I Spending my Hard-earned Money Wisely?
The first of the 12 questions is a tough one to answer. It all depends on how we define need vs want.
One of the ideals behind living simply is to be a good steward of your money. The money I earn should be used to tithe, pay bills and taxes, buy only the groceries I cannot or am currently not growing myself.
Some of it should also be going into savings so I don’t have to borrow any, thereby putting myself deeper into debt. Some of it should also be going to pay down my mortgage so I can pay it off sooner than expected.
The rest should be going to feed my animals and provide necessities like gas, insurance, tractor parts, fencing materials and all the other things needed on a farm.
Am I Actively Doing what I Need to do to Grow as Much of my own Food as Possible?
I can honestly say that my garden has stopped growing for the moment. In late summer, it is too hot and humid for most plants to keep producing.
Still, this is one of the easiest of the 12 questions to answer. It may be too hot now, but within a few weeks it will be time to prepare for a fall garden.
Given the opportunity, we strive to grow as much as possible, for as long as possible.
Am I Cooking the Food I have Preserved – or – Taking the Lazy Way and Going Out to Eat?
With a rare exception, Randy and I can answer this part of the 12 Questions with a resounding Yes! I have two freezers full of meat and a cellar that still has a few jars of last year’s veggies put away.
To be honest, the Country Boy and I really prefer to eat at home. It seems that every time we go to a restaurant we take a few bites and decide that we can cook it better and cheaper at home.
Do I cut my Food Dollars by Cooking as Much at Home as I Can?
This part of the 12 Questions may seem redundant. But in reality, it is two different things. The first question was in regards to eating what we preserve.
This question goes beyond home canned and preserved, and takes into consideration meals that are still made from scratch, yet with ingredients we do not grow at home.
Here again, we do well in this category. I make my own bread, create a meal plan, and do as much of my shopping at local farmers markets.
I still have to grocery shop, but what I spend there is still less than what even two meals a day would cost by eating out.
This keeps the temptation to get takeout at arm’s length. I haven’t found a restaurant yet that can match the delicious flavors of home-cooked!
Am I Raising a Large Portion of our Food?
Yes. The farm provides eggs, beef, pork, chicken, fish, some fruits and vegetables. We are hoping to soon expand that – not so much in variety but in quantity.
It also provides at least a small portion of the food my animals eat and the compost to grow the vegetables.
Do I Repair as Opposed to Replace?
I will always be so thankful that I married a man who can fix just about anything. Home repairs and buying new can be costly, so if we can fix it, we do. And there are many times that, if it can’t be fixed, it just doesn’t get replaced.
We also build from scratch. As much as we can, we compare the cost of ‘store bought’ vs handmade. More times than not, handmade wins…well, hands down.
Do I Reuse?
All the time! I think the bane of my existence is plastic butter tubs and mayonnaise jars, and if anyone has a lot of canning jars cluttering up their cabinets, I’ll be happy to take them off your hands!
The scrap pieces from a board cut to length for a project often gets used for other things. The Country Boy has made basket molds, small looms and other useful items from these.
My next project for those scraps are to make a bag of building blocks for kids. With a little sanding and painting, I can fill a bag in no time!
Do I Repurpose?
I can’t tell you how many times The Country Boy and I can be found digging through some junk piles to find odd items we can use to create some idea we have. Randy even has a ‘network’ of junk piles.
I’ve walked outside many times to find a neighbor digging through ours, and if Randy goes missing, I just have to figure out what he’s working on to determine which neighbor’s junk pile he’s off digging through!
Just recently, a neighbor gave me a beautiful china cabinet. I don’t need it for its original intended purpose, but it works perfectly as storage in my craft room.
Am I Learning the Art of Bartering?
Bartering is a mainstay. I swap farm sitting with Ayn, and swap jams and jellies with Audi and Johnny for beekeeping lessons and assistance.
The Country Boy barters welding and repair services for the use of a tractor with a front loader.
I also barter with services. With my background in Office Management, I have done typing for others and helped with the filing of insurance claims. In return, I get a bag or basket of vegetables we don’t grow ourselves.
Bartering is the best way to not only cut expenses, but also to fill your pantry with things you need.
Do I Maintain my Health as Inexpensively as Possible?
Ugh. With the price of healthcare, it is almost impossible to do this without paying out the nose.
But to combat some of the costs, we try to eat healthy, wear appropriate seasonal clothes, keep our Tetanus shots up to date, and do our very best to stay out from underneath the hooves of our cows.
Another project I want to undertake is growing my own medicinal herb garden. Many of the herbs used for this purpose can help with the minor issues, such as Chammomile for an upset stomach.
With the proper education and knowledge, using medicinal herbs can seriously cut your health care expenses to a manageable level!
Do You Create with your Hands?
This is one of those 12 Questions that are often set aside. It is more convenient to just buy something already made, rather than spend time making it.
But, have you considered this? All too often, what we make by hand is a much better quality. Today, many industries cut costs by making ‘throw away’ items.
In other words, there is no long-term profit in making a product that lasts 20 years. Instead, most products last a year or two, and are not constructed to buy replacement parts.
Consequently, the items are tossed and a new one is purchased.
Not only do handmade items usually last longer, but each one is unique. Handmade gifts can be made to better fit the recipient, and they have no worries that everyone else will have one exactly alike.
Do You Offer Hospitality?
Hospitality is one of the most gracious arts of homemaking that ever was. It is also one of the most important of the 12 Questions you need to ask yourself.
Although it is a dying practice, having a coffee break with a friend or neighbor is adding the personal touch to living a Simple Life.
To open your door with a sincere heart is a sign of gracious hospitality. This can be anything from cake and coffee, to a canning party, to overnight guests.
But Hospitality isn’t just for inside the home. It also extends into the community. Offer hospitality within your community by helping with a community garden, reading to children at the library or volunteering.
How many of the 12 Questions Did you Answer with ‘Yes’?
With the cost of living so high these days, you don’t have to live on a farm to try and live a Simple Life. All 12 Questions can be answered ‘yes’ – even if you live in an apartment.
Ask yourself these 12 Questions, and see how you measure up to your own goals of living as inexpensively as possible.
Don’t know how to can? It’s easy to learn, and you can also use some of your home-canned items to give as gifts, thereby reducing the expense of buying presents – especially at Christmas time.
Living a Simple Life just takes some practice, and the more you practice the better you get.
And if you need some practice with bartering, I’ve got some great jelly I’ll trade you for some fabric scraps. The Country Boy made me a rug loom for Christmas one year, and I can use all the help I can get!