Shifting to a Simple Life can be an exciting adventure. It’s fun to dream. It is even more exciting to know you are about to take the first step towards making a dream come true. Although you know your ultimate destination, the journey you are about to embark on is filled with joys. But what can you expect along your journey?
No matter how wonderful it seems, there are always obstacles, road blocks, detours, and uneven ground. There will also be times when you wonder why you even chose this particular road. To prevent as many as you can, it takes careful planning.
Start with a Map
One of the best things we can do before shifting to a simple life is to look at a detailed map of our journey. This will show you where you need to begin, safe places to stop and rest, and others where you can get fuel for your trip. Some maps will also show where you can expect road construction. And you will also see stretches of road where you can progress slowly but surely.
Shifting to a Simple Life
If you have chosen the journey towards being a homemaker, a homesteader, and/or having a simple life, you would take the same basic steps for anyone who has a dream. First, you need to know where you are going. Second, you need to plan a route.
With a few simple tools, I will help you get from where you are now, to who you want to be and where you want to go. Grab your ‘suitcase’, and let’s get ready to travel!
What to Pack
Before we embark on a journey, we usually make a list of what we need to pack. First, we have a map, and use a highlighter to mark our route. Next, we pull out the suitcases. We have suitcases for different things – one for cosmetics, one for clothing, and a tote for reading material, knitting, or those items we may need at our fingertips. Like our map.
To fulfill your dream of shifting to a simple life takes the same consideration. You will need a map and three suitcases for this journey.
First, we get our highlighter out, and start marking our journey. To do this, you need a few tools:
– Pens, Pencils, and yes, highlighters
– The Simple Life FREE e-book
Remember how you set aside time to determine who you wanted to be, and where you wanted your life to take you? It’s time to repeat that step, but this time, you need to focus on that one Key dream – and how to begin shifting to a simple life. You want to take it out and see not only what it is, but how it is created.
Using your paper and pens, begin my listing everything it is going to take to reach that dream. At this point, you do not want to even think about time, money, drastic steps, or anything else that may scare you into putting the suitcases back in the closet.
Writers call this process ‘free flow’. It is a time for us to get our ideas for the next book on paper. We may make notes on setting, character analysis or short paragraphs. Some may end up in the book, but most won’t. What this process does is helps us bring the book alive. It helps us to get to know our settings, characters and conflicts.
Fair warning, here. If you do your list correctly, it could be several pages in length. It doesn’t matter if your desire is to be a homemaker in a grass hut, or a homesteader on 1,000 acres.
When we first moved to the farm, my initial list was four typed pages, single spaced (with an 11 font) of everything I ever thought I might want to do. It was that long, because I didn’t have to be 100% realistic. I didn’t have to think about the cost, the details or the logistics. All I had to do was allow myself to dream.
The Tote Bag
In this bag, one thing you will include is your map. When shifting to a simple life, your map is a list of goals and plans. You need to know your final destination, and each step it will take to get there.
When we map out our journey, the first thing we will highlight is who we want to be and where we want to go, first. If you don’t know that, you won’t know which direction to begin. For me, my map looked something like this:
Destination: Simple Life
Who?: Writer, homesteader, homemaker, creative spirit let loose
With these nine words, I knew who I wanted to be, where my journey would take me, and got a fair idea of what I would encounter while shifting to a simple life.
The next thing is to set goals. You can think of these goals as some of the towns you would pass through on a road trip. This may be an intimidating thing to do. If uncertainty is tickling the back of your mind right now, don’t worry. You can easily scratch that itch as you move forward.
One of the best books I have read on setting goals is Be the Boss of your Time and your Life, by Annie Lewellyn. Annie has a way of helping you not only determine what your goals are, but also breaking each one down further by listing the tasks you need to do to reach that goal.
The Next Item in your Tote
Once you have your goals, the next thing you need to do is research. If your dream is to become an accountant, you need to know what college courses you need to take. If you want to be a homesteader, you need to know to what degree you want to homestead. No matter who you want to be, having a working knowledge of that goal is the smartest thing you can do.
As an example: One of my strongest desires for our farm was to have wool sheep. As a weaver, it was natural that I would want to learn to spin. My research on sheep helped me to understand the impracticality of raising wool sheep in the south. (I think my budget broke down and cried when it thought it would have to produce enough money to build an air-conditioned barn for the summers).
Doing my research helped me to understand what I could accomplish and what was totally impractical. Yes, I could have saved my money to build the barn and pay the astronomical electric bill. But I felt it was just too hard on the animals, so I marked it (reluctantly) off my list.
But just because you find one aspect of your dream impractical, doesn’t mean you can’t adjust. I still can learn to spin. Once my yarn is spun, I can still market it. The only hold up now is I just need to purchase a wheel and order my fleece. I haven’t given up on a portion of my dream – I just made a few adjustments.
The Cosmetics Case
This is the case that holds the toiletries on a normal journey. For women, it holds makeup. Men use it for their shaving gear. When it comes to shifting to a simple life, it holds your finances.
Like makeup and a razor, you may not need this several times a day, but you do need it frequently. Any endeavor you make has to be coordinated with your finances. If you don’t have any razor blades, you can’t shave. If you don’t have money, you can’t move forward.
The first thing you need to do is to list all of your assets. Make note of your savings, your checkbook and any investments you may have. What you do not want to do at this point is to list your paycheck. Depending on the journey on which you are embarking, that paycheck may not be helpful if you quit your job. What you need to do is determine where you stand.
Once you know your total financial net worth, you need to determine how much achieving your dream will cost. There is an excellent chance that your dream is standing on a mountaintop in Montana, and your net worth is on a deserted island in the South Pacific. But don’t worry. All you need to know at this point is the distance between your dreams and your finances. It isn’t time to buy a plane ticket yet.
The First Suitcase
Now it’s time to start packing. For a normal journey, we consider the weather at our destination, and pack clothes that suit the climate. While shifting to a simple life, our ‘packing’ takes on a different aspect.
This is where our goals meet our finances. It is called a Dream Budget. If our Montana mountain represents $1,000, but that South Pacific island costs $30,000 to live there, we have a lot of miles…um, money…to go to get there. In order to make the trip, we need to start adjusting our spending habits.
Know Where Your Money is Going
To do this, first you need to know where your money is going. The easiest place to start is our monthly bills. We know we have rent due each month. There is a car note, or at the very least insurance on that vehicle, along with fuel and maintenance. We get a ‘reminder’ each month for utilities. We hopefully put a percentage in savings. And then there is the dreaded credit card.
Begin listing everything you pay each month – that is necessary. Underneath that, determine your income for the month. (If you get paid weekly, here’s an easy formula: Base Weekly Net x 52 ÷ 12.)
The difference is what could loosely be considered ‘discretionary’. It is the money you spend on things other than the necessities. The best way to track your discretionary spending is with a notebook. For 30 days, write down everything you spend money on.
Forgot to pack your lunch? Write down those quarters that went into the vending machine, or the money you spent on a sandwich. From the pennies, nickels and dimes to the greenbacks, write down every single thing.
Take a Look
At the end of those 30 days, look at your list. What did you really need? How much falls into the ‘whim’ spending category? Learn the difference between need and want. You would be amazed at just how much you spend because you want it, not because it is necessary.
From here, it is a matter of retraining yourself. Instead of putting quarters in a vending machine, put them in a piggy bank. Forget the drive thru, pack a lunch the night before. Make a grocery list, and avoid impulse purchases.
When I am shopping, and see something I really love but don’t need, I check the price. Then I determine what I could do with that money other than purchase that item. For me, heirloom seeds trumps a lamp for the house any day.
Ways to Save
Once you have learned to control excess spending, take a portion of your discretionary income and put it into savings. Get a piggy bank or an empty jelly jar and toss in the change from your purse or pockets. Learn the art of being frugal, and create handmade gifts. More than anything, cooking at home will save you a bundle!
This is just the tip of the iceberg for saving money. And the more you save, the more that contributes to your Dream goals. With a little effort, that dream may just be closer than you think!
While You are Saving
There are so many things you can do while you are waiting for your Mountain and Island to come closer together. Regardless of your dream, there are simple things you can learn and do so you can be prepared when the Big Day comes. Here are a few tips in each category:
Determine the best way to clean your house (from ceiling to floor)
Set a cleaning schedule – daily, weekly and monthly
Learn how to make Homemade Cleaning Products
Prepare meals and home and learn how to set up meal plans
Determine the best cuts of meat and how to use them
Know how to cut up your own chicken
Make your own curtains, pillows and other home décor
Master the art of budgeting
Grow a garden (even if it is a few pots of herbs on a windowsill)
If the laws allow, raise a few backyard chickens
Learn to make butter, cheese and yogurt
Master the art of Canning and Preserving your own Food
Become a Homemaker
Live a Simple Life
Volunteer in the Community
Become a Mentor
Entertain at Home
Set aside Family Time
Refrain from Materialism
Become a Homemaker and a Homesteader
Is this enough information for one day? Good. Let all this sink in. Make your list. Pack your bags. Set a few goals. Find a jelly jar. Go ahead and take those first baby steps towards fulfilling your dream, and becoming the person you were meant to be in the first place.
And then be sure to head back to your rocker on my virtual porch. In the future, we are going to talk more about all the other aspects of living a simple life. Here’s a preview of what is coming your way:
Starting Fresh – How to Get Control of your Spending
Make Time for Yourself: Have an Arts & Crafts Day
Challenge Yourself – Learn Something New and Exciting
This is only the beginning of a new year and a new you. Take your dreams seriously, and be who you want to be, not what someone else says you should be!
It’s All Simple – Relax and Enjoy!
For more information on shifting to a simple life, check out these posts!
For more great posts on Time Management, Productivity and Self-Improvement, don’t miss Annie’s latest at annielewellyn.com
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