Simple living…not having to think about it

“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves”
Buddha



To me simple living is not having to think.

You disengage the conscious mind when you design low cost of living, healthy routines and then let the autopilot take care of business. Drop all the complexity and unnecessary steps. Bore down on the essence of things.

This frees one’s mind for the bits of life that really matter.

Forget planning dinner right after lunch. Mentally auditing your recipe ingredients. Planning a trip to the grocery store to pick up all the bits that are missing. Spending 2 hours cooking and an hour cleaning up after.

Instead, begin the process at dinner. Pick what is fresh from your garden. Cook it simply. Steamed or oven baked. Eat it and move on with your evening.

Instead of constantly tiding, organize. Organize and abandon. Keep only items you use or those that give you joy. If the only time you touch it is to dust it…dust bin it.

Your house is a home. Not a warehouse.

Empty rooms. Consolidate your material needs.

Eventually if you end up with empty rooms you outta question if you need a house with 3 empty rooms. The more rooms, the more heating, the more home maintenance, the more cleaning (perhaps :)), the more worry, the more of your living wealth tided up in a liability.

Take away choice by creating a routine. Routines become habits and habits good and bad are hard to break.

Wake up in the morning and meditate, write, or run or whatever fulfils you. Instead of lying in bed at night wondering if you will run, or debating with yourself about whether the weather is running weather just relax. In the morning you will run because that is what you do and running is who you are.

The idle antidote to a miserable existence in corporate hell

“It is the working man who is the happy man. It is the idle man who is the miserable man”

Benjamin Franklin

 

“Every man is, or hopes to be, an Idler”
Samuel Johnson



Think of a number.

The number is the exact amount of money you need to escape the trudge to work with all the other drones.

Got it?

Right then, what are you going to do with yourself now?

Most likely you’re going to act like you’re on holiday for a while, but after whatever period you are going to fill your life up with activity to the point you might find yourself busier and more stressed than when you worked at a corporate everyday.

Can I suggest an alternative lifestyle? It’s a lifestyle choice you could implement immediately if you want.

Be idle. Stay in holiday mode.

Stop thinking of yourself in robotic or mechanistic ways. You are not a tool for economic productivity. Your wellbeing will not increase one jot by ticking off another to do. If you must have a list make it a ta-da list instead.

You are a being and you must learn to be. Be idle.

To become more fulfilled find how to be. Take life as it is. Don’t feel the need to claw one small stitch from an inconsequential corner of the fabric of life. We push and shove and dig and build only to make monuments to our ego. Our achievements are largely our futile attempt at impermanence. A legacy that we hope will outlive this spacesuit built with a slow leak.

Forget that vanilla fear-based consumer thinking. Reject it outright. Consider your death. Get cool with it.

Between that point and this…

Spend time. Stroll. Be present. Enjoy the small things. Connect with loved ones. Give away all material pleasures for the fulfilment and enjoyment that only an idler has time to savour.

Sure we idlers are poor, but you are unlikely to find a happier bunch.

Idle
adjective
1. not working or active; unemployed; doing nothing: idle workers.
2. not spent or filled with activity: idle hours.
3. not in use or operation; not kept busy: idle machinery.
4. habitually doing nothing or avoiding work; lazy.
5. of no real worth, importance, or significance: idle talk.
6. having no basis or reason; baseless; groundless: idle fears.
7. frivolous; vain: idle pleasures.
8. meaningless; senseless: idle threats.
9. futile; unavailing: idle rage.

verb (used without object)
10. to pass time doing nothing.
11. to move, loiter, or saunter aimlessly:
12. to idle along the avenue.
13. (of a machine, engine, or mechanism) to operate at a low speed, disengaged from the load.

verb (used with object)
14. to pass (time) doing nothing (often followed by away):
15. to idle away the afternoon.
16. to cause (a person) to be idle:
17. the strike idled many workers.
18. to cause (a machine, engine, or mechanism) to idle: I waited in the car while idling the engine.

noun
19. the state or quality of being idle.
20. the state of a machine, engine, or mechanism that is idling: a cold engine that stalls at idle.

Cutting expenses to your bones

“Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship”

Benjamin Franklin



A while back I wrote about getting your food bill under control to the tune of around US$3 per person/per day. Depending on your start point (and where in the world you live) that might sound unbelievably good or unbelievably bad or unbelievably unachievable.

I thought I’d do one better because you can easily halve your food costs per month and take many weeks to zero. This is of course the case if you grow 100% of the food you eat or if 100% comes from the food people waste.

If neither of those solutions appeal and $3 pp/pd is too rich for your blood then why not consider fasting? Fasting is very good for you and it is the ultimate in free living. A fast can be day on day off, meal on meal off or a fast could last several days in a row.

Fasting is essential if you are a spiritual seeker, but it’s not so good if you are not eating for emotional reasons or if the fasting extends to the point that there is more fasting than eating.

For me the choice of going to work to earn money for food or fasting and growing food from my garden makes fasting a logical part of my lifestyle.  Still it’s not for everyone. Some people just love their night-time dumpster dive delights too much to take fasting seriously.

Me? Just following the herd…

“A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy?”
Albert Einstein

Life is a bit weird.

It’s weird to me that people spend the lion share of their life doing tasks so stupid and pointless that nobody would do them if they weren’t paid. The rest of their life is spent staring at a screen or buzzed out on prescription meds, drugs or alcohol.

We work for tokens that allow us to live.

 

The materials in these tokens are worth less in real terms than a metal bottle cap, but I’m supposed to want them so much I’d kill you for them. The more of your life, values, spirit and individuality you are willing to forfeit the more tokens you collect.

Well done Mario. Next level achieved. Just watch out for turtles!

The benefits of this system are that the planet is being destroyed and families just like yours (in another neighbourhood) are being killed and discarded like human waste. The police are militarized because the rich are afraid, but I don’t think they have anything to fear. We tweet when we should talk. People have 1000 facebook friends but nobody to spend their birthday with. Social connects are broken down everyday. Their is no heart in communities anymore.
Life is to thrive, not just to survive, but witnessing the madness of daily life one can’t wonder where it all went wrong for the human race? Likely a few influential families had all too much to do with it, but what perplexes me is how many people just wander with the herd doing exactly what they are told. Still doing what they are told when they lose their house in a default mortgage to a corrupt banking system. Still doing what they are told when they are made redundant from the job they’ve worked hard at for 30 years. Still doing what they are told when their social relationships wither after decades of neglect in the face of overworking and programmed disestablishment of community by government and corporations. Still doing what they are told while dying from a disease acquired from poisonous corporate food. Still following the lead of corrupt politicians and corporate megalomaniacs.
When will this thing turn around? When will the masses wake from the dream and demand a better, fairer, cleaner world? We have all the technology, cleverness and innovative ability and the man (sic) power on our side. We the people have the power to change anything we like whenever change is needed. We need to turn things around before the owners of this planet turn up the noise and give us an even worse version of what they’ve been giving us up till now. How much worse does it need to get before we collectively demand a paradigm shift in global human behaviour?

Feed yourself and your family for 3 bucks a day without having to move to Rwanda!

“While it is true that many people simply can’t afford to pay more for food, either in money or time or both, many more of us can. After all, just in the last decade or two we’ve somehow found the time in the day to spend several hours on the internet and the money in the budget not only to pay for broadband service, but to cover a second phone bill and a new monthly bill for television, formerly free. For the majority of Americans, spending more for better food is less a matter of ability than priority”
Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto



Television often has adverts about feeding a child for a dollar a day. I feel sympathetic and compelled to help, but my personal investigations have revealed that only a pittance  of this money reaches hungry mouths. The vast proportion goes to administration or is stolen in transit.
At the other end of the spectrum, the typical western family is going broke from gluttony. The concept of feeding your family on as little as $3 per person, per day sounds like hogwash to most families in the western world. Despite the fact that this is probably triple what many families in developing nations spend on a days food.

If you eat a diet that is principally meat, dairy, fish, and fowl or if all of your meals are fast food then you are right it is hogwash. However, it is perfectly achievable if you centre your plate around a starch (beans, potatoes, rice, corn…) with the rest of your calories coming from whole foods, fruits, vegetables and maybe a few nuts.

The three dollars pp/pd breaks out to be about $1.75 pp/pd for the starch and another $1.50 pp/pd for fruit and other vegetables, condiments, spices and herbs. See this link and the original work of the author for verification. Our experience is that these numbers are about right after correcting for a few factors in our currency/food economy and close enough to repeat as a rough order guide for people contemplating the benefits of simple living. Of course the $3pp/pd can be reduced dramatically if you can grow the bulk of your fruit and vegetables. However, figure in the cost of acquiring the land to grow vegetables and it might not be that good a deal!

Oftentimes you hear struggling families complain about the cost of healthy food as a justification for relying on the edible food like substances from McDonalds, Burger King and Taco Bell. But, based on a consumption of 2500 calories the relative cost of living on the junk food diet is over $14 pp/pd before medical costs. Good luck feeding a family of 5 on that expensive diet. You are talking US$490 per week vs $105 for healthy home cooked food.

Bottom line – if you want to bring your food costs into line you need to look at centering your diet around foods you can grow in the back yard…or in a local community garden or even in your front berm!

You’ll breakfast on oats with raisins and some seeds, lunch on whole wheat brown bread sandwich with carrots, lettuce, tomato and dressing and dine on a bean, potato and gravy burrito. In doing so you’ll quickly come to realise your body likes this way of eating. Starches are comfort foods and your body will give you plenty of signals that this is how you should have been eating all along. Meanwhile your simple living journey just trimmed another several hundred dollars off your living expenses…how low are they now? Low enough you don’t need to work everyday?

Eat well my friends.

Footnote:
I decided to use US currency in this article because the blog has an international audience and everyone can relate US currency to their local prices. If you have done the math in your local food economy please share by clicking the speech bubble under the title of the post.

The souless soleless shadow

“When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness

Joseph Campbell

 

Once again I find myself sole-less. It’s somewhat surprising since I’m digging reading the ruminations of this chap right now. A sole soul of another sort I suppose. If there are two things I would like in my life it would be sturdy shoes and expanded consciousness.

I look online at ‘buy it for life’ websites, but I’m sort of resigned to wearing out shoes. It seems to be an inevitable result of choosing a self propelled life. Really I’m not all that worried about shoes. Any will do. Preferably not leather and not formed from the labour of a slave.

As to my second wish it is simply a matter of prioritizing time for the internal journey over the cut and thrust of daily life. Our days are so busy and the pantomime so urgent and so important that it dominates the entirety of our available time and energy. I’d always known that meditation was good to me, but when I worked full time I rarely found the time..

Reflecting nowadays I don’t recognise myself as the child I once was. That life is so distant from the way I live now. I don’t care about material success. Or material things…even shoes. I am poorer, but my quality of life is much better. I am more fulfilled. I’m calmer and more happy. I can dip my toes into and out of the world as I please. Like a shadowy stranger with nothing vested and nothing to spin in the Casino. I watch situations with a dispassionate distance. Often times a chaotic storm swirls around me while I access an inner stillness and marvel at the breeze. We over rate this 5 cent (sense) reality. Believing our eyes or ears over our feelings. We value logic more than creativity. We talk when we should listen. These are all temporary states. Habits that can change.

In your busy life how many books do you dismiss for lack of time, how few rich conversations are you exposed to, or how little time do you have to stop and think deeply? Do you have time to help others? Do you even have time to help yourself?

Simple living has given me time an opportunity to play more than I work and with that I have had space to think. This in my opinion has been the greatest gift.

The artistry and romance of the toast

“A slice of hot, buttered toast is the perfect meal. It’s not too much and not too little, and it gives you just the right buzz”

Naveen Andrews


For the longest time I maintained a delusion that simple living was self sufficient living. I thought that at some point I’d be manufacturing all my replacements for simple household items. I maintained that delusion until I saw this attempt to reverse engineer a toaster.

Of course simple living is not self sufficient living. Simple living is quite simply to find alternative solutions without the need for money. There is nothing in the simple living code that suggests that one cannot harness the talents and inventory of others. That I think is the key difference between the two. In self sufficient living one must not rely on another living soul and life can be a harsh and brutal existence as a result. FYI these intrepid folks.

Still a simple living apprentice can always take a leaf from more intrepid sorts and try to fashion ones own solution to resource problems like I have done in our periods between electronic toasters. Of course the toaster is an incredibly complicated convenience device. Any fool can use one, but can that fool toast without a $29 device? Some will say it’s only 30 bucks, but there is very little to be gained giving such a concession because it becomes a slippery slope to economic slavery.

Myself, I have toasted on an open fire. I have toasted over a propane flame. I’ve toasted under an oven grill and I have toasted with a candle (hey I had the time). Until you have toasted two slices of bread on a single gas element while simultaneously cooking a family pot of porridge you haven’t lived my friends! In becoming a toast artisan I have grown to shun the unskilled manner that any half awake teenager toasts bread.

With my lover, a naked flame and our bread I demonstrate the unbounded abilities of an ace toastmaster extraordinaire. As she bites into the delicate slightly crispy wafer her eyes twinkle with delight. This is all the inspiration and appreciation the true bricoleur craftman needs and is there any more romantic expression than sharing a well toasted loaf? How easily I forget the endless ‘is it ready yet?’ complaints or the rash ‘we should just buy a flippin toaster’ comments.

For I am a master and toast is my canvass.