For those of you are reading my Simple Living series, thank you for patiently waiting for Part 2. It seems to work best for me if I keep it on Thursdays. (Go here to read Part 1.)
In the summer of 2007, we purposed to return to a life of simple living in a way that we never had before. After selling our home, quitting our jobs (awaiting the start of Calvin’s new job), and getting rid of much of what we owned, we came back to “square one.” We put our belongings in storage, and crammed “important” items in our cars.
Our cars were fully paid for, so we still had both cars. (To simplify your life, I definitely recommend not having a car payment!) We had originally looked at the possibility of selling the second car, but decided it would be better to just pay it off, in this situation.
We drove around for a couple weeks, traveling and staying with friends while wrapping up our jobs and waiting for our apartment to open up. (Many people thought we were crazy to do this; especially with a 7-month-old baby in tow!) We had a cooler of food in the back of the car that we kept stocked with ice. We had Gen’s Pack-N-Play, “space-saving” high chair, baby bathtub, diaper pail, bottles, blankets, and toys, along with a couple suitcases of basic clothing. We also had the last minute things we cleared out of the house after the moving van had gone (mop, broom, etc.)!
We used an Avent bottle sterilizer ($3 at Goodwill!), whenever we came across a microwave. Otherwise, we just boiled the bottles and pacifiers in pots of water. We kept a ziploc bag in the car that contained a bottle of dish soap, and a bottle brush. I also had a bag of jarred baby food, waterproof bibs, and baby spoons, since Gen was starting solid foods. (Oh, and a big container of baby wipes for everyone!)
Ok, at this point, you’re probably thinking, “That sounds like a ton of work! That’s not simple!” But, we had gotten down to the basics. We kept realizing what we could actually do without, not just temporarily, but forever (or for a really long time!). During this time, we were able to recognize what was truly important: we were finally together. Up until this point, we had spent so much of our days apart, and now we were rejoined. Simple Living doesn’t necessarily mean “easy,” it just means an uncluttered life. It means returning to a life that is not controlled by busyness and materialism.
Although we were traveling, life actually did seem somewhat easier. We didn’t have to coordinate day-care and work schedules, shopping and bill-paying, dry-cleaning and yard work. We finally focused on being a family, instead of running in opposite directions. We could take a deep breath, enjoy a simple meal of dried fruit and cheese on the grassy lawn of a rest area, and watch our baby daughter discover leaves. We weren’t worrying about what our bosses would think!
One night, we slept in a Mongolian yurt. Calvin and I had a couple of blankets and pillows to share, as we swatted mosquitos on the provided cot. (Gen was well-covered up in her Pack-N-Play.) Although the island was inundated by mosquitos, we were still thankful for the peacefulness under the stars, and shelter for the night. See more photos here.
For part of the time, we stayed at the home of some friends in Southern Oregon. I was able to hang laundry on the line for the first time since I was a child, and it was blissful. We saw the goats next door, and enjoyed kefir and goat cheese- delicious simple pleasures! I baked chocolate chip cookies and scrubbed the floor for our pregnant friend. Calvin also took advantage of the joyous tire swing!
We only had one cell phone (and still do!), so we learned to make use of pay phones (they do still exist!). Once in awhile, Calvin would need to go to his new job to prepare for starting employment (paperwork, uniforms, etc.), so he would go across town without us for an unknown amount of time, while I packed up the car, and moved on. Yes, sometimes there were inconveniences to not being immediately accessible, but we always found each other in the end. It was a new realization to go without instant technology, and to simply be patient and trust. (I was used to spending my days with multiple phone lines, e-mail, and fax machines!)
When we did need to check on financial matters, we used the free internet access at the library. We also checked out books on tape to enjoy on our road trip. Simple stories inspired deep, uninterrupted conversations during Gen’s naptime.
Once we finally moved into our apartment, we continued to get rid of things that had been in storage. Not only were we faced with cramming everything into a one-bedroom apartment, we just weren’t all that attached to our belongings anymore. We gave the bedroom to Gen, and set up her crib. All three of us share the bedroom closet for clothing/storage. This certainly limited my knack for buying lots of clothes! Calvin and I use a futon in the living room for our bed.
We found “space-maximizing” furniture at Ikea: Dining Table, Chairs, Linen Storage, and Cutlery Wall Storage. Our “laundry room” is a closet in the bathroom, which doesn’t allow a lot of “laundry pile-up.” This is another motivation to to limit the amount of clothing we have!
As we unpacked boxes, and began pulling out decorating items, I was overwhelmed by the number of things I found. We moved from 1400 sq. ft, into 650 sq. ft, so there was no way we could use all those picture frames! Out of necessity, I learned to recognize the simple beauty of a small arrangement of priceless wedding & baby photos, and a small bouquet of flowers. I didn’t need to put everything on display! (I still probably have too much out that requires dusting, but I’m learning!)
We took a drastic approach by taking an honest look at what we could really afford for housing, and that allowed us to eliminate a lot of stress very simply. This allowed me to stay home with Gen, and we were able to focus on meeting a small payment each month, adjust to a new lifestyle, and begin saving again. As Calvin has worked faithfully at his job, God has provided a series of pay raises for him. We anticipate that we will move into a two-bedroom rental at some point, when our lease expires. We look forward to having a separate bedroom, and allowing guests to use our futon again, as God directs. However, I no longer feel “cramped” in our small living space. It is cozy and comfortable, and I am content here.
Our wall clock fell and broke when we were packing up to move. This seemingly insignificant event made a huge impression upon me. My immediate thought was, “Oh no! What will we do without the clock? I need it!” For an instant I felt an overwhelming pressure to replace it, urgently. My life had been ruled by the clock, and the obligations it signified, for so long. I would push anything aside, including family, to satisfy all the demands in my life (meetings, appointments, etc.). Over the months since our move, we have never replaced this clock. I have learned that although we do still have some time guidelines (getting to church on time is nice), my life is now a more peaceful flow of serving my family to the best of my ability. My family no longer gets my “leftovers.”
I also feel that a life of Simple Living means being content with what God has given us, and not longing for more material possessions. Calvin’s dad recently commented on how we “do so much with so little,” and I love that we have gotten to that point! (He was watching me fold cloth diapers right then!)
I remember being inspired by 1st Thessalonians 4:11-12 when I was in high school. God had hidden it away in my heart, to fuel the dream of Simple Living. This verse continues to inspire me today. “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”
To be continued… Join me next week for Part 3!