Mirage

Late afternoon, the position of the sun casts a reflection on the living room window glass. The ghostly image of a neighbor’s house seems to float on the patio. Photo by M.A.D.

The Simple Life – Back to Basics

Part of living a simple life is making room for the things that are truly important. By simplifying one’s surroundings, stuff, schedule … and focusing on the basics of living, one learns to appreciate what truly matters in everyday life. In general, life becomes simpler but more enjoyable. Energy as well as resources are freed to serve us and others better. By adapting my lifestyle to embrace only the basic needs and free myself of all the unnecessary, a sense of freedom and control emerged slowly. That change started reflecting on everything else – finances, material possessions, social commitments, health, fitness, nutrition, household management … (each a topic on its own).

In learning to live a simpler life, I have made changes in all these areas. I will give a few examples. I keep my finances as simple as I can. In two words, spending and saving. It works for me and my husband, and it eliminates the need to worry or keeping track of the “extras.” I operate from the belief that all we have has been given as a blessing by God, and he owns it all, so we just take care of it, enjoy it, and use it well. He is the provider of it all and we are the caretakers. If I was to give you an example of how I have simplified every aspect of my life this post would be too long, instead, I will give a few examples of how I simplified some areas. My point is that once you start simplifying in the more material and less important areas, it continues to areas of more significance.

Another example is how I have reduced my possessions considerably, to only what I love and use, and in the case of clothing, what fits well now, according to my lifestyle. I dress and live for the person I am now, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have any dreams, plans, or aspirations (not to be confused). Another area is nutrition. I keep it as simple as I can. I take vitamins, cook 95 percent of my meals, which are basic, and not premade or prepackaged. On the health and fitness area, I don’t like exercise (never have) so my exercise is limited to chores, walks, and a stationary bike that I should use more often. I go to the doctor once a year, even if they want to see me more often. I don’t have any major health issues that might require constant monitoring.

As far as keeping a home, my routines have been simplified to everyday 1/2-hour cleaning, early in the morning (around 6:30), which maintains the house always clean. I keep a household management system that I tailored to my needs (and husband), which covers all areas of home, personal, work, and includes sections for all the important areas – calendar, notes, to do lists, shopping lists and other lists, planning area, goal area, finances …. you get the idea. It is all in one place, I operate from it, and we can refer to it as needed. It is very easy to refer to each simplified area as I need to. As an example, a simple change I made in the area of cleaning was to realize that I don’t need all the products that are advertised to clean a home. I dumped that idea and only use white vinegar, baking soda, ivory soap (or Castille, pure soap) and laundry detergent. For wood polishing I use butcher block conditioner, made of food grade mineral oil and waxes, which I also use to preserve the wood countertops in the kitchen. I realized that a bar of Ivory soap washes dishes better than dish liquid detergent, so I only buy pure soap for many uses. I keep a mason jar with water next to the kitchen sink and every time a bar of soap is almost finished, I dump it in the jar; when it melts, it makes liquid soap. I don’t own a dishwasher and do not need one; I like doing dishes. My husband likes to use Simple Green for outdoor cleaning. My point to all this rambling is that you don’t need most of the things they sell you, unless you love them in your life. Most areas of our lives can be simplified to just the basics. I don’t miss any of the things or systems, services that I discarded. In the process, I found more time and money, and a sense of relief and peace, less things to manage buy or worry about. “Just the basics” work for me and my husband.

“My dishwashing system”

As a writer, I have simplified routines as well. Mostly, in the areas of freelancing, and the way I approach a new story. I still write the first draft on paper, and I don’t belong to social media platforms anymore. I have a simple green metal box for ideas, and an old rolodex. I don’t lose sleep over the latest best-sellers, or the latest software for organizing my work, tech gadgets …. I hate to use this overused phrase, but in my case, I keep it simple stupid.

It is a process that I am still working on. It doesn’t happen in a week or months. In a way, it is a journey of knowing and finding oneself better, and of knowing to compromise when more than one person lives under the same roof. Generations are conditioned to do things a certain way, to use certain products for certain things, and all this is passed along from generation to generation. There is nothing wrong with that, it keeps continuity and a sense of belonging, ancestry, culture … Breaking with some of those patterns and routines that we learned takes time, but most important, it is voluntary and meaningful to the person who wants the change. By keeping only those things and systems that are meaningful, important, make sense, and fit into one’s lifestyle, our existence becomes more productive, enjoyable, happier, simpler … and it feels good.

Hope you enjoyed this post.

The Simple Life – Joyful Faith

Photo by M.A.D.

When we moved, we took a leap of faith. We knew that we would have tons of work ahead of us, limited resources, and no permanent income, as we had left our jobs behind. Looking back, it was a stressful period; however, there was a degree of excitement, unpredictability and change, but mostly, we operated on faith. I think that part was the one that counted and kept us going until we finished the job. I will not pretend it was easy, totally the opposite, but our faith in the Lord Jesus kept us going day by day, from sun up till’ sun down, and the job was done. We would wake up before sunrise and head back at sundown, every single day. We had to make a dilapidated house a home in a short time with a very tiny budget (You can see our progress in Restoring an Old Farmhouse series of posts).

It is easy to forget challenging times when things flow to our contentment and life seems balanced. Living a simple life draws a great deal from living by faith. Learning to trust that all things work for the best to those who trust in the Lord is part of it.

Romans 8:28“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Knowing that when the future seems far away, and things are not as perfect as one would want, faith bridges the gap and brings what is needed to accomplish the task at hand, whether one has energy or not, resources or not. Somehow, it all falls in divine order, one step at a time, one miracle at a time. The simple life is full of small miracles day in and day out. Joyful faith keeps all the essential pieces of the puzzle together until one is able to see the whole picture. Living in joy and by faith, even when things are in disarray for a season and not as perfect as we wish, is done by keeping our eyes on a higher power and not solely on the circumstances that surround us.

In my journey, I had to learn many new things, leave many behind, and have the disposition to embrace new ones. When days seemed too long, energy and resources at their end, I took my eyes off these things and learned to trust that it would all work out for the best. It is not easy, but faith and prayer fill in the gap in those moments. Simple days are shaped by faith. As someone whose faith rests in Jesus Christ, I can tell you that I have seen the hand of God working alongside me, even when I thought I was holding on to the last string. Whatever was needed at the time materialized in a perfectly timed and orderly fashion. Today, I view faith as an intricate main part of my simple life. When in doubt, I remember, I pray, and I give thanks. Joyful Faith is another important part in living a simple life. Hope you enjoy this post.

Farmhouse Project – The Large Tree

In a previous post – Twelve Future Farmhouse Projects – I mentioned the need to tackle the very old and large tree that is dangerously close to the side entrance of the house. I loved this tree, but it was not looking good (sick), and with the strong winds and storms that sometimes make their way around here, it posed a risk, so we decided to eliminate the danger. I was sad to see most of it gone, and truly felt sorry for it; I guess I had developed an attachment to the tree, “feelings” for it. Due to the cost of cutting down a very large tree, we decided to go for a complete trim of the branches. It looks like at one-point, previous owners might have done the same. The company we hired (Southside Stump Grinding, with the crew of Cut It Rite), did a great job and left everything clean. We will be calling them back for the next tree project. It was nice to experience again good old customer service. They were punctual, fair in pricing, neat, careful, friendly, respectful of property, did what they promised, and had excellent communication throughout the process. Caleb Milam, owner, was on top of everything from the beginning. But going back to the old tree, I have to say that I miss it. One of the crew members said that it was a very old tree. The trunk is very thick, maybe like two and a half of me, and it remains, along with very thick branches, that eventually, we will cut down. For now, we have peace of mind, and that was the goal. I will enjoy what is left of this old giant, and who knows, maybe will cover it in pretty solar lights. It looks like a giant hand coming out of the ground.

The tree before. These branches did not look so thin once they were on the ground. The crew arrived at around 9 am. and worked straight through until around past 2 pm. It was a lot of work, especially because they had to be mindful of the house, the well, and the electricity cables on two sides.
You can actually peel off the bark, and there is moss growing in many areas.
Many branches starting to rot and break in some areas. Here you can see where the previous cuts were done on this tree.
This area at the bottom of the trunk (left) was what let me know it was now the time to do something. I have been watching that part of the tree separate more and more until it broke off. I guess it is part of a root.
And now it doesn’t pose any risk. I can see ivy fairy lights adorning it.

Another project crossed off the list. I hope you enjoyed this post.

The Simple Life – Simplicity vs Lowering Your Expectations

Simplicity is at the core of living a simple life, along with frugality (not to be confused with poverty or lack), best use, gratefulness, and beauty, among many other things that I will write about on this blog, according to my experience. When pondering about this topic, it occurred to me that many people do not want to live a simple life; simplicity does not entice them, and that is fine too. Other people may have a misunderstanding of simplicity and may think that by embracing simplicity, or overall, a simpler existence, they will be lowering their expectations, standard of living and even quality of life. That is a misconception that may scare them away from simple living.

Simple living is about appreciating every aspect of one’s life, environment, and possessions. It is about only allowing what serves us now in our spaces and enrich our lives. It is about enjoying those aspects/things that will best fit our lives and also, making room for those things, dreams, aspirations … that will enrich more our life and the lives of others by default.

When we live a simpler, balanced life (not perfect) in turn, we can give more to others, whether that is materially, in time, or by giving of ourselves. For me, that is the opposite to lowering one’s expectations; on the contrary, it is about raising the bar because I am operating from a place and disposition, of generosity and gratefulness, and not of lack or disillusion. To put it in terms of the material as an example, when we live simply, we will bring into our environment that which we value (not necessarily monetary value). If I value durability in a product (clothes for example), I might forgo cheaply/fast made items which will cost less and will be easily affordable in quantity, and instead, bring one piece that will last for many years but will cost a bit more. This can be applied to every aspect because I am operating from a value system, what is important to me. This is far from lowering one’s expectations in life. Living simply opens space, time, and energy (mental, physical, even emotional) to welcome new opportunities and enrich our existence. This is far from lowering expectations.

Simplicity can be beautiful and breathtaking. (Photo by M.A.D.)

The Simple Life – Welcoming Spring One Day at a Time

We had very nice weather over the weekend, so we decided to clean up the garden and set up a few things for planting season. We are surrounded by trees and no matter how much leaf raking we do during autumn and winter, we always end up with tons of leaves to clean up, especially now, when a few windy days come up during March and April. We’ve had a few days of very strong winds, one of which truly shook me a bit, and there are many down branches as well. We had plenty of chores, which we enjoyed thanks to the good weather. For some reason, here in Virginia, I find myself wishing for the start of spring, and I find winters long and cold. Having lived most of my life in Jersey, I find that odd, but my husband feels the same way. My favorite season used to be Autumn, but now, I am starting to love and crave for Spring. There is plenty to be thankful for during the seasons.

Little birds are starting to show up in numbers. My husband made the pumpkin for the veggie garden out of scrap wood. We hung up a birdhouse that my sister gave me. They had a 5K on their farm (Barn on the Hill), and they gifted birdhouses to participants; she saved one for me. It looks lovely next to the Faerie Garden.

We cleaned up flower beds, removed old stumps, planted some flower seeds, repotted plants that needed more space, and became a bit creative. We started a new planting area near the entrance of the property, an area that we need to develop much more in the future. An old tree trunk is now a planter, and an old magazine rack will become full of hot pink flowers at one point. Our goal is to add at least one thing every year.

White farmhouses get very dirty during the year. My husband and I cleaned up the house twice a year during spring and before Christmas. It takes a bit of work in some areas. Power washing will be something to consider in the future. We are still saving for a new roof (cash only is part of the simple life), and that one needs to be repainted, hopefully over the summer. We took everything out of the porch, and I cleaned the chairs, tables …. while he worked on the siding. Once we finished, we decided to change things a bit (decor wise) from last year.

With most of the garden ready, our next item on the list will be preparing the veggie garden for planting, and some repainting here and there. We are setting things up for an upcoming yard sale as well, and there are some farmhouse projects lined up for the year. With everything that is going on in the world these days, chores are helping me a lot in dealing with the great sadness that it causes. Keeping busy helps my mental sanity. During this time, my novels have been put to the side, and being in the present, doing chores, helps me deal with all this. I hope you enjoyed this post.