Daniel and I have been spending a lot of time visualizing, dreaming, and scheming about our lives. The past two weeks we’ve been sitting down with the purpose of researching and deciding what to do next, and how we see ourselves living over the next 2-5 years. Mainly, how we can simplify and live an even more happy, self-sustaining life of freedom. We’re about to enter our first growing season here, so we’re on the edge of our seats with anticipation. The possibilities are endless on our property, but nothing will be accomplished very well without focus and clarity. I’ve no doubt we’ll be making mistake after mistake along the way, but we’re hoping to find joy in every step.
- TO START: We didn’t come to many conclusions, but one thing we know for certain– we’re doing exactly what we should be doing, right now. Gradually, our lives are becoming simpler and far less stressful. Daniel is working about 30-40% less than he did a year ago, so he’s home A LOT more. We have far fewer expenses, so we’re enjoying a healthier diet…. with a very low mortgage we can afford to purchase more organic foods and products. We’re much more physically active than we were a year ago, so we’re experiencing a lot of the benefits we’d hoped for.
- DEBT FREE: Yesterday, I sent off the last payment on our very last credit card (due to taxes, we waited to send the funds in 2011). It’s extremely liberating to know we don’t have those clusters of little debts hanging over our heads. Some of the debt was lingering from our trips to India and Ethiopia, and we’re free now. They’re ALL GONE, and we’ll be canceling the card. The only card we’re keeping is an American Express card, but Daniel changed it to a no annual fee card and we’re keeping it in a drawer with a zero balance. We have eliminated any and all store cards, and have vowed to never purchase an appliance with credit, even if it’s 18 months no interest. We’re having a new kitchen floor installed, and have saved every penny in cash to pay for it. No credit cards ever again for anything. Hallelujah!
- DEBT FREE II: We still have our auto debts, so we’re counting down the days until we at least have ownership of them. We’ve recently vowed to NEVER AGAIN purchase a brand new car (a complete waste of money, even if you’re wealthy), and ideally hope to purchase any future vehicles with cash. Somehow, automobile debt has become a ‘way of life’ for most Americans. I don’t accept that ball & chain way of being. We’re currently looking into the possibility of selling one of our cars just to get out from another debt… more freedom, YES!!! It’s complicated, but if it appears to be a better choice than continuing the loan for 3-4 more years, then we’ll jump at it.
- OVERHEAD: There is a strong possibility that we will be dropping all phone book advertising for Daniel’s law practice. This would reduce a massive overhead expense… more freedom, YES!!! Less clients, you say? After talking with other attorneys who have done the same (some skip a year or two in the Yellow Pages), he’s discovered it didn’t hurt business much. After 11 years here, Daniel gets a great deal of word-of-mouth referrals, and people hang on to their old phone books for years. Mainly, more people are turning to web searches when seeking legal counsel. Getting at the top of search engines is far less expensive than the phone book, and it’s greener, too!
- EGGS: I’m noticing that we spend significantly less money on afternoon meals just because of the chicken eggs. I’m usually whipping up something with them a minimum of 5 days a week, and it just dawned on me how much I’m not buying at the store because of that. I keep meaning to post about how amazing it is to take care of and love animals who also provide me with physical nourishment. Being a city/suburbanite, this is the first time I’ve ever experienced this harmonious cycle. My eating is accompanied by a feeling of warmth and gratitude to our sweet hens. To be able to make that connection with my food is an indescribable feeling… I could never go back to eating store eggs again.
- LAUNDRY: Big topic in our family because it’s a big job that seems to run 24/7. I do my best to take Wednesdays off from laundry, but can’t always do it. I honestly cannot wait to get back to hanging our laundry outside again. I took out an old sheet that had been folded in the closet since the Fall. It had been dried outdoors, and the smell was still there. I plunged my face deep into it, inhaling deeply. I really miss that smell, but most of all I miss the act of going outdoors with my basket of wet laundry, and standing on the earth with the trees swaying around me. It gets you outside, which is the greatest therapy of all. On a practical note- our dryer is a major energy hog. All dryers are. I read somewhere that each cycle can run anywhere from $1-$2 a load. With our large family, the laundry line pays for itself, and then some. Not to mention all the carbon emissions they give off, and how damaging they are to clothes. Did you know that dryer sheets contain ingredients made from animal fats (animal tallow)? Yuck.. we don’t use them. Check out thistoxic list of ingredients and alternatives if you’re really attached to dryer sheets. If it was just Daniel and I, I would sell off the dryer and hang clothes year round. I’ve considered doing it now, but we just don’t have the space to hang that much indoors. The MOST surprising thing about using a clothes line is how much easier it is to do a load of laundry when you hang it outside to dry- I expected it to be far more effort, but instead it feels much easier. Maybe because it breaks the steps down more, or because it’s so enjoyable. I now despise getting large piles of dry laundry out of the dryer and sorting through them. It’s those ugly piles that make laundry such a pain. One thing we have agreed to do is re-wear clothes as often as possible, to hand wash more often, and hang heavy clothes indoors like jeans and towels. I’ve recently discovered that hanging dry, but musty clothes outdoors in the Winter helps to air out and freshen them considerably.
- GARDEN PLANNING: I’ve recently been working overtime to plan our 8′ X 4′ raised veggie garden beds. We have two ready for Spring, but will be adding at least 1-2 more in March. I found some great software for the beds themselves, but haven’t found anything to design the entire layout of all the beds. I’m realizing how much we’ve become computer-dependent… it’s ridiculous. I remember17 years ago when I was planning flower gardens and used a sketch pad that worked out perfectly. Time for me to get another sketch pad and go to town! It looks like we’ll be having a large salsa garden, and another bed with vining plants like squash, peas and green beans. We’ll be ordering blueberry bushes in the mail, and devote a whole bed to those.
- UNNECESSARY NECESSITIES: Today I said “Goodbye” to my blow dryer, for good. It was sitting in my drawer today and I started thinking about how I’m using it less and less, and the days I do, it’s not really necessary. I thought about all the damage it causes my already dry textured hair, and the electricity it drains. I also considered the obnoxious noise of it and how all I really need to do is make sure I wash my hair well before I need to be anywhere. I don’t know if I ever mentioned it, but we don’t use paper towels any more, except for pet accidents. Cloths work extremely well, and after 6-7 months I’ve no complaints about it. Daniel and I both recently agreed we’re going to shower/bathe less. This may seem disgusting to some,considering we live in a soap and suds-obsessed culture that believes in the very modern idea that bathing is necessary on a daily basis. It’s not, and I’m learning that. Especially during Winter months when my skin gets so dry it itches and cracks. If I skip a day of bathing, my skin feels better off, not to mention the chemicals in soaps we’re not exposed to day after day. We’re going to discuss this with the kids and come up with a plan to see if we can reduce the amount of water consumption in a significant way. There are viable alternatives to daily baths and showers that really work… I have a feeling Sorin will be the only one who has trouble with this in the beginning, but she’ll come around.
- LAST BUT NOT LEAST: We’re brainstorming creative ways to generate supplementary income. The more we can do that, Daniel will be working less and less in his law business. He wants out entirely, and he wants out now. We know it’s going to be a gradual process, but it’s definitely going to happen. We’ve come up with a lot of great ideas, and we’ll see how things pan out over time. This process of saying goodbye to an old way of thinking and living takes time, trust, patience, and a regular practice of self-analyzing. We are always asking ourselves “Will this decision make us more free and happy?” and if so,”Why?” We always know we’re doing the right thing when when it results in more happiness and peace of mind. We find ourselves more happy now than at any other time in our lives. Could it get any better?