Simplify, Simplify

I just read an article about Voluntary Simplicity on NaturalNews.com. This really struck a chord with me, because it has been a goal of mine for years. We are finally making strides in this area as a family, because the more I think about it, the more I realize we can do without.

For instance, I have made my own clothes since I was nine. I was mad that my brother got to go into hockey, and I didn't get to do anything new and cool, so my mom taught me to sew. I'm so glad she did, because with my lanky measurements, I often had to sew my own clothes to make things fit the way they should. As I got older, and "tall" jeans became more widely available, and I got busier, sewing kind of went by the wayside. However, out of frustration with the lack of available nursing dresses when my children were born, I modified one of my favourite dress patterns to make two nursing dresses that don't look like you just had an elephant for breakfast. They still fit, and so I wore one to Peace Fest on Saturday. (See right. Photo by Jude.)

I'm sure it had more to do with the hat than anything, but I drew quite a few looks because I was "dressed up". One lady even stopped me to ask me if I was British. Okay, sorry, this was not supposed to be a diatribe on the casualness of our culture. Ahem. My main point was that I really enjoyed wearing the dress because I knew it was well-made, it fit me, and that I had done it myself. There is something about ready-made clothes that robs the wearer of satisfaction in all three areas (and, more often than not, modesty as well.)

This spring, I have actually "gotten back into" sewing--not just because of the reasons mentioned in the last paragraph, but also because it is, in many ways, much more economical and environmentally friendly than buying something from a box store. I know that someone didn't get paid $1 a day to make my shirt, so they could take it home to feed their family of twelve. Also, I get to experience the thrill of thrift when I can make all three boys a pair of shorts out of a piece of fabric that I got in a garage sale for $1. Or when I can re-purpose a pair of jeans with the knee blown out into a trendy bag.

Here are some other ways we have been moving towards "voluntary simplicity" (in no particular order:

1. We stopped exchanging Christmas gifts, or participating in the whole "Christmas industry" in any way in 2002.

2. Last week, I made my boys a handful of hankies each out of scraps of flannel and cotton I had in my stash. These will replace the boxes and cases of facial tissues we used to go through, especially in the winter months, most of which had barely touched a little man's nose before being discarded. After diapers were eliminated from our trash cans, Kleenex was the biggest contributor to our non-recyclable paper waste.

3. We have nearly eliminated the use of paper towels, opting rather to use rags whenever possible. About the only thing I really use paper towels for is stuff that can't go into the washing machine, such as combustible fluids, or poop. Fortunately, there hasn't been much need to clean up the latter lately.

4. Along the same lines, we use cloth napkins instead of paper. I have even started trying to remember to bring cloth rags along for road trips, so that we can create less waste while traveling. Also, we usually bring our own travel mugs, and with all the traveling we have been doing this spring, I have managed to bring most of our meals with us, so we usually only have to eat out once or maybe twice on the entire weekend.

5. When we sell our house, we will be moving into a much smaller, more easily-maintained and debt-free place to live.

6. We have a plan to pay off all of our debts by the end of the summer, or shortly thereafter.

7. We buy less, and make do with our own stuff (or stuff we can make out of our stuff) more.

8. We wear our clothes until they are worn out, then repurpose them into something else. OR, we give the ones we don't wear at all to charity, so that someone else can benefit.

9. We use the local Freecycle group (free swap of stuff), and the Put'n'Take at the local Recycling Centre (same thing).

10. We are not ashamed of our used, hand-me-down, mismatched furniture that we have had since our college days. Well, most of the time, anyway!

11. I will not be taking students this fall, nor will I be volunteering with the kid's club, so I have more time to spend with my family and approach home schooling with energy.

12. After we move, I am looking forward to growing my own vegetables and milking our own cow, since our biggest sources of plastic waste are milk jugs and the packaging that comes on organic produce! What's with that, anyway? You buy organic, and every little tomato has a plastic wrapper! Kind of cancels one good out with the other evil, doesn't it?

Anyway, this is what's coming to mind for me. What have you been doing to simplify, friends?