How to slow down and simplify life

Simple Living

by Pat Mestern

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Do you feel that there aren't enough hours during the day to complete all the tasks that seem to keep the wheels of family life turning smoothly? Do you drive yourself to exhaustion trying to be, and do, all things for all people? Do you feel that you re not really living but existing from job to job, crisis to crisis? You are not alone. Lots of families tend to get caught up in the fury of the moment.

You have to slow down; begin to simplify family life; take an unreasonable burden off your shoulders. Step one: Ascertain what can be eliminated from your revolving-door lifestyle.

Close examination of your day-to-day activities will prove interesting and informative. Write down the where, what, how and why of each activity undertaken. You'll be surprised when you see your daily routine on paper. You'll also begin to notice repetitive patterns that show up every day - car out of driveway four times - ten trips to the basement - eleven telephone calls - a load of laundry.

Once the list is at hand, the rule that time must be allocated for important tasks comes into play. But, you have to ascertain what is important for yourself and family. If growing your own food is important, gardening should receive top priority. If cooking from scratch saves money, that task too becomes important. If a daily soak in a hot tub is a sanity-must-do, keep it in your schedule. Who needs the hassle of ironing?

The relevance of all activities must be questioned. After consultation with family members, you might find out that a son doesn't really want to play in a sports league, a daughter doesn't like dancing lessons and prefers to listen to music. You don't need the personal hassle of involvement in too many clubs. Hubby doesn't have to take up golf just because all his workmates are learning the game.

You'll find that as unwanted and unwarranted activities are removed from your schedule, your life will become less complicated and you will save money. Can you sell that second car? Can you eliminate the expense of someone else training your puppy? Do you need that leaf blower when the wind does a wonderful job for free? Do you need that snowmobile and membership in co-responding club when all you really want do to is sit before the hearth with a good book on a winter s weekend? Are you compromising quality of life for quantity of unnecessary adult toys.

Once you've pared your list down to the necessaries, apply the basics of time management then learn to delegate. Kids are quite capable of sorting clothes, doing laundry, carrying things to the basement, cleaning storage areas, cutting grass, gardening, makings beds and cooking. Simplify, delegate then enjoy your family s new, less complicated lifestyle.

On another topic, I had a very naive reporter approach me with a strange question. He, like some people, equated simplicity with poverty or down-in-the-heel circumstances. He wanted me to confirm that there was a visual difference in the people who practiced simplicity in their lifestyle. We were, according to his theory, suppose to stand out in a crowd. He's right. There is a visual difference. We're the ones with smiles on our faces.

Some people live simply by choice; others by fate. It is a fact that most humans have the ability to adapt to any financial or physical lifestyle, and to live happily in their particular situation, be it self-imposed or fate-imposed. Even though some individuals live in less than adequate circumstances - let's call it gentle poverty- many don't compromise the quality of life and standards they have set for themselves within their restrictive financial and physical environment.

If circumstances have put your family in debt, find out how to conquer your debt by creating a plan personalized to your family's budget and lifestyle.

From my live, learn and pass-it-on file: For lumpy salt put uncooked rice kernels in your shaker. For lumpy sugar, add an unsalted soda cracker or two to your bowl. Honey is the one food product that never goes bad. Although liquid honey does turn to sugar, it's easy to liquefy again. Place the jar or tin, minus its lid, in the top of a double-boiler and steam until the sugar has melted back into a liquid. Some people use their microwave for this task. I prefer the double-boiler. Wait until the jar or tin is cool before removing from the top of the boiler. Honey gets hot!

Traditional Bannock:

There's nothing cheaper or more tasty than Bannock. When asked for a recipe, I found one that belonged to an Uncle who was a trapper in Northern Ontario. He used to mix everything right in his bag of flour and cooked the dough wrapped around a stick over an open fire. I've modified the recipe for oven baking by adding baking powder. The recipe calls for 3 cups white bread flour, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 3 tablespoons of shortening or fat, 3/4 cup of water. For a real treat, you can add 1/2 cup of raisins and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Put all ingredients in a bowl and knead until well mixed-just like bread. Use your fingers to spread dough in a 9 inch x 9 inch greased cake pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Bannock is especially good, hot from the over, slathered with butter and jam. Enjoy. Without the addition of raisins and cinnamon, its great with stews and baked beans.

Sand Castles:

Do not eat the following recipe. Children love to make sand castles. Here s a great way to make sand creations that your youngsters can keep. Mix together in a large old cooking pot, 3 cups of clean beach sand or play sand that can be purchased at a hardware store, 1-1/2 cups of cornstarch, 1-1/2 cups of cold water. Cook the mixture over low heat, stirring constantly until it gets thick. Take it off the burner and let it cool enough that you can handle it. Using an old spoon, turn the mixture out on to newspaper. Mold the mixture into any shape you like. Decorate by pushing shells, glass beads, and other good stuff into the creation. Let it dry. Voila! If using a mold, pack the sand in tightly. Also, if you are using a mold, a quick squirt of pan spray allows the creation to pop out easily, especially if you poke a hole in the top of the mold.

Periodically Pat Mestern provides us with frugal living tips from a Canadian perspective. You'll find some of her other musings at

Take the Next Step

  • If you would like to simplify both your life and your finances, try doing without some of these things.
  • Learn about the voluntary simplicity movement and the part it plays in both a simple and frugal lifestyle.
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