Let me start with my short answer to the question of "is there such thing as a simple, basic, easy lifestyle?" No. There's no need to beat around the bush with this one. There is no such thing, and here's why!
The concepts of simple, basic, and easy are completely subjective. If you live a comfortable lifestyle where you feel successful, you're happy with what you have, and feel that you want for nothing, then props to you, because that's very difficult to accomplish. Now, if those aspects are true of your life, I ask you to reflect on how you got there. I guarantee you that those who are very happy with their life have worked hard to get there.
There are also some of you out there who can maybe admit that a lot has been handed to you, or maybe you haven't always worked as hard as you could but you just don't have the need to search for more. Maybe your finances have allowed you to purchase all your heart desires without a second thought and you feel that every day feels pretty easy breezy. First off, are there really many of you out there? I'd love to know. But also, I want to challenge that these people don't truly live a simple, basic, easy lifestyle.
Acknowledging our Own Lifestyles
I was just talking to my daughter's dance instructor today asking if our 4 year old needed to wear makeup for her upcoming recital. We got to talking a bit and I mentioned that our family is "simple" and having her wear makeup won't fly. Of course, because I'm an over-thinker, it bugged me all day that those words even came out of my mouth. I had a mental fight with myself, immediately defending (to myself) why exactly we're not simple at all. Here's a look into my brain following that:
- We made HUGE efforts to eliminate toxins from our bodies and home, long before planning for a child.
- I have been extremely aware of what I put on my body, aware that my daughter physically interacts with me non-stop throughout the day and will, in turn, come in contact with those same products.
- We have taught my daughter to be confident with making her own choices with what she puts on her body.
- We have taught my daughter boundaries and self-awareness at an early age.
- We have struggled with doing what's right for our family, even when other's don't understand and make judgmental comments.
- We have learned to speak up when society expects things to be done a certain way, but we want to still participate, respecting that everyone makes different life choices, and standing by our own choices.
Yeah, I know. Whew it feels like a workout sometimes.
Processing over all those thoughts just reminded me of how not simple our lifestyle is, but to us it's the best choice, no matter the effort required.
Perception of Lifestyles
Where are you from? How were you raised? What does your daily routine look like?
When you know one thing, another way of living might sound difficult or not enjoyable. I, for one, feel that farming would be an incredibly challenging lifestyle. I'm talking full-on farming immersion. You deal with backbreaking work, loss of land/animals/money, long hours, incredible amount of education, and self-reliance. With that said, I would absolutely love to have that lifestyle for my family some day.
On the other hand, when I think about fast-paced big-city living, I get anxiety. There isn't a bone in my body that feels the need to live in a high-rise city with a 50 hour work week and eating out all the time. That to me is a very different kind of work, strain, loss, and education that I have no interest in.
Then there's the idea of island living with your feet in the sand and camping on the beach every night. This takes a different type of work. There's the mental work to get to a place where you can be content with just that. To leave the comforts of a house and steady income and to rely on yourself day-to-day. I can't even imagine planning a transition to that lifestyle. I'm too much of a planner to wonder how long that lifestyle can last, and how that would affect my daughter and her future. When the vision might appear simple and easy, the reality sounds very complex.
The complexity often builds when you educate yourself more. It's a catch-22 really. When you're not willing to just put any food in your body, then you have to start learning how to grow your own, or find the healthiest options possible. When you want to separate yourself from societal norms, you have to find ways to make that work financially and to sustain that long-term.
If you want to be noticed in society, you care about the kind of car you drive, and you want a big home and nice toys for your family, that's not easy either and it sure doesn't come cheap. There are many sacrifices that are also made when you're wanting a more lavish ("high maintenance") lifestyle.
There are so many labels placed on different lifestyles. There's: "high maintenance," "granola," "domestic," "elite," "simple," "naturalistic..." you get the gist.
Can I be blunt and say that these terms are often said in such ignorance? They're often used in spur-of-the-moment judgement. (The following comments are taken from moments in my life I've witnessed or been a part of): You see someone a woman without makeup wearing a hiking backpack, eating fresh fruit and vegetables and think "hmm they're pretty granola." Or, you mention to someone how you've been making so many homemade dinners and it's been a task keeping up with the kitchen maintenance, to hear the response of "how domestic of you."
Now, I understand that language and labels are used for understanding cultural differences and educating people about the world around us. But, those comments don't sound very educational to me, but rather said from a place of negativity and dislike.
What is Culture?
Most of us have learned, at an early age, that culture is the beliefs, norms, customs, and behaviors of a group. What often gets passed over is that those same aspects exist within the individuals in those groups.
I think society would benefit greatly from more people acknowledging that every household has its own culture. Ignoring specific labels and instead understanding that your family has its own beliefs, routines, behaviors, rules, that likely differ greatly from your neighbors', and even your extended family!
Every individual that I know is working hard toward something. I don't care how different that something is than mine, because we're all prioritizing different things in our life day to day. What may seem like a simple approach to life from my viewpoint may bring many challenges and hardships for someone else.
Complexity Within the Simple
If you google "simple living" I'm curious what your response is. The overall theme of simple living is LESS. It involves reducing: tangible objects, the money you spend, or reliance on anything outside your immediate living space. I don't know about you, but once you really process that all, it sounds hella hard.
If you're really going to be successful living with less, you better be ready for the mental, emotional, and physical challenges that will come along with that. Can it be worth it? Absolutely. But, understand that it will take time to educate yourself, and you'll have to constantly reflect on what comes easy to you vs. learning who else you can turn to for support.
What Brings you Joy?
Let's take this full circle. Let's toss out all the labels, judgement, naivete you may hold about certain lifestyles, and understand that all we need to focus on is our own family's culture and happiness.
If you're looking for basic, simple, easy, take a second to think about why. Maybe that's actually not at all what you're wanting and needing in life. Are you actually wanting more social engagement and time with others similar to you? Are you wanting more time away from the city and societal pressure? Are you wanting better health for yourself and your family? Are you wanting to live more off the grid to save money or to live more eco-friendly? Are you wanting to be able to feed your family by living off your own land, or are you wanting to spend less time in the kitchen and find healthier places to eat out every day?
None of those options are simple, and they sure aren't easy. But if they're options you strive for and work hard for, they can bring you such joy and happiness. And someday, after all that work, you might just feel like you can breathe easier and live more peacefully.