Further into Simplicity

I started this whole journey into vastly simplifying my life a month ago. A progress report seems called for.

The overall theme seems to be “awareness”. I am aware of so many things I wasn’t before! And as I’ve simplified, the things I’ve never noticed before are affecting my life in some fairly significant ways.

Take weather. Before now weather hasn’t really affected anything but my commute. I went from a climate-controlled home to a climate-controlled car to a climate-controlled destination. Now, though? My walks and transportation are getting colder as we turn to winter. I also work in a very computer-dense office that’s kept cold as a result. Frankly it seemed a bit silly to spaz about climate control in my apartment when I can’t do that everywhere else (I like consistency – sue me).

Instead of relying on the heater I’ve been doing things like baking at night, so the oven warms my little apartment before I sleep. Clothes air dry more slowly now, so I’ve started doing laundry twice a week to spread it out a bit. I also try to do it in the morning, so the hot water warms the place too. My apartment is small enough that just that, with my comforter, is plenty. (Remember, I live in the South.) We’ve been down to 36* here and I haven’t had to touch my heater. I have no illusions that I’ll do that well in the summer, but I’m hoping to at least minimize A/C use as much as possible.

Another example? I wanted to take simplification of my foods slowly, seeing it as this huge challenge. Nope. It’s all flowing into each other. For instance, I made enchiladas last week. I made my own tortillas, since I consider that in the “bread” category and committed to making all of it. Since I had already done that, though, it seemed a bit self-defeating to turn around and use canned enchilada sauce after all that effort! So I didn’t. I found a recipe online that sounded good and purchased canned tomato sauce. I felt ok with that – and added learning canning to my to-do list for the coming months.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that simplicity seems to be a self-sustaining process. Simplification in one area naturally spreads to other areas. Like so many things it’s a change in perspective that does the trick. I’ve found myself further along in this process than I thought I’d be at this point because of it.

A basic change is that carrying plastic grocery bags as far as I have to walk is hard on my hands (not to mention that breaking bags suck when on foot!), so I got a reusable canvas tote I put things in to make carrying groceries easier. I haven’t used a plastic grocery bag since that started. Is avoiding plastic bags a good idea? Of course. I just hadn’t intentionally decided to do it – it naturally grew out of the other changes I’ve made.

That goes for packaging too. I’ve known for awhile that overpackaging is bad. But now I’m carrying everything by hand, so minimizing packaging just makes sense. This recently came up with those plastic jars spices come in. I put spices in my spice rack, but that means the plastic shaker thing the spices come in are useless. So I asked around and found a place that sold spices in bulk – no shaker to worry about. As a side benefit I’m also buying higher quality spices and have access to a greater variety.

Another example of the packaging thing is the big cardboard canisters I buy oatmeal in. Those tubes, covered with paper, have become canisters in my kitchen. I’m reusing them for something I need. Once I have enough of them I’ll start buying my oatmeal in the bulk section too, again minimizing packaging.

Since I’m already hitting the “reduce” and “reuse” parts of the 3 R’s, I’ve started looking into recycling options for my area. The eco-conscious thing is naturally flowing from simplicity, and I’m not even trying that hard! They compliment each other beautifully.

These changes even affect personal interactions. I’ve often felt like I live in this little hermetically-sealed bubble, separated from the people around me by my life. I’m a part of the neighborhood now. I took a different bus last week, to run an errand, and my regular bus driver asked if I was ok when he saw me again. My neighbor helped me out with a maintenance issue, because we’ve chatted as I walk past in the afternoons. I baked him cookies in exchange for his help – barter at its best.

It hasn’t all been roses – there have been hiccups too as I do this. Lots of them. It’s a learning process. I’ve been shopping on autopilot and picked up bread, not noticing until checkout. I’ve run out of ingredients for whatever I’m making, since I’m not used to everything being separate, and with transportation being so sporadic I’ve had to postpone things until I could get to the store again. I’ve been tired and not wanted to spend hours kneading bread and wringing clothes. I’ve been trapped in my apartment for hours because every stitch of clothing was wet at the same time. I’ve had to scramble to catch the bus, or waited for over an hour to catch one, or gotten off at the wrong stop. I’ve flat forgotten dozens of things that I haven’t quite adjusted to yet. I didn’t have enough patience with the detergent I made so the consistency is off a bit. Etc. The only thing that makes all of it worthwhile – even the screw ups – is that they only have to happen once for me to learn better. I find that highly encouraging.

Overall, I’m loving it. It’s amazing to me how natural all of this seems to be once I took that first step to get started. I still have a month to work out the kinks – which is a good thing – but so far it’s easier than I feared and more rewarding than I’d hoped. I feel more connected to my life and myself, more in tune with the cycles around me, and I’m learning how happy I’m made by little things.

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