Lessons in Living Simply

This week has been packed full of little lessons in living simply. We’ve been swinging from losing ourselves in everyday stress, to returning and residing in a calmer place with appreciation of life’s wonders…before going down the hole of stress again, and so it goes on! Perspective can be really hard to hold on to sometimes. This is partly because we are due a holiday – we will be on staycation in a week, and we’re just tired. This is also traditionally Lucy’s busiest time at work.

One thing we never lose sight of is our privilege and the ‘first world problem’ nature of many of our worries. We are not struggling to survive, house, feed or clothe ourselves. Therefore it is even more important that we value simple pleasures, so that we are less likely to be wasteful or to buy and consume unnecessary things.

Here are some of our simple moments from this week:

Ducks know how to live

Ducks know how to live

On a day out yesterday Lucy and her mum watched this beautiful male mallard duck having a very thorough and exuberant wash, with lots of head-dunking, flapping and feather-smoothing. If you need a boost, seek out a duck!

White chocolate strawberries

White chocolate strawberries

Brian made these white lemon chocolate strawberries as a Sunday treat last weekend – simple and perfect!

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This week the smell of blossom has been very powerful. Every time we pass some and are hit by the wall of scent we know it’s Spring. On Lucy’s bicycle commutes, a regular blast of blossom aroma keeps her mind in the present moment.

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Lucy has been remembering to check out the moon every day. At the moment it’s a daytime and evening moon, and is looking down on us for most of the day.

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After the rushed breakfasts of working week days we always try to have some good long weekend breakfasts with radio and magazines. There’s something very relaxing about watching the steam coming off a nice cup of tea!

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More of What Matters Spending Review: Year 1 is Done!

Two proud magpies, just like we are feeling today

Two proud magpies, just like we are feeling today

Today is Day 365 of our financial year, and having done our food shopping for the weekend this morning, we have officially finished all our spending for Year 1.

So, how did we do?

We saved 31% of all our income during the year. This includes money we saved and then used to pay off our loan. We’re really happy with the amount we’ve saved since then.

Where did the spent income go?
– 22% went on the mortgage and loan repayments. This will be less next year!
– 22% went on food – food is so important, this should be a high percentage
– Owning a car cost us 7% of our spending, Lucy’s bike and bus journeys cost 1% each. – The cycling figure includes some clothing.
– We spent the same on clothing as we did on health/dental costs together – 3%. This was also the same as what we spent on gifts. There were some expensive but long-lasting clothing/shoes bought this year so the clothing percentage should go down.
– Even though we bought roofing materials and services, our home and garden spend was only 2% of our spending
– All the things classed as ‘luxuries’ and not fitting anywhere else came out at under 1%, this included entry tickets, music, second hand books and nail varnish.
– Our bills ranged from 6% for electricity to 2% for home insurance (less next year) and 2% for water.

We have achieved a lot this year, but there are still things in there that felt excessive, which is exciting because it offers more room to chop what we spend and increase what we save – or keep the levels similar but enjoy different things within our budget.

How have we changed this year?
Increased gratitude: feeling more connected to what buying and ownership means and costs, being grateful for what we have, and very grateful for the lack of desire we have for many expensive goods or experiences. There’s a huge amount of happiness and wonder to be found in small simple things, and big dramatic things, such as yesterday’s solar eclipse which Brian experienced through a break in the clouds.
Bigger comfort zone: as a small example of this, Lucy can now eat many bananas which previously would have been too ripe!

Brown-skinned banana? Bring it on!!

Brown-skinned banana? Bring it on!!

Living every day: Every day presented us with a blank sheet in terms of money, and this rubbed off on other areas of life. Letting go of yesterday’s worries and welcoming the new day is so important.
Being closer: We’ve talked every day about what we’re doing, adding all our purchases to the spreadsheet and reflecting on how our lives are changing. This has truly been a joint endeavour – with lots of interest and input from those around us.

Year 2 is coming!
So, tomorrow is Day 1 of Year 2. Below is our empty year end summary sheet for year 2, and we’ll share with you our experiences of adding to it, and saving as much as we can!

What will Year 2 look like?

What will Year 2 look like?

Satisfyingly Simple

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Our windowsill plant and mango farm

 

Simplifying our lives has many benefits, and the more we simplify, the more satisfying our lives feel. We are happier with simpler and simpler things.

The most satisfying things tend to be simple anyway. Some from this weekend have been:

– Making a mother’s day card: requires paper, glue, scissors, pens and a magazine to cut pictures out of
– Ripening mangoes on our sunny windowsill amongst the seedlings and seeing if any of them are ready yet
– Baking an apple crumble: requires one pan, one dish and 5 ingredients
– Making chocolate-covered fruit: requires fruit, and chocolate! (And boiling water to melt the chocolate)
– Lighting the fire – something we do every day for half the year but always enjoy

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– Picking one of our first violets from the garden, savouring its fragrance and looking at it through a hand lens
– Looking at the changing shapes of clouds in the sky. Requires: vision (something to be very grateful for)
– Cuddles. The ultimate in simple satisfaction!

There are very few satisfying things which are hard to describe, or which require long lists of equipment or particular circumstances for you to undertake them. The simplest things are always the most satisfying!

 

Simple Springtime Scenes

The sunny weekend got us outdoors for most of the time. It’s wonderful to enjoy again the simple pleasures of feeling the sun on your skin and warm breeze blowing your clothes and hair.

It was perfect weather for drying laundry:

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And while Lucy was cutting kindling sticks there were plenty of busy birds around, including this blackbird which appears to be impaled on a piece of bread:

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We went out to the garden centre for some compost, and our first plant of the year: some cheerful polyanthus. We also bought a mango chutney barrel because we think we can turn it into a compost toilet! We’ll definitely be writing more on that soon…

In the woods, the early morning sunlight was shining on the mossy logs. A perfect place for a breakfast sausage roll and pastry as enjoyed today by Brian!

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The blue skies show up the interesting colours and textures of trees – dead or alive – and it seems amazing to think that soon there will be green leaves everywhere.

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The season cycle is greater than any human routines we might try and impose on the world. That is something we’re very grateful for.

Our DIY wedding and our first annivesary

Admiring my rings under the table at the café, 1 March 2014

Admiring my rings under the table at the café, 1 March 2014

On this day last year, we were about to set off to pick up Brian’s son for the weekend, when Lucy remembered that there was a parcel waiting at the post office. In the parcel was the wedding ring we’d ordered from a Fairtrade silver crafter on Etsy, so it was an exciting delivery. There was time to run across to the post office to collect it, but not enough time to open it before leaving. So, it got opened in the car, and once we arrived we were both able to look at it properly. Then of course Lucy had to try it on to make sure it fitted, so Brian did the honours. We both jokingly said ‘I do.’

And then, both at the same time, we acknowledged that we couldn’t think of any reason why taking the ring off, putting it away, and then organising for someone else to oversee it being put on again because they have some “power vested in them” to say it is official should make us any more married than we already felt. So, the ring stayed on and we went off and had a nice breakfast in a café feeling very much married – as we had done for years – but now having a visible symbol of it!

We got married (by the power vested in our love) in the car, wearing whatever was to hand that morning, with Brian’s son in the back seat as the only guest.

Today is the first anniversary of our DIY wedding, and we’ve spent it doing a mixture of useful, relaxing and indulgent things:

Brian is making a new walking stick, so lots of whittling has been going on:

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Lucy is cutting kindling in the garden for next winter’s fires, and has been admiring the beauty of lichen (and hearing the first frog call of the year):

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We’ve been out to buy timber for the roof repairs, and on the way back treated ourselves to a chocolate tart. There may also be a takeaway later.  And as on every day since 1 March last year, at several moments Lucy will twiddle with or polish her rings and we’ll both feel very happy that we did things our own way. Our marriage is the way we relate to each other every day.  If we feel we need to make our status more official in future, the option is still there, and we can do that in our own way too. No white dresses, stiff suits, or silly hats required!