My New, Simple Life

After spending years of preaching about simplicity, I’m finally enjoying it. I mean REALLY enjoying it. Over the holiday weekend, I moved from the cabin on the lake into an apartment in the tiny town that rests 10 miles south of my farm. The changes and decisions I’ve made leading up to this lifestyle leap have been numerous.

Since it’s just Alex and me these days (and the puppy, Prince, of course), our space needs aren’t that great. I spent quite a bit of time determining if I wanted to travel or stay put, move to the farm or move into town. I’ve evaluated everything from my personal life to my business model — from my bills to my living quarters — from my personal belongings to my life choices. I’ve applied the 80/20 rule to it all. ALL of it.

It’s been exhausting.

But, finally, it’s really making a difference.

I have one more load to make from the cabin on the lake… which will be complete this weekend… and that’s all going straight to storage. I have the apartment set up almost exactly the way I want it in just under a week. The apartment is a second-floor suite in what (until recently) served as a bed and breakfast. It has nothing in the way of frills and everything in the way of essentials. It has character and charm. Alex’s room is shaped like an A-frame with rough hewn side walls and painted plaster ceilings. The rooms have hard wood floors, great tall windows with natural light, and central heat and air. There’s even an old claw-foot style tub. It’s perfect.

I have a grocery store two miles from my home. My daughter’s doctor (and my own) is one mile away. The vets office is within walking distance, if Prince ever has a need. I have my moped here and can use for nearly everything we need. In addition to being useful, it’s a cheap form of mobile entertainment in an age when gasoline is over $4 per gallon.

This afternoon, Alex and I donned our helmets and went out to explore. We located the city park (complete with swimming pool, tennis courts, and playground). We went downtown and poked around in a second hand shop just for fun. We also found a pawn shop that has great prices on used DVD’s (cheaper than rentals — 3 for $10) and passed by Kroger, Save-a-Lot (groceries), Kmart, the Dollar Store and three hardware stores all in a 1/2 mile radius.

There is pizza, Mexican, Chinese and fast food within two miles of the apartment and we stopped to enjoy a soft-serve ice cream cone at a local shop that serves 24 flavors of soft-serve. 24 flavors of soft-serve!! I had pina colada and Alex had tutti fruit. The cost for our thoroughly enjoyable, three-hour outing? Under $3 including gas and treats.

The lady that owns the apartment is probably one of the sweetest women I’ve ever met. She lives downstairs and rents the two upstairs suites. She’s more than accommodating and is a genuinely thoughtful individual. We shared a quiet cup of jasmine tea on the stone-floored front porch the other morning, just after dawn, under the shadow of the two-story southern colonial columns, looking out over a field of hay. It was one of those mornings that made you just breathe in deeply and feel thankful. That was the moment when I knew I’d found a place I could finally feel a restful sense of calm. I had only been here one day and wasn’t completely moved in and I knew I’d found “home.”

There’s a yard here for Alex and Prince to run in… and it’s not a yard I have to mow or tend. There are flowers all over and a small vegetable garden. The street is a tiny one without any real traffic.

In the back of our suite is a second entrance that consists of a tall deck landing with a built-in bench on each side and steps that spiral down to the back yard. Alex has already claimed it as her “reading nook” — but she may have to share! I park my car near the door and my moped goes in the garage.

I have no stresses here.

There is one bill that covers my rent and all my utilities… ONE… it’s simply amazing! I had that experience once before, but that was in my college days, and the place was an efficiency and a dump — and although I loved it and spent time painting it and fixing it up, it was still torn down three years after I moved out. This is a lovely place. And the price per square foot is actually less than I paid then… and that was 21 years ago!

I have the ability to use my cell phone anywhere in town… even where I live! Now that’s new. I’m enjoying high-speed cable Internet (so I eliminated my DSL and land line bills) and have the ability to use cheap VOIP long distance. I’m cutting bills left and right! The “unlimited” long distance service before cost me $30 per month, Skype’s service for unlimited is costing me $2.95 per month. I have paid off most of my bills, so I don’t have huge monthly obligations. That’s liberating!

I think I’ve been looking at this idea of simplicity all wrong. I think I confused “rustic” with “simple” and I won’t make that mistake again. Being a technology lover, making my living over the Internet, and having to constantly find a “work around” because I live in the boonies is a horrific way to survive. It’s not living. Being a person that’s all about family and caring for my kids… yet having to work 12-18 hour days for years just to be able to be at home when the kids get back from school… is kind of missing the point.

I see that now.

I love my farm. I love the cabin I’m building there. It’s paid for and it’s mine. Initially, I rented this little apartment to serve as an office. It was cheaper than renting a commercial space and the atmosphere was much more conducive to writing. With the decisions I’ve made about how I do business, this was important. The change in my business model to an emphasis on writing and less work in the various fields of technology support, made this “office” seem like a good fit.

But, what I thought would be a place to work is quickly becoming a place to live. When I need the wide open spaces, I have my farm. If I decide I want to work on the farm, I can do that without driving for 45 minutes. I can be there in 11 minutes. I’m 45 minutes closer to my parents now too. With gas prices, this is a big deal too. I’ve recently purchased a little truck (with cash) and am in the process of getting the work it needs completed. Once I finish that, I’ll be able to do the work I need on the farm without so much outside help. I’ll sell the car and keep the truck for long-distance travels and farm work with the moped for the “around town” errands.

I’ll be setting up my utility room on the farm as my first priority. I have a washer and dryer in storage right now and I despise laundrymats. Getting that set up will mean I can go and do my laundry while I piddle at chores on the farm. And, instead of feeling all this pressure to get things done, I’ll be relaxed as I work. It will be at my own pace.

It’s amazing that I didn’t figure all this out ages ago. I was so busy fighting to be completely independent, that I was indenturing myself. Craziness!

But all that’s over now. Life is getting better every day and I’m genuinely happy for the first time in a very long time. Happy in the morning, happy in the evening, happy in-between. I think I may actually have a LIFE now. Go figure.

And the bonus I wasn’t expecting… I’m sleeping at night, all night. That hasn’t happened in as long as I can remember. Who knows, with all this reduction in stress and with the sleeping and eating better (except for that soft serve), I may just feel better physically too. It could happen!

Right now, I’m enjoying my work AND my time away from work. Life is pretty sweet.