“Less is more” a saying I’m sure we’ve all heard that can be related to so many areas in our daily lives. I remember rolling my eyes at 16 as I started to explore the world of make-up, every day my Mom would look at me and say “You’re such a beautiful girl, you don’t need all of that make-up. Less is always more when it comes to make-up”. I just assumed she was trying to hinder my growing up and found the saying annoying!
Now as adult and mother of five girls I can completely understand where she was coming from. That saying echoes in my head daily and has become a kind of quest for happiness. In our world today it is so easy to become lost in trying to keep up with the latest technology, newest fashion trends, newest car models, newest everything! So many of us feel like we aren’t succeeding in this life if we can’t keep up with those around us. I have fallen into that trap myself more than once, but in the end you can’t take it with you right?
Two years ago myself, my husband, and five children were living in a lovely two bedroom condo that was once Marks bachelor pad. It made sense at the time for us to stay there as the mortgage was low and aside from sleeping we really didn’t spend much time at home due to the central location in the city to parks and beaches. Yes it was cozy, but we were happy and we felt it was a stepping stone that would allow us to save some money for something bigger.
After about a year and a half we found out we were expecting another baby and knew it was time to upgrade to a house. Up the condo went on the market and we set off to search for our new home. We both had it in our heads that we wanted something newer as we weren’t very good at dyi home improvements and really didn’t have the extra cash or time to throw into renovations. Finally we found a beautiful home that was in one of the best neighbourhoods in town that was in the middle of construction that seemed perfect for us!
The price was a bit more than we has intended to spend but we knew we could make it work, after all we were pretty lucky to have bound a new home in that area of town. Moving day came and we all buzzed with excitement as we unpacked, the kids were eager to get out and explore the neighbourhood. I can remember how nice to was on the first night to cuddle up and our couch and listen to the sounds of the forest rather than city traffic. We thought we had hit the lifestyle jackpot!
As time passed I noticed a shift in myself and Mark, all we did was work to pay the bills and keep the house clean. The blissful enjoyment was replaced with stress over bills and our lack of time together was really getting to us. Numerous times he would throw up his hands and say “We should have never bought this stupid house!” But we had made the decision and now had to live with it.
The biggest mistake we made was the we got sucked into the illusion that if we had the new big fancy house in the nice neighbourhood then we would be happy. Wrong! All we had succeeded in doing was making ourselves more unhappy as we had taken away the time together and the freedom of the smaller mortgage. It was too late by the time we realized that material things wouldn’t make us happier.
That was where the quest began, the quest for less! We both started craving less, all of the “stuff” around us only reminded us of the payments we had to make to keep it. All we wanted was time together without that new smart phone interupting. We actively started working on a three year plan to get out of the house and into something more modest with perhaps more land to enjoy. We didn’t want the entertainment room in the basement, we wanted fresh air and wild flowers.
The first thing to go was cable TV, and you know what I started reading again. He gave up his fancy coffees in the morning and found that he had deeply missed the cheaper black tea that reminded him of his childhood in Ireland. It was little things here and there that may not have seemed like much but it was movement.
We committed to learning new skills that were useful in the days before modern technology like baking our own bread, growing our own food, canning and fermenting veggies to save for the winter. We both felt this deep desire to take it back to the times where people had survival skills, knew how to used nature to treat illness, and could mend a tear with out having to take a shirt to the tailor. Simple life skills!
When did we stop teaching these things to our children, how many of us don’t know how to cook a meal from scratch or grow some strawberries in the garden. Yes these things take time but are so worth the accomplishment you feel when you create something on your own. The less we shopped, the happier we were. The less we had, the happier we were. The further we took it back, again the happier we were.
The thing is we will never be able to keep up, ever, period! Something better is coming out everyday, something new is developed to take away our life skills. I used to count down the days until the newest iPhone came out and all I ended up with was a stack of old iPhones that worked perfectly fine just sitting there, how silly! We want and then we suffer because we can’t have it all right now!
We forget that people live in utter poverty and we feel sorry for ourselves when we can’t have the newest gizmo that we actually don’t need to make it through a day. I hate that the world has become that way, I hate that capitalism has taken over, and I hate that I fell for it just like everyone else!
So here we are two years after buying the house and living what anyone would say is the “North American Dream”. Yes, I should feel grateful and don’t get me wrong I am; but I realized that I don’t want it, I don’t want any of it. I would die to go back to the days when we lived in the cramped little condo and had less. In the little we had we had so much more of each other and that is what it important at the end of the day.
Have I found the golden answer to happiness? No, but I do believe I am on the right track. So our game plan is to when we are able, sell our North American Dream Lifestyle and go back to our beautiful, cozy, and loving life. Grow good food, bake good bread, teach our children how to survive the old school way. Teach them to cook, to care for our planet, to become self sufficient because who knows what the world will be like when they are all grown.
I shutter to think we will lose all of our survival skills, but I worry more that we will become so attached to technology that we forget how to have a simple conversation with each other in person. I no longer want more, in fact I run from it. I want simple, I want the tried and true hands on skills that once were. Without those skills we might not know how to survive one day.
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