In my thirties (I'm almost 47 now) I had an aha moment sitting in the school parking lot. I had been struggling with that age old feeling I had in school that somehow I just don't fit anywhere. I had my yoga and I had my family but somehow I still felt like a square peg in a round hole. I was driving an older model mini van and looked around me and saw so many of the same kind of SUV I couldn't believe it. In that little parking lot I counted fourteen SUV's that looked exactly the same, same model, same color, same everything. I realized then that I didn't want to follow, I needed to find my people.We had just built a new to me house in a great neighborhood with a lake view. We were drowning in debt. In my modest little van I had an awakening that I needed a simpler life.
Raised by Depression Era grandparents I was a black belt at thrift but bought into the idea of "Deserving" a new house, etc...My ex husband had just graduated college yet again and got a good job and I thought we could afford it. I was wrong. After 3 years in that house we were at a $1400 a month negative on our income. I found Larry Burkett and Dave Ramsey at the Library (I couldn't even afford a book). We cut the cable off, we got rid of the credit cards, I took another part time job ((I already taught yoga five times a week). We had a talk about selling the house. We found a house, the house I am in now, moving from tomorrow after fourteen years. We sold the house bought a house 1/2 the size with half the mortgage and none of the prestige. I began taking classes and volunteer leading classes on simple living. I studied and worked as a volunteer on sustainability, in this area of my life I was very pleased.
Several years later I divorced and all of a sudden taking a van load of recyclables to the recycling center was not on the priority list. And making my own pizza crust and brown sugar really went off the list. My only priority was feeding my kids. Our (the kids and I) income dropped about 80% overnight. Again I took another job and decided that I would have to work twice as hard to build my business to keep working for myself. I worked for myself and a non profit for about two years and was able to only work for myself after that, however fast forward six years and I am working seven days a week, I end up with about 4 days off a month and usually end up working part of those days to catch up. So life isn't simple at all.
My life is yet taking another turn. My fiance of five years and I move to our farm tomorrow. We are getting married in a few months and with a lot of thought I have decided once again to close a thriving business, my yoga school of ten years. For the years I was married it was a side gig. It was a little extra money but nothing I could live on. In the past six years I've built it up to a thriving successful school with about 25 students per year along with other endeavors. Why close a thriving school? Because I am tired. My life is not simple anymore. I eat out to much because I'm to exhausted to cook. I buy new clothes because I need to look professional. I bought a new car because I drive about 40,000 miles a year teaching workshops and training teachers. I have a house cleaner because it's cheaper to pay her per hour and go to work. I have people to mow my yard because I can't do it. I love it, much of these luxuries but I'm to exhausted to really enjoy them. I feel blessed but I had this aha moment as I was talking to one of my teachers who works as hard or harder than me. I told her "You can't work all week, nights, and weekends without burning out.", and then I thought "I do that!". So I have an 18 month plan to let go of nights and weekends, I now work four to five days a week as a yoga therapist in a medical clinic, about ten hours a week.
I'm again reading my old tattered books on simple living. This time though it's not about money or being in debt, those principals I stuck to and that has put me in a place where I have more freedom to let go, I'm not rich but I've avoided all debt except a small car payment and my mortgage. I'm in "Time Debt". So here is my plan and maybe it will help some of you who have a debt of your own. Maybe it's a financial debt or time debt or simply an enjoyment debt.
Things to do to simplify.
I will slow work down and let go of some of these things and do them myself.
- Clean the house yourself over a house cleaner (Saves up to $100 a week)
- Do the yard yourself (saves over a $110 a month) 1 and 2 also give you exercise.
- Exercise at home and let go of the expensive gym membership or get a cheap membership at some place life Planet Fitness. We have this and love it, I consider it money saving in doctors bills and medicine.
- Cook more plant based meals at home. Meat is the most expensive item you can buy at the store. Beans, grains, and veggies and fruit not only make you healthier they reverse many diseases and they are cheaper to make.
- Grow a garden.
- Keep the furniture you have and paint it or fix it up.
- Buy used furniture at estate sales and online.
- Make do with what you have.
- Borrow things you only use once in a while. We recently needed fence post holes dug and paid our neighbor to do it cheaper than we could rent the machine to do it. This was a big farm job.
- Downsize to a cheaper house.
- Sell the expensive car if you can and buy a cheaper one or keep the car you have and work on paying it off and drive it longer. That is my plan. It's my only debt and I'll pay it off soon. When we save up enough we will buy me another nice used car and give Jim my old car to drive because it's economical on gas.
- Use the entertainment you already have. It you really enjoy your cable etc.. then utilize it instead of going out for entertainment. Or get rid of it and get a ROKU stick and use Netflix or Amazon Prime. I do this and it cost me only $20 bucks a month. Jim loves to watch some shows that come on Direct T.V. and we were able to get that for $60 dollars a month long term. We don't however go out much and love to be at the farm. We also love to snuggle on the couch and watch a show together.
- Go through your closet and pick out only what you love. Don't think about it. Now hang only that back up. You will be shocked at how much easier it is to get dressed and how much less shopping you will need to do. Put everything else somewhere else (like another closet) and if you don't use it get rid of it by selling it.
- Learn to sell online, clothes, furniture, you can sell tons of things. Be careful meeting people in public.Most police stations allow you to use their parking lots for this.
- Take free classes or barter for things you enjoy. You can also YouTube anything from yoga to meditation.
- Make family a priority.
Love and Light,
Courtney Butler is the author of "The Mud & The Lotus: A Guide and Workbook for Yoga Students".
She is a yoga therapist, stress management specialist and loves personal finance and the act of living a simple life. She enjoys spending time with family, being in nature, working out, reading and writing. She lives on a farm in Arkansas with her fiance Cowboy Jim and three horses, three dogs and two cats.
*The picture is Courtney and her son's Cole and Will.