By Jennifer Woolwine

The Truth About Simple Living

Slow + Simple Living

baghdad to barnyard

April 23, 2022


simple living books, coffee and flowers on a sunny day

Before our simple living journey began, we lived on less than a third of an acre with six dogs and two cats in the suburbs outside Roanoke, Virginia. We were less than 5 miles from downtown and close to all the shops, restaurants, and work, which was convenient. We had good-paying jobs with a combined salary of 160k. In addition, we vacationed several times a year, always had new vehicles in the driveway and relied on others’ opinions to dictate what success looked like.

In a face-paced world, it’s easy to get caught up in striving for the next best thing. The next promotion, a bigger or better house than before, the latest model vehicle, the list goes on and on. The problem with always looking for something better and more significant (besides going into debt) is that you miss out on what is happening right in front of you!

Let’s dive deep into the nitty gritty and the truth about simple living…

OUR SIMPLE LIVING JOURNEY

My mental health took a nosedive in 2013. I was abusing prescription medication to keep up with my demanding government career, going to school full time, and working a second job to maintain a lifestyle I couldn’t keep up with, and I just wanted to escape. I made a reckless and careless decision and attempted to end my life. It was an extremely dark time, but that decision forced me to face my demons and seek psychiatric treatment to regain control of my life again.

I finally decided to get sober, and to have the best chance at succeeding, a change of environment was essential. That meant leaving my old life behind, starting somewhere new, and eliminating things that were causing stress, like having a ridiculous mortgage for a 3,000-square-foot home we hardly used. We don’t have any children, and how much space do two people require? We also didn’t need two brand new vehicles with high payments either.

MAKING A CHANGE

After treatment, I realized I no longer wanted to live in the city or keep up with the “Joneses.” Instead, I was dreaming of financial freedom, wide-open spaces away from the hustle and bustle of city living and the life I no longer enjoyed. Thankfully, my husband supported my decision wholeheartedly and didn’t think twice about the drastic change. He also needed a fresh start, less stress, less pressure, and a change of scenery. So, we quit our “responsible” careers, downsized to a 1200 sq home with land, old barns, and a mountain stream, and began our simple living journey.


blue skies, mountain views, barn

SIMPLE LIVING ON SOCIAL MEDIA

If you search for simple living on Pinterest or Instagram, beautifully curated photos pop up with unrealistic images portraying simple living trends. Simple living is often romanticized on social media, and it’s easy to get caught up in the aesthetic of simple living and not show what simple living is all about.

SO, WHAT THE HECK IS SIMPLE LIVING?

Simple living is different for everyone. It is finding joy in simple things, sipping coffee on my back porch, spending time with my animals, watching the sunrise, and enjoying nature. It’s finding the beauty in less and putting quality over quantity. It’s about valuing things that make you happy instead of living your life according to society’s expectations. Simple living has improved my mental and physical health, relationships with my family, and less stress. Our simple living journey made us realize what is most important in life.

Simple living means being content with what you have and realizing having more or doing more doesn’t lead to happiness. What are the simple things that bring you joy? Is it taking your dog to the park, going for a Sunday drive, taking the kids to see grandma or grandpa, or eating at your local diner? Maybe, it’s growing tomatoes on your balcony, planting flowers, or baking? Whatever brings you joy, learn to cut back on the things you don’t need and spend more time doing the things that bring you happiness. That is effortless living.

SIMPLE LIVING RULES

The best part about simple living is that there are no rules! There is no right or wrong way to practice simple living. There are no tests, and simple living isn’t something you can fail.  With time, practice, and persistence, you can create your unique version of simple living and what works for you and your family. There is no one size fits all strategy for simple living. – that’s the beauty of it!

IT ISN’T ALL SUNSHINE AND RAINBOWS

As appealing as simple living is and how it’s romanticized on social media, it’s important to remember the truth about simple living- SHIT HAPPENS! Life is complicated; relationships are complex; having a family is involved, and the WORLD is complicated. No matter how much you prepare for what could go wrong, life will kick you in the balls and remind you you’re NOT in control.

Leaving city life behind and moving to the country does not magically make all your problems disappear. Our simple life on the farm is far from easy. For example, even though we no longer have to deal with rush-hour traffic, we are 45 minutes away from our nearest shopping centers and grocery stores. So, essentially you’re trading one problem for another. Equipment breaks down, animals get sick, predators attack, gardens need tending to, the weather doesn’t cooperate, and projects always cost more than you plan; that’s just life. We can’t control any of that. Life is HARD, no matter where you live. All we can do is our best and roll with the punches. Don’t be too hard on yourself; give yourself lots of grace when things go wrong. Tomorrow is another day!

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The surest way to succeed is always to try just once more.

-Thomas Edison

CAN I PRACTICE WITHOUT A FARM?

I get this question all the time… YES!!!! Anyone can adopt a simple lifestyle, no matter where they live…whether you live in a booming city or on the outskirts of town. You don’t need land or live off-grid to incorporate simple living into your life. Simple living is a lifestyle. It’s about slowing down, connecting with nature, and appreciating life’s simple pleasures. You don’t need a farm or homestead to do that.

IT’S NOT FOR EVERYONE

Simple living takes a lot of effort, dedication, discipline, and patience. You may lose friends on your simple living journey because they don’t understand the lifestyle. However, your most faithful friends and family will accept how you choose to live even if they don’t understand or agree with it. Living a simpler life sounds lovely to many people, but it isn’t for everyone- and that’s okay! Set some time aside and evaluate whether simple living is something you want to start practicing. And here’s the thing: you can give simple living a shot, and if you realize it’s not for you, you at least tried.

SOUNDS GREAT, HOW DO I START?

An easy way to start working towards a simpler life is to minimize things that are causing you stress or are emotionally draining. Instead, doing simple things like:

  • Unplugging from social media

  • Watching less TV

  • Decluttering your closet

  • Incorporating self-care

  • Grow a garden

  • Journaling

  • Going for a walk on your lunch break

  • Doing something kind for a stranger.

  • Living in the moment

  • Creating a simple weekly dinner menu

  • Learn the art of saying NO

  • Practice gratitude

  • Set aside time to do nothing

Don’t overwhelm yourself, and try to make all these changes simultaneously.  Try only a few changes at a time and adjust as you go. For example, my husband and I like making time to sit on our back porch with a cup of coffee for half an hour each morning before heading to the barn for chores. It’s a great way to spend time together before starting our day on the farm.  Having a routine is a great way to embrace simple living.

Getting up at the same time every day and giving yourself time to get ready is an excellent way to start your mornings slowly and simplify your life. My mornings used to be so stressful and hectic. I was always rushing and running around like a chicken with my head cut off, grabbing food on the go, and living life in the fast lane.


simple golden sunlight coming through trees and windows

At the end of the day, I also recommend relaxing activities before you try getting to sleep. My favorite habits for unwinding at night are herbal teas, snuggling with my animals, reading a few chapters before bed, journaling, and watching funny animal videos on Tik Tok.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Living a simpler life to me meant not working my life away. I gave up a fast-paced modern lifestyle for a simpler and slow lifestyle with meaning and intention. It hasn’t been easy and straightforward living requires balance, but living a simple life provides peace and contentment that I couldn’t find in the city. Let me know if these tips are a good starting point for your simple living journey! I’d love to hear how your transition is going in the comments below and what you love (or hate- HAHA) about simple living.

MORE SIMPLE LIVING BLOGS

xo, Jen


the truth about simple living: it's romanticized on social media

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  1. Laurel says:

    Working my life away… still. Probably about to get worse bc cost of living has absorbed every pay increase for the past 20 years. Hoping for a different outcome this next transition Still yearing for debt freedom and my own simple life

    • Jennifer says:

      I will be keeping you in my thoughts and prayers. We are not completely debt-free yet, we worked on paying off our credit card debt for the last 7 years, so we are just doing what we can, when we can. It’s a hard time to get ahead with the way prices on EVERYTHING have been going up. Just keep chipping away Laurel and do what you can! xo, Jenn

  2. Stacey says:

    Thanks so much for including me in your lovely list there. So nice to hear someone else cheering for a version of simplicity that has nothing to do with polished squares on instagram. It really is just a tool, not a destination or something that you can do right or wrong, or that has to look a certain way. I’ve practiced Slow Living in downtown Vancouver, Canada in a tiny apartment, in an urban East Van house and for the past 10 years on our 5 acre farm in the Fraser Valley. Each iteration has looked different, but they all have the same values at the core. Good luck on your healing journey. xo

    • Jennifer says:

      I fell in love with your blog (I found it on Pinterest) and your authenticity. You are inspiring so many people, including myself. I just hope to help others realize how healing simple living can be to the mind, body, and soul, no matter where they live. Thank you for taking the time to leave your sweet comment, Stacey! xo, Jen

Jen Woolwine       Author

Jen is a veteran, wife, farm mama, homesteader, blogger,  and mental health advocate. You can follow her and daily homestead life on Instagram, FB, Pinterest & TikTok @baghdadtobarnyard

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