Written by Emily McClements, Contributing Writer
It’s been a little over a year that I have really been pursuing this “frugally green” lifestyle. I still feel very new to it, there is so much I still want to learn about, changes I want to make, and areas that I want to grow in.
But, in other ways, it feels like I have always been on this journey. Now, it’s sometimes hard for me to remember what it was like to wash my hair with conventional shampoo and conditioner, or to use paper towels for cleaning and paper napkins at every meal.
As I reflect on the changes I have made, I realize just how far I have come in a relatively short amount of time. But one of the biggest changes in my life is something that is unseen, imperceptible to those who view my life from the outside looking in. That change is the freedom I have found in pursuing a simpler, more natural, “greener” lifestyle.
Freedom from Materialism
I used to be someone who liked to have nice things, and thought that it mattered. The idea that we are what we have – the kind of car we drive, the size of the house we live in, the clothes and shoes we wear, and even the handbag we carry - is so pervasive in our culture, that we almost don’t realize that it’s there.
In this materialistic culture, our things define us. As I pursue simplicity in my life, I am changing the way that I define my own life and the lives of others.
Instead of looking at the nice things I have, I am trying to define my life by the way that I am loving others, being a good steward of the earth, and glorifying God with my life. Instead of being defined by what I have, I have found freedom in choosing to be defined by what I do.
Freedom from Advertising
I used to be one of those girls who was always looking for the next best thing. I would flip through magazines or watch TV and want to try all the things I would see ads for. The new hair product that would tame my frizzy hair, the newest shoes or purse or jewelry of the season that would make me look well dressed and pulled together, or the latest gadget or product for my home.
I wasted a lot of time, effort and money on things that I thought would make my life better, make me more attractive, make my home more organized.
Some of the freedom from advertising I have found comes from not allowing as much into our home - we watch much less TV than we used to, and I have canceled all of my magazine subscriptions. But, the freedom from advertising I have found has also come from the changes I have made in the products that I use.
Since I started no ‘pooing, I no longer have the need for all different types of hair products. Making my own cleaning products keeps me from wanting to try the newest cleaners that promise to make my bathroom sparkle.
Because I have simplified my life and my home, I just no longer have the desire to find the next best thing. Advertising does not have the pull over me that it used to. Instead of believing the advertisements, I have found freedom in choosing simple products that I know are good for my family and our environment.
Image by JustSomeDust
Freedom from Keeping Up with the Joneses
I also used to be one of those girls that thought that everyone cared what I was wearing, how I looked, and how I acted all the time. I am definitely a people pleaser, and I always wanted to make sure that people liked me.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I still care whether people like me or not, I really don’t want anyone to dislike me, but I have learned how much the world does not revolve around me. And at the same time, I am learning how the actions I take, and choices I make, have an impact outside of myself and my little world.
Now more than caring what others think of me, I am trying to care more about the impact that my actions and choices have on other people and on the world around me. I strive to make choices that are based on my values and view of the world, and not based on what others say is valuable, or what others’ view of me might be. Instead of keeping up with the Joneses, I have found freedom in being conscious of the effects of my actions.
Freedom from Stuff
I used to have stuff just for the sake of having stuff, and we as a family still have more stuff than we really need. Of course, there are basic things we need to live, but don’t we all really have much more than enough stuff? Doesn’t having too much stuff just mean that we need more stuff - to use or enjoy, or organize and store, the stuff?
As we have moved toward living more simply, we have learned that we don’t need all of the stuff that we thought we did. I am always trying to move items from our home into the giveaway and garage sale boxes in our basement. And having less stuff frees me to pursue relationships and other things that I enjoy doing.
I loved Stephanie’s post about learning to live with less, where she says, "Stuff requires time and effort that I'd rather spend elsewhere." Instead of having too much stuff, I have found freedom in learning to be content with what I already have.
While pursuing a simpler lifestyle, my paradigm has shifted in how I live my life, what is important to me, and what I spend my time and energy on. Now, I am free to pursue more ways of simpler living, more ways of being green and frugal.
As my wonderful father always says, “The best things in life are not things at all.” The freedom that is found in simple living allows us to focus on those things (that aren’t really things) that are most important to us in our lives.