what does simple living mean to me? and how you can bring it into your life

Ellie Beck Petalplum blog simple living

My simple slow life does not look like what I've seen on Instagram or in a Kinfolk magazine. Mostly it's a mundane-ness that just happens and exists, and while extremely beautiful isn't always particularly photographable. But I think we need more of this to show the realness, the rawness, that the messy creates beauty. I thought I'd share some of the things that mean slow & simple to me; perhaps you've been wanting to move towards a simpler way of living but unsure how to move past the busy and messy and overwhelm.

Firstly - simple living doesn't mean white walls and minimalist furniture. It can, but it doesn't have to. Our home is rich and full of patterns and texture and colour, and anything but a minimalist home.

Simple living to me means a mindfulness and a slow way of being. A connection to the rhythms of life and our days, a slowing down of our outside activities. It's about our buying habits and purchases. About our eating and composting and disposing of waste. About our spending time as a family more importantly than wasting time being something that people expect us to be. It's about the things we choose to do instead of the things we feel obliged to do.

Some of The practical things of simple living are:

  • Choosing our purchases wisely, and not buying things just because. Before you buy something new see if you can find it from your local op-shop, buy-swap-&-sell group, ebay, gumtree / craigslist or perhaps your friends or family have one they no longer need. We haven't bought a new toaster for quite a while - I found an excellent and perfectly working toaster on the council throwout pile one day, and when that stopped working we found someone giving away quite an expensive toaster through buy-swap-&-sell facebook group. We've recently purchased 2 kids' beds from this online local group for much much less than the cost of a new bed. Before we buy anything new we make sure it's going to be used regularly and is needed in our home.

  • Clothes shopping is not a weekend hobby. Before we go shopping for any new clothes we make sure there's no hand-me-downs packed away, or hidden extras at the back of the cupboard. And we talk about if we really need it, or we simply think we want it. In our family we don't go clothes shopping because we're bored or killing time or it's our weekend hobby.

  • We make do & reuse. Some of the things that I use over and over again before throwing out might surprise you. For example baking paper - I buy a non-bleached recycled baking paper from the health food shop, perhaps it's a little more expensive than the regular bleached trees-cut-down one from the supermarket. But I use it over and over again for my baking until it's no good any more. Then it goes in the compost. I don't ever buy plastic wrap - these beeswax wraps are great to use or metal containers that can be used over and over again - or if for some random and rare reason plastic wrap comes into our home we fold it up and use it again. Once my daughter brought home a paper bag she'd had popcorn in from school canteen for us to re-use : that made me smile big time! I make washcloths for the kitchen myself either by crocheting the cloths or cutting up old worn out towels / tea towels.

  • We stay home. For me the best weekend plans are no plans. Staying home and working in the garden or pottering about in my studio will pretty much out weigh a whole lot of activities that many people seem to do all weekend long. I'm happiest being slow and quiet. Friends or family for lunch or a picnic by the beach is often less stressful and more fun than going to a cafe.

  • We spend less money. Means we work less. I love that balance. We've chosen to work less hours so we can spend more time with our children or working on our art practice. Things we don't buy very often - magazines, new books, dinner & the movies, clothes, weekly flowers, new jewellery, cushions, ornaments & trinkets.


Part of the journey of simple living is realising that it's not always simple. Sometimes it's tricky and you have to walk a fine line of wants & needs - especially with children. But when we come back the mindfulness of our Self I realise again and again where I want to be putting my money, my time, my thoughts. I want to actively choose how I spend my days - and you can too.

Ways for you to start a simple living journey:

  • Say yes to the things that bring you joy. Say no to the things that society (magazines, social media, your colleagues or family or school friends) tell you you should be doing.

  • Re-think the way you re-use what you have. Simple living means carrying a bottle of water with you everywhere you go and a re-usable coffee cup rather than buying & throwing away that plastic every day. Simple living means taking your own shopping bags rather than using plastic bags. These things take a bit of getting used to; re-wiring your brain and being a little bit more organised, but it won't take long if you're eager to make the switch.

  • Stop buying things! Yep - I mean it. Try a week without buying anything except food and transport needs. No magazines, no takeaway coffee, no pretty little scarf that you just needed to have. Just try for one week and see how that feels. You don't need to quit buying everything, but this might reset the way you think about what you do buy.

  • Stay home for one day this weekend. Give is a go. The kids might complain that they're bored, you might start to get a bit itching that you need to go something. JUST DON'T. Don't get in the car, don't walk down the street. Just see what it's like not doing anything much at all. That's part of my simple living.

  • Go to a farmers market for your weekly vege shopping. It's much more enjoyable than the supermarket, often cheaper because things are in season & local and also because you're not swayed to buy all the other things at the checkouts. It's less stressful and more mindful. And you could even manage a pretty sweet Instagram snap from a farmers market visit!

  • Cook more food from scratch -but with simple ingredients. Try using no cans or packets (less packaging and less cost), or minimise what you do use. I'll be sharing our delicious humous recipe in a few days - I make it from dried chickpeas no plastic in sight, yet it's an enjoyable process that doesn't take too long. Simple cooking is about wholesome meals, cooked with love, but they don't need to take up all your day to create them.

I'd love to hear how your simple living journey is going. You can read more here on my slow simple living posts.