How to Live Simply: Lessons I Learned from My Grandparents

by Tammy Strobel on December 6, 2010

My Grandparents actively practiced simplicity. They both grew up in very large families and lived through the Great Depression. Saving for a rainy day and avoiding rampant consumerism was integral to their life philosophy. Rather than seeking fulfillment through material items they chose to spent quality time together, with family, and in nature.

A little background…

Over the years my Grandparents noticed dramatic changes their community. Every year more farmland was devoured to build larger and larger homes. As real estate prices rose many of their neighbors sold their little homes and lots. Soon they were the only small house on the block, surrounded by a sea of McMansions.

My Grandparents built and lived in a small 600 square foot, 20′ x 30′, cottage for most of their adult lives. Countless family members encouraged my Grandparents to expand their home. But they didn’t want a bigger place. They loved their little home and were content with what they had. For instance, they gardened, repaired their own clothes, and drove the same car for over 15 years. I still remember riding around in their old, green Mercury beast and sleeping in their super tiny guest room.

In many ways, I’ve modeled my life after my Grandparents. Through their example I learned an important lesson: it is possible to live a small and fulfilling life.

So let’s talk about those ideas…

1. Save extra cash by living small.

Home-ownership is one of the largest expenses in America. By living in a small home, you can save a lot of extra cash. Here’s what David Crook, a Wall Street Journal columnist, has to say about home-ownership:

“You can easily end up spending three times the purchase price of a house. Today’s buyer of a typical $300,000 single-family home who takes out a 30-year loan will end up paying the price of the house again just in interest. Add 30 years of property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, regular maintenance and a couple of big-ticket repairs or improvements, and the total cost of buying the home could easily top out at well over $1 million.”

2. Plant a garden.

My Grandparents lived in a small home, but had a huge garden. They loved gardening because it reduced their grocery bill, improved their health, and gave them an excuse to be outside. Even if you live in a small home or apartment you don’t have to forgo gardening. Vertical gardening, community gardens, and window farming are all options to consider.

3. Avoid lifestyle creep.

Lifestyle creep is when we try to keep up with the mythical Joneses and end up unhappy and in debt. My Grandparents avoided lifestyle creepy by paying for their own home in cash and building it themselves. They also reused and recycled everything. For instance, they drove the same car for over 15 years and didn’t buy anything new until their stuff was worn out.

4. Living well on less isn’t about self-deprivation.

My Grandparents taught me that living a simple life isn’t about self-deprivation. Instead, it’s about giving yourself the time, freedom, and money to pursue your dreams. Becoming debt free, downsizing to a smaller home, and going car-lite are a few ways to take control of your life and start pursuing your dreams.

5. Take action.

If you’re thinking of living a simpler lifestyle take action! Below are a few tips to get you started:

  • Consider starting a vertical gardening project or join a community garden in your neighborhood.
  • Add up the amount you spend on housing and transportation every month. Brainstorm ways you can cut those expenses.
  • The next time you have the urge to go shopping ask yourself if your really “need” more stuff. Be mindful of your consumption choices and remember your priorities.

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Editor’s Note: Originally published at the Tiny House Blog.

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