Simplicity: Clothing

Simplicity > Essential #8 > Clothing

If I own it and wear it, it is one of these colors.

The reality of my pre-Covid life was that I was at home six days out of seven, go to church (where we dress casually), run a few errands, and a book club meeting two to three times a month. The reality of my mid-Covid life is that I am home except for the very occasional trip out. When at home, my tasks fall into a few categories: farming, walking, learning/reading, cleaning, and sleeping.

This makes it pretty easy to keep my wardrobe simple and small.

  • 5 long-sleeved t-shirts
  • 5 cardigans/sweaters (2 are at home only)
  • 3 flannel shirts (1 at home only)
  • 2 big sweatshirts (at home only)
  • 5 short-sleeved t-shirts (summer farm shirts/winter “apron shirts”)
  • 2 short-sleeve shirts + 2 shells
  • 2 yoga pants (at home only)
  • 3 jeans
  • 1 trousers
  • 1 skirt
  • 2 pair shorts (at home only)
  • 1 pair trainers, 1 pair boots, 2 pair loafers, 1 pair sandals, 1 pair flats
  • Everyday Carry purse + backpack
  • A few pieces of jewelry
  • Rain coat, parka, gloves, sun hat, winter hat, scarf
  • puffer vest, farm boots, farm coat (at home only)

As you can see, my wardrobe is super simple, super casual, and super comfortable. I have a couple of options that are specifically for dressing up. Honestly though, I avoid that as much as I can. Weddings, funerals . . . That is about all I am willing to be fussy about.

Simplicity: 8 Essentials

Simplicity > Essentials

I believe that if we each just took “enough” for our needs then their would be “plenty” for all.

Clean and beautiful environment — Our shared home is truly a marvel. We all have a right to enjoy her beauties. I believe Federal, State, and Local parks should be funded by taxes and free to visit. I also think we should be expanding our park system and striving to provide green spaces and community gardens in every urban environment.

Clean water supply — There are calculators out there that will tell you how many gallons of rain water your roof can “catch” per inch of rain. Combine that “catch” with your average annual rainfall and you have a number for the maximum amount of water you should use in a year. Some of us live in reliably wet places — for instance we average 48 inches of rain per year here, although lately that number has been more like 60 inches of rain per year. If you choose to live in a desert area, it will be harder. This is one reason why traditionally very few people live in actual desert conditions. Our modern exploitation of ancient waters and an intensive use of electricity is the only thing that allows for so many people to live in desert areas.

A clean and balanced diet — To quote Michael Pollan, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” To quote myself, “Eat what you grow and grow what you eat.” Local, organic, fresh/frozen . . . The sliding scale of best choices in my opinion. Michael Pollan also defines food as 5 ingredients or less, food your great-grandmother would recognize, and with words any beginning reader could pronounce. That is a guideline that is easy to remember!

Basic clothing — Clothing appropriate for your weather, your job, and always ethically sourced. I maintain a very small wardrobe, in colors I like, and most importantly are comfortable. I also choose natural materials.

A simple and small home — I think houses should be smaller so gardens and lawns can be bigger. I think we need less time indoors and more time outdoors. I believe everyone should have a right to hang their laundry outdoors and grow food. The other advantages of a small and simple home are: easier to keep clean, less chemicals required when you can hand scrub surfaces frequently, less electricity/oil/gas/wood needed to heat the home, less furniture (and other stuff) to off-gas into your lungs, less stuff in general, and . . . I am not convinced that we all need super large ovens, stoves, refrigerators, freezers, hot water heaters, washing machines, dryers, etc. I think we should choose the smallest size that works for us, even if that size is not to have one at all.

Basic health care —If Covid teaches us one thing I hope it is that we all deserve adequate, accessible, and affordable health care. All. Of. Us.

Simple communications — At a minimum a functioning Post Office, a phone with texting ability, and internet even (and especially) in rural areas. I also think if we all said what we meant and meant what we said, we’d be a lot better off. I have stopped reaching for showy words when I write and instead choose the word that accurately and easily says what I mean.

Well-rounded education — Reading, writing, maths, and logic at a minimum. Free public libraries, teachers paid well, resources and skill sharing libraries . . . But also an understanding that a degree does not mean you’re smarter, wiser, kinder, or a better person than the less educated neighbor.

Simplicity: Choices

Simplicity > Choices.

Many of my choices have already been made: I will remain on this land (stability) and I will take care of this land (sustainability). That already narrows down so many choices like “Shall I buy the cheap chicken grains or the organic chicken grains?”

If I am staying here and taking care of here, then I can only buy the organic grains. Why? I want my chickens to be the healthiest they can be, I want any grain that sprouts to be a true seed (not some hybrid that won’t breed true), and I don’t want to introduce any pesticide or herbicide residue into my soil.

So my first two vows make my third vow easier. Then taking my previous post about cycles and rhythms, you can see that I don’t have to make too many choices about my days. The rhythm of the year and the day will lead to a simple day. I move through my days without thinking too much about “should I’s”.

My main choices these days are about how to use our resources when bringing things onto the property or removing things from the property.

A Case StudyThe Laundry. The washer broke on 5 September 2020.

  • Fact 1: We already made the decision not to have a clothes dryer.
  • Fact 2: We already have a clothesline (for outside) and drying racks (for inside).
  • So — we are used to thinking outside the standard American box for laundry.
  • Query: It is 25 days to payday. Do we go to a laundromat ? Do we hand wash the small things and save heavy items for the laundromat? Do we put a washer on credit?
  • Considerations for Query: In 2012, an EF-4 tore our house apart and pulled the utility poles straight out the ground. We were without a washer for 3 weeks while we waited for the electric to be reconnected. I did laundry in a bucket. It was not so bad, just chaotic because, no roof, tarps for walls, etc. . . .
  • Considerations for Query: How much water and electricity does the washer use? How much water and electricity will it use to do laundry by hand? How much will a load cost at a laundromat? How much will a new washer cost? Are there non-electric options or low-electric options I am comfortable with?
  • Exploration: I did laundry in buckets for one week. It was not bad. I even was able to do sheets and jeans. Sweatshirts would have been more difficult and autumn and winter are on our doorstep. The biggest issue was wringing out enough water before hanging. In this summer-y weather, I could simply carry them out and hang them on the line. They watered the grass. In cold weather, they would have to drip all over the house. Not great.
  • Exploration 2: We purchased a small “spinner”. Washing the clothes continued as we’d done for a week. Wring out the clothes and place them in the spinner. Each spin cycle takes about 2 minutes. No dripping mess and clothes that could hang indoors in winter.
  • Exploration 3: A basket in a bucket system for washing, a second basket in a bucket for rinsing, and the spinner.
  • Conclusion: A mostly non-electric system that can handle all our laundry, takes 5 gallons to wash a day’s worth of laundry, takes 5-7 gallons to rinse a day’s worth of laundry, and 2 minutes to spin each load. It is an easy system, and it is a pleasure to use.
  • Conclusion 2: The old washer was taken apart. The metal will be used for roofing either the chicken arc or a new rabbit hutch. All other usable parts were cleaned, labeled and store. The things that can’t be reused will put in our garbage for the week. It will nearly double the week’s garbage, but it could be worse.

Financial costs + energy costs:

  • Spinner (a gift)
  • First Levario/bucket + basket (a gift)
  • Second Levario —$130
  • Water per day — 10-12 gallons. This is a savings of 30-60 gallons per day.
  • Electric usage — Our daily usage dropped 6 kWh/day.

My washing system:

I begin by putting less than a Tablespoon of soap in wash water. Into the basket, I place clothes that go next to the body and are relatively clean. The basket is closed and “agitated” 15 times, then the clothes soak for 10 minutes, then they are agitated for another 15-20 times, then the basket is removed from the water and left to drain for 10 minutes. Then I squeeze out as much water as I can by hand.

I do 1) relatively clean clothes that are next to the body, 2) relatively clean clothes like sweaters, trousers, and hand towels, 3) kitchen towels, 4) dirty stuff. Potty wipes are soaked all day in a bucket that lives in the shower. Those get washed in their own bucket.

Meanwhile, I have gathered 5 gallons of clean water into the rinse bucket. The load is then moved from washing to rinsing bucket. I agitate it 20 times and leave it soak for a bit. Then I lift the basket out of the bucket, drain, and squeeze.

Finally, things are layered into the spinner. It takes just 2 minutes per load for them to be “indoor hangable.”

Simplicity: Rhythms

Simplicity > Rythms

If Harmony is my abbey then stability, sustainability, and simplicity are my vows. — Me

I define simplicity, in the context of my vows, as the quality of being plain, beautiful, and slow. It means a life where I am living in a rhythm with the seasons and daily rhythms of prayer, work, reading, and rest. It means a life where I am not fatigued with so many choices. It means a life where I have identified the essentials and eliminated the rest. In the words of Austen Farrer, “Simplify your life, do fewer things, and do them well.”

Living a Life in rhythm with the seasons — Being privileged to stay home and tend the farm, animals, and home means that I have freedom to tailor my year to the seasons with ease. Our seasons look more like Celtic seasons — the solstices and equinoxes are more the center of the season rather than the start of the season — and generally mark times of transition. The Autumn Equinox has passed. The six weeks following the equinox means the garden harvest is winding down. It is time to think about cleaning up the garden beds, mulching the bare soil, cleaning the seed starting pots and garden tools, and winterizing the rabbit hutch and the chicken ark. It is time to visit a local orchard and get our yearly supply of apples. By November 1, we will have switched to checking on the food we have stored so that we can use the things that aren’t keeping well. We’ll be busy in the woods carrying sticks back to the house for kindling. Meals will be more soups and stews and less salads and raw foods. Winter, for us, starts when laundry can no longer be dried on the clothesline, sometime in November, lasts through December, January, and much of February. We are hunkered down with blankets, candles, and fires. March 1 brings a flurry of garden preparations: seeds must be checked and reordered if I wasn’t able to save enough, tools must be checked and sharpened, seed starting soil must be sterilized and put into pots. The Spring Equinox is when I start some seeds in pots under a makeshift greenhouse. April 1 is the real start of the gardening year because greens and brassicas can go out in the garden. Peas too, as soon as it is mild enough. May, June, July, August, September, and October are all the furious rush of gardening season. I try to keep the Solstices and Equinoxes and the Quartering of the Year days as mini-holidays. Days to remember, days to observe, and days to be grateful for a chance to step outside of the normal work.

Daily Rhythms of Prayer, Work, Reading and Rest— My daily life follows a rhythm. I move from task to task, alternating between physical and mental work. I rise before the sun, do some stretches, recite my morning prayers, and then head out for a walk. Breakfast follows the walk, as does a tour of the house and the yard/garden/orchard as I assess what needs to be done that day. In the warm months, the outside work gets done first, in the cool months the inside work gets done first. That work is followed by Welsh time. Lunch follows along with strength exercises, the indoor/outdoor work gets done, and then some time reading non-fiction, and then fiction and then some more Welsh. Dinner time is followed by Evening prayers, a short spurt of evening tidy up, a short walk, and then more time reading or chatting with family. I try not to use lights in the evening so that my body is ready for sleep. I am early to bed, with an audiobook, and early to rise.