The simple life I live comes easy for me. It’s a family tradition. I remember listening, as a small child, to stories my parents told of surviving the Great Depression—tales of the deprivations they endured and the sacrifices the family made. My father was lucky to have a job, but he walked twenty-six blocks from his home to his office to save a nickel in carfare. My mother stopped putting sugar in her coffee, and she learned to cook without meat. My sister wore mended clothes to high school. And they say my grandmother counted the lumps of coal put into the furnace each day. It was a time of staying close to home and learning to live with what you already had and being thankful for whatever that might be.
When I was growing up in another time of economic hardship, World War II, there were more sacrifices to be made. My father went for years without a new suit. Mother still had no sugar for her coffee, and we were, by then, vegetarians. My sister went without nylons, and I wore hand-me-downs to elementary school. We had no tires for the car. And so, once again, we stayed close to home and “made do.” It seemed the lessons of the Great Depression served us well during wartime. And they serve me well today.
My mother made a little painted plaque to hang in our kitchen that spelled out this philosophy for living. It hung right above the drawer where we saved string and tinfoil.
Use it up.
Wear it out.
Make it do.
Or do without.
This is how I live. Today I have a small mobile home with a tiny yard. I cut the grass with a rotary mower, and I grow vegetables in a nearby community garden. I walk, use public transportation, or carpool. And I reuse or recycle just about everything.
There are many people in this country who enjoy a life free from money worries. But not all. Poverty and desperation exist in America. And poverty is rampant in the rest of the world. Here at my home in Oregon, my motto is “I live simply, so others may simply live.” My mother’s words of wisdom still guide my choices today.
I believe my small efforts to protect the planet, save scarce resources for others, and enjoy what I am fortunate to have will make a difference. Small efforts on my part can make a big difference to someone else.
Patricia Anderson is a retired social worker, aging hippie, part-time writer, and knitting addict who moved from the Ozarks to the Pacific Northwest to be closer to her children and grandchildren. Author of a book of essays called Down Home Musings, Ms. Anderson lives in Wood Village, Oregon, with her two labs and one kitty.
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