January 13, 2017

Setting Up The Simple Home

You are setting up a new simple home. What would you put into it to make yourself comfortable?

At the end of August a member, and frequent commenter, on this blog reported a piece of tragic news. Those of you who read and/or participate in the comment section of Not Buying Anything will recognize the following somewhat disturbing comment from our friend, Madeleine:

"About 3 weeks ago a large part of my home was destroyed by fire. I can honestly say that as we ran from the burning building things like saving our favourite 'stuff' or even photos did not cross our minds. All I thought of was getting the children and animals out. And as I watched the fire and waited for the fire truck to arrive I felt so grateful we were all alive. It is hard not to be able to live in our own home for a while, but other than the truly useful - pots and pans, towels and sheets - there is nothing I'm going to miss."

A while later Madeleine left another comment in response to my post "That Is Enough".

The idea of 'enough' is one I have been pondering a lot over the past few years, and am certainly thinking about it every day as I begin to replace the useful items lost in our recent fire. How many dishes is enough? How many wooden spoons, towels etc? I would like enough to do the job efficiently, and not a bit more. 

So how does one set up the simple home? Valuable information like this could be used by those starting from scratch whether a young adult leaving home for the first time, or if one is downsizing, or moving across the continent, or recovering from a devastating home fire in which everything was lost.

Linda and I did exactly this when we moved from Turtle Island's (the original inhabitants here used this name before Europeans came and relabelled the area"North America") west coast all the way to the east coast. We gave away everything we owned, except for the few things we could fit in our travel van.

In starting over, we had the same feeling as Madeleine - we wanted to set up our simple home efficiently, and with not a bit more than what we needed. What we found was that we needed to acquire very little to quickly become comfortable in our new home. We also found we did not miss anything we left behind.

I am planning on working on another post outlining what we did buy to settle here in our new Nova Scotia home. But for now, I turn it over to the NBA comment crew. If you were starting over, how would you set up your new simple home? What would be important to replace, and what could you live without?

While Madeleine is currently taking a screen break (and rightfully so considering what her family has been through, and the continued challenges of getting back on their feet), when she returns we can direct her attention to this post in the hopes that we can all contribute to helping get her and her family back on their feet in the most simple and efficient manner possible.

So that is the challenge, should you choose to accept it. What do you think? How much would be just enough, and not a bit more, for your ideal simple home?


  1. Enough is a roof over our head, love, nourishing food, clean water, simple attire for modesty and something to stimulate, like a conversation, art, craft, book etc...everything else is the custard on our cherry tart.

    1. FITV,

      What I like about your description is that it is attainable for all of humanity, right now. It also helps one appreciate the simple things that allow us to live beautifully with contentment and gratitude.

  2. I think a simple home is one that feels perfect to you. A place to lay your head safely, be warm and comfortable and have those you love around you, equally in comfort. A place where the things you have in your home are things you own and that don't own you. Items that are either useful or beautiful (or both!).
    Since moving to our new (and first) home nearly 2 years ago, we have let go of SO much STUFF. Our home is modest but beautiful. We live in a poor but welcoming community, where people know each other and are kind, even if they are not well off financially. Our garden is very large and there is plenty of room for growing children to run outside and play, and plenty of room to grow food. Not far from us are a couple of extremely expensive suburbs with mammoth houses on tiny sections. I imagine that even earning a very good salary one would be indebted to the bank for most of one's life if you chose to live there. Each to their own of course but that doesn't resonate as simple to me. Already my husband and I are conveying to our children that owning your own modest home that is fully yours and no one can take from you is better than living in a fancy place and owing the bank for the rest of your life. Simplicity is freedom.

    1. Where you live sounds beautiful.

    2. It is beautiful Frugal, and I suspect not too far from where you are geographically speaking ;)

    3. Karen,

      It is so good to hear of others that are living differently, simply, and happily. I think as we go forward more and more people will be considering the values of simplicity, either our of necessity or because they are burnt out on materialist and monetary pursuits.

      As this can be a scary transition to make, they will be assured that it can be done, and done well, by reading of the experiences of people like your family and community. Thank you for documenting that here for others to benefit from.

      I agree with FITV - it does sound beautiful where you live. Simplicity = freedom. I have a long history of making sure I get as much of both as I can. Congrats on getting yours.

  3. Anonymous1/15/2017

    Hi Gregg, thought provoking as always. Two things to add
    1 - I've recently been house sitting for a friend & only took the bare minimum with me. I completely agree, I barely missed anything & actually felt freer and lighter without all my possessions..
    2 - when thinking about setting up a new house, it is also helpful to look at all the amazing stuff on Craigslist/gumtree(Australia)/thrift shops/giveaways. There are more than enough things already out there in the world, so even for things you decide you really 'need', it is almost never essential to buy them new - & support businesses & practices you don't agree with.
    Clara, Australia

    1. Clara,

      I am glad you mentioned setting up with non-new things. You are right - there is no shortage of stuff in the world. Often the things you are looking for are available at low cost, or even free. Buying new should always be a last resort. Except for underwear. And toothbrushes.

  4. Anonymous1/16/2017

    Victor Lebow wrote an article "Price competition in 1955" Highly recommend ,maybe Linda and Gregg will publish in the future. Good wishes to everyone. Saffron

    1. Saffron,

      I am on to it. So is Terri (thanks). I am familiar with Lebow, and appreciate his work.

      “Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfactions, our ego satisfactions, in consumption.”

      - Victor Lebow

      I will do the whole thing in an upcoming post. Thanks for the idea. It is good stuff to spread around.

  5. To Madeleine, I'm saddened that you and family have experienced this uprooting tragedy. Saving children, animals and literally running for your lives must have been traumatic. Thank you for sharing this with us. And thank you, Gregg and Linda for honoring a regular participant here and opening these questions about how each of us would build given Madeleine's situation. It speaks highly about how engaged this community is.

    I've thought about this question for days. Thinking about housing, I would design with the future in mind. I would build one level. As I age, I see where climbing stairs or sleeping in a small loft might get difficult if not impossible to navigate. I want an accessible bathroom, especially at night. I'd insulate the floor well. Living on a concrete slab on ground level significantly raises my heat energy usage.

    Also thinking of the future, I would want to be as close to off-grid as possible. Things like solar panels and composting toilets come to mind. Many others.

    As massive problems with drinking water are being uncovered in many cities in the U.S., a high priority to me would be as independent of municipal water suppliers as possible. If I had to be dependent on them, I would want the highest quality water filtration system available cleaning the water that comes into my house.

    I would incorporate as many windows as possible so I could see nature in any direction I looked. Seeing nature often is vital to my well being.

    I would have efficient storage built in, like strategic closets. Not for a high volume of stuff, but so the stuff I do have can be put away and I can have a small amount of furniture affording me space over cluttered up with things. I like built-in shelves, a lot. I'd have some kind of pantry for food storage.

    I've always wanted to design and build my own simple furniture. I love the old-time farm style. I'd build lightweight, functional, easy to care for, and durable. I tend to be much more functional and less aesthetic in my home. Simple, easy to clean and maintain. I lean toward higher quality and good maintainence so things around me don't wear out, get sent to the landfill and have to be replaced. I also want stuff that I can move around from one room to another. I like open floor plans.

    One thing I would elimate is a long hallway. Seriously wasted space, wasted resources to keep them heated, cooled, painted, vacuumed. We have lots of hallways in the U.S. Energy suckers.

    NO carpet! Whoever thought up that toxic roll of chemicals to lay out on people's floors does not rank high on my list. Once you get the toxic nylon laid out on the floor, it remains there for years growing all kinds of nasty stuff. Only the surface can be cleaned of obvious dirt. But they can never be a clean flooring.

    Millions of chemicals everywhere, be as green as you can, thoughtful of the earth and you and your family's health.

    Madeleine, I applaud you. Remembering many of your comments on NBA, you live an admirably conscientious life. I know you will have so much to share with us as you get on the other side of this. May you be supplied everything you need as you navigate this difficult time. Please let us know how you are as you are able.

    Loved reading everyone's comments. Karen, I could feel your contentment with your home as I read your comment. Saffron, I'm anxious to go read the article you referenced.

    1. Terri,

      Lots of good stuff here, as usual. Thanks for adding to the discussion.

    2. Anonymous1/19/2017

      Terri- Smart to think of the future You. I'm a big fan of the tiny house movement, but many of the homes I've seem have a loft, not something that I can manage now and most folks at some point will have some limitations. It's good to think of accessibility for the future.

      As Gregg said "Lots of great ideas here" Thanks as always for your thought-filled comments.

    3. Good to hear from you Miss Marla, I've been a bit concerned about you. I went inside a tiny house in December. It was 128 sq ft and had a loft. Had the place to myself so I was able to really get the "feel" of it. At 59, I had a bit of trouble managing that type of ladder. Its challenging to maneuver around in a tiny house loft. I need to be able to stand where I change clothes. I lived in a van with my daughter for about 3 months in 1992. Not being able to stand in it was a problem then. I was 35.

    4. Anonymous1/20/2017

      Today is my 59th birthday! Didn't realize we are the same age. Even in good health it's not easy to manage as we age with cramped spaces. Everyone seems to have some joint problems as some point.

      Thanks for your concern. I'm always reading here, but not always commenting.

      My doctor has encouraged me to look into assisted living, but I'm not sure what to do. It sounds good in theory, but would hate the loss of freedom to do as I please. I'm not one to join in with groups and don't feel I'd fit in with the others. Mom would have to go into nursing care and I want to care for her as long as we are able to manage. It's getting hard as I progress.

    5. Happy Birthday Miss Marla! Sorry to be late with birthday wishes. Very cool we are the same age, give or take 6 months! I felt you were always here in spirit even though you don't always chime in. Same with me, I'm always reading.

      This sounds like a very difficult decision you are facing. Someone told me one time, when you don't know what to do, do nothing. Wait until things become more clear. Yet we can't wait too long because time will make decisions for us. Or at least reduce our options. I like how you are prioritizing, loss of freedom is very big. I'd like to email you. If that would be ok with you, will you hit reply to Gregg's post in email and I'll ask if he will send you my email address. Gregg, will you send Miss Marla my email address if she requests? Or message me on FB at https://www.facebook.com/terri.harper.908. I sense your challenge. I care. You are loved here on NBA.

    6. Anonymous1/23/2017

      Terri- I messaged you my email on FB from my mom's account.

  6. Owning stuff is a commitment--to maintenance, insurance, a life style, providing space. So little thought goes into these commitments that add up over time. It is good to stop and think. It is good to be honest with yourself about what you actually use in a day.

  7. I had a dream last night that we had moved to a lovely big house..but it was quite a way away from where we currently live, which is where most of my friends and family are. Dream me had a bit of a strop and demanded that we move back to our old house (I.e. our actual house in the non-dream world!)
    I'd much rather live in a smaller house in the 'right' place than a massive house in the 'wrong' place.

    I think an important part of having a simple home is learning to wait before buying something- it is easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new, shiny thing. Give it a few weeks before buying, though, and the excitement will have gone and you'll realise you didn't need the thing in the first place!

  8. Anonymous1/18/2017

    Smaller houses connect families more and if you have small house you tend to be more time outside. So I would say smaller house and more land to play, to grow your food, to enjoy nature ...

    I would also take simple house over big mortgage and less freedom anytime ... Why would you have big house and no time to enjoy it?

    Mitja, Slovenia

  9. I have this recurring daydream that I buy a small-ish camper. I park it right in the driveway of the home I own now. Whenever I need to use something I go in the house and get it, use it and place it the camper. After a little while of doing this anything that is still in the house will be sold or donated, because I obviously did not use or need it.

    I really think one day this daydream will be my reality.

    1. I meant to add: I will also eventually sell the house and use the proceeds from the sale to start a life of wanderlust that I always think about.

  10. Kelly, I love your daydream!!


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