Simple Living and Community

3312237583_1cabeb6e82_bI find that one important element that is missing in my journey of living simply is that of community. There was a time not too long ago where people thrived living in a community where everyone in the neighborhood knew everyone else. People worked together for the cause of keeping their community safe and healthy and involuntarily everyone had a part in contributing to their communities health and well being. Businesses were local and rather than fighting our way through a Supermarket on the weekend we simply walked to the grocer, the butcher or the baker for our daily needs. In season you could always find a fruit and vegetable market to purchase local farm goods. As people passed each other each day they actually spoke to each other and eventually developed relationships of friendship.

I am not just talking about the small towns, but also the big cities where neighborhoods were broken down into microcosms of living, breathing communities. Folks did not live in a throw away society like we do today. Clothing was expensive but with proper care could last forever. When a shirt was in need of repair we knew that we could depend on the local seamstress. There was always a shop where you could not only purchase a good pair of shoes but also get them repaired as the worn out.

This society that we have allowed to develop into a mass global market has created monsters of affordable crap, unhealthy foods and levels of stress to obtain these things. I shake overtime I enter a home depot. What we actually need to purchase at the supermarket could be fitted into a much smaller space where we are not fighting the isles to gather the few items we actually need.

I could go on and on about how big business has replaced local one’s, but there are other factors that have caused the breakdown of community. What about the factor of trust? It seems that we have reached a point where we actually have to think about being sued and finding ourselves in court because we may have offended someone by something which was overheard in a conversation with someone else. We watch the news each day and see all of the horrors of life playing out before us in a drama of fear. It seems much safer just staying in our homes than it would be to out into the world and take the chance of getting to know someone.

And finally there is the time factor. We spend way too much time preparing for work, driving to work and actually working each day to the point of complete exhaustion by the end of the day. Who wants to do anything at the end of the workday. The weekend is spent trying to catch up on all the things that couldn’t be done during the workweek.

Living a simple life can be done independently, but it is so much easier when like minded people support each other. Take the gardening factor which I wrote about sometime last year. Ten families all have two raised bed gardens which are 4 ft by 4 ft. Each family grows and perfects a certain vegetable which they share on a Saturday morning with the other 9 families. Any surplus could be sold to support next season or given to a local food bank. This small community thriving to support each other makes it so much easier than it would be for one family to try to grow all the different varieties of vegetables on their own.

A small group like this could also work in other ways. Mrs. Jones is getting up in years and has a difficult time taking care of her yard so the group gets tother for just 20 minutes on a Saturday morning to get the job done. Or how about food where each family prepared a certain dish to share with others in the group. A house needs to painted, a garage needs to be built. This is community and it needs a revival.

About SimpleLivingOver50

At 53 years old I am starting to realize how life changes both physically and emotionally. I strive for a life of simplicity. I am winning the battle with type II diabetes, created a plan to have all debt paid off in 4 years including the house, taking advantage of every opportunity to live life to it's fullest through adventures in nature, hiking, biking, loving and learning.
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61 Responses to Simple Living and Community

  1. Even more daunting in the wake of the disappearance of community is the rise of what is being referred to as an “epidemic” of loneliness. I did some research for a relatively recent Loneliness and Isolation Series on my blog. I found that it is fairly well-supported that strong community ties are *essential* to physical as well as mental health – and that living in what might as well be isolation exposes one to more than a few serious health risks.

    It is especially daunting as we grow older. We entrepreneurs have always been aware of it, but retirement can be a challenge where remaining in community is concerned, once they no longer run into colleagues in the workplace and many long-standing friends relocate. We mean to keep up with each other, but FaceBook status updates and soundbite texts aren’t really “keeping up” in ways that count for health. Sad that once we finally have more time for socializing, funds to travel to spend time with friends who have moved away become limited, and many of us find it difficult to make new ones.

    Even those of us who are out and about, eager to expand our network of friends, it becomes more difficult to bump into peers simply carrying out the activities of our days. When I was younger and living in Manhattan, I recall meeting new people all the time, expanding my circle of friends practically effortlessly. Now I ask the dozens of college students I run into in restaurants and bars here in Cincinnati, “Where do the grown-ups play?” It seems that a great many have stopped going out – and those who do seem to have become suspicious of efforts to connect.

    I adore my own company and have a large and expanding virtual community, but I sorely miss meeting regularly with friends face to face, getting to know each other in increasingly deeper ways. It’s become quite the challenge, which is why I began my Loneliness Series. I take my own advice, but still find making friends difficult – for the first time in my life.
    xx,
    mgh
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)
    – ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder –
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

    • I grew up in North Jersey and live in a tight community in the City of Elizabeth. A bit rough at times but most people respected and looked out for each other. I am retired from Law Enforcement and my wife and myself moved out to Oregon to experience a little of West Coast living. I am back to work full time as I found it difficult to fully retire in my fifties. Someday when I grow up… LOL I will probably be is search of a retirement type of development that offers the social things that I was used to when I was much younger. Although Oregon is a wonderful place to live the average age here is just 35 and most people are pretty friendly, but it is hard to make good connections locally.

      • It’s fortunate that you have your wife (and not just because, as a nurse-practitioner, she is good diabetes support). I imagine that the average age here must be around 35 as well – if not even younger, since several colleges are nearby and the most successful landlord seems to specialize in grad students.

        My little Shih Tzu TinkerToy is my primary companion these days – and he is quite the hit with the regulars at the “Cheers bar” on our primary walking route. I’m no longer much of a drinker but, since they welcome dogs on leashes, I generally pop in for a glass of wine most weeks so that my pup can catch up with his fans. The jukebox music is far too loud for ongoing conversation, however, and the place frequently features bands that are even louder on their patio.

        I am researching cities for a hoped-for relocation, within the next two years if all goes well. Average age over 42 and mild summers are two of my search parameters (in addition to reasonable cost of living, 4-seasons, English-speaking & adequate health care availability). I never understood the popularity of retirement communities when I was younger – but if I could locate one where a hot climate wasn’t the main attraction, I’d certainly consider one now.

        I’ll need to continue to work for many years yet, but if I could find a part-time job that wouldn’t interfere with my coaching/training [virtual] business, I’d jump at it for some face-to-face contact, even if the salary were meager. Although I’ve jumped around your blog, I haven’t found anything about your current employment. Did you return to law enforcement?

        I hear Oregon is wonderful, btw – even though the state bird is rumored to be the mosquito. True?
        xx,
        mgh

      • I am working in Code Enforcement with the city of Gresham. There has only been one place here in Oregon where I had problems with mosquito’s and that was Crater Lake. What a beautiful spot, but the snow mosquitos are insane. Other than that I can’t remember seeing one mosquito here in Oregon City or Portland for that matter. Our biggest problems here are Meth and homelessness and obviously crime due to the previous two. The nature here is incredible and other than the fact that it rains 8 months out of the year the summers are relatively cool. 79 degrees is the average high although we do get days in the 90’s but unlike the East Coast no humidity.

      • I’ve been what some call a “shelter-porn” junkie for most of my life, and Oregon is frequently featured. Apparently architects love it – and the landscape looks gorgeous in every single photograph. Except for the rain, it sounds like my kind of place. A colleague has been trying to entice me for years.
        xx,
        mgh

      • It really is a wonderful place to live with plenty to do both in nature and the City. We are about an hour and a half from the Pacific Ocean and surrounded by hiking trails that would last a lifetime. Portland can be a fun place too with it’s artsy feel and local food restaurants that are second to none. I fell in love with the craft beer here and love to go to lunch or dinner and have a few. The people here have become accustomed to the rain and even ride their bicycles in it. I am still working on dealing with it but getting better.

      • With a long-haired dog, rain is a deal breaker for me. Wet dog is not one of my favorite smells – and the 45 minutes it takes to blow-dry and brush out wet knots is not my favorite way to spend time. πŸ™‚
        xx, mgh

      • Yea, No. Not a good place for pets although everyone here seems to own a dog.

      • They have specialty shops with rain gear for man’s best friend along with custom dog bakeries and vets who sponsor pet insurance. Most people send their pets to behavior school while they are pups and dogs too are taught to be politically correct. Well maybe not, but it does seem that way. LOL

      • 10 pound Tink has a raincoat, but it’s essentially worthless since he is so low to the ground.

        We didn’t do behavior school – he’s a smart little guy who lives to please (especially since he gets treats for same), so he didn’t need it. Potty trained in ONE afternoon the day I brought him home.

        He’s not crazy about other dogs, in any case, even though he *loves* all humans. I’m trying to teach him not to bark at every dog that passes by his porch, but not with much success. My repeated insistance that nobody likes a yappy little dog seems to be lost on him. πŸ™‚

      • Our cat Bruce weighs 23 lbs. and is not overweight. He is a huge tuxedo cat and I never have problems with him barking at other cats. LOL

      • I find cats fascinating, but am highly allergic – practically asthmatic. Otherwise I’d have a cat for Tink to bark at. I’ll bet MY cat would bark back – or maybe they’d hang together on the porch, keeping the nabe safe from furry intruders together. πŸ™‚

  2. pruninglife says:

    I know what you mean. We just moved and I think this block has the potential for a stronger feel of community since several of the houses are retired people who seem to be friendly/open to helping each other out. The problem I’m having is taking the first step to try and build that relationship since I’m so used to such a lone wolf/private lifestyle. I guess I feel awkward and don’t know how to just pull the trigger and start!

    • I know exactly what you mean. My biggest problem is finding the time where I am not totally exhausted or have other commitments to family.

      • pruninglife says:

        Yes, there’s got to be a simple way to approach this so it’s not a full on production. I also worry that I’ll be bothering them. Hmmm, I do think it is worth putting some effort into this though. I’m thinking I’ll make an extra loaf of bread each morning and start working through the houses just stopping to drop off and say hello. Weird or good?

      • I think it’s good. I wonder how many folks are just sitting back hoping that someone would reach out to them.

      • pruninglife says:

        That’s what I’m thinking especially the older people on the block who live alone. I think I’ll start with one of them.

  3. You are totally right about this. Thanks for writing about it.

    • As a homesteader I am sure you are aware of the farming communities that exist among the Amish. Although I would find it difficult to live without some of the modern things in life like electricity I still admire their sense of community.

  4. Kim Smyth says:

    I know what you mean, neighbor’s used to hang out together, help each other out, have block parties etc. now no one seems to talk to each other and everyone retreats to their own private backyard or wherever. I’d love to get to know my neighbors since I’m in a new area but feel so awkward and like a creeper just walking up up to someone’s door or whatever.

    • It was nice when people sat on their front porches after work. You could take a walk and actually talk with people. I think I am going to start making a habit of sitting on the front porch a few night per week and say hello to everyone that walks by.

      • Kim Smyth says:

        Sounds like a splendid idea! Maybe when the weather cools down, I’ll do the same!

      • I hang on my sidewalk-facing, practically ground-level balcony often, but I’ve been discouraged by the number of passers by who don’t even return a smile or a wave — even the ones who aren’t riveted to their smart phones. As I said in one of my Monday-Grumpy-Moday posts about what I call “passport towns,” Cincinnati doesn’t seem to be a particularly friendly city unless you’re a long-time local.

        Fortunately, I have met a few busy neighbors who stop to chat for a moment on their way home from work or school.
        xx,
        mgh

      • Most people are friendly here but it is the type of friendly that is forced due to political correctness. There is a difference between acting kind and being kind.

      • Acting vs. being – yes! Authenticity is one of my core values – odd, since my first career was on the stage! I have always struggled being politically correct myself. I had to teach myself to edit before speaking!
        xx,
        mgh

      • I am the same way. Growing up in New Jersey I learned to say what is on my mind. People understood and most don’t get offended. The West Coast is a little different in where you really have to think before you say something. Sometimes I get looks like I have lobster crawling out of my ears.

      • LOL. Thanks. It’s bad enough growing up in a neighborhood that was run by the Jersey Mob, but Sharon and I both worked in the State Prison system so our language tends to go beyond typical to say the least.

      • REALLY! Aren’t you bored with your current job then? Code enforcement sounds primarily administrative. Admin isn’t the most fascinating way to spend a day, even if you are not used to the adrenaline rush of the prison system and neighborhood mobsters.

      • One of the things I was escaping by leaving New Jersey was stress. The job was stressful and the fast paced lifestyle of living on the East Coast takes a toll after years of it. This job keeps me in the business of Service to Others without the extreme conditions. I really believe there is no higher cause than Service to Others. Peace, love and harmony are difficult finding anywhere other than within one’s self, but living near people who are more minimalist and nature lover’s makes for a good environment to live. Funny thing is that I didn’t even realize that I was living amount the Jersey Mob growing up until a few years ago when I saw an episode on the History Channel about the Jersey Mob.

      • I lived in NYC for 20 years, but I found the lifestyle exciting rather than stressful. The cost of living was stressful.

        Used to vacation in NJ to escape the summer heat – in a tent. There was a campground on Lake Hopatcong that was inexpensive and gorgeous.

      • I have been to Lake Hopatcong a few times and found it beautiful and peaceful as well.

      • And shower-friendly, at least at the campground I frequented, where there was a blockhouse with facilities a short walk away. I was one of the few drop-ins – most were “seasonals,” meaning they never had to break camp.

      • All the comforts of home. πŸ™‚

      • As a man, you’ll never truly understand the importance of an indoor toilet (the genesis of the concept of penis envy, I have no doubt!)

      • You know they actually make devices now to allow a female to pee standing up.

      • Yeah, and wouldn’t they be an interesting item in a purse! Have you ever really looked at those things? A gas mask would take up less room.

      • I actually never saw one but I just read about it in a book I read today about living in a van.

      • Well, maybe in a van situation . . . or on a long back-roads car trip. Beats diapers or wet shoes anyway. πŸ™‚

      • Wet shoes? I don’t dare ask… I have been dealing with many people living in rv’s campers and vans lately and trying to understand. I am reading the same books the millennial are reading. With over 50,000.00 dollars in student loans many are finding that they cannot afford a place to live and are turning to alternative ways of living. It is very interesting.

      • Use your imagination – lol.

        Google “tiny house” – I’ve been fascinated by the creativity of that approach.

        If Hillary gets elected she has promised to do something to make higher education more affordable and interest on student loans less daunting. Wonder if she will – and if she will.
        xx, mgh

      • I doubt it. I have been following the “Tiny House” phenomenon for many years now and have to say I am intrigued but personally I need a little more space. It is in the empty space I feel most comfortable. Hillary is a very smart woman but she is a politician who caters to the things she believes will bring her votes. I feel the same way about Donald Trump. I suppose I have little faith in modern politics and the system that reaches out to serve the selfish. I would love to see someone elected who would serve both the people and business in equal balance.

      • In our dreams, right? Bitterly disappointed with politics – and most politicians.

        I am intrigued as well, but could only manage tiny house living if I had 3 – which sort of defeats the purpose. I can’t imagine paring down enough to live in a space with one tiny closet, even if I could make friends with doing all my living in one tiny room, even in a climate where outdoor living could add to the space. And I have no idea what I’d do with all my books!
        xx,
        mgh

      • I could possibly agree with cottage living with enough land to garden and park an RV. I once created a development where cars were parked on the outside and inside the community walking and biking were the only means of transportation. Every corner was room for a local business and in between was small houses where people could live in peace. My idea was only on paper as it would require investors who have the ability to think outside the box. It is still just on paper.

      • Your development sounds like heaven (and some of those island communities where arriving by boat is your only option). I like to imagine that planned communities like Reston, Va. and Celebration, Fla. started out with a concept like yours, but had to super-size to attract investors.

        I’d keep your vision, and add a low-cost community guest house with sleeping accommodations for [adult-only] visitors – and maybe a community veggie garden with a covered picnic area and a place to grill outdoors (with a reasonable maintenance/membership fee).

        If you build it, I will come.
        xx,
        mgh

      • Sounds incredible! πŸ™‚

      • It’s your development – I just added a couple of “businesses”

  5. Jess says:

    I absolutely agree with your sentiments. Sadly, as a Gen Y, I never experienced the sense of community myself. Very few kids played on the street as I was growing up, and we weren’t that friendly with our neighbours. Internet and mobile phones came into the mainstream in my high school days and it was all over. Then our neighbours slowly moved away and the houses all got bought out by foreign investors who would renovate the houses to fit 8 rooms into it as a sharehouse and these houses would be filled with international students.

    I long for the community exactly as you described, but because I didn’t experience it myself I often wonder if I am romanticising that lifestyle.
    Just the other day, I met someone who grew up in Nepal, and he reminisced about how at the markets the hillside families would come down with blocks of cream, and the southside families would bring salt to the markets, and 1 block of salt was the worth of 22 tubs of salt. In the sowing seasons, all of the community would come together and help one family to distribute all the seeds over the land, kids would play and the women would make feasts, and it was basically a huge festival. Then the next week they would do the same thing for another family. Everybody helped each other. He said that this doesn’t happen anymore since they got tractors and with more and more technology they no longer have a sense of community.

    I know I’m just a spring chicken, having only worked in full time employment for 2 years. But even just that little taste of it made me seriously challenge the 9-5 norm. Why do we think it is normal to run ourselves ragged spending literally half of our day (8 hours work + 2 hours return travel + getting ready + unwinding) doing work that we don’t always enjoy, and we sleep 1/3 of our lives, and we have to eat and shower… there’s really no hours left in the weekday. So we hang out for the weekend, but one day is doing laundry and buying groceries, and the other day is just recovering from the week and mentally preparing ourselves for the next week. Why is this the normal? Why didn’t our society embrace (or change its systems to accommodate for) 3 days or 4 days as the norm, or part time flexible hours? Where is the space for spiritual nourishment, family, community, enjoyment? The Nepalese fella who I was chatting with said funny but true quote: “Even when you win the rat race, you are still a rat”.

    Adding onto Madelyn’s first comment – I’m in my mid 20s and already I find it difficult to meet people and make friends! It’s easy when you’re studying or working because you make friends with the people there, but now that I’m not doing either it’s very lonely. And even so, I still wasn’t happy with the quality with friendships from study/work because those people were simply there out of convenience, and not necessarily like-minded people you sought out.

    • This is so true Jess, you are the one who can make the change we need to move on. We all need to simply get out of our homes and talk. Not test or email but actually talk to one another. The missing piece of the puzzle lies in finding a way to trust one another again and find common ground to build upon.

    • Oh Jess, it is so sad to hear that you are already joining the ranks of the essentially isolated. (“Loneliness is a longing for kind, not company”).

      Blame the money grubbers of the Industrial Revolution for the long workweeks – and I agree that it is INSANE. My generation is counting on yours to make some human-friendly changes while you are in charge. Too many of the idealistic Boomer generation failed to show up at the polls – so make sure you do – while America is still a democracy.
      xx,
      mgh

  6. anibag2013 says:

    I really love what you have written here. Since deciding to live simply which has involved finding products to sell at a local Saturday Market, the realization of how much we have lost connection with the concept of community is driven home. We cannot believe how little we need to live on a weekly basis and delight in exchanging for certain food items at the local market, or selling our goods at the local market and buying others with what we have earned. We may walk away with little money, but we walk away with an abundance of food! It may also be a little more expensive than at an supermarket, but we seem to need LESS and it is far more valued as the purchase is made alongside a conversation about weather, the weeks food growing or about what is happening in the community. Much more meaningful and healthier too. We know the lady who makes the pickles has grown her own vegetables for example. It is really lovely.

    • I do love the Saturday morning market here in Oregon City. When small communities support each other in these ways incredible things can grow out of it. My little square foot gardens always grow an abundance of fresh vegetables which I love to share with neighbors, family and friends. I hope your journey is successful and brings you great joy. πŸ™‚

  7. Gail says:

    After growing up in NYC and living in NJ, I couldn’t wait to retreat to the suburbs of New England. I still appreciate the privacy, beauty and safety of the area, but miss having bunny-slipper friends – those friends/neighbors that felt comfortable enough to pop in for an impromptu visit. When I first moved here, I held an open house for everyone on the block. It was a success and a few other neighbors followed suit. Then things happened – people divorced, moved or didn’t get along. Now life is a little too quiet. Recently, I invited my next door neighbor for a spur-of-the moment barbecue and it was great. It helps to know so many are struggling with this, judging from the comments in your post.

  8. My husband and I recently cleared our schedules and cut back on commitments to have time to hang out with friends more… Only to find out most people are pretty busy and don’t have time to hang out. But we’ll keep trying!

  9. denim3225 says:

    I just came across your wonderful blog. I know that this is a very late comment, but I read it with great interest and then homesick for the truly community life.
    I’m in a mid size community in Western Nebraska. You would think we would be more community minded, but, unfortunately, it’s like a big city here. No one talks, no one mingles. You actually talk and say Good Morning to someone, and they actually freeze or look at you as if your going to eat them. So very, very sad. I’m 60, and this community is not my parents community in the 40’s.
    I was my parents caregivers for a number of years, lost them in 2015. Not one of their so called friends ever stopped or offered help. I took care of them by myself, ending up very ill and depleted from Alzheimer’s care.
    I have tried to get people together to, quilt, craft, book club anything, not one thing work. We have some book clubs here, but like the town, it’s for certain people and social status you hold in the town. The only thing that talks here is meth and bar scenes.
    Thank you for your blog. It’s a breath of fresh air for this wore out, simple life lady.

  10. gjseth says:

    Great post. And I agree. Reading through the comments I saw you grew up in NJ. Same here. Clifton.

    You may enjoy a book called, The Town That Food Saved by Ben Hewitt.

    πŸ™‚

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