Q: When did you first start Choosing Voluntary Simplicity?

A: I sometimes think that Choosing Voluntary Simplicity started itself… beginning with the drastic lifestyle change my husband and I made nearly fourteen years ago. The reason for that change was a tragedy that abruptly made us face how short life can be and also how easy it is to remain “in a rut” just because the changes you want will be difficult. It took months of soul-searching before we could admit (even to ourselves) that we both felt trapped in a career that was not fulfilling to us. We yearned for less stress and especially more time together to enjoy the already simplistic life we had created at home. The hard part was walking away from the security of the thriving business we had built and into a very uncertain future… it was a very out-of-character decision for practical, security-minded people like us, but we have never regretted our choice.

Then early in 2007 our life changed again. I was confined to bed for nearly four months because of complications from a previous back injury. As you might imagine, those days and weeks, filled with pain and enforced immobility, dragged on and on and seemed like they would never end. I was determined to find something that would fill those long hours, and I decided to categorize the hundreds of hosta and garden photographs that were just sitting there on the hard drive. I had also been gathering all the information I could find about the various plants I was growing, and I started rewriting that information and matching it with the photographs. Someone suggested I use a blog format, so I did, although the “blog” at that time existed only on my own computer.

Eventually in late May and early June, when I was finally able to be up and about for short periods each day, I realized I now had even stronger convictions about what things in my life were important and what things in my life were not. I was amazed at how appreciative I felt about EVERYTHING, especially the “everydayness” of life that (like most people) I had previously taken somewhat for granted… the blue of the sky, the colors of the plants and the flowers, the sunshine… they all seemed so vivid… and my relationship with God, the people I loved, our simple lifestyle, and my home were especially precious to me. After months of not knowing if I would be able to walk again, even limited mobility made me feel so very grateful. And as I became able to add some simple, everyday chores back into my life, just being able to do something productive again was a pleasure too. The present version of Choosing Voluntary Simplicity grew out of this gratefulness and appreciation for the NOW of my life… and my wish to share the how’s and why’s of our simple lifestyle, as well as all the joys and blessings that this kind of lifestyle brings.

A more simple answer to the question of when this blog began is that I uploaded the first post online on June 4, 2007. :o)

Q: Who are you?

A: My name is Shirley, I am very happily married, and I am also a proud mother of sons. The close and loving relationship I have with my husband and my sons is a source of great joy to me. We live in northern New England in a very rural area, complete with rustic stone walls, narrow dirt roads that are sometimes impassable during “mud season,” and an abundance of gorgeous mountain scenery.

By choice, we have always lived close to nature and opted for the simple way of life, so the philosophy of voluntary simplicity and a conscious and deliberate spiritual lifestyle was a natural for us even years before I knew there was a term for it. This blog is a reflection of my principles and beliefs and the way we live, including my enjoyment of nature, my gardens and plants, and the wild creatures that are all around us.

Because of a severe allergy, I bake and cook from scratch almost everything we eat, so I also share information I have learned about avoiding soy. It’s a good thing I actually like cooking and baking.

I have always loved being around and caring for animals. In the past we have had chickens (including many of the fancy breeds), guineas, geese, ducks, goats, rabbits, pigeons, doves, and an enormous pig who was my husband’s special pet. I especially love birds and raising the helpless, featherless babies. Currently we have a goat, doves and pigeons, two talking cockatiels, a super-smart, super-talkative Amazon parrot, and two tiny lap dogs just bursting with love.

I love to read, especially very long family-type sagas that extend over generations, biographies, and history. I knit (mostly afghans), crochet (not so much), and sew (mostly slip covers), although I always would prefer weaving baskets to any of the three. I enjoy making soap and doing other old-time projects. I also like simple antiques… not the fancy stuff, but the dishes and furniture that ordinary people used every day. I have a collection of both new and old pig statues and an assortment of antique china heads… also a few cookie jars of cows with an attitude… although I’m not actively “into” collecting.

Q: What ideas would you like people to take away with them from this blog?

A: Mostly that being frugal and living simply are choices that will give you a better, happier, more productive life. I’m always surprised to realize how apprehensive some people are about embracing frugality or simplicity, and I hope to show by example that it is possible to live well… and normally… by living the version of frugality and simplicity that is the best fit for you.

It truly stuns and humbles me that so many people from so many countries are reading what I write. I am so grateful to the amazing number of people who have taken the time to write personal messages to me. Thank you… I try to answer each message privately. I appreciate them all so much… and I would love to hear from you.