As promised, here is an interview with Katie of Making This Home. Her blog is one of the first blogs I started reading on this simple living venture over a year ago. She writes on a regular basis about living small, living green, and living in Germany. She also recently earned her pilot’s license (something that only 0.025% of all women ever achieve)! If you’ve been a Simple Savvy reader for a while, you know that I link to Katie on a regular basis; I can’t help it, she’s amazing. And so without further ado, here’s Katie’s take on simple living.
1. What is your definition of simple living?
Simple living doesn’t mean living with less or making yourself miserable. I think it’s all about questioning what we really need and feel passionate about in our lives versus our wants.
2. How do you stick to your definition of simple living when things get hairy? I’d love to hear about how you manage during big projects like your fantastic kitchen remodel, AND during yearly rituals like the holidays.
When things feel frustrating, it’s important to think about all of the things you do have. Of course, the problem with trying to simplify is that sometimes you’re overwhelmed with all of the things you have. To keep sane, I always make sure one area of our house is picked up and clean. When you walk into our living room, the first thing you see is the kitchen. So that’s the space I always pick up. When we feel overwhelmed or crowded (like we have guests or we don’t see the sun in Europe for WEEKS), it’s refreshing to have a space that’s good to go.
Of course, our kitchen wasn’t always like this. We built it entirely ourselves from sheets of wood… right in our 450 square foot house. Anyone who has remodeled a home while living in it knows how hard things get. It’s especially hard when your remodel takes up most of your teensy house. Sometimes the best thing to do when you’re working on a big or easily overwhelming project is to walk out. Go to an evening class or go on long walks every day. You have to do something else that you enjoy. Your whole world can’t be centered on one project.
Holidays don’t need to be overwhelming either. The biggest question to ask yourself is, “Am I doing this because I feel like I am supposed to or because I want to?” Are you going to the office gift exchange because you want to? Are you making an enormous turkey because you want to? I think if you’re confident in yourself and what you’re doing, people aren’t going to pressure you (cranky relative exempt if they compain about everything anyway!). Many are surprised to find Thanksgiving is really enjoyable at our house despite being completely vegetarian.
3. What led you and Martin toward simple living and eco-friendliness? Has it become an ingrained habit for you both?
My husband comes from Germany. Around here, people live in smaller spaces. They constantly walk or bike instead of drive. Gosh, they sort their trash into ten different piles! I think greener living becomes a passion for most people here in Germany.
I grew up with a family of five in a 1,300 square foot house. We shared one TV, one bathroom, and my sister and I shared a room. Living a little smaller definitely became a habit early on. I felt closer to my family. Sure we literally were closer, but we had to learn to work together and share. My dad also taught me a love of the outdoors. We were in a little town in the Rocky Mountains – the most beautiful area I’ve ever been.
Unfortunately, my hometown also contains one of the country’s largest Superfund Sites (i.e. toxic waste dumps from past human behaviors like mining). So you could look out one window of our house and see all these beautiful snow capped mountains. You could look out the other side and see a mountainside so ripped up and chemical filled that – get this – that I’ve read the soles of a man’s work boots would dissolve if he tried to walk through the stuff. You can probably guess which window I preferred to look out. And it’s the view I fight for today.
4. Good grief, where is all your Stuff?! And how do you keep everything so uncluttered?
That’s a funny question, Christine. The more I think of our belongings as “stuff,” the more I realize we don’t need them. I’d rather have fewer things with more meaning. My friend once said that when she dies, she doesn’t want to be remembered for the things she had. So we purge. But more importantly, we question just about everything that comes into our house. I try to pick things that really, really matter or that would really add to our life.
That said, I had a huge advantage. We moved to a foreign country. Things become a lot less valuable to you when you have to pay gobs of money to bring them with you. All of those things quickly become “stuff,” and I don’t want my 100 pounds of luggage to just be “stuff.”