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Simple Living Doesn’t Always Mean Easy Living, Especially Off Grid

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By Laura LaVoie

We talk to a lot of people about simple living and building our tiny house. We encourage those people who are interested but try to emphasize that no one should romanticize living off the grid in the woods.

We can imagine people had it easier back in the day when they didn’t have to worry about all the demands of modern life. Trading in your complicated city lifestyle for a simpler life in the country doesn’t necessarily mean that all your problems vanish.

In fact, what you get are a whole new set of challenges. The choice we all have to make is which challenges are worth it.

For me, leaving the city and working for myself offered me the freedom I was craving. So I traded some, but not all, of the modern conveniences to have that experience.

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Simple Living Doesn't Always Mean Easy Living, Especially Off Grid

Photo by Laura LaVoie

So what have I traded in?  Here are some things that are quite different about my new life.

  1. My stable job for self-employment. I had a job that was great. I liked the people I worked with and I enjoyed what I did…most of the time. When I was angry or stressed about my situation I had to recognize that the problem was not external. I simply felt unfulfilled. Moving into a tiny house that we built ourselves offered me the opportunity to quit my job. I have fewer expenses so I have more flexibility as I continue to get more work as a freelance writer.
  2. Television as entertainment. I love TV. I love it a lot. I love everything about a well-crafted television show from the writing to the acting to the sets and costume design. I no longer have a television. This has been an easier transition than I expected. I am not cut off from culture or the outside world in anyway and I still have access to the internet.  I find that I read a lot more, which is certainly never a bad habit. I was watching a lot more television than just my favorite shows. When I was bored I would watch TV to occupy my time, but that didn’t make me any less bored. Now If I am feeling restless I go for a walk or I read or I create something.
  3. Same chores, different milieu. My chores used to consist of loading and emptying the dish washer, cleaning the bathroom, vacuuming, laundry, and washing the cat. I still do all of those things, I just do them differently. We don’t have a dishwasher so I try to make sure our preparation uses fewer dishes and pans so I don’t have to wash as much. The house still needs to be cleaned and swept (we even have tiny vacuum) there is just less of it. Laundry happens at the laundry mat. But the laundry mat is a bar so it’s an overall win. Cat still gets dirty. “Before enlightenment – chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment – chop wood, carry water.” (To quote my favorite Zen proverb).

Living in the woods with no running water and only solar power isn’t for everyone. It isn’t even for everyone who also chooses to live in a tiny house. But every time I look out at the woods around me and walk the mountain paths I feel peace and everything is worth it for me.

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Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!
{ 19 comments… add one }
  • Roseann
    June 11, 2012, 11:14 am

    If I could live in the middle of nowhere away from people and off the grid, I would be eternally happy.

    As long as I had the internet.

    Also, how do you manage without running water? I can see using a nearby source for dishes, but is bathing done elsewhere or just altered?

    • June 14, 2012, 8:46 am

      I’ll post about my shower one day in more detail, but we built a shower out of a garden sprayer. We use water from our spring and heat it on the burner to take a hot and pressurized shower.

      • June 18, 2012, 11:22 am

        Thanks Roseann and Laura!

  • June 11, 2012, 11:26 am

    Very true. It’s certainly not for everyone. But you’re trading one thing for another. And I think it’s worth it! Freedom is a great feeling.

    • June 18, 2012, 11:23 am

      Thanks Melinda. I agree that it’s all a ‘trade’. So it’s all about asking ourselves, “What would I rather have?” And if you’re struggling to decide, surprisingly- a pros/cons list always seems to help. Something I forget about a lot, haha.

  • sesameB
    June 14, 2012, 2:41 pm

    Hi Fellow Tiny Folks & Foragers: thank you for sharing. This is a nice reinforcement as I am a long termer living tiny. I too, have access to the internet, and I love reading, too.

    Case in point: Harvard-bound homeless grad ‘overwhelmed’ by ovation (June 2012)
    Dawn Loggins – whose inspirational story of going from homeless to Harvard inspired millions – walked across the stage late Thursday at North Carolina’s Burns High School to loud cheers. Dawn said she read lot books, and often times read by candlelight at night. I was impressed with her story.

    Thank you Laura LaVoie for your post!

    • June 18, 2012, 11:24 am

      Love stories liket hat, thanks sesameB!

  • LaMar
    June 16, 2012, 2:37 pm

    I have been off grid for over 15 years and you don’t have to go without anything living off-grid. I have internet, cell phone, tv, stereo water pump, and lots of gadgets running off a 580 watt solar electric system.

    • June 18, 2012, 11:26 am

      Thanks LaMar, so true! Only trade in your case would be being kinda far away from other people/facilities/businesses. But that’s one of the reasons some of us go off grid, right? Still a trade off, though. Thanks again!!

  • SteveR
    June 16, 2012, 9:05 pm

    “laundry mat” – haha – I love the evolution of the English language!

    • June 18, 2012, 11:30 am

      Haha- I didn’t even catch that. I think I’ve been guilty of typing/saying it that way too. Thanks for pointing it out, Steve!

      • June 29, 2012, 8:52 am

        That is hilarious! I hadn’t even noticed! Funny part is I completely know how to spell Laundromat and yet, I didn’t. The brain is a funny thing.

  • Cal 20 Sailor
    June 19, 2012, 2:33 pm

    One great thing about retaining Internet access for readers is having access to the wealth of the world’s greatest literature through the Gutenburg Project. No junk there, just the time-tested best out-of-copywrite/public domain stuff ever written–and all for free. You can download hundreds or thousands onto your tablet and carry around a whole library of classic literature in a few ounces.

    For those that have to have their tv shows and can spare the watts, Internet access still allows you to watch via Hulu and Netflix. If you want access to current shows, a small, portable satellite antenna that costs only about $350 is available through Camping World. Satellite subscriptions cost in the ballpark of $50/month, and also often include great commercial-free music stations, and some also offer satellite Internet service, in case you’re realllly out there in the hinterlands…

    • June 19, 2012, 3:28 pm

      Thanks Cal! Netflix and Hulu are great for those who’ve chosen to ditch Cable/Satellite. Nice to be able to stream instead of buying DVDs or paying per download.

      Now you can even stream through Apple TV, Amazon.com, and a few others, too.. Talk to you later!

  • August 8, 2012, 8:51 pm

    I was wondering if you can tell me more about your vacuum cleaner. What brand is it? Where did you get it?

  • Tiana
    August 30, 2012, 5:56 am

    DeWalt makes one that runs on the same batteries as their drill, of which we always seem to have one.

  • September 8, 2012, 11:05 am

    I love the idea of being so self sufficient! You’re right when you say it’s not for everyone though. I’m very fortunate in the fact that I already have experience with many aspects of off-grid living.
    When we were kids we spent summers without running water & even without electricity for a while. It’s not as hard as you’d think to bathe & do dishes, etc…
    I’m thinking it’ll be a lot easier to build my tiny house without having to worry about plumbing for running water. Instead of using a laundromat I’m going to buy a Wonder Wash & maybe a spin dryer with a clothes line to dry & a folding indoor clothes dryer for rainy days.
    I also plan on using solar power of course! I even found a listing on eBay for plans to build a solar generator bike trailer! It’s great how many resources are available to us now for just about any lifestyle you can imagine!!

  • Sammie
    January 23, 2014, 2:13 pm

    Laundromat that’s a bar??? What a wonderful idea. Now I’m thinking of quitting my job as a computer geek and opening a LaundroBar ! I’ll offer
    my full time services to wash clothes for other people , get paid and drink beer at the same time. How hard could that be? Just need to make sure I’m sober enough to not shrink anyone’s underwear…now that would be a simple life. All kidding aside, Laura where is this Laundrobar? I’ve got to see this place next time I’m in N.C! How about a picture for your readers? Love your articles!

  • Liz
    September 13, 2015, 8:21 pm

    I was also excited about checking out the “laundry mat and bar” mentioned in the article so I followed the link and sadly learned that it closed after the building changed hands and they lost their lease. That is TOO sad!

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