Do you ever stop and think “I can’t wait to sell all of my crap for cash and move somewhere my family and I can live more simply and free,”? Not so many people do. The Idea of Living Simply is fascinating to me. The idea that you really do not need all that you actually have is a luxury that our ancestors worked hard to make a reality.
Humans have always worked and invented things to make living “easy”. Making Life more than surviving. The average American has a lot of stuff, lives in a home/apartment/etc., has the convenience of modern day electricity and water, even access to all seasons of produce year around and only a few minutes away. How can you not be living the life of a King or Queen? Instead, we want more. The newest gadget, the coolest toy, the best vacation, and more is just beyond our reach. So….we charge it. Keeping up with Jones’ just got really expensive, stressful, and down right ugly. You are unhappy, your spouse is unhappy, your kids feel the stress, and even the dogs are stressed out!
You have your job, maybe you hate it. Maybe you love it. Is your spouse feeling the same? Maybe you love your job, but aren’t getting paid enough. You shut up (or complain non stop to anyone who will listen), put your head down, and do your job. Make someone else money, for someone else’s dream, for another one to be happy. When did life get so lame? When did you stop spending as much time with your family? When did our ancestors say, please have an easy life as a slave to someone? Said No One………Ever.
What if, one day, all of your crap was gone? All of it. Even that old funky sweater you have been toting around since you were 7 because your Grandma made it for you. Well, let me tell you about a small moment in my life that would help to mold me into a different type of thinker.
On the night of November 26, 2011, two days after Thanksgiving; one day after we went Christmas shopping and stored everything upstairs in the attic; and the same day my parents left to go home from visiting; My family and I were technically homeless. All we had was a truck, a car, a plastic tote of 12 baby chickens, our two 8 year old large dogs, my purse, and most importantly, each other. Our home tragically burned down, with 99% of our Crap inside.
We were all awake, having a fire in the fireplace of our 9 month old home, and reading a story to the girls on the couch. All of a sudden, I saw embers flying by our back Living Room windows (We did not have blinds up there yet. Living in the country has its luxuries :)). I walked outside and saw the chimney was on fire. We ran around the house. Crab was putting out the fire in the fireplace, and I was trying to get our safe open while on the phone with 911. Unfortunately, I was too frantic and could not enter the code correct. All I managed to grab was our two bug out bags, baby chickens, my dogs, and my purse. It took the fire department over 20 minutes to get there, and found the fire hydrant was not operating correctly. All we could do was watch it burn. My mother had just brought me my wedding dress (after sit sat her house for 8 years) and a number of items from my deceased grandmother. You know, that stuff we have to have because it Means a great deal to us.
At about midnight, after watching a majority of our house being overtaken by flames, in our pajamas, muddy feet and flip flops (because that is what Crab could grab when he ran back into the house), and coats, we ended up at Walmart. What do you buy when you literally have nothing? Whatever you can afford and whatever you NEED. Thankfully, we believe in having some sort of a savings. We started in the bathroom. We had to wash our muddy feet in the sinks. Another woman is in there. I didn’t even cry when I told her “I’m sorry, I don’t normally use Walmart to wash my feet, my house just burned down.” I don’t know why I felt the need to tell this total stranger that. TMI? I was embarrassed for the way we must’ve appeared. I felt like a bad mom with my dirty kids in PJs in the winter. With my two young daughters (7 & 4 at the time) next to me. But then I was suddenly sad for my girls. But I stayed strong. No tears (I had to focus on my military wife strength:)). It was time to “Charlie Mike” (continue mission) right now, as Sgt. Crab would say. Of course the woman expressed her sympathy and we parted ways. My oldest daughter looked at me as we walked out the bathroom and said, “Mommy, but we are in our pajamas.” Clearly she hadn’t seen “The People of Walmart” emails :). I told her something motherly and supportive, as we continued to meet up with her dad.
We started in the hygiene aisle (toothbrushes, paste, body wash, hair stuff, Deodorant), then to clothes (Ryon only bought a few things, he made sure me and the girls had plenty, Bc he is a great dad and husband:)), then to the dog aisle (bowls, food, leashes, and collars) then I believe we ended up in the toy section. I felt if we had a few extra dollars, the girls could get a set of barbies or something. Frankly, we were lost and running through our minds “What do you need when you have nothing?” And trying to not think about what we just lost so we can stay focused. We finally made it to checkout and our immediate needs were piled up on the register. Back at the cars with our chickens dogs, we packed up and headed to a hotel my mother called around and found for us that accepted dogs (they didn’t know about our chicks in our 30 gallon tote lol). There, we tried our best to explain to the kids what happened, and what will happen. We stayed positive, strong. We had the saying, “It is just stuff. It is all replaceable. At least we have each other.” “It could always be worse.” Because really, that was the truth. That was the only truth we knew right then. Then we finally passed out asleep.
Thankfully, my mother drove the 5 hours again and picked up the girls (So thankful for my Mom:)) so we could meet with the insurance inspector, find a place, furniture, and get back to a some what normal life. After the girls left, it felt like my heart was ripped in half. I didn’t want them to see the house. Crab and I needed to rummage to see what we could find worth keeping (my wedding rings and college ring was on my mind, I never took them off until that day!! I can’t believe that! Crab wanted to find something sentimental to him from the Army, and maybe that AR he just built, and our safe!). We needed to get to “normal” so the girls could process this too. My awesome mother brought some stuffed toys she knew the girls just lost, and a couple of toys. I sent them off with their stuff in tied Walmart bags..and she took the baby chicks too. Lol. She had nowhere for them though, but she took them for us. I love her:)
It was classified a Total Loss, “An Act of God” in the end after all of the inspections. I found one of my rings after digging for two days, in a tin can(?) where my sink counter used to be. All of my rings were together so it is weird how I found it like that. It was the one Crab gave me on our first anniversary in 2004. Crab found the safe, but his guns were all melted:/. We even found our external hard drive with all of our 10 years worth of pics (daughters births, moves, Alaska, Iraq, vacations, all of it!) on the kitchen counter where I left it Bc it was broken. And I never got around to taking it to Geek Squad. Yay procrastination! That was the only room standing..sort of. No roof, most cabinets fell down, but not the ones above the hard drive:) the wind blew the fire away from that room, so I was thankful. And the only picture left hanging was our wedding picture on what was left of a wall. We reveled in the small victories for the next couple of days as we dug through the ashes. I could not wait to take a shower each day as the smell of burnt crap was stuck in my nose and clothes.
We found a nice, 1600 sqft apt in a nice area, on the San Gabriel River (thanks USAA insurance for taking care of your service members). We rented furniture from Aaron’s for about $200 or so a month (looking back, I wonder if I should’ve just bought cheap stuff from Walmart), got the girls bedding, a Christmas tree, and dishes, etc. After 3 days of being apart, we were finally reunited. The girls probably felt like it was Christmas as my family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors around our small town gathered new and second hand toys/clothes for them. The response to our tragedy was overwhelming, and I had to ask people to not send us anything. I felt bad, but there will surely be some family out there with no insurance and no savings that need all that stuff way more than us.
8 months later on the weekend of July 4th, 2012 (through blood, sweat, yelling, and tears), we finally moved back into our house. We were given a fresh start. We were able to open up our floor plan, add solar panels, a fence around the property….we designed the house of our dreams. The wait was over, the stress was over, we could finally get back to “normal”. What is normal though? Why is it, even though I was able to replace our necessities, and start over in this beautiful home, did I feel lost still? The whole time we were living in our apartment I couldn’t wait to get in our home and fill it with crap. Crap that was mine. Understandable right? Surely after that I will feel better. But I didn’t.
We had only lived in our “before the fire” home for 9 months before it burned down. That was when we first started homesteading. It felt like we were on pause with our plans for a long time while we waited to move back home. We planted 50 fruit and nut trees and shrubs, Crab would stop by every other day to water them and take care of the animals. I hated not being there with our animals.
So that was a lesson I learned in being humble, thankful, patient, and less materialistic. Crap does not make you happy. Maybe I did not fully embrace that last sentence though. Because all I wanted was to fill my new home with more crap. But nicer crap that would last a long time. I knew being with my family is the only thing that made me happy. Despite some of our dysfunction…you know being “normal”.
A few months later, November 2012, I was fired from my job. What a blow….again. Thankfully we had plenty of food, and hygiene products stored for hard times, so it was an adjustment but definitely do-able. For a year I applied to over 500 jobs and had only 3 interviews. I was definitely overqualified for all three, would be willing to get underpaid, and happy that my commute would have been way closer than my 56 mile journey to work I had to make at my previous job. I wanted to be home more. To see my kids. To give my car a break. To pay less in gas…to do something I loved. To be closer to home. To be paid a decent wage so I could pay my student loans. To be paid for the education I worked so hard far. To be HAPPY with what I did as a job.
That is not so much to ask… right?