This past month we took our summer vacation. We spent a week on a lake in northern Wisconsin. We rented a teeny 1930s-era cabin at an old-fashioned “resort.”  The cabin had electricity, a kitchen sink, and a toilet. (The shower house was a short walk away.)

Throughout the week, I kept noticing ways in which life in our Northwoods cabin differed from our everyday life. Here are a few of things that I noticed the most:

Stuff. I had so few belongings that I used many things for more than one purpose. A mug doubled as a measuring cup. A saucer became the cover on a bowl of leftovers. A rolled up blanket functioned as an extra pillow. A few times I cooked in stages because we had one skillet. We just “made do” with what we had or did without but we got along fine.

Entertainment. We had electricity but no internet or tv. So instead we found entertainment in our surroundings and surprisingly, found no end of ways to stay busy. We watched boaters and water skiers go by and got to recognize some of them. We noticed clouds and fronts move in and out throughout the day and watched the sunset every night. (It’s amazing how different every sunset is.) We watched every day for the duck with 8 ducklings who bobbed around in the water and the loon that came around our dock in the early evening. And time flies when you’re sitting in front of a bonfire and just talking.

Cooking. I made our meals without any recipes and I never looked for online inspiration to help me make dinner. We had a craving for potato salad one day and I made it from memory, with a spoonful of this and that. By golly, it tasted the same as when I follow a recipe and drag out multiple bowls and measuring spoons. I need to trust myself more in the kitchen!

Cleaning! Oh my. After breakfast we’d do the dishes, then sweep out the whole cabin, make the bed, and put away a few misplaced belongings. That sucked a whopping 10 minutes out of the day. Then I had to decide if I would read my book sitting out on the dock or in the hammock.

I realize that I was living a fantasy kind of life. And honestly, I wouldn’t want to live that way permanently. I want more than four outfits, two books, and a week’s worth of food. And let’s not forget my garden, canning jars, and my crafts. I would miss them terribly.

But I did learn a few things that will do me well to adopt back in my “real life.”

-We estimated and brought enough food to last the week. Since we didn’t want to waste any, I found ways to incorporate leftover ingredients into a meal the next day. Because our refrigerator wasn’t jam-packed, ingredients didn’t hide behind the condiments and leftovers and become forgotten and spoiled. I think I was more organized because I didn’t have endless options and I used what I had instead of cooking according to my ever-changing whims.

-We found that overall, we didn’t miss technology, even though at home, a tv, radio, or something is nearly always on.  We spent more time outside because the outdoors was so much more interesting than anything in our tiny cabin, with nothing enticing us to stay indoors.  Because we weren’t distracted by electronic entertainment, we went to bed when it got dark and woke up with the sun. In spite of being on vacation with few responsibilities, I still think we were more well-rested than at home.

It was great to get away and “reset” and see life in a different angle. I don’t plan on giving it all up for a life in the Northwoods any time soon, but I’d like to incorporate a few things into my life for the other 358 days of the year.

4 thoughts on “Trying out a Simpler Life

  1. This is a lot like when my family lived in the mountains. We had electricity, but no running water. We had a television, but when digital tv took over I was not going to pay for a satellite. So the tv simply became a way to watch DVDs when we wanted. With no running water we used barrels to collect rain water for bathing and washing dishes, along with watering our dogs. We would get drinking water from the faucet outside a church at the base of the mountain, filling five gallons jugs ( this was a ministry the church did for mountain folks for decades). We didn’t waste water, and if a glass wasn’t finished the water went into a dog’s bowl or a plant. We lived in a 35 foot travel trailer, so we didn’t have a lot of room for stuff, so we made many things do double or even triple duty. Clothing was folded very small and kept in bins on a small shelf. We spent a lot of time outside, walking or picking wild foods. I did laundry, first with two five gallon buckets and a plunger, then I moved up to an old wringer washer someone gave me–I was UP TOWN then! I hung them out on a line made from fence wire I had salvaged. Now that we are back in ‘civilization’, I still use a lot of the things I learned.

    1. Wow. I’ve tent camped for weeks at a time so I can imagine that it must have been a lot of work, but that sounds like a lifestyle that I would LOVE. Maybe someday… (I dream big. lol)

  2. Your pictures are phenomenal! Love the lighting that shines through. I love lakes and everything you described sounds dreamy. I’m also learning some lessons from living simply but well, while creating a pared-down staged home to sell. For me, the trick is figuring out how to have my stuff but not see it as much. Our home is boring but spacious and uncluttered – the complete opposite of it’s normal life.

    1. Well, considering the quantity of pictures we took, we were bound to have a few winners. 🙂

      It’s tricky, isn’t it? Trying to balance clean and uncluttered with enjoying life.

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