Lessons from the Island: Simplicity

I could really get used this.

Living on this island, I mean.

After all, I am a born island child myself. I don’t think I could make it through a cold Maine winter, but I could definitely make it all summer. Don’t get me wrong. I’m no Survivor, roughin’ kind of girl. Island life isn’t about making it in the wild; it’s about living a simple life. For some, this life may seem too inconvenient or like too much work, but I find it all to be very freeing. The simple things in life make me slow down, reflect more, take more time:

  • Washing dishes by hand is actually relaxing, and somehow feels like a celebration and appreciation of the meal we just had.
  • Walking everywhere – and everyone else walking, too – promotes community as I stop to pet a dog and meet a visitor or chat with a neighbor along the way. At home, I’m too busy driving off to the next stop in my protected little bubble on wheels. And the fresh air and exercise makes you feel healthy and alive.
  • Having to get on a boat to go to a store reduces the temptation to buy extra stuff. For one, the opportunities are more limited. And secondly, you have to be willing to haul it across the island to your house!
  • And speaking of extra stuff, my mom’s cabin is small. There’s just no room for a bunch of extraneous, unnecessary things. Everything has a place, and keeping the place tidy is fairly easy (and pleasing). I commented to my mom last night that it almost seems simpler to start out that way. Back home, my house is brimming with what-if-I-need-this-one-days and but-I-want-its that sometimes it’s overwhelming to think about weeding it all out. And it’s harder to purge when you have the space to keep it if you want.
  • Seeing the vast and mighty ocean, the beautiful mountains, even being closer to nature (we’ve watched seagulls pulling crabs out of the ocean to eat), I appreciate God as Creator. I even feel more creative as a result.
  • Reducing my footprint on Earth is easier. The gulls eat all of the meat and fat products. I can compost all of the rest of our food (I have grand designs of planting a garden next time). If we use cloth towels and napkins and real dishes, recycle other paper, plastic and metal, then our garbage is minimal. I even found great satisfaction in hanging our clothes on a line to dry in the sun. I’ve been wanting a line at home for some time; I think I’m going to do it.
  • Cooking is a creative outlet for me. Not that it isn’t at home, but here I have limited items in the kitchen. I can’t run to the store to buy a forgotten item. Just last night, I had to figure out how to stretch some leftover ground beef between the three of us. I made homemade tortillas (much better than the last time I made them!), stretched the beef with some tomatoes and seasoning, and even pulled together a tasty cake with what started as fruit salad. I was in my creative element!
  • I haven’t even tired of caring for my daughter by 5pm because we are constantly exploring or creating and just enjoying one another. (Fresh air and sunlight helps that too, I think.) And I love the fact that when she is older I can turn her loose on the island and not fear for her safety. Plus, if she gets into trouble, I’ll hear about it from someone before she even gets home. Sounds like the good ole days, huh?

The real challenge now is how to carry some of this home. I feel like we already strive toward many of these things that occur “naturally” on the island. Now I feel ready to be more aggressive in cleaning out our stuff and living more simply. Taking a little more time on small things and enjoying both the labor and the outcome.

Maybe I’ll call it Island Living. (Island Living: Bringing the Island Home . . . hmm, book title? )

Wanna live like Islanders? What are your thoughts on how to do it?



  1. spaghettipie

    A – Thanks. Possibly coming to a writer’s group near you . . . I’ve got the chapters outlines already 🙂
    and you definitely need to come to Maine. Maybe you can find a concert up here and kill two birds with one stone??

    M – We’re on an island off the coast, right near Bar Harbor. We sail out of either Northeast Harbor or Southwest Harbor, and Bar Harbor is about 25 minutes away. You should come back; it’s so lovely!

  2. Amy

    I’m really looking forward to our fall trip to Maine after reading your post. You also made me appreciate my current situation more, although it feels miles away from island living.

    We live with our daughter in a one-bedroom, 600 sq ft apartment in the city. We rarely drive because it’s a hassle in the city; we walk or take the bus for errands, and spend a lot of time outside where my daughter has room to explore. There is absolutely no space for non-essentials in our little apartment. It’s interesting how city living imposes its own kind of simplicity as well. I spend too much time begrudging it, but it really is a blessing.

    Oh, and I’ve wanted a clothesline since we were in South Africa! Hope you enjoy it.

  3. Love this post! Simple living is something many people scoff at. As if the word “simple” is more aptly translated into “not goof enough” or simple, as in “mundane or boring.” I think we have missed the deep implications of “simple”…meaning, having the space to think; Having the time to contemplate the depth there is in this life. Simplicity is not just going without, but having less distraction.

    Simplicity is something I always want to pursue in life because it lends to closeness with God, as you have so eloquently written about. Closeness to Him through his creation and through relationship! This worlds cry of busyness is such a trap!

    (stepping off my box now!)

  4. Andrea

    Hi Friend! I’ve soooo been enjoying your posts while in Maine. Can’t say how much this post captures what I’ve been wanting for a long time…I know the desire for simplicity comes from God, but I’m not quite sure how to get there. Would love to read your book on it someday 🙂 And your pictures are wonderful!!! All of them made me smile.

  5. meh

    You touched on one of my favorite consequences of simplicity when you spoke of how you and your daughter have relished exploring and creating and being together. Each summer when we go “up north” to the cabin of some friends, we get that same experience of ultra-special family time. We are very much together! The simplicity of our surroundings and the lack of “entertainment options” reminds us of how much we really like our kids and how much they like us. I come home inspired to not lose any ground we have gained in our family relationships.
    P.S. Please write the book. Our non-stop culture needs to hear what God is showing you. “Simplicity brings joy and balance.” Richard J. Foster

  6. spaghettipie

    A -That’s an interesting comparison (city life/island life) I never thought of . . . I’m sure you will have a lovely time when you are up.

    SVE – Thanks! Now I’m home and fighting to hold onto it.

    OMK – How did you bring it home? I enjoyed reading through your blog and am amazed at all of the Star Wars quotes!

    TJ – Me, too!

    K – I totally agree about having space. I was just considering being back and realized I fee like I’ve been stuffed back into a box! I need my space back!!

    A – I think simplicity is so elusive where we live. It’s truly a counter-cultural concept, and is well-used by our Enemy to distract us from God and his plan. I’m realizing we have to fight for it.

    BR – I’m so glad you stopped by! Hope you are doing well. You’d probably have to use cloth diapers on the island . . .

    MEH – Isn’t that funny? We think all of our entertainment options give us more opportunity to “be together” but really the lack thereof is what fosters more quality time.

  7. Krista

    I’d buy it.
    Thanks for sharing all this. I long for life like this too. Thankful it comes in pockets of time in my life.

  8. Pingback: Urban simplicity « a m a n d a r o w e

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: