Sunday, February 13, 2011

Country Living 101 - Getting Started

When people think of country living visions of livestock and corn fields pop into their minds. That's really not what it's all about, actually that would be farming! LOL. Although, if that's what you want to do, we can help you there too!  Under the Willow Tree presents country living as living simply but comfortably, as self sufficient as possible, while slowing down enough to enjoy the world and life around you. Decor, gardening, crafts, cooking, etc. all of those things are part of your country living style and the sky is the limit with what you can do!

Country living is an attitude not just a new home decor. It's about taking the time to get to know your neighbors and in many cases, your family and learning how to live with less without being miserable in the process. It's about cutting the umbilical cord to the fast paced, high-tech, out-of-control world we live in and slowing down enough to enjoy the life we've got and the people in it.  Now that doesn't mean that you can't still own a computer or even an iPhone and iPod, but what it means is that these things are no longer the focus of your life and you don't NEED them to exist happily.

With so many people out of work these days and having to face life with less the fist thing that happens is depression sets in as the things they once considered important, like electronic gadgets, computers, Star Bucks, etc. slowly slip from their lives and their reason for living with them. How sad. The good thing is, these situations are forcing people to look around them and in doing so, they're discovering the joys of life without all that noise.

Some folks don't need to lose their jobs to realize they are ready to slow down and enjoy life. They're ready to create a new atmosphere that is less dependent on the "things" we've all become addicted too.

Seven years ago when my husband and I moved our family from the fast-paced, over-crowded, not who you are but what you've got, lifestyle of Palm Beach County, Florida, to a mountain top in the foothills of the Tennessee Smokey Mountains, everyone thought we were nuts. At first, we thought we had temporarily lost sanity too. I won't lie to you, it was a little bit of culture shock because EVERYTHING slowed down DRASTICALLY! 

Once I got over the fact that everything in town closed at 9:00PM and they rolled the sidewalks up until the next morning, and once I got used to all the businesses closing early on Wednesdays, I adapted and began creating a special place for my family up on top of English Mountain. When I couldn't find good Italian bread close by, I learned to make it. There are no corner stores or corner deli's in the mountains, I couldn't just run down the street anymore and buy a few pounds of Mr. Cino's delicious homemade Italian sausage, so... I mastered my own recipe. Little by little my life adapted to the simplicity of country living. I found that our lives became fuller and we were spending more time together. We're one of the last families who still sit down to dinner each night and talk. These things have improved the quality of our lives and have kept our foucs on the most important  

We had moved from a beautiful, 2-story, Mediterranean style, pool home on a zero lot-line lot, to a 40 year old farm house nestled on 30-acres of rolling, partially wooded land, with views that STILL take my breath away! This was our dream and all of a sudden we were living it!

You need not move to the actual "country" to live a country lifestyle. Although, if you dream of owning a home and some property that's really "away from it all" then hang on to that dream, you'd be surprised at how many people are doing it these days. One of the most common things I hear from people who want to sell off their city life and move to the peace and quiet of the country is that they can't buy another home because of the real-state market, or because of bad credit due to lost jobs, etc. One of the great things about relocating to small country towns is that many of the people selling property are willing to owner finance. Under the Willow Tree is in the process of creating a database of "owner Finance" country property opportunities. Stay tuned for the release.

How Can I Get Started?

Here is one way to get started building your new country life. Let's say you are a city dweller but you want to slow down and start living a simple country life. The first thing you need to do is create a country living atmosphere. The space you live in will play a great part in changing your attitude. One way to develop a country living attitude is to take stock of the home you live in and ask yourself these questions:

How far do you really want to go with this new vision? 

Are you just looking to re-decorate your home to look more "country"? 

Or are you wanting to make drastic life changes that will allow you to possibly survive on one income while you or your spouse stays at home and raise your children or even work from home? 

Are you ready to learn some of the basics of "country living" like sewing, canning and preserving food, growing your own veggies, or maybe even raising backyard chickens, etc.? 

Are you longing to grow your own veggies, preserve the foods you grow and become more self-sufficient? 

Buy yourself a spiral notebook or a journal and write down your country living dream, EXACTLY as you see it. Prioritize the things you want to accomplish right away and list the things that are less important in order. This is going to become your Country Living Bucket List and Journal. Remember, you don't need to do everything at once. Set realistic goals according to your available time, budget, etc. The good thing is, as you move into this new lifestyle, you'll find your spending less and creating more.

The first thing that pops into most minds is "I don't have the money to make any changes!"

Well we might have a plan for that. Once you've decided to simplify you'd be surprised at the things you can do to accomplish your goals!

Start by going through your entire house, from attic to basement and if you have storage anywhere else, go through that too. Go through your things and begin a "Yard Sale" collection.  One of our readers made over $1200 selling stuff she had been saving for years that she didn't really need, but hung on to "just because".

This serves two purposes.

First, it is clearing the clutter and forcing you to get rid of stuff you've been saving that really has no purpose other than to take up space.

And second, it's giving you a shot of cash that you can use to make some cosmetic changes to your home OR money to buy "equipment" like a canner, sewing machine, gardening tools, etc. All things you'll need for country living!

If you live in the north where it's cold, that's OK, you'll have a good 4-6 weeks to organize your Yard Sale and believe me, the better organized you are, the more you'll make! If you're selling clothes, take the time to make sure they are clean, separated into groups for kids clothing, adults, etc. price everything so there is no questions and people can easily see your asking price. Many people will put an item down and walk away because they are embarrassed to ask how much.

Recruit the Family. Get the kids involved, have them go through their old toys and books, tell them they get a cut for anything they sell and even get your spouse involved. Most husbands have all kinds of "stuff" in the garage they can get rid of.  Keep everyone motivated by sharing your excitement over what you're going to do with the cash you earn. Make it a family project.

Of course scheduling your sale will be dependent on the weather. Plan to announce your sale a week in advance. Most newspapers allow free Yard Sale ads, Facebook Marketplace allow free local advertising, make a bunch of signs and the night before your sale, recruit helpers to hang them.

Most IMPORTANTLY!  Yard Sales attract EARLY BIRDS so MAKE SURE you are SETUP EARLY!! If possible and safe, set your sale up the night before maybe in the garage or carport and then just move the tables out in the morning.

Be weary of early bird shoppers who want everything for nothing. DON'T Give your best stuff away for pennies, simply tell the early bird that you will reduce the prices of stuff an hour before your sale ends and if they want to come back they can. These shoppers go to Yard Sales early and unsuspecting or inexperienced sellers are usually excited to have buyers or anxious to make money and will give their best stuff away for peanuts. DON'T FALL PREY TO EARLY BIRDS!! HOLD OUT and get as close to your asking price as possible.

I suggest that if you have enough stuff, do a two day sale and keep your tables/displays full. Make sure hanging clothes are hung up and displayed so people can see them, fold clothes that have been tossed about by shoppers. Keep your sale neat at all times.

DO NOT try to do the sale alone! Have some help, whether it be teenagers or a spouse, parent or neighbor. And DO NOT keep your money on you. Have enough to make change and keep putting the rest in a safe place in the house.

For more Yard Sale resources visit the Under the Willow Tree community by clicking here.

Now that your sale is over you can count your money!  Sit down with the family and if you haven't decided how your going to use the money to implement your new lifestyle have a family meeting. Order a pizza and make this a family affair. Trust me, it will make some of the best memories you've ever had!

The secret to great country living is to become more self-sufficient. Creating a country atmosphere in a city setting IS possible. We'll cover more of that in our next post.

In the meantime, check out our Urban Homesteading blog "City Cents" with Julie Charet. Julie is an urban homesteading expert and she's sharing her secrets to successful urban homesteading with our readers!

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