What an ability the weather has to swing our moods! What I have noticed especially in the last few weeks is its ability to draw me into the present moment and capture my attention so fully. And that has been wonderful.
Today I would like to introduce you to Catherine McAleer. I would describe Catherine as a kindred spirit. We have so many common interests and ideas. Catherine and I have enjoyed many cups of tea as we chatted about books, reducing waste, sewing, podcasts, sustainability and books - yes we talk about books a lot! I am inspired by Catherine's work in the Philippines and I love reading her blog posts. She is a great story teller and paints pictures with her words.
Thanks Catherine for being my guest today!
Living simply looks different for different people. What does living simply look like for you?
When I hear ‘living simply’ I think of Ghandi’s quote “Live simply so that others may simply live”. We live in a world of abundance when eighty percent of the world’s wealth lies with just twenty percent of the population. I know I have too much ‘stuff’ and I’m doing my best to change that. What I am trying to do is live in a way where I think before I buy. If I can buy it second hand I do. If I can make it I try to, I try to buy locally and do my best to think of my carbon footprint before I buy. It’s all of these things and it’s about making sure I’m conscious that the decisions I make affect others near and far.
Do you have a specific interest that you like to focus on in the area of simple living?
I’m a bit of an all-or-nothing kind of person, whilst I’m a work in progress when it comes to living simply, I believe it permeates all aspects of my life; from cooking and cleaning to sewing, to what I do in my spare time and how I work. Essentially my focus of simple living comes from a social justice perspective. I try to think of how my actions will affect others, both near and far and the implications that what I do affects the planet.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey toward living a simple life. Was there a catalyst that led you to follow this path?
I grew up in the border town of Goondiwindi before moving to Toowoomba. In Gundy we lived on a small hobby farm where playing either meant outside creating sometime of adventure or inside with my head in a book.
I’ve always been interested in making things, whether it is cooking something, sewing clothes, patchwork and quilting or sending handmade greeting cards. To me this was living simply, not simply heading into a shop to buy something I needed or a gift I wanted to give. Over time, even this has changed. Whilst I still love doing all of these things, I think more about my supplies, where they come from, if I have something else that could do the job and the sustainability of the product or products I’m using to create.
Over the years there have been many catalysts to challenge me and change my thinking. Growing up in a household where we made things, made do with what we had and/or saved until we could afford what it was we felt we needed I believe was the initial one.
Watching “The Story of Stuff”, a short documentary on the life cycle of ‘stuff’ and its effect on the planet and each other, then sharing this learning with my Year 7 students in 2011 was also a pivotal moment.
Travelling to and spending time in Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Kiribati, South Africa and Cambodia where I was clearly reminded of my extreme wealth (most of us in Australia come in that 20% holding 80% of the wealth) and how my actions affected others even though they or I lived half a world away. I was blessed with many things one being an education and I saw first-hand how many don’t have this basic right. I want to share what I had been gifted with.
Most recently I did two courses, one on International Aid and Development with World Relief Australia (WRA) and the other to become a Global Animator through the lens of Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ encyclical letter. These both challenged my thinking, changed my approach to the way I do things and have set me on a number of paths I never dreamed of.
It’s kind of ironic that living simply sometimes is very challenging and not always simple!
What do you find challenging about trying to live simply?
In a world of instant gratification sometimes it’s hard not to get caught up in that. I am often impatient when I would like something or it done in a certain way. It often takes more time to do things sustainably and simply.
Attitudes of those around you can also be challenging. People will sometimes get defensive about their choices if your way of life challenges theirs and you stand up for what you believe. I’d be lying if I said that sometimes it’s hard not to think about these things. I keep going back to the words of William Wilberforce “You many chose to look the other way, but you can never again say that you did not know.” If I know, then I try not to look the other way. It is about being steadfast in my beliefs which isn’t always easy.
What are some of the benefits of this way of life for you?
There are many benefits and they include; the joy of doing something in the way I perceive as right, knowing that I’ve done the best I can thinking about others as I do, bringing joy to others, helping people and spreading my love of handmade.
What simple pleasures bring you joy and help you to slow down?
Things that bring me joy and help me to slow down:
Are there any podcasts, books, documentaries or websites that you have found helpful?
Podcasts: The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman – how decision making can be mindful and how we can do our next right thing in love.
Books: Slow Clothing; Finding Meaning in What We Wear by Jane Milburn
The Cosy Minimalist by Myquillyn Smith
Documentaries: The Story of Stuff
The Story of Stuff (there are lots of short documentaries on here)
Emily P Freeman Creating space for your soul to breathe so you can discern your next right thing.
The Nester: Nesting Place
What is something new that you have done or learnt about in the last year?
I’ve taken more of an interest in gardening. I have enjoyed learning about some permaculture techniques and growing some of my own vegetables.
What would you like to learn about or do in the future?
There’s so much to learn about. I’d like to learn more about gardening, making homemade products, other people’s journeys to living more simply and sustainably, the impact that simple living has on children and how this might be able to be brought into the classroom more and nature art.
If money or time were no option what would you like to do?
Continue to work with communities where education doesn’t seem to have the same importance that it does here. Time is the most challenging aspect of this.
If people would like to learn more about you and what you do, how can people follow you online or get in contact with you?
I write two blogs: So Now From Here and Musings by Macca
I teach yoga: www.ps139yoga.com
I lead a project in the Philippines where we are creating a community education centre for a marginalised community. Details are found at So Now From Here and at WRA: 1816 Share, Teach & Reach - World Relief Australia
Or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hello! My name is Margy. I enjoy living simply, I am trying to slow down and I am learning how to be still. I would love you to join me on this exciting adventure.