City living can seem complicated. When I was a child growing up in the rural eastern part of Kentucky, taking a trip to Lexington was a big deal. It seemed like a busy bustling city and it was intriguing. Now that I’ve lived here for nearly 10 years (more if you count my university years), and traveled to some of the biggest cities in the world, it doesn’t seem so busy and bustling. Sure traffic is awful at rush hour on New Circle Rd or even worse, Man o’War –hopefully you’ve learned alternate routes that time of day–but over all, our little city in my opinion is one of the best. A city yes, but there are plenty of ways to build a simple life here and there’s lots of people doing just that. What does living simply mean when you live in an urban area?
Simple living has been defined a variety of ways. I like the way Tsh Oxenreider of The Art of Simple defines it, “Living holistically with your life’s purpose.” Joshua Becker describes minimalism as “the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from them.”
Neither of those or any other definitions I’ve read say anything about where you live. Whether you live in a rural or urban area, you can live simply. In fact, I think it could be argued that city living makes simple living easier, but that is for another blog post. Here are a few ideas for building a simpler, more intentional life in a city, with specifics from my own city, Lexington.
One of the reasons I became a minimalist is because I wanted to spend less time caring for my stuff and more time outdoors. When I have time in the woods, life seems to be put in better perspective. While that may not be one of your reasons, there are so many benefits for time spent in nature. Sometimes we feel uncomfortable going to a new park, so pick one and go and keep going until you’re familiar. Also, initiate conversations with the workers of the park. Some have an onsite naturalist, who would be more than happy to chat about the park.
We have some true gems right here in Lexington like McConnell’s Springs, Raven Run, Veteran’s Park, Legacy Trail, Town Branch Trail. Jacobson Park, the Arboretum and more. Not so far away we have The Red River Gorge, The Pinnacles in Berea, multiple sites along the Kentucky River palisades area, and one of my favorites, the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.
Clothing & Accessories
Whether you’re after a capsule wardrobe, uniform style, or being more mindful in your clothing purchases, there are plenty of options. If you desire to own less, but better quality look into high quality brands from boutiques and specialty shops or some departments stores. If you’re becoming more consumer conscious find a fair trade clothing retailer or locally made items (great for accessories). The options have grown even in the last year as to what you can find made in ethical & sustainable practices. Thrift or resale stores are also another great option for finding clothing in more conscionable ways.
In Lexington there are multiple stores now carrying some fair trade items. Lucia’s World Emporium is all fair trade and has a great selection of accessories and has some clothing as well. There are multiple thrift and resale shops including chains like Clothes Mentor and Plato’s Closet, then you have local vintage finds from Miss Molly Vintage (you can find her booth at Feather Your Nest) as well as multiple children’s clothing resale shops.
Simplifying your transportation is probably many times easier when living in an urban area versus a rural one. There’s usually public transportation as in buses, trolleys, metros. Then there’s alternative transportation such as biking and walking. The short time I’ve lived in eastern Europe made me a huge fan of the plethora of public transportation options and walkability of those cities. As a foreign friend recently noticed after moving to the States–many times a sidewalk just stops without warning or reasoning. America as whole could really up our transportation game.
Lexington has recently taken strides in this department. There’s been expansions of greenways like Town Branch Trail and the Legacy Trail. There’s many bike lanes being built and incentives from various employers for riding a bike in lieu of driving a car.
So whether you’re in Lexington or elsewhere, look into what intiaitives your city is doing to improve public and alternative transportation and see what you can take advantage of.
Local Eats & Drinks
Eating local is such a great way to live out a simple life. It supports local businesses and farmers, its better for the environment and is usually a healthier option. Besides just eating in locally owned restaurants, look for ones that also use local or regional produce and meats. Shop for your groceries from farmer markets, local farmers and CSA programs, or co-ops.
In Lexington, “Kentucky Proud” food products are everywhere! From large grocers like Meijer to the farmers market locations, there’s many ways to get local food. The dining scene has really been booming in recent years with more really great locally owned restaurants, bars, breweries, and of course all the bourbon that this area cranks out.
Living simply for us has in part come to mean loving where we are, living responsibly in regards to the environment, our finances, and our time. We want to live a life of beauty and meaning. We are intentional about how we raise our kids and that means whole-heartedly embracing and supporting our community in a variety of ways. While I’ve offered many specifics for Lexington, I’m sure there’s much going on in your urban area as well. Reach out to like-minded folks and see what they’ve discovered. Look into locally owned small businesses and local resources and what the city government is doing with green initiatives, the park system, and small business.
And as mentioned earlier, pick a few places or businesses or activities to try out and do so until you’re familiar. Talk with the people there. Developing those relationships often means, personalized service and care and even friendship.
One of my favorite authors, Wendell Berry said, “We have the world to live in on the condition that we will take good care of it. And to take good care of it, we have to know it. And to know it and to be willing to take care of it, we have to love it.” Living simply ties all those together–caring and loving and knowing where we are.
I’d love to hear from you, how living simply has impacted your relationship to where you live. Feel free to leave a comment below!