A Family Affair: A Husband’s Thoughts on Simplified Sustainable Living

Transitioning to more natural and sustainable way of life is a family affair and takes team work and understanding in order to be successful. Photo By Laura's Focus Photography
Transitioning to more natural and sustainable way of life is a family affair and takes team work and understanding in order to be successful. Photo By Laura’s Focus Photography

This weekend marks mine and my husband’s first wedding anniversary. We have had a very crazy year full of a lot of changes and transitions.  Within the course of one month we got married, went on our honeymoon, moved to another state, started living together for the first time, I started a new job, and we both started graduate school. The craziness didn’t stop there, but that gives you a good example of what we had going on. We’ve also had a lot of great and wonderful times and overall we’ve had a truly special year.

However, amidst all of this I also began making a transition towards simplified and more sustainable living. By the start of 2013 I had begun doing a lot of reading and research on homesteading and the financial and environmental benefits of living more naturally and I was hooked. If I had had my way I would probably have gotten rid of most of our stuff, moved to a farm, and never looked back. However, I was part of a team now and recreating our life on an impulse was obviously not an option. My husband tends to be the more skeptical one between the two of us and was not quite as on board as I was with making some of our initial changes. This really forced me to take my time and focus on each change, individually, as we made it. Which allowed us both to adjust, and avoid burnout and discouragement with our new lifestyle.

We have now spent about the last six months gradually implementing changes into our lives and adjusting the way we view our resources and our lives and it has been a truly interesting process. Over the past few months you all have gotten to hear a lot of my opinions on a variety of things, including some of my motivations for living more naturally. That being said, in honor of our anniversary, I thought it was about time to give my better half an opportunity to share his side of the story. Here is our little interview, I hope you enjoy! ( His answers are in bold, my questions and notes are not)

Me: What was your initial reaction to my resolution to simplify our life and start instituting more environmentally friendly practices around our home?

Hubby: The idea of simplifying our life sounded like a good one. We lived in a pretty small apartment and have a limited budget so trying to live simply sounded like the responsible thing to do. I had the misconception that being environmentally friendly would actually be more expensive in some areas though, so I was skeptical about how things would balance out.

Me: What one change that we’ve made were you most skeptical about in the beginning?

Hubby: I would have to say it was a tie between two things. The first was the decision to make our own detergent and dishwashing soap. I was worried that they wouldn’t work as well (as the store bought kind) and the dishwashing soap seemed to leave residue on the dishes at first but after a while I realized that the dishwasher loads were too big and were not packed properly; after we addressed those two issues things turned out fine. (The dishwasher soap recipe on this blog will not leave a residue; he is referring to one of our earlier tries) The second thing I was the most skeptical about was not using our dryer to dry our clothes. We don’t have a lot of outdoor space with our apartment which meant that the clothes would have to be hung up inside. The first couple of times we had wet clothes hanging everywhere and then they smelt like vinegar because we didn’t fluff the load in the dryer. (I had read online initially that using a vinegar rinse was a good idea… it is not) We have made adjustments though which have made it all a lot easier. We no longer hand wash the clothes, the clothes are more efficiently hung up in the laundry room/pantry which reduces the amount of space they take up in the apartment, and we use the dryer to fluff the clothes after drying which removes any smells (and softens them).

 Me:  What are your thoughts on it now?

Hubby: It works for us. I think there are still some ways that we can simplify things and cut down on what we have in our apartment. I probably could get rid of quite a few clothes, books, and binders that we have around to help cut down on extra stuff just laying around. One of the best things you have done is to make the grocery list binder and to price out the meals we eat. That has allowed us to actually hit our budget for groceries and has allowed some flexibility for us to pay off student loans.

Me: What are some things you have found most surprising about this process?

Hubby: Probably the most surprising thing for me has been the cost of it all. For some reason I thought that eating locally grown food or implementing some of the lifestyle changes we’ve made would be more expensive or the cost wouldn’t be substantially different enough to justify the extra time and labor. What I’ve found though is that with some creativity and research you can save a lot of money doing things by yourself. The ways you have been able to use castile soap around the house have really surprised me  (We use castile soap as our body wash, dish soap, bug spray and mopping solution now)  and you can make it go a long way. 

Me: What is your favorite change that we’ve made?

Hubby: I don’t know if I have a single favorite but I can tell you some of the ones that I have seen the most benefit to or have enjoyed the most. I really like the grocery list binder because it shows us a real difference in the cost of items between grocery stores. I always thought that Food Lion was cheaper than it really was and although twenty to forty cents savings on an item doesn’t sound like a lot it can really add up quickly, especially when applied to your whole grocery list. I have also enjoyed growing our own plants, even though I don’t do much with them. I like knowing that part of our dinner came from our own “garden” and when we finally do decide to move into a house I would definitely want to be able to plant more of a substantial garden; besides that would mean less lawn for me to mow ;).  A final thing that I have really enjoyed is making and canning our own jam. Using honey instead of sugar with the strawberry jam made the jam have more of a tart flavor, which is good. My parents use to make their own pickles and jams as well, so it is nice to kind of carry on the tradition. I hope that we are able to make some peach preserves in August to last us through the winter since I think I have just about finished off the strawberry jam. 

Me: How has the process of simplifying, homesteading, and “going green” changed your thinking on things?

Hubby: It’s made me change my thinking on what it means to be successful and to be “doing well” in life. Before, you kind of follow the popular model of what television and movies sell you, that it’s important to own a house, have a nice car, and have a lot of really nice “stuff.” The benefits of simplifying, homesteading, and going green I think add flexibility to our lives. We aren’t tied down as much, our budget is a little more flexible, it doesn’t feel like we are consuming as much (electricity, garbage, water, etc.) With working in a church there is not a lot of finality in the job I hold. I’m aware that I may be called to serve at a different church or a new opportunity might come up that I feel called to take and not feeling like we are tied down to so much stuff gives me a freedom to be willing to pursue new opportunities. 

Me: Are there any changes you might want to make now that you have learned more and seen the impact of other changes?

Hubby: I don’t know if there are any brand new changes I would want to make, maybe just adjustments to what we are already doing. I would like a programmable thermostat to allow us to be even more diligent in cutting down on our electricity consumption. I would like to have a rain catching system to be able to use in the garden, washing our cars, washing dishes, etc. After finding out about the cost analysis of renting solar panels versus buying them I would like to try that out. The last change I would like to make would require more land, but I would like for us to be able to expand our garden. I like the idea of being able to walk out to the garden, pick some produce and immediately use it in that night’s dinner, or can it, or freeze it for later in the year. Gardening is something that both of our parents enjoy doing and it would be nice to see us carry that on for our kids. 


Jesse St. Jean

Jesse St. Jean

I am many things: a wife, a daughter, a sister, a nutritional therapist, a dog-mom… and I’m an autoimmune warrior.


  • Great idea for a post! You gave me some awesome thoughts to start off with…it does seem a lot easier and cheaper than I would have imagined (although maybe not at first). Glad to hear things are going well for both of you!

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Nutritional therapist Jesse

Hi, I'm Jesse

I empower women autoimmune warriors to reclaim their health by teaching each woman how to make the right food choices to heal her body while confidently owning her journey so she can live a vibrant life with chronic illness.


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