With all economic news in the media, frugal is suddenly in. People who live in the country are now ahead of the curve–only they never paid attention to the curve to begin with and they don’t care if they’re ahead of it or behind. Frugal is a lifestyle in the country, not a reaction. There is a surprising satisfaction in simple pleasures in “fat” times, and a corresponding comfort in the lean. Country people have always found joy–and a steadiness through both ups and downs–in simplicity. I was struck sharply by it when I first moved here, and intensely attracted to it. Life in suburban areas felt so competitive to me. People trade up their cars each year, dress in the latest fashions from fine department stores, regularly dine in trendy restaurants, decorate their homes with expensive furnishings, and purchase ridiculously costly gourmet groceries. They need all this stuff because, well, everybody else has it!
And those are huge blanket statements, but having spent most of my life in suburbia and then the past three years in the country, there is a marked difference in the prevailing perspectives. I have known frugal people in the suburbs, and there are even a few ostentatious people in the country, but by and large, the lifestyles are polar opposites. And I know just how easy it is to be sucked into the suburban mall-shopping culture of clothes from Dillard’s and coffee from Starbucks. I also know what a relief it is to escape it. Nobody cares what I wear here. Nobody cares what I’m driving. Nobody cares how old my furniture is or if it matches, and gourmet food around these parts means getting some cheese from the Amish. Nobody has iPhones or Prada boots or dishes from Pier 1. Repurposed, banged up, and handed down is a form of art appreciation.
Country people reinvent, recycle, reuse. They garden, they can, they freeze. Seasonal decor means a basket of cattails or a bowl of pine cones or a vase of autumn leaves. Country people have chickens and goats and cows and pigs. They cut down firewood and stockpile hay. Entertainment is an evening on the porch. Life is simpler in the country because simplicity is a core value.
Now, for once, the rest of the world struggles to catch up to us.
Of course, catching up is easy. All you gotta do is slow down.