A Simple Life While Working Full-Time

Many blogs espouse the virtues and joys of simple living. Yet read between the lines and there’s usually a full-time working spouse supporting the person and/or family.  I am not judging the set-up but I want to advice on enjoying the simple life while working 9 to 5. Is that really possible?

The Simple Life In France is enjoying the slower pace of life in a small French town. Her husband works full-time.  What struck me was her description of her pre-simple life, as a teacher in California.

“I worked nearly 70 hours a week. After work, I’d hurry to the gym for an intense spinning class. DH and I kept a rather rigorous social calendar full of dinners out with friends and ski weekends. I drank coffee all day, which only fueled the fire.”

In some ways, her description reminds me of my current life and that of most of my working friends.  While I only work 45 hours (40 hours/week + 5 hours/week for lunch), I also have a 2 hour daily commute.  She seemed more diligent about exercising but I do try to find time for yoga and the occasional cardio class.

I guess my question is: Is it really possible to enjoy the simple life if you don’t have a full-time working spouse and/or family support?   I have some ideas that I will share later but also welcome suggestions becausing finding yourself when you work full-time is not so easy.

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12 responses to “A Simple Life While Working Full-Time

  1. Yanno, I think it really depends on what your version of a simple life is. For me–nope. But I have found ways to simplify–taking the train instead of driving (takes a bit longer, but my desire to murder decreases), cutting way back on social events because it’s just too much to drive out to LA to see friends (um, is that really a good thing though?), cooking from scratch, not shopping for recreation…what else? My work has an on-site gym, so that helps.

    I think I might be able to swing my version of a simple life if I didn’t have to commute and/or live in such a congested area. Obviously, my goal is to get to that place. But I don’t know anyone out here in this concrete mess who is working full-time and living a “simple life.”

    Oy. That sounds kind of depressing. I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

  2. littlehousesouthernprairie

    I am one of those people who doesn’t have a fulltime job anymore and is largely supported by a spouse, and yes, it has made life wildly more simple than it was before. And no, living this simply would not be possible otherwise (unless I win the lottery).
    I think achieving a ‘simpler’ life depends on two things: Your type of career and your standard of living. I am a former newspaper reporter for a major paper. There was only one speed: Crazy. I could not make my life simple without leaving that career. As for standard of living — it is impossible to live simply when you have to work your ass off to pay the mortgage. We moved from an expensive area of the country (Chicago) to a less expensive one (North Carolina). It makes a huge difference.

  3. simplelifeinfrance

    Well, that is the question DH and I are asking ourselves!

    For full disclosure: Even back in CA, I did have a moment of clarity in which I realized that the 70 hour work week was not conducive to my health. I cut back to 45 before we moved to France for about 6 months (ok, I tried really hard, and sometimes it was more like 50. . .). I also stopped buying anything new, stopped the gym membership and TV before leaving, so the process began before the unemployment.

    When I first lived in France (back in 2000), I was employed but only taught 12 hours a week plus about 12 more of prep time and meetings. Life seemed pretty simple then and I lived on a shoestring budget, was single etc. But the experience gives me the impression that there is a direct link between number of hours working and the ability to simplify. . .

    I think the number one obstacle to keeping it simple while employed is finding work you can do 40 hours a week or less–preferably less.

    Ultimately, I do hope to find such employment and was/am kind of working on it already although admittedly it’s on the back burner after DH’s car accident. I’m very interested to hear your ideas on the matter . . . looking forward to the future posts!

  4. Love your blog–which I discovered when I noticed that you visited my blog. By the way, way back in my blog is a rumination on real Italian kitchens. I will be back!

  5. @ConsciouslyFrugal – I think one of the ways I keep things simple is saying ‘no’ to social events way too much. Not a good thing!

    @littlehouse – Your former career is definitely not conducive to a simple life, although writing is a good skill for many less frantic occupations.

    @simplelifeinfrance – thanks for responding. I hope your husband recovers soon. I guess I’m fortunate that my current job is usually 40 hours, even though that seems too much at times!

    @frugalscholar – I wanted to comment on your kitchen renovation post but due I wasn’t able to comment due to some technical glitch. I’m not sure why but I hope you’ll visit my blog again.

  6. You know, I think it IS possible … to some degree … well, then again, you tell me if it fits your definition. I used to work insane hours with a 3 hour round trip commute and was/am the sole provider at home.

    But to counteract the stresses of a heavy work schedule, I kept my social calendar as light as possible without becoming a hermit. I rarely made appointments for weekdays because I was simply too tired at the end of the day unless it was a yoga class. I scheduled at least one Me weekend per month where I could run errands, clean the house, and do laundry (all things I find soothing).

    My socializing was usually limited to having a meal with good friends.

    I tried to keep life relatively simple, some travel, light on the shopping/acquisitions, mostly saving money.

    And of course I spent a lot of time online. 😉

  7. I’m not really sure what you mean by that. I guess we keep things simple in the sense that we don’t spend a lot, aside from spending money on food and sometimes travel. We don’t socialise a whole lot, but tend to spend our time with each other. If you mean along the lines of cooking everything from scratch, growing a vege/herb garden, staying home with the kids – yeah, that is definitely hard without a working spouse. Right now I commute two hours a day and work some rather unsociable hours, we’re both working FT – but we hope it will pay off in the long run.

  8. You can work part-time and charge by the hour. Or you can work from home. I do this, although there are certain periods of time in the year that are incredibly busy, so I just ride them out and go back to simple living in my down time.
    So I’m a part-time simple liver!

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  11. It’s an interesting question you raise. I think the reason I’m enjoying my new ‘simpler’ life is because I’m continuously finding ways of making my busy life easier despite juggling commitments like friends, family and a medical degree. I strive for a little house in the country and as little stress as possible. Once I manage that however, I don’t know how I will feel. I guess I’ll have to find something else to work towards. Though I think the truth is though that we can always make our lives a little more simple.

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