A Simpler Life…Escaping the Rat Race

A Simple Life Escaping the Rat Race. How to Live a Simpler Life...by Topsy Turvy Tribe

I have a confession to make, some of you might find this really, really shocking…

I haven’t bought any clothes for myself for a whole year. 365 days, 12 months, a whole year.  There I said it, phew, it’s out there now.  I know you might be concerned for me, worry that something is most definitely wrong and concerned for my mental sanity but it’s OK, really.  I haven’t lost my marbles, or gone fruit loop and all of my faculties are well and truly intact.  Yes there are a few things I have coveted, I would like a cosy jumper, a new scarf, a new dress, a new top, some new jeans…OK I’d like a whole new wardrobe but the point is I haven’t bought any of these things because I do not need them.

Wants and needs are two completely different things but in today’s society lines seem to have become a little blurred.  Chaos, our threenager recently had a tantrum when we were out at the park with a cafe attached…’I want, I want…I NEED a toy from the ma-sheen!’  Actually, No, you really don’t need a toy, you may certainly want one but needing one is altogether a different kettle of fish.  Obviously it is a little difficult to rationalise and explain to an overanxious threenager that  a) the toys in the €1 machine are rubbish, will break and end up in landfill within milliseconds and b) that he already has loads of toys and c) it’s a complete and utter waste of money!

We are living in Spain now, before that we were in housesitting in Portugal and before that we lived in Kent in the UK.  Hubbie and I both had good jobs, (teachers) both worked very hard and had lots of lovely things.  Then everything went Topsy Turvy after our youngest son’s illness and major surgery to remove a tumour.  We decided to put our priorities in order, quit the rat race and left our flat, jobs, friends, family and most of our possessions in storage.  We left our ‘stuff’ and the UK behind us to find a cheaper way of living, spending our savings so that we can spend some quality family time with our boys.

Since we quit the rat race we have never been happier and more content with our lack of stuff!  I sew and upcycle old clothes, use cloth nappies (I even made my own cloth wipes (as a non-sewer I was quite impressed with myself).  We try to be as frugal as we can, especially when it comes to money and travelling with our two toddlers and food and drink.  We cook everything from scratch, forage in the garden and try to do our best to utiltise what nature makes available to our little tribe.

Leaving the UK made me realise what a crazy consumerist society we are engulfed by in the UK.  In the UK you feel the urge to have a full face of make-up on and change out of your lounge wear into some nice clothes just to pop to the shops.  Everything is geared towards convenience and your possessions, or lack of them, reflect your place in society.  It seems like there is so much pressure in todays jam-packed  society to have ‘things’.  A plethora of possessions cluttering up your life, a newly decorated home, a brand new sofa, an extension to house your new things.  Keeping up with the Jones’…a new car, a super large flat screen tv, the latest iPhone and tablet and laptop and of course you definitely need [insert your latest ‘thing’ here].  Is this a modern thing?  I know that people will always covet things they don’t have, but has it gone a little too far?

It would seem though that in Central Portugal things are done rather differently.  Yes there is a big problem with poverty, the average wage in Portugal is a measly €500 a month so the majority simply cannot afford new things.  They make do and mend and spend as little as possible.  Central Portugal also seems to draw a multitude of different nationalities who are looking for a simpler life.  German families who are free to homeschool (homeschooling is illegal in Germany), English, Austrian, Spanish…you  name it.

How much do you spend on your child on their birthday..on their friend’s birthday?  We went to a beautiful birthday party for a 10 year old Austrian boy who had lived for most of his life in central Portugal, what struck me was the gifts people brought him.  Simple, creative gifts that were not all about the monetary value.  His favourite gift was a Venus Fly Trap. A plant!  Can you even imagine the reaction of your child or your child’s friend?  I know that I am generalising terribly here but I do wonder how a 10 year old brought up in the UK would have reacted…

Maybe we should put a large chunk of the blame onto advertising and in particular TV.  You are unable to watch children’s programmes on TV without being bombarded by tantalising trailers for the latest must have toys, gadgets and gizmos.  It’s inevitable that your child wants what they see, after all that’s how children work!  Maybe because ex-pat children living in central Portugal didn’t really watch TV, (don’t worry they weren’t that off-grid and still accessed YouTube or downloaded cartoons and films), they didn’t then covet the latest toys quite as much.  The children also spent so much of their time outside, learning through play and having fun.  It wasn’t just the children either.


The people who lived in our Portuguese village were from lots of different countries but they were without exception the friendliest people we had ever met.  We were invited into everybody’s homes and made incredibly welcome.  Despite being so very different the people there all had something in common, they had all escaped the rat race, many changing their professions, lived off the land and wanted a simpler life.

It was a relief and a weight off our shoulders not to have to be concerned about having the latest clothes, toys, shoes or car.  To let our children walk around barefoot or paddle naked in the stream.  To be able to simply enjoy being together as a family without any critical eyes watching you .  To be frugal, wear our clothes until they have holes in and mend them and to enjoy living in a supportive community.

So back to my point, I guess you don’t need to move or literally escape the rat race to reach out for a simpler life.  A few small changes can help you live with less ‘stuff’, that is, if you want to change!  Make a commitment to try and scale down your shopping, only buy what you need, not want, as you know yourself you don’t need the latest car or mobile to be happy.  Save some of the money you could spend on ‘stuff’ to spend more ‘time’ in the present…enjoy and revel in what you do have, your friends, partners, family and children.  Life really is too short to be governed by our need for possessions, try taking some time out to live the simpler life.

Try making these small changes in your life:



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128 Replies to “A Simpler Life…Escaping the Rat Race”

  • I couldn’t agree more. We live quite a simple life and don’t really strive for new and exciting things. I’m with you on the clothes thing too, I have however bought a couple of things but by nowhere near as much as would have done in my younger life. I repair and patch up trousers all the time. Thanks for linking up to #FamilyFun

  • I’ve been thinking about this alot lately and a simpler life sounds amazing. I read a post about minimalising the clutter (huge plastic toys) and leaving the educational stuff recently and seeing a change in how children play, rather than watching TV. Same applies for us I suppose! Thanks for linking up to #MarvMondays. xo

    • Thanks for your comment Kaye, we’ve definitely seen a change in the way the boys play. As we only have a few toys out at one time and don’t have very many toys they play so much more and interact so much more with their environments and nature. I agree that the same most definitely applies to us too!

  • Your post really resonates with me. I travelled around the world with my 4 children and I just love the sense of freedom a backpack gives you. I find the simpler life so incredibly liberating and hanker after it now. Everything you talk about consumerism and so on in your post is totally true. The trouble is, you have to physically remove yourself from it in order to truly get away from it, because it sucks you in. Your point about trying not to let it is a valid one. Alison x #fortheloveofblog

  • This is such an inspirational post, it is something i have been looking more into over the past 6 months actually, but I am struggling to not buy and spend.I know we don’t ‘need’ all these things and I find it helps if I stay away from shops, but still I find it harder than I wish I did. I think you are doing an amazing thing, not only for you and your family, but for the environment too #mg

    • Thanks for your lovely comment Mackenzie. It is really difficult not to buy things when you have the money and the opportunity but once you get into it, and get over the hard bits it really does make you realise that we have far too much and need far less!

  • I’m a bit two ways about this. I’m not particularly materialistic, but I do feel like money is meant to be spent. I don’t want to work all week and then deprive myself of things I want, it seems pointless working so many hours. However, I do like the idea of the simple living thing, especially somewhere like Portugal!
    Thanks for linking up to #AnythingGoes 🙂

    • Thanks Debbie. We’re not trying to deprive ourselves of anything we have just changed our priorities from needing and wanting ‘things’ to being happy not working 24-7 and enjoying just being together as a family. Don’t get me wrong we still spend money, but I’d rather spend money on petrol going on a family day out than a few pounds on a rubbish plastic toy, so I guess it’s all about our priorities at this moment in time!

  • I really love this post, I was looking around my sons room yesterday and realised half the stuff he has he does not play with because I get him lots of things in the panic that he will somehow miss out…I get most of it from chairy shops and Gumtree, same as clothes so don’t think I am ridiculous with spending but I definatley get caught up in the want..rather than the need! I am glad your family hae found contentment 🙂 #abogginggoodtime

    • At least you are buying second hand which is so much better for the environment! We are all guilty of wanting to give it all to our children…but I guess we need to remind ourselves that they’d much prefer our company than a new toy and remember what’s more important in life!

  • I absolutely LOVE this post. I am a bit of a serial over-shopper and sometimes I get so fed up with all the stuff that I’ve accumulated that I have a big throw out and ten trips to the charity shop /tip. Those days are so cathartic and it makes me realise that in no way do I ever need all that stuff. Don’t get me wrong, it is lovely to have a little treat here and there but I would love to live a simpler life.
    I’m really enjoying following your blog and seeing where and what you’re getting up to. I wish I had the balls to pack it all in and live life like that! Thanks so much for sharing on #fortheloveofBLOG x

    • Thank you for your lovely comment. Before we left the UK we had over 20 bin bags for charity and even more for the tip. It really is scary how much we buy. It really is a relief leaving the rat race and not having to buy buy buy to keep up all the time x

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