Why Living Simply While Single Is The Best Preparation For Parenting

How keeping things simple pays off in the parenting years

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

As a ten year old child living in Ireland in the late seventies, I was obsessed with a British sitcom called The Good Life. The show followed the adventures of Tom and Barbara as they transformed their fancy suburban London home into a simple and self-sustainable farm. From that moment I was hooked with simple living.

Everything about their new life resonated deeply with my young and impressionable mind.  As a child, not only did material things not matter to me – they actually stressed me out. In fact, very few toys or possessions held my attention as a child.

The one thing that did matter was travel. I loved everything about a long road trip or flying to far away places. My parents were similarly wired, and as a result our family moved back and forth across the pond between America and Ireland. I was happiest living in Dublin, and spent my days in America daydreaming and planning on ways to get back to my favorite place.

At twenty one, I moved back to Ireland with a suitcase, my passport and a Walkman. I rented a small modestly furnished efficiency apartment, and happily lived on broiled tomatoes, grilled cheese sandwiches and pasta.  Life in my favorite city was wonderful – tons of things to do outside, live music and so many fabulous pubs.  Dublin in the eighties was simple living at its finest.   

After spending a couple years of solo travel and living abroad, I returned to the States to study journalism at Marymount University.  I had a streamlined wardrobe of a dozen or so truly loved items, and my worldly possessions fit inside one box. My college friends decided to look upon my simple living habits as charming.

When a friend invited me to go out of town for the weekend, I put some clothes and a toothbrush in a paper grocery bag, and tucked some cash into my passport. My friend, a business savvy economics major, laughed hard at my makeshift luggage and wallet.

When I found out I was expecting twins several years later, that same girlfriend made me a baby shower gift of staples – a tree of diapers, surrounded by an assortment of newborn necessities. The best part about her gift was that she acknowledged my need for keeping things simple.  Even in the nineties, the ads for consumer goods aimed at new parents struck me as stupid, opportunistic and obnoxious. 

Transitioning from a couple living off a double income to a family of four getting by on a single income took some seriously creative budgeting. So we passed on setting up a nursery, and chose instead to co-sleep, opted to breastfeed over buying formula and bought baby necessities at a consignment store.

Within a decade, our family of four became a family of six.  And while raising four kids on one salary was financially tough at times, maintaining a simple lifestyle made all the difference in the world.  We prioritized experiences over things – so hiking, rollerblading and beach days over closets overstuffed with toys and stuff.

My lifestyle has certainly changed (hello babies, bye bye fabulous pubs) significantly since becoming a parent, but the things I value have stayed the same.  A “less is more” attitude works well when single, but is an absolute lifesaver when parenting. Because a life of joy calls for very few things.    

    Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

    You might also like...


    Iwona Ordon: “Speed things up”

    by Ben Ari
    surviving depression

    Total System Failure: Rebooting My Life – Depression Survival Strategies

    by John McElhenney

    #SHEROproject Elizabeth Peace’s Inspiring Story

    by Dawn Burnett

    Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

    Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

    Thrive Global
    People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.


    We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.