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Little House on the Southern Prairie

By Emily Achenbaum Harris

Posted: Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010

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Emily Achenbaum Harris

Hi, I'm Emily and this is my blog about career-questioning, minimalism-seeking, gardening, earth-saving, pregnancy, parenthood, and my pathological ability to make the same mistakes over and over again. See more at littlehousesouthernprairie. wordpress.com.

Welcome to my blog! It chronicles a personal journey of sorts, with plenty of trial and error along the way.

I used to be an obsessive newspaper journalist who wrote mostly about wrongfully convicted prisoners and worthy-of-conviction government officials. During this phase of my life, I considered my identity and my career to be the same thing. That was not a good idea.

Then after several especially Wait-I-Chose-This-Life? disenchanted days (and weeks … and months), in spring 2009 I decided I wanted to drop out, big time, and leave my ailing industry. At the same time, I was starting to crave a type of fulfillment and challenge that I was no longer finding in the office. At an editor’s urging, I wrote a column about my decision to leave my staff reporter spot at the Chicago Tribune in May 2009. Here’s a PDF version.

I wanted a slower way of life. More time outdoors. More time for volunteering. Growing and preserving my own food. Frugality, simplicity, and greener habits. Less time thinking about business cards, conferences, Pottery Barn. (Pottery Barn, if you’re reading? You’re still very pretty. This is one of those it’s not you, it’s me things. If we run into each other at a party, we can still act like we’re friends, OK?).

With a hat-tip to the other voluntary simplicity bloggers, I suggest new folks read this page on voluntary simplicity and downshifting or visit this website on simple living, as there’s a bit more to it than “duh, who doesn’t want to go to the office less.” (Though that is a damn fine reason!). We made several changes, including a move, to make it possible to live on one salary (or one and some change) rather than two.

So what’s happened since then?

These days I have a small, delightfully cozy, but energy-inefficient 1950s house in Charlotte; a minimalist budget, two dogs, and a .70 acre property (please make sure your eyes didn’t skim over that decimal point) where the dogs roam and where I kill a lot of vegetables and can a lot of jam. I’d love to live on 10 acres, but I’d also love a unicorn. Maybe even three unicorns. Our daughter was born in January 2010 (more on that here) and parenthood has been more fun than I’d expected.

Here at the blog, I like sharing stories from readers who felt trapped in their jobs and pressure to make more money and believe more can be miserable instead of better. I think maybe I just wasn’t meant to be in an office. Oh yeah — and screw five-year plans.

Being environmentally conscious is important to me, but I am not in any sort of contest to be the Greenest Person Ever, not even interested in cracking the Top 10. People who compost their own poop are not morally superior to those of us who happily don’t. I buy most of my clothing secondhand, eat local, make air freshener out of cheap booze and embarrass myself by publicly admitting I recycle dog hair.

When I gather around my wood-burning fire every night, nibbling on the perfect crusty bread I made that day, I open a fresh page in my journal, and … Seriously, were you believing that?

Drop me a line at littlesouthernprairie (at) yahoo (dot) com.

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