For years, Katie and Doug Sanders were stuck in their version of the suburban slog. He worked long hours as a systems operator for a software company; she home-schooled their children during the day and ran two dance studios at night. They lived in a three-bedroom home they’d bought in a suburb of Colorado Springs.

Despite having three healthy and happy children from Katie’s previous marriage and bringing home a combined income of more than $100,000 a year, the pair felt stressed and unfulfilled. As the subprime mortgage crisis set in, they could no longer afford their monthly mortgage payments and struggled to go out to dinner or take vacations, which were their only outlets for rest and recuperation.

“We were always trying to make more money, thinking, as soon as we get this much, we can do this or that,” Katie, 40, told The Huffington Post. “We were just working ourselves to death looking for more money.”

Change came in baby steps. First, they got rid of cable, then their home phone. They downgraded to the most basic Internet package and kept only one car, which they’d already paid off. They started selling herbal products at farmers markets on the weekends (Katie is a certified herbalist). Within a month of making changes, in January 2009, they moved into a rental home in a quieter town that cost half of what they were paying on their mortgage.

About three years later, the Sanders moved into a small two-bedroom, two-bathroom rental in rural Colorado that they have turned into what Katie calls a “mini-farm.” There are chickens, alpacas and goats (in addition to a swarm of cats and dogs), and gardens where they have steadily learned to grow fruits, vegetables and herbs. They make money selling homemade beauty products and tinctures, herbal extracts made from alcohol and chopped herbs, at farmers markets and online. They no longer allow themselves to take on debt.

As ex-suburbanites-turned-“farmsteaders,” the pace of the Sanders’ new life is dramatically different from what it once was. Doug works a few days a week at a local coffee shop for a little extra cash, but mostly for fun, Katie said.

“Right now, we get up and take care of the farm animals. Then we’ll have coffee. I’ll write; Doug reads, then he goes to the coffee shop or we clean the house,” Katie said. “We might have our granddaughter over. We’ll fill some orders, and then watch ‘The Voice’ — with a goat on my lap.”

The summer season, which lasts from May to October, is more of a blur: They are up at dawn harvesting their gardens and packing up medicines and concoctions to sell at the farmers market, where they stay until about 4 p.m. “Then we’ll have a beer, make dinner and go to bed,” Katie said. The difference, she added, is that they’re able to exercise far more control over when they work, though not necessarily how hard.

“Time is what I’m after,” Katie said. “Life is so short that I just want to be able to do what I want to do.”


The Sanders’ home in rural Colorado.

The family now spends a lot less money on basics since they grow and preserve their own food, barter with other farmers for humanely-grown meat, make their own cheese, and eat eggs from their own chickens. They say that relative self-sufficiency has given them more time to enjoy each other and the challenges of learning how to run a farm.

Although Katie’s children no longer live at home, she says they have come to appreciate farm life (she delights in catching them snuggling with the goats) and have learned to embrace minimalism in their own ways. Her 21-year-old son does not have a credit card, and even though he and his fiance are throwing themselves a wedding, they will do so without going into any debt.

Occasionally, Katie gets what she calls “a case of the gimmies,” like when she recently salivated, momentarily, over a new truck bought by a couple in her beekeeping class. “Then I think, ‘I have to give up x number of hours per week to pay for that truck, when that could’ve been time sitting on my swing, having a cup of tea,'” Katie said. For her, the trade-off is not worth it.

“We were making over $100,000 a year and we were broke,” Katie said. “This year, we made $29,000 and we’re rich.”




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4 Responses to “Simplify and be happy”

  1. Arch

    That’s a great way to do it the best of luck to them

  2. bpinmn


    I wanted to comment on your comments below. From this article:
    Way to go!
    WrethaOffGrid fsfsfs2 • 3 days ago

    “Ohhhh, judge me if you will, I can generate my own power, but as of this date, there isn’t a way to generate my own “internet”. No I don’t have insurance, unless you count my vehicle insurance and living 20 miles from the nearest town (it’s 6 miles just to my mailbox) I pretty much need a vehicle, I have no need for any other kind of insurance, I have a drivers license, I also have a voters registration card, those are all the ID I need.

    I think you are mistaking living 100% off grid for being 100% self sufficient, which I never claimed to be, though I am much more self sufficient than the average citizen of this great USA, there is no one who can claim to be 100% self sufficient, I prefer to say I’m independent, I’m pretty far outside of the “system”.

    Yea, I agree with you the article is fluff. Since we (my husband and I) have been slowly making the move, we realize that we can have running water(well) electricity and so forth.
    If individuals actually lived the lifestyle, then writing an article would be credible.
    We have learned by mistakes, we ran out of wood this year. ouch- and with propane over $6 per gallon, we were cutting wood on Fridays when our neighbors brought over their kids after school to help us out. This is what people do in these situations and don’t expect anything in return.
    self sufficiency or living off the grid may not be for everyone, freedom and independence is what has brought me home. Also, from spending $2000.00 per month to about $200 per month may have something to do with it. :)
    Take care!

  3. markp1950

    According to this article off-the-gridders are selfish… :-)

    • WrethaOffGrid

      LOL markp1950, I just read it and replied, it’s a fluff piece written by someone who has no idea about living off grid or the reasons why people do it.


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