Published with Permission
An Interview with Patrice Lewis
Written by Amy Nicholson
“And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing” (1 Thessalonians 4:11–12).
These verses guided Patrice Lewis’s family as they moved from a hectic life in the city to a simpler life on a farm. In her book, The Simplicity Primer, Patrice suggests 365 ways to simplify our lives. I had the pleasure of interviewing Patrice.
AMY: When did you leave your hectic city life?
PATRICE: My husband and I were working as professionals in the city. One day there was an accident on the highway. It took me two hours to get to the office. That night my husband and I looked at each other and asked, “Is this really the way we want to live?” After a great deal of thought and research, we left it all behind and moved to Oregon. The house was in rough shape, but we fell in love with it.
AMY: What did you learn?
PATRICE: We instantly went from having a steady income to no income. We had no money coming in for five months. There is no faster way to learn frugality. We learned not to take income for granted. We traded security for freedom.
AMY: Then you moved from a 4-acre plot in Oregon to a 20-acre farm in Idaho?
PATRICE: After ten years in Oregon, we needed more land. We wanted to expand our cattle herd. Since we work at home, having the freedom to live anywhere, we expanded our search and settled in Idaho because of its nonrestrictive homeschooling laws and lower property prices.
AMY: What would you say to someone wanting to leave the rat race and live a peaceful life in the country?
PATRICE: First, get it out of your head that country life is peaceful, easy, or cheap. Sometimes it can be, but sometimes not. It is hard work: fixing fences, dealing with recalcitrant livestock, injuries or deaths of farm animals, or adverse weather conditions while being out of reach of services. . . . Yes, it can be hard. But it’s also beautiful, quiet (mostly), and fosters self-sufficiency.
For those who want to leave the rat race, start by getting out of debt. Jobs are scarce in the country; don’t count on finding high-paying employment, and you sabotage your efforts if you drag debt along with you. If you can cultivate ways to work from home (freelancing, tele-commuting, or starting a home business), your chances of succeeding in the country are higher.
Become frugal. Learn the creative art of doing without or at least doing without shiny new purchases. Let thrift stores and yard sales become your friends.
AMY: You home school two daughters, aged 13 and 15. How has your lifestyle benefited them?
PATRICE: They are free from destructive peer pressure. They have grown up without the progressive slant and liberal bias that have permeated nearly all schools. They understand the cycle of life and have a clear understanding of where their food comes from. They’ve harvested wheat and turned it into bread; seen fresh raw milk turned into cheese, butter, yogurt, and ice cream; taken garden vegetables and canned them; and cut and stacked firewood for the winter. It has made them appreciate the basics in life, including the morals and values.
AMY: In your book you say: “I don’t believe that the ultimate goal in a ‘simple life’ is to strive toward the chance to do nothing. I believe it means . . . things you do are so enjoyable that doing ‘nothing’ is boring in comparison, and that the number of things you must do is reduced to the number of things you can do well, and with all your heart.”1 How would you encourage others to discover their God-given gifts?
PATRICE: It has to do with listening to that still, small voice. I urge people to look at their interests, even if those interests don’t earn them money. They are clues to one’s gifts, because we do them passionately and without compensation. Perhaps those things can be turned into a job.
AMY: Do you have “downtime”?
PATRICE: Everyone needs downtime. What if “work” became a pleasure? I am sometimes overwhelmed with writing commitments, but I still regard writing as a pleasure even though it’s my job, because writing is my gift from God. Finding one’s “right livelihood” means work can be pleasurable.
AMY: You also say it takes guts to be the first in a group to do something. Do you consider yourself a pioneer of the simple life?
PATRICE: If I’m “pioneering” anything, it’s the idea that simplicity is within everyone’s grasp as long as they stop doing stupid things and examine the long-term repercussions of their choices and behavior. People forget that our lives are largely the accumulation of the choices that we’ve made. We all face circumstances beyond our control, but our choices stemming from those circumstances affect how our lives turn out. My mother was raised in a horrible home—a circumstance beyond her control—but she made the choice to not re-create that horrible home when she became an adult and created her own home.
AMY: Do you think America’s early pioneers embraced the practical ideas outlined in your book?
PATRICE: The early pioneers were not burdened with the material excess we have today, but they were just as burdened with the repercussions of their decisions. Those who made good choices had simpler lives. Those who made bad choices didn’t. Pioneers had adventurous spirits but also had the simplicity to embrace that pioneering spirit. It would be more complicated to become a pioneer with rotten choices anchoring them down. They probably wouldn’t have gone in search of new territories if their lives were a flippin’ mess. Presumably, they had a foundation of making the right choices in life before they left the security of their homes and set off into the unknown. (Doubtless there were some who were escaping the mess they had created, but I’m guessing they were in the minority.)
AMY: What can we learn from them?
PATRICE: Many of the problems in our current society stem from the fact that the government has lifted the burden of repercussions for poor choices. If you make a choice to have a baby out of wedlock—no problem, the government will support you. You won’t have to bear the shame, financial distress, or other negatives due to your poor choice of not waiting for marriage before having a baby. We have become a nation of professional victims, unable or unwilling to see the downside to our bad behavior.
The pioneers didn’t have that luxury. If they made a bad decision, they paid the price—and learned from it. They taught themselves and their children to examine the long-term repercussions of personal choices. Bad choices lead to bad things. Good choices lead to good things.
AMY: Tell me what you learned from your parents.
PATRICE: My parents’ marital fidelity made me understand the importance of choosing the right spouse and how that choice can impact us for the rest of our life. I dated a lot of frogs, but when my prince came, I knew right away he was the one. My folks have been married for fifty-three years. My husband and I have been married for twenty-two years and, God willing, we’ll outlast my parents when it comes to keeping our vows. There are few things more simplifying than choosing the right spouse.
AMY: You found a simpler life in the country. Do you think city folks can find simplicity amidst the hustle and bustle?
PATRICE: Absolutely. “Simple life” has been linked with rural living. People sometimes don’t understand how simplicity can be achieved anywhere. The concept boils down to making good choices. We took chances on starting a home business and living in the country, chances our friends didn’t take. But many of them made the right choices for them. They stayed married, stayed out of debt, raised their children with love and discipline. . . . And as a result, their lives are simple—even though they’re urban.
Rural life isn’t for everyone, and it’s not necessarily simple. But since simplicity can be achieved merely by making smart, intelligent choices in life, it’s achievable anywhere, by anyone.
AMY: Patrice, you have pioneered new territory with your book. It is conveyed in a gracefully Christian way. Congratulations on a simply beautiful book!
PATRICE: Awww, shucks. Thanks.
Amy is married to DJ, her high school sweetheart. They home school three wonderful children—a computer genius, an artist, and a princess. When not tending her chickens or children or husband, Amy enjoys writing. She hopes to make a career of writing some day. Maybe when the chickens move out. Amy can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Patrice Lewis is a wife, mother, homesteader, homeschooler, author, blogger, columnist, and speaker. An advocate of simple living and self-sufficiency, she and her husband Don operate a home-based woodcraft business and farm on twenty acres in rural north Idaho. Patrice and her husband have been married twenty-two years and have two daughters, 13 and 16.
Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the November 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.
1. Patrice Lewis, The Simplicity Primer (WND Books, 2011), p. 305.