The simple life by the numbers: What does it cost to be uber-mom (and pop)?

The headline could read, "Move over Supermom: The tale of the übermom." Or maybe, "Super (simple) Mom is new maternal 'It' Girl." In today's New York Times, the profile of Shannon Hayes is full of generosity, nuance, and flaw; she's a representative of the mother who chooses to trade a power suit for cast-off jeans, to home school her children, to eschew plastics, to recycle and compost everything, to live more simply. She's also a representative of the women who can't do it all (her fridge isn't sparkling, she doesn't fold her clean laundry).

All that aside, her lifestyle is appealing to those who would Live More Simply. She raises her own food and her family barters its chickens for handmade pottery. She and her husband don't work conventional jobs, choosing instead to spend plenty of time with their two young daughters and evangelizing the sustainable lifestyle; to butcher and sell their fancy organic lamb.

When I see an article like this, the question that always springs to my mind is, could I do this? And, hand-in-hand, how much does it cost?

After all, Hayes and her husband, Bob Hooper, got their 15 acres with its "hippie shack" for $78,000 11 years ago; but they just finished an extension costing them $170,000. That's a high price for simple.

It turns out that, for the Hayes-Hooper family, $40,000 a year is the price of simplicity. The family makes its income from selling lamb, produce, chicken and other farm products; investments; and Hayes' cookbook sales. While $40,000 isn't a huge income for a family by any stretch, it's certainly a nice sum for farmers and (were you a family without any assets to begin with) would be hard to replicate. I certainly couldn't pull it off on the third of an acre I own here in Portland.

I wonder, how much does it take for other families who are choosing the simple lifestyle? What is the income you need to sustain sustainability?


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