Radical Simplicity in Suburbia: Keeping Up With the Joneses

Tired of running circles to stay in the rat race? The Jones family bypassed conventional jobs for possum living, a permaculture home and quality time together.

| September 15, 2010

  • Jerry and Michelle Jones' permaculture home and home baking business
    Simple living: Jerry, Michelle and their son, Oliver, proudly stand in front of their garden.

  • Jerry and Michelle Jones' permaculture home and home baking business

Jerry and Michelle Jones decided early in their lives to forego the traditional 8-to-5 job for a much simpler way of living. When their son Oliver was born, they wanted as much family time as possible. Inspired by the survivalist Possum Living lifestyle in which people learn to be self-sufficient and live off the land, the Jones’ radical simplicity allows them to do so.

Now, living in a suburban house in Kirksville, Mo. — a town of about 17,000 people — the Joneses run the Covert Cupboard Bakery, complete with a bike delivery service. They began selling homemade bread from the bakery through a donation system that makes the loaves affordable for everyone. And this year, the Joneses started the Kirksville Permaculture Education Center in their home — a model of permaculture that is also run off donations. It includes worm compost, rainwater barrels and a garden of vegetables and herbs, and it frequently welcomes visitors.

What prompted you to open a home-based bakery business? 

Michelle: We wanted to have control over the amount of time we were working — our family is really important to us, so we wanted to be able to spend as much time with each other as we felt necessary. The majority of it had to do with not wanting someone else controlling our schedule and our lives. Having our own business so we could determine when and how much we work was really valuable to us.

Jerry: The semester after I graduated, I had an internship in elementary education, so I had the experience of being gone all day. It worked for that semester, but it wasn’t something I wanted to continue for 30 years. Because of that, we’ve had to give up a lot of things.

What have you had to sacrifice for simple living? 

10/2/2010 9:05:55 AM

In order to live simply, the state is paying for their son's health insurance when they are fully capable of paying for their own through working like most other educated adults? Many parents would love to stay home with their children and spend more time as a family, but some of us see the importance in having health insurance for our families.

Ian Monroe
9/30/2010 10:56:08 AM

In no way shape or form is Kirksville a suburb! Commerce, industry and residential areas are all right next to each other. It is in a every way a rural community. Residents of Kirksville have one of the shortest commuting time in the entire state. Time is the more important resource we have. I really think that Europe's trading higher GDP's in return for longer vacations makes a lot of sense. So I can really understand why you'd want to work with limited hours from home.

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