Tag Archives: simple living

Simplicity Parenting

Subtitle: “Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids”

And that sounded good to me.  As I read, I realized that I already knew (and planned to do) a lot of these things, but the affirmation was terrific.  Our society presses for–as the author says–“More! Faster! Earlier!” it is difficult to fight the tide and choose less.  Less scheduling, less events, less stress, less hovering.

If you’re looking for affirmation that you, too, can jump from the bandwagon of hyperparenting and overscheduling, I highly recommend this book…though the prose is choppy and commas are waaaaaaay overused, which slowed me down and annoyed me, so beware of that.  Still, the content is worth a bit of struggle.

And now, I’ll let some of my favorite bits speak for themselves (starting with one I shared in my last post) :

“Books offer such delight and satisfaction to children, conjuring magical worlds and bringing the wonder of our own right into their hands.  How could it be possible to have ‘too many’ of such good things?
It is a bit easier to imagine the ‘too much of a good thing’ principle with books when our children have entered the ‘series’ section of the library or bookstore.  A child is racing through ‘Number 23 of the Magic Tree House Series!’ in a rush to pull ahead of their friend is not reading so much as consuming  When a desire for the next thing is at the heart of an experience, we’re involved in an addiction, not a connection” (87, emphasis mine).

“That’s it!  Enrichment.  As parents, we’ve discovered fertilizer.  And we’re applying it by the ton to childhood” (138).  This comes after a description of a girl doing handstands, playing a blade of grass like a kazoo, daydreaming about the ice cream truck…moments and hours and lazy days that kids need rather than constant “enrichment” through classes, clubs, and sports.  These things can be good, but when they push out the unstructured joy of childhood, they can be damaging: “Too many scheduled activities may limit a child’s ability to motivate and direct themselves” (138).

“After all, as a society we parents have signed on to be our children’s lifelong ‘entertainment committees.’  We’re unpaid performers, that’s for sure, but performers nonetheless.  And we take it seriously.  As such, we’re accustomed to seeing our children’s boredom as a personal failure.  A break in the festivities…and we are liable to jump up and dance.  No wonder we’re exhausted” (143).

“Physicians are accustomed to being ‘on call,’ but now we all are: twenty-four hours a day…So when our cellphone rings just as we’re trying to squeeze onto the off-ramp…physiologically we go from moderate to a hyperarousal state quite quickly.  And we have a hard time returning to a calm state.  Sorry to say, this is a symptom of high stress.  We could all use more ‘moments of Sabbath’ built into our lives” (147, emphasis mine).

“When we allow this ‘on-demand’ mentality to color our children’s perspectives and schedules, then they lose the gift of anticipation…Do you remember yearning for summer?  Literally counting down the days?  When you back off the treadmill loop of planned activities, you make room for pauses, you make time for anticipation and reflection” (149).

“We often bathe our children in words.  By keeping a running commentary on everything they do, we mean to assure them that we’re noticing. Yet the more we’re talking, the less we are really noticing” (185, emphasis mine).

“In a noisy world, quiet attentiveness speaks louder than words, and it gives a child more space for their own thoughts and feelings to develop” (187).

“When you act to limit what you don’t want for your family, you clarify what you really do need, what is important to you.  Your values clarify.  Simplification is a path of self-definition for the family” (215, bold emphasis mine).

Our Christian faith defines our core values (worship of Christ, loving our neighbors, etc.), but we choose smaller things as a family.  After reading this book, I plan to simplify Pookie’s toys a bit further (at least taking some out of rotation for a while), be more consistent with our daily routines, try to give her more independent play time (though as we’re weaning she’s rather clingy), and keep the TV off while she’s awake.

Here’s a question: Have you wanted to simplify in your home?  Have you taken any steps to do so?  I’d love to hear about it!

Emulation and “Taste Cultures”

I picked up a book from the library today, Not Buying It: My Year without Spending by Judith Levine.  I think that pretty much explains the premise.

Anyway, in my reading this afternoon, I was struck by how differently we choose to spend our money: the author compares herself dropping money into the hat at a library reading to neighbors who buy snowmobiles and guns. In her eyes, the way she spends her money is superior…because she thinks her likes are superior.

That’s probably not earth-shattering, but I had never approached it quite like that, and then she explains further that we spend the way we spend to emulate those who care about what we care about.  A child wants a certain lunchbox because everyone else has it; I want to have a garden, can my own food, etc. because people (specifically bloggers) who I admire do the same.  We emulate what we see in others in hopes of getting what we think they have.

I like the way she puts it here:

“I’m not keeping up with the Joneses who drive the big trucks, but the Joneses who grow organic carrots and drive beaters like ours…In our little sub-culture, not consuming gives Paul and me cachet.  Soon our Joneses may be keeping up, or down, with us” (35).

I think she states it more eloquently than I have, so I’m sorry if I have been confusing.

In the end, it brings me to the interesting question: just who are my Joneses?

100 Thing Challenge + Little House on a Small Planet

I’m a big fan of simple living blogs, books, magazines, you name it.  When I picked up The 100 Thing Challenge by Dave Bruno from the library and saw how thin it was, I expected to devour it in a day or two.

But for some reason, that just didn’t happen.

I struggled with Bruno’s book in part because of its repetitive or circular nature: imagine reading a book that reads like a neverending blog post, referencing itself repeatedly  but without the nifty hyperlinks to take you back to the source.  The same intense language that gets smashed into a blog post so the author doesn’t lose your attention is mingled with more blase fare…not the most engaging book I’ve ever picked up.

Still, I took away some good points, like not keeping clutter pertaining to hobbies you wish you liked…makes me feel better about those empty scrapbooks I dropped off at Goodwill!  I also enjoyed that Bruno was entirely open and honest about his struggles throughout the year of the challenge.  But I have the feeling I would have gotten just as much out of reading his blog rather than slogging through the book.

I won’t be embarking on a 100 thing challenge of my own, but I am whittling down my possessions slowly and am more determined to tame my closet: Bruno had about 50 clothing items and never left his house naked or too underdressed…do I really need a stuffed-to-the-gills wardrobe?

This book, Little House on a Small Planet was something of a guilty pleasure read for me.  Jay Shafer, owner of the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, says in his interview for the book that he had something of a “perverse” obsession with tiny houses, with the idea of subtracting just a little bit more to create the smallest livable floor plan he could.

I love tiny houses.  And I love reading about alternative building materials and construction methods.  Build your house on a trailer?  Use straw balesCordwood masonryComposting toilets?  I didn’t necessarily fall in love with every idea in this book, but I definitely spent a lot of time doodling my own floor plan and dreaming and thinking about how the Professor and I could reach our goal of building our own farm in a sustainable way.

I guess that’s not such a “guilty” pleasure then, but since I can’t do anything about it in the here and now, it would probably be prudent to focus on other things.  But that doesn’t mean I won’t occasionally dabble in a little amateur architecturing…

What’s your guilty pleasure reading pick?

Surviving Without a Salary?!

Did you panic just a bit for me when you read that title?  When I picked up How to Survive Without a Salary by Charles Long, I expected it to be about ultra-frugality and living on basically nothing after losing a job.

handful of euros{photo credit}

That premise enticed me, but what I got was even better: a book on living–and making a living–without a 9-5 job through simple living and pursuing what you really want.  I already quoted the book once, with Long’s point that we can choose stuff that will cost us money (and therefore require us to work more) or we can choose time with loved ones, gardening, visiting on the front porch, things that add meaning to life without denting the pocketbook.  McMansion or tiny house…or somewhere in between.

Now, this is not new stuff to me, or to most people.  But Long makes you think about all the things you’ve assumed.  Here are some of my favorites:

*This Will Rogers quote–“There’s nothing dumber than an educated man, once you get him off the thing he’s educated in”–made me wonder what skills I (or my husband or anybody) have beyond my schooling.  Sure, I hold a BA in English and can write and edit, but could I also build furniture?  Do people’s taxes?  Kick butt washing windows?  Maybe we all need to think about how we else we could support ourselves, beyond one job.

*This one then goes hand-in-hand: “It’s the casual nickel and dime stuff, the once-a-week-if-I-feel-like-it jobs that are easiest to start and stop that provide the freedom only dreamed about by desk-bound nine-to-fivers” (16).

*In third world countries, farmers build their own houses and barns, they save their seeds, plant the seeds themselves, choose what and how to feed their animals–they do it all.  In America, farmers hire all sorts of experts from builders to nutritionists to do these things for them–we all need wider skill sets.

*This quote from page 24 only kindled my desire to build my own house someday: “Any peasant can build a wall.”

*We need to weigh the cost of everything: I need clean, dry clothes.  A dryer needs fabric softener sheets, special wiring, etc.  For us, a clothing rack works just fine…especially since the dryer in our apartment building is overpriced and hardly works.

*Fashion is the “obsolescence and the creation of artificial need” in our closets.  If hem lines are long this season, they won’t be next…but if I keep the same skirt, it will come back in vogue eventually (56).

*I don’t recall the story behind this quote, but I loved the phrase: “the material fast–buying nothing but essentials during a predetermined interlude of Spartan discipline” (78).

*When choosing your own work and setting your own pace (and really, who wouldn’t want that?), it’s important to have some physical work and some creative work in your day.  As a stay-at-home mom, I have that: I clean and cook and keep house but during Pookie’s naptime I write.  The Professor longs for the day we can move onto a farm of our own so that he’ll have that same balance when he comes home from work–we can’t have that now, but every day is one day closer to his PhD!

*Long makes a very interesting case about how freelancing and 9-5 work are pretty much equal in terms of job security.  The longer I think about that, the more it makes sense, but freelancing is tougher to get started in; I imagine once you’ve built up a portfolio and clientele, though, for whatever it is you do, things get easier.

So, that’s how to survive without a salary…in a nutshell, anyway.  Oh, and the entire chapter on auctions makes the book worthwhile.  The Professor and I might start going to auctions…just for fun!

Reader friend, do you think you could live without a salary or a 9-5?  And if you already do, tell me about it!