“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. As you simplify life the laws of the universe will be simpler.” -Henry David Thoreau
I strive to live a simple life. In fact, living simply is one of the fundamental goals in my life. It’s a basic principal I want to instill in the hearts and minds of my little ones. But my goodness, living simply in this modern world is so much harder than it sounds! I’m really struggling with how to pull it off when my tiny little house, for a very active family of five, doubles as a business office, homeschool, arts and crafts studio, dance hall, seasonal storage for sometimes tons (literally) of vegetables, a warm space for plant germinating and chick brooding, (I could go on and on here), and all of the stuff that goes along with all of these things!
I think it is all of the stuff that gives me the most grief. I am immensely bothered by clutter. And messes. (Remember, virgo here.) But on a daily basis I am challenged to overlook lots of clutter and many messes to see the beautiful face lost in a major art project or the sorrowful eyes of one that just knocked over a cup of milk. My task is clear. While not always easy (and not always with the most patience), I have to find the strength to simplify my reaction. To tame my over-reaction. To be the guiding light to show the way to pick up the pieces or to wipe up the spill. There’s a fabulous book, Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne, that I have been revisiting lately. It touches on topics such as simplifying your home environment, simplifying schedules and rhythms, and simplifying food and meals. While incredibly helpful to me as a parent, it’s a treasure for anyone looking to simplify.
So what steps have I taken to simplify? Well, that’s a hard question for me to answer as the process has been so gradual and is certainly far from perfected. But as our family has grown, and their interests have blossomed, the task of keeping things simple has become incredibly critical for our day-to-day harmony. I see, and have seen over and over again, a direct relationship between the cleanliness of my house and how my children are behaving. When the house looks like a tornado just went through, my little ones often mirror that, especially in their interactions with one another. When the house is tidy, it seems much easier for my kiddos to tap into their amazingly creative inner-selves. While I find that I can seldom keep up with all of the cleaning chores to the extent that I strive for, I see an ideal… something to constantly work towards. And I really try to not be too hard on myself when things do slide a bit. I ask (admittedly, sometimes beg and plead) for my little loves to help mama out and pick up their stuff, and when I see certain items left deserted over and over, I gently ask if it’s time to pass the item along to the local thrift store. Allowing them to take part in the decisions about what is special to them, and what might be special to someone else.
Simplicity in our food choices has been easy for my family. Eating simply has become second nature. We grow (or raise) a tremendous amount of what we eat. I feel pretty confident that we could eat 100 percent from the farm, If we were so challenged (chocolate and coffee would be hard things to let go of, however). I know this to be a luxury, but I also know firsthand the amount of work involved. I know it’s not for everyone and doesn’t need to be nowadays. Diversity is what makes this modern world so fascinating! And if not for the lovely folks in town that choose to buy the food that we produce, we wouldn’t be able to keep paying the bills! We have the advantage (some might argue disadvantage) of living in a remote rural location where the nearest decent restaurant is about a 45 minute drive. Last time I checked, there wasn’t a quaint little restaurant tucked up in the forest. Pizza delivery is out of the question. But I’ve lived in a hip little town with tasty restaurants before. I understand how easy it is, especially after a long day of work, to give in to the temptation of going out to eat. I’ve done that many times before, and still do sometimes when we are in the big city, and I’m fine with that. But we have the power to choose the food we put into our bodies. My golden rule of thumb, when eating out or purchasing food, is to make sure the ingredient list is small, and each item in the list recognizable as a food. If it is something you can’t make in your own kitchen, you probably shouldn’t be eating it. When was the last time you made high fructose corn syrup at home? Right.One of the biggest simplifying forces with my family is an immersion in nature. It is absolutely amazing what a nice walk will do for my little people when they are feeling feisty and restless, and full of quarreling and unkind words. I mean truly amazing. The fought-over toy is long forgotten and smiles return. I see rosy cheeks and sparkling eyes. I see curiosity and creativity. This is an amazing tonic for mama as well… a fresh perspective coupled with a little break from the domestic realm where most of my work is waiting. And it isn’t necessary to own a big farm to be able to find a little natural paradise. A small backyard is an amazing place for discovery and contemplation… a place to slow down to the pace of the natural world. A place to unplug, unwind, and take a deep breath.