“Our life is fritted away by detail…Simplify, Simplify, Simplify! Simplicity of life [is] elevation of purpose.” –Henry David Thoreau
Quite Simply, Living
Living simply is more than a trend; it’s an ethical decision about consumption. Simply put, it’s a conscious decision to consume less. Consuming less, promotes the idea of eliminating excess. Many living simply parents see their methodologies as a type of reformation to corporatism. Corporatism is the machine fueling materialism in the modern world. Products give value definitions by the lifestyles they sell.
Children are easily swayed to believe that by attaining material items, they too attain the value attached to the product, rather than seeing how valuable they are for who they are not what they have. Corporatism is redefining the value of a life as the ownership of material items. If corporatism is the disease, living simply is the anecdote. Living simply in it’s fullest, most simplistic state is not encumbered by these limiting realities, but instead places value on the simple beauty of sharing the human experience together.
Marie Sherlock in her book, Living Simply with Children describes the essence of simple living, “living simply is about living our lives as we know in our hearts they were meant to be lived.” Living simply means making conscious choices about which family values are important to individual families, and how to live out those family values in daily life. It’s a lifestyle change, where families place the value on people rather than possessions.
Living simply means placing value on the person not the product, and seeking activities that bring the family together and enrich who your family by determining where they want to place the value. Some activities living simply parents enjoy are: board games, nature walks, environmentally directed activities like gardening, growing food or composting: a way of decomposing waste to benefit the environment.
This idea of living a more simple life means taking inventory of the 24-hour-day and deciding where to place the value. If what’s valued in the family isn’t what gets time in the day, then assesses what is getting in the way to eliminate the excess. Ask, what is keeping us from fulfilling our values?
Living simply fights the cultural precedent of more, e.g. spend more money, wear better clothes, drive bigger cars, live in a bigger house; forever engaged in the pursuit of more, as a way to justify one’s existence. The trouble in the pursuit of more is it’s still never enough, summed up in the lament of Ecclesiastes 1:14, “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and behold, all is vanity and a chasing after the wind.”
Here are some ideas to help families become more purposeful:
- Draft a set of family values and vision statement for the family.
- Devise a method for living those family values out in daily life. If one of the items on the family agenda is to allocate more time to family activities, then schedule time for family activities.
- Put family on the calendar. Write down ideas about what to do with your family time. If one of your values is to have less stress, more intimacy, and more togetherness, then design an activity that will allow each member of the family to experience those values and share in them together.
- Try activities like going for a nature walk, taking a bike ride, spending a day at the beach, doing crafts, or going to the park. Find spaces that are low-key, uninterrupted environments for family time that rely heavily on the company, not the activity. Family togetherness are moments that can evolve, deepen and enrich over time. The key to family time is to not make it all about the kids, or all about any one member of the family, but to seek enjoyable activities, that really are enjoyable for everyone.
- Plan a family meeting. Some agenda items might begin by sharing something positive about another family member or planning future events and gatherings.
In a world driven by success, living simply redefines what success means as a family.
Children may not always respond well at first to a new diet of living simply, especially if they have been raised in a culture of more (me first and I want it now). In time, children may come to value most the time of togetherness, love and intimacy that develops from the abundance of living out your family values. Actual conversations and time with your loved ones, may replace the need to get the next new thing. In a world driven by success, living simply redefines what success means as a family. Living simply is a process that may help you rediscover who you are as a family, and more importantly, who you seek to become.