This article has two parts:
Part 1: Why “The Simple Life” is Rarely Simple (you are here)
Part 2: How to Make “The Simple Life” Simpler (and More Joy-Filled)
Last week I guest posted over at Keeper of the Home as part of their Real Food Made Simple series. One woman left a comment on the post that I really appreciated and that has filled my heart this week:
“…Making everything from scratch, homeschooling, cloth diapering, keeping a livable house (not clean, just decent), growing a garden, teaching Sunday school–I'm exhausted and overwhelmed. I've always loved the pioneer idea but I don't know how to find the time–and I have all the technology to speed things up.”
This comment has percolated in my mind this week – largely because I've heard the same thing from SO many others, as well as I relate SO MUCH myself.
Through all my mullings, I thought I'd share a few thoughts that bubbled to the surface. I don't have any grandiose answers – just thoughts to share.
What does “the simple life” mean to YOU?
What Is “The Simple Life”?
When I was in my early twenties, I had a bumper sticker on my car that read, “Live Simply So That Others May Simply Live.”
While this certainly evoked images of an austere life lived with purpose, it captures only part of the picture.
So what is “The Simple Life,” anyway?
For some, it's a dream of living away from the hustle and bustle of a busy city.
For others, it's self-sufficiency and not having to rely on stores to buy food and other necessities.
For others, it's life away from technology – maybe even living off the grid.
I know of others for whom “the simple life” is acknowledging the responsibility to live sustainably – that is, using only a modicum of resources – in the middle of a consumeristic, first-world society and to avoid being part of complex and corrupt economic systems.
And for those who share the sentiments of my favorite bumper sticker, it's a life lived with keen awareness of the needs of others and of the vast resources we have at our disposal.
Whatever the simple life means to you, there's almost always some element of minimizing unneeded possessions, a connectedness to the land or to nature in some way (even if it's just a balcony garden), and just a do-it-yourself kind of mentality.
Why The Simple Life Isn't Simple
When I read the Little House series as a child (and again recently with my daughter), what always captured my attention was that people worked so hard, and yet had time at the end of the day to cut out paper dolls, read, play music, and just sit together.
For women, each day had its specific task, and when that day's task was done and the daily chores were complete, there was time to do simply be.
“Wash on Monday,
Iron on Tuesday,
Mend on Wednesday,
Churn on Thursday,
Clean on Friday,
Bake on Saturday,
Rest on Sunday.”
(As an interesting side note, I've run across references that the first settlers who came off the Mayflower recited this poem as well, but instead of a day for cleaning, they had a day for brewing. Hmmm… maybe if we just made beer every week, everything else would seem simpler!)
Yet, since the rise of personal computers, cell phones, e-mail, and other ways of being instantly in touch, our time is FULL.
We also have full access via all that media to see how much others are accomplishing and we are bombarded with images of what we can have, what we can do, and what we can be. While those influences can occasionally be inspiring, most of the time they're downright dangerous.
I often feel that the only days that are truly satisfying with what I accomplish in my home and with how I connect with my children are the days I don't touch the computer. (I don't have a cell phone or TV service, but I imagine that the same would be true for those media as well.)
But considering that most of my community is with like-minded people online, that it's so easy to learn and research just by consulting my favorite search engine, and that my business is online, being off-line for very long is extremely difficult.
Time or Money? Which is more responsibly spent?
And even apart from being bombarded by all the time-filling options we have via technology, there's just a lot to do when you're living “simply.” As the old adage goes, you either spend time or money, so if you've chosen to live simply by living frugally, that pretty much means you're going to be spending time.
And like the original commenter stated, there's gardening and homeschooling and cooking from scratch and homekeeping and staying on top of all the dirty laundry and community involvement, as well as preserving the harvest when crops are ripe. There's just plain lots of work to do – and most of it gets repeated day after day after day.
So, what's the antidote?
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