I have been talking about simplifying my life for a while. I really like the concept. I would like my life to be simpler. I love reading blogs of people who have "simplified" their lives. People who sold their homes to prioritize family, shop at thrift stores, make their own apple sauce, soap and clothes. People who live on farms and grow their own vegetables. I love reading about all that imagining that simple and relaxing life.
Lately though as I have read some of those blogs I have pesmistically wondered if those people weren't just irresponsible members of society who were living in denial of the world they live in and really just mooch off those of us doing the very things they scorn. And how long can they really live like that? Didn't the flower children of the 60's turn into the power brokers of the 80's? Eventually you realize you do have to work, we live in a culture that costs money, a culture where we meet friends out at restaurants, it costs $400 for your child to get a driver's permit and he needs money for some school activity practically every week. Are all these people dreaming of sustainable farms and simple living really just putting off the inevitable need to get a full time job and join the rest of us in our culture of consumption?
Maybe there can be a balance. For me there will need to be a balance. As much as I like the idea of making everything from scratch, I just don't have the skill, patience or desire to do that regularly. Interestingly as I want to pesimistically say that some striving to be simple are simply irresponsible I found in trying to define what simplicity would mean to me that it was all about responsibility. I desire to be responsible with the gifts and resources God has blessed me with.
Initially as I wrote a list trying to define simplicity for me I found myself writing about an idealistic family life where we all sat around the living room each evening working on projects, reading to one another and becoming better people. I suspected my family might not be on board with that plan and when I brought it up one night they confirmed a complete lack of vision for my vision. However, I think taking responsibility for my family by prioritizing spending time with them each day rather than focusing on myself and expecting family time to just magically happen is a more realistic definition of simplicity for me.
Along with that vision I was imagining us learning new things. I gave them the vision of us all sitting around the living room with me knitting or sewing something while John was reading a book, Jake was learning to play some instrument and Isabelle was working on a puzzle. That would be our regular evening activities (because we would never be on the computer or x-box, we would want to be together and work on improving ourselves instead.) I can still learn to take responsibility for my own learning, still work on those projects I was going to do while listening to Jake play piano but instead I will listen to a cd (or I could go watch him kill things on Halo while knitting.) I will encourage my family to learn new things but won't try to remove them from the culture in which we live to do so.
I tried to sum up the family part of simplicity with this, "living a life prioritizing God and family. Helping my family and myself learn new skills, over come fears and obstacles to fulfill the purpose God has for our lives."
I also envision simplicity creating a sense of contentment with what we have in our life and valuing our possesions enough to maintain them rather than see everything as disposable. My family was with me a little more on this one. We have already begun to work on changing our attitudes in this area and be more responsible with all that God has given us. When I asked John what came to mind for him when I said simplicity his words were, less clutter and more self-reliant. I think both of those fit into this part of simplicity. Getting rid of what we don't need and doing for ourselves what we can. I believe the other side of that is hiring out what we can't. John hires people to do parts of a remodeling job he either doesn't know how to do or knows others can do better than him. We have learned to appreciate both the better turn out of a job for us and the client when he knows his limitations and the appreciation of a subcontractor looking for work. While hiring out work might not seem to fit in with simplicity and self-reliant, being responsible to know your own limitations does.
As I thought about my romanticism with the idea of making all my meals from scratch or making my own butter or soap or other staple item I had to ask myself what was the real attraction. I don't really want to make butter. It might be fun to make soap for gifts sometime but not to meet my daily cleansing needs. I realized what really attracted me to those things was the planning that went into them and the preparation it creates in your life. If you can't just run out and buy butter at the grocery store then you need to watch your butter supply and plan a day to make it before you run out. That planning is what I like. Not reacting to an empty butter dish but anticipating the inevitable need for more. I want to anticipate the fact that my family will need to eat dinner every night, my children will need new clothes every fall and Christmas will be on December 25th AGAIN. These are things I need to take responsibility for and not act surprised when they come up.
Those are a few of the ways I am going to "Simplify in 2010". What are you going to do this year to simplify your life?