I have never thought of myself as materialistic, but then I see how much stuff we accumulate. Just thumbing through magazines, I pine for all the lovely things I could buy if we had the money. If we had the money. Why can’t I just be content, rather than looking at that greener grass next door? And besides, who says it’s actually greener?
Recently I wrote about my love of organizing, weeding and pruning those rooms in our homes that are overgrown with excess stuff, putting things in their places. When I find it hard to cope, when I struggle with life and motherhood, having things in order gives me peace of mind and helps me feel more in control.
I find solace in simplifying, as if I’m clearing my head at the same time. Simplifying is… freeing. Simplifying my eating habits, simplifying hygiene, simplifying my hair. Simplifying my routine has remained a challenge. I keep wanting to start each day with prayer and devotions, something that only seems attainable on my kid-less Thursdays when I have most of the day to myself. In the past I’ve made a rule for myself – no computer until naptime so I can devote my attention to Gwendolyn and Josiah. This lasts for a while until something comes up, I need to check e-mail, we have a rainy day and the kiddos are on my nerves and I just want to do something else other than read and chase them around the house.
However – I did simplify internet! A while back I said farewell to Facebook, apparently a growing trend. I was wasting time on trying to keep up with superficial relationships. The change has been refreshing, and just like fast food, I won’t be going back. Now when I’m on the computer I use the time to catch up on e-mail, share family pictures, shop for gifts or necessities, and jot down whatever musings my be rolling around in my brain.
How about simplifying possessions? At first blush, this may not seem all that difficult. We all have a pair of skinny jeans lying around, some old books unread on the shelves, dusty knick-knacks we remain ambiguous about but still display on a bureau somewhere. But what about all that other stuff, the stuff we think we need? I felt the need to simplify these very things in my life, and when I read about one wife and mother’s approach to downsizing I was intrigued.
I had already begun to amass a pile of things to purge – books and toys borrowed from Meme and Pepe’s, duplicate kids’ books and toys, clothes that don’t fit and some that will hopefully never fit again. I’ve tried to approach our possessions with these questions:
Do I/we love it?
Do I/we use it?
Will I/we use it in the near future?
In the case of clothing, Have I worn it in the past year?
If something is torn/broken, Do I want to repair it?
Even if I’m not using something right now, I tend to think, You never know – we might need it later! I used to have a mental list of things I needed for the kids, before they even needed them - Winter clothes! Shoes! Activity books! But wouldn’t you know it, they get hand-me-downs, gifts from the grandparents, and somehow they are provided for. I have an ongoing Amazon wish list, adding to it every now and then to keep track of things I’d like for the family. I’ve been able to pare this down by swapping media, checking things out of the library for free, borrowing from friends.
When my grandmother passed away last year, we went through the process of going through her things, cleaning out her house. I ended up with her dining room hutch, which meant I was able to clear my cupboards of the fancy glasses, extra dishes and serving pieces.
I chose only those things I wanted to keep and display, use on occasion, and the rest is being given away. It’s so nice to be able to see those beautiful things every day, rather than have them stuffed away in the back of a cabinet; I used to have to kneel on the floor and crawl inside the cupboard when I was looking for something!
As I read what others have to say in their journey, in their mothering adventures, I’m hearing more and more about Minimalist Parenting. In a world of so much stuff, the idea of getting back to basics excites me. I love how my kids can spend hours outside on a nice day, just playing with bits of nature in the yard. Sure, it’s not always fun doing their laundry afterwards, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay. *grin* Think of the simple things that catch their interest: cardboard boxes (How much fun are they, seriously? My babies always preferred the wrapping as opposed to what was inside the box!), a bathtub or sinkful of water and some plastic cups, a baby doll for their nurturing side, some cars or trucks to go vroom! vroom! with.
Yeah, I have a bunch of toys that we’ve received over the years, but these don’t come out all the time. It’s interesting to see what they choose to play on their own. I’d rather cultivate their natural curiosity, let them learn and think for themselves, rather than have them be entertained with all the bells and whistles of technology. I do, however, rely on the occasional Praise Baby DVD or kids’ movie when I need to get something done; we might not watch television, but we love movies!
This year we hope to start a vegetable garden, and in the near future raise chickens for eggs. Teaching our children and imparting our values, being self-sufficient, eating healthily, simplifying our grocery shopping… these are all good things. There is always room for improvement, and though I’m not ready to be car free, I’m working on all that other stuff.
What in your life could use some simplifying? Is there excess stuff that you need to purge? What do you find hardest to part with? How does it make you feel when you let go of these things?