We can attempt to teach the things that one might imagine the earth would teach us: silence, humility, holiness, connectedness, courtesy, beauty, celebration, giving, restoration, obligation and wildness.
David Orr from "Earth in Mind"

Sep 16, 2007

Simplifying in Action

It seems inevitable that every time we move we end up taking things to the thrift store on both ends of the journey. Our most recent trip included a very large box of toys and board book and a very large box of clothing. Clothing I have absolutely no problem getting rid of. I get most of it at the thrift store to begin with so if it isn't really love I am not loosing sleep over the money issue.

Toys have presented a different problem, I was having a hard time getting rid of presents people had given Alder. Sure if they were broken or missing parts they quickly made it out, but each gift was chosen for him. The thing is we were starting to have lots of toys. Then I went and visited a family with four children last week and their communal toy bin had only a little more than Alders. This got me thinking, first of all he hardly uses most of the toys, some because he isn't old enough for them others because he has too many variations on a theme, others because they just are not things he likes. So we pared down the toys, keeping the loved ones, the ones that he'll grow into and the ones that will grow with him. Now rather than five small buckets of toys there are three. One for soft blocks, one for random toys, and one for wooden toys. As for the book shelf I was liberal with my editing, I got rid of anything I couldn't stand to read. Stuffed animals were the hardest, I grew up with an entire zoo of animals on the shelves, but really at 1 he shouldn't already have a zoo. So we kept the important ones (no aunt Amanda the monkey has not been sent packing) and the simple ones and the ones we just plain liked.

I know in the future when Alder starts to have his own opinions this process will be one of negotiation but for now I'll make my own judgments.

This trend towards simplicity has been a long time in coming. Before Kevin started grad school we had a fairly simply led life. But with lack of time and other constraints we fell into the lazy habits: eating out often, getting things instead of doing things, etc. Now with creating our lives anew with a business and a family it is the right time for us to create a foundation of simplicity in our lives that can become the norm again. Not only because it makes a dollar go further but also because it becomes a life lived more fully and with more balance.

Simplicity for us isn't only about saving money, it's about the freedom not spending a lot of money creates more importantly it is about focusing on doing and experiencing more than having. Making time to create things whether it's bread or a new print is more important than a iPod (which we still do not own) or a jaunt to the mall. While we are living in a rental a large garden is out of the question, but plants in pots and CSA's are not, neither are farm stands. All of these are just little pieces of the picture. The point of living simply is magnified by having Alder around and the values we want him to see us living by. But even deeper and more selfishly the simple life is the more balanced and freer I feel and that is worth a trillion times any money I save.

So as we learn to deprocess ourselves back to a live of action and creation rather than consumption you may hear me struggling here occasionally, it isn't me whining merely working things through.


The Grocer said...

I'm with you on the simple living, more and more if given a choice over what to do I will go for a simple activity. Spur of the moment blackberry picking last weekend and turning them into a crumble with some apples from the garden along with Joel last night were great fun.
Thanks for making me think about simple again though, it is good to hear about someone ele's view on every now and again.

amanda said...

I think this is such a great post. I can relate to a lot of your experiences. And your thoughts on simplicity are very encouraging.

If it helps at all with the giving away of toys and things, know that my child has been so blessed by finding toys and clothing secondhand. Many if not most of his toys have been secondhand, and they really are given a new "life" when they come into our home. Toys are meant to be played with, so when he stops playing with them, back they go to bless a new child. I know you know that, as a secondhand shopper and all, but I think it's a nice reminder. When I feel like I can't donate something, even though it is just sitting there, not earning it's keep, I think about the person who will be so glad to have it and it makes it easier.