Friday, November 28, 2008

A Simpler Life

I am usually completely upfront and honest about my thought and feelings on this blog. Maybe that comes from my experience writing a journal (which is how this blog started) or my relative inexperience with writing to an audience about a particular topic (to pull that off you need to be educated about whatever you're writing about and I feel like I am only at the learning stage of these things...). So yet again, I post yet another "this is what I've been thinking about" blog. Interestingly enough, I find that is what occupies my mind these days, not the actual doing (which would be worth writing about) but the thinking about doing (which leads to overly-emotional-practically-useless posts).

The latest (and repeating) thought is that, like so many blogs that I am following, I want to lead a simple life. We are a young family of four, in more debt than my husband can reasonably make in a year (not including the two new cars we own) and we have four television sets of which at least one is running most hours of the day. My house is dirty and I am frustrated. Sounds pretty, right? Of course not!!! Maybe the problem is that I keep thinking about solving my problem instead of acting on my problems. No matter what, the time has come to sell our belongings. I have been changing slowly but surely and I really do feel the conviction to lead a simple, if slightly "abnormal" lifestyle. Things like using candles and oil lamps, making my own soap, washing laundry by hand and cooking using old-fashioned simple food seems perfect for our family. 

When I first started wearing dresses, I thought that the purpose was to wear a dress, that there wasn't much rhyme or reason behind it. Sure, I read the arguments about being modest, but I thought pants and modesty weren't mutually exclusive. Then I began to ponder feminine but again found that women can look feminine in pants. That is until I began to define feminine. I no longer think that women can look very feminine in pants. It is possible, but rare. Women these days confuse sexy with feminine and most of the time, I think that a woman will look feminine by wearing a nice blouse, but pairing it with jeans just kills it for me. What I began to discover is that the dress actually revealed the heart. It wasn't used as a cover-up or a distraction, it was the outward displaying of the heart. What I like about wearing dresses isn't their comfort but that they help me discover what is in my heart.

My household possessions do the same thing. I look around and I don't see memories of my kids building a fort or reading a story, but watching TV or a movie. My almost three year old is in love with TV, to the point that he specifically asks for it and "needs" it each day. To wean him off TV is a loud process, but better to do it at 3 than 13! I long for the days where my children and I go through the house cleaning it and rewards ourselves with time spent in a good book. That life sounds idyllic and fanciful and also unattainable. I have daily proof through the blogs that I read that this life is possible. People do exist without a TV, people do manage to spend time together as a family without stress and arguing, women are able to get their chores done during the day. I acknowledge that people rarely put their worst foot forward on their blogs (though I have no problem doing it!) so what I am reading is the best possible scenario. However, these women are committed to it and they are happier because of it.

So the material effect from all this thinking is that my husband and I are preparing to move and we will be taking an extremely hard look at what to keep. Questions like, is this good for the family? Will this build us up together as a family of God? Is this item going to steal time from my family? Is there a strong emotional attachment to this item? Is it necessary? Do I love it? From these questions I hope to separate the wheat from the chaff and (while saving money on the move!) benefit my family. This is a hard process for us and it goes against conventional wisdom. We are hoping to sell quite a few of our household possessions and not replace them at all, instead choosing to do without until we can afford to purchase them. We will use the proceeds from the sale of our belongings to pay for our move and pay off some debt, if there is anything left.

Have I mentioned the move? We are moving from Washington to Colorado in January which will put us much closer to family. We are all very excited about this move, but the logistics of it are a source of constant confusion. This next year will definitely be "unconventional" as we try to get back on our feet! If anyone has specific tips on how to go about selling our household goods, how to begin to live a simple life (ie. what should we change first and/or how to go about changing it) or anything else that is appropriate, that would be great! I have yet to delete a comment and don't have a problem posting (polite) dissenting opinions.


Humble wife said...

I find your complete openess surprisingly refreshing.

How to begin...I began by this phrase "There are do-ers and sayers-which do I want to be?"

Yes I chose to be a do-er. I stopped justifying everything. I realized that perhaps my justifying meant I did not really wish to change a behavior.

Then I began. I started of all places with my kids stuff. Too many toys too much stuff. Now between the three still at home they have minimal in their rooms.

I kept things that promoted their own creativity...but not scrapbooking stuff=it is just another area to get off track on. I also kept toys that promoted the gender differences that do exist. BB guns, baby dolls(not barbies) and the likes. I incorporate these gender differences often. All the children assist in chores in and outside of the house, but I go into great detail with my daughter in cooking, fine cleaning, my husband does with the boys in tools, auto etc. They all work with the animals and the gardens.

For me, I donated all books not devotionals or Bible. I have a craft area to make things for the home, all extra went on local yard sales or Craigslist.

I did the same on clothing, fancy wasteful stuff and on and on.

I also suggest NEVER buying children new clothes again...the slightly worn consignment shops are are the thrift stores. In fact I buy only underwear and socks new...three years now. Sometimes I have bought a shirt for 30 cents(with a tag still on it)

Then I would cancel all credit cards today. Holidays and birthdays should be one gift or perhaps nothing unless it is homemade...

oh and a simple life entails a large amount of respect. If your children cannot function without the tv...then I am sure that they are kids that make you wish to pull your hair times.

Rekindle what the Lord wants in a family. If you are on this path because you see others doing it and you are not convicted that this is for you, then you will not succeed. The world is a huge place that will constantly try and pull you back if you are not grounded in your beliefs.

Today I suggest putting all but one tv on craigslist, and on fliers all around your community. Then make a list...itemize your stuff...include even toiletries because we seem to load up on a bunch of nonsense unneeded.

Oh and then get to the cleaners...another area that the consuming bug gets cleaners are vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice...simple easy and inexpensive...

Well enough running on...

Anonymous said...

I have been reading your blog for a while and have loved it! Very refreshing. I have gone through what you are going through about 14 yrs ago. My dds are grown now and have started their own families. I am so glad God showed me this simple path. It does not happen over night. I did it without blogs. God laid it on my heart. Now that I read blogs I realize that God has moved on many hearts. Please let God do the work and take your eyes off of everyone elses walk. He will show you what to do. You are doing very well so far. Small changes last. One of the first things I did was to make a list of 8 basic things that need to be done each morning ( make beds, unload dishwasher ect). Once your house is in decent order in the morning you will be ready to do more with your day. Hope this helps. I will keep you in my prayers. ~di

Anonymous said...

When we moved to our current home almost two years ago, we came here with only about one third of our original possesions. We went from a 2800 square feet house to a 1500 square feet house. The very best thing we ever did was sell the TV. We did not replace it. I love not having a television. We actually TALK to each other. My daughter (13, last child at home) is able to entertain herself when she wants, but usually we do stuff together.

Another "best thing I ever did" was put myself on an internet diet. I only turn the computer on for one hour twice a week, when everyone else is asleep. If there is something I simply must look up online, I write it down on a notepad by the computer. I refuse to let a machine take me away from this precious time I have left with my daughter.

If I had young children, I would definately do this. It was not so very long ago that we did not have computers in our homes. In fact I managed to raise my son without a computer in our home at all, and he turned out just fine!

Sometime after I turned 40, I decided to stop worrying about the small stuff, and started focusing on the stuff that mattered to me, like my family. I got rid of whatever was getting in the way of my goal of having a close family. It was so liberating!
You will love the freedom of getting rid of possessions. It's like freeing yourself from burdens you didn't even know you had.

I second Anon.'s post. Stop comparing yourself to others in blogland! I love blogs, and might start mine back up one day, but it becomes dangerous if you use blogs as a weapon against yourself and YOUR ideals.

Good luck!!

Mary in TN

Kristi said...

Jennifer, you are exactly right when you said that justifying behavior means that you probably don't want to change. I have always been a bit of a perfectionist but I have always been afraid to do my best lest I fail and then have to confront the knowledge that I really am a failure. Instead, I self-sabotage at every step by not committing to whatever I am attempting. My kids do drive me crazy, but not because they are inherently bad but because I am trying to do something that I want to do (watch my TV program or read a book or a blog) and they "interfere". Otherwise it is always because they are not skilled yet at "doing" things, having so far been allowed to watch excessive TV and have never had a chore or daily responsibility. My children are young yet, almost 3 and newly 4, which is definitely old enough to do things around the house, but what they should do and how to enforce it are areas I am just confused about. I seem to lack quite a bit of intuition in this area and I don't know if it's just because I'm lazy or truly inept at child-rearing. I liked your suggestions and will be discussing them with my husband tonight!

Anon (~di), I loved what you said about keeping my eyes on God and not on others' walk. It is such good advice!!! My sister and I were talking about how young people in general get in to so much debt at such an early age (like we did) and we both agree that it comes from expecting what our parents have right now. We forget that they have been building their lives for a long time and likely started slow. When we start watching what other people have, we always take our eyes off God and our own relationships (and circumstances). Other people are valuable and even essential because they are good encouragers when we are feeling like a particular task is too difficult. We can read about people successfully going through a difficult time and we gain strength from reading about it. Other blogs provide inspiration and open our eyes to a way of changing that we might not have seen before. But you are right, we have to keep our eyes on GOD and allow Him to be the one to stir our hearts and effect the change.

Mary, You said, "You will love the freedom of getting rid of possessions. It's like freeing yourself from burdens you didn't even know you had." Why do we hold on so tight to these things??? My mom suggested that I get rid of some things that I probably already would have chosen to sell and yet I felt this ugly beast rise up and I justified why I should keep these things! Amazing!!! I am really looking forward to selling our stuff and starting fresh with only the stuff that we really love.

More than anything, I am learning to stand up for the things that I think are important and let slide the other stuff. I find that I am very easily persuaded to one argument or another, such as with headcovering and when that is the case, I just keep praying and wait for clear direction. So far, my husband says "yes to dresses, no to headcovering" so that's what I am sticking with.