Friday, September 7, 2012

Finding Simplicity in a Complicated World

We just finished up reading Little House On the Prairie last night. Funny, I have never fully read the story, or at least I don't remember it. Through reading this story I am struck with how little the Ingalls family had, how hard they worked for every little thing they had, and how happy they were.  I am mostly moved by how the girls had very little toys or things of their own and then when they were given a gift, an entire chapter went on about how enthralled Laura was with that very special gift. Especially at Christmas, when they each received a simple tin cup, and they were beyond delighted by that very utilitarian gift, given especially to each of them. There are sentences written about how they licked their candy canes so slowly, savoring each taste. Pa put his blood sweat and tears into that house, and then they up and left it. No big deal. A beautiful cabin left alone on the prairie.  How quick they kissed such precious material possessions goodbye. And then there is now.
Now, 150 years later we are inundated with stuff. Material things drive our economy, our households, our lives. Every time you turn around someone is handing out a lollipop and some plastic, made-in-China toy that gets played with 2 seconds and tossed on the floor to be stepped on, swept up, and thrown back in to the vicious materialistic cycle. Not to mention the pace, the anxiety, the new dangers we have created ourselves! Pa didn't have to worry about pesticides on the prairie and toxic waste in the creek!  Our lives today are too complicated. Too fast. We could barely write an entire chapter of a book about our year.... let alone a single day.  And so in this, our crazy, unsettled world, this valley of tears, I am reclaiming simplicity... one day at a time. One Barbie, one unused cup, one dress that doesn't get worn, one moment at a time I am bagging up the excess, skimming down the needs, and moving on.  I don't think my children will only receive a single tin cup this Christmas, but they will get less, so that less will be more.   
I recently picked up the most wonderful book, Simplicity Parenting. The concept isn't new to me, but the book is hard hitting. It really looks at the toxicity of our society on childhood. For me personally, simplifying our life is really about taking control of it.  Not being a slave to my children's toy collection or ballet schedule, or even to their endless parade of desires.  This month I have donated over 10 trash bags of toys, books, clothes, shoes, etc. to Salvation Army. If you have seen our tiny home, you must know what a huge deal that is! I hope to donate another 10 more before Christmas.  While the 3 generations (mine, my mom's and the girls) of Barbies will probably stay tucked away in the closet for rainy days, there is more excess than actual played-with-toys floating around. I am only one chapter into the book, and I feel like I am ready to reclaim a simple and organic childhood in a very Ma Ingalls fashion.    
And so I share with you, our nature table, beeswax fairies (tutorial from here) and our homemade fairy house.  All part of our August "school" focused on fairy tales, nature and handiwork. Simple. Beautiful. Imaginative.  Sugar City Journal has a very moving post that I read a couple weeks ago, that leaves me with a question in each situation, "what would Ma Ingalls do?"  Its easy to forget how far we have come in our progressive world, and how much we have really left behind. Peace to you all.


Annie said...

I had the exact same feelings reading the Little House books. (We followed the Ingalls all the way to Silver Lake before deciding that they never should have left the Big Woods, so we went back and re-read the first book three more times, lol.)

I love the simplicity of their lives. Ma's ONE decorative china lady, their tin cups, the fact that they each only had one cherished doll... In some ways I'm glad to see my kids have more, but in most ways I feel like their lives were so much richer.

I keep trying and trying to convince Martin to quit his boring day job and take up the life of a hunter/trapper up in Michigan (land is SO CHEAP in Michigan!!) but he's stuck in the modern mindset that providing for his family means having the 9-5 paycheck coming in every month.

Have you been following the "Journey to the Backwoods" story in Backwoods Home Magazine?

Clare said...

I know! Its almost sickening all the "stuff" we have... and have to take care of! Though, I am grateful for things like insulation. haha.

We have not been getting Backwoods this year. :( I just find I am not really a magazine person and Nick just goes back and fourth with Backwoods. Sad, I know.

And I agree with Martin. Don't move to Michigan! Or we won't be able to visit you on our annual family visits! :)

Bending Birches said...

beautiful beeswax figures-- wow! and thank you so so so much for your advice on my blog. I will be remembering it during my most trying moments!!! xoxoxo

Theresa said...

I love the Little House books! They have been my friends since elementary school. Now I need them in hardback... ;) I just began to read aloud "Little House in the Big Woods" to three of my kids. I hesitated since two of my listeners were boys, but given that most of the story is about the cool things Pa does with his gun and his spare time, the boys were enthralled.

And I'm totally with you on the Simplify Christmas Mode.

But though, did you ever finish Little House on the Prairie and wonder why he didn't just pack up and move those three miles back over the border out of Indian territory? I suppose there were reasons (not so friendly Indian neighbors, the loss of a year, hard to rebuild cabin, etc). But dang, they had it made out there!

Clare said...

Thank you Bending Birches! :)

And Theresa, I do think the Little House would appeal to boys too! I mean, guns, wolves, and Indians are exciting for everyone!

And YES! I was confused that they were moving so far from that sweet little house. All I could think was the same, perhaps the Indian threat seemed too great, especially after their war rituals! They had so many close calls, but yes, in a lot of ways they really had it made! Imagine picking a piece of land, claiming it, and then living mortgage, debt and utility free! Only, running water is soooo lovely.