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Modesty, simplicity and moderation are key

March 13, 2009

Overwhelmed by consumerism and sobered by the economy, more Americans are embracing the less-is-more philosophy. They are trading possession obsession for personal fulfillment. Many have hopped onto the proverbial bandwagon and it is up to you, whether you will embrace the idea of simplifying your life.

When our babies were little, we decided to simplify and determine what was important to us and what was not. The economy then was good, but there seemed to be something to the "less is more" philosophy. So, we decided to get back to the basics of life.

Our family planted a garden and canned, froze and ate its bounty. When I say canned, I do not mean a dozen quarts or so. I mean over a thousand quarts a year was commonplace. And before I knew it my simplifying was totally complicating my life in ways I had not expected.

For instance, one goal for me was to simplify in order to have more time with my children. Canning is work and lots and lots of it, and only those who have done so will understand. We also made our own maple syrup, (it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup),filled the freezer with venison (sounds so much better than saying "deer meat"), gathered herbs, picked berries, had bees for honey, and on and on I could go. That was a precious time and I'm glad we learned to do those things. I do not regret that. But what I do regret is my over-the-top vigilance to do it all. And to do it all at the same time.

The very goal was to simplify so I could enjoy my family more. The work I did was rewarding, but a bit excessive in producing the result I craved. I mean green beans should never be a stress factor in a person's life. Agree? Jeepers! Moderation is the key to most everything, and that would apply for simplifying your life, too.

Going back to the basics of life is determining what it is you want from life and uncluttering your life from the things you do not want. Clutter itself has proven, says psychologists, to be an extreme stress factor in a person's life. Uncluttering a life can begin with uncluttering your environment: your homes, garages and attics.

This movement of simplicity has grown in interest to the point that there is even a Simple Living Institute in Florida. It is an organization devoted to helping people attain happiness through a lifestyle called voluntary simplicity or simple living whose most devout followers whittle down their possessions to only what they need to get by. The movement is gaining momentum and recently advanced not only by the faltering economy but by a persistent fear that many Americans are feeling. Hounded by the nagging suspicion that no matter how many cars, coffee presses or perfect clothing they own, personal fulfillment remains elusive.

Though the theme of simplicity is mostly thought to be an Amish/Quaker mentality, it has been around for years. But, in 2008 a great revival of this movement fired up and was sparked by the mortgage crisis, the banking meldown and the spike of gas prices. There is even a PBS show called, "Simple Living with Wanda Urbanska," the de facto Martha Stewart of the voluntary simplicity movement.

At least 10 percent of the population, by some estimates, have embraced the tenets of living simply. Simply put, "simple living is now fashionable." People are starting to feel there must be so much more to life. Every single thing you bring into your house becomes a responsibility. You have to care for it, clean it and ultimately dispose of it. Also, something to give great thought to is how I am modeling the idea of acquiring things. Like it or not, our greed or lack thereof is being absorbed by the young ones around us. What is truly important in my life?

I strive to teach my own brood to use things, but enjoy people. Many are taught "use people and enjoy things." Big difference.

Cutting to the chase here: how do you and I want to live our lives? Is stuff, money, status quo and cars so much a part of your life that people do not take precedence? I knew a dying man many years ago. He sat looking at photos of his four children. He shook his head and said, "I just wish I'd stayed home more." Did he wish for more money? No. Did he wish for more prestige? Of course not. He just wished he'd spent time with his family.

Mrs. John R. Rice, a noted author and ladies' speaker always said, "The only thing in life that really matters are God and people." I second that thought and encourage all of us to do what we can to simplify our lives so that our lives reflect that very thought.

Kimberly Short Wolfe, MA, is the grief counselor for Mountain Hospice and a homeschool mom. e-mail:



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