Parenting Seminars

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Simple Living in order to Simply Live

I recently checked out a couple books on living simply as a family. Simplicity Parenting and Living Simply with Children. I was happy to discover that we already follow most of the recommendations by these two books. But I still feel like there is more for us to do in order for us to fully experience family life in a way that reflects our values.

I was thinking of the things we already do. And how I want to do more.
1. We haven't used paper towels or paper napkins in a couple years. But I need to make smaller cloth napkins as most of our use is for small fingers and we don't need to be washing these huge fancy dinner napkins. Plus, we need coordinating colors that we all enjoy and not just the ones I've found.

2. We recycle and compost almost everything with such a great city system in Seattle as well as our own compost bins. But I want to compost our food waste in a worm bin and finish building our large yard waste bins to access the compost sooner. This way, I won't have to buy back the compost that was made by a company from my own food compost picked up by the city.

3. We have a small house and do a pretty good job at maximizing space but we haven't finished the projects to the point of looking aesthetically pleasing. There is something about honoring the space and moving beyond utility and enjoying the look of the space. I think I will enjoy my little home more if my furniture had the same finish and various pieces were painted and finished.

4. We do not over-schedule our kids. However, we often move through the weekend so focused on tasks to be done that we forget to schedule family experiences just for fun and connection.

These are just a few. I'm sure I will think of more. One thing I'm noticing is that our desire to live simply and our desire to live sustainably aren't always complementary. For instance, I HATE throwing away clothes. We donate clothes, we trade clothes, we buy from goodwill and consignment shops. I upcycle clothes by trying to add to them in order to refresh their look. I dye clothes, bleach clothes and even cut them up to make rugs. I just really hate the idea of fabric sitting in the landfill. However, this little obsession means that I have bags of clothes that need repairs or imagination. And when I say bags, I mean BAGS. And these bags don't look as lovely as the layers of new fabric organized by color on my shelf.

And if we really believe in recycling and re-using first, we have to do a lot of hunting for materials. This takes time so it eliminates that desire to just run out and buy something that will fit the solution. And sometimes, even after re-using something and adding paint we discover that its not what we really wanted. It doesn't quite feel right. Or we've discovered that we've dropped too low in our desire to re-use and now we have a bunch of mismatched furniture with some looking like it's been in a college student's apartment for years.

So there is a cost to this lifestyle. Time, time and more time. Plus the labor is greater. So finding the simplicity in this can be challenging. But I have to say quite honestly that as soon as a project is finished, there is no comparable feeling than when we look at it and feel connected to each piece. To the design, discovery, creation and build. And it always feels so much better when we feel like we've rescued something from the landfill instead of added more packaging and more stuff down the road.

What are you doing to live simply with children? How are you challenging yourself to take one more step beyond the decisions you've made so far?

1 comment:

Lucretia said...

Cheap cotton washcloths make great "napkins" for little kids. My sister has about 20 of them stacked in her kitchen most days. Or maybe something in those bags of clothes would make good napkins, if you sew the edges...

Number 4 rings true in our house, too. Now let's see, what do we do to live simply with children or to be more of an environmentalist? Hmmm. I haven't done this yet, but I am going to make a vegetable bouillon that you store in your freezer instead of buying veggie stock for cooking. I wish I had more ideas for you!