Jeff and I are participating in a discussion class about Voluntary Simplicity. We organized it through our church to give us something to do & think about while our children are taking the OWL classes this fall. We meet every Sunday afternoon for an hour. I love the format of the discussion courses – they are a few weeks long; there are short, meaningful readings each week; and there are relevant questions for us to ponder and discuss.
Voluntary Simplicity is the name of the course. I think of it more as Voluntary Intentional Living. Nothing is simple. Some things are intentional.
In a lot of ways, we are living a simple/intentional life. By opting out of certain things such as public schooling, the Standard American Diet and traditional religion, it becomes easy for us to opt out of other things too, such as traditional medicine, technology & media consumption, and what I like to call “kid activities”. My girls have schooling at home, supplemental classes and field trips during the week, and they participate in Girls Scouts, 4-H and dance class. That’s it. They ask about taking gymnastics classes and participating in soccer lessons. Sure, I think those are great activities. But not this year, because they’re already doing other things. I am well aware that I am going against the mainstream by not enrolling them in additional activities.
We live a simpler life because I make much of our own food, we create much of our own entertainment, and we make a deliberate effort to infuse meaning into our every day lives. The chickens are admired and thanked every day for the eggs they give us; cleaning their coop is never a chore for me – I do it because I love being outside with them in the morning and I respect the “work” they do. The toys the girls play with are incorporated into larger story lines that they act out day after day. Sometime it is a recreation of “Laura and Mary” – more recently they recreate the Rainbow Fairies. TV is turned on here a few times a week, mostly for me and Jeff, as we watch a bit in the evening after the girls go to bed. I would not say that we watch TV every day, and the girls might watch one show once a week or so.
All things considered, we do live a simple life. But there is always more to be done, isn’t there? I have a few things to do in the kitchen to simplify a bit more. I need to do a better job of re-purposing containers, re-purposing left overs, and choosing ingredients that have a smaller footprint, both carbon and egotistical. I got out of practice during our move, and I haven’t gotten back into the habit since. Less plastic hitting the recycling bin, more reusable cloth bags for the bulk bins. Less tea from the store, more tea from our garden. Less wine with dinner, more water from our well. Less coffee and oil from places far away. More vegetables from close to home.
I grew up with a simpler lifestyle, and I know other people who did, too. We agree that there came a point in our lives when we went out into the world and felt a bit alienated. I still do feel that way sometimes. I don’t know much about the TV shows, movies or technology that so many of my peers have incorporated into their personal histories. I think about my children and wonder when that moment of alienation will come. It will come, there is no doubt about it. I don’t know how they will react or what the rest of their life will look like. I do know that by providing a simpler lifestyle I am giving my children a healthy, solid foundation upon which they can build their own lives.
That said, it is not easy. We live by conscious choice. We know that we are different. We are not hip, we are not fashionable, we are not on the cutting edge of anything. We are rusty, we are out of touch, we are… a little bit dowdy…? But, by and large, we are happy and satisfied. We are living life the way we want. We make our own rules. Our own schedule. Our own To Do List. Our own priorities. We are truly living.