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Your New American Dream: A Simple, Uncluttered Life

Photo by Amy Smith

No matter how you look at it, today’s American life is anything but simple. Our lives are busy, demanding and complicated. Just negotiating the coordination of the weekly family schedule can bring on a headache. Who will take Johnny to his soccer practice while someone else attends Sarah’s music recital? When can the dental appointment fit into your work schedule? 

Add to that the complexity of our technological world with constant tweets, texts and phone calls. Our calendars may be right there on our phones, but how in the world can we actually do all the things listed and reserve any quality family time?

We’ve all heard of the growing cry for a simpler, less-cluttered lifestyle, but few of us have taken steps toward making that happen. It seems too hard — too extreme. But don’t you wish your family sat down together more often and just enjoyed one another? Don’t you secretly or not so secretly wish you could get rid of about half of your “stuff.”

Stay with me because you can approximate a simpler life with just a few decisions, and you may find you enjoy the results.

It’s All About Making Space

The more we own, the more upkeep and maintenance is required. For example, if we own more clothing, we have more laundry to do. We have more expenses in detergents, dry cleaning bills and time spent folding and putting away. 

If our children attend multiple extra-curricular clubs, teams and activities, our schedules are so tight that we have little time for homework or family fun.

If we’re used to spending lots of money on fast food and entertainment outside of our homes, we miss the opportunity to stay home, cook simple meals and enjoy being together while entertaining ourselves.

Every decision we make to simplify family life will create “space” in terms of time, money or enjoyment. Here are some of the ways families can make small changes that produce big results:

Mindful consumption. Your family may choose to drive older cars to be free of monthly payments. You might plan your wardrobes carefully and frugally, including some good quality thrift store items. You may limit eating out to one or two times monthly.

Fewer belongings.  Some minimalists go through their homes room by room and begin to de-clutter. They take a hard look at items to decide whether they’re really needed in the home. They may go through toys and clothing and pass them on to other families. It actually feels good to own fewer things and gain space you didn’t even know you had. Take on the motto: fewer, better things.

Smaller or simpler homes. Few of us want to live in a tiny home, but we may decide to buy or rent smaller or older properties. We may decide to find a home with enough outdoor space to grow a garden or own a few animals. We may choose an urban environment that is clean and simple without unnecessary decoration. We may buy good used or retro furniture that doesn’t break the bank.

Conscious eating. Most of us eat out too often and know we’re not making healthy choices. Limiting restaurant eating and taking pleasure in cooking simple, healthy meals is a step in the right direction. Try adding soup night to your family’s weekly meal planning for a dinner that’s fun and easy to prepare together.

Making time for creativity. How many families do you know who create works of art, make music or simply spend quiet time together chatting, journaling or reading books? The recent rise of group art nights reminds me that we all have a need to create in some fashion or other.

Benefits of a Simpler, Richer Life

Less financial stress.  Nothing puts more stress on family relationships than money problems. When the money causes chaos, it’s time to regroup and make a new plan.

Ability to give.  When life is simpler and the family is home together more often, there is the opportunity to volunteer time, energy or things. It’s also possible to share with others in practical ways. 

More free time.  Unscheduled time is like gold. Choosing to live more simply opens up possibilities for free play, exploration, rest and relaxation that is beneficial to the entire family

Appreciation.  Most of us realize that when we have fewer possessions, we’re more likely to value the ones we have. One quality winter coat is more valuable to us than five or six cheaply made items of clothing with limited purpose. A durable set of wooden blocks may mean more to a child than many plastic toys that break easily.

Closer, deeper relationships.  When the family is on board to create a simpler lifestyle, there’s time to talk, work and enjoy life together. Maybe there’s time to bake bread or sit on the deck and observe local birds. Maybe the family gleans as much enjoyment from a simple board game as from the high-powered competitive sports most kids engage in. 

A simpler life can be designed to be the perfect fit for your family. Begin by merely setting some goals for healthier home-cooked meals or by challenging each family member to reduce their possessions by 20 items. Small steps toward your “new American dream” will reap important benefits for your family.

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